Ghostly Art in pulps, comics and paperbacks…
The Fantastic Art of Rowena Morrill
Rowena Morrill is a sci-fi, fantasy, and horror artist whose illustrations graced the covers of paperbacks from the 1970’s till today. She was discovered by Ace Books, NY and created stunning book cover art for Lovecraft collections, illustrations for magazines; Heavy Metal, Omni and Playboy. She has several art books featuring her collected works including, The Fantastic Art of Rowena and Imagine. She continued illustrating sci-fi and fantasy for popular anthologies such as, Tomorrow and Beyond and Infinite Worlds. She received the British Fantasy Award in 1984 and after the fall of Saddam Hussein her original paintings, King Dragon and Shadows Out of Hell were found adorning the walls of his home. Here’s a look at some of her well-known work. Her use of vibrant color and glossy overtones makes her work stand out and instantly recognizable to her fans and fantasy art connoisseurs.
Gallery one: paperback cover art
Gallery 2: magazines and misc.
The Best of DF Lewis – by DF Lewis
TAL Publications 1993
I first discovered DF Lewis in the small-press horror magazines of the 1980s. He was an unknown author at the time, appearing in home grown magazines amongst other unknowns. I didn’t know what flash fiction was, but I was learning quickly. His stories were little more than a page long and left more of an impression than the featured stories in the publications. Often I reread his stories because they almost seemed like a magic trick. How could it be that the shortest story in the publication is the one that haunts me for the rest of the night?
I recently found this chapbook of DF Lewis stories, a limited edition, signed used copy from TAL Publications. There’s 15 stories, but it barely reaches 55 pages. Having not read any of his stories in many years, it was clear from the start I was in for a treat.
In Jack the Ratter, Jack is hunting rats. Only his concept of a rat and everyone else’s is quite disturbingly different. The barely 300 word Dreamaholic twists in upon itself in demented splendor until the final treat is revealed. The 1k word, Bloodbone effectively creeped me out when an unnamed protagonist travels to the ‘dark side’ of the city for life’s answers. The chap book ends with its longest story, The Weirdmonger, which seems to insinuate that a stranger can completely tear your life apart by imparting a few words upon you.
Most of his stories would be considered weird tales or weird fiction but they also have a strong horror element, so much so they are undeniably horror tales, perhaps with a Lewis Carroll undercurrent. Here I am trying to label the unclassifiable. The stories break all boundaries, making perfect sense in their abstract nature, delivering twists that are unfathomable, and leaving the reader mortified yet satisfied. DF Lewis is a mad genius, like Dr. Seuss with ill intent and sinister motives. The collection includes an introduction by Ramsey Campbell.
Currently Mr. Lewis is active in the underground press reviewing fiction and publishing anthologies by authors who align with his fiction mantra. He has published over 1,500 stories in his lifetime. He has won the Karl Edward Wagner Award from the British Fantasy Society for his accomplishments and also been nominated for his Gestalt Real-Time Reviewing of fiction books. For more info about DF Lewis check out his blog:
For a bibliography, click here:
Dinosaurs in Sci-fi and fantasy art – part I
Dinosaurs, prehistoric beasts, cavemen and cave women are the subjects for my new series of art posts. There will also be an occasional giant monster.
Frank Frazetta is a legendary artist who painted art and illustrations for hundreds if not thousands of fantasy items; sci-fi and fantasy book covers, Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella magazine covers, Album covers and movie posters. His work brought to life the imagery of Robert E. Howard, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and more…Here is some of his prehistoric beast and dinosaur art.
J. Allen St. John
St. John was an illustrator and artist who did some wonderful artwork for the pulp magazines of the early 1900’s and work for pulp book cover art. He is one of the early pioneers of sci-fi fantasy art. His work has been featured on the covers of Amazing Stories, Weird Tales, Fantastic Adventures, Famous Fantastic Mysteries and more.
Jeff was a much sought after artist and illustrator in the 1960’s and 70’s painting cover art for Heavy Metal Magazine, National Lampoon and Dean Koontz novels among others. He has several books of his artwork collections to purchase for fans of his work.
More in Dinosaurs in Sci-fi and fantasy art – part II (coming soon)
The King in Yellow
Robert W. Chambers
The King in Yellow is a collection of separate stories that all have a unifying thread, which includes several separate items; the script to a play called The King in Yellow, something called, the yellow sign, and the malevolent entity, the King in Yellow, himself. The King never makes an appearance in any of the stories, he is just hinted at as the demise of those seeing the yellow sign. When people read the King in Yellow manuscript, especially the second half, they either go utterly mad or strange things happen in their lives‘. The first four tales are in the subgenre known as weird tales and the rest of the book borders more on drama and romance. In fact the last few stories drop the King in Yellow tie-in and don’t feel the same as the earlier part of the book. Some versions of the book drop some of the later stories and replace it with the story by Ambrose Bierce that influenced, The King in Yellow stories, referencing places and titles, Carcosa, Hastur, and. Cassilda. Indeed Lovecraft took the King’s references even further and wrote about Carcosa and August Derleth turned Hastur into one of the Great Old Ones. The play, The King in Yellow, is never actually read in its entirety in any of the stories. Only sections and lines are read and delivered by the characters in the tales, keeping an air of mystery regarding the manuscript. The stories are written in turn of the century (1800s to 1900s) style which may be difficult for some today but I tend to enjoy the flamboyant use of words of that era’s authors.
I was not fully engaged with every story as some of the later tales in the book seemed to drag on without purpose to me. My favorite story however is the second tale, The Mask. Alec arrives at the Parisian home of his good friend Boris to see his friend’s break-through in the field of alchemy. He has found a way to chemically transform anything into stone, pure white marble to be precise. While Boris showcased his magic elixir, proving it could even change living things to stone, Alec grew weary and settled into the library. There he begins to read The King in Yellow. Alex soon discovers there’s only one thing more interesting than the alchemic discovery, and the manuscript, Boris’s fiancé Genevieve. He is enamored with her beauty and elegance. He had once courted her but she had turned to Boris as her life’s mate. It turns out she is also delighted with Alex on this visit, more so than in the past, and confesses her interest in him. Taken aback Alec decides he must leave his friend’s home so as not to betray his friend’s honor. He is called to the home some time later when his friend Boris dies, to help catalogue many of the artifacts in the home. To his supreme horror, there is a full-sized marble statue in the garden of Genevieve. Only Alec knows the truth of its origin. The description of the marble statue let’s you know in no uncertain terms that it is indeed Genevieve and not an artist’s sculpt.
The Repairer of Reputations is a story of extreme paranoia hinged upon the reading of the mysterious King in Yellow manuscript. In The Court of the Dragon and The Yellow Sign, both deal with being followed and haunted by a silent malevolent being. Both are creepy tales. In ‘Court…’ a church organist seems to show up in the main characters path no matter where he goes. In ‘The Yellow Sign’ this dark figure haunts a man’s every waking hours and dreams. From what I understand this collection is not the definitive collection, that depending upon the publisher there may be different tales in each publication. The Prophets Paradise and Rue Barrie are stories more in line with the KIY tales and would have been better inclusions for the collection rather than some of the more romance styled stories in the later part of the book. I imagine the current publisher chose this current set of stories to give an overview of Chambers writing through his years of authorship. So, while this collection is a good starting point for the King in Yellow series of tales, there is more to be read and discovered in the theme.
Solomon Kane (2012)
Directed by Michael J. Bassett
Max Von Sydow
(world release date 2009, UK and US release dates, 2010 and 2012)
Solomon Kane is the first honorable film adaptation of the character created by Robert E. Howard in 1928. Howard’s fantasy world formed in a natural evolution from dozens of pulp fiction stories appearing in Weird Tales, alongside contemporaries such as H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. Howard’s style lived somewhere between Lovecraft and Edgar Rice Burroughs combining fantasy adventure with tales of ancient gods and powerful evil entities. Howard’s most recognizable character is Conan the Barbarian; Kane should be his second.
Solomon Kane is an early archetype of the superhero, a puritan with a symbolic outfit, entirely black clothes, a long coat and a sloucher hat, and an array of weaponry, a rapier, a Dirk, flintlock pistols and a juju staff. He’s on a mission to battle evil. This film is an origin story dealing with Kane, who starts off as a mercenary only interested in the richest rewards. When an evil entity shows him the darkness that lies within his own soul, Kane flees and goes into hiding in a monastery. Marauders attack a nearby village and the evil sorcerer, Malachi, kidnaps the Crowthorn’s daughter, Meredith. Kane vows to save her as part of his own search for redemption. On his journey he battles zombies, demons, and evil swordsmen.
The film boasts impressive sets with giant statues (real sculptures made for the sets), enormous cathedrals and castles, and powerful natural scenery. The CG is well done and blended nicely so as not to be distracting, except maybe for the final demon which is of the already overused fire demon variety. James Purefoy plays the part of Kane wonderfully, garnering much admiration from Howard fans. Most of you may recognize him as the villain, Joe, in the current TV series, The Following. Although rights to the film were obtained in 1997 it had taken until 2008 to begin shooting. This was supposed to be the first of a trilogy, but I find it unlikely the other films will be made. This is one of the thousands of great stories I refer to that should be made, rather than the remakes and reboots Hollywood continues to green light. This was a foreign made film, a joint UK, French and Czeck endeavor.
It’s not perfect but I’m glad I had the opportunity to watch this and would readily watch the next two of the series if they are ever made.
A wonderful adaptation and introduction of Howard’s iconic character, with great acting, make-up, and special effects.
l give it 4.2 swipes of the sword out of five fiery demons on the anti-hero quest for redemption scale.
Dark Companions is a book of short stories previously published in magazine’s ranging from pulp to pro markets through the 1970’s into 1980. Many of the stories have to do with childhood experiences that we can all relate to. The Chimney entailed a terrifying urban legend and a young boy who guarded the fireplace in his room every Christmas as a black figure slithered down the chimney and into his sanctuary. It wasn’t until many years later as an adult, called by the police to his parents home, that he learned what that frightening creature was. He stared in disbelief as his childhood home burned to the ground.
Other creepy stories included fan favorites Macintosh Willie, The Invocation, and Out of Copyright. The book also includes, The Puppets, a tale of first love, it’s untimely ending and it’s maligned correspondence with an old vagabond’s stage-carriage puppet show.
Dark Companions is a collection of psychologically creepy horror, quiet horror that lingers after you’ve read it. It’s a great starting point for those not indoctrinated into the work of Ramsey Campbell. These stories represent a period in which Campbell desired to break away from his Cthulhu Mythos origins and find his own voice as a weird fiction author. You will find the stories highly successful in their intentions to get under your skin and fester as each tale progresses.
With Ligotti’s work, you always get the sense that his writing is a catharsis and that within a wholly functioning story the author is working out some deep personal dilemma behind the scenes. It’s always way in the background of his stories like a forgotten skeletal sub-plot. However, in The Spectral Link, it seems his mental insecurities have taken center stage in his story telling. After a short preface we are treated to two tales, short but welcomed, the first fiction from Ligotti since a longer than 10 year hiatus.
At the urging of a dark figure in his dream called The Dealer, a man works on his psychiatrist to perform a specific deed he describes as the “All New Context.” The man’s demoralization at it’s peak, he wishes to take the next step in withdrawal from life. Eventually, the psychiatrist, Doctor O, moves from his office and leaves no forwarding address for the man. Each time he moves he is found by his persistent patient. Dr. O inevitably witnesses ‘The Dealer’ himself and succumbs to his patient’s wishes, although it seems those wishes have changed.
In The Small People, the character has to deal with the intrusive spread of a race of small people that seem to have no rhyme or reason to their existence. There are themes of bigotry and prejudice explored within this story along with severe paranoia. Eventually the boy grows up and seems to see ‘the small people’ in everyone around him including his parents. He believes them to be conspiring against him for unknown reasons but in tandem with the small people. In the end he begs his psychiatrist for answers to life’s questions, to which there are none. The story makes you deal with the prejudices within yourself; uncomfortable situations and ideas are presented to your intellect to stew over.
Overall, these tales are different than Ligotti’s other horror fiction, but in line with repeating themes of his work. I think the biggest difference is the focus of the stories are turned inward upon the writer himself further demonstrating his nihilistic views. The stories make you twitch with discomfort and longing for an answer that is never found. I find shadows of Franz Kafka in these tales which can leave the reader in a state of woeful dread. Depending upon the degree the reader lets themselves fall into the stories, it makes it all the more difficult to shake off the cloud of dread and climb out of the black hole Ligotti has led you into. And that’s the horror of these stories.
The Spectral Link on Amazon
Urban Legend #9 – by Michael Thomas-Knight
Michael Thomas-Knight published in the Halloween issue of Fictionterrifica.com
When you’re online, for most people that means the “Real World’ is offline. There’s a killer on the lose, looking to take advantage of your inattention. 17-year-old, blonde-hair, blue-eyed, cheerleader Nicole, has no idea she is being stalked. But all is not as it seems…
Sub-Genres in speculative fiction – erotic horror
Erotic Horror had been well established in the 1980’s with the success of the Hot Blood series, anthologies edited by Jeff Gelb and Michael Garrett. It featured stories by name authors and were top-notch horror tales with erotic content:
Cthulhu Erotica is now an established sub-genre
Big-foot Erotica is a more recent sub-genre
Amazon has decided to pull some titles of Bigfoot erotica and the ones that they didn’t remove they made harder to find on the web-site. However, they have left Dinosaur Erotica and Alien Erotica publications intact. Some authors have said that Bigfoot Erotica may be considered too close to bestiality and that is why they were removed from distribution. So, in conclusion, one of the biggest companies in the US is saying, Bigfoot is real!
After selling over 100 thousand dollars of Bigfoot Erotica, author, Virginia Wade has seen a huge drop-off in sales due to Amazon’s tactics.
The real Bigfoot could not be reached for comment.
(art and photos are (c) (p) by the original artists, used here for informational purposes)