Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Morons from Outer Space (1985)

Some time ago I watched a virtually unknown movie by Mike Hodges, the director of such masterpieces as Get Carter and Flash Gordon. Now I watched another one, but of this I'd heard before. Morons from Outer Space (1985) was shown in Finnish cinemas, so I'd seen ads of it and I even remember a friend of mine discussing it.

I bought the now rare movie on VHS and my viewing of it may not have been the best quality, but I still think I got a good picture of what the film was doing and how well it was accomplished. The morons of the title are four foul creatures travelling somewhere in space and somehow ending up on Earth. One of them is played by Mel Smith, amiable comedian, who performed a lot with Griff Rhys-Jones, who plays a reporter in the film. Jimmy Nail merits a special mention as one of the aliens. Morons from Outer Space aims for parody (there are references to 2001, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind and even One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) and satire - the space morons end up being celebrities, though they don't know or even understand a lot. They do speak good English, though, which is a joke unto itself. The film is a bit wacky and a bit quirky, but never funny enough. Not enough good jokes, not enough crazy slapstick comedy, not enough witty ideas. The satire is also a bit obvious, maybe dated.

The film bombed at the box office and probably made sure Mike Hodges's career will never rise to the heights of Get Carter and Flash Gordon. Mind you, though, Croupier from 1998 is a pretty good neo-noir, and Black Rainbow, made in 1989, was occasionally very good (see the link above). He made some TV stuff between those two, but his film career has been erratic and very mixed.

More Overlooked Films here.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Gil Brewer in Wikipedia, at long last!

Remember when I noted that Gil Brewer didn't have a Wikipedia article to his name? Now he does. (I didn't do, though I set out to do it.) It's still a stub, but it's a start.

There must be dozens or even hundreds of paperback crime and western writers who have no Wikipedia articles, someone should start making up a list of those who don't have (I just noticed the other day that Giff Cheshire doesn't have one). Maybe I should do it?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Science fiction westerns

I'm editing a collection of my writings on genre and pulp literature. Included is an essay on horror and sci-fi western hybrids. I'd added some comments in English at the end of the text, possibly snatched from the Fictionmags or other e-mail list discussions, but I won't be incorporating them into my essay (or at least all of them), it's long enough as it is. But here they are, for your reading pleasure:

Did you ever read FOR TEXAS AND ZED by Zach Hughes? (Popular Library, 1976) It's my all time favorite in the SF-about-Texas sub-genre, and it's a pretty good story to boot!

From the jacket copy:

"Spacemen from Texas on Earth had settled this remote planet centuries ago. While the rest of the galaxy was being divided between two vast warring empires, Planet Texas preserved its
independence, created its own unique civilization, developed its own advanced technology. But now all that Planet Texas was and all that it believed in were threatened, as the super-powers of space moved in for the kill."

William Rotsler's space western novel (THE FAR FRONTIER?)?

Eric Frank Russell, "The Illusionaries," PLANET STORIES 11/51, reprinted in Andre Norton's anthology SPACE PIONEERS.

David Drake's Hammer Slammer spinoff, The Sharp End, though set in a galaxy far far away, was structured along the lines of Sergio Leone's western, Fistful of Dollars.

Julian F. Grow:
The Fastest Gun Dead (ss) If Mar 1961
The 7th Annual of the Year’s Best S-F, ed. Judith Merril, Simon &
Schuster 1962
The Sword of Pell the Idiot (nv) F&SF Apr 1967
The Starman of Pritchard’s Creek (nv) If Dec 1968
Bonita Egg (nv) F&SF Sep 1969
Formula for a Special Baby (nv) F&SF Dec 1969

Phyllis Eisenstein's "In the Western Tradition". Wonderful story. (A time viewer story, one of my pet categories.) F&SF, March 1981

William F. Wu's story and novel of a robot in the west: "Hong's Bluff" and HONG ON THE RANGE.

I dug out Eric Frank Russell's "The Illusionaries" (PLANET STORIES 1951, reprinted in Andre Norton's anthology SPACE PIONEERS), and that's the category it falls into also. Aliens land on
earth, are accustomed to enslaving lesser species by controlling their perceptions, try it on humans and it works fine, but decide that they can't make it work, get in their spaceship, and check out.
The end of the story suggests that the humans have been creating an illusion for the aliens and invokes Wyatt Earp and Jesse James.

All of Quinn Yarbro's vampire novels are historicals as well, and "In the Face of Death" is set muchly in the West of American Indians and San Francisco pre-Civil War ... and in the South during the war.

Howard Waldrop, with "Night of the Cooters" (Omni, April '87; also in the Waldrop collection NIGHT OF THE COOTERS, and in Kevin J. Anderson's GLOBAL DISPATCHES anthology) which has Texas Rangers battling H.G. Wells' Martian invaders -- of WAR OF THE WORLDS fame -- at the same time they are landing elsewhere on Earth (1898?). A gem.

Anybody yet mention Jonathan Lethem, _Girl in Landscape_ (1998), which makes complicated (but perfectly recognizeable) play with _The Searchers_ .

WiIliam Tenn's story "Eastward Ho!" which, I think, was about the Indians crowding the white man out of America.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bibliographical problem: Hugh B. Cave in Finnish

I just posted a short bibliography of the short stories by Hugh B. Cave that were translated and published in Finnish in my bibliographical sidekick blog here. None of the stories show up in any reliable Cave bibliography and he himself didn't remember them, when I had the opportunity to interview him just a month before he died. So, if anyone here can identify these stories, I'd be most grateful.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Stack of Robert E. Howards

I bought these nice items couple weeks ago. You can easily guess we don't usually have this stuff here in Finland. And what's nice is that I got them cheap.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Charles Beckman (1920-2015)

I just heard from James Reasoner that Charles Beckman died two weeks ago. He was probably the last real pulp magazine writer alive - I can't think of anyone else, after Hugh B. Cave, Jack Williamson, Frank Kelly, Ray Bradbury, and Elmore Leonard have all passed away.

Beckman's career wasn't straight-forward. He wrote for the crime and western pulps, he wrote for the sleaze houses in the mid-to-late sixties, he wrote for the men's magazines, he wrote for the romance publishers with his wife, he also wrote some non-fiction on jazz - he was a jazz drummer first. Beckman's first published short story was "Strictly Poison" in Detective Tales, October 1945.

Beckman got active just before the end, compiling two collections of his old pulp tales: Suspense, Suspicion & Shockers, and Saddles, Sixguns & Shootouts. I have the first one, but haven't had time to check into it. Note also the new biography Pulp Jazz available from CreateSpace. The book also seems to have a bibliography of Beckman's writing, but I thought I'd also include one myself, here at my bibliographic sidekick blog.

I also published Beckman myself. I put out a small booklet (see above) containing two of his stories, a noirish hardboiled pulp story "Die Dancing, Kid!" (Detective Tales, January 1947) and a more thoughtful "Class Reunion" (AHMM, June 1973). The first one was published originally in Finnish in a magazine called Seikkailujen Maailma (The World of Adventures) and the translator remains unknown. The latter one was translated by my friend Tapani Bagge and published in a short-lived crime fiction mag RikosPalat (CrimeBits) in the late eighties. Both were republished by permission from Mr. Beckman himself, with thanks to James Reasoner and Walker Martin!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Interview on Women Crime Writers

Here's Cullen Callagher's nice interview with Sarah Weinman on her 2-volume anthology Women Crime Writers. Check it out, it's a very good interview with interesting points.