Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Tarantula

I don't really know whether Jack Arnold's Tarantula merits the Overlooked Film title, since it's one of the classics of the fifties' horror films and is on the better side as well. The film is never unintentionally funny, the special effects are very good for the time (the film was released in 1955) and the script and the direction are well crafted and tight. There are not many empty scenes. Yeah, well, okay, you might say it's funny when there's a giant tarantula spider roaming the deserts of Arizona, but no one sees it, except those whom the thing devours. Well, it's Arizona, I don't think there are that many people.

I've heard some good things about Jack Arnold's film noirs, The Tattered Dress and Outside the Law. Anyone seen them? The same goes for Arnold's western, The Man from Bitter Ridge.

More Overlooked Films here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

New Finnish covers for ERB's Mars books

The small publishing house Into is bringing new editions of Edgar Rice Burroughs's Mars books in Finnish this Spring. The books have been out-of-print in Finnish for almost thirty years and some of the old editions command quite high prices.

My friend Ossi Hiekkala did great covers for the first two, see the link here. I think they are up there with the best.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Nympho librarians

Here's another great link to a site collecting all sorts of porn books about librarians. No cover photos, though.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Himmelskibet

Himmelskibet is a big-budget Danish science fiction film made in 1918. It has big sets and lots of extras. See for yourself. This is a longish clip from the Marx expedition in the film, with the music by the Norwegian Kolar Goi.

This came up in the movie quiz our team kept. One of the members of our team had made three questions about obscure Nordic horror and science fiction films (Reptilicus, anyone?) and I wanted to make it four. After some Googling, I found this. It's a very nice clip and you simply want to take a look at it, even though it's not the whole film. 

More Overlooked Films here

Vast archive of pulps on-line

Here's a link to the site that has lots of different magazines for on-line reading, with lots of pulp magazines included: Argosy, Weird Tales, Western Adventures, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Ranch Romances, Detective Fiction Weekly...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: The Collector

I've liked everything I've read from John Fowles, including his first novel (but the novel he first wrote), The Collector. It's been 20 years, since I read it, though, so don't really know what I'd say of it now. But the film I just saw and I liked it quite a bit, even though I believe William Wyler's later films don't have a very good reputation. At least they didn't have the same 20 years ago. I don't really know why: The Collector is a well-paced, suspenseful film that's dated only in the scenes in which Samantha Eggar in the lead role acts like she'd really like to go to bed with her captor, played by the disturbing Terence Stamp. The ending is very chilling.

The film isn't actually a psychological thriller it's sometimes made out to be, it's more like a study in the unequality between social classes. Wyler doesn't much touch on the subject, though, and there's something upper class about Stamp that doesn't fit in with the theme.

More Overlooked Films here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Very old Finnish science fiction

Two friends and colleagues of mine, Vesa Sisättö and Jari Koponen, compiled one of the most interesting books of 2011. The book was published to almost no publicity and I've seen only one review of the book. The book, called Aivopeili / The Brain Mirror, is a collection of two essays, a bibliography and some fifteen short science fiction stories. The stories are mainly from Finnish authors from the early 19th century to the year of independence, 1917. There are also seven stories from foreign writers like Jack London, H. C. Andersen and Kurd Lasswitz. The translations of those seven stories are taken from the ancient Finnish fictionmags or newspapers. The book shows how science fiction made its way to Finland during the Russian rule in the 19th century.

There are some intriguing stories in the book. The first science fiction story written in Finland was published in 1803 (which strictly speaking was six years before the Russian rule), by a man called Gabriel Israel Hartman. Jari Koponen states in his introduction that this is the first story in the annals of literature to depict a microcosmos! Hartman writes about a fantasy of how the narrator makes his way into a small world through a microscope and notices that microcosmos contains a lot more other miniature worlds. The story predates "The Diamond Lens" by Fitz-James O'Brien by 50 years.

The book also contains some utopies, many of which are about the reversal of the gender roles. I think Fredrika Runeberg's story about the theme is the best in the bunch, but the other stories show how the fear of women's emancipation has taken hold of the public imagination. There's also a hilarious story called "Ratkaisu / The Solution" that's about exploding Finland off the continent in order to stop the war about fresh water. The writer of the story was called "TRT", of whom nothing is known.

The foreign stories may seem odd in the book, since one might think they'd benefit if they were translated now straight from the original language. But this solution, to keep the old translations intact (aside some small edits), makes the stories come alive in their own time and context and we can see the influences the stories really had on the readers of the time. I think the best of those stories is by German writer Carl Grunert: the story "The Spy" is a fast-paced mystery story about the invasion of the Martians. The titular story is by Kurd Lasswitz, who's pretty well-known, but I think his story was marred by sensational narration and poor dialogue (which of course may be a result of a bad translation).

I strongly recommend the book (for the Finnish-language readers, of course) and would like to see someone tackle translating Gabriel Hartman's story in English!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The cover for my Actual First Novel

Here's the cover for my novel, Jumalten tuho / Twilight of the Gods. It will be out next month from Pikku-idis, a small publishing outfit run by Jari Tammi, novelist in his own right. The cover illo is made from a painting by Juha Korhonen.

And the book? For the Finnish readers, there's a pretty good description at the publisher's website here, but maybe I should say something about it here as well, in English (as there has been some interest in it among British literary agents...). Twilight of the Gods takes place in 1928, in the small town of Forssa. I'm quite familiar with the town, since my father was born there and his mother lived there until she died some years ago, and I've visited the place quite often. I haven't strived for accuracy, though, and I've taken some liberties and left the descriptions a bit vague on purpose, but I say: hell with descriptions and historical accuracy anyway! Entertainment is more important!

Twilight of the Gods is, despite the pompous title, a pulpy rollercoaster ride with some hardboiled Finnish cops who've got shotguns, a strange monster that's been hiding in something called Void for almost 2,000 years, a Finnish private eye who's got his guns straight from Vatican, a gorgeous-looking black angel who's also got a gun, plus some zombies. All this relates to the Finnish Civil War that has ended ten years ago. I'll add that this book has nothing to do with Wagner. (Maybe Karl Edward.) It's a hybrid of several genres: serial killer novel (it turns out to be something else entirely, though), hardboiled crime pulp fiction, religious satire, historical conspiracy novel and straight-forward horror. It's not The Da Vinci Code, let me assure you.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

What am I gonna do in 2012?

I didn't post anything about the best books or films of 2011, since I didn't read enough new books or see enough new films (not to mention anything about the best albums). Instead I'm going to do a post about my 2012 and my projects. So, here goes, are you buckled up:

- the book that ties together Finnish politician Paavo Väyrynen and Cthulhu, On Suurten Muinaisten aika/The Time of the Great Old Ones will be published tomorrow, on Monday, ninth of January (see photo)
- the anthology of old Finnish horror stories, called Hallusinatsioneja/Hallucinations I compiled will be out in some time (I don't know when)
- my Actual First Novel Jumalten tuho/The Twilight of the Gods will be out before March ("actual" meaning that it's the first published by someone else than me, since I've already published three novels [they are very short, so someone might say they are not novels per se])
- the architectural guide to Turku (the city where I live) will be published sometime during this Spring (at least I hope so, it's been a hell of a project, almost too daunting, though my part on the job is done)
- I just received a 3,000 euro grant for a book on the history of the animated cinema, so I'll start working on it this Spring
- I'll translate H. P. Lovecraft's essay The Supernatural Horror in Literature in Finnish for the Savukeidas publishers, and it will be the first time this essay will be available in Finnish
- I'm going to write two short novels, one being the third part in my sleaze quartet and one being a short alternate-history novel set in the Hollywood in the early fourties; I'll self-publish both
- I've been going through a sword-and-sorcery novel I've published in five parts in one of my own magazines and self-publish it as a paperback
- I'm editing two small collections of old hate speech for Savukeidas: both from Left and Right, mostly from the early decades of the 20th century, mainly stuff that relates to the Finnish Civil War and the right-wing movement of the 1920's and 1930's (we had plenty of that in Finland)
- I'm editing some other anthologies for Turbator: one being about the famous Finnish soldier, officer, spy, explorer, photographer and finally the President of Finland, Carl Gustaf Mannerheim (this is still a bit of a secret, so I won't let you know more about it), and one being about old Christmas stories (there have been talks about other anthologies, but as you can see, I can't easily fit them in)

Okay, is that all? I'm thinking I keep forgetting something. I don't actually know how I'm going to do all that. Now you can see why I ceased the publications of my crime fiction zines? Oh, that was it: I've got still one issue of Seikkailukertomuksia/Adventure Stories coming out, and I've got stories and spectacular illustrations for an old-time aviation magazine!

But now I'm gonna start doing something else than making books: I'll start reading one!

Friday, January 06, 2012

Axel Kilgore: The Terror Contract

For some days now I've been reading Six Seconds by Rick Mofina which is only remotely interesting, though it got off to a good start. After a while I got bored with Mofina's over-anxious way to make his humans alive and four-dimensional and his a bit too obvious story about Muslim terrorists, and as I was going through some boxes here at my study I came across a copy of  men's adventure paperback from 1987: The Terror Contract as by "Axel Kilgore". (The Finnish title of the paperback is Tappava enkeli that means "The Deadly Angel". The series title was translated literally as "Palkkasoturi".) I thought: "What the heck!", and as there was some leisurely time at my hands at the moment I started to read the book. It was way better than Mofina's.

Axel Kilgore was really Jerry Ahern, who's better known for his science fiction series called The Survivalist. I've pretty much avoided them, but The Terror Contract seemed so well-built that I might try one or two Survivalists one day. The hero of The Terror Contract and the whole Mercenary series is Hank Frost, one-eyed freelance spy, a tough guy who really knows his way in a battle. The book is about helping a Leftist terrorist to elope the Eastern Europe - there are lots of complications, though, and plenty of shoot-outs. The book is very fast, with no empty holes in it, and the action scenes are crisp and not overtly long, though they can go on for pages. Seems like this type of thing was something I missed.

There are many differences between The Terror Contract and Mofina's Six Seconds, even though they are aimed at similar markets (of course in totally different times). Mofina tries very hard to be convincing and make his people feel personal to the reader whereas Jerry Ahern couldn't care less, but with this gesture I care more about Hank Frost than anybody in Six Seconds. There's a longer story arc in The Mercenary books in which Frost seeks his girlfriend who was killed in a terrorist bombing, which makes for some melodramatic reading, but then again it's pretty nice compared to the lukewarm and forced emotionalism of Mofina. The Terror Contract is honest in its crudeness and simplicity, while Six Seconds is a mediocre attempt to bring depth into a simple spy thriller.

Having said all that I must add that I'd never share Ahern's political views. But then again he doesn't go on and on about them in The Terror Contract. There's also lots of gun porn, which seems like Ahern's trademark, but I can live with that. At least the action usually starts from the next page after Frost has described his weaponry.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

The new issue of Ässä

I wouldn't be me, if I didn't hurry up a new issue of a magazine just hours before the New Year. Here's the cover for the new issue of my self-published flash fiction mag, called Ässä (Ace). I've done three issues of Ässä earlier in 2007, 2008 and 2009. I missed 2010 for some reason or another, and I was going to make an issue for 2011, but time kept running out. I noticed, though, that I had an almost finished issue by Christmas, so I asked around in Facebook if any of my writer friends had something to fill this up. I wound up getting three short-shorts from good writers, so late last night, just before heading to a party, I did the final edits and finished the layout and made the PDF file and sent it off to the printers at six p.m.

The cover illo of the issue is something I found somewhere - can't actually remember where. Hope no one gets offended... The translated writers in the issue are Sandra Seamans, Allan Guthrie, Ray Banks, Peter Farris and Michael Kechula, and the Finnish writers are Johanna Sinisalo, Vesa Kataisto, Jukka Laajarinne, Juha-Matti Heikkinen and me, with the added bonus of an ancient crime story by Eino Leino, one of the most revered classics of Finnish literature. He had some crime-related short-shorts in one of his early books and one of them already found its place at the last issue of Isku here.

Speaking of last issues, this also marks the last issue of Ässä. I mentioned the possible anthology of the translated stories I've published during all these years, and I was thinking I could very well include the best of the flash stories I published in Ässä. (Or then I could do a mini-anthology of the flash stories. I am doing a Finnish flash anthology some time in the near future, but that's stritcly for Finnish stories.) I'm still developing the fifth issue of yet another mag, Seikkailukertomuksia (Adventure Stories) and it's also gonna be the last one. I had some good stories there as well, but not enough to fill an anthology. But these are only ideas, we'll have to see what actually comes of them.

Happy New Year to everyone, no matter what anthologies I'm gonna make!