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Posts Tagged ‘fantasy

“We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it”…

 

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The human body is a miraculous piece of machinery. Try as they might, scientists can’t always seem to understand its power — and susceptibility — to the strangest situations throughout history. What happens when a meteorite causes a mental health calamity? Or a laughing epidemic? From ye old French dancing fits [evoked above], to an entire village of ‘sleeping beauties’, the lesson we’ve learned from the majority of these epidemics is this: viruses are terrifying, but the mind is the most dangerous thing of all…

A curious (and captivating) collection of collective compulsion: “The Unexplained Dancing Plague & Other Epidemics of Yore.”

* Charles Mackay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

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As we muse on madness, we might spare a thought for Ernst Theodor Amadeus (“E.T.A.”) Hoffmann; he died on this date in 1822.  A key figure in the German Romantic period, Hoffmann was an author of fantasy and horror– a phantasist and proto-surrealist– a jurist, composer, music critic, draftsman and caricaturist.  While some of his compositions survive in the canon, he is probably better remembered for his stories: they form the basis of Jacques Offenbach’s opera The Tales of Hoffmann, in which Hoffmann appears (heavily fictionalized) as the hero. He is also the author of the novella The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, on which the famous ballet The Nutcracker is based.  The ballet Coppélia is based on two other stories that Hoffmann wrote, while Schumann’s Kreisleriana is based on Hoffmann’s character Johannes Kreisler.

Hoffmann also influenced 19th century musical opinion through his music criticism. His reviews of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 (1808) and other important works set new literary standards for writing about music, and encouraged later writers to consider music as “the most Romantic of all the arts.”

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Written by LW

June 25, 2018 at 1:01 am

“There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity”*…

 

Somewhere in your life, a door opens, you enter, and you suddenly find yourself in another dimension—a place beyond that which is known to man. A dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. Or, as we prefer to call it, the Internet—where everything is available and time disappears as you spend hours upon hours drifting in the hell of an Internet K-hole.

Sometimes you’re lucky. Sometimes you avoid the endless loops of cat and baby videos and dodge the fake news and outraged memes about nothing very much in particular only to land safely in a strange repository of mystery and imagination.

One such idyllic location can be found at the Internet Archive where the Pulp Magazine Archive has nearly every back issue of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine. This is the place to spend hours, days even, happily reading, learning, and being thrilled by the very best genre writers of our age like Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Joyce Carol Oates, Isaac Bashevis Singer [!], Robert Silverberg, and Harlan Ellison.

Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine started in April 1981 under the editorship of writer T. E. D. Klein and lasted until 1989. It was filled with first-class stories (see above), interviews with writers and directors, film reviews (including Stephen King’s take on Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead), long illustrated features on films like Blade RunnerGremlins, John Carpenter’s The Thing, and David Lynch’s Dune, plus book reviews by Thomas M. Disch and Theodore Sturgeon. There were also incredible treats like John Carpenters “lost” short fiction and the story behind H. P. Lovecraft’s “banned book.”…

Get a taste at “A Treasure Trove of the Twilight Zone Magazine“– then dive in.

* “There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.”  – Rod Serling’s opening narration for The Twilight Zone.

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As we feel the frisson, we might send speculative birthday greetings to novelist, short story writer, and essayist James Graham (J. G.) Ballard; he was born on this date in 1930.  While he is probably most widely known for his conventional (and semi-autobiographical) novel Empire of the Sun, he is probably more meaningfully remembered for his New Wave science fiction novels (e.g., The Wind from Nowhere and The Drowned World) and for later dystopian works like Crash and High Rise.

Indeed, The literary distinctiveness of Ballard’s fiction has given rise to the adjective “Ballardian“, defined by the Collins English Dictionary as “resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in J. G. Ballard’s novels and stories, especially dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments.”  In the introduction to the seminal Mirrorshades anthology, Bruce Sterling cited Ballard cited as an important forebear of the cyberpunk movement; and in Simulacra and SimulationJean Baudrillard hailed Crash as the “first great novel of the universe of simulation.”

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Written by LW

November 15, 2017 at 1:01 am

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world”*…

 

Grace

Before dinner the Reverend Newman said grace: “Heavenly Father. What kind of a heel do you think I am? How dare you talk to me like that! Don’t give me any of your back talk, smart-ass. It’s been an  of a week. I sinned and brought shame down on us. As far as I’m concerned, it’s no big deal. You don’t know dick about this—you haven’t a clue! I suppose you believe that rubbish about vampires. The allegations were false, do you understand me? Baseless allegations. I believe in ghosts. Too bad, but that’s the way it is. Why don’t you leave me alone? Go on, get lost! I’ll get mine, you get yours, we’ll all get wealthy. Amen to that!”

More stories composed entirely of example sentences for the New Oxford American Dictionary at Dictionary Stories.

* Philip Pullman

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As we channel our inner Tristan Tzara, we might recall that  it was on this date in 1937 that George Allen & Unwin published J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.  Widely critically-acclaimed in its time (nominated for the Carnegie Medal and awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune for best juvenile fiction), it was a success with readers, and spawned a sequel… which became the trilogy The Lord of the Rings.

Cover of the first edition, featuring a drawing by Tolkien

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Written by LW

September 21, 2015 at 1:01 am

Special July 4th Edition: “Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop”*…

July 4 is, of course, a very special anniversary…

On this date in 1862, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a young Oxford mathematics don, took the daughters of the Dean of Christ Church College– Alice Liddell and her sisters– on a boating picnic on the River Thames in Oxford.  To amuse the children he told them the story of a little girl, bored by a riverbank, whose adventure begins when she tumbles down a rabbit hole into a topsy-turvy world called “Wonderland.”  The story so captivated the 10-year-old Alice that she begged him to write it down.  The result was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published in 1865 under the pen name “Lewis Carroll,” with illustrations by John Tenniel.

Readers in or around Oxford can join the celebration.

[The Tenniel illustration above, via]

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Too cool…

 

The guide to modern life for which one has been waiting:  Coolness Graphed.

 

More.

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As we navigate our lives with increased confidence, we might send adventurous birthday greetings to Edgar Rice Burroughs; he as born on this date in 1875.  In 1911, after a series of unsuccessful jobs (cavalry ranger, cowboy, clerk), Burroughs was working as a pencil sharpener wholesaler.  The story goes that…

Burroughs was sitting in his rented office and waiting for his crack pencil sharpener salesmen to report in, their pockets bulging with orders. Besides waiting, one of Burroughs’ duties was to verify the placement of advertisements for his sharpeners in various magazines. These were all-fiction “pulp” magazines, a prime source of escapist reading material for the rapidly expanding middle class. Verifying the pencil sharpener ads didn’t exactly take much time. The pencil sharpener salesmen never showed up, so Burroughs spent his idle time reading those pulp magazines. And an idea was born.

After reading several thousand words of breathless pulp fiction Burroughs determined ~ or so he claimed ~ that “if people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines that I could write stories just as rotten. As a matter of fact, although I had never written a story, I knew absolutely that I could write stories just as entertaining and probably a whole lot more so than any I chanced to read in those magazines”…

Burroughs wrote a novel, Under the Moons of Mars, which was serialized in All-Story Magazine in 1912 (and introduced “John Carter”).  Tarzan of the Apes came later that year.  Burroughs served as one of the oldest war correspondents in the field during World War II, and died in 1950, having published almost 70 novels.

In 1915 (or 1919, records disagree), Burroughs purchased a large ranch north of Los Angeles, California, which he named “Tarzana.”  The citizens of the community that sprang up around the ranch voted to adopt that name when they incorporated their enclave– and Tarzana, California was formed in 1927.

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Written by LW

September 1, 2012 at 1:01 am

There’s no business like show business…

…  there’s no business at all.

Consider Charlie Jane Anders’ wonderful collection of the “Most misleading and fanciful science fiction/fantasy movie posters ever!“–  55 gems, including one-sheets like…

Those frightening eyes? That "scuttling, shambling horde of creatures destroying all in their path"? Bunnies.

Or, from the “Video Homage” category…

... with a bonus extra leading man!!!

Peruse the 53 other films-that-might-have-been (in several cases, films-we’d-just-as-soon-they’d-made) here.

As we revisit Rotten Tomatoes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1888, in Spa (Belgium), that the first beauty contest was held.  21 finalists vied to be named “beauty queen”; the winner, 18- year-old Bertha Sukkar from Guadeloupe, took home 5,000 Francs.

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