Friday, October 2, 2015

FFS: "Malice in Wonderland" by Evan Hunter (IF: WORLDS OF SCIENCE FICTION January 1954; illustrated by Frank Kelly Freas)

The January 1954 issue of If (on newsstands in early December '53) features an impressive lineup of writers...each, save one, would go on to or had already established a sustained career in sf and fantasy; the one was Evan Hunter, who hadn't yet legally changed his name, and had in fact published a number of sf stories under a version of his birth name, S. A. Lombino, which he'd shed over resentment of anti-Italian sentiment in the US (one each in the sf magazines had gone out as by Hunt Collins, Ted Taine and D. A. Addams, according to ISFDB). This story was the seventh in the sf magazines to use his preferred pseudonym/identity for his best work. It's still his most famous sf story, albeit kept out of print for long stretches by the existence of the novel expansion Tomorrow and Tomorrow (first published in 1956 under that title in a Pyramid paperback, and also as Tomorrow's World in a typically cheap Avalon hardcover, both as by Hunt Collins; Sphere did a UK paperback under the T&T title, as by Ed McBain, 1969).

Below, the contents of that issue of If; the best and most important story in the issue is the Damon Knight story, "Anachron." Larry Shaw, like Knight a former Futurian, was the editor of the magazine, but could be overruled by the publisher James Quinn, who retained the editorial title for himself (with Shaw officially as associate ed.).

The Internet Archive posting of the January 1954 issue of If is here.
typically amateurish Avalon package;
atypically weak Emsh illo.
I am happy to be able to report that, unlike every other Hunter/McBain/Curt Cannon/etc. story I can recall reading, there is no fatal stupidity or overstated striving for effect (the major flaw I recall in Last Summer the novel) that tosses verisimilitude out the window in "Malice," so much as a playful and slightly half-assed application of the slang/argot and the effects of their narcotized lives on the wealthy bohemians of the story's future. In a sense, Hunter's disdain for working out the details in his fiction is reflected in the attitudes of the Vikes, who go in for vicarious thrills in extremely lurid novels, videos and 3D presentations, as well as keeping themselves hopped up on (usually) mixtures of cocaine and heroin, and some newer synthetic drugs of unspecified effects. The opponents of the Vikes are the Rather Square "Rees," whose lives are less virtual and less recreationally medicated, and who often prefer at least somewhat realistic middlebrow fiction and the like. It's a bit of a culture war, of a kind all too familiar in the early 1950s in the US even as it is today, with Hunter enjoying, in a manner rather derivative of Alfred Bester particularly and the Galaxy sort of "comic inferno" satirical writing generally, playing off the various fresh and recently-enough historical dichotomies...entertainment Industry staffers (including those in publishing) vs. the sensation-seeking public, whether Vike or Ree and the would-be watchdogs of public morality (analogous to Wertham through McCarthy) among the Rees; bohemians (including the emerging Beats) vs. the boojies; perhaps even a hint of Weimar Republic tension.  Vike characters particularly will drop in and out of standard 1953 American English, occasionally larding their sentences with such words as  "illidge" rather than "bastard", "grooved" for "understood"; a tendency to refer to each other as "mother" and "father" the way the more avant garde in the African American community then might call each other Brother and Sister. (Hunter might also be engaging in the slightest bit of self-parody, as the protagonist long ago traded his original Slavic name for a relatively Aryan one, and is sensitive about it.) Vikes are also notable for wearing as little above the waist as possible, aside from various means of casting different colors and micro decorations on women's breasts and men's (sometimes artificially) hairy chests and everyone's bellies. As with heroin junkies Hunter was aware of in his time, the Vikes have lost interest in sex per se, often have gone as far as finding it revolting, but appreciation of nudity, and even a certain level of bluenose reaction to complete nudity in formal settings, remains with them. 

This story, when come upon by readers unfamiliar with the context in which it was published, might dazzle them with the somewhat lazy if smooth way Hunter drops in his Vike argot and descriptions of new technology, already common coin in sf of the time that will go unread by those who will instead decide Hunter or, say, Vonnegut made all this stuff up by themselves, in the manner of those not terribly well-versed fans who are certain that Miles Davis was a unique genius who singlehandedly remade jazz in various ways throughout his career, as opposed to a collaborator with a wide variety of other serious artists and often more of a popularizer than innovator. The subcultures have their own languages and developments that are traded off and built upon, no matter what school or schools of art we speak of; and there will be those ready to lead with their chins, like a young (mid-20s) film-review blogger who noted recently that, for a Remade Films blogathon she's setting up, she doesn't want any comparison of films based on Famous Books such as Little Women or The Maltese Falcon, but those based on obscure books and stories such as The Big Sleep, Double Indemnity, "The Most Dangerous Game." "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and the like are just fine for her purposes. As I noted that the films of The Fly are based on a hugely famous short story, she rather sniffily hoped to shut me down with the assertion that only true fans of that kind of story would ever have heard of George Langelaan's unknown prose; she certainly had never heard of any such story. Or, apparently, of Chandler's The Big Sleep. I have refrained until now from suggesting that her ignorance isn't my responsibility (nor, certainly, her arrogance about her ignorance), and I'm quite sure that she'll never read this (or those source stories)  unless it and they are thrust upon her, though whoever does so might be doing her at least some small favor. As mentioned above, Hunter is mostly having fun here, and perhaps tweaking particularly the culture around the Scott Meredith Literary Agency and Hollywood sorts he was beginning his career with at about this time...there are entirely too many worse Hunter stories one can turn to instead, and I wonder if the novel is nearly as pleasant as the short form.
The 1970 Pyramid cover at left is probably the least misleading representation in illustration of the tenor of the story, aside from Kelly Freas's original magazine illustration (where Freas himself is the model for the protagonist). The notion that the Vikes and Rees are "strange cults" might be introduced in the novel, but are hardly the case in the short form.

For a lot more praise for Hunter than I'll ever put forth, I suspect, please see the other reviews at Patti Abbott's blog. (Well, I do agree with Hunter's preference for Hammett over Chandler, that obscurity, though perhaps not  to the degree to which Chandler drove Hunter up a wall; the editorial project, an original novellas bugcrusher, that Hunter at least put his name to and probably did some work on, was pretty decent even if it did have a Jeffery Deaver story.)

When a Jerry House meme hybridizes with a George Kelley tendency...

Jerry's "Bad Joke Wednesday" can mate with George's cheesecake imagery to encourage consideration of one of the best (on both relevant counts) of Esquire's "A Funny Joke from a Beautiful Woman" video series: Lake Bell, and her joke...NSFW in many offices, at least.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V: new links to the reviews, interviews and more

Black Rainbow

The selections (reviews, interviews and citations at the links below) of undeservedly (and a few deservedly) under-appreciated audio/visual experiences...As always, thanks to all the contributors and you readers...
Forbidden Games

Allan Fish: Jeux interdits (aka Forbidden Games); Mouchette

Anne Billson: favorite horror films (and part two)

Anonymous: The Virgin Suicides

Bill Crider: Young Sherlock Holmes [trailer]

B.V. Lawson: Media Murder

BNoirDetour: Pickup on South Street

Colin: Day of the Outlaw

Comedy Film Nerds: LA PodFest; Everest; Pawn Sacrifice; Shawn Merek on LA PodFest, Black Mass, EarBuds, etc.

Cynthia Fuchs: 99 Homes; Everest

Dan Stumpf: Conflict

David Cramner: Longmire (Season 4)

David Vineyard: Blake and Mortimer

Dorian Bartilucci: Agnes Moorehead

Doug Loves Movies: with Jon Hamm, Kumail Nanjani, and Max Landis

Elgin Bleecker: Call Northside 777

Elizabeth Foxwell: Fast and Loose

Evan Lewis: "The Three Troubledoers"

Gary Deane: The Glass Alibi; The Big Bluff

George Kelley: House of Cards (US season three)

Gilligan Newton-John: Street Trash

Iba Dawson: They Made Me a Fugitive

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.: Duelling serials: Superman v. Atom Man

Jackie Kashian: Easy A; Matthew Diffee (cartoonist, juggler, musician)

Jacqueline T. Lynch: Joan Crawford

James Reasoner: Sleepers West

Janet Varney: Joy Osmanski

Jerry House: Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "Appointment at Eleven"

John Grant: A Killer Walks; It Couldn't Have Happened (But It Did)

Jon Warner: Kes

Jonathan Lewis: San Quentin

Judy Geater: William Wellman

Juri Nummelin: Black Rainbow

Karen Hannsberry: 1947 in film

Kate Laity: A Woman's Secret; "The Underpass"

Kelly Robinson: 31 Days of Silent Horror

Ken Levine: Approaches to comedy; Life in Pieces, for example; obscure jokes in sitcoms

Kliph Nesteroff: The Hollywood Palace: Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Edie Adams, Buddy Rich (1969)

Kristina Dijan: Elevator to the Gallows; The Double Man; Green for Danger; Golden Salamander; The Murder of Dr. Harrigan

Laura G.: Confession (1937 film); The Cherokee Strip; Dr. Gillespie's Criminal Case; Wyoming Mail; Moonlight on the Prairie; Walter Pidgeon 

Lee Price: The Fallen Idol

Lindsey: Carve Her Name with Pride; Robert Mitchum 

Lucy Brown: Dancing on the Edge

Marilyn Ferdinand: Cria Cuervos

Marty McKee: The Interns: "An Afternoon in the Fall"; Beyond the Reach; The Expendables III

Mystery Dave: Dear White People

Paddy Lee: Down to the Sea in Ships

Patrick Murtha: The Lynch Pin

Patti Abbott: DeliMan; Mistress America

Pop My Culture: Matt Kirshen

Raquel Stecher: A Face in the Crowd

Rick: Quartet (1948 film); Hugh Fraser

Rod Lott: Turkey Shoot; The Editor; The Spirit (1987 film); Into the Grizzly Maze

Ruth: Love from a Stranger

Scott Cupp: The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy

Sergio Angelini: Ed McBain's 87th Precinct: Lightning

Sex Nerd Sandra: at LA PodFest with Tristan Taormino (sexually explicit discussion)

Stacia Jones: Jewel Robbery; Gloria (1980 film)

Stephen Bowie: TV and the legacy of the Red Channels blacklists

Steve Lewis: The Flash: "Pilot" (2014); The Grid; The Remarkable Andrew

Todd Mason: spoken word/audio drama record labels: Prestige Lively Arts; Alternate World Recordings and Analog Records

Victoria Loomes: Mon Oncle

Vienna: Hunt the Man Down

Yvette Banek: Homecoming

Monday, September 28, 2015

Alternate World Recordings and Analog Records: Spoken-Word and Audio Drama devoted to fantastic fiction

Alternate World Recordings first issued an LP, by actor and professional reader Ugo Toppo, of Robert Howard's work as From the Hells Beneath the Hells in 1975,  which had sold out by the point in 1977  when the ad below was put together, offering the balance of the recordings they would release. Analog Records was a short-lived flier taken by the staff of the magazine to see if there was much of a market that AWR and the more established spoken-word labels (Caedmon, Spoken Arts, et al.) was perhaps not saturating...the dramatized Nightfall (with a brief conversation between Asimov and Analog editor Ben Bova appended) was their only release, though if there had been a second it was apparently set to feature Gordon Dickson's Dorsai stories and at least one or two of the songs he had written to go along with them. AWR's Shelley Levinson, in the '70s married as Shelley Torgeson, went on to co-found the Harlan Ellison Recording Collection among other work; her short film "Violet" won an Oscar in 1982.

Theodore Sturgeon also recorded excerpts from More Than Human for Caedmon, and the Library of America has some on-line here.
From UnEarth: The Magazine of Science Fiction Discoveries, Winter 1978; courtesy Jesse Willis at SFFaudio.
 Includes "When It Changed", "The Great Happiness Contest", "Gleepsite" & "Man, One Assumes, Is The Proper Study Of Mankind". 

Featuring the painting Ed Emshwiller did for the Sturgeon issue of F&SF

As reissued by the HERC (note logo at bottom right)

Courtesy Evan Lewis, who has the sound files up at his blog.

Further images of Nightfall:

Further images of Frankenstein Unbound:

Further images of Blood!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Prestige Lively Arts, a mostly spoken-word sub-label of the jazz, blues and folk recording company...: Saturday Music and Spoken Word Club on Sunday

Prestige Records was first and foremost a jazz label, one of the many interesting small jazz labels of the 1950s, but one which also branched out over the course of that decade and the next, to include considerable blues, folk and what would now be classed as world music...and a small line of what eventually became a spoken-word sub-label, though the first release, in 1961, was an attempt at a pop album, one by Billy Dee Williams...Prestige was bought up by Fantasy Records as one of its early major purchases in the 1970s, and now as a result belongs to Fantasy's inheritor, Concord Jazz. (The links below are to online archives of the albums' content, or at least samples.) List below courtesy of the Prestige Records Discography Project.
I'm just old enough to remember her best from the sitcom Maude...

Prestige Lively Arts 30000 series (12 inch LP)

LA 30001   Billy Dee Williams: Let's Misbehave

1. A Taste of Honey
2. Let's Misbehave
3. Don't Cry
4. Life's a Holliday
5. I Like It Here
6. Warm Tonight
7. Nothin' for Nothin'
8. I Wonder What Became of Me
9. House of Flowers
10. Red Sun Blues

LA 30002   A Taste Of Hermione Baddeley

Hermione Baddeley (reading) 1961
I Changed My Sex A Week Ago Today
Winter In Torquay
Poor Little Cabaret Star
Missing The Bus
Je Suis
Lonely Little Lotus
Old Girls

LA 30003   Roddy McDowall Reads The Horror Stories Of H.P. Lovecraft

"The Outsider"
"The Hound"
Bradbury's own 22 copies of the Meredith reading LP.

LA 30004   Burgess Meredith Reads Ray Bradbury

LA 30005   Larry Storch Reads Philip Roth's Epstein

from Goodbye, Columbus

LA 30006   James Mason Reads The Imp Of The Perverse And Other Stories By Edgar Allen [sic] Poe

The sleeve proofreading at Prestige was perhaps not all it should've been...

LA 30007   James Mason Reads Herman Melville's Bartleby, The Scrivener

LA 30008   Morris Carnovsky Reads Dostoevsky's Notes From Underground

LA 30009   Norman Mailer Reads Norman Mailer