October Takeover: European Horror – Vampires, Black-Gloved Killers and the Devil

~posted by David H.

If you’re looking for the birthplace of the horror film, then the place you should be looking is Europe. From German silent films to Hammer’s Technicolor horrors and on to the black-gloved killers of Italian giallo, Europe has been a prime breeding ground for horror. For viewers willing to try something new (and who don’t mind subtitles), it’s a treasure trove of fright. Continue reading “October Takeover: European Horror – Vampires, Black-Gloved Killers and the Devil”

Fantasy Checklist Challenge: Comic Fantasy, All Pratchett

~posted by David H.

If there has ever been a king of comic fantasy, then that crown was worn by the late Terry Pratchett. And in that crown, the shining jewel is the Discworld series. Published in 37 different languages with over 80 million books sold, Pratchett is second only to J.K. Rowling as the best-selling British author to date. And with forty novels published, and a forty-first to be published shortly, it’s one of the longest series of fantasy novels ever. Which gives new readers a bit of a problem: Where do you start?

The Color of Magic in the SPL catalogWhile each Discworld novel is a self-contained story, beginning and ending in that book, many follow a set of story arcs, each featuring a distinct group of characters. The first two novels, The Colour of Magic & The Light Fantastic, follow the adventures of the worst wizard on the Disc: Rincewind. Barely tolerated by his colleagues at Unseen University, the cowardly Rincewind finds himself dragged into adventures across the land, managing to survive while somehow saving the world in the process. The series includes several Rincewind adventures, with Interesting Times & The Last Continent among the best. Continue reading “Fantasy Checklist Challenge: Comic Fantasy, All Pratchett”

Fantasy Checklist Challenge: Comic Fantasy

~posted by David H.

Much like its sister genre science fiction, funny isn’t the first word that springs to mind when people think of the fantasy genre. The straight-faced seriousness of early fantasy authors like J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings) and Robert E. Howard (Conan), and contemporary ones like Robert Jordan (The Eye of the World) and George R.R. Martin (A Game of Thrones), could lead you to believe that fantasy worlds are pretty dark places. But the truth is that the fantasy genre (prompted perhaps by the overly serious nature of many authors) features more than its share of funny business.

 Find Topper in the SPL catalogOne of the earliest creators of comic fantasy is Thorne Smith, a jazz age writer who filled his books with ghosts, Roman Gods, shape-changers, and beautiful witches who continuously get into comic escapades, all while roaring drunk. His most famous novel is Topper, a novel about respectable banker Cosmo Topper who becomes the target of two ghosts, George & Marion Kerby. Deciding that Topper needs to live a little, the two proceed to make a shambles of Topper’s quiet life. In the sequel, Topper Takes A Trip, Marion decides that the best way for Topper to be truly happy would be to make him a ghost, setting in motion a plot to murder their hapless friend. Smith’s novels read rather like P.G. Wodehouse with a fantasy bent, giving them a unique quality unmatched by any other author. Continue reading “Fantasy Checklist Challenge: Comic Fantasy”

Science Fiction Checklist Challenge: New Wave Science Fiction

By David H.

At the beginning of the 1960’s, science fiction was in a rut. While grand masters, such as Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke, were still writing interesting and worthwhile work, the genre itself had become fossilized. The tropes of pulp science fiction (rockets ships, robots, aliens barely distinguishable from humans, and square-jawed, flawless good guys) were still being used by many authors and a whiff of stagnation had begun to fill the air. The real world concerns of the time (war, segregation, the changing roles of women, political unrest and student protests) went unacknowledged and unseen in the genre. But a revolution was about to sweep through science fiction. Continue reading “Science Fiction Checklist Challenge: New Wave Science Fiction”

Science Fiction Checklist Challenge: Science Fantasy

~ posted by David H.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” ~Arthur C. Clarke

Though many fans will vehemently deny it, the truth is that science fiction’s most closely related sister genre is fantasy. Both tell fantastic stories set on different worlds with unusual societies and often featuring non-human characters. But while science fiction strives to base its explanations in scientific knowledge, fantasy often feels free to explain no further than the words “it’s magic”. For this column, we’ll be taking a look at novels that blur the lines between them. Continue reading “Science Fiction Checklist Challenge: Science Fantasy”