Saturday, June 20, 2020

20,000 Leagues Remembered and Underneath

A rather dreary week at least ended well -- at last, 20,000 Leagues Remembered is out (in Kindle form for now), with my story "Leviathan"! Even better, I was paid for it! Here it is on Amazon:

20,000 Leagues Remembered



Meanwhile, for those of you who have actually read my epistolary novel Endangered Species -- heck, even for those of you who haven't -- I've added a little extra to my web-site, The Fantasy World Project.  Endangered Species is composed of several issues of an old fashioned fanzine called OMNIBUS.  The editorials and letters of comment of OMNIBUS mention a frightening little tale from an earlier issue, called "Underneath", which was written by a seven-year-old boy.  The story played no part in Endangered Species, but I linked it to my web-page here:

"Underneath" by Timothy Schneider

Hopefully I'll be adding more extras, addenda, and Easter Eggs to my site in the future, expanding on the mythos of the fantasy world of Aanuu and my various other projects.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Each year I try to watch the 1995 film Apollo 13 on April 13.  Technically the flight limped back to earth on April 17, but, well, it's the 13th, when the Odyssey entered the Moon's gravity at 13:13 hours.  Anyway, I almost missed it this year, which is the flight's 50th anniversary!

Apollo 13 is my favorite movie, and Kolchak: the Night Stalker my favorite TV series, and I've always been intrigued that the original novel The Night Stalker begins in April 1970.  The FBI determines, for instance, that the vampire Janos Skorzeny arrived in Las Vegas on April 10, 1970, and buys a used car on April 18.

I always wanted, somehow, to tie the two together in some fan fiction tale.  That's one of a zillion projects on my burners, however, and very low priority.  But if I do finish it, I already have the last page written:
__________
April 17, 1970 -- Las Vegas Daily News offices

"Hard to believe, Carl, but those NASA eggheads pulled it off.  Apollo 13's back on Mother Earth, her crew safe and sound.  What a headline we'll have on the extras!"

"Huh.  Yeah, Tony.  But if they'd exploded or burned up like everyone expected, it woulda been the biggest story since the Hindenburg."

"You're getting pretty cynical in your old age, Kolchak.  When was the last time you took time off?"

"When I twisted my ankle three years ago.  You remember."

"Oh, yeah.  I was your pasta delivery boy from the Italian American Club three days running."

"Best meatballs in Vegas, Tony."

"Listen, Carl, this Apollo success-from-the-jaws-of-doom stuff's put me in a good mood.  Why not go on that fishing trip you're always talking about?"

"For real?"

"Sure.  I'll run it past Cairncross and Herman, but I don't see a problem.  The elections are months away, and even the muggers have been lying low recently."

"I might just take you up on that, Vincenzo.  It looks to be a quiet spring for once in good ol' Sin City."

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Countdown

My usual way of working is to jump around on several projects at once.  This results in never getting any one project done, so I might as well have not worked at all.  I'll call it "multitasking", though, and it will sound impressive.

Now I'm working on Countdown, a collection of stories in which each story will be the same length or shorter than the one before. It ends with micro-tales only a few words long. The trouble with mini-stories: I've put in 65 so far, and I'm at 16.5k words -- about one-fourth of my goal. A long ways to go!

I guess I'll use the mini-story, thought up and written in 15 minutes, I entered into a contest before Christmas (that didn't win): "He Got Game""
____________
Grandpa’s board game was based on his own house, which was now ours.

“Too much like CLUE,” Brandon said.

“He had to do something to occupy his time after Grandma disappeared,” I countered.

I moved my token to a kitchen pantry.

“That pantry’s not in the real kitchen,” observed Brandon.


We took a hammer to the plaster. We found Grandma.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Well, while other people are self-isolated, dressing cats in silly costumes and making art out of cardboard boxes and plastic trash bags, I intend to do something in line with my profession.

Years back it looked like my father was fighting off the illness affecting his mental faculties (which eventually turned out to be Alzheimer's).  I felt I could actually move away and start my "real" life (which seemed to be continually on hold), which would include becoming a professional writer.  I felt so good, in fact, I took my first stab at a romance (or at least a beginning-of-romance) story I called "Mr. Litterbug".

Unfortunately family circumstances took a turn for the worse, and "Mr. Litterbug" ended up at the bottom of a pile of paper two feet thick.  A couple of days ago, however, I uncovered it, reviewed and rewrote it, and I gave it "the works" (which is putting a story on my PC, a memory stick, printing a hard copy which I put in a little box along with [when they show up] rejection/acceptance letters).

I'm aiming high with "Mr. Litterbug": The Saturday Evening Post.  Why not?  First, however, I have to write a synopsis of the story for my cover letter.  It's supposed to be 500 words or less . . . I just wrote one 850 words long.  We'll have some extreme cutting, then -- off it'll go!


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Friday night, at nearly midnight, I put the final touches on EXTINCTION EVENTS, the third volume of THE ULTIMATE ALPHA. the trilogy I've been working on (off-and-on) since 1994. I was 99% done last November, when I landed my present job, which (with its hour-and-a-quarter drive each way) takes up most of my days. That slowed the last percent for months -- really frustrating. But I finally, finally uploaded it onto Amazon.com. It feels like my major, or at least one of my major goals in life has been accomplished.
Just in time, apparently. For the last week I've been having weird visual problems: I could look straight at a book or a computer screen and not see some words; I'd know the cursor was there, but I couldn't see it; I could see the keys on the keyboard -- but not the letters (unless I hunted along as for a lost contact lens -- "A! I'm pretty sure this is A!"). Not good for writing! The Warren Clinic people suggested it might be due to my blood pressure -- which is way up again. Guess I will have to take those pills, side-effects or no. 😐

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Sneaky Werewolves



Douchan Gersi (1947-2015), explorer, adventurer, actor, and producer/director of the TV series Explore (shown on PBS and the Discovery Channel), had quite a bit to say about werewolves in his book Faces in the Smoke.

In a small village somewhere in Haiti, Gersi came upon a group of men carrying a coffin with a “werewolf” in it.  The coffin contained only a little man in his fifties, wearing pajama bottoms and a shirt.  The man had a crucifix driven into his chest, another driven into his forehead, and his hands and feet had been nailed to the coffin.  A couple of villagers claimed to have seen the man, named Sophocle, change from werewolf to human, so he was slain in this weird fashion.

A week or so later, in the town of Saint-Marc, Gersi struck up a friendship with the mayor, the chief of police, and the local army commander.  The mayor had been educated in Paris, and the other two in the USA, so they were not backward villagers.  Gersi told them of Sophocle the unfortunate werewolf, “concluding with a remark to the effect that I was amazed at what people living in the back country could believe in.  The mayor looked at the men sitting at our table and then at me and said, very seriously, ‘You shouldn't laugh about that.  Werewolves really do exist!’”

Whereupon the three important men of Saint-Marc told Gersi the following:  One night, the same trio was driving through the town, the commander at the wheel and the mayor and the police chief with him in the front seat.  They were looking for a street vendor, hoping to buy a late dinner.  At an intersection they spotted a glow shining several feet above the macadam of a side street.  Food peddlers in Haiti carried a pan of burning coals on the top of their heads, so they assumed that was what they saw.

When they turned down the cross-street, however, the car’s headlights lit up something that was not only not a peddler, but not even human:  “it was completely covered with long, black hair and had a long, hairy tail.  Its head was the head of a huge dog, with red, luminescent eyes, and a glow emanating from it.” [Gersi p. 192]

The creature ran off on two legs.  The commander gave chase, and the police chief pulled out his pistol and shot at the thing.  “It stopped, turned to face the car for a few seconds, and then crossed the street, running on all fours, and vanished between two houses.  Despite their search, they could not find the beast again.”

Even before this eye-witness sighting, the officials knew such beast-men existed, because they had been called out to local villages to examine their mutilated victims.  The manner of these violent deaths convinced them that werewolves were not the product of imagination or superstition.

"I began reading the local newspapers more carefully,” finishes Gersi, “and found that, indeed, more often than I would have thought, there were many official reports of people who had seen werewolves, as well as reports of murders supposedly committed by werewolves."

#

Gersi’s story is a rare example of modern werewolfery.  For some reason I found myself mulling over it and over legends of lycanthropy from medieval and early modern Europe.  I had the curious image in my head of old “Sophocle” puttering around innocuously in his cottage when suddenly an angry mob of villagers broke in and killed him.

I had a vague memory of several old werewolf stories where witnesses chased after a horrible predatory monster, lost it momentarily in the trees or shrubbery – then found some bedraggled fellow who was obviously the bloodthirsty shapeshifter in human form.


Ye Olde Wer-Wolfe

It is said that he was hunted down with mastiffs, and that at the moment they were closing in on him he metamorphosed before their eyes from the shape of a wolf into that of a man . . . What probably happened was that the men and the dogs pursued what they thought was a wolf into a woods or thicket.  More likely they never saw a wolf at all.

So Bernhardt J. Hurwood describes the capture of Peter Stubbe (or Stump, Stumpf, Stube, among other variants), an infamous lycanthrope of 16th century Germany.  There is no doubt Stubbe was a serial killer and cannibal, and he was so practiced at necromancy and sorcery that, as described in his trial manuscript (1590):

“The Devil gave him a girdle which, being put around him, he was transformed into the likeness of a greedy, devouring wolf, strong and mighty, with eyes great and large, which in the night sparkled like brands of fire, a mouth great and wide, with most sharp and cruel teeth, a huge body and mighty paws.” [Otten, p. 69]

It was fortunate for his pursuers that he turned into a mortal man when they caught him, but poor timing on Stubbe’s part.  Did they really see a wolf – or something like one – when searching for the local monster?

Another famous lycanthrope was Gilles Garnier, of Dole, France, who was put on trial for murder, sorcery, and werewolfery in 1573.  Witnesses claimed to have seen something “in the form of a wolf” attack several young children, and once the beast was “hindered” from eating a girl by three brave locals.  They must have been close enough to see whether the monster was human or animal.  However, during his last attack, upon a boy of the village of Perrouze, “the said Gilles Garnier was then and at that time in the form of a man and not a wolf.” [Summers, p. 227]

Again a lupine beast was seen, but when captured, the perpetrator was conveniently human.

Then there’s the 1584 case of Perrenette Gandillon, a female of the species:

“Benoist Bidel of Naizan [France], a lad some sixteen years old, and his younger sister were attacked, whilst plucking wild fruit, by a huge wolf without a tail.”  Several peasants ran up and fought off the beast; too late for Benoist, who died from his wounds.  The shaggy killer, however, was mortally injured as well:  “the animal . . . in its last throes crawled behind a thicket, where when it was followed they discovered no wolf but the dead body of Perrenette Gandillon.”  [Summers, p. 229.]

Jacques Roulet, 1598:  “some countrymen came one day upon the corpse of a boy of fifteen, horribly mutilated and bespattered with blood.  As the men approached, two wolves, which had been rending the body, bounded away into the thicket.  The men gave chase immediately, following their bloody tracks till they lost them; when suddenly crouching among the bushes, his teeth chattering with fear, they found a man half naked, with long hair and beard.” [Baring-Gould, p. 81]

I’m starting to see a pattern.

As mentioned elsewhere in this book and in I Heard of That Somewhere, reports of “dogmen” have been increasing over the past 20 years.  Researchers use the word dogman instead of werewolf because, although the creatures are bipedal and very wolflike, there is no evidence they are people who transform into lupine monsters.  And yet –

Dogmen appear to have no fear of human beings whatsoever.  They are often seen lurking around houses and mobile homes and peering into windows.  Perhaps they watch us as we watch television.  They may know quite a bit about certain individuals.

Let’s say a dogman, usually Ninja-like when skulking about human habitations, is less careful one night and gets seen by the locals, who gather quickly to chase the monster.  It lopes toward a house or cottage it has watched before, where some poor Schmoe lives alone.  It trots up to the house then vanishes into the darkness in whatever fashion dogmen use to elude humans.  To the approaching mob, however, the beast has run back home to hide.  So they kick in the door and find the owner, who has obviously just changed back into human form.  Then the poor guy is dragged out of bed and killed in some painful fashion.  That would be a dirty trick.  Those sneaky werewolves!

Heck, a werewolf or dogman doesn’t even have to be involved in a case of mistaken identity.  The Land Beyond the Forest by Emily Gerard was the book about Transylvania and its folklore that inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula.  Ms. Gerard reports that the Romanian word for werewolf is prikolitsch.  Apparently it didn't take much to get those Transylvanian peasants stirred up:

"This superstition once proved nearly fatal to a harmless botanist, who . . . was observed by some peasants, and, in consequence of his crouching attitude, mistaken for a wolf.  Before they had time to reach him, however, he had risen to his feet and disclosed himself in the form of a man; but this in the minds of the Roumanians, who now regarded him as an aggravated case of wolf, was but additional motive for attacking him.  They were quite sure that he must be a prikolitsch, for only such could change his shape in this unaccountable manner, and in another minute they were all in full cry after the wretched victim of science." [Gerard, p. 322]

The botanist, fortunately, gained his carriage and fled before the peasants caught him.  One wonders if pitchforks and torches were involved.


Baring-Gould, Sabine.  Book of Were-Wolves (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1865).

Gerard, Emily.  Land Beyond the Forest:  Facts, Figures, and Fancies from Transylvania, Vol. 1 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010 [1888]).

Gersi, Douchan.  Faces in the Smoke:  An Eyewitness Experience of Voodoo, Shamanism, Psychic Healing, and Other Amazing Human Powers (Los Angeles, CA: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc, 1991).

Hurwood, Bernhardt J.  Vampires, Werewolves, and Ghouls (New York: Ace Books, 1968).

Otten, Charlotte F. (editor).  Lycanthropy Reader:  Werewolves in Western Culture (New York: Dorset Press, 1986).

Summers, Montague.  Werewolf (Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press, 1973 [1933]).

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

A Few Random Book Reviews

The Lady in the Lake

Raymond Chandler

(Mystery novel; Philip Marlowe series)

This is less a review of this specific novel than an attempt to recapture the feelings I had upon first encountering Raymond Chandler. Some years ago I bought an anthology of mystery tales called 3X3, which contained three entire novels as well as numerous short stories. On the verge of dumping it again, I happened to open it to the first page of one of the novels, The Lady in the Lake.

I read the first paragraph, about the sidewalk made of rubber blocks. For some reason this made me read the first page. Then I read the first chapter, and the idea of dumping the book vanished.
I know I'm coming pretty late in the game to Chandler, his poetry in prose and the contrasting dark, sleezy world of Philip Marlowe, but I didn't read many mysteries in my youth. More's the pity. Marlowe's world, Los Angeles in the 1930s and 1940s, is a palpable reality in Chandler's novels. You can see every lash on a gorgeous woman's eyelid, smell the sweat and cigarette butts in the police station, feel a muscular goon's knuckles smack your chin. It is a land corrupt and decaying, yet beautiful and alive, full of the good, the bad, the tired, and the sad.

I've heard that reading Chandler means you're something of a snob, in that Chandler detested most detective fiction and consciously tried to improve on it. I don't know how to answer that but to say I was pretty much a blank slate in the mystery field; few of the mysteries I did read held my attention. But The Lady of the Lake reached right out of the book, grabbed me by the lapels, and pulled me in with a splash. Read it, read more Marlowe, read the short story prototypes Chandler wrote before he came up with his archetypal detective. *****

The Kinsey Millhone Series: A Is for Alibi through K Is for Killer

Susan A. Grafton

(Mystery novels)

I have probably never read a series as fast as I've been reading the Kinsey Millhone mysteries of Sue Grafton. About two years ago, in the depths of the worst depression I ever felt, the "alphabet" mysteries were literally the only things I could bring myself to read, not because they were easy or light but because they were so engaging. A true disciple of the Raymond Chandler school of writing, Sue Grafton's eye for detail is thorough without dragging on too long -- a detective's eye view, Kinsey taking in everything around her. However, though a case can become dark and grim, even deadly, Kinsey is a definite spirit of life, bouncing back in the next volume to solve another case.

The small city of Santa Teresa, California, comes to life through Kinsey's POV, the grittier, darker side as much as the pretty tourist side. Background characters appear and reappear in each volume, populating Grafton's world, and sometimes staging their own little soap operas: Lieutenant Dolan, who (naturally) hates private eyes but who respects Ms. Millhone; Rosie, the bossy Hungarian restaurant owner who varies Kinsey's diet beyond her usual McDonald's fare; and especially Henry Pitts, the old retired baker who rents Kinsey her tiny apartment, who might really have been the man of her dreams had he been a few -- just a few -- years younger.

I won't even try to rate all the Millhone books individually; the first three were the best in my opinion, yet the letters I'm reaching now ("J" and "K") are climbing in quality and entertainment value to equal the earliest books. Altogether : ****

The Night Land V. 1

William H. Hodgson

(Horror/SF novel)

I ought to read both volumes first, but. . . One of the greatest and strangest fantasies ever produced, with the inhabitants of the last structure on earth, the Great Redoubt, faced with monsters and horrors that roam the land beneath a burnt-out sun. The hero learns of a second Redoubt, where lives a woman he loved in a previous life, and he ventures across the Night Land to find her. Slows a little halfway. If it had been cut in three parts, with a slight pause between each volume, I think there would have been no "slowing". The only bad part is the long first chapter, written as if by a 17th century English dandy (the previous incarnation of the hero). Actually, the archaic language trying to explain SF ideas kind of grows on you. ****½

The Night Land V. 2

William Hope Hodgson

(Horror/SF novel)


And now the second half. (I didn't mention above that this is the Ballantine Adult Fantasy edition I own, printed as two paperbacks.) Night Land's second half has our hero reach the Lesser Redoubt to escort the maid Naani back to the Great Redoubt. Here adventure mixes with the couple's growing romance, which many have found cloying, but unnameable horrors pop up often enough to interrupt the saccarin-sweet bits. Hodgson again drops many give-away ideas in this apocalyptic work, such as Naani's mention of a previous incarnation when entire cities on railway tracks rolled along endless plains (perhaps the inspiration for Christopher Priest's The Inverted World). The Night Land truly is a world/universe unto itself; wading through the whole epic takes a bit of time and effort, an ever-more-unlikely occurrence in these days of instant gratification. Still, I say it's worth it to know this weird, frightening, yet strangely beautiful world created by William H. Hodgson. ****