In this weeks episode I’m going to be discussing “The Peeper’ by Frank Belknap Long.
This short story first appeared in the March 1944 issue of Weird Tales. I read it in an anthology titled Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Terrors, A Story From Each Year the Classic Horror and Fantasy magazine was published. It includes an introduction by Robert Bloch and it’s edited by Stefan R. Dziemiancowicz, Robert Weinberg, and Martin H. Greenberg.
“The Peeper” is a fantasy-horror short story that’s a little over eight pages. It appears to be set around the same time it was published in 1944. I call it a fantasy-horror story because there are elements of both genres within “The Peeper”.
In this week’s episode I’ll be discussing “The Wolf Woman” written by Bassett Morgan. This story first appeared in the September 1927 issue of Weird Tales, where it was the cover story that month. The cover was illustrated by C.C. Senf.
Bassett Morgan was a pen name for Grace Morgan Jones. She wrote several stories in Weird Tales under this pen name. Weird Tales was the primary pulp she wrote for, but she did have stories appear in Ghost Story, Oriental Stories, and a few others. She had stories published in the pulp magazines from 1926-1936.
I read “The Wolf Woman” in Weird Vampire Tales: 30 Blood-Chilling Stories from the Weird Fiction Pulps. It’s an anthology that was edited by Robert Weinberg, Stefan R. Dziemianowicz and Martin H. Greenberg. Out of the 30 stories reprinted in the anthology 17 are from Weird Tales.
It is 1897 and the skies are haunted by mysterious airships and unfathomable secrets.
Tasked with hunting down these strange vehicles of the air and determining their origin and intent, two U.S. government agents toil under unusual conditions to supply their shadowy superiors with information. But that information proves to be as elusive as the airships themselves.
Ride with Agents Valiantine and Cabot across the Midwest as they encounter reports of strange lights, phantom soldiers, unreliable witnesses, and the ultimate source of their airborne prey.
They are the Airship Hunters, and they cannot be waylaid from their path to uncover the greatest mystery of them all.
Airship Hunters is an upcoming novel written by Jim Beard and Duane Spurlock that’s currently available for pre-order from Meteor House. The limited edition novel will be debuting in August at Pulpfest 2015 in Columbus, Ohio. If readers pre order Airship Hunters by July 1st, their names will appear in the acknowledgments section at the front of the book.
Jim and Duane were kind enough to answer some questions I had about the book.
PC: Where did Airship Hunters come from? How long have you been interested in the mystery of 19th-century UFO’s? Can you give us a little background on the phenomena?
JIM: As a kid, an early 1970s issue of Gold Key’s UFO FLYING SAUCERS clued me into the fact that UFOs were not just a 20th century thing. The idea of a mystery in the skies before the advent of dirigibles and airplanes intrigued me, and later, when I learned more about the Great Airship Flap of the 1890s, my interest only grew. These airships appeared to witnesses across the country in 1896 and 1897, beginning in California and progressing all the way to the Great Lakes. There was very little science fiction at the time, very little with which people could frame the mystery, so it astounded them and captured their fancy, unlike today and taking for granted such things. With AIRSHIP HUNTERS, I wanted to come at it in that vein: our characters approach the mystery without all the baggage of 20th century “little green men” and silvery discs shooting across the sky.
DUANE: Jim clued me in on 19th-century UFOs. I had been a fan of The X Files TV show, and began reading Charles Fort’s books and Fortean Times magazine as a result. So I knew about a lot of inexplicable events that occurred during the 19th century. But other than having an awareness of Jules Verne’s novels about flying machines, I was in the dark about the topic until Jim approached me with his story idea and told me about the newspaper reports on UFOs from the 1890s. So, he put a new bump on my brain and sparked a new itch to write about. Mysteries like these—occurrences or artifacts that have no clear explanation—feed this yearning people have for answers. Look at all the books and television shows about age-old mysteries and conspiracies, shows like Ancient Aliens. These kinds of entertainment wouldn’t continue to exist if people didn’t crave this kind of information. So Airship Hunters should find an eager audience.
PC: Give us your Hollywood pitch for Airship Hunters. (Example: Edge of Tomorrow is Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers. Game of Thrones is The Soprano’s meets Lord of the Rings, etc..)
JIM: We’ve been saying “an 1897 X-FILES” and “Jules Verne meets the X-FILES.” There’s much more to the story than that, but they’re good to begin the conversation.
PC: What were your primary influences while writing Airship Hunters? Any particular author or fictional work you guys had in mind?
JIM: My biggest influence was Duane! Seriously! Just holding up my end of it, trying to up my game to get close to his attention to detail and his love of history and environment kept me on my toes throughout the writing process. We traded off on chapters, leapfrogging if you will, and trying to top each other.
DUANE: Jim is too kind. I know a lot of pulp readers revere the dynamic, choppy prose of Lester Dent and his contemporaries. I lean toward that style, and feel that influence, when I’m writing action scenes. But I feel my primary influence while writing Airship Hunters was the Sherlock Holmes stories. Doyle was a storytelling master—Holmes’ continual popularity clearly demonstrates that. Doyle’s narrative clips along, and the characters pick away at mysteries. The heroes of Airship Hunters are essentially detectives, seeking the logical needle in the inexplicable haystack. Doyle worked in what anthologist Mike Ashley calls the Golden Age of Storytellers. It was an era filled with marvelous writers, people whose works we still read today: Robert Louis Stevenson, H. Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells, and more. So I aimed for the sort of smooth but pell-mell narrative flow you find in Doyle and other writers of that era. So, for a contemporary pulp fan, you might say my influences resulted in an amalgam of Dent and Doyle, ending up in that sort of adventurous narrative style you might find in Adventure Magazine during Arthur Sullivant Hoffman’s editorial reign.
PC: What genre or genres would you associate Airship Hunters with?
JIM: We’ve said to each other, “It’s not a Western; it’s an EASTERN!” Beyond that, it’s a little bit Victorian thriller, science fiction, conspiracy theory, cozy mystery, buddy picture, and a smidge of steampunk.
DUANE: I wanna see the cozy mysteries Jim is reading! I agree with his description. The heart of our story, for me, is a detective tale. But there’s also an element of danger. Our airship hunters are both hunters AND hunted: think Richard Hannay in John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps. They are seeking clues, investigating strange and bizarre occurrences and reports and trying to make sense of them, when the evidence clearly escapes everyday logic. They learn to live by Sherlock Holmes’ words in The Sign of the Four: “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” So, while our heroes are busy investigating, people are also attempting to kill them. Makes for a hard day at work when you’re an Airship Hunter.
PC: I noticed how you guys alternated writing chapters. What was that process like? Were each of you in charge of developing certain characters? Did you guys share a common outline and work off that?
JIM: I suggested early on that we each create one of the two lead characters. In a way, the story of Valiantine and Cabot is the story of Beard and Spurlock; two men tasked with working together to solve a mystery all the while learning of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. In the end, I think it all worked out beautifully.
DUANE: This method of developing characters and writing a story meant Jim and I had to communicate a lot of details to one another while we worked. We plotted over the phone frequently, and bounced ideas off one another. We knew the overall arc of the plot as we began. We each developed our own mini-plots for the individual episodes we wrote, but we shared freely with each other to check and double-check that each chapter’s adventure moved the overall book’s plot forward and didn’t stray into the weeds. Think of how a TV show’s weekly episode may be essentially self-contained, but will include elements that feed into the Big Plot that ties together the show’s entire season. Also, we wanted our characters to hold the reader’s interest by demonstrating the growing relationship between the characters. We want the reader to care about that relationship. Again, I refer to Sherlock Holmes. His relationship with Dr. Watson is not just a crime-solving partnership. They are friends, their relationship was strengthened by their adventures. From the beginning, Jim and I wanted to build a similar relationship between our heroes.
PC: The cover art and front piece art by M.S Corley look fantastic! How did he become part of the project? What was it like working with him in bringing your characters to life on the cover?
JIM: Mike did the cover for CARNACKI: THE NEW ADVENTURES, a book I contributed to. I LOVE his work and suggested him to the Meteor crew. With no discernible hesitation, they approached him and that gorgeous cover is the result. For my part, he brought Valiantine to life, as well as cemented the period feel of the story.
DUANE: We were SUPER pleased that he came on board for the cover. He worked quickly and did a bang-up job. He has done some great work for a number of small presses. He should be a big name in the publishing world.
PC: Anything you’d like to say to prospective readers?
JIM: Toss any perceptions away and come along for the ride. We promise it will be weird and wonderful.
DUANE: The story is fun and mysterious. There are scenes in Airship Hunters that include some of the best work I’ve written. The book includes guns, hats, and coffee. What more could any reader ask for?
PC: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Jim and Duane.
In this week’s episode I’m going to be discussing a French Gothic novel that has had considerable influence on the American Pulps and popular fiction in general. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. The story was first serialized in the French newspaper, Le Gaulois from September 23, 1909 – January 8, 1910. It was collected and published in a single volume by Pierre Lafitte in 1910.
I’ve always been casually aware of The Phantom of the Opera. Growing up, there seemed to be a commercial for the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical in steady rotation. Not only that, but the book was parodied a good bit in popular culture, including children’s television shows, which is probably where I first encountered the concept.
It didn’t consider reading this book until I listened to Rick Lai discuss it on The Book Cave and on The French Connection Pulp Fest Panel in 2012. It was obvious that the original novel was different from the musical and other adaptations. I always got the impression that The Phantom of the Opera or Erik as he’s known, was a normal guy that was scarred by acid and wore a mask to cover his face. That’s defiantly not the case in the original novel. In the novel he’s born disfigured, with a face resembling a skull covered with dried up yellow flesh, with burning yellow eyes. In the novel he’s also a former assassin and a master of stealth.
In this weeks episode I will be discussing Tarzan and the Gods of Opar Part Three written and illustrated by Mike Grell. This is the third and final installment of Tarzan and the Gods of Opar and it appeared a few weeks back in Dark Horse Presents #10. Once again Grell delivers eight wonderful pages of Tarzan. I really wish Dark Horse would make Tarzan a fixture in the pages of Dark Horse Presents, and have Grell illustrate eight pages a month. This was a great story, and Dark Horse really needs to make better use of the Tarzan property in my opinion.
Christopher Paul Carey and Meteor House graciously granted me the opportunity to read an early draft of Hadon, King of Opar. Hadon, King of Opar is the fourth book in the Khokarsa series which began with Hadon of Ancient Opar by Philip José Farmer back in 1974. Farmer wrote a sequel, Flight to Opar which followed in 1976. The conclusion to the original trilogy, The Song of Kwasin was published in 2012 in the Gods of Opar omnibus from Subterranean Press. The Song of Kwasin was co-authored by Philip José Farmer and Christopher Paul Carey. Carey also co-authored the novella, Kwasin and the Bear God with Philip José Farmer, which was first published in 2011, in The Worlds of Philip José Farmer Volume 2: Of Dust And Soul from Meteor House. It has since been reprinted in Tales of the Wold Newton Universe from Titan Books published in 2013.
In addition to co-authoring Kwasin and the Bear God and The Song of Kwasin with Farmer, Carey has also written Khokarsa tales on his own. “A Kick In the Side” was published in The Worlds of Philip José Farmer Volume 1: Protean Dimensions by Meteor House back in 2010. Exiles of Kho was published by Meteor House in 2012. Exiles of Kho is a novella written by Carey that acts a prequel to the Khokarsa series. The novella chronicles the discovery of the valley which will one day house the city of Opar.
Farmer passed the tenu (a Khokarsan broadsword to the uninitiated) to Carey, and he’s been continuing the chronicles of Khokarsa ever since. The new novella, Hadon, King of Opar continues Philip José Farmer’s saga of ancient Africa which draws from the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard. The Khokarsa series shows how the ancient cities encountered by Tarzan and Alan Quatermain actually have a shared history. Farmer was inspired by an essay written by two Edgar Rice Burroughs fans, John Harwood and Frank Brueckel, called Heritage of the Flaming God. Using the concept of Africa once having an inland sea (actually two seas, joined by a straight), he engaged in some Tolkien-esque world building, and connected his vision of Ancient Africa to the works of Burroughs and Haggard. The final product is the Khokarsa series starring Hadon of Opar and Kwasin of Dythbeth.
Hadon is the main character in Hadon of Ancient Opar and Flight to Opar. He doesn’t make an appearance until the epilogue of The Song of Kwasin, which as you can guess, focused on his cousin, Kwasin. I’m a big fan of Kwasin, but seeing Hadon take center stage once again feels very appropriate.
Hadon, King of Opar takes place 14 years after The Song of Kwasin. Hadon is no longer the young man from the first two books, he’s now forty years old and has a family. He’s also King of Opar. His wife, Lalila, is the Queen. But don’t worry, he hasn’t let himself go like all the other Khokarsan kings (Minruth and Gamori). Hadon is still a physical specimen. He’s a paragon of heroic fantasy, and an expert swordsman. The King and Queen aren’t the only familiar faces in the novella, though.
Paga, the manling and forger of the Ax of Victory plays a role in the story. Abeth, Lalila’s daughter by the fallen hero Wi has a part to play too. Abeth was only a toddler during the original books, and now she’s a young woman. Kohr, who is Hadon’s son by the deceased priestess Klyhy, is a young man now. It’s great seeing Kohr, someone who was literally conceived during the first Ancient Opar book, play a role in the newest novella. Kohr is now a Captain in the Queensguard and he wields the Ax of Victory which once belonged to his uncle (actually second cousin) Kwasin. Kebiwabes, the bard from the original books also plays a part in the new novella. Last, but certainly not least is La, the child of prophecy born on the final page of Flight to Opar. She is Hadon and Lalila’s daughter, and is now a priestess of Kho and a follower of the teachings of Lupoeth. Lupoeth is the warrior priestess featured in Exiles of Kho.
It’s great to not only see Hadon and Lalila again, but seeing their grown children taking part in the story really drives home the scope of the Khokarsa series, and Farmer’s original vision for it. A few new characters show up too. I’m certain they will quickly become fan favorites, but saying anymore would give it away. It’s best the reader discover them when Hadon does.
Carey does a great job in putting Hadon in an interesting situation from the very beginning of the story. Hadon, King of Opar is a fast paced tale where you follow Hadon’s movements while Opar is besieged by invaders. The action takes place in, around, and under the city, thanks to the subterranean tunnel system mentioned in the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the original Ancient Opar novels written by Farmer. Carey and Hadon both cover a lot of ground in this novella in regards to Opar’s geography. The vast amount of research into the Opar related Edgar Rice Burroughs tales, and Farmer’s Ancient Opar stories is very evident in the text. Carey’s research, and spot on prose has allowed him to craft a great piece of action and adventure set around Opar. I don’t think there is a person on the planet more knowledgeable about the city of Opar and Khokarsa than Carey.
Carey takes great care in the mythology and history Farmer established for the series and brings elements of both into the new novella. For instance, tensions between the priests of Resu (the Sun God) and priestesses of Kho (The Mother Goddess) are still present even during Lalila and Hadon’s reign. I also enjoyed the scenes featuring Togana’no. He’s a Gokakko, one of the neanderthal people who live in shanty towns within Ancient Opar. Farmer wrote about the Gokakko in the original Ancient Opar books, and Carey developed them further in Exiles of Kho. It’s quite a contrast to see how the Gokakko are treated by Lupoeth in Exiles of Kho compared to how the people of Opar treat them in the Ancient Opar books.
When reading Hadon, King of Opar, it felt like I was reading a lost work of Philip José Farmer himself. Carey’s talent as a writer, knowledge of the works of Burroughs, Haggard, and Farmer, his education in anthropology, and interest in linguistics has allowed him to continue the Khokarsa series with the same skill and passion as Farmer. The Khokarsa series is something both authors are going to be remembered for.
If you’re a fan of Khokarsa, Hadon, King of Opar should vault to the top of your reading list. Look at that Bob Eggleton cover; who wouldn’t want that on their bookshelf alongside the rest of the Khokarsa series? Besides an amazingly well done piece of cover art, you’re also going to get a great story.
Reading Hadon, King of Opar is like catching up with some old friends you haven’t seen in a while, then going on an adventure with them. If you’re new to Khokarsa, and are working on getting caught up, I would still preorder this book immediately. Meteor House prints a limited number of their releases, so you don’t want to miss out. Head to the Meteor House website and get your order in to guarantee your place in the party. Then return to Ancient Opar and join Hadon on another adventure.
Christopher Paul Carey joins me in discussing his new novella, Hadon, King of Opar, now available for pre-order from Meteor House. This is the all-new fourth volume in Philip José Farmer’s Khokarsa (Ancient Opar) series. Chris fills us in on how the story came into existence, his writing process, and what Hadon’s up to. We took great care in not discussing spoilers.
I was able to review an advanced review copy of an early draft, and this novella has my highest recommendation. Look for my review next week on http://pulpcrazy.com.
Hadon, King of Opar is now available for pre-order from Meteor House. It’s available in both hardcover and softcover format at the link below.
Author and editor, Christopher Paul Carey joins me in discussing the Restored Edition of Philip José Farmer’s Flight to Opar, now available for pre-order from Meteor House. Chris is the editor of the book and we delve into how he went about restoring the text for this edition. Chris even provides a sneak peak by citing some examples directly from the book, to give us an idea of what type of material has been restored. This is the new definitive text of Flight to Opar.
Flight to Opar – The Restored Edition is now available for pre-order from Meteor House. It’s available in both hardcover and softcover format at the link below.
“Take a werewolf story, for instance — who ever wrote a story from the point of view of the wolf, and sympathising strongly with the devil to whom he has sold himself?” - H.P. Lovecraft in a letter to Edwin Baird, November 1923. This letter would later appear in Weird Tales, where a young writer named H. Warner Munn would read it and be inspired.
In this weeks episode I will be discussing The Werewolf of Ponkert by H. Warner Munn. It’s a werewolf story that Munn wrote after being inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s comment.
The Werewolf of Ponkert was first published in July 1925 issue of Weird Tales. It was the cover story that month. The story is the first entry in Munn’s Tales of the Werewolf Clan series. The Werewolf of Ponkert takes place in north eastern Hungary, during the mid to late 15th Century.
It has been recently collected by Altus Press in the collection, “Tales of the Werewolf Clan”. This collects all of Munn’s werewolf clan tales and includes a new introduction by his grandson, John Munn. It’s available in both a hardcover and trade paperback from the Altus Press website.