You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


A thoroughly satisfying installment. In fact, it tied up some many loose ends that I assumed the series was over. Turns out to be at least three more volumes. 

I don't know where Iwaaki can take it from here. He must know of a restart button that slipped past me.
Goto: Good looking but very dangerous parasyte infected human

Migi: Alien, fighter, hero, friend

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I love this is the "Martini Edition"
I think Parker drinks whiskey.
Maybe he likes to eat the martini glasses
I am not pretending that I have made some great discovery here. Stark's fans are, I would hope, in the millions. Here are links to the three I have read.

The Outfit

The Jugger


Friday, March 16, 2012


After the ten volumes of zany, vicious, fevered violence in Umezu's The Drifting Classroom, I found this collection of stories a bit tame. The Cat Eyed Boy joins the ranks of Japanese manga characters who hide out in people's homes. Hideshi Hino has Oninbo, the tiny fellow who builds his cocoon in people's attics while he waits for the bug from hell infecting one of the family member's to mature to a size worth devouring. He's a good guy. In Umezu's Orochi: Blood there is the little girl who lives behind the curtains and in the empty rooms of a mansion whose residents she watches over. Her only problem is that if she falls asleep, it could be for fifteen minutes or fifteen years.

The Cat Eyed Boy, rejected by society because of his scary appearance, wanders the city, looking for a place to hide out. The attics he finds invariably turn out to be in houses where strange things begin to occur. Events are strange but not very interesting, with the exception of The Tsunami Summoners. These are rocks washed up on the shore that turn into hairy, screeching monsters who bring disaster wherever they appear.

Monsters are the visual strong point in these stories. The Drifting Classroomwas an almost monster-free tale, with the visual excitement coming from scenes of elementary-age children going at one another with clubs and homemade spears, reverting to cannibalism, or dying in ways that ranged from bubonic plague to exposure. For The Cat Eyed Boy Umezu lets his monster-making talents run rampant. Creatures hop, scream, and travel in packs of one hundred. But the narratives remain bland, and the hero is not particularly engaging.

Scary One-legged Demon

Tsunami summoner about to go to work

Even the Cat Eyed Boy can have a bad day

Thursday, March 15, 2012


(In a year or more of reading SF and horror, I have found a surprising amount
 of literature relating to authors --  bios, memoirs, and letters. WHO WRITES THIS STUFF will take an occasional look at what I've found.)

I have already had to return this book to the library because I had it through 
inter-library loan, and late fees for inter-library loan are death. So I am a bit self-conscious about saying bad things about it, without being able to make specific references. But here goes.

I am currently reading the Dying Earth cycle by Vance out of a commitment to exploring Golden Age SF and a challenge issued by the website Worlds Without End to read a book by one of the Grand Masters of Science Fiction each month for the year 2012. Such fantasy fiction is not to my taste, but I looked forward to Vance's memoirs to see where this stuff came from. Vance, however, states that he is not interested in writing a nuts and bolts book about SF writing. He wants to tell his personal story, and he is doing so via dictation. An operation for glaucoma almost blinded him in the 1980's. Since then he has worked with computers, early versions of voice recognition software, and for the memoirs diction. His wife dies during the dictation of the book, but at this writing he is still alive in his mid-nineties.

So it seems churlish to say the book is not very interesting. There are many biographical tidbits a reader might want to know more of, but perhaps it's the dictation method and a natural diffidence that keeps them from print. The memoirs turn into an overlong "What I Did on my Summer Vacation" report. There is little personal insight and essentially no relationship betweenf the life, which involved periodic adventurous world travel, and the fantastic fiction it produced. It is not surprising late in the book in what passes as some personal reflection to learn that Vance prefers cozy to hard-boiled crime fiction. It is not unlike the account he gives of his own life.

I am not, or at least not yet, a Vance fan. But they are legion. I wonder what they have made of this lukewarm memoir?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


If some one were to tell me, "I am an entrepreneur," I would place that person somewhere on a continuum that swung from chronically unemployed to shifty to the outright criminal. Because really, who would say that? Maybe an uncle, your mother's brother, who is always hitting your own father up for investment capital. Money that will never be seen again. 

When I picked up Mathias Svalina's slender volume I am a Very Productive Entrepreneur, I had all those prejudices firmly in place. I expected amusing anecdotes about a perpetual loser, an expectation reinforced when I saw that each brief entry began with the statement, "I started this one business..." But I was wrong about Svalina's undertakings and his themes. Some of Svalina's entrepreneurial schemes are outrageously impossible -- his first involves putting padlocks on clouds. Some cater to our vanities, like his proposal to build a skyscraper in his client's exact semblance. There is the occasional, peculiar act of kindness: one company leaves long blonde hairs on the pillows of bachelors. Most often, from the initial proposal, i.e., "I started this one business that released dangerous animals into quiet suburban neighborhoods," he takes the reader in a few hundred words into unexpected and often unsettling territory. He proposes to retrofit your memories with pilot lights, so they will stay lit even when you are on vacation, when you are asleep, or when your loved one has been dead for so long junk mail no longer arrives in his name.

Svalina's entrepreneurial work takes place in a sorrowful world that continues to promise endless possibilities. In this world he is both the eternal optimist and the man who's seen it all. The one thing he is not, ever, is the voice of reason. He is the voice of imagination, which offers the only possible redemption for those of us who know that the voices of doomed lovers just may end up on old dollar bills eventually so crumpled that vending machines reject them.

(Some one has already asked me how on earth I stumbled across this book. What I stumbled across was the publisher,  Mud Luscious Press. They were bringing out a new book by a favorite author, Grim Tales by Norman Lock. When I went to their site to order it, I signed up for a season of their books. You should try both the press and the season subscription (if still offered.) You get lots of cool add-ons with each book -- bookmarks that contain brief stories, stories designed to fit onto postage-stamp-sized cards, and stapled pamphlets of other new writers.  Mud Luscious Press )


Thursday, March 8, 2012


The following are literal translations of the names of the months used during the Heian Period (794 - 1185) in Japan

1) Sprouting Month
2) Clothes-lining Month
3) Ever-growing Month
4) U no hana Month (the u no hana was a pretty white shrub)
5) Rice Sprouting Month
6) Watery Month
7) Poem-composing Month
8) Leaf Month (i.e. the month when leaves turn)
9) Long Month (i.e. the month with long nights)
10) Gods-absent Month
11) Frost Month
12) End of the year

(From The Pillow Book of Sei Shonogon
Penguin Edition, trans. by Ivan Morris)

Friday, March 2, 2012


Each volume of this series finds out heroes desperate to make some cash and willing to accept most any work that will bring in a paycheck. In Vol. 4, they are signed on to help a destitute Japanese village become the Roswell, New Mexico, of Japan. While the three guys make crop circles litttle Makino checks out the supposed mummified alien corpse discovered by villagers fifty years ago. It is clearly the corpse of a monkey, but Kuratsu discovers an alien being trapped in the corpse, and so the teams sets to work.

As usual with this series, each episode takes on topical subjects in outrageous fashion, One of those touring exhibitions of plasticized human bodies leads the team into a hotbed of perverted science relating back to Unit 731, the WW II Japanese biological warfare initiative whose existence the nation denied until the 1990's. The wildest story involves the illegal imports for the exotic bug market which is causing an outbreak of suicides among collectors infected by a parasite that lives in a particularly desirable and illegal snail. The parasite does quite a number on its host's eyes and makes them want to fly. The results are predictably disastrous but it is all just nature taking its course.

The dialog throughout is profane and funny, and the visuals are consistently grotesque. Unfortunately I could find nothing from Vol 4 on the internet to reinforce that last statement.