I don't know if you guys have read these original Robert E. Howard Conan the Cimmerian stories, but they are crazy as all get-out. Maybe you're only fI don't know if you guys have read these original Robert E. Howard Conan the Cimmerian stories, but they are crazy as all get-out. Maybe you're only familiar with the movies, or with pastiches. So here, let me tell you a Conan story: Conan is hanging out, doing some barbarian thing, like fighting a war, or escaping from a dungeon maze, or ruling an empire the previous king of which he had strangled to death with his bare hands.
Then something totally weird and eldritch and Lovecraftian happens, involving the formless abyss and the Nameless Old Ones and so on. Some tentacle monster crawls out of a ruined well, or a wizard summons an ape monster, or another wizard's ape monster goes crazy and deludes itself into thinking it IS the wizard. Several guys go mad or die of fright or whatever, but then Conan up and beats it to death or hacks it apart. Then some other dudes show up and they're like by Mitra! or by Ymir! or whatever they worship in this one and they go Conan do you realize what you did? Then Conan says "By Crom!" and the story's over.
If that story appeals to you then good news, friend! This volume is full of them, and they're pretty much all like that! And this edition is definitely the one you're looking for; Howard didn't write the stories in chronological order, or leave many hints as to what order they should be, so they're included in publication order, together with Howard's drafts, notes, and the essay "The Hyborian Age," which gives details of the setting. Mark Schultz's imaginative illustrations are similar to the more famous Boris Vallejo paintings, but in my opinion are a little more restrained and somehow suitable. But whether you're going with Schultz or Vallejo, if you're looking for Conan the Barbarian, I definitely recommend Howard's originals over the film adaptations, and this is a comprehensive edition of the earliest stories.
Just watch out for the racism though! Howard was bonkers racist, like, Lovecraft-level racist, so you've just gotta kinda... you've gotta get past those parts, somehow. Just, ah... just be careful is all I'm saying....more
I'd honestly never heard of Alasdair Gray until recently, when I saw his unique art staring out at me from the shelf of the library. I took it and fliI'd honestly never heard of Alasdair Gray until recently, when I saw his unique art staring out at me from the shelf of the library. I took it and flipped through; it was filled with Gray's illustrations, and with idiosyncratic typography. Reading the first few stories, I saw that this nicely framed his writing style, which in this collection at least makes the odd and fantastic--sometimes the startlingly, unthinkably weird--seem downright normal. A chance remark made one afternoon that literally shatters the planet; charts comparing a mundane duck with a certain Mr. Vague McMenamy's "Improved Duck"; the startling continuation of a pagan fertility ritual in a modern Scottish suburb; the script of a BBC documentary on the "bear cult" that you may or may not remember sweeping Britain in the early 1930s; these are the sort of things one encounters in Gray's stories.
I ordered a used copy as soon as possible, and took it with me to read on a train trip. That weekend my friends and I spent an entire night reading to each other from the book, taking turns reading a short story aloud, or making attempts at translating "Logopandocy", a text that I can best describe as "oddly shaped" and parts of which claim to have been eaten by mice.
There are books best read by oneself in a comfortable chair while rain pounds on the windows, or by the fireplace in a snowstorm, or on the beach in the heat of summer. Focus on Gray's illustrations and design sensibilities at times like those; the stories, I've found, are best appreciated loudly, while pacing up and down in a performance with friends....more
There are many interesting things that can be said about Harlan Ellison, many of them fantastical, like the time he saved the life of a woman who wasThere are many interesting things that can be said about Harlan Ellison, many of them fantastical, like the time he saved the life of a woman who was getting scammed by an internet crazy person with multiple identities, or nearly got into a spat with a video game web cartoonist. But a mouse capable of human speech once told me not to reveal the most interesting thing I know about him, at least as far as I'm involved, so I won't....more
It seriously took a publisher how much of a century to title a collection of Lovecraft's stories "Necronomicon"? Like seventy years? Did it really jusIt seriously took a publisher how much of a century to title a collection of Lovecraft's stories "Necronomicon"? Like seventy years? Did it really just not occur to anyone? Shouldn't the first collected volume of his stories have been called that? I blame August Derleth.
Speaking of whom, I don't believe this edition features the re-edited versions of the texts available in the Library of America edition of Lovecraft. Necronomicon includes the older editions as published by Derleth's Arkham House, featuring Derleth's... let's call them "bold typographical choices", including italicizing the second half of the final sentence in many stories to heighten tension and irritate me.
Oh also! There's a rather nice map of Arkham, Massachusetts printed on the front and back endpapers. Admittedly it's very similar to the map accompanying the Arkham entry in The Dictionary of Imaginary Places, but never mind that. Endpaper maps! Whooooo. At least it's rather better than Necronomicon's other illustrations, which are for some reason the same three pictures of a shifty-lookin' guy, a pile of old books and papers, and a megalith, repeated fairly randomly at the first and last pages of many stories. Why not? Also it's bound really poorly, basically a paperbound book with hard boards, but this is true of virtually all hardcover editions published these days, which is lamentable but hardly unique to this book.
I sound like I'm being pretty hard on Necronomicon, but I was totally pleased with it. I like having a single-volume hardcover edition of most of Lovecraft's stories with the single most appropriate title possible. Not all stories are included--notable omissions include "Nyarlathotep" and "Beyond the Wall of Sleep"--but it includes most important works, such as "The Call of Cthulhu", "At the Mountains of Madness", "The Whisperer in Darkness", "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath", and so on. That's really all I ask of a Necronomicon.
Also the italics are kinda like eldritch alien text, yeah? Sure.
*Edit* - Ok, looking back, there are more than just those three repeating illustrations.