Clark Ashton Smith’s The Maze of the Enchanter from Night Shade Books

I recently received my copy of The Maze of the Enchanter: Volume Four of the Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith. Edited by Scott Connors and Ron Hilger and published by Night Shade Books, this is a sumptuous volume. Filled with sardonic, mystic and grotesque delights, The Maze of the Enchanter is a feast even for the well-read CAS aficionado. Held within its finely-bound pages are tales restored (wherever possible) to the form in which Smith envisioned them before he was prevailed upon to make emendations due to editorial fiat.

Night Shade’s “Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith” series is ambitious, seeking to put every completed tale penned by CAS between quality covers, with the ordering dictated by date of composition. Volume Four encompasses the period from May of 1932 through March of 1933. There are many, including myself, who see this period as one of Clark Ashton Smith at his height, when his imagination, enthusiasm and word-craft were at full strength.


The jacket art for The Maze of the Enchanter, as with all others in the series, has been rendered by Jason Van Hollander. Once again, Van Hollander utilized photo reference to work in examples of of Smith’s own primitive and surrealistic art, as well as a likeness of the Enchanter of Auburn himself (in this case, standing in for Maal Dweb). I’d like to think that Klarkash-Ton would be pleased.

(Continue reading this post)

District 9


This is a rather strange movie. Filmed in a street-documentary way, with lots of choppy hand-held scenes reflecting modern war footage, it is the story of an ill-advised attempt to relocate aliens from their shanty-town to concentration camps farther away from the human populace. The aliens are somewhat sullen, violent arthropods who suffered some disaster in space that left them starving and leaderless. I had to wonder how HPL would react to creatures that resemble giant, intelligent seafood. The humans call them “prawns”; it is the first sign of the disdain with which they are viewed.

The movie is set in South Africa, and obviously the alien-hate can be read as an allusion to racism, but it is not really played to excess. It is just the backdrop to an interesting drama, played at both the personal level and a world-wide level as the humans find the prawn are not all as simple-minded as they believe. Three of the prawn have been planning for twenty years to escape the prison that is earth.
In a review for SFX, Nick Setchfield remarks:

This is pure body horror in the lineage of Alien, The Thing and The Fly.

That is certainly an element. Don’t go see this if you are easily grossed out. He also has these comments which I found interesting:

Wikus van der Merwe is a nepotistically-appointed bureaucrat, a Pooterish Afrikaaner charged with overseeing the mass eviction of the alien township. Tank-top, Chuckle Brothers moustache, neat side-parting. The word dweeb is all but laser-etched on his forehead. From the moment you clock his nervous weasel features you know he’s one of those middle-management peons cinema routinely earmarks for death in a moment of grisly, crowd-pleasing black comedy.

And then there’s a moment when you realise, with sudden, amused shock, that this is the hero, that they’ve handed the movie to this man (actually, it may be the moment that he ditches the tank-top). Sharlto Copley is brilliant as Wikus, mining unsuspected reserves of heroism and furious morality beneath the nerdish exterior …

The review has some slight spoilers, which I won’t repeat, but I did think the movie needed a final scene which never comes. Director and writer Neill Blomkamp said in an interview that while Hollywood always ties up the loose ends, real life isn’t always so neat. Well, that’s why we prefer stories to real life for entertainment, Neill. Still, a thoughtprovoking and compelling movie — you’ll either love it or hate it, apparently.

Elmer Kelton’s Last Ride Into the West


Elmer Kelton died in San Angelo, Texas on August 22nd, 2009. Other than (possibly) Louis L’Amour, Kelton is the most honored writer in the history of the Western fiction genre. Born about two hundred miles west of Cross Plains and almost exactly two decades after the birth of Robert E. Howard, Kelton spent the last six decades writing novels about his native state (and its far-wandering sons). Many would say he did so better than anyone else.

Elmer Kelton’s won a Spur Award for his novel, Buffalo Wagons, in 1957. Before he was done, he’d win six more. In honor of that record-breaking achievement, and for the sheer sustained excellence of his entire body of work, the Western Writers Association voted him “The Best Western Author of All Time.”

I first became acquainted with Mr. Kelton’s work by way of the film, The Good Old Boys, which was adapted from his novel of the same name. Searching it out, I was struck by several things. This was a writer with a deep knowledge of the history of the American West. On top of that (and most importantly), the man could spin a yarn; a yarn filled with characters who acted and spoke authentically (to my mind). Kelton had this to say about the writing of The Good Old Boys: “(It) is probably the closest I have ever come to writing from sheer inspiration. Hewey Calloway and the other characters took hold of the story like a cold-jawed horse grabbing onto the bit, and about all I could do was hold on for the ride.”

The Time It Never Rained (1973), is a novel about the drought of the 1950s, a time when most Texan ranchers gave in and accepted “welfare” (in the form of hay and feed) from the government. Not much hot lead flying, but this novel burns with intensity drawn from the souls of the characters; proud people with their backs to the wall. People who see a way of life that endured for a century being changed irrevocably.

The Time It Never Rained and The Good Old Boys are the only novels by Elmer Kelton that I have ever read. There’s enough proof between the two for me to say that the man was a damned fine writer, I reckon.