Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Biblion: Frankenstein

Vintage Frankenstein illustration from New York Public Library Biblion website
I am remiss. I've had a new publication available for months yet inexplicably failed to tell anyone about it. My apologies. This is a little different from anything else I've done in the past, so perhaps I can be forgiven for the oversight.

I have a paper, or essay, if you prefer, available now on the New York Public Library's Biblion website. The paper, co-written with Donald Olson, Marilynn Olson, Russell Doescher, Ava Pope and Kelly Schnarr (whew! That's quite a mouthful, innit?) is titled "Frankenstein's Moon" and reexamines some of the work done in pinpointing the time frame when Mary Shelley began work on her famous novel as well as validating her version of events (which have been questioned by various historians over the years).

The paper is part of a much larger celebration of Shelley and her literary creation, titled FRANKENSTEIN: The Afterlife of Shelley and Frankenstein. Here's a brief description from the site itself:
What makes a monster? What is it like living on the margins of society? Is technology inherently good or bad? These questions guided Mary Shelley 200 years ago as she wrote her classic novel Frankenstein — they remain just as relevant today. The second edition of Biblion explores the connections between Shelley’s time and our own, showing how the classics resonate throughout society and the breadth of NYPL’s offerings.
I'm very pleased to participate in my own small way, and encourage everyone to take a look. The site is well worth a look if you're a fan of Frankenstein and have an hour or six to spend going through all the fascinating features on display.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Of gorillas and gasbags

So, Armadillocon has came and went, and everybody else in the whole of creation has posted their thoughts and comments about the convention except me. Par for the course, I'd say. I've got a larger wrap-up coming, but I'd like to focus for the moment on Friday night's "Gorilla of the Gasbags" story challenge panel. As I mentioned last week, Joe Lansdale threw out a challenge a year ago to write a story centered around the cover of an exceptionally rare issue of Zeppelin Stories. We had one year to write them, and present the finished product at the panel in question.

Quite a few folks turned out with stories, myself included. "Prince Koindrindra Lives" is a direct sequel to my story "Prince Koindrindra Escapes," which appeared in Cross Plain Universe back in 2006. Except, since I'm not a particularly fast writer, and I'd only completed the first draft of my Chicken Ranch book the week before, I didn't get mine completed. Specifically, I wrote about 11 pages of what will probably be a 30-page tale once all is said and done. Everybody else finished theirs. Or at least claimed to. I'm not going to accuse anyone of bending the truth a bit, but those folks who hung me out to dry know who they are.

The Gorilla of the Gasbags story challenge panel at Armadillocon 2012

The Gorilla of the Gasbags story challenge panel at Armadillocon 2012

The Gorilla of the Gasbags story challenge panel at Armadillocon 2012

Bill Crider lapped the field by writing two stories on the topic. Edgar Rice Burroughs was a popular touchstone, and Mark Finn got in a jab at L. Sprague de Camp. Chris Brown wowed everyone with the revelation that his grandfather actually worked in a German Zeppelin factory, and had a trove of artifacts and souvenirs from those days. Chris also went against the grain by writing a borderline-pornographic innuendo-laden story based on the secondary "Balloon Juice" title from the pulp cover. It was, I must admit, magnificent.

I ended up reading several pages of Neal Barrett, Jr.'s story, as he couldn't make the panel (it's a corker!) as well as a little more than half a page of mine. I got lots of compliments afterward about my reading, but I found it a tad troubling that some folks hadn't realized I'd done two separate readings (Neal's and my stories both had strong 1930s German elements to them). To clear up any further confusion, here is what I read (it might help to know that Koindrindra is a 30-foot-tall ape who has just skydived along with 100 or so paratroopers into Castle Neuschwanstein):
Koindrindra had barely taken two steps toward the keep when the giant doors exploded open, propellering through the courtyard to embed themselves in the Palas wall. The very force knocked Koindrindra back. He stared at the keep, not believing his eyes.

Through the smoke-filled doorway, backlit by a hundred work lights, rumbled a massive... something. Mounted on a twenty-foot armored tank chassis, a sectioned cylindrical torso rose with a black Iron Cross emblazoned across the chest. One either side of the armored cylinder extended two jointed, hydraulic arms. One ended in a vice-like clamp, the other in a still-smoking gun barrel. Mounted atop the torso, more than thirty feet high, sat what could only be described as a head, ape-like in design.

The mad Fritz could not win against Koindrindra on the field of battle, so they'd build a mechanical abomination to do it for them.

Panzer Affe!
Amazingly, every single story fragment read came off as solid, quality literature. Don Webb actually recited his from memory, as he'd forgotten his manuscript. Amazing. This really needs to be anthology, as the stories ranged widely in tone and theme. I'd certainly buy it.

The Gorilla of the Gasbags story challenge panel at Armadillocon 2012

The Gorilla of the Gasbags story challenge panel at Armadillocon 2012

The Gorilla of the Gasbags story challenge panel at Armadillocon 2012