August Insect Symphony

That’s what fills the air of August nights, right? At least here. Busy month, in part by medical necessities for family. In part also, as it’s time for prepping Fall semester.

Word has come down officially that I received news late last week that a contract has been drafted for A 21st Century Guide to Teaching Beowulf with MIP. We have a date too. By December 31, a production ready copy of the book will be turned into the press. Now the pressure is on for myself and the other contributors with editorial requests that will be coming soon.

Was hoping to share both a publication announcement for Lovecraft Annual 2018 (usually released on this special day — see below) and Spectral Realms No. 9 from Hippocampus Press that will feature my work. So, there may be more posts ahead once I receive word on those forthcoming issues. In the meantime I can’t praise enough some recent acquisitions from the publisher: What is Anything, A life in Lovecraft by S. T. Joshi and Dead Reckonings No. 23 (with Ramsey’s Rant alone makes these very valuable, but there are also standout essays on Clark Ashton Smith by Scott Connors, Gary Myer’s House Of The Worm by Nicholas Diak, and “The Theory and Practice of Satirical Criticism” by S. T. Joshi) .

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Spent a great weekend also at the Blackrock Medieval Festival. The size of the participants was down from prior years but still another great authentic medieval gathering with Her Majesty’s Royal Guard topping the show.

The Mystic Poet William Blake finally received a headstone for his grave: http://www.thesundaily.my/node/571269

We Hate Bards has been running a thrilling adventure called The Lost Island by Cristopher Charles Frank using my Realms of Fantasy RPG at The Gamer’s Wharf. These sessions will continue until the end of 2018.

That’s all folks.

Last words: Happy Birthday H. P. Lovecraft!

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Harlan Ellison Afterworld

Harlan Ellison Afterworld

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You can’t stop what’s coming. Heroes you’ve grown up with reaching venerable age is a fact hard to contend with. I’ve been dreading this day for some time between friends since Harlan Ellison (also known as Unca Harlan) was no longer able to communicate these last four years via the Art Deco Dining Pavillion, and it sure as hell hurt when it happened. I remember him once saying “If no one remembers Eric Knight (see – the writer of Lassie if you didn’t know), what the hell chance do I have?” Well, a good chance, because we (writers) don’t forget important people when they truly do matter.

My title speaks to that feeling when certain cultural figures leave us that there may (will) be a collapse in quality and depth in the culture, or “as long as so and so is around” that “shit won’t fly.” The mere fact that someone is still alive even if in torpor can have this effect. I’m thinking back for instance when Kurt Cobain passed and how quickly the Green Days of the world descended upon us. The feeling that if there is some strong figure ready to pounce on what the industry wants to pass off as culture, there is hope. Even with Harlan’s last bad years there was still a presence to demand writers be paid, to defend copyright protection, to call bullshit when he sees it (when others who knew better didn’t), etc. There are still stalwart champions of critical culture (though they dwindle) but it does feel like the end is upon us.

It has been noted that Harlan said, “For a brief time I existed, and for a brief time I mattered.” And that in the end all writers hope that they achieve some good in the world. Yes, Harlan Ellison did both and much more. In the one place H.E. hated almost more than anything – the internet – his retort against that being Ellison Webderland – is the only place I found much announcement of his passing. The Media itself – The Glass Teat – (which would not have surprised him) was of course too busy with more mass shootings, mock-congressional hearings, the next Supreme Court nominee, and their favorite teat of all, President Trump. On-line there have been obituaries from fans and friends. The SyFy Channel is the only network I know of that made this news available (and ironic since H.E. hated the term, much less the network). And so we have and here is mine.

My initial comment was “and another light goes out and into the monolith.” Despite H.E.’s less than favorable review of 2001 in Ellison is Watching, this is what it is. We have lost a light. Death is an odyssey into the unknown—a monolith. Harlan is one of my favorite writers because we got the totality of his whole being. As an inspiration he made it clear – a writer is a sponge – you soak up as much as you can then and let it out onto the page. The writing – Strange Wine and Deathbird Stories shake me to this day. But it was also what he said about writing, about our life, our 20th century, our future, all of it. He was one of the few who never separated politics from the work, in the Orwellian tradition. Something I once remarked was held by a fearless trinity of Pinter (Harold) – Freed (Donald) – Ellison. (Of the many things they have in common – an F.B.I. file on their “seditious” activities…) And but now we have only one of them. But it was also the collecting, the art, the toys, the comics, you know what I’m talking about and you know you want to be in the Lost Aztec Temple of Mars and that comic-book room (or build one of your own). And more – everything is an argument! Yes. The curmudgeon and argumentative soul. The tough pill to swallow. The pain in the ass. The man of letters. Couldn’t ask for more as a literary hero. I just want to throw this out there, he was so much more than “Repent Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman” and the writer of Star Trek “The City on the Edge of Forever.”

A comic book collector and scholar. When he had to sell some of the collection (as we all sometimes must do) to help pay a friend’s legal fees I chipped in and proudly have Harlan Ellison’s Issue #1 of Kamandi (and others).

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He was also a comic book writer (and very recently at that) with a love of artists. If you haven’t read 7 Against Chaos with Paul Chadwick and Ken Steacy, get on it.

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Some of us were fortunate enough to be members of the “The Rabbit Hole” – all of this held together by Susan’s tireless work. No different then what Ellie Frazetta had done for Frank (Or Patty is still doing for Donald). The Rabbit Hole let us dive deep into Harlan’s Universe. I hope those letters still continue. It was through that membership and correspondence I was bestowed with one hell of a 40th birthday present collection, inscribed with his signature. If you want to know Harlan you’ve got to get The Hornbook: “Did Your Mother Throw Yours out..?” “The Song the Sixties Sang…” Here is the man. If you want an uncensored record of the late 20th century America this is it.

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He wrote a script for I, Robot long before that hack-version with Will Smith was a gleam in anyone’ eye. He was one hell of a convincing voice-actor (and actor) if you’ve had the pleasure of listening to the recording of Run For The Stars.

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Even more was the Art Deco Dining Pavillion, where, if you were lucky, Harlan might respond to you. I will never forget this one. (Harlan started his career off as the young one, surrounded by the great luminaries of the speculative fiction field, and in the end, he was the old one, one of the last to remember those before and to perhaps give us a glimpse of how it may have been.) So… if you want to know something about Fritz Leiber, why not ask Unca Harlan?

Michael <Miller>
Wayland, MI – Wednesday, September 28 2011 17:42:41

Fritz Leiber
Mr. Ellison,

You might be one of the few writers living who knew Fritz Leiber. I’d like to ask you if a characterization of him had some truth to it. The Fafhrd and Mouser sagas are seared into my memory as are his dark ladies Conjure Wife and Our Lady of Darkness. Moon Duel was another cool story I’ll never forget and his essays were a convincing brew of intellect and humor. But few reads for me are as sustainably enjoyable as the two ill-met comrade swordsmen – the first real dynamic duo in my mind – and the wet, night-smog filled streets of Lankhmar . My question is this: I don’t know if this was Fritz Leiber’s quote but I read once that Fafhrd was his alter-ego and the Mouser that of his friend Harry Otto Fischer. Did you ever see or notice a bit of the ‘ol red-headed barbarian in Mr. Leiber?

Warmest regards,

Michael Miller.

HARLAN ELLISON
– Thursday, September 29 2011 20:32:42

REPLY TO MICHAEL MILLER

re: FRITZ LEIBER

I don’t quite know how to answer your question directly.

Perhaps one of Fritz’s biographers would be better at this chore than I.

Simply put, Fritz Leiber was the firmament for me. Not merely as a writer, but as a man. Simply put, we knew each other quite well; he was far older than I, knew more of the universe than I; and had much to say to me. I listened…as a chit of paving stone waits for the sound of the raindrop to fall, waiting stupidly for the sound the impact it knows will be made. Simply put, I loved him with all the fervor that I could, or now can, muster.

There is a photograph on my personal “wall of fame” here at the house, that when I go up to my office, I look at every day, as I climb the Art Deco Staircase where it prominently hangs. Here is what is in that photo. It will not answer your question.

Fritz and I have both won large awards, which are on the table
between us, and we are sitting there, our hands clasped on the tablecloth, looking into each other’s face, smiling, chatting, and all I need know of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser (since I bought TWO SOUGHT ADVENTURE in 1957 in the Gnome Press hardcover 1st edition, for $3.00) is that he was the gentlest, most congenial, somber sometimes, jovial and gracious always, good-with-an-epee (because we dueled) savant and gentleman I have ever known. Deponent swallows hard, eyes moist.

Simply put, sir, to say that I would have crawled on hands and knees through broken glass to the 8th and Inner Circle of Hell just to bring him a moist towel for his forehead, is to write so ovwrblown and bloviating that my dear Fritz would tsk-tsk me.

I have no idea which was whom, as you ask. But.

To me…

One of us was one, hoping to be as good as the other. The other was already both, and better than anyone else.

There was Fritz Leiber.

And there was no other.

I’m sorry I cannot do better for you. It was a lovely question; and I still miss him every day.

Respectfully, Harlan Ellison

He also chewed my ass out once for igniting an incendiary discussion of Dhalgren and his original review of Delaney’s novel (because it was “on the internet!!!!!!”) which lead to an introspective recant of sorts. My regrets? Sure. Can’t think of how many times I’ve wanted to go to the Aztec Temple… I lived in Sherman Oaks but never did… How many times I wanted to go back and visit but never thought… How many documentaries about Ellison I might pitch to friends to go there… to get a chance to sit in that hand-chair Mick Jagger sat it… but more seriously I was about to send him an old photo I came across, a very young H.E. and his old friend Robert Bloch… but it wasn’t meant to be…

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So as I always say when we lose a great one… runes to your memory! Harlan Ellison was the beast that shouted love at the heart of the world. Though he would likely disagree and say we die and push up daisies, I like to hope that Harlan Ellison is still watching.

Michael D Miller, 6/28/18

END

Beyond the usual bounds of reverie

The post title is from Mary Shelley’s intro to Frankenstein, which this year (2018) makes it 200 years old (1818)! That’s two centuries of lasting cultural influence. More importantly, it was on this day, June 16, 1816, that the ghost story challenge began, birthing the idea for the novel. Perfect date for an update.

I’ve been given notice that at least one of my poems will appear in Spectral Realms No. 9 from Hippocampus Press, edited by S. T. Joshi due out in July.

Secondly, I’ve also been given notice that my essay on Lovecraftian influences in 2001: A Space Odyssey will be published in Lovecraft Annual 2018, due out in August/ September (also by Hippocampus Press and edited by S. T. Joshi). The timing couldn’t be more perfect as we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Kubrick’s film.

Between now and then I will be finalizing a chapter for a Beowulf teaching guide dealing with the nature of heroism and finishing up the final installment of the Realms of Fantasy RPG with Supplement III: Prowess & Peril. All art in that issue is the work of Brook Anderson (also represented by Mythopoeia Games Publications). I’ve include a sample image in this post.

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I have a Los Angeles trip in the works for July and there should be more news on “Bullets For Breakfast” after that visit.

That’s about it. Oh, Hereditary looks great, don’t you think?

End to April Cruelness

Yes it was if you live in the Midwest — snow on the ground to April 15.  36 degrees on April 29.  It is over and the semester with it.

Writing projects continue. Of the many on my list this month is finishing my work for Mythopoeia Games Publications (@mythopoeiap) writing the third installment (and final in this edition) of sourcebooks for the Realms of Fantasy RPG.  The publisher is struggling (as most are) and at this point it is pro bono work but I hate to see projects unfinished so it will be done.

Along with that task podcasts with We Hate Bards have continued this month.  One using my award-winning adventure from the 2012 Gary Gygax Dungeon Design Contest by The Secret DM – “The House of Dark Shadows” and the second a guest spot in a game of Jeffrey Thomas‘ “Punktown.”

The International Congress on Medieval Studies is fast approaching (May 10-13) and I will be attending (but not presenting) to support two presentations of my fellow NEH scholars as they present our experiences from Beowulf Camp 2016.

Lasty I want to mention how excellent the Weird Fiction Review by Centipede Press (edited by S. T. Joshi) is.  There are few other publications in this field that can collect a vast and exceptional array of fiction, articles, art, interviews, columns, and poetry collected in these pages.  Issues are up to 8 (2017) but I’ve just recently acquired this from the back catalogue with a great piece on artist Mike Ploog.

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Here’s to May!

March End (ness)

Starting off with a photograph I worked out this month.  I have no name for it yet, but it is likely be included as an image for something soon.  Taken on a March night with plenty of moon madness and the branches of the dark young reaching out to hold it up.

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Many random events since the Ides of March…  The highest honor among them being a personal letter of mine to my early mentor and teacher of twenty plus years, the courageous and insightful Donald Freed has been added the Donald and Patty Rae Freed Foundation page.  There are few other working artists with such a Debt of Honor.

One of my Weird poems has been selected for publication in Spectral Realms No. 9 edited by the great S. T. Joshi and published by Hippocampus Press.  An official announcement on this is forthcoming as this is the summer issue due out in June.  I have also pitched a recent essay of Lovecraft Scholarship, 2001: A Lovecraft Odyssey to S. T. Joshi for consideration in the Lovecraft Annual 2018 (also published through Hippocampus Press).

While I type away on my last source book for Mythopoeia Games Publications (SIII: Caverns & Campaigns), the Return to Rappan Athuk (by Frog God Games) podcasts have resumed for We Hate Bards… Horrifying and fun.

April is looking good for more developments.  To everyone at Marmalade Dog this year — have fun.

Happy Easter.

M

PS – Ash Vs. The Evil Dead Season III has been a riot.