Sunday, August 11, 2019

Big Wildlife, Big Fun in Apex

Team No Dead Weight strikes again: Ye Olde Man, Diefenbaker, Fishdownthestair, and
Old Bloody One-Eyed Rob
The usual suspects — Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott), Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie), Old Bloody One-Eyed Robgso (a.k.a. Rob) — gathered this morning at Casa de Fish and hit the highway in the direction of Apex, bound for geocaching. (Surprised you, didn't I? I bet you thought I was going to say we were bound for geocaching. Oh, wait....) Our primary target was the White Oak Creek Greenway, where a fair crapload of caches lay in wait for us. A considerable length of the greenway runs through the marsh around White Oak Creek on a wide wooden boardwalk, which afforded us a fine view of all kinds of critters, including Daikaiju Gamera's only slightly smaller first cousin, Eugene. When I first noticed Eugene, I thought I was a seeing a large turtle lounging in the water. Then I realized I was seeing just the head of the largest snapping turtle I've ever seen. Big. BIG-ass snapping turtle. I'm kinda glad we weren't slogging through the marsh at that point because we might have gotten snapped at.

We had already encountered one giant critter on our way to the marsh. A few miles back while stopping at a cache, we ran into Ms. Betty, a surpassing large Golden Orb Weaver (a.k.a. Garden Spider). Ms. Betty didn't seem to mind us poking around her place looking for cache, maybe because she had already signed the log. She did appear rather smug.
Not much sense of scale in these photos, but both Eugene (L—and that is just his head!)
and Ms. Betty (R) were big. BIG.

We also found a couple of trees that afforded us — well, in this case, me — an opportunity to change our vertical perspective a tad. I would consider neither of these big scary climbs, but the smaller of the two actually offered more of an adrenaline rush because the leaning trunk was so rotten I wasn't sure it would hold me for the length of time it took to go up and sign the log. Had the trunk broken, I wouldn't have fallen more than five or six feet, but that's enough to bruise one's pride if not one's backside. The other climb proved a little more challenging, but even that wasn't terribly high; I estimate no more than ten feet. Still, that was enough elevation to inspire me to keep a tight grip on the branches. All ended well, and we did get our team name (the ubiquitous moniker, Team No Dead Weight) emblazoned on the logs.
A welcome opportunity to make a change of elevation. But would someone call the fire
department please? I think I'm stuck
.


Lunch at Sophie's Grill & Bat in Apex made for the perfect post-hiking repast. The chicken fingers and hot sauce really hit the spot, and the fries weren't bad. Thing is, I'd burned my tongue on my super-hot coffee this morning, and that hot sauce really got a mouth fire going. It took a lot of cold beer and water to put that thing out.

On our journey home, we stopped off at a tunnel cache in Siler City that Scott and I had already claimed — "Uncle Hargis's Potato Patch" (GC38ZXD) — but since the young lady still needed it, we stopped to let her do the deed. Since it was a tunnel hide, I went on in there anyway. It seemed the thing to do at the time.

Daughter Allison is in town for a few days, so we went out for sushi at Fuji Sushi this evening. Most enjoyable, and we're planning to have dinner again tomorrow night, with Ms. B. also attending.

Is nice. All very, very nice.
View of the boardwalk and marsh at the White Oak Creek Greenway, near Apex

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Scares That Care 2019


It's been too many years since I've been to a horror convention of any size and excellent calibre, but this year's Scares That Care charity event in Williamsburg, VA, is the one that got me back. Ms. B. and I joined writer, publisher, and longtime friend David Niall Wilson, his wife Trish, and daughter Katie to work the Crossroad Press table for much of the weekend. The crowd turned out to be prodigious, and I understand the attendees this year helped raise a record amount of money for individuals and groups in specific need.

Early morning Friday, Kimberly and I set out for Williamsburg. It's generally about a four-hour trip, but this one clocked in at over six, given that we stopped for a handful of geocaches, broke for lunch at the always excellent Cul's Courthouse Grill in Charles City, VA, and ended up detouring due to an accident that had closed I-85 North south of Petersburg. That re-routing cost us a half hour or so, but it sure as hell beat sitting on the interstate for hours with absolutely nowhere to go.

When we arrived, we immediately headed to the dealer's room and stationed ourselves with the Crossroad Press gang. They had brought a huge inventory with them, and by all indications, they did well—as did just about everyone I talked to. I moved a few copies of Blue Devil Island, Ameri-Scares West Virginia: Lair of the Mothman, and Ameri-Scares Michigan: The Dragon of Lake Superior, which pleased me muchly. That was where Kimberly and I spent the majority of our time, but I did manage to take numerous breaks and explore the various chambers of the convention hall. I ran into many old friends—such as Maurice Broaddus, Chris Harding, Lynne Hansen, Nick Kaufman, Nick Mamatas, Elizabeth Massie, Cortney Skinner, Steven Shrewsbury, Mark Sieber, Jeff Strand, con organizer/writer Brian Keene, and others—as well as meet a number of folks I've known or known of over the years but had never met in the flesh, such as the guys at Tom Deady, Death's Head Press, Jonathan Maberry, Bryan Nowak, Dave Simms, Paul Tremblay, Sidney Williams, Jezzy Wolfe, and many more.
Trish and Katie Wilson at the Crossroad Press table. They only look dangerous,
they really aren't... oh, wait... yeah, they're dangerous.
Okay, so Brugger likes dudes with long legs, but this is ridiculous.
Author Paul Tremblay, looking pleasantly unpleasant.
Friday evening, the dealer's and celebrity rooms stayed open till 9:00 p.m., so rather than try to get a group together for dinner, Kimberly and I went into Williamsburg's historical district and put away a small feast at The Hound's Tale, an atmospheric little tavern that we quite enjoyed. I went for braised rabbit leg with pasta, accompanied by a fair malbec, while the lady chose smoked chicken pierogis and an interesting red blend. Perhaps not the best dinner of the weekend, but an all-around enjoyable one. Fine service bumped up the experience.
Mr. Skinner and his long-lost protegé

Without much ado, we returned to the con and the dealer's room. We hung out there till closing time, then accompanied the Wilsons back to their chambers where we—or at least a couple of us—put away some seriously good bourbon: Basil Hayden's, which I'd never tried before. We retired at a fairly reasonable hour for a big old convention. I don't know what hour that was, but I have it on good authority that it was reasonable. Kimberly and I did not have a room at the con hotel, but at the Mainstay Suites a few miles up the road. The place was spacious, clean, and convenient, so we can stamp it with our stamp of approval.

Saturday morning, we zoomed back to the con, continued the dealer's room gig for a bit, but took time out to attend readings by Dave and Ms. Massie. Both were brilliant and, for me, among the many highlights of the con. Once again, Kimberly and I settled ourselves at the table and sold some books. Kim spent much of her time producing a beautiful little piece of artwork, as she is frequently wont to do.
A very skeered Ms. Massie! (She has somehow noticed the dude behind the camera.)
Maurice Broaddus and Jonathan Maberry. The photo turned out a bit hazy, which leads me to believe these
gentlemen may have been emitting some kind of lethal radiation. Will report any unusual results later.
Ms. Massie reads her story from the anthology Freedom of Screech, while Mr. Wilson is on deck
with his tale of the Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs.
Now, no con is complete without some scary geocaching in the mix. And not a mile from the con hotel there lay a geocache with the innocuous-sounding title of "Under a Lightpole." However, its difficulty and terrain ratings on the website gave away the fact that finding it would surely involve a terrain challenge. One of my preferred terrain challenges, in fact: delving underground into a storm drain. In this case, based on my inspection of Google aerial view images, it appeared to be a relatively short one. So, after a quick lunch from the hotel deli, I buzzed over to the cache location and scoped out the site. Sure enough, the culvert entrance was there—not far from the lightpole in question, but down an embankment covered with such thick growth that the cache's terrain rating of "4" (out of 5) might apply just to one's approach. No worries for me, though, for I had come prepared with the tools of the trade.

There be geocaching spoilers here....
The entrance to my destination.
Looking up: yep, that there is where Imma going.

I hacked my way to the stream below and found a considerable amount of water lying between the entrance and me. However, the pipe itself was elevated and appeared dry. I used a couple of small trees to swing myself over the pool, and barely even got my feet wet. Once inside the concrete tube, it was a cakewalk. Well, a stooping cakewalk.

About thirty feet in, there was junction and a ladder leading up to a ledge above my head, with another ladder above that led to a covered manhole. I made the assumption, based on the ratings, that the cache surely resided way up there, above my head. So I made the necessary ascent and began my search in earnest.

But for naught. Are you kidding me? The thing had been found recently, and I felt certain it couldn't have disappeared in just the past few days. So, I set about searching the lower section of the junction and... for the love of Pete... here it is, way down here. I'm quite certain the difficulty rating for this one is way too high, but that's just me. Hey, I had much, much fun doing this, and I'm actually quite glad I undertook the greater terrain challenge. Always a good time.

I had barely gotten wet from my venture into the tube, but by the time I hacked my way back to the car, I had become a drippy, hot, sweaty mess from the intense heat and humidity. Fortunately, I was pretty well prepared for this as well. Once back at the con, I found myself a vacant bathroom, scrubbed myself down, and changed into the extra clothes I'd brought.
Mr. Wilson wailing out some karaoke at the hotel bar

The rest of the afternoon, we tended the Crossroad Press table. Sold a few books. We learned that Dave Simms had reserved a place for a dozen of us at the nearby Sportsmans Grille. Now, while this place might be considered a "sports bar," in reality, it offers a massive selection of entrées, burgers, sandwiches, salads, and a fine bar. Our dirty dozen—the Simms clan, the Wilson clan, Mr. Skinner, Ms. Massie, Brugger, and I—occupied a strategic area of the restaurant for conquering huge dinners. I started with a very well-made vodka martini and, for the main course, ordered a pound of steamed shrimp. They were heavenly. Very large, perfectly cooked and seasoned, with excellent cocktail sauce. It looked like everyone else chose wisely as well. I gotta give this place very high marks, and I hope to have another opportunity to drink & dine there.
Old Dude hollering out "The One I Love"

After dinner, some of us got the wacky idea we should participate in the karaoke thingummy going on in the hotel bar. Well, I sometimes play guitar and holler in public, and I've done karaoke before. Ms. B. is a helluva singer. And Mr. Wilson can more than do justice to a tune as well. So, three of us signed up to do the deed, claimed a counter in the bar for ourselves, and we waited. And we waited. And we waited. Holy shit, the karaoke dude kept putting these two fellows who sang in a band behind the mic instead of letting people who hadn't sung yet do their thing. This annoyed me no end, but a couple of hours, a beer, and a Woodford Reserve on the rocks later, our turns came. I wailed out REM's "The One I Love," Kim turned in a beautiful performance of The Indigo Girls's "Galileo," and Dave gave us a fine rendition of...a song I did not know. It was an exhausting evening after a long day of it, but this was that fun kind of exhaustion that is hardly disagreeable.

And for all practical purposes, that was the end of Scares That Care 2019 for us. This morning, Brugger and I got up, made the rounds, and said our goodbyes. Then we hit the road. Before we got very far, I snagged a nice cache, called "Colonial Redwoods," at William & Mary College—where they actually have a couple of huge redwoods—and then, a fair piece down the road, a quick park & grab cache somewhere off I-85 South.

My only real regret about this con was that, other than Dave and Beth's readings, I didn't get to see or participate in the programming. Such are the rigors of manning a dealer table. Regardless, that in itself was a task I was happy to do, and I got to meet quite a lot of folks as they passed through the room. Back in the late 1980s through the early 2000s, I frequently went to and participated in many of the big, professional cons, and Scares That Care most reminds me of Horrorfind, which used to be held in Baltimore. It has much of that same atmosphere, with so many big-name media, author, and artist guests in attendance—so many of whom used to go to Horrorfind. It's all for a worthy cause, and I'm happy to support it for that reason.

I hope to get back to Scares next year. It is most definitely an event to anticipate.
Bryan Nowack and Sidney Williams manning the HWA table. It is best not feed these gentlemen,
for I am told they are voracious and don't know when to quit.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

‘Ameri-Scares’: Margot Robbie’s LuckyChap & Assemble Media Developing Family Horror Anthology

A bit of happy news regarding Elizabeth Massie's Ameri-Scares series....

This deal has been in the works for a while, and Ms. Massie can finally announce that Margot Robbie and her LuckyChap Entertainment are teaming with Assemble Media and Warner Horizon to develop the Ameri-Scares book series as a family-friendly horror anthology broadcast and/or streaming series.

There are fifty books planned for the Crossroad Press series, one for each state, each involving legends, folklore, or historical events from that particular state. Eleven have been released so far, including two of my own contributions, West Virginia: Lair of the Mothman and Michigan: The Lake Superior Dragon. I do have more in the pipeline, including books for Georgia and Ohio. At this point, the TV series is still in development, and I will of course post more news when it's available.

Visit Deadline.com for more details.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Remembering Greg Shoemaker


This weekend I received the devastating news that Greg Shoemaker — consummate giant monster fan, gifted editor, friend, and, in many ways, one of my earliest creative mentors — passed away on Friday. If you're reading this blog, there's a fair chance you either knew him or knew of him. Greg rightfully earned the reputation of having birthed daikaiju fandom in the United States, most notably via his long-running fanzine, The Japanese Fantasy Film Journal, which I discovered as a lad of 10 or 11 in 1970. At that time, living in the little town of Martinsville, VA, I was already a diehard Godzilla fan and an aficionado of giant monsters in monsters in general. As such, every month, I picked up a copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland, always hoping to find photos of and articles about Godzilla, kith and kin. In one issue, in the Classified Ads section, I happened upon a listing that advertised the "Godzilla" issue of something called The Japanese Fantasy Film Journal. It cost a whopping 35¢, so I sent off a quarter and a dime to the editor.

For a while, nothing arrived, and I began to get frustrated. Then, one day, a manila envelope showed up in the mail. The return address indicated it was my long-awaited issue of what came to be known as JFFJ. When I opened it, I found, not a "Godzilla" issue, but one devoted to Frankenstein Conquers the World, a movie I had never seen but had heard of — once again, in the pages of Famous Monsters. In the editorial, called "In Right Relations," ye editor, Mr. Gregory Shoemaker, apologized to readers who had ordered the Godzilla issue via FM. Due to the lag time between the ad's submission and publication — and because the ad had drawn considerable attention — that first issue was no longer available. Thus, Greg filled the order with the most recent issue, which was #4. At first, I felt a tad disappointed. I had really wanted Godzilla.

Well, I was disappointed until I started reading the text in the cheaply printed mimeographed fanzine. Holy cow, this thing was filled with serious, critical writing. The editor and the various feature writers took these movies as seriously as I did. It wasn't like the pro magazines of the day, which mostly made fun of my favorite monster flicks. And thus I was hooked. I sent in my couple of bucks for a subscription. And thus began my love affair with JFFJ. Not only that, I fired off a letter to Mr. Shoemaker, expressing in gushing terms how much I enjoyed the fruits of his labor.

Greg wrote me back a long, thoughtful, appreciative letter. He was clearly a bit older than I, and most definitely wiser. In my decade-plus-change-long existence, I had never met anyone as well-informed about my favorite movies as Greg. We began a longtime correspondence that lasted decades.

In those days, I wrote and illustrated my own Godzilla stories, which I confess were dreadful, but I sure enjoyed creating them. I sent several of them to Greg, hoping he might find them thrilling beyond words. He promptly wrote back with encouraging but brutally honest criticism. That he failed to recognize the brilliance of my work disappointed me no end, but somehow, I took heart in the fact he had taken the time to recommend artists I should study, authors he thought might positively influence me, thus giving me hope I might improve enough for my work to one day grace the pages of JFFJ. He motivated me, creatively, like no one else to date ever had. I drew. I practiced. I threw every bit of my creative energy into producing work that might somehow impress the one guy on earth I knew I had to impress.

Greg did it. He accepted some of my art for publication.

It wasn't long afterward that I decided to try my hand at publishing a fanzine of my own. I studied the layouts of JFFJ, the styles of the various writers, the placement of the wonderful art that accompanied the articles and filmbooks. And in 1974, at age 15, I produced the first issue of Japanese Giants, which was devoted to Destroy All Monsters, a movie JFFJ had not yet covered in depth.

The history of JG is a whole 'nuther story. The first issue wasn't much to look at, but it was a true labor of love. By way of a couple of other publishers I became acquainted with, JG actually lasted until the early years of the 21st century. Without question, Greg Shoemaker had more than a small hand in JG's success, despite the fact he considered it "the competition."

I met Greg face-to-face for the first time in 1982, when I went to Chicago to visit my friends Ed Godziszewski and Bill Gudmundson, fellow monster fans who had also come together via JFFJ (not to mention they became the Japanese Giants Guys). I had visited Ed and Bill in 1978 and 1979, and in 1982, I began dreaming of actually moving to Chicago to be there with the Japanese Giants Guys because, really... where else would I want to be? In August of 1982, I flew back to Chicago for an extended visit, having no idea that the World Science Fiction Convention was happening there at the time. But it was... and Greg had come into town to attend. Wow, what a serendipity. I met him for the first time at the convention center and thought, holy cow, this guy is Neil Diamond. Well, he did kinda look like Neil Diamond (except he was far more handsome).

In our continuing correspondence, above and beyond monster business, Greg and I talked music, art, life, everything. His tastes influenced mine, always for the better. He spoke his mind honestly, sometimes bluntly, but never without empathy. Despite his strong convictions, he communicated with humility, compassion, and respect. He loved animals. Like me, he sometimes seemed to relate to them more strongly than people.

Sure enough, in 1983, I moved to Chicago. In 1986, when I got married, Greg came to Chicago to attend the festivities. He met my parents, who remembered how profoundly he had influenced me during my teens. In the early 2000s, I had the pleasure of hanging out for a few extended periods with Greg at a G-Fest or two in Chicago. Perhaps ironically, it was about the time that Facebook became the preferred means of communication that our contacts became less frequent. But Greg had always told me he was somewhat reclusive. He had little affinity for social media.

In this past decade, my communications with Greg have been relatively few — mostly via Facebook. Greg wasn't old (he was 72). I guess I somehow expected him to be around for a long time yet. I've never, ever stopped admiring him or remembering how deeply our interactions in my formative youth affected me. I recall that, in our correspondence in the 80s, I had let him know this, at least to some extent. Now more than ever, knowing he's gone, I wish I could have the chance to reiterate that fact. To let him know that he influenced my life not only directly, but indirectly. Despite the recent, relative rarity of our communications, at no time has Greg not been close to me in heart and mind.

To be honest, I have no idea how my existence impacted his, if at all; all I know is that he cared enough for me and about me to willingly share quite a bit of his life with me. I respect and love that. I am, at this moment, heartbroken. But we are all bound for the same destination, and I trust Greg has gone at peace and with the knowledge that his existence touched others deeply. I know I am far from the only one he touched in similar fashion.

Farewell, my friend Greg. I will remember you always.
Thanks to Darlene Michalski for the photos of Greg. I have a few of him from Chicago in the 1980s, tucked away in the vault. It's a massive job, searching the vault, but I do hope to turn up some of those pics.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The First Batch Is in the House!

The first copies of Michigan: The Dragon of Lake Superior just darkened my doorstep. It's my second entry in the Elizabeth Massie's Ameri-Scares series, and the design — as always from Crossroad Press — is top-notch. These books are perfect for young readers, ages 8–14, and also for adventure-loving adults. Please check out this one, and our other Ameri-Scares novels. And reviews are always appreciated. Thank you!

Monday, July 15, 2019

BBC's Quatermass & The Pit


Director Roy Ward Baker's Five Million Years to Earth (a.k.a. Quatermass and the Pit, Hammer, 1967), has long been one of my favorite horror/SF films. I saw it for the first time in my very early teens, and it has haunted me since then, much in the way Jacques Tourneur's Curse (Night) of the Demon has haunted me over the years. Having pre-ordered the upcoming Blu-ray of the 1967 film, I decided to also pick up the DVD of the 1958–59 BBC six-part serial Quatermass and the Pit, which I had never seen except for a few clips online. Last year, a remastered version of the serial was released on Blu-ray in the UK, but the domestic DVD that I picked up, from 2010, features video quality that is only fair.

Regardless, the original television serial proved a delight. Renowned screenwriter Nigel Kneale scripted both the television production and the Hammer film, and while both follow the same story, the serial, by way of its longer running time, more thoroughly develops the characters and concepts. In both serial and film, the story tells of eerie events that have been going on for centuries in the area known as Hobbs Lane (originally spelled "Hobs," referencing the devil). The serial devotes most of an entire episode (#2, "The Ghosts") to chronicling these events, which appear to be of supernatural origin. The discovery of fossilized remains of dwarf-like "ape men" and what appears to be a spacecraft buried at a Hobbs Lane construction site convince Professor Quatermass (André Morell) of the British Rocket Group and paleontologist Dr. Matthew Roney (Cec Linder) that the source of the creepy goings-on is extraterrestrial rather than supernatural.

Inside the spacecraft, the science team discovers a number of insect-like creatures with three legs and devilish-looking horns on their heads. Quatermass postulates that the creatures and spacecraft originally came from Mars. Using Dr. Roney's remarkable invention known as the Optic Encephalogram, which televises images generated within a human brain, Quatermass determines that, roughly five million years ago, Martians came to Earth and genetically altered the indigenous primates to be their slaves — ultimately resulting in the human race. Over the years, psychic emanations from the buried spacecraft triggered ancestral memories in sensitive individuals, thus generating the belief that "ghosts and demons" haunted Hobbs Lane.
Professor Bernard Quatermass (André Morell) and one of the locust-like creatures from the Martian spacecraft
The alien spacecraft unearthed at the construction site in Hobbs Lane
Much to Quatermass's dismay, the British government has transformed the Rocket Group, which he had created for peaceful space exploration and research, into a military organization and assigns Colonel James Breen (Anthony Bushell) to oversee the excavation. The high-strung and strident Breen believes the spacecraft to be nothing more than an experimental German buzz bomb from WWII, the creatures from within nothing more than fakes. Needless to say, sparks fly between the two opposing personalities.

André Morell as Quatermass and Anthony Bushell as Breen play well off other, perhaps even better than Andrew Keir and Julian Glover in those same roles in the 1967 film — not that either of those actors are slouches; they are, in fact, quite imposing in their talents. Although I grew up knowing Keir as Quatermass (and in my adult years, I saw Brian Donlevy in the role in The Quatermass Xperiment [a.k.a. The Creeping Unknown, 1955] and Quatermass 2 [a.k.a. Enemy From Space, 1957], having now experienced Morell in the part, I can't help but consider him the "definitive" Quatermass. His mannerisms and appearance convey the character's typically stern demeanor while displaying a tad more wit and humor than either of the other actors. (I recently caught a portion of 2005's The Quatermass Experiment, featuring Jason Flemyng in the role, and I cannot say I was wholly impressed.)

Bushell's portrayal of Breen is anything but reserved. Initially, he appears a reasonable enough personality — stoic, tempered by military discipline — but as events spiral beyond his control, he becomes shrill and willfully blind to the mounting, irrefutable evidence regarding the aliens. Cec Linder (probably best known as Bond sidekick Felix Leiter in 1964's Goldfinger) as Dr. Roney acts brasher and more boyish than the taciturn James Donald as Roney in the Hammer film. While Linder plays a believable and likable character, he cannot rival Donald's striking screen presence. Still, he provides a fitting counter to Quatermass's grimmer personality. Christine Finn as Roney's assistant Barbara Judd, despite having several strong moments, such as when she volunteers to use the Optic-Encephalogram, never conveys the intense, haunted quality actress Barbara Shelley brings to the role in the Hammer film.

When an electrical accident jolts the spacecraft, all hell breaks loose in the city of London. Much of the city's population succumbs to a "hive mind" mentality and begin to attack, en masse, individuals who are not part of the hive. Quatermass calls this the "Wild Hunt," a recreation of an ancient Martian purge of all life forms different from themselves. London becomes an inferno as the Martian mastermind — "Hob," as it is known — asserts itself across the land. Roney and Quatermass determine that electricity fuels this phenomenon and devise a means of countering and ultimately defeating Hob, though at the cost of Roney's life.

Being so familiar with the 1967 film, it's virtually impossible not to compare the two productions. In both, events proceed in mostly identical order, both generally well-paced and developed. Despite its relatively low budget, the serial does provide some striking visuals, especially those involving the locust-like Martian creatures. I daresay their design is superior to the film's, with more realistic — and believable — detail. In both productions, the original Martian Wild Hunt as viewed through Roney's Optic Encephalogram features distorted video of the event, but the serial's imagery plays far better, as in the film, the Martians appear to be nothing more than rigid miniatures, crudely controlled by puppeteers.

The build-up to Hob's corporeal manifestation, increasingly charged with tension, may also be superior to the film's. Conversely, though not unexpectedly, due to budget constraints, there is only a brief, not altogether satisfying shot of the monstrous Hob rising from the remains of the spacecraft to hover above London. Similarly, in the film, Roney's sacrificial act to destroy the alien is spectacular and memorable. The serial's necessarily low-key resolution feels at once tragic and anticlimactic. I can only imagine the impact it might have had to viewers long before the film came to be.

Story-wise, Quatermass and the Pit is the quintessential blending of science fiction and horror. Both BBC serial and Hammer film easily hold coveted places at the pinnacle of alien invasion scenarios. Having now seen both, it feels like I've experienced the best of all worlds, for both productions shine in their respective milieus.

The domestic Blu-ray release of the Hammer film comes later this month, and I am eagerly awaiting the opportunity to view it again, this time with its predecessor fresh in mind. Together, in their own ways, these productions showcase Nigel Kneale's brilliant vision and screenwriting prowess as well as the vast talents of those involved in both serial and film.
Captain Potter (John Stratton), Colonel Breen (Anthony Bushell) and Quatermass (André Morell)
Barbara Judd (Christine Finn) and Dr. Roney (Cec Linder) with a reconstruction of a genetically altered primate
A manifestation of "Hob" towering over the city of London

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Big, Beastly Bison and Others

Three-quarters of Team COG on Lake Townsend: Fishdownthestair, Diefenbaker, and Old Rodan,
with Old Bloody One-Eyed Rob behind the lens
This past week, three new geocaches came out on Lake Townsend, all of which required a boat to access — unless one might be inclined to do some serious wading, as friend Ranger Fox, a.k.a. Christopher, did at one of them earlier this week. Today looked to be a beautiful, if somewhat scorching day for a paddle, so a number of the usual suspects — Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott), Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie), and Old Bloody One-Eyed Robgso (a.k.a. Rob) — gathered this morning to see if we might make short work of the three caches, and perhaps get first-to-finds on the two as yet unlogged. One of them — The Big, Beastly Bison (GC8AD72) — looked as if it might present some physical challenge, as the published description put it some distance up in a tree whose limbs were not fit for climbing. So, we chose it as our first target.
Diefenbaker preparing to retrieve The Big, Beastly Bison

Once at ground zero, we spotted the container quickly and considered our various options. Diefenbaker had brought ropes and tackle; Fishdownthestair came with her prodigious height (roughly 5' 1"), which we figured sufficient to conquer any vertical challenge; Old Rob brought his customary bad attitude; and I had built up a substantial reserve of sheer brute strength after enjoying a couple of bottles of The Old Infuriator with Ms. B. late last night.

In the end, using a combination of the aforementioned tools of the trade, we soon had the cache in hand. And hot diggity, the log sheet didn't have a mark on it. It does now. From there, we paddled on under a hot sun, occasionally relieved by a fair breeze. We made short work of "Temptation"(GC8AD6G), the one Ranger Fox had already found, and scored another nice FTF at "Turtle Point" (GC8AD2E). On the way back to the marina, we stopped at a handful of other caches some of our group had yet to find. We are nice that way. Except for me, I am told. I am merely that villainous scum at the front of the pack.

Afterward, three of our number, sans Old Rob, sallied forth to Uptown Charlie's, not too far away, which has been the customary destination for lunch when our crowd is dripping wet after a geocaching outing. Their chicken wings with suicide sauce are to die for. I wouldn't be surprised if the staff wonders why, every time a certain group comes in, watery footprints appear on the floor. It is all rather ghostly.

Since the owners of the new lake caches — Skyhawk63 (a.k.a. Tom) and Punkins19 (a.k.a. Linda) — live very near my route home, I made a brief stop at their place to offer my regards and thank them for the caches.

And now, so many things to do and so little time. Au revoir, mes amis.
The Old Man and the Sea... er... Lake
Damned Rodan taking a breather

Saturday, July 13, 2019

It's Here! Michigan: The Dragon of Lake Superior


Yep! It is now officially released — in ebook and paperback, with audio book to follow soon — from Crossroad Press: my latest entry in Elizabeth Massie's Ameri-Scares series for young readers.


On a hike along the shores of Lake Superior, thirteen-year-old Anna Hendrix sees a huge creature rise from the waters, and — to her horror — sink a tour boat. Soon afterward, Jeff Grigg, also thirteen, encounters a similar but smaller creature in the woods around his parents' vacation house.

Unable to resist investigating, both Anna and Jeff venture into the nearby forests. They meet each other at a huge waterfall, where they discover a hidden cave. Inside it, they find a cave painting of a creature that resembles the ones they have seen. Suddenly, in a bizarre twist of time and space, the youngsters are transported to strange, unknown land, vastly different from the Michigan they know. Here, they meet a mysterious but friendly young man who calls himself Skyhawk. He claims to be a member of a civilization that can only be reached by way of the cave.

In this bizarre land, huge monsters roam freely. Skyhawk and his people worship the beasts as gods. But while the people of this land appear welcoming, Anna and Jeff discover they hide a deadly secret. And the two youngsters realize they must somehow find their way back home before the passage between the two worlds closes forever.
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Each Ameri-Scares novel is based on or inspired by an historical event, folktale, legend, of myth unique to that particular state.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Summer of Lovecraft Is Coming


From the editors of World War Cthulhu: A Collection of Lovecraftian War Stories...

Cthulhu
meets flower power in this weird, wild, trippy, far-out, cosmic, and horrific anthology. Summer of Lovecraft - Cosmic Horror in the 1960s, edited by Brian M. Sammons & Glynn Owen Barrass, published by Dark Regions Press. For my part, I consider Short Wave to be one of my most eerie and disturbing tales.

There are FIVE days left in the Dark Regions Press Summer Sale where you can pre-order Summer of Lovecraft, which features the following stories and authors:


Night Trippers by Lois H. Gresh
Operation Alice by Pete Rawlik
The Summer of Love by C.J. Henderson
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Sullivan by Lee Clark Zumpe
Dreamland by David Dunwoody
Lost In the Poppy-Fields of Flesh by Konstantine Paradias
Five To One by Edward M. Erdelac
Keeping the Faith by Samantha Stone
Mud Men by Sean Hoade
Misconception by Jamie D. Jenkins
No Colors Anymore by Joe L. Murr
Shimmer and Sway by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Short Wave by Stephen Mark Rainey
The Song that Crystal Sang by Tom Lynch
Through a Looking Glass Darkly by Glynn Owen Barrass and Brian M. Sammons
The Color from the Deep by William Meikle
The Long Fine Flash by Edward Morris
Just Another Afternoon in Arkham, Brought to You in Living Color by Mark McLaughlin and Michael Sheehan, Jr.
Crystal Blue Persuasion by Jeffrey Thomas

Initially, Summer of Lovecraft is being released as ebook, but a paperback release will follow shortly. Pre-order in the next FIVE days at the Dark Regions Press Summer Sale.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Buzzing Around Myrtle Beach with Team Crabby

Ah, the beach! Ms. B. and I have had some mighty good times at the beach in recent days. And once again, our good friends BigG7777 (a.k.a. Gerry) & Suntigres (a.k.a. Bridget) invited us, as well as friends Terry & Beth, to spend the Fourth of July weekend with them at their condo in North Myrtle Beach. We had intended to make the trip down at Memorial Day, but circumstances didn't allow for it at the time. I was a little leery of hitting Myrtle Beach over July 4th because... well, you know... 18-million-billion people, but in our undaunted wisdom or foolishness, we decided to brave the onslaught of humanity and sally forth. So, last week, Ms. B. and I packed up the necessary beach and geocaching gear, left our respective animals in very good hands, and, on Thursday at the ass-crack of dawn, hit the road in the Damned Rodan mobile. Heading down, we didn't stop for all that many geocaches, but at least I found a handful of nice ones. I took some serious back-back roads, so except for a short stretch around Chadbourne, SC, holiday traffic turned out to be a non-issue.

We arrived just about lunchtime, so after settling ourselves into Gerry & Bridget's condo, we hauled ourselves over to the nearby Ultimate California Pizza for... wait for it... pizza, and then across the courtyard to one of our favorite places ever, Coastal Wine Boutique for... wait for it... wine. It's pretty much the only place for a rather ridiculous radius where one can actually get very good (non-local) wine, and they do have some very nice wines.

In the same area, we have The Pepper Palace, home of the Wall of Flame Challenge, where one is given a little shot of super-hot sauce followed by a little shot of super-super hot horseradish. Well, of course I did the damned thing (I actually did this once before, I believe on my first visit to Barefoot with Gerry & Bridget). It was pretty hot, but nothing I couldn't handle with relative ease. Certainly not as painful as my favorite burger in the world—the Welsh Dragon Burger at The Celtic Fringe in Reidsville, not too far from here. Anyway, I enjoyed the heat, and I picked up some good hot BBQ sauce for my own good hot cooking.

After our outing, we made mellow at the condo until later in the evening, when we ventured forth to check out Barefoot Resort's fireworks extravaganza. Here, we did have to suffer a fair crush of humanity to procure a viewing space, but this we did, and our vantage point turned out to be pretty good. The show was fun, if not spectacular (earlier in the evening, someone in area had put on a show of their own, and, ironically, it was superior). We enjoyed ourselves immensely, and a regular application of wine kept our gears turning smoothly.
The Wall of Flame Challenge: before and after
Do not feed these beasts!
Friday morning, before the sun had climbed much above the horizon, I was awakened by a voice that sounded remarkably like Bridget's whispering, "Mark... Mark... Mark... Do you want to go geocaching?" About ten seconds later, I was dressed, with GPS in one hand and coffee in the other. Thus armed, I set out with BigG and Suntigres, and we rambled all around North Myrtle Beach, snagging caches wherever we might. Fortune failed to smile on us at a handful of them, so we ended up logging DNFs, but the good ones more than made up for the failures. The highlight of the outing was at Heritage Shores Nature Preserve along Cherry Grove Marsh, where we went after an exceedingly cool cache called "What's Up Dock?" (GC1M62B). Here, we encountered entertaining critters of all sorts, including fiddler crabs (by the thousands), a snake, cranes, egrets, cormorants, and kingfishers. The cache itself turned out to be a prime example of ingenious craftsmanship, and the preserve is one of the most striking in the area. Since we ended up mingling with so many crabs, we decided to call ourselves Team Crabby. Well, okay, so I decided to call us Team Crabby. Not that any of us are crabby. Ever. Nope.
Fiddler crab
View across Cherry Grove Marsh
Boardwalk that leads to the cache
While the three of us were caching, Brugger, Terry, and Beth remained at the condo to lounge at the pool. On our way back, a storm blew in, and a lightning bolt that was probably visible all the way to Barcelona struck quite nearby. We calculated at that point that our friends had just vacated the pool with all haste. Upon our return, they told us that when a lightning bolt that was probably visible all the way to Barcelona struck quite nearby, they vacated the pool with all haste. We understood.

By this time, hunger had reared its ugly head, so we decided to try out Greg Norman Australian Grill at Barefoot Landing. It's a nice enough spot, with classy ambiance and a reasonably upscale menu. Sadly, the service started out lacking, with no one attending to us for an unseemly long time. Apparently, none of the staff had informed the servers they had seated us. Anyway, they made reasonable amends. Our food proved excellent, the wine—Greg Norman's own label—fair. Overall, I'll give them a B, and I'd return when we're down that way.

At Coastal Wine Boutique, our personable and knowledgeable host had warned us that none of the nearby vino establishments served any serviceable dry wines—not that we really needed any warning, for this is Myrtle Beach—but we decided to gird our loins and try out Carolina Vineyards in Barefoot Landing, just because it was there and we are nothing if not dedicated and stalwart oenophiles. I mean, we have tried dry South Carolina wine before, and it is not to write home about, unless one is writing a horror novel. So... oh my lord... the dry wines here about sent us into hysterics because I don't know what that stuff was. In all fairness, most people around those parts prefer the sweet, refreshing wines, and if I drank sweet wines, I'd probably say Carolina Vineyards' sweets are more than adequate. I will admit that I quite liked their cherry chocolate wine slushy. And yes, I did, I did try a wine slushy, and you can just shut your mouth.

And after all that, although our lunch had been late, Bridget wanted us to head northward to Little River, where a haunted house-turned-restaurant/wine bar awaited our attention. Brentwood Restaurant, which supposedly has its share of ghosts, also has some fine alcoholic spirits and incredible food. We didn't eat much, but we did sample some excellent wine and what had to be the best escargot I've ever tasted (yes, I am a fan). We didn't see any ghosts, but I sure hope we have a chance to return in the not-too-distant future to sample a more sizable portion of their plentiful fare. It was easily my favorite dining establishment we experienced on this trip.
The mad photobomber strikes!
The haunted Brentwood Restaurant in Little River, SC
Our big ol' fun outing for Saturday was a Segway tour around North Myrtle Beach Park & Sports Complex, which includes a lengthy and very scenic nature trail. Gerry and Bridget had ridden Segways before, but none of the rest of us had, so we had a trainer/guide named Garfield who showed us the ropes. Garfield did a fine job, to be sure. Even we tyros were up and going in no time, buzzing around the place with something like reasonable control of our machines.
Buzzing around the beach

Garfield led us around the park, first in the smooth, paved parking lot; then on grass, around the soccer field; and finally, on the nature trails, which in places turned out to be pretty rugged. I felt confident (not cocky) on the machine and fortunately handled the various terrain without mishap. Alas, a few other members of our party, including Ms. B., suffered a couple of damn-near serious woopsy-daisies. Happily, although a bit of blood spilled, the biggest casualty of the day was likely a few ounces of pride. I loved the whole business and, since Segway tours do run much closer to home, I hope our group can do one again (next time without anyone falling over).

To fill out the rest of the day, we had some vittles at Lulu's (owned by Lucy Buffet, Jimmy's sister), which was all right, and some later goodies at Filet's tiki bar, which was all right, and then we returned to the condo and dunked ourselves in the pool. Also all right. No lightning this time.

And today, back home. Early in the trip, we made out well, as I again took the backest of back roads to avoid traffic—again successfully. It wasn't until much closer to home that the trouble started. An accident in Rockingham, NC, backed up traffic for miles, and once we got out of that, thunderstorms began in earnest, and these were real gullywashers. Made driving some kind of treat. Regardless, although the finish didn't exactly make my day, we had such a good time in the overall that the unpleasantness of the drive shall quickly fade.

These outings with good friends are the things that make the best memories, and I will treasure these particular memories as long as the old brain deigns to allow. Hang in there, old brain!
L: Beth's pre-Segway glamour shot; R: buzzing through the forest on the nature trail
Team Crabby on Segways! Terry, Gerry, Bridget, Kimberly, Old Dude, Beth