Early Man: Fred Flintstone goes to Cimmeria


When you think about it, The Flintstones and Conan the Barbarian have quite a bit in common. Robert E. Howard set the Conan stories in a prehistoric era which, like Fred’s world, mirrors later eras. But while Bedrock is a specific stand-in for postwar suburban America, Howard riddled his Hyborian Age Age with counterparts to various historical societies. You’ve got the Aesir and Vanir, who stand for Vikings. You’ve got the Stygians, who represent the ancient Egyptians. And you have the central power, Aquilonia, which was based mainly on ancient Rome but which Howard could use as a stand-in for other societies – most notably in the Western-influenced Conan stories, where white settlers became Aquilonians and Native Americans became Picts.

And lo and behold, with Aardman’s latest stop-motion feature Early Man, we have a missing link between the Flintstones and Conan.

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My Ten Favourite Books About Horror

Nobody who knows me will be even remotely surprised that one of my favourite pastimes is reading books about horror fiction in all its manifestations. I’ve read quite a few of the things since my teenage years, and I felt it was time to celebrate the ten books that did the most to shape how I think about horror…


FearDaniels[Living in] Fear: A History of Horror in the Mass Media by Les Daniels (1975) 

Les Daniels is remembered mainly for his writing for and about comics, but he also wrote Living in Fear (title shortened to Fear for paperback), which is the single best overview of horror that I’ve ever read. Okay, it was published in 1975, so it’s a few decades out of date, but it more than makes up with this for its sheer breadth of scope in examining horror’s history. Daniels covers literature, cinema, television, theatre, music, comics and even religious tracts; his analysis kicks off in earnest with the gothic novels of the 18th century and continues up to the 1970s. Horace Walpole, Vampirella, Bram Stoker, John Zacherle and depressing pop songs about dead teenagers each have a part to play in the grand narrative.

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How I Spent January 2018

DorisJanuary18Goodbye to the first twelfth of the year…

I spent a good chunk of this month cracking on with Midnight Widows. I’ve been inking Marcela’s lovely pencils for issue 2, and overseeing some early work on issue 3. I’ve also got started on the trailer to accompany the crowdfunding campaign, which should – if all goes to plan – start during the first half of this year. The Widows are coming!

On top of that, I’ve also been working through a pile of writing. Monster Hunters, Dinosaur Lovers is still taking shape (first chapter draft! Weee!) and another sizeable project has finally ended up on my to-do list after a period of uncertainty. I’ve been working on a number of articles, which’ll be seeing publication in February, and I have some more to come after that as the year unfolds.

Articles of mine published elsewhere this month:

…yeah. Pretty slim pickings, but like I say, I have a bumper crop coming next month. Honest, guv.

Writing topics for February and beyond:


A Small Milestone

Today, for the first time, I managed to finish a complete draft of a chapter from my book Monster Hunters, Dinosaur Lovers: Speculative Fiction in the Culture Wars. It clocks in at about 6,800 words, which isn’t bad considering that I had fewer than 2,000 words’ worth of blogging to start with.

The chapter focuses on humorous SF/F. It’s a bit loose in terms of subject, but it rounds up some stories that I was having trouble slotting in elsewhere, so I’m happy with it.

On a related note, I’ve also had an idea that’ll drastically simplify one of the other chapters in the book. Which means that the Six Nebulous Chapters (as I have come to think of them) are now the Five Nebulous Chapters. Score!

Space Opera Archeology: Tarrano the Conqueror by Ray Cummings

“Tarrano’s dream of universal conquest was plain. In the Venus Cold Country he had started his wide-flung plans. Years of planning, with plans maturing slowly, secretly, and bursting now like a spreading ray-bomb upon the three worlds at once.”

—Jac Hallen, Tarrano the Conqueror


Having covered the trinity of space operas that debuted in August 1928 (Interstellar Patrol, Skylark of Space and Buck Rogers) I’m now going to look at a long-forgotten near-contemporary…

Ray Cummings’ story Tarrano the Conquerer was serialised in Hugo Gernsback’s Science and Invention magazine, beginning in 1925, before being published as a novel in 1930. The latter edition can be read online here; I can’t say if the original magazine version had any differences.

The story begins with the main character, reporter Jac Hallen, witnessing the murder of the President of the Anglo-Saxon Republic – the first political assassination to occur in two centuries. Later that day the ruler of Allied Mongolia is similarly struck down, followed by the African leader, leaving Earth without its heads of state. Earth is not the only planet in trouble: the head of the Venus Central State is also murdered, and a message from the planet blames this on someone named Tarrano. After this, the king of Mars falls victim to regicide.

Jac’s friend Dr. Brende (“It was he who discovered the light vibrations which had banished forever the dread germs of several of the major diseases”) calls him over to discuss matters. Brende talks about political tension between two nations of Venus – the Central State and the Cold Country – and concludes that an official named Tarrano is leading the latter nation in a rebellion. He also reveals that he has discovered a way to halt the effects of old age, and believes that Tarrano has somehow come across his secret. Dr. Brende ends up dead in an attack, and Jac goes on the run with the late doctor’s twins Georg and Elza.

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