Unwanted Christmas Gifts Through the Ages

Vincent, without the lower half of his earIn 1170, King Henry II says, “What a parcel of fools and dastards have I nourished in my house, and not one of them will avenge me of this one upstart clerk.” Said fools and dastards decide that this means they should kill Archbishop Thomas Becket.

In 1600, Queen Elizabeth grants a formal charter to the London merchants trading to the East Indies. This doesn’t work out very well for the East Indies.

In 1777 George Washington’s Continental Army is given “cozy winter quarters” at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

In 1888, artist and talented loon Vincent Van Gogh cut off the lower part of his left ear, to give to a prostitute named Rachel, who worked at a brothel nearby. Um, thanks, but does it come in, like, not bleeding?

In 1912 the Parisian literary review, Nouvelle Revue Francaise, rejects an excerpt from Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust. Doh!

In 1915 Sir Douglas Haig is made the commander-in-chief of the British army in France, and eventually gives his soldiers the thoughtful and exploding gift of the Somme.

Another parcel of fools and dastards can be found at Alltop. Originally published December, 2008.

The Tyranny and Creativity of a Word Count

idea too long for social  media cartoon

On the other hand, a really specific (short) word limit can force one to be more creative and improve the text. I love the Blaise Pascal quote: “This letter is very long because I did not have time to make it short.”

In other words, brevity is not only the soul of wit, it takes more time to achieve, sometimes, than much longer pieces of writing.

This post notwithstanding.

Alltop is long on funny. Cartoon by Noise to Signal

Tweeting in two places may break my brain

And god help me if I ever get confused!

vs

Alltop has always been as funny as twain.

Planet of the Knob-heads: why do lit-ah-rary types look down on SF?

So what is it about science fiction that causes “literary” types to look down upon it? Like any genre, SF has its bad and good. No scratch that, like any writing, there is both bad and good. I’ve read plenty of unreadable “literary” fiction. But SF seems to get more derision than other forms of genre writing, perhaps unfairly. Many important books are SF.

Fantastic Adventures cover - half-naked woman on giant snakeYet, try to get Margaret Atwood to admit she writes it; yes, she writes SF (though anti-technological, like Michael Crichton) and some of it’s pretty good: The Handmaid’s Tale, for example. But no, she won’t cop to it. And I understand, because then she’d be lumping herself in with …. the pulps.

I’m not trying to say that there wasn’t any merit to them, but the covers … whoa, Betty … the covers … the covers … [sound of Mark pouring water over his massive, shaved scull, coursing down the rolls of fat on his neck]

What I love about the covers is the uninhibited yearning, for example, this scantily clad woman riding a giant snake. Yes, sometimes a giant snake is just a giant snake, but in this case, a Freudian interpretation is in order.

The real variation seems to be in HOW the women are scantily clad. Fantastic Adventures seems to go for the low-cut strapless dress, while Science Fiction clearly starts there and quickly jumps to the bikini-skirt combo. Of course, neither of them had anything on Spicy Adventure Stories (though these are not really science fiction), and none of these can hold a candle to Saucy Movie. (My guess is they had some kind of requirement that the artists show at least one nipple, or make up for the lack of nipple some other way. (For example, she’s being held by a fireman, or Satan, or even worse, a pirate! Arrrr!!))

Here are a few of my favourites:

Science Fiction Quarterly

pulp fiction cover - Science Fiction QuartlerlyIf you’re not showing some nipple, then the woman/victim/love interest could be in the arms of a psychotic space-dude! This guy has some kind of transparent helmet on, but it sure isn’t because he has to haul away his woman-prize through the vacuum of space. His nipples are exposed. I’m not sure if this picture is as villainous as it seems: if her arms were bound, I’m sure they would be dangling like her legs. As it stands, they disappear behind his buttocks. I’ll let you draw whatever inference you may.

Science Fiction

Science Fiction - pulp magazine cover of robot abducting scantily clad womanHoly crap that chick is flexible! Her back is arched enough that she can see that her toe is almost dragging on the ground. Good thing she wasn’t wearing her tight jeans that morning. Good thing she’s hardly wearing anything at all. She’s probably thinking, “why couldn’t I get kidnapped by something good, like a buff sexy fireman or a nice-smelling pirate, for God’s sake. Instead, I’ve been abducted by some chicken-legged robot with a knob-head and these six bizarre little arms that look like baby’s arms with apples instead of fists. Hey, wait a minute ….”

Fantastic Adventures

fantastic adventures - pulp cover magazine of robot with horrified womanOkay, this is getting too easy. A suspiciously shaped robot threatens a woman in a skin-tight flesh-toned dress. (And a little fashion tip for all you girls who plan on being accosted by perverted automatons on the cover of a pulp magazine — pink dress and red hair — no. Go for something white and wispy, which will be more alluring and let your hair pop.)

I will say this for her, unlike the other women, she looks genuinely horrified. Of course, you would be too if you had a six-foot condom-shaped robot shaking its business at you.

Future

princess leia - future magazine coverOne look at this and I thought, “It’s Princess Leia! George Lucas had a subscription to Future!”

Seriously, that is the Proto-Princess Leia bronze boob beguiler.

No doubt this suppurated in George’s imagination for a couple of decades until he got a chance to unleash it (pun intended) in Return of the Jedi. Thus, George paid it forward, and fucked up at least two generations of impressionable young gentlemen with this evil, suggestive image.

Damn you Future magazine, and your series of salacious covers!

princess leia cover 2 - future magazine

Now to counteract all that sexist cheese, here’s a selection of ground-breaking SF, culled from Time’s “top 100 books” and the BBC’s top 100:

  • Brave New World
  • 1984
  • Animal Farm
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • Slaughterhouse-Five
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Naked Lunch
  • Dune
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • The Stand
  • The Clan Of The Cave Bear
  • Neuromancer
  • Watchmen
  • Snow Crash.

Still not sure what SF is? This handy chart may help. (Thanks to Robert Runte for pointing me towards making it.)

So, your turn — what SF book rocked your world?

Alltop thinks SF stands for San Francisco. Originally published, October 2009.