Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, January 13, 2020


Openers:  Lofty volcanic plateaus frowned east and west of the torrid lowlands.  The heat had formed a veil of mist over the wide river that wound sluggishly along the heart of the valley, and to the south, behind a long arm of the sea, hung a dim blue bank of storm clouds.  Far to the north, faintly silhouetted in mauve infinity, the great shoulders of the barren uplands marked the head of the basin.

Near the plateau rims the jungle thinned to rolling plains, threaded by tortuous arroyos, dotted by ox-like bison and diminutive desert horses.  Here roved the fierce bird beast, the diatryma, seven feet tall, with beak as long as a crocodile's jaws; here, too, was the haunt of the horn-armored glyptodon, the giant armadillo of the prehistoric Americas.

-- Richard Tooker, The Day of the Brown Horde (1929)

Prehistoric romance was a popular sub-genre in early science fiction, often featuring discoveries of technology or weaponry or the battle of prehistoric men against other, less developed, human species.  As a cousin of the lost-race race story so often found in the works of Burroughs, Haggard, and others, the prehistoric romance found its niche -- rightly or wrongly -- in science fiction.  H. G. Wells ("A Story of the Stone Age," "The Grisly Folks"), Bulwer Lytton, Andrew Lang, and others did much to cement its place there.  An argument can be -- and has been -- made that this particular form of imaginative fiction could not have been possible before the acceptance of Charles Darwin's theories on evolution.

Tooker's The Day of the Brown Horde was a popular addition to the sub-genre and became even more popular after it was the feature novel in the September 1944 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries.  Other early examples were James DeMille's A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder (1888),  Jack London's Before Adam (1907), Irwin Crump's stories about Og, Son of Fire (1925, with additional books as well as a popular series of at least eleven stories in Boy's Life), and J. H. Aine Rosny's Le felin geant (1920; translated as The Giant Cat, 1924, and as Quest of the Dawn Man,1964).  A more modern variant is Jim Kjelgaard's Fire-Hunter (1951).

Variants on the theme touch on lost races.  In one of Manly Wade Wellman's Hok stories, his hero visits Atlantis.  William L. Chester's Kioga series takes place on an island above the Arctic circle.  Perhaps being contrary, Charles B. Stilson set his Polaris series in the Antarctic.

Of course, you can't have a science fiction sub-genre without having some time travel thrown in.  J. Leslie Mitchell's Three Go Back and Evan Hunter's (as "Richard Marston) Find the Feathered Serpent and Danger:  Dinosaurs are good examples.  (Yes, dinosaurs do appear in some prehistoric romances -- what are you going to do?)  Chad Oliver's The Mists of Dawn is a juvenile with a solid anthropological background.

The theme is also evident in popular film.  2001:  A Space Odyssey opens with a prehistoric scene.  One Million B.C., Prehistoric Women, and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth add to the nadir of this film genre.  Doctor Who has made it to prehistoric times and Fred Flintstone is the epitome of anachronism on television.

Modern examples of prehistoric romance include William Golding's The Inheritors, Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear sequence, Katherine O'Neal Gear and J. Michael Gear's long running "People" series (at least 18 books beginning in 1990 and counting), Megan Lindholm's the Reindeer People (1988), and William Sarabande began a long-running exploration of pre-history with Wolves of the Dawn (1986).

Harry Harrison's Eden series (West of Eden, Winter in Eden, and Return to England) adds a brilliant modern-day alternate world riff to the prehistoric romance.

For those interested, this is a fertile literary are to explore.  The link below takes you to an exhaustive (but by no means, complete) list of prehistoric fiction:


  • "Francis Beeding" (Hilary St George Sanders & John Palmer), The Norwich Victims (1935).  Mystery novel.  "a middle-aged schoolteacher wins the French lottery and looks around for somewhere safe to invest her prize.  Unfortunately for her she decides to consult the unscrupulous John Throgmorton, and he seizes a once in a lifetime opportunity.  This ingenious police procedural features Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Martin."  This edition is an Arcturus Publishing "Crime Classic," and features photographs of models representing five of the main characters.  The authors collaborated on nearly forty mystery novels, including the classic Death Walks in Eastrepps and The House of Dr. Edwardes, which was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock as SpellboundThe Norwich Victims was the first of three books featuring Inspector George Martin.
  • D. M. Devine, The Sleeping Tiger (1961).  Mystery novel, another reprint from Acturas Publishing's "Classic Crime" series.  "A guilty verdict against solicitor John Prescott seems inevitable.  The history presented by the prosecuting counsel reveals fateful meetings, and the rupturing of relationships in a small town shattered by violent death,  Prescott is powerless in the face of overwhelming evidence against him.  And yet some one else, one of the witnesses, must have been the killer.  But which one?"  Devine was the author of thirteen crime novels, and was noted for his superb plotting and for his "classic" detective style.  He was one of Agatha Christie's favorite authors (she had nominated his first novel as winner of a Collins Crime Club contest).  His books were centered in Glascow and usually involved either academic or medical settings,  His last seven novels, beginning with The Sleeping Tiger, were published as by Dominic Devine.
  • John Zakour, The Sapphire Sirens (2009).  Humorous science fiction detective novel. "My life is full of questions...Such as:  why have I been knocked out by the beautiful sapphire-haired amazon Kiana and man-napped to her home isle of Lantis, a forcefield-hidden ocean queendom of exactly 10,000 women, all of whom can dominate men with their minds?  Well, partly because Kiana's mother, the queen, was murdered, and their "utopia" society isn't prepared to deal with such a crime without an expert.  but mostly, I think, it's because I'm Zachery Nixon Johnson, the world's last freelance P.I., and the universe just loves to mess with me.  There I was with my holographic A.I. sidekick HARV, and the royal family of Lantis said they needed us to sniff out the gal who snuffed out the queen.  But something didn't smell right, and it wasn't just a plumbing problem at the public baths.  Because while the similarity if Kiana's sisters -- Luca the kindly social worker, Mara the hyper scientist, and Andra the aggressive warrior security chief -- ended with their sapphire hair, each could have a motive for the murder.  And since you mentioned it, Kiana could, too..."  The Sapphire Sirens is the seventh and (so far) last of the Zach Johnson novels, the first three of which were written with Lawrence Ganem.  (A short story, "The Peach-Blonde Bomber," by-lined by Ganem and Zakour was published as a chapbook in 2018 by JABberwocky Literary Agency; no further information.)

Mayonnaise Jello?:  I think I just lost my appetite.  Mayonnaise jello is just one of many bad-bad-BAD recipes that were pushed in the not-so fabulous Fifties.  The secret is in using Knox unflavored gelatine so you get the full mayonnaise flavor.  Yum?  Check out this and other unsavory recipes brought to you by food companies hoping to expand their markets:

But wait!  There are far worse things, including fizzy 7-Up milk!

I hope you don't think I'm letting you easy.  There's also this --  a bologna cake, and more!

Two Years, Already?:  It was just two years ago that Hawaii (and rest of the world) was thrown into a panic when a false emergency alert warning of a missile strike was issued.  Let's hope that any future alerts will also be false.  But in the current political climate...

Things I Didn't Know, a.k.a. Things I Didn't Want to Know:  This past Saturday we watched an old (1996) episode of Poltergeist:  The Legacy with Helen Shaver as Rachel Corrigan.  There's one scene in which Shaver is seduced by a demon and **blush** there's nudity.  The one thing I now know and really didn't want to know or even need to know:  Supergirl has nipples!  Shatter my childhood illusions, why don't you?

He's Still at It, That Rascally Ol' Florida Man:  Florida Man Akbar Akram, 44, has pled guilty to illegally smuggling more 20 monitor lizards from the Phillipines to the United States -- in socks!   Akram stuffed the lizards into socks -- one sock per lizard, I presume -- and sealed each sock, placing them in boxes of electronic equipment so they would not be found.  

Florida Man Kelvin Conlon, 19, was arrested for animal cruelty for flinging a cat by its tail.  (Our cat Willow thinks this is horrid; the spirit of Rosie, our long-ago Manx cat tells me that that is what you get if you are stupid enough to have a tail!)

Rick Wilson a long-time Republican activist and consultant from Tallahassee, has released his second anti-Donald Trump tome.  Running Against the Devil doesn't have as much punch as the title of his first anti-Trump screed, Everything Trump Touches Dies.  Other Republicans in this reliably pro-Trump part of the state are upset with Wilson. Which brings up the question:  Are Trumo supporters Republicans?  And, if so, whatever happened to the moderately sane Republicans?

Florida Man David Wayne Aring, an attorney for a  Florida  regulatory agency, was arrested on ten felony counts of possessing counts of child pornography and one misdemeanor count of possession of obscene materials.  What was his agency regulating?

Florida Man Group Florida Citizens Alliance, a conservative group that has the ear of Governor Ron Desantis, is urging the state to prosecute schools over books with sex and LGBTQ references.

And (not even) Florida Man Company Advantage Capital apparently helped to draft a $25 million plan that would supposedly rural and hurricane-stricken areas in the state, although it will mainly benefit financial firms such as Advantage Capitol.  Advantage Capital is headquartered in Louisiana but has been instrumental in drafting similar legislature in many states.

Good News:

"Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth." -- Mohammed Ali

Today's Poem:  

There is a silence in the world 
Since we have said farewell;
And beauty with an alien speech
An alien tale.would tell.

There is a silence in the world,
Which is not peace nor quiet;
Ever I seek to flee therefrom,
And walk the ways of riot.

But when I hear the music moan
In rooms of thronging laughter,
A tongueless demon drives me forth,
And silence follows after.

-- Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961)

Smith, along with H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, was one of the three major fantasists of the Weird Tales school.  As a protege of George Sterling, he was also a recognized poet dubbed "The last of the great Romantics."  Today would have been his 127th birthday.


  1. This was certainly a lot of work on various subjects. Wow. All the links too. I am impressed.

  2. For a modern example of prehistoric fiction, check out sf author Kim Stanley Robinson's 2012 novel 'Shaman', which I thoroughly enjoyed.