Openers: His voice came in a rasping croak, as though his throat were only part human, and the other part was frog.
"I have studied victory and control by terror. Most outstanding was my visit to Japan. There, meine Herren, is the greatest example of control through fear and terror. In the Mashi Prison I saw -- "
"One moment, Herr Goulon," the Hun general on his left interrupted.
The crippled beast-man shot an enraged glance at the enquiring general. His sunken, bloodshot eyes became horribly fierce and cruel.
"I assume that your study of terror began with your hatred for a certain American spy?" the general suggested. "I refer to the man known as G-8."
-- "The Wings of the Giant Claw," "as told by G-8 to Robert J. Hogan" (from G-8 and His Battle Aces, December 1943)
During World War 1, no American pilot was more feared than the man known only as G-8, who battled the German menace in all its supernatural glory. That's right. in these bizarre adventures, the Germans used werewolves, zombies, animated skeletons. resurrected Vikings, and the products of super-technology that the most evil of German scientists could create. Not only was G-8 a flying ace, he also was a super-spy. It's astounding that the war lasted as long as it did.
Aided by his manservant Battle and the two daring pilots who were his Battle Aces, Nippy Weston and Bull Martin, G-8 flew into battle for 110 issues of Popular Publications' G-8 and His Battle Aces, from October 1933 to June 1944. As with a number of the pulp heroes of the time, G-8 had a girlfriend, nurse who helped the squad; like G-8, her name was never given.
All of G-8's adventures were written by Robert J. Hogan (1897-1963) under his own name. Born in New York state, Hogan worked a number of jobs from riding the range in the Rockies, to playing the piano for silent movies. He also built houses, manufactured leather goods, designed planes, and was briefly an amateur boxer. When he was 20, he worked as a cowpuncher for a Colorado ranch -- the name of the ranch was G-8. Hogan was reportedly the first person in the Denver area to take the Air Service Exam. He enlisted in January 1918 and was sent to Eberts Field for flight training. Hogan later taught flying. In the late 1920's Hogan worked as a sales manager and airplane demonstrator for Curtiss-Wright Corporation, where the operations manager was Harold "Bull" Nevin, who had been a squadron commander in France and acted as an occasional spy. Nevin told many stories of his adventures during the war and of the comradery of the men he fought with. Bevins had one photograph prominently displayed of he and two other flyers, on of who was named "Nippy" Westover. Nevin and Westover later became the prototypes for Bull Martin and Nippy Weston.
Following the 1929 financial collapse, Hogan determined to become a writer and had success primarily with the air pulps -- there were about half a dozen of them at the time. Hogan also wrote for the sports and western pulps. At the time, Popular Publications had the best air war pulps. and Hogan soon became a regular contributor with his stories of Smoke Wade in Battle Birds. Wanting to expand to full-length series, Hogan pitched his idea to publisher Harry Steeger. The hero would be called G-8, in part because the letter G would hint at some government involvement. "And His Battle Aces," Steeger added; Steeger planned to drop Popular's Battle Aces magazine and still get some crossover effect by including the title in Hogan's new series.
The formula was simple: the hero had given writer Robert J, Hogan access to his diaries that recorded various adventures; Hogan, in turn, would have free license to adapt the adventures. To keep the series fresh, Hogan planned to include a fantastic element to his series. It worked well, starting out as a fifteen cent magazine and dropped down to ten cents in 1936. By 1941, though, the public had a different was to worry about and few were interested in the old war. The magazine switched from monthly publication to every other month, before finally fading out in 1944.
While at Popular, Hogan also wrote seven novel-length installments for Mysterious Wu Fang and all four adventures of The Secret 6 in the short-lived self-titled- pulp magazine.
Following G-8 and His Battle Aces, Hogan went on to write westerns and for television.
"Wings of the Giant Claw" was a late entry into the G-8 saga, number 107 out of 110 adventures. The blurb tells you that, even at this late date, the action continued: "Out of the caverns of the lost came the deathless beast-men of Herr Goulon, Hunland's Master-mind of Murder -- and to save the world he was fighting for, the Ace American Flying Spy had to undertake a solo flight -- beyond the grave!"
- Lou Anders, editor, Futureshocks. SF anthology with 16 stories about "new fears arising out of sociological, biological. or technological change." From the back cover: "Experience sensory overload in this anthology from today's masters of speculative fiction as they reveal the terrors, triumphs, and seeming impossibilities awaiting humanity in the years to come. From artificial intelligences and bioengineering to transhumans threatening to make mankind obsolete, these cutting-edge tales present a future in which every day brings shocking new developments undreamed of the day before -- a future in which tomorrow never knows what may follow." Authors include Kevin J. Anderson, Paul Di Filippo, Alan Dean Foster, Alex Irvine, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Mike Resnick & Harry Turtledove, Robert J. Sawyer, and Robert Charles Wilson.
- L. P. Davies, The Artificial Man. Science fictional mystery. "With his first novel, The Paper Dolls, was published, it was hailed by critics everywhere and was chosen by Harper's Magazine as one of the best mysteries of the year. Anthony Boucher, in the New York Times, called it 'a vigorous man-against-the-unknown adventure story, with touched of horror all the more effective for being underplayed.' Now, with The Artificial Man, L. P. Davies plunges even deeper into this new type of suspense novel -- a unique hybrid which combines the eerie ans unknown terrors of science fiction with the elements 0f the classic suspense tale. The story begins very quietly in the English village where Alan Fraser had lived all his life. The shopkeepers, the folks next door, the village constable, the delivery man -- and then came the girl, the mysterious stranger, and chaos and danger." This seems to be a fairly typical British SF/suspense novel along the lines of John Blackburn or Charles Eric Maine; whether it rises to their level remains to be seen.
- Michael Kurland, A Study in Sorcery. Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy takes the stage in this alternate world novel where magic exists. "Just when thought it was safe yo go back in the temple...A young Azteque prince is found dead on an ancient altar -- murdered, it seems. And most puzzling of all -- the boyo's heart is missing! From across the Atlantic, Lord Darcy, Investigator in Chief for the Court of King John, and Forensic Sorcerer Sean O'Lochlainn are called to solve this ghastly mystery. Is it merely a nostalgic return to the good old days of human sacrifice? Or could it be a calculated attempt to endanger the fragile balance of power between Angevin and Azteque Empires? Lord Darcy must work quickly and with extreme caution, if he is to unravel this puzzle in time to preserve the peace of the New World, the security of the Old World -- and his own life!" Lord Darcy is one of the great science fiction characters. This is Kurland's second adventure of Lord Darcy, following Ten Little Wizards.
- Keith Laumer, The Stars Must Wait. Science fiction. The third Bolo book by Laumer before Baen Books turned the robotic tanks into a shared universe. "In the year 2002 a young Air Force Lieutenant Commander prepares for his role as Backup Navigator for the historic Callisto Mission. Before leaving Earth for space, 'Jack' Jackson will be placed in a state of suspended animation, and will be awakened on arrival at Callisto -- unless something happens to the Primary Navigator...And Jackson slept on. And on. When he does awaken, a century has passed, and he is faced with a nightmare wilderness inhabited by neo-barbarians and senile -- but still sentient -- tanks. Now it's up to Jackson to bring the world back to its senses." Published in 1990, the book was written when Laumer was past his prime, after a stroke had a negative impact on his writing. Still, it may be worth looking into.
- Mack Reynolds, Galactic Medal of Honor. SF novel, expanded from the story "Medal of Honor" that appeared in Amazing Stories [not Fantastic as stated on the copyright page], September 1960. "The Galactic Medal of honor was the most important, the most coveted award of all time. It was given only to a handful of the bravest and most self-sacrificing of those defending earth from the mysterious alien invaders that had appeared fifty years before. It was almost always given posthumously. The bearer of the medal became the idol of all mankind, would never want for any necessity or luxury -- would never want for anything. Everyone one Earth sought that medal...One man was going to cheat to win it -- and live to regret it." Reynolds was one of SF's most popular writers in the Sixties, specializing in political and economic themes mixed with fats-paced adventure.
- Dennis Wheatley, The Quest of Julian Day. Thriller novel. "It was for lovely Sylvia Shane that Julian set out on his quest for the treasure of Cambyses, buried for more than two thousand years. It led to a night in the Tomb of the Sacred Bulls in Alexandria, to an encounter with white slavers and dope runners in the City of the Dead where death lurked in the ancient temples. A quest that was to end in the waterless Libyan desert, five hundred miles from civilisation." [Who the heck writes these back cover blurbs?] Wheatley was a popular writer of historical, adventure, espionage, and occult novels -- all very staid and veddy, veddy British.
Oh, What a Day!: Now that Spring is here and 1,000,000 Americans have received their first vaccination shot at least, it's time to celebrate all the simple things that make life great and to downplay for a moment all the things that don't, such as Asian-American racism, GOP-fueled voter restriction attempts, and Daylight Savings Time. So let's start with today -- it's International Talk Like William Shatner Day! What fun we will have talking slowly and with exaggerated emotion (or lack of it)!
If that doesn't float your boat (although surely it should), today is also National Bavarian Crepes Day. Despite the expected crowds today at your local Bavarian Crepes R Us, this is a holiday you should not ignore..
One celebration that I can get behind is National Goof Off Day, a holiday that appears catered to my talents. I may skip Gryffindor Pride Day, but Coq Au Vin Day sounds tasty. I like the idea of International Day of the Seal, National Sing Off Day, and As Young As Feel Day (although As Young As You Would Like To Feel Day would be more appropriate in my case).
World Day of Metta celebrates the a type of Buddhist mediation that directs positive energy and kindness to others. Pretty neat, if you ask me.
Today is also National and World Water Day. That's one that should be recognized every day of the year. All those who work to protect our waters -- from riverkeepers to the Environmental Protection Agency to the many organizations which realize the value of clean water (including The National Wildlife Federation, Clean Water Action, The Nature Conservancy, Protecting Our Waters, and Environment America) -- need our support and deserve our thanks. Polluting our rives, lakes, and oceans is not the way to go.
This entire week is **drum roll, please** American Chocolate Week! O frabjous
day week! Callooh! Callay! (As I chortle in my joy.)
Other neat celebrations for this week include:
- National Anonymous Giving Week
- National Clean Out Your Closet Week (Could Fibber McGee be the spokesperson? If you don't recognize the name, forget it -- you're too young.)
- National Poison Prevention Week
- National Animal Poison Prevention Week
- National Fix a Leek Week (which ties into National and World Water Days. above)
- World Folktales & Fables Week; and
- Week of Solidarity with the Peoples Struggling Against Racism and Racial Discrimination
I would also mention that it's National Introverts week but I don't want to bring attention to myself.
Too Far Not Far Enough: I have mentioned before the saga of the Pensacola Bay Bridge, also known as the Three Mile Bridge, which joins the city of Pensacola with the city of Gulf Breeze (Floridians define the term "city" fairly loosely), and the Eastern section of the state's Gulf Coast. It opened on Halloween Day, 1960, replacing the earlier Thomas A. Johnson Bridge, which had been constructed in 1931.
Thirty-two years ago, on January 15, 1989, a tug pushing two empty barges slammed into the bridge, causing major damage and closing the bridge for 18 days -- forcing commuters to take a 45-mile detour via Route 97, or to utilize an overcrowded ferry system. Two lane traffic (one lane in each direction) was restored on the westbound bridge, but it would be 224 days before the bridge was restored to normal. The state used that time to modernize the bridge, adding emergency lanes and updating the bridge's barrier and lighting. Seventeen years ago, Hurricane Ivan hit, teaching the state more lessons on how to make a more secure bridge. Plans were drafted for a new bridge -- taller, and with more robust foundations and superstructure, able to withstand a ship impact, dissipate the force of an impact, and provide less structural damage. After much hemming and hawing, funding and approval for a new bridge finally came about and in February, 2020, the westbound side of the new bridge was opened. allowing two lanes of traffic each way until the eastbound side of the bridge could be completed.
Then came Hurricane Sally on September 15. First reports were the a barge had broken loose and was wedged underneath the bridge, then a crane was toppled and took out a whole section of the bridge, making the bridge completely unusable. Then came the news that the bridge construction company had failed to moor their barges during the storm and thirty-seven barges broke loose, many of them slamming into the bridge, while others were found washed up on homeowner lawns in various places on the Bay. The site was so dangerous that underwater divers could not assess the damage for several weeks. Months later, one barge was so firmly packed into the bridge's understructure that it could nor be removed. Luckily (?), the newer Garcon Point Bridge had opened in 1999, so commuters reduced their detour by about 20 miles. Not so luckily, the Garcon Point Bridge is a toll bridge ($5 each way) and is a narrow bridge with just one lane each way. Luckily, the state waived the toll for a limited period, said period being extended several times over now. Unluckily, traffic has become a nightmare with congestion, accidents, and fatalities. But hope was coming!
It was announced that the repaired bridge would be open to traffic on March 22 -- TODAY! (Whoot! Whoot!) The traffic would allow four lanes on the Pensacola side and two lanes on the Gulf Breeze side. Work would continue and all lanes would be completely open at the end of the month.
The nineteen days ago, it was announced, "Whoops!"
It turns out that they accidentally discovered the new bridge was not secure. While putting an ornamental piece in place, the foundation shifted and would not shift back into its proper place. Now much of the work that has been done must be torn down and replaced.
Here's some drone footage of the damage to the bridge, taken on September 17:
Oh. and it also turns out that they had miscounted the number of barges that had gone walkabout (floatabout?) during Hurricane Sally. They found another one just about a week ago.
My bridge confidence level has reached negative numbers. **sigh**
How Ballet Was Saved: Once upon a time women took the major male roles in ballet and the music was composed with this fact in mind. The following 1970 British documentary explores this dichotomy using Delibes' 1870 ballet Coppelia, which was based on E. T. A. Hoffmann's stories "Der Sandmann" and "Die Automate," Since I like Delibes, and I like Coppelia, and I am a fan of Hoffmann's writing, this program was a natural for me. The history and background was icing on the cake.
[MORE TO COME]