Reading the Hugos (2020) And Now His Lordship is Laughing

For this short story, you can play a little game. Thanks to the benevolence and foresight of the people at Strange Horizons, this story is preceded by a long list of Content Warnings. You can ignore those, of course, but who could resist the temptation of clicking on that button to see what awful sins it hides. It’s like a flashing red button saying DON’T TOUCH ME.

VOMIT

The game is this: Try to deduce the plot of this story just from those trigger warnings. So what sort of Gomorrah-style type of story do we have here for it to include all that stuff? A surprisingly meh one. Yes, a child dies, and that sets in motion this story of racial revenge, but I don’t even remember half of the things from the list.

Continue reading “Reading the Hugos (2020) And Now His Lordship is Laughing”

Isaac Asimov on adventure, pulp, and Shakespeare.

Besides sporting imposing sideburns and writing a few books, Isaac Asimov also lent his name to various magazines and products. One of them, mostly unknown compared to the more familiar Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, was Asimov’s Adventure Science Fiction Magazine. Unfortunately, it was a short-lived publication, with only four issues between late 1978 and late 1979.

Continue reading “Isaac Asimov on adventure, pulp, and Shakespeare.”

“But you ‘get’ a pulp story,” an interview with Hugh B. Cave.

Because the word “pulp” references the material on which those stories were published (compared to the “slicks,” for example) and not any specific genre or style (beyond the fact that all the stories attempted to be exciting -not a minor trait-) it is sometimes difficult to write about them without misrepresenting the whole phenomenon of the pulps, which was huge and encompassed at least three generations of authors. There is also the problem that most of the writers died many decades before our current literary and cultural controversies (or died too young,) or left the field once they could start writing in more prestigious circles.

Continue reading ““But you ‘get’ a pulp story,” an interview with Hugh B. Cave.”

Why you should read “The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody”

“Peter [The Great] emancipated the Russian women, except those in his own family. He put them into convents.”


“He had the haunted look of the true humorist. All his friends loved him.”

cleopatra by William Steig
Cleopatra, by William Steig

I was 19 or so the first time I read ‘The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody,’ by Will Cuppy (1884-1949,) and I was so in love with it I decided to write something similar. I began collecting notes and writing little encyclopedic articles about, well, everything I could, in a style that combined (or tried) Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary‘s sarcasm and Cuppy’s own brand of comparatively more light-hearted humor. Then I read that it took Cuppy 16 years and 15.000 notes to write that book (and he didn’t even finish it,) so I decided to do something else with my time.

It’s a tragedy that Cuppy, crippled with increasing depression and the prospect of eviction from his apartment, committed suicide because his book became an instant best-seller when it got published (1950) just one year after his death. Not to mention that it’s one of the best books ever written.

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Ya por envidia de que sobreviviesen

“Se produjeron muchos horrores en las ciudades durante la guerra civil, horrores que se dan y se darán siempre mientras sea la misma la naturaleza humana, más violentos o atenuados y diferentes de aspecto según la modificación de las circunstancias que se dé en cada caso, ya que en la paz y yendo bien las cosas, tanto ciudades como individuos tienen mayor discernimiento por no estar sometidos al apremio de la necesidad; pero la guerra, al suprimir el bienestar cotidiano, resulta ser un maestro de violencia y acomoda a las circunstancias los sentimientos de la mayoría.

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War, war always changes.

In Italy these professional condottiere evolved a scheme of warfare that practically eliminated bloodshed for a time. There were fights, yes -splendid, clashing, colorful affairs like vast tournaments- bu the contestants were covered in plate armor that prevented them from getting badly hurt, and the men they were fighting against -other professional like themselves- might well become their comrades-in-arms the day after the fight. […]

But when hand-guns began to be used, things were different. In 1439 the army in the pay of Bologna used hand-guns against a force in the pay of Venice, actually killing many of the Venetians’ knights. The Venetian army was so infuriated, it won the battle and rounded up the Bolognese army. Then the Venetians massacred the hand-gun men who had stooped so low as to use this ‘cruel and cowardly innovation, gunpowder.’ Why, they said, if this sort of thing were allowed to happen, war would become a positively dangerous business.

Source: Ewart Oakeshott, “A knight and his weapons” (1964), reprinted 2008, pag 103-104

I don’t know about what battle is he talking, but the next year (1440) the battle of Anghiari was fought, and only one man died… when he fell from his horse.