Reading Round-Up: May 2019

Continuing the monthly summaries of what I’ve been reading and writing.



To keep my numbers consistent with what I have listed on Goodreads, I count completed magazine issues and stand-alone short stories in e-book format as “books.” I read or listened to 11 books in May: 4 in print, 2 in e-book format, and 5 in audio. They were:

1.       Lightspeed Magazine #108 (May 2019 issue), edited by John Joseph Adams. The usual fine assortment of sf and fantasy short stories and novellas. This month’s favorites for me were Rati Mehrotra’s “This Way to Paradise,” Nancy Kress’s “Cocoons,” Matthew Kressel’s “Trust is Like the Sun,” Kathleen Kayembe’s “The Ocean That Fades into Sky,” and Sofia Samatar’s “Fallow.”

2.       Lady Susan by Jane Austen. I’ll admit I’ve read precious little Austen, despite having been an English Lit major. This was a fun, and apparently lesser-known, work of hers. I really enjoy epistolary stories when done right – meaning that parts of the story are left for the reader to “fill in the blanks” between what the characters are and are not saying to each other.

3.       In Re: Sherlock Holmes: The Adventures of Solar Pons (Solar Pons Book 1), by August Derleth, narrated by Steve White. I’ve been meaning, since I finished reading the full official Sherlock Holmes canon, to move on to his Praed Street successor, created by August Derleth. This is a good start to what was a pretty long run of stories and novels. Steve White’s narration is solid as well, although there were a few points where the voices he was doing didn’t seem to quite match the descriptions of the characters. I posted a lengthier review HERE.

4.       Two Todd Tales, by Joseph Pittman, narrated by Benjamin Seay. This was a re-read/re-listen of two great short stories featuring Pittman’s con-man Todd Gleason, one of which features a character named after me, so I might be a bit partial. Benjamin Seay’s narration captures all of Todd’s, and the unnamed narrator’s snark.

5.       Upon A Burning Throne (The Burnt Empire, Book 1) by Ashok K. Banker. As I said in my longer review HERE, I’ve pretty much burned out on “doorstop/encyclopedia-length” epic fantasy. But Ashok K. Banker’s short stories in Lightspeed magazine in recent months really whet my appetite for this, and I’m glad I read it right away. Great character development and world-building.

6.       The Hidden Witch (The Witch Boy, Book 2) by Molly Knox Ostertag. I have a longer review of this coming on Strange Horizons in a few weeks, so all I’ll say here is this is a wonderful second installment in Ostertag’s graphic novel series about a boy who bucks family convention to be a witch instead of a shapeshifter.

7.       Fool For Love: New Gay Fiction edited by Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane, narrated by Roman M. Wagar. Most of the sixteen stories in this romance collection worked for me. Some are sweet, some are brutally funny, some are painful. My favorites include ‘Nathan Burgoine’s “Heart,” Greg Herren’s “Everyone Says I’ll Forget in Time,” David Puterbaugh’s “Thai Angel,” and Rob Williams’ “Party Planning.” Roman M. Wagar’s narration is wonderfully varied, voices crafted to fit each individual story.

8.       Black Crow, White Snow by Michael Livingston, narrated by Janina Edwards.  I am completely unfamiliar with Michael Livingston’s writing, and picked this up honestly because it was an Audible Original free book. I’m glad I did. The mix of Caribbean and post-apocalyptic world-building is wonderful. And Janina Edwards’ narration is warm and smooth and full of character.      

9.       Under the Sunset by Bram Stoker. One of my “To Be Read” Challenge titles for 2019, so there’ll be a longer review upcoming. But I have to say right out: as much as I love Bram Stoker in general, I struggled with this fairy tale story collection. It felt like he was trying to write in someone else’s voice, and it just didn’t work most of the time.

10.   Acres of Perhaps: Stories and Episodes by Will Ludwigsen, narrated by John Fleming. “Acres of Perhaps,” about the sudden dissolution of a television writing team in the 60s, is easily one of my favorite novellas of the past few years, and the rest of the stories in this collection, which I intend to post a longer review of soon, are equally engaging and thought-provoking. John Fleming’s narration fits the dark, not-quite-noir-but-close, tone of the author.  

11.   Algorithmic Shapeshifting: Poems (Conversation Pieces Book 68) by Bogi Takács. As I say in the longer review posted HERE, I am not a poetry reader overall and asked for an ARC of this accidentally. And I loved it. Recommended, especially to fans of poetry with speculative fiction elements.





I have a goal of reading 365 short stories (1 per day, essentially, although it doesn’t always work out that way) each year. Here’s what I did read and where you can find them if you’re interested in reading them too (with some short notes for stories that really stood out to me). If no source is noted, the story is from the same magazine or book as the story(ies) that precede(s) it:

1.       “The Iron Man” by Max Gladstone, from Lightspeed Magazine #108 (May 2019 issue), edited by John Joseph Adams.

2.       “This Way To Paradise” by Rati Mehrotra

3.       “Cocoons” by Nancy Kress

4.       “Trust is Like the Sun” by Matthew Kressel

5.       “The Ocean That Fades Into Sky” by Kathleen Kayembe

6.       “The Portal” by Debbie Urbanski

7.       “The Minor Superhero, At Home After His Series Ends” by Adam-Troy Castro

8.       “The Convexity of Our Youth” by Kurt Fawver

9.       “Fallow” by Sofia Samatar

10.   “Vegetables and Vaccines” by Seanan McGuire, on the author’s Patreon page.

11.   “The Church Fire and Redemption” by T.M. Morgan from Lamplight Vol 7 #2, edited by Jacob Haddon

12.   “Marrow” by E. Catherine Tobler, from Black Static #65

13.   “Silencer Head Like A Hole Remix” by E. Catherine Tobler, from Interzone #259

14.   “Notes Upon the Diadem Club” by Lyndsay Faye, from The Strand October 2015, edited by Lamia Gulli

15.   “It’s All Right – He Only Died” by Raymond Chandler, from The Strand October 2017

16.   “An Actual Treasure” by David Marcum, from The Strand October 2018

17.   “Tonight, My Love” by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane, from The Strand October 2018

18.   “Lady Hilda Revealed” by Bonnie MacBird, from The Strand October 2018

19.   “A Word from Doctor Lyndon Parker” by August Derleth, from In Re: Sherlock Holmes (Solar Pons, Book 1), edited by David Marcum

20.   “The Adventure of the Frightened Baronet” by August Derleth

21.   “The Adventure of the Late Mr. Faversham” by August Derleth

22.   “The Adventure of the Black Narcissus” by August Derleth

23.   “The Adventure of the Norcross Riddle” by August Derleth

24.   “The Adventure of the Retired Novelist” by August Derleth

25.   “The Adventure of the Three Red Dwarfs” by August Derleth

26.   “The Adventure of the Sotheby Salesman” by August Derleth

27.   “The Adventure of the Purloined Periapt” by August Derleth

28.   “The Adventure of the Limping Man” by August Derleth

29.   “The Adventure of the Seven Passengers” by August Derleth

30.   “The Adventure of the Lost Holiday” by August Derleth

31.   “The Adventure of the Man with the Broken Face” by August Derleth

32.   “The Antics of Anton Ardno” by Joseph Pittman, from Two Todd Tales

33.   “The Perils of Penelope Pittston” by Joseph Pittman

34.   “Thai Angel” by David Puterbaugh, from Fool For Love: New Gay Fiction, edited by Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane

35.   “Love Taps” by Mark G. Harris

36.   “Matchmaker” by Sean Aniston

37.   “A View” by Brandon M. Long

38.   “Gratitude” by Felice Picano

39.   “Happy Hour At Café Jones” by Rob Burns

40.   “Trunk” by Trebor Healey

41.   “De-Anima” by Joel Derfner

42.   “Like No-One’s Watching” by Josh Helmin

43.   “At The End of the Leash” by Jeffrey Ricker

44.   “Two Tales” by Paul Lisicky

45.   “Heart” by ‘Nathan Burgoine

46.   “Party Planning” by Rob Williams

47.   “Two Kinds of Rapture” by Andrew Holleran

48.   “Everyone Says I’ll Forget in Time” by Greg Herren

49.   “Angels What You Must Hear On High” by John H. Rausch

50.   “Under The Sunset” by Bram Stoker, from Under The Sunset

51.   “The Rose Prince” by Bram Stoker

52.   “The Invisible Giant” by Bram Stoker

53.   “The Shadow Builder” by Bram Stoker

54.   “How 7 Went Mad” by Bram Stoker

55.   “Lies and Lilies” by Bram Stoker

56.   “The Castle of the King” by Bram Stoker

57.   “The Wondrous Child” by Bram Stoker

58.   “Acres of Perhaps” by Will Ludwigsen, from Acres of Perhaps: Stories and Episodes, edited by Steve Berman

59.   “Season 1, Episode 2: Ourselves and Immortality” by Will Ludwigsen

60.   “The Zodiac Walks On The Moon” by Will Ludwigsen

61.   “Season 1, Episode 5: Singing Each to Each” by Will Ludwigsen

62.   “The Leaning Lincoln” by Will Ludwigsen

63.   “Season 1, Episode 10: Guess What’s Coming To Dinner” by Will Ludwigsen

64.   “Night Fever” by Will Ludwigsen

65.   “Season 2, Episode 2: Dark Horse Candidate” by Will Ludwigsen

66.   “Poe At Gettysburg” by Will Ludwigsen

67.   “Season 2, Episode 8: Unable Are The Loved To Die” by Will Ludwigsen

68.   “On Stony Ground” by Cynthia Ward, from Analog May-June 2019, edited by Trevor Quachri

69.   “Repairs at the Beijing West Space Elevator” by Alex Shvartsman

70.   “Painting the Massive Planet” by Marissa Lingen

So that’s 70 short stories in May, putting me now way ahead for the year so far. (May 31st was the 151st day of 2019.)


Summary of Reading Challenges:

“To Be Read” Challenge: This month: 1 read; YTD: 3 of 14 read.

365 Short Stories Challenge: This month:  70 read; YTD: 200 of 365 read.

Graphic Novels Challenge:  This month: 1 read; YTD: 15 of 52 read.

Goodreads Challenge: This month: 11 read; YTD: 61 of 125 read.

Non-Fiction Challenge: This month: 0; YTD: 4 of 24 read.

Read the Book / Watch the Movie Challenge: This month: 0; YTD: 0 of 10 read/watched.

Complete the Series Challenge: This month: 0 books read; YTD: 0 of 16 read.

                                                                Series fully completed: 0 of 3 planned

Monthly Special Challenge: I may not do something like this every month, but I set an May goal to try to read primarily short story collections and anthologies, since May was Short Story Month, and also to read some non-fiction about Asia and/or the Pacific Islands and/or about the Jewish Diaspora, since May was also Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Jewish-American Heritage Month.

I blew it on the Asia, Pacific Islands, and Jewish Diaspora mini-challenges – only Bogi Takacs’ poetry collection really counts toward the last of those three, although at the end of May I started Barbara Krasnoff’s The History of Soul 2065, which would also count towards the Jewish Diaspora challenge had I finished it in May (it was the first book finished in June, though!)

I was more successful on the Short Stories challenge, reading 70 stories, the bulk of that coming from 5 of the books and 1 magazine read in May.

June is Pride Month, so my mini-challenge is to read mostly books and stories by or about people who identify somewhere on the Queer (QUILTBAG+) rainbow.

An Incomplete List of Queer Creators

Every year, just before Pride, I say I’m going to write a post promoting other queer writers/artists/musicians. And every year the month goes by and I end up thinking “Man, I wish I’d written that post about other queer creators…”

So this year, here it is, and only one week into the month itself!

This is by no means a complete list. It’s mostly about people I’ve worked with, I’m friends with, and/or whose work I love, but it also includes some people I’ve yet to read but have heard good things about.

Caveat: I’m only including here people I have confirmed, either via open online presence or by talking to the person, are openly Queer: that is, they are “out” on their social media. I have no interest in forcing anyone out of the closet just because I love their work. So if I have any doubt as to whether someone is in fact open about their queerness, I’m going to put them in my “Allies / People Who Write About Queer Characters Even If They’re Not Queer Themselves” follow-up post in a few days.

Also: There’s no particular order to this list, either. I’m not even going to try to do this alphabetically. But I am going to try for categories (although some folk fall into more than one).

Also Also: If you should be on this list and you’re not, you were not left off on purpose! Send me a message and I’ll edit to add. I’m kind of winging this in an effort to actually get something posted, and I’m sure I’m forgetting people!


Steve Berman – gay short story and novel writer, editor, and publisher. His own work is mostly in the fantasy/horror realms, but Lethe Press publishes authors in pretty much all genres. Twitter: @thesteveberman

‘Nathan Burgoine – gay short story and novel writer, in the science fiction, fantasy / urban fantasy, horror, erotica and romance realms. Twitter: @NathanBurgoine

Richard Bowes – gay short story and novel writer, in the sf/f/h realms. One of the Beloved Elders, in my opinion. Twitter: @rickbowes

Christopher Barzak – gay short story and novel writer, in the sf/f/h realms. Twitter: @CBarzak

Adam Carpenter – gay erotica and crime author.

Ellen Kushner – lesbian short story and novel writer, mostly in the fantasy realm, perhaps best known for her novels and stories of the Tremontaine family and the City they inhabit. Also perhaps well-known for being married to Delia Sherman. Twitter: @EllenKushner

Delia Sherman – lesbian short story and novel writer and editor, mostly in the fantasy realm. Twitter: @deliasherman

Seanan McGuire / Mira Grant – bisexual short story, novel, and comic book writer. As Seanan she writes fantasy, science fiction, and urban fantasy novels and novellas and the on-going Spider-Gwen title at Marvel. As her own evil twin Mira, she writes sf-horror. Twitter: @seananmcguire

Bogi Takacs – agender short story writer, poet, and blogger. Twitter: @bogiperson

Everett Maroon – transgender short story and novel writer and memoirist. Twitter: @EverettMaroon

Alex Bertie – transgender memoirist and YouTube personality. Twitter: @Alex_Bertie

Dane Bauer Hassid / Dane Kuttler – queer poet and local activist.

Jeff Baker – gay short story writer.

Michael Nava – gay crime author. Twitter: @micnavawriter

Lydia Schoch – queer science fiction author. Twitter: @TorontoLydia

Vylar Kaftan – “queer as fuck” science fiction and fantasy author. Twitter: @Vylar_Kaftan

Jean Johnson – bisexual, gender-fluid sf/f author. Twitter: @JeanJAuthor

Peter Dube – gay author and poet.

Adam Burgess – gay non-fiction author and blogger. Twitter: @HeWritesWords

Jerry Wheeler – gay author, editor, and blogger. Twitter: @jw_den

Jeanne Kramer-Smyth — bisexaul author and photographer.

Sarah Pinsker – queer musician and sf/f author. Twitter: @SarahPinsker

K.M. Szpara – queer sf/f short story and novel author. Twitter: @KMSzpara

Lee Thomas --  gay horror author.

Hal Duncan – gay sf/f/h author. Twitter: @Hal_Duncan

Bart Leib and Kay Holt — queer publishers of Crossed Genres. Twitters: @metafrantic @sandykidd

Amara Lynn — Enby queer urban fantasy author. Twitter: @AmaraJLynn

Clarissa C.S. Ryan — queer sf/f author. Twitter: @wintersweet

Jordan L. Hawk — queer non-binary author of fantasy M/M romance. Twitter: @jordanlhawk

Kace Alexander — genderqueer sf/f author. Twitter: @kacealexander



Greyson Chance – gay singer/songwriter (alternative) Twitter: @greysonchance

Ryan Beatty – gay singer/songwriter (pop/hip-hop)

Darren Hayes – gay singer/songwriter (pop)

David Roundsley of Munich Syndrome – gay singer/songwriter (electronica) and memoirist

Levi Kreis – gay singer/songwriter (blues) and Tony Award winner.


Comics Creators

Joe Phillips – writer/artist (House of Morecock, Joe Boys) Twitter: @joephillipsart

Tim Fish --  writer/artist (Cavalcade of Boys) Twitter: @timfishworks

Alex Woolfson --  writer, Artifice, Young Protectors Twitter: @alexwoolfson

Pride Month Reintroduction

Here we are at another Pride Month.

This website is, and always will be, a safe space for anyone who identifies anywhere in the collective realm of “queer.” Whether that identification is based on sexual attraction, romantic attraction, gender identity, or the confluence (or lack thereof) of all three: you are welcome here.

Not that this information isn’t available elsewhere on this website and across my social media, but occasionally it’s good to write a new post reminding people of who I am and what I’m about. So:

Your host and author, Anthony R. Cardno, is:

·         gay

·         cis-gender male (pronouns He, Him, His)

·         of Scottish, Italian and Polish extraction  (second-generation in the US on the Scots (Dad’s) side, and either second- or third-generation for the Pole and Italian (Mom’s) side)

·         non-denominational Christian with an open and accepting spiritual side (but raised Roman Catholic)

I came out in my late twenties. Slowly at first to my close college friends and immediate family, then to high school and childhood friends and extended family and eventually professionally. The response was a lot of “well, I always suspected but didn’t want to rush you,” which somewhat made each subsequent coming-out conversation easier. I was lucky enough to have a ton of love and support, which so many of my peers did not have, and so many folks now coming out still don’t. My process was perhaps easier than may others, but it wasn’t necessarily smooth. Mom told me she was fine with it as long as I didn’t “embarrass her in front of the neighbors” (polite speak for “I don’t care what you do at college, but don’t mention this around our community”); Dad was honest that if I’d come out as a teen his reaction would have been very different and perhaps even emotionally, if not physically, violent. And of course there were the handful of old friends who said they didn’t care “as long as I didn’t hit on them” (Interestingly, that almost always came from the guys I never even vaguely had a crush on in elementary, middle, or high school.).

Coming Out is NOT a one-time deal. It’s an on-going process as new people come into your life or as (thanks to social media) childhood friends come back in touch. And I’d be lying (or at least committing a sin of omission) if I didn’t admit that I do still find it stressful in professional (day-job-related) settings, for whatever reason.

So coming out happened in my late twenties, almost 25 years ago. But like many people, internally I knew (even if I didn’t acknowledge/accept) much earlier. A recent thread on my Facebook page about “the most obscure shows you watched when you were around 10 years old” reminded me that even at that age I had what I now can admit were crushes on actors like David Doremus (from “Nanny and the Professor”), Ike Eisenmann (from the “Witch Mountain” movies), Brandon Cruz (from “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father”), Jack Wild (from “HR Pufinstuf” and “Oliver!”), Tommy Kirk (from a dozen Disney movies), Donny Osmond, and pretty much all of the Brady boys. There were crushes on older guys too, of course … but these are the guys I remember wishing I could be best friends with, have sleepovers with, could just cuddle up with – long before any kind of sexual attraction was evident (and never mind that many of these actors were people I was seeing in re-runs and were thus actually older than me – 10 year old Anthony’s brain didn’t really take that into consideration).

As puberty hit and the sexual attraction component also kicked in, so did embarrassment, anxiety and a fear (thank you, Roman Catholic Church!) that I was inherently evil – or at least not “good.” Those insecurities manifested in several ways. In middle school it came as a tendency to do anything I could to not have to go to school (which my parents viewed as a return of a “habit” I had during my one year in Catholic school in Astoria, NY – but my theories about what was going on there are something for another post, if ever). In high school and for several years thereafter, it manifested as a limited form of self-harm involving scratching my wrists (which I recently posted about on my Instagram).

I stopped physically self-harming a long time ago but I still struggle with depression, insecurity and social anxiety issues, part of which stem from those years of not accepting my sexuality and part of which stem from completely different things.

So naturally as a reader and viewer I tend to seek out the kinds of characters I didn’t see growing up (except as jokes or villains; the subject of a post later this month). As a writer, I don’t intentionally limit all of my characters to those I would have liked to have seen but almost every story I write has a queer character of some kind in it somewhere, and usually more than one. Because we’re not just tokens; we’re a large part of the human community as a whole. As a blogger, I want to support and promote creators who identify as queer or who produce work with queer characters, because we won’t be fully represented at all if we can’t represent ourselves. (I also actively seek out work by creators who aren’t white, in case you’re wondering. Because I want to see work that represents humanity in all its diversity and wonder. But that’s a post for another time as well.)

I love to read, write, and consume pop culture largely in the “speculative fiction” / “genre” realms. I love live theater. I love live sports, too, but it’s very hard to convince me to watch them on televisioin (get me to a game, especially the faster-paced ones like hockey, soccer, basketball, and I’m all in; put it on the television and I’m bored). My sense of humor swings from snarky to puns and back, and if I don’t say something every day that qualifies as a “Dad” joke my nieces and nephews are gravely disappointed. I love my family – the genetic one and the found one.

Today, and every day, I send all my love to my fellow Queers around the world. Wherever/however you identify: gay, lesbian, bi, pan, aro, ace, trans*, non-binary, gender-fluid, questioning or anything I've inadvertently forgotten; whatever your "out" status: publicly, privately, or not at all. You are unique, you are you, and no-one should take that away from you. (Nor should anyone try to force you out if you're not ready or are in an unsafe situation.)

And of course, to my nieces and nephews who identify anywhere in the wide realm of Queer: I love you, every day and always, whether you’ve ever told me you’re queer or not.

Sunday Shorts: Three from Analog

Sunday Shorts is a series where I blog about short fiction – from flash to novellas. For the time being, I’m sticking to prose, although it’s been suggested I could expand this feature to include single episodes of anthology television series like The Twilight Zone or individual stories/issues of anthology comics (like the 1970s DC horror or war anthology titles). So anything is possible. But for now, the focus is on short stories.


This week, let’s take a look at three very different stories, by three very talented writers, from the May/June 2019 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact:


1.       “On Stony Ground,” by Cynthia Ward. Although the tone and narrator’s voice are completely different, Ward’s newest bit of alternate history somehow put me in mind of one of my favorite alternate history mosaic novels, Robert Silverberg’s Roma Eterna. In Ward’s tale, the civil engineer responsible for completing a major rail line has her day of glory overshadowed by a Nazoraian prophetai’s arrival. We as readers only hear a little of what the teacher speaks, but it’s enough to know who he is, what he has to say, and how his lessons are powerful to rich and poor alike, no matter the timeline in which they are taught. I found the story enhanced by the author’s use of as much Latin as possible, even for names and titles that we’re more accustomed to hearing in Romanticized or Anglo form; it would be easier to use the more familiar forms but that would take away from the sense that this is a world similar to but removed from our own. The narrator, Berenike, is a strong Aithiopian princess-turned-engineer with very clear opinions about how the world should be that the author plays against a real-world political-religious situation of the time. The author subtly shows that her alternate Roman empire is quite diverse not only in terms of who can rise to power but what’s socially acceptable (Berenike comments that her cousin Iakobos is chatting up one of her “better looking officers,” clearly a male … so it would see homosexuality is not taboo in this world, for instance.) I’m not sure if Ward has told other stories in this alternate history – but I’d enjoy seeing them.

2.       “Repairs at the Beijing West Space Elevator,” by Alex Shvartsman. This is a nice piece of science fiction that focuses on infrastructure, customer service, the blame-game and crowd control. Phrased like that, it doesn’t sound like compelling stuff, but Shvartsman pulls it all together through the eyes of an exploration fleet engineer tasked with finding the cause of a power-fluctuation problem at the busiest space elevator on Earth – during one of the busiest holidays of the year. The tale is briskly told, the problem and solution uncovered fairly quickly with no distracting complicating drama. This gives the author space to concentrate on the “fish out of water” aspect of the main character, who is so accustomed to fleet life that the teeming masses of humanity on the space elevator terminal gives him anxiety and a bit of claustrophobia. Combining a character who has a common (but not often written about in sf) anxiety with a set of behind-the-scenes problems that are not usually the focus of sf novels is a great way to get the reader to care about both, especially in a story that is not any longer than it needs to be.

3.       “Painting the Massive Planet, by Marissa Lingen. Lingen’s nameless narrator looks at various artistic movements’ attempts to truly capture the majesty and life of the planet Jupiter and how they all somehow fall short. Or do they? Is art meant to exist in a vacuum or interact with its surroundings?  At first blush, the story seems to be about the effect of science on the arts (and possibly by implication vice-versa), but I think it’s more about the effect of art, and artists, on each other: how we build off of each other, are inspired by each other, and how each of our chosen genres/styles/takes on a topic helps build a more complete picture of the whole. (Note: I am always impressed by anyone who can not only write flash- or drabble-length fiction, but even more so when they can pack so much to think about in such a small space and still tell a compelling character and plot driven story. Kudos, Marissa!)

Series Saturday: Planet of the Apes TV Show

This is a series about … well, series. I do so love stories that continue across volumes, in whatever form: linked short stories, novels, novellas, television, movies. I’ve already got a list of series I’ve recently read, re-read, watched, or re-watched that I plan to blog about. I might even, down the line, open myself up to letting other people suggest titles I should read/watch and then comment on.

Planet of the Apes TV.jpg

The Planet of the Apes television series aired from September to December, 1974, cancelled mid-season with 14 episodes filmed but only 13 aired (although there seems to be some debate on which episode failed to make it to air). As much of a Planet of the Apes fan as my father was, I’m almost positive we watched these episodes when they originally aired, but being all of 10 years old at the time, my memories are vague; I have much clearer memories of seeing these episodes in the 80s, after they’d been re-cut into five (increasingly horribly named) movies for syndication. I even remember the framing device with Roddy McDowell as an older Galen, which apparently only were used when the movies aired on ABC affiliates on weekday afternoons. (These framing bits are sadly not on the DVD release. Perhaps for the best, as it leaves Virdon and Burke’s ultimate fate as described in the framing bits non-canonical. Not that anyone is likely to revisit this in live-action form…)

I of course followed up my recent re-watch of the original movie franchise with a re-watch of the TV series (and I’m intending to re-watch the Filmation animated series soon-ish). In some ways it was exactly as I remembered it: mostly fun, a bit over-acted, a bit formulaic, and with very little obvious connection to the movies.

The set-up, much like the first two movies in the franchise, is that astronauts Virdon (Ron Harper) and Burke (James Naughton) crash-land on what they think is an Earth-like planet (losing their only other shipmate in the process) where Apes are the ruling class and Humans are basically well-treated slaves with an occasional veneer of autonomy. They figure out pretty quickly that they have actually landed on Earth in the future (something the viewing audience already knew, so why keep the characters in the dark?) Hunted by council president Zaius (Booth Colman) and General Urko (Mark Lenard), they go on the run with sympathetic and inquisitive chimp Galen (Roddy McDowell).  Along the way they teach humans to want freedom, convince some apes (usually chimpanzees like Galen) that the current system is unjust, and have really awkward fight scenes with lots of gorillas.

Characterization is mostly one-dimensional, although the four leads (I include Mark Lenard as he appeared in almost all the episodes filmed) do their best with what they’re given. I’d like to think that if they’d run a full season or longer, the characterizations would have gotten a little deeper – but this was still the early 70s, when each character in an ensemble cast filled a particular function. Virdon is the home-spun leader; Burke is the ladies’ man (although he only gets one one-off unrequited romance, with a blind ape, compared to Virdon’s two with humans); Galen is the inquisitive, naïve one. Booth Colman’s Zaius, similar to Maurice Evans in the first two movies, knows more about the past than he’s willing to admit to anyone (the show of course never addresses whether Colman’s Zaius is an ancestor of Evans’), while Lenard’s Urko falls somewhere between the implied military clearheadedness of James Gregory’s Ursus (in Beneath) and the simpleminded buffoonery of Claude Akins’ Aldo (in Battle) – it really depended on the scriptwriter that week. While there are many actors who return in bit-parts over the run, only John Hoyt (the Star Trek OS doctor before Bones) recurs as the same ape, Prefect Barlow, in two episodes. It is interesting to note that Bobby Porter, who played Caesar’s son in Battle, plays two different ape pre-teens on the TV show. (It’s a shame they didn’t let him play a human in at least one episode.)

Other major differences from the movies: The setting is clearly the northern California coast (with visits to “San Francisco” and “Oakland” ruins, and several very clear, if crude, wall-maps) as opposed to what turned out to be New York / New Jersey in the movies, a shift undoubtedly made because the show was filmed on backlots and in the hills outside Los Angeles. The time is a few centuries before the events of the first two movies but well after the events of Battle for the Planet of the Apes: humans are not completely mute uncivilized pack-animals as seen in the first two movies, but they don’t have near the autonomy implied by the end of Battle. And the majority of the episodes are formulaic in a way the movies never quite were.

That formula was basically: The Trio get comfortable hiding with a human family/community (occasionally a sympathetic ape family as in “The Good Seeds”), something happens to alert a gorilla patrol or local garrison to their presence, there’s a fight or two, and the Trio moves on (usually just ahead of Urko) rather than endanger their new friends. Two episodes (“The Trap” and “The Legacy”) take place in the ruins of human cities that clearly show we’re in the future of Earth, and each involve Urko somehow learning-but-not-learning that Humans used to rule over Apes. “The Legacy” also implies that there are other still-functioning but hidden computers out there that could enable Virdon and Burke to return home. (It’s never clearly stated, but I think one must presume that their mission launched after Taylor’s and Brent’s missions, but before Cornelius, Zira, and Milo arrive in the past; otherwise why would Virdon and Burke be so surprised at the Ape-Human reversal?) But other than those two episodes, the settings for each episode are rural areas usually “a day or more hard ride” from Central City, where Zaius and Urko are headquartered.

More than half of the episodes stick to the formula and eschew both deeper world-building and heavy-handed political commentary. But there are a few episodes that must have felt topical/controversial at the time and still do (although rather heavy-handed in execution). In the final filmed episode, “Up Above The World So High,” a human figures out how to make a working glider and a female chimp decides to use it for terrorist attacks against Zaius’ council regime. In “The Cure,” the Council considers the genocide of a human compound to prevent the spread of a unknown fatal disease while “The Liberator” features a human enclave ready to use gas-bombs to wipe out the apes. “The Interrogation” focuses on the Apes re-learning old human torture techniques, and “The Deception” has the Trio facing off against KKK-like masked ape “dragoons” bent on keeping the “animal” humans down.

There are a lot of recognizable faces (or at least, recognizable names attached to ape make-up) among the guest stars: a pre-Bad New Bears Jackie Earle Haley, a pre-Beastmaster Marc Singer, a very-pre-Hill Street Blues Michael Conrad. The aforementioned John Hoyt is among then-veteran character actors like Royal Dano, Roscoe Lee Browne, Martin E. Brooks and John Ireland and femme fatales Beverly Garland and Sondra Locke.

An additional six scripts were written but never filmed. Interestingly, the original pilot and second episode were written by Rod Serling but rejected and never filmed. Some of these scripts are available online (including the Serlings) but I’ve yet to read them.

The show’s failure is largely blamed on its time-slot competition (popular comedies Sanford & Son and Chico & The Man), but I have to wonder if the show would have been more successful had it been green-lit and aired during the height of the original movie franchise’s popularity as opposed to after that popularity had begun to wane. Then again, had they been filmed concurrently, I doubt Roddy McDowell would have done the show. And I can’t imagine caring as much without his endearing, if sometimes infuriating, Galen at the center of things.

Sunday Shorts: Three Holmes Tales

Sunday Shorts is a series where I blog about short fiction – from flash to novellas. For the time being, I’m sticking to prose, although it’s been suggested I could expand this feature to include single episodes of anthology television series like The Twilight Zone or individual stories/issues of anthology comics (like the 1970s DC horror or war anthology titles). So anything is possible. But for now, the focus is on short stories.


Since my most recent book review was about the first adventures of a Holmes pastiche/stand-in named Solar Pons, and since I’ve been trying to make my way through accumulated magazine back-issues to clear them out of my apartment, I thought I’d make three Holmes tales by authors other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the subject of today’s Sunday Shorts.

Even before most of the Holmes canon entered Public Domain, authors have published further adventures of the Great Detective and his friends. Some had authorization from the Conan Doyle Estate and some didn’t. For many years now, the revived Strand Magazine has published Holmes tales by other authors. As with novels and short story collections written about Holmes, the stories in the Strand come with various levels of quality, creativity, and respect for the canon. These are three I particularly liked; two of them are even connected to stories written by Conan Doyle himself, and all three are narrated by someone other than Doctor Watson (two by Holmes himself, a rarity in the original canon).


1.       NOTES UPON THE DIADEM CLUB AFFAIR by Lyndsay Faye, from the October 2015 issue of The Strand.  I don’t think I’ve failed to enjoy a Holmes tale penned by Lyndsay Faye (I also keep meaning to read her non-Holmes novels but just haven’t gotten there yet). This one was no exception. It’s a bit light on showing Holmes’ actual deductive abilities, being a more playful tale. Holmes narrates his own meeting with a society fop named Lord Chesley Templeton, who invites him to be a special guest at a meeting of a very special private club. Holmes declines, not wanting to be anyone’s pet monkey, until a letter from Brother Mycroft changes his mind. Holmes and Watson learn more about Templeton, stop a crime, and Watson encounters a Baroness with an interest in writing. Holmes’ disdain for Templeton’s easily-seen-through disguise at the first meeting is set against his own dramatic way of getting Watson to accompany him, just one of several character-driven moments that made me smile. (Fellow fans of Philip Jose Farmer’s Wold Newton Family may find humorous Watson’s implication that the Baroness who cameos ends up basing her most famous character on someone from this tale; I wrote it off as Watson purposefully misguiding readers.)

2.       AN ACTUAL TREASURE by David Marcum, from the October 2017 issue of The Strand. Marcum’s tale is also narrated by Holmes via his own journal entries, and also ties back to a very important case in the Holmes canon, the one in which Holmes and Watson first met Mary Morstan (later the First Mrs. Watson). Marcum brings Inspectors Jones and LeStrade into the story as well as the Baker Street Irregulars (and one in particular named Levi), and while the story is again sort of light on Holmes’ deductive abilities, it provides a very satisfactory follow-up to what happened to the jewels that went missing at the end of that earlier case. Marcum also showcases aspects of Holmes’ personality other chroniclers sometimes overlook or ignore: his patience and paternal feeling towards children, his respect for Mrs. Hudson, the fact that although Holmes always claims not to theorize before all the facts are in he actually does it quite often in the original canon (near the end of this tale, Holmes comments “I had formed seven theories about what might have occurred, and while this wasn’t the most probable of them, it was my favorite.”). There’s even a winking mention of Praed Street, although this is many years before Solar Pons and Doctor Parker will take up residence on that thoroughfare.

3.       LADY HILDA REVEALED by Bonnie MacBird, from the October 2018 issue of the Strand. This is a different king of Holmes pastiche, told in the form of a letter from a society lady to Doctor Watson. Also her husband has long since passed away, “Lady Hilda Trelawny Hope” maintains the fictitious identity Watson gave her when he published Holmes’ “Adventure of the Second Stain,” but strives to correct the good doctor on a number of points regarding how she was portrayed. This could easily have been a poke at officious society types, but instead MacBird gives us an intimate portrait of a woman who could, under other circumstances, have been just as strong a foil for Holmes as Irene Adler, Mary Morstan, or Violet Hunter. It’s a wonderful character piece that expands on the original story without ever making Holmes or Watson look bad.