Tag Archives: science fiction

Book Review: King Soloman’s Mines

Book Name: King Solomon’s Mines
Author: Sir H. Rider Haggard
First Published: 1885

Sir Henry Rider Haggard, better known as H. Rider Haggard, was born in Bradenham, Norfolk on June 22, 1856. He was the eighth of ten children and unlike his older brothers, he did not study in a private school, probably due to financial constraints and his father’s low regard for him.

In 1875, Haggard was sent to South Africa to do unpaid work. During this time, he fell in love with Mary Elizabeth “Lilly” Jackson and planned to marry her once he got paid work in the continent. When he became Registrar of the High Court in the Transvaal in 1878, he wrote to his father about his plan to return to England and marry Jackson. His father, however, would not allow him to return without having made a career first. By 1879, Jackson had married a rich banker and upon Haggard’s return, he married Marianna Louisa Margitson. The couple went to Africa and had a son and three daughters.

In 1882, the couple went back to England. Haggard became a lawyer but he spent a lot of time writing novels. To prove to his brother that he could write a good story like Treasure Island, he wrote King Solomon’s Mines. The novel was written in 6-14 weeks but was rejected by publishers once it was finished. When it was finally published in September 1885, it quickly became a best seller. Haggard released a sequel, Allan Quatermain, shortly. The stories were influenced by adventurers he met in Africa and the wealth and ancient ruins in the continent. King Solomon’s Mines is credited as the start of the Lost World genre, which influenced popular American pulp writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard. The hero Allan Quatermain became the template for Indiana Jones and regained popularity as a major character in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Haggard was also heavily involved in agricultural reform and was part of several commissions on land use and similar issues. In 1912, he was made a Knight Bachelor and in 1919, he became a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He died on May 14, 1925, when he was 68.

“Truly wealth, which men spend all their lives in acquiring, is a valueless thing at the last.” – H. Rider Haggard, King Solomon’s Mines

Allan Quatermain is an adventurer and professional hunter based in Durban, South Africa. Sir Henry Curtis and Captain Good ask him to help them find Sir Henry’s brother, who is on a journey in the unexplored territory to find the mythical King Solomon’s Mines. Quatermain possesses a map to the mines but has not really believed in its authenticity. Nevertheless, he agrees to join the two men if they will share the treasure they will find or financially support his son in case he dies during the trip. Quatermain does not believe that they will be able to return alive but thinks that his death will at least provide support for his child.

The three men are accompanied by Umbopa, a mysterious native who seems more eloquent and regal than the other porters. They travel by oxcart until the edge of a desert, then begin walking. Fortunately for them, they discover an oasis along the way. They reach the Suliman Berg and climb one of the peaks of the mountain range. Inside a cave is the frozen corpse of José Silvestre, the explorer who drew the map using his blood. When another servant dies because of the freezing temperature, they leave the body to provide Silvestre a companion.

They then reach a lush valley called Kukuanaland. They escape being killed by Kukuana warriors when Captain Good fidgets with his denture, which scares the warriors. From then on, they pretend to be powerful gods but they still have to regularly prove their claim, which stresses them and strains their creativity.

They are then brought to King Twala, who killed the former king (his brother) then sent his brother’s wife and son Ignosi to die in the desert. An old, evil witch named Gagool serves as the king’s primary advisor and murders those who oppose her and the king. Umbopa earns Gagool’s suspicion but Quatermain is able to save him.

Soon, it is revealed that Umbopa is Ignosi, the true king of Kukuanaland. The Englishmen gain support by using the foreknowledge of a lunar eclipse to prove Ignosi’s claim. Twala is overthrown by the rebels and loses his head in a duel with Sir Henry.

Gagool reluctantly takes them to King Solomon’s Mines but while the men are admiring the treasure, she sneaks out and uses a hidden mechanism to trap the men inside. With their food and water supply dwindling, the trapped men prepare for death.

There is something about these Victorian era pulp novels that calls to me. The world was largely unexplored back then, magic and mystery abounded in places that we now call home. King Soloman’s Mines was one of those break out novels for its author. It was a huge bestseller of its day, a “star wars” for the Victorians, and it still has much influence over our stories today. While a pure adventure tale and worth reading just for the sheer fun, it is not a shallow book at all. The characters are interesting and well developed and it has a few literary allusions to the Old Testament of the Bible and the Ingoldsby Legends. While the author does portray his protagonists as British imperialists, true to his culture of that time, there is more in his tale. His native Africans gradually emerge as fully developed individuals, capable of great nobility and wisdom, or evil. Quartermain himself undergoes a broadening of outlook during his adventure and he comes to see the people around him as equals instead of natives that “should known their place”. I feel that this helps keep King Solomon’s Mines from becoming too dated for today’s readers.

You can find a free download of King Solomon’s Mines on Project Gutenburg. Find yourself a copy and enjoy it on a hot summer day with a cold soda or beer while you experience the African of yesteryear. It is the first of a series of 15 novels, so if you like it, there is more to enjoy.

King Solomon's Mines Book CoverAllan Quatermain Series:

King Solomon’s Mines (1885)
Allan Quatermain (1887)
Allan’s Wife & Other Tales (1887)
Maiwa’s Revenge: or, The War of the Little Hand (1888)
Marie (1912)
Child of Storm (1913)
The Holy Flower (1915) (first serialised in the Windsor Magazine December 1913-November 1914)
The Ivory Child (1916)
Finished (1917)
The Ancient Allan (1920)
She and Allan (1920)
Heu-heu: or, The Monster (1924)
The Treasure of the Lake (1926)
Allan and the Ice-gods (1927)
Hunter Quatermain’s Story: The Uncollected Adventures of Allan Quatermain (collection, 2003)

Guest Post: Leslie Ann Moore

Leslie Ann Moore recently was interviewed here on No Wasted Ink, featuring her latest novel A Tangle of Fates. Her experience with gaining a new cover for her novel is an interesting tale and she offered to share it with us all on the blog. Welcome Leslie! It is good to have you back.

Author Leslie Ann MooreMost authors, unless they are self-published, have no say in the design of what is arguably the single most important factor in drawing the notice of a browsing, potential reader to a book.

A well-designed cover piques a potential reader’s interest and can entice him/her to pick up the book or click on the image in order to read the blurb or a sample chapter. A poorly designed cover will do just the opposite.

Even if an author is allowed by the publisher to have some input into the cover-creation process, many times the finished product bears little to no resemblance to what the author had envisioned. The cover is what it is. The author’s approval is of little consequence. If she hates it, she has no choice but to grit her teeth, accept it and hope the marketing people responsible for the design know what they’re doing.

The original cover for A Tangle of Fates, the first book in my new science fantasy series, did not turn out as I’d hoped, despite my having some say in the creative process. The story takes the Snow White fairytale and turns it on its head. What if Snow White was fated to be a revolutionary, instead of a pawn? I wanted a cover that depicted a young woman of action. At the same time, the image had to convey that this story takes place on an alien planet, no matter that the heroine wears 19th century Old West-style mens clothing and is brandishing a six-shooter.

With respect to the artist, he did capture my heroine’s face beautifully, exactly as I imagined. However, I felt the image was static, where I’d envisioned a more dynamic scene, one in which my heroine was depicted in motion. An illustration of a scene from the book, either faithfully or symbolically rendered, was more what I’d had in mind.

Deciding I had nothing to lose, I approached my publisher, Muse Harbor, and made a proposal. I offered to commission an alternate cover, paid for out of my own pocket. Fortunately, they were receptive to the idea. I found my own artist and art directed the cover until it was exactly as I wanted. The image now conveys motion, danger, and the alien-ness of the planet on which the story is set.

A Tangle of Fates Book CoverMuse Harbor accepted the new cover, for which I’m both grateful and relieved. They paid attention to the overwhelmingly positive response to the new image when

I posted it on FB and wisely conceded. I can’t thank them enough.

My experience is not common at all. I was only able to pull this off because of an especially friendly relationship with the owners/editors of Muse Harbor. However, I hope my success will encourage other authors at small presses to at least speak up if they have a strong negative reaction to a cover for their novel. Who knows? It might result in a new, better cover!

Book Review: Dracula

Book Name: Dracula
Author: Bram Stoker
First Published: 1897

Bram Stoker was born on November 8, 1847 in Dublin, Ireland. He was a sickly boy but he fully recovered when he was seven. He had no other major health problems and even became an athlete at Trinity College, Dublin when he studied there from 1864-1870. He graduated with honors with a degree in Mathematics and became auditor of the College Historical Society and President of the University Philosophical Society.

While he was a student, he became interested in the theater and later became a theater critic. He became known because of his good reviews even though theater critics were not highly respected those days. He gave a positive review of Henry Irving’s Hamlet, which resulted to Irving inviting him for dinner and the two becoming friends.

In 1878, Bram Stoker and Florence Balcombe married. The couple moved to London and had a son in 1879. Stoker worked as manager of Irving’s Lyceum Theater for 27 years. By working for Irving, the position gave Stoker the opportunity to meet famous personalities and travel. It was during this time in his life that began writing his novels.

In 1890, Stoker went to the English town of Whitby, where it is said he got some of his inspiration for the novel Dracula. He also met the Hungarian writer Armin Vámbéry, who told him scary stories about the Carpathian mountains. Stoker then studied European folklore and vampire stories for several years. It was not until 1897 that he published Dracula. Other inspirations for the novel include the Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, the crypts of St. Michan’s Church in Dublin and Sheridan Le Fanu’s novella Carmilla.

Stoker had several strokes and died on April 20, 1912. His cause of death is not definite – some say he died from tertiary syphilis while others claim it was due to overwork. He was cremated and his ashes were placed in an urn. When his son Irving Noel Stoker died in 1961, his ashes were also placed in the same urn. The ashes of Bram Stoker and Florence Stoker were supposed to be put together but when Florence died, her ashes were scattered at the Gardens of Rest.

“There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.” -Bram Stoker, Dracula

In the late nineteenth century, a young British lawyer named Jonathan Harker goes to Castle Dracula in Transylvania to finalize a real estate transaction involving Count Dracula. On the way, he encounters superstitious villagers who become fearful upon hearing his destination. He continues despite their fears and is driven to the castle by a mysterious man.

His accommodations are suitable, but he finds his host Count Dracula to be a strange thin and pale man. He discovers that the Count drinks human blood in order to survive but the latter escapes to England along with fifty boxes of earth. Harker is left at the castle sick and weak.

In England, Jonathan’s fiancée Mina Murray is with her friend Lucy Westenra. Lucy has three suitors who have offered her marriage – Arthur Holmwood, Dr. John Seward, and Quincey Morris – and has begun to sleepwalk. Mina is worried about her friend and because she has not heard from Jonathan for a long time.

A damaged ship carrying Count Dracula’s fifty boxes of earth arrives, but the ship’s crew is missing. Mina finds the sleepwalking Lucy near the graveyard, with a tall, thin figure nearby. The figure vanishes and Lucy does not remember anything when she awakens. Lucy is cold and has two tiny puncture wounds on her neck, but Mina thinks she has just accidentally pricked her friend with a pin. Over the next several weeks, Lucy’s health deteriorates but her former suitor Dr. Seward cannot determine what is making her sick.

When Mina receives word about Jonathan, she goes to help him. Lucy’s condition worsens so Dr. Seward asks the help of Dr. Abraham Van Helsing. Van Helsing notices the spots on the girl’s neck and her blood loss. They give Lucy several blood transfusions, but the girl improves only temporarily. Van Helsing suspects that Lucy is being victimized by a vampire and puts garlic in her room and around her neck to protect her. However, the vampire is able to attack the girl again and Lucy dies.

After her death, a beautiful lady begins attacking the children in the village. Disturbed, Van Helsing asks Dr. Seward to help him open Lucy’s coffin. He also gets to read Mina’s transcription of Jonathan’s diary about his trip to Transylvania. He gathers Lucy’s previous suitors and explains to them that Lucy has become a vampire and how they can save her soul and kill Count Dracula.

Dracula Book CoverDracula is not a novel, that is a single tale woven as a movie might be, instead it is in epistolary form as a collection of journals, letters and papers. The many viewpoints through each journal entry serve to create the suspense which sets the tone of the novel. I will confess that Dracula is not my favorite book of all time. I have never been into horror novels and this one is the granddaddy of the horror genre. Still, it is a classic that has been a part of our literary history and part of our pop culture. It is well worth the time to go back and see the original tale by its creator.

Book Review: Hyperion

Book Name: Hyperion
Author: Dan Simmons
First Published: 1989
Hugo Award for Best Novel 1990
Locus Award Winner 1990

Dan Simmons was born on April 4, 1948 in Peoria, Illinois. He received his B.A in English from Wabash College in 1970 and his Masters in Education from Washington University the following year. He became an elementary school teacher for the next 18 years.

Simmons writing career took off in 1982, when he released his short story The River Styx Runs Upstream with Harlan Ellison’s help. It won first prize in a Twilight Zone Magazine story contest and was published in 1982, the day Simmons’ daughter Jane Kathryn was born. He considers the coincidence useful to “keeping things in perspective when it comes to the relative importance of writing and life.”

Song of Kali, Simmons’ first novel, was then published in 1985. Simmons gained popularity in 1989 when he released Hyperion, a science fiction novel that won the Hugo and Locus Awards. The novel’s structure was inspired by Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Boccaccio’s Decameron.

Simmons grew up in several places in the Midwest, including Brimfield, Illinois, which served as the inspiration for the fictional town of Elm Haven in his stories Summer of Night and A Winter Haunting. He has been writing full-time since 1987. He and his wife Karen live in Colorado and he sometimes writes at Windwalker, their high-altitude cabin near the Rocky Mountain National Park. A sculpture of the Shrike — the demon-god in Hyperion — made by his friend and former student Clee Richeson stands near the cabin.

Simmons has successfully written books in different genres: fantasy, sci-fi, horror, crime fiction, historical fiction, and suspense. His books have been published in the USA and Canada, as well as 27 other countries. Many of his novels have been optioned for film, such as Song of Kali, Drood, and The Crook Factory. The Hyperion books, meanwhile, have been bought by Warner Brothers and Graham King Films and are in pre-production.

“It occurs to me that our survival may depend upon our talking to one another.” – Dan Simmons, Hyperion

It is the 28th century and Earth has long been destroyed. Humans colonize the galaxy via “Hawking drive” ships that carry portal machines to new worlds known as “Farcasters”. These portals permit nearly instantaneous travel no matter how far apart the two portal gates are. The farcaster network is the basis of the Hegemony of Man and determines the entire culture and society of humans. Running all this technology is a vast agglomeration of AIs known as the “TechnoCore”.

The Hegemony is a decadent society, ruled by a human executive advised by the TechnoCore advisory council, that relies on its military to protect and defend the Hegemony from attacks by the “Ousters”. They are considered interstellar barbarians who live beyond the dictates of the Hegemony and shun anything to do with the TechnoCore AI machines.

The advice and predictions by the ‘Core are confounded by mysterious structures of the Time Tombs on the remote colony world of Hyperion. The aggressive Ousters are obsessed with the planet and their planned invasion to take Hyperion is imminent.

The Shrike, a very powerful but mysterious being, guards the Time Tombs of Hyperion, a remote colony that the Ousters want to invade. According to legend, when pilgrims visit the Time Tombs, the Shrike will kill all but one of them then grant the survivor his wish.

This time, seven pilgrims make the voyage. They meet each other after coming out of a cryogenic state and each one tells his story during the long trip, in a manner that is reminiscent of the classic Canterbury Tales.

Het Masteen is a Templar who captains the treeship that the pilgrims are riding to Hyperion.

Father Lenar Hoyt is a Roman Catholic priest who once accompanied another priest to Hyperion. There, he got infected with cruciforms, parasites that rebuild and reincarnate dead bodies. The cruciforms cause him excruciating pain and he has built a tolerance for painkillers over time. He is going back to Hyperion to find out what will happen to him.

Colonel Fedmahn Kassad has discovered that his previous lover Moneta has been working with the Shrike to use him to start an interstellar war that will kill billions. He is on the pilgrimage to kill her and the Shrike.

Martin Silenus is an old poet who is working on his greatest poem: Hyperion Cantos. He once lived on Hyperion in an attempt to find his lost muse but the Shrike began murdering the people he lived with. During that time, his muse returned, which convinced him that the Shrike was his muse. Silenus eventually left the colony but has been waiting for centuries to return to finish his poem.

Sol Weintraub‘s daughter Rachel was an archaeologist who contracted the Merlin disease while she was exploring Hyperion. The disease makes her age backwards. She is now an infant and may become nonexistent in her upcoming birthday. Sol is on the pilgrimage to ask the Shrike to cure his daughter.

Brawne Lamia is a private investigator whose client Johnny, a John Keats clone with AI-controlled electronic implants, wanted her to investigate his murder. The assault on Johnny left him with a limited amnesia that Lamia discovered to be connected to his knowledge about Hyperion. Lamia joins the pilgrimage pregnant with Johnny’s child.

The Consul tells a story about his grandparents, Merin Aspic and Siri of the ocean-planet Maui-Covenant. Merin was on a long-term contract to build a farcaster portal to connect Maui-Covenant to the Hegemony. He falls in love with a native girl. They reunite only seven times, with the time dilation causing Merin to barely age as Siri follows time naturally and dies of old age. At this time the farcaster is about to be activated. Merin chooses to sabotage the portal, starting “Siri’s War”, in order to prevent the Hegemony tourists from ruining the ecology of the world and destroying the human and dolphin inhabitants.

The Consul was forbidden by Merin to join in the war and instead he bides his time in the Hegemony diplomatic corps, waiting for a moment to betray the government and obtain his revenge. The consul is instrumental in an Ouster plot to release the Shrike from the Time Tombs where it would have a chance to enter the datastream “WorldWeb” of the Hegemony.

As a former secondary school teacher myself, how can I resist a science fiction novel that is structured like the Canterbury Tales of old? Simmons uses the pilgrimage as a tool to bring together a diverse group of characters who do not have much in common, but soon all share the same goal. Each story has a different feel and the pulls from classic literature transformed into science fiction is well done. Be warned: the book does have a cliff-hanger ending. You will need to read The Fall of Hyperion to find out what happens next.

Hyperion Book CoverHyperion Cantos:

Hyperion (1989)
The Fall of Hyperion (1990)
Endymion (1995)
The Rise of Endymion (1997)

Author Interview: Matthew Pallamary

I asked Matt to give a short description of himself and he replied: “Author, Editor, Shamanic Explorer.” No Wasted Ink is honored to feature this writing instructor and author for your consideration.

Author Matthew PallamaryMy name is Matt Pallamary, a perspiring writer who has been teaching a Phantastic Fiction Workshop for the past 25 years at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference, The Southern California Writer’s Conference and many others.

When and why did you begin writing?

As far as dramatic writing and storytelling goes, I had a good friend killed on his motorcycle around 1982 or 1983, which prompted me to write a novel about a guy who gets killed on his motorcycle and wakes up outside his body caught up with dark forces in the spirit world.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I have always loved words and language. I won first place in the school spelling Bee in the 6th grade and went on to a citywide spelling Bee. English was my favorite subject in high school and my writing caught the attention of my college creative writing teachers.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

DreamLand was written with legendary DJ Ken Reeth, who left the planet on May 9th 2005.

Fueled by breakthroughs in technology and neuroscience, the terminally ill, while in an induced slumber, in a pain-free, medically supervised environment, can literally dream their lives away in pre-programmed situations of their choosing, controlled by a super computer.

The well-meaning creators of computer generated dreaming plan to conquer the stigma of death by making its wonders available to all, so people can die in vivid, pre-programmed dream surroundings, reliving blissful moments from their past. All goes according to plan until the dream of DreamLand is shattered by the profit-seeking backer of the project.

What inspired you to write this book?

Ken and I were in writing workshops together and we became friends and fans of each other’s writing. He kept coming up with these short dream sequences that were vignettes more than stories and was wondering what to do with them. We got to talking and the next thing you know we were writing a book together.

Do you have a specific writing style?

My style is specifically my own that I consciously developed. As I tell my writing students. The brain is the canvas and the words are the strokes of the brush from a giant palette, and it must be dynamic, moving, and full of energy, making every word count. The act of reading is an act of co-creation between the writer and the reader. It is the writer’s job to paint the significant details of their story that the reader can hook into and fill in the blanks that come from their own subjective experiences and interpretations.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

It is the world where the story takes place.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Technology may seem to perform certain tasks flawlessly, but human motives and their skewed cross-purposes can bring dire consequences.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

In a nutshell, I realized that my life was stranger than anything I could make up, so I wrote about it and the response has been gratifying. I have done extensive dream work and dream studies, so I know this territory well.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

I was blessed to have Ray Bradbury as a mentor. Ray kicked off the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference for 35 years and through Sid Stebel I got to know Ray and learned much from him. Ray was not one to give out blurbs, but he blurbed my first book, a short story collection titled The Small Dark Room of the Soul saying “Bravo! More!”

My recent long overdue follow up to The Small Dark Room of the Soul, titled A Short Walk to the Other Side is dedicated to him. Ray always said, “Write for the love of it!” His opening speeches at the SBWC were epic!

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I am proud to say that I designed the cover of my book and I had a lot of fun doing it.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

As a wise writer once told me: Writing = Ass in chair.

Believe in yourself and what you have to say and do it because you love it. Writing workshops and conferences are awesome proving grounds and wonderfully supportive environments to thrive in.

Dreamland Book CoverKen Reeth & Matthew J. Pallamary
San Diego, CA

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Cover Artist: Matthew J. Pallamary

Publisher: Mystic Ink Publishing

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