Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Teuvo Tulio, Finland's mad genius

Here's a new article on Finnish film-maker Teuvo Tulio on the AV Club's site. Short quote: "In the pantheon of unclassifiable filmmakers, there is a special place for Teuvo Tulio, Finland’s king of shameless melodrama. A fetishist, an outsider artist of 1940s and ’50s film, he was outrageous, incapable of subtlety, rising to a higher plane of camp—beyond Ken Russell, beyond Nicolas Cage doing an accent, beyond Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls."

I've mentioned Tulio at least twice on this blog, here and here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Dan Simmons: Summer of Night

I was going to do this as a part of the Friday's Forgotten Book series, but then I realized it's not Friday, it's Tuesday, and I should be writing about an Overlooked Film! Well, here goes nevertheless.

I had bad luck selecting my readings for this past holiday season. I read three books that had nothing to do with my other work, but the first two proved to be pretty bland (won't name any names, though). Luckily the third one I picked to read proved to entertaining and exciting. I'd never read Dan Simmons earlier, but I might try another one by him, as Summer of Night was quite good.

Summer of Night is at times a nostalgic look at the small town life in Illinois in the early 1960's. The evil in the book is an old, empty school that seems to nourish a secret or a bunch of them. In the beginning we see a nosy kid getting sucked up in a tunnel in the boys' room, and everything starts to unravel as the main characters, a bunch of kids, start to search for the explanation. There are references to Aleister Crowley and other esoteric stuff, but Simmons has enough style to keep the lecturing away. The book is quite long, which I usually don't like, but this kept me turning pages.

Simmons also clearly has sympathy for the underdog: his heroes are a dyslexic boy who proves to be the cleverest of them all, a dreamy boy who fantasizes about being a writer, a misanthropic kid who hates his out-going mother (I thought the description of the mother was a bit unfair, but it remained believable throughout), and an ugly and ill-kept girl who likes to carry a shotgun around. There's warmth also in the depiction of the somewhat loserish parents. There are lots of exciting scenes, but the long climax was also very good.

Summer of Night came out in 1992 and was nominated for a British Fantasy Award the same year. There have been sequels, but I haven't read any of them. When I was still picking up books for the Arktinen Banaani's paperback line some years ago, I considered Simmons's hardboiled crime novels, Hardcase, Hard Freeze, and Hard as Nails, but I never got around to reading them. His science fiction novels have been popular in Finland, so it might've been worth the effort.

The Finnish cover depicted above is ugly as all hell, it's no wonder this didn't make much impact here. The Finnish title translates back as "The Horror of the Summer Night". I notice now that one of the sequels, namely Children of the Night, has also been translated in Finnish as well - will have to look for it.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Friday's Forgotten Book: John Dinan: Sports in the Pulp Magazines

As I wrote in my earlier post, I have a new book out. It's a collection of articles and essays on different kinds of genre and pulp fiction, and there's also one on sports fiction. This essay I wrote specifically for the book, since I ordered John Dinan's book on the subject years ago, called Sports in the Pulp Magazines, thinking I could compile a small fictionmag around some pulp short stories, but to this day I haven't been able to come up with anything. I read the book and wrote the article, and now it's in the book. Since the book is in Finnish, here are some words on it in English. I'll try to keep this short, but we'll see how that comes about.

The first pulp magazines were of the general variety, but in the 1920's they started to specialize in certain genres. Sports were also beginning to get more professional at the same time, and the first sports celebrities, such as Jack Johnson, emerged. So some pulp magazine publishers started to publish magazines publishing only sports material, not only fiction, but also columns, interviews, biographies, stuff that resembles more sports journalism than what we usually associate with pulp magazines. The first sports pulp magazine was Sport Story Magazine, published by Street & Smith, one of the biggest pulp publishers. The first issue came out in 1923. The second sports pulp was Fight Stories, that started appearing in 1928. It specialized in boxing stories.

In the 1930's and especially after the Berlin Olympics there started to be more sports pulps, as the American readers were enthusiastic about the American athletes winning the games. In 1936 three more magazines were born: Ace Sports, Thrilling Sports, and Star Sports Magazine, and the next year saw eleven more. Some more came later in 1938 and 1939. The Second World War caused difficulties for the pulp mags and their publishers, but after the war there were more new magazines, but not so many as before the war. John Dinan points out interestingly that some of the pulp publishers also had a hand in organizing the sports leagues, such as Gerald Smith of Street & Smith. He was one of the founders of the All-American Football Conference that was supposed to compete with NFL.

Some of the sports pulps survived till the fifties, and the last ones were published as late as 1957. Some of the later mags include Ten Story Sports and Super Sports.

John Dinan has counted the number of different sports in Street & Smith's Sport Story Magazine. The results are not very surprising: the most popular sports were football, fighting and baseball, with basketball probably the fourth. Tennis, golf, track & field and ice hockey were also popular, but none of them had their own titles like the more popular disciplines, though the basketball titles weren't successful.

Dinan lists some of the better known sports authors, such as Robert Sidney Bowen and William Campbell Gault.  He lists also some authors known for their work in other genres who also dabbled in sports fiction, such as Max Brand, Johnston McCulley and Stephen Marlowe. He also writes quite widely about Robert E. Howard's Dennis Dorgan stories. There were also sports writers who wrote non-fiction for the pulps, such as Jack Kofoed. Dinan seems to have read some of the stories of these writers, but on some others he relies on other sources.

Dinan's book on the subject has lots of fascinating information, but it's not organized very well. I don't know why Dinan has decided to list some of the best known sports novels that have nothing to do with the pulp magazines, and he also claims Paul Gallico was a pulp writer, though most of his stuff came out in the slicks, such as Saturday Evening Post. Dinan's earlier work on the history of the pulp magazines, The Pulp Western, was riddled with errors and an assumption that the pulp mags were aimed for young readers, but Sports in the Pulp Magazines seems more solid in that regard. I didn't check all the details, but you can check some of the facts yourself here at the sports pulp magazine section of the Galactic Central/Fictionmags Index site.

I said at the beginning of this post that I've been thinking about compiling and publishing a sports fiction mag myself. I once had a permission to use one of Stephen Marlowe's sports stories (there weren't many to begin with), but I couldn't get my hand on them. (And then Marlowe died.) Now I have a permission to use a Robert Silverberg story (he wrote a handful in the late fifties, mainly on baseball), but I don't have any! If someone sees this and can send me a xerox or a scan or even a digital photo of a Silverbob sport story, I'd be a happy man! Interim, I've decided to compile an anthology of old Finnish sports stories, as I've come across quite a many while doing some other research on Finnish fictionmags.

More Forgotten Books at Patti Abbott's blog here. Happy Holidays to each and everyone!

Monday, December 19, 2016

New books from my publishing house

As you may well remember, I founded a publishing house a couple months ago. A new batch of books just arrived, alas
somewhat too late for the Yuletide.

The three books are a mixed bunch, as befits me and my eclectic tastes. The first one was a reprint of the first tragedy ever wrote in Finnish language, namely Ruunulinna by J. F. Lagervall (1834). It's a free translation of Shakespeare's Macbeth, situated in Karelia (a region in Eastern Finland) and told in trochaic tetrameter, the same meter as Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. It really doesn't work as literature and it's a curio at best, but I noticed it's never been reprinted as a book, so I thought I'd give it a shot. The play is accompanied by a 100-year old treatise on Lagervall, the author.

I also published a vintage Christmas book my wife Elina Teerijoki wrote - she couldn't find a publisher for the book, which baffled the both of us, and I said "okay, I'll publish it". It's been a small hit and could've been bigger if it had been published by a bigger publisher. The book is filled with beautiful photos our mutual friend took, and there are also lots of old ads and other vintage stuff. Elina maintains her vintage blog here.

My own book is called Kovaa kyytiä ja kaunokaisia ("Rough Ride and Beauties"), which is the original Finnish title of the Buster Keaton film, Sherlock Jr. It's a collection of my writings on pulp and other genre literature, compiled from prefaces, essays and articles on crime, western, horror, fantasy and erotic writing, with some stuff on science fiction (a genre I've never written much about), sports fiction, aviation pulps, and movie and comic/graphic novel novelizations. There's also a section on Edgar Rice Burroughs, and also some profiles of authors, i.e. Harry Whittington, Carroll John Daly and others.

I'm sure my book would be of interest to many Pulpetti followers, but it's only in Finnish. I'm open to negotiations, though...

Huge thanks to J.T. Lindroos who did the covers for my book and Ruunulinna! He also helped me out with other technical problems.

Helmivyö's books are solely print-on-demand (though we took a small print run of my wife's Christmas book to sell from hand to hand), and it seems the cheapest place to get them is via the Booky.fi bookstore.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Jim Hosking: The Greasy Strangler

The Greasy Strangler, the first feature film by Jim Hosking, is something else entirely: it's a horror-comedy about a serial killer, but the serial killer is an old man living with his nerdy son, not some mastermind criminal. The old man also has a huge cock and he dresses up in grease. In one scene he dives into a barrel full of axle grease or some such goo, and in his outfit he looks absoteluly disgusting. The nerdy son starts to suspect something fishy is going on, but the story has some surprising twists, some of them being really surprising. The film is accompanied by a really irritating synthesizer soundtrack, which adds to the overall feeling.

Disgust is the film's main feeling, or repulsion. The film is yucky all the way. Still it's very funny throughout. There are lots of details I just can't explain in writing, as you wouldn't believe them. I don't know how easily this independent film can be seen, but I recommend you try. This is a film you really can call unpredictable.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Starcrash

You've seen Plan 9 from Outer Space? You thought it was the worst movie of all time? You ain't seen half of it, there are films that are infinitely worse than Ed Wood's turkey.

The worst part of Plan 9 is that is so slow and boring, mainly just dead people staring at something and walking all too slowly. Where's the action, where's the goofiness? Both are found in large quantities in the Italian space opera Starcrash (1978), directed with hysterical gusto by Luigi Cozzi, using the American-sounding pseudonym Lewis Coates. You want action? Here's action for you. Lots of babes in scantily-clad suits? Check. Uninterested extras parading around? Check. Badly-made spaceships? Check. Red, orange, blue and green planets filling the space? Check. Flat-out weird psychedelic monsters? Check. Stupid one liners? Check. Robot talking with Southern accent? Check. Incomprehensible space battle scenes? Check. Totally goofy last-minute savings by far-out machinery? Check. David Hasselhoff in an early role? Check. Christopher Plummer looking dazed out and giving bad monologues eyes half-closed? Check. Joe Spinell raving about being the emperor of the universe? Check.

This film has got it all. It's entertaining all the way, everything goes ahead with full speed, and the dialogue just keeps giving you shiny examples of humane wit. Most highly recommended.

I don't know if anyone's collecting these posts nowadays, but I thought I'd use the moniker nevertheless. Do check out Todd Mason's blog, he used to collect them earlier.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Donald Trump

I haven't been blogging and I realized why that was. Even though Pulpetti has for years mainly focused on crime fiction in its many forms, I realized I can't go on pretending nothing happened.

You know, I've been devastated. I know now that there were many flaws with Hillary Clinton's campaign, and I hoped Bernie Sanders would've been the Democrat candidate. I don't know whether he'd been able to defeat Trump, but it still would've been the same, right? And maybe Sanders could've set something else entirely in motion. (There's still that Clinton got more votes than Trump. She was more popular. Maybe the Americans should do something about how the votes are counted.)

But Trump? I can't begin to understand what went on here. You would've thought his story would've ended during many points of his career, like when he made condescending remarks about a journalist with a handicap. C'mon, you let this guy run your country?! Okay, I've read lots and lots of reports and articles about how bad things are for the American middleman, but this is still no excuse to vote someone who runs on racism, hatred and bigotry. (Not to mention the notion that also the rich voted for Trump. They are the real ones who benefit from Trump and his politics.) Lots of people have been trying to be moderate and saying that maybe Trump will not go with what he said during his campaign, but however his campaign and his victory made hate speech and vitriolic racism more acceptable.

And it made it more acceptable not only in the US, but all over the world. There's been a lot of racist backlash in Europe and Russia, and I'm beginning to fear we are not seeing the end of it. Talks about building a wall on the Mexican border (which sounded only absurd at first) don't much differ from talks about building camps for special people.

"It couldn't happen here." That was the title of Sinclair Lewis's novel of the rise of the American fascist. That's what they said about Hitler as well.

PS. I don't even want to think what this might mean for Putin's Russia and the rest of Eastern Europe and Middle-Asia.