The sentence Edmond Hamilton ultimately could not resist

sk1Those of you who followed the gripping tale of my comical endeavours  to pick up a cheap copy of the omnibus edition of Edmond Hamilton’s Star Kings novels will be delighted to hear that it was really not worth the effort.

Or, at least, it would not have been were it not for a single sentence on page 89 of Return to the Stars (1968).

In The Star Kings (1949), the protagonist, John, bored with life in contemporary New York is contacted telepathically from the future by ‘Zarth Arn, prince of the Mid-Galactic Empire’. Zarth wants to swap consciousnesses with John so he can study the Earth from 200,000 years in his past. Drowning in ennui, John agrees, and on waking in Zarth’s body finds himself propelled into the centre not only of a complex love triangle – with Zarth’s morganatic[1] wife, Murn, and Princess Lianna, who he must marry to strengthen an interstellar alliance – but also of a Galactic civil war fomented by the treacherous Shorr Kan.[2] Breakneck action – palace intrigues, space battles, perilous worlds – ensues in a peristaltic narrative made up of successive cliffhangers. But John wins the day, and the princess, before having to return to his own body and time.

In Return to the Stars, Zarth  has found a way to transport bodies through time and invites John to join him in the future. John, desperate to return to Lianna, agrees, though without really thinking it through: she will look exactly the same to him, but she will not recognise him at all. Romantic complications ensue, and another peristaltic story, as aliens from beyond the galaxy foment another civil war. John finds himself teaming up with his former and it-turns-out-not-at-all-dead nemesis Shorr Kan to save the galaxy once more. There are palace intrigues, space battles, perilous worlds, and even though the novel was written in the 1960s it once again feels like a comic strip from the 1930s. A point Hamilton, unable to keep a straight face any longer, eventually acknowledges.

You see, John’s surname is Gordon. And on page 89 of Return to the Stars, Hamilton writes:

In a flash, Gordon knew.

sk2(Now I suppose I should read Carol Rivers’ gripping East End Saga, Lizzie of Langley Street for whatever small crumb of pleasure can derived from it before it goes to the charity shop.)

 

Notes
[1] Hamilton seems especially proud to have discovered this word, using it at every opportunity.
[2] Who is in no way a tiger.

 

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Bah! Humbug! It’s Mark’s long-awaited, newly-minted Xmas joke

and so anyway, me and Jesus were walking around the mall the other day, bemoaning, as you do, all the tinsel and streamers and baubles and flying reindeer displays and proliferating grottoes, our ears assailed by a cacophony of festive banalities by Elvis and Slade and Jona Lewie and Shakin’ Stevens and David Bowie/Bing Crosby and Band Aid and Wham and Chris Rea and the Pogues/Kirsty MacColl and the Wombles and Wizzard and Perry Como and Andy Williams and Mud and Boney M and Cliff Richard and the Pipes & Drums & Military Band of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and Mr Hankey booming out of different stores, and I turned to Jesus and asked him, ‘Of all the Xmas singles, which is your favourite?’

And, lo, Jesus, despairing, turned to me, and said: ‘Meretricious. Every one.’

tDs1rYcLeE-2

(‘Oh, so Shakie it is.’)

 

Thor: Ragnarok (Taika Waititi 2017)

obvgswamufrzand so anyway it turns out the best thing about Thor: Ragnarok (2017) was not the automatic ticket machines being out of action so we had to queue up at the box office to collect tickets we’d already paid for, nor was it the cinema’s decision to start a screening of Justice League (Snyder 2017) at roughly the same time so we had to queue among even bigger idiots doomed to even greater disappointment than me, nor was it the curiously Oirish-sounding music on the soundtrack every time the story took us to Norway, nor was it Tom Hiddleston’s always amusing inability to actually deliver lines of dialogue, which this time faced some tough competition from an oddly Americanised Frumious Bandersnatch, nor was it Karl Urban’s rather baffling but spot-on London cabbie accent, though it probably helped make Idris Elba feel at home during the two or three days he was on set, nor was it Marvel/Disney’s cunning ploy of bringing in the always vastly overrated mildly funny Taika Waititi to imbue an otherwise plodding-but-not-quite-as-plodding-as-usual late franchise entry with some mild and vastly overrated funniness, as well as to pay homage to Mike Hodges’ Flash Gordon (1980) while generating the shifts in tone necessary to clumsily staple the main franchise universe to the version in Guardians of the Galaxy movies, nor was it the disappointing absence of the Rock (Thor: RagnaROCK!!!!) whose trailered Jumanji  just looks better and better in comparison, while still looking terrible, you understand, no, the best thing about Thor: Ragnarok is perhaps almost the most ignominious, in that it fulfilled a long-held shamefully festive and object-cathecting  fantasy, that is, to see Cate Blanchett play Servalan in panto….

The things you learn while researching something entirely unrelated #1

anna-karenina-ekaterina-pozdniakovaand so anyway it turns out that the Anna Karenina Principle, which never having read Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies I had not even heard of until today, does not – as it should – mean:

sooner or later you are bound to throw yourself under a train

I cannot believe the contortions Jared Diamond puts the opening of Tolstoy’s novel

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way

through to make it means what he wants it to mean. But kudos, I guess, for coming up with a forced literary allusion rather than naming it after himself, because as Principles go, it is far from being a Diamond one.

See also: the Principle of Fragility of Good Things (which is not something I just made up).

 

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos 2017)

KSD_1Sheet_Alt_Curzon_HRand so anyway it turns out that the best thing about The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), Yorgos Lanthimos’s tepidly comic but ultimately toothless mash-up of Ballard, Kubrick and Lynch, is not the relentlessly crawling pace that actually gives you time to watch not paint dry but Colin Farrell’s beard grow (and turn increasingly grey), nor is it Alicia Silverstone’s wise decision to quit the movie after a single scene because it required her to suck Colin Farrell’s fingers, nor is it the fact that I have finally managed to stay awake all the way through a film by Yorgos “no idea how to wrap up this story” Lanthimos, though this time ironically it could well have been the praying for sleep to come that kept me from napping, nor is it the fact that no deer, sacred or otherwise, were killed during the making of this film, no, the best thing about The Killing of a Sacred Deer is the immensely tall cameraman employed to do the long tracking-in and tracking-out shots, whose head you constantly fear is going to come a cropper on light fittings and door ways, thus adding a much-needed sense of danger and suspense as this never-seen lanky technician is the nearest thing to a character you could give a flying fuck about…

Legend (Brian Helgeland 2015)

COaZeleUkAAxbYOand so anyway it turns out that the best thing about Legend (2015), the most recent attempt to glamourise and whitewash at least one of the Kray twins, is not Brian Helgeland’s decision to hire Emily Browning, an actress every bit as inept at voice work as Daniel Craig (see Renaissance (Volckman 2006)), to do the voiceover narration, nor Brian Helgeland’s decision to let someone as inept at writing voiceover as Brian Helgeland write the voiceover script, nor is it Brian Helgeland’s decision to cast David Thewliss, Christopher Eccleston and Tara Fitzgerald but not bother to write roles for them to play, nor is it Brian Helgeland’s stunt casting of the lovely Tom Hardy as both of the Krays, thus forcing him to stop doing all the accents at the same time and to instead create two distinct characters – the loyal, beautiful, misunderstood but handy in a fight and not at all auditioning for the role of James Bond Reggie Kray, and the psychotic gurning-like-a-Gumby jealous queer in NHS glasses Ronnie Kray – nor is it the inclusion of a unicorn just in case Sir Diddley Squat needs some outtake footage for yet another reissue of Blade Runner, no, the best thing about Legend always was and remains the poster’s chutzpah in pretending The Guardian‘s overly generous two-star review was – look between their ears – yet another of the utterly mystifying four-star reviews…