The Gentlemen Ghouls

I was excited to learn that my friend Bram Meehan is involved in a graphic novel project that combines monsters of rock and monsters from Hell. The graphic novel is The Gentlemen Ghouls: The Apocalypse Trilogy, which is an acclaimed high-camp horror comics series in the lurid Hammer tradition. It has just launched a 30-day Kickstarter campaign for a deluxe print and PDF edition. The comic from writer Martin Hayes and artist Alfie Gallagher was originally serialized online in David Lloyd’s Aces Weekly. The 132-page softcover collects all three volumes plus a new short story and afterword. My friend Bram serves as the graphic novel’s letterer.

Set in 1972, the graphic novel depicts London as a swirling cesspit of vice and corruption, one giant madhouse full to bursting—with David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath soundtracking the greatest battle between good and evil ever beheld by mortal man. When sinister gears turn and apocalyptic machinations play out, two aging consulting occultists, a couple of ham-fisted coppers, and a rebellious reporter must confront vampires, demons, the occasional rock star, and the Devil himself to keep all bloody Hell from coming to Earth. Three chapters each take their cue from a classic rock song, combining heavy metal with a seedy seam of seventies cop shows and occult mischief. The comic makes me think of what would have happened if Kolchak: the Night Stalker had been filmed by Hammer studios.

According to writer Martin Hayes, “I’ve always wanted to do something that would hit the big Hammer touchstones of monsters, vampires, and devil worship, and I couldn’t resist throwing in the best parts of the gritty British cop shows that we used to pick up with our extra-high aerials here on the east coast of Ireland.” Artist Alfie Gallagher adds, “we’re not going for po-faced serious horror, it’s campy glammy trashy hi-jinx with figures and symbols from horror crashing through the grubby setting of London 1972— and it’s been a hell of a lot of fun.”

Go to http://gentlemenghouls.com/ to get in on the campaign. The book is completed and ready for print and electronic distribution at the conclusion of the Kickstarter. Additional rewards include a digital publication with 50 pages of behind-the-scenes art process, original art, and commissioned sketches. Stretch goals include a sheet of six stickers and two beer mats inspired by the world of The Gentlemen Ghouls. I have already contributed to the campaign and if you enjoy monsters and rock, you’ll want to take a look.

Bram Meehan who lettered the Gentlemen Ghouls also lettered my debut comic, Guinevere and the Stranger. Lettering is an underappreciated art in comics. It’s the letterer’s job to make sure the word balloons flow naturally so you read the dialogue in the right order. You need to see the words when they’re critical, but they can’t hide the wonderful art. Bram not only lettered my comic, but he helped me develop the script, effectively serving as my editor. You can pick up a copy of my comic at: https://hadrosaur.com/GuinevereStranger.php.

Also, a Kickstarter project has just gone live to fund two steampunk anthologies and one dieselpunk anthology. I have stories in all three books! I’ll discuss this project in more detail on Saturday, but if you want to take a look and be an early backer, it’s at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/e-specbooks/full-steam-ahead

Snow, Glass, Apples

The fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” has fascinated me ever since I translated the story for a German literature class back in my university days. Since that time, I published a translation of the story in an issue of Tales of the Talisman Magazine. I then wrote a piece of flash fiction that imagined a vampiric version of Snow White called “The Tale of Blood Red” which appeared in the anthology Blood Sampler. Most recently, I gave Snow White a steampunk treatment and placed the story with the forthcoming anthology Grimm Machinations.

On a recent trip to a bookstore, I found the 2019 graphic novel Snow, Glass, Apples written by Neil Gaiman with art by Colleen Doran. Reading the back and then browsing the interior, I soon discovered this was also a retelling of Snow White. Not only that, it looked like Snow White was portrayed as a vampire. Of course, I picked up the book right away. In this case, the fairy tale is told from the point of view of Snow White’s stepmother, the queen. We learn that the former king went to the woods and fell in love with a beautiful young woman after his wife had died. The king marries the young woman and brings her home. There, she discovers his vampire daughter, who mostly keeps to herself. Over time, the king fades and dies, which is how the young woman becomes queen. She sees Snow White for the danger she is, orders her heart cut out and her body taken to the woods. The years pass, but fewer and fewer people cross the woods to visit the spring fair. Looking in her scrying mirror, the queen realizes that Snow White is still alive. When people enter the woods, she attacks and kills them. The queen sets a plan in motion to save her land and the fair from Snow White. She’ll create blood-laced poison apples for her stepdaughter.

You might wonder how Neil Gaiman and I would independently come up with the idea of a vampire Snow White. I would argue many of the ingredients are right there in the fairy tale. In the original, Snow White’s mother pricks her fingers and sees the blood drop onto a snow-covered, ebony window frame. She wishes for a child with skin white as snow, lips red as blood, and hair black as ebony. Also, in the original story, Snow White’s stepmother succeeds in killing Snow White three times, only to have Snow White return from the dead each time. When Snow White dies the third time, the dwarfs place her in a glass coffin and the prince at the end wakes her, not with a kiss, but having his bumbling entourage drop the coffin, dislodging the poisoned apple piece. And, there’s also the bit near the opening where the wicked queen wants to destroy Snow White’s heart. It’s not a big leap to go from the story as commonly read to the idea of Snow White being a magical, undead creature.

It turns out Snow, Glass, Apples is actually based on a 1994 short story by Gaiman. The story along with Colleen Doran’s art has a distinctly erotic feel. This may feel like a departure from a classic fairy tale, but again, it has roots in the original story. I’m fortunate enough to have a German copy of Grimms’ tales which include notes by the Grimm brothers. They mention that some versions of the story do relay not just the wish of Snow White’s mother, but tell the story of Snow White’s conception during a sleigh ride.

I was glad to discover Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran’s Snow, Glass, Apples. The story is an interesting twist on the original and Doran’s art is lush and gorgeous, adding to Gaiman’s story. The graphic novel was published by Dark Horse Books and you should be able to find copies online or at your local bookstore. The original story appears in Gaiman’s collection Smoke and Mirrors.

My translation of “Snow White” appeared in Tales of the Talisman, volume 2, issue 2, which is sadly out of print. My vampire story, “The Tale of Blood Red” is available in Blood Sampler, which you can pick up here: https://www.hiraethsffh.com/product-page/blood-sampler-by-david-lee-summers-lee-clark-zumpe

My steampunk story “The Porcelain Princess” will appear in Grimm Machinations from eSpec Books. Although that version of Snow White isn’t a vampire, I still explore some of the darker, spookier aspects of the character. The Kickstarter for the book should be launching soon. I’ll be sure to keep people posted.

Arthur: King of Britain

Earlier this year, I discovered Caliber Publishing’s updates of L. Frank Baum’s Oz and H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. A couple of weeks ago, I discovered Caliber Publishing had also published a comic book adaptation of the King Arthur story in the early 1990s. Unlike Oz and War of the Worlds, which were effectively continuations of their respective tales, Caliber’s Arthur: King of Britain is a straightforward adaptation of the Arthur story as it appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain. This adaptation is written and features black and white artwork by Michael Fraley, who started his career as a newspaper sketch artist, but soon moved into graphic design and honed his writing skills to the point of earning a regular newspaper tech column.

Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain is an important work. Written circa 1136 AD, Geoffrey’s work endeavors to combine aspects of Arthurian folklore and the fragmentary bits of history that suggest Arthur was a real figure into a single narrative of Arthur’s life. Later, more famous versions of the King Arthur story, such as Sir Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur are arguably built on Geoffrey’s framework. Geoffrey’s version tells the story of how Merlin helped Arthur’s father Uther Pendragon take the form of Gorlois of Cornwall, to seduce Gorlois’ wife, Igerne. From that union, Arthur is born. He would go on to be trained as a knight and assume the throne upon the death of his father.

According to Geoffrey, Arthur goes on to unite the British people to confront the Saxon invaders who have begun to take over much of Britain. Once the Saxons are defeated, Arthur marries Guinevere and then begins a series of military campaigns in the lands surrounding Britain. When Roman envoys come to Arthur to demand tribute, Arthur decides to use the forces he’s assembled from the British Isles and Western Europe to conquer Rome itself. He leaves Britain in the care of his nephew, Modred. While on the Roman campaign, Arthur learns that Modred has married Guinevere and claimed the throne of Britain for himself, setting up the final tragic battle at Camlan.

Fraley’s comic adaptation includes notes about the story, which I found interesting. He points out that Geoffrey would have been steeped in Biblical tradition and he tells a story that eschews the more magical aspects of Celtic lore in favor of a story that reads like it could have been part of the Bible. The giants in the History of the Kings of Britain resemble Goliath more than Ysbaddaden Chief Giant of the Celtic Arthurian tale Culhwch and Olwen. Fraley also suggests that Arthur’s conquest of Rome may have been inspired by Geoffrey’s desire to give Arthur a story as epic as Charlemagne’s. Fraley talks about this European quest moving into the background of later stories. I’ve long suspected that later writers, who didn’t see a Roman conquest by Britain in any other history and who wanted to tell a moral tale, transformed much of that quest into the quest for the Holy Grail.

I thought Fraley’s book Arthur: King of Britain was a good adaptation of Geoffrey of Monmouth. The black and white art supported the story well and his notes gave me new insight into the story. If you’re a fan of comics and Arthurian legend, you can find the five-issue series collected as a graphic novel in both digital and print formats at Amazon.

When I wrote my novel, Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires, I planned to set part of the story in Arthurian times right from the beginning. I decided to use Geoffrey’s version of the story as my template for my story’s background. You can learn more about Dragon’s Fall at: http://davidleesummers.com/dragons_fall.html

Geoffrey’s version of the Arthur story has also influenced my science fiction. His version of Arthur’s final battle with Modred, inspired the final confrontation between Manuel Raton and Mary Hill in my novel The Pirates of Sufiro. There’s a reason the strategic pass where the novel’s climactic scene happens is called Camlan. You can learn more about The Pirates of Sufiro at: http://davidleesummers.com/pirates_of_sufiro.html

Finally, if you’re interested in those early Welsh Arthurian folktales, I recorded my own retelling of Culhwch and Olwen. You can learn more here: http://davidleesummers.com/cando.html

MileHiCon 54

I will be attending MileHiCon 54 in Denver, Colorado, which will be held from Friday, October 21 through Sunday October 23, 2022 at the Denver Marriott Tech Center. You can get more information about the event at https://milehicon.org.

This year’s toastmaster is Kevin J. Anderson, who has published more than 175 books, 58 of which have been national or international bestsellers. He has written numerous novels in the Star Wars, X-Files, and Dune universes, as well as unique steampunk fantasy trilogy beginning with Clockwork Angels, written with legendary rock drummer Neil Peart. Anderson is also the owner of WordFire Press, publisher of the collection Maximum Velocity: Best of the Full-Throttle Space Tales that I co-edited with Carol Hightshoe, Dayton Ward, Jennifer Brozek, and Bryan Thomas Schmidt.

The author guests of honor are Travis Heermann and Ken Liu. Author, filmmaker, screenwriter, poker player, poet, biker, Travis Heermann is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, an Active member of SFWA and the HWA, and the author of the Shinjuku Shadows series, Ronin Trilogy, The Hammer Falls, and other novels. Ken Liu is an American author of speculative fiction. A winner of the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy awards, he wrote the Dandelion Dynasty, a silkpunk epic fantasy series (starting with The Grace of Kings), as well as short story collections The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories and The Hidden Girl and Other Stories. He also authored the Star Wars novel The Legends of Luke Skywalker.

I will be on several panels throughout the weekend. My schedule is below. When I’m not on panels, you can find me in the dealer’s room. I’ll be sharing a booth space with author Adam Gaffen.


Friday, October 21

  • 4:00pm, Evergreen F: To See New Earths I’ll introduce Kitt Peak’s planet-hunting detector, NEID, and discuss its role supporting NASA’s TESS mission, hunting for Earth-like planets outside the solar system.

Saturday, October 22

  • 11:00 am, Conifer 2: Cryptozoology in Art and Fiction Cryptids remain ever popular. Our panelists will discuss what they are, and how they show up in art and fiction of all forms (books, movies, television, comics, etc). On the panel with me are Daniel Dvorkin, Jon Black, Lou J. Berger, and Matt Bille
  • 2:00 pm, Evergreen F: The Year in Science Panelists cover the science news that most caught their attention over the past year. Courney Willis will serve as moderator. Also on the panel are Carolyn Collins Petersen, Daniel Dvorkin, and Ka Chun Yu
  • 4:00 pm, Conifer 2: SF&F Poetry SF&F is not just prose. Our panelists will discuss all things poetic in the SF&F world. Stace Johnson will moderate. On the panel with me are Mary Turzillo, and Reese Hogan
  • 5:00 pm, Conifer 3: Writing Effectively For Comics (So You’re Not Murdered by your Artist or Letterer) Writing for comics is very different than writing for prose. Learn from our panelists how not to make things harder for yourself, your letterer, your artist, or your editor. Jason Henderson will be moderating. Also on the panel are Karen Bjorn, Travis Heermann, and Sumiko Saulson

Sunday, October 23

  • 2:00 pm, Evergreen F: Mapping the Universe Kitt Peak’s DESI instrument is engaged in a five-year mission to make the largest 3D map in the universe. How does it work? What are some things we’ve learned along the way? And what do we ultimately hope to learn?

Batman’s Beginnings

The first superhero I remember is Batman as portrayed by Adam West in the 1960s. I loved that show and would watch it obsessively. I remember begging my parents for a toy Batmobile. I even built a toy Batcave out of a Styrofoam box insert. The show was my gateway into the world of comic books. Anytime I had enough spare change, I would buy an issue of Batman or Justice League from the corner drug store and read it over and over until it fell apart. In my high school years, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight would be one of the first series I would collect seriously. I still have my original copies. As with any canon that has been around for a long time, I love going back to the beginning to see how the story was originally conceived.

DC Comics has been pretty good about collecting omnibuses of its early material and I recently picked up Batman: The Golden Age Volume 1 in its digital format. Over the years, I’ve owned replica editions of Batman’s first appearance in Detective Comics #27. I also have the Joker and Catwoman stories from Batman #1 collected in anthologies. That noted, this is the first opportunity I’ve had to read Batman’s first 19 appearances in Detective Comics along with the first three complete issues of Batman 1 through 3. The omnibus also includes Batman’s appearance in New York World’s Fair Comics.

Batman first appeared in May 1939 as The Bat-Man in issue 27 of Detective Comics. Right away the first panel introduces to wealthy socialite Bruce Wayne and his friend Police Commissioner Gordon discussing the Bat-Man. Gordon soon gets a call and he and Wayne rush to a murder scene. The Bat-Man makes his first appearance on page 3, cutting a figure that’s still recognizable to readers today. The pointy ears on his cowl are a little longer and stick out a bit more to the side than they ultimately would. His eyes are more slit-like and his cape seems a bit more wing-like. By the end of the issue we would learn that Bruce Wayne is the man in the bat mask. The Bat-Man’s hyphen would mostly disappear by Detective Comics #30.

The first of Batman’s famous rogue’s gallery, Dr. Hugo Strange, was introduced in Detective Comics #36. Batman’s sidekick Robin would make his first appearance in Detective Comics #38. In that issue, we’re given two pages of origin story followed by Robin fully entrenched as Batman’s sidekick. This issue was followed by Batman #1 in April 1940, which introduced us to both the Joker and Catwoman. To me, no one has yet matched Jerry Robinson’s original Joker design for sheer creepiness. I was also fascinated to see that the sexual tension between Batman and Catwoman started almost right at the very beginning.

What’s perhaps most interesting in these earliest issues is what’s missing. There’s no Batmobile. Batman just drives around in an ordinary sedan. He does have a very cool bat-shaped plane, though. There’s no Alfred the Butler and no Batcave. While Batman is very grim in the earliest issues, he starts smiling more, like he’s taking delight in bringing criminals to justice.

I’ve recently been researching the early part of the 1930s for a story I’m writing. There was a definite fascination with gangsters who were romanticized into figures who stood up to authority and were sometimes seen as Robin Hood-like figures who took money from the rich. It’s interesting to see how Batman emerged at the end of that era as the Great Depression came to an end and the United States watched World War II unfold. Instead of a Robin Hood, Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson gave us a rich guy who did what he thought was right, even if he skirted the law. Batman and Catwoman not only flirt with each other but they almost flirt with the idea of becoming a Bonnie and Clyde, but ultimately, Batman does what’s right and remains on the side of justice.

Over the years, the art of comic books has become more polished as has the writing. Still, it’s fun to go back to the beginning and see how these characters started. Much of what makes them popular now was right there at the beginning, but many things we take for granted took years to develop. I’m grateful Adam West and Burt Ward invited me into this expansive world many years ago and while I follow other comic series more closely now, I still like to check in and see what Batman and Robin are up to from time to time.

The House of Mystery

Last month, between Las Cruces Comic Con and Bubonicon, my wife and I took our daughter back to college. A big part of the back-to-college ritual is the trip to the nearby big-box store to stock up on supplies for the school year. While doing that, I’ll inevitably pop into the video section to see if there’s a release I’ve missed. This year, I found Constantine: The House of Mystery. It featured Matt Ryan reprising his role of John Constantine, a character from DC and Vertigo comics. It also featured one of my other favorite DC characters, the magician Zatanna. I decided it would be worth picking up.

Constantine: The House of Mystery

Upon closer inspection, I noticed the headline over the title, “DC Showcase Animated Shorts.” Sure enough, the disk proved to be an anthology of sorts, featuring a Constantine story, a Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth story, a Losers story, and a Blue Beetle story. My only complaint about this is that aside from the Constantine story, all the other stories had been released before. Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth had been released as a special feature on the Justice Society: World War II Blu-Ray I purchased a year ago. After a little digging, I found out the other two shorts included with House of Mystery had been previously released as well, but I hadn’t seen them. Still, I could imagine a fan of DC animation being disappointed that this disk contained mostly previously released material.

I like anthology movies and TV series. They provide an opportunity to sample many kinds of stories and tell tales that aren’t really suited to a full-length movie or TV series. I found many early favorite authors by watching the credits of The Twilight Zone and seeing whose stories inspired the episodes. So, given the fact that three of the four shorts on this disk were new to me, it was a nice treat. The Constantine story, House of Mystery, is set after Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. At the end of that movie, the heroes won, but Earth was left a wasteland. Sorcerer John Constantine sends the Flash on a mission to reset time so the world can be made right again. However, the godlike superhero Spectre pulls Constantine out of time and drops him into the House of Mystery. In the comics, the House of Mystery title was itself an anthology comic where people would go into the House and literally anything could and did happen. In this case, Constantine finds himself tormented by demons who take the forms of his closest friends. Constantine’s only hope is to find a way to break out of the house and break the cycle of torture and torment. His solution is well grounded in the comics. My only issue with the short is that they slightly redesigned Constantine from Apokolips War to House of Mystery and they use both versions, so it can be a little jarring when they swap back and forth.

Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth provided a good introduction to the character, which was good, since I’d never read the comic before. It opens on a post-apocalyptic Earth as our title character is trying to free his friend Prince Tuftan of the Tiger Kingdom from captivity. As they flee Tuftan’s original captives, they find themselves captured by the Gorilla Kingdom and forced to go on a quest to show which of them can earn the title of the Mighty One, a revered figure from the Gorillas’ past. The story has a nice twist ending, when the Mighty One’s identity is revealed.

Losers was a comic set during World War II. The Losers themselves are a unit of military outcasts sent on dangerous missions. In this story, they find themselves marooned on an island populated by dinosaurs. However, it turns out the dinosaurs aren’t the island’s biggest secret. Perhaps not surprisingly, the story had a lot in common with Jurassic Park. Still, there were some nice twists and turns and it made me interested in learning more about the original comic.

Aside from John Constantine, Blue Beetle was the character I knew best from his time as a member of the Justice League International, which ran in the 1980s. Blue Beetle himself is the millionaire Ted Kord who fights crime in a beetle suit and flies around in a beetle-shaped craft. In the DC universe, he’s effectively a more lighthearted version of Batman. To that end, the animated short was made to look and feel like animated cartoons of the 1960s and 70s. Blue Beetle tries to stop a diamond theft and learns that the villains plan to use the diamond in an emotion-controlling machine. It’s all a lot of fun and probably my favorite of the shorts on the disk.

All in all, I enjoyed the four shorts and would love to see more anthologies of short films from DC, but would prefer them to be all new material. If you’ve already seen the three shorts that have appeared on other disks, you may prefer to stream the Constantine short separately through your favorite service rather than buy the disk.

American Vampire

In my last post, I discussed vampires from space. Today, we’ll take a look at thoroughly Earth-bound vampires, though we will travel back in time to 1920s Hollywood and even a little further back to the Old West. The comic book series American Vampire first captured my attention because one of its stories was written by Stephen King. Even though King’s works had been adapted for comics, American Vampire was the first time King actually scripted a comic. What’s more, I had enjoyed the way King played with the tropes of the American west in his novel, The Gunslinger, so I hoped he’d capture some of that magic again in a novel actually set in the American west.

American Vampire

The first volume of American Vampire actually tells two stories. The lead story, written by Scott Snyder, introduces us to Pearl Jones, an aspiring actress in 1920s Hollywood. As the story opens, she’s pretty much just picked up small parts in films, but it looks like her luck may change when she’s invited to a party hosted by some of the players in the movie industry. It turns out these producers and directors are vampires and she’s there as part of the buffet. Somehow she survives the initial assault and a mysterious stranger, who also proves to be a vampire, helps her become a vampire. The mysterious stranger is Skinner Sweet, a vampire who appears to have a grudge against the old European vampires who attacked Pearl.

The other story running through the issues is Skinner Sweet’s origin story penned by Stephen King. We meet Sweet as a human outlaw on a train. A Pinkerton agent is taking him to face justice. Sweet expects to be freed by his gang, but one of the men who paid the Pinkertons is a European vampire who wants Sweet dead so he can fulfill his plans. The vampire attacks Sweet and appears to kill him. Unknown to anyone, Sweet managed to drink some of the vampire’s blood. Sweet is buried, but eventually rises again years later. This segment is told through the eyes of a successful author who wrote a book based on Sweet’s story. For the most part, it worked. King did lean heavily on the tropes of the American west, plus tropes within his own writing, but he delivered a solid vampire origin story.

The two stories weave a tale of vampires evolving in the new world. American vampires have new powers and fewer weaknesses than their European counterparts. As a metaphor for Americans embracing the new and moving forward, sometimes in dangerous ways, I found this interesting. Still, as a scientist who likes to ask why things happen, I wanted to better understand why American vampires are fundamentally different from European vampires. What’s the mechanism that caused vampires to evolve in this world? Admittedly, I’ve only read volume one, which contains the first five issues of the comic, so it’s possible this is explored more later.

Both stories were nicely told, but I think the real star of the comic was Rafael Albuquerque’s art. Having the same artist on both stories really helped to unify them. Also Albuquerque’s art felt very dynamic, which fit the stories well. I loved his use of color to both differentiate the stories and set the moods of the stories.

Another thing I appreciated in the graphic novel editions was the inclusion of sample script and early art pages. As someone who has long been fascinated by the process of creating comics, I liked this behind-the-scenes look.

You can learn more about my vampire comic, Guinevere and the Stranger by visiting http://davidleesummers.com/Tales-of-the-Scarlet-Order.html

Black Dossier

Back in June, when I started the third arc of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I also picked up a copy of their graphic novel Black Dossier. This chapter in the adventures of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is set in 1958, but it was released before Century: 1910, which I’d read and discussed in June. This graphic novel starts out as a straightforward adventure story. Mina Murray and her companion Allan Quartermain Jr. have set out to steal The Black Dossier, which contains the entire history of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen from its beginning. Because it’s set so much closer to the present than other League stories, the identities of famous literary figures who appear in the graphic novel are hinted at rather than revealed outright to avoid charges of copyright infringement. So, for example, Mina enlists the help of a master spy named Jimmy, who is an ancestor of Campion Bond and works for someone called “M.” So it’s not too hard to figure out who’s who.

Once Mina and Allan obtain the black dossier, they begin to read. The first section is a description of documents written in the time of the Big Brother government of post-World War II England. I suspect most people know that Orwell’s novel 1984 was originally titled 1948, but the publisher insisted on the change so it would be seen as science fiction rather than satire. From there, we move on to a whole series of documents which parody works ranging from depression-era pornography to Shakespeare to Jack Kerouac.

I’ll admit, when I first started reading this book, I was a bit put off by the dense pages of prose that followed the more traditional graphic novel format. I looked up the history of this particular project and learned that Black Dossier had not originally been intended to be a graphic novel as such, but a sourcebook for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Once I realized that, I settled in for a more time-consuming read and plowed through the prose. And really, the problem was not that the prose itself was difficult, but because it was presented in the pages of a graphic novel-sized volume with limited page count, some of the sections were presented in tiny type that often spanned the width of the page, making it physically difficult to read – at least for a dude in his 50s trying to find the right distance to hold the book from his progressive lenses.

Once I soldiered through that slight difficulty, I was rewarded with parodies of numerous works both classical and modern detailing the Elizabethan origins of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen up through their exploits in World War II. Along the way, we learned about some of the league’s members, such as Virginia Woolf’s immortal Orlando who periodically changes genders, Shakespeare’s Prospero, and Lemuel Gulliver. We also learned how the Queen of the Faeries, Glorianna, formed the League, how Mina met Captain Nemo, and the truth behind Allan Quartermain “Junior.” Among my favorite moments were following Orlando’s adventures as he/she took part in the founding of Britain beside the Trojan soldier Brutus from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain. I also loved the section where P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster get mixed up in a tale of Lovecraftian horror. For geeks like me, there’s a lovely cutaway diagram of Nemo’s Nautilus from these stories. Also, as a fan of Gerry Anderson’s television shows, there was a nifty cameo of Robert the Robot and Fireball XL-5. Of course, because this is set in the main graphic novel story, neither one is mentioned by name.

Black Dossier isn’t the book to pick up for a quick Sunday afternoon read. It takes some work to get through, especially if you’re not familiar with all the source material. I found myself looking a few things up along the way. Still, it rewarded me with a look back at some great books I have read and introduced me to a few books I need to read.

Bubonicon 53

This weekend, I’m excited that Bubonicon will return in person. The convention will be held at the Albuquerque Mariott Uptown from August 26-28. This year’s theme is “After the Plague Years, Plagues and Pandemics in SF/F.” The author guests of honor are are Rae Carson who wrote the Rise of Skywalker novelization and Keith R.A. DeCandido who wrote the Serenity Movie novelization. Keith R.A. DeCandido also wrote All-the-Way House, which is volume 4 of the Systema Paradoxa series. My Breaking the Code is volume 3.The artist guest of honor is Chaz Kemp, who did the covers for the current editions of my Scarlet Order Vampire novels. The toastmaster is A. Lee Martinez, author of Constance Verity Destroys the Universe.

Among the other attendees this year will be Jane Lindskold, George R.R. Martin, S.M. Stirling, Ian Tregillis, Robert E. Vardeman, Walter Jon Williams, and Connie Willis. Hadrosaur Productions will have a table in the Flea Market. Several other familiar faces will be there with great products, including Who Else Books, Ashelon Publishing, and 7000 BC Comics.

I’ll be on the following panels at Bubonicon:

Friday, August 26

4pm – Main Room – Steampunk Versus Alternate History. Science fiction never blinks at incorporating events and icons of history but when it comes to Steampunk, an argument is bubbling in boilers about what makes something “steampunk” and what makes it “alternate history.” Why are authors hesitant to combine history with their fantasy? Where is the line (if any) between “steampunk” and “alternate history”? On the panel with me will be Reese Hogan, Ian Tregillis, and Carrie Vaughn. Chaz Kemp will be moderating.

Saturday, August 27

1pm – Main Room – Why I have Done Young Adult Fiction. Writers discuss why they have done or currently are doing Young Adult novels. What is the appeal? Are there things that can be done in YA fiction that can’t be done in so-called adult novels? How do you approach writing for the YA or Middle School market? Do you have to write the tales differently? How do you avoid talking down to young readers? What makes a tale good for YA as opposed to adult SF/F? What can other genres learn from YA in terms of story, theme, or vision of the future? Why should other writers read YA works? On the panel with me will be Rae Carson, Darynda Jones and Emily Mah. Betsy James will be moderating.

3pm – Cimarron/Las Cruces Room – Snack Writes: Writing Exercises. Josh Gentry will be moderating this panel where he gives three writers a prompt and then 5 minutes to write something. Then the writers read what they have and audience also gets to read their writing. Also on the panel are Robert E. Vardeman and Jane Lindskold.

4:25pm – Main Room – Mass Autographing. The authors of Bubonicon will be on hand to autograph your books.

Sunday, August 28

10am – Main Room – Ray Bradbury: Beyond Green Town and Mars. I’ll be moderating this panel discussing Ray Bradbury’s short stories not under his Green Town or Mars mythology. Why was the platform of a short story so alluring to him and why should readers return to reading them? What were some of his works that are even more relevant today? What was it about his language, his plot timing, and the genius of his work? Is he as lyrical in his stories as the writing in his few true novels? On the panel are Lou J. Berger, Sheila Finch, Wil McCarthy, Patricia Rogers, and Connie Willis.

12:30pm – Main Room – Editing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Come and hear stories about edits which went above and beyond clarity and reason. Writers discuss different editing styles they’ve encountered, and talk about some of the good and bad experiences they’ve had with editors. (Names will be withheld to protect the innocent!) On the panel with me will be Jane Lindskold, Jim Sorenson, and Sarina Ulibarri. C.C. Finlay will be moderating.

2:30pm – Salons A-D – 50 Minutes with David Lee Summers. I will read a selection or two from my stories including my novella “Breaking the Code.” I’ll also likely discuss a little of what’s new in my astronomy life.


If you’re in Albuquerque this coming weekend, I hope to see you at Bubonicon 53!

Ursa Minor

This weekend, I’m at Las Cruces Comic Con. If you’re in town, I hope you’ll drop by the convention center, say “hi,” and browse our fine selection of books. Back in June at Duke City Comic Con, I had the opportunity to meet Tom Hutchison, owner of Big Dog Ink and writer/creator of most of the company’s titles, which include Legend of Oz: The Wicked West and the superhero comic, Critter. Another title he publishes is Ursa Minor, which imagines an alternate world where, in 2012, a pair of werewolves emerged and killed the president of the United States. Soon after that, vampires made themselves known and offered to out the werewolves, tag, and control them for humanity. However, these vampires aren’t the altruists they appear to be on the surface. They’re actually seeking a position of power among humankind and a way to utilize humans as easy food stock.

David and Tom at Duke City Comic Con

As an astronomer, I know the constellation Ursa Minor well. Its name is Latin for “Little Bear” and it’s also known as the Little Dipper, which is the constellation containing Polaris, the pole star. In Tom’s comic, the title character is Naomi, a young woman who also happens to be a werebear. In this world, werebears are among the most dangerous creatures to vampires. They are one of the few creatures strong enough to do physical harm to a vampire and they have silver in their claws, which make them an especially potent force when fighting vampires. Unfortunately for humans, werebears are quite rare and it looks like Naomi may be the only one currently alive.

As the story opens, Naomi works at Papa Gamboli’s Carnival, a carnival-themed nightclub in Los Angeles. Late at night, Naomi and her best friend, Angela, stalk the streets of LA hunting vampires. It soon becomes apparent this is a losing battle. The vampires can make more of their own kind faster than Naomi can kill them. They seek advice from their friend Onyx, a rock golem who tends bar at the Carnival. Onyx takes Naomi and Angela to Japan in search of a witch named April who he believes can help them be more effective vampire hunters. April tells them all vampires are descended from one of four “Legends.” These Legends are ultra-powerful vampires: Countess Bathory, Dracula, Vlad, and Orlock. Our team sets out to take on Dracula, but when they realize the vampires can easily deduce their plans, they change tack and confront Elizabeth Bathory instead.

One of the things that was fun about meeting Tom in person was the opportunity to get his thoughts on creating a vampire/horror comic. We also talked about how I had created a short comic based on my novel Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires and he told me he had actually novelized the original Ursa Minor miniseries. The novelized version of Ursa Minor is available for just 99 cents at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ursa-Minor-Fear-April-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B01EHK50FS/

Ursa Minor and Guinevere and the Stranger

It was interesting to compare the comic book and prose novel versions of Ursa Minor. Tom’s prose novel is mostly a blow-by-blow retelling of the comic, but there are a few expanded scenes and the novel extends a little beyond the end of the first comic book mini-series. Interestingly, in the comic book, I felt like some of the fight scenes were over and done very quickly. In the novel, he took some time and built more suspense, making me worry more for the fate of our heroes. Overall, I felt like I got to know Naomi, Angela, April, and Onyx just a little better in the prose novel than I did in the comic series alone. As with many small press works, the prose novel would benefit from another round of copyediting, but it was enjoyable and it would be interesting to see Tom try his hand at novelized versions of some of his other universes.

You can learn more about the Ursa Minor comic series at: https://bigdogink.com

You can find my vampire comic at: https://hadrosaur.com/GuinevereStranger.php

My Scarlet Order vampire novels are at: http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#scarlet_order