Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Speculative Fiction’ Category

Penric’s Fox by Lois McMaster Bujold

My rating: 3 of 5 stars




Lois McMaster’s “Penric and Desdemona” series of novellas represents the kind of fantasy I most enjoy: “small” adventures rather than yet another Grand Quest To Save The World(tm). A mostly ordinary person caught in unusual circumstances faces a problem – now, how does he solve it?

In this series, the main characters are Penric, a minor noble who shares his mind-space with a demon that is itself host to the personalities of all the beings it “co-habited” before. It’s name is “Desdemona.” To learn to deal with his condition, Penric became a sorcerer-priest of “The Bastard,” one of the five gods of Bujold’s setting. Together, Penric and Desdemona’s adventures (so far), involve solving murder mysteries in a fantasy medieval setting. In that, they are a fantasy version of the well-known detective team trope.

The fifth book in the series, but third in the setting’s internal chronology, “Penric’s Fox” wasn’t as satisfying, but still enjoyable. The actual mystery itself wasn’t hard to figure out, the clues being rather “on the nose.” It felt almost as if the purpose was less the mystery than to see familiar characters develop a bit and to set the stage for later stories.

Still the writing is good, the characters enjoyable, and the setting interesting. Recommended for fantasy fans looking for a good, quick read.



View all my reviews

Read Full Post »

Actually, a link to my review on Goodreads. If you’re a fan of either R.E. Howard’s “Conan the Barbarian” stories or the other writings of Poul Anderson, save yourself the trouble and read this, first. It commits the greatest sin a Conan story can: it’s tedious.

 

 

Read Full Post »

One of the time-honored genres of science fiction and fantasy literature involves men from Earth who suddenly find themselves on other worlds, whether through super-science, magic, or mysticism, rather than visiting as, say, a “normal” space traveler. The most famous early example would be Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “John Carter of Mars” series, but among others are Lin Carter’s “Green Star” books and Andre Norton’s “Witch World” series. In the modern age, the popularity of games such as Dungeons and Dragons in the late 70s and 80s helped revive the genre, with books such as Norton’s “Quag Keep,” Joel Rosenberg’s “Guardians of the Flame” series (especially book 1), and Brian Daley’s “Coramonde” books.

“Starfollowers of Coramonde” is the second of two books, sequel to “Doomfarers of Coramonde,” which introduces us to Gil McDonald, an American soldier fighting in Vietnam. One moment, McDonald and his armored personnel carrier crew are fighting an enemy ambush, and the next they’re in combat with a dragon. (Spoiler: APCs beat dragons. Barely.) McDonald and his men learn they’ve been summoned by magic to Coramonde, a kingdom under grave threat from the evil wizard Yardiff Bey. McDonald chooses to remain behind in the world and helps to restore the rightful ruler, Prince Springbuck, to his throne, foiling Yardiff Bey’s plot. “Doomfarers” ends with Yardiff Bey escaping and taking with him as prisoner Dunstan the Berserker, Gil’s friend.

“Starfollowers” picks up soon thereafter, with Gil, Springbuck, and their friends and allies deciding to take the war to Yardiff Bey and his masters. McDonald and a small party head west to return a magic sword and an infant heir to the land of Vegana, currently under siege by the enemy, as well as to investigate what it is that Yardiff Bey seeks in a long-dead wizard’s writings. Meanwhile, Prince Springbuck forgoes responding to the attacks on his own land and instead leads an army to the lands of the enemy and the city of Shardisku-Salama, wherein reside Yardiff Bey’s masters.

And therein lies the problem with “Starfollowers of Coramonde.” After that set up, the book becomes one long pursuit and series of battles leading to a climactic confrontation in front of the city, itself. The large cast of new characters is thinly drawn, and it is assumed that the reader has all the background information he needs on existing characters from reading the first book. Thus there is little to capture one’s interest and give one a reason to care if one is reading “Starfollowers” first. Without the ground laid in “Doomfarers,” this becomes a rather standard fantasy quest.

But it is well done and enjoyable nonetheless. Mr. Daley showed promise as a writer, even with the occasional tendency toward a Gygaxian abuse of the thesaurus, and it’s a shame he died relatively early in his career. His setting in Coramonde is interesting, and I would like to have seen it developed further. And, similar to other books of that time, I have to wonder if this was the author’s home D&D setting. If so, I would have enjoyed playing there.

I read the book in Kindle format and was disappointed in the quality of the file. There are simply too many typos that could have been fixed with decent proofreading. Not enough to spoil the book or make it impossible to read, but enough to be an annoyance. The publisher should issued a copy-edited revision. There is also a paperback copy available.

On a scale of one to five, I give “Starfollowers of Coramonde” a straight three: enjoyable, but best read if one reads “Doomfarers” first. However, I recommend just that: buy both and sit back for a good late-summer’s read.

Read Full Post »

Book cover the last moriarty

I’ve been a fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories since I was in junior high, when I used to watch the old Basil Rathbone movies on Sunday afternoons. One year around 8th or 9th grade, someone bought me a volume of the complete stories for my birthday, which I devoured over the course of the summer. (“The Adventure of the Second Stain” being a favorite. ) I can truthfully say they’ve had an influence on my life, since, thanks to the “malign” influence of Rathbone and Holmes’ creator Arthur Conan Doyle, I’ve been a pipe-smoker since high school. (Don’t worry. I’ve stayed away from the “seven-percent solution”)

Since then, I’ve occasionally read modern pastiches on the Holmes stories. Some were excellent, such as Nicholas Meyer’s “The Seven Percent Solution”, while others were just awful. The good ones not only captured the feel of late Victorian London, but understood Holmes’ and Dr. Watson’s characters, how they would speak, and their relationship to each other. The bad ones were only “Holmes in name only” and often had the characters saying or doing things they just wouldn’t in “reality.” Some clearly had axes to grind or thought they were being edgy, making me wonder why the Doyle estate didn’t sue them for damages.

I’m happy to say, however, that “The Last Moriarty” by Charles Veley largely falls into the “good pastiche” category. In fact I’d say it’s very good and well-worth a fan’s time and money.

(Warning: mild spoilers may follow.)

The story opens with the discovery of a dead American floating in the Thames. First ruled a suicide, Holmes (naturally) concludes it was a murder. He then learns the victim was in the employ of the Rockefellers and was in London as an advance man checking into security for a meeting between the highest levels of the British government and the richest men in America: Rockefeller, Morgan, and Carnegie. From there the plot involves multiple murders, terrorism, blackmail, Great Power intrigue, secrets from Holmes’ own past, not one, but two damsels in distress, and Gilbert and Sullivan. Famous characters from the time also make their appearance: not only the Americans, but Prime Minister Salisbury and the impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte. And, as the title avers, Professor Moriarty himself is somehow tied up in this.

Author Veley paces the story well. Like a serial publication from that era, the story is broken up into many short chapters. The pacing is swift, but never rushed. An average reader could easily finish this over a weekend or even a single long night.

Veley captures the London of Doyle’s tales nicely: you almost hear the horses’ hooves’ clack against the cobbles and feel the cold wind off the Thames. The characters largely sound like they should, too. My favorite dramatic interpretation of Holmes was the late Jeremy Brett’s, whose performances in a British series from the 1980s and 90s set a bar I don’t think anyone will ever clear, even Benedict Cumberbatch. When reading Veley’s “Holmes,” I can hear Brett saying the lines. That to me is a mark of his success.

He’s less successful with Watson’s narrative voice, which doesn’t sound quite right to me, and I think he gets it wrong when characters address each other by their first names. It’s fine for the Americans, being a less formal people than the British, but for our two leads to call each other “Sherlock” and “John” with regularity, instead of “Holmes” and “Watson,” is off: acquaintances would say “Mr. Holmes” or “Dr. Watson;” male friends would address each other with last names without the honorifics. First names would only be used under moments of stress or emotional significance. This is a minor quibble, though.

Where I think the author really missteps is in his two final twists. No spoilers, but they involve Holmes’ past and, I think, go one step too far in reinterpreting the character. The revelations go against two of Holmes’ major attributes: his misogyny and, more importantly, the role of Irene Adler as “The Woman.” Veley handles the consequences of this well, but it’s a step I would not have taken.

Some might criticize the villain for being a two-dimensional caricature, but I think it fits fine with what is, after all, a melodrama involving the theater.

Overall, I highly recommend Charles’ Veley’s “The Last Moriarty” to fans of period mysteries in general, and Sherlock Holmes fans in particular. It’s enjoyable, fun, and even a bit gripping – a definite three-pipe read.

Note on the Kindle edition: Too often reviews of Kindle books make no mention of the format or the quality of the translation to electronic media – and Amazon is far too tolerant of publishers selling error-laden Kindle books. I’m happy to report “The Last Moriarty” has no such problems: the formatting is clean and easy to read, and I could find no typos that I recall. Well done!

PS: Before anyone shoots me, I happen to think Benedict Cumberbatch does a superb job with his modern interpretation of Sherlock Holmes (and his “Watson” is excellent). I just believe Brett’s is still superior and truer to the character.

Read Full Post »

polyhedral dice

Some of you among the three or four who read this blog (after blowing the dust off it) might recall that for several years I worked as a freelance writer in the roleplaying game industry, writing adventures and supplement books for various companies. Most of my work was for the late, lamented Hogshead Publishing, which held a license to produce product for one of my favorite roleplaying games, the first edition of Warhammer Fantasy Role Play. (WFRP)

Anyway, I stopped working in that industry after one particularly bad experience (largely of my own doing, to be fair) convinced me it just wasn’t worth it anymore: lousy pay rates (a per word rate averaging three cents per word, what writers were getting in the 1930s), large word counts and short deadlines, no time for a regular life…. It had stopped being fun.

I had kept in touch with the hobby, however, by tracking a few web sites that dealt with RPGs, particularly James Maliszewski’s Grognardia, a now-moribund site dedicated to what was called the “Old School Renaissance,” a movement focused on reviving and supporting roleplaying games as they had been played in the 70s and 80s, centered mostly around D&D clones.

James had announced a cooperative project that he would edit called “Petty Gods,” a book of godlings and minor deities a referee could use in his campaign. You can read the original announcement of it here. It sounded like a fun project, and, after spending a frustrating morning looking for some mislaid keys, I came up with “Galdu Aurkitu, God of Things Mislaid and Found.”

Name: Galdu Aurkitu
Symbols: Keys on a ring. A single sock.
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 180′ (60′)
Armor Class: -3
Hit Points (Hit Dice) 90 (19 HD)
Attacks: Special
Damage: Special
Save: T20
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: VIII, XVII
XP: 10,000

Galdu Aurkitu is the petty god of all things mislaid and unexpectedly found. A relative of the gods of good and bad luck, Galdu Aurkitu appears in one of three forms: an elderly, forgetful man; a young woman with three walnut shells and a pea; and a helpful lad. When encountered, each represents an aspect of Galdu Aurkitu’s role: forgetting where one put something; being sure something set aside was there just a moment ago; and suddenly finding in an unexpected place something thought lost.

Galdu Aurkitu is often invoked by those looking for a mislaid object, from something as minor as the house keys to something as important as a secret treaty. He (or she) can be a capricious god. If a person annoys the god (or one of the god’s divine friends), Galdu Aurkitu will cause a needed item not to be where it was supposed to be, even though it was just put there a moment ago. The idea is not to cause harm, but to annoy and inconvenience the victim. On the other hand, Galdu Aurkitu can take pity on those who have lost something dear to them, such as the son who was sure he lost an heirloom ring, or the poor widow frantic because she can’t find the rent money. The item will be found in the least likely place to look, and it is still up to the searcher to find it. Whether causing an item to be lost or found, Galdu Aurkitu takes great pleasure in mortals’ reactions and may well be nearby, watching.

In combat, Galdu Aurkitu attacks by “mislaying” opponents’ weapons and magic items: the fighter will reach for a sword, only it’s not there – he must have left it back in camp. The wizard will reach for a scroll, only to discover it is not where it is supposed to be. In each case, the item will be in Galdu Aurkitu’s hand, who will then put it to best use. The petty god can use this power once per round.

When truly angry, Galdu Aurkitu can curse a mortal, ensuring that, for the next 24 hours, an item will be missing when most needed. This will occur once in those 24 hours. If Galdu Aurkitu particularly likes a mortal and decides to bless him or her, then something treasured and thought long-lost will be unexpectedly found and returned to them sometime in the next week, or perhaps opponents in combat will mislay a weapon or magic item. This latter blessing lasts for only 24 hours, however, and, like the curse, only happens once..

Reaction Table (roll 2d6, use INT for modifiers):

2 Friendly: Blesses 1d4 nearby targets.

3-5 Indifferent: Blesses 1d4 nearby targets if properly propitiated.

6-8 Neutral: Ignores nearby creatures.

9-11 Unfriendly: Curses 1d4 nearby targets if not properly propitiated.

12 Hostile: Curses 1d4 nearby targets.

I submitted this to James back in 2010, and then… nothing. For various reasons, the projects James had been working on, including Petty Gods, encountered near-fatal difficulties and had to be rescued by others. In fact, I had thought Petty Gods had died and had largely forgotten about it, until a few weeks ago at DriveThruRPG, where I saw this:

Petty Gods

Imagine my surprise. The PDF is free, so I downloaded it and, sure enough, there was little Galdu with his very own illustration. Apparently someone had rescued the project and it went through a few hands until the product pictured above was produced. And, judging from the PDF, the new developers did a great job.  It’s available in print-on-demand paperback at Lulu.com: I may just get myself a copy.

So, that was a long-winded way to share my amusement at still being published in the hobby-game industry. To be honest, it made me smile.

If you’re running a campaign in which minor gods could conceivably walk among mortals (as in the style of Thieves’ World or Liavek), download the free PDF and give it a look. I think you’ll enjoy it.

PS: It’s a shame James has largely withdrawn from the hobby, though I hear he still plays. Grognardia was a wonderful blog, and I’d love to see it revived.

Read Full Post »

Hey! I made a map! All by my little old self!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/93227641@N04/19163028813/in/album-72157650931292355/

This scratches several itches for me. First, as some of you know, I manage a small Earth Sciences library at UCLA that has an extensive map collection. And I love maps. I often look at them and think “What cool source material for fictional worlds.”

I also happen to love fantasy and science fiction literature, as well as roleplaying games. Good maps are often vital to both. I can’t tell you how often I stared at the map of Middle Earth in my copy of Lord of the Rings in high school and imagined the adventures that could take place there.

But, well, I have the artistic talent of a clam. I draw a straight line, it looks like an amoeba. It was only through the help of a good friend (Hi, Alfred!) and the services of a master artist hired by the publisher that my sketch map of the city of Marienburg became the wonderful map it is.

But there are several programs on the market meant to help one create beautiful maps on the PC and then print them out. One of the most well-known is Campaign Cartographer, which is currently in version “3+”. It’s a marvelous program, based on a CAD engine, so it’s very powerful, but it also has a steep learning curve. So steep, that, even though I’ve owned it since version 2, I never tried to make a map of it. Just kept buying the upgrades.

Now, is that silly or what?

So, after moving to the new digs, I told myself that one thing I would do is finally start learning Campaign Cartographer (aka “CC3+”). And, yes, the curve has been steep. But, at the same time, it’s been fun. There’s a helpful community at the Profantasy site, where I’ve learned a lot. “Monckton” is sort of a worksheet for me, where I try different things to see how they work. I’ve barely even started to scratch the surface of what can be done with this program, but I think I’m going to have a good time digging even deeper.

I might even get a game going, set it in the Exarchate, and let them explore the dangers of the Tower of the Astrologer. 🙂

PS: Here’s a PDF of the map, which I think shows it better than the pic above.

Read Full Post »

Best left alone?

Best left alone?

I mean, it’s just asking for trouble:

And speaking of Pluto’s features, NASA scientists are now giving unofficial names to some of the things they’ve spotted — names they can submit to the International Astronomical Union for official approval. They’re sticking with the trend of underworld creatures and gods — Pluto, after all, was the Roman god of the underworld — and have tentatively named a previously observed dark, whale-shaped splotch (just to the left of the broken heart) after “Cthulhu,” the dark deity invented by author H.P. Lovecraft. Described as part man, part dragon, and part octopus, Cthulhu has gained something of a cult following in the Internet age.

Okay, so Cthulhu is supposed to be trapped under the Pacific, where he lies dreaming, but what if R’lyeh was really located on a dark plane on a dark planet at the far edge of the Solar System, and Lovecraft was trying to spare us the sanity-blasting truth? And what if this awakens him… er…. it?

Yeah. We’re doomed.

PS: Let us enjoy this moment while forgiving the article’s author his apparently weak knowledge of all things Cthulhuoid. First, he’s never been described as “part dragon,” though he does have wings as I recall, and an octopoidal head. But he is definitely not a god. Nyarlathotep, Azathoth, and Hastur are gods. The Big C is “merely” a Great Old One, himself a servant of the gods.

Read Full Post »

When his children can leap out of the water, hunt you down, and drag you away…

From the article:

This here video of an octopus exploding out of the shallows, moonwalking on land, grabbing a crab, and pulling it back underwater was shot in Australia just days ago, which means that there’s a good chance this very octopus and others like it are still alive, which means that you and I and all of our loved ones are in danger.

I am never going near the surf again…

Read Full Post »

Of course, a Melnibonean dragon would be much tougher:

There have been innumerable science-fantasy books about crossovers between our world and a world where dragons and magic is real; one of my favorites is Brian Daley’s “The Doomfarers of Coramonde,” which is about a Vietnam-era US Army unit that winds up in another world… and fighting a dragon.

I’m surprised no one’s done a movie on this, yet, given the glorious special-effects possibilities.

h/t The Daily Beast

Read Full Post »

You’re sure to sleep well after looking at these:

"They're coming for you..."

“They’re coming for you…”

 

Here’s an excerpt from the Wired article:

It can be hard to take your eyes off a good GIF. Turns out, it can also be tough to take your eyes off a terrifying one.

In Oswra, a collection of GIFs by self-taught animator Hayden Zezula, we witness baby parts rearranged into all sorts of endlessly-looping abominations. A plaster-white baby head sits atop a churning cone of arms and hands. A dense cluster of legs marches nowhere at all, like a sea anemone with tiny feet instead of tentacles.

A couple of these convince me the artist is secretly a Yog-Sothoth cultist. And I bet the mutant babies work with the evil clowns.

Sweet dreams!

Read Full Post »

A dragon made from car parts. Love it!

Read Full Post »

book cover odd thomas

“Odd Thomas,” written by Dean Koontz, is one of those books I wanted very much to enjoy, but just didn’t. It is the kind of story I should have found gripping, but, like a spirit almost ready to leave this world behind, I often found myself close to “letting go.”

“Odd Thomas” is the name of the title character, a short-order fry cook in his early 20s in a fictional California desert city who has an unusual ability: he can see the spirits of the dead, those who haven’t been able to “move on” for one reason or another. They cannot talk to him, but some do find ways to communicate with him, in order to lead him to the person or persons who killed them, or otherwise solve the mystery of their death. Odd uses this ability to aid the small local police department. The local police chief is a good friend and knows of Odd’s talent, as does Odd’s girlfriend, “Stormy,” and a few close others. (His parents are not among that group.)

The plot surrounds Odd’s realization that something very bad is about to happen in his town, “Pico Mundo,” when he sees a somewhat disconcerting man and then begins to notice “bodachs” luking about town. Bodachs are creatures (Odd isn’t sure if they’re spirits, demons, or something else) that appear when bad things happen. Odd frequently sees one or two, but now dozens and even hundred are appearing. They don’t involve themselves in the disaster, but they like to watch, and their growing numbers give Odd an urgent sense of desperation to prevent whatever they’re here to “enjoy.”

No spoilers, but there is a serious threat our hero must prevent. He succeeds, but only mostly and at great cost to himself and others, fitting for a horror novel.

My problems with this book are twofold: first, I’m convinced there is a superb short story hidden within this plodding, overwritten novel. I only wish Mr. Koontz had realized that. I often found myself thinking “get on with it.”

Second, the writing style put me off almost completely. Told first-person from Odd’s point of view, his narrative is very straightforward, almost formal, and at times overly descriptive, like a talented but undisciplined young writer. His own personality is odd, of course, and studiously even-tempered, polite and again formal. While Koontz makes clear why he made these choices over the course of the novel, I found the execution off-putting, almost dull, and even annoying.

Others obviously disagree with me; this is the first book in a popular series and it has been made into a movie. But, in comparison to the works of masters of horror and occult fiction, such as Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, and Ramsey Campbell,  I found “Odd Thomas” bland and  lacking.

Not recommended.

Read Full Post »

This is hilarious:

😀

Read Full Post »

book cover wailing asteroid

I’ve gotten way behind in my science fiction reviews, so let me jump back in the saddle (or choose another cliché) with a short review of Murray Leinster’s “The Wailing Asteroid.”

My brief evaluation: Recommended with strong reservations.

Regarding Leinster, I’ll confess, for a science fiction fan, I’m embarrassed to say I had never heard of him, even though he was referred to as “The Dean of Science Fiction.”  Speaks to my cultural poverty, I guess. This Wikipedia entry gives a good summary of his career, and there is also a informative entry for him in the online Science Fiction Encyclopedia. He wrote in many genres besides science fiction, including mysteries, adventure, and romance; his earliest science fiction tale was published in Argosy in 1919, making him one of the pioneers of the genre.

Spoiler warning. The rest is “below the fold” (more…)

Read Full Post »

Okay, this combines three of my strong interests in one: Lord of the Rings, fantasy roleplaying games, and miniatures. And it’s effin’ gorgeous. A LEGO model of the Elven enclave of Rivendell, built with 200,000 LEGO bricks. Here’s a photo of one portion:

LEGO Rivendell

You can read about it at the last link above and see the rest of the photos at Flickr. This is Geek Heaven, truly amazing work.

h/t my friend Richard Iorio II, who’s also a purveyor of fine games.

Read Full Post »

Especially of imaginary lands or what-if scenarios.

The Washington Post has a neat map of the United States, if the state boundaries were drawn so that each had equal population. Naturally, New York and Los Angeles wind up as their own states, but I somehow doubt the people of the “hinterlands” of each state would object.

Anyway, have a look:

electoral10-1100-1024x789

Strangely, it seems to be missing seven states.

You can read more about this map at WaPo.

Read Full Post »

And you have to suffer with me. Presenting “The Creepiest Collection Of Doll Photos Ever Assembled”

Here’s just one:

Creepy killer doll

Why, yes. I do have a mild phobia about dolls coming to life. Don’t you?

PS:  In case you still doubt dolls are evil.

Read Full Post »

You have to admit, there’s a certain justice:

Police had identified 17-year-old Santos Ramos as the possible culprit in the attack on 35-year-old Leandra Arias Janco Sunday in a Quechua community near the municipality of Colquechaca, said Jose Luis Barrios, the chief prosecutor in Potosi province where the community is located.

Enraged, more than 200 community members seized Ramos and buried him alive alongside his alleged victim Wednesday night, according to Barrios. He said residents on Thursday blocked the road to the community, preventing police and prosecutors from reaching it.

A local reporter for an indigenous radio station, who would only speak on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, told The AP that Ramos was tied up at the woman’s funeral. Mourners threw him into the open grave, placed the woman’s coffin in it and filled the grave with earth.

I’m not without sympathy, given the atrocity inflicted on the woman. Still, it sounds like this was done after the man was only  identified as a suspect, not convicted in a court of law where he would have been able to present a defense. This isn’t (just) sanctimony on my part: the Rule of Law, under which life and property are protected for all and everyone gets their day in court, is essential to national stability and prosperity. Without it, you simply have mob rule, the stronger dominating the weaker, and the near-anarchy of a Hobbesian state of nature.

And trial by lynch-mob.

To be fair, the Bolivian court system in Bolivia is corrupt, and the villagers may well have felt that they would never have received justice and so had to take it into their own hands. Like I wrote, I can sympathize, even if I don’t approve. (In fact, the villagers should be prosecuted, but, being Bolivia, the government probably doesn’t want a regional revolt on its hands.)

On another note, what an ending for a horror story, straight out of Poe or Machen: buried alive with your victim, whose spirit may be looking for her own justice…

Read Full Post »

"Where'd those kids go??"

“Where’d those kids go??”

I hope:

A 63-year-old South Korean woman was shocked to learn she became pregnant with 12 baby squid after eating a portion of calamari. The story — definitely giving new meaning to the term Octomom — was detailed in a scientific paper authored by researchers at the Kwandong University College of Medicine.

Here’s what happened: The unnamed woman, who we will refer to here as New Octomom, said she was eating a portion of whole squid when she felt an extremely sharp pain in her mouth. She told doctors she could feel something in her mouth, which she described as bug-like organisms.

She did not swallow the portion, but spat it out immediately, the researchers wrote. She complained of a pricking and foreign-body sensation in the oral cavity.

After the woman was hospitalized, doctors discovered baby cephalopods — tiny pods covered in a cementlike material to make them stick — attached to the inside of her mouth. The pods, which covered her gums, tongue and cheek, were filled with an ejaculatory apparatus and sperm, with the apparatus discharging the sperm very forcefully.

Twelve small, white spindle-shaped, bug-like organisms stuck in the mucous membrane of the tongue, cheek, and gingiva were completely removed, along with the affected mucosa, the researchers said. On the basis of their morphology and the presence of the sperm bag, the foreign bodies were identified as squid spermatophores.

Spermatophores, according to Science 2.0, are packages that carry semen and other tools that attach themselves to the female squid’s body. Spermatophores are adhesive in some species of squid, which allows them to easily glue onto the surface of the female’s skin.

So, you see, the real danger isn’t Cthulhu eating you or driving you insane; the real danger is that he’ll make you bear his children.

Read the rest, but be prepared to be utterly grossed out.

Read Full Post »

 

"Where'd those kids go??"

“Where’d those kids go??”

 

Two new species of microorganisms that bear an uncanny resemblance to The Big C:

UBC researchers have discovered two new symbionts living in the gut of termites, and taken the unusual step of naming them after fictional monsters created by American horror author HP Lovecraft.

The single-cell protists, Cthulhu macrofasciculumque and Cthylla microfasciculumque, help termites digest wood. The researchers decided to name them after monstrous cosmic entities featured in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos as an ode to the sometimes strange and fascinating world of the microbe.

“When we first saw them under the microscope they had this unique motion, it looked almost like an octopus swimming,” says UBC researcher Erick James, lead author of the paper describing the new protists, published in the online journal PLoS ONE.

Sadly, the UBC researchers didn’t realize  these were “children” that went missing from a Deep One city far beneath the waves off the coast of British Columbia. Nor will anyone ever truly understand what happened that night when the UBC labs were destroyed and the samples went missing…

Definitely a Delta Green plot.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »