Saturday, February 28, 2009

Giant Fossil Bird Discovered in Peru!

Folks who know me best are aware of my life-long fascination with paleontology. Far as I can tell this started when I was about five years old, after seeing the 1933 KING KONG for the first time on TV. That was also my first encounter with dinosaurs.

It took a couple more years before I came to learn that those prehistoric creatures had actually lived on Earth a long time ago. Obviously this was quite unlike the werewolves and walking mummies of the other monster movies I also watched, but never really ever believed in.

Discovering that dinosaurs were real was very much like finding out that there was such a thing as magic. The Thunder Lizards almost seemed too cool to be true. Suddenly, I wanted to learn everything about them that I could. We only had two books on dinosaurs in our school library, and I checked both of them out nearly every weekend from third to sixth grade. I was a kid obsessed.

Soon I started collecting fossils of my own, and rather successfully for a kid growing up in Kentucky. But that's a blog for another day.

Getting back to the star of this particular blog, I want to stress it is not a dinosaur, but is instead an ancient bird from the extinct Pelagornithidae family, recently found off the southern coast of Peru. These were seabirds, probably living in a similar fashion as our modern albatross. The pelagornithids are distinctive for two peculiar characteristics: a massive wing-span of almost twenty feet (6m!), and a large bill with tooth-like serrations in the jaws that would have griped onto their prey. The bird fossils were discovered in marine sediments that also contained the remains of prehistoric whales, sharks, and turtles. Its fragile skull is complete, as is its brain case, making this specimen especially rare.

Paleontology doesn't get much cooler than this.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Man's Best Friend

From author Jonathan Carroll's Blog:

"Dogs are minor angels, and I don't mean that facetiously. They love unconditionally, forgive immediately, are the truest of friends, willing to do anything that makes us happy, etc.

"If we attributed some of those qualities to a person we would say they are special. If they had ALL of them, we would call them angelic. But because it's "only" a dog, we dismiss them as sweet or funny but little more. However when you think about it, what are the things that we most like in another human being?

"Many times those qualities are seen in our dogs every single day-- we're just so used to them that we pay no attention."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Oh, by the way, meet Trudaloo the Wonder Beagle!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

R.I.P. Philip Jose Farmer

I'll never forget my literary introduction to the late, great Philip Jose Farmer.

It was summer and I was a fifteen year old fan of Doc Savage, through the Bama-adorned Bantam paperback series. I probably had over forty Docs at that time, reading them all from cover to cover, and always on the lookout for the next batch to show up in the neighborhood drugstore. My friend Gary, who had, in fact, turned me on to the Man of Bronze to begin with, had shown up on my doorstep seemingly close to bursting with excitement. I immediately noticed that he was clutching a new book.

"Doc Savage was real!" he blurted out.

"What the hell are you talking about?" teenagers cursed to impress, then as now.

He shoved the book in my face. Doc Savage, His Apocalyptic Life by Philip Jose Farmer. I'll be superamalgamated. Could it be true?

I spent a fretful few days after that searching for my own copy, ultimately succeeding. Immediately I devoured the book, turning the pages with revered fascination. Was this on the level? Bit by bit it began to dawn on me that the author was playing, what the serious Sherlockians call, "the game", treating a fictional character as if he'd really lived. Scholars of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Great Detective had been ingeniously doing the same thing for decades.

However, what Phil Farmer did was even more remarkable. He didn't stop at Doc Savage, but included Tarzan, The Shadow, The Spider, James Bond, Fu Manchu--creating a complex Family Tree of virtually every imaginative character in 19th and 20th century fiction and beyond, focusing particularly on the pulp heroes.

It was pure genius.

No one, I think, loved the pulps more than Phil. As a highly acclaimed, award-winning giant in the field of science fiction, having already won over millions of loyal readers, Phil also turned the spotlight on the pulps, legitimizing and revitalizing an almost forgotten adventurous era.

Not only did Phil Farmer invite us into his own brilliant fiction, he encouraged us to seek out the books of other writers. I might never have read Edgar Rice Burroughs, Walter Gibson, Norvell Page, Sax Rohmer, and so many others, without the lure of Phil's enthusiastic excitement.

Without Phil's influence, I very much doubt I would have ever written my own Sherlock Holmes tales, or my new adventures of The Avenger, The Phantom, and The Spider. He showed me the way. Phil had such affection for these characters that he couldn't help but be contagious to others.

When I learned that Philip Jose Farmer had passed away, at age 91, I immediately felt the lose as if I'd truly known him. I wish we had met.

He made my world a better place.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen--The PUPPINI SISTERS!

Lisa and I attended their show at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis last Saturday evening, and we had a blast!

What's that you say? Haven't heard of these ladies?

Click the link below and get ready for a fabulously fun mix of the 1940s and the 21st century.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


I was about fourteen years old when I first encountered Richard Henry Benson, The Avenger.

Appropriately, I met the character through the same boyhood friend who had so gloriously introduced me to Doc Savage a couple years before. I remember being fascinated with the moody cover of my friend's copy of River of Ice, which depicted a dead-faced man with piercing eyes dressed in some kind of grey uniform and brandishing a vicious thin-bladed knife. I'd immediately focused on the astonishing, emblazoned blurb "By the Creator of Doc Savage".

Wha--? Kenneth Robeson had invented another fantastic adventure hero? Where had I been? What fantastic news! Within a few days I plunked down my hard-earned seventy-five cents, which I was very lucky to have, and took the book home with me. I still remember how excited I was, studying that terrific cover and rereading the story synopsis on the back at least a half dozen times before rolling up in the driveway with my dad. I couldn't wait to escape into my sanctum and start turning those pages.

The book didn't disappoint, and suddenly I was seeking out the others in the series wherever I could find them. Before long I had quite a growing collection to lose myself in, helping me through some very difficult times in my junior high school years. The Avenger novels felt somehow a bit more grown up than the Doc Savage adventures I'd become accustomed to. I liked that. Benson and his supporting cast possessed stronger motives and richer characterization, with more fully realized personalities. Scrutinizing the books today, I think they are arguably among the best written of the heroic pulps of the 1940s, often even better than Doc Savage, The Shadow, and The Spider.

You can easily imagine now, I suspect, how entirely thrilled I was when Joe Gentile, the publisher of Moonstone Books, obtained the license and invited me to write a new Avenger story of my own! Suddenly, through Joe's generosity, I achieved a childhood dream I'd never ever believed possible. I became Kenneth Robeson!

Recently, the hardcover edition of The Avenger Chronicles was published. It is a class act in its design, positively elegant. The brand new adventures contained within are fueled with passion and purpose. I'm honored to have been a part of this book. It was a special, very sentimental experience and I hope that is reflected in my own story.

Friday, February 20, 2009

When Robots were as Cool as their Comics

I make a solid attempt to read, at least, one comic book every night. Due to my two older brothers, I became hooked on comics even before I could read. That was the beauty of comics. They didn't hide their secrets from a curious four year old, the art told the story while you just casually flipped through the colorful pages.

Although my brothers had a big glorious bundle of Superman and Batman comics, it was the well-worn odd-ball DC titles that attracted me most, then and today. I loved Challengers of the Unknown, Mystery in Space, Metamorpho, Tomahawk, Doom Patrol, and Metal Men.

Once I was old enough to actually read Metal Men, a comic book featuring a team of heroic shape-shifting robots, I was a comics and science fiction fan for life. The comics were a fine introduction to real science, too, making the Periodic Table much more interesting and fun than any chemistry class I ever half dozed through.

The characters themselves were fabulous, oozing with personality, which was something I never saw before in robots. DC has published two Metal Men Showcase volumes that are still available. That's almost a thousand pages of weirdo robot adventure for about the same price as eight or nine new comics.

Another thing I like about the Showcase books is that they're printed on newsprint, just like the old comics used to be. Smuggy black ink saturating a light beige page of cheap newsprint is one of my favorite smells. Maybe that's one of the reasons most of today's comic books lack personality, their slick too-expensive paper feels and stinks like plastic to me.

I love the Metal Men. Think you will too. Seek them out!

My New Stuff on the Bookshelves

Guess I should finally get around to some self-promotion. I have several new books recently published.

I'm especially excited about GASLIGHT GRIMOIRE: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes. It's one of the very best of the many anthologies I've participating in. The book has received quite a bit of critical acclaim, and I'm very pleased to be a part of it.

My adventure is "Sherlock Holmes in the Lost World", sort of a sequel to A. Conan Doyle's classic science fiction novel. For those of you out there that might have lost count, this is my eighth story featuring the Great Detective.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rumors of Their Deaths Have been Greatly Exaggerated

This picture is begging for a story.

It's creepy, atmospheric, and also rather beautiful, I think. Kind of dream-like, too. I can almost feel the seismic shudder on the warped and weathered floorboards inside that old shack of a "museum". If only someone were making movies these days with images this cool.

This sort of reminds me of when I was about ten years old riding in the back seat of the family car, after visiting my cousins way out in the sticks of Kentucky. I used to stare at the blackened treeline as we drove by, imagining them to be the gigantic silhouettes of dinosaurs. Really worked. Trees at night take on just as many fantastic, recognizable shapes as clouds do in the daytime. The brief glance of our headlights even seemed to give the resurrected saurians a spark of hallucinatory animation for a second or two, completely creeping me out. There was one ancient, immense willow tree that looked for all the world like Godzilla in profile, complete with his distinctive dorsal spines! It was pure magic.

Funny, I hadn't thought of that for many years, until I saw this picture. I wonder if kids today with their ipods and video games ever experience the same kind of thrill from merely riding in the country and looking out at the tangles of ivy and oak weaving around the dusty old gravel roads.

How sad if they don't.

Who's a Woman to do?

I found this disturbing article from the Washington Post presented on novelist Jonathan Carroll's blog:

"A new study by Thomas Pollet and Daniel Nettle in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior has found an interesting correlation between how often a large sample of Chinese women report having orgasms and the income of their sexual partners. The study, which surveyed women on a wide variety of questions, found that women married to wealthier men were more likely to report having orgasms during sex. Women who had sex with the wealthiest men were twice as likely to report they always had an orgasm as women who had sex with the poorest men. The researchers say the education levels and self-reported happiness of the women had no bearing on the outcome.

"The researchers argue the finding is consistent with a popular argument in evolutionary psychology which says women are driven to find mates who can be good providers. When they find such mates, they feel better about sex."


Mr. Carroll is one of my all-time favorite writers. ( Very few others have managed to make me laugh, and run a genuine shiver down my spine, at the same time.

In brilliant Jonathan Carroll fashion, this bit of news accomplishes the same effect.

To Blog or not to Blog...

That was the question.

I adamantly resisted starting my own Blog with the same stubborn zeal that has enabled me to avoid owning a cell phone. Honestly, though, I've always seen that both things actually make good sense, and several readers have persistently encouraged me to do this sort of thing for years.

So, while I'm continuing to dodge cellular technology for as long as I can, here's the Blog.

Hope you'll stop by often, and share your own thoughts. I always enjoy hearing from all of you.