Oceans of the Mind, Spring 2006, #XIX, “Tribute to the Pulps”

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“1,000 Zeppelins Over Hollyland” by Joe Murphy
“It Rumbled” by O’Neil de Noux
“The Seal of Gilgamesh” by Terry Bramlett
“The Franklin J. Berneville Trophy” by Ian Creasey
“The Few, the Proud, the Leech Corps” by Eugie Foster
The Spring 2006 Oceans of the Mind, issue XIX, is dedicated to a tribute to the Golden Age of Pulps.  Super insects, vampires, unlikely monsters, and dinosaurs are only some of the many creatures that appear in this  entertaining issue.

“1,000 Zeppelins Over Hollyland” by Joe Murphy portrays a world dominated by super insects created by men in a remote past.  The insects rule over Earth while humans live on zeppelins in the sky.  People are now organized in clans named after famous actors.  What was once Hollywood is the target of missions for recuperating lost memories of a glorious past and possibly weapons that will grant the victory of humanity.  Ensign Blake Turner and his girlfriend Ensign Emilia Velton are sent to look for Flash Gordon’s ray gun from The Purple Death, but the mission does not go as expected.

“1,000 Zeppelins Over Hollyland” immediately catches the reader’s attention.  However, the story doesn’t succeed in sustaining this initial interest throughout.  The bizarre organization of human society in reference to actors sometimes revived my interest, but there were several instances where a particular moment felt stretched and that the characters grew tiresome.

In “It Rumbled” by O’Neil de Noux, a divorced man and his son are lost on an island on Octavion, a planet still inhabited by dinosaurs.  Vincent and his father were supposed to spend only two weeks together, but an accident stranded them there.  The two must use old techniques to hunt and defend themselves from the prehistoric creatures while an active volcano threatens their lives.

One might ask: “How many more times can I hear a story about dangerous life on an abandoned island and still be entertained?” Well, at least once more.  “It Rumbled” succeeds in the difficult task of rehashing a well known situation and still making it interesting.  The portrayal of the father-son relationship is lovely, and de Noux is a master of suspense.

In “The Seal of Gilgamesh” by Terry Bramlett, forgotten deities and legendary figures have to make do with their new lives as nobodies.  All manage in their own way: Gilgamesh has become an accountant, and Adam and Eve own a pub.  However, some Sumerian deities are far from happy with their new circumstances and are determined to cause havoc in order to regain their past grandeur.  Gabriel is sent on a mission to find the Seal of Gilgamesh, the instrument of destruction that should draw the attention of the people on Earth, but Gabriel’s family of Sumerian deities is a wild and wily bunch.

“The Seal of Gilgamesh” is a real challenge to a reader’s knowledge of mythology.  Nevertheless, it is extremely enjoyable.  While it is true that jocose references to legends abound, and the events are vividly depicted, the characters and their interaction—various gods are portrayed in a disillusioned and sarcastic way—is the strongest aspect of this story, making it a fun read.  

In “The Franklin J. Berneville Trophy for Saving the World from Extreme Peril” by Ian Creasey, a damsel is in terrible distress: the man who was to have been the main attraction for her birthday party has disappeared;  Drake’s doomsday clock has passed from showing three trillion years until the end of the universe to showing one day left; the Karamzin Museum of Packaging is haunted by a strange creature.  How are all these things connected? Audran, a damsel-loving scientist, will have to find out.

“The Franklin J. Berneville Trophy for Saving the World from Extreme Peril” is a story with many strong points.  Creasey devises surprising and queer twists, which sometimes border on the absurd, rendered with lightness and a healthy sense of humor.  The attention given to the plot is not at the expense of characterization, which Creasey depicts effectively but without insistence.  In short, this is an entertaining story a la Douglas Adams: a lot of humor, effective characterization, and an original plot.

In Eugie Foster’s “The Few, the Proud, the Leech Corps,” Private Lita Anderson is a vampire and member of the Leech Corps.  After a night of reveling, she is unexpectedly summoned by her lieutenant.  The scenario is not promising: Lita’s best buddy is nowhere to be seen, and the guerrilla gangs from the north of Atlanta are waging what is now open war.  Lita and her squad are sent to the area for intelligence, but the mission is more dangerous than they realized.

“The Few, the Proud, the Leech Corps” mixes elements from different genres, and while technology and urban guerrilla tactics certainly play a role in the action parts of this graphic story, it is the immortal fascination with vampires and the attractive, sensual imagery associated with them that captivates the reader.  A few of the depicted situations are crudely physical and morbidly sensuous, reminiscent of one of David Cronenberg’s nightmarish scenes.