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Tuesday, April 30, 2024


 While watching a YouTube video on cartoonist Herb Trimpe, I began to nod off, so I closed my laptop and gave in to a cat nap. As I slept, I dreamed of what my mind was telling me was a scene from a vintage Hammer vampire film that was cut for being too sexually explicit.

In the dream, Peter Cushing, in his usual Van Helsing vampire hunter role, approached a bed upon which lay a beautiful female vampire, played by the lovely Veronica Carlson, whose considerable beauty was amplified by my subconscious imagination. The alluring revenant, clad in a pretty much see-through diaphanous gown, welcomed her hunter with beckoning arms and, though armed with mallet and sharp stake at the ready, he gave pause. Was he under her baleful hypnotic influence and being manipulated into misreading the situation, or was the undead vixen sincerely entreating him for something other than sustenance?

Van Helsing hesitated for another moment, then slowly put down the implements of the fanged predator's destruction. With great caution, he mounted the bed and knelt close to her, her thighs akimbo. Her cold hands caressed his face, and their touch did not repulse him. She pulled him close to her face, her eyes partially closed and a smile on her face that promised pleasures never before enjoyed by mortal man.

Tentatively, Van Helsing reached out for the gown's décolletage, beneath which the vampire's heaving bosom held him mesmerized. He clutched the gown an, losing himself momentarily, he tore the gown down to the fiend's nethers, eliciting a yelp of surprise from the immortal before him. He kissed her on the mouth, heedless of his neck's proximity to her pronounced canines, and she welcomed him, her tongue dead yet unabashedly piloted by her need.

Van Helsing took his time kissing his way down her body, savoring her scent and the the flavor of her sweat. Could a nosferatu sweat? The thought occupied the clinical portion of his mind for but a moment, then was gone.

When he was face to face with her most intimate of places, he stopped himself and gazed into her cleft, which was in a clear state of arousal and welcome. Throwing all caution to the wind, Van Helsing descended upon her, consumed with all-too-human lust as he venerated at her temple. There was no violence, no feasting on his blood, no killing. In that moment, Van Helsing knew he had betrayed his profession, but somehow he cared not one whit.

Later, as sunrise neared, Van Helsing observed the vampire, dozing as the revenant's cycle of sleep at the end of a night commenced, utterly sated but not upon her hunter's blood.

Van Helsing looked at her for what felt like a long time, as sunlight began to creep into the room falling just short of where his diabolical inamorata lay. Having made up his mind, Van Helsing closed the shutters on the room's window and latched them securely. With that gesture, he departed, conflicted by what had occurred.

As he made his way down the rocky path from the haunted chateau, he cast a look back and fought the urge to return and sit guard over the creature. But such dalliances were for others. This time he'd had the good fortune to connect with a being whose loneliness echoed his own, but he resolved never again to cross the line between his sacred calling and his primal needs.

Yeah, that was a good cat nap!

Thursday, April 25, 2024


 One of the timeless cultural Meccas of New York City: Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs at Coney Island.

It's a day off from treatment, so if today's burgeoning spring weather is nice I may hop the subway down to Coney Island for some hot dogs at the legendary Nathan's.

I haven't been down there in years, since just before my tribulations with agonizing atopic dermatitis that rendered me looking like the title monster in THE HIDEOUS SUN DEMON (1958), and I am way past due a round of their rightfully famous tube steaks. I can easily polish off three of them, but which version to get? I could happily go with plain franks topped with their brown mustard, or chili dogs (though in that department nothing bests the ones at Dairy King in Norwalk, CT), or even some topped with that signature cheese sauce. And before anyone mentions them, no, I will not partake of their beloved French fries. I know it's blasphemy, but I just don't like their fries and I cannot articulate why. Anyway, should be a fun jaunt.

These days a short journey to Sunset Park, Crown Heights, or Bay Ridge has counted as travel for me, my options being limited by my sparse energy and my body sorting itself after a previous day's dialysis rigors, so heading out to the turf of the Warriors might feel like running from Parth Galen to Isengard. That said, the weather is getting nicer and I have fallen victim to the complacence that comes with the colder seasons, so I need to get off of my exhausted tuchas and push myself to rebuild my stamina for walking around at length in the world outside of the dialysis center or my tiny apartment. I acknowledge that I have been quite depressed for the better part of the past 12 months and it's way past time that I truly butched up pushed my way through that all-consuming malaise of the mind and soul. I hide it well, but I have long felt utterly broken by my ongoing medical odyssey and it is quite exhausting, but enough is enough. Gotta get back in the saddle, or at least give it a damned good try. Life is worth living and I sometimes need to remind myself of that, and little missions like a journey down to Coney Island are a good way to bolster my mental fortitude.

Friday, April 19, 2024

BLOOD'S A ROVER (2018) by Harlan Ellison

I waited 43 years for Harlan Ellison's final story set in the post-apocalyptic America on his award-winning novella A BOY AND HIS DOG, prequel EGGSUCKER, and third installment, RUN, SPOT, RUN, and now that I have finally read BLOOD'S A ROVER, I have to say that in no way was it worth the wait. Since the book was published in two pricey versions, the expense of which renders it out of reach to most (I got mine for relatively cheap after years of waiting for it to come down considerably in price in eBay), I will tell you what happens in that final story.


When last we saw our protagonists, in RUN, SPOT, RUN, 15-year-old human Vic, guilt-ridden over what he chose to do to save his telepathic dog Blood's life, loses his mind and wanders into a nest of giant mutant spiders. When the spiders wrap Vic in webbing for a future meal, Blood has no chance of fighting them off and saving Vic, so, realist that he is, the dog runs off and leaves Vic to be devoured, his heart broken over abandoning his best friend. BLOOD'S A ROVER opens with a female solo — the term for unaffiliated survivors in the post-apocalyptic landscape — named Spike meeting Blood, with whom she can communicate mind-to-mind, and the hungry dog offers to partner with her and teach her his wise survival lessons and strategies in exchange for food and companionship. Striking up a wary alliance, the pair encounters another solo who tells them of a legendary facility unearthed when the burying sands of WWIV subsided, a place of seemingly limited food and all manner of useful goods. A fabled place called... Walmart. Skeptical at first, Blood notes that everyone thought Atlantis was a myth until its ruins rose after the nuclear wars, so why not see if the random solo's tale of the fabled Walmart is true?

Blood and Spike head off in the direction indicated by the solo, and they soon find that Walmart does exist. The problem is that its existence is known to several camped-out packs of Rovers, vicious survivors who all want to claim the store's cornucopia for themselves, and they won't hesitate to kill anyone who tries to cross the no man's land between their encampments and the super-store. As Blood and Spike try to figure out how to get past the Rovers and help themselves to the store's bounty, another solo arrives behind them. It's Vic, who has somehow escaped ending up as tomorrow's spider shit, and he is none too pleased to find that he has spent the past two months looking for Blood and happening to find him staking out the Walmart. Vic and Spike hate each other on sight and Vic immediately tries to rape her, assuming "You're a chick. You musta been passed around." However, he swiftly finds out that Spike has survived on her own as a female in a world where women are mercilessly preyed upon and usually murdered after they have been "used," staying alive and maintaining her virginity by having a mean streak a mile wide, being a dab hand with weapons, and possessing savage hand-to-hand combat skills. She outclasses Vic by a wide margin, so after getting his ass handed to him by her in no uncertain terms, Vic, though hurt by what he sees as betrayal by Blood, agrees to play nice. The three team up and, acting on a plan of Blood's, plot how to obtain their mutual objective and get past the trigger-happy Roverpacks. And among the Roverpacks is one headed by the cruel, aging, flamboyant pedophile Fellini, whose hatred for Vic stems from encounters chronicled in previous stories.

All of that could be a workable idea, but rather than really flesh it out as a prose novella, Ellison instead crafted it as a screenplay for a TV series pilot. BLOOD'S A ROVER is that script, complete with standard script notes on shots and descriptions of characters and locations. It reads like a dumbed-down version of the previously seen setting, which makes sense as it would have initially been pitched for network television back when there were only three major networks, and while the familiar style of the snarky banter between the learned and erudite Blood and the impulsive and hormone-driven Vic is present, it comes off as little better than something one would see in a standard sitcom. Spike is not much of a character, though there was potential for her to be better developed as the series that never was progressed, but here she's just a survival gal with a pilfered laser rifle with a dying power source.

My biggest gripe about it how Vic just shows up with zero explanation of how he managed to break free of the giant spiders' web wrapping, escape, regain his shattered sanity, and track Blood. Harlan was a great writer, but the way the return of Vic was handled is incredibly sloppy. I don't know if the contract for the book stipulated Ellison having final edit or zero editorial oversight whatsoever, but that aspect and, if I'm being honest, the rest of the story were in sore need of perhaps one or two more drafts. I'm glad I finally got to read it, but BLOOD'S A ROVER is a majorly disappointing way to receive one final dose of Vic and Blood. And the story remains un-resolved, leaving things wide open for further adventures in a weekly TV format.

That said, at least the book is a nice edition (featuring a cover by the legendary Richard Corben) that includes the previous Vic and Blood stories, which vary in quality though all are solid. EGGSUCKER is an hilarious day-in-the-life yarn, and the award-winning novella, A BOY AND HIS DOG, is a bona fide classic, perhaps Ellison's biggest hit and most accessible work to the general readership, and it deserved the superb (and controversial) film adaptation it received in 1975, starring a young Don Johnson as Vic, and Tiger, late of THE BRADY BUNCH, as Blood, and voiced by Tim McIntyre. RUN, SPOT, RUN is the lesser of the original three, but still a good tale that leaves off with a hell of a cliffhanger. Too bad the wait of over four decades to find out what happened next was clearly naught but a cash grab from a great author who sadly phoned it in toward the end of his illustrious career.

Wednesday, April 03, 2024


After first hearing about its imminent publication some 43 years ago, I eagerly awaited the release of Harlan Ellison's BLOOD'S A ROVER, which would collect all of the existing post-apocalyptic stories of A Boy and His Dog, plus a screenplay that takes up where the last of the previous three tales left off. Well, it took until 2018 for the book to finally come out, perhaps due to Harlan holding out in hope of selling the script for a TV series or a movie, and when it finally came out it was issued as an expensive limited edition that I could not afford. Nonetheless, I diligently checked eBay for six years in hope of lucking into an affordable copy, and just last week my patience finally paid off. I snagged a library copy for considerably less than the book usually lists for — for a long while the average price for a copy was between $100-$150, and sometimes a lot higher — and it just arrived in today's mail.

Though I have read the first three stories many, many times over the past four decades, even getting my copy of the the book containing the original novella signed by Harlan himself, I will approach this complete edition as though I had never read any of the Vic and Blood yarns, so my first reading of the final story, the screenplay "Blood's A Rover," will be that much sweeter. The third story, "Run, Spot, Run," ends on a particularly bleak cliffhanger, and I have waited 43 years to discover what becomes of Blood, the brilliant telepathic dog, now that he's on his own. I just hope the screenplay is worth the wait.