June Self-Promotion Party!

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Hello everyone! It’s now mid-June, the weather is warmer, and it’s time for a self-promotion party!

Don’t be shy; tell us about your books!

Be proud of your writing!

Share your book(s) with the world!

Be your own best publicist!

To help as many as possible see your work, reblog, like, and follow others.

Available on Amazon

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Get The Draft Done! is available here: Amazon.com

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Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

My radio interview:

interview

coverIPScookbook

Available on Amazon

French On English

Available on Amazon

How Is Everyone Doing?

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The last couple of years have been turbulent, to be a bit understated, and I hope everyone is finding their way through all the difficulties we face.

I simply wanted to wish everyone well.

Please try to be kind and to find joy at least once a day.

I want to ask everyone: how are you doing?

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Favorite Science Fiction Films: 6: Them

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One of the main themes that ran through many science fiction films of the 1950s was the combined fear of nuclear war, nuclear explosions, and fallout. This atomic fear is one large terror that haunted the Cold War world and was developed in many ways in science fiction films.

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One such expression was in the advent of the giant bug movies, which addressed the question of what might happen to  the world after radiation had somehow been released either through detonation of weapons or by accident. In Japan, the consequences of having been the only nation to have suffered the devastation of nuclear bombs, saw the emergence of giant monsters like Godzilla, often seen destroying Japanese cities–a very direct metaphor for nuclear explosions. In America, a similar motif was seen in the proliferation of Giant Bug movies.  This might be considered an early example of ecological concern in cinema.

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Them, a 1954 production by Warner Bros, starred James Arness and James Whitmore. In the beginning of the movie, a little girl was found alone and traumatized, saying only “them, them.” The girl was rescued, but during the investigation, other people were found who have been killed, and the perpetrators were discovered to be giant ants.  The monsters were created when normal ants came upon sugar that had been irradiated by atomic weapons testing.  They reached the height and size of small military tanks and were ferocious killers and hunters.  This film made Americans think about the potential risks from insects that would normally have been viewed, at the worst, as mere pests at picnics.  Radiation had the capacity to distort they way we  interacted with the world.

Eventually, the creatures were hunted down and destroyed by the use of flame-throwers.  As would be the motif in most of the giant bug movies, the world was saved by using technology against technologically-created creatures.  At the conclusion of the movie, a warning was given in solemn tones that we have entered a new world in the atomic age, and we have to be aware of its dangers. These are themes that would be repeated frequently in other giant bug movies.

If you have not seen this one, it is worth a look.  It may not be the best film of all time, but it does introduce important Cold War themes into science fiction cinema. These are themes which frightened many people.

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Can Anyone Help With Suggestions For Comp Titles For A Query Letter?

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Hello to all the writers and readers out there! I am currently working on a query letter for my YA Dark Fantasy novel, The War Of The Sidhe. In this novel, In 1968, in small town PA, three bullied teens, Dancer, James, and Micah, find refuge in their kind English teacher’s class. When he is missing, to save him, they must defeat a supernatural creature and its followers or die trying. One of the issues I have learned is that the writer who is doing the query letter should include comps, or comparable titles, of books to suggest to the literary agent, to whom the author is submitting the letter, where the book would belong on a bookstore’s bookshelves. The comps preferably should be no more than about from 3 years ago. That presents a problem for me, because I suggest Stephen King’s It and Stranger Things, which is not a book. If any of you can make any suggestions about possible comps, I would certainly appreciate the help!

More Reviews of Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book I by Charles F. French

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“I am not typically a reader; yet, upon picking up French’s Maledicus, I was hardly able to put it down. The story is told beautifully, and the way that French weaves together two seemingly unrelated storylines and settings into one creates an especially interesting and thrilling read. In particular, Maledicus’ actions from the “In-Between” and the men’s actions in the present to counteract them are well described, with the author frequently moving from one place to the other in successive chapters in order to see the two perspectives, seemingly in real-time. The chapter length contributes to how well the story flows–the chapters are broken up frequently to naturally allow for this kind of time-hopping. Furthermore, as someone who grew up in the Lehigh Valley, I enjoyed seeing many details of my hometown in the fictional town of Bethburg. Overall, the novel is a thrilling read that is thoroughly enjoyable not only because of the plot itself but also the manner in which the story is told. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!”

“Loved this book. It moved a bit slow at the beginning but it led up to one hell of an ending. I truly enjoyed it. The character development was on point and the plot kept me interested the whole way through. Definitely recommend.”

Available on Amazon

GetthedraftdonepossEbookcover!-page-001

Get The Draft Done! is available here: Amazon.com

GallowsHillFinalCoverEbook

Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

32570160

Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

My radio interview:

interview

coverIPScookbook

Available on Amazon

French On English

Available on Amazon

FAVORITE SCIENCE FICTION FILMS: 5: THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL

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The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) was a brilliant science-fiction film that set the standards, in many ways, for other following films.  One of the great strengths of the genre of science-fiction as well as horror and fantasy is its ability to comment on direct issues in contemporary society.  In this 20th Century Fox film, the director, Robert Wise uses the arrival of an alien spaceship on earth as a cautionary message about the potential of the human race to cause its own self-destruction through atomic warfare.

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https://en.wikipedia.org

The core plot element is that beings from advanced civilizations on other planets have found people on earth have developed both nuclear weapons and a space program. They have sent an emissary, Klaatu, played by Michael Rennie, to deliver a gift and a warning to the people of Earth.  The gift, a small box, was destroyed by a frightened soldier who thought it was a threat. In reality, it was a device that would have allowed humans to study the universe. With the gift gone, what is left is a warning that if human beings insist on bringing their atomic weapons and violence into space with them, then earth and its inhabitants will be destroyed utterly. This message is a quietly subversive challenge through what was seen as just a movie to the nuclear states of the world.

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A staple of science-fiction, both cinema and television is the robot.  This kind of machine will figure into film in many ways from the earliest days to recent film.  The Day The Earth Stood Still has such a machine in Gort, a robot that serves as an aide  to the alien Klaatu.  Earth people view it as a threat, as they do everything alien, which is yet another point to the movie.  Xenophobia and bigotry, unfortunate human capacities, were at the forefront of American society in the late 1940s and 1950s.  If someone was different from the so-called norm, then they were somehow bad and immoral.  This will be the main point of the next movie I will examine in this series: Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The Day The Earth Stood Still was a critical success and has been named by several film organizations as one of the most important films of American cinema.  If you have not yet seen this movie, and I am NOT talking about the remake, then I recommend it highly.

Favorite Science-Fiction Films: 3: Frankenstein

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The movie that I will discuss in this installment is Frankenstein.  This 1931 film was directed by James Whale and produced by Carl Laemelle, Jr. Universal Studios was following up its huge success with Dracula earlier in the year, so this film seemed like a natural choice to make. I have posted on Frankenstein before in my series on horror films, but like its namesake novel, it can also been seen as early science-fiction.

While the title and characters come from the 1818 Mary Shelley novel, it is a loose adaptation of the text.  Interestingly, the sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein, is a much more faithful treatment of the novel than this first film. This movie, one of the most important in horror film history, introduces Boris Karloff as the Creature. Karloff gives an impressive performance as the lost and lonely being who is unsure of who he is and his place in the world.  This sounds like so many teenagers and young people, and while frightening, Karloff also gathered empathy from viewers in his nuanced performance.

Bela Lugosi had been offered the part of the creature but apparently turned it down because of its lack of speaking lines.  Lugosi made a terrible career choice, because Karloff would supplant him after this film’s success as the top box office star and would continue to dominate Lugosi’s subsequent film career.

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The movie is powerful and atmospheric and is highly influenced by the artistic movement German Expressionism that had a stylistic impact on cinema especially in the 1920s and 1930s. Whale used large Gothic structures in the set and deep slashing shadows in creating the atmosphere of the film.

Jack Pierce designed the Creature’s distinctive makeup, which was an ordeal to apply and remove from Boris Karloff each day before and after filming. It is a work of design masterpiece, but it is completely different from the Creature’s appearance in the novel.

For those familiar with the novel, it is significant that not only the Creature’s appearance but also his personality and level of intelligence are vastly different from that of the character from the book. In Mary Shelley’s work, the creature is one of the narrators and is both intelligent and self-educated.  Both of those characteristics are missing from the inarticulate and not very bright film Creature. This kind of vastly different portrayal of characters and themes is something that is, unfortunately, typical of many horror films, or should I say, many film adaptations of books. That, however, should be the topic of another post.

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This movie incorporates the stuff of science-fiction, and we see Dr. Frankenstein and his then advanced technological equipment as he attempts to capture the essence of life. In fact, there is more such machinery in the film than exists in the book. So, is Frankenstein horror or science-fiction? I argue it is both.

The film was very successful financially for Universal Studios.  It is also considered by many cinema historians and critics to be one of the most important films made. It spawned numerous sequels and parodies, not limited to movies.  From Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein to the character of Herman Munster in The Munsters to Young Frankenstein, the story of Victor Frankenstein and his creation have been fertile ground for satire and spoofing.

Favorite Science-Fiction Films: 2: Metropolis

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Metropolis is a brilliant science-fiction film (1927) directed by Fritz Lang. This movie, recently restored to its entirety, is a disturbing look at the world of the future through  the eyes of visionaries in the 1920s. It is based on the novel of the same name by Thea von Harbou (1925). The book deals with a city created on the backs of exploited workers and run by the capitalist upper-class. It is also a love story, and it is set in the year 2026.

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Metropolis offers a powerful and damning social commentary on the effects of the ruling class, the capitalist industrialists who rule the world by using and crushing the ordinary people who build and fuel their wonderland. While the workers live underground in squalor and destitution, the upper-class live literally in palaces high above the ground. There they explore and indulge in numerous amusements including those sexual and athletic. This film is not a simple polemic but drives its message through a compelling story that shows the love between the Master of Metropolis’ son Freder and Maria, who lives in the underworld and serves as a kind of saint to the oppressed.

Frankenstein, 1931, owes a cinematic debt to the mad scientist in Metropolis, Rotwang, and his equipment. There he creates a robot woman, using the life force of Maria. Clearly the novelist, Mary Shelley and her book, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, first influenced this movie.

Lang’s cinematic vision is exquisite and deeply influential to filmmakers who followed him in exploring the idea of future cites. His soaring towers and buildings, high bridges with fast cars, and aircraft flying near the buildings are based on the designs of the modernists and futurists, and this concept is a clear model for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Certainly an argument can be made that Metropolis is a foundation for many other science-fiction movies.

This film is extraordinary, and the full version is now available on DVD/BlueRay. It is an important piece of cinematic history, and I give it my highest recommendation.

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Dante’s Divine Comedy–A Post For The U.L.S., The Underground Library Society, by Robbie Cheadle

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Thank you to Robbie Cheadle, a long time member of the U. L. S. The Underground Library Society!

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Dante’s Divine Comedy

Background

Divine Comedy is a narrative poem, written in Italian and translated to English. Dante Alighieri spent twelve years writing this poem which was completed in 1320. The poem is divided into three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.

The poem starts with Dante, the protagonist of the poem, finding himself in a dark and wild forest at night. The road towards the sunshine on the other side of a hill is guarded by three beasts which Dante cannot pass. He is in despair when Virgil, a pagan soul from the first circle of Hell, appears and tells him that the beautiful and good Beatrice, a woman who died young and was an object of admiration and desire by Dante, had arrange for him to journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven in an attempt to redeem his soul and return him to the path of virtue.

The first part of the poem, comprising of 33 cantos, depicts Dante’s journey through the nine circles of Hell which is structured like an upside-down cone. Each circle is smaller and contains more depraved souls and more suffering.  Each circle is devoted to a different kind of sin and the sins are in order of their seriousness according to Dante’s hierarchy. The first circle holds the unbaptised and the pagans who were born before the coming of Christ. The order of the other circles and sins is as follows: lust (circle 2), gluttony (circle 3), greed (circle 4), wrath and depression (circle 5), heresy (circle 6), violence (circle 7), deception (circle 8), and betrayal (circle 9). A three-faced Satan, trapped in the middle of a frozen lake, pays for his sins in the deepest region of circle 9 and chews on the worst betrayers in history, Judas, who betrayed Christ, and Brutus and Cassius, who betrayed Julius Caesar.

The second part of Divine Comedy, Purgatorio, tells the tale of Dante and Virgil’s journey through Purgatory. This is the place where penitent souls endure punishments to cleanse themselves of their former sins before entering Heaven. It is also a place where souls reflect on their sins.

Purgatory is described as a mountain with seven layers aligning with the seven deadly sins of pride, envy, wrath, slovenliness, covetousness, gluttony, and lust. The souls in Purgatory embrace their punishments, unlike the souls in Hell who continuously fight against theirs, as the purging fire is making them holy and readying them to ascend to Heaven.

When Dante and Virgil reach the top of the mountain, Virgil disappears and is replaced as Dante’s guide by Beatrice.

Paradiso is the third and final part of Divine Comedy. The first level of Heaven is the sphere of the Moon and houses souls who broke their vows. Beatrice explains vows in terms of absolute and contingent human will. The second phase is Mercury which contains souls who were just but motivated by fame. Venus (3rd phase) teaches Dante how and why sons end up different to their fathers. Sun (4th phase) explains to Dante the source of the blessed souls’ light. Jupiter (6th phase) explains to Dante the concept of Divine Justice and God’s Mind. In Saturn (7th sphere) Dante sees the golden ladder and meets St. Benedict. The fixed stars (8th phase) is where Dante is examined on faith, hope and charity and Dante goes blind. In the Emphyrean (10th phase), Dante sees the illusion and the real Celestial Rose. Beatrice disappears and is replaced by St. Bernard.

Finally, Dante investigates the Eternal Light and sees the image of the Holy Trinity. God bestows the answer to the mystery of the Incarnation on Dante and his soul is finally at one with God’s.

How did Dante influence the modern world?

Dante played a significant role in developing humanism, the use of language as spoken by ordinary in people in literature, and challenged the dominant role played by the church in society and politics. His ideas helped to generate the cultural and intellectual changes known as the Renaissance, which changed the world.

Dante’s poem also remains an important piece of literature in exploring the implications of human life choices regarding good and evil and makes it clear there are consequences for these choices.

Finally, the Divine Comedy has influenced writing, music, and art for 700 years.

Here is a YouTube video about why people should read Dante’s Divine Comedy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbCEWSip9pQ

Quotes from Divine Comedy

“All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”

“O human race, born to fly upward, wherefore at a little wind dost thou so fall?”

“If the present world go astray, the cause is in you, in you it is to be sought.”

“What is it then? Why do you hesitate?

Why do you relish living like a coward?

Why cannot you be bold and keen to start?”

“They had their faces twisted toward their haunches and found it necessary to walk backward, because they could not see ahead of them. …And since he wanted so to see ahead, he looks behind and walks a backward path.”

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Thank you to Robbie Cheadle!

Please be sure to visit Robbie Cheadle’s wonderful sites:

Robbie Cheadle Books/Poems/Reviews

Robbie’s inspiration

Favorite Science-Fiction Films: 1: A Trip To The Moon

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I teach a course for the Department of Graduate and Continuing Education at Muhlenberg College: English 255 Literature & Film, which makes me very happy, because I am able to look at both literature and film, both media which I love. In one of the lectures for the class on film history, I speak to the earliest examples of cinema.

One of the first movies is also a science-fiction film: A Trip to the Moon (La Voyage Dans La Lune). Georges Méliès, one of the innovators of cinema, was the director, and he based the film, at least loosely, on Jules Verne’s novel From The Earth To The Moon (1865).

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This movie is revolutionary not only in its being an early example of cinema but also in the treatment of science-fiction. Human beings have been explorers for the entirety of our existence, and this movie suggests that it was possible to move our journeys from the Earth to other worlds, a concept that informs our science-fiction cinema from the beginnings to our current films.

The plot shows scientists explaining how to get to the moon, the trip there, including a spaceship being shot out of a cannon, landing on the moon, being chased by inhabitants of the moon, and finally escaping back to Earth. This film explores adventure, imagination, advances in technology, and human potential.

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This movie is usually considered by critics to be one of the most important in film history. It can be seen at https://archive.org/details/ATripToTheMoon1902 . If you are interested in the history of film and science-fiction, you should see this important historic and artistic film artifact.

The film runs, depending on the print from about 10-15 minutes.

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