Book Review: The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage: Queen of Pulp Pin-Up Art

English: Cover of the pulp magazine Weird Tale...

English: Cover of the pulp magazine Weird Tales (March 1938, vol. 31, no. 3) featuring Incense of Abomination by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Disclosure: As you might guess from the last name, J. David Spurlock is my uncle. While I love him dearly, we try to maintain a family value of honesty and we all share a respect for literature and art, so read this review with no worries: I’m being honest, honest!

She was something special, something different. In the early days of Weird Tales magazine, the art featured was often lush, lurid, and deliciously effective, and none more so than that of Margaret Brundage. In an era when women were often forced into restrictive social roles, she defied expectations on multiple levels.

Her work was frankly sexual and sensational, with most covers featuring deep colors and sharply outlined figures of naked–or mostly naked–women, usually in danger and–perhaps counter-intuitively–posing sexily while coping with that danger.

Weird Tales, May 1934

Weird Tales, May 1934; Cover by Margaret Brundage.

Sometimes there were also scantily-clad men, though it was sometimes unclear who was supposed to be protecting whom.

The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage: Queen of Pulp Pin-Up Art
functions as a combination of biographical essays and art collection, combining notes, bits of detail, full essays, and gorgeous, full-color illustrations of all of her Weird Tales covers, along with various other, lesser known, pieces.

English: Cover of the pulp magazine Weird Tale...

English: Cover of the pulp magazine Weird Tales (November 1936, vol. 28, no. 4) featuring Witch-House by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My favorite section, “The Secret Life of Margaret Brundage”, gives us a snapshot of early 20th Century politics and what it was like for Margaret and her husband, Slim (who shared her political and social interests). Here you can find details on their involvement with labor activism and the Wobblies (The Industrial Workers of the World, or IWW), the Chicago activist scene, the Free Speech movement, and the civil rights movement. Some of the issues and views detailed show that while, in many ways, the issues remain the same, the movements themselves have changed a great deal, with the IWW all but extinct and the labor movement demonized by many.

While I don’t want to recount too many details (yes, even historical books can have spoilers!), I do want to say that as an author who owes a great deal to Weird Tales AND as a person who has spent a good part of his own life devoted to progressive and labor activism, the book taught me a lot, as well as collecting some truly beautiful and historically important works of art.

Highly recommended.

One Week Left For “Black Labyrinth: Book II” Kickstarter

Cover of "Bubba Ho-Tep (Limited Collector...

Cover via Amazon

Joe R. Lansdale, Santiago Caruso, and Dark Regions Press working on a new Black Labyrinth, and he needs your help:

PORTLAND, OR. October 25rd, 2013 – Dark Regions Press, a specialty publisher in business since 1985 has launched a new Kickstarter campaign supporting a new book project by Joe R. Lansdale, award-winning author of Edge of Dark Water, The Thicket, The Bottoms, Bubba Ho-Tep, the Hap and Leonard series, Incident On and Off a Mountain Road and many other novels, short stories, comic books and screenplays. The book will be lavishly illustrated by Santiago Caruso, a renowned surrealist artist of the macabre and fantastique from Argentina.

The new Joe Lansdale novella is slated to be Book II in the Black Labyrinth imprint published by Dark Regions Press.

Black Labyrinth is an imprint of ten original psychological horror novels and novellas from the living masters of horror and dark fiction all illustrated by surrealist artist Santiago Caruso. The first book in the imprint, The Walls of the Castle by Tom Piccirilli has been met with wide critical acclaim, and the hardcovers are considered some of the finest that Dark Regions Press has produced.

The Kickstarter campaign for Black Labyrinth Book II: Joe R. Lansdale began on Tuesday, October 8th and will run until Sunday, November 10th. As of Friday, October 25th the campaign has reached 54% of its funding goal. The campaign can be found by searching “Black Labyrinth” on or by visiting the campaign page directly at:

Join Dark Regions Press in bringing a new novella by one of the most well-respected authors of horror and dark fiction in the world: Joe R. Lansdale. Accompanied by the fantastic artwork of surrealist artist Santiago Caruso, this is going to be a very special book that readers of Joe Lansdale and art lovers will celebrate.

So hit the link in the press release above, the banner below, or the image in the sidebar over to the right and give what you can…it would be a damnable shame to miss out on something like this.

Kickstarter campaign for Black Labyrinth Book II: Joe R. Lansdale

Creators Unite! The Industry Needs Us, Not Vice Versa

Author: notafish - Delphine Ménard Source: sel...

Author: notafish – Delphine Ménard Source: self drawn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning, I ran across this little listing in a writer’s group I belong to on Facebook:

OMNIDAWN is currently reading for the BEST AMERICAN EXPERIMENTAL WRITING anthology (“BAX”). DEADLINE: November 15, 2013. READING FEE: “$9 for three pieces of writing or nine pages (whichever is fewer).”

This enraged me so much, I simply have to call BS. What’s the reading fee for, if not to pay for overhead, which includes paying the actual talent…you know, the writers?

I swear, there is a whole strata of publishers–and I don’t mean the big kids, they have their problems, but at least they understand they need to pay for the product they want to sell–that seem to think THEY are the important part of the industry. To these I have a message:

We DON’T need YOU. Not anymore, and to a degree we never did, we just got slowly conditioned to believe that US making YOU money while you scammed and screwed us was YOU doing US a favor. But that’s changing, and more and more of us are realizing WE DON’T NEED YOU.

And to my fellow actual creators:

STOP subbing to these markets. Exposure does not pay bills and costs the person making money off of our work NOTHING. If a market says they are a “for the love” market, those people don’t know what love is. Love is not exploitation. These publishers are making money on these publications, and asking us to do the most important work for free. THIS IS THEFT. THIS IS EXPLOITATION. STOP going along with it. Accept nothing less than at least a token payment or hard author’s copy (no ebooks), and do that ONLY for small markets who feasibly can’t afford pro rates. Be reasonable, sure…but don’t accept the lie that you need to let yourself be exploited in order to be a “real” writer.

If you’re just starting out, self-publish or post work on your own blog, with your own advertising and/or tipping/donation setup to make SOMETHING off of it and get “exposure” as well. REAL publishers and editors care about the quality of the work, and are looking for good writers, not writers who convinced someone else to put up a story on someone else’s website, or that someone other than yourself put it out on iTunes and Amazon. Please understand: in a world where one person can pretend to run any amount of ezines or electronic publishing houses with little cost to them, it doesn’t matter if you’re the one putting it out there to someone who actually CARES about finding new, good writers. It could always just be the same person, trying their own scam, so all that can matter is the WRITING.

Ignore those who say “any credit is a good credit when starting out”. That made sense in the print days, when you knew that if someone got published anywhere that meant real money was spent. Then the technology changed, and xeroxed/mimeographed zines undermined that basic premise. And from Charles Bukowski to Thomas Ligotti, without that new, even smaller press created by cheap printing/copying, some amazing writers would never have gotten their start. The “gatekeepers”, granted their status by virtue of their operating capital, wouldn’t have LET us read them.

Now, even better technology has made it FREE to “publish” a book or story. The “publishers” of digital markets have very little (if any) overhead, which means your “for the exposure/love” hard work is pure profit for them. From Huffington Post to some random ezine, if you’re writing/creating  for free, you’re getting screwed.

This is why so many tiny publishers and online magazines have popped up into existence, perfectly willing to use the underlying emotional belief that someone “giving us a job” is somehow doing us a favor, rather than making money off of US and therefore needing to pay their bill for services rendered. It’s almost free to “start a magazine” or “electronic publishing house”, and just like the exploitative corporations and bosses who purposely created this implication, these publishers are using us and wanting us to be grateful for the privilege of making them money. THIS IS WRONG. They are not only NOT doing you any favors, they are willfully exploiting you on all levels…emotionally/mentally, physically/temporally, and financially. Some will even go so low as to attack your status as a “true artist” for daring to even mention or expect payment…and they will then laugh all the way to the bank.

And since they aren’t paying you, you also have nothing to lose by saying “no” and submitting with someone who takes the work seriously. No credit with anyone who won’t pay for your work is worth having. The more writers and creators who realize this, who realize that “content”, aka stories and narratives in all media, is the only American industry left, the better for ALL of us. Whether it’s movies, books, video games, or hypertextual interactive media experiences, THEY NEED US. They can’t do what we do. They can’t even figure out what will “work” or be a “hit” versus a “flop”; that’s why they are so obsessed with remakes, franchises, and remixes, because all their bean-counting brains can parse is “what made money last time”. We NEED to start exploiting this powerful position. Nothing the modern economy creates makes real money anymore except entertainment, and the various publishers, producers, and corporations can’t produce that without US.

So stop acting like they are doing you a favor by condescending to make money off of your hard work. They aren’t. The last barriers to entry are slipping away; if you want to write, it makes increasing sense to self-publish. If you want to make movies, it makes increasing sense to stay indie and avoid the Hollywood “system”. The same is true of games, interactive stories, etc. Look at the indie scenes in any field and you find the exciting, interesting, good work. Sure, there are stinkers in there, too; but there is also a greater possibility of unique visions and original creative work, and thus greater art.

This, of course, scares the crap out of industries that have made a fortune from exploiting barriers to entry; not only did they have the cash, they controlled the industries through “gatekeepers”, so nothing they didn’t want to let through got out to the general public. The public and the creators have NEVER benefited by having such “gatekeepers”; all that has happened is the creators were forced to create crap or starve and the public never even got a chance to decide what was “good” or “bad” on their own.

And this applies to everything; musicians need to stop trying to “get a record deal”. You can do just as well with a good DAW and your own abilities as with any record company. You may need to spend a little money on equipment and instruments, and have to master some new skills, but that’s always been a part of music. What you don’t NEED to do is let those who want nothing more than to exploit your talent and inspiration run your world for you, making YOUR money and then leaving you high and dry when you’re not the hot property anymore.

In short (too late!): respect yourself and your work. Our allegiance is to ourselves and our art, and it is an insult to your very own SOUL to allow that self and art to be abused and exploited. We all deserve better, and the sooner ALL of us realize this, the sooner we will GET what we deserve. I’m not saying unionize (though that WOULD be a great idea); I’m just saying respecting yourselves and your work will go far beyond just yourself.

It will help us all.

“The War on Consciousness” – Banned TED Talk

This is one that’s been making the rounds and I wanted to share it with everyone:

Needless to say, I support the freedom for everyone to use their minds and bodies as they will. As some people know, I’m a Thelemite, and for me it’s quite simple: Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Almost all of the world’s problems consist of people meddling in the affairs of others. For too long we’ve simply accepted the notion that the role of government and law is to govern our use of our own bodies and minds. This is a holdover from monarchy and “divine right” government. It creates a naturally adversarial relationship between the state and the citizen that has no place in a free society of equals. So long as this is the case, we can never truly feel like we are on the same side as our government…they feel like someone out to get us.

And of course, this makes perfect sense. Because–so far as I can tell–they are. The recent “revelations” shouldn’t be a revelation at all…it was clear what the Patriot Act and all of its precedents and descendants were going to do, each and every time they are proposed. Each time, people have “worries” and “concerns” about civil liberties. And then the law, or signing statement, or executive order goes through anyway, and people forget all about it. And it makes sense, I suppose…what are we really supposed to do? As we allowed our government to get more powerful and dangerous, we hit a certain point where, as a culture, we realized that nothing we could ever do would change the situation; if we were to continue to enjoy our “rights” and “freedoms”, it was going to be out of the kindness and honor of whoever happened to be running the government. And once that was the case, the rest has been inevitable.

Within a democracy, with a government created, controlled, and enacted by the will of the people, it makes no sense for our government to behave in any way that coerces the people unnecessarily. Note that, unlike some of my colleagues amongst the Libertarians, I do not argue that finance and economics is one of the places coercion is unnecessary. It is clear, from observations of both history and present circumstances, that people will not behave honorably about finance and economics. We might be able to encourage them to do so, but that will only work if we can all agree that doing the dishonorable thing is still dishonorable if you make a lot of money doing it. Until then, people cannot be trusted to either understand the larger economic system within which they act, or care about the results of their actions.

But people use their substances of choice and, so long as they are responsible (admittedly not as common a phenomenon as one would hope, but still the majority of people) there are seldom any issues. The hysteria about drugs is completely out of proportion to the actual damage they cause, and the moral and psychological damage of prohibiting them easily exceeds the dangers. We need to train our citizens to be personally responsible for their own behaviors, which will help everything, across the board, rather than trying–usually with no success–to use transparent lies to instill fear. The moment a kid learns to use a search engine, the lies are revealed, and trust is broken…about drugs and everything else.

The Universe Doesn’t Exist

The Big Crunch. The vertical axis can be consi...

The Big Crunch. The vertical axis can be considered as either plus or minus time. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


1. The universe is currently considered to be bounded but infinite in time and space… while it has a particular boundary at any given moment, it will just keep going, expanding in space and time, like we are inside a giant basketball, forever inflating.

2. However, the amount of usable energy, which is what’s needed to maintain the coherence of matter as well as its content, is finite.

3. Any finite number divided by an infinite number will tend infinitely close to zero.

Therefore, the universe does not actually exist, and once it achieves a specific extension in space and time, the energy required to maintain such structures will become exhausted. This will not necessarily involve a “big crunch” in the sense of gravity pulling all matter together; the real “big crunch” would be as there was less energy to maintain the structures of reality.

So when your socks vanish forever, consider that they may have just winked out of existence and you may be next. That person you ran into downtown who knew you, but of whom you had no memory? Could have been from a different timeline that collapsed into our own because there wasn’t enough energy to maintain it. Or your timeline could have collap

Reality is as frightening as anything I’ve read or written.