Lately, I have been adding scans of the covers of
Emil Petaja's books to the amazon.com database. (Emil was a friend of
mine, and I would be dissapointed to see his literary accomplishments
neglected.) While doing so, I came across a newly-listed item which may
be of interest to fans of this late sci-fi/ fantasy author. It is an
article from Contemporary Authors
, the reference book series found in libraries. This article can be purchased and downloaded as an e-document.
Contemporary Authors : Biography - Petaja, Emil (Theodore)(1915-2000)
--- a three page biographical article by the "Gale Reference Team"
Watching Network on TCM. What a great film.
"I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take this anymore."
When it was first published in English translation early last year, the New York Times stated that Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind was like "Gabriel García Márquez meets Umberto Eco meets Jorge Luis Borges’ for a sprawling magic show." Yes, indeed. This
book has shot to the top of my list of novels I want to read. Tonight,
Carlos Ruiz Zafon gave an enjoyable reading and talk about his most
magical novel at The Booksmith.
And here is the review I posted online
of As Dream and Shadow by Emil Petaja.
"Fantastical, dream-filled, brooding verse"
by thomas gladysz
Today, Emil Petaja (1915 - 2000) is
best known as a writer of fantasy and science fiction. However, many of his
first literary efforts were of an all-together different sort. Emil Petaja
wrote poetry - fantastical, dream-filled, brooding verse. Early on, he won a
"couple of minor regional poetry contests," and his work appeared in
publications like Weird Tales, The Californian, and Stirring Science Stories.
Petaja's two published books of poetry are Brief Candle (a mimeograph
chapbook dating from around 1935), and As Dream and Shadow (an
edition of 1000 hardback copies was published in 1972). This latter book - a
sort of selected poems - collects work written largely in the 1930's and
1940's. (Other differently themed poetry - dating from the 1950's - remains
Science fiction and poetry may seem a strange mix, but the history of fantastic
verse goes way back. Two of its significant 20th century practitioners include
Clark Ashton Smith (a longtime friend of Petaja), and H. P. Lovecraft (with
whom Petaja corresponded). Both influenced Petaja's efforts as a poet. The
great illustrator Hannes Bok, whose friendship inspired some of these works,
admired Petaja's verse enough that he drew four illustrations for a long
narrative work, "Dark Roads." This book-length work, begun in 1931
when Petaja was 16, is excerpted in As Dream and Shadow. (Also
included are Bok's original illustrations, along with many other black and
white works by this noted artist.)
Petaja is by no means a great poet. His work is, at times, somewhat
old-fashioned or even "tame" - as the author himself suggests in the
introduction. Who were his other influences? This Montana-born writer lists
Shakespeare's sonnets, Edith Sitwell and Edna St. Vincent Millay, as well as
Coleridge, Yeats, Crane and Dickinson. At a time of revolutionary upheaval in
American poetry, Petaja turned to past forms and idiosyncratic individuals for
Petaja's notable poems include sonnets dedicated to Lovecraft and Robert E.
Howard, both of whom expressed their admiration. Lovecraft said of "Lost
Dream," "It has a genuine and pervasive grace, and a series of
eminently powerful and appropriate images." Howard, commenting on
"The Warrior," said, "I feel deeply honored that a poem of such
fine merit should be dedicated to me. You seem to grasp the motif of my stories
. . . more completely than any one I have yet encountered. This fine sonnet
reveals your understanding of the abstractions I have tried to embody in these
Included in As Dream and Shadow is the Lovecraft-derived
"Cthulhu Done It," as well as fine poems of personal feeling, such as
"And Having Seen" and "Nova." Also of note is the seven
sonnet sequence that comprises "On Listening to the Music of Jean
Sibelius." This great Finnish composer, another artist who resisted the
forces of change that swept the arts during the 20th century, is kindly served
by these quiet homages.
Here is the review I posted online
of Stardrift and Other Fantastic Flotsam
by Emil Petaja.
by thomas gladysz
Though he had more than 150 short stories published
throughout his long career, Stardrift and other Fantastic Flotsam
is Emil Petaja's only short story collection. It contains 14 of the author's
fantastic tales (as chosen by Petaja), along with an introduction by Forrest J.
Ackerman. (The artwork of Petaja's favorite artist and lifelong friend, Hannes
Bok, adorns the dust jacket and endpapers of this 1971 collection.)
In the introduction, Ackerman states, "Through the
years I have thought of Emil Petaja as a kind of literary chameleon. . . . In
the fantasies of Petaja one comes upon elfin echoes of A. Merritt, crystalline
concepts of Clark Ashton Smith and horrors out of Lovecraft. . . . He is an old
soul, a talent surviving from the Golden Age." Apt words, for Petaja - who
corresponded with Lovecraft and was a close friend with Clark Ashton Smith -
was a bridge between two eras. He was - in the old fashioned sense of the term
- a writer of "weird fiction."
The tenor of these sometimes moody, atmospheric works might
well be suggested by the tagline for "The Answer" which appeared when
the story was first published in 1951. "He had strangled Lisa many times
in his dreams. But always, as she died, the phone rang. Did he dare to pick it
up and answer the call?"
There is a touch of Saki and John Collier in "Found
Objects" and "Dark Balcony," while "Only Gone Before"
and "Dark Hollow" are horror in the Lovecraft vein. "A Dog's
Best Friend" makes a grim social comment, while "Moon Fever" and
"Peacemonger" are science fiction with a twist. Those who have
enjoyed Petaja's well-regarded Kalevala novels (based on the Finnish epic he so
loved) will be pleased to find an Otava story in "Pattern for
Plunder." "Dodecagon Garden" examines what a hip planet might be
like, if. . . . Also included in this 220-page collection are the title story,
as well as "Where Is Thy Sting," "Hunger," "Dark
Balcony," and the amusing "Be a Wingdinger, Earn Big Money."
Some of these stories, it should be noted, first appeared in the pulps of the
Golden Age - publications such as Amazing Stories, Fantastic Adventures, and
Emil Petaja (1915 - 2000) wrote all kinds of stories -
fantasy, science fiction, horror, mystery, detective fiction, and even
westerns. He was a member of the Mystery Writers of America and the Science
Fiction Writers of America. (In 1995, Petaja was honored as the first ever
Author Emeritus by the SFWA.) Stardrift and other Fantastic Flotsam
is an all-too-slight sampling of the fantastic fiction of a gifted, though now
Sat, Feb. 5th, 2005, 10:29 pm
During the past week, I have been sending corrections to the online
catalog update form on amazon.com. Mostly, I have been supplying
missing details on the format and editions of Emil Petaja's various
books, all of which were published in the 1960's and 1970's. Emil, who
I knew during the last half-dozen years of his life, was an
accomplished writer and a fine friend. Early works of his were
published in magazines starting in the mid-1930's. Petaja (pronounced
pa-tie-ya) was the author
of 13 published novels, a book of poems, nearly 150 short stories,
various articles, and two books of non-fiction. (He also edited and
published works by his friend Hannes Bok.) Petaja's efforts appeared in
publications ranging from Weird Tales
, Crack Detective Stories
, and Reader's Digest
to Western Trails
, Amazing Stories,
and Writer's Digest
. In 1995, Petaja was named the
first ever Author Emeritus by the Science Fiction Writers of America.
To date, I have written and posted reviews of three of Emil Petaja's book. The first was a review of Photoplay Edition
(1975), his pioneering bibliographic study of movie tie-in books of the silent and early sound era. (Click here to read the review
.) I also posted reviews of Stardrift and Other Fantastic Flotsam
(1971), a collection of short stories, and As Dream and Shadow
(1972), a book of poems. In the future, I plan on posting further reviews. A small favor for a dear friend.
Fri, Feb. 4th, 2005, 08:59 am
Woke up this morning with this dream in my mind.
. . . I arrive with a friend at a hotel meeting room or banquet hall,
where a number of people have gathered. Some are dancing in the center
of the room. Many are sitting at round tables, talking and drinking.
Some sort of festive gathering is taking place. We sit down at one of
the tables, where Hunter S. Thompson is seated with others. I don't
intend to speak with the gonzo journalist, but merely hang out around
him. Listen to his conversation. He is mumbling, and I can't really
discern what he is saying. There is noise in the room. After a short
while, Thompson gets up and circles the table, and sits down next to
me. I pretend not to really notice. He starts talking about Roscoe
"Fatty" Arbuckle. This grabs my interest. I ask Hunter if he has read
Jerry Stahl's novel, Fatty. He says he has, and that he liked it. . . . I wake up.
The Copyright Office is asking for comments
about orphan works, which it defines as "copyrighted works whose owners
are difficult or even impossible to locate."
From their announcement:
"The Office is seeking comments on whether there are compelling
raised by orphan works that merit a legislative, regulatory or other
and what type of solution could effectively address these concerns
conflicting with the legitimate interests of authors and right
holders." The announcement and instructions on providing feedback are
If you like doing research or like looking things up, this news will excite you . . . . HighBeam Research has announced that their online research service will be free for nearly a week - from January 24th to January 28th. The service is available at http://www.highbeam.com
You can search their extensive archive of more than 33 million documents from over 3,000 sources - a vast collection of articles from various publications, updated daily and going back as far as 20 years. The resources are grouped into documents, images, maps, and reference. [ During the free period, you'll have to fill out the free basic registration. The free basic registration requires a name, e-mail address, passwords, and a couple of basic demographic questions. ]
Reuters (which always carries odd news) reports that an Italian
pensioner committed suicide after his wife fell into a coma, but just
hours after he killed himself, the woman woke up.
"Recalling the end of Romeo and Juliet,
the 70-year-old man, Ettore, who had sat by his wife's bedside for four
months after she slipped into a coma following a heart attack, finally
gave up hope and gassed himself in the garage of his family home. Less
than a day later, his wife, Rossana, woke up in her hospital bed in
Padua and immediately asked for him."
The northern Italian town of Padua lies 40 miles from Verona, where the
star-crossed Romeo killed himself believing Juliet to have died.