You get to Strangefellows, the oldest drinking hole, conversation pit and scumbag attractor in the history of Mankind, by walking down the kind of streets that raise the hairs on the back of your neck, and then slipping into a side alley that isn't always there. Mostly, I think it's ashamed to be associated with such a dive. The alley is dimly lit and the street had cobbles. The entrance to Strangefellows is a flat slab of steel set flush with the grimy wall. Above the door is a small but dignified neon sign that spells out the name of the bar in ancient Sanskrit. The owner doesn't believe in advertising. He doesn't need to. If you're meant to find your way to the oldest pub in England, you will. And if you're not, you could search all the days of your life and never find it. There's no waiting list to get in, but the dues can be murder. -- Simon R. Green's Something from The Nightside, the first novel of his Nightside series.

Ahhh, one moment, jeune fille avec les cheveux rouges, while I introduce this edition. Now we must pass through the Pub to my office so be very quiet as we don't want to wake all the sleeping musicians, elves of various sorts, and even an occasional staff member who very much look like very happy felines. They have been like that since late last night. Why so you ask? See that stack of now absolutely empty casks over by the end of the bar? That is the culprit.

But first, a rather long aside is in order before I answer that question . . .

The Pub as a setting in fantastic literature has long and interesting history. There's The White Hart in Arthur Clarke's Tales from The White Hart, Callahan's Crosstime Saloon in a series of novels by Spider Robinson, the unnamed recreation station aka bar in Fritz Leiber's The Big Time, Munden's in Orstrander's Grimjack series, Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille -- which Steven Brust created in his novel of the same name -- Tolkien's the Inn of the Prancing Pony, Gavagan's Bar in a series by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt, the Gaff and Slasher Inn as depicted by Peter S. Beagle in The Innkeeper's Song and Giant Bones, and many, many more including the many pubs Ellen Kushner has created -- Rosalie's in Swordspoint which is where Richard St Vier and Alec Campion drink and meet clients; The Brown Dog is where wannabes go to be Bad, and and The Fall of the Kings which has The Blackbird's Nest which is where the Historians all gather throughout the book, especially Basil's disciples, and The Green Man (!!) is where the Northern students hang.

My all-time favourite bar is Strangefellows which is in Simon R. Green's Nightside series. It is reputedly the oldest bar/drinking establishment in the world with Merlin Satanspawn, possibly the most powerful magician who ever lived, being buried under the cellar.The matter of the Pub as a richly textured setting in fantastic literature led rather quickly to the discussion in our Pub of the varied drinks one finds in those stories such as John Taylor's liking for wormwood briandy in that series. Of course everyone knows about the blue coloured Romulan Ale of Star Trek lore not to mention The Pan-Galactic Gargleblaster which is the cocktail from Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, which he describes in this way:

The effect of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick. The Guide also tells you on which planets the best Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters are mixed, how much you can expect to pay for one and what voluntary organizations exist to help you rehabilitate afterwards. The Guide even tells you how you can mix one yourself. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy sells rather better than the Encyclopedia Galactica.

(I am writing down this story after the fact on Tesseract, my iPad, which I wished Adams had lived to see, as it is indeed his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy device made real!)

Look, I could go on for hours over many, many pints of either the Avalon Applejack that Bjorn, our esteemed Brewmaster, just tapped, or more of the Dragon's Breath Stout we just finished, describing the discussion that resulted in all these sleeping beings but let's describe the drink that Bjorn did which is responsible for what you see on the fine summer morning.

Black Death is its name -- a name chosen by Winter, our master barkeeper, after noting it was so dark that no light what-so-ever penetrated a pint of it as it sat on the bar. He said wryly that it is an ale in the style of a Russian Imperial Stout but those usually only have an alcohol by volume of nine or ten. Not this one -- it came in at a staggering twenty three point seven after the icing process was done. One sip was absolutely amazing -- really smooth and intensely smoky with strong bitter dark chocolate yaste to it.

At first they danced and played quite well, but a few pints was more enough to put every soul here who tried it save WInter into a sound sleep and we're not sure how he avoided their well deserved fate. Gods Ball, only the fiddlers in the Neverending Session who are single malt only drinkers stayed awake and they decamped long ago to play to a more lively audiance. (I stuck with Niven's Irish Coffee instead.) It'll be hours before even the Fey among them recover enough to want breakfast and a fresh drink, so let's look over that draft of the interesting story you're working on as it'll be quite quiet here. . . .

Robert Tilendis is certainly pleased with Ellen Kushner's The Man With the Knives, calling it 'not so much a story as a poem, a song, a spell, an artifact'. Read more in his Excellence in Writing Award-winning featured book review.

One of the great things about writing reviews is the opportunity to step beyond a comfort zone. This week culinary editor Joseph Thompson does just that in his examination of Benjamin Burgess's album Skeleton Forms. "I don't listen to enough local music," said Joseph when asked why he chose this CD now. "It's too easy for me to listen to the same dusty operas and campy musicals. When I got a copy of Ben's CD, I realized I had a chance to try something new." To find out what Joseph ultimately thought about Skeleton Forms, read his review here.

Faith Cormier takes a look at non-fiction this time around, beginning with The Business of $cience Fiction -- Two Insiders Discuss Writing and Publishing, by Mike Resnick and Barry N. Malzberg, which she pronounces 'almost as good as a familiar comedy routine'. Find out her ultimate judgment on this examination of the business end of writing here.

Once she got her kidnapped copy back from her husband, Faith found Icelanders in the Viking Age -- The People of the Sagas, by William R. Short, to be a good read; 'a work of scholarship, but not a scholarly work.' Find out more about her short trip into the history and culture of Iceland here.

Faith picks up a fiction book, too; Skyler White's ...and Falling, Fly. She starts out by admitting -- 'Personally, I like happy endings.' Step right this way to discover if her Excellence in Writing Award-winning review has a happy ending.

'Better than it looks' may sound like faint praise, but reviewer Richard Dansky also considers Blood Prophecy, by Stefan Petrucha, to be 'a genuinely engaging read.'

Denise Dutton has a detailed examination of an anthology of hellishly good stories -- Sympathy for the Devil, edited by Tim Pratt and boasting such contributor names as Elizabeth Bear and Kage Baker. 'Do all the stories work? Well, no,' Denise admits. But does that necessarily ruin the whole anthology? Take a look to find out what Denise thinks.

April Gutierrez reviews two graphic novels at once in a twofer look at Mike Mignola's Sir- Edward Grey, Witchfinder -- In the Service of Angels and B.P.R.D. -- War on Frogs. She declares the first to be 'over far too soon' and notes that both books provide 'an entertaining read.' More details thisaway.

Michael M. Jones brings a whopping nine reviews to this issue. His picks this time mainly focused on the urban fantasy and horror genres. He dubs Inhuman Resources, by Jes Battis, 'the urban fantasy answer to CSI'; calls Ghosts and Echoes by Lyn Benedict 'a really fun, interesting series'; and considers Hard Magic, by Laura Anne Gilman, to be 'solid', 'strong', and 'fast-paced.'

However, he didn't like all the books he reviewed this time, though; Glenda Larke's The Last Stormlord was 'something of a slog, an effort to get through'; Katie MacAlister's Steamed is panned as 'flighty and superficial.' Simon R. Green's latest novel, Ghost of a Chance, due out in August, didn't strike Michael as the best thing ever written by that author, but then again, he notes, 'I've never disliked a Green book, and even his lackluster efforts still have the capacity to make me happy.'However, he had stronger praise for Succubus Shadows, by Richelle Mead, noting that 'Fans of the series will undoubtedly enjoy this latest installment.' He also gave a thorough thumbs-up to J.A. Pitts's Black Blade Blues, calling it 'remarkably complex' and an 'extremely strong start to a new series.' Finally, he came down in favor of Anton Strout's Dead Matter, which he calls a 'seriously oddball book.

Reviewer Kestrell Rath takes a look at Kraken, by China Mieville, and comes away surprised -- 'I never thought I would find myself saying [this] about a China Mieville novel'. Say what? Find out in her Execellence in Writing Award-winning review here.

Robert Tildenis closes out this issue with new release of an old book -- Starfishers, by Glen Cook, originally published in 1982. He notes, 'Compared to its predecessor, it's a very different kind of story.' Find out if this re-release stood the test of time for Robert.

David Kidney kicks off our music reviews with a look at Otis Redding and His Orchestra Live on the Sunset Strip. Although he never uses the word, he thinks the sound is beyond cool. One might say "hip."

Kidney then covers Poco's Live at Columbia Studios, Hollywood. With an album this awesome he raves about it like he should.

After Kidney heard Was (Not Was)'s retrospective album, Pick of the Litter 1980-2010, words of praise flowed from his pen.

Kidney's final review is a double-headed treat exploring tracks from Ben Woolman's many MOODS and the collaborative album Beyond Berkeley Guitar. Looking for excellent acoustic? Enjoy those two rising stars!

In Green Man's last issue, we ODed on pure Steeleye Span. Another dose from Gereg John Muller proves he's the musical candyman. His review of Bob Johnson's and Peter Knight's side project: The King of Elfland's Daughter is well balanced, exploring both the flaws of the Steeleye Span band members and their demonstrated talents.

Leaving the library and going to the pub, Bibliophile Iain Nichols MacKenzie delivers his review while enjoying some decent grub. He liked Dance, the latest from Blowzabella. He loves all thirteen tracks and did so much research on the band he should write a novella.

From the West Coast Deborah Grabien dug through her bay area CDs and uploaded the best through an iTunes wire. She has a lot to say about Mark Karan's Walk Through The Fire. She notes how Karan strikes a tone as rare as dragon dung. He's created an album with passion and detachment balanced in each song sung.

With every batch of reviews, Green Man explores the good and the bad. And with those, there are grinches to be named and awards to be had. Rowan Inish wins for Excellence in Writing. His critique of Maddy Prior's 1997 album, Flesh and Blood has been a pleasure citing. He enjoyed it so much he removed the CD from his musical rotation. It's hard to work when one is filled with such admiration.

And now we end with Peter Massey, who wrote an amazing four reviews this week. He was disappointed by Michael Chapman's album Time Past and Time Passing despite the initial interest it piqued. For that one, Massey is nominated for a well deserved Grinch Award, but with this caveat: His commentary is thoughtful and deliberate and not untoward.

Fortunately, he found Ceder Hill Refugees' Pale Imperfect Diamond more stimulating. Even if its genre-crossing mix of music leaves convenient pigeonholing or classifying a matter worthy of debate.

Keeping the selection eclectic, Massey next covers something that blends the medieval and electric. In Matthew Reid's Courtyards and Fairgrounds a synthesizer/keyboard made an evocative sound. But Massey picked up on its Hollywood flair, and does not recommend it as daily aural fare.

Ryan Delmore's The Spirit, The Water, and the Blood also comes from Massey (last but not least), Someone had to end the list -- 'tis the nature of the beast. To Massey, Delmore sounds a bit like Rod Stewart mixed with Tom Petty. For religious themed music, this is an odd medley. Packaging-wise, the cardboard case is quality but the notes are thin. Fear not, however; the CD's enhanced and .pdfs contain the lyrics and chords.

Now for some numbers, in case you were counting the names and albums filling these lines of rhyme. Here's the count in double time: Green Man covered 14 albums in 13 reviews by several writers. How many? Seven of them, who on deadline pulled all nighters.

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Faith Cormier

Denise Dutton

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Camille Alexa

Kate Bartholomew

Faith Cormier

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Proofers and What's New Writers

Camille Alexa

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Michael Jones

Iain Mackenzie

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Matthew Winslow

Leona Wisoker

Author Editions

Kage Baker (1952 to 2010)

Peter S. Beagle

Elizabeth Bear

Stephen Brust

Charles de Lint

The Frouds

Neil Gaiman

Christopher Golden

Elizabeth Hand

Patricia McKillip

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892 to 1973)

Catherynne Valente

Other Editions

Best Music Reviewed!

Best of the Past Year

Bill Willingham's Fables

Celtic Music

Folktales

Nordic Music

Oysterband

Robert Holdstock's Ryhope Wood series

Series Reading

Steeleye Span

Summer libations

Terri Windling's Bordertown series

Winter libations

YBFH anthologies

Words and Music

Kage Baker reading her

The Empress of Mars novella

A reading from Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn

Peter S. Beagle reading 'The Fifth Season', 'Marty and the Messenger', 'Mr. McCaslin', 'None But A Harper (Ibid.)', 'The Rock in the Park' and 'The Stickball Witch'

Excerpts from Peter S. Beagle's forthcoming novels, Here Be Dragons and Summerlong

Elizabeth Bear reads The Chains that You Refuse

Black 47's 'Liverpool Fantasy'

An excerpt from Paul Brandon's The Wild Reel novel

Tunes from Paul Brandon's old group, Rambling House and his new group, Sunas

Emma Bull and Will Shetterly's The War for The Oaks movie trailer

Nicholas Burbridge's 'Open House'

Cats Laughing's 'Draw The Curtain', 'For It All' , and 'Wear My Face'.

Charles de Lint performing his 'Sam's Song'

Charles de Lint -- Some thoughts on his fiction

Gaelic Storm's 'Kiss Me'

Christopher Golden's 'The Deal'

The opening chapter of The Weaver and The Factory Maid, the first novel in Deborah Grabien's Haunted Ballad series.

An excerpt from Deborah Grabien's Rock and Roll Never Forgets -- A JP Kinkaid Mystery

'The Oak King March' (featuring Will Harmon and Zina Lee on fiddles and Pete Strickler on bouzouki), composed in honour of Peter S. Beagle

'The Winter Queen Reel' (played by Roger Landres), composed in honour of Jane Yolen

Chuck Lipsig on 'Star of Munster' variations

McDermott's 2 Hours' 'Fox on the Run'

Jennifer Stevenson's 'Solstice', plus a reading of 'Solstice' by Stevenson herself.

An excerpt from James Stoddard's 'The High House'

Tinker's Own performing 'The Tinker's Black Kettle', a jig by Charles de Lint from The Little Country

Vagabond Opera's 'Marlehe'

A Vasen tune for your enjoyment

Cathrynne Valente's 'The Surgeon's Wife'

Cathrynne Valente reading a selection titled 'The Tea Maid and The Tailor' from The Orphan's Tales

Robin Williamson's 'Five Denials on Merlin's Grave'

Interviews

Kage Baker

Peter S. Beagle

Steven Brust

Emma Bull and Emma Bull & Will Shetterly on the War for the Oaks screenplay

Tom Canty

Glen Cook

Ellen Datlow and Gavin Grant of YBFH

Charles de Lint in 1998 and 2006

Gardner Dozois

Brian, Wendy and Toby Froud

Neil Gaiman in 2004 and 2005

William Gibson

Christopher Golden

James Hetley

Michael Kaluta

Patricia McKillip

James Stoddard

Catherynne Valente

Gordon Van Gelder

Charles Vess

Terri Windling

Uploaded 10th July, 2010 8:10 pm Pacific LLS
Archived 24th July 2010 8:45 PM PST LLS