09 March 2010

Arthur Herzog

You've probably not heard of author Arthur Herzog. During the seventies and eighties, he was merely one of hundreds of authors who seemed to be highly concerned about nature taking some sort of revenge and thus set out to warn mankind to change their ways. You know the thing: giant spiders, mutated horribly by toxic waste just outside of Manhattan, struggle with an insatiable urge to take over the world. If it's not mutant spiders, then it's super-intelligent ants, taking over the Nevada desert and having a bit of a go at anyone who comes near, spending their leisure time building large 3D blocks. That sort of thing. (That was a reference to Phase IV, by the way. If you got it... fond memories shared herewith. Mmmn. Oh, sorry - if you didn't get it, move along please, and try to watch or read 'Phase IV' at some point.)

But you should have heard of him, getting back to the point. Why? Because a number of things set Arthur Herzog's work apart from all the rest. His writing ability, the plausibility, the unremitting terror and the attention to detail; each of these made Herzog's books more than just potboiler horror. Each book, whether it was The Swarm (African killer bees slowly make their way into populated areas of America and are destroyed by genetic alteration to induce sterility) or IQ 83 (retrovirus is accidentally released, reducing the average IQ of the population to 83), was preceded by real newspaper clippings that, while not assuring the reader that such things would take place, at least gave one a nasty feeling of helplessness.

Other books dealt with global warming, earthquakes and convenience foods gone horribly wrong. Yes, even worse than Soylent Green. Of course, the glory days of nature's revenge on mankind as a good read has long since passed - we've moved on to a new age of ensured destruction, as embodied by 'The Road' (Cormac McCarthy) or 'One' (Conrad Williams), both of which are great pieces of new apocalyptic fiction. Herzog's books are still in print, though, ready to offer the connoisseur of sci-fi-horror a good dose of plausible unease.

Arthur Herzog's 2003 publication, described as vivid short stories somewhere between science fiction and horror, is available exclusively on-line at www.arthurherzog.com. You're thinking: Hmm, only available online? Brave move to embrace new technology or last ditch attempt to get published? The answer: go back, read his books and you'll find you're in a position to decide...

Two of Herzog's books also made their way onto film, unfortunately ending up as examples of the standard 70s disaster movie. Orca, the story of an enraged Killer Whale (which isn't quite as bizarre as it sounds: killer whales share a common trait with man, in that they're given to killing solely for revenge), made a 1977 film release whereupon it was immediately derided as a Jaws rip-off, even Charlotte Rampling and Bo Derek failing to make much of a splash.
The killer bees from Swarm took on an almost other-worldly power in 1978, however, raging unstoppable through nuclear power stations and a school or two before being stopped by Michael Caine with a giant mating call transmitter, a standard plot device by that time which was, unfortunately, completely different to the book, far less plausible and a good deal less entertaining.

It should also be noted that Herzog also writes non-fiction books on a variety of subjects and has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist. This was early on in his career, however, when after writing some eighteen stories for the New York Times magazine he turned down the coveted role of editor and later declined a doctorate following his master's at Columbia University, preferring to concentrate on a career devoted to realistic science fiction novels.

A short bibliography:

Aries Rising (Drugs thriller with appropriate quantities of sex, guns and death.)

The Craving ('What happens when hunger becomes a fatal obsession only death can stop..?')

Earthbound ('Your name is Harry Vail and you alone know the terrifying truth...')

Glad To Be Here

Heat (Global warming takes off in a big way.)

IQ 83 (Escaped retrovirus reduces average IQ to 83.)

L*S*I*T*T (FDA approved aphrodisiac works slightly too well...)

Make Us Happy

Orca (Enraged killer whale seeks revenge.)

The Swarm (Africanised bees move north.)

Body Parts (Short stories; Available online only.)


The B.S. Factor

The Church Trap

McCarthy For President

17 Days: The Katie Beers Story


The War-Peace Establishment

The Wood Chipper Murder

How To Write Almost Anything Better And Faster (Sadly not consulted for this writeup.)

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