Heroism (Rogue Blades Entertainment): “The heroic books, even if printed in the character of our mother tongue, will always be in a language dead to degenerate times …” Henry David Thoreau wrote those words in the mid-19th Century for his distinguished book, Walden. They rang true then and they ring true today. Of course there will be those who say we do not live in degenerate times, that we live in the greatest of all ages, that our technological and social achievements are pressing us towards some utopia, but those who are true students of history and have open eyes might argue otherwise, or at least they might hold more than a little skepticism about the potential greatness of the immediate future.

Fantasy (Tor.com): Here’s a funny thing about “action reads:” a lot of people would equate that to mean a whole lot of running and chasing and swordplay. They wouldn’t be wrong, of course, but all the physical action in the world can’t liven up a bland tale, or make boring characters interesting, and there’s actually plenty of forward momentum and tension to be had in some fantasy adventure stories without the more obvious blood-letting. And then of course there’s lyrical prose. Me, I prefer to see my action with great characters and some lovely writing, and today I’m going to share a few favorites that deliver all those things.

Writers (Slate.com): Three years ago, over breakfast, my friend Helen handed me a novel about a quest that, unknown to both of us, would set me off on a quest of my own. The book was called The Dragon Waiting, and it was written by the late science fiction and fantasy author John M. Ford. Helen placed the mass-market paperback with its garish cover in my hands, her eyes aglow with evangelical fervor, telling me I would love it. I would soon learn that, owing to Ford’s obscurity, his fans do things like this all the time. Soon, I would become one of them.

Writers (The Nerd Daily): In this sequel to For the Killing of Kings, Howard Andrew Jones returns to the ring-sworn champions of the Altenerai in Upon the Flight of the Queen to continue this thrilling, imaginative and immersive epic fantasy trilogy.

We had the pleasure of chatting to author Howard Andrew Jones about his upcoming fantasy sequel Upon the Flight of the Queen, which publishes on November 19th from St. Martin’s Press. Howard talks about what readers can expect and the challenges he faced, the inspiration behind the trilogy, what’s next for him, and more!

Genre Fiction (Dark Worlds Quarterly): There are those Fantasy writers and critics that accuse Robert E. Howard’s Conan of lacking any depth because he just hacks his way out of trouble. In fact, I think it was Robert Bloch in his intro to Wolfshead (Bantam Books, 1979) who said it, qualifying his words with the fact that he preferred Howard’s subtler characters such as Kull or Bran Mak Morn. I would hate to disagree with such a wonderful writer as Bob Bloch but I think he kinda missed the point. We want to see Conan hack his way out. Just as people pay gobs of money to be ringside at a boxing match.

Subculture (Amatopia): But if you show up humble and willing to learn, and don’t lie about knowing stuff about the subculture, you’ll find you have a whole bunch of cool new friends eager to help ease you in. At the very least, the people in the subculture will respect you, even if they may resent your intrusion. In time, you learn to be a part of the crew.

Fantasy (Matthew J. Constantine): The first novel in the Prydain Chronicles, The Book of Three introduces us to Taran the assistant pig-keeper, Hen Wen the pig, Gurgi the…um…wildman?, and the rest, as well as the Welsh inspired land of Prydain.  The book drips with a sort of gauze filtered, dreamy Fantasy in a similar vein to Tolkien’s Shire, particularly from The Hobbit. Reading the book, I kept thinking it would have fit as a comic strip in the tradition of Prince Valiant.  It also has a lot that could translate well into an animated film or potentially a live action film these days.

D&D (Skulls in the Stars): Die, Vecna, Die! (2000), by Bruce R. Cordell and Steve Miller. This module has the curious distinction of being perhaps the last “old school” adventure ever published! Die, Vecna, Die! was one of two mind-bogglingly epic adventures released with universe-spanning ramifications, allowing DMs to have a reason for transitioning from 2nd edition AD&D to Wizards of the Coast 3rd edition D&D. The other is The Apocalypse Stone (2000).

Fiction (DMR Books): Next week DMR Books will make our first foray into historical adventure fiction with the first book publication of Wulfhere by A.B. Higginson! Wulfhere, Higginson’s only novel, was originally serialized in Adventure magazine in 1920. In the Dark Ages of England, kingdoms were ready to be carved out by any with the ambition and might to do so. The mightiest ruler of all was Penda, Lord of Mercia, a man as strong as he was ruthless. He had no equal in martial prowess, except for his son Wulfhere…

Tolkien (Alas Not Me): Crucial to the tale of Eärendil the Mariner is his ship, Vingelot or Vingelótë, without which Eärendil would have been stuck in a port on a western bay where lonely sailors pass the time away talking about their homes. The name Vingelot gives us a tantalizing and frustrating example of how very easily stories can be lost, likely forever.

Writers (Mystery File):  Over the course of his writing career, Clark Howard may have written over 200 short stories, not all of them criminous in nature, plus a couple dozen crime novels and collections. This does not include an unspecified number of works of true crime the editor of EQMM mentions in her introduction to this tale.   Howard hardly ever used a character more than once, and “Blues in the Kabul Night” is no exception. When mercenary for hire Morgan Tenny smuggles himself into war-ravaged Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, it is for a specific reason. His twin brother is in a high security prison there and scheduled for execution soon, unless Morgan can do something about it.

RPG (Brain Leakage): As I mentioned a few weeks back, I’ve been at work on an Appendix N inspired science fantasy series, one that envisions what D&D fiction might have looked like if it followed the wilder literary roots of the game, rather than filling in the map of TSR and WotC’s pre-fab fantasy worlds.  And while I still plan on writing that, the fact is my recent thought experiments on what Fantasy Effing Vietnam would look like have gotten a bit more attention. To the point that I’ve gotten several messages in public and in private expressing interest in a published print version.

Calendars (Mens’s Pulp Mags): Now, with Eva’s permission, we’re offering a special collectible to go with the book: the Authorized 2020 Eva Lynd Calendar. It’s a limited edition calendar featuring photographs and artwork Eva modeled for, and it’s available exclusively from me on eBay. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably know why Eva Lynd is so familiar to fans of the men’s adventure magazines (MAMs) published in the 1950s and 1960s.

Fiction (Sacnoth’s Scriptorium): So, I’ve been trying for a long time to find an answer to the two questions:  Did the Inklings ever read Lovecraft? And Did Lovecraft ever read the Inklings? So far as the first question goes, the answer is: still not proven. We know that Warnie Lewis was a fan of ‘scientifiction and read some of the pulp magazines like AMAZING STORIES. And THE NOTION CLUB PAPERS suggests that the Inklings were fairly conversant in science fiction. Certainly there are some echoes of Lovecraftian themes in Tolkien’s account of the Things beneath Moria, Lewis’s description of the subterranean world far beneath the surface of Venus, and especially Wms’ Cthulhesque octopoid-lords of P’o-l’u.

RPG (Walker’s Retreat): With last weekend’s Big Brand marketing event masquerading as a fan convention came the announcement–with no release date–of the fourth installment of its iconic isometric dark fantasy action RPG franchise. You know which one I’m talking about, and it’s not the MMORPG. I thought I’d take the time to give you all some alternatives that you may have overlooked or forgotten about, beside Path of Exile and adaptation of other Big Brand properties.

Art (Pulp International): Above, numerous Italian posters for 1960s and 1970s westerns. Some of these movies were true spaghetti westerns (produced in Italy and shot in Europe, often Spain), while others are U.S. productions. All the imagery is beautiful. The artists responsible include Renato Casaro, Rodolfo Gasparri, Averardo Ciriello, Aller, aka Carlo Alessandrini, et al.

Review (Hillbilly Highways): I bought Congregations of the Dead over a year ago on a bit of a lark because it was cheap.  Which isn’t to sale that it didn’t sound right up my alley.  A country noir/urban fantasy/horror mashup with significant pulp influences?  (A secondary character is named Carter DeCamp in an obvious homage to Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp and Manly Wade Wellman’s characters Silver John and John Thunstone seem obvious influences as well.)  What I didn’t realize is how damn good it would be.

D&D (The Other Side): For today’s Monstrous Monday I want to do another review. For this one, it still follows my ‘Back to Basic’ theme I have been doing all year even though it is not a Basic-era D&D book.  It is though one of my Basic era books.  The book is the Monster Manual and it was just about 40 years ago that I first held this book in my hand. This is the book. This is the book that got me into D&D and RPGs.

Warhammer (Warpscream): This book opens with a look at the bleak life of the average imperial citizen. Urinating in water recyclers on the arid world of Baal. It’s one of Guy Haley’s strengths is that he can paint such a despondent picture so rapidly to open with. The story briskly moves along as we are made aware of a dire threat to the world of the Blood Angels.

Writing (Frontier Partisans): I guess it triggered a memory of Robert E. Howard’s description of his own trip to the Carlsbad Caverns in the early 1930s. Howard is best known for his creation of the fantasy character Conan of Cimmeria — and he translated his experience in New Mexico directly into a Conan story. . . The power of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien derives in great part from his ability to evoke a landscape that is at once fantastical and real. Tolkien was profoundly affected by landscape — beloved and comfortable; awe-inspiring; terrifying and appalling.

        I have written about paperback writer Lou Cameron. Zulu Warrior is a book I have been trying to procure for around 10 years. Enter paperback trading on social media. I picked up some paperbacks at PulpFest this past summer for the purpose of trading. An associate on social media was interested in some titles in my possession and he lives in the area of one of the great used bookstores in U.S. I gave him a list of things I was looking for including Zulu Warrior.

Lou Cameron wrote mostly westerns, detective, and war novels. He won the Spur Award for best western novel in 1976 for The Spirit Horses, a novel about the U.S. Army and camels in the 1850s. Read More

“The Horror on the Links”, by Seabury Quinn, first presented in Weird Tales, introduces the adventures of the French occult detective, Jules de Grandin. De Grandin is a step on the progression from Semi-Dual, one of the earliest–if not *the* first–occult detective, to the weird menace of Marvel and beyond. (The Pulp Super Fan has an excellent introduction to Semi-Dual, whose Argosy stories we will see soon.) Seabury Quinn’s Jules de Grandin stories were a cornerstone of Weird Tales throughout the Farnsworth Wright era. Today, however, he is overshadowed by Howard, Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith.

“Physicians’ sleep is like a park—public property.” With that lamentation, Dr. Trowbridge is summoned to treat the long gashed wounds of Paul Maitland, who, in his delirium, cries out about an ape-thing chasing him. Meanwhile:

“Almost entirely denuded of clothing, marred by a score of terrible wounds, her face battered nearly past recognition and her neck broken, the body of pretty Sarah Humphreys, was found lying in one of the bunkers of the dub’s golf course this morning.”

Sarah’s wounds are similar to Paul’s. Dr. Trowbridge, as Paul Maitland’s physician is drawn into the investigation, headed by Sergeant Costello, and assisted by a criminologist, Jules de Grandin. De Grandin’s renown in the scientific world is such that Trowbridge recognizes his work.

Upon questioning, Paul says he was attacked by a hairy ape near the golf course. An examination of Sarah’s body confirms the unlikely story.

“It’s terrible–“

“But certainly, One does not look to see the beautiful in the morgue. I ask for what you see, not for your aesthetic impressions.”

Meanwhile, another of Dr. Trowbridge’s patients, a Mr. Manly, was shot out by the same country club. De Grandin, struck by the coincidence, goes digging through the trash and discovers a shirt belonging to Manly with gorilla hair on the inside. But how to reconcile the all-too-human Manly with the ape that attacked Paul and Sarah? Or, more importantly, should Dr. Trowbridge even entertain de Grandin’s apparent fancy? Read More

This week’s science fiction new releases feature a dementia-stricken hitman, the son of a genetic slaver, a galactic crusade, and two anthologies by science fiction’s best.


Authority – A. K. Meek

The aliens came to conquer. We won, but billions died. Now, it’s time to rebuild.

The neons do as they’re told. Chemically bound to their masters by the experimental chemi-chip implant created from alien technology, they are genetically engineered at rapid rates to be servants for the survivors of the war against alien invaders. Without neons, reconstruction would be impossible.

Colin Hanston—the unremarkable son of the genius who invented the chemi-chip—leads a simple life as a farmer, helping feed his district as any good citizen should. But when he redeems his voucher for a neon servant of his own named Michael, everything changes. His father’s old friend-turned-rebel shows up, and Colin learns that not everyone believes the neons are a simple commodity used by the Authority to fix the world and help prepare in case the aliens return.

Knowing he could be killed just for talking to the rebels, Colin will have to decide for himself whether his father’s work is truly a benefit to humanity as his leaders claim, or a perversion.

Is the truth worth destroying his father’s legacy and putting his family in danger? Is it worth dying for?


Empires Ascendant – Jay Allan, Jason Anspach, Daniel Arenson, J. N. Chaney, Nick Cole, Joshua Dalzelle, Ken Lozito, and Jasper T. Scott

The rise of empire. The golden age of expansion, of exploration. Stories of new and vibrant civilizations growing, reaching out…and sometimes fighting desperately for the future.

Empires Ascendant brings 6 masters of military science fiction and space opera together in one volume of all new, original material. Including:

Banshee’s Last Scream: From the world of Galaxy’s Edge: When a Dark Ops legionnaire is found dead under suspicious circumstances, his fellow operatives employ the notorious bounty hunter Tyrus Rechs to find those responsible and make them pay for their actions. But Rechs uncovers a sinister plot much bigger than a simple murder.

Invasion: Chris Randall just got fired. On his way to break the bad news to his wife, an explosion rips through the night–followed by a dozen more. Scimitar Fighters are streaking down from space. Before Chris can wonder what starfighters are doing over San Bernardino, he sees the clouds light up with laser fire. That’s when he sees it: a dark wall of shadows hovering over the valley and drifting toward LA.

Shadow of Purple: Altharic Vennalus is a general, and a loyal servant of the Republic. He has battled endlessly, fighting to preserve the Republic from the usurpers who would topple it. The civil wars that have raged for three decades are nearly at an end. But peace is an elusive dream, and pain and loss will drive Altharic to places he couldn’t have imagined. In the end, he will be faced with answering one burning question. What is the cost of his honor?

…and more!


Optional Retirement Plan – Chris Pourteau

When retiring isn’t an option, it’s kill or be killed.

Stacks Fischer is a killer for hire. For more than three decades, he’s loyally served the Syndicate Corporation as its most-feared and respected enforcer around the solar system. He’s buried the company’s dirty laundry six feet deep, no matter who had to be taken out to do it.

Now, Stacks has a problem—he’s losing his mind to an incurable form of dementia, and unwittingly spilling corporate secrets in public.

When SynCorp decides Fischer has outlived his usefulness, they decide it’s time to permanently retire him. But Stacks isn’t quite ready to go. With every one of SynCorp’s Five Factions gunning for him—and his own mind slowly rebelling—Fischer leads a pack of would-be assassins in a final, deadly chase across the solar system.

The old hitman refuses to fade quietly into oblivion at the hands of his disease or the business he’s dedicated his life to. He’s choosing an Optional Retirement Plan.


Places Beyond the Wild (Z-Day #4) – presented by Daniel Humphreys

The world did not go quietly into the night.

The vast wilds outside a place called Hope hold their own stories. When the end came, what happened to everyone else?

Massachusetts. Texas. Alabama. Tennessee. Pockets of humanity have persisted through the apocalypse. All have tales of survival and loss.

Mad Dog Mattis’ last stand at the Pentagon. The first Christmas after the end of the world. A family isolated on their homestead as the evolving dead press at the fences. A desperate quest for helicopters to destroy the undead.

Come read through this expansion of Daniel Humphreys’ Dragon Award nominated Z-Day universe. Twelve brand new survival stories written by the best up and coming independent sci-fi and fantasy writers will thrill fans of the series.

Find tales of hope in a desolate world and read Places Beyond The Wild today! Read More

David V. Stewart’s work returns to the Castalia House blog with The City of Silver.  Regular readers will recall last August’s review of his sci-fi horror and military bloodbath novel, Voices of the Void.  This time around David presents another fairly short novel with an equally straightforward premise. 

A reluctant countess chooses to leave her arranged marriage for a life in exile.  The man she finds to act as her champion-for-hire is a sorcerer in a world where such men are hunted down by a Church and political system that views them as a dangerous wild card in the game of power.  The bulk of the narrative follows their flight to the coast, and then their maneuvering through the streets of a hostile city to secure passage to a potentially safe neutral country.  Naturally, this being Book One of a longer series, it’s a good bet that that neutral country won’t be terribly safe.

Considerably more complex than Voices of the Void, despite its short length, this novel feels a lot bigger than its page count.  Not because the story drags – it’s a fun “escape from a foreign city while pursued by agents of the crown” adventure – but because it occurs in a fully realized world and because the characters leap off the page.  The addition of black powder weapons and an Amish sort of ban on certain technologies add another layer of

Many authors blunder unto the big pitfalls of epic fantasy by wasting too much time on world building and setting dump expositions.  David does edge along that precipice with a few brief scenes that paint a larger world.  Instead of “as you know” style conversations, he steers things into a more “how can you think” debate between people whose opinions on politics and religion differ.  The resultant scenes help establish a nice change of pace between action scenes and ease the reader into the wider world to provide context for the central conflict of The City of Silver.  These passages help ground the action, and potentially lay the groundwork for future installments of the Moonsong Saga. 

Of particular note is the black powder technology level of this otherwise straightforward fantasy setting.  A ban on certain technologies, reminiscent of the Amish prohibitions on tech, appears at first glance to be a power play by the authorities.  That is a dangerous assumption built on other works, given the way David hints at other, more practical, factors weighed in that decision.  Add a powerful monotheology predicated on a god known as The Dreamer, served by angelic godlings, and you’ve got the makings of one of the more original versions of Christianity with the serial numbers filed off of it.  All told, it works well to present something greater than the sum of its parts.

But it is in the characterizations where David  truly shines.  In addition to several strong character arcs, he crafts well rounded characters who continue to surprise the reader with depth and nuance.  The central couple feature a pampered countess who understands political struggles among the gentry, but must learn how politics operate at the level of the people in the gutter.  The square jawed hero and hired muscle has a lot of rough edges that hide a gentle demeanor he dares not show, given his line of work.  Even the villains have moments of humanity that, while not exactly redeeming them, remind the reader that they are not cartoons but living people with their own reasons for what they do.

There is no word yet on the release date for the second book.  My return to Mr. Stewart’s works serves as a strong indicator of his worth as a writer.  My anticipation for the sequel to this work should provide ore evidence that any fantasy reader would do well to add his works to their library. 

Corporate Cancer: How to Work Miracles and Save Millions by Curing Your Company is now available at Arkhaven and at Amazon.

The corporate cancer of social justice convergence is costing corporations literal billions of dollars even as it drives both productive employees and loyal customers away, destroys valuable brands, and eats away at market capitalizations. From Internet startups to entertainment giants, convergence is killing corporations as they focus on social justice virtue signaling at the expense of good business practices, sales, profits, and retaining loyal customers.

In Corporate Cancer, Vox Day explains how you can fight social justice convergence in your own organization for both personal and corporate profit, and why you must do so if you want to keep your job.

Writers (Less Known Writes): David William Jarrett was the son of Mervyn Spencer Jarrett (1906-1986), a works engineer, and  his wife Olive Elizabeth Jenkins (1907-1997), who were married in the summer of 1940.  He had one older brother. Jarrett’s novel was Witherwing (London: Sphere, 1979: New York: Warner, 1979). It begins as a kind of heroic fantasy novel in which Witherwing, the youngest of six princes of Tum-Barlum (the name clearly modeled on Twm Barlwm, the name of a hill in south Wales, but that has no significance to the story).

 

 

 

RPG (Walker’s Retreat): With last weekend’s Big Brand marketing event masquerading as a fan convention came the announcement–with no release date–of the fourth installment of its iconic isometric dark fantasy action RPG franchise. You know which one I’m talking about, and it’s not the MMORPG. I thought I’d take the time to give you all some alternatives that you may have overlooked or forgotten about, beside Path of Exile and adaptation of other Big Brand properties. This is not an exhaustive list; most of these will be linked to their Steam entries, but I advise you to look at GOG also if you want DRM-free versions or see if you can buy used physical copies.

 

News (Niche Gamer): On October 22nd, the United States House of Representatives voted 410 votes to 6 (16 abstained) in favor of the CASE Act- dubbed the “Anti-Meme law” by its critics. The “Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019” was introduced by Representative Hakeem Jeffries (Democrat, New York) on January 5th, 2019. The bill’s purpose was to help content creators utilize a small claims court for copyright infringement, as the current law means copyright disputes must go through the more expensive federal courts.

  Read More

This just arrived in the mail. I have written about New Texture’s books that focus on the men’s adventure magazines of the 1950s through the 1970s. Their newest offering is Eva Men’s Adventure  Supermodel, an art book featuring model Eva Lynd. Read More

Black Mask alumni Frederick Nebel’s Jack Cardigan was one of the main reasons behind the success of the legendary Dime Detective Magazine. Cardigan first appeared in “Death Alley.”

This is a tale for jazz and bourbon. Cardigan’s partner is dead–done in by drive-by–and the case is apparently closed. Only Cardigan believes otherwise. It doesn’t take long for Cardigan, P. I. to find trouble, both with the crooks and with the law. Said trouble sends the rest of his private detective office into the hospital. After all, St. Louis is a rough city–and a blissful change from New York or Chicago.

The familiar hand of Lester Dent’s Master Formula can be felt guiding events. Cardigan gets dropped into one peril after another, and not all he can fight his way out of. The murders of the detectives cross over with a spot of trouble that a newly widowed heiress finds herself in, drawn together into one final standoff, and a public gunfight.

“Death Alley” truly is a perfect four-chapter execution of Dent’s formula, awash in gin, whiskey, and tobacco smoke. Compared to the more adventurous Race Williams, Cardigan actually has to rely on some proper sleuthing–and an ability to ferret out connections as tenuous as smoke. It isn’t noir, Cardigan is never tempted and is instead vengeance personified as he searches for the killer, but you can see it from here.

There’s something about Black Mask writers that, even when riddled by slang now long out of date, their prose has a freshness to it that the 1930s hero pulps and 40s science fiction lack. Even when the hard-boiled stories are dated, they aren’t. Nebel is no exception. That’s not to say that I didn’t have to rely on a dictionary a click or so away for a couple terms. But in the end, with the required and satisfying twist, I want to see this done on the silver screen in proper black and white.


Out of the foggy night steps a ghostly figure in gray — The Whisperer! His super-silenced automatics spitting blue flame, he hurls a hissing challenge to the Law and lawless alike! And hot on his crooked trail, legendary lawman Wildcat Gordon!

In “The Six Pyramids of Death”, Commissioner James “Wildcat” Gordon starts sneaking around a countess’s house in the guise of The Whisperer, a vigilante in the same ominous mode as The Shadow. While searching for evidence that would convict the countess, The Whisperer gets mired in a net of bad luck–and frequent blows to the back of his head. For when he wakes up, he observes a secret meeting as cutthroats argue over six golden pyramids. But as the pyramids start disappearing, the cutthroats start dying. While The Whisperer is caught in a web of death, Commissioner Gordon must also fen off the machinations of his hostile mayor.

Billed as the most violent series Street & Smith ever published, The Whisperer wears its homage to The Shadow on its sleeve. Everything in that classic formula is present, from the ominous atmosphere to the brooding in the shadows, a radio-friendly calling card, and the twin automatics. Even the cadence of the story matches The Shadow, including the refrain of “For the man watching from the hiding place was The Whisperer.”  Unfortunately, when assembling that classic formula, something broke along the way, as the sum is decidedly less than the parts.

Wildcat Gordon turns into The Whisperer through the addition of dental plates that build out his jaw. The catch is, they also affect his voice, reducing it to the whisper that gives his alter-ego his name. A novel solution to the quandary facing any vigilante trying to hide his identity–and one more convincing than the Moon Man’s–but it undermines the ominous mystery of The Whisperer with weakness. Worse still, The Whisperer gets knocked out on a regular basis in this story. While it gives Gordon personal stakes in bringing the criminals to justice–or a grave, for the murderers–With how many times someone has snuck up on and decked the Whisperer, it’s a wonder he still has a secret identity…or a life.

On top of that, the mood whiplash continues, replacing the dark, brooding ominous man of shadows with the folksy, good old boy commissioner. Knowing too much about the man behind the mask does undermine the story. Why not a folksy good old boy? Because, at least in fiction, most good old boys settle matters directly, without all the theatrics and sophistication a man of the shadows must use. But what is believable is the violence.

As for six pyramids of death, which have been an afterthought not just in this review, but in the story, a more classic example of a MacGuffin will be hard to find. There’s no mystery here, just a lure to get the gunmen shooting at each other, and the reason for their existence is a disappointing capstone to such a violent treasure hunt.

For writers, the prose of The Whisperer is an object lesson. As Lester Dent says, wave those tags. Not only does it give readers quirks that identify characters, but they also allow writers to use more than full names and pronouns to refer to their characters. This is especially helpful in action scenes, where the constant usage of a character’s full name brings The Whisperer’s fights too close to the dreaded checklist.

The sum total is that in “The Six Pyramids of Death”, The Whisperer misses the mark of the hero pulps. As such, he is more notable as being one of the many inspirations swept up into the plagiaristic Batman than for his own adventures.

This week’s fantasy new releases feature living saints, Depression-era folk magicians, online magi, and refugees hiding in a world of pike and shot.


Awaken Online: Ember (Awaken Online: Tarot #1) – Travis Bagwell

Finn Harris should have been the one to die.

But he wasn’t – his wife took his place. What was worse, he only had himself and his company to blame. They let their passion outpace their prudence, determined to revolutionize the world. While all innovation comes with a price, he never imagined it would cost him Rachael.

Nearly a decade later, Finn is content to hole himself up and wait out the rest of his life – what little he has left. That is, until his daughter intervenes, forcing him out of his grief and into a new virtual reality game developed by his old employer. They’re calling it Awaken Online, and she believes there’s something unusual going on inside the game. And since Finn knows the company, knows their tactics – she might be right.

Finn wasn’t sure what he expected to find when he logged in. But it certainly wasn’t a manipulative fire god or a school for mages – where the students are pitted against each other in deadly duels and the faculty isn’t shy about maiming or injuring novice mages to prove a point.

Now Finn must learn to fight, for his own life and a chance at redemption. He’ll need to prove that his fire hasn’t been snuffed out.

That there’s still an ember burning…


The Chaos Rises (Elemental Academy #6) – D. K. Holmberg

The Draasin Lord is captured but a greater threat remains.

Now that Tolan knows the secret of the Draasin Lord, he recognizes more needs to be done. As a student, he’s not in a position to be able to do more, but as a master shaper, he’d be free to travel as he feels necessary.

When another attack targets the academy, Tolan knows his unique abilities might make him the only shaper able to respond.

He must survive crossing the waste, but even if he does, how can he stop the chaos where none can shape the elements and where no elementals can survive?


The City of Silver (Moonsong #1) – David V. Stewart

Guns on all sides!

Charlotte and Rone are being hunted.

They flee from the sadistic and power-hungry Count Catannel, who will stop at nothing to see Charlotte, his unwilling wife, returned to him whole.

Rone, a solitary mercenary from a tribe of apostates feared and hated for their ability to use magic, is her only hope for escape, but all she can promise him is riches in some indeterminate future. Those who hunt her are rich and powerful beyond belief.

Reaching the Coast, escape is close at hand, but so are the agents of the enemy. Within the walls of the decadent Masala, the Silver City, murder, theft, and betrayal lurk in every shadow and under every rotten eave. Will Rone’s guile and cleverness be enough to get them out, or will his honor break before then?

Guns and swords may not be enough to save them…


Cloak of Wolves (Cloak Mage #2) – Jonathan Moeller

My name’s Nadia, and I do favors for the High Queen Tarlia of the Elves.

Tarlia is not the kind of woman who accepts no for an answer.

So when the High Queen orders me to help a top investigator solve a murder, I have to do it.

Even though I’ve spent most of my life on the run from the law.

I don’t like the investigator, and he doesn’t like me.

But that doesn’t matter, because if we don’t work together, the creatures we’re hunting will kill us both… Read More

Pulp Modern: TechNoir Special pulls the rug out from under the reader in the best possible way.

Scotch Rutherford serves as guest editor for this themed collection of darkly themed near future science-fiction stories.  None of that should surprise, given the title of the collection.  It’s all right there, just what it says on the tin, and then the authors pull a fast one by delivering stories heavily leavened with hope and optimism and renewal.  All too many authors these days mistake wallowing in the mud with serious chin-stroking intellect, and Scotch throws a middle finger at such pretensions by including stories that, while far from G-Rated family fare, typically turn away from the bleak nihilism so typical of those who seek to emulate the noir stylings.  It’s brave, and refreshing, and surprising.

While largely hopeful, this does remain a noir inspired collection, and the stories are not for those who prefer a light touch when it comes to sex and gore.  Many of the stories allow the camera to linger over the grittier aspects of sexual relations or take a moment to showcase the depths of violence to which men may sink in his depravity.  On the other hand, such moments never come across as cheap or gratuitous, in large measure because the stories do not neglect to also illustrate the price of such actions.  While it doesn’t always happen in a traditional, or legal, or even poetic way, justice exists in the world of Pulp Modern: Tech Noir.  That proves to a nice escape from the normal strictures of the genre.

So let’s look at the stories themselves:

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Comic Books (Paint Monk): If you think I worship at the proverbial altar of Roy Thomas when it comes to Conan comic books, you’re right. I do. But it’s not undeserved. Not only was Thomas the man who worked to bring Conan to Marvel, but he also took his time with character research, developing all the nuances of the Cimmerian and making sure the Hyborian Age was portrayed by the most capable artistic staff the House of Ideas could muster (within budget, of course)! He scripted the initial run of Conan for the first 115 issues.

 

Sales (Cirsova): I don’t know that I’ve mentioned it here, but we have made some of the Wild Stars backstock available via our Amazon store. We had several damaged copies when trying to fulfill our crowdfunds–these have been made available at 1/2 SRP. I’ll note that while a few of these were pretty mangled, most of them were dents, dings and corner creases. While these would’ve been unacceptable to send to backers or for retail shelves [especially for comic folks], these are perfectly good readable copies if you want Wild Stars at a lower buy-in.

 

Zombies (Everyday Should be Tuesday):  I have long been a fan of the comics and watcher of the show, but I haven’t yet dived into any of The Walking Dead novels.  But with an impending trip to China and a good experience with Chu’s Lives of Tao books, Typhoon was the perfect book to start with.  Chu takes the action across the Pacific, telling a story set after the zombie apocalypse hit China.  If you think walkers are bad, wait until there are 700 million of them. Read More