Fiction (Scifi Movie Page): “Paul Ganley’s Weirdbook was one of the best small press publications of the 1970s. Modeled very much on Weird Tales, it featured “weird” fiction of all kinds. “Weird fiction” was a catch-all term used by Lovecraft and others in the early 20th century to describe everything from fantasy to horror to science fiction that had a darker bent. This was before the fiction markets felt the need to delineate things into more discrete categories. The wide-openness of it all resulted in many interesting hybrids and much innovation.
In 2015, Ganley gave editor, Doug Draa, his blessing to resurrect Weirdbook. From what I’ve heard so far, Draa has been doing a good job. However, this is the first issue of the new incarnation of Weirdbook that I’ve had a chance to read. For the sake of brevity, I’m going to concentrate on the stories that I liked or that, at least, really stood out to me. Anthologies are uneven by nature and even Weird Tales in its “Golden Age” suffered from that.”

Fiction (Kestifer): “the streets seeking adventure. In a tavern, he hears a Kothian slaver talking about a fabulously valuable jewel: the Heart of the Elephant, which sits in the mysterious Tower of the Elephant in the heart of the city. It is the treasure of the sorcerer Yara, and all who have tried to enter the tower have met with horrible death.

Desiring to be the first to succeed, Conan gets the information he desires from the fat slaver, tensions flare and in a brief tavern brawl, the slaver from Koth lies dead on the floor and the Cimmerian stalks toward the tower.”

Fiction (Tellers of Weird Tales): “One afternoon in December 1943, Raymond A. Palmer, editor of Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures, was sitting in his office, listening intently as assistant editor Howard Browne read from a recently arrived letter. It had come from a reader in Barto, Pennsylvania, a man who expressed his hopes that the editors would place it in their magazine “to keep it from dying” with him. The “it” of which the man wrote was his discovery that within words in English there are hidden clues to an ancient and forgotten language. “This is perhaps the only copy of this language in existence,” he continued, “and it represents my work over a long period of years.” Accompanying the letter was a separate sheet illustrating the secret meanings behind the letters of the English alphabet. For example, the letter Ameans animal, while B means be, C translates as see, and D represents a novel concept, disintegrant energy or detrimental (presumably abbreviated de), meaningharmful or destructive. The word bad, then, can be broken into its constituent parts: be a de, or be a disintegrant energy or detrimental. (I guess a can mean either animal or the indefinite article.) “It is an immensely important find,” the man wrote of his discovery, “suggesting the god legends have a base in some wiser race than modern man.” Howard Browne laughed at it as one of countless crank letters received every year in the offices of Ziff-Davis of Chicago. Then he crumpled it up and threw it away. “What kind of editor are you?” Palmer asked as he retrieved the pages from the trashcan. He handed them back to his assistant editor and said, ‘Let’s run the entire thing in next issue’s letter column’.”

Military Gaming (Osprey): “Intended to replace the proliferation of different small arms fielded by US forces during the American Civil War, the “Trapdoor Springfield” was designed in 1865-66 by Erskine S. Allin. Using metallic cartridges, it could be loaded in a single action, increasing the number of shots per minute as much as fivefold. The new weapon quickly proved its worth in two separate incidents in August 1867: small groups of US soldiers and civilians armed with the trapdoor repulsed numerically superior Native American contingents. A simple and cost-effective weapon, it was used, along with its variants in every US conflict in the three decades after the Civil War, especially on the American frontier.
Drawing upon first-hand accounts from US soldiers, their Native American opponents, and users such as buffalo hunters, this is the story of the “Trapdoor Springfield”, one of the defining weapons of the Indian Wars.”

Games (Table Top Gaming News): “In the not-so-distant future, an international paramilitary organization and global terrorist group, VENOM, will launch its bid to conquer the Earth. Standing in their way is the Freedom Force, a hand-picked group of the greatest heroes the world has ever seen. You can be part of that group in your Savage Worlds games by picking up the Freedom Squadron setting book. It’s up on Kickstarter now.”

Games (Modiphius): “Get in on the Fallout: Wasteland Warfare pre-order and secure preferential delivery, Nuka Girl plus special bundles to get your settlement up and running. Pre-orders will be shipped in waves starting late May. Orders from March 2nd will ship from early June. You can also pre-order through your local retailer.
Spend £120 or over on our pre-order and you will get Nuka Girl complete with 10 cards (unit & AI) with your order.
Pre-order in your local retailer and you can get the Alien Zetan. In our next pre-order we will swap these around so online pre-orders can get the Alien Zetan, whilst retail pre-orders can get Nuka Girl.”

D&D (Jeffro Johnson): “Sounds like a plan. After all, inimical elves that are an outright manifestation of chaos over and against science, Christianity, the mundane, and humanity are so passé. Why would anyone ever ponder the implications of immortality, timelessness, the nature of the human soul, and why elves might necessarily be barred from heaven? And why would anyone explore the consequences of a union between a human adventurer and an almost completely alien elvish princess given that such a thing is fundamentally unimaginable?
I can’t wrap my head around it myself. Besides what do you do when for decades elves have been pointy eared long-haired woods-hippies that are not inherently different from a glorified subspecies of homo sapiens? That’s easy. You whip up another subspecies of elves that hail from the depths of the underworld– and you make those elves scary and inimical and alien and weird and chaotic.”

Podcast (Literary Wonder & Adventure Show): “Author Ryan Harvey returns to the Dream Tower for a discussion of the romantic poet and teller of fantastic tales, Clark Ashton Smith. Robert Zoltan does a reading of Smith’s poem, Averoigne, and Edgar the Raven finds out that Robert is a big fat liar! All on this sumptuous feast of an episode of Literary Wonder & Adventure Show!”

Ireland has produced more than its quota of writers in the realm of the fantastic: Lord Dunsany, James Stephens, Maurice Walsh, Lady Gregory, Joseph O’Neill etc.

A book that had a profound impact on me is Seumas MacManus’ The Story of the Irish Race. My dad had a copy forty years ago. Curiosity made me pull it out one day when I was around 12 or 13. I did not make it too far the first try. It did make an impression with the chapter on early colonisations:

“The Firbolg was the first. Legend says they came from Greece, where they had been long enslaved, and whence they escaped in the captured ships of their masters.”

I returned to The Story of the Irish Race right after I had read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. The Tuatha De Danann reminded me of Tolkien’s elves:

“Totally unlike the uncultured Firbolgs, the Tuatha De Danann were a capable and cultured, highly civilized people, so skilled in the crafts, if not the arts, that the Firbolgs named them necromancers; and in course of time both the Firbolgs and the later-coming Milesians created a mythology around these.”

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Having read all the Fleming Bond stories with the exception of the posthumously completed The Man with the Golden Gun, I figured it would be interesting to look at them through the lens of pulp.  While usually characterized as spy fiction, it’s clear they were heavily influenced by pulp stories, as well as American (rather than Fleming’s own British) style detective stories.  While I have previously dismissed the series as “enjoyable enough, but nothing special”, one can learn much by examining it more closely.

Most stories follow a similar formula.  There is a long introductory portion filled with information, whether about the characters, the setting, or Bond’s own rye thoughts.  Then, the action begins, with a continuous increase in the tension.  Finally, there is the grand struggle, where Bond is beat up, tortured, on the ropes, and only through great pain and tremendous grit does he miraculously escape and defeat his enemies.

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The last man on earth struggles to make sense of an alien invasion, a beheaded astrophysicist explores the landscapes of the soul, a shoe-string British space navy defends a colony from alien assault, and more in this week’s roundup of the newest releases in science fiction.

Bender of Worlds (Star Warrior #2) – Isaac Hooke

One man. A secret power that could change the galaxy. Two entire universes in pursuit.

Tane crosses the galaxy in a race against time to unlock the hidden powers inside himself before his enemies can capture him. With his companions, he moves between this universe and the next, pursued by the governments of aliens and humans alike. To fail means capture and mindless servitude, as those governments would turn him into a tool for their wars. To succeed means his freedom, and perhaps something more.

Hunted and attacked at every turn, eventually Tane finds himself backed into a corner, with no hope of escape.

But those who pursue him do not understand that Tane has only scratched the surface of the awesome power inside himself. And if his enemies press too hard, poke too deep, they might not like what rears its ugly head back at them.

Dark World (Undying Mercenaries #9) – B. V. Larson

Two expanding interstellar powers are about to meet in battle.

After the collapse of the Cephalopod Kingdom, Humanity claimed the three hundred rebellious worlds they left behind. But many light years away on the far side of disputed region, a rival power has begun to move. They’re stealing our planets, one at a time.

Earth Command decides to invade the center of the frontier to set up an advanced base. The mission to DARK WORLD is highly classified and deadly. Legion Varus spearhead’s the effort, and James McGill journeys to the stars again.

How many ships do they have? How advanced is their tech? No one knows, but the campaign takes an unexpected turn immediately. What was supposed to be a snatch-and-grab turns into a bloodbath. McGill dies over and over again, but some battles must be won, even if it means perma-death.

Darkspace Calamity (Relic Knights #1) – Christopher Bodan

The Calamity is coming.

Darkspace spreads across the sky as esper—powerful magic that gives everything form and life—is consumed. One by one, the galaxies have vanished. Only a single galaxy remains, and its inhabitants know the Calamity could strike at any moment.

Princess Malya never wanted much to do with the fate of the galaxy. She’d be happy just to travel around the galaxy participating in the most risky and exhilarating sport in existence. But then a pirate captain tells her that she’s key to his plan that just might stop the Calamity.

It’s a vague plan, and honestly a complete long shot. Even if Malya believes the cryptic prophecy of an insane space witch, the plan requires noble paladins and bloodthirsty corsairs to actually cooperate. With such impossible odds, Malya almost wants to keep running and leave saving the universe to anyone else.

But even Malya cannot outrun the Calamity. To protect the people she loves and maybe even the galaxy itself, she must pull off her craziest stunt yet.

The Event (The Survivors #1) – Nathan Hystad

Dean’s wife is dead. Her last words: When the ships come…wear the necklace.

Then the ships arrived.

Cities all around the world reported strange alien vessels descending. Some saw them as the heralds of a new age; others fired everything they had at them. All were taken as the beams lashed down and drew them into the sky.

Dean was left behind, seemingly the last man on Earth.

A trail of clues left by his dead wife guide Dean on a perilous journey across America and beyond, to learn the truth behind the mysterious ships and save humanity from its doom.

But not everything is as it seems. Read More

The Jewels of Chamar, by Raymond F. Jones, appeared in the Winter 1946 issue of Planet Stories. It can be read here at

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

“When you have looked into the blue depths of a stone that is like the eye of all the universe you’ll never be able to turn your back upon it. You’ll never rest until you have found all seven of the Jewels—or death.”

The Seven Jewels of Chamar is one of those stories that I’d say “Man, this would make a fantastic anime! Or a fantastic comic book! Or a fantastic comic book movie!” Of course, if it were, it would be accused of either ripping off Dragonball or the Infinity Wars depending on the direction you went with it. But, boy, what a yarn! This one was certainly the highlight of the Winter 1946 issue, fulfilling many of the promises that Tepondicon made but couldn’t quite deliver on.

The Seven Jewels of Chamar has space pirates, light sabers, a sexy immortal pirate queen, action, a brotherhood betrayed, and a high-speed chase as the hero fulfills his father’s dying wish to find all seven of the mysterious stones.

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“Only thing is,” the mouth-harp man went on, “folks say the train runs on that track. Or it did. A black train runs some nights at midnight, they say, and when it runs a sinner dies.”

While out on a walk, John the Balladeer is pulled into an outdoor party and asked to play. It’s a strange celebration, for it marks the last day of a curse on Donie Carawan, a women tending towards her forties who inherited a small fortune. The reason for the curse is as follows:

“Donie Carawan was to marry Trevis Jones,” the mouth-harp man told me. “He owned the High Fork Railroad to freight the timber from this valley. He’d a lavish of money, is how he got to marry her. But,” and he swallowed hard, “another young fellow loved her. Cobb Richardson, who ran Trevis Jones’s train on the High Fork Railroad. And he killed Trevis Jones.” 

“For love?” I asked.

“Folks reckoned that Donie Carawan decided against Trevis and love-talked Cobb into the killing; for Trevis had made a will and heired her all his money and property— the railroad and all. But Cobb made confession. Said Donie had no part in it. The law let her go, and killed Cobb in the electric chair, down at the state capital.”

“I declare to never,” I said.

“Fact. And Cobb’s mother— Mrs. Amanda Richardson— spoke the curse.”

“Oh,” I said, “is she the witch that—”

“She was no witch,” he broke me off, “but she cursed Donie Carawan, that the train that Cobb had engine-drove, and Trevis had heired to her, would be her death and destruction. Donie laughed. You’ve heard her laugh. And folks started the song, the black train song.”

In contempt of the curse, Donie teaches the black train song to John. But, later, when John sings it, they both can hear a train coming an see ghostly tracks. Then, at midnight, the train comes…

This is not the first of Wellman’s stories to lean heavily on music for the plot. In “Nine Yards of Other Cloth” and “Can These Bones Live?”, John relies on the folk magic in folk music to carry him through his harrowing experiences. And “Vandy, Vandy” incorporates lyrics that Wellman himself wrote, a particular favorite of his that he would perform for friends. These rely on lyrical cleverness and a bit of Pennsylvania-Dutch folk magic. “The Little Black Train” adds pitch and rhythm to that well established formula to call on its curse. Read More

The debut Young Adult novel by Jay Barnson.

Deep in the Appalachian Mountains, a monstrous evil rises, and the only one who can stand against it is a teen-aged witch who doesn’t believe in magic.

Grieving and lost after the death of her parents, Jenny Morgan is sent to West Virginia to live with an aunt she’s never met. It’s there that Jenny is confronted with an unbelievable family heritage of witchcraft and magic – something she immediately dismisses as old-fashioned superstitions. However, once her new home is threatened by deadly horrors straight out of myth and folklore, her aunt’s stories become impossible to ignore.

Now Jenny and her three new friends – friends with dark secrets all their own – are the only ones who stand a chance of stopping the growing evil, but only if Jenny can embrace her arcane heritage. But little does Jenny know, becoming a witch will attract the attention of an even greater evil – the same un-killable creature her parents died to protect her from.

“This is a gnarly urban (no really, rural) fantasy tale of a contemporary witch, with a strong Appalachian flavor. It’s reminiscent of Manly Wade Wellman’s stories of Silver John the Balladeer.”–D. J. Butler, author of Witchy Eye and Hellhound on My Trail.

Being assassinated once may be an accident. Being assassinated twice is enemy action.

Aeneas Tell of the House of Tell is one of the youngest Lords of Creation. His family rules the Nine Worlds through its control of the ultra-advanced technology that has permitted the colonization of the entire solar System. More gods than men, the Lords of Creation have cheated Death itself.

But even a quasi-immortal god will take exception to being assassinated. Twice. Especially when the assassin turns out to be a someone he thought was a friend.

SUPERLUMINARY is the latest and most outrageous creation of science fiction grandmaster John C. Wright, the Dragon-award winning author of THE UNWITHERING REALM, THE GOLDEN AGE, MOTH & COBWEB, and AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND. THE LORDS OF CREATION is the first book in the series.

Aeneas felt a chill in his soul.

This was the Cerberus.

He was aboard the dreadful, legendary ship.

The last time the ship had been seen, Aeneas had been a little boy playing the gardens of the Ishtar Plateau, in the fragrant shadow of Mount Freyja, overlooking the perfumed north polar sea of Snegurochka. The Cerberus, the ancient superdreadnought and spaceborne palace of his mad Grandfather, had taken up a menacing orbit about Venus. He remembered seeing his mother crying when no servants were around.

“I thought it would be more… luxurious. Harems. Gold. Wine centrifuges. Do you think grampa is here?”

I cannot imagine. 

Once inside the airlock, the hatch shut, atmosphere was pumped in. Weight slowly returned. The heat, the oxygen, the moisture revived him.

Aeneas found a modern First Aid kit and broke the seal with a swing of his periscope. Inside the kit were ampoules of blood and bone marrow, totipotent cells and other biological materials. He opened one ampoule after another, absorbing the materials directly into his center of mass.

Restoring himself to his earth body was easy, since the cell memories yearned to return to their wonted shapes.  Soon Aeneas stood on the deck in human shape: He was nine foot tall, a layer of convincingly human skin over his hidden layer of armored scales. With his metal bones and muscles of ultradense fiber, he was over four hundred pounds in earth-normal gravity.

Working the airlock might alert Lord Pluto.

“Maybe he went to the conclave at Everest. And he keeps no servants.”

Do not be at ease. It is forbidden to be on this world. It is death. Read More

In 2160, a Void Dragon ate the sun.

In 2322, eight-year-old Jay Scattergood found a Void Dragon egg in his garden.

Humanity survived the death of the sun, but now we’re under attack by the Offense. These intelligent, aggressive aliens also lost their sun to a Void Dragon. They lost their home planet, too. Earth, now orbiting Jupiter, is still habitable – though much colder than it once was. The Offense will do whatever it takes to destroy humanity and take Earth for themselves.

The Offense’s self-burying, radioactive mines are the scourge of Earth’s space fleet. Jay, now a conscript in the tech support division, thinks he can fix the code for the mechas used to locate and defuse the mines, potentially saving countless lives. The next thing he knows, he’s on the front lines of an interplanetary war. But that’s not his biggest problem …

He still has his Void Dragon egg hidden in his laundry bag. And it’s starting to speak to him.

Guardians of Jupiter is the first book in a new military sci-fi series starring the Void Dragons, a race of space dragons who eat stars. The latest action-packed saga from New York Times bestselling sci-fi author Felix R. Savage has it all: space battles, humor, a cast of unforgettable characters, scientific speculation, and dragons!

Image result for riza hawkeye

Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye, Exhibit A

This is a minor update of a post originally made down at Superversive SF.

I have a feeling this is going to be a controversial article.

On one hand you’ll have the usual crowd of squawkers yelling that I’m a misogynist. That’s easy enough to predict. I wouldn’t be surprised if I got some link backs from the usual suspects (then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if they ignored me either).

But I suspect I’ll also get a crowd who thinks I’m just totally wrong and even the characters I talk about here are just awful and women should never ever ever be in these roles ever.

But I stand by it.

You know, I first thought of this rule after watching “Castle in the Sky”, and watching “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” helped confirm my conclusion. Since this is what helped me crystallize it more fully in my mind, we’ll call this the Brotherhood Principle.

To write a strong female character successfully – I mean strong in a more masculine sense, like tough in combat or similarly masculine endeavors –  you need one of two things: Read More

Borderlands 2 is one of those games where it’s a damn shame the people who made it are such total creepos and jerks, because it really is quite good but the experience of playing it is ruined if you know anything about them.

Pandora, the planet Borderlands is set on, is a crazy funhouse version of Sakaar, from Thor: Ragnarok. The planet is covered in trash, and peopled by psychos, and even the friendly people who speed you on your way are total lunatics. (Nor are the player characters the very model of mental stability, come to think of it.) This planet must be the dumping grounds of the entire galaxy, the one benighted planet where every single bit of trash—human, robotic, and otherwise—is permanently exiled, in an effort to keep the rest of the galaxy clean, peaceful, and tidy.

I hope it’s working.

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D&D (Jeffro Johnson): “This is one of the coolest things on the internet right now:
Ron Edwards delves into the topic of how D&D was actually experienced by most people most of the time from the seventies on through to today’s mainline derivatives. And note: this is not about what went on in at Dave Arneson’s sand table. And it’s not about people who played in the original Greyhawk campaign with the gang up in Wisconsin. This is about everybody else. The people who did not have the luxury of being initiated into the tabletop role-playing hobby by somebody who knew somebody that sat at the feat of Gygax himself.”

Cinema (Reactionary Times) “ …they gave bad reviews to a Diversity Points movie.
A Wrinkle in Time scored an abyss-bound 43% on Rotten Tomatoes. How on Earth that is even possible? Don’t SJW critics have standards anymore? Didn’t this film race bend pretty much every single character? Didn’t this film star Oprah? I mean the producers miscast Oprah as Mrs Which and that didn’t count for anything?” Read More