Tolkien (Notion Club Papers): Christopher Tolkien died a couple of days ago, which marks the end of an era – the last person who participated in the core Inklings meetings; the writing and discussion group that met in the evenings to read works in progress and have discussions stimulated. CT was probably the person I would (in a theoretical way) most have liked to get to know, as a friend, for long and detailed discussions – because there was so much that only he could have told.

Men’s Fiction (Wasteland & Sky): That’s the way men’s adventure used to be. At least, that’s what it was in the 1950s. What it became was slightly different. As the decades went on they started to get less and less heroic until they forgot what heroism was by the end of the 20th century. This is a pattern that can be seen with film at the time. The 1970s was a miserable time, by all accounts. Coming after the turbulent ’60s, the ’70s are regularly known as the nadir of western culture.

Cultural Musings (Jon Mollison): Today’s post is hopefully the start of a decent trend for 2020.  The Pookinator fired some interest shots across the cultural bow when he pointed out that the Chick Tract on D&D is genuinely cursed because: It’s friendly fire. It’s directly responsible for mountains of apostasy.     It covered up actual child abuse by making the “Satanic Panic” look like a ridiculous joke.

Celtic Myth (DMR Books): Thankfully, I have the recently-published The Book of Taliesin. It’s a new translation of a thirteenth century book of Welsh poems; the Llyvyr Taliesin (or ‘Book of Taliesin’, for all those sadly burdened by the crushing inability to speak the language of Heaven). You can thank National Poet of Wales Gwyneth Lewis and ex-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (yes, really) for their hard work in translating it for a Saxon-speaking readership.

Vampire Fiction (Karavansara): I mentioned it yesterday, and I read it last night and today as I sat around a doctor’s waiting room – Vampirella: Blood Invasion, the first Vampirella novel, written by Nancy A. Collins and published by the fiction branch of Dynamite publishing is a very fast read, and a fun one. For the uninitiated, Vampirella is a character created fifty years ago as a host for a series of anthology magazines, that later evolved into an indie comic-book character in her own right, with her own universe, recurring characters, timeline and everything.

Clark Ashton Smith (Adventures Fantastic): lark Ashton Smith (1893-1961) was born on this date, January 13.  Along with Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft, Smith was considered one of the Big Three of Weird Tales. Smith lived the longest of these three gentlemen, but his writing career wasn’t much longer. He wrote during the 1920s and 30s but stopped writing around 1937. Smith was a poet as well as a short story writer, and it shows in his lush, baroque prose.  In fact, one of the more common criticisms of Smith is that reading him requires too much work and too large of a vocabulary. His stories were often set in imaginary worlds such as Hyperborea, Poseidonis, and Zothique.

Comic Books (Hero Envy): It’s a bit hard to believe, when I look back at all the comic book characters I was fortunate enough to get to co-create or at least co-develop.  But I’d grown up in small town Missouri loving comics, so when I got a chance to work in the field in 1965, at the ripe old age of 24, I grabbed it, and soon would be working for Marvel Comics and Stan Lee as his editorial assistant and “staff writer.”  I suppose Banshee was the first super-type I dreamed up, although Stan wouldn’t let the character be a woman, as he should have been.  I wasn’t wild about the idea of making up heroes for Marvel.

Gaming (Tentaclii): Board Games UK has an in-depth and very informed review of the new board-game Cthulhu: Death May Die. Even if you don’t care to play such Derlethian things, it appears to be quite a minor work of art in itself, with fine card-art and hand-painted miniature pieces.

Men’s Adventure Magazines (Mens Pulp Magazines): In the Men’s Adventure Magazines & Books Facebook group, members sometimes post interesting examples of artwork from vintage men’s adventure magazines (MAMs) recycled for other purposes. One of my favorite examples was posted a while back by Timothy Isaacson, a group member in Illinois who has diverse tastes in art and music. 

Pulp Art (DMR Books): When I walked into the Huckster’s Room at the ECOF in the summer of 2019 at Chicago, one of the first tables I visited was that of my friend and fellow author and Edgar Rice Burroughs fan, Gary Buckingham.  In short order, Gary introduced me to a guy set up near him–a jovial and loquacious fellow by the name of Bob Garcia.  In short order Bob was lauding the virtues of his wares (as might any good vendor).  I can tell you, his expositions fell on willing ears when he immediately began telling me about a book of which he had but a few Publisher Copies (PC) remaining which contained examples of the works of a man I greatly admire, that being the immortal Virgil Finlay.

Cinema (RMWC Reviews): While Tetsujin 28-go got the Mecha genre officially rolling in 1956, the first on-screen post-Tetsujin manga mech would come from Toho Studios in December of 1957 in the sci-fi special effects extravaganza Chikyū Bōeigun (literally translated to “Earth Defense Force”) more widely known as The Mysterians. Directed by Ishirō Honda, (who had previously directed 1954’s seminal classic Godzilla), The Mysterians tells the story of scientists investigating strange astrophysical and geological phenomena, when an earthquake wipes out a mountain village.

Fantasy (Pulprev): Modernity has ruined fantasy. At one end of the scale, there is the slice-of-life tale, with ordinary people doing ordinary things, just with some counterfactual elements. At the other end, there is a setting that appears totally foreign to our reality–and yet the people who dwell in it base their actions on values, issues and ideologies extremely similar to ours; and on closer inspection what appears to be an alien realm is merely a distorted reflection of modern-day ideology. In the middle are tales set in worlds that aren’t too dissimilar to our own.

Fiction (Glorious Trash): The Raven saga continues with a second volume that seems to be set shortly after the first; Raven and her guru warlock (plus occasional bedmate) Spellbinder are still in the same region in which the previous volume concluded, however now Raven is training some new character named Silver on how to be a warrior in the army Raven’s apparently decided to form. Oh and meanwhile the novel has opened with that same future prologue with some unnamed old guy traveling around a desolate world and telling tales of long ago – tales about Raven.

Hugh B. Cave (1910-2004) was another of the high production pulp fictioneers. He had something like 800 stories in the pulp and slick magazines. Much of his pulp output was for crime/detective, horror, weird menace, adventure, and spicy.  He had a few western stories and two stories in the Clayton era Astounding Stories of Super Science that really were not science fiction.

He was around long enough to have some original paperback novels from the late 1970s to 1990s during the paperback horror boom.

Starmont House had a series in Popular Culture Studies. That series was a mix of short fiction anthologies and a few bio-bibliographies. Read More

Counterfeit sorcerers, lost in time explorers, clockwork dancers, and straight from the headlines conspiracies fill this week’s collection of fantasy and adventure new releases.


Alt★Hero:Q #2: Not Dead Enough – Chuck Dixon, Vox Day, and Helix Haze

After federal agent Roland Dane survives the successful assassination of the U.S. Secretary of State in Peru, he makes his way back to the United States in secret with the help of a mysterious organization opposed to the global establishment. But when a famous film star is reported dead just hours after the agent visits his house in the Hollywood Hills, Dane realizes that the reach of the evil that is hunting him extends further than he had ever imagined.

Arkhaven has assembled a first-rate production team to create the Alt★Hero: Q series, which explores the incredible QAnon phenomenon that is sweeping the planet. Set in the superhero world of Alt★Hero, Alt★Hero: Q is an astonishing action tale of everyday heroes taking on corruption and evil on a global scale.


Clockwork Dancer #1 – Jon del Arroz and Mary MacArthur

The British Empire views her as an abomination…

…to be captured or destroyed at all costs!

Alastair has created a monster, at least in the eyes of the Anglican Church and under the laws of Queen Victoria. His clockwork automaton has the spark of life, but little does the outside world know she has a heart of gold.

They must go on the run from Her Majesty’s Secret Service and evade an evil plot by the man who first invented clockwork automatons–who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the Clockwork Dancer for his dastardly plans.


Expedition to Eden – J. Manfied Weichsel

The Garden of Eden has been off-limits to mankind since the dawn of time, but deep within a remote mountain range where four mighty rivers begin, history’s original lost world still lies hidden.

This is the story of its discovery, featuring a cast including:

A soldier, spy, and fugitive on the run, he is a man torn between two worlds and two women: a temptress from the world of man and an innocent from the land of Eden!

Paradise might be lost, but this explorer aims to find it. Is he merely a wealthy buffoon, or is he a madman with a sinister agenda?

The explorer’s alluring, brazen daughter. She has a secret reason of her own for wanting to go to Eden, and an ulterior motive for wanting to mate with John.

Set in the aftermath of the Civil War and based on the lives of real historical figures, Expedition to Eden is a thrilling tale of wonders, suspense, romance, and pulse pounding action!


Someone is Aiming for You & Other Adventures – J. D. Cowan

Vigilantes fight from the shadows. In Summerside, Dark Magic poisons the dying city of cultists and gangsters. This is where heroes are made.

A man with a deadly touch, an ex-hitman, a concrete teenager, an invisible myth, and an indestructible knight, are but a few of those who stalk the midnight hour.

In these seven stories you will meet those fighting for the soul of the city, and those hoping to bring it to a brighter future. But is there anything left worth saving in a world of death?

Powers or Magic. Only one will win this war. Read More

One of the common complaints levelled at the modern world of traditional publishing revolves around the narrowly constrained style that predominates.  A limited-omniscient third person point of view, and one that shifts focus from chapter to chapter, or even from paragraph to paragraph, has come to define modern story-telling, with deviations from that expectation conveniently sidelined into short fiction where the avante-garde risks can be safely managed and the time investment for exploring non-traditionally narration can be safely minimized.  The bland, almost newspaper writing, style of delivery works both because it is efficient and because it reduces the risks of turning off readers who have been conditioned to accept the one-size-fits-all narration.

Enter Brand of the Warlock, which features the powerful voice of the point-of-view counterfeit sorcerer relating the twists and turns of his eventful life.  As the story is one of constant zigs when most authors would zag, this review perforce must be light on plot and heavy on style. 

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Better superhero content than anything put out by Marvel or DC

I want to explain why my posts have become almost exclusively anime focused lately. The answer is quite simple, really: Anime is my pulp revolution.

The whole idea behind the pulp revolution and the “Regress harder” mantra is that modern entertainment has lost a lot of what makes media…well, enjoyable. Pulp appealed to everyone, because pulp was good. Many of the most iconic stories and characters ever written were created in the pulps or during the era of the pulps. Since then, similarly iconic characters and stories have become few and far between. It is pretty obvious that modern media has lost something that the pulps had. Read More

Gaming (Goodman Games): To the casual RPG fan, D&D is steeped in Tolkien lore. The original game (1974) contained direct references to ents, balrogs, orcs, and of course hobbits. Due to the popularity of the game, this eventually resulted in a cease-and-desist letter to TSR. Later editions featured hobbits renamed as halflings (a more generic term, used by Tolkien himself), the balrog renamed balor, and treants replacing the ents. It seems clear that the original ranger character class was based on the character Aragorn as well. For more information and an in-depth discussion on these proceedings, the reader is directed to Jon Peterson’s Playing at the World, which goes into lengthy details of such.

Fantasy (Matthew J. Constantine): The final Prydain book doesn’t feature Taran or his companions.  Instead it’s a collection of six short stories about Prydain that flesh out some of the concepts and history of Lloyd Alexander’s world. “The Foundling” expands on what the tree Witches told Taren about “Little Dallben.”  With “The True Enchanter,” we get a vision of Eilonwy’s mother (I believe…perhaps an ancestor…I’ll admit that I get easily confused by lineages…don’t even get me started on Tolkein).  The story I enjoyed the most was “The Sword,” which dives into some ancient Prydain history. The other stories are various myths and morality tales. Read More

Frederick Faust (1892-1944) was one of the kings of the pulp magazines. He is best remembered for his pseudonym “Max Brand” today. He had 900 copyrights to his name. He is generally associated with the western genre, but he wrote in other genres including detective, historical, spy/espionage, boxing, aviation, nautical, tropical adventure, dogs, horses, and a few fantastics. He created the character “Dr. Kildare.”

The Max Brand Companion edited by Jon Tuska and Vicki Piekarski with contributing editor Darell C. Richardson is a handy bio-bibliography from Greenwood Press (1996). It is a whopping 547 pages. Read More

Radio operator Peter Moore, the man of brass and later to be called Peter the Brazen, gets caught up in Chinese intrigues in “A Princess of Static.” Peter is called out as a major inspiration to Doc Savage, from the man of brass/Man of Bronze nicknames to the technologist as a heroic man of action. Peter, however, is not blessed with all of Doc’s talents, nor colored after the metal of his name.

Peter is a brash, skilled radio operator in a Pacific merchantman company gifted with sensitive ears that allow him to hear radio messages at ranges well beyond his peers. As such, he’s able to punch his own ticket in the company. Like most commo guys, this has gone to his head.

In his first adventure, Peter’s friendship with certain shadowy gentlemen in San Francisco’s Chinatown tip him off to a bit of human trafficking about the Vandalia. A “very high lady,” in fact. So Peter joins the Vandalia’s crew.

As the passengers embark, Peter notices a Chinese woman escorting another woman in a gray hood. They enter an empty cabin unregistered to any passenger.

Soon after, the Vandalia’s radios are plagued by a noise jammer that defies all attempts of Peter’s fellow signaleers to isolate. Peter listens to the signal and discerns a message below the noise. It’s a cry for help, and it’s coming from somewhere aboard the Vandalia.

Peter stalks the empty cabin for fleeting traces of the now-vanished women. Meanwhile, the captain is trying to force Peter to drop the investigation.

When Vandalia arrives in China, two passengers try to board a ferry from the ship in the dead of night. Peter interferes, and ends up rescuing Aileen Lorimer, the hidden signaleer, who he sends to the American consulate. He thinks he’s done with her.

Aileen, once abducted to be a birthday gift for a Chinese lord, turns out to be the first of Peter the Brazen’s love interests. Or maybe the third. Adventure and radio appear to be the first two.

Overshadowed is perhaps the best word to describe this first Peter the Brazen tale. It was popular enough to be collected into a novel in 1919. But with the rise of Black Mask and Weird Tales, “A Princess of Static” was quickly relegated to an honorable mention in pulp adventure.

The action is blink-and-miss-it quick, the exoticness of China and Chinatown is subdued compared to the chinoiseries of the late 20s and early 30s, and the less said about the Chinese-accented dialogue the better.

Even for a current-day signaleer, the radio sections are dry. But this was one of the first stories by Loring Brent (also known as George F. Worts), and that newness can be seen in the story. Peter’s character is still being developed. Here, he’s more an excuse to discover a cute girl with radio skills in a faraway land. And while many elements of the story are thin compared to what would arise in the 20s, there was enough to catch readers’ interests for decades.

Part of that is authenticity. Worts was a radioman sailing from one Chinese port to another. And, even as the technologies change with the decades, a signaleer can recognize his own. Worts’ China also has a nightmarish vividness to it that stands out from later Argosy chinoiseries such as Wirt’s steppe battles in “War Lord of Many Swordsmen”. Even then, it is overshadowed by what the Weird Tales authors brought to the Chinese adventure.

Save Peter the Brazen for after you’ve read a number of pulps. This isn’t one to make a new pulp enthusiast with.

Super soldiers legendary peacemakers, and lost fleets feature in this week’s collection of science fiction’s newest releases.


Banner of the Stars, Vol. 1 – Hiroyuki Morioka

You journeyed with Jint and Lafier through three volumes of interplanetary-scale action and intrigue in CREST OF THE STARS. Through pain and companionship, they forged their way through an impossible ordeal unscathed. But that adventure, though grand, was just the introduction to a larger, decades-spanning chronicle of galactic war.

Join our two heroes, now bona fide starpilots appointed to a warship in an Abh Empire fleet, as they participate in their very first official military operation. They are tasked with helping defend a strategically crucial star system from the Three Nations Alliance. Complications arise, however, when they learn that their commanding officer is none other than the sister of the Abh baron they killed three years prior!


Blackout Invasion – Miles Rozak

Bred to be a super soldier.

Born to defy an empire.

What would happen if Star Wars, Blade Runner and Aliens had a baby? Well, we’re all about to find out… because Junior just broke out of his crib.

And he’s heavily armed.

When the terrorists who killed his mother return, nineteen-year-old Chandler wants to enlist to fight the coming invasion. But in the neon city of Heim, nothing is what it seems. His loved ones have gone missing.

And his mediocre physical stats have kept the military out of reach.

Until he encounters a stranger who makes claims of genetic secrets and a clandestine government project. Secrets that, when unleashed, could transform Chandler into a Weapon unlike any his world has seen.

Undergoing a shocking transformation, now he will stop at nothing to defend the human race in the apocalypse, even if that puts him in the crosshairs of an interstellar fleet.

Even if it plunges his planet into galactic war.


Gunboat Diplomacy (The Four Horsemen Sagas #2) – Jason Cordova and Jamie Ibson

Before Hr’ent Golramm became a legendary Enforcer for the Peacemaker Guild, he was a mere candidate. Granted, he was a particularly unusual candidate—only six Oogar had ever successfully graduated from the Peacemaker Academy on Ocono, and Hr’ent would be the seventh. Every candidate must pass a commissioning mission in order to graduate, though, and Hr’ent’s is unsolvable.

The Pushtal of Vorrhurna were once one of the Mercenary Guild’s 37 races. After a series of disastrous contracts, the tiger-like aliens lost their status as mercenaries, and the MinSha seized their home world for defaulting on their debt. Eighty years later, the seven Great Clans are but a shadow of their former selves and have resorted to piracy to survive.

For his commissioning mission, Hr’ent and a small team of bounty hunters must find a way to put a stop to their predations. No one in the Union has figured out how to herd cats to this point, but Hr’ent is a particularly unusual Peacemaker candidate, who isn’t afraid to resort to a bit of gunboat diplomacy to get the Pushtal to listen to what he says, once and for all. Read More

After federal agent Roland Dane survives the successful assassination of the U.S. Secretary of State in Peru, he makes his way back to the United States in secret with the help of a mysterious organization opposed to the global establishment. But when a famous film star is reported dead just hours after the agent visits his house in the Hollywood Hills, Dane realizes that the reach of the evil that is hunting him extends further than he had ever imagined.

Arkhaven has assembled a first-rate production team to create the Alt★Hero: Q series, which explores the incredible QAnon phenomenon that is sweeping the planet. Set in the superhero world of Alt★Hero, Alt★Hero: Q is an astonishing action tale of everyday heroes taking on corruption and evil on a global scale.

The limited gold logo edition of AH:Q #2 is now available in print for $3.99 from the Arkhaven Direct store (US only) or from Amazon. AH:Q backers will receive their gold logo editions after all six print editions are completed. We expect to release the digital edition of AH:Q #3 later this month.

“You’ve got to love escalation.” – Faust Hayden, XSeed CY40 II


Brian Niemeier’s Combat Frame XSeed: CY 40 ended on a wicked cliffhanger with the clash of superweapons and the sudden disappearance of Arthur Wake, the mastermind of the rebellion against the Systems Overterrestrial Coalition (SOC). The sequel, Combat Frame XSeed: CY40 Second Coming, picks up in the immediate aftermath, with the XSeed pilots finding themselves on the run while the SOCs launch false-flag attacks to keep Earth from rallying to their cause. Abandoned by Wake, circumstances and belief divide the XSeed pilots, as new factions, combat frames, and even species take to the fields and skies of Earth. As the desperate defense of a free Earth heats up, Wake returns, lighting a powder keg 60 million years in the making.

As usual, the XSeed roller coaster begins from there, taking readers through a whirlwind of change as factions unite and break apart with each new development. Here in CY 40 II, the revelations are earth-shaking, as the XSeed pilots and the SOC must deal with an alien threat even as they fight each other. The tantalizing skeins of a 60 million year-old mystery first spun in the original XSeed CY1 now take shape with the addition of the alien Secta, beings who travel from one doomed world to the next to record what they find. Earth, Mars, and the space colonies of the SOC are the latest worlds to be doomed. But before a defense can be prepared, Arthur Wake and Sullia Zend, the possible reincarnation of former genocidal world leader Sekaino Megami, must deal with each other, and Arthur prefers grenades to mere words. Read More

Anime (Walker’s Retreat): Folks know about Ghost in the Shell, and plenty know of AD Police and Bubblegum Crisis/Crash/2040. Akira is a classic, but one other title once well-known in popular Japanese cyberpunk of the 80s has since faded: Appleseed. There have been post-2000 adaptations, but none are as good as the 1988 OVA and the original manga–if you can find it–is still better than all the adaptations to date.

 

Publishing (Kairos): Last night I had a lively and wide-ranging conversation with author David V. Stewart on his Newpub Talk show. The billed subject was the mecha genre, but we ended up chatting about the pulps, writing, tips, and Dino Riders, among other topics.David is always fun and interesting to talk with because he’s a modern day Renaissance man with expertise in a variety of fields.

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