Reading (Monster Hunter Nation): Conversations with friends: why men need to read more novels. I agree with this title. More people need to read novels. That’s how I get paid. Never mind the so-called demise of the male novelist, where are all the male readers? Ash Sarkar on why we all miss out when half the population turn their back on books 


Conan (Sprague de Camp Fan): The Hour of the Dragon was first published as a five part serial in Weird Tales. It appeared in the December 1935, January, February, March, April 1936 issues. Below are the front covers and first pages with illustrations. The story was reprinted under the title, Conan the Conqueror, Gnome Press, 1950; Ace Books, 1953; Boardman (UK) 1954; and Lancer Books, 1967.

Tolkien (Den of Geek): Between an extremely complicated legal situation, persistent online rumours about possible changes in the Tolkien Estate’s approach, and the nature of some of Tolkien’s posthumously published works, the situation is a bit more complicated that it might at first appear. So what are JRR Tolkien’s posthumously published works, what is so complicated about the legal issues, and is it possible for the Amazon series to draw on these books?

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Leslie Turner White (1903-1967) started out writing for the pulp fiction magazines in 1930. He wrote mostly for the detective pulps in the 1930s, appeared in Argosy, Adventure, Short Stories, and Blue Book in the 1940s. He did manage to place a few stories in the slick magazines Collier’s, Saturday Evening Post, Liberty, and Country Gentleman.

He made the jump to historical novels, as that genre was ascendant as the pulps waned. Turner had a steady stream of historicals, many from the swashbuckling period of late 1500s to the 1700s. Rapiers and puffy shirts.

He did write a Crusader novel in the 1950s (Winged Sword) and the book that is the subject of this blog post, Scorpus the Moor. Read More

Although the 1920s would be the Golden Age for genre pulp fiction, even in the 1910s publishers were already searching for outlets to publish the strange, the weird, and unclassifiable. Anything from science fiction, fantasy, to chinoiserie, yellow peril, and the first hints of weird menace. After all, the 1910s were the decade of Fu Manchu, occult detective Semi Dual, Tarzan and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, and the dark terror of the criminal mastermind Fantômas. But some stories were a little too undefined, too weird for the pages of respectable pulps such as ArgosyThe Blue Book, or Adventure.

So, in 1919, publisher Street & Smith (now better known for The ShadowDoc Savage, and Astounding Stories) took a risk and bundled their unclassifiables into a new book, The Thrill Book. A regional magazine, The Thrill Book started as a dime novel before settling into the pulp format. It would be a short experiment, 16 issues across eight months, and not without frustration, seeing an editorial change in the middle of its tenure. The Thrill Book would pave the way for Weird Tales and Amazing Stories, the first science fiction and fantasy genre magazines, but was still too general in content to claim the title of The First Weird/Fantastic Magazine.

The first magazine featured the first supernatural tale by female author Greye La Spina, “The Wolf of the Steppes”. La Spina would continue to write for The Thrill Book before becoming a regular contributor to Weird Tales. And she was not alone. Seabury Quinn’s assistant to occult detective Jules de Grandin, Dr. Trowbridge, first appeared in the dime novels. Poetry from Clark Ashton Smith appeared, as did stories by Sophie Lousie Wenzel (better known in Weird Tales as Sophie Wenzel Ellis). Prolific writer and inventor Murray Leinster, best known for his later science fiction stories such as A Logic Named Joe, appeared here as well, contributing “A Thousand Degrees Below Zero” and “The Silver Menace”. Francis Stevens would pen one of the first alternate universe stories in her “The Heads of Cerberus”, transporting her characters to a future totalitarian Philadelphia. Perhaps the best known writer is H. Bedford-Jones, a prolific and popular adventure writer who would dabble in every genre available. Bedford-Jones would use The Thrill Book to tell tales of opium ships, of yellow perils, and more settings too strange for his usual home, The Blue Book. Like La Speya, Bedford-Jones would appear again in Weird Tales.

The Thrill Book is remarkable for both its relatively heavy female authorship and its future Weird Tales alumni. But the lasting influence of The Thrill Book was felt for decades after it was shuttered for poor sales. The editors collected quite the backlog of submissions intended for future issues that were never made. These stories languished in the archives for years, with a slow leaking of stories into ArgosyWeird Tales, and even the hero pulp The Avenger. These stories, written in 1919, remained relevant and timely into the 1940s. But the vast majority of stories, including several by Francis Stevens, remain unpublished to this day, despite several attempts to revive The Thrill Book.

A regional distribution made The Thrill Book one of the rarest of the notable weird pulps. However, a couple reprints were made in the 2000s, returning two of the 16 issues to circulation and restored glory. And while The Thrill Book does not unseat The Unique Magazine for the title of first, its place in the annals of the weird is assured.

A Champion Falls (The Chain Breaker #8) – D. K. Holmberg

Gavin’s connection to a new power makes him a target.

Having defeated Chauvan, Gavin now controls the strange destructive nihilar power. Though content back among his friends, his presence in Yoran makes the city a target.

When Gavin learns that an ancient enemy has returned to target the El’aras, he wants to help, but doing so exposes Yoran to whatever Chauvan plans. He’s learned he can’t defeat Gavin alone, but what kind of allies will he find? Ancient powers are active in the world, and they all seem intent on destroying Gavin.

As preparations go awry, Gavin finds himself far from those he vowed to protect. To return, he must come to understand everything he’s been taught about magic—all while unable to reach it.

He’s been many things in his life. Assassin. Chain Breaker. Champion. Now he must find a way to be something more.

If he fails, all he cares about will fall.

Delvers LLC: Hostile Takeover – Blaise Corvin

The Delvers LLC group is moving into the unknown. Tasked with a dangerous quest by Dolos, the god of Ludus, they have had to leave one of their members behind. Their journey will be full of shocking revelations as they learn more of Earth’s ancient history.

Forces of evil that have been gathering on Ludus have begun to act. Henry and Jason are rapidly being caught in the middle of a world war. The stakes have never been higher.

Although great, the power they have acquired thus far might not be enough to survive. Will Delvers LLC be able to complete their next mission? More importantly, even if they do, is the fight for the planet one they can even win?

Immortal Bond (Jake Rogers #4) – Jack Hampton

Spring is here, and it looks like someone is planning to bring the rain…

Ghosts are going haywire all throughout Boston, stretching the sentinels thin. Could it all be connected to the same dark force that’s haunted us in the past?

Survey says yes, but no one really cares what I think.

Until an old foe comes to me of all people to help figure out what’s wrong with the very force I walked away from after my brother’s disappearance.

If I go undercover, there’s a chance I can learn more about his disappearance and dig deeper into the shadow organization that seems to be running things from afar. But if I do go under, there’s a chance I might not resurface ever again.

On top of all that I’ve got a mysterious (but maddeningly familiar) burglar and some strange sightings around the city—looks like I’m in for some serious spring cleaning. Read More

Comic Books (Bleeding Cool): It was a note to a fan page on Facebook that did it, with a well-connected fan pointing to an upcoming Conan cover by Esad Ribic as his last, as Marvel no longer own the rights to the character. So, at Lake Como Comic Art Festival, I did a little digging.

Comic Books (Dark Worlds Quarterly): Tales of heroic fantasy can be found in the pages of Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery from Gold Key comics. “Mystery” was Silver Age code for “Horror”. The comic began in 1963 (the year the TV show ended!) and ran until February 1980, though issues were all reprints after December 1977. You won’t find any Conans running around in them. Gold Key had its own Sword & Sorcery comic if you wanted that: Tales of Sword & Sorcery Dagar the Invincible.

Fiction (Ken Lizzi): I finally got my hands on a copy of the anthology Heroic Fantasy. That’s a good cover, isn’t it? There’s a story in that illustration that I’d like to read someday. The introduction was…adequate. After reading so many Sword-and-Sorcery anthologies I’ve discovered the intros tend to cover the same ground. This one adds little or nothing to the field. But, how are the stories? Let’s answer that question.

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The Matter of Britain is a genre that straddles fantasy and historical adventure. I generally don’t read the more fantastic Arthurian novels but cannot resist a story of post-Roman Britain conflict between Romano-Britons and Saxons.

John Gloag’s Artorius Rex is the latest of the historical Arthurian novels I have read. Gloag (1896-1981) wrote on industrial design, architecture, some science fiction and then a trilogy on Roman and post-Roman Britain. Read More

Loid Forger is a Western psychiatrist who will do everything to make sure his daughter Anya gets into the most prestigious school in Berlint–even if it means finding someone to pretend to be his wife during the interview. Yor Briar is an Eastern office worker tired of being teased for being a wallflower–so she invents a mysterious boyfriend. A chance meeting later, and maybe Loid and Yor can help each other…

It is a stock scenario for any number of romantic manga, but, as little Anya knows, her new parents have secrets. “Loid” is a Western spy, tasked with eliminating an Eastern hardliner who threatens the fragile peace. “Yor” is a beautiful assassin from the East. And even Anya has her own secret–the little six year old can read minds. A skill she uses to great effect in running a parent trap to get Loid and Yor together. For Anya is swept up in the romance of spycraft–and few parents prove to be as doting or protective as Anya’s newfound spy family.

Originally created as an ongoing manga by Tatsuya Endo, Spy x Family (pronounced Spy Family) is currently airing its anime adaptation with, at the time of writing, five episodes released. And the word of mouth is spreading, buoyed by a unique mix of style, sweetness, sincerity, and seriousness in a Sixties that never was. Read More

Dawn of the Broken Sword (Saga of the Swordbreaker #1) – Kit Sun Cheah

Li Ming is a small-town boy with big dreams.

In the era of the Five States and Ten Corporations, the immortals of the jianghu stand head and shoulders above the masses. Li Ming aspires to join their ranks.

But the world of the rivers and lakes is fraught with peril. Deception and danger lurk in the shadows. Bloodthirsty beasts roam the wilds. Martial cultivators constantly battle for wealth, glory and status.

Armed with his ancestral swordbreaker, Li Ming enters the jianghu as a biaohang, eager to deliver justice with steel and magic—and to chase the dream of immortality.

But first, he must prove himself worthy.

Author’s Note: This series is not a power fantasy. There are no LitRPG / GameLit elements, no unconventional relationships, and no sexual content. It is, quite simply, a cultivation story—in the actual sense of the term.

The Counterstrike (Annihilation #2) – Joshua T. Calvert

Earth is dying…

Cities and landscapes that have not yet been destroyed by crashed spaceships and orbiting debris are being devastated by radiation and localized changes in the laws of physics near the alien ship remnants.

While extraterrestrial spaceships divide and exploit the solar system among themselves, Europe desperately tries to preserve it’s chances of survival for the remnants of humanity.

They have a pawn in hand that they must play. When they finally do, an opportunity opens up that humanity must immediately seize… but at what cost?

Phoenix Rising (The Keeper Origins #3)  – J. A. Andrews

I wish more of the nudges that shaped history were the gentle kind—the signing of a treaty, the commitment to protect the weak, the spreading of a story that would enlighten minds.

Alas, humans are more prone to stagnate than to change willingly, and so most nudges are given with force and terror and blood.

Most nudges come at the slicing of a blade or the searing of a flame.

The final chapters of Sable’s beginning certainly did.

More blades than I hope to see again, and the fire…

Who could ever forget the fire?

—Excerpt from Chapter 2 of Interesting Beginnings by Flibbet the Peddler Read More

Cinema (Wert Zone): The live-action movie adaptation of the Robotech animated series sounds like it’s getting back on track again, with a new director lined up to helm the project. Rhys Thomas, who recently helmed the Hawkeye TV show for Disney+, is now in line to take on the project.

Genre Fiction (John C. Wright): We all know the difference between fantasy and science fiction. Fantasy has witches and wizards with magic powers, whereas in science fiction the exact same character doing the exact same thing is called a psychic or psionicist.

Fairy tales have monsters and science fiction has space monsters.


Conan (Sprague de Camp Fan): “The Phoenix on the Sword” first appeared in Weird Tales, December 1932. This was a rewritten version of “By This Axe I Rule!” an unpublished King Kull story. “The Phoenix on the Sword” was reprinted in Skull-Face and Others, Arkham House, 1946. Then again in King Conan, Gnome Press, 1953. It is the third story in Conan the Usurper, Lancer Books, 1967. Read More

Novels set in the Roman Empire are popular, generally the period of the Julio-Claudian dynasty including Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. There are novels about Constantine and two about Julian the Apostate that I can think of off hand.

I came across a novel about the Roman Emperor Aurelian, The Unconquered Sun. The average person probably has no idea that the Roman Empire almost went under in the Third Century A.D. Things became unstable with accession and then assassination of Commodus, son of Marcus Aurelius. There was a series of emperors, many reigning for a short time, often two years. Historian Adrian Goldsworthy’s opinion is Rome fell due to constant civil wars with one general after another proclaimed as emperor and then marching their legions from the frontier to the capital.

What saved Rome was a series of soldier emperors who hailed from Illyria. Illyria is roughly what we knew as Yugoslavia. The Illyrians were a tough hill people who made good soldiers as hill men often do. These soldier emperors put Humpty Dumpty back together again the latter half of the 3rd Century. Read More





The pulps are known for many things. But with sincerity and a complete embrace of strange situations as fundamentally real, humor is not one of them.

Enter Joe “Daffy” Dill, a witty and wisecracking New York City reporter. Written by Richard B. Sale, Daffy Dill plays more with repartee than absurdity. Those who admire quick wit and clever wordplay will find amusement in Daffy’s dialogue. Those searching for more overt and mocking humor set pieces, such as in MAD Magazine, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and most current comedies will have find consolation among the classic hardboiled mysteries. For the question facing Daffy Dill in his first case is an absurd one:

Who would steal a dead man’s brain? Read More

Abbott in Darkness – D. J. Butler

John Abbott is all in.

He’s up to his eyeballs in debt to pay for school, and he’s just moved his small family forty light-years from Earth for a plum job with the wealthy interstellar corporation, The Sarovar Company. John’s first assignment is to discreetly investigate possible corruption at the remote Arrowhawk Station, where Company traders buy the famous Sarovari Weave from the three-sided, crablike Weavers.

John finds evidence of theft and worse, but when the guilty parties realize he’s getting close, they come after him and his family. Can John catch the thieves and end their corrupt trade? Can he head off a war between the Company and the Weavers? Can he make a life for his family in this remote wilderness without corrupting himself?

With no way back to Earth, the only direction for John Abbott and his family to go is forward—into danger.

Galen’s Blade – Richard Paolinelli

The journey of Galen Dwyn continues in the second book of the Starquest 4th Age series.

While Dwyn lies in stasis, recovering from his injuries in his stand against Harmool’s fleet, Rhea has assumed the title of Regent of Salacia while leading the search for her missing father, King Iodocus. She is also helping repair the damage done to the Alliance in her Uncle’s and Mother’s mad quest to launch a new Empire. A shocking assassination attempt is thwarted at the last second by Dwyn, who seems to be a changed man now that he has exited stasis to save his love.

The King’s location is ascertained and a rescue mission mounted to retrieve him from the Wilds, a lawless area of space. An ambush splits their forces and Dwyn leads the ambushers away so that Rhea and her father can escape. Before Dwyn can find a way back to Alliance territory, an old enemy returns from the grave, and hold Rhea and the King hostage, while triggering a massive insurrection that overthrows the Alliance and installs a new Emperor.

Dwyn must now mount a second rescue while finding a way to rally a rebellion against this threat to peace in the Hominids’ corner of the Andromeda Galaxy.

Huntress (Scattered Stars: Conviction #5) – Glynn Stewart

Admiral Kira Demirci lost the coin toss with her second-in-command and was supposed to be taking a holiday. That meant waiting in the Redward System while Memorial Force’s new carrier Huntress was commissioned and turned over to the mercenary space fleet.

But when a stranger arrives looking to hire Memorial Force to protect her homeworld, Kira finds money, boredom and altruism combining to bring her into action. The majority of her fleet is elsewhere, but she has two heavy warships, including Huntress. More than enough to protect the pacifist system of Samuels from their neighbors.

Those neighbors were armed by Kira’s old foes in the Brisingr System, and she smells the hand of the Equilibrium Institute behind the scheme. A chance to protect the innocent and frustrate two old foes at once is hard to turn down—and even if things go wrong, the rest of her fleet is on their way.

She’s planned for everything. Hasn’t she? Read More