Tolkien (Pillarist): There is little doubt that, among the vast—if posthumously published—corpus of J.R.R. Tolkien, The Children of Hurin stands out as his darkest and most openly tragic work. It is a tale of doom set against the prince and princess of the House of Hador, and worse still, the great tragedies they are entrapped by are borne witness to by their father, albeit without their knowledge.

Science Fiction (John C. Wright): Let the insanity of that objection sink in for a moment. The activists demonize a book for positing, as a science fictional premise, that all men vanish from the globe, on the grounds that the category of men does not exist.

The article mentions that an all-woman world is a commonplace in science fiction. It has been treated seriously by feminists or suffragettes in such books as The Female Man by Joanna Russ (1975 ) , and Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1915).

Review (DMR Books): Brazen imagination. If there’s a succinct summing-up of this issue of Cirsova Magazine, it’s those two words. There are some outrageously imaginative pulp stories in this issue.  Commenters talking about mainstream popular culture bemoan the lack of fresh original stories. Retreads of retreads, based on reboots of sequels. As others have said, “originality lies in the Independents!”   So here are Cirsova’s very original stories. Read More

Last week I wrote about Robert E. Howard: A Closer Look. I mentioned two lit-crit anthologies edited by Don Herron: The Dark Barbarian and The Barbaric Triumph. These are logical follow up volumes if you are interested in reading about Robert E. Howard.

The Dark Barbarian is a landmark book. Published by the prestigious Greenwood Press in 1984, it was the first critical anthology on Robert E. Howard. Looking at the contents, I notice how this was created from within Don Herron’s circle. Read More

Alpha Strike (The Last Hunter #3)  – J. N. Chaney and Terry Mixon

Be where your enemy is not. – Sun Tzu

The time has come for Commodore Jack Romanoff and the crew of the battleship Delta Orionis to strike back at the robotic Locusts. He’s outgunned, outnumbered, and commands a battleship flown by battered and bloodied reenactors and trainees.

Yet they must win.

The Locusts control New Copenhagen, but that’s the only place they can get nuclear warheads for their missiles. They must launch an alpha strike to take the system and hold it against all comers. If they fail, they lose their most potent offensive weapons and leave billions trapped under the invaders’ robotic heels.

They must not fail.


Dragon Touched (Blood of the Ancients #3) – Dan Michaelson and D. K. Holmberg

Fire essence flows through the kingdom. But it isn’t the only kind of essence.

Desire to understand his strange essence pushes Rob. He’s left his village, but now he’ll need to leave the kingdom and all that is familiar for him to get the answers he craves.

What he finds leads him to question if his essence is corrupted. With an essence like his, how will he ever master it enough to evolve?

As the icy Spread pushes toward the Borderlands, the only way for Rob to find his answers is out in the Spread—but doing so may cost him everything.


Fall of Zona Nox (Warpmancer Saga #1) – Nicholas Woode-Smith

James Terrin thought he’d lost everything. But he hadn’t lost his planet. Not yet…

Zona Nox, a skiting cesspool at the edge of the galaxy, is under attack. James’ family, gang and very home are threatened as brutal aliens shred the flesh of humanity.

James may be a master thief, but he’s not a soldier. But things will have to change.

He never thought he’d find himself fighting side by side with the desperate forces of the Trooper Order. But if it means defending his home – James will become one of the tinmen he used to ridicule.

Enemies will become friends. Rivals will become brothers. And James will learn the meaning of duty, as the fall of Zona Nox approaches.


The Gathering Storm (The Lunar Free State #7) – John E. Siers

A Storm is Coming…

Relations between the Lunar Free State and the nations of Earth continue to deteriorate, with Earth’s power brokers seeking ways to test the readiness of Luna’s fleet, bringing the nations to the brink of open war.

When the Akara reveal the location of a planet with a primitive human population, the Lunar Free State rushes to check it out, but thanks to a security leak, the Confederation of Nations also learns of the discovery, setting up a military confrontation.

Meanwhile, another Confederation of Nations operation threatens the Lunar Free State’s relationship with the ruling monarch on planet Tatanna. Luna’s Marines respond to that threat, but what will happen when the Confeds launch an attack on LFS naval forces in the system as well?

Lunar warships are forced to engage the enemy in two distant star systems, but the biggest test will come at home, as divisive elements in the nation’s own Lunar Directorate question Luna’s leadership, while its enemies plan for an attack that will cripple the Lunar fleet… without firing a single shot.

Will the Lunar Free State be able to weather the gathering storm?
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In the far future, many millions of years after a desperate humanity transported the last traces of life out of the Milky Way to Andromeda, humanity is flourishing in its new home. But politics abound as star kings plot against a weak galactic president, and four princesses fall prey to kidnappers.

When formal military action means death and revolution, subtler means must be found. The father of one of the princesses sends an agent to find Galen Dwyn, a mercenary of some renown in the disreputable underworld. Offered a small fortune and an opportunity for revenge, Galen sets out to rescue the kidnapped star princess.

Soon, Galen finds himself ensnared in a web of intrigue that seeks to kill him, the princesses, and a sizeable portion of the galaxy through war. Faced with an entire galaxy pursing him, Galen could find a nice asteroid in a remote system to spend a pleasant life with the princess he’s wooed.

But that’s not Galen’s way.


Galen’s Way, by Richard Paolinelli, is the first story in a the Starquest universe, a shared setting created by esteemed science fiction writer John C. Wright, an avowed enthusiast of space princesses. As advertised, Galen’s Way is the first in a trilogy of series exploring humanity’s doomed last stand in what is known as the Murky Way and the impending return of that existential threat.

Complete with space princesses, smugglers, valiant warrior societies, and doomsday machines that make Starkiller Base insufficiently ambitious.

At a time when space opera grows more militarized, it is refreshing to see palace intrigues and other threats that cannot be solved with a blaster. Don’t get me wrong, Galen has plenty of chances to shine when push inevitably comes to shove. However, Galen’s actions are governed more by an understanding of the motives and wants of the people he’s fighting, and not by drilled responses, tactics, and muscle memory. This gives more purpose to his actions, as well as a thoughtfulness to the upstream path he swims through the various snares set by Princess Rhiannon’s father. Galen might not know everything that happens, nor might he always be in control, but he always has an objective he is actively working towards.

Unfortunately, there is only so much one man can do. There is a reason why most successful mercenary-minded spacers have a Yarol, Navi, Jayne, or Chewbacca at their backs. And while Rhiannon does compliment some of Galen’s skills, he often remains alone, without that second set of eyes to sound warning.

Galen’s Way is a shorter novel than is currently popular, leaving little time for the aggressive set pieces and exhaustive histories that clutter its contemporaries. Instead, it provides a quick, easy read that hits all the high points needed for the rescue, return, and romance of a space princess. Adventure is emphasized more than action, and that adventure spills over into romance. While Galen’s Way is more frank about desire than most science fiction books, it handles the romance with fades to black and discretion. But that frankness about desire also stretches into its villains, who are more developed in their wickedness without descending into cartoonishness or amoral bad-boy worship. After all, some folks are just evil, and not misunderstood.

As of the time of writing, a sequel, Galen’s Blade, is available. After all, Rhiannon’s rescue only dampened the spark of rebellion. And another, larger threat is darkening the night sky around the Murky Way…

Gaming (Bounding Into Comics): In their latest effort to try and rehabilitate their public image, Blizzard Entertainment has introduced a new anti-harassment “Social Contract” which World of Warcraft players must agree to before logging into the game. As reported by 80Lv, players are presented with the agreement upon their first log-in to the game following the May 31st rollout of its 9.2.5 patch.

Fantasy (John C. Wright): The issue Martin ran into with ASOIAF [A Song of Ice and Fire] is, ironically, one of this own hand… he spent five books subverting expectations, killing key characters, torturing and scattering the survivors to the ends of creation.

Conan (Sprague de Camp Fan): “Red Moon of Zembabwei” by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter was first published in Fantastic, July 1974. It is the third story in Conan of Aquilonia, Prestige Books (distributed by Ace Books), 1977. The cover and interior art is by Ron Miller. Born May 8, 1947.

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The Starmont Reader’s Guides were published from 1979 to 1992. The entries are numbered up through 61. There are gaps in the numbering as some failed to materialize. The idea was to provide an overview of a fantastic author. At worst, these books were just synopses of the subject author’s fiction. Some had criticism of the fiction along the way, and if lucky, some keen insight.

Robert E. Howard was the subject of Starmont Reader’s Guide #36 by Marc A. Cerasini and Charles Hoffman. This was published in 1987 in both hardcover and trade paperback. It was a total of 156 pages. I bought it in fall 1987 after reading a review in one of the Cryptic Publications magazines, probably Crypt of Cthulhu. I am pretty sure I got it from Weinberg Books. Read More

KARA’ZIN

Empire of perfidy.

With Menuvia little more than a funeral pyre, Xerdes flees to the Traitor’s Kingdom of Nazgan. Where larceny is legal, honor is fatal, and it pays to keep a low profile.

For the deserts of Nazgan are not empty. A lethal legend now haunts the badlands, thirsty for sinful blood. A hooded horror none dare name.

Even as the masked wraith carves its way through the underworld of two separate countries, it has only ever uttered a single world.

“…Xerdes.”

Razorfist has written the second book in his Nightvale pulp fantasy series, which is being published by Dark Legion Books. He’s releasing a limited edition of 750 signed copies, of which only 206 are left after he announced DEATH MASK on his stream last night, so don’t wait if you’re interested in a signed copy. Seriously, don’t wait. They will probably be gone before the weekend is over.

Fortunately, you can also preorder both the regular hardcover and paperback editions until June 30.

Check out the Super Summer Book Sale running now through Tuesday June 21. Indie and small-press authors have banded together to offer over 160 ebooks priced at $0.99 with many titles free. The sale includes over sixty works new to the sale, and Terror House Press has joined in offering their entire catalog of ebooks for $0.99. Science fiction, fantasy, and adventure from established and emerging talents – there’s something for everyone.

The sale includes works from dozens of authors, including John C. Wright, Peter Grant, James Alderdice, Leigh Bracket, Declan Finn, John Ringo, David Weber, H.G. Wells, Robert Kroese, and Kit Sun Cheah, and the sale also features “Centrism Games,” the first offering from Professor Rachel Fulton Brown and her Dragon Common Room.


Bestiarii (Echoes of Pangaea #1) – James Tarr

The Mexican civil war had been grinding on for so long that the U.S. resorted to using private contractors—mercenaries—to prop up the failing Mexican Army. One of the many things the Mexican Army failed to protect was Pangaea, the famed animal park in remote northeast Mexico, a symbol of rampant capitalism. All the creatures inside were killed at the time. At least, that’s what was reported.

For his estranged son Michael’s high school graduation, hotel mogul Roger Rudd splurged on a rare and expensive hunting trip in Mexico, hoping it would bring them closer. To get there, they hitched a ride down on one of the contractors’ helicopters, picking up Tina Echevarria, a beautiful and feisty Mexican graduate student, along the way.

But when the helicopter crashes in the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains, its combat-seasoned contractor crew, led by Irishman Seamus O’Malley, will have to lead the disparate group on a cross-country scramble, trying not only to evade guerilla fighters, but also the prolific and savage offspring of the artificially-created animals once filling Pangaea. Animals thought to be eradicated a generation before, when Pangaea’s walls were breached. Animals called theropods by the park officials… but known to the rest of world as dinosaurs.


Cirsova Magazine of Thrilling Adventure and Daring Suspense Issue #11 / Summer 2022 – edited by P. Alexander

Vran the Chaos-Warped has sworn that the wizard Foad Misjak must die for his debaucheries! Vran’s strange nature due to a sorcerous accident, however, twists with unpredictable results all magic around him… and strands both on another world!

The Prince of Alomar has won a slave from the Bursa… Kat and Mangos must ensure the slave’s silence at all cost, but on one condition: they cannot kill him!

Jørgen Pangloss offers the promise of the unthinkable: faster-than-light travel! To what lengths will potential investors go to win Jørgen monopoly… and its fetters!?

An evil and sorcerous monster plagues the land of Kush! Can Melkart stop the crocodile-headed man-beast Sosostris from enslaving the people of Meroë!?

…and more!

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Somewhere, far off course in the vast reaches of space, the generation ship Endeavour flies blind. Her human colonists remain in suspension, while the ship itself is serviced by societies of Uplifted animals. The decades, or even centuries, of isolation have taken their toll, and the societies have stratified according to the decks and functions of Endeavour. With the pilot caste missing, various schemes to fill the vacuum are underway, especially in the hidden recesses of the engineering spaces.

And it is into this underworld that Jiao Tu, a wandering wuxia rabbit swordsman, must venture to save a kidnapped mousling, risking war with bandits, the secretive Systems clan, and the Reclamations cult.

Let’s deal with the elephant-sized mouse in the room. Yes, Jiao Tu’s Endeavour is an anthropomorphic fantasy with a science fiction veneer written at a time when, thanks to attention seekers and online perverts, anthropomorphic art and literature has a degenerate, and often repulsive, reputation. Jiao Tu may be anthropomorphic, but there isn’t the smug, smirking pride (and ugliness) of furry. Instead, the rabbit’s adventures are a wuxia Redwall in space, as if Brian Jacques penned a volume of Usagi Yojimbo, or the Shaw Brothers used animals instead of actors. Those looking for the Slaaneshi excesses common nowadays to anthropomorphic fantasy can find another story. Jiao Tu’s Endeavour is one of bravery, action, and manners.

But enough on what Jiao Tu’s Endeavour is not. Let’s instead talk about what Donald Uitvlugt’s collection of stories is.

“Have sword. Will travel.”

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James Bond (Hollywood in Toto): John Glen’s “The Living Daylights” (1987) was Dalton’s first vehicle as Bond, after Roger Moore stepped away from the unliked but wildly popular “A View to a Kill” (1985) and series icon Sean Connery had embarked on the enormously successful third act of his long film career. Dalton was a respected but unknown film and theater actor (his appearance in the 1980 cult classic “Flash Gordon” was arguably his most well-known turn prior to 007).

Gaming (Walker’s Retreat): As if the degeneration of videogames as a business wasn’t bad enough from the business side, there is also the player side- i.e. cheating.

The problem arises once Player v. Player arises, and most of the cheating talk online is in this context. This is not, and has not been for years, idle whining; esports is still a thing, so real money is on the line, and when real paydays are to be had you better believe that serious actors will do what it takes to secure the bag. No amount of exposure of cheaters has ceases the cheating; it’s only made the cheats more popular and sophisticated.

Fiction (John C. Wright): Yes, the famous George Orwell did indeed review the famous C.S. Lewis, in a column titled “The Scientists Take Over” appearing in the Manchester Evening News, 16 August 1945.  Available here: http://lewisiana.nl/orwell/

While generally favorable, an unseemly bias is evident from the first line: On the whole, novels are better when there are no miracles in them. 

 

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H. P. Lovecraft received direct information on Robert E. Howard’s death from Dr. I. M. Howard dated June 29, 1936. Wherein Dr. Howard wrote:

            “He slipped out of the house, entered his car which was standing in front of the garage, raised the windows and fired a shot through his brain. . .He shot himself just above the temple. It came out in the opposite side, just above and behind the left ear.”

Robert E. Howard used a pistol to perform the suicide. That is not a surprise, as he liked pistols. He mentioned in a letter to Wilfred Blanch Talman of toting an old .44 in the waistband of his pants at age 14-15. He mentioned having a borrowed “old Frontier model Colt .45 single action.”

Robert E. Howard wrote a letter to August Derleth in March 1933 in which he discussed firearms in a fair portion of the letter. He mentions being a rather poor shot with hunting. “I never did much care about it, and I haven’t hunted at all in years.”

He mentions the British “preferred heavy bored guns with powerful shocking power, but low velocity.” He compares express rifles of English hunters to “comparatively light, high powered Savages, Winchesters and Springfields of American hunters.” Read More

Aeon Rising: The Apocalypse Begins – Matthew Mather

An apocalyptic supernova flashes over the South Pole. A mysterious mission sent deep into the Amazon. The story of one family’s struggle to reunite…

Max Carver, a down-on-his-luck truck driver and Army vet, joins a rescue mission into Brazil. The target is a utopian tech village, the Colony, hidden in the rainforest and run by a charismatic genius. Max’s pregnant wife, Talisha Carver, is the NSA analyst who intercepted encrypted Colony messages signaling a mysterious impending event.

Dr. Xin Rou is a Chinese researcher working at the IceCube neutrino experiment at the South Pole. On lucky days a single flash might signal the passage of a ghostly interstellar particle. Suddenly, IceCube’s entire array lights up. A million detectors at once. Which is impossible. The Antarctic sky is clear and calm—but she is already running for the door.

Because the world is about to end. But the mystery only just begins…


Dragonskull: Curse of the Orcs – Jonathan Moeller

A perilous quest. A haunted forest. Even the bravest knight might never return…

Gareth Arban knows he must stop the sorceress Azalmora from seizing the Dragonskull, a legendary relic of power.

But to catch Azalmora, Gareth must first cross the Qazaluuskan Forest, a land of dark magic and monsters.

But even the orcs who dwell within the forest are amenable to bargains.

And the cost of their bargains might be the lives of Gareth and his friends…


The Spider: Scourge of the Scorpion (The Wild Adventures of The Spider #3) – Will Murray

Men called the Scorpion the “Deathless One.” Rumored to be immortal, he controlled the Order of the Purple Eyes, a slave army of purple-eyed criminals who periodically emerged to wreak havoc on mankind during times of social upheaval. His goal: To bring New York City under scorpionic subjugation.

When a mysterious comatose patient is abducted from his hospital room, a baffling chain of events is triggered, one that brings millionaire criminologist Richard Wentworth into the case—and in conflict with the Scorpion’s old nemesis—The Skull Killer!

Will the Deathless One succeed in erecting his barbaric City of the Scorpion upon the smoking ruins of modern Manhattan?

Not if The Spider has any say in the struggle. But how can the Master of Men fight the Purple Eyes Cult when his beloved Nita van Sloan has been turned against him while his chief aides lie stricken with incurable lockjaw––victims of the lethal sting of the Scorpion? Read More