Robert E. Howard (Orthosphere): Considering that he died at thirty, Howard’s literary accomplishments can only impress.  Stylistically, he operates at a level many ranks above that of the typical pulp writer.  His vocabulary includes a rich lode of Latin and Greek derivations and likewise of English archaisms.  Brought up, from age thirteen, in the small and isolated Texas town of Cross Plains, in Callahan County, in the middle of the state, Howard almost miraculously overcame a lack of educational resources and acquired a reserve of knowledge in history, literature, myth, and folklore that would shame the modern holder of a college degree in any of those subjects.

Science Fiction (Wasteland & Sky): Ever since the Pulp Revolution started, the main kickback has always been from the older set who think it exists to erase their past when it exists for the exact opposite. The whole reason the movement sprung up was because of those who began looking into the past and were finally discovering what Fandom was actually doing was rewriting and destroying what came before. They were doing it for their own gain, chasing out anyone who wanted what they had mere years earlier.

Gaming (Monster Hunter Nation): I talked about this in the last blog post about the Yard Moose Mountain Mega Shooting Weekend, where I had shooters from all over the country coming to my place for three days of pistol training, about how one night I ran a one off RPG session for 17 of them, and by some miracle it actually turned out good. When this got posted about on Facebook right after, a whole bunch of gamers asked how the hell do you run a game that big and not have it suck, so here’s how we pulled it off.

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The April 1957 issue of Science Fiction Adventures had a sensational red cover by Ed Emsh. The three novellas format continued.

“Clansmen of Fear” by Henry Hasse was the cover story. This is a post-apocalyptic story as was so common in 1950s science fiction magazines. Hasse is probably best remembered for the story “He Who Shrank.” I read that story in the Asimov edited Before the Golden Age. Donal is the leader of a village whose inhabitants need periodic exposure to radiation in the ruins of Chicago. He has problems, some of the women are joining marauding wanderers who raid their fields. Things go from bad to worse when very ugly, vaguely cat looking aliens who need the radiation to power their stricken ship. There is some fighting and then a resolution by the aliens who will transplant the villagers to an Earth like planet. Hasse really does not explain how the villagers will get by without their radiation on the new planet. Very clunky science fiction.

Daniel F. Galouye was prolific in the 1950s and the faded away in the early 1960s. I have not really read much by him. “Gulliver Planet” is an alien invasion of Earth story with microscopic aliens taking over the bodies of a group of humans. I did not like this one at all.

“Aren’t you using the Supplementary Auto-Raction Circuit?’ “No, I thought–“

“Confound it, Thaul! That’s what the circuit’s for–to automatically supply authentic movements and gestures!”

This is just a sample. I can’t say I want to sample more Galouye. Read More

“My name is Crest da Zolral.” The alien was waiting for them by the inner hatch of the airlock. “I am an Arkonide. In your terms, I’d describe myself as the scientific leader of this expedition.”

As tensions rise in 2036 between America, Greater Russia, and China, an American moon base goes dark. NASA attempts a rescue mission by sending the Stardust, commanded by Perry Rhodan. But when Rhodan and his crew find a giant metal sphere on the far side of the moon, their problems–and those of the entire human race–grow far more complex. And getting back home is no certainty as there is a bomb hidden on the Stardust.

Meanwhile, in Houston, John Marshall valiantly attempts to keep his children’s shelter running–and the street children away from each other’s throats. Marshall has always had an intuitive knack for reading people, but nothing prepared him for when one of his problem children suddenly teleports the two of them to Nevada Fields so that they can see the Stardust’s launch.

Thus begins Stardust, the first episode of Perry Rhodan NEO, a retelling of the world’s most popular science fiction series. Introduced to the world at WeltCon 2011, NEO updates the geopolitics and technologies from the Cold War and punchcards to a 2010 multipolar world, transistors, and information technology. Perry Rhodan NEO is published concurrently with the original Perry Rhodan series and is written by some of the same authors. Frank Borsch, the author of the first book in the Perry Rhodan: Lemuria series, revisits Rhodan’s first adventure in Stardust. Read More

Plagues of super heroes, time-traveling interstellar wars, and eternal keyboard warriors fill this week’s list of new releases.

Cirsova Magazine of Thrilling Adventure and Daring Suspense Issue #7 / Summer 2021 – Edited by P. Alexander

The fearsome legions of the God Badaxe are on the march, cleaving a bloody swath through the magical land of Pangaea. Countless villages have been burnt to the ground, their young male populations examined and beheaded. Somewhere, a boy with a strange birthmark on his right palm poses a deadly threat to the most powerful being in Pangaea-if he is allowed to reach maturity!


Mangos has won many a game of Regum! But can he prevail in an arena with enchanted life-sized pieces, for extraordinary stakes…and Kat as an opponent?!

The elder Achilles Hister has stolen the body of his son to mitigate the effects of consciousness transfer! A secret alliance between the Artomiques and the new Red Queen jeopardizes Earth’s future even as the Wild Stars peace summit proceeds!

A celestial battle plays out on the lunar landscape, unbeknownst to scouts patrolling its surface in wolf-like biomechanical beasts-until they are in its very midst!

…and more!

A Dagger in the Winds (The Frostmarked Chronicles #1) – Brendan Noble

Wacław has always dreamed of a purpose. Except he’s never actually dreamed. Each night, his soul leaves his body and wanders the world, free from the scorn of his father and mocking of his tribe. If only he understood why.

The entire village fears Otylia, but she prefers it that way. She’s a szeptucha, a whispering channeler of the wild goddess Dziewanna. Everyone’s abandoned her—even Wacław, her once best friend—but Dziewanna never would.

It’s been four years since Marzanna, goddess of winter, stole Otylia’s mother. The goddess’s death in spring is Otylia’s annual retribution. But when Otylia discovers Wacław bearing Marzanna’s Frostmark on what should be the last day of winter, she realizes the dark truth.

Spring will not come, and only Wacław can help her find out why.

Heroic: The Golden Age – Evan Currie

Five years ago, the world changed forever.

We were discovered. No once noticed. We were invaded. No one realized. We fought back. No one… cared. In the last moments before defeat, our enemy deployed a bioweapon, spreading an invisible pandemic to the winds.

The world just wanted to go back to normal.

A third of the population have the genetic code needed to activate the Quantum Virus. Billions of people, waiting to wake up one morning with powers. Abilities. Enhancements beyond that of mortal men.

The aliens bet on us destroying ourselves in the ensuing madness, but not all humans revel in destruction. When Order and Chaos go to war, Chaos always wins in the short term… but heroes know how to play the long game.

Looking back, will this be the beginning of the end, or the start of the Golden Age?

Iron Hand (Battlegroup Z #5) – Daniel Gibbs

The safety is off.

After witnessing his son’s birth, Captain Justin Spencer contemplates leaving active duty in the Coalition Defense Force for a training post. New pilots straight from the academy are sorely unprepared for combat conditions, just like he was when the war with the League of Sol began. But after a year of intense dogfights, the CDF can’t afford continued losses from ill-equipped rookies.

Especially when disaster strikes.

Pirates target a civilian starliner, forcing the CSV Zvika Greengold to renew an old acquaintance. The intelligence agent’s methods are unorthodox at best, but Colonel Tehrani is determined to avenge the innocent.

No matter the cost.

Sustained CDF presence in neutral space brings back bad memories of Terran Coalition overreach in the fiercely independent outposts. But to flush out the culprits responsible for the horrific tragedy, Justin and the Greengold will go wherever the evidence takes them.

Even when their actions threaten to start another war.

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Art (Lithub): But it isn’t only great detective novels that have gotten the pulp treatment. Classic works of literary fiction have existed as pulps from the very beginning of pulp—the new paperback publishers of the 1940s and 50s printed them right along with classic crime and some genuinely lowbrow (and sometimes quite lurid) new novels, often commissioning the very same artists to design their covers.

T.V. (DMR Books): Black Sails, which aired across four seasons 2014-17, is a bastard child of two lineages: It is a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island, and it is also a tale of the historical Republic of Pirates founded at Nassau in the Bahamas in the early 18th Century.

Social Media (Emperor Ponders): One of the most notable changes in subcultures and entertainment during the past fifteen years has been the enrolling of its fans as important marketing agents, something most do for free, but others actually get paid.

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The February 1957 issue of Science Fiction Adventures again featured three “complete new action novels.”

The cover by William Bowman for Robert Silverberg’s “Slaves of the Star Giants” was not as good as the first issue.

“Two Worlds in Peril” by James Blish and Phil Barnhart started the issue. James Blish might be best remembered for the Star Trek adaptations in paperback form. I read the first Star Trek book decades ago.

Blish also wrote as “William Atherton” trashing a good amount of past and present science fiction ala Damon Knight.   I have also read The Best of James Blish. “Two Worlds in Peril” has a mission from Earth to Venus to find if it is inhabitable. Earth lost contact with an attempted colonization of Venus a few hundred years before. A gas escaping from Earth’s core dooms the planet to eventual death. Earthman Heimdall crashes in Venus finding human descendants living underwater due to physiological changes, namely gills. He gets caught up in a war between the Earth descendants and the native Venusian Horlites. The story was mildly entertaining. Blish had explored water breathing Earthmen in the story “Surface Tension” (1952). Blish reused the idea. Read More

Science fiction’s most popular hero returns in this week’s science fiction and fantasy releases.

Blood and Steel (Tranquility #1) – Josh Hayes and Devon C. Ford

They came to start a new life. Now they have to fight for it.

Joel Lander wants nothing more than a fresh start, far from Earth and wars that have left humanity’s birthplace in shambles. Leaving on the second mission to the distant world of Tranquility, Lander and his family plan to build a brand-new life for themselves.

Boasted to be everything Earth wasn’t—clean, unsullied, safe—Lander learns upon arrival that Tranquility is anything but. New Independence has gone dark and it soon becomes clear that he will have to fight a terrifying enemy to save their new home, forcing him back into the very life he’d thought he’d left behind on Earth.

The Dryad Queen (The King’s Blood #1) – Jon Del Arroz and Morgon Newquist

Magickless and fatherless, gold is Evadne’s way to freedom.

She’s never fit in at home, but her skill at herbalism can buy her way out of a quiet, boring life in her village. But the dead that wander the forests between her home and the city are restless, and instead of earning her fortune, she ends up saving a wayward boy named Tristen from their hunger.

This simple act of saving his life plunges Evadne into a fight for the crown and links her and Tristen forever. And instead of her own destiny, thousands of lives hang in the balance.

She must make a choice: her freedom, or the crown?

Will Evadne seize her destiny? Or will she take her gold and flee for the life she’s dreamed of?

Green World (Undying Mercenaries #15) – B. V. Larson

Rebels build a secret base on Green World. Their plan is to attack Earth and retake all the planets the Humans have conquered.

Hegemony starships gather to strike the Rebels first, but where is their base? As the fleets search, Earth warships trespass into Skay space igniting a fresh border conflict between rival Galactics.

When James McGill stumbles onto the rebel camp, they’re forced to step up their plans. The world goes up in flames. Friends are permed and cities are destroyed as everything spins out of control.

Can Earth survive?

Perry Rhodan NEO: Volume 1 – Frank Borsch and Christian Montillon

Perry Rhodan a long-running and popular German space opera franchise. Having sold approximately two billion copies worldwide, it is the most successful science fiction book series ever written. Introduced in 2011, Perry Rhodan NEO is a reimagined version for the 21st century.

Amid crises in politics, climate change, terrorism, and more, humanity’s limited remaining hope lies in science and an increasingly decrepit space program. When a key moon base goes dark, it’s up to chief astronaut Perry Rhodan and his crew to mount a rescue operation – or so the story goes in the press. The truth about Rhodan’s mission, however, is a deeper, greater secret than the public can imagine, and the aftermath of what Rhodan finds will change Earth – if not the entire universe – forever… if there’s still an Earth for him to come home to. Read More


Reviewed by Richard Toogood

THE MIDNIGHT SEA opens, evocatively, on the bleak snow swept runway of Benbecula aerodrome in the Outer Hebrides. It closes upon an ebbing tide of the Kola Inlet. And dividing the two are twelve tumultuous days occupied with what Sir Winston Churchill described as “the worst journey in the world”: an Arctic convoy to Soviet Russia in the depths of the winter of 1944.

The book was the first published novel of the reticent English writer Donald Gordon Payne (1924-2018). It drew heavily upon his own wartime experiences as a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm where he flew the Fairey Swordfish on both Atlantic and Arctic convoys.

The book paints no sentimental portrait of this primitive machine which harkened back to the days of the Red Baron. Of flimsy construction and unarmed the Swordfish was cannon fodder for the likes of the Junkers-88. Its feeble Pegasus engine was also a precarious commodity to stake one’s life on in adverse conditions. This is brought home in one particularly poignant episode in the book when a returning patrol finds itself unable to make headway against a prevailing wind and simply runs out of fuel before it can catch up with the convoy, consigning its crew to a ghastly death. And yet for all its faults and fragility it performed a critical service in reconnaissance for convoys running the gauntlet of the German wolfpacks.

The complement of fifteen Swordfish and eight Wildcat fighters of the British aircraft-carrier HMS Viper is the chief focus of THE MIDNIGHT SEA. It bonds together two otherwise estranged characters: Captain Hugh Jardine and his son who, as the carrier’s only qualified batsman, has the grueling responsibility of landing every returning aircraft upon the often wildly pitching flight deck. As conditions deteriorate and the danger increases their respective duties come to exact a terrible physical toll upon both men.

Payne was far from being alone in possessing the credentials necessary to write such an authentic story of the Arctic campaign. The celebrated Alistair Maclean launched his own literary career at around the same time with the similarly inspired HMS ULYSSES. But the voice of experience is incoherent without a born writer’s gifts to lend authority to its words. And the book profits greatly from Payne’s efficient understated style that can still deliver a descriptive flourish when appropriate. Such as when a salvo from the German heavy cruiser Brandenberg is said to result in columns of water hanging, poised “like phantoms draped in transparent veils of spray”.

The tension begins to ratchet incrementally as Jardine marshals his small defensive screen of destroyers, corvettes and aircraft against a German armada of cruisers, U-Boats and land-based bombers. And if these fabricated foes do prove less daunting and rather shorter on resolve, courage and deadly efficiency than the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe were in actuality then it must be borne in mind that the book was published in 1958 when memories of the war were fresh, and its wounds still raw, and no one was overly bothered in massaging the ego of a beaten enemy.

There is no such artistic latitude to be found in the book’s description of the Arctic elements. These are written of with appropriate awe and respect. Never more so than when the convoy sails into a ferocious storm which convulses the sea into mountainous peaks and cavernous troughs of freezing water. Under such conditions even a 16-000-ton aircraft-carrier is relegated to the status of a child’s bath-time toy. But running in counterpoint to this are snapshots of serene beauty: the eddying flicker of the aurora borealis, the fleeting scuttle of a blood-red sun along a black horizon, the ominous dancing spirals of sea-smoke. The savage majesty of the nature of the north in all its tempers.

Payne would shortly afterwards bring his keen eye and descriptive powers to bear on the opposite extremity of the Australian Outback. His novel THE CHILDREN, written under the alternative alias of James Vance Marshall, was the source for Nicolas Roeg’s celebrated film Walkabout. 

It is certainly possible to make the case that, in the long run, few operations damaged the German war effort more grievously than the Arctic convoys. Because as Napoleon had discovered over a century earlier with his ‘Spanish ulcer’ of the Peninsular War, the terrible attrition of the second Russian front consumed vast quantities of the Wehrmacht’s manpower and equipment to calamitous consequence. And sustaining that front was the business of the convoys. The price the Germans extracted from them for doing so was very heavy. Between 1941 and 1945 more than a hundred merchant vessels were sunk along with twenty warships. The cost in allied lives was in excess of 2700.

For many years British veterans of the convoys believed their war service to be a forgotten one. No campaign medal recognized their sacrifices because it was not considered politically expedient to acknowledge the aid afforded to a wartime ally who had since become a peacetime foe. To their credit the grateful Russians never shared this mulish attitude and were more than willing to bestow their own decorations on veterans of all nationalities. It was not until 2012, more than seventy years after the campaign had begun, that the British government finally sanctioned the striking of the Arctic Star.

But no medal can ever be anything more than a mute lump of medal. It can tell no one anything about the incredible fortitude and courage of a generation of men who endured appalling hardships in the service of a crucial cause. Who fought a war in the most unforgiving of all theatres and paid a grievous price in the purchase of victory.

A medal can convey nothing of this. But THE MIDNIGHT SUN does, and anyone with an interest in this neglected campaign will find it well worth their while in hunting down a copy.

Dedicated to the memory of John Hall AB, and all the crew of HMS Goodall. The last British warship to be lost in the western theatre of WW2: 29 April 1945.

Comic Books (Looper): It’s not really hyperbole to say that Roy Thomas is a living legend. A comics fan since childhood, the former teacher was hired in 1965 by DC Comics’ then-editor Mort Weisinger to become an assistant editor at DC on a trial basis. But Thomas soon found Weisinger too difficult to work for, and after writing a letter to Marvel Comics editor Stan Lee, he got a call from Lee inviting him to come take a writing test.

Fiction (Marzaat): This week’s piece of weird fiction is a vigorous story from Robert E. Howard and illustrate’s Howard’s belief that barbaric virtues are better than civilized ones. Review: “The Gods of Bal-Sagoth”, Robert E. Howard, 1931.

Popular Culture (Kairos): Talk to enough Millennials and Zoomers, and before long the conversation will turn to their favorite pop culture brands. Discussing these brands with them at any length will give you the strong impression that younger generations have a deep affinity for projecting themselves into these properties. Without a doubt, you’ll find members of every generation who indulge in self-insert fantasizing about their favorite franchises. Read More

Science Fiction Adventures was a title used for magazines twice, three times depending on how you count the U.K version. The second title from 1956 to 1958 was a converted detective magazine, Suspect Detective Stories. Suspect lasted for five issues from November 1955 to October 1956. It was edited by Larry T. Shaw and did run fiction by Jerome Bixby, William Tenn, Bryce Walton, Jerry Sohl, Robert Bloch, and Harlan Ellison.

The first issue of Science Fiction Adventures, December 1956 is listed as Vol. 1 No. 6 continuing the numbering from Suspect Detective Stories. The cover is a garish scene by Ed Emsh. The magazine was digest size, cost $.35, and had a total of 130 pages. The cover had “3 Complete New Action Novels” above the magazine logo.

I mentioned Edmond Hamilton’s “The Starcombers” last week as it was reprinted in Great Science Fiction Adventures. Read More

Robert E. Howard is best known for his sword and sorcery tales, and his heroes Conan and Krull. But Howard wrote more stories of Sailor Stevie Costigan than any other of his heroes with the exception of Conan. Costigan was a sailor in the Pacific, hot-headed, quick with his hands, and the fiercest boxer on the seas. Accompanied by his bulldog Mike, Costigan moves from port to port and ring to ring, avenging slights and proving naysayers wrong. Unfortunately, this means that Costigan takes lumps that a few moments’ hesitation may have prevented, something the old salt good-naturedly admits.

In “Sailor’s Grudge”. Steve Costigan’s troubles start where most sailors’ do, on shore, and this time in California. A chance meeting with a little blonde flirt named Marjory puts Steve’s heart into a flutter. When he finds a man named Bert browbeating Marjory for fancying a sailor, Costigan enrages. Not only will no man get between Costigan and his current fancy, Steve pegs the man as a fellow sailor. The ensuing grudge will take Costigan into Hollywood, where he assaults a Bert lookalike that turns out to be a famous actor, one to whom Bert is a stunt double in a boxing movie. Costigan muscles his way onto set, aiming to settle his grudge in the ring, recorded by the movie’s director. But will this production have a happy ending?

Not when Steve learns the real connection between Marjory and Bert.

Costigan retells this misadventure knowing that the joke is on him, and that this white knight was tilting at windmills of his own devising. Howard nails the voice convincingly and appropriately for a lighter tale than the Gothic-tinged fantasy he is better known for. Better yet, he does it subtlely, using a few choice words here and there instead of the thick and occasionally unreadable accents many of his contemporaries used in the name of “realism”. The result is a quick, even friendly read that speeds the reader along to the highlight–the fight.

The fighting is painted in broad strokes. Technical, as an experienced boxer might, but with an eye towards how the fight fits in Steve’s attempts at courtship. Verisimilitude is the name of the game. Just enough boxing jargon to preserve Costigan’s expertise in the ring, but not so much that it turns into the Dreaded Checklist of Action or to stall the story’s narration. The punches mentioned move the story forward, not to wallow in technique, and each punch moves Steve closer to the realization that he doesn’t have a puncher’s chance with Marjory.

While Conan and Solomon Kane are classics of the fantasy genre, Costigan’s voice and the approachable nature of his adventures make his tales my current favorite of Howard’s works.

Alchemical academies, busking VR rockstars, and stranded U. S. Army Rangers shine in this week’s new release list.

Alchemist Apprentice (The Alchemist Book 1) – Dan Michaelson and D. K. Holmberg

Sam’s desire to protect his sister leads him to magic he never imagined.

The powerful arcane arts have kept Olway safe for generations, taught only to those tested and proven to have real potential at the prestigious Academy. That power has never been found on the edge of the kingdom where Sam and his sister struggle to survive. Until now.

A terrible mistake puts Sam at the mercy of a master of the arcane arts who brings Sam to the Academy to help learn what happened to the last of the Alchemists. Posing as a student, and with no magic of his own, he tries to navigate the Academy and discover the secrets of Alchemy. When he discovers a dangerous power that could destroy the Academy, Sam is tested in a way he’d never imagined.

Having no magic of his own, his mind and wits might not be enough to stop a dangerous power that has turned its attention upon the Academy—and is now focused on Sam.

Galaxy Run (Gunn and Salvo #1) – Joshua James


When deep space bounty hunters Gunn and Salvo chase down a teenager linked to the catastrophic loss of a space station, everything about the job feels off.

They’re used to greedy people lying to them. But honest people who should know better? That’s new.

So they do the one thing you don’t do in their line of work: Ask questions.

Before they know it, they’re the ones with a galaxy-wide bounty on their heads … and the fate of humanity in their hands.

Lost Time (The Bridge #2) – Nathan Hystad

The Bridge has been triggered, but the surprises don’t end there. What Rex found on the other side was unsettling, and with fresh information, he must race against time with his new allies as they search for their salvation.

The mysterious objects are closer, nearly at Earth, and the efforts of the alien cult have reached a devastating level. Fear escalates as the entire planet senses the global threat, but Rex is more determined than ever to prevent what’s coming.

With the startling revelation of a team member’s identity, and the news of a second Bridge, Rex must cast aside his frustrations and focus. Otherwise the imminent arrival might just be as catastrophic as the cult predicts.

Rex Walker finds himself at the precipice of history, but which side will humanity land on? Lost Time is a fast-paced thriller full of hope, loss, reconnection, and adventure.

Rebel’s Call (Space Troopers #1) – Jamie McFarlane and Rachel Aukes

Separated at birth, orphaned twins Peyton and Jai Foster’s lives couldn’t be more different. Raised by a billionaire, Peyton Foster has been taught that anything other than first place is failure. With her adoptive family’s name dangled like a carrot, she’ll need to not only get accepted to Space Academy but finish at the top of her class.

Raised in a group shelter one step from the streets, Jai Foster has earned every meal he’s ever eaten. Discovering early that his penchant for technology gave him an undeniable advantage, Jai manages to earn a spot to the Academy with hopes of securing a future better than as some low-level corporate cog.

When fellow cadets are callously murdered for failing training exercises, the orphaned twins discover that the corporations controlling the solar system are far more sinister than they could’ve ever imagined. When terrorist attacks leave millions dead, Academy’s cadets are drafted to fight the latest corporate war.

But what happens when the twins discover that the terrorist enemy they’re fighting isn’t the real enemy? Will a pair of orphans follow the orders of an immoral corporation or will they find that fighting against tyranny is worth everything? Read More