Culture (Legends of Men): The primary professional association for classicists is the Society for Classical Studies. This was formerly called the American Philological Association. Mary Frances Williams, a Ph.D. in classics, former professor, and an independent researcher, decided to attend this year’s annual conference. There, she witnessed first hand how the classics field is becoming a vehicle for social justice (a.k.a. Marxism). The SCS, as well as academics across the country (and presumably across Europe), is accomplishing this on multiple fronts.

 

Fandom (Don Herron): Hard to believe it was ten years ago today when Steve Tompkins punched his ticket. Only 48 years old, hospitalized for food poisoning after hitting Burger King, then out of the blue a heart attack. If they can’t handle a heart attack when you’re already in the hospital, game over.

 

Fiction (John C. Wright): Many a fan, this one included, calls Queen of the Black Coast the finest of the Conan stories, in part because of its legendary scope, in part because of its lurid romance, it passages of lyrical poetry, its vivid and bloody battle-scenes, the sense of mystery and adventure, the chilling eldritch visions of ancient eons and shades of the dead, the Viking funeral at the end.

The writing excels on three levels: first, striking characterization gives life to an intimate and tragic romance; second, lyrical world-building conjures a vision of a lost age, cruel but not without its savage beauties; third, a deep and even grim theme dignifies what would otherwise be a mere boy’s adventure tale with adumbration of deep time and an almost Norse melancholy touching the brevity of life, the indifference of the gods.

 

Fandom (DMR Books): Steve Tompkins died ten years ago today. I and a few other bloggers will be posting blog entries in tribute to Steve, whom I consider the best “genre” blogger of the first decade in this twenty-first century. Below, you’ll find a very concise history of Mr. Tompkins’ life and hyperlinks to all of his blog entries and online essays. This post is intended to function as a one-stop guide to Steve’s online legacy.

 

RPG (Playing at the World): The Illusionist in Dungeons & Dragons was created by Peter Aronson, an early Boston-area fan. In 1975, Aronson submitted an initial description of Illusionists to TSR , who ran it in the fourth issue of the Strategic Review. Then the following year, Aronson’s additions with system for higher-level Illusionists appeared in the debut issue of The Dragon. But Aronson didn’t stop there – he made a number of further expansions and corrections which he circulated informally in 1977, of which the first page is shown above. Today, we’re looking at the complete Illusionist subclass for OD&D as Aronson envisioned it, and the implications it created for “schools” of magic in role-playing games.

 

Fiction (DMR Books): Hira Singh was Talbot Mundy’s fourth novel; his second and third novels (The Winds of the World and King – of the Khyber Rifles) are more properly part of the Greater Jimgrim Mythos of interconnected stories and we will discuss them in their own time.  We will also be reviewing the Jimgrim Saga itself (those books whose hero is James Grim) in its own place.  Hira Singh was serialized in Adventure magazine in late 1917 and then published in book form by Bobbs-Merrill in 1918.

 

Popular Culture (Kairos): Hang out around science fiction authors long enough, and you get the sense that they’re all crazy.

John Scalzi claims that Donald Trump and the weather conspired to give him writer’s block. Patrick Rothfuss and George R. R. Martin have cited similarly temperamental reasons for not finishing their popular series.

The ancient Romans had a saying, Ars longa, vita brevis. Moderns take it to mean that life is short, but works of art last.

 

Popular Culture (Men of the West): This weekend, Captain Marvel defied expectations among traditional fanbase comic book audiences who expected the movie to gross between $80 and $100 million. It seemed as though every indication was there that the movie would tank, due to its blatant promotion of third wave feminism—both in the movie as well as in promotional material. However, the justified critics were wrong to presume the larger society of Americans were on their side, and the movie earned $153 million domestic. Read More

My friend Steve Tompkins has been gone for ten years as of March 23. Seems like yesterday I found out about his passing. I had had a bad feeling as I could not get in touch with him and it turned out to be the worst.

Steve was a writer of non-fiction. There is a type of writer involved with certain literary genres who puts things in perspective or gives new insight. Robert E. Briney comes to mind. He wrote non-fiction pieces for Amra and and about Sax Rohmer. Steve Tompkins was in that vein.

I got to know Steve when I was the Official Editor of the Robert E. Howard United Press Association. One of the members gave me his address and I sent Steve a spec copy of the mailings. This would have been in early 1995.  Steve had been writing letters to the Conan comic books for some period.

He read a piece I wrote for my fanzine called “Lin Carter: The Inept Pastichist” (later reprinted and slightly touched up as “The Inept Pasticheur”). Steve said when he read that, he knew he was in the right place. He joined the apa and joined in the fun with “Lin Carter: Fan Gone Wrong” and “Rolling in the Aisles.” “Rolling in the Aisles” was a humorous deconstruction of the very irritating Lin Carter character Sigurd of Vanaheim, a supporting character in the L. Sprague de Camp/Lin Carter novels Conan the Buccaneer and Conan of the Isles. Steve was happy when Roy Thomas killed Sigurd in a gruesome fashion in the 1990s in one of the Conan comic books. Read More

Jules de Grandin, Black Tide Rising, Russian wuxia litRPGs, and Larson and VanDyke’s Galactic Liberation return in this week’s roundup of the newest releases in science fiction and fantasy.


Black Moon (The Complete Tales of Jules de Grandin, Volume Five) – Seabury Quinn

Today the names of H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, August Derleth, and Clark Ashton Smith, all regular contributors to the pulp magazine Weird Tales during the first half of the twentieth century, are recognizable even to casual readers of the bizarre and fantastic. And yet despite being more popular than them all during the golden era of genre pulp fiction, there is another author whose name and work have fallen into obscurity: Seabury Quinn.

Quinn’s short stories were featured in well over half of Weird Tales’s original publication run. His most famous character, the French supernatural detective Dr. Jules de Grandin, investigated cases involving monsters, devil worshippers, serial killers, and spirits from beyond the grave, often set in the small town of Harrisonville, New Jersey. In de Grandin there are familiar shades of both Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, and alongside his assistant, Dr. Samuel Trowbridge, de Grandin’s knack for solving mysteries—and his outbursts of peculiar French-isms (Grand Dieu!)—captivated readers for nearly three decades.

Available for the first time in trade editions, The Complete Tales of Jules de Grandin collects all ninety-three published works featuring the supernatural detective. Presented in chronological order over five volumes, this is the definitive collection of an iconic pulp hero. The fifth volume, Black Moon, includes all the stories from “Suicide Chapel” (1938) to “The Ring of Bastet” (1951), as well as an introduction by George Vanderburgh and Robert Weinberg and a foreword by Stephen Jones.


Bone Dungeon (Elemental Dungeon #1) – Jonathan Smidt

Ryan doesn’t remember much about his life before becoming a dungeon core. Only that he had a bit of a disagreement with the church — something to do with a beheading?

Now reborn, Ryan begins to arm his darkness dungeon with devious traps, bestial zombies and ill-named skeletal creations, without doing anything too evil. Well, mostly. Some adventurers just deserve a stalactite to the head.

But Ryan quickly learns being a darkness dungeon isn’t all loot and bone puns. With a necromancer on the rise and the Adventurer’s Guild watching his every move, he must prove that not all darkness dungeons are malevolent… even if they do have a few skeletons in their caverns.

Sadly, all of these issues keep distracting him from his own guilty pleasure, skeletal fight club. But don’t tell his fairy about that.


Bushido Online: War Games – Nikita Thorn

Promises have been made, and promises will have to be kept.

After all the drama surrounding the invasion of the White Crane Hall, Seiki gave his word to Ippei that he’d join the War Games. So, when he hits level 14 and finally gets eligible for his first troops, Seiki gets ready to face the Demonic Clan and begin his climb up the military ranks.

But before he can claim his unit from the Shogun, Seiki has one last promise to fulfill. Together with the whole band, he has to clear Nezumi Temple—aka the rat dungeon—in order to secure a rare armguard for Yamura as a thank you for saving their neck back at the siege. However, the drop rate for the item could be as low as 4%. And after running the instance for close to twenty times, they’re all starting to wonder whether the darn piece even exists…


Dragon Heart: Stone Will – Kirill Klevanski 

“Dragon Heart” is one of the top-rated Wuxia LitRPG novels in Russia.

He was born anew in a world where martial arts were indistinguishable from magic.  He only received a neuronet and meaningless desires from his past life.

What lies ahead?

He dreamed of adventure and freedom, but those dreams were taken away from him. The same way his mother, father, and sister had been taken away. They took the Kingdom, they took his own destiny.

But he is willing to wage a war, against the whole world if need be, to bring everything back.  Even if the army opposes him, his sword won’t waver. Even if the Emperor sends the legions, his step won’t falter.

Even if demons and gods, heroes and enemies alike are to unite against him, he won’t bend to their will. His own will is iron itself, unstoppable.

His name is Hadjar and he heeds the call of the dragon heart within him.  Read More

The Unremembered, by Paul Lohrman, appeared in the May 1950 issue of Amazing Stories. It can be read here at Archive.org.

I dig that the puritan girl happened to have a really sexy outfit with a high-cut skirt for them to hang her in.

We wrap up this issue of Amazing Stories with The Unremembered by Paul Lohrman (probably Richard S. Shaver). It’s almost short enough to have been relegated to flash status (Amazing ran many pieces of flash fiction throughout the magazine, filling up odd bits of space—I haven’t been reviewing them, because it would take an entire year’s worth of my column or more to touch on one a week).

The Unremembered is a very short love story that takes place across the vast gulf of time. While not bad, it comes across as a pale imitation of A. Merritt’s Three Lines of Old French.

A man named Adam Bane is psychologically unstuck in time; he has no real concept past, present, and future—they all just blend together for him. This has apparently landed him in some hot water with a crazy dame, who shoots him.

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Story

 

 

Discussion

M*A*S*H – This television series was a constant on early evening television in the 70’s up through the early 80’s.  This History.com article on Richard Hornberger discusses his role as a surgeon at a MASH unit during the Korean War and the book he wrote under the alias of Richard Hooker.  It seems that Hornberger didn’t like the show’s moralizing tone that became more pronounced as the series developed.  The characters in the book can be just as annoying as Alan Alda’s, through actions ranging from collegiate, frat-house type pranks to full on debauchery. In many cases, what saves the characters from imprisonment are the countless lives they save, sometimes on a daily basis.

Hornberger writes that these behaviors were brought on by extreme stress  and as a means to “cope with the situation and get the job done”.  He writes that these stresses caused a few of them to “flip their lids, but most of them just raised hell, in a variety of ways and degrees. This is a story of some of the ways and degrees.”

The book is more than a chronicle of stressed out surgeon hi-jinks but also gives a flavor at what life and the mission was like at a forward Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. For those interested in military medicine there are quite a few passages describing surgical procedures.

 

U.S. Army Medical Care in WW2 – I was trying to find material on medical care for Volksgrenadiers during the Battle of the Bulge but due to my lack of German language skills I mostly gathered information on the American side. This link has the general path of care given to the American soldier in WW2 (from the front line all the way to those requiring long term treatment being shipped back home to the U.S.) and links to a hospital unit that was at the Bulge and medics serving in divisions nearby.

As for the German side, no fear, I found information allowing for a follow up post with at least the same level of detail, probably more.

 

Wargamer.com – a guide to miniature and board games for 2019 here and for 2019 computer game releases here.  I’m liking what I see with General Staff.

 

 

Atlantis – illustrated by Rocío Espín Piñar

The Art of Rocío Espín Piñar – Visit his Artstation page to enjoy many illustrations of ancient and medieval towns and cities. As his work expands his Artstation page will become a must visit for those seeking inspiration and ideas for historical novels, research and even game design.

 

RPG (Tenkar’s Tavern): We’re very excited to announce the next release in our Original Adventures Reincarnated line: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks! As with previous releases in the OAR series, this one will include scans of the original 1E editions, a conversion to 5E, and new 5E material filling in some gaps from the original 1E module.

OAR3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks is slated for a September release. It will be solicited to distributors soon and will be available for pre-order once the book is at the printer.

 

 

 

Anime (Fantasy Literature): “They say if you try making anime for 3 days, you’ll never be able to quit and that in 3 days you’ll also be broke. But even if I were to go broke, I still don’t think I’d be able to quit.” These words from Tezuka, upon receiving an award late in life, express his passion for his work in anime, but he had an equal passion for manga.

 

 

 

Fiction (James Reasoner): I backed the Kickstarter for this anthology, and now that it’s been published and I’ve read it, I’m glad I did. It’s an excellent collection of military fiction, some with contemporary settings, some historical. I’ve always liked war stories, and these are very well done. My favorites are “A Place More Kind Than Home” by Ron Farina, a tale of a Marine coming home from Vietnam that does a perfect job of capturing the mid-Sixties era. Read More

Last fall, I had mentioned a story set in Ireland where a rascal of a man has the table turned on him. I had thought it was E. F. Benson, but the story premise just did not feel like a Benson story. It is unusual for me to forget the author and or title of a story. A friend of mine put out the word and found the author and title of the story.

The story is “The Lady on the Grey” by John Collier. This would make sense. About five years ago I read the New York Review Books Classics reprint of Collier’s Fancies and Goodnights. I blew through the fifty stories in a couple weeks which is why I did not remember more than a few titles.

John Collier (1901-1980) was a favorite of anthologists 50-60 years ago. You see his stories in the Alfred Hitchcock anthologies and seemed to show up in books with stories by Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, and Roald Dahl.

Collier was not a pulp writer. He was more urbane, appearing in magazines including Harper’s, The New Yorker, Esquire, The Atlantic Monthly, not Weird Tales or Unknown. He did show up in The Avon Fantasy Reader and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. He was an influence on Henry Kuttner and Ray Bradbuy. Many of his stories were of a sort that would be a model for those in Unknown but with better delivery in general. Remind me to write the Curse of Unknown someday. Read More

When Games Workshop hurled Warhammer Fantasy millennia into the future, into the Age of Sigmar, the controversial decision closed the book on one of the most beloved heroic fantasy series in recent memory. Dwarven Slayer Gotrek Gurnisson’s search for a heroic death on the battlefield ended in cataclysm—without his death or the epic song promised by his Remember and companion, Felix Jaeger. Or so we thought.

For, many thousands of year after the world split into the eight Mortal Realms, Gotrek returns in Realmslayer, an audio drama written by David Guymer. For the first time in his adventures, the Slayer wanders the world without his ever-present companion, Felix. Gotrek mourns his lost human friend, long dead in the millennia since the cataclysm of the End Times. But when Gotrek learns of the Stormcast Eternals, human heroes plucked from the very moment of death by the god Sigmar to serve in his war against Chaos, the Slayer sets out in search of Felix. For no man known to Gotrek Gurnisson was more heroic than Felix Jaeger.

Gotrek’s search carries him through the Realm of Fire, into a conflagration of dwarves obsessed with fire and gold; Chaos cultists, rival princes scheming for thrones, a dwarfen loremaster who thinks Gotrek is the dwarfen god returned, a dark elf assassin, and the endless schemes of the Chaos God Tzeench. To get to the nearest chamber of Sigmar’s immortal heroes, Gotrek will have to do what he does best—hack a path through the servants of Chaos. Read More

West Virginia witches, bounty hunter barbecue pitmasters, fantasy detectives, and a new Tarzan story from Edgar Rice Burroughs feature in this week’s roundup of the newest releases in fantasy.


Awaken Online: Dominion – Travis Bagwel

Following Jason’s evolution into a Keeper, he finds his fledgling city once again in turmoil. A new and deadly enemy threatens the Twilight Throne — one that has no difficulty contending with Jason and the members of Original Sin.

Jason must work quickly to consolidate his city’s power. That means securing the villages within the Twilight Throne’s influence, finding a steady stream of income, and growing the city’s military strength. Even as the group grapples with these changes, they notice that something is stirring up the native undead around the city, although the source of this strange influence is uncertain.

One thing is clear, however. Jason might have evolved, but his enemies have adapted with him. If the Twilight Throne is to survive, the group must grow stronger and Jason must learn to control his newfound abilities.

Otherwise, the darkness may very well claim them all.


Blood Creek Beast (Blood Creek Series #2) – Jay Barnson

Worlds apart, and just ‘round the bend…

For years, Jack Parsons dreamed of escaping the tiny community of Maple Bend, West Virginia. Now he is trapped in another world entirely. Seeking help to protect the crossroads from the immortal “man in the white suit” and his Coven, Jack ventures into the world ‘Round the Bend, a mirror-image of West Virginia more wondrous, and more dangerous, than he had ever imagined.

On the other side of the crossroads, the Coven pursues Jessabelle Rose with plans to use her shape-shifting powers for their own dark ends. Jessabelle must choose between flight or fight; to escape the Coven forever, or risk everything to protect her family.

What began with mysterious deaths deep in the Appalachian Mountains now threatens to engulf two worlds. Witchcraft and creatures of folklore mix with shadowy high-tech organizations and political intrigue in this thrilling tale of magic and adventure.


Cirsova Vol. 2 No. 1 – edited by P. Alexander

The Spring issue of the All-New Cirsova Magazine of Thrilling Adventure and Daring Suspense is out now!

The big star of the spring issue, of course, is the brand-new Tarzan story “Young Tarzan and the Mysterious She”, by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Michael Tierney. Based on a fragment from 1930, this previously “Lost” Tarzan adventure takes place in the Jungle Tales period and, in addition to being a cool adventure in and of itself, ties into and resolves some issues from The Jewels of Opar.  Young Tarzan ponders his nature among his ape family in the jungle when he hears there may yet be another such as he! Who is the white-skinned she who lives among the Gomangani tribes, and is it she whose visage haunts the ape-man’s dreams?!

But in addition to this all-new Tarzan story, we’ve got a bunch of other thrilling adventures that you’ll want to check out!


The City Under the Mountain (The Seven Signs #4) – D.W. Hawkins

In the savage north, an ancient relic awakens.

Fugitives from the Conclave, Dormael and his friends must seek the next piece of the Nar’doroc deep within a perilous hinterland. Beset by vicious monstrosities, they uncover a place where ancient secrets lay forgotten, a graveyard abandoned to the march of time. Its revelations could lead them to the next fragment of the shattered artifact, but menace lurks in the shadows of its history. To survive it, a dangerous sacrifice must be made.

Across the Stormy Sea, Nalia Arynthaal, Princess of the Winter Passes, dives into the midst of an empire at war. With nothing but guile and icy resolve, she works to revenge herself upon those who disgraced her family. Surrounded by enemies, Nalia must embrace a treacherous ally to bring down an empire bolstered by thousands of angry swords. To restore her family’s honor, Nalia may have to renounce her own.

Everything may yet fall to powers darker still—the seeds for which are being sown beneath the surface. Will Dormael and company recover the shattered Nar’doroc? Will Nalia bring down her enemies, or be crushed by the unyielding march of empire? What secrets lie buried in the past? Read More

We take a break from our regularly scheduled review of old pulp stories to tell you about some new stories you may want to check out!

The Spring issue of the All-New Cirsova Magazine of Thrilling Adventure and Daring Suspense is out now!

The big star of the spring issue, of course, is the brand-new Tarzan story Young Tarzan and the Mysterious She, by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Michael Tierney. Based on a fragment from 1930, this previously “Lost” Tarzan adventure takes place in the Jungle Tales period and, in addition to being a cool adventure in and of itself, ties into and resolves some issues from The Jewels of Opar.  Young Tarzan ponders his nature among his ape family in the jungle when he hears there may yet be another such as he! Who is the white-skinned she who lives among the Gomangani tribes, and is it she whose visage haunts the ape-man’s dreams?!

But in addition to this all-new Tarzan story, we’ve got a bunch of other thrilling adventures that you’ll want to check out!

Atop the Cleft of Ral-Gri, by Jeff Stoner – The Nazis’ never-ending quest for powerful and sorcerous relics to aid the Father-land’s conquests brings the SS to the mountains of Tibet, where a deadly and mysterious weapon is rumored to lay dormant and waiting for a new master!

The Idol in the Sewer, by Kenneth R. Gower – A reverse of fortune sends Kral Mazan fleeing through the labyrinthine sewers of Vasaros empty-handed from his audacious heist! His life may be forfeit to the rat-men who lurk in the tunnels—unless he accepts a job to retrieve their idol for them!

More after the jump!

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Nuts! The Battle of the Bulge was released in 1998 by Decision Games as a card game.  HexWar Games now has the rights and released a computer version in 2016, available on Steam. I came across Nuts! at the same time as this other Bulge computer game and decided to look into the card based concept. The $9.99 price tag may have also played a role…

This is an enjoyable game on the “beer and pretzels” level but don’t expect to discover historical truths or maneuver your forces through the snow covered hills of the Ardennes. Unfortunately, the computer game only offers solitaire play against the AI so the social aspect of a card game is missing.

The game interface is easy to navigate though the player will need to remember the icons (pictured to the right).  Most symbols are easy to decipher but it took me a couple of clicks to remember what the die icon was for (link back to Steam’s HexWar Games page). Within the game, the other icons are not named or have pop up text boxes but it is all intuitive and is not an issue.

At game start the player receives a series of unit cards, divided by units available at start and a smaller pool of reinforcements.  Terrain cards are a nice feature adding variety to the “game board”. For example, the American player may get a river card to be placed wherever it is needed most and town cards that give the defender or attacker certain boosts (the computer only allows the player to place these cards according to the program’s geography (e.g. no placing a Bastogne defense bonus card on the north side of the playing are or a river card in a random location). Finally, there are a host of event cards,  many tied into game events or weather conditions, to add randomness into the course of the game and keep game play interesting, .

For my first two games I played as the Germans. I tried the northern sector and could only advance one column west into the American lines.  The AI had me stuck in a battle of attrition. Next game I played the southern sector and ended it early with a division at the Meuse.

 

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