Robert E. Howard (Adventures Fantastic): Most readers of weird fiction probably know about the story “The House in the Oaks” by August Derleth, which first appeared in the anthology Dark Things in 1971, the year Derleth died. It was one of the many “posthumous collaborations” of tales left unfinished on the death of Robert E. Howard on June 11, 1936. I also recently speculated about Derleth’s “The Man from Dark Valley” being an ode to Howard after his death (though the consensus is that it was probably already submitted by then).

Authors (Adventures Fantastic): C.L. Moore (Catherine Lucille Moore, January 24, 1911—April 4, 1987) was a fan of Robert E. Howard’s writing. As she once explained to R. H. Barlow in an April 1934 letter, “I’d like to read everything Robert E. Howard has ever written. The first story of his I read was WORMS OF THE EARTH, and I’ve been a fanatic ever since.” Moore had a brief correspondence with Howard toward the end of his life and one of the early extant letters is dated January 29, 1935. She addresses a wide array of topics, praises Howard’s writing, and then signs-off. However, she added an interesting postscript that read:

Disney (Catholic League): Walt’s Disenchated Kingdom. Read More

I wrote that William R. Forstchen’s One Second After was the scariest book I ever read. The Final Day is the third book in the series. This picks up six months after the events in One Year After end.

John Matherson is delivered a message from the neighboring community from an army officer who claims to know him. Unfortunately the officer was robbed and beat up by robbers and near death. Matherson makes the trip over some mountains to find the officer has died with a message that an Army general he had served under wants to meet with him. Read More

Every week, the Castalia House Blog spotlights some of the many new releases in independent, pulp and web novel-influenced science fiction and fantasy.

Blessed Time 4: Shattered Hourglass – Cale Plamann

Time is running out, and the fate of reality itself lies in Micah’s hands.

Micah fought the Third Prince of Elsewhere once. He was defeated more thoroughly than he had ever thought possible. Even when he fled from his failure through time itself, the Prince pursued him, dogged and unwilling to give up on an injured quarry.

The gods gave him a quest: gather the artifacts needed so that he could contend with an evil capable of devouring existence itself. He fought and bled, finally acquiring the tools he thought he would need for the climactic battle waiting for him when he returned home. Unfortunately, his adventures didn’t prepare him for one simple truth.

He was not ready.

The Third Prince was more powerful than any human that had ever lived and ever would live. Fighting a being older and more sinister than myth and legend itself was a fool’s errand, but when fate called, sometimes there weren’t heroes and demigods waiting in the wings to defeat it. Sometimes, there was only a fool left to answer.

Callsign: Valkyrie (Galaxy’s Edge: Order of the Centurion #6) – Jason Anspach, Nick Cole, and Walt Robilard

These Things We Do, That Others May Live!

The Legion is the most elite, direct-action force in the galaxy, hammering the enemies of the Republic… but some missions require a scalpel.

When radical insurgents shoot down a covert republic flight at galaxy’s edge, a nearby Legion recovery team is sent to recover the crew and keep the flight’s VIP—a doctor overseeing clandestine research and development—from falling into enemy hands. The operators of REC-Team Pelican fight the clock and struggle against criminal cartels, dangerous insurgents, and internal political strife, knowing that theirs is the duty to succeed where others might fail.

Strap in for a thrilling adventure of special operator warfare, covert intelligence, and high-stakes spy craft as REC-Team Pelican navigates a treacherous battlespace to make the rescue… no matter the cost.

Dragonskull: Talons of the Sorcerer – Johnathan Moeller

A malevolent sorcerer. A grim fortress. Those who cross its gates never return…

Gareth Arban seeks to stop the sorceress Azalmora from finding the Dragonskull, a powerful relic of dark magic.

But the fortress of Nifheldun lies in his path, and to pursue Azalmora, Gareth must help the warriors of the Norvangir seize the fortress.

But the sorcerous master of Nifheldun is cunning, and Gareth and his friends might be the latest warriors to fall before his deadly spells…

The Pale Princess (The Storyweaver Saga #1) – D. K. Holmberg

Stories claim the Pale Princess was a powerful sorcerer who once saved the world from a dangerous magic. Only a few know the truth.

Lan and Sophie lead a simple life with their grandparents, though both long for more. When their grandparents are murdered during a strange magical attack, their lives will be forever changed.

For Sophie, she’s brought to a palace where she lives a luxurious life, while trying to understand what the strange sorcerer Ridaln wants from her. When she discovers a talent with magic, she learns poses that give her access to power that she had only heard about in the stories her Nana told.

For Lan, who’s always wanted to learn the sword, the opportunity to train as a soldier makes him think he’ll be able to learn and serve. What he finds is brutality and torment, though he does learn to fight. A chance encounter on the battlefield takes him away from that brutality, where he’s given a chance to learn another way—and finally become the mythical Taihg soldier he’s dreamed of being.

As Sophie tries to understand her purpose in the palace, and Lan longs for battle, they become a part of a dangerous war—and may be the only ones capable of stopping a dark power a dangerous sorcerer wants to once more unleash upon the world.

Point Break (The Guardian Covenant #3) – Chris Kennedy

A warrior without a war!

Lieutenant Paul Anderson is a Guardian driver, able to pilot the massive, thirty-meter-tall mecha “Point Break” from his cockpit high above the ground. There are only two problems—the Alliance won’t let him arm the giant mecha, and even if he could, he’s a long way from where any of the fighting is occurring. When Paul learns his mother’s been killed on Lewa, he wants to get some payback… but he can’t.

Captain GrabaLar, a Deoor, is a lot closer to the war. The CO of the 27th Missile Battalion’s Alpha Company, he’s called back to the fighting when the humans pull out of Trook Seven to defend Lewa. Unfortunately, his position is exposed, and he’s likely to be overrun when the Gimfa show up, which he’s sure they will. He’d like nothing more than to leave the fighting to the Guardians… but there aren’t any to be had.

When the Gimfa—giant aliens bigger than a Guardian mecha—arrive on Trook Seven, though, Paul’s faced with an almost unwinnable fight, and he learns to appreciate the saying, “Be careful what you ask for.” For GrabaLar, he never asked for any of it… but he’s going to get it just the same. With the battle for Lewa hanging in the balance, will Trook Seven fall, too? Read More

The French Foreign Legion is a military outfit with a lot of history around it and some legend. I can remember seeing movies about the FFL growing up. The one I remember best is the 1966 remake of Beau Geste starring Dean Stockwell, Doug McClure, Telly Savalas, and Leslie Nielsen.

I read pulp writer Wyatt Blassingame’s Landmark book on the French Foreign Legion as a kid. I wanted to do a term paper on the French Foreign Legion as a senior in high school but could not find any history of it. I read La Legion! By Geoffrey Bocca in the 80s when I accidentally stumbled across it in the library.

I eagerly picked up Douglas Porch’s The French Foreign Legion (which I still have) in trade paperback in the early 90s. I will read about anything by Douglas Porch. Read More

Cinema ( 40 years ago, the unlikely acting career of then-bodybuilding champion Arnold Schwarzenegger went off with a bang in Conan the Barbarian (1982). Based on Robert E. Howard’s character of the same name from 1930s pulp magazines, Arnold’s epic sword and sorcery film was helmed by writer-director John Milius, the militant filmmaker best known for writing the Oscar-nominated screenplay Apocalypse Now (1979) for fellow “Movie Brat” Francis Ford Coppola. But in the end, Milius would share a co-screenwriting credit on Conan the Barbarian with Oliver Stone.

Tolkien (Masculine Epic): Aragorn is rightfully one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s most popular characters and might be one of the most well-known personalities in modern fiction. His fame comes for a good reason. Aragorn personifies the masculine virtues more than almost any other character out there. However, he is also an incredibly complex character, standing in the center of thousands of years of history and geopolitics.

Tolkien (Saxon Cross): Maps of Middle-Earth have been laid over maps of Europe before. They’re never very interesting, because they seem to prove that Tolkien’s world was nothing close to a one-to-one representation of an ancient Europe. They usually place the Shire (per Tolkien’s instruction) at Oxford, but make no attempt to fit in anything else in a way that makes sense. Read More

Cirsova, Winter 2022 (Vol. 2, No 13) is brand new. 185 pages, $15.00 in cost.

“Sister Winter,” John Daker is a weird story of a man on his way home in the winter comes across a ethereal being asking for his aid. There are some sinister men looking for Sister Winter and Martin helps her. Great story.

“Lights,” Lou Norman: Driver keeps seeing wrecked and bullet ridden cars with a police car behind it on an isolated stretch of highway. The ending is sudden. It reminds me some of the old Manhunt type of story adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

“Pick Trick,” Troy Riser: Mafia enforcer is in the witness protection program in southern Indiana. It is Halloween and his main U.S. Marshall contact has disappeared. Tony is worried the mob has found out where he is. His past action catches up with him. Reminded me of Ray Bradbury in Weird Tales. Read More

Otherwhere, Otherwhen, Otherwho, and Otherhow.

These are the explorations of the web novel medium, one devoted to fantastic worlds and adventures that take place anywhere but in the present.

Today, we’ll focus on genres of Otherwhere, that take readers to new worlds so unlike the current day. These worlds are physically new worlds, as opposed to the criminal, magical, martial, and/or social underworlds hidden among the bustle of today’s society.

Travelers in these genres may find themselves stuck in Russian popadantsy tales, Japanese isekai stories, or English-language litRPG game worlds. They may learn of new fantasies, of Systems, progressors, cultivation, and progression. Of accidental travelers and their adventures in new world.

Of a parallel world of fantasies to that offered by traditional publishing.

It is important to realize that the storytelling devices used in web novels are not original to the medium. Accidental travels have a long and distinguished history, in classics such as A Confederate Yankee in King Arthur’s CourtGulliver’s TravelsThe Divine ComedyThe OdysseyJourney to the West, and countless legends, tales, and myth. What web novels do with these devices is popularize certain arrangements and settings.

Popadanets: The Accidental Traveler

Like all things Russian these days, separating fact from propaganda and counter-propaganda is an issue. Many critics muddy the waters by searching the popadantsy genre for reasons to blame or explain Russia’s current wars. Much useful systemization of the genre is lost to political commentary.

This is further exacerbated by the fact that English-language readers are more likely to seek out translations of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean works than Russian given the adjacency of East Asian web novels to animemanga, and gaming. Regrettably, any overview is going to be basic at best and risks missing out on trends that have yet to be translated over. But the popadanets (accidental traveler) and his adventures are intertwined with the two great Systems found in web novels, even to the point of influencing English-language independent novels. Read More

Every week, the Castalia House Blog spotlights some of the many new releases in independent, pulp and web novel-influenced science fiction and fantasy.

Breaker of Horizons 2 – NoDragons

Nic has been Selected.

Chosen to leave his own body behind and become a monster.

Chosen to live or die on his own wits. His own strengths.

He’ll adventure out into a new realm as a footsoldier for the System’s relentless integration of new worlds.

Meanwhile, the pressure of being Earth’s champion builds…

As Nicholas Winterhome builds his own city in the wilderness, he strives to make sense of a world full of foreign powers. His strength in battle might not be enough.

It’ll take wits and determination to survive; and if he wants to sleep at night, he’ll need someone he can trust to watch his back. It’s time to find some allies.

Dragon Realm (Blood of the Ancients #9) – Dan Michaelson and D. K. Holmberg

The power of the five realms flows in Rob. He must master it before he’s destroyed.

Rob has learned how to reach for each type of essence he possesses, but most require outside help. As the danger of the Eternal intensifies, he knows the key is in awakening the rest of his essence—only he’s not sure how to do it.

Time becomes the enemy. Fearing a return of the Netheral, along with the renewed attack from the Eternal, Rob must connect to his power.

This time, progression might not be enough as a power beyond his comprehension awaits.

Genocide of Mankind (The Last Marines #5) – William S. Frisbee

Humanity rests on the razor’s edge of extinction!

The odds are against Mathison and his Marines. The Republic has abandoned them, and the Governance has collapsed. The vanhat are sweeping through human space almost unopposed, crushing the few humans still scattered throughout the ruins of the Governance.

While some survivors seek to rally and rescue who they can, the Governance has retreated to Sol, where it cowers behind its countless automated weapons platforms, closing itself off from the rest of the galaxy. Unfortunately, the enemy has already breached the line and is just waiting its time to strike.

But Marines don’t give up. There is a rumor that researchers have discovered a weapon that can be used against the vanhat, and the Marines must infiltrate a vanhat-infested SOG star base to recover the secret location of the research facility.

Hunted, will the Marines discover the weapon they need, or are they running into the trap that will be the end of them?

Halloway’s Charge (Tears of Perseus #6) – Kevin McLaughlin

Will he follow his orders or his conscience?

The war is over, but humanity is far from safe. Lieutenant Halloway’s orders are clear: get the VIPs evacuated and withdraw. But when two groups of survivors threaten to wipe each other out, Halloway and his crew can either act or bear witness to the slow death of a planet.

Caught between his duty and his conscience, Halloway has to choose between saving his crew or protecting the civilians who rebelled in the first place. Or he could release his cargo—a superhuman AI with frightening capabilities. That might win them the battle, but at what cost? The damage the AI could do if it managed to escape containment would be devastating. The choices Halloway makes will reverberate through history. Read More

Fiction (Endless Bookshelf): In 1923, a century ago, Welsh author Arthur Machen was at the height of his literary reputation on both sides of the Atlantic. It had been a long path from his “horrible” juvenile poem Eleusinia (1881)(1881) and such early books as The Anatomy of Tobacco (1884) and the numerous translations of the 1880s and early 1890s. But with The Great God Pan (1894) and The Three Imposters (1895), Machen produced a small group of supernatural tales that shocked upon their first appearance and then proved to be enduring.

D&D (Ars Technica): For decades now, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) has made the core framework of its popular Dungeons & Dragons RPG (D&D) widely available to other game makers as part of an expansive, royalty-free Open Gaming License (OGL). But a planned update to the license imposes more restrictive terms and royalties of up to 25 percent for some revenue from large companies, according to an early leaked copy.

D&D (New Republic): Dungeons & Dragons is having a moment of sorts. While the iconic fantasy-themed role-playing game has always had a devoted fan base, recent years have seen it successfully break out into the cultural mainstream. Millions of Americans are buying its rule books. Stranger Things, the popular Netflix series, drew heavily upon its lore and aesthetic. Celebrities mention playing it while being interviewed on talk shows. A major film adaptation is set to be released later this year. Read More

I have a fascination with the U.S. Army between WW1 and WW2. I return to Brian McAllister Linn’s Guardians of Empire periodically. One of my favorite histories of the U.S. Army in WW2 is Geoffrey Perret’s There’s a War to be Won. That book covers the interwar period and development of things like the 105 mm howitzer, M-1 rifle, the Jeep, the triangular division etc.

I spotted Paul Dickson’s The Rise of the G.I. Army 1940-1941 at the library last week and decided to read it. The book starts with Gen. George C. Marshall taking over as chief of staff of the U.S. Army in 1939 and his cajoling of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to increase military spending and the size of the army.

Whereas Perret’s There’s a War to be Won goes into the nuts and bolts of military development and procurement, The Rise of the G.I. spends a lot of space on the political maneuverings of FDR with Congress and an American public who was non-interventionist. Read More

Firearms (You Tube): Wow, ejecting shell makes bullet go off inside ammo box.

RPG (Grognardia): Between 1978 and 1985, TSR Hobbies published eighteen stand-alone adventure modules carrying the byline of Gary Gygax, starting with Steading of the Hill Giant Chief in 1978. Because it was the first of its kind, module G1 does not include a suggested level range on its cover. Instead, there is an interior section, labeled “CAUTION,” that states the following:

Comic Books (Dark Worlds Quarterly): Sword & Sorcery at Warren is a tale of a sub rosa movement within another genre. James Warren’s black & white magazines were an innovation that allowed comics creators to avoid the yoke of the Comics’ Code. That self-imposed doctrine had been necessary in 1954 to bring popular opinion in America back to comics as a harmless pastime. Warren had no desire to be harmless. These were comics for adults.

Comic Books (Dark Worlds Quarterly): Sword & Sorcery at Warren was picking up steam. James Warren now had three magazines with the premiere of Vampirella. This makes it necessary to go to yearly (at least for now) sections. Bill Parente is still editor. He brought in more writers instead of doing it all himself. Famous names today: Gardner F. Fox, Nicola Cuti, and Buddy Saunders. He also welcomed artist/writers like Rich Buckler, Richard Corben and Dan Adkins. This attitude was unusual in the assembly line world of comics. Read More

I wrote three years ago about Richard McKenna’s The Sand Pebbles and what an incredible novel it was. I was aware that McKenna had been in the science fiction magazines before The Sand Pebbles and there was a paperback collection, Casey Agonistes. I finally found a copy this past summer.

McKenna had six stories in science fiction digest magazines from 1958 until his death in 1964. There were five more posthumous stories in F&SF and Damon Knight edited anthologies.

Casey Agonistes and Other Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories was a Harper & Row hardback in 1973. Paperback editions from Pan (1976) in the U.K. and Ace (1978) followed. An e-book edition from Gateway/Orion came out in 2012. Read More