“What is this?”  I imagine you saying.  “What is Throne of the Bastards doing in the Summer of Conan?  I read the blurb and no mention of Conan is to be found.”  Throne of the Bastards isn’t openly a Conan pastiche, sure.  But it is only about two letters away.

If you simply must read about Conan today, I have a post up over at Every Day Should Be Tuesday on the Robert Jordan Conan pastiches.

This is Shrewbury’s fourth Rogan book.  In Brian Keene’s first, and the only other one I’ve read, an aged Rogan learns that the son he abdicated his throne to has been deposed while on a journey to fabled lands across the western sea.  But it is only after the events of that book—you can read my review here—that Rogan is able to return.  If this sounds like Keene and Shrewbury are effectively writing an unauthorized sequel to Conan of the Isles…pretty much.

The result is more interesting than entertaining.

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Okay, yeah… I took a solitaire game to board game night. I think this one’s so neat people need to see it, even if it’s just to try a couple of patrols. I have to say though, The Hunters is kind of unique in that people will ask you to bring it back for an encore session. (A solitaire game? For real?! Yes, it’s that good.) Heck, I wasn’t even playing this last time and I had to find out how the war was going to turn out for the other guy’s Kapitänleutnant.

There’s just so much in the game. And it really does come down to the little things. Sure, one game is about the same as any other when it comes choosing your range and selecting targets for your torpedoes. Each sub plays a little bit differently, of course. But you also get fewer dud results as the war kicks into high gear. Of course… the allies get better at detecting subs and shooting them up with their planes. But then the Germans adapt even further by adopting wolfpack tactics!

Even more interesting, the game plays a little bit differently when you gain the rank of Korvettenkapitän. You refit times drop and you gain a little more influence over where your sub will be assigned. And your crew? If they level up you’ll fair noticably better against those pesky air attacks you’re liable to fall afoul of as you cruise out of the Bay of Biscay. Sink enough ships, though, and your Knight’s Cross will give you an edge in racking up even more kills!

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You know The Shadow. You may know The Spider. You definitely know Conan. And after this year’s cinematic offering you also know Valerian, even if you’re not familiar with the original comics.

But are these really the most beloved SFF heroes in print? Really?

Yes, they are definitely at the top – and a convincing case can be made for Conan in particular as a global phenomenon with incredible staying power. But let me introduce you to another hero who is sadly little known in the English-speaking world: Perry Rhodan.

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GMT Games’s much-anticipated Pendragon takes the battle-hardened COIN-system that’s been used to tackle wars in Vietnam and Afganistan… and takes it back in time to the bad old days of Roman Britain when Scotti and Saxons were plundering the land.

I got to try out a playtest copy at Prezcon and let me tell you: this one is neat! The InsideGMT blog has many articles by the designers on what makes this game different, but for an inside look at the nitty gritty of the design process, I recomned this interview from over at The Player’s Aid:

I guess the most difficult part was probably to accept that it was ok to let go, to stop pushing for the umpteenth marginal improvement of mechanisms, events or art, and recognize that this was more than fine enough already. Volko kept repeating to me, from very early on, that “a game is never finished, it only gets released”… I suppose I pushed back a bit on this maxim because there was no way I would be ready to settle for a less-than-perfect product to be released, but the truth is that 1. Volko is right (as most often he is) and 2. one has to recognize when the returns to changes are diminishing below the point where they are no longer worth the time or the effort.

By the way, it should be noted that Volko never pushed to short-circuit the development process: there was at least one time, when we were essentially done with rules development, but there was one thing I was still a bit uncomfortable with, and I came up with a fairly significant change to address it because incremental changes were simply not cutting it, that he told me, once I had explained the proposed change with the cautionary provision that this would mean significant rewriting and re-testing, that he told me: “Yes this is going to cost us a couple months, but now that you have told me about this, there is no way this is not included in the final release”…

Read the whole thing!

18 years ago they came to destroy us…

A race of conquerors from deep space had set their eyes on Earth´s riches. Their invasion slaughtered billions…

But humanity united under a common leadership and fought back. We chased them off Earth and most of the Solar System.

The war still rages on, and every year young people are sent out to die, far away from Earth.

Ethan Wang was born on the day of the invasion, during the chaos and turmoil of war, and now he´s ready to join the fight. But first he has to become a soldier, and survive his initiation into one of the toughest military units Earth have mustered, the Ghost Legion.

“Andreas Christensen is a master storyteller!” –SteadyRollingMan, Amazon reviewer

With Ghost Legion, Andreas Christensen kicks off the Legionnaire Series, a military science fiction set in the near future. Suit up, and get ready for a roller coaster ride into space!

Covering fantasy, alternate history, and historical fiction, here are six new releases from July 2017’s feast for the imagination.

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Brutal (Brutal Trilogy #1) – James Alderdice

A man of violence. A duchess with dangerous desires. Two warring wizards. Things in Aldreth are going to get Brutal.

A man known only as the Sellsword has come to the border city of Aldreth, where rival wizards struggle for control of a weak-willed duke. Amidst murderous conspiracies and a scandal plagued dynasty, the Sellsword plays all sides to his advantage, bringing about a full-scale gang war between the two ambitious and unscrupulous men, while wooing the reckless and willful duchess.

Though corrupt paladins, demonic adepts, and a surprisingly formidable assassin stand between the Sellsword and the unwholesome truth, spells and blades might not be what take the Sellsword down. It could be plain old bad luck…

Brutal is an powerful sword and sorcery tale with colorful characters and wit straight out of a 80’s flick. If you like humor in your pulp, gritty heroes, despicable villains and grimdark fantasy then you’ll love this riveting debut by James Alderdice.

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The Graf Zeppelin: Germany’s Aircraft Carrier – Paul Cozens

Most people are unaware that during WWII, Nazi Germany had an operational aircraft carrier, the Graf Zeppelin. Had the Graf Zeppelin sortied with BismarckTirpitz, and Prinz Eugen into the Atlantic in 1939, the entire outcome of the war could have been changed. However, due to an ongoing feud between Hermann Göring and Admiral Erich Raeder, the carrier was not allowed aircraft and she sat out the war as an ineffective white elephant.

But what if the German Navy defied Göring and continued to develop their carrier aircraft and doctrine? How might the Spanish Civil War and World War Two have changed if one ship–and the tremendous combat multiplier of its aircrew–sailed the seas instead of remaining at anchor?

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Ikiryo: Vengeance and Justice (Akitada Mysteries #17) – I.J. Parker

Deeply distressed by his wife’s adultery, Akitada returns to the capital to patch up his marriage and to help Superintendent Kobe with a case of poisoning. But before he can deal with either, the prime minister orders Akitada to save his dying brother who is plagued by a vengeful spirit from his past. Unable to refuse, Akitada plays a dangerous game to bring justice to the dying man’s victims. Soon he is in even more deadly trouble when he tumbles into an affair with a dangerous woman and becomes the target of a cold-blooded assassin.

“[This] series compares favorably with the Judge Dee stories, and in fact, since it is not deliberately done in an ancient style (as Judge Dee is), it is probably better appreciated by modern readers.”–Amazon Review

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Requiem 4 – Mike Duran

Graviton Cemetery—the biggest, oldest, most haunted graveyard in the world.

And Requiem 4 is here to clean things up.

In a dystopian, war-torn future where a godless global network reprograms the masses for compliance, the Requiem units are a dying breed. Manned by sciocists—scientific exorcists—and armed with state-of-the-art technology, the units sweep cemeteries of ‘latent soul energy.’

However, there’s a lot more than just ghosts in Graviton.

Father Aguste Lax, military chaplain to Requiem 4, has his own doubts. The cross around his neck is a feeble reminder of his waning faith. Yet when they encounter a Type Six entity, no amount of quantum firepower can save them. Lax becomes their only hope for escaping Graviton alive. But can his faith prevail against an evil this ancient? Or will Graviton Cemetery become the final resting place for Requiem 4?

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Shades Of Dark (Kurtherian Gambit: The Hidden Magic Chronicles #2) – Justin Sloan and Michael Anderle

The Truth will set you free, but what happens when the Truth is a Lie?

Rhona and her paladin brother Alastar have left the protection of the Paladin’s, and are now hunted by the same group.

Feeling like he can still make a difference for the people, Alastar is looking for his version of the Holy Grail.

The search for the magical Sword of Light takes Rhona and Alastar to an island rumored to be haunted and overrun by remnant.

What they discover there will change the fate of Roneland, but in ways they never would have imagined.

Along the way, Alastar is surrounded by the people he needs, as his belief’s start falling to the reality of truth.

When you know the truth about magic… anything is possible.

Set on the foundation laid by the Kurtherian Gambit Series, Shades of Light tells an entirely new story in the Age of Magic–and of the heroes and villains who battle for control of its destiny.

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Timewreck Titanic – Rhys B. Davies

April 14th 2012:

A fleet of ships have gathered in the North Atlantic to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the most famous maritime disaster of all history. Suddenly, a pulse of light engulfs several of the ships, who find themselves on an open ocean dotted with icebergs. Desperately trying to make contact with the outside world, they detect no satellite or radio signals, except for a single vessel just off to the north, who is sending out messages of distress in archaic Morse code.

Her name is the RMS Titanic. She has struck an iceberg and is sinking.

Displaced a century into the past, the ships of the Titanic Memorial Fleet find themselves suddenly intervening in the very disaster that they had gathered to remember. Can they change the outcome of this night? Should they even try? What will be the consequences of introducing modern ideas and technologies into a world ill-prepared to handle them, on the brink of a century of catastrophic war and change?

And can they ever go home?

Women have made some truly astonishing contributions to fantasy and science fiction. First wave feminist author Francis Stevens wrote so much like the man that would later become known as “The Lord of Fantasy”, she was often mistaken as being one of his pseudonyms. Andre Norton pioneered the style of post-apocalyptic mutant adventure that would ultimately develop into the Gamma World Role-playing Game. Margaret St. Clair– and not J. R. R. Tolkien– would create the template for the Gygaxian Mega-Dungeon that’s immortalized in original Dungeons & Dragons and (later) Holmes “Basic” Dungeons & Dragons.

But as awesome as these things are, there is one that went further– that shadowy, feminine figure that is responsible for the whole of science fiction being the awesome, compelling, mind-blowing thing that it would ultimately become. And no, I’m not talking about Mary Shelly. Make no mistake, she was quite the dame. She wrote a seminal work, no doubt about it. But this weird push in recent years to retroactively spin her as some kind of forbear of the fake geek girl of today? That’s beneath her.

If you want to lay the honor of creating science fiction at the feet of a mysteriously titillating femme fatale from the depths of the undiscovered past, then there is only one lady that that deserves this tribute:  Cora Semmes Ives, author of The Princess of The Moon: A Confederate Fairy Story.

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I’m just a little behind, I know. But sitting next to me right now is a great book called “Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction”. In there a writer named Deserina Boskovich says this about the ending of the Dark Tower series (so, SPOILERS! from here on out):

It took courage to write that ending, I think. It took nerve to carry the story through to its inevitable conclusion. The top of the tower was always meant to be empty [this is in reference to the moment when the protagonist reaches the titular Dark Tower, and finds none of the answers he is looking for, but only his own destiny staring back at him – a paraphrase of Boskovich’s words]. There is no god, there are no final answers; there is only us, and our endless quest. But our search for answers – it’s how we save ourselves. It’s how we save the world.

Look: I know this doesn’t sound very superversive, but in theory, I have no issue with nihilistic novels, and I say this because there really are good ones! I’m thinking in particular of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, of which the clear message is, “There is no meaning to anything, and nothingness is all you have to look forward to. The only way to cope with this is to laugh about the absurdity of it all.” And laugh we do. “Hitchhiker’s” is a riot.

(Bear with me – I’m coming full circle.)

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I throw out groundbreaking new concepts like every day, because that’s the kind of supergenius your humble host is. For today’s bite, let me introduce you to a little concept I came up with last night, called:

“The Total Crap Realization Time Lapse”

When you were 5, you liked a lot of crap. Crap TV, crap books, crap music. But you didn’t realize it, until you were older, say 10.

When you were 10, you liked different crap, but it was still almost all crap. You just didn’t know it, until you were maybe 20 or so.

And so on and so forth. The Total Crap Realization Time Lapse is “the period of time between when you start passionately loving something that’s total crap, and when you finally realize it’s total crap.” AND IT NEVER ENDS.

That stuff you love when you’re 40? By the time you turn 60, you’ll realize just what a pile of festering garbage much of it was, and look back on it with embarrassment.

Today’s victim of the Total Crap Realization Time Lapse is Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” series, specifically the more than ten year’s worth of Marvel Comics miniseries featuring Roland, the last Gunslinger, and his quest for the Dark Tower. They’re total crap, and here’s why…

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The Wasteland (Barbarian Book Club) The Western Canon — “My college experience was even more disappointing. The few English, Literature, and Creative Writing classes I managed to take were disappointing. I remember an introductory literature course where the dreadlocked grandma professor informed the class on day one that she would only focus on feminist literature through a feminist perspective. I walked out. Another English class I took a few years ago for a professional requirement consisted of the professor putting on videos and having marijuana reeking students complete fill in the blank worksheets. I hung in there because my work required it but otherwise considered a tremendous waste of time and money.”

Big Time SFF (Kairos) Career Advice — “Today, most successful authors build relationships with fans on social media. They learn how to make Amazon’s algorithm bring new readers to them. A surprising number of them–far more than in tradpub–are quietly pulling down six or seven figures per year; all without the approval or knowledge of the old gatekeepers. Nothing bad happens when you stand up to SJWs. Sure, they love to threaten dire recriminations, but if this is the kind of ‘career damage’ they mean, sign me up!”

Appendix N (The Pulp Archivist) From the Book of the Dead: C. L. Moore — “‘Read this!’ he commanded, the moment I stepped into the new editorial rooms at 840 North Michigan Avenue, in Chicago. I obeyed. The story commanded my attention. There was no escape. I forgot that I needed food and drink–I’d driven a long way. For nearly six years, I’d not lived in Hammond, as Farnsworth’s neighbor. The stranger’s narrative prevailed, until, finally, I drew a deep breath, exhaled, flipped the last sheet to the back of the pack, and looked again at the by-line. Never heard of it before. ‘For Christ’s sweet sake, who and what is this C. L. Moore?’ He wagged his head, gave me an I-told-you-so grimace.”

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This recent conversation from Twitter is one I’ve seen play out many, many times:

Sarah Edelweiss: Fire Emblem is making me want to reread The Lord of the Rings trilogy. TLotR was the grandfather of the RPG genre.

Kiefer‏: I like to think of it as the father of the entire modern fantasy genre in general! LotR–>DnD–>Warhamner/Warcraft–>Everything!

Appendix N Book Club‏: Interestingly Gary Gygax denies Tolkien was the main influence, quoting A. Merritt, Lovecraft, de Camp & Pratt, and Howard as main sources

Kiefer: Interesting? Do you think he denies it on purpose due to their chronological closeness or does his logic check out?

Appendix N Book Club: Some say he denies it due to Tolkien estate lawsuits. The D&D inspirations are clear for all of these authors though

Sarah Edelweiss: I could believe that’s it. Lawsuits or reputation tend to be the cause of denying influence.

You see it, don’t you? People begin with an uniformed view that seems plausible. Then they are shown claims made by Gygax that do not fit with it. Then… without considering any evidence whatsoever, they leap to the conclusion that Gary Gygax was a liar.

I can see why that might feel plausible. And I’m sure it’s nice having a convincing-sounding rationale that fits with your off the cuff reaction. But seriously… you can do better than that.

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Heroism goes along with my job.–Lupin III

After stealing bags of cash from a Monaco casino, Lupin and Jigen dump out their entire haul, recognizing the money as legendary Gothic counterfeits. Resolving to find the plates for their next caper, the thieves slip into the small Italian principality of Cagliostro. Their search is interrupted when a car full of mafioso chase down a runaway bride, Princess Clarisse of Cagliostro. Both the counterfeits and the intrigue around Clarisse’s wedding can be traced to the Count of Cagliostro. To save the girl–and the loot–Lupin forms an alliance with his greatest rival, Inspector Zenigata of the ICPO.

Rereleased in theaters as part of the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Lupin III franchise, 1979’s Castle of Cagliostro is the central Lupin III adventure, setting the tone and standard for the franchise for the nearly 40 years since its release. And as the Lupin franchise has grown more self-referential, adventures such as 2008’s Green vs. Red and 2015’s Blue Jacket television series have leaned heavily on Castle of Cagliostro for their soundtrack, design, settings, and even plot. Yet Castle of Caglisotro might be best known for its screenwriter and director, the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, creator of Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Even then, it is considered an afterthought to the brilliant animator’s oeuvre, because it is an adaptation instead of an original work. (For an example from the CH Blog, see Anthony’s otherwise glowing review of Castle of Cagliostro.) Such reviews, usually by critics unfamiliar with Lupin, miss a chance to fully appreciate the genius of Miyazaki. For before his involvement in 1971, the Lupin franchise was sinking under the weight of irredeemable and brutal characters. Afterwards, he handed over a winning formula and an appreciative audience that has been copied by animators all over the world.

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