Fiction (Bleeding Fool): ‘Red Nails’ is a novella first serialized in 1936 in the July through October issues of Weird Tales, and the last of the tales of Conan the Barbarian penned by Robert E Howard, as well as one of the best.

Some of the appeal of this yarn may be lost on any modern reader who has encountered Howard’s many imitators, because this story contains all the elements of the quintessential Conan adventure: from a feisty yet desirable swordswoman, to prehistoric monsters raised by eldritch powers, to lost races (at least two) swimming in their own sadistic corruption and occultism, adepts of black magic (at least three), murder, torture, betrayal, death, and at least one mystic wand issuing a death-ray.

 

Writing (Emperor Ponders): My recent (a few hours ago, in fact) entry into an online group where the business side of writing is discussed has put me into an accounting mood. So I have been playing and running some numbers to come up with my (or yours) expected return as a short story writer. That’s the key concept here since novelists or self-published authors will have to come up with their own numeromantic equations to see how much they need to sell to not be ashamed of saying that they are writers.

Fiction (Paperback Warrior): Fredric Brown was an interesting figure in the world of pulp fiction because he had equivalent success in both the mystery science fiction genres. As a teenager, I was a huge fan of his SF work. As I grew into classic crime fiction, I was pleased to rediscover one of my favorite authors as a hardboiled noir master.

“The Wench is Dead” began its life as a short story and was later expanded into a full novel for a 1955 Bantam Books paperback release.

 

 

 

 

Fiction (DMR Books): I greatly enjoyed F. van Wyck Mason’s historical novels The Barbarians (reviewed here) and Lysander (reviewed here). Historical adventure was his specialty. Until recently, I was unaware he had written a “lost world” novel in the style of Haggard. Phalanxes of Atlans originally appeared in the February and March issues of Astounding Stories in 1931, and was recently reprinted by Armchair Fiction in their “Lost World-Lost Race Classics” series. Read More

“If a man smites you on one cheek, smash him on the other.”- Ragnar Redbeard

            Darwin’s theory of evolution caused a revolution of thinking including forays into popular culture. Evolution caused a some to rethink European man’s position in the world. The grip of the alien religion of Christianity began to slip some. One book that took direct aim was Might is Right by “Ragnar Redbeard.” First editions are listed as from the year 1896 though these might have been vanity press or typewritten copies for sale. The book was advertised in 1905 which is where it probably began to reach a wider audience.

The book reads as an everyday man’s Nietzsche and Darwin adapted for politics. It reads more as a bunch of individual quotes and sayings cobbled together than as a coherent text.

The book starts out with:

“A man’s opportunities are never exhausted so long as other men (who are not his friends) possess millions of acres and thousands of tons of gold.”

“The Natural world is a world of war; the natural man is a warrior; the natural law is tooth and claw. A condition of combat everywhere exists.”

“The victor gets the gold and the land every time…Why should it be otherwise?”

The themes of physical superiority and a rejection of Christianity run through the book.

            “Behold the crucifix, what does it symbolize? Pallid incompetence hanging on a tree.”

“I gave into the eye of your fearsome Jehovah, and pluck him by the beard–I uplift a broad-axe and split open his worm eaten skull.”

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In this episode of the Arkstream, editor Vox Day discusses the reborn Alt-Hero: Q backers’ campaign, previews artwork from Alt-Hero: Q and Alt-Hero #6, and hints at upcoming possibilities for Arkhaven film projects.

To support Alt-Hero: Q, check out the crowdfunding link at our sister site, ArkhavenComics.com.

Towering kaiju monsters, swordless swordsmen, Egyptian princes, and Mormon steampunk feature in this week’s roundup of the newest releases in fantasy and adventure.


All Made of Hinges – edited by James Wymore

Cheerful in the face of dark opposition. Innovative to improve a backward world. Industrial as a cure for oppressive conditions. Unyielding beneath all who seek to bind and control them. Faithful until they conquer the fear of death and rise to great acts of heroism and service. Mormons and Steampunks are two faces of the same coin.

Twelve authors spin tales of true believers facing impossible odds, risking this life in the hope of gaining something better after. Mormon Battalion soldiers fight an airship, a bounty hunter crosses Porter Rockwell, cultists attempt to reanimate Brigham Young, and missionaries run into Cthulhu. These are just a few of the amazing tales by award winning, bestselling, and premier authors—D. J. Butler, John M. Olsen, Steven L. Peck, Elizabeth Mueller, Scott E. Tarbet, Jay Barnson, Joe Monson, Amanda Hamblin, Christopher McAfee, Jace Killan, John D. Payne, and Lee Allred.


Alt Hero: London Calling (Alt-Hero #5) – Vox Day and Richard Bonk

When London comes calling, death is knocking on the door.

The directors of the United Nations Superhuman Protection Council have learned the hard way that putting pressure on the families of the next-gen renegades is a game far too dangerous to play. But their newfound limitations does not mean they don’t have other resources on which to call, resources that are every bit as dangerous as the superhumans they are hunting.

Alt★Hero is an exciting new line of superhero comics from Arkhaven Comics.

“It is refreshing to find a comic that reflects real-world issues and present scenarios that really set the noggin joggin, wondering ‘What would I do in this situation? Would I be clever enough to respond like this?” – Amazon Reader Review


Death Cult (Saint Tommy, NYPD #2) – Declan Finn 

All saints are dead.

Detective Tommy Nolan is no stranger to bizarre events. After all, he’s a New York cop. And after the demon, he thought he’d seen it all.

When home invaders threaten his family, he was prepared to take it as a risk of the job. When it turns out the intruders were covered in the mark of the demon, he knew the trouble was just beginning.

Now, it’s a race against time as the cult who raised the demon take their revenge. They know that Tommy is not yet a saint. Because all saints are dead.


Dragon Sight (The Dragonwalker #7) – D. K. Holmberg 

A centuries old war must end.

After saving the dragons, Fes knows what must come next, but the empire has other plans. Rather than saving the Deshazl from slavery, the emperor bargains for peace. Can real peace happen when his people remain enslaved?

When a summons draws him south, Fes discovers an ancient threat to the dragons that he might not be able to stop. Worse, the Damhur might finally have what they want—a way to control or destroy the remaining dragons.

Survival means going to the heart of Javoor for answers, but not only must he be strong enough, but he also needs to find answers before the dragons are destroyed… this time forever. Read More

Today is the 103rd Birthday of fictioneer, screenwriter, and Queen of Space Opera, Leigh Brackett!

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The hero of Declan Finn’s “Hell Spawn”, Thomas Nolan, is kind of a goody-two shoes that has been granted supernatural powers to aid him in his day job as a detective for the NYPD. Although not officially recognized as a Living Saint by the Vatican – yet, this is book one of a series after all – it’s pretty clear to those with eyes to see that Detective Nolan represents one of the ideal archetypes of Godly men. He’s a family man, a tireless volunteer at the local parish, and a homicide detective in one of the nation’s most crime infested cities.

Which makes him a threat to the powers of hell, who kick off the action in “Hell Spawn” by targeting the close friends of his family, and then tightening the noose around him as he investigates the series of close-to-home grisly murders. Facing the supernatural threat of demonic might, it takes all of Tommy’s faith and abilities, and a slow realization of his own supernatural abilities, to save his family and maybe the entire city from the ravenous hunger of the dark forces set against him.

Played entirely straight, the result is an urban fantasy for people who don’t like urban fantasy. Instead of the usual kitchen sink approach as seen in the “Iron Druid” series and countless magic-girl of the week series, Finn steeps the universe of Saint Tommy entirely in a Catholic worldview where Earth represents a battleground between heaven and hell. Though the dual nature of the conflict – good versus evil – lacks the political complexity of the kitchen sink approach, it also grounds the novel with a unified system that carries with it the weight of two thousand years of refining, evolution, and tradition. There are real rules to what can be done and how things operate, and that grounding in a single understanding of the rules of the game allows the action to proceed at a faster clip, and with considerably higher stakes than most examples of the genre.

Which is not to say that this is a book for Catholics only. The matter of fact presentation of the faith that lies at the core of this work never veers into preachiness or ham fisted apologia.  Hand wave away the protagonist’s explanations for his powers – most of the supporting characters do – and you’re still left with a gritty tale of a serial killer targeting a cop. Head-canon the supernatural abilities into a secular expression of natural law, and you’re left with a dark superhero tale that makes the nineties grimdark culture seem tame by comparison.

One word of warning on that note – and Declan Finn’s unflinching willingness to show the nature and effects of evil, this novel goes into some ark places where even the most bloody-minded Hollywood producers fear to tread. The setting being New York City, the usual political theater enters the investigation, and that would not be complete with a particularly gruesome discursion into the considerable influence wielded by the abortion industry on city and national affairs. The untouchable third rail of mainstream entertainment is presented with a frankness that some readers may find difficult to stomach.

Declan writes with an economy of words that packs a lot of impact into this relatively short novel. Never quite dipping down into the close-mouthed unwillingness to describe even the most recurring characters or locales, he nonetheless manages to present just enough information to keep things visually stimulating without dragging the action down.

Excerpt of photo taken in 1896 of veterans from the Liechtenstein military contingent, with medals for the 1866 campaign. © Liechtensteinisches Landesmuseum

During a visit to the National Museum of Liechtenstein I saw an exhibition on Liechtenstein’s involvement in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the subsequent end of compulsory military service and disbandment of the army in 1868.  While looking at the exhibition’s center piece group photo of the 1866 veteransI admit to having feelings of conceit but it didn’t take long to see through my conceit and realize how lucky a people were to avoid the ideological wars of the 20th Century and how lucky those veterans were to serve in a campaign that consisted of a hike, guard duty and a trek home in which a company of 85 returned with 86.

What does all that have to do with war games?  It doesn’t and I’m 100% certain there isn’t a war game featuring this country, let alone filling a hex on a board game map. Despite that, let’s discover what we can about Liechtenstein’s military history and potential war game material.  The principality’s geography provides fertile ground for historical and semi-historical scenarios from ancient times up to fictional scenarios such as the opening stages of Operation Tannenbaum. As for fiction, let’s just say my imagination was in overdrive during my visit. 

Search online for info on Liechtenstein military history and you’ll find three main themes:

  • 85 soldiers went to Italy and came back with one Italian (some references say 80 returning with an Austrian liaison officer)
  • a Swiss unit on night exercises inadvertently found itself 1km inside Liechtenstein before realizing their mistake
  • the Ottoman Turks razing Valdez Castle on two occasions.  De veras?

I think Wargame Wednesday at Castaliahouse can do better than that.

This post will have tourism related info, links to pictures, one showing a fortified post just across the border in Switzerland and a couple others just to show how beautiful the country is. I’ll start the military history section with the Swabian War and follow on posts will discuss the Principality’s role in the wars with revolutionary France. By the time we are done we’ll be journeymen historians of Liechtenstein’s military history. 

Tourism

If you decide to visit the best way is by car. When renting a car be aware that both Switzerland and Austria require road tax stickers to drive on their expressways.   Tourists can buy 10 day vignettes in Austria and also need them in Switzerland. If you rent your car in Switzerland (and maybe in Austria) then the vignette is already included. If you rent a car in a third country then they are available at any petrol station. Reminder that the vignettes are only needed to use the expressways.  

Hotels in Liechtenstein are pricier than those across the Rhine in Switzerland or over the Austrian border in Feldkirch.  

Don’t make the mistake of not looking up holidays before your visit. I arrived on a Sunday, the next day was a national holiday and Tuesday was a religious holiday.  I was all primed for my first meal in Liechtenstein but all I could find open on either side of the Rhine was a kebab shop or McDonalds…. Next day I found a better option but research in advance will pay dividends before visiting on a Sunday or holiday.

One last note in this tourism section. There are quite a few references online to the Ottomans laying siege to Vaduz castle in 1529 and 1683. The confusion is with Liechtenstein Castle, located near Vienna. This can serve as a litmus test if the author you are reading is cutting and pasting for content. 

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Arkhaven Comics is pleased to announce that the Alt★Hero: Q 2.1 campaign is now live.

Alt★Hero: Q is an incendiary 150-page graphic novel in six parts that explores the mysterious phenomenon of QAnon and the war on global evil. The story is written by the legendary Chuck Dixon, who is backed by a first-rate professional art-and-production team.

Arkhaven has assembled a first-rate production team to create the Alt★Hero: Q graphic novel, which illustrates the incredible QAnon phenomenon that is sweeping the planet. Set in the world of Alt★HeroAlt★Hero: Q is an astonishing action tale of unflinching heroes taking down corruption and evil on a global scale.

The Alt★Hero: Q Team

WRITER: The Legend Chuck Dixon
ILLUSTRATOR: Hélix Haze
COLORIST: Arklight Studios
PRODUCTION: Arkhaven Comics

If you missed the successful, but short-lived Alt★Hero: Q 2.0 campaign, you can now take part in its successor on the Arkhaven Comics site. All of the rewards are priced at the same levels as before, but if you wish to back at one of the higher levels that are not offered as part of the 2.1 campaign, please contact us via email.

Please note that some backers are likely to have trouble with their credit cards being accepted; if the system rejects your card, please contact your bank for details, arrange matters with them, then try again later. Given that this is not an American site, it’s possible that the purchase will trigger flags that you don’t realize are attached to your account. Please don’t ask us about this, as we can already see failed attempts in the system and there is literally nothing we can do about them from this end. Once the campaign is over, we will get in contact with everyone to see what we can do to provide for those who are unable to get their cards working with the current system.

The crowdfunding engine we are presently using is far from optimal, but it is functional. You will have to enter the indicated amount manually as clicking on the rewards shown on the sidebar will not do anything. Despite the IGG-imposed complications, we never stopped moving forward on it, as this image from Issue #1 will serve to demonstrate.

Fiction (Adventures Fantastic): Tolkien was the subject of yesterday’s post.  He was a member of the famed group of writers known as the Inklings.  Another Inkling was Tolkien’s close friend C. S. Lewis, who was born this day, November 29, in the year 1898.  In light of yesterday’s post, I thought the above quote was quite appropriate.

Clive Staples Lewis was the author of The Chronicles of Narnia as well as The Space Trilogy and a few shorter works of the fantastic.  Most of his writing was nonfiction and dealt with theology.

 

 

Fiction (Easily Distracted): The Prisoner in the Mask by Dennis Wheatley (1957)
Only Wheatley had the authorial confidence (or arrogance) to end a novel with the lines “….After a decent interval we can be married with wedding bells and live happily ever after.'”
No one in a Wheatley novel lives happily ever after. The most they can hope for are pleasurable interludes before the next pendulum swing of Fortune again lands them in the soup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fiction (Player None): If the collection I have is to be believed, Howard wasn’t a huge fan of detective stories, as he didn’t like their formulaic structure. That might be considered somewhat ironic, as Howard himself wasn’t a stranger for a formulaic structure himself. In either case, Howard did pen a couple of detective stories which aren’t actually all that bad. His main super sleuth is Steve Harrison, a hard-boiled dick working in the Oriental quarters. The stories he stars in blend together the Howard .

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You never know what you will find at a Salvation Army store. I had a little luck a few months back when I found a hardback of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men $.50.

I had seen the 2007 movie a few years back. Javier Bardem as the homicidal psychopath Anton Chigurh owned very scene he was in. I was curious about the book, but the local library did not have it.

The plot for those unfamiliar with movie or book is set in south western Texas.

The first scene in the book has Anton Chigurh escaping from jail, killing a sheriff deputy by strangulation.

Llewellyn Moss is out hunting antelope when he comes across the scene of a drug deal with Mexican gangs gone bad. Almost everyone is dead with one not long for this world. Moss finds $2 million and absconds with it.

The story shifts between Moss, Chigurh, Moss’s wife Carla Jean, and Sheriff Ed Tom Bell. Read More

Arkhaven Comics is pleased to announce that Alt★Hero issue #5: London Calling, has gone out to the Alt★Hero backers. If you are a backer, please check your email. It is also  available for non-backers on the Arkhaven Comics store in high-resolution CBZ format and Kindle format for a retail price of $2.99. It will be available on Amazon in Kindle format later today, but it will not be available via Kindle Unlimited.


Alt★Hero #5: London Calling

The directors of the United Nations Superhuman Protection Council have learned the hard way that putting pressure on the families of the next-gen renegades is a game far too dangerous to play. But their newfound limitations does not mean they don’t have other resources on which to call, resources that are every bit as dangerous as the superhumans they are hunting.


Bounding Into Comics has an exclusive three-page preview. This is the last issue that will feature the illustrations of Richard Bonk, as he has moved onto Arkhaven’s Swan Knight Saga series, We expect to bring him back to Alt★Hero for the occasional Premium cover, however.

Last week, we examined how Martin Goodman, future publisher of Marvel Comics, combined science fiction with the popular “Spicy” genre to bring renewed interest to science fiction, fueling the first science fiction boom in the late 1930s. This would not be the only time the Spicies would shape the future of the pulp market. What once were stories intended to feature sexual content without obscenity soon turned into the salacious tales of sin and sadism of weird menace, the loss of the children’s market to comics, and government censorship of the pulps.

Between 1929 and 1934, many publishers, from the pornographic to the mainstream, were experimenting with ways to bring the spice of sex to popular fiction. Everything from toned-down porn to bad girl romances was tried, with the actual act disappearing behind the editor’s ellipse, leaving details to the imagination. But none lasted for more than a handful of issues until 1934’s Spicy Detective Stories sold out. Soon, a number of copycats followed suit, including Spicy Adventure, Saucy, and Spicy Mystery Stories, the last of which birthed weird menace.

The Spicy tale charted a perilous course between mainstream respectability and the thrill of sex. Anatomical descriptions were out, as was complete nudity and any details of the act the heroine submitted to. The women could disrobe voluntarily or have their clothes torn from them, but some scrap of cloth had to remain. The idea was to have a strong sexual element without being obscene or vulgar. After all, government investigation would reveal just who bankrolled these magazines, and the Mob did not want the attention. Read More