This week’s roundup of the newest releases in fantasy and adventure features a raygun past that should have been, a privateer out to rescue his fiancee, monstergirl madness, and the escape of a rogue superhero.

Accidental Assassin (Sellswords #2) – T. L. Branson

A light shines in the darkness.

The earnings from their last heist have dried up. Now, Ocken and Riley are once again in need of a job.

Ocken doesn’t dare work for the mysterious Viper again, but Riley wants to use the stranger to take down the crime lord, Edward Ziken. Except Viper is nowhere to be found.

But Viper isn’t the only one looking for hired hands. Soon, Ocken and Riley find themselves as pawns in yet another plot for power.

The job seems simple enough, but there’s more at stake than they could possibly know.

Bert Henderson Double Adventure – Spencer Hart

DEATH RAYS & DAMES are all in a day’s work for company troubleshooter Bert Henderson.

Bert’s boss runs Phillips’ Atomics, builder of atomic-powered planes, spaceships, and industrial tools. These high-tech inventions are revolutionizing the world of 1949. So when Mr. Phillips’ interests are threatened, Bert can find himself traveling anywhere on Earth – or beyond.

Criminals and foreign agents are in for more than they bargained for, when Henderson is on the case.

And if there’s a gorgeous dame involved along the way, that can bring its own sort of trouble…”

Contains Bert Henderson’s first and second adventures:

DEATH ON THE MOON: The first ever murder on the Moon brings Bert to Roosevelt Base to find the killer. Mr. Phillips is financing an observatory on the Moon, and construction is halted while the murderer is loose. Can Bert find the killer and prevent more death on the Moon?

FIRE IN THE ANDES: One of Mr. Phillips top engineers has gone missing in Argentina, and Bert is sent to find him. But the investigation leads to the discovery of a greater threat. Complications ensue from encountering a lovely senorita. Can Bert deal with both the case and the dame?

Breaker (Monster Tamer #1) – Isaac Hooke

Three women. 

One man. 

A whole lot of monsters.

Malem is a Breaker. He breaks the minds of beasts, exerting the steel vise of his will over their own, bending them to his wishes.

His ability is severely limited in terms of the types of creatures he can control, and how many. Most monsters have always been beyond him.

And then one day he accidentally breaks a monster girl. Doors begin to open for him faster than he thought possible…

Also available: Conqueror

Heroes Fall (Heroes Unleashed: Serenity City #1) – Morgon Newquist

He wanted to be a good man. Instead he became a hero.

Twenty years ago, Serenity City’s great Triumvirate of heroes – Achilles, the Banshee, and Pendragon – maintained a golden age of peace and prosperity. Then, in an instant, it all went wrong. The city’s mightiest champion, Achilles, lost his mind during a showdown with the enigmatic supervillain Thanatos and went on a rampage across the city, leaving the Banshee dead and a swath of destruction in his wake before Pendragon could stop him.

Today, as Achilles rots in solitary confinement, Victoria Westerdale investigates a new mystery. Why are young and forgotten heroes disappearing off the streets? Why doesn’t anybody else care? And how is it tied in to those infamous events that brought the city’s greatest heroes to ruin?

And what’s going to happen to them all after Achilles escapes? Read More

For the last fifty years, Meta-Man has been an enigma—a reclusive hero who does his duty but shies away from the public eye. What happened? Who is he?

Unlocked from the archives for the first time, you can dive into one of Meta-Man’s early adventures and get a glimpse into his heroic world as he works to stave off a plot from his nemesis Dr. Malicious and his communist commandos! Can Meta-Man prevail, or will the U.S.S.R. interfere with the American presidential election and spread the reach of the Iron Curtain across the globe? Read this action-packed superhero comic and find out!

Per writer Jon del Arroz:

“I developed a full world for Flying Sparks, different heroes, different stories, and in different media. I’ve gotten a couple folk asking about the Origin of Meta-Man, but that I wrote as a old-time style radio drama, which unfortunately I lost the files for the recordings of it awhile ago. I’m not sure if we’re going to redo that in audio form, as a novel, or as comics yet, but we’ll get it out there to fill out that part of this world later.

“This book is a Meta-Man standalone adventure, meant to be a fun book like you’d get in the Silver Age. It also answers the question as to why he cares about Chloe aka Meta-Girl which was set up in the main Flying Sparks storyline.

“Mike Abuan did the art on this one, a great guy out of Southern California who just wanted to help out and be involved. Thank you Mike!

Pick up your copy of the book — as this is our first major test of the “direct to Amazon” market to see if we can make sustainable comics without crowdfunding. If the base is there, I can produce a lot more books like this!”

front cover only jpgShort Reviews will return next week with more Rog Phillips in Amazing Stories!

Cirsova Publishing is thrilled to announce Duel Visions, an all-new anthology of horror and macabre by Misha Burnett and Louise Sorensen.

Duel Visions marks Cirsova Publishing’s second departure from its flagship publication, Cirsova Magazine, and its first ever traditional format book release.

A literary venture in the spirit of the classic horror showcases, such as Tales that Witness Madness and Tales from the Crypt, this new volume collects ten tales that approach terror from all angles, supernatural to science fiction, monstrous to mundane, encompassing the occult to the simply odd.

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Expect to see a lot of these notices over the next few months as we make more and more of our 40+ audiobook library available direct. Anyhow, SJWAL narrated by Bob Allen is now available at the Arkhaven store for $14.99 in high-quality MP4 format.

It’s the first of the formerly exclusive-to-Audible titles we’ve been able to make available this way, and it will be followed by many more in due time.

Please note that the audiobooks we sell often includes a copy of the ebook in both EPUB and MOBI formats for Kindle.

The monochrome version makes these orcs even more menacing.

Which interpretation of orcs across all media comes closest to your mental picture as your read Tolkien’s books?

I’m not a fan of Peter Jackson’s orcs and Uruk-hai, especially the Moria scenes in which orcs are climbing down columns and walls like so many spiders. Researching SPI’s board game, War of the Ring, I came across another old favorite, Gondor which was marketed as a companion game. On Boardgamegeek someone took a photo of the rule book with Tim Kirk’s cover art. Upon seeing this forgotten picture I realized why Jackson’s orcs never resonated with me as they never came close to projecting the same level of menace.




Here is Tim Kirk’s original:


When it comes to fantasy miniatures I wouldn’t mind owning some well painted Grenadier orcs, with the old Monster Manual pig snouts.  Just like Jackson’s orcs, the pig snouts do not fit my mental image of orcs but the early D&D nostalgia is too strong.

In you go to this thread and scroll down until you see the pig faced orc picture from the 4th Edition and prior Monster Manuals Squirrelloid’s post compares different orc interpretations. Disclaimer: I have no clue on what WYSIWYG is!



Last week I was asked if I knew any Battle of Hürtgen Forest simulations. Short answer is I never played,  but know that a few board games were produced. For computer simulations, I am unaware of any unless someone developed a scenario or mod within a game engine.

For those unfamiliar with this costly and probably futile waste of life this Infogalactic link is good.  Think of the Hürtgen of the northernmost extension of the Ardennes, the same wooded, hilly and hard to transverse terrain that favors the defender.  Instead of overwhelming an overstretched front line as the Germans did just to the south in the Bulge, the Americans kept committing troops against strong defenses.  The only strategic sense I can make of it was Allied acceptance of a costly battle of attrition.

Here are a few Hürtgen based board games found on Boardgamegeek:

SPI’s Hürtgen Forest Approach to the Roer, November 1944 (published 1976).  Battalion / Regiment level simulation.

Critical Hit’s Hürtgen Surprise (2008).  Squad level combat. I’m interested in seeing how the game system handles concealment and strongly fortified positions.

Decision Games’ Hürtgen: Hell’s Forest (2012).  Battalion / Regiment level.  Link to a 11 minute video with an overview of a small scenario.

Critical Hit’s game module (from Advanced Tobruk) ATS Historical Module: Huertgen Hell (2014).

A good rule of thumb, just like “don’t advance on Moscow” is “only bad things can happen in the German forests”.

I can recommend Douglas Nash’s Victory Was Beyond Their Grasp: With the 272nd Volks-Grenadier Division from the Huertgen Forest to the Heart of the Reich. I was looking for more information on the Volks-Grenadiers and this book has the most comprehensive overview I can find.  My blog post, on the VGs, as part of the ongoing Bulge / Battle for St. Vith series kept getting deferred until I found this book.

I recommend the movie, When Trumpets Fade. This link has good info on weapons seen in the film. My knowledge of the fighting in the Hurtgen is limited so don’t know if the film’s action scenes are pure fiction or derived from historical accounts but if you doubt the madness depicted in the film (infantry is ordered to take a bridge in the face of 88’s and impervious armor firing at will from a ridge), your Paul Fussell.






To supplement my blog post on the Volks-Grenadiers a couple of the weapons mentioned:

Sturmgewehr (Assault Rifle) 44

StG-44 from Infogalactic article

Hitler was opposed to the development of an assault rifle as he was afraid widespread use would cause a strain on ammunition supplies. The original version banned by Hitler was the Maschinenkarabiner 42(H) so the German Army renamed it to the Maschineenpistole 43 (MP 43), started production and tested the first examples on the Eastern Front, where they proved their worth. This version was able to fire single shot or automatic.  Front line troops soon learned that the added firepower was well worth the cost in ammunition and also gave infantry platoons tactical flexibility as the were not wholly dependent on less maneuverable machine guns for firepower. By 1944, its worth proven many times over, Hitler officially authorized the weapon which was renamed to the Sturmgewehr 44 (StG 44).

The weapon fired 7.92mm rounds from a 419mm barrel with a muzzle velocity of 650m per second at a cyclic rate of fire at 500 rounds per minute. Magazines held 30 rounds.  Effective up to 500 meters, after which stability and accuracy greatly decreased.  The basic issue was 26 assault rifles in each 32 man machine pistol platoon. Each company had three platoons and the third platoon was designated as the infantry platoon and armed with Mauser 98K rifles. This was the official issue though many VG formations only received 50% or less of their allotment of StG-44’s.


Raketenpanzerbüschse (Rocket tank rifle) 54

Not to be confused with the Panzerfaust this weapon was also known as the Panzerschreck (tank terror) and the design was influenced by the American bazooka.  Served by a two man crew the weapon fired a 88mm hollow charge projectile with an effective range of 120 meters.  Allied tank commanders gave great respect to this weapon and eventually learned to call in heavy artillery fire wherever it was suspected this weapon was deployed. The Panzerschreck teams were vulnerable to high explosive fire and the back blast and smoke given off after firing, quickly gave their position away.

In the Campaign Series game system I believe that this AT capability is included in individual platoon’s anti-tank firepower. The VG platoons will knock Allied tanks around if they are allowed to get close and this weapon is one of the main reasons for that high unit value.



As I proceed through the Bulge series of posts I intend to add more details and weapons to this post and also start a dedicated post for the Americans.











Writing (Erindor Press): There’s this thing about new writers. They’re very tentative and they’ve yet to embrace any sense of authority over their writing and choice of career or hobby.

You can tell by the way they interact with other writers, often being deferential in the extreme to those of us who have published something. They eat up advice from everywhere (they’re not necessarily able to decipher between good and bad advice, but that’s a subject for a different article). They’re typically quick to change their opinion about one element of the craft or another based on little more than a tweet from a published author.


RPG (RPG Pundit): I’ve posted previously in this series (on the old blog, but archived here), about some of the misconceptions about how ‘occultism’ is handled in a lot of allegedly-occult RPGs, and how GMs can modify things to more closely model the reality of the occult scene (a reality that is filled with posers, fakers, and lunatics, but also some truly fascinating stuff).  One of the big ones in modern games is about how occult knowledge is somehow rare or very difficult to access (the classic Call of Cthulhu scenario where magical knowledge is only available in the most obscure places), when the fact is that the problem is not access to that knowledge at all, but the ability to differentiate between the useful and the useless.

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The last quarter of the 19th Century saw the several European powers carve up any territory they could annex around the globe. Previously, the Dutch, French, and British Empires would be territory in the Caribbean basin for producing raw materials such as sugar and indigo. There would be some trading posts or ports in the Far East. A few other spots would be held in Africa and Indian Ocean islands for ships to replenish food and water. Even the U.S. got suckered into empire building with the Spanish-American War. An interesting alternate history would be to examine if the Spanish-American War had never happened.

France embarked on an ambitious imperial expansion in the wake of its loss in the Franco-Prussian War. French Naval & Colonial Troops 1872-1914 is an overview of the French Marines in this enterprise. I remember reading about French Marines being the empire builders in Sub-Saharan Africa in Pakenham’s Scramble for Africa.

This Osprey booklet gives some more detail on the French Marines. Rene Chartrand has written over 40 Osprey booklets. Illustrations are by Mark Stacey. The booklet is 48 pages. There are eight color plates of illustrations in addition to the black & white period illustrations contained throughout the booklet.

Chartrand has an introduction on the new French empire. Interesting to find “that proceeds from colonial trade kept rising faster than the metropolitan gross domestic product, creating the wealth associated with “La Belle Epoque,’ and this was seen to justify the investment in a large colonial empire.” Read More

A lot of ink has been spilled on trying to categorize science fiction into hard and soft categories, whether at the Castalia House blog, other online sites, and in print. What quickly emerges is how fluid the definitions are. Hard science fiction may refer, depending on the speaker, to fiction addressing the physical sciences, adhering strictly to the known models of universe, or projecting the consequences of a breakthrough far into the unknown. The argument on whether Jules Verne’s science-influence fantastic voyages count as hard science is now over a hundred years old. Soft science fiction is an even more nebulous term, which may refer to fiction addressing the social sciences, diverging from the known models of the universe through fanciful technologies, or using the milieu of the future. Works such as Poul Anderson’s “Uncleftish Beholding”, which uses the rigor associated with hard science on English language itself, further blend and confuse the boundary between the two types of science fiction.

What usually comes out of these discussions is frustration over the fluidity of the definitions and a growing sense that attempts to divide science fiction into binary categories are futile at best.

Enter Isaac Asimov.

Asimov was a member of many science fiction and writers’ clubs in New York, including the notorious Futurians, a club devoted to social transformations of fandom and society. Eric Raymond explains further:

The first revolt against hard SF came in the early 1950s from a group of young writers centered around Frederik Pohl and the Futurians fan club in New York. The Futurians invented a kind of SF in which science was not at the center, and the transformative change motivating the story was not technological but political or social. Much of their output was sharply satirical in tone, and tended to de-emphasize individual heroism. The Futurian masterpiece was the Frederik Pohl/Cyril Kornbluth collaboration The Space Merchants (1956).

In 1953, to promote the idea of science fiction as social exploration at the height of the Futurian revolt, Asimov penned “Social Science Fiction”, an article of criticism that divided science fiction into three categories. Rather than set the dividing line across academic rigor or scientific discipline, he instead examined how science was used in the story. To Asimov, science played three roles in the genre–as a gadget, the source of an adventure, or the examination of society. Or, as he put it:

Gadget sci-fi: Man invents car, holds lecture on how it works. 

Adventure sci-fi: Man invents car, gets into a car chase with a villain. 

Social sci fi: Man invents car, gets stuck in traffic in the suburbs.

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Viking astronauts, grounded mech pilots, and stranded colonists are featured in this week’s roundup of the newest releases in science fiction.

Alliance Rising (The Hinder Stars #1) C. J. Cherryh and Jane S. Fancher

For years, the stations of the Hinder Stars, those old stations closest to Sol, have lagged behind the great megastations of the Beyond, like Pell and Cyteen. But new opportunities and fears arise when Alpha station receives news of an incoming ship with no identification. The denizens of Alpha wait anxiously for news about the outsiders, each with their own suspicions about the ship and its origins.

Ross and Fallon, crew members of the Galway, believe the unidentified ship belongs to Pell and has come to investigate another massive ship docked at Alpha, The Rights of Man. Though Rights is under the command of the Earth Company, it is not quite perfected–and its true purpose is shrouded in mystery.

James Robert Neihart, captain of Finity’s End–a huge faster-than-light ship flown by one of the Merchanter Families–has heard whispers of The Rights of Man and wonders at its design and purpose, especially as Sol struggles to rival the progress of the Farther Stars. Now docked at Alpha, he must convince the crews that there is more to The Rights of Man than meets the eye.

Because the reasons behind the creation of The Rights of Man, and its true plans, could change everything–not just for Sol, but for the Hinder Stars and the Beyond itslf.

Arkad’s World – James L. Cambias

Young Arkad is the only human on a distant world, on his own among beings from across the Galaxy. His struggle to survive on the lawless streets of an alien city is disrupted by the arrival of three humans: an eccentric historian named Jacob, a superhuman cyborg girl called Baichi, and a mysterious ex-spy known as Ree. They seek a priceless treasure which might free Earth from alien domination. Arkad risks everything to join them on an incredible quest halfway across the planet. With his help they cross the fantastic landscape, battling pirates, mercenaries, bizarre creatures, vicious bandits and the harsh environment. But the deadliest danger comes from treachery and betrayal within the group as dark secrets and hidden loyalties come to light.

Black Swarm (Rise of the Empire #11) – Ivan Kal

The war for the fate of the galaxy is underway.

The Empire and its allies struggle to find a way to strike back at the Enlightened, who are employing raiding tactics to set the galaxy on fire. And with their new ability to travel through access points, the job of the galactic alliance is that much harder. Meanwhile Adrian, unable to force a confrontation with the three Enlightened turns his eyes to the Custodian, the ancient AI that had until recently kept the Enlightened contained. Now the AI had joined the Enlightened side, allowing them the use of access points. And Adrian worried that the threat of the AI might eclipse even that of the Enlightened.

Tomas moves to keep the galaxy from collapsing, as different star nations reach out seeking help as the Enlightened invade and decimate their systems. Meanwhile the Josanti League, the star nation that had been the primary target of the Enlightened, refuses the galactic alliance’s offer for aid.

Adrian and Tomas have different ideas as to how this war needs to be fought, but there is no more time. The Enlightened have put their plan into motion, and the doomsday clock is ticking.

Conspiracy (Mindspace #2) – A.K. DuBoff

Kira’s greatest opponent may be herself.

Following her exposure to experimental nanotech, Captain Kira Elsar faces an uncertain future. But uncontrollable transformations aren’t her only problem.

A previously undetected alien menace, a race capable of remote telepathic control, is threatening her home system… and the Tararian Guard. With the discovery that a government official in Kira’s home system has been subverted, Kira’s team must get control of the situation before the Elvar Trinary descends into chaos. Read More

If This Be Utopia… by Kris Neville appeared in the May 1950 issue of Amazing Stories. It can be read here at

Kris Neville’s “If this Be Utopia…” is a classic example of one of those “warning what the future will be like under this or that political system” sci-fi fables.

In a future where everyone lives under a planned economy, tooled by the state for maximum efficiency (one of those each according to their abilities, each according to their needs, but also the luck of the draw type deals), we meet Mr. Morrison, a mid-level social administrator type who’s struggling to keep his head above water, overusing his alcohol ration cards and getting his hands on more illicitly because he needs it just to keep going.

It’s Mr. Morrison’s job to rate the efficiency of those below him—primarily menial labor workers in mines and factories—and report his finding to those above him. The responsibility is taking its toll, and he bemoans that the common laborer, at least, may leave his work behind him at the end of the day, while the office worker and administrator takes his work home, forever unfinished, to weigh on him at all hours until he resumes it the next day. Basically the whole “all classes envy aspects of the other and utopian efficiency is far from idyllic; actually it’s a nightmare” thing.

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