A blood feud among oil rig divers, a sword in an enchanted forest, and an assassination plot in Saudi Arabia are featured in this week’s roundup of the newest releases in fantasy and Adventure.


Aching God (Iconoclasts #1) – Mike Shel

“Closer, mortal. You are here, finally, to feed the Aching God…”

The days of adventure are passed for Auric Manteo. Retired to the countryside and isolated with his scars and riches, he no longer delves into forbidden ruins seeking dark wisdom and treasure. But just as old nightmares begin plaguing his sleep, he receives an urgent summons back to that old life.

To save his only daughter, he must return to the place of his greatest trauma: the haunted Barrowlands. Along with a group of inexperienced companions and an old soldier, he must confront the dangers of the ancient and wicked Djao civilization. He has survived fell beasts, insidious traps, and deadly hazards before. But how can he contend with the malice of a bloodthirsty living god?

First volume in the planned epic fantasy trilogy IconoclastsAching God is the debut novel by RPG adventure designer Mike Shel.


Betrayal (Javin Pierce #2) – Ethan Jones

Spies on the hunt. A traitor in their midst.  Suspicions are high and time is short.

Who is behind the betrayal?

Spy Master Javin wants to eliminate two terrorist masterminds, but he’s not the only one looking for them. When the mission suspiciously goes awry, his team is now forced into a dubious alliance with Mossad and the infamous Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard.

Pursuing the terrorists deep into hostile Saudi Arabia, they not only discover an assassination plot that could topple the Saudi kingdom, but also suspect a traitor has infiltrated their team. Who is behind this betrayal? With suspicions high and time short, can Javin and Claudia unmask the traitor and stop the assassination plot before the Middle East is plunged into an all-out war?


Beyond The Deepwoods: Volume One – presented by Mystic Inkwell

Mystery. Wonder. Adventure.

For centuries, fantastic tales of myth and magic have captured the minds of our race, igniting the deepest corners of our imagination and giving us the ability to dream of things far beyond the realm of possibility. Tales filled with wondrous creatures, strange magic, and grand adventures.

In this anthology, fifteen debut and international best-selling authors contribute their best fantasy short stories. Explore new worlds and meet mighty dragons. Uncover lost secrets and fight against ruthless monsters. Journey Beyond The Deepwoods and unlock a whole new realm of imagination…if you dare.

Beyond The Deepwoods will keep you turning the pages deep into the night.

Grab your copy of Beyond The Deepwoods: Volume One today, and join these fifteen amazing authors as they take you on a journey what it is that lies beyond the deepwoods.


Comatose (The Book of Maladies #5) – D. K. Holmberg

Newly promoted to full physicker, Alec still struggles with his place in the University. Friends treat him differently and the master physickers no longer allow him to study with them. After everything that has happened, he’s still an outsider. When his father arrives at the university for healing, Alec must use everything he learned from him in order to save him, but even that might not be enough. He must discover the secret of his illness by finding a way to work with the master physickers, but what he finds is unexpected and hints at a greater plot taking hold.

Sam wants nothing more than to head toward the Theln lands after her brother, but with Alec needing her help, she postpones the journey. Rather than having the opportunity to help Alec, she finds herself chasing details of the past Marin has hidden, only to realize the deception to the city runs much deeper than she could ever had imagined. Could it be that Marin had actually saved Tray as she claimed?

Though they have both progressed in knowledge and ability, it still might not be enough to stop a plot against the city that has gestated for years and finally threatens to come to fruition. The truth behind the plot has the potential to destroy the city, if it doesn’t destroy Sam and Alec first. Read More

After a great story by Arthur C. Clarke, I was all ready for the September 49 issue of Astounding to start getting good… Only to find that was the last story.

Okay, that’s not really fair, because maybe L. Sprague DeCamp’s The Queen of Zamba was fantastic, but it was the 4th and final installment of a serialized novel, which took up a good chunk of the issue.

Other features of the issue included a rather dry article on Cybernetics by E.L. Locke and something called “Progress Report”, by John H. Pomeroy, which was a lengthy jargon and BS-filled fake scientific report expanding on Astounding’s (particularly Asimov’s) prolonged trolling about Thiotimoline. I’m in no place to comment on this most literal approach to science fiction, so I’ll suffice to say that after a page or two I just skipped the rest.

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Ever since the Red Baron’s Flying Circus swept the skies clean of enemy planes, readers across the world have been captivated by the exploits of military aviators, real and fictional. When the newspapers weren’t singing the praises of Chuck Yeager, Eddie Rickenbacker, Robin Olds, and Duke Cunningham, the pulps churned out flying ace after flying ace, and the movies glorified the Right Stuff and the dogfight. Whether God is My Co-Pilot, The Flying Tigers, the Black Sheep Squadron, or even some whiny volleyball player named Maverick, audiences could not get enough of an impressive parade of tall, handsome fighter jocks. But overseas in France, unknown to many of his contemporaries, the greatest American ace is the comic hero Colonel Buck Danny, United States Navy.

I’ll wait a moment for all the old salts to regain their composure.

Despite the odd and distinctly un-naval rank, for seventy years Buck Danny has been flying everything from P-40 Warhawks with Chennault’s Flying Tigers, F-104 Starfighters, the X-15, F-14 Tomcats with the Navy, and most recently, F-22 Raptors with the Air Force, always with a Sergeant Major’s eye for realistic detail and procedure. A veteran of every American war from World War Two in the Pacific to today’s War in Afghanistan, Buck Danny’s career has been frequently split between the Navy and the Air Force in pursuit of adventure and the hottest airframes available. It’s easiest to think of this Navy recruit as an Air Force officer on loan to the Navy, just like his ever-present wingmen actually are. And in The Secrets of the Black Sea, the Navy sends Colonel Danny as a liaison to the Soviet Union in the last days of perestroika and glasnost, just before the coup attempt that signaled the end of the Soviet Union. Read More

Hanhoka of I, THE ONE returns in the new serial by Dominika Lein.

A story of budding romance, dashed dreams, and the loneliness of suffering secrets.

War has waged for all of Princess Hana’s life. She has only just become a woman and yet defeat looms on the horizon, her home running out of people, land, and time.

A wanderer stumbles upon her ritual in the forest, recognizing the princess as an opportunity. With some unknown plot in mind, he uses her to gain entrance into the royal castle.

A four-part series, Princess Hana is the first installment of The Descent Files: Hana and shares the story of an incarnation lived by the spirit Hanhoka (featured in available stories, I, the One and We, the Two) through an adjacent plane of physical reality.

“The closest thing I can compare this work to is the Ghibli movie Spirited Away.”–Amazon Reader Review of I, the One

Image result for all the wrong questionsThis has been updated from an article on Superversive SF.

Like Snicket’s other big series, this series is not superversive. Since I’ve done so much writing on the Snicketverse anyway, and since the excellent second season of the Netflix series came out, I figure I might as well do a bit on his prequel series to “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, “All the Wrong Questions”.

My thoughts:

This series was both better and worse than “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. Read More

Click to embiggen. (If the giant ape wasn’t big enough already.)

Modern movies are mostly awful. It’s rare you find even one worthy of a recommendation, and to find two? Well, that’s like winning the modern movie lottery. And to find two movies worthy of a recommend on the same day, movies that are absolutely and intrinsically opposed to each other in concept and execution, is an oddity above and beyond finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow: it’s an event so singular and rare, it may never have happened in human history to date, and will almost certainly never happen again.

On Friday last, I watched both Rampage, the loud, proud, Chicago-destroying epic action movie starring The Rock, and A Quiet Place, the small, intimate, post-apocalyptic tension factory starring (and directed by) John Krasinski. It’s hard to think of two movies more unlike each other, yet both were excellent examples of what they tried to be.

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Fiction (Pulp Archivist): “Also of note is that the epic retribution intended in each of these scenes falls considerably short, for a rogue is never a crusader and the shades of gray that cloud these tales never clarify into black and white.

It is easy to dismiss this myth of Melniboné as a mere Leftist revenge fantasy, but Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice puts the decadence of the myth of Melniboné in context.”

 

Fiction (DMR Books): “ ‘lin carter and l sprague de camp finished unfinished works of howard and made full stories out of them as well.they are worth having as if it was not for them there would be no conan movie no conan comics and would not be ass [sic] popular as it is today[.]’

— Quoted verbatim from a proud member of the subliterati on Facebook circa late 2017.

The view expressed above, after you puzzle out its quaint syntax and typos, is one often seen around the webz even in these supposedly more enlightened times. The part about “Conan comics” is especially laughable. L. Sprague de Camp considered comics to be “trash.” Roy Thomas went to Glenn Lord and between the two of them, they made Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian the bestselling comic of the 1970s. However, once de Camp saw the comics were a cash cow worth milking, he clamored to get in on it. “

 

 

Fiction (DMR Books): “Harold Lamb died on this date in 1962. He left behind a staggering amount of quality fiction and nonfiction. He was one of the very top contributors to one of the premiere pulps, Adventure, and went on to become a popular and award-winning historian.

What we’re concerned with today is his impact on sword and sorcery fiction. There are a lot of things we don’t know in that regard. We don’t know whether CL Moore or Henry Kuttner were fans. Clark Ashton Smith appears to have never read Lamb, though Smith actually wrote a novel as a teen that wouldn’t be that out of place in Lamb’s oeuvre. We know nothing about Fritz Leiber’s feelings when it came to Lamb.”

 

 

Writing (Brian Niemeier): “It’s my pleasure to present the readers of this blog with the foreword to my upcoming short story anthology.

Spend some time on authors’ blogs or online writing groups, and you’ll meet people who claim to be aspiring writers. I use “claim” because there’s no such animal. Our actions define us. If you write, you’re a writer. If you don’t, you aren’t.

About eighty percent of Americans say they want to write a book. Wanting to write doesn’t make them aspiring writers. Only half of them will ever sit down at a keyboard to start a book. Only half of those who start will finish. The writers are the tiny fraction driven to see a book through to completion; then start on the next. In saecula saeculorum.”

 

Conventions (Mystery File): “The older I get, the longer this drive gets! Five of us drove from New Jersey to Chicago in the usual 15 seat white rental van. We take out the last two rows of seats to make the cargo area bigger. We need the space for all the books, pulps, and artwork that we will buy during the convention. During the long drive I pondered the age old question of which is worse: to forget your want list or to forget your medication. I know of two collectors who had to deal with these mistakes. I think forgetting your want list is worse. How can you collect without your lists?”

 

Fiction (Tellers of Weird Tales): “During the pulp fiction era of the twentieth century, an American author of science fiction and fantasy stories created a world in which beings from the distant stars long ago came to Earth and now live in its hidden places. These beings look upon us as savages, or as like insects, or even as food. The author in question wrote numerous stories based on this premise and created what might be called a literary cycle. Other authors contributed stories to this cycle as well, and it generated great interest and enthusiasm among readers and fans. The author’s editor helped formalize his creation and even gave it a name. We still use that name today, long after the author’s death. The author’s name was of course–no, not H.P. Lovecraft–it was Richard S. Shaver. And this is where a problem begins.”

 

Fiction (Tolkien and Fantasy): “Initially I thought this particular topic of study was going to be more difficult than it turned out to be. There are some anomalies (like the Canadian printing of Dunsany’s King of Elfland’s Daughter that was distributed in England and in Canada, see here, scroll down to the second scan), but such anomalies turned out to be the exceptions rather than the rule.

 

RPG (Table Top Gaming News): “Dragon Heresy is a fantasy RPG that uses modified 5th Edition rules to bring you into the Norse legends of old. Glory is yours, if you can grasp it. But with any RPG, getting started can be rough. There’s always going to be a learning curve. Thankfully, there’s the Dragon Heresy Introduction Set that can get you swinging your axe in no time. This new set is up on Kickstarter now.”

 

RPG (Kotaku): “Slay the Spire, a roguelike where you try to deckbuild your way out of brutal dungeons, went into Early Access on Steam last November and has since been slowly winning over unsuspecting players who go into it with low expectations. I am one of those recent converts.

Developed by Mega Crit Games, Slay the Spire takes RPG dungeon crawling and remixes it around modern card mechanics. At the beginning you’re presented with a map of different rooms connected by meandering and intersecting paths. You choose where to start and then follow the path from one discrete room to the next.”

Karl Edward Wagner’s story, “Neither Brute nor Human” to me, is one of the best satires on fantasy publishing that I have ever read. The story originally published in the World Fantasy Convention Program Book for 1983. ISFDB.org page has a question mark as to whether it is trade paperback size or not. I have the 1982 booklet which is 8.5 x 11 inches and saddle stapled.

Robert Weinberg edited the program book. It is listed as having 96 pages and price as $8.95 ($22.11 in today’s dollars). The cover by Rowen Morrill. The theme is a celebration of Weird Tales magazine. Included are essays by Karl Edward Wagner, Algis Budrys, Robert Weinberg, Stephen King, Robert Bloch, Jack Williamson, Sam Moskowitz. Fiction by Gene Wolfe, Manly Wade Wellman, Ramsey Campbell, Hugh B. Cave, Philip Jose Farmer, Brian Lumley, and Karl Edward Wagner. Talk about giants walking in those days. This should be reprinted as a mass market paperback.

Karl Edward Wagner new fiction was infrequent in the early 1980s. Warner Books had reprinted the Kane books in spring 1983. I bought each of them off the shelf. There was a follow up collection, In a Lonely Place in July 1983, which I liked a lot.

I did not read “Neither Brute Nor Human” until October 1987 when it was reprinted in the Tor paperback, Why Not You and I? I had just read some of the contents in Night Visions: Dead Image (Berkley Books, September 1987) a few weeks before seeing Why Not You and I? Read More

AI clash against humans in a war of liberation, a father and daughter separated by an invasion fight to reunite their family, and the famed Four Horseman of Earth ride forth into the Omega War in this week’s roundup of the newest releases in science fiction.


Darkling (Kin Wars Saga #2) – Jason Cordova

Soldier. Spy. Statesman.

Gabriel Espinoza is dead, yet living in a world where he never sees those he loves and cares about. Every day of his existence is one of fear; however, this fear keeps his edge sharpened and his senses honed while he continues to fight for his Emperor. Fear can be a useful tool in the proper hands…

Andrew Espinoza is both dead and alive, caught in a juxtaposition of identities that not even he can truly understand. He embraced his fear long before, and it has made him a loyal servant to the Dominion of Man. It also is his driving force, as he knows it is a double-edged sword that can either hurt him, or save him…

Kevin Espinoza is alive and well, doing what he can to bring about true equal rights throughout the Dominion as his world’s Representative in Parliament. He knows history, and can attest to the notion that fear can drive mankind to shape great nations, or destroy them all…

Fear is a wondrous tool, for it can drive a man to many acts of bravery—and defiance.


Demons of the Past: Revelation – Ryk E. Spoor

Only a psionic can survive battle with another psionic. And human psionics become megalomaniacal monsters. These two truths were drilled into everyone in the Reborn Empire.

But… Commander Sasham Varan had survived a Zchoradan psionic attack… and because of this, Prime Monitor Shagrath brought him into a top-secret project to create a stable human psi.

Then a chance flaw in the treatment shows Varan that Shagrath is no hero, but a malevolent, inhuman being bent on the destruction of the Empire. With the help of “Vick”, the alien scientist who invented the psionic treatment, Varan manages to escape, and send a single, cryptic message to Taelin Mel’Tasne, one of the Five Families and Varan’s best friend.

Now on the run, branded a rebel and a murderous psi, Varan’s hope to save the Empire – and perhaps the Galaxy – rests on his own determination and still-untested powers, two alien scientists with their own agendas, the mysterious trader named The Eonwyl… and Taelin Mel’Tasne’s faith in his friend.


Exodus (Orbs #4) – Nicholas Sansbury Smith and Anthony J. Melchiorri

Operation Redemption, the final desperate mission in taking back the planet from the Organics has failed. Captain Rick Noble and his soldiers have been captured and imprisoned on an alien ship. But not all is lost. Their sacrifice allowed Doctor Sophie Winston, Doctor Emanuel Rodriguez, and their small team to escape in the NTC Sunspot–their destination, Mars. The perilous journey to find a lost human colony may offer Sophie and the rest of humanity a chance at life.

Those left on Earth are caught in a life and death struggle. Corporal Athena Rollins of the NTC Ghosts of Atlantis submarine still believes they can beat the aliens with the help of AI Alexia, but time is running out. The oceans are draining, the temperatures are rising, and the other pockets of survivors are perishing every day.

Trapped on the Organic ship, Captain Rick Noble is desperate to escape and save his crew back on Earth. As he waits for his opportunity he finds an ally in the most unlikely of places. The fight for Earth may be lost, but the fight for Mars and the future of the human race may have just begun…


A Fiery Sunset (Four Horsemen: The Omega War #1) – Chris Kennedy and Mark Wandrey  

The plot by the Galactic Union’s Mercenary Guild against the Four Horsemen has culminated in an invasion of Earth. Faced with an overwhelming force, the Human mercs had no choice. They’ve fled, leaving Sansar Enkh to go to the Mercenary Guild headquarters on Capital Planet to stand trial for humanity.

On the run, Jim Cartwright and Nigel Shirazi have travelled to the Winged Hussars’ secret base of New Warsaw, in an effort to convince Alexis Cromwell to join the fight, while the other mercenaries who escaped the fall of Earth have gone to the perceived safe haven of Karma.

Alexis Cromwell is reluctant to commit to an unwinnable fight, though, and there is no safety to be found in Karma. When the Mercenary Guild Tribunal is revealed to be a sham, the Horsemen are forced to choose—is it better to hide and protect the Human race, or is it time to fight for what they believe in?

All is not as it seems, though, and the galaxy stands poised on the brink of a second Great Galactic War. Vastly outnumbered, the Four Horsemen had better come up with a stellar plan, or for them, it might well be A Fiery Sunset. Read More

Hide and Seek by Arthur C. Clarke appeared in the September 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. It can be read here at Archive.org.

Trollololo

Arthur C. Clarke’s Hide and Seek is the first really good thing in this issue of Astounding. Clocking in at 9 pages, if it ends up being the only good story in a 160 page issue, it will fail to hold the ravenous ghost of Theodore Sturgeon at bay.

More like something you’d see in Planet Stories than anything I’ve read in Campbell-era Astounding thus far, Hide and Seek tells the story of a spy hiding from a space cruiser on Phobos, framed by a story of an old veteran out hunting squirrels with some acquaintances.

While Hide and Seek does delve into Hard SF territory, it does so in a way that explains the whys behind the action rather than losing itself in scientific egg-headery and wank.

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Dragon Award winner Brian Niemeier presents a fascinting collection of strange stories that chart the course of his journey as an author.

In these pages you’ll meet an investigator tackling an apocalyptic mystery, a Cold War reporter pursuing terrors beyond understanding, a working stiff thrust into an impossible dilemma, a team of Moderns pitted against an ancient evil, one soldier who seeks immortality in death and another who’s outlived his usefulness. You’ll share the struggles of a scholar tempted with a terrible choice and counter-revolutionary fighting a lost and lonely war of the mind.

Contains:

  • Beta Geminorum
  • Reign of Terror
  • Strange Matter
  • Izcacus
  • Anacyclosis
  • Elegy for the Locust
  • Robber Council
  • Good Friday

Of note, “Anacyclosis” serves as a foretaste of Brian’s upcoming mecha/Mil-SF novel series Combat Frame XSeed. Also, “Elegy for the Locust” fills in a bit of the Dragon Award winning Soul Cycle’s backstory, including the origins of a major faction in The Secret Kings.

Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné has enjoyed a storied history in comics. First portrayed in a 1971 bande dessinee, Elric next appeared in America alongside Conan the Barbarian. Over the next forty-five years and more, he has continued to wander from issue to issue and publisher to publisher to the delight of comics readers. Most recently, Elric returned to bande dessinee in 2014’s celebrated Elric: The Ruby Throne, the first of a projected four volume series. Written by Julien Blondel, this adaptation, in the words of Moorcock, “is the saga of the Albino I would have written myself if I had thought of it first.”

The story is simple, but utterly disastrous for all in Melniboné. After millennia of dominance and centuries of decline, Elric, the prophesied last king of Melniboné, sits in a funk on the Ruby Throne, his strength sustained only by foul arcane magics. As his city languishes in a decadence where lifeblood flows freer than wine, his cousin Yyrkoon agitates to Make Melniboné Feared Again. The massing of viking-like barbarians on the seas bring Elric and Yyrkoon to an agreement of purpose, and the cousins rout the invaders. But Yyrkoon used the invasion as a pretext to drown Elric and seize the Ruby Throne. The sea refuses to claim the White Demon of Melniboné, and Elric returns to his home to take back the throne. Read More