Normally we’d spread these out a bit, but since it’s been a while and because publishing the sixth issue means we can start putting the omnibus together, we decided to release issues #5 and #6 at the same time. And besides, if you’re on lockdown, what better way to spend the day than in Avalon City with The Legend Chuck Dixon? If you’re an Alt-Hero backer, please check your email, as links to the .CBZ and .mobi versions have been sent to you!

Chuck Dixon’s Avalon #5: Forced Entry

The hunter has become the hunted. As the mysterious vigilante continues to stalk her prey, the crack international superhero team is on her trail and is determined to bring her down before she can accomplish her deadly mission.

But is there another way to find her? What is the connection between the vigilante and the unknown coma patient she was once observed visiting in the hospital? The Avalon police, too, are patiently trying to track her down before she adds to her body count.

If you weren’t an original Alt-Hero backer, Chuck Dixon’s Avalon #5: Forced Entry is available for $2.99 in two digital formats at Arkhaven Comics and in Kindle format on Amazon. It is also available in a gold-logo print edition for #3.99 at Castalia Direct.

Chuck Dixon’s Avalon #6: Unforced Error

Vengeance is the order of the day in Avalon. But when King Ace and his new team finally manage to track down the murderous vigilante and interrupt her latest hit, he learns that it is a lot easier to take on an unwilling villain than to take her in to face justice. And he also learns a much more difficult lesson about betrayal.

In the meantime, King Ace’s old friend and former not-sidekick has also fallen in with some new friends who do not hesitate to use their superpowers in some very illegal ways and towards some very questionable ends.

Chuck Dixon’s Avalon #6: Unforced Error is available for $2.99 in two digital formats at Arkhaven Comics and in Kindle format on Amazon.

MComix and ComicRack are both reliable free CBZ readers for Windows. We prefer MComix. SimpleComic is recommended for Mac. There are many free CBZ readers for Android and iOS available on the Play and Apple stores.

See the source imageThis Winter 2020 anime season was interesting. It had “ID: Invaded”, which was a kind of goofy sci-fi thriller I couldn’t really get into, a cute-girl-doing-MMO-things show called “BOFURI” that I followed for a few episodes and was all right, a very slow supernatural mystery in “In/Spectre” that I kind of liked in spite of myself, and the two best shows of the season, “Keep Your Hands off of Eizouken!” and “Somali and the Forest Spirit”.

Okay, there IS “Dorohedro”, which I am reliably told is the ACTUAL best show of the season. But I haven’t watched it yet. Anyway this show is about a hidden gem, not a consensus favorite.

Of the two shows mentioned above, “Eizouken”, a show about high school girls who decide to make anime, easily got the most hype, and why shouldn’t it? It had brilliant production values, a big name director attached, and characters who were a blast to watch.

But despite its deserved critical reputation, despite all of the things it does well, there is a better non-“Dorohedro” show, and that show is “Somali and the Forest Spirit”. Read More

Writing (Wasteland & Sky): Action, movement itself, is essential to a pulp tale. The story must get in, get out, and say everything it can in as few words as possible. Because pulp writers had to hook the audience quickly they had to pack as much as they could into magazine guidelines. Even though they paid by the word, if a writer didn’t cut the flab editors would just print another story in its place. Sharpness is essential; sluggishness is death.

Fiction (Pulprev): ‘Dark’ is an oft-seen descriptor for books, comics, movies, games and television shows these days. These media are usually packed with violence, swearing, sex scenes and the like. But does that really make a story dark? As I made my way through old runs of the Punisher — specifically the MAX runs, the runs filled to the max with violence and gore and obscenities and random sex — I must say that the answer is no.

Comic Book Business (Walker’s Retreat): Diamond, the distributor with a monopoly on American comics distribution (and handling boardgame and tabletop RPG, etc. stuff also), has ceased taken product. This includes DC and Marvel. The American comic shop scene, already on fire, just had gasoline poured on it.  I cannot care less. The collapse being spoken of in the above video is a part of the larger collapse of the Western entertainment business, which is a rotten zombie corpse now experience a failure cascade as its putrescence reaches critical mass and body parts start falling off. Read More

Gunner Cade by Cyril Kornbluth and Judith Merrill as “Cyril Judd” first ran as a three-part serial in Astounding Science Fiction March to May 1952. This was the era of Poul Anderson, Walter M. Miller, H. Beam Piper, Raymond F. Jones and still some L. Sprague de Camp and Lester del Rey in the magazine.

Simon & Schuster reprinted the novel as a hardback the same year. It was part of an Ace Double (D-227) in 1957. Dell issued a paperback in 1969. It was one of the first Tor books, when distributed by Pinnacle in 1983.

For some reason, the title caught my attention a few months back. By luck, a local used bookstore had the Ace double for a reasonable price. The bonus is the flip of the Ace paperback contains a novel by H. Beam Piper that I never read. Read More

This week’s fantasy and adventure new releases feature doomed felon NPCs, living saints policing the streets, and a spoiled princess trying to avoid a second trip to the headsman.

Burnt (The Balance of Kerr #1) – Kevin Steverson and Tyler Ackerman

An offer they couldn’t refuse. A chance to re-set the balance…

Tog and Kryder were raised as brothers, even though they were very different. Tog was a Half-Orc, tall and strong, and good with an axe. Kryder was shorter and tended to daggers…except when he used the magic passed down to him from his deceased mother. Having just reached adulthood in the Baronies West, both were enjoying life.

But when Baron Arnwald sends them out on a mission to determine whether the rumors of war are true, the brothers get a lot more than they bargained for. Running into Lan, the Keeper of Memories, they are shown many things that have nothing to do with the upcoming war…or do they?

One thing is certain—the Creator’s balance has been upset, and they must use all of their wits and skills to make things right again, both in their lives and in the world. Mercenaries and mages stand in their way, though, and the odds are stacked against them.

Although Tog and Kryder are only two people, forces are working in the background to get them to the right time and place where they can make a difference. If they’re not careful, though, they also might get very, very dead.

Corona-chan: Spreading the Love – edited by David V. Stewart

Stuck inside? Quarantine got you feeling down… or even worse, BORED?

Corona-Chan: Spreading the Love is here to rescue you from the existential horror of indoor life, by offering you a glimpse into other worlds of wonder, whimsy, and warped humor.

Tales of high adventure, escapist fantasies, and thrilling stories of suspense await within, from some of the keenest and most rebellious minds in pulp fiction, with a foreword by the infamous Daddy Warpig.

With 200,000 words of exciting fiction, most never before published, including four books, Corona-Chan is serious about spreading the love!

Read it today!

Coven (Saint Tommy, NYPD #7) – Declan Finn

Detective Thomas Nolan has finally returned home. In typical police fashion, he is welcomed home with a murder case and gunfire.

After one arrest goes spectacularly wrong, Tommy is assigned another case and another dead body.

But everything goes wrong from the start of the case. The deceased is a member of a nearby military base, and no one wants to answer his questions. A local bodega gives him mind-splitting headaches. Worst of all, someone is after his children.

To make matters worse — Tommy no longer has his charisms.

The Edge of Darkness (The Volatar Saga #1) – D. K. Holmberg

They called him the Volatar. He came from nothing. Found his power. Became a legend, then lost it all.

Now he has all the power in the world but can’t touch it. With war growing, an old enemy on his heels, his best friend by his side, only the north holds the secret to reconnecting with his lost power.

But war has a way of pushing old heroes aside.

Hevith Alaster knew nothing of the Hith when their dark magic took his family away. Life on the wagon train had been simple. Keep moving north, stay ahead of the war.

But war found him all the same.

Hurt, humbled, and left to rot in a northern prison, Hevith must carve out a new life for himself in the wake of tragedy–but only if he can find a way to break free before the Hith break him. Either he must rise to the challenge or he will be yet another casualty on the Hith’s path to total domination. Read More

An ill-conceived bet brings Mangos and his new companion Kat to a vast no man’s land full of relics and magical anomalies in search of a fabled helm! Can Mangos and Kat retrieve Gorman’s helm or will they perish in the haunted wilds of Keres?

Mangos is the Mongoose, a skilled, boastful, and hotheaded swordsman, while Kat is the Meerkat, a beautiful yet mysterious woman who favors the oblique approach to her well-chosen blade. Together, these two adventurers made a host of enemies great and small. Inside Cirsvoa #6, Jim Breyfogle tells the story of how the Mongoose and the Meerkat met, in “The Battlefield of Keres.” And, like so many adventures in print and on the tabletop, it all starts with a little alcohol in an inn.

After a night of carousing, Mangos is left with a headache and an impossibly unwise bet–to find the helm of Gorman. His rival, Thierry, is quick to savage Mangos’s pride over that bit of foolishness. But before Mangos has to pay for the previous night’s drinks, help comes in the form of Kat, who knows where the helm rests–in the fifty-mile wasteland that was once the battlefield of Kerres. And, years after the final battle, this scar of a wolf-lair still claims victims from the treasure seekers unwise enough to enter. But Mangos and Kat aren’t the only souls seeking the helm of Gorman among the lethal secrets of Kerres.

Along the way, the duo discovers that they work well together. Mongos might be a proud hothead, but he is clever enough to keep up with and build upon Kat’s lessons on history and magic. Meanwhile, Kat falls outside the twin clichés awaiting an adventuress, that of being a prize or overcompensating action girl. However, she can keep up with Mangos’s expert blade in a fight. Somewhere in the battlefield’s desolation, the two make the easy choice to team up for more than just convenience. In Mangos’s words:

“Then let us pursue without asking what we chase, and when we catch it, let us chase again.”

After reading a number of new fantasy genres that tend to spiral into apocalypses, it is refreshing to see adventurers strive against the more intimate and immediate concerns of rivalry, pride, and ambition. Fortunately, Jim Breyfogle navigates the urgency of such small stakes without devolving into soap opera.

The prose is contemporary transparent, which takes some of the impact away from the grandeur of the desolate setting and the traps within. However, the dialogue is natural, and fairly elevated above the current tin-eared fantasy snarkfest standard.

“The Battlefield of Keres” is an excellent start to a series that has proven itself to be Cirsova’s answer to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. May there be many more tales of their adventures.

* * * * *

Cirsova Publishing will be launching a Kickstarter for the illustrated first volume of Jim Breyfogle’s Adventures of Mongoose & Meerkat soon. Be sure to click “Notify me on launch” so you don’t miss when it goes live.

Also, for a limited time before the Kickstarter, Cirsova Publishing will be offering “The Battlefield of Keres” and the rest of Cirsova’s 6th issue for free on Amazon.

See the source image

Actually, this one was my jam

I did a bullet point review of Pokémon Yellow a while back, a decent-length review of Pokémon Sword, and a fairly short review of Pokémon Ultra Sun and Pokémon Uranium (which is a fan game). So let’s look at each generation now in a bit more depth.

There is a great retrospective about the generation one games on youtube, specifically Red and Blue. It is worth watching. That said, I disagree with sections of it.

The genius of pokemon in terms of marketing is separating which pokemon you can get in each game and not openly stating which pokemon is where (unless you looked it up separately, especially hard when the internet wasn’t nearly as big a part of the culture as it is today). This made finding rare pokemon an exciting event and trading pokemon something to look forward to. It also meant that you were actively asking your friends to get the paired game to yours instead of just recommending it because you liked it – it allowed you to trade.

But I disagree the RPG element is tacked on, for a few reasons. Read More

Cinema (Pulp Curry): Simba also depicts the various perspectives on the Kenyan side. In particular, is an amazing scene in which locals are inducted into the Mau Mau guerrilla movement, a ceremony that is replete with boy’s own voodoo type histrionics, but also shows that while some locals were keen to join the rebels, others simply dis so out of fear. Key to the local perspective is the character of Kenyan doctor, Peter Karanja, a white educated black man who is the subject of vicious racism by the British and mistrusted by his fellow country people. Karanja’s good intentions are also fatally undermined, unbeknownst to him, by the fact that his father is secretly the leader of the local Mau Mau.

Science Fiction (Superversive SF): Cartwright’s Cavaliers takes place in a universe of relative anarchy, where a an interstellar Union rules with next to no laws. (The only one I can think of being mentioned is “Are you attacking a planet? Any ships involved in the fight can be no farther than ten miles up.”) Mercenary companies represent an enormous, galaxy wide industry, fighting for both defensive and offensive reasons, with some races more suited to the role than others. Earth, with its war-wracked past, produces some of the finest mercenary companies in the galaxy and 18-year old Jim Cartwright is the heir to one of the most famous of those groups, Cartwright’s Cavaliers. Read More

There is a rush discovering unknown or obscure fiction in your favorite genre.  Sometimes you find a great story in an anthology or collection. You find that digest or pulp magazine that contains a story you never heard of that pushes all the right buttons. Swords & Sorcery, The Fantastic Swordsmen, The Young Magicians, Swords Against Darkness all have provided an escape from the mundane world. Reprint sword and sorcery anthologies have been non-existent since Robert Adams’ Barbarians paperbacks in the 1980s. DMR Books has brought out a new reprint collection of vintage sword and sorcery fiction. Read More

After a harrowing experience in their search for Burning Fish, Kat and Mangos are determined to never be poisoned again–could a Golden Pearl be the answer?!

The latest adventure of Mongoose and Meerkat, “The Golden Pearl”, by Jim Breyfogle, graces the cover of Cirsova’s Spring 2020 issue. Mangos is the Mongoose, a skilled, boastful, and hotheaded swordsman, while Kat is the Meerkat, a beautiful yet mysterious woman who favors the oblique approach to her well-chosen blade. Together, the Mongoose and the Meerkat have made a host of enemies great and small, including those who would settle their grudges with a little drop of poison. This sends the pair of adventurers on a four week voyage to a tropical shore in search of Golden Pearls, a universal antidote.

The secret to the Golden Pearl is held by the mysterious Killanei, who in turn is guarded by a mountain of a man known as Marumbi. For Killanei knows how to grow the Elibibi fruit, which can grant a year’s worth of life. The Golden Pearls are the key to Killanei’s favor, and no man but Marumbi has eaten the Elibibi fruit for years. Those who dare to challenge this arrangement, even to heal their kith and kin, end up killed by hidden assailants.

As long as they find a Golden Pearl, the local struggle means little to the Mongoose and Meerkat. And then they find that the lonely girl who has helped them in the village since their arrival is the key to the mysteries of Killanei, the Elibibi fruit, and the Golden Pearls.

With this aquatic adventure, Mangos and Kat cement themselves as Cirsova’s answer to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Instead of tackling issues of barbarism and civilization, the duo brush up against questions of friendship and community. “The Golden Pearl” illustrates how the actions of one person may have profound effects and change, but without the preachiness expected in such a tale. And while Mongoose and Meerkat follows in the grand tradition of pulp sword adventures by throwing in a trial of endurance, those hoping for the flash of blades will not be disappointed.

While the ending comes suddenly compared to the more leisurely stroll through setting and intrigue, I would love to see what Jim Breyfogle could do with a novelette or longer format to give the Mongoose and Meerkat more space for their adventures.

Cirsova Publishing will be launching a Kickstarter for the illustrated first volume of Jim Breyfogle’s Adventures of Mongoose & Meerkat soon. Be sure to click “Notify me on launch” so you don’t miss when it goes live.

Magitech relic hunters, ancient superintelligences, and anti-alien rebels feature in this week’s newest science fiction releases.

In addition to these new releases, many authors are giving away or deeply discounting their books as much of the world self-isolates. Check your favorite authors’ websites, mailing lists, and sales pages for more details.

The Dogs of God: Science Fiction According to Chris – edited by Chris Kennedy

16 Amazing Authors, 16 Incredible SciFi Stories, 1 Great Name

From Allen to Woods, inside are some of the biggest and best names in Scifi, who have all come together under the banner of a name—Chris. What’s in a name? Some of the best SciFi out there! The stories are awesome, and it’s all science fiction…according to Chris!

While there are other names that may have done okay in the past, this book takes you through the incredible imaginations of the authors who are hot right now! Fly along with Chris Fox in the cockpit of an Inuran spellfighter, hold back the squibs on the firing line with Christopher Hopper, and journey with Christopher Ruocchio’s assassin as he goes to kill a king.

Other stories in this volume will have you saving the Earth from the cockpit of a gunboat in space, fighting off an invasion of Earth hand-to-hand, and piloting a mech when pirates land on your world. What would you sacrifice to change the lives of your family and friends? How do you stop an unknown assassin who’s come to kill the children you’re protecting? Come inside and find out!

Hatchling (Magitech Legacy #2) – Chris Fox

Dragons with Assault Cannons? How is that fair?

I saved Highspire and the academy from the dissolution of our world. 17,000 students survived, and I want to keep it that way. The ship is breaking down. Life support needs repairs, and we have almost no food. We need money badly. That means scavenging tech that we can sell to the same people who blew up our planet.

Fortunately I’m the best Relic Hunter in the business…though to be fair all the rest died when my world tumbled into the sun.

There are six other Great Ships out there, and who knows what we’ll find inside? I’m sure it will be fine. What could possibly go wrong?

The Last Revenge (The Last War #7) – Peter Bostrom

Admiral Jack Mattis watched his brother die, then his son die, and finally, he watched his world die. Now in another universe and timeline, unsure of who is the enemy and who is a friend, he must bring humanity back from the brink of complete annihilation in the face of hopeless odds.

Praise for The Last War:

“It would be fair to say that this is a brilliant book!”

“From beginning to end this novel is a thriller with mature, well written characters engaged in complicated and bloody conflict.”

“I got into this book, and literally did not put it down for a couple days.”

The Lost Intelligence (Lost Starship Series #12) – Vaughn Heppner

His code name is Nostradamus, and he’s an ancient alien super-intelligence awakened by pesky humans crawling upon his planet. He decides to use these low-grade morons, testing some, making the special ones his agents and sending them into Star Watch to make the military organization his own.

It’s an insidious assault from within, run by a creature with fantastic predictive powers against what he considers an infantile species.

Captain Maddox and the crew of Victory catch a glimpse of the secret menace in the Tau Ceti System. They race back to Earth to report. But Nostradamus’s web is already closing in. It may already be too late.

Except…Maddox, Galyan, Valerie and Professor Ludendorff refuse to give up on those they love. The secret war against humanity has a new set of champions, hardened veterans willing to challenge an alien that can predict their every move.

Do Maddox and his crew stand a chance against the super-alien and the full weight of Star Watch turned against them? Read More

Anime (RMWC Reviews): By 1969, Japan had advanced quite far in terms of animation. Especially when a studio would put real effort behind a project, such as when Toei Animation released Sora Tobu Yuureisen in July of that year. Known in English as The Flying Phantom Ship or The Flying Ghost Ship, the film is a 60 minute full-color adventure into suspense, conspiracies, and super science with a few important creators involved.

T.V. (John C. Wright): We were discussing Joss Whedan’s late and lamented outer space horse opera FIREFLY. A reader named Sophia’s Favorite holds forth sharp criticism for the show: In my opinion Firefly is the JFK of TV shows: a mediocrity at best that gets ludicrously overrated solely because it was taken “too soon”. He goes on to list several reasons for saying so.

T.V. (Jon Mollison): If you’re into network action/dramedy shows, you’ll want to give tonight’s episode of Hawaii Five-O a look.  For one thing, the show has not been renewed for an eleventh season.  Ten years is a pretty good run for any show, and this revival is one of the few to come close to matching the original. Read More