Last week, I mentioned a mistake in the novel Skylark Mission with the mention of Japanese automatic rifles in World War II. I thought I would discuss small arms of World War II with some emphasis on “automatic rifles.” I started writing and ended up with multi-part series.

Modern firearms have their origin in the 1880s. The French Lebel M 1886 used smokeless powder which was a revolutionary change. Bullets could be smaller with higher velocities and accuracy to 1,000 yards. The Lebel used an under-barrel tube magazine holding 8 cartridges. The rifle was long at 50.9 inches and heavy. The idea at the time was for ranks of riflemen with long rifles sticking out between the previous rank. This was the rifle France used for colonial expansion in the 1890s, fought Word War 1 and even used by some French troops in World War II.

Lebel Rifle

Mannlicher came out with bolt action rifle in 1885, the Germans with the Gewehr 1888. Improvements were made through the 1890s culminating with the Mauser Model 1898. During this time the Mauser rifle was a huge success with the rifle adopted by Sweden, Spain, Turkey, Chile, Portugal, Brazil, Argentina, Serbia, China, Columbia. Read More

At a time where many are trying to claim the mantle of what Dangerous Visions should have been, J. Manfred Weichsel’s Going Native brings a pulpy horror to six speculative fiction tales that stray perilously close to the live wires of impolite society without resorting to preaching or morality tales. These tales originally appeared in CirsovaFierce Tales: Savage LandsWeird Mask, and Millhaven’s Tales magazines, and include:

  • “Going Native” – Interesting take on C. L. Moore’s “Shambleau”, updated a bit for a more civilized galaxy. Remember, boys and girls, just say no to naughty tentacles…
  • “The Funniest Story Ever Told” – This is a vicious little take on government and elites. While many who have read this story laughed, I found the tale less funny amusing and more “I have to laugh or I’ll scream,” given current events.
  • “Complicit in Their Bondage” – And now we get to a truly dangerous vision and one I’m surprised hasn’t happened yet. An African-American soldier gets swept up into a renegade British breeding program. Normally, this sort of flesh-shaping is left to aliens, but it will likely happen among those who claim to be the elite.
  • “The Garden of Prince Shi-Wiwi” – I’m a sucker for all things chinoiserie. This story’s a buffet of lessons about inhumanity inside a deadly garden. Compassion may have its own cost.
  • “Alter-Ego” – My mind’s spinning with all the multiple personalities playing roles in convoluted and Gothic webs of intrigue. While the narrative thread might be clearer, it brings a sense of horror
  • “We Might Not Have Fire” – This is an even scarier dangerous vision of an enslaved future. Think The Time Machine meets A Princess of Mars.

All in all, an excellent set of stories, with a heavy suspicion of those who would claim to be our betters, a heavy pulp vibe, and a place at the Great Conversation of the West.

The titans of military science fiction rise to duel with mecha and starships in this week’s new release roundup.


Absolution (Blood Runners #1) – George S. Mahaffey Jr. and Justin Sloan  

In a futuristic New Chicago where justice is meted out via a barbaric system called Absolution, you can either level up or check out.

Nobody knows this better than Marisol, a super-powered tracker whose job involves hunting down “Runners,” people who’ve been paid bounties to become suspects in crimes committed by the wealthy.

On the verge of becoming the city’s premier Hunter, she stumbles upon a young Runner who holds the key to a conspiracy that could topple New Chicago’s dictator–and threatens everything she’s ever believed in.

“It’s a little bit Hunger Games with a touch of Running Man and just a sprinkle of Ready Player One.”–Amazon Reader Review


Armor World (Undying Mercenaries #11) – B. V. Larson

In a twist of fate that rocks the Galactic Empire, James McGill finds himself negotiating the future of a thousand inhabited worlds.

An artificial object made of compressed stardust is barreling toward Earth. Is it an invasion ship? A doomsday weapon? Perhaps it’s the final response of Squanto, the Warlord of Rigel who McGill has repeatedly humiliated. Or could it be from the Mogwa, sent to avenge McGill’s assassination of Earth’s Imperial Governor?

No one knows the truth of its origins, but the object is huge and unstoppable. Whoever hurled this rock at us isn’t answering our calls. Every weapon bounces off, and the people of Earth begin to go mad as they realize their destruction is only hours away.


The Colossus (Blood on the Stars #12) – Jay Allan

The Hegemony strikes again…

The Confederation and its allies have won their first victory, retaken their capital from he forces of the Hegemony. But the enemy is not beaten, far from it, and they are back, with an unstoppable weapon, a vast superbattleship, a deadly hybrid of imperial and Hegemony technology, called the Colossus.

The great ship is enormously powerful, nearly unstoppable, and in its armored depths it hides a secret, another Hegemony weapon, one that will change the dynamic of the entire war. One that will challenge Admiral Barron, and his officers and spacers, to the greatest test they have ever faced.

The battle for the Rim has reached its climactic stage, but even as the Hegemony moves forward to claim victory, an old enemy, a terror from the distant past, is about to return…and change everything.


Dropship (Forsaken Mercenary #1) – Jonathan Yanez

If they can’t control him.

They’ll try and kill him.

Daniel Hunt is the deadliest mercenary in the galaxy if he can just remember. Five years before he woke up with nothing more than his name. Now his present is on a violent collision with his past and the future of the galaxy.

The Earth is dead. Humanity has taken to the moon and Mars to have a chance. On what’s left of Earth primal gangs war for dominance.

A rebel force will discover a weapon of unimaginable strength, the wealthy in the galaxy will do anything to possess. As Daniel unravels the origin of his past he’ll realize he’s not the same weapon he once was. But does redemption exist for someone like him?

Read More

The Night Has a Thousand Eyes, by John and Dorothy de Courcy, appeared in the Winter 1949 issue of Planet Stories. It can be read here at Archive.org.

There have been a number of husband and wife team throughout SFF history. And we’ve long-since put to bed the myth that pulps weren’t publishing stories by women unless they hid behind a male name. But John and Dorothy de Courcy may be one of the first husband/wife teams I’ve seen credited together, and exclusively together, in the pulps. (Moore and Kuttner were independently well-known, and Moore was always credited under her maiden name when they were credited jointly; John & Dorothy seem to be exclusively a couple thing, and that’s kind of adorable). The de Courcy’s also seem to have some small contemporary popularity and recognition via Libravox despite having a relatively small body of work from the late 40s, published mostly in a couple Ziff-Davis magazines and fanzines.

The Night Has a Thousand Eyes is one of those SFF crime-thrillers that could work a contemporary setting just as well as a futuristic one and makes you wish SFF of this era was better represented on the big and small screen. The story’s anti-hero is a rough pace pirate type hanging in an even rougher dive—he’s doing impossibly stout shots to impress folks, but this leads to him getting into a scuffle where he accidentally kills a man: the brother of an exotic dancer who witnessed the murder.

The last thing Captain Brace wants is a run-in with the spaceport authorities. He wants to spare the girl if he can, but his options are limited. He can’t keep her along, but selling the dancer to human traffickers is almost as unpalatable as killing her.

Despite its brutal premise, and its tense and thrilling execution, The Night Has a Thousand Eyes is a touching and emotional story with a powerful ending.

Must read interview with fantasy miniature designer and sculpture Byron Harmon.  We discuss spectacle creep and how it afflicts modern fantasy games, transitioning the figure concept from paper to a 3D model and a preview of what he has in store for future releases. If you have a Reddit account ask you to visit my post here and upvote to help spread the word.

This week is the anniversary of the Battle of Seelow Heights.  Zhukov does not come out of this looking good.  Then again, Stalin was the one that prioritized speed over preservation of his soldier’s lives. I found the tactic of trying to use searchlights in the initial assault interesting after reading about the same tactic being used by the Germans at the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge.

The Emu War.  Not an Old School Miniatures fantasy line but something that actually happened.

I don’t know what it is with Canadians and dioramas but check out this one, a seven year project.  By the way, concerning the first link, if you ever go to Victoria, B.C. and don’t visit Miniature World you need to turn in your war gamer card and never return to the hobby again.

Still working on the Gnome history post.  See you next week.  Good night.

 

 

A few months back I posted about Project 1944, a group of Belgian historical researchers and reenactors who focus on the great wars of the 20th Century.  My Bulge series of posts has highlighted the Volks-grenadiers and I was glad to see the recent “Kochen im Feld” or “Cooking in the Field” post which presents a 1944 Volks-grenadier preparing field rations on the front line.

Make sure you view all three pages, the page links are at the very bottom.

Note how the featured Volks-grenadier is a Slovac conscript from the Südsteiermark (southern Austria near the Slovenian border).  Remember that the 62nd VG Division has a high contingent of Czech and Polish conscripts (see Filling the Ranks section of this post).

Another thing to look for is the attention paid to historical detail. The soldier uses an Italian canteen that were repainted and issued to the German troops. Also, the extra field rations for front line troops. I read an account of a semi disabled soldier serving in a perfectly safe billet back in Germany who volunteered for front line service so he could get enough to eat.  Priority was given to nutrition on the front line.  For American troops, food got better the further to the rear the soldier drew his rations but for the Germans, the food got better the closer to the front they went and Americans didn’t mind taking German field kitchens for the hearty and filling food.

 

See the source imageMy issue with shows like “The Rising of the Shield Hero” and “Sword Art Online” largely have to do with the incredibly unhealthy wish fulfilment aspect. The shows are designed for preteens to place themselves in the shoes of Naofumi and Kirito. Naofumi is a random otaku nerd who gets transported to a video game-style world and becomes an edgy badass with a harem. Kirito is the world’s best MMO gamer who gets stuck in an actual video game…and becomes an edgy badass loner with a harem.

The idea here is obvious. “If only I were given an opportunity like Naofumi/Kirito where my specific incredibly nerdy skillset saved the day, I’d be an edgy badass loner with a harem too! In fact the reason I’m such a loner is that nobody really understands me. Deep down I’m a badass, exactly like Kirito!”

This is a deeply unhealthy attitude. It goes directly against the concept of self-improvement by assuring the viewer that you’re fine just the way you are, even if you’re a lonely gamer nerd – it’s everybody ELSE who’s the problem, and nobody understands you. This is the attitude that leads to “Acceptance” movements, as if the goal to should be to change literally everyone else before working on changing yourself.

So let’s pivot. I tried out this new trapped in a game (kind of; a world that runs on games, but for these purposes it’s all the same) show called “No Game, No Life”. It’s about – stop me if you heard this one – a teenage, shut-in, antisocial loser named Sora who’s one skill is that he’s great at games. He gets transported into a world where all conflict is resolved by gambling on games, and suddenly he’s the most powerful person in the universe. Read More

RPG (Modiphius): The John Carter Swords of Mars miniatures line is made up of 32mm scale high quality multi-part resin miniatures which come complete with resin scenic bases. The Swords of Mars campaign book includes a set of rules to play out battles involving squads and heroes, fighting across moving airships, desolate ruins or the beautiful palaces of Barsoom.

 

Writing (One Last Sketch): A long while back, I wrote a short essay called “Writing the city” that I never published, yet the misgivings that went into that essay keep stirring my brain. The main question is this:

 

In literary criticism of fantasy, why are long descriptions of the natural world and farmland or villages often labeled as boring, but when China Miéville fills page upon page with adjective-laden descriptions of architecture, this passes without comment, or even gets praise?

 

Art (DMR Books): Fifty-five years ago today, Wayne Francis Woodard, better known as “Hannes Bok,” died in poverty. He was friends with, and had his work admired by, the likes of Ray Bradbury, A. Merritt, August Derleth, Farnsworth Wright and others.

I must confess that I’ve always been ambivalent about Bok’s art. While I find some of his work truly excellent, I consider much of it average or even poor.

  Read More

It is always a joy to discover something new. One has been men’s adventure paperbacks. A discussion group of said books on social media has been stimulating. I have found my reading interest wandering away from the fantastic to yarns of hard men in hard situations. Years ago, I had read novels by Jon Cleary and Colin Forbes. I did continue to have some interest in adventure fiction. Louis L’amour’s tales of Ponga Jim Mayo and Turk Madden are my favorites by him. I read some historical fiction forays by Barry Sadler and John Maddox Roberts as “Mark Ramsay” back in the 80s. I have started reading Lou Cameron, finding out about Len Levinson etc.

A writer that editor/author Howard A. Jones has turned me on to is Marvin Albert (1924-1996). He was a paperback writer producing detective, westerns, war, adventure from the 1950s through the 80s.

Skylark Mission (Fawcett Gold Medal, 1973) was one of four adventure novels under the pseudonym of “Ian MacAlister.” Men’s adventure aficionados hold the “MacAlister” books in great esteem.

Skylark Mission is set in the Pacific in 1942. Singapore has fallen, the Imperial Japanese Navy is rampaging across the Pacific sinking any allied ship in reach. The island of New Britain, just north of New Guinea has been seized cutting the Vitiaz Strait which is an escape route but also a choke point.

The story starts with a ship carrying refugees and soldiers on a cargo ship torpedoed. A small sailboat carries some of the survivors who are captured by the Japanese on New Britain. One prisoner escapes, making contact with a coast watcher who contacts Australia. Read More

This week’s roundup of the newest releases in fantasy and adventure features elemental magi, xianxia monks, and three flavors of cop–saint, superhero, and Burrito Avenger.


City of Shadows (Saint Tommy, NYPD #4) – Declan Finn

London is alive with the sound of shadows.

When Tommy Nolan was sent abroad to avoid being made a saint too soon, he thought he’d be a glorified tourist. But when an impossible prehistoric artifact the Vatican is looking at is stolen from the British Museum, they do the first thing that comes to mind — they call the cops.

But Tommy is soon convinced that the artifact is more than it seems. The crime scene looks like a war zone. The owners of the stolen merchandise eye him with suspicion. His new partner has a shady, mysterious past. The police are ready to arrest him. The city itself seems primed to explode.

Worst of all, the darkness itself is closing in on Tommy, the city, and everyone who lives there.

But Tommy isn’t one to curse the darkness. The darkness curses him.


Cloak of Dragons (Cloak Mage #1) – Jonathan Moeller

My name is Nadia, and I’m an errand girl.

Except my boss is the High Queen of the Elves.

And my errands for her involve spying on people. Or stealing things. Or hunting down monsters. Or, on occasion, killing people.

But this time she wants me to solve a murder.

And unless I find the killer, I’m going to be his next target…because dragons never forgive a murder.


The Fire Within (Elemental Academy #1) – D.K. Holmberg

A single mistake has far-reaching consequences for a carpenter’s apprentice.

With the threat of rogue elementals escaping from the element bond and fear of another attack by the Draasin Lord, life at the edge of Terndahl is difficult for Tolan. Without any magic of his own, he spends his days working a menial job as a carpenter’s apprentice. When an elemental attack draws the attention of the Inquisitors from the Academy, everything changes.

A mistake brings Tolan into the Terenhall Academy, a prestigious training ground for powerful shapers, but it’s a world where he doesn’t belong. Unlike his classmates, he can’t control the magic of the element bonds.

As elementals continue to escape the bond and attack the Academy, Tolan finds himself in the middle of danger. With no shaping ability, he fears there’s something more to the attacks. Now he must save the Academy and find a way to stop these attacks—and find the one behind them.


Going Native & Other Stories – J. Manfred Weichsel

It’s a strange world out there…

A space traveler learns the dangers of getting too involved with another species…

Aliens want to teach humanity the secrets of the universe—If only we could stop laughing at them…

The social elites have a dark, twisted secret that makes race relations a nightmare…

It would be misleading to say J. Manfred Weichsel only writes fantasy or science fiction. Going Native features six stories to entertain and explore the darkest realities of what it means to be human (or not.) With bizarre alien landscapes, gripping plotlines, and unforgettable satire, this collection showcases a powerful voice in genre fiction. Read More

Flight From Time by Alfred Coppel Jr. appeared in the Winter 1949 issue of Planet Stories. It can be read here at Archive.org.

The premise of Flight From Time is a fairly simple one: a criminal is hoping to get away with his crime by hiding out in space until the statute of limitations on his crime has expired. He’s got everything he needs: supplies, food, fuel, entertainment. All he has to do is wait. It’ll be a long and lonely wait, but he can manage and it will be worth it once he can finally put all of his ill-gotten wealth to good use.

Then his ship’s chronometer breaks down. The crook is no mechanic, and he’s unable to fix it. But it’ll be okay—he just has to wait it out. Maybe be a bit more cautious, judge by the rate at which he goes through his provisions over his decade-and-a-half stint.

When his pocket watch breaks, it’s just salt in the wound. But he can make it. He just has to have patience!

Read More

We’re very pleased to be able to say that HOW TO BE POOR by Milo Yiannopoulos is now available in paperback from Castalia Direct. It’s a pocket-sized 96-page edition that retails for $9.99, although international readers should note that this direct service is only available in the USA at this time. You may wish to consider saving some shipping and picking up an Arkhaven comic or two while you’re at it.

Never mind the “No Image Available” graphic. We get through their system so fast now that the metadata can require a day or three to keep up. The cover is the same as the one displayed here. International readers should note that the paperback will be available on Amazon and other online booksellers within a week or two.

Speaking of Amazon, after an extensive review process, Amazon KDP has finally deigned to publish the Kindle edition, which is now available on Amazon for $2.99. Please to enjoy all the inevitable fake reviews from Milo-haters who wouldn’t even read the book for the schadenfreude.

And if you’re a Kindle reader who is now planning to head over to Amazon, don’t miss the chance to pick up a copy of AH:Q #1, which is already the #1 New Release in the Mystery and Superhero categories!