The Cirsova Fall 2020 Special has arrived, just in time for Halloween, with a new bundle of strange yet thrilling adventures, daring suspense, and even a horror story or two. To editor P. Alexander’s immense credit, each one of the fifteen tales is worthy of a week’s discussion covering both the stylistic and thematic choices. More importantly, and even more to his credit, each tale is worthy of rereading.
Here are but a few of the highlights.
The Fall Special kicks off with “Melkart the Castaway”, an adventure from antiquity, when the gods were still yet men. This was an excellent adventure in the vein of Manly Wade Wellman’s Kardios. For a full review, check out last week’s article.
“The Way He Should Go” tackles fatherhood in the same vein as Lone Wolf and Cub and The Mandalorian, but brings life to the internal struggles of the father and the protector in ways that the more visual media of manga and television cannot. Don’t think that it skimps on the intrigue and adventure, though.
“Tilting the Wick” slowly develops the mystery behind a strange monastery hidden off the map in a sword and planet future. Something as simple as repairing a pump sends a traveling engineer and doctor on the path to unraveling the monastery’s heresies and chemistries. The setting and story are so pregnant with lore that it would not be a surprise to discover that this is but a chapter of a soon to be released novel.
“Slave or Die” provides a nice change of pace to the previous sword and sorcery and sword and planet tales. A convict laborer must escape a prison planet, where the bright future of Apple and SpaceX designs is bent to a more sinister end: work or die. As he struggles to escape, his captors proceed to nickel and dime him for every expense and luxury possible. Strip away the alien trappings, and this has a haunting “Not Ripped from the Headlines, but Give it a Few Years” feel to it. And more than a little dry humor. Perhaps the next prison will be of bright lights, white plastic, and streamed entertainment…
“An Accumulation of Anguish” is a Halloween monster tale where a trick-or-treater runs into not one, but two real monsters. It’s a bit short, almost abrupt, but the twist at the end is worth it.
Not only did I enjoy the stories, I enjoyed how the stories flowed from mythological to sword and sorcery to sword and planet to technological future and then back to not-quite-present day. A nice trick of presentation that serves to set up the appetite for each story. For just as a reader’s appetite for a particular type of fantasy is being sated, Cirsova provides something new when it would be most appreciated. Little touches like the organization and the pulpy fonts add to the presentation, especially in paper format.
But, as always, it comes down to the well-chosen stories. And, while Cirsova is a favorite of the Castalia House Blog, the magazine still doesn’t get half the recognition it rightfully deserves.
The full list of Cirsova’s Fall 2020 special includes:
“Melkart the Castaway” by Mark Mellon
“Its Own Reward” by Rob Francis
“The White Giant’s Map” by Richard Rubin
“The Chamber of Worms” by Matthew X. Gomez
“After the House of the Laughing God” by Michael Ray
“The Way He Should Go” by Joshua M. Young
“Tilting the Wick” by J. Comer
“Slave or Die” by Benjamin Cooper
“He Who Rides on the Clouds” by Trevor R. Denning
“To Rest Among the Stars” by Su-Ra-U
“Ecliptical Musings” by Bill Suboski
“Not Any Earthly Shade of Color” by Danny Nicholas
“In the Bowels of the Theatre” by Matt Spencer
“An Accumulation of Anguish” by James Lam
“The Horror of the Hills” by Jude Reid