We might be in the middle of a spontaneous movement of small press fantastic adventure fiction. Return of the Sword, Griots, Swords of Steel, Skelos, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Swords and Sorcery Magazine have a D.I.Y. attitude. I think there has been a reaction against the blandness and “whoosification” of fantasy fiction from the big book publishers and nationally distributed magazines.
A new entry is Cirsova. The first issue is dated Spring 2016. Cost is $10.00, 98 pages, 8.5 x 11 inch dimensions, perfect bound, glossy color cover. There are no interior illustrations. The layout is double columned with a more than ample font size for reading. The layout does contribute for quicker reading.
Contents include six stories, one novelette, one poem, and a non-fiction article. The editorial by editor/publisher P. Alexander has this as his mission statement:
“There are a number of reasons why I wanted to launch a Cirsova magazine, the least of which being Jeffro Johnson’ Hugo nominated Appendix N Retrospective series which both coincided with an helped spur my own look into a lot of older SFF stuff. Planet Stories in particular has become a favored inspiration of mine…I feel like I may have stumbled into quite a neglected niche; the mid-tier publications focusing on adventure fiction that can offer semi-pro rates are few and far between. I want to be able to offer Cirsova as a market for authors who write the sort of fun pulpy yarns that would’ve been at home in Planet Stories, Weird Tales or Thrilling Wonder Stories.”
“The Gift of the Ob-Men” – Schuler Hernstom: A post-apocalyptic story of a warrior sent into exile by his tribe. He is sent on a quest by the “Ob-Men”
Alternate history is the basis of “This Day, At Tilbury” by Kat Otis. The Spanish Armada had managed to land the Duke of Parma’s army and battle is joined.
“At the Feet of Neptune’s Queen” by Abraham Strongjohn might be my favorite story because it is so over the top. It reminds me of Bryce Walton’s “Princess of Chaos” from Planet Stories. It is an out and out sword and planet story with the hero prince of Mars, his warrior woman bride, and companion taken from Mars to Neptune by an evil sorceress queen. There is plenty of sword play with “heat sabres.”
Brian K. Lowe’s “Rose by Any Other Name” is a time travel story with Kaine sent somewhere in time while working on an ancient machine. He uses a telescoping staff and a M1911 .45 ACP pistol as his weapons. He links up with an intelligent gorilla and girl. They are battling a gang who think the girl is a queen from 500 years in the past.
Melanie Rees’ “Late Bloom” has a villain with a machine enabling him to raid the past. I did not care for the present tense use of verbs.
Donald Jacob Uitvlugt’s “The Hour of the Rat” has a Japanese or rather pseudo-Japanese setting with a female assassin taking revenge on a vampiric lord that had destroyed her family and village.
Misha Burnett’s “A Hill of Stars” is a Cthulhu Mythos story. Set in a city of the Old ones, I take the setting is Antarctica millions of years ago. The last Old one has died, his human slave leaves to join a group of feral humans. A group of “saur” riding barbarians take him prisoner to feed to a shoggoth. There is a battle with a shoggoth in an arena. An interesting use of the Mythos to create an adventure story.
I blew through this first issue of Cirsova. My impression– the stories have some rough edges in execution. The writers are no masters yet in fiction writing. That is all right; there is a sincerity that makes up for lack of polish. Refinement will come in time.
The fiction reminds me of that in Gernsback era issues of Amazing Stories and Wonder Stories when you had twenty-year old writers such as Jack Williamson penning their first stories. The second issue (Summer 2016) just came out. Adrian Cole and Kristine Kathryn Rusch present in the contents. You can order through Amazon.com.