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

Science fiction readers love to think of themselves as bold and adventurous souls – intellectually if not literally.  The entire genre represents an exercise in pushing past boundaries, in boldly going beyond the known and out into the strange and wondrous realms of the unknown.  The slate on which sci-fi authors work is blank and boundless, and readers drawn to the new and bold seek it out.  Not for them the sorts of stories featured in the Oprah book club.  A book centered on the petty and mundane perils of an English professor struggling to develop a solid justification for cheating on his or her spouse holds little appeal for those whose readings are filled with perils on the scale of a dark lord’s conquests or a planet busting super-weapon.  Granted, small touches of humanity – a bit of romance, a dash of a jealous rivalry, or a bit of revenge – add a human grounding to the towering ideas and vivid spectacles that grace the pages of science fiction tales.

Even the inwardly focused stories of science-fiction’s bronze age – the speculations on advances in soft science and how major hard scientific advances would affect mankind on the personal and not intergalactic level – even these stories demand of the reader a inclination to stretch one’s intellectual legs.  The variety and the endless possibilities require an imaginative streak and a willingness to take unnecessary risks that is anything but universal among mankind.  We’re a different sort, we science-fiction readers.

Or so we like to think. Read More

Arkhaven Comics is very pleased to be able to announce the release of its first Gold Logo edition comic, RIGHT HO, JEEVES #2: Hungry Hearts. As of the moment, it is only available from Castalia Books direct, but you can already order it from your local bookstore, though not from your local comic book store… yet.

As for Amazon, at this point, who knows….

Anyhow, Right Ho, Jeeves #2 is 24 pages and retails for $2.99.

Now, we know some Alt★Hero backers are wondering if we’re actually working on it, but believe us, we are. Every single day, including weekends. Precisely ZERO of the people working on these other comics are also involved with either the Alt★Hero or the Avalon comics. We’re using these early releases to shake out the various bugs in the process and answer questions like “what paper can we use”, “to what extent can we push the margins”, “what retail price do we need to set in order to prevent the distribution database from discount-blocking us” and various other ones that literally no one could answer for us. Some of these things require experiments and we did not want to experiment with our primary products.

Which, by the way, is why we can tell you that both Alt★Hero and Avalon single issues will be published in the royal octavo size (same as Jeeves and QM) and will retail for $2.99.

Dark Legion Comics is very pleased to announce that the 42-page teaser for Rebel Dead Revenge is now in print. This will be the only single-issue print comic from the series, as the rest will be either digital or one of the two trade paperbacks. The idea is to have something inexpensive that can introduce the trade paperbacks to readers in comic book stores.

Stonewall’s Arm is a 42-page, 10×7 Gold Logo edition that retails for $4.99. It is available now at Castalia Books Direct and is supposed to be in stock later this week on Amazon. However, Amazon’s track record in this regard has been spotty at best, so the Castalia option is the safer one.

Click to embiggen.

The Order of the Stick is one of those things that should never have worked. A comedic strip, illustrated entirely in stick figures, set in a literal D&D campaign world (complete with earning XP and other RPG tropes), with a dense, multi-layered plot, produced over the span of fifteen years, and still not done?

Absolutely should suck. But it doesn’t.

So… why?

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Pulp-Rev (Pulprev.com): “While the Pulp Revolution has been around for a couple of years now, it isn’t the only literary movement focused on pulp fiction. Indeed, it’s not even the first. Before PulpRev came New Pulp, which Pro Se describes as “fiction written with the same sensibilities, beats of storytelling, patterns of conflict, and creative use of words and phrases of original Pulp, but crafted by modern writers, artists, and publishers.” PulpRev itself is attempting to define its own aesthetic, by studying the pulp classics. Reading ePulp Sampler Volume 1 by John Picha, I’m reminded of what pulp is not.”

 

Fiction (Howard Andrew Jones): “I’ve read an awful lot of the work of Leigh Brackett, and much of it multiple times. I thought I’d share a photo of some of my favorite of her books.

On the top there is a great short novel, one of my very favorites by her. It’s actually included in the Sea-Kings volume immediately beneath it, but the version in that collection had so many typos I went out and re-purchased another version of the paperback I sent away to Joe McCullough, because when I’m re-reading one of my favorite stories I don’t want to be distracted by errors.” Read More

Four weeks back, I received the first issue Tales From the Magician’s Skull directly from editor Howard A. Jones. This is a brand new magazine published by Goodman Games. Howard has this to say about the genesis of the magazine:

“Strange but true: this project didn’t begin life as a magazine, and I didn’t plan to be its editor. It happened like this. In 2015 Joseph asked if I’d be interested in contributing some fiction to the 2016 Goodman Games GenCon Program Guide. I naturally said yes, just as I said yes when he asked last year if I wanted to write a story for the 2017 Program Guide.

After I turned it over he wondered if I knew any other authors who wrote in a similar vein, because he’d decided to add more stories. Once again I naturally told him yes. I’ve been published with a lot of writers over the years who like to craft the same sort of fiction, so it was actually harder to narrow down their numbers rather than to hunt them up.

Once Joseph had more stories it wasn’t long before he proposed publishing them all in a separate magazine, along with a final few to round things out.”

I have known Howard for around 20 years. I was Official Editor of the Robert E. Howard United Press Association at the time. Howard contacted me saying it was his goal to be the Glenn Lord of Harold Lamb. Glenn Lord was the long-time agent for the Robert E. Howard copyright owners. Howard achieved his goal when he got a huge part of Harold Lamb’s magazine fiction from the pulp and slick magazines reprinted in book form. You should read Harold Lamb, great, great stuff.

Howard was also managing editor for Black Gate magazine for part of its existence.

As to the mission statement:

“As for what we’re publishing here and going forward, it has a lot to do with Appendix N, the recommended reading list near the back of the original Dungeon Master’s Guide. It wasn’t just a list, it was a touchstone for a lot of young fantasy readers back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, me included. Some time late in the 1970s I copied down that appendix and rode my bicycle to the library, the bookstore, and the used bookstore (and for the bookshelves of friends) and discovered a world of adventure.”

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