Where to even begin?

It’s been a tremendous privilege and an honor to have been a part of the Castalia House family.

Over the course of around three years, I’ve written somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 Short Reviews, Retro Fandom Fridays, and miscellany in an effort to give people an idea of what the stories in the pulps were actually like. That’s a lot of content in a seemingly short period of time!

Read More

Printed before the war ended, Thrilling Stories of the Russian-Japanese War covers the 1904 – 1905 war up to the Battle of Mukden but before the final naval catastrophe at Tsushima.  The title is a little misleading as the first eight chapters provides a comprehensive overview of Japanese history, the Mikado (imperial dynasty), home life and religion and the following ten chapters provide similar coverage for Russia while roughly a third of the book discusses the war and the events leading toward it. I find this as a positive as pure military history on this topic is readily available while the initial chapters provides insight into the combatant’s cultures.  For example, one chapter reserves a couple paragraphs to the “Origin of Hara-Kiri” and the “Etiquette of the Sword”. We can forgive the slightly misleading title on the cover as the title page within the book sums up the content:

A Vivid Panorama of Land and Naval Battles: a Realistic Description of Twentieth Century Warfare” and “The Awful Struggle for Japanese Freedom, the Peace and Safety of the Orient and the Protection of Helpless China from the Greed of Foreign Foes. Also a Complete History of Japan, Russia, China, Korea and Manchuria Including  Progress, National Traits and Customs, Religion, Philosophy, Personal Adventure, etc.”

This is a lot of subject matter so even at 463 pages in medium print many topics are only covered in passing.

I cannot find much information online on the author, James Martin Miller “The Celebrated Historian, War Correspondent and Traveler” besides a New York  Times article which requires a subscription. From the title of the NY Times article he was a Consul General at some time in his career and he has a prolific bibliography. I’d like to find out more about him as he seems to have had a career to match that of John Reed (if not, at least in the same league).

As with many other early twentieth century books rushed out during a conflict the level of detail on battles is geared towards the general public and the military historian and wargamer will not find much in the way of in depth information, especially as one of the major failings of this book is the lack of maps. There are many photos of troops, and personalities and engravings of combat scenes. I’d say the value of this book is the insight into the great power struggles in the Orient, contemporary attitudes and the attempt to view the conflict from multiple points of view. In fact the book begins with “The Japanese Point of View” written by the Japanese ambassador to the United States. I’d argue that these comprehensive books rushed out during great events (I have a couple similar ones from the Great War) where the early 20th century equivalent of a themed blog.

 

I was surprised to see hard cover copies of the original edition available, here (only one copy at that link (no, not mine) and other pricier options for the original) or a “classic reprint series” here. Archive.org also has a full copy online free, with various download options.

A WW2 book review on opposing tank gunners along with an interesting account of a M7 Priest fighting off an ambush by power Panther tanks over at the WW Blog. Also, research is starting back up for my Liechtenstein project and I have created the r/LiechtensteinHistory sub as a repository for ideas, links, etc.

 

Robert E. Howard (Jeffro Johnson): This is a great story, a fascinating piece.

In the first place, it shows us up close the sort of peoples, Christian and pagan, that produced the bedrock of the myth and legends that would define our base concepts of fantasy and heroism. But it also presents the notion that we are descended from people that were every bit as heroic as Conan and Solomon Kane. And being written by Robert E. Howard, you can’t help but end up being persuaded!

So many good lines here:

My lords, it may be God’s will I fall in the first onset– but the scars of slavery burn deep in my back this night, and may the dogs eat my bones if I am backward when the spears are splintering.

 

Fiction (Rawle Nyanzi): It’s finally here. The project that myself, Brian Niemeier, and Bradford C. Walker set out to complete is under way. Three mech books — two currently released, one in pre-orders — can finally be purchased on Amazon. One even has a sequel out. These stories are very different from one another. Xseed is military sci-fi in the Gundam mold, very grounded in realism; Reavers is “Christian knights in space,” strongly modeled off of both chivalric romances and classic Star Wars. My own book is based strongly on Japanese-style superhero shows, specifically Power Rangers, while also taking place in an alternate history.

 

 

 

Authors (DMR Books): Frederick Faust, better known to millions of fans over the last hundred years as “Max Brand,” was born on this date in 1892. Awhile back, I wrote a post on H. Bedford-Jones where I called him “King of the Pulps.” I may need to change my mind on that one. I was following the opinion of Darrell C. Richardson–whose opinions and erudition I esteem greatly–in that instance. I think I’ll have to belatedly disagree with Darrell this time.

While Bedford-Jones is calculated to have written about twenty-five million words for the pulps in his career, Faust wrote at least that many in a shorter career–Faust died five years before Bedford-Jones, almost to the day. Both men wrote in various genres, but Faust appears to have made better money doing so. Read More

Marvel Comics’ title Conan the Barbarian under the editorship of Roy Thomas was one of the classic bronze age comic books. Barbarian Life: A Literary Biography of Conan the Barbarian (Pulp Hero Press) by Roy Thomas gives a detailed issue by issue history of the first 51 issues of comic book.

Thomas had originally wrote these entries for a Spanish reprint series in the 1990s. Thomas had not kept the original English texts, so these were converted back into English with some slight rewrite or correction by Thomas.

If you want to know about Conan the Barbarian in the early years, get this book. You learn all about interest in doing a Conan comic book after the paperback success of the Lancer paperbacks in the 1960s. I did not realize that Martin Goodman was still in control of Marvel comics. I am familiar with Goodman as a pulp publisher for titles such as Marvel Science Stories and Adventure Trails.

There is a lot of detail by Roy Thomas on writing his own stories that fit between the Robert E. Howard stories. The rise of Barry Smith is chronicled. The rough first few years where the fate of the title was not assured. Stan Lee is mentioned here and there.

I met Roy Thomas in Cross Plains at Robert E. Howard Days. He was a Guest of Honor and an engaging speaker. Some of this I knew but not in the detail that I know now.

One of the things I talked to Roy Thomas about was Gardner F. Fox. Fox is a guilty pleasure of mine. I have all his stories in pulp horror and science fiction magazines and even have a few western and sports pulps with his stories. I recently had an article on Fox’s historical novels in Men of Violence 11. Read More

Castalia House’s two latest paperbacks, MIDDLE RAGES by Milo Yiannopoulos and FREE PLANTS FOR EVERYONE by David the Good, are now available at Castalia Books Direct for less than you’ll pay at Amazon. The former is available for only $9.99 and the latter for just $14.99, which means that even with shipping, you’ll pay less than you will for them even with Prime and free shipping.

Both paperbacks are bestsellers in their respective categories and both average 5-star ratings. Castalia House is focusing more on non-fiction than fiction these days, and putting an emphasis on quality over quantity.

As video games increasingly become the most common method of interacting with fantasy, the portals to fantasy worlds have sent heroes into video game worlds. Not just the fantasy worlds of the favorite games, but inside the games themselves, continuing the trapped-in-a-computer-game stories made popular by Jumanji, The Matrix and cyberpunk. While the influence of the Dragon Quest video game series on Japanese fantasy has already blurred the line between game world and fantasy world, a distinct genre of video game isekai portal fantasy has developed.

Unlike more traditional isekai fantasy, the conventions are most often based around those of MMO role-playing games, with the mechanics of the game prominent in the story. These include the player menus always in the character’s vision, talent trees, an ever-improving collection of gear and items, instance dungeons and raids, a strange loathing for player-versus-player combat, and the ever-present threat of permanent death for those trapped inside the game, often against their will by deranged versions of Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates. Influenced heavily by cyberpunk, these video game fantasies have in turn become an important influence to today’s popular litRPG genre, especially the Russian resurgence of the form.

Strangely enough, video game fantasy portals work in one direction, from the present primary world to the secondary video game fantasy world. Reverse isekai in video game settings are almost non-existent. Read More

This week’s roundup of science fiction’s newest releases features mecha-equipped partisans, alien trade missions, ancient superweapons, and the rise of Galactic Christendom.


Black and White (The Four Horsemen: Frontiers #1) – Mark Wandrey

Terry Clark grew up surrounded by his parent’s life’s work, the rescue and rehabilitation of cetaceans. Born just after first contact with the Galactic Union, he’s never known a time when aliens weren’t visiting Earth. At 10 years old, he had a normal life, until a visit from one of the aliens resulted in a ground-breaking discovery. The cetaceans have a developed and complex language…and it can be deciphered by the aliens’ translators.

When Terry’s father begins using alien implant technology to test the boundaries of the cetaceans’ language and society, though, he goes too far, and the fledgling world government becomes involved. Without warning, the scientists are labeled as criminals, and the cetaceans are scheduled for termination. In order to save the cetaceans, the researchers have to flee off-world with them.

In the Lupasha star system, Terry tries to begin a new life. While the world is ideal for the cetaceans, it’s difficult for their Human wardens. Even worse, the planet’s previous owners now want it back. As they don’t mind killing all the Humans in the process, Terry is trapped in a life or death struggle, which leads to a discovery that could change the course of humanity’s role in the galaxy.


Combat Frame Xseed: Coalition Year 40 – Brian Niemeier

They made him necessary. He’ll make them pay.

Earth groans under the yoke of the Systems Overterrestrial Coalition. Socs enjoy privileged status while grounders languish as second-class citizens.

Student Thomas Arthur Dormio leads the Brussels Service Academy’s history club, a front for a dissident grounder cell. The Human Liberation Organization conducts a campaign of blackmail, sabotage, and terrorism to free Earth from the Socs.

En route to make contact with the HLO, Second Lieutenant Theodore Red arrives in orbit over Western Europe. But before he starts the next phase of the resistance on Earth, Red has a man to kill.


The Enchantress of Venus (The Illustrated Stark #2) – Leigh Brackett

Dark Secrets of an Inhuman Race Lie Hidden Beneath the Seas of Venus!

Eric John Stark travels the shores of Venus’ gaseous red seas seeking the whereabouts of a missing comrade. Pursuing this mystery puts him in the hands of the Lhari, a cruel and power-hungry family that rules over the pirate enclave of Shuruun!

Beneath the waves, the Lhari’s doomed slaves live and toil among ancient ruins, seeking out the lost super-weapon of the precursors. And Stark must join them or die!

If Varra, a vain and petty Lhari princess, can control both Stark and this lost weapon, all of Venus may be within her grasp!


Firejammer – Jeff Duntemann

Having dropped an alien-contact anthropologist on a newly discovered inhabited planet to establish a relationship with the aliens, starship *Richard M. Nixon* and its crew returns two years later on a trade mission. The corporations of the Tripartisan Economic Combine are eager to buy the aliens’ epoxy glue, which is among the best ever seen in known space.

Vincent Icehall, the starship’s young shuttle pilot, has little to do during the mission but hang out with what he assumes is the alien community’s jester and village idiot. Icehall can’t pronounce the alien’s name and dubs him “Turkey,” but slowly begins to realize that Turkey is anything but. Ignoring all of Turkey’s warnings for the crew to leave the planet immediately, Icehall stumbles on a plot by the anthropologist and the aliens’ chieftain to steal the Nixon’s shuttle for use as a weapon of war. Read More

This is it, the final Retro Fandom Friday for some time! People were abuzz in the Vizigraph about the Fall issue of Planet Stories, which featured Enchantress of Venus as its cover story. I totally did not plan for this to fall on the day that our Illustrated 70th Anniversary Edition of Enchantress of Venus comes out, but hey, it is a happy coincidence!

First letter we’ll look at comes from W. Paul Ganley:

What is Planet coming to? How dare your cover illustrate a story! All the science-fiction tradition, gone–Destroyed by a mere flick of the paint brush–lost forever. Oh, well, I suppose an artist had to hit upon a picture that would follow a story just by the laws of chance–even though they don’t read the story. (They don’t, do they?)

 

Enchantress of Venus automatically slips into first place, by three laps head of Action on Azura. It also automatically places Leigh Brackett fourth upon my list of authors–no, wait a minute, I’ll make that third. Will Jenkins(…)has slipped.

 

I agree with Rodney Palmer: Brackett’s work is undeniably like that of Burroughs’. Not, I believe, in style, but in the mood she creates. (Burroughs, by the way, is my favorite writer.) Oddly, her style is akin to that of Bradbury (my second favorite author); I say oddly, because I see no similarity in the styles of Bradbury and Burroughs.

 

I guess her character, Stark is here to stay. Now, I have a question I’d like you to answer when (?) you print this. Did Miss (?) (Married.–Ed.) Brackett write any stories about Stark before she left science-fiction-writing ‘way back when I wasn’t reading (anything, probably)? (See Ed Cox’s letter, below.–Ed.) If so what are teh titles, and in what issues did they appear (I want to get them, if any)? If she didn’t, here is a request–two requests. First, have her continue the series, as she can have him as a hero on any planet she chooses, without detracting from the story value–in fact, it would enhance the story. Second, if N’Chaka is a new character, how about a story (book-length novel, huh?) about his early childhood. I doubt whether the fen will accuse her of pirating Burroughs’ work. I’d like to read about the adventures of Stark in his youth in Mercury, and about the incidents of which she has but hinted in her latest stories.

Read More

Last fall Fenton Woods dropped an unheralded work of brilliance on the literary world with which teased us with Pirates of the Electromagnetic Airwaves (previously reviewed at CH) the subtitle Yankee Republic Book #1.  The series continues in the recently released Book #2, Five Million Watts, in which Fenton Woods pulls the curtain a little further back on the sepia-tinged not-quite-history world of the Yankee Republic.

True to his word, Fenton leaves the avatar of boyhood adventure, Randall Quinn, and follows the brains of the first book, Philo Hergenschmidt, as he graduates from a small town pirate station to the big city to work for the biggest and most powerful radio station in all of the Yankee Republic.  Thanks to a ‘first come first served’ regulatory attitude, radio 2XG has been granted exclusive charter to a large chunk of the radio spectrum that they can keep as long as they can hold onto it.  If the signal ever fails, the station loses its license, an potentiality that the hordes of smaller stations licking their chops.  Philo’s mundane job, and the mundane plot of the book, revolves around efforts to stave off that fateful day.

As with the pirate station 9X9 in Book One, the fate of 2XG provides the bare skeleton on which the deeper stories hang.  Radio 2XG becomes more of a framing device for a modern American mythic cycle that impacts the station in numerous ways.  It also provides a means by which Fenton can deliver short and punchy little tales of comedy, horror, and terror without missing a beat.  In fact, the smooth transition of these interludes represents one area where Fenton steps up his game from Book One.  Unlike Randall’s playground stories and several of the longer digressions in Book One, every little tale presented in Book Two had either a direct influence on the plot or reveals something the character of the story teller.

Which is not to say the interludes in Book One are not fun or not important.  Several of them are revisited in more depth in Five Million Watts, and what they reveal about the world of Yankee Republic leaves the reader wanting to know more and more about it.  The Yankee Republic is an alternate earth, and one filled with wild lands and tall tales, some of which may even be true!  Part of the fun of any alternate earth is figuring out exactly what changed, how, and why.  Instead of a blanket explanation in the foreword, Fenton slowly dribbles out information in brief asides, or puts the information into the form of half-remembered stories, semi-lucid dreams, and the mouths of unreliable narrators.

Fenton dangles the uncertainty of the connection between there and here in a way that entices the reader into wanting more, but the world is so much fun to visit that the real answer, if there even is one, doesn’t really matter.  The setting and the characters are likable enough in their own right that the answer to “what’s in the Abrams-style mystery box” can remain obscured and uncertain without the reader ever feeling cheated.  What’s in the box is just set-dressing – how the hodge-podge collection of tech geeks, story tellers, and aged almost-hippy musicians stave off one disaster after another shines in the spotlight and makes this one of the most fun books you’ll read this year.

It feels wrong to call Five Million Watts a YA novel, now that the YA genre has morphed into a weird sort of catch-all term for romance writers looking to break out of the over-crowded romance pack and dystopian grrl-power stories written by those trying to distance themselves from science-fiction.  We need a new term for books that target the adventurous and perhaps a little too brainy for their own good readers in their early teens.  Because that’s where this novel belongs.  It doesn’t feature a single fist-fight or gunfight.  It’s a technological adventure where the action comes from the corporate and governmental espionage aspects, and the thrill of staving off a massive natural disaster.

Five Million Watts doesn’t make any sweeping accusations about who we are or why tyranny is our default state – at least not on the surface.  If you look deep, you can find hidden meanings and messages in the small places in the story, but they don’t hit the reader over the head.  They harken back to the subtle interplay of narrative and culture that most modern authors reject in favor of brick to the face messaging.  It’s the difference between “Wouldn’t it be nice if the world was a nicer place to live?” and “This is the miserable hellscape where my political opponents want to take us.”

Nightmare visions might sell big in the current market, but as for me and my house?  We’ll take the pleasant adventures in a world too much UNLIKE ours as a pleasant reprieve from the modern world.  And that world is increasingly the Yankee Republic – we can’t wait for Book #3: Tower of the Bear to arrive so that we can continue to spend more time in Philo’s world.

Paracelsus

The first written mention of gnomes has been attributed to Theophrastus von Hohenheim, known as Paracelsus, a 16th century physician and alchemist, in his posthumously published (1566) book,  Ex Libro de Nymphis, Sylvanis, Pygmaeis, Salamandris et Gigantibus, etc..  Many web articles on gnomes mention the book and include brief excerpts on the nature of the little folk and gives credit to Paracelsus for creating the concept of the gnomes but it is more accurate to say that Paracelsus can be credited with the applying the word gnome (actually “gnomi”) to creatures already well known in myths and fables. He states that the common names for gnomi and the other spirit men described in his book “..have been given them by people who did not understand them”. That is, gnomes were already known by other names in contemporary mythology and folklore but Paracelsus’ gnomes were enlisted in service of a theological / scientific argument.

Born in the Swiss county of Schwyz in 1493, Theophrastus was the son of a physician who went on to study the arts, then medicine in Italy at the University of Ferrara. Dissatisfied with his education he traveled throughout Europe, practicing medicine and visiting mines and workshops to expand is knowledge of alchemy. His theories on the causes of disease and experiments in medicine were not well received and most of his books were suppressed. Despite this, he had a good reputation as a physician, especially in the treatment of syphilis, the subject of which became one of only two of his major works to be published in his lifetime. His writing only became well known from the late 16th and into the 17th centuries, especially his works on medicines and alchemy.  The titles of a couple of his writings give insight into his range of expertise to include “Diseases that Deprive Man of His Reason”and “On the Miners’ Sickness” so his treatise on the spirit people (nymphs, salamanders, pygmies/gnomes, etc.) is something of an outlier as it serves as an investigation into nature while attempting to bridge animistic explanations of natural phenomena with his theological beliefs.

When researching this piece, I wanted to go for the primary source but despite excerpts describing Paracelsus’ gnomes scattered here and there, I could not find an English translation. I did find a scan of an original copy online and even tried my hand at translation before a new search term led me to an anthology of four books by Paracelsus, translated into English, titled Four Treatises of Theophrastus Von Hohenheim Called Paracelsus.

Why Paracelsus wrote his treatise on Nymphs, Sylphs, Pygmies and Salamanders.

Mythology and folklore evolved out of man’s need to understand the environment he found himself in. By the 16th century many theologians based their worldview on the Holy Scriptures and if something could not be found in them, it was either evil or did not exist. Creatures such as dwarves, nymphs and salamanders and others resident in folk beliefs were evil. Paracelsus argued that the Holy Scriptures purpose was not to describe everything encountered in the natural world but to provide guidance on humanity’s relationship with God. Since all things came from God the spirit people were placed on earth for specific reasons. First, God created the spirit people so humans would know and appreciate the works of God. Secondly, the spirit people served as guardians: a crude summary is that God scattered natural resources around the earth for use by man but only at a time and place of God’s choosing.  The spirit people would be guardians and sometimes creators of these resources and could be used as a guide.  For example, if people start encountering gnomes, then a source of valuable resources is bound to be close. Once the resource was allowed to be discovered the spirit people would move on (or disappear) as they were no longer needed.

There are evil monsters that are born from time to time.  Just as godly parents can give birth to evil offspring, the gnomes at times give birth to dwarfs: “And although it happens rarely, yet it happened so often and under such marvelous circumstances that their existence is well know and remembered.” As the spirit people serve as guardians of resources, monsters such as dwarfs, giants, sirens and will-o-the-wisps, signify that misfortune is threatening people. When the dwarfs appear this signifies “great poverty among the people, in many parts”.

This is an excellent essay on how Paracelsus’ spirit men tie in with his theology, the dominant theology, old animist beliefs and his medical studies.

The Nature of Paracelsus’ Gnomi

The gnomes are also referred to as mountain people, earth manikins and mountain manikins. They are created similar to man, but do not have a soul. They are clothed and have their own laws and similar institutions to man, but of a cruder nature. The gnomes live and breathe within the earth.  Earth is their medium (chaos) just as air is for humans and water for fish. Evidence of gnomes can be found underground, when humans discover an “attic, vaults, and similar structures, of the height of about a yard”.  They also live in caves and this is why “strange structures occur and are found in such places”. Any interaction between a human and a gnome would be more difficult than between a human and a fish.  One can still reach into the water but the earth serves as a barrier for humans. The treatise does not mention this scenario but Paracelsus’ gnomes could probably cross over into open space but would have to hold their breath, similar to humans diving under water.

Despite the difficulties there were interactions between humans and gnomes: “Thus also, the mountain people have not only been seen, but people saw them, and talked to them, and received money from them, and blows and similar things”.

Man is described as living at the conjunction between two spheres: earth and heaven. This conjunction is called “chaos” by Paracelsus and it is from the chaos that we receive our substance. For the gnomes, the earth is there chaos and water serves as their soil. Since water is the gnome’s soil then they must quench their thirst through other means but as Paracelsus explains: “..if water has been created for us, to quench our thirst, then another water must have been created for them, that we cannot see nor explore”. Drink they must, but drink that which in their world is a drink. Eat they must similarly, according to the contents of their world. One cannot find out more about these things, but only that their world has its own nature, just as ours has”.

Gnomes are small, “of about two spans”, or twice the distance from the tip of a thumb to a forefinger. They wear cloths and “cover their genitalia, but not in the way of our world, in their own way”.  They also have their own law and leaders “according to their inborn nature” and have their own day and night and need for sleep.  Finally, they live in caves and that is the reason why strange structures can be found in them.

 

Attempt at Translation

Below is a screen shot of a print out that I used to take notes during my translation attempt. At first, it was difficult to decipher much of the old Fraktur script (in use for all printed material in Germany up to 1941). I had issues identifying some Fraktur letters then encountered problems translating terms from 16th Century German and even some Latin into modern English.

My attempted translation below the picture:

 

Fraktur script

 

Chapter III

How They Come to Us and Become Visible

How God makes all things is revealed to men that read as the devils and other spirits also search for, so the angels seek to touch man’s heart and such apparitions happen seldom.  But so much is to be believed and to be considered to include these beings also. Not all of us say there are angels or these people will be revealed but in this time, we know of 1. 2. 3. Angels.  Also with the people also God has also presented about with the people too God has also strangled with whom you live to talk,  let’s walk.  And even remind them to talk cattle with each other.

Doesn’t make much sense to me either.

Here is Sigerest’s translation:

Tractatus III

How They Come to Us and Become Visible to Us

All that God has created, he reveals to man and lets come before him, so that man has and attains knowledge of all happenings of the creatures. Thus God has revealed the Devil to man, so that man knows about the Devil, and he has presented the spirits and other matters still more impossible for man to perceive.  The angels in the heaven he has also sent down to man, so that man may really see that God has angles who serve him. Such revelations do occur, but rarely, only as often as is needed to believe and have faith in them.

 

Over at the WW Blog a couple of maps on a gnome / orc battle concept / story I’m working on.

 

Tolkien (Jeffro Johnson): This came up the other day, so I had to look it up. Any classic character that is adapted to contemporary media is consistently mutilated into something they’re not. Most recently this can be observed in the many edits made to Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker in Disney’s cartoon adaptation of the original Star Wars film. It seems a small thing, maybe, but this is how people that hate us actively rewrite our culture right in front of us. Plenty of well meaning people take the knockoff for the original while their imaginations are dimmed. Before long, the waters are so muddied the original inspirational character concept is lost in the noise.

 

Authors (DMR Books): Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have turned one hundred and sixty today. If your average sword and sorcery fan were to be asked, “What British Victorian author had a major and lasting influence on S&S?”, chances are you’d get a blank stare or, maybe, “H. Rider Haggard.” “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle” would not likely be at the top of the list. And yet, Doyle profoundly affected the origins of S&S and continues to influence writers within the genre right up to 2019.

 

Weird Tales (Don Herron): All the ruminating in re: Farnsworth Wright getting fired from the editorial chair at WeirdTales caused Brian to go digging through binder after binder until he pulled the note seen above from the trove. He has it mostly because of the “initial signature” of Farnsworth Wright — the squiggly “FW” — not initialed just to speed things up but because Wright, suffering from Parkinson’s disease, had a hell of a hard time doing a full autograph.

 

Art (DMR Books): Legendary artist, Barry Windsor-Smith, turns seventy years old today. When I mentioned that fact earlier this week to a couple of older Barry fans, they were like, “No way!” Yes. Way.

Barry Windsor-Smith’s career history is a long and tangled one, spanning over fifty years. Time constraints prevent me–perhaps mercifully, for some readers–from looking at it in detail. For those unfamiliar with the life and work of BWS, you might check out this excellent link here. Or, you can read Barry’s own exhaustive bio here, though it only goes up to about 1995. For this post, I’m only going to touch on the highest of highlights, of which there are several.

 

Authors (Goodman Games): Today is the birthday of Gardner F. Fox. Most people know him as the legendary and prolific writer for DC Comics who created the Justice Society of America as well as many of the most iconic DC Comics characters including Doctor Fate, the Flash, Hawkman, and Sandman. He also wrote many of the earliest Batman stories and was the first to introduce the Batarang. His contribution to the world of comics is well documented and uncontested.

 

Fiction (Eldritch Paths): I wasn’t planning on it, but somehow I got sucked into rereading Brian Niemeier’s fantastic Soul Cycle series. These books are much better the second time. I say this as someone who’s never reread a novel. I’ll post the links to my initial reviews of each book below. I will be discussing some spoilers here so *SPOILER ALERT*.

 

Science Fiction (John C. Wright): In science fiction stories, there are a limited number of ways to explain the conundrum of how time travel might work if it could work (obviously it cannot) but still to make a presentable and dramatic story.

I doubt I can list all the various answers of the various imaginative authors who have attempted in an entertaining way to address the paradox. It makes for entertaining bull sessions by college students and philosophers, however.

 

Myth (Walk & Word): I’ll just say it. I like dragons. Yep, I’m that nerdy guy who’s into the fantasy genre: books, movies, art. If it’s about dragons, I’m into it. Now, if you mention dragons in the Bible, most people will immediately think about the dragon in the book of Revelation. However, what many people don’t know is that dragons are mentioned a lot in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament. In fact, familiarity with these references to dragons in the OT will actually help the reader understand the dragon in Revelation even better.

 

Men’s Adventure Magazines (Men’s Pulp Mags): The World War II years are often cited as beginning of the end of the classic pulp mag genre. The years after WWII saw the beginning of the rise of men’s adventure magazines, which incorporated and continued key elements of the pulps, such as painted covers and rousing action/adventure stories. Fans know what someone means when they refer to “pulp magazines.”

 

Authors (Goodman Games): Manly Wade Wellman arrived in this world on May 21st, 1903, born literally an ocean away from the place he’d be forever associated with in his later life. Young Manly’s playground was the land of Portuguese West Africa (now Angola), where his father was stationed as a medical officer. It was undoubtedly here, in a land far removed from the staid world of 20th century America, that the seeds of Manly’s imagination found their first fertile ground. Wellman would grow to become an accomplished writer, penning stories in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, occult detective stories, prehistoric adventure, and horror during a career lasting almost 75 years.

 

Sherlock Holmes (Pulpfest): Looking for a way to efficiently exploit the growing market of monthly magazines, Conan Doyle decided to offer more of Holmes and Watson. In the summer of 1891, “A Scandal in Bohemia” appeared in THE STRAND MAGAZINE. It would be followed by eleven more tales, one per month for the next year. In writing the stories that became THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, Conan Doyle created the first short story series. In the years to follow, his idea would be imitated across the globe. It resounds to our very day in series television and throughout popular culture.

 

Gaming (Eldritch Paths): I’ve never heard of Sundered: Eldritch Edition before yesterday. I saw a trailer and was immediately impressed by the art. This game has some fantastically eldritch art design. Take a look.

Magazines (Cirsova): Cirsova Summer Special Available for Pre-Order!

The Summer Special will be out June 3rd!

The Ghost of Torreón
By EDD VICK and MANNY FRISHBERG
A strange experiment gone wrong has granted Professor Rigoberto “Beto” Caminante an extraordinary power—the ability to “ride” radio waves!

 

Gaming (Jonathan Moeller): A reader emailed to ask that since I’m self-publishing audiobooks if that meant I was going to start self-producing video games based on my books.

Not just no, but heck no!

Audiobooks are expensive. But video games are much more expensive and infinitely more complicated – you have to hire developers, programmers, artists, sound people, music people, QA people, and then the inevitable time fixing and patching bugs. All of that is enormously expensive.

 

RPG (Goodman Games): My buddy Bob Bledsaw and I, both being avid wargamers, became fast friends in the fall of 1974. Dungeons & Dragons was the first game we played together and this launched a flurry of weekly adventures that he hosted at his house for about 18 months. Bob was an “older guy” of age 31; the rest of us were in our late teens. Along with D&D being a brand new game concept, we were in awe of his prodigious pace of campaign material production. I later learned that perhaps he had some insomnia that gave him more time than the average guy.

 

Fantasy Fiction (Eldritch Paths): Modern fantasy just isn’t as fantastical as it could be. There is so much you can do in fantasy, and yet, the genre is mired in either Tolkien knock-offs or anti-Tolkien knock-offs. This is not a knock on Tolkien. I loved Lord of the Rings, it’s more a knock on Tolkien imitators.

If modern fantasy isn’t using Tolkien as an inspiration, it will tend to use history in a very copy-paste sort of way. I’m thinking here of Brent Weeks’ Night Angel Trilogy. It wasn’t a bad series, but the fantasy elements were the least interesting part of the story.

 

 

         I have been reading Charles R. Saunders for 35 years now. I first read him in Swords Against Darkness IV (Zebra Books, 1979) with the story “Mail Kulala.” I digged his brand of hard-boiled sword and sorcery fiction. I immediately read Imaro (D.A.W. Books, 1981) and The Quest for Cush (D.A.W. Books, 1984). I have reviewed his novel Abengoni and the anthology he co-edited, Griots.

Nyumbani Tales (MV Media) is a collection of various stories set in Saunders’ world of Nyumbani. Nyumbani is his Hyborian Age. It is fantastic version of Africa with various cultures juxtaposed together. Saunders is obviously a history guy. That is why I like his Imaro stories and novels so much.  There is a verisimilitude to Nyumbani as a result. The concept of African based sword and sorcery could have gone horribly wrong, think Shaft with an assegai. Saunders gave a depth of background where the locale is a character. Read More