This week’s newest releases feature an engineer on a quest to complete an impossible radio transmitter, a time-stranded master scout, and a tribe’s race against to clock to pay a debt–or lose their lands.

The Earth a Machine to Speak (Yankee Republic #5) – Fenton Wood

A young radio engineer travels across an alt-history America, encountering primeval gods, mythical beasts, and tall tales come to life, in a quest to build a radio transmitter that can reach the stars.

It all started in the mountain town of Porterville. Twelve-year-old Philo started a pirate radio station with his friends, and learned that the world is a stranger place than he ever imagined. The Ancient Marauder, the Bright and Terrible Birds, the Mishipeshu, and other creatures of myth and legend populate this enchanting mixture of science and fantasy.

Now, in The Earth a Machine to Speak, the long-awaited conclusion of the Yankee Republic series, Philo Hergenschmidt travels to the land of his ancestors to build an impossible radio transmitter, and learns that even the strangest myths can have a basis in scientific fact!

Executor Rising (The Circuit Saga #1) – Rhett C. Bruno

A new threat rises. Pick a side, or die…

When ships belonging to the powerful New Earth Tribunal are mysteriously stolen, they dispatch one of their best agents to find the culprits.

Sage Volus. Tribunal Executor. Spy.

She quickly infiltrates the ranks of suave Ceresian mercenary Talon Rayne, chasing her only lead on the attacks. But the longer she’s undercover with Talon and his squad, the more she finds her faith in the Tribune tested.

While her quest for answers only unearths more questions, a new enemy is on the rise. And he plans to bring down the Tribune, once and for all.

Join an unlikely band of would-be saviors as they are drawn into a conspiracy destined to change the solar-system forever in this wild ride of mercenaries, war, espionage, and betrayal.

Fractured Earth (Ascension Wars Book 3) – Jasper T. Scott

Clayton Cross has been reunited with his family, and he’s joined forces with the remnants of Phoenix, a human resistance group from the Wastes outside of New Houston. But following a traitorous double-cross by their Chrona ally, Specter, most of the world’s remaining population has turned into the failed human-alien hybrids known as Dregs. The world is no longer divided into safe, civilized cities run by the Kyra, and even they have abandoned Earth, declaring it a quarantine zone to contain a deadly new version of their virus, engineered by the Chrona.

Few human survivors remain, and now monstrous hordes of Dregs stalk the cities and Wastes alike, making life on Earth more treacherous than ever.

People must find refuge before they are hunted to death, but they are competing with rival groups for vital resources and shelter—and some of them are better equipped than others.

Clayton and the rest of Phoenix are faced with hard choices in this Fractured Earth as new and old enemies pursue them. When the choice is kill or be killed, death is the only way out. Read More

Publishing (Pulp Archivist): The market is contracting, without signs of stopping, from at least the mid-2000s generational handover. Digital and its different margins have likely kept some of these magazines in business far longer than print runs can justify. It’s almost to the point where the established science fiction “fandom” does not and should not be the audience. There are 300 million people not reading science fiction short stories. The editor who can figure out how to reach even 0.0001% of that will be the king of science fiction.

Gaming (Walker’s Retreat): In other words, WOTC’s being pozzed again. Do not give money to people who hate you. Do not buy WOTC’s products new. Not for D&D. Not for Magic. Not at all. Buy used if you must, but otherwise give your money to those making their own versions of the game (legal thanks to the Open Game License making D&D open source 20 years ago). What would those be? A short list includes: Adventurer, Conqueror, King.

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We are in the middle of a small press fiction golden age – Weirdbook, Tales from the Magician’s Skull, Storyhack, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly come to mind. It reminds me of the old D.I.Y. attitude in punk and alternative music in the late 1970s though the 80s.

It is hard to believe that I reviewed the first issue of Cirsova four years ago. I just read the Spring 2020 issue (Vol 2, No. 3) and have to say it was a pleasant experience. Read More

2004’s Pulp Fictioneers, a collection of Writer’s Digest columns reprinted by John Locke, contains a wonderful little essay on the state of science fiction by Amazing Stories editor Jerry K. Westerfield. Entitled “The Sky’s No Limit”, Westerfield’s January 1940 column gives rare circulation figures, a who’s who of pre-Campbelline science fiction (Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Taine, Abraham Merrit, and Ralph Milne Farley), advice to the would-be science fiction writer that sounds might familiar to the isekai light novel fan, and even an overly charitable explanation of the Michelist controversy of the first WorldCon. (Westerfield notes that most of fandom resented the intrusion of Michelist politics.)

Westerfield also spent a few paragraphs to describe Amazing’s top writers. Number one was Eando (Otto) Binder, now best known as Supergirl’s creator and the writer of many of Captain Marvel’s best adventures. (That’s DC’s Shazam!, not the much embattled Marvel character.)

Number two, however, was a surprise:

Manly Wade Wellman runs Binder a close second by pounding out some 200,000 words of science fiction a year which amounts to $2,000. Like Binder, Wellman loves science fiction and makes it his specialty. He gets some of his plots from our old-time wild west, revamps the location to that of a savage planet, and presto he has a science fiction yarn. Wellman, a former newspaper reporter, got his first taste of science fiction when he wrote a propaganda story in which he pictured Martians as friends instead of enemies. The yarn brought him such a large letter response that Wellman has been doing pseudo science yarns ever since. He feels that most science fiction writers don’t put forth their best efforts and most of their stuff is dine too hurriedly–including some of his own work.

It is a bit bizarre to see Wellman treated as a science fiction writer, given that he is now best known for his Weird Tales and John the Balladeer stories. But Wellman was able to earn a year’s pay from Amazing alone, one comparable to the many junior scientists and engineers reading science fiction pulps at the time. The eagle-eyed reader will recognize Wellman’s science fiction plotting technique as the same that Wellman’s friend David Drake uses in the Royal Cinnabar Navy series, although Drake prefers to use classical history instead of the wild west.

Also of interest are Westerfield’s hobbyist writers, which includes such notables as E. E. Smith, Abraham Merrit, L. Sprague de Camp, and Ralph Milne Farley. Although hobbyist might be too much a diminishment of these men’s second careers. None was reliant on writing for their primary source of income.

It is easy to view with perfect hindsight the authors of the past. Columns like Westerfield’s allow a clearer glimpse into what a writer’s contemporaries thought at the time, as well as give hints to now forgotten writers of merit.

In this week in Science Fiction and Fantasy, humans are under the microscope as an invasive species, a special forces unit strives to prevent the spread of an interstellar empire, and a collection of fantasy stories by David C. Smith appears for the first time in 40 years.

Final Days: Colony (Final Days #2) – Jasper T. Scott and Nathan Hystad

Kendra, Andrew, and the other survivors arrive with Lewis Hound’s chosen people at an unfamiliar planet with more questions than answers: how did they get there? Where did all of the advanced technology come from? And is this really Proxima B Centauri?

The colony ship breaks into sections and makes an emergency landing amidst a meteor shower, and Lewis Hound, Eden’s enigmatic leader, goes missing.

Despite their misgivings and the initial chaos, people soon settle into a routine in the fledgling colony. But a growing number of suspicious circumstances lead Andrew and Kendra to doubt what they’re being told, and they begin to think that there might be more dangerous predators about than the ones on four legs.

With new friends and old adversaries, they struggle to find the truth behind a growing web of deceit.

What is beyond the forbidden mountain ranges that surround the valley where they landed? And where is Lewis Hound?

Incursion (The Necromancer’s Key #1) – Mitchell Hogan

Seventeen years have passed since the Necromancer Queen Talia was overthrown and slain, and her capital city destroyed by the Knights of the Order of Eternal Vigilance.

Anskar DeVantte, raised in the sacred disciplines of the Order, is now ready to face the brutal initiation trials to become a consecrated knight-sorcerer.

But the further Anskar rises in the ranks the more his faith wavers, and he is beset by harrowing dreams and uncertainty. As troubling powers awaken within him, a schism grows between Anskar and his hallowed Order, and he draws the hungry gaze of the vanquished queen’s fanatical followers.

As Anskar pieces together the mysteries of his early life, and begins to understand the malevolent forces gathering in his path, he finds himself with a crucial choice to make:

Remain loyal to the Order’s righteous mission, or control the dark powers growing within him.

Either way, his destiny is steeped in war. The only question is, which side will he be on?

Invasive Species – Chad Olson

Seventeen-year-old Josiah has three goals: break out of prison, find his sister, and get back home. But when that prison is a giant orb-terrarium on an alien planet, his sister has been abducted to parts unknown, and his home planet of Earth is light years away, Josiah’s goals can seem as unreachable as the stars.

On top of all that, the band of humans he’s stuck with is controlled by an iron-fisted ex-soldier who recently killed the only friend Josiah had. Josiah knows full well he might be next on the maniac’s hit list.

Things are not much better outside the prison. The alien captors had seemed content to watch the humans like disinterested scientists observing animals in a zoo, but now their behavior is changing. Conflict has erupted between them, and even though they recently introduced a new human to the terrarium, a frightened girl Josiah’s age, the aliens have begun to ignore their prisoners and turn against each other, all of which may be tied to the seismic quakes that are beginning to rock the planet.

 As Josiah and the other humans struggle for freedom, they discover that their forced immigration to this new world carries an even greater cost than they imagined. Can Josiah and the others bear this cost, keep their humanity, and make it to freedom before time runs out?

The Last Archon (Heroes Unleashed: Atlantean Knights #1) – Richard Watts and Thomas Plutarch

For three thousand years, Deckard Riss has been alone. Ever since his home sunk into the sea with Atlantis, he has been the last of his people. The final Atlantean knight, the last Archon.

Then fate forced an apprentice on him, and now the pair of them police the streets of Atlanta, magicians in hiding as superheroes.

Now there are whispers of Atlantis on the wind, another sorcerer at work. This unknown dark wizard sacrifices superpowered teenagers in grisly ritual suicides. And Deckard’s magic, once so easily accessed, starts slipping beyond his grasp.

If he doesn’t have his powers, he can’t stop the rending of reality to allow monsters into our world. If he doesn’t have his powers, he is nothing.

Deckard only has to hold on for another year. Just one more year, to train his apprentice to take his place, and stop the end of the world. And he’s not sure he can do it.

Will his apprentice step up to save the world, or will he drive the boy away with his secrets? Read More

Tolkien (Sacnoth’s Scriptorium): The Next Tolkien Book: THE NATURE OF MIDDLE-EARTH. So, news is now out that there’s a new book of J.R.R.T. material due out next year (May 27th 2021).  Edited by Tolkien linguist Carl Hostetter, it’s called THE NATURE OF MIDDLE-EARTH, and its four hundred pages gather together many of the short essays Tolkien wrote about his legendarium in the post-LotR period.


Gaming (Jon Mollison): For those of you interested in the hobbyist portion of this blog, allow me to point you to the thing that has been keeping me too busy to throw write-ups on gaming thoughts onto this page:  The Joy Of Wargaming.  With new videos up every other day, it’s been gathering steam every since it first went live back and the end of May.  The example video is a quick unboxing showing a small piece of a larger table of Egyptian terrain, but I’ve got a lot of actual-plays, painting sessions, and game reviews up already with more scheduled through most of July, including some hex-and-counter style wargaming for the diehard grognards. Read More

David J. West has been writing heroic fantasy, horror, and weird westerns for the past ten years. Sometimes he uses the name James Alderdice for some of his fiction.

Whispers of the Goddess (Lost Realms Press, 2014) is a collection of fantasy stories with an historical setting originally published under the name of James Alderdice. The title story, “Whispers of the Goddess” is set January 1204 A.D. The army of the Fourth Crusade awaits payment for installing Alexious (sic) IV Angelus, former emperor of the Byzantine Empire back on the throne. Read More

God might not play dice with the universe, but the devils do.

In The Black Moon Chronicles: The Sign of Darkness, written by François Marcela-Froideval and drawn by Olivier Ledroit, Lucifer grows tired of his generals throwing matches in their little games. So he engineers a game in the mortal world where none of the players can deliberately lose. A Chosen One prophecy and the fall of an empire would do nicely. But what man will be chosen?

He might be a nameless lancer out in the woods, little more than a highwayman in armor. Call him Wismerhill after his home town, or Wis for short. It’s as good a name as any. But this half elf has an unknown past and hints of more sinister gifts, as the rogue Heads-or-Tails discovers in their first meeting. Wis may be sheltered and naive, but he falls into bad company with the mercurial rogue, whose personality shifts based on which of two magical swords, good or evil, he currently wields. The two fast friends embark on a series of petty crimes and capers. But the eye of the half-ogre Gorghor Bey soon settles upon Heads-or-Tails’ swords. Read More

This week’s new releases showcase mercenary giant robots, the return of a Weird Tale, genetic engineering run amok, and a warning from the Penultimate Men.

The Buried World (The Grave Kingdom #2) – Jeff Wheeler

The orphaned Bingmei didn’t choose to be a hero. She has no wish to cross the Death Wall to save the world. But she has awakened Echion, emperor of the Grave Kingdom and Dragon of Night, and it is her destiny to defy him. From his imperial city of ancient sorcery and immortal darkness, Echion conspires to fulfill his own destiny: vanquish Bingmei, revive his queen, and rule together for another eon unchallenged.

Traversing a labyrinth of caves and mountains, Bingmei and her band of allies prepare their defense against a fateful war they cannot win. But when they are overcome by Echion’s terrible power, Bingmei is left vulnerable to a ruthless assassin…one with orders to capture, not kill.

Before he destroys her, Echion craves something more than Bingmei’s soul. Only she has the power to resurrect Echion’s ancient queen, Xisi, whose evil is matched only by his own. Once reunited, their dark shadow will fall like a shroud over the realms. To be a savior, Bingmei must first survive what she has unleashed, and to survive she must begin to understand the seeds of power she’s never learned to control.

Eternal Enemy (Memories of Earth #9) – James David Victor

In a world of genetic engineering, fantastic aliens, and faster than light travel, conspiracies and the quest for unlimited power can still tear the galaxy apart.

Anders Corsigon has spent his life bringing galactic criminals to justice. When a bizarre murder turns into a string of assassinations, he must find a killer who is protected by the highest levels of the empire. In a world where advanced genetic engineering can literally rewrite humanity, he must uncover a truth that could destroy the galaxy.

The final battle to decide the fate of the galaxy has finally arrived. Anders and Dalia must rally the remnants of humanity and save Jake from the destiny he was created to fulfil to have any hope of saving the galaxy. Can they find a way to defeat the Eternal Empress and a power greater than anything they have ever seen, or will ancient Earth truly be wiped from existence this time?

Forget Nothing (A Galaxy’s Edge novel) – Jason Anspach and Michelle C. Meyers

She Chose the Hardest Way

The daughter of a Legion war hero, fighting was in Andien Broxin’s blood. But the battles Republic marines face on strange and alien worlds are a far cry from the vaunted, brutal, no-holds-barred conflicts fought at the edge of the galaxy by the elite legionnaires.

Until a devastating war erupts right in the Republic’s stellar backyard.

Newly stationed on a mid-core planet being harassed by terrorist revolutionaries, Andien and her fellow “hullbusters” find themselves right in the middle of a desperate fight for survival. All their training, standards, discipline – all the hard paths – have led to this. If she and her fellow marines are to come out of this alive, Andien will have to find out who she truly is…and what she can become.

Full Metal Panic! Volume 7 – Shouji Gatou

Sagara Sousuke isn’t your typical high school student. He reads military enthusiast magazines; he responds to questions with “affirmative;” he brings grenades to school in his bag. Though everyone at school takes him for a hopeless military geek, Chidori Kaname thinks there might be something more to him. When their plane is hijacked in the middle of a field trip, Kaname’s instincts will prove correct: Sousuke is an elite, mech-piloting mercenary… and he’s here to protect her!

The Pacific Chrysalis was Mithril’s first true victory over Amalgam, but their success has only led to escalation. Between growing suspicion at school and cryptic warnings from Tessa’s brother that everything is about to change, Sousuke begins to realize that his peaceful life in Tokyo might not last much longer. Before he can even prepare, though, Sousuke finds himself running a gauntlet beyond anything he could have imagined. He’ll have to fight not just for his own life, but for the life of everyone he knows! Read More

Thomas P. Kelley’s “A Million Years in the Future” is the greatest of his three novels to appear in Weird Tales. It originally appeared as a four-part serial from the January to July 1940 issues. Kelley was a Canadian author who came along after the deaths of Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft to add some zest to the fading golden age of the magazine.

The novel is good example of a kitchen sink fantastic adventure pulp story. It is a mix of sword-and-planet, space opera, and even some cosmicism on the lines of Olaf Stapledon’s First and Last Men. Read More

I’ll be light on content as I try to come up with a good article topic related to “Blame!”, Tsutomu Nihei’s cyberpunk masterpiece. Highly recommended.

In the meantime, take a look at the Superversive livestream. Sunday, June 28, we talked about the topic of spirituality in anime – which anime/manga handle it well and which don’t. Take a look:

The second video is much, much shorter and more easily digestible, but one I am particularly proud of, titled “Trigun’s Hidden Philosophy”. Script and narration by me, video editing by Ben Wheeler:

This is designed specifically for fans of the anime; if you haven’t seen it, you won’t understand it. But if you have you may appreciate the argument I attempt to make.

Give them both a try!

RPG (Grodog): Thinking through the mega-dungeons I’m familiar with, the stand out qualities that I love to play through, and the mega-dungeons that bring that to the table are:     Best Environments to Explore and Map:  Castle El Raja Key, Maure Castle, Caverns of Thracia, Foolsgrave.                              Most-Fun Encounters:  Castle Greyhawk, Foolsgrave, Rich Franks’ mega-dungeon. Most-Fun Puzzles, Enigmas, and Centerpiece Encounters:  Castle Greyhawk, Maure Castle, WG5, ASE1/2-3, Undermountain.

Science Fiction (Alexandra Rowland): I was groomed and abused by Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear for several years. For a long time, I never wanted to talk about this in public. I didn’t want anybody to know about this. I only began rethinking yesterday and I was still considering what to do about it, but… …Apparently I don’t have that luxury anymore. Read More