Book Review (Ken Lizzi): So, here it is, the final Swords Against Darkness installment. #V. Sad. I wish Andrew Offutt had produced more. But how about that cover? I think it is terrific. There is an advertisement just inside the book for a series called Ro-Lan by Mike Sirota. Anyone read those? Any good? Andrew Offutt’s introduction states that he overbought — paying out of his own pocket, and this volume might be a gamble due to the number of neophyte contributors.

 

Myth (Myth bank): King Arthur’s greatest enemy was not a Saxon leader. After all, Arthur defeated the Saxons. Rather, his greatest enemy was the person who actually caused the downfall of his kingdom – Mordred. Let’s find out who this Mordred was, what he did, and what we can say about him historically.

 

Authors (Winter is Coming): Kingkiller Chronicle author Patrick Rothfuss can’t get into The Wheel of Time, praises George R.R. Martin but not his imitators, and HATES The Witcher. Patrick Rothfuss is the author of The Kingkiller Chronicle, the popular fantasy book series currently consisting of The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, with the third and final novel (hopefully) coming along soon. Read More

Remember the Cold War? The potential for missile exchange with nuclear bomb tipped ICBMs, the Soviet Army blasting its way through the Fulda Gap, a dozen brush wars in the Third World? There was a time when the greater perceived threat was from People’s Republic of China and not the Soviet Union.  The Cultural Revolution was on and going to be exported. Mao’s view of revolution was more in line with Trotsky’s original vision for class war.

The Chi-coms were supplying much of the small arms to insurgencies in South-East Asia and Africa. That SKS rifle wielded by a guerrilla was more likely manufactured in the PRC than the USSR.

There is a movie from the 60s, Battle Beneath the Earth from 1967 that has the Chi-coms as the main threat. It captures the angst of the period. Read More

Today, we flip open Path to Villainy, by S. L. Rowland, and Bob’s Saucer Repair, by Jerry Boyd.


Witt was an NPC kobold in a not-quite Dungeons and Dragons game world. Each day was the same. Wake up, serve the local adventurers, dodge all the kicks coming his way, and forget it all before the next day. But today was different. Today, Witt remembered the countless tortures dealt to him and his friends. Today, Witt swore revenge. Today, Witt starts down the path to villainy.

Path of Villainy is what it says it is, the fall of Witt from the admirable goals of fighting against murderhobo adventurers and elevating kobolds from their low station into the naked chase for power. It’s surprising that Path of Villainy plays the fall so straight. You won’t find the usual tropes of misunderstood or unloved villains. Instead, evil’s allure is subtle, but utterly destructive. Freedom for his people turns into servitude to dragons. Friends and family are sacrificed to machinations and dragons. The sympathetic becomes monstrous. All for just a little more power. But while Witt’s fall is complete, Path of Villainy remains fairly light-hearted and refuses to indulge in the cruelty that so often characterizes fantasy revenge tales.


When a flying sauce crashes into a Missouri barn, Bob finds two challenges before him. One, how to fix the hole in the saucer’s radiator, and, two, how to keep the humanoid stunner now known as Nikki around longer. After examining Bob’s handiwork with a welder and in converting Earth machinery into alien plumbing, Nikki has an idea: Bob’s Saucer Repair. And as the owner of the sole authorized one-stop saucer repair and alien medical station in the Solar System, Bob sees it all. Alien grad students, space pirates, nosy interstellar reporters, and even time-travelling lawmen. All are helped on their way with a little Ozark ingenuity and bowl of piping hot chili.

With a name like Bob’s Saucer Repair, I expected a silly redneck version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. What I got instead was a banter-heavy can-do Mr. Fixit story that plays the idea of a redneck saucer repair shop seriously. The result is something very much like The Lawdog Files, but more Ozarks than Texas. The banter is clever and natural, but does get a bit thick and repetitive. Also, the dialogue pushes the story forward instead of narration or exposition. Imagine your crazy uncle telling stories at the supper table while his hot alien wife is driving the family flying saucer to the grocery store for dessert. And as ridiculous as it might get, Bob’s Saucer Repair is utterly sincere in playing the story straight, without the thick meta-storytelling or irony of contemporary humorous science fiction. All in all, Bob’s Saucer Repair is a cute read, and a nice change from the acres of milSF campaigns and gamer fantasies.

Happy New Year! 2021 kicks off with bounty hunters, dragons, gladiator gamers, and Christianity’s interstellar remnant.


The Bounty Hunter (Cade Korbin Chronicles #1) – Jasper T. Scott

When it suited the Coalition, Cade was a Paladin, a member of their elite special forces. He did their dirty work and cleaned up their messes. Until his dark ops went public, and Cade was drummed out of the service with a dishonorable discharge. As if he’d ever been doing anything but following orders.

Forced to the fringes of society by his service record, Cade broke the law just to survive. Then the Enforcers caught him, and he served his time. Sick of the hypocrisy in the supposedly utopian Coalition, he crossed over to the other side and made a life among his former enemies in the Free Systems Alliance. Now he hunts the galaxy’s worst lowlifes, for a fee, and the only orders he takes are his own.

But when his past catches up with him, Cade is forced to fight for more than just credits…

This time, he’s in it for revenge.


Cirsova #5/Winter 2020 – edited by P. Alexander

Ten tales of thrilling adventure and daring suspense, including:

Tiger, Tiger, by Teel James Glenn

Rumors of a charismatic occultist haunting a cabaret in Berlin has reached British intelligence! But is Major Smythe prepared for the powers of this prophet of Vril?!

Hunt of the Mine Worm, by Jim Breyfogle

A silvecite mine has been attacked by a giant worm! Kat and Mangos are among a band of mercenaries hired to deal with the threat, but who will claim the kill?!

Out Here, by S. H. Mansouri

A young girl has been taken from her homelands and forced to live as a prisoner in the frozen wilds-only one companion offers her comfort in her savage captivity!


Foundations (Bastion Academy #1) – J. D. Astra

For Jiyong, Bastion Academy is more than just a school for magic in the heart of the Kingdom…

It’s his chance to pursue the secrets of the ancient ones’ machines and get his family out of the poverty-stricken outer-city. His acceptance letter in hand, Jiyong is sure nothing will stand in the way of his dreams.

When a street brawl lands him in a coma only weeks into the year, his chances of graduating are all but shot. With an unlikely digital companion, he’ll have to rebuild his magic core and catch up on all his classes, or risk being dropped from the academy at the end of the year.

But kingdom life is not like the outer-cities, and kingdom kids are far more ruthless about who they’ll allow to climb to the top. Jiyong will have to train hard and fight for every score to make it in this wealthy academy for powerful families, all while supporting his own from afar.


Grey Cloak (Dragon Wars #13) – Craig Halloran

Standing on death’s door, Grey Cloak finds himself in the greatest fight of his life.  

Wars are won on the battlefield, and it will take every ounce of strength and skill Talon can muster to overtake the dreaded tower of the Wizard Watch. Guarded by Riskers, dragons and the Black Guard, will the heroes have what it takes to defeat the evil forces and finally crack open the tower and defeat the dreaded underlings. 

Meanwhile, the blood brothers walk on the razors edge between life and death and find themselves in a trap that threatens to destroy them all. Read More

This week, we take a look at “Hunt of the Mine Worm”, by Jim Breyfogle, Small Unit Tactics #2, by Alexander Romanov, and Accel World #1: Kuroyukihime’s Return, by Reki Kawahara.


Mangos is the Mongoose, a skilled, boastful, and hotheaded swordsman, while Kat is the Meerkat, a beautiful yet mysterious woman who favors the oblique approach to her well-chosen blade. Together, they’ll take on any job to keep their purses full and their cups overflowing.

Cirsova’s flagship series returns in “Hunt of the Mine Worm”. This time, Mangos and Kat have been hired to clear a magic metal mine of a giant worm than has shut down production of its refined metal. The feat is made more difficult by the worm’s resistances to cutting weapons, poisons, and fire. Worse still, for the Mongoose and Meerkat, the mine’s foreman has hired multiple groups of adventurers to kill the beast, and to the winner goes the spoils. But a 20% stake in a magical gold mine is too much not to pass up, so the Mongoose and Meerkat will have to bring all their ingenuity to slay the mine worm.

Compared to previous Mongoose and Meerkat stories, “Hunt of the Mine Worm” is pretty straightforward, without the tantalizing hints into the mysteries surrounding Kat and the fall of Alness. But Jim Breyfogle continues to dream up unusual and even exotic settings for Mangos and Kat’s adventures. And while the Mongoose and Meerkat are never loathe to swing a sword, their adventures rely as much on cunning as the careful flash of a blade. This time, Kat uses a clever bit of real-world chemistry to defeat the invulnerable worm. And while most of the fighting by Mangos, Kat, and the other adventurers serves to showcase the worm’s invulnerabilities, the clashes also provide the sources for the special compounds needed for Kat’s not-quite-magic. Breyfogle’s skills have grown throughout the series, so the easy banter between Mangos and Kat hides any telegraphing of Kat’s last-ditch plan.


Echo and his clan of Needles have just saved their faction’s city from being razed. But other faction’s cities have fallen in the strange melee game. Enough to drive home the fact that, once enough fall, the players for the defeated factions will die for good, and rise no more. Echo must help with the defense of his city, thread the needle of faction politics, and delve for new weapons in order to win, or he and his Needles will die. But Echo is one of nature’s sergeants, and must find someone he can tolerate to lead the faction. Someone willing to let Echo and the Needles slip the leash and go on the attack.

Compared to just about every litRPG out there, Small Unit Tactics leaves so much money on the table. Two volumes of character growth and go-for-the-throat fighting that stop, not at the end of the campaign when Echo stands triumphant over all his enemies, but when Echo makes a choice. The strange game between the gods becomes real to him, and so do the consequences of his actions. In many ways, Echo learns to humanize his fellow players instead of using them as tools towards his gaming goals. And, in typical fashion, those lessons are driven home with pain instead of homily. As a result, he accepts the cost in blood to protect his own, even if it means the deaths of everyone else.

And as remarkably short as Small Unit Tactics is, for the story told, it should have been shorter, just as its melee-FPS clashes are shorter and more violent than most MMO fantasy games. Don’t get me wrong, Small Unit Tactics takes risks outside the normal guild wars MMO fantasy, both in system and in type of story told. And it might be the litRPG for those who despise stat sheets. It is, however, a freshman effort, and that shows in the pacing, writing, and characterization. But in a subgenre filled with freshman efforts, it stands out on originality alone. Want something different in litRPG from Diablo II clones? Want a bloody fantasy of divine gladiators slugging it out in a game that changes according to the whims of capricious gods? Read Small Unit Tactics.


“Even in the future, all the advances and innovation in the world can’t change the dynamics of the school playground. And for Haruyuki Arita, a fat kid in junior high, that means he’s destined to always be at the bottom of the food chain, prime pickings for the school bullies. But when he is approached by Kuroyukihime, a beautiful and aloof upperclassman, Haruyuki’s life is turned on its head as he dives into Brain Burst, a mysterious computer program, and the Accelerated World with her help. It’s in the Accel World that Haruyuki casts off his depressing reality and takes hold of the chance to become a Burst Linker, a knight to protect his princess!”

I did not come into Accel World expecting much, as it was written by the author much reviled yet still popular Sword Art: Online. But Accel World puts more mystique into how the players choose the game. Certainly more than the arrival of a release date. And deep diving into a Matrix-tinged immersive version of Street Fighter 2 is original for the living video game concept. Accel World is a serviceable age-appropriate young adult fantasy without the weird adult baggage that clutters the market, but the bullied schoolkid storyline is cliché, and the white-knight groveling of the main character towards Kuroyukihime is just as dyscivic as the harems that fill the genre.

Comic Books (Kabooooom): KING-SIZE CONAN #1/ Stories by ROY THOMAS, KURT BUSIEK, CHRIS CLAREMONT, KEVIN EASTMAN & STEVEN S. DEKNIGHT/ Art by STEVE MCNIVEN, PETE WOODS, ROBERTO DE LA TORRE, KEVIN EASTMAN & JESUS SAIZ / Colors by IVE SVORCINA, PETE WOODS, CARLOS LOPEZ, NEERAJ MENON & JESUS SAIZ/ Letters by VC’S TRAVIS LANHAM / Published by MARVEL COMICS. It’s likely that Conan the Barbarian would barely be known outside the realm of fantasy fandom had it not been for Marvel Comics.

Authors (Tom McNulty): I awakened on Christmas Eve morning to the announcement that Guy N. Smith had passed away. I felt as if I’d been knocked off a ladder and was falling into a deep abyss. I admired Guy’s incredible creative talent, and when I finally met him on September 1st 2019 at his home in England, I learned what so many others have said – Guy N. Smith was a real gentleman.

Publishing (Too Much Horror Fiction): Here’s something I never expected to have in my horror collection: promotional materials from publisher Dell for their new imprint line of horror fiction, the (now-infamous) Abyss. What a treasure trove of archival artifacts! Big thanks go to Kathe Koja, author of the first book published in the line, The Cipher, from whom I purchased it some time ago. Yes, I’ve been meaning to post this stuff for ages! Really excited to share it with you guys…

Book Review (Amatopia): This was a difficult book to read. But it was also an important one. As such, this is going to be a difficult review to write. For one thing, there has almost been as much ink spilled about American Psycho as blood spilled by Patrick Bateman. Second, it’s difficult to write much about American Psycho without spoiling the entire point of it. Still, I will try.

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I have been reading some recent fantasy and it is time for a break. I remembered that I had an omnibus of three novels by James Ellroy, L.A. Noir. The omnibus contains three early novels featuring the detective Lloyd Hopkins. I picked this up used around 15 years ago. I remember seeing it at Barnes & Noble in the late 1990s around the time L.A. Confidential came out as a movie.

Ellroy is probably one of the most popular crime writers of the past 25, if not 30 years. I have read The Black Dahlia. I have an Ellroy collection, Crime Wave of which I remember almost nothing.

Ellroy’s introduction to L.A. Noir has the history of writing the Lloyd Hopkins novels. He plotted Blood on the Moon, his third novel, in 1980 (released in 1984): Read More

This week, we take a look at Ascend Online, by Luke Chmilenko, Hallowed Bones, by Jonathan Smidt, and A Thousand Li: the Second Expedition, by Tao Wong.


Entertainment. In a world where basic needs are met, it is the final frontier for most people. So, when a new immersive game, Ascend Online, opens, Marcus and his friends log in to a new world that offers more challenges than their everyday lives. Such as Marcus being forcibly separated from his friends and sent to a town in the middle of goblin and spider invasions. Survival not only means leveling up, but building the town to withstand monster attacks–and marauding players–long enough for his friends to arrive.

Working in the same vein as Small Unit Tactics, Log Horizon, and Viridian Gate Online, Ascend Online is yet another of the guild management and progression fantasies that embody the main tropes of litRPG. And, to be quite fair, it almost comes close to being the sterling example of its genre, in the way that Bone Dungeon is for the dungeon builder novel.

Almost. The plot meanders compares to the more focused litRPGs, but where many indulge heavily in the minutia of leveling and crafting, Ascend Online tends to linger on its action scenes. Combat is frequent and blow-by-blow, padding the novel’s length to a door-stopping 650 pages. Less would be more for this formula-codifying novel, which otherwise balances likeability, characterization, exploration, and guild politics so well–and with far more grace than its copycats. But in its current state, Ascend Online is not quite the perfect introduction to the MMO-driven tales of litRPG. It’s merely close.


In the wake of the demon invasion, dungeons are being exterminated by human armies. And Ryan, as the core to the Bone Dungeon, is on the list. Only by growing to the Diamond Level in strength will he become powerful enough to survive and save those who have come to depend on him. But the forces behind the demonic invasion are not yet done with the Bone Dungeon, or the world. And the resulting clash might challenge even the gods.

Hallowed Bones takes the biggest risk for a popular indie series: it brings the story of Ryan and the Bone Dungeon to a proper, satisfying, and self-contained conclusion. And at a time when popular series continue to spiral into double-digits’ worth of novels, a mere trilogy might be seen as leaving money on the table. But Hallowed Bones manages to do what most dungeon builders have yet to. Sure, some writers might be more novel in their progressions and creations, but none save Jonathan Smidt have been able to meld progression fantasy with heroic fantasy, successfully bridging the gap between the immediate surroundings of dungeon builders with the far shores of heroic and epic fantasy. The dad humor puns return in triplicate for Ryan’s send-off, so be ready for a groan or two. But for those who like their fantasy akin to the Golden Age of Mystery and its puzzles, Hallowed Bones caps an adventure that showcases the best of the dungeon builder genre.


Wu Ying’s successes and growth in The First War have helped propel him up the ranks of the Verdant Green Waters Sect. But as he continues down the path of chi cultivation, news arrives that his instructor, Master Cheng, has been poisoned, and is suffering from a rare poison used only by an exterminated dark sect. Wu Ying helps lead the expedition to find the exotic antidote ingredients, but soon finds himself in the crosshairs of rival sects and the poisoners.

With The Second Expedition, the Thousand Li series continues to be the most approachable Western introduction to Chinese xianxia cultivation fantasy. But now it begins to shift from the familiar to the more exotic as it explores the wider cultural world beyond the sect’s compound. The Second Expedition still retains the grounding in the concrete world, which helps explain the more abstract methods behind chi, power cultivation, and the Eastern internal arts. Subtle criticism about the selfishness of xianxia cultivators compared to wuxia heroes leavens the rivalries, progression, tournaments, and intrigues, but never grows into preachiness. Greater challenges await for Wu Ying as he ascends to the summits of cultivation and enlightenment, but his adventures never reek of power fantasy.

Merry Christmas! With the new year approaching, check out these new releases, running the gamut between futures that should never be and pasts that never were.


Exigency (Galaxy’s Edge: Dark Operator #4) – Doc Spears, Jason Anspach, and Nick Cole

A legionnaire’s only failure is the failure to do what’s right.

Kel Turner is a victim of his own success. His exploits and victories as part of Kill Team Three bring the attention of forces seeking hegemony over the Republic.

These shadowy power brokers know that a man like Kel represents a threat to their plans… unless he can be persuaded to join them. And if the operator declines his hidden enemy will stop at nothing to destroy him.

At a deadly crossroads, Kel is told to choose between love and duty. But his foes are ignorant that he has a third choice.

Win.

The dark operator is the master of all the tools of lethal combat. Kel will need them all to succeed.


Invasion (First Colony #11) – Ken Lozito

For years, Connor and others in the colony have unraveled the mysteries of New Earth and the global catastrophes that nearly destroyed its previous inhabitants. Their work led to the discovery of other worlds beyond the known universe.

It became clear that many of those worlds had been attacked by an interdimensional invader that left untold amounts of manipulation, hardship, and annihilation in its wake. It’s only a matter of time before the colony becomes the next target.

When a trusted ally requests Connor’s help to investigate claims of new widespread invasions, he has no choice but to help. Connor believes that the only way to stop the invader is to find their homeworld, but its location is a closely guarded secret. Many civilizations sought to discover the invader’s homeworld and none have succeeded.

Time is running out for the colony, and Connor and a team of CDF soldiers may be the only thing that stands between survival and annihilation.


Merlin Appears (King Arthur Chronicles #1) – Toby Neighbors

In the time before empires

When the world was still new

And heroes became legends

You’ve heard of Arthur, the great king.  But those are just stories, based on events that happened earlier still, in the time before the Romans invaded Britain, when the Greeks were still just children, and magic was real.

Merlin is a man of mystery and magic.  His gift of foresight could guide the realm into an era of prosperity, but as he joins forces with a young Arthur, darkness is stirring.  It will take all their cunning, skill, magic, and belief in one another to overcome it.  The wicked do not rest, and their plans to destroy all that is good in the land must be stopped. Read More

Star Wars’ variation on the classic Lone Wolf & Cub returns, with the titular and laconic Mandalorian searching for a Jedi to return the Yoda-like Child to. As the quest develops, so do the cameos, tying together skeins from The Clone Wars, Rebels, the Extended Universe, and the current Disney canon. And always in the shadows, the threat of Moff Gideon and his dark troopers loom, to reclaim the Child for medical experiments unknown.

Touted as the one thing Disney did right with Star Wars, Season 2 of The Mandalorian is not without its missteps. Several attempts at humor surrounding the Child fall flat. And the Mandalorian is closer to Jack Burton of Big Trouble in Little China than the heroics of Luke Skywalker or Han Solo. He is a capable man fighting along giants instead of the hero. Perhaps most telling is The Mandalorian‘s continued flirting with the greediest of Disney’s sins: to understand what is happening on the screen, one must be fully versed in the Star Wars literary, gaming, and television scenes–and paying for each along the way. Even longtime fans of the movies will be confused by the sudden appearances of unfamiliar Admirals, operations, and Jedi. But the explosive appearance of three key figures from Star Wars’ history provide enough spectacle to distract from the required homework.

This is not to say that The Mandalorian does not continue its excellence. The television series continues to be a welcomed departure from the conversation-heavy and action-light stories that fill Disney’s comics, television, and movies. And it is to the show’s credit that the emotional core of the series, the bond between the Mandalorian lone wolf and the Child, is so strongly portrayed with few words, body language, and Star Wars’s trademark visual design. And the various directors have managed to build upon the feel and the action scenes of the Lucas movies. In many ways, The Mandalorian best captures the spirit of the original Star Wars trilogy, even with its modernist trappings. Just beware, if you like it, there will be 10 more series just like it on Disney+ in the next few years.


After crushing the latest World of Warcraft clone, Martin and his guild, Iron Riot, quietly disband. Until a sudden package on his doorstep provides the necessary hardware for the new immersive MMO, Dungeons of Strata. Exploring this new grim-dark world in a crusade against darkness proves to be just the stimulating challenge Martin needs. But as Iron Riot reforms for the race to the Dungeons of Strata’s deepest level, other players, guilds, and even the programmers conspire to prevent Martin from succeeding. For Iron Riot has made enemies in the other games, and it is time to settle the score.

Grimdark without nobility, litRPG without fantasy. Dungeons of Strata would be a perfect set-up for an isekai, but mundane characters and mundane goals hold this book back. There’s glimmers of novelty in the mechanics, but gimmicks only sustain a story for a short time. There is a reason why streamers tend to be over-the-top personalities. Because without the personality, watching video games is dull. The bond is with the streamer, not the game. And for something as mundane as a world-first guild run, you need more than an average Joe gamer with average Joe rivals.


Django Wong is a ninja-trained sorcerer in a wuxia-inspired underground that combines Harry Dresden, yakuza thugs, Japanese mythology, Chinese cultivation, and the seedier neighborhoods far from the bright lights of Tokyo. Wong is tasked by the Council to track down rampaging youkai and Awakening sorcerers. But Wong’s newest assignment threatens to unseat the fragile peace between the Council and the Black Lotus yakuza clan. Worse still, Wong must bring in his long lost love, dead or alive–if he can, that is.

Heerman’s Tokyo is a mishmash of influences that owe more to John Wick, Rising Sun and Tokyo Suckerpunch than the well-worn path tread by Inuyasha and Touhou Project fans. The youkai encountered are truly monstrous, as are the criminals, and the cost in lives and misery of the various undergrounds is always close at hand, if not bleeding out on the sidewalks. It is the setting and the almost alien system of maho that sets Tokyo Blood Magic apart, as Django is yet another sympathetic gangster in a foreign underworld. But he is compelling enough to keep a reader’s attention through the moebuis-strip plot that wraps around itself a little too nicely into a bow. Intended as the start of a new series, Tokyo Blood Magic instead leaves Django with little else to go.

Star Wars (Polygon): For several years, author Alan Dean Foster had been trying, without success, to get paid for several major tie-in novels adapting movies from the Star Wars and Alien franchises. While Disney has kept the books in print with other publishers, with Titan handling Alien and Del Rey on Star Wars, Foster says he hasn’t received royalty payments for new editions.

Hollywood (Arkhaven Comics): “They don’t understand the movie business!  They don’t understand talent relations!”  This was the Cri de Coeur of a major, (and unnamed) Hollywood agent after Warner Media’s announcement last Friday that they were putting all of their movies on HBOmax.  This was the cry from the heart of the Hollywood Swamp.

Science Fiction (Adventures Fantastic): For today’s birthday post, I’m going to look at “The Beast-Jewel of Mars”. It was first published in the Winter 1948 issue of Planet Stories. Burk Winters is a spaceship captain who has resigned. His fiance, Jill Leland, took a flier out into the desert. Her flier was found crashed, but her body is missing. He’s going to look for her. Burk has an unusual plan to do that.

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A few years back, I wrote about Seabury Quinn’s “Roads” being my favorite Christmas story. My second favorite Christmas story is Manly Wade Wellman’s “On the Hills and Everywhere.” This is one of the John the Balladeer stories. Originally appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, January 1956 issue and reprinted in Who Fears the Devil? and reprints.

The story starts with a framing device of John telling some children a story at Christmas time. Two neighbors have had a falling out. Absalom Cowand made the claim his neighbor put a hex on a patch of land with a corn crop that has a blight. The accused neighbor (Troy Holcomb) digs a ditch on the property line in retaliation. Read More