A trip to the main library took me down to the military science section looking for new additions of Osprey Men-at-Arms booklets. Instead, C. J. Chivers’ The Gun caught my attention. This is a history of the AK-47 assault rifle. Chivers served as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. He is a writer for The New York Times and has won the Pulitzer.

The Gun starts with the invention of the Gatling gun in the U.S. Civil War. He gives biographies of Gatling and Hiram Maxim detailing the impact of automatic gunfire in colonial campaigns and World War I. A biography of Mikhail Kalashnikov is included and the process of the development of the AK-47 rifle. Read More

Whether in life or in the pulps, old soldiers tell some of the greatest tales. And, in the pages of Argosy, from 1929 to 1939, there were none older that Thibaut Corday, an eighty-year-old legionnaire of the French Foreign Legion whose beard has yet to run completely white. Written as told to Theodore Roscoe, the old legionnaire would recount twenty-one adventures in that time.

As for Roscoe, a trip to the Caribbean and North Africa in 1928 and 1929 inspired an interest in old voodoo tales and the French Foreign Legion, both topics he would explore in the pages of Argosy to great acclaim. Per Gerd Pilcher’s introduction to the Better Than Bullets collection, “reading an ordinary pulp story was compared to ‘reading in black and white,’ reading a story by Roscoe however as to ‘reading in technicolor.’” The countless encounters with Legion officer and veterans no doubt fueled the authenticity of Corday’s tales, and covered for the occasional lapse. After all, a good storyteller is concerned more with the appearance of reality.

Like many writers in the Forties, Roscoe would leave the pulp world, this time for the more lucrative true crime tales. Thanks to Altus Press (now Steeger) reprinting Thibaut Corday’s tales, readers can still find the old legionnaire in an Algerian café, waiting to tell his tall tales. And like so many old soldiers, his first tale, “Better Than Bullets”, holds more humor than war:

“You say, my American friends, that bullets are the best of weapons? But yes, perhaps. And with bullets I am a man the most familiar…Splendid for the fight. But—I recall a battle I fought in which I used never a blade or a single bullet…No soldiers ever fought with weapons more strange!”

Read More

Fantasy weapons engineers, counterfeit sorcerers, and the last knight of Atlantis feature in this week’s collection of fantasy new releases.

Cirsova Magazine of Thrilling Adventure and Daring Suspense Issue #3 / Spring 2020 – edited by P. Alexander

The newest issue of Cirsova includes:

“Alpdruck!” by Michael Reyes – Clock has been dispatched to the private hell of a powerful demon–and only a being of true evil on its own path towards redemption can aid him in this deadly fight!

“The Golden Pearl” by Jim Breyfogle – After a harrowing experience in their search for Burning Fish, Kat and Mangos are determined to never be poisoned again—could a Golden Pearl be the answer?!

“Slave Girls for Sacrifice” by D. M. Ritzlin – A powerful sorceress with a bestial lover requires a blood sacrifice to complete her vile rites… Will Avok’s brawn and bag of tricks be enough to stop the witch?!

“Return of the Dark Brotherhood” by Adrian ColeAruul Voruum nears completion of his witchfinder training… but the remnants of Daras Vorta’s cult have worked their tendrils into the heart of Mars’ government!

…and more!

The End of All Things (The Counterfeit Sorcerer #5) – Robert Kroese

A hooded man, his face marred by a mysterious black brand, walks the Plain of Savlos. Some say he has the power to summon demons. Others say he is the only one who can vanquish them. His name is Konrad, and he has a secret….

One by one, the powers that threaten the land of Orszag have fallen. Only the demon Arnyek remains. Immortal, uncaring and unstoppable, Arnyek waits far below the ruined city of Nagyvaros for the day he is free to destroy the world.

Desperate to stop him, Konrad the Sorcerer plunges into forbidden magic and turns against those closest to him. But Konrad must learn a difficult lesson: no matter what path he takes, he cannot stop the End of All Things.

Giants of Pangaea (Lost on the Last Continent #2) – John C. Wright

Colonel Preston Lost didn’t think of himself as reckless. He believed in preparation, proper equipment, and patience in stalking the prey. But, in reality, he was not a cautious man. Having followed a spaceship into the black storm clouds above the Bermuda Triangle, he flew through a time portal to the end of days, and crash-landed on Pangaea Ultima with few supplies and no way of returning home.

Lost is a man of many talents, though, and anything should be possible for him. Having found himself in a world at war, he decides to embark on a journey to set things right. Little things like uniting the races of Man and freeing the slaves should be easy for a man of many talents, right?

But the prophecies say he is also a man of importance, and the rulers of the land are willing to do anything to get their hands on him. Having made inroads on race relations—getting a Third Man to talk to a Seventh—he just needs to find the love of his life, the Atlantean Cynisca, and free the slaves from the races of Man that don’t want to give them up.

Can Lost stay out of the clutches of the Watchers long enough to accomplish his goals, or, this time, is it possible his talents won’t be enough?

The Last Archon (Heroes Unleashed #5) – Richard W. Watts and Thomas Plutarch

The man who thought he would live forever is running out of time.

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

Popular Culture (DVS Press): If you needed more proof that the obsession with fictional corporate franchises has a religious overtone to it, here is a major filmmaker advertising just that. When my viewers were upset about the corporate destruction of Star Wars, calling the franchise a cultural institution, I thought it a bit hyperbolic – after all, these are just stories, and you can’t uncreate what George Lucas did. I see things better now. Star Wars is part of the religious reverence for popular franchises.

RPG (Matthew J. Constantine): Way back in the 80s when I was a wee lad and just getting into tabletop RPGs, I used to see Space 1889 on the shelf at a local game store and I thought it looked pretty cool. Somewhere around there, my father picked up a copy, and I used to thumb through it a bunch.  There was something in the setting that really hit a lot of my buttons. I was an Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.G. Wells, and Jules Verne fan, so that was probably enough. But the setting had something that drew me in.

Comic Books (ICV2): Marvel Comics announced Conan the Barbarian: Coming of Conan, the first volume of collected Conan books restored for The Original Marvel Years Epic Collection, for release into trade in June 2020. Conan’s adventures would become legend, but before he became king, he was Conan the Barbarian. In this new trade paperback, Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith bring Robert E. Howard’s barbarian to four-color life, and have restored the art to match the epic majesty of their original editions. Read More

Last week’s post on 1980s sword-and-sorcery movie posters proved to be very popular. I received some images of more movies and dug up more looking at the Tubi sword-and-sorcery movie list.

Ator, the Fighting Eagle (1983): The son of Torren learns of his heritage, goes to avenge the deaths of his fellow villagers, and rescue his sister from the evil Dakkar and his spider cult. 

Ator had a sequel the following year:  Ator and his mute East Asian sidekick travel from the ends of the earth to save his aged mentor from the evil, mustachioed Zor.  Read More

The 49th issue of the Sanctum Books reprint of The Shadow holds a curious little treasure. Rounding out the issue, which contains The Shadow Laughs and Voice of Death, is an anonymous memo found in Lester Dent’s archives. Entitled “The Shadow’s Invisible Cloak,” the memo seeks a naturalistic explanation for The Shadow’s ability to turn invisible, a carryover into the pulps from the radio show.

At one page, the memo develops some serious chemistry as to the odd properties of The Shadow’s cloak before diving into various strengths and weaknesses of the technique. Sprinkled throughout the memo is a constant reminder that just because a man might come across such a cloak, he would need to know how it was made in order to reproduce it. This provided both a warning as to the complexity of the chemical processes used and a convenient excuse if Walter Gibson changed his mind about the manufacture. The refrain also provides a clue as to the identity of the memo’s writer.

Such a refrain appeared many times in the pages of Astounding, in the words of its celebrated editor, John W. Campbell. Not only was the style similar, but Campbell was also an MIT-trained physicist with a background in the physics and industrial chemistry needed to create such a conjecture. And Campbell had mulled over the idea of an invisibility cloak before, in his own stories “Out of Night” and its sequel “Cloak of Aesir.” Thanks to his friendship with Gibson, Campbell ended up as the unofficial science advisor for not only The Shadow but many of the other hero pulps under John Nanovic’s tenure as editor.

However, it was in 1944 when a Street & Smith editor forwarded “The Shadow’s Invisibility Cloak” to Lester Dent. It is unknown whether William de Grouchey, Babette Rosemund, or the nameless female sub-editor who actually oversaw both The Shadow and Doc Savage was responsible. But the contents inspired the Doc Savage novel “Death Had Yellow Eyes”. It also may have inspired an October 1944 issue of Shadow Comics which contained the first-ever meeting between The Shadow and Doc Savage. The two would team up again in the comics, but it wouldn’t be until 2015’s The Sinister Shadow before the Knight of Darkness and the Man of Bronze crossed paths in the novels.

All because editors are fans, too.

The Savage Wars, a litRPG inside a derelict space station, and a lone gunslinger grace this week’s newest science fiction releases.

Banishment (The Forgotten Empire #1) – Raymond L. Weil

Can Earth save the Human Empire?

The Confederation consists of the seven oldest races in known space. They control a vast section of the galaxy. All races in that part of the galaxy are subjects of the Confederation and forced to obey the Confederation’s laws.

The Human Empire is well aware of the Confederation and has been careful not to intrude upon Confederation space. However, now the Confederation has decided the Human Empire has grown too large and needs to be brought under control of the seven races.

Warfleets are dispatched, and soon massive space battles erupt throughout the Empire. Can the Humans survive or is the time of the Empire over?

Culmination (Baldwin’s Legacy #3) – Nathan Hystad

A new Concord leader. A return to the War. A new legacy.

Captain Thomas Baldwin and the crew of Constantine have saved the Concord from the Assembly, and are tasked with bringing them to prison.

With a stop at Earon, the human home planet, everyone gets a few days of well needed rest.

When communication comes that the wormhole generator is ready, Constantine must return to the Statu system with a new fleet, alongside a brand-new flagship with a familiar AI.

Constantine Baldwin was rumored to have ended the War fifty years ago, but its up to Thomas Baldwin to really finish the job.

Join the ensemble crew of the Concord’s leading cruise ship as they encounter danger after danger, in hopes for a peaceful ending.

Daskada, The Legend (Four Horsemen Sagas #3) – Christopher Woods

At a time when Humans were just starting to venture forth into the Galactic Union as mercenaries, Martin Quincy survived long enough to do something no one else had—he retired.

There was only one problem. He got bored. What does a ‘Legend’ do when even the merc life gets boring? He starts his own company! Along with buddy Kal Turner, they marshalled their Torvasi and Andori troopers and began taking contracts. A force for good, Quincy went about the galaxy, killing aliens and getting paid, while righting all the wrongs he found along the way.

His only problem was that he was successful—too successful—and some races don’t take losing very well. Worse, they’re willing to stop at nothing—even blowing up a planet, if that’s what it takes—in order to get even with Quincy.

Can Martin find out who’s framing him and bring them to justice? Perhaps the real question is, “Will he have time?” His Sirra’Kan princess partner’s biological clock is ticking, her father Kor’Findralis, the Prime of Te’Warri, wants an heir, and now Quincy has a Blevin mistress to somehow work into the mix. What happens when you long for the simplicity of combat? You take more contracts because, on a mission, the worst thing that can happen to you is you get killed!

Galaxy’s Edge: Savage Wars – Nick Cole and Jason Anspach

The greatest conflict the galaxy has ever known…

They were the Savages. Raiders from our distant past. Elites who left Earth to create tailor-made utopias aboard the massive lighthuggers that crawled through the darkness between the stars. But the people they left behind on a dying planet didn’t perish in the dystopian nightmare the Savages had themselves created: they thrived, discovering faster-than-light technology and using it to colonize the galaxy ahead of the Savages, forming fantastic new civilizations that surpassed the wildest dreams of Old Earth.

Until the Savages came in from the Darkness…

When a Savage hulk lands on glittering New Vega, one of the crown jewels of the post-Earth galaxy, a coalition of planetary governments amasses their forces to respond to the post-human Savage Marines who’ve come to sack and enslave. But what the coalition forces find is something far more sinister than the typical Savage hit-and-run: this time, the Savages have come to stay.

Experience the beginning of the Legion. Experience the Savage Wars. Read More

D&D (Jon Mollison): fter nearly forty years of tabletop gaming, it can get a little hard to recapture the fresh weirdness of Gygaxian fantasy.  Particularly true in this day and age when the majority of D&D creatives believe that the height of creativity is something along the lines of, “just like before, only WOMEN!” or “just like half-orcs, but half-demons/half-dragons/half-drow/half-kitchen-sink”.  So it was with some relish that a friend pointed out What Happened at Wyvern Rock.

Genre Ponderings (Wasteland & Sky): Not too long ago I wrote a review of two different adventure books. This was done to emphasize the small ways men’s adventure stories had changed over the years. The first was a Dirty Harry-inspired ’70s romp that leaned on hopelessness for drama, and the other was a post-apocalyptic trek where misery lurked under the surface as an inescapable reality. The creeping doom had been slowly consuming adventure fiction for a while.

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The streaming service Tubi has a sword-and-sorcery movie section. Some of the movies I have never heard of. Others were prominent in the old video rental stores that sprang up in the middle and late 1980s. I have been watching some that I never caught the first time around while I get on the hamster wheel (i.e. Nordic Track).

Some of the movies have little to recommend themselves but many had great movie posters. I decided to put together a little figurative slide show of early and mid 1980s sword-and-sorcery movies. No doubt there will one or two that I forgot or someone will say you forgot this or that movie. Going by memory here.

The Pyschotronic Encyclopedia of Film says of Hawk the Slayer: “A sword-and-sorcery feature released too early to cash in on the craze, which didn’t get off the ground for another two years.” IMDB has a release date of December 1980. I don’t remember any advertisement for it at all. Flash Gordon is the movie that got all the buzz at this time. I do remember catching it on T.V. in 1982 on I think CBS’ late movie.

Excalibur came out next for the summer movie season in 1981. I caught it in college in winter 1982. A great looking movie. High fantasy or sword-and-sorcery? Either way, very unique in its look. Read More

At over 3000 novellas and nearly 1500 novels and spin-offs, the Perry Rhodan series is the longest running science fiction serial. For fifty-nine years, these adventures have followed the eponymous American astronaut to the moon and beyond. With amazing adaptability, quick wit, and dry humor, Perry Rhodan united Earth and led humanity across the stars. Despite its international popularity, precious few of Rhodan’s adventures have been translated into English. (For a quick overview of the publishing history of Perry Rhodan, please check out both last week’s reprint of former Castalia House blogger Kevyn Winkless’s introduction to the series and the comments). However, in 2015, the complete six novel Lemuria series was released in English as ebooks, representing the first new English Perry Rhodan adventures in almost twenty years.

As always, there is an asterisk to such a sweeping statement, as 2015 was the second publication of books in the Lemuria series. Ark of the Stars, by Frank Borsch, was first published in English in 2006, but those few lucky readers to purchase it would have to wait until 2015 for the rest of the story.

Published in German in 2004, Ark of the Stars leads the third set of self-contained Perry Rhodan novels published by Heyne-Verlag. While the adventure would fit snugly in between volumes #2200 and #2364, the Lemuria novels would also shed light on the ancient galactic civilization of Lemur, founded on the mythical Pacific continent of the same name. For Perry Rhodan’s Terrans are not the first wave of human settlers from Earth in the galaxy, and many of the star nations in the Milky Way trace their ancestry to the upheaval and fracturing of Lemur’s empire. Of these, the Akons and their allies have clashed repeatedly with the upstart Terrans and their claims to succeed Lemur. This fierce rivalry would define the galactic history of the “Perryverse” for over 2200 years–and beyond.

Ark of the Stars takes place in one of the lulls in the clashes between Terrans and Akons, where the main competition in the galaxy is no longer war, but exploration of the few remaining frontiers in space. Perry Rhodan hitches a ride on the mining ship Palenque as a cover for a diplomatic mission to Akon. But his mission is disrupted when one of Palenque’s shuttles suddenly vanishes, smashed into dust by the relativistic wreckage of a shuttle matching no known design and with markings written in ancient Lemurian. After tracking the trajectory, Rhodan and the Palenque discover a 50,000-year-old generation ship from ancient Lemuria fleeing from a race known as the Beasts. Rhodan also finds an Akonian cruiser who is willing to enforce Akonian claims on the relic spaceship. Read More

Xianxia magical protectors, infernal collections agents, and dungeon fairy assistants fill this week’s list of fantasy and adventure new releases.

Annex (Artorian’s Archives #3) – Dennis Vanderkerken and Dakota Krout

Headmaster. Exile. Gladiator.

Backed into a corner, Artorian must play fast and loose with the laws of the land. To gather what he needs to progress, he will need to sacrifice what he’s gained in order to get this far.

With his new school and friends facing their most deadly challenges yet, Artorian finds an opportunity to keep them safe. The cost of it may be access to the new home he’s built, but that was never intended to be for him.

When he can ensure their safety, Artorian will begin pursuit of his grandchildren once more. If he finds them, will they want to be saved… or will they have found a taste for the darker powers they have accrued? It’s time to make the hard choices.

Death or graduation.

Axestorm (Sky Realms Online #3) – Troy Osgood

Hall had hoped things would finally start to settle down. He should’ve known better.

He’s been trapped within the new version of Sky Realms Online for months. Mostly at peace with it, he’s started to make a new life within the game world. He’s found a woman to love, the NPC Druid Leigh, and a village to call home.

Skara Brae is still mostly ruins but he now has friends and citizens to help rebuild. But he’s still missing many of the resources needed.

A quest for one of those resources, an airship, will send Hall and his companions far away to the cold island of Huntley, home to Storvgarde tribesmen and the Dwarven citadel of Axestorm Hall.

What should have been a simple voyage by airship will become much more as Hall will face shipwrecks, stolen Dwarven artifacts, rampaging tribesmen, a blast from his past, and more mysteries from a game they no longer know.

The Players will find themselves more connected to the world of Hankarth than ever before or they even thought possible and Hall will face his greatest challenge. Fighting for his life and his beliefs.

Will Hall survive long enough to learn who or what the Champions are?

Blood Tally (Valkyrie Collections #2) – Brian McClellan

Alek Fitz is the lead reaper for Valkyrie Collections, an agency that gathers debts for the paranormal elements of the world. Bound into modern-day slavery by a contract he cannot break, sold by parents he never knew, Alek works alongside demons, spirits, witches, and even Death himself to collect on deals made with humanity.

When Alek is forced to take a job from a local vampire hunting down a run-away thrall, he is immediately thrust into a world of blackmail and backstabbing, where the Rules are nothing more than an inconvenience to ancient, supernatural predators. For the first time, Alek has more to fear from his clients than from his debtors.

But Alek is the best in the business. It’ll take more than a Vampire Lord to keep a good reaper down.

The Dungeon Fairy (The Hapless Dungeon Fairy #1) – Jonathan Brooks

All that Tacca GloomLily ever wanted to be since she was very little was a Fairy Assistant to a Dungeon Core. After her negatively portentous birth, however, she was never fully accepted by her superstitious peers and instructors at the Dungeon Assistant Preparatory School; nevertheless, she persisted in her studies and graduated at the top of her class.

Unfortunately for her, the “hands-on” training she was supposed to receive from a Mentor and his Bonded Dungeon Core didn’t go the way she would’ve hoped. In fact, the stigma attached to her origins finally made itself known in the form of horrendously “bad luck”; the rotten part of her newly discovered luck was that it adversely affected Cores that she happened to be near, and not just herself.

What can a Dungeon Assistant Fairy do when every Dungeon Core she gets near ends up being destroyed? Tacca had no idea, but a solution eventually presents itself – though it’s one that she never saw coming… Read More

T.V. (RMWC Reviews): The plot is similar, but different from the original Ultraman. Instead of merging with a human host, this show’s Ultraman came to Earth from the Land of Light in Nebula M78 (an actual nebula and part of the Orion constellation) and rescued a guy, then took his form and calling himself “Dan Moroboshi” joined the Ultra Garrison, an organization dedicated to defending the planet from alien invaders as its sixth major member.

Cinema (Didact’s Reach): The latest episode of the Didactic Mind podcast is up, after a week off (rather regrettably) for various reasons. In this week’s episode I discuss the Riddle of Steel, an idea with its roots in the epic 1982 cinematic masterpiece Conan the Barbarian, and explore its relationship with powerlifting and iron sports in general.

Writing (Yakovmertin): In the latest instance of forces conspiring against right-wing creators, bestselling author Jon Del Arroz’s Kickstarter campaign for his Dynamite Thor comic has been shadowbanned on Kickstarter, and google. Searching for the campaign by its name, or by Jon’s name, on the site won’t bring it up. You need the direct link. It doesn’t appear in google searches either. Read More