The face of madness.

Blame Netflix. Oh, sure, I’ve had vast numbers of people DEMAND that I review this cinematic catastrophe, but since I wasn’t ever going to spend any money on seeing it, I could plausibly wave off. “Nope, sorry. I’m too busy, it’s too expensive, and my astrologer says ‘no can do’.” Then Netflix went and put it up on their streaming service, apparently paying Sony money for the privilege (WHY FOR THE LOVE OF PETE WHY?), and all my excuses evaporated.

I had to watch it. And a little part of me died inside, just knowing that.

So I watched it. And now I must review it.

LET’S DO THIS THING.

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Cinema (Men of the West): “I won’t be going to see the new Star Wars movie about a young Han Solo. I’ve ended my abusive relationship with Disney Star Wars, and I’m never going back. It was hard. I loved her so much, and I’m still shocked at the level of betrayal.

You see, I brought Disney Star Wars to my family Christmas party this year, with the hopes of proposing to her. But instead she drank too much, tried to make out with my sister, slapped my father, told my 5 year old niece that there is no Santa Claus, and then tried to explain to her what gender fluid is, and finally interrupted my Grandfather’s blessing of the meal to announce to the family that she had aborted my child and was offended at our sanctimonious display that was obviously meant to shame her and people like her. I later learned that she wasn’t sure the child was mine because she’d been cheating on me.”

 

Fiction (DMR Books): “The quotes above are from the works of Rafael Sabatini, who died on this day in 1950. Sabatini left us a treasure trove of pulpy adventure fiction, particularly the variety I call “swashbucklers.” I’m not using the term in the often loose sense one sees fairly often–I once saw a reviewer call Wagner’s Kane a “swashbuckling hero”–but in the sense of, “Draw steel and damn your eyes, you craven dog!” Fiction that is set, with some exceptions, in the Middle Ages through the 1800s and features intrigue, action and swordplay. Such tales were pioneered by the likes of Scott, Dumas, Stevenson, Hope and others, but in my opinion, Sabatini perfected the form.”

 

RPG (Gamingballistic): The Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying game (DFRPG) was a nifty experiment, which aimed to deliver something that games based on GURPS sorely needed: an entry point to the game that was ready-to-run as-is.

Not telling anyone anything they don’t know, but games Powered by GURPS are subtractive. Much like the cliche about making a sculpture being removing everything but the subject matter, playing in a campaign is a matter of deciding what flavor of game you want to play, and then subtracting out all of the core and supplements that aren’t the game you want to play.

 

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Robert E. Howard

“The ancient empires fall. The dark skinned peoples fade, and even the demons of antiquity gasp their last…but above all stands the Aryan barbarian. White-skinned, cold-eyed, dominant. The supreme fighting man of the Earth.”
Robert E. Howard, “Wings in the Night”

This quote is used at a Youtube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upSOO8rjHrw#t=15) entitled “He-Man=Nazi.”

The “Robert E. Howard was a Nazi” argument seems to appear with some regularity.  Screeds equating heroism to fascism by Hans Joachim Alpers and Sam Lundwall being classic examples.  Luckily we have Godwin’s Law which is the first one to use the Nazi or Hitler analogy loses the argument.

Robert E. Howard’s life did overlap the first years of the rise of Adolph Hitler and the German Worker’s Nationalist Socialist Party dominance. Howard’s first mention of the Nazis was in a letter to H. P. Lovecraft in June 1933:

“Nor have we ever banned or burned books, as the ‘civilized’ Nazis are now doing in ‘civilized Germany.”

Howard’s mention of the Nazis is full of sarcasm so he was not impressed with Hitler’s new found power.

In Fall 1933, Howard had this to say to H. P. Lovecraft:

“You say that Germany is not typical of Western civilization. Why not? Wherein is Germany less civilized than England? It see to be a

H. P. Lovecraft

characteristic among civilized people, that each advocate maintains that his is the only true civilization. I have heard an intellectual declare that Germany was the only truly civilized country in the world. You make out a logical, sensible and in many ways unanswerable case for English civilization; but the German, the Russian, the Italian, the Japanese each presents arguments in favor of his particular civilization just as logical, sensible, and unanswerable.”

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A dire warning to sushi lovers everywhere!

Perhaps influenced by Anthony’s recent article and the ensuing discussion, I decided to watch anime for the first time in a few years, settling on the series One Punch Man.  It follows the exploits of heroic, dull-witted Saitama, who decides to become a costumed hero after failing a job interview and encountering a half human, half crab mutant in his underwear attacking people nearby.  Unfortunately, after three years of training, he has reached a point where he kills every opponent with a single punch, leading to a boring existence where no villain, no matter how terrifying or deadly, presents any challenge to him.  The series is very good, both action-packed and funny, and made me think about anime action comedies in general.

The genre (and this applies to Japanese live action movies, too) presents an interesting dichotomy right off the bat.  On the one hand, the Japanese are fantastic at action.  The choreography of the fights, the ebb and flow of the action, the way they build up villains as all-powerful, horrifying menaces, and protagonists as the ultimate, tough, stoic heroes is masterful and worth studying.

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This week’s roundup of the newest stories in science fiction features robot geneticists bringing humanity back from extinction, serendipitous discoveries, space-fairing demon hunters, and the return of The Four Horsemen Cycle’s Jim Cartwright–and his giant mech.


The Abyss of Savagery (The Wolfpack #5) – Toby Neighbors

The Amazing Conclusion To The Wolfpack Series

The humans have won their first victory against the Kroll empire, but it wasn’t without great cost and sacrifice. Captain Dean Blaze of the Wolfpack Recon Platoon has captured three Kroll vessels and will take them back to Earth as ordered, but what kind of reception will he find? Many people believe that humanity should turn a blind eye to the predatory Kroll, even sacrificing human held colonies in order to consolidate the strength of the Extra Solar Defense Force around Earth. There are rumors of power struggles, hints of mutiny, and threats on every side. If the human race is going to take the fight to their new enemy, it will be up to Captain Dean Blaze and the other officers who have fought the savage Kroll to convince the rest of EsDef that the time to act is now.

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The Battle for Lashmere (A Faded Star #3) – Michael Freeport

A forgotten colony of humans live on a water world circling a tiny, faded star on the edge of the galaxy. With the aid of the mysteries of the origin tablet, they discover the true origins of their colony. These may be the last humans in the universe. Can they survive against their ancient enemy? Their only choice is to embrace an unknown past and fight with everything they have.

Admiral Stokes’ forces are scattered and beleaguered with no safe haven. The forces of the Woduur have decisively defeated the Lashmere Navy and invaded Lashmere itself. Humans are on the verge of defeat. Their only hope lies in the ancient ship, held by an alien race that may want them all dead.

“Action, adventure and aliens, what more do you want out of a classic science fiction story?” – Amazon Reader Review

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CASPer Alamo (The Four Horsemen Cycle #9) – Eric S. Brown and Jason Brannon

CASPers—Combat Assault Systems, Personal—are the lords of the future battlefield. The massive mechs were created to give humanity an edge against the rest of the mercenary forces in the Galactic Union.

Just like today’s tanks, though, massive amounts of armor and weaponry just make the CASPers “hard to kill,” not “invulnerable.” There are things in the galaxy even stronger than the CASPer, and when Humans run up against them, it’s up to the Human inside to figure out a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

CASPer Alamo includes two new stories by Eric S. Brown and Jason Brannon, loosely recreating the Battles of the Alamo and Isandlwana on a galactic scale. When all seems lost, it’s up to the mech operator to save the day!

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An Echo of Earth (Children of Earthrise #3) – Daniel Arenson

We are the last humans. We are hunted. We are refugees. We must return to Earth.

The alien scorpions attack us across the galaxy. They butcher millions. Humans are now an endangered species.

But we have not given up.

We still have a few starships. We still have some hope. And we have a map home.

On Earth, we can be free again. On Earth, we can stand tall. On Earth, we can rebuild what we have lost.

Earth is but an echo, calling from beyond the darkness. We will answer her call. We will find our lost world. We will defeat our enemies. We will rise again!

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Example by Tom Pace appeared in the Winter 1946 issue of Planet Stories. It can be found here at Archive.org.

“Nothing really happens in this story; just draw a little ship beaming a big ship.”

Sometimes you read a story that just fails to leave an impression. Sometimes you try to read the story again and find out that the reason it fails to leave an impression is that you can’t really make heads or tails of it. Example is a Commander Whatsisface Mil-SF that aims for heavy deep thinks with a skeleton plot, where the substance of the story between the platitudes and grave speechinating is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it.

I’m really not sure what Tom Pace was going for here in Example storywise, but in its two pages I struggled to find enough context for this sliver of story to make sense of it; you miss one sentence, and it falls apart. Example is an excuse to briefly ruminate on the nature of power and dealing with dictators with just barely enough story-structure to prop up such ruminations. There are names attached to impressive sounding titles and characters spouting important sounding things, like “The hands of one man were never meant to hold personal power such as this”, but what is it all about?!

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Will Caligan is already hard at work on SAGA OF THE SWAN KNIGHT. He thought some of you might be interested in having a look at his concept of Gil, the Swan Knight’s Son.

Some people have been asking about when they’re going to start receiving their Alt-Hero rewards. Links to download the first two digital editions will be going out in March, probably closer to the end than to the beginning. Alt-Hero #1 and Avalon #1 are both illustrated and inked, and are being colored now. Please understand that these are MAJOR undertakings, the work will not be done overnight, and we are actually making remarkably fast progress on them. We will continue to keep all the backers updated through the Arkhaven mailing list.

The reason we are releasing other comics such as Right Ho, Jeeves #1 and Quantum Mortis: A Man Disrupted #1 first is because we need to test both the digital and print processes before we publish anything from the campaign. Remember, we have never done ANY of this before. As for Dark Legion Comics, keep in mind that those publications are already-completed projects that are being brought to us for publishing. For example, all 300+ pages of Rebel Dead Revenge are already complete; we will publish the first of the two graphic novels in print when we publish the digital edition of Issue #5.

Nick Cole and Jason Anspach set themselves a series of difficult challenges with their latest release in the sprawling Galaxy’s Edge universe. The novel Imperator rips off the mask of the chief antagonist of the universe by telling his story largely in his own words. In telling his tale, it also pulls back the curtain on a lot of the Galaxy’s Edge history. Both of which make this a satisfying read for long-time fans and for newcomers to the series. It also makes a review of this work difficult, because it’s hard to know how a potential reader might come across this story. Since this is a review and not a mystery, let’s ruin the ending right now.

It doesn’t matter how you come into Imperator. It’s a great read full of action and pathos and dread and fun sci-fi head games. The only mark against the book, it’s overall dark and brooding atmosphere, comes with the territory. This is the origin story of a villain, Goth Sullus, who conquers a galaxy using every dirty trick in the book – it’s not meant to be a light-hearted romp. It’s a look at the darker side of the Galaxy’s Edge universe, and let’s face it, even the bright side of this setting isn’t particularly upbeat. Read More

1920s Chicago, where the criminal underworld is more than just vice, racketeering, and bootlegging.

Emilio Enzo and his associates have just emerged victorious out of a brutal territory dispute with The Skarface and his gang, the Chicago Outfit. Amidst the conflict, Emilio and his group have discovered just how entrenched the criminal underworld is in the occult and supernatural. Using hidden pathways to our world, forces of pure evil have worked in secret to maintain their stronghold on Chicago. Now they are back to take revenge on the one man willing to challenge their reign by stealing the soul of his girlfriend, Katherine “Kat” Allen.

While visiting an old shop full of oddities, Emilio comes across a centuries old ribbon for a typewriter with a strange backstory. After bringing the ribbon home and spooling it into his machine, it begins to communicate with Emilio at night.

What link does the original owner of this ribbon have to the disappearance of Kat? Who is Remì Geroux? Emilio Enzo will see just how far he will have to go into the unknown to get back the soul of his lost love. 1920s Prohibition era Chicago collides with the bizarre in this debut graphic novel from Brandon Fiadino.

We’re very pleased to announce that Dark Legion Comics has signed Brandon Fiardino’s Chicago Typewriter: The Red Ribbon. A digital release is anticipated in March, followed by a print release in April.

This game is quite simply a revelation.

The asymmetrical reality of counter-insurgency is here in all its glory. Powerful government troops can mass wherever the enemy appears. But though they can mow down the insurgents with impunity, guerrillas can spring up somewhere else just as fast. And the government can all too easily find its will to fight frittered away for something ephemeral.

France is also dependent on its Algerian troops and police units in maintaining control and building up support, but they are easily infiltrated and subverted. Finally, government control of a region and the overall demeanor of its populace can have both subtle and significant impacts on what can be done and where.

The best thing about this game is that the nature of the war can change with the turn of a card. Momentum events can imbalance the rules in favor of one side or the other… but they are only in effect until the next propaganda round. Do you settle for another round of tit-for-tat in some worthless backwater territory? Or do you take a temporary setback on the chance that you can pull off something glorious. It’s not an easy call to make!

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Saint Valentinus of Terni was a priest, a healer, and a hieromartyr. As a priest, Saint Valentine offered aid and succor to Christians in a time when persecution of Christians was a long-standing policy of the Roman Empire. As a healer, he restored vision to the blind daughter of Judge Asterius, who had held him under house arrest. When taken before the Prefect of Rome and Emperor Claudius II, he refused to recant his faith. He was tortured, beaten with clubs, and on 14 February 269, executed by decapitation. That day became the Feast of Saint Valentine.

Today, we call it Valentine’s Day.

In honour of Saint Valentine, the SteemPulp community cordially invites all readers to attend their first event: SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE. From 14 February to the 28th, SteemPulp writers will serialize pulp-influenced tales of science fiction and fantasy centered around the themes of love and chivalry. Fun, action-packed stories that place entertaining the reader first.

Looking for tales of love or chivalry, preferably love and chivalry? Romantic love and chivalric romance? Gallant knights and fair princesses, fantastic magic and strange technologies, gentle healers and steadfast clerics, cruel emperors and fearsome beasts, unwavering faith and unbreakable honour? Search on Steemit for the tag Swordsofsaintvalentine (or follow the link) for the cutting edge of serialized short fiction blending classic values with classic action.

Swords of Saint Valentine will feature stories by @everhart@noughtshayde, @t2tang, @jimfear138, @notjohndaker and @jd-alden. Benjamin Cheah, author of Invincible and Hammer of the Witches, will also contribute “Realm of Beasts”, a tale of fearless warriors wielding sword and gun, rampaging man-eating beasts, superpowered cultivators, and martial valour.

When an unknown man is shot, then stabbed to death on the road between Morijuku and the village of Iwagi, it is natural to assume that he fell victim to bandits preying on travelers passing through the Kiso Mountains. But when Daikawa Tadashi, a samurai from a poor, but ancient noble house, encounters the body, he realizes that there is likely more to the tale than a simple robbery.

And when Tadashi’s attempt to dutifully report the murder to one of his daimyo’s lieutenants unexpectedly results in a second murder, he finds himself, and worse, his lover, ensnared in a dangerous web of deceit and death. For clan war looms over the mountains, the Tiger of Kai, the lord of the Takeda, is on the prowl, and shinobi stalk the shadows of the night.

SIX EXPRESSIONS OF DEATH is Mojo Mori’s debut novel. A historical murder mystery set in a mystical version of 16th century Japan, it is a unique and enthralling tale. Available in Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.


Morijuku was not a large town, and a minute’s walk brought him to the house of Baisetsu. It stood as dark and silent as the carpenter’s shop beside it, causing Tadashi to wonder momentarily if he was mistaken. Then his glance detected a dark shape huddled by the covered walkway fronting on the street. Beholding that awkward shape, which could only be a corpse, he knew that he guessed correctly, and death was stalking very near.

He stood for a moment to survey Baisetsu’s house, a larger dwelling than his own and far more spacious than Akiko’s. A roofed walkway fronted on the street, with the house’s main door at its center and windows to either side. A narrow gravel path ran along the nearer side of the house, leading to a large formal garden behind it.

Tadashi groped in his memory for details of the building’s layout, recalling how a second covered walkway fronted on the garden, with two additional doors giving access to the interior on that side. The low structure included just one story despite its size, but a large number of windows pierced its walls. Three servants usually lived in the house alongside Baisetsu’s wife and children. Tonight, however, every window showed dark and empty, giving no sign of life inside.

Silently, Tadashi slipped off his geta, or wooden clogs, and set them close against the wall of the carpenter’s shop where he would not stumble on them were he forced to retreat in that direction. Then, drawing his katana, he glided forward with all the stealth he could muster, with both his mind and his body poised for instant action.

The samurai paused only momentarily near the shape by the walkway, long enough to reach out a hand and feel cloth, with the yielding firmness of flesh underneath it—flesh which failed to stir as his hand pressed it. Tadashi noted that warmth still remained in the corpse. He rose and stepped up onto the covered walkway, breathing as quietly as he could. His heart thundered in his ears, but his mind filled with a poised calm like the razor serenity of a sword-blade.

It was dark on the walkway, and the main door into Baisetsu’s house was a gaping blur of even deeper shadow. Tadashi stood considering for a moment. A thin, cold sensation of menace crept along his back looking at the yawning door, like the legs of ghostly insects crawling on his skin.

Baisetsu’s wife and servants are probably already dead, he thought. If Yuukai is alone, he is likely searching for information about who else knows of his crimes. If he has a companion, though, then surely the front door is watched. I will be clearly silhouetted against the street as I enter and easily killed. The killers probably left it open as a trap. Read More