When American billionaire Henry Hockenheimer discovers that conquering the corporate world is no longer enough for him on the eve of his 40th birthday, he decides to leave his mark on the world by creating the first Superman, a robot as intellectually brilliant as it is physically capable. But his ideas are thwarted on every side by the most brilliant minds of the academic world, from the artificial intelligence researcher Dr. Vishnu Sharma to the wheelchair-bound head of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of Her Majesty’s Government’s Bio-Engineering Research Fund, Nkwandi Obolajuwan, and, of course, Dr. Sydney Prout, formerly of the United Nations, now Special Adviser on Human Rights to the European Union.
And when Hockenheimer succeeds, despite all of the incredible obstacles placed in his way, he discovers that success can be the cruelest failure of all.
THE PROMETHEAN is an amazingly funny novel exposing the utter insanity of modern academia and the world of technology. An extraordinary tale of ambition, social justice, and human folly, it combines the mordant wit of W. Somerset Maugham with a sense of humor reminiscent of P.G. Wodehouse.
Harry had been away for several days in London and was looking forward to getting back to his apartment at Tussock’s Bottom. His computer-controlled gadget system, Home Sweet Home, had been working brilliantly, and his voice commands and his smartphone allowed him to control his domestic environment in fanatical detail from every aspect of his personal comfort to the functioning of the apartment. He looked forward to eventually having a cranial implant through which his whims could be instantly gratified by thought control.
His automatic servants woke him gently with soft light and crooning music, boiled him a preliminary cup of coffee correctly ground, filtered, and brewed, with just the right amount of soya milk, ran his bath with the water at 102°F, cooked his breakfast to a planned menu that selected from 53 different items, prepared his other meals as he needed them, turned down his bed in the evening, drew the blinds, automatically hoovered his carpets with the robot vacuum cleaner, selected his drinks from a vast liquor cabinet and poured whatever mixture he required as he lay back in his high-tech ergonomic executive chair, selected his programmes on TV or a book from the bookcase, ordered his groceries from the fridge, collected and compacted the garbage, washed the windows, monitored the central heating, air conditioning, humidity, and airborne particulates, and maintained the formidable security system.
It was techno-paradise.
As he flew back to Tussock’s Bottom in the helicopter with Jerry, Harry used his smartphone to instruct the Internet of Things in his apartment to receive him in especially lavish style that evening to celebrate his highly successful meeting with Dr. Sharma. He spent some time on the details of the lighting effects, the exact temperature and humidity, the vintage of the champagne, the provenance of the caviare, and, of course, the various courses of the dinner itself. They landed on the roof of the apartment and went down the steps from the helipad to the front door. This normally opened as soon as the camera above it had computed Harry’s biometrics when he was a few feet away, but on this occasion it remained obstinately shut. His radio fob was equally useless, and it was only when Jerry had spent several minutes fumbling in his briefcase for the key that they were finally able to enter the apartment.
Inside it was pitch dark, and they were met by a blast of superheated stinking air and ominous sounds of crunching. As they squelched their way slowly across the sodden carpet, they were jolted by a piercing shriek from the burglar alarm and a second later were knocked off their feet by Autovac, the robot vacuum cleaner which shot out of the darkness like a vast hockey puck. Picking themselves up, dripping and cursing, they tried to find a light switch, but Harry had forgotten where these primitive contrivances might be found since the lights were normally controlled by his voice commands, or by the computer. After a few minutes, he and Jerry gave up in helpless disgust and retreated outside again, where from the balcony, after a few minutes, they saw the approach of flashing blue lights. Read More
For readers who want exciting tales of daring heroes up against impossible odds in exotic settings, the seventh issue of Cirsova: Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction is now hot off the press. Featuring:
Every so often I find myself doing something completely inexplicable and retroactively justifying it to myself by saying “Well, maybe I can write about it for Castalia House.” Seriously, why CH hasn’t fired me yet, I have no idea.
So how about that Red vs. Blue, huh?
Red vs. Blue—RvB for short—is, or was, a machinima (look it up) webseries very loosely based on Microsoft’s “Halo” series. “Very loosely” translates to “We mention it offhandedly in the very first episode, them completely forget about it forever after.” So, you know, don’t expect any deep lore about the Fall of Reach or something.
HUNGRY HEARTS is the second issue in the RIGHT HO, JEEVES series, which tells of the travails of the inimitable Bertie Wooster, who is summoned from the comforts of #3A Berkley Mansions, London to Brinkley Manor by his imperious Aunt Dahlia. Love is in the air and Wodehousian shenanigans are afoot, as Wooster’s well-meaning attempts to help out his friends sort out their romantic difficulties only leads to one disaster after another.
Adapted from the classic Wodehouse novel by comics legend Chuck Dixon and drawn by SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN illustrator Gary Kwapisz, RIGHT HO, JEEVES #2: HUNGRY HEARTS is issue #2 of 6 in the series.
Pulps (Pulp Archivist): “In an attempt to show the wider context of the changes in 1940s literature and how they may have affected Campbell and science fiction, let’s take a look at Doc Savage, the Shadow, and Babette Rosmond.
The pulps were dying by inches during the Forties and the reading audience, cynical after another World War, was no longer satisfied with pulp fiction and pulp heroes. They wanted more thought, polish and realism in their fiction. Babette Rosmond perceived this and surrounded herself with writers who could meet these new demands. She could hardly get rid of Lester Dent (though Walter Gibson did quit during her tenure), so she juggled his novels to make them less conspicuous and showcased the work of MacDonald and others.”
Fiction (Pulprev): “The fighting-man is the quintessential pulp hero. He has graced pages and screens since the dawn of the pulp age, driving stories through relentless action and raw vitality. He is an enduring archetype, and for good reason. As Bradford Walker discusses:
To succeed as a fighting-man, you have to have the very qualities of character that define a heroic protagonist: a desire for action, skill at combat, and a combination of excellence and determination to see through to the end. From the earliest heroic epics to today’s pulp fiction, unless it’s specified otherwise you can count on that protagonist being a >clean-limbed, strong-armed, action-ready fighting-man.”
Writers (Fantastic Writers and the Great War): Sax Rohmer
Born Arthur Henry Ward in Ladywood, Birmingham, in 1883, of Irish parents, he changed his middle name to Sarsfield when his mother died in 1901 (she had believed herself descended from the Irish Jacobite hero Patrick Sarsfield, according to Rohmer’ biographer Van Ash); he wrote under the pseudonym Sax Rohmer. (A “sax-roamer” is a wandering blade: a free-lance).
Sax Rohmer became best known for his Fu-Manchu stories (later and more normally written without the hyphen). Robert Bickers, in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, notes that “as a thriller writer Ward is of little importance. His prose is pompous and ponderous, and his plotting thin, predictable, and repetitious”, but does credit him with “an instinctive knowledge of his market”. His Fu Manchu character, usually noted today as a premier example of racial stereotyping, clearly caught the public imagination; later in life, until his death in 1959, Rohmer lived on the income derived from the numerous film, radio and television adaptations.
Popular Culture (Jeffro Johnson) : “Writing in the pages of the The New York Times, conservative commentator David Brooks closes out a column with this striking kicker:
Conservatives have zero cultural power, but they have immense political power. Even today, voters trust Republicans on the gun issue more than Democrats. If you exile 40 percent of the country from respectable society they will mount a political backlash that will make Donald Trump look like Adlai Stevenson.
It’s audacious, really. I mean sure, non-leftists have been steadily filtered out of education, academia, journalism, publishing, Hollywood, and the arts for so long that most people can’t even imagine it being any different. But zero? Really?
It takes a special sort of ignorance to embrace such a position. Even the residual power of Tarzan, Cthulhu, Middle Earth, and Conan remains a potent force, even in a marketplace flooded with both bastardized derivatives and hostile critiques. Smarmy elites dismissed the staunchly Catholic Tolkien in his lifetime and declared heroic fantasy bad for us from every platform they could manage to subdue. And yet he outlasted all of his detractors to become Author of the Century. And right at this very moment, Jordan Peterson’s number one international bestselling bookis a sensation precisely because it is making the timeless wisdom that infuses the Bible accessible to a generation that is starving for answers and common sense.”
Gaming (Sword and Stitchery): “The old magicks have died & the world has moved on or at least that’s how I happen to view the Original Dungeons & Dragon’s Eldritch Wizardry rule book by Gary Gygax & Brian Blume which hit the book stands in 1976. Its always been a mixed bag of a supplement for some folks but for me its one that hits close to home because of its approach to OD&D. This was one of the big boy supplements for the original Dungeons & Dragons game. Thumbing through Clark Ashton Smith tonight I was struck by how much of the material here is still useful to OSR dungeon masters.”
Writers (DMR Books): “Arthur Machen was born in Caerleon, South Wales, one hundred fifty-five years ago yesterday. Why should we care? We should care because Machen helped lay some of the foundations of the fantasy and horror literature we enjoy today. Far more than one might think. Joe Sommerlad, linking Machen the Welshman to St. David’s Day, points out the wide cultural reach of Machen over the last century. From Lovecraft to Robert E. Howard to Neil Gaiman to Guillermo del Toro. Not bad for a Welsh country boy who died in barely comfortable obscurity. “
Board Games (Dice Tower News): “The Forgotten Age took players deep into the rainforests of southern Mexico to discover the remains of an Aztec city. During the investigation, players uncovered a priceless artifact and had to decide how to protect it. In Threads of Fate, those decisions continue to have consequences. It begins with a choice of three tasks that must be completed in a limited time. Threads of Fate include twenty-four additional Act card, broken into three different Act decks playing all at once and will vary depending on who was last in the possession of the relic. The Mythos Pack also includes several new player cards which will shape the rest of the campaign. Two of the cards previewed with the announcement are Arcane Research, which reduces the experience cost of the first spell card upgraded before the next scenario, and Shrewd Analysis, which allows the upgrade of a second copy of any Unidentified or Untranslatedcard at no experience cost. Threads of Fate is available for pre-order now.”
RPG (Kotaku): “Slay the Spire, a roguelike where you try to deckbuild your way out of brutal dungeons, went into Early Access on Steam last November and has since been slowly winning over unsuspecting players who go into it with low expectations. I am one of those recent converts.
Developed by Mega Crit Games, Slay the Spire takes RPG dungeon crawling and remixes it around modern card mechanics. At the beginning you’re presented with a map of different rooms connected by meandering and intersecting paths. You choose where to start and then follow the path from one discrete room to the next.”
I came across this article about men’s fiction that men account of 20% of fiction sales. I found a Publisher’s Weekly article on Hot and Cold Book Categories of 2015. That article showed a 12% decline in science fiction and fantasy from 2014 to 2015.
I have been reading science fiction and later fantasy since the middle 1970s. Most people from middle 40s on up you talk to that read don’t seem to enthusiastic at the selections available on shelves.
It goes back to the basic rule of business of creating new customers. It used to be the classic new customer was the age range around 11-14. Talk to anyone over 50 and chances are they got started reading Edgar Rice Burroughs (like me), Howard, Lovecraft, Asimov, Heinlein, Clark etc.
In the 1970s, you could find most of these authors. Depending on where you lived, you might have picked up these books at the grocery store, drug store, department store. K-Mart used to have a very nice book department at one time.
If we want our favorite sub-genres to survive, we need new readers. I will make the case we need to bring back the male readers.
That means publishing fiction that is going to appeal to males. Read More
Characters from seven bestselling novels meet in a bar, an accident leaves a cruise liner stranded in hyperspace, and assassins rock the the halls of the Lords of Creation in this week’s roundup of the newest releases in science fiction.
Assassin (The Four Horsemen Cycle #11) – Kacey Ezell and Marisa Wolf
Depik. The race of cat-like assassins is feared galaxy-wide. Few living people have seen them, as the sight of one is usually the last thing its victim sees.
Clan politics on the Depik home world of Khatash are complicated, with clans jockeying for contracts and the prestige and wealth they bring. There’s only one rule—Depik do not kill other Depik. Ever.
When Reow is implicated in killing the Depik Governor, though, her clan is declared anathema. Her four offspring are placed under interdict—they are to be killed on sight—and Del, Flame, Blade, and Death must flee with their molly, Susa.
With Reow dead, and Hunters tracking them across the galaxy, will they live long enough to find the real killer, or will they find themselves assassinated by their own kind?
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Ben Archer and the Cosmic Fall (Alien Skill #1) – Rae Knightly
“If…danger…find…Mesmo!” Ben Archer hears his Grampa utter these last words before his untimely death. But it is too late: danger has already found the twelve-year old boy.
Government agents have taken every precaution to cover up the truth about an event dubbed The Cosmic Fall: when a UFO crashes near Grampa’s house, the media are led to believe it was a fallen meteor. But the agents weren’t counting on Ben being a witness. Nor were they counting on there being a lone survivor of the crash: an alien man called Mesmo.
Thus begins a police chase to capture the boy and the alien, as, hidden among the agents, lurks the treacherous enemy who shot down Mesmo’s spaceship. And although the destinies of boy and alien become inextricably linked, one question hovers above their unlikely friendship:
Why did the aliens come to Earth in the first place?
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BOB’s Bar (Tales from the Multiverse #1) – Presented by LMBPN Publishing
What happens when your favorite characters meet in a bar?
BOB isn’t just a bartender and Bethany Anne isn’t just a patron. Neither are Tanis, Amanda, Ryck, Cal, Marc, or Terry Henry.
What stories do our heroes from seven different successful series talk about when they come together in one place, at one time.
From the minds of Michael Anderle, Jonathan P. Brazee, M.D. Cooper, Craig Martelle, Barry J. Hutchison, Andrew Dobell, and Richard Fox.
Listen in as both the drinks and bar stories flow with reckless abandon.
* * * * *
Gnosis (Legacy War #1) – John Walker
A Surprise attack.
Technology has allowed humanity to take to the stars. Earth’s first step toward exploring the unknown universe begins with a surge of hope followed by the sting of a surprise attack. Just as their most advanced ship embarks on its maiden voyage, aliens assault the unprepared fleet, making a play for an ancient technology the human race has relied upon for all major advances.
This sudden meeting proves humans are not the only sentient beings in the vastness of space and it quickly becomes clear they will need to thwart the plans of their new enemies. If they do not, our first foray into the unknown could well be our last. Read More
Savage Galahad by Bryce Walton appeared in the Winter 1946 issue of Planet Stories. It can be read here at Archive.org.
One of the occasional trope you’ll see in the pulps is a story from the Bug-Eyed Monster’s perspective. This can often be played for laughs, but even when it is, such as in the case of Fox’s The Last Monster, the ending can be tragic for our monstrous hero from beyond the stars. And it is a tragedy for the titular Galahad.
An ancient tele-empathic bog monster on Venus encounters an unusual alien stumbling through its swamp, and it develops a fascination with it. This alien, a human woman, is not like anything else in the creature’s swamp—its forms and thoughts and emotions are wholly new to creature. And this newness of thought and aesthetic is pleasing to the creature and worth preserving—a difficult task given the dangers posed by the environs and fauna of Venus.
The bog monster protects the woman from a series of progressively escalating encounters with local lifeforms while contemplating the nature of human thoughts and emotion, culminating with the showdown between the giant tentacle-monster in the illustration.
The Devil is raising an army!
To the horror of his loyal servant, Jim, Confederate general Stonewall Jackson has been summoned back from the grave to lead Satan’s army of ravenous undead. But the great general’s arm is missing, and only Jim knows where it might be. He doesn’t know why Satan needs it, but he knows that he has to do everything he can to prevent the Devil from finding it.
The South rises again in REBEL DEAD REVENGE!
Written and illustrated by Savage Sword of Conan and The Punisher artist Gary Kwapisz, Rebel Dead Revenge #2: Satan’s Army is 30 pages and $2.99. Available on Kindle and KU, it is the second Dark Legion Comics release but it will not be the only one in March, as we plan to release Chicago Typewriter: The Red Ribbon later this month. Check out the Look Inside on Amazon, it’s as intense as its predecessor.
Winter break is normally a peaceful time at the university, especially during a blizzard. So it shocked everyone when they found the dean murdered at his desk. Thanks to an empty campus, there are no witnesses and police have little to go on. With the police stymied, and hoping to wrap up the investigation before students return for the spring semester, the president of the university has turned to the Franciscan Brothers of Investigation for help.
Jovial and mild mannered Brother Francis arrived on the scene to find a jealous mistress, a clever drug dealer, a disappointed researcher, and a mortally insulted professor on his short list of suspects. Did one of them do the other three a huge favor? Or was it someone else entirely?
* * * * *
Here’s what readers have to say about Christopher Lansdown’s debut mystery novel:
The Dean Died Over Winter Break is available now on Amazon.com in Kindle and paperback formats. The Kindle version will be $0.99 from now through Saturday, March 3 – so hurry and get your copy today!
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.
With the end of February comes the conclusion of SteemPulp’s inaugural open call, Swords of Saint Valentine. From 14 February to the 28th, SteemPulp writers serialized 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.
On his Steemit page, Benjamin Cheah summarized the whirlwind two-week event, listing the stories involved and sharing the future of the Swords of Saint Valentine event:
“The stories written for SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE spanned a dizzying scope. We have a Weird Western, a tale of battling airships and a princess, a story set in ancient Rome, even a pair of wuxia romances. Here’s the full list of the SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE stories:
Ruat Caelus by @cahoutek
Our Song by @clarastorm
Glade’s Edge by @everhart
The Tower of Benshi by @jimfear138
The Green Knight by @kenmwolfgang
Tinstar by @kkalvaitis
The Privateer and the Princess by @notjohndaker
A Turn of the Key by @noughtshayde
White Hawk and Sable Swan by @t2tang
Realm of Beasts by @cheah
“SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE wasn’t just a writing event; it was designed to promote the pulp aesthetic and invite other Steemit users to join the movement. Now, the next phase of SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE begins.
“Now, the next phase of SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE begins. Under the direction of Chief Editor Jesse Abraham Lucas, we will compile these stories into an anthology and publish it on Amazon. Thanks for your support, and do keep an eye out for the anthology, the above-mentioned writers and for future stories tagged #PulpRev and #SteemPulp.”