This image will be the basis of the cover of AH:Q Issue #1. Back the campaign.

It has become common around certain parts of the Castalia House blog to blame John Campbell and his clique of writers for many of the long-standing evils affecting the genre of science fiction. But as the crazy years of the 1970s showed, Campbell has no monopoly on the ruin of the genre. He wasn’t even the first to set American science fiction’s course. And at least he paid his authors.

Darrell Schweitzer’s “Why Stanley G. Weinbaum Still Matters” (found in his The Threshold of Forever: Essays and Reviews) begins by describing a low point of quality in imaginative fiction already in place in the 1920s. The usual suspects earn their blame, including a rise in the popularity of Realism being considered the only real literature. Then:

“…things got worse when the first product actually marketed as science fiction was Hugo Gernsback’s Amazing Stories, which began with the April 1926 issue. In orthodox fannish histories, this event is called ‘the birth of science fiction.’ The truth is a lot more complicated.”

First, a little background.

“Gernsback was a strange combination of visionary, entrepreneur, incompetent, and crook. He was the first person to see some use for what he originally called “scientifiction” as educational pro-science propaganda, and he figured out how to market it. Unfortunately, he simply was not a literary person at all, and seems to have been completely insensitive to what we would today call ‘literary value.’ He also did not believe in paying his writers except, all too often, under threat of lawsuit. […] How did Gernsback treat [H. P. Lovecraft]? He paid him, reluctantly, well after publication, a fifth of a cent a word, a rate so insulting that before long HPL and all his circle referred to Gernsback as ‘Hugo the Rat.'”

You can imagine the effect that this had on authors.

“Unsurprisingly, the real pros, the top science fiction writers of the day, such as Ray Cummings, Murrary Leinster, Ralph Milne Farley, and A. Merrit, may have been reprinted in Gernsback’s various publications, but they did not write original stories for him. Who wanted a fifth of a cent on threat of lawsuit when Argosy paid one to two cents a word on acceptance, very reliably? This was the same Gernsback who reprinted many stories by H. G. Wells until he stiffed Wells once too often and lost him as a contributor. 

“The result was that the actual science fiction magazines, Amazing and Wonder Stories particularly, were a backwater in science fiction.”

Not only did Gernsback thus form the science fiction ghetto of genre, the literary quality of the stories tanked.

“Most of the non-reprint content of the early Amazing was decidedly non-pulp. The writers did not have–or need–the routine storytelling skills required by, say, a western or adventure story magazine.”

Here Schweitzer uses pulp as a synonym for professional. However, on the far side of Campbell’s revolution, many of his authors, such as Isaac Asimov, used pulp as a synonym for the amateur, as he would in his introduction to the classic Dangerous Visions:

As long as science fiction was the creaky medium it was in the Twenties and Thirties, good writing was not required. The science fiction writers of the time were safe, reliable sources; while they lived, they would write science fiction, since anything else required better technique and was beyond them. (I hasten to say there were exceptions and Murray Leinster springs to the mind as one of them.)

The authors developed by Campbell, however, had to write reasonably well or Campbell turned them down. Under the lash of their own eagerness they grew to write better and better. Eventually and inevitably, they found they had become good enough to earn more money elsewhere and their science fiction output declined.

When spoiled by the bounty of Weird Tales, it is easy to view Asimov’s description as the sort of chest-pounding self-promotion at the expense of the past that we’ve come to expect from science fiction. But after a decade of works like “The Electric Duel” preceding the Campbelline Revolution, I can now understand the almost religious reverence given Astounding. Even before Campbell, the magazine paid more and demanded more from its writers, and served as a refuge for fans from the dreck. But Astounding was a ghetto within a ghetto, and no more representative of the mainstream of science fiction than Amazing.

Perhaps if Gernsback wasn’t such a rat, some of the mainstream presence of science fiction might have been preserved. Unfortunately, he chose to beggar his writers while lining his pockets, and he loved writers too new and too poor to find a lawyer. Gernback’s greed ghettoized science fiction away from mainstream adventure fiction, ran out the popular and talented writers, leaving only the amateurs who would write for little to nothing at all. And it’s from these leavings that the first fans and conventions welled up. 

Flipping through the bright and evocative covers of old pulp magazines such as Weird Tales, the name Seabury Quinn pops up with a regularity at odds with his current place in the annals of fantasy and science fiction. His stories of occult mystery served as excellent source material to inspire the sort of titillating eye grabbers that helped to make the pulp magazines of the day so popular. Unlike many of his better-known pulp contemporaries, Quinn earned his living as a lawyer specializing in mortuary jurisprudence, a handicap that didn’t prevent him from publishing four or five stories every year during a career that spanned more than four decades. Depending on how one counts, the man published sixty-seven short stories, thirty-four essays – many published in the letters section of Weird Tales – and forty-six tales of Jules de Grandin. (Infogalactic and the Intenet Science Fiction Database disagree on the final count.) Where most of the pulp author hall of fame writers achieved that distinction by way of an all too brief career filled with home runs, Seabury Quinn earns his place as a consistently entertaining writer whose works never fail to entertain, even if they never quite rise to the level of fun of a Lovecraft or Howard or Moore.

Just a few of the many covers that use his name to move copies

I suspect that his stories don’t have as much cultural traction among genre fans because unlike authors such as Howard or Lovecraft, they don’t provide the natural fodder for tabletop gaming that played such a heavy role in keeping the works of those authors alive.  They fit into one of those little nooks and crannies between fantasy and hardboiled detective that results in stories that don’t quite appeal to either fanbase these days.

His most popular series, the Jules de Grandin mysteries, feature a diminutive French doctor and occult dabbler drawn into mysteries that traipse along the border of reality and the supernatural – a more robust and blonde, blue eyed version of Hercule Poirot. The narrator of his adventures, and Watson to de Grandin’s Sherlock, is friend Trowbridge, a doctor of a more mundane persuasion who serves as an audience insert character to whom de Grandin can explain the clues that lead him inexorably to the solution to the puzzle of the story. “I am never mistake,” he boasts and not without cause. Read More

Castalia House is very pleased to announce the publication of 4D WARFARE: A Doctrine for a New Generation of Politics by Jack Posobiec.

4D Warfare: A Doctrine for a New Generation of Politics is a revolutionary guide to applying the basic principles of military intelligence to social media, written by a proven master of the information space. In 4D Warfare, author Jack Posobiec explains how the social media narrative is established and how it is influenced over time by competing parties.

Through utilizing the concepts of effective information management, intelligence, deception, misdirection, and research explained in the book, those who understand and practice the principles of 4DW will be able to obtain and maintain social media superiority in an age of increasingly heated cultural war.

Jack Posobiec is a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer who deployed with the DIA to Guantanamo Bay and around the world with the Office of Naval Intelligence. He is one of the most effective right-wing activists on social media and is followed by hundreds of thousands of people on Facebook and Twitter. He is the author of Citizens for Trump: The Inside Story of People’s Movement to Take Back America.

It’s already the #1 bestseller in Media Studies. From the early reviews:

  • Disinformation is such a huge problem. Thank you Jack for being part of those who work to get the truth out.
  • This is a great book to get you started. Jack is a True Patriot.

Okay, that headline’s not QUITE fair, but I just couldn’t pass up the soulfully seductive sounds of a totally terrific triple alliteration. So sue me. Here’s something a little more fair (but which doesn’t make for as snappy a headline):

Jack Ryan—the new Amazon Prime video series about Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst character—isn’t totally rotten, but is instead an alright work by talented people that could have been much much better if they hadn’t made, or been forced to make, several compromises with political correctness. By way of contrast, Peppermint—Jennifer Garner’s “Punisher, but with Jennifer Garner” movie—doesn’t noticeably pull its punches, even faced with the same unpalatable problem: the stunning rudeness of reality.

Read More

Illustration (Scoop): Beginning in September, Joe Jusko, in conjunction with ERB, Inc. will be creating brand new cover art and frontispieces for every Edgar Rice Burroughs novel (over 80, in total), forming the first completely unified Burroughs library by one artist. 

The pantheon of incredible talent who have loaned their vision to cover ERB’s works over the years is a veritable Who’s Who of high fantasy art, including J. Allen St. John, Frank Frazetta, Roy Krenkel, Michael Whelan, Neal Adams, and Boris Vallejo, and many others. While several, like Frazetta, have produced an incredible wealth of imagery over many series, no one artist has illustrated every single volume. 

 

Fiction (Every Day Should be Tuesday): Annnnd it’s a wrap!  Thank you for joining me for Tolkien 101 this summer.  Counting the announcement post and this one, Tolkien 101 stretched for 19 posts.  I covered The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, all nine movies based on Tolkien’s work, one computer game, Tolkien’s essay On Fairy Stories, and five nonfiction books.

 

Fiction (Bushi SF/F): One book I’ve been looking forward to getting to is Witch World, by Andre Norton. I’ve already read several of her short stories and came away impressed with the quality and range of her writing. Apparently one of the tales takes place in the same setting as her signature work – the Witch World series.

This one has been on my radar for a while now and ties into my exploration of Appendix N – the list of authors and stories that contributed to the development of Dungeons and Dragons. Turns out Witch World has inspired other games, too.

 

 

Read More

The weird western has been the red headed step-child of genre fiction. The idea pops up now and then but has never really taken off in popular culture in any big way.

More than likely, the first weird westerns I read were by Robert E. Howard in the Zebra paperback, Pigeons From Hell. The first weird western anthology I ever read was the Avon paperback edition of Razored Saddles, edited by Joe R. Lansdale and Pat LoBrutto. The 1980s horror boom still had the illusion of going on though serial killer fiction was already killing the horror genre.

Razored Saddles was a mixed bag, as most original fiction anthologies tend to be. I bought it off the shelf brand new in late 1990 during my Texas sojourn. I still remember Robert McCammon’s “Black Boots” best of all. To me, “Black Boots” was what a weird western should be. The story has never been reprinted. There was a time when Robert McCammon was poised to be the next Stephen King before he disappeared for a while. Read More

This week’s roundup of the newest releases in science fiction features new volumes for many fan-favorite series, including Ciaphas Cain, The Ember War, The Four Horsemem, and Galactic Liberation.


Breakout (Fugitive Marines #1) – David Ryker and Douglas Scott

When a meteor strike unleashes an alien intelligence bent on taking over the human race, only a ragtag band of Marines can stop them. The only problem is, they’re in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. For the next 98 years.

And their prison is two and a half billion kilometers from Earth on a good day.

Oh, and their fellow inmates want them dead…

Hey, nobody ever said saving the world would be easy.

Also available: Wanted


Choose Your Enemies (Ciaphas Cain #11) – Sandy Mitchell

Commissar Ciaphas Cain and the Valhallan 597th are in the thick of it again, putting down an uprising of Chaos cultists on an Imperial mining world. Though their mission is a success, they find evidence that the corruption might have spread to other planets, and that the forge world of Ironfound could now be at risk. The munitions Ironfound produces are vital to the Imperial war effort in the subsector; its safety must be assured at all costs. As battle explodes across the planet, Ciaphas Cain and his regiment come up against allies and enemies old and new in their fight for victory against the forces of Chaos.

It’s been a long time, but the self-styled Hero of the Imperium is back in action! And he’s doing what he does best – telling tall tales of his unlikely exploits.


Croma Venture (The Spiral Wars #4) – Joel Shepherd

Upon the ancient drysine moon/city of Defiance, the UFS Phoenix is being rebuilt, but her crew cannot do so in peace. Parren factions jostle for control of not only Defiance, but of the drysine data-core that Phoenix won at such an awful price. But the parren do not lay sole claim to that ancient knowledge, and within the bowels of the machine-city, something long-dead is awakening.

While aliens battle, Captain Debogande struggles to decide his next step. Human emissaries beckon him home, while a terrible new threat drives him toward the far edge of Spiral space. There live the croma, locked in a titanic struggle against the reeh, a species more terrifying than any yet faced by humanity. And holding perhaps the key to humanity’s salvation are a small force of freedom fighters, waging a hopeless battle against impossible odds, having waited a thousand years for just such a saviour as the UFS Phoenix…


Hive War (Galactic Liberation #4) – David VanDyke and B.V. Larson

From Hugo and Dragon Award finalist David VanDyke, and millions-selling science-fiction legend and Dragon finalist B.V. Larson, comes book four in the epic military space opera adventure saga!

The Republic, the Opters and a strange Crystalline race of unknown origin all meet in a series of titanic battles. Commodore Straker summons thousands of ships, but he soon learns he’s technologically out-classed by the enemy.

With traditional victory impossible, the race is on for each side to destroy the key worlds of the other. Billions die, entire planets are destroyed.

Even while the war rages, dark suspicions grow. There are traitors in the midst of the chaos. Straker realizes the worst enemy is the one you believed to be your ally… Read More

Thanks to all 844 AH:Q backers! The Alt-Hero:Q campaign has just passed its first stretch goal and we have therefore added a new award! This is a variant paperback collecting all six issues and featuring the stunning, full-color cover art of Alan Quah. You can acquire it here.

And speaking of variant covers, we are in the process of preparing the first Alt-Hero Premium edition for the retail stores, as you can see from this first draft of the cover for AH#1: Crackdown. Something tells me Captain Europa will NOT be happy….

Commissar Ciaphas Cain, Hero of the Imperium, returns in Choose Your Enemies, his eleventh adventure for Warhammer 40,000’s Black Library imprint. While on a posting to a remote mining planet, Ciaphas Cain and the 597th Valhallan Regiment unearth a hedonistic Chaos cult. But rooting out the corruption soon takes them to the heavily populated industrial world of Ironfound–and in the direct path of an Eldar raiding fleet. Will elven space pirates, Chaos demons, and crazed cultists finally prove to be too much for Cain?

It’s been five years since the last Ciaphas Cain adventure, and, while more Cain is always welcome, the Hero of the Imperium is missing that Flashman scoundrel aspect of his nature that adds depth to his more noblebright adventures in the grim dark future of Warhammer 40,000. What’s left is a standard military mystery, enlivened by the narrator’s footnotes, if not her antics on stage. It’s Cain lite, which is still better than most military-flavored SF, just not at Black Library’s prices. Hopefully further adventures will take Cain into the upheaval of the new setting in Warhammer 40,000.


In the first volume of The Rising of the Shield Hero light novel, Naofumi Iwatani discovers a mysterious tome in a library that, when read, takes him to another world. As the Shield Hero, he must join forces with other legendary heroes to defend this new world. However, he is soon slandered and betrayed by a princess of the realm. Forced into penury, Naofumi must rely on his own wits to grow stronger, for the only way home is by saving the ungrateful world he is trapped in. Even if it takes some unsavory measures.

Let’s face it, contemporary light novels have not fared well in Castalia House reviews. For every title reviewed, two others don’t make the cut. And at first glance, Shield Hero appears destined to join those rejected titles. After all, isekai revenge fantasies usually follow the same script into psychopathic wish fulfillment, especially those based around litRPG mechanics. Naofumi’s journey, however, follows a different path, one critical of the standard isekai hero. He is gifted with a useless weapon before falling victim to court machinations that most heroes merely handwave their way through. To survive, Naofumi resorts to unscrupulous measures–including outright slavery–that proves that he does indeed merit the harsh treatment he deserves from his host nation. Consistently forced into disadvantageous positions, Naofumi must figure out how to solve problems and win fights without the blessings that his fellow heroes have learned to enjoy. And when Naofumi eventually wins the day when his more gamer-minded fellow heroes cannot, it only earns him suspicion and jealousy instead of praise. Shield Hero follows Naofumi into some dark places without devolving into venom, diatribe, or secret king preening, creating something unique for isekai, an anti-hero that is not a loser out for revenge.

In space, the demons can hear you scream.

Space travel has always come with risks. But hyperspace travel comes with one particularly frightening risk, namely, the non-corporeal dark energy-based macrobiotic entities that inhabit the void and are drawn to the presence of human minds. Once penetrated by a macrobe, the infected human mind rapidly devolves into raving insanity, which usually presents in a homicidal manner. Fortunately, hyperspace-capable ships are protected by a dark energy resonator that keeps the macrobes away and thereby permits safe interstellar travel.

But what happens when a ship’s resonator is sabotaged while it is traveling through hyperspace? And who would be so insane as to unleash a demonic infection of mutating madness on an entire ship’s crew?

Jonathan Moeller is one of the most prolific self-published authors of writing in science fiction and fantasy today. He is the author of THE GHOSTS, DEMONSOULED, FROSTBORN, THE TOWER OF ENDLESS WORLDS, THE THIRD SOUL, CLOAK GAMES, and THE SEVENFOLD SWORD series of fantasy novels.

HYPERSPACE DEMONS is available at Amazon.


“What’s our status, Commander?” said Torres. “Don’t know yet,” said Malcolm, punching for the intercom. “Barson? Report. If you can hear me, report.”

Silence. Which meant the explosion might have damaged the pilots’ cabin, perhaps even wounded or killed Barson.

“You really had better hurry,” said Elizabeth, looking towards the pilots’ cabin.

“Right. Let’s go,” said Malcolm. “Pilots’ cabin.”

Torres shook his head. “My men!”

“You’ll do them no good if you blunder into a hull breach or die of radiation poisoning, Captain, and you can believe me, that is a very bad way to die,” said Malcolm. He keyed open the door to the corridor. It hissed open, and they saw that the short corridor toward the cabin was undamaged. “From the pilots’ cabin I can control the entire ship and find out what the hell is going on.”

“The hyperdrive,” said Moth. The boy was clearly terrified, but he was doing a good job of holding himself together. “What about that?”

“Should be all right,” said Malcolm, reaching out towards the panel next to the door to the pilots’ cabin. “We know both the drive and the dark matter reactor are still online, otherwise we would have come out of our tunnel early, our atoms would have been scattered across several billion square parsecs, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

He slapped the panel. The door slid open, and the thing that had once been Barson turned in its acceleration couch. The worst thing about it, Malcolm found himself thinking, was that it still had Barson’s face.

The misshapen creature filled the co-pilot’s couch, its sides overflowing the edges. Its hide was a combination of taut, wet leather and armored scales, glistening in one place and jagged in another. A dozen segmented tentacles rose from its sides, coiling and uncoiling in rhythmic patterns. Barbs jutted from the tentacles, and each one terminated in an unblinking, blood-red eye. Barson’s head twisted around, his eyes glowing with an inner blue fire that held nothing human behind them.

The soldiers froze. They might have been veterans, but the first sight of a macrobe-infested human was always shocking. “Flesh!” shrieked Barson, his mutated bulk rising from the couch. “I see now! I see the goat of a thousand eyes, the choir of a thousand screams! Can you not see the truth as well? Reality is written in smoke! Causality shall be rearranged, and we must kill, kill, kill–”

Malcolm drew his sidearm, aimed, and squeezed the trigger. A ball of superheated plasma slammed into Barson’s forehead, turning the front of half of his head into smoking char. The creature shuddered, its tentacles going into a wild dance, and Malcolm fired three more times in succession. The plasma bolts reduced Barson’s head to a charred stump, and the creature went limp, its tentacles falling loose to the floor.

The stench was terrible.

Malcolm lowered his pistol.

“Poor fool,” said Elizabeth.

That broke the silence. Torres, Carvey, and Reader all began talking at once, and Torres stepped forward.

“Shut up and stay where you are!” said Malcolm. “For God’s sake don’t take another step.”

Dark Legion Comics is pleased to announce that Will Caligan’s Gun Ghoul: Raising the Dead is now in print.

Someone – or something – is taking out the crime lords of Chicago.

Agent Justice of the FBI is on the case. She is a Meta Prime, with the ability to see into the past. But not even her superhuman abilities allows her to explain the impossible. And the FBI is not the only agency that is interested in learning more about the new player in town. In their search for the mysterious killer who is wreaking havoc on the crime lords of Chicago, Agent Justice and Detective Callahan of the Chicago Police Department team up to recreate a gun battle that took place at a restaurant in Chinatown. What they learn leads them to the killer’s next target, where they find themselves face-to-face with the ruthless, relentless, inhuman being.

Gun Ghoul: Raising the Dead is a furiously action-packed graphic novel by military veteran Will Caligan. 116 pages, $14.99. The graphic novel is published in 10×7 format on high-quality 70-pound paper. The four digital editions that are collected here have all been bestsellers in the Horror category on Amazon.