Star Wars (Bleeding Fool): Apparently Marvel’s Doctor Aphra and Bounty Hunters books are taking a break according to Star Wars Splash Page. This may not be too much of a surprise given the recent layoffs at Marvel. But I’ve spoken with some folks who keep tabs on the comic book industry and this is the takeaway I’ve come with. Ethan Van Sciver told me that breaks in general are not abnormal, but it is weird.
Popular Culture (Brain Leakage): Another great pillar of conservative culture–especially in SF and fantasy–is old stories, particularly the pulps. Classic writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, and H. P. Lovecraft are well known enough to casual genre fans. Their most famous creations are household names even to non-readers. But there are plenty of other, equally important pulp-era writers that have been largely forgotten, writers like Abraham Merritt and Manly Wade Wellman.
Art (DMR Books): News of Richard Corben’s death reached his fans a few days ago. The world of SFF art has lost an utterly unique talent.
Gaming Tie-In (Kairos): The crowning feather in Vampire: The Masquerade’s cap has always been its rich and extensive lore. Its video game tie-ins’ forays into SMRT stories aside, VtM boasts an immersive setting that deftly synthesizes a broad spectrum of influences from Bram Stoker to Anne Rice; from Slavic folk tales to Genesis–which it takes as fact by default.
Art (Down the Tubes): Comic creators across the globe have been paying tribute to multi-award winning comic artist and writer Richard Corben, an artist perhaps best known for his work on Heavy Metal, and as the artist who drew the cover of Meat Loaf’s debut album Bat Out of Hell, whose death was announced this week. He was 80.
Dune (Games Radar): Dune director Denis Villeneuve has hit out at Warner Bros. about its streaming plans for the coming year. The studio recently dropped the bombshell that its entire 2021 slate of movies would have hybrid releases, debuting simultaneously in cinemas and on HBO Max – and, according to Villeneuve, he found about the streaming plans at the same time as everyone else.
Publishing (Don Herron): And so, as I was reliving mighty debates with the likes of Darrell Schweitzer and Rusty Burke, I came across the sequence below, which struck me as an important footnote to the recent mentions of Charles Saunders and Sword-and-Sorcery.
RPG (Grognardia): Without thinking, most of us assume that any given fantasy setting is going to be a polytheistic one, modeled after a crude understanding of the religions of the ancient world. Yet, perhaps the most famous of all literary fantasy settings, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, is monotheistic, though not explicitly so, at least in The Lord of the Rings itself. Middle-earth is not unique in this regard, but it is unusual, particularly when compared to most fantasy RPG settings. I find that interesting, given early D&D’s use of many Jewish and Christian concepts, at least some of which would filter into the wider world of roleplaying, due to D&D’s preeminent position.
Fantasy (Marzaat): The Great War destroyed empires, tested terrible and effective weapons, touched off attempts at genocides, and ensnared people from every continent except South America. It is to be expected that many writers of fantastic fiction, as observers and participants in its horrors, used the war in their work. As the centenary of the war rolled around, I wanted to see exactly how they used it. Some writers chose to transmute the raw material of war into metaphor. For instance, J.R.R. Tolkien served in the trenches of France.
RPG (Swords & Stichery): So one of the books that’s been in our hands for a long while now has been the Fifth edition book by Troll Lord Games called Amazing Adventures 5E Wild Stars by Michael Tierney, & Jason Vey. Now before you unsubscribe to this blog because, ‘Oh my God he’s reviewing a fifth edition book?!’ Amazing Adventures 5E Wild Stars is pretty much stat less & really given over to the Wild Stars campaign setting history, the comic book adventure plot, & some of the twists & turns of the comic book itself. The layout, artwork, etc. are up to Troll Lord standards. This isn’t a huge book book clocking in at forty six pages. But you have to understand Wild Stars premise, big ideas, characters, etc. that this series put forth.
Mythology (Arguementative Oldgit): The poet A. K. Ramanujan once remarked that no-one reads the Mahabharata for the first time. He was referring to Indian readers, of course. The stories are so widespread, that everyone knows them, or, at least, some of them. Even I, who have lived in the West from the age of five, have been acquainted with the stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata from comic strip children’s versions, which, as I understand, are ubiquitous in India. Indeed, when Indian television, Doordarshan, dramatised the Ramayana and the Mahabharata in the 80s and 90s, it was effectively these comic strip versions they adapted, thus meeting expectations of its target audience, but producing (as far as I could discern, at any rate) merely a festival of kitsch.
RPG (Notion Club Papers): My son Billy is a keen Dungeons and Dragons player and game-master; and when he was trying to explain to me how the Alignment system worked, he devised an example using Tolkien’s orcs – which ended-up by throwing light on the different nature of the orcs themselves. Lawful Evil – Saruman’s Uruk-Hai.
D&D (Pits Perilous): When I discovered D&D in 1978, it was love at first sight. But it didn’t take long for me to see what appeared to be bruises on the apple. Some rules seemed arbitrarily limiting, while others came off unnecessarily, and perhaps sadistically, harsh. I took notes, and two years later, with Christmas and Holmes Basic, I houseruled my perfect game. We had fun. There’s no wrong answer here. But time sure flies, and it turns out the rules were right…
Art (Paperback Palette): Need a fix? No, no, no, not the seven-per-cent solution. I wouldn’t push that trauma on anyone. I’m talking about a visual fix of the Great Detective; his attire, his accoutrements and his unmistakable visage. And really, who could we find that’s more deserving to give thanks to this month– well besides everyone who is working diligently to battle this horrible pandemic we’re stuck in– than the ultimate practitioner of science, logic and deduction himself– Sherlock Holmes.
Jack London (Dark Worlds Quarterly): “A Relic of the Pleistocene” (Collier’s Weekly, January 12, 1901) by Jack London is an odd tale of the Northern trails. Inspired by the discovery of a frozen mammoth carcass near the Berezovka River in Siberia in 1900, London’s tale has a prospector find a living specimen. H. G. Wells’s “Aepyornis Island” (Pall Mall Budget, December 27, 1894) gives stories of this sort its structure: with a man finding a relic of the past with disastrous consequences.
Westerns (Rough Edges): GUNMAN’S GOLD was published originally as an 8-part serial in the pulp WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE from April 22 to June 10, 1933, under the name John Frederick, one of those pseudonyms I mentioned earlier. Honestly, because of that distinctive style I mentioned, I have a hard time believing that readers of the time didn’t realize Max Brand, John Frederick, George Owen Baxter, Peter Henry Morland, and all the other Faust pen-names were really the same author.
Men’s Mags (Mens Pulp Mags): This post reviews Mike Shayne stories published in MAMs from 1962 to 1971. Most were written by Davis Dresser, the creator of the Mike Shayne novels and MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE, under his Brett Halliday pseudonym. Some were penned by other writers after Dresser turned Brett Halliday into a house name for Shayne stories. As noted in my initial Shayne post, Dresser’s first Mike Shayne novel, DIVIDEND ON DEATH, was originally published in 1939, and the first Mike Shayne story to appear in a men’s adventure magazine was “The Naked Frame” in BLUEBOOK, February 1953.
Weapons (Weapons and Warfare): For all of their deficiencies, knights proved their mettle against Byzantine and Muslim forces, and for nearly 250 years after the Battle of Hastings (1066) they were all but invulnerable to the weapons used by European infantrymen. At the Battles of Courtrai (1302) in the Franco-Dutch War and the Morgarten (1315) in the First Austro-Swiss War, however, Flemish and Swiss pikemen demonstrated that the proper choice of terrain allowed resolute foot soldiers to defeat French and Austrian knights respectively.
RPG (Grognardia): I’ve always been fond of the illustration above; it’s by Bill Willingham and appears in the Cook/Marsh D&D Expert Rulebook. Aside from its esthetic virtues – seeing two fully armored combatants, complete with helms has always been appealing to me – what I liked most about it was the suggestion that fighting from horseback conveyed advantages against an enemy on foot. The problem, unfortunately, is that, aside from a few sentences about lance combat, which requires charging from 20 or more yards away, there’s no mention of mounted combat in the Expert Rulebook whatsoever.
Fiction (Glorious Trash): Kyrick: Warlock Warrior, by Gardner F. Fox. April, 1975 Leisure Books. I picked this one up a few years ago when I was on a sword and sorcery kick; the typically-great Ken Barr cover drew me right in. Barr has always been my favorite of these ‘70s cover artists, and as ever his art completely captures the subject matter. Also if you closely inspect the cover art, as I did, you’ll note that the green-haired babe is fully nude.