Sensor Sweep: Witherwing, Lankhmar, Mid-List Collapse

Monday , 11, November 2019 4 Comments

Writers (Less Known Writes): David William Jarrett was the son of Mervyn Spencer Jarrett (1906-1986), a works engineer, and  his wife Olive Elizabeth Jenkins (1907-1997), who were married in the summer of 1940.  He had one older brother. Jarrett’s novel was Witherwing (London: Sphere, 1979: New York: Warner, 1979). It begins as a kind of heroic fantasy novel in which Witherwing, the youngest of six princes of Tum-Barlum (the name clearly modeled on Twm Barlwm, the name of a hill in south Wales, but that has no significance to the story).




RPG (Walker’s Retreat): With last weekend’s Big Brand marketing event masquerading as a fan convention came the announcement–with no release date–of the fourth installment of its iconic isometric dark fantasy action RPG franchise. You know which one I’m talking about, and it’s not the MMORPG. I thought I’d take the time to give you all some alternatives that you may have overlooked or forgotten about, beside Path of Exile and adaptation of other Big Brand properties. This is not an exhaustive list; most of these will be linked to their Steam entries, but I advise you to look at GOG also if you want DRM-free versions or see if you can buy used physical copies.


News (Niche Gamer): On October 22nd, the United States House of Representatives voted 410 votes to 6 (16 abstained) in favor of the CASE Act- dubbed the “Anti-Meme law” by its critics. The “Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019” was introduced by Representative Hakeem Jeffries (Democrat, New York) on January 5th, 2019. The bill’s purpose was to help content creators utilize a small claims court for copyright infringement, as the current law means copyright disputes must go through the more expensive federal courts.



Publishing (Kairos): Where have we seen this blockbuster-chasing mentality before? Oh yeah, in the likewise floundering Hollywood film and AAA video game industries. As Western civilization rapidly burns through the cultural capital inherited from Christendom, expect to see more industries falling into hit-obsessed death spirals. It’s a seductive trap. A company stumbles upon a big hit, scrambles to replicate what is in fact a black swan event, and cannibalizes its own seed corn in the process. It’s an old story.


Comic Books (Paint Monk’s Library): Since Paint Monk’s Library began covering Marvel’s new Conan the Barbarian comic, I’ve received a slew of emails and private messages, mainly from people agreeing with our reviewers about the direction the House of Ideas has taken with such an iconic property. But for every five or six encouraging emails, I get one message from an angry reader telling me that I’m out of touch and if I don’t like Marvel’s new comics to quit reading and “go back to the nursing home to read Bugs Bunny” (Yes, I really did receive that email last month).


Writers (PulpFest): Not long after midnight on the morning of November 5, 2019, the pulp community lost one of its cornerstones. Tom Johnson passed away after a long battle with cancer. Tom and his wife of many years, Ginger Johnson, were the longtime editors and publishers of ECHOES, a fanzine about the pulp magazines. For nearly twenty years, Tom and Ginger could be counted on for a new issue of ECHOES every other month.


Star Wars (Digital Bibliophilia): Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is a story that takes place about a year after the events of Star Wars (or A New Hope if you prefer). It begins with Luke and R2-D2 aboard Luke’s X-Wing fighter, and Leia and C3PO aboard a Y-Wing travelling to the planet Circarpous IV to a meeting with an underground movement that had arisen against the Galactic Empire on that planet. They are to formally offer their promise of support from the Rebellion Alliance and encourage the movement rise against it’s oppressors.


Art (DMR Books): Howard Pyle has rightly been called “The Father of American Illustration.” Before Pyle there was a virtual nothingness when it came to American art. After, there was—perhaps—a flowering of painterly excellence unparalleled in the entire history of art. In the late 1890s, Pyle established various schools of art in Wilmington, Delaware and beyond.  Pyle’s movement has been called the “Brandywine School” in reference to the river that ran along the banks next to Pyle’s various artistic seminaries.


Cinema (Jstor): Long before First National Pictures began production on Doyle’s dinosaur story, a young marble cutter named Willis O’Brien was sculpting tiny T-Rex figurines. According to The New York Times, O’Brien began experimenting with animation models during an apparently slow day at work. Inspired by his background in boxing, he molded a mini fighter out of clay. His coworker whipped up another clay champion, and pretty soon the two men were acting out a full boxing match with their primitive action figures. Lo and behold, O’Brien’s next production was a short test film featuring a cave man and a dinosaur (made of modeling clay and wooden joints) shot atop the Bank of Italy Building in San Francisco.


Author Interview (Pulp Hermit): It’s not easy thinking of Will Murray as a new Pulp Author. William Patrick Murray is an author everyone should be familiar with in the new pulp movement, and definitely known throughout pulp fandom since the 1970s. He should be familiar to everyone in the new pulp community. He is one of the most prolific and knowledgeable people in the field of pulp fiction. The author of well over one hundred books, he has penned 40 Destroyer novels, and two-dozen Doc Savage novels (many based on Lester Dent’s uncompleted stories), plus King Kong, Tarzan, and The Shadow. He has also contributed to the Executioner and Mars Attacks, as well as numerous anthologies.


Science Fiction (Quillette): But this is not the spirit of our moment. Instead, as speculative fiction becomes more diverse, the sense that it must be corrected grows, and author and art are evaluated together. There is a notable asymmetry in this evaluation. Most fiction readers are women, and many fiction genres are dominated by women. Men who write romance novels or cozy mysteries must write under female pseudonyms, because the audiences for these genres will largely avoid books by men.

Writing (Pulprev): When writing a tactical thriller with heavy action elements, you have to get around to talking about the hardware. Tools drive what the characters can and can’t do, and weapons are a big part of that. Also, guns are cool. When writing guns in fiction, a common approach is to simply drop generic terms like ‘rifle’ or ‘pistol’ and leave it at that. Some slightly more sophisticated writers drop brand and/or gun names: FN SCAR, Beretta M9, Barrett M82. It may well work for them. Most readers just want to get on with the action without being bogged down in too much detail. But I prefer a more sophisticated option.


Pulp Fiction (Rough Edges): As you know if you’ve read this blog much, H. Bedford-Jones is one of my favorite pulp authors and indeed one of my favorite authors, period. I think he was at his strongest with historical adventure novels, so it’s no surprise that YOUNG KIT CARSON is a top-notch yarn that’s been out of print since 1941, when it appeared in the fiction supplement of a Canadian newspaper. A copy of it was discovered recently, and it’s about to be reprinted by Bold Venture Press.


Fiction (Tentaculii): I’d never heard of Ivy Frost before, but I like the sound of him. These gun-blazing mystery-science stories all appeared in Clues Detective Stories magazine from 1934-37 (not on, so one assumes that Lovecraft was aware of them. One wonders how may ‘little nods to Lovecraft’ Wandrei might have snuck into the stories.



Fritz Leiber (Goodman Games): You might have heard about our recent DCC Lankhmar release. It’s a wonderfully in-depth take on the classic novels by Fritz Lieber, and licensed by his estate. If you are a fan of those novels, you might have heard of something called Rat-Snake. In the back alleys of the city of Lankhmar, money is won and lost, and lives are sometimes wagered as the ultimate prize, all on the roll of the dice. All part of a game called Rat-Snake.


Art (DMR Books): Stephen Fabian was selling macabre artworks very early in his career, batting one out of the park with his classic cover for Whispers #2 in 1973. He would go on to do more work for Whispers over the course of that groovy decade, including the first-ever illo for Karl Edward Wagner’s “Sticks.” Stephen did several evocative paintings for Arkham House during that period, as well as covers for Centaur Press and Donald M. Grant. All in all, the 1970s were a great preview of the glorious horror art Mr. Fabian would produce in the 1980s.


Gary Gygax (Warp Scream): I had the opportunity to interview Gary a number of years back, when I worked at CGM. I very much enjoyed talking to him, and it was fascinating to hear the history of D&D and gaming in general from his perspective. Like many people here, I’ve been a D&D geek for ages; I thought others might be interested to read what he had to say about the history of it all.


Gaming (Walker’s Retreat): It is nice when the Fake Gamers out themselves so readily, but this performative virtual signalling is really meant to be part of the gatekeeping campaign to push their enemies–those not of the SJW Death Cult–out of the subculture and hobby, or at least its public-facing elements, so that they can control the narrative surrounding tabletop RPGs. Narrative control then becomes cultural control and feeds into political control.

  • I read Young Kit Carson in the 6th grade. Loved it!

  • Thanks for the shoutout!

  • deuce says:

    I was sad to hear of Tom Johnson’s passing. He waved the pulp flag (of both the “old” and “new” varieties) for four decades. I notice you have one of his “Pulp Hermit” posts in the Sweep as well. A fitting memorial.

    I always like to read one of Cheah’s posts on gear/tech. He does his homework and thinks things through. His “Babylon Blues” vignettes over at PulpRev are fun reading.

    Good articles/essays from Walker and Niemeier, as usual.

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