Monthly Archives: July 2016
Various Updates, RE: Cirsova’s plans for the rest of 2016 and beyond.
It’s been an insanely busy last couple of weeks, and I’m just now starting to catch up on my pulp reading. Later this friday, Short Reviews will resume with the June 1932 issue of Astounding Stories to break up the Planet Stories run a bit, but don’t worry, I plan on going back to PS to read the issue featuring Queen of the Martian Catacombs.
At some point, if I need to buy myself a week, I’ll post the rejected clickbait-ish article I’d written last month on 5 tips for Short Fiction writers (at least two will shock you!)
It’s a bit of a blessing that I won’t be on the hook for war game articles for a couple weeks, as I don’t know when I’d have time to write them. I don’t know how I have time to be writing this filler fluff, frankly!
I may need to push back our open submission period for 2017 back a couple months; I’ve had a lot of personal expenses lately and will have to let Cirsova stand on its own revenues for a bit. We have enough on-hand cash to pay for most of our planned spring 2017 issue, but we hate reading stories that we don’t have money or space to make offers on and pay right away (we don’t believe in keeping writers on the hook for months after they’ve sold their story to us), so we want to have at least enough money for two issue before opening things up. So, after we take orders for issues 3 & 4, we should have enough on-hand cash to begin filling our roster for next year. How many issues we buy content for will depend on how well those do and how well Cirsova sells on the digital newsstands.
So far, we’ve sold nearly 200 physical copies and had tons of digital sales and promotional downloads; as new issues come out, monthly residual revenues will increase and give us more flexibility in the future. This is not me saying “Oh, Cirsova is broke an needs money!” This is just me explaining why we aren’t going to be taking submissions in September as we’d originally planned.
We took an audacious risk in shooting for a quarterly schedule in 2016 to make our publication award eligible next year. We may go full steam ahead in 2017 or we may ease up a bit while we make plans for the future. I’ve got some big projects I’d like to undertake in the next 18 months, and while I may not yet get around to an Albert de Pina collection, I really do want to put together a fully illustrated Early Stark and have already received a quote from the artistic team I’d like to have take it on. That’s going to require additional capital which I don’t have my hands on quite yet, but with the help of our friends, fans and followers we may yet be able to put at our disposal. Of course a pet project like that will come second to maintaining the Cirsova brand and giving our authors an outlet for new and exciting science fiction.
So, all that said, if you haven’t already checked us out, both issues 1 and 2 are available now in print and ebook format on Amazon; your support will allow us to grow and offer a platform for top notch storytelling from some truly impressive authors.
Once we have shipment confirmation on all of issue 2 and have had some time for feedback, we’ll open up the gates for folks who want to pre-order issues 3 & 4.
Some Thoughts on Conan + Margaret Brundage
Though I read and talked about Kull some time back, I have only recently started reading Conan. Beginning at both ends, I’ve been reading the Del Ray collection “The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian” in bits on my lunch breaks and have just finished the 1977 edition of Red Nails over the last couple days at home.
Though I’m enjoying the hack & slashery of the late Conan (I haven’t made it far enough into the early stories to form an opinion), I have to say that it does not quite reach the momentous depths of Kull. Of the stories collected in Red Nails, Beyond the Black River comes the closest to those gloomy and brooding tales of the Atlantean King, with its sense of impending doom that hangs over the fragility of civilization’s facade.
However things that were absent from Kull (namely the copious amounts of naked shrieking women and girl-on-girl whipping) did leave the impression that they were tacked on in an attempt to make sales and land a Margaret Brundage cover*, and, in isolation, could explain why Lovecraft scholar ST Joshi would write Howard off as a hack and why his statements would be so perplexing to someone who had read Kull but not Conan. Brundage had real influence on the magazine’s content, and writers would more or less cater to her fetishes in hopes that Wright would throw one of their story’s scenes her way for a cover.
Brundage herself is experiencing a bit of a resurgence; she received a posthumous award at last year’s Worldcon and is up for another this year, I believe. As female icons of the early sci-fi era are being rediscovered and celebrated, Brundage gets to enjoy some of the deserved accolades for her contribution to the field, but she also presents a bit of an uncomfortable truth that iconic women aren’t always going to be what people who are looking for iconic women want to see.
While some women in SFF have faced erasure, Brundage apparently faced pillory. In the Foreword and Afterword of the 1977 hardback of Red Nails (published only a year after Brundage’s death), Karl Edward Wagner took the opportunity to excoriate Brundage for terrible art no less than four times**.
Today’s controversial figures like Bayonetta or Lara Croft pale in comparison to those depicted by Brundage, who herself was clearly fascinated (perhaps enamored) with BDSM. As people rediscover her and her artwork, they are bound (pun intended) to be polarized by her subject matter. Regardless of how you feel about her and her artwork, her influence on the fiction of the 1930s is undeniable.
*There was additional intent for Howard, however, as he’d said once wanted to explore the themes of how institutionalized deviant sexuality was symptomatic of cultural decadence. Worth noting that by Howard’s comments on sexuality, law and civilization, we’re probably about where Xuchotil was right before their wizards all died off.
**:I’ll admit, I misremembered this; while he mentions Brundage several times, he does not out and out say that she herself is bad, but does reference a few of her works negatively:
“It is late spring of 1935. Despite the wretched Margaret Brundage cover, you have just plunked down a quarter for the May issue of Weird Tales.”
“Wright seems to have been experimenting: the issue featured “a weird Craig Kennedy murder mystery” by Arthur B. Reeve, set off by a non-erotic Margaret Brundage cover that was possibly her worst ever.”
and he does go on to praise the cover for “Shadows in Zamboula” as “one of Margaret Brundage’s best pastels”.
Missed the Kickstarter but still want the Ku Kuru Yo variant cover?
We didn’t quite have the reach to let all of the GG folks who might’ve been interested in getting their hands on Ku’s variant cover of our second issue know what’s up, so we’re going to keep things open for just a little while longer.
Shoot us $10 via paypal (throw in +$2 if you’re in Europe or +$4 if you’re in the rest of the world), and we’ll get a copy with Ku’s cover in the mail to you after we’ve sent out the rest of our backer rewards.
Thank Daddy Warpig if you get a chance.
Danmaku Girls – Bullet Hell Bossfights for B/X
“You see an exasperated girl wearing a dress and an apron using a mop to clear cobwebs from around the wizard’s door. You’ve caught her eye; she stops sweeping and throws 10 million knives at you. The next thing you know, the entire room is filled with dancing fire and glowing blades. Roll initiative.”
You’d only think I was kidding when I said that the toughest video game boss fights are little girls if you haven’t played any of the Touhou games.
I haven’t playtested this yet, but I decided to try statting out a Danmaku Girl. Recommended for occasional boss use only and for higher level parties.
Armor Class: 7 (12)
Hit Dice: 10-20HD*** (S-M)
Move: 30′ (60′ flying)
Attacks: Special (See Barrage below)
Damage: 10d4 – 20d4
No. Appearing: 1d4
Save As: F5-10
Treasure Type: H
Monster Type: Humanoid (enchanted)
Very powerful trickster spirits sometimes manifest themselves in the form of petulant young girls who are often wont to cause chaos in the human world when they are able to enter it. They are more akin to fey than demons, though less powerful spirits may be bound into the service of demons to either guard shrines or perform menial labor. They hold favorable anyone who is able to defeat them. At times, very powerful human priestesses and wizards have mastered similar feats of mystic combat that they employ to subdue the more aggressive spirits.
Barrage – A Danmaku Girl will surround herself with complex patterns of magical fire, ice shards, missiles, knives, and swords, some in seemingly random arrays, some in patterns and some targeting opponents. A Danmaku Girl’s barrage will constantly be in effect during combat and extends for a 150′ radius. At the end of each round, all combatants take 1d4 damage for each of the Danmaku Girl’s Hit Dice (roll separate for each combatant). Individuals may save vs. breath to negate all damage. Individuals who have moved during the round and are not in melee with the Danmaku Girl may add INT, WIS and DEX bonus to their saving throw.
Roll to determine damage type before the saving throw is made:
Individuals may apply specific bonuses to their saving throws if they are relevant to the type of damage. Only a shield bonus may be applied to physical damage.
Spell Cards – In addition to their normal barrage, Danmaku Girls have powerful spell-like effects used by playing spell cards (similar to scrolls); each Danmaku Girl will have 1d6+1 spell cards that will increase the complexity and change nature of their attack patterns. Each Spell Card lasts 1d4+1 rounds. Each Spell Card attack has two of the following effects:
1. Shielding Patterns: AC Bonus – Danmaku Girl’s AC will be 0 (19) for duration of the Spell Card
2. Intensified Patterns: All individuals in the area must make 2 saving throws per round against the Barrage for the duration of the spell card.
3. Confusing Patterns: Individuals may not add stat bonus to saving throw (1-2 Dex, 3-4 Int, 5-6 Wis) for the duration of the spell card.
4. Targeted Patterns: One target per round gets no saving throw bonus for the duration of the spell card.
5. Radiating Patterns: Individuals in melee range with the Danmaku Girl get no saving throws for the duration of the spell card.
6. Obscuring Patterns: Individuals moving more than half their movement rate may not add stat bonuses to their saving throw.
The Danmaku Girl’s Barrage may not be dispelled or countered. A spell card may be ended early by a Dispel Magic or similar spell; Dispel Magic will not affect unused spell cards.
A Danmaku Girl will always surrender if she has no Spell Cards left or if she is below 1/4 of her starting HP. She will reward victors with a portion of her treasure and give one of the following scrolls for each spell card duration completed that she was not the target of 3rd level or higher spells or effects:
1. Prismatic Spray
3. Prismatic Sphere
4. Prismatic Wall
5. Delayed Blast Fireball
6. Hallucinatory Terrain
7. Meteor Swarm
9. Magic Missile
10. Hypnotic Pattern
(These Youtubers make it look way easier than it is)
(The little rabbit girl here isn’t even the final boss, but is probably the hardest boss fight of any game I’ve ever played.)
Steam Shovel McElroy
B/X Stats for this horrifying thing that was used back in the 30s to try to scare folks into thinking pre-recorded music would put musicians out of work.
AC: 0 (19)
Hit Dice: 15** (L)
Attacks: 1 Grab / 1 Sonic
Damage: 1d4 / 2d6
No. Appearing: 1
Save AS: F8
Treasure Type: U
Monster Type: Construct (non-Magical)
Steam Shovel McElroy is a large (12′) bipedal mechanical creature that believes itself to be a travelling bluesman; built into it is a large device containing recorded musical samples which it will blare into the faces of any it can force to listen.
Each round, Steam Shovel McElroy will attempt to grab one individual (up to two) and use its sonic attack. Individuals who have been grabbed may attack (but not move) with a +2 bonus or make a Strength check with a penalty of 4 to break free.
Its sonic attack is made in a 30 degree arc with a range of 20′; all individuals caught within that cone take 2d6 sonic damage (save vs. Breath for half). Victims that have been grabbed do not get saving throws.
Steam Shovel McElroy is immune to normal projectiles; slashing weapons only do magic + strength bonus in damage.
A slot on the creature’s chest leads to a compartment that may be filled with coins.
(it was used as the flier for this show, in fact)
Missed the Issue 2 Kickstarter?
You can pre-order a Kindle copy on Amazon.
Physical copies will be shipping once Kickstarter money clears and will be available for sale on Amazon soon.
Cirsova is (Kind of) on Twitter
I created a Twitter page for Cirsova. Apparently refusing to add suggested randos and not importing an email contacts list is just beyond the pale of reason, so within minutes of spot adding Cirsova contributors manually, I was locked out of my account for suspicious behavior.
I don’t have a cell phone, so I can’t unlock my account. Awesome.
Update: Woohoo! We’re back, baby! Thanks to Twitter support for fixing this pdq.
Some Not-So-Brief Thoughts On the Collapse of Myspace
There have been countless explanations given as to why Myspace experienced a rapid and catastrophic collapse in 2011, including things like “there was too much spam and phishing going on” and “Facebook was just more hip and trendy, so young folks flocked to it”.
From my own personal experience, it was a sudden disabling of tools and features which had made it valuable as a networking site that quickly turned it from a vibrant and active community to a barren and desolate digital wasteland.
Myspace was a big deal on the cusp of early web 2.0 for a number of reasons, but most importantly, it was an easily customizable free website with a built in address book and music player. Of course some folks would abuse this by embedding the most obnoxious stuff, cramming their page with glittering weed leaves and dancing babies, bringing mid-decade browsers to a crawl, but this versatility allowed a very important user-base an extensive set of tools that had not been available previously-independent musicians and promoters.
Suddenly, every band that had any recordings could have them online, on unique pages, their fans could put listen to and download new tracks, share them by putting them on their own pages, and musicians and fans could stay in touch.
More importantly, Myspace allowed bands to tag themselves by up to three genres. Fans, promoters and labels could do something really neat: they could search for and browse bands within specific genres in specific regions, listen to their music and quickly get in touch. If a promoter needed to fill a slot in a show, they could quickly search by the genre and location to find a band that would be a good fit, lived in the area, gauge their fanbase and get in touch to work out details.
Several of the albums I put out via Retro Virus Records were assembled in this way – Fuck Your Scene Vol.s 1 & 2, Mundus Patet and The Worst Music Dracula Ever Heard* were largely put together by browsing bands and saying “Hey, interested in being on a comp?” Shows, and music fests I organized were filled in a similar manner, as were shows and music fests put on by friends and fellow musicians. But all of this came to a screeching halt in 2011.
The brass and interface developers at Myspace were more concerned about the growing popularity of Facebook than the needs of their most active userbase. Ironically, when UI changes were made to make Myspace have more of a Facebook-like feel, rather than listen to the complaints of users who’d said they’d stayed with Myspace because they didn’t LIKE Facebook, they ran off in their own direction. Now, what I am absolutely certain killed Myspace was when they removed the ability to browse band pages by genre and state/country. One day, the most important networking feature for the most active users who’d been keeping Myspace anchored was gone. Musicians could no longer easily find out what bands were in their own area, and promoters could no longer use Myspace as a tool to find area talent and organize events. Some folks stuck around for awhile because of connections they’d already made, but making new connections had become difficult. Many of us would’ve gladly taken twice as many of those awful Selena Gomez ads on the login screen if you’d at least let us quickly search for punk bands in this or that state to ask if you could get on a show or crash at their place when you came into town, assuring them they had a floor to sleep on if they ever came your way. The next thing you knew, the only music that was easy to find was insipid big-name pop whose labels had shelled out money to have them shoved into our faces.
The community began to crumble at an alarming pace. Accounts became abandoned as Myspace ceased to have much to offer independent musicians and promoters. Worse, a message through Myspace was no longer a viable way to get in touch with musicians, promoters or venues, because people weren’t logging in anymore. Music collectives and digital scenes died, seemingly overnight. One of the most fascinating and exciting music projects I ever had the privilege of being involved with, which had taken the old Myspace platform and turned it into a comprehensive piece of audio-visual artwork, suddenly had the rug pulled out from under it – while Gl1tchg0r3* could survive an inimical split from their record label, it could not survive the total overhaul of the Myspace platform.
And Myspace could’ve survived without the camgirls, the survey girls, grandma and grampa, would-be poets and authors, and folks with the weed leaves and dancing babies as a top notch site catering to and connecting professionals and amateurs in the music industry, but it could not survive as a viable networking platform that lacked the feature of competitors (and was structurally unable to support them) while they ripped out the existing tools and features that had been necessary for its power-users. By the time News Corp sold in mid 2011, the site had been run into ground, selling for less than a tenth of what they had paid for it six years earlier. Though Myspace has somehow trudged on like a hungry ghost, with a small fraction of its userbase and acting as a ‘plug-in’ music service, it is definitely not the Myspace that was. And sadly I don’t know that there will ever be anything quite like it again. That’s my take, based on what I observed as a highly active user of the platform, on why Myspace turned into a zombie site.
*Though the Dracula comp came out in Fall 2011, it was put together the prior year. I can’t say for certain, but I’m pretty sure that by early spring of 2011, I’d migrated fully to Facebook with only a token presence on Myspace, partly out of nostalgia and things like Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tuti leaving comments on my page from back when a comment on social media was a bit less of a casual thing.
**I’ve been meaning to talk about Gl1tchg0r3 in a full post for some time. Maybe later this week or next.
Music – Mit Gott ohne Angst, Durch Heer und Kraft
When I first started playing industrial music back in late 07, I ended up with a lot of eastern European neo-folk fans & friends, including these guys (or at least the main guy from back when it was still just a solo project). Lost touch with just about all of them after the great Myspace exodus of 2011. Looks like Adam is still making music on his own, though.
God, I need to pull my guitar out and make some noise again…
Also, bizarrely enough, someone bought not one but TWO copies of the old-ass 4 way split CD that was the last official release from my first band, The Death Sound.
I used to consider myself anti-fascist until I realized that capital A Anti-fa were, by and large, a bunch of jack-booted thugs. Plus, I found myself with a lot of friends and fans who were Crypto-fascists. I’m not comfortable enough with the imagery myself, even though for many its purpose is iconoclastic, so was never Crypto-fa and have kept my own projects away from it, but most of the ones I’ve known seemed like really nice people. Given the choice between letting two* of my punk friends stay at my house or half a dozen Crypto-fascists I’d just met, I’d probably opt for the latter and be in significantly less fear for my property.
*Punks are really only dangerous in pairs; it’s only then that they feel they have to prove who’s more punk.