Donald J. Uitvlugt, author of Hour of the Rat, has reviewed the other stories in Issue 1. His upcoming story “The Sands of Rubal-Khali” will be featured in our Winter issue out December this year.
Cirsova Magazine is an intentional effort to support a particular type of speculative fiction: old-school pulp fantasy and science fiction. By “pulp” I simply mean that these are the sort of stories where having fun is more important than any deep message of social import. These are adventure yarns, not part of someone’s MFA thesis.
The stories vary in content and style. To help you know whether you’d like Cirsova or not, I’m going to give a mini-review of each:
“The Gift of the Ob-Men” – An exile from a primitive village receives an unexpected gift that may prove as much of a curse as a blessing. Of all the stories in the magazine, this one felt to me to be most like a classic Weird Tales story. A gonzo premise with a delightful ending.
“My Name Is John Carter (Part I)” – The only poem in the magazine, this is an effort to re-tell the story of Burroughs’ Princess of Mars as an epic poem. I was surprised at how well it works. It’s even more delightful read aloud. Would love to see the entire poem.
“This Day, At Tilbury” – A base-born son fights in the campaign to defend England against the Spanish Armada while trying to earn his father’s respect. The twist: this is an alternate history where magic is as effective a weapon as cannons. The rich worldbuilding here adds delicious texture to a moving coming-of-age story.
“At the Feet of Neptune’s Queen” – A Martian warrior is abducted instants before being crowned king of Mars by the seductive Queen of Neptune. This is a fast-paced story of planetary romance in a strong Burroughs [[vein]]. It’s a very fun read, though to me the ending feels incomplete. I could definitely stand to read a novel-length Ch’Or adventure.
“Rose by Any Other Name” – A man out of time trying to find his way home helps a damsel in distress who is other than what she seems. This story struck me as told again on a very strong classic Weird Tales model, with perhaps hints of the best aspects of Sid and Marty Croft’s Land of the Lost. I enjoyed this one a lot.
“Late Bloom” – In a steampunk dystopia, a young woman must risk her own life to save that of a stranger town from his own dimension. While not straying from Cirsova’s core esthetic, I felt that this story might be one I could find in another venue. Still, it is a load of steampunk fun, and the ending is killer.
“The Hour of the Rat” – I wrote this one. (Let me know what you think!)
“A Hill of Stars” – A human servant of one of the Lovecraftian Great Ones must make his way in the outer world when his master dies. This is the longest story in the magazine and benefits from the rich worldbuilding behind it. In spite of its length, it’s a compelling read. I would certainly read more in the same setting.
“Retrospective: Toyman by E. C. Tubb” – This is the lone essay of the magazine. Jeffro Johnson has built a reputation by examining the narrative sources behind Dungeons and Dragons. Here he performs a similar task for the Traveller role-playing game by examining a 1969 novel by British author E. C. Tubb. I had been completely unaware of Tubb before reading this essay, much less his thirty-three (!!) volume Dumarest Saga. Major props for introducing me to this awesome series.
On the whole, I find the first volume of Cirsova to be a very successful experiment. The stories are not pastiches; these are honest adventure tales, told without irony. The best rise to the level of classic Weird Tales. Most of the others would be at home in a DAW paperback from the early 1980s. All of them are a lot of fun. They remind me of the sort of stories that made me fall in love with speculative fiction as a teenager.
But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself!