Quick Magazine Update

Things are proceeding along smoothly with the assembly of Cirsova 7. All copy edits are in, and soon we’ll be passing them along to contributors for a final approval. Then I can get cracking on issue 8.

In the meantime, there are just over two weeks left on our subscription drive. Just $1 gets you both the spring and summer issues. We really need folks to come out strong for us to keep Cirsova alive and kicking. For various reasons, things may be slipping a bit, but there’s plenty of time to turn it around. We’ve done well with advertisers, but to keep doing well with advertisers, we need to bring up our subscriber numbers. My personal goal is 200 subscribers. It can be done. Last year, we had 136 subscribers in for $2500. Right now, we’re sitting at 87 subscribers for only $1300. To remain a viable semi-pro paying magazine, we need to see real growth.

 

Issue 7 Cover 1 Front Cover lower res

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Cirsova’s Planetary Awards Nominee: Out of the Soylent Planet, by Robert Kroese

I’m killing two birds with one stone on this one. Robert Kroese’s Out of the Soylent Planet is my pick for this year’s Planetary Awards in the long-form category.out of the soylent planet

On paper, Kroese’s Rex Nihilo series seems like the last thing I’d enjoy—a snarky, self-aware, often parodic science fiction series featuring a sleazy protagonist whom I’ve described as a cross between Jon Lovitz’s Tommy Flannagan character and Zapp Brannigan.  But the strength of Kroese’s writing and his sense of humor accomplish the herculean task of keeping his premise from descending into obnoxious twee. While the first book, “Starship Grifters”, cleaves dangerously close to Star Wars parody, the sequel, “Aye, Robot” abandoned much of the familiar plot beats and moved away from parody, delving further into the realm of satire.

I was worried, then, that “Out of the Soylent Planet” might return to the safer realms of parody when it began with a direct send-up of New Hope’s opening, with SASHA standing in for 3P0. And it was a prequel, no-less!

My fears were quickly allayed, however, as Out of the Soylent Planet progressed rapidly into new territory, establishing the relationship between SASHA and Rex, further developing SASHA’s nature as a near-sentient AI without retreading the first two books, and using some wild and exciting set-ups to do so.

Out of the Soylent Planet is self-aware, and many of the characters are dangerously (wrong) genre savvy, but Kroese handles all of this exceptionally well. He uses Rex to explore the nature of the picaresque hero over the course of the series while even hanging a lampshade as other characters discuss what qualifies one to be a lovable rogue. Like Obi-Wan’s villainy, it all comes down to “a certain point of view.”

While Out of the Soylent Planet is a prequel, it is written in such a way that it could stand alone to a reader new to the series but does not belabor descriptions and exposition which readers of the previous books might be familiar with. The first installment suffered a bit from the “Only Sane Man” trope with SASHA playing the straight-man to the insanity of the entire universe. While there are plenty of mixed up characters in Out of the Soylent Planet, much of that burden is taken off SASHA’s shoulders, giving her a few odd but competent and reliable characters to play off of. This lets her character have some fun/self-indulgence without risking having the world fall to pieces around her. The only weakness it has is an absence of Pepper Melange. Then again, part of what Pepper brought to the stories was that sense that there were people in the universe besides SASHA who were competent (who were not stark-raving mad or lunatic idiots), and by giving SASHA and Rex other ‘straight men’ to play off of, her absence will not be felt by new readers so much as by existing fans of the character.

Even if you haven’t been reading Kroese’s Rex Nihilo Series, this one is worth picking up and diving into.

Just a reminder to readers and other book bloggers: You too can nominate for the Planetary Awards. As a publisher, Cirsova is abstaining from nominating in the short form category, but there’s been a lot of love so far for Schuyler Hernstrom’s “The First American.” All you have to do to nominate a work is post on your blog what you think should receive a Planetary Award and why. Feel free to nominate something we published in 2017.

49 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Magazines Ranked from Best to Worst

Planetary Defense Command

In my last post, I explained why I’ve cut off my first round of magazine reviews at 49, and described my ranking method.  So, on to the results, giving my first issue of each magazine an Olympic-style score from 10 to 1:

[WARNING:  Do not go to the website of Red Sun Magazine, as its domain registration expired and was taken over by scammers.  The link below is to my review of the magazine, not to the scammer website.  It is still safe to go to their facebook or twitter accounts, or to buy their magazine at Amazon.]

10

Red Sun Magazine

Cirsova

9

Space and Time

Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Analog

Aurealis

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly

8

Sci Phi Journal

7

Perihelion SF

Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine

Fantasy Scroll

Astounding Frontiers

Albedo One

Mothership Zeta

Just a Minor Malfunction

6

Apex

Compelling SF

Nebula Rift

Plasma Frequency

Deep Magic

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Cirsova-Published Works Make Tangent Online’s 2017 Recommended Reading List

Each year, Tangent Online publishes a list of the stories they felt were the best among the pieces that they reviewed over the course of that year.

We are thrilled that this year’s recommended reading list includes Brian K. Lowe’s diptych of stories, “War of the Ruby”/”Shapes in the Fog”, in the Short Stories category and Schuyler Hernstrom’s Novella “The First American”.

All three of these stories can be found in Cirsova #5, which is available in ebook, paperback, and hardcover.

Tangent Online’s full 2017 list can be read here.

Cirsova’s 2017 stories, by category, can be found here.

Otto Skorzeny – Supervillain Extraordinaire

I spent a decent chunk of November playing Avalon Hill’s the Battle of Bulge (which you can read about at Castalia House). One of the neat little things about the game was that it included pieces and rules for Operation Greif and the Einheit Stielau mission. Otto Skorzeny was charged with sending English-speaking commando units in American uniforms to secure bridgeheads along the Meuse and create general havoc in the rear while a brigade of armor using refitted US tanks and Jeeps (ultimately most of this force was made up piecemeal of camouflaged German vehicles) exploited the chaos of the first day to push ahead with the retreating American columns. While the mission was not particularly effective tactically, it created massive paranoia in the deep Allied rear, with speculation that anyone and everyone could be a secret German spy, possibly trying to assassinate Eisenhower. In game, this amounted to four 0-strength units that have a chance to delay allied units moving through towns and junctions (if they aren’t ‘found out’ and eliminated) and a single piece for the 150th Pz, an average strength armor unit with a special Day-one ability to move after combat, instead of before, and ignore ZOC.

Anyway, when I was at the local indie bookstore picking up Christmas gifts, I saw and picked up a copy of Glenn B. Infield’s “Skorzeny: Hitler’s Commando”. After finishing it, my dad loaned me his copy of Charles Foley’s Commando Extraordinary.

Foley presents Skorzeny as a noble man, a brave soldier, and a hero. Yes, yes, he was all of those things during the war, Infield concurs—also, Otto Skorzeny is Red Skull.

skorzeny

The similarities and contrasts of the two biographies were fascinating. Both acknowledge Skorzeny’s cunning, heroism, daring, and bravery—his operation to rescue Mussolini by crash-landing gliders on a mountain top was the stuff of legends that made him a hero at home and earned him the begrudging respect of the Allies, and that was just one of many feats. While Foley’s book is not quite a hagiography, it’s certainly the sort of biography I’d want written about me if I were planning to become an international supervillain. Beginning with a wistful account from a British Commando about the brotherhood between all special forces and how the testimony of fellow commandos spared Skorzeny from the noose, it’s almost shocking that so glowing an account of an enemy’s war-time feats could be written and published not ten years after the fact. The Skorzeny that Foley portrays is one who is a good and decent man who just wants to live and let live, let by-gones be by-gones, put the war behind him and move on with his life.

Infield’s book, compiled and published around 25 years after Foley’s has the benefit of hindsight and declassified documents. While the first chunk of the book covered much the same ground, the remaining two thirds were devoted to his time after the war, including a much more thorough account of his time as a POW and his exploits (in part as a CIA asset) to further the causes of international Nazism and protect escaped Nazis from those trying to hunt them down. While many modern historians dismiss the notion of an umbrella organization for any and all secret international Nazi plotting, it’s undeniable that Skorzeny had his fingers in a lot of pies, and he was one of the most active and influential former members of the SS. This context makes the end of Foley’s tale, in which Skorzeny has begun to invest in wind farming, all the more ominous. Plus, I can now say “You know who else invested in clean, renewable green energy? NAZIS!”

Perhaps what struck me as most odd about Foley’s book was that it had not one but two epilogues. The second focused on the only tangentially related exploits of the Special Air Service, but the first included some pretty spectacular “what ifs”, going so far as to suggest that war’s outcome could’ve been quite different if the Allies had been willing to do to Petain in France what Hitler had Skorzeny do to Admiral Horthy in Hungary.

So, yeah, Otto Skorzeny is one of those guys for whom the term Magnificent Bastard was coined. Even history’s villains can produce complex figures who are admirable for their bravery and heroism despite the causes they fight for. I do know that if I ever run a WWII Pellucidar game again, I’ll probably be using Skorzeny as a big bad for the campaign. Post-war, Otto Skorzeny is funneling personnel, weapons and wealth into the inner earth via tunnels in South America!