Ursa Major Nominations Are Open

Nominations for the Ursa Major Awards are open through February 15th.

The Ursas aim to be Anthro-fandom’s equivalent to Hugo Awards. It’s awarded in multiple categories for excellence in the arts where the subject pertains to anthropomorphic animals. Does this mean furry? Yes, it means furry, but it also means other things.

The Ursa Awards are nominated and voted for by fans. There is no membership to buy or dues to pay. You simply need to sign up on their website and submit your nominations.

“But Cirsova, you’re not a furry publication!”

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No, we’re not a “Furry” publication, so don’t nominate us in the magazine category. However, because we understand that anthropomorphic animals and beastmen are an important staple of action adventure and science fiction, we have become seen as (and are) a “furry-friendly” publication. We’ve published anthro stories in the past and have some slated for the future.

We do have two stories that are eligible in the Short Fiction category:

  1. The First American, by Schuyler Hernstrom (Issue 5) – [Features lizardmen and human-to-lizard transformation]
  2. Beyond the Great Divide, by S.H. Mansouri (Issue 5) – [About and from the perspective of a race of insectiod hive-mind warriors]

Note that there are other works in the PulpRev sphere that are also eligible. Off the top of my head, Julie Frost’s werewolf detective stories, Dominika Lein’s Reptilian Wanderer novella, and Yakov Merkin’s Galaxy Ascendant books would all be eligible. Also, as Brian K Lowe reminded me below, his book The Cosmic City is also eligible.

 

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Short Thoughts on “Easy Magic”

Bradford Walker recently posted an excellent article titled “Easy Magic Turns Everyone into Magneto, Not Gandalf“.

One of the points he addresses is that there was a tendency for power-gamers to see the Magic Users in their party as dead weight, because so often (especially at low levels), they’d simply hide in the back and skip their turns, likely (or theoretically) denying the party an economy of action advantage.

I’ve seen lots of folks get mad at MU players because they don’t understand the MU is a situational character. It’s happened to me, especially when I’m in an “oldschool” game with new players.

I’ll be in the back passing every round in a fight, and they’ll ask “Why aren’t you helping?”

“I am helping,” I tell them. “I’m staying alive for when you really need my spell!”

Sure enough, 15-20-30 minutes later, I’ll one shot-an encounter or set-piece or be able to drag ALL the treasure out of a room on my floating disc cuz I didn’t stick my neck out for my possible 1d4 damage economy of action.

In the last oldschool game I played at an RPG day, new players begged for my help against giant spiders. I declined. And lived. And completely emptied another room of loot. When robbers attacked us back at the inn, I foiled them with a quick Web spell.

I did my job and filled my role of highly-situational-deus-ex-machina.

Unfortunately, MU players often need to be MORE cautious than they technically should, because so many DMs ignore the melee rules that prevent opponents from changing combatants in a fight without spending a full round breaking combat and not being engaged by another opponent.

Finally, I’ll note that ignoring the engagement rules, you severely cripple the role of the Fighter, particularly at lower levels. An enemy being attacked by a fighter CANNOT choose to attack some other enemy nearby (thief going for backstab) unless they’ve already entered combat with that individual. This is one reason why I advocate, if not use of minis, some token representation of where characters are in a fight.

 

My New Favorite Song: Magnu, by Hawkwind

How to Quit the Gamer Lifestyle

So the other day Cirsova posted link to the entire album Warrior on the Edge of Time by Hawkwind. I listened to the whole thing, first time. I’d only had a smattering of exposure to Hawkwind’s music from the late 1970s/early 1980s some years back–I didn’t think it was that good (really? Michael Moorcock wrote lyrics and hung out with this guys?)

But this album’s pretty solid. Trippy, of course.

And now I can’t get this song out of my head. I’m imaging this is how a psychedelic paladin would summon his special mount from the far reaches of the galaxy.

Magnu, horse with golden mane
I want your help once again
Walk not on earth, but fly through space 
as lightning flashes or thunders race….

You’ll either love it or hate it.

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Are they getting their money’s worth?

Planetary Defense Command

It would be reasonable to assume that magazines which pay more for their stories end up with higher-quality material to publish. I decided to plot my ratings of short stories in 49 ranked magazines against the cents per word paid for them.  I was only able to use 299 out of 365 stories, as some magazines only pay royalties, others have gone out of business and no longer have a submissions page, and still others are invitation-only and don’t publish their rates.

As there were many stories sharing data points, I used Microsoft Excel’s bubble chart feature to represent the data:

bubblechart

Let’s look at the horizontal axis first.  Magazines are called “professional-rate” if they pay six cents or more per word, “semi-pro” if they pay between one and five cents per word, and “token” if they pay less than one cent per word.  My data seems to indicate that these…

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Batman #39: “Revealed! The Secret of the Eternal Vow” and Pulling Off Brilliant Cliff-Hangers

For those of you not following DC comics, Batman recently proposed to Catwoman: Bat & Cat are engaged. Tom King’s run has been solid thus far, and parts one and two of his “Superfriends” mini-arc did well to capture the characters of both Batman and Superman and show why they are so beloved, having stripped away the dark layers of edgelord some writers put on them and showing why the two are friends: they are both men who try to do the right thing in spite of (or because of) the adversity they’ve faced, and they have a tremendous amount of respect for one another. Respect AND humility, because each feels deep down that the other is truly the better man.

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There’s trouble in paradise, however, and fandom is prepared to be outraged by Batman and Tom King’s betrayal:

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(Note that much of this issue is a call-back to a JLA from about 15 years ago, with Bats & Wondy’s “first kiss“)

Part 3 of “Superfriends” in Batman 39 shows the power of the cliffhanger. And the danger.

Wonder Woman and Batman have been called to spell the eternal battle of The Gentle Man. The Gentle Man is constantly fighting hordes of demons for aeons, and once Bats & Wondy promised to fill in and take his place if he ever needed a break. Well, GM needs it, and Bats & Wondy don’t go back on promises (brilliant foreshadowing, if King doesn’t drop the ball!). Unfortunately, time passes incredibly slow there, so GM’s quick vacation on Earth will be ten years for Bats & Wondy.

#39 ends with a tease that Bats & Wondy might kiss! Bats may cheat on Cat! Needless to say, there’s been a good amount of furor over this. However, there have been certain hints dropped in #39: Cat’s belief that Batman is a “Good Man”; The Gentle Man’s own devotion to his wife—he hasn’t seen her for one year in earth time, but a thousand years to him, yet he still loves her; Wonder Woman does have an intimate connection with Bats, but the Temptress role is out of character.

At the end of Thomas Burnett Swann’s The Dolphin and the Deep, the witch Circe offers the hero a choice: he may have her but abandon his friends forever, or he may keep his friends and lose her. He chooses his friends—‘Good’ Circe tells him. ‘If you had chosen me, I would have killed you.’ As his reward for choosing correctly, the hero is rewarded with true love when Circe grants the dolphin its wish to become a real girl.

I can see something similar happening in Batman #40.

If it does, Tom King will have pulled off a brilliant fake-out with his cliff hanger. If Bats stays true to Cats, he’ll be able to say to the worriers “Come on, guys, it’s BATMAN! He’s a GOOD GUY!” It will have been a nail-biting two weeks for reader, and the catharsis will be fantastic.

If Tom King drops the ball and Bats cheats on Cats with Wondy, not only will readers be disappointed at the betrayal of a fictitious character’s trust and, more importantly, the betrayal of Bats & Wondy’s core characters by a writer, he will have missed out on the chance for that brilliant cathartic moment when, after three weeks suspense, Batman says “No” and Wonder Woman says “Good, that’s what you were supposed to say”.

So, what am I getting at here? Cliff-hangers are an INCREDIBLY powerful tool in a writer’s arsenal. But the payoff of the conclusion has to meet reader’s expectations of the character. Make the “will he/won’t he?” question believable enough to cause genuine suspense (and it’s working here, Tom!), where it brings doubt into the reader’s mind, but fulfill your reader’s expectations for the characters. Tarzan doesn’t get trampled by the aurochs, John Carter doesn’t get run through by a Thark, and Batman doesn’t cheat on Catwoman with Wonder Woman. The conclusion of your cliff-hanger is what will lead readers to judge whether the cliff-hanger itself was brilliant or hackneyed.

Right now, I’m crossing my fingers that Tom goes for brilliant.

9 Days Left to Subscribe!

There are 9 days left on our subscription drive.

If you’ve been waiting, now’s the time to back!

Getting final approvals from contributors, and putting the finishing touches on issue 7. We’ll be ready for final proofs in about two weeks once the last ads come in.

Update: I can now officially confirm that issue 7 will feature My Name is John Carter Part 6.