Leigh Brackett Wins Retro-Hugo for Shadow Over Mars

A lot of the 2020 Hugos stuff we’ve taken a minute to look at is really bad.* This isn’t the case for the 1945 Retro Hugos.

Leigh Brackett’s book with the cute bird girl won Best Novel.

Given how bad a lot of the contemporary nominees are, it’s pretty impressive that something this good would win!

We absolutely adore Leigh Brackett, and recommend you check out everything you can get your hands on by her!

If you haven’t already, you ought to check out our illustrated edition of her Stark Planet Stories novellas!

*[See our editor Xavier’s blog for some prime examples]

Misha Burnett’s Endless Summer

Cirsova Publishing is thrilled to announce that it will be publishing Misha Burnett’s Endless Summer!

Click here to be notified when Kickstarter Pre-Orders are live!

Misha Burnett is a master of the macabre and champion of the New Wave. His talent for tales runs the gamut of weird fiction from contemporary Urban Fantasy to Sword & Sorcery to Science Fiction, all with his unique (and slightly twisted) take!

Misha Burnett’s Endless Summer is a collection of strange and chilling tales of Mankind’s future, near and distant, from tomorrow until beyond the mark of history, through Civilization’s zenith, decline, destruction, and ultimately, Mankind’s rebirth!

Cirsova Publishing invites you to embark on an incredible and breathtaking journey across the ages, beginning with the time-travel thriller from the pages of Cirsova magazine, The Bullet from Tomorrow, and running through eleven original stories that hold up a mirror to the worst and, more importantly, the best that humanity has to author!

Review – Matt Spencer’s The Trail of the Beast

A while back, Matt Spencer sent me a copy of the second edition of his contemporary quasi-urban fantasy novel, The Night and the Land. A review for it can be found here.

Earlier this year, he sent us the next book in the sequence, The Trail of the Beast.

Let me tell you: it’s fantastic.

I think that the best thing Spencer does in his writing is create a mystery story, where the world and its history are the mystery to be solved. The characters we follow all have small pieces of the puzzle [though some are larger than others]: what is the Old World? What is Deschemb? Who, or what, are the Spirelights, Schomites, and Crimbone really?

There is a hidden secondary world, which some characters are in on from the beginning to some degree, while other characters come to learn more about it, themselves, and their relationship to it as the story unfolds. Individuals who only have a small inkling of the true nature of the world and the conflict they are a part of are trying to come to terms with a possible mass-cosmological shift while still discovering the nature of the old cosmology that had been kept hidden.

Okay, it maybe sounds confusing when it’s put that way…

On the surface, there a sort of Hatfield and McCoy blood-feud between two races that originate from an alternate earth. This conflict has spilled onto our world as the races have colonized and either remained hidden or tried to blend in with human society.

It kind of has a ‘werewolves and vampires’ vibe to it, but the superhuman races don’t really line up with either of those, so the results are very uncanny.

Five years have passed since the events of The Night and the Land–Rob and Sally have tried to make their own place where they can hide out from the conflict between the Spirelights and the Schomites. Sally’s little brother Sheldon is stuck dealing with the repercussions of his fight with Rob and the experiments his own people have done on him to try and figure out how Rob’s blades changed him. We also get more of Jesse and Zane, who’d been sort of failed would-be mentors to Rob in the first book, trying to solve the mysteries of what the heck the Schomites did to Sally when she was in New Orleans that kicked off the whole crazy series of events.

A Spirelight bounty hunter manages to abscond with Sally, sending Rob on a spree to look for her, as he goes uniting packs of Crimbone, upsetting the Schomite earth order, and slaughtering Spirelights, bringing the hidden war into the open in a way that neither the Earth nor the Deschembine authorities can ignore or bring to a halt.

Spencer does a fantastic job balancing the tale told from a number of perspectives. It’s an exciting and unpredictable story, both beautiful and savage.

Like The Night and the Land, The Trail of the Beast is an incredibly grisly and graphic tale; it’s definitely not for everyone. In the questionable cosmology, good and evil are not well defined, perhaps largely because the truth about its nature is so hidden–instead, you have a world where gut instinct must be trusted, because that is the only truth that can be counted on. As such, you have very few, if any, characters you can point to as ‘good guys’, though with a few exceptions of the truly perverse villains, all of the characters are somewhat sympathetic, and even relatable, despite often being at odds [at best] or being monsters [at worst].

When I reviewed The Night and the Land, one of the things I mentioned was how, despite everything that happens and despite everything that he did, I found myself almost cheering for Sheldon by the end of the book. Trail of the Beast, in a lot of ways, is Sheldon’s book–here, he is able to fight for redemption and really earn some of that sympathy. Rob becomes less of a character and more a force of nature that the other characters must survive in spite of.

I would’ve liked to see more of Puttergong… He’s around, and still an important mover, but we don’t really get anything from his perspective in this book. I mostly bring that up because, despite my normal tastes and the fact that it shouldn’t work at all, Matt Spencer actually wrote Puttergong’s perspective sections in a 1st person present tense [the rest is all 3rd person past] and he made it work! So, I actually kind of missed those bits.

Anyway, I mentioned that a big part of what makes Spencer’s world so fascinating is the mystery behind the hidden secondary world. We’re incredibly thrilled that one of the short stories that will help shed some light on the mysteries of Spirelights’ and Schomites’ past will be featured in our Fall issue! Be sure to stay tuned for details on how you can get your hands on it.

Until then, be sure to grab a copy of the Summer issue, out the first week of August!

More Duck Comics! – Mysterious Stone Ray and Hall of the Mermaid Queen

Okay, I know I should really be reading pulps and reviewing those, and I KNOW I need to review Matt Spencer’s The Trail of the Beast [which is an absolutely fantastic book], but I have been so busy going through the new Wild Stars manuscript and the manuscript for the Misha Burnett book we will be officially announcing soon, comics are all I have time to read!

Look, I’ve talked about what a weak cover game early silver age Duck comics have. I mean look at this! Oh, look, Scrooge McDuck is ice skating!

Uncle Scrooge #8 - The Mysterious Stone Ray (Issue)

You would never guess that inside was a nutso south seas scifi adventure!

Uncle Scrooge is feeling sick and doesn’t know why. His doctor is shocked that he has gold dust clogging his pores… [‘do you roll around in money or something?!’] [Brick #1]

He’s instructed to take some time, have a vacation, some nice ocean air will help unclog his pores. Not long after he gets this advice, his nephews find a message in a bottle from someone on a deserted island pleading to be rescued.

Rather than do something responsible, like call the navy, Scrooge figures there might be treasure on the island, so he and Donald and the boys set out themselves.It’ll be fine, because no one has seen hide nor hair of the beagle boys for months, so his money is safe in Duckberg [Brick #2]. Being a cheapskate, Scrooge only brings along cabbage to eat [Brick #3].

They get to the island, and are shocked to find lots of things petrified. The castaway unsuccessfully tries to steal the boat but is captured by the boys–turns out he’s the lone surviving Beagle boy! The others have been turned to stone by a petrifying ray! [Brick 2 lands] Anyone hit by the ray is turned to stone… anyone but Uncle Scrooge for some reason! Scrooge takes advantage of his resistance to rescue Donald and the boys when they’re hit and gets to the bottom of the mystery of the island.

A mad scientist has been using a petrification ray to protect his research.

His research? How to grow cabbages that don’t stink but still taste like cabbage.

‘But you have a petrification ray?! You could get rich with that!’ ‘Yeah, but I like cabbages…’

Scrooge befriends the mad scientist with his supply of cabbages [Brick 3 lands], and it’s revealed that he was unaffected by the ray because of the gold dust clogging his pores [Brick 1 lands].

Hall of the Mermaid Queen has a bit stronger cover game.


Scrooge’s money bin develops a sink-hole, and a portion of his fortune washes down into limestone caverns and eventually to the sea bottom. At first, Scrooge is like “This is fine, my money is safe down there, no one can get it.”

He slowly gears up a recovery operation only to find out that merfolk have been taking his coins and using them for clothing. Needless to say, shit really hits the fan when he tries to use his coin vacuum on the mermaid queen.

The mermaid queen is kind of a psycho, but nowhere nearly as crazy as Daisy [who has hair in this, which looks really weird].


The incredibly vain mermaid queen is finally mollified by some beauty products and tips that will ‘make her look as lovely as Daisy’; and Scrooge is more than happy to supply the beauty products at a tidy profit.

Great stuff!

Please be sure to check out the Summer issue, out in just a couple of weeks!

Through Whitest Africa: Hadon of Ancient Opar, Flight to Opar by Philip José Farmer and The Song of Kwasin by Philip José Farmer and Christopher Paul Carey [Guest Post by J. Comer]

Few writers are as closely associated with the pulp tradition in SF and fantasy as the late Philip José Farmer (1918-2009).  Best known as the author of the Riverworld and World of Tiers series, Farmer penned five dozen novels and over a hundred short stories, winning three Hugo Awards across a writing career more than fifty years long.  He was the first major SF writer to deal with sexual themes as graphically as the mainstream authors of his time (The Lovers, 1952), carried to extremes with the horror-porn A Feast Unknown (1969), one of sixteen Farmer novels in which characters based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan appear. 

     The mention of Tarzan brings us to an aspect of Farmer’s work of interest to Cirsova.  Farmer was fascinated by the pulps and by classic adventure literature. He constantly pastiched their style and included characters referring to them, even linking many major pulp heroes and heroines into a “Wold-Newton Family” lineage.  Tarzan so intrigued Farmer that he deconstructed the science behind the ape man (Lord Tyger, 1970)  and wrote a ‘biography’ of His Lordship (Tarzan Alive (1972) as well as narrating the ultimate fate of Tarzan as a time traveler (Time’s Last Gift, 1972). 

     One aspect of Tarzan’s adventures is his penchant for discovering or finding lost cities and otherwise unknown civilizations.  Opar, which appears several times in Burroughs’ Tarzan tales, is one such, a city in the Congo whose men are hairy beasts and whose women are lovely Caucasians, such as the priestess La, modeled on Rider Haggard’s Ayesha.  Farmer could not help but be fascinated by questions about Opar’s origin and development, and pursued them in Tarzan Alive.[1]

     In Hadon of Ancient Opar he presents a tale of the Ice Age in Africa. Some readers will not care for the earthy, rough sexuality which still has the power to shock and disturb, despite the passage of decades.  Willy Ley’s “Chad Sea” and “Congo Lake” (Engineer’s Dreams, 1954) are present here as Mediterranean-like basins, while cities of a Jakob Bachofen-type matriarchy (Mother Right, 1861) flourish all around. Hadon, a sports champ/gladiator, is to become king but is instead sent on a deadly mission, and we’re off into whitest Africa, with Rider Haggard’s characters Laleela and Paga appearing alongside the Hercules-like Kwasin and the mysterious “grey-eyed god” Sahhindar; it will require very little effort on the reader’s part to realize who the ‘god of time’ is intended to be.

     While a place oddly near the actual Bantu homeland (Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond, 1997) is designated as a black urheimat, the people of this ancient Africa are Caucasians or beast-people (Neanderthals and so on) and various crossbreeds.  While numerous black characters appear in Farmer’s work, the black erasure in these books is questionable to say the least. This reviewer understands the presence of Neanderthals in Europe and Asia, but even when Farmer wrote these books, it was pretty clear that the Neanderthals, adapted to glacial conditions, would never have been numerous in a warm climate.

     The pulpy fun continues in Flight to Opar. The crew needs to reach Hadon’s home city for the birth of his daughter, and aren’t deterred by religious war, a usurper king, and graphic descriptions of sewage being dumped. As always Farmer’s grasp of action writing is a pleasure. Finally the motley bunch reunites with Hadon’s aged father and beloved brother, and the wild action comes to an end.

     And so did Farmer, who lived to be ninety-one and a beloved great-grandfather. He left unfinished work behind, including The Song of Kwasin, a novel about Hadon’s Goliath or Hercules-ish cousin.[2]  Christopher Paul Carey finished the book and published it in Gods of Opar (2012), which collects Farmer’s Opar novels and some addenda. Kwasin becomes King of one city, with Hadon’s scheming ex and the invading army of the Sun God to keep him busy. Minruth, the usurper king, attacks the city. Kwasin is captured and humiliated, with the great Queen Awineth, tortured and enslaved, with the Atlantean doom of Khokarsa looming nearer.  The ending neatly reverses the ‘lost continent’ version of Atlantis and returns the narrative to Hadon. Carey wrote two more Hadon novels and a Khokarsa prequel, which are really outside the scope of this review.

     Ten thousand years later, La, priestess-queen of Opar, met Lord Greystoke, Tarzan of the Apes. The unrequited love between them clearly appealed to Burroughs as to his successors. La was mortal, or she wasn’t, but by and by she faded away, as the mystery of Africa faded into the twentieth century.

     What can we come away with, from Opar? A lost city, lost not only in Congo rainforest, but in lost colonialism? (Opar kept “Negro slaves” per Burroughs, who don’t play a part in the Hadon books.)  Who can resist a lost city of white matriarchs and bestial ape-men, a city crammed with gold?  Well, Wilbur Smith’s The Sunbird (1972) was probably the last novel about such a place, and in that novel the city was a Zimbabwe-like ruin, seen in a dream. La has appeared in Disney’s Tarzan cartoon as well as in several of the many, many Tarzan films, but seventy years after Burroughs’ death, what is left of his lost Africa?

     According to Farmer and to Carey, good clean fun. Leslie Fiedler called Farmer the best SF writer; Dr Isaac Asimov simply said that Farmer was “a far more skillful writer than I am.”[3] While pastiche was central to Farmer’s work, his books are both well-written and fun, and in some cases more carefully thought out than the ‘originals’. In the case of Opar, the original idea of homage to Burroughs almost vanishes behind the vast worldmaking, but a Burroughs adventure rife with gold, battle and love-hate is the result.  Recommended to pulp fans.

[1] Super-fan Den Valdron presents Oparian Fanon here; NSFW:  https://www.erbzine.com/mag19/1937.html

[2] An additional Kwasin piece finished by Carey, “Kwasin and the Bear God,” was not available to the reviewer. A future printing of Gods of Opar would do well to include this novella.

[3] This reviewer believes Dr Asimov’s remark to derive from Farmer’s well-known skill as an action writer with a penchant for sex; Asimov was infamous for writing neither of these very well.

New Mailing List Service + 2020/2021 News!

We finally got around to setting up a new mailing list service!

Everyone who was on the old mailing list has been moved to the new mailing list.

Until things are worked out with the domain registrars, emails will be coming from my Retrovirusrecords.com email account [which those of you who’ve backed our kickstarters should be vaguely familiar with].

The link has been updated on our mailing list page, but if you want to subscribe from this post, you can do so via this link: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/w4u8q5

More News (2020)

The end is finally in sight for 2020. Contributors are looking at the Fall special and Anton is working on the cover. Mark and Xavier have both given me corrections on the Winter issue, so all I need to do is get Xavier’s edits in, run them by the contributors, and get Anton to do a cover for that.

The retail version of Jim Breyfogle’s Mongoose and Meerkat Vol 1 will be available August 3rd.

The Cirsova Summer Issue [Cirsova Vol 2 #4] will be out August 7th.

We’ve also signed on to do an exciting project with Misha Burnett a bit later this year that is deserving of its own post in the near future.

News for 2021

As you all know, we’ve made plans to run the rest of Mongoose and Meerkat, one story per issue until the finale, but we’ve got a lot of other stuff already lined up.

We will be serializing Michael Tierney’s new Wild Stars story, The Artomique Paradigm, across three issues in 2021. So, now would be a really good time to catch up on the previous Wild Stars adventures!

We’re also excited to announce that we will be serializing Paul O’Connor’s Badaxe comic. We will be digitally cleaning up and reprinting the original series across 3 issues in 2021 beginning with the Spring issue.

Something else that we’re aiming for, which everyone has been bugging us about since we first started this this, is to have some illustrations!

Well, yes, we’ll have the comics that we’re serializing, but we’ve been talking with DarkFilly about doing some interior art for the magazine! Mostly the Mongoose & Meerkat stories and maybe Wild Stars, but it’s on the table!

Right now, it’s still looking like 2021 will be “invite-only”. 2020 has been expensive and, let’s be honest, I’m prone to overbuying. Even going invite-only, I’m still prone to overbuy.

After 2020, I need a year to take some breathing room; a year where I will not be working 14 hour days to make the Magazine happen.

So, we’ll probably stick with three issues and we’ll be contacting authors on an individual basis to fill out the 2021 issues as we have budget to do so. Please understand, however, that space will be EXTREMELY limited, and if we’re not able to reach out to you for a story, it’s not because we don’t want a story from you. It’s because we very well CAN’T buy more from you and we’d rather not waste your time and get your hopes up for nothing if we’re unable to accommodate you.

If something changes, we’ll let everyone know, starting with our regular contributors.

Rally & Reimu

One of the backers of our Mongoose & Meerkat Kickstarter requested a drawing of Rally Vincent. As the protagonist of Gunsmith Cats, she doesn’t have much to do with this campaign, and given our budget constraints, we can’t commission to DarkFilly to do more art for us right now, but…

I love Rally Vincent, and we aim to please, so here is a drawing of Rally Vincent from me.

While I was at it, I had to get this idea I had for Reimu from the Touhou games with a chicken sashimi stand down on paper.

Anyway, if you missed the Kickstarter, the retail edition of Mongoose and Meerkat comes out next month!

So does our Summer Issue!

Cirsova Summer Issue Out August 7th!

The new issue will be out in about a month!




Battle Beyond the Continuum
Rex Funnel and Paul Aglet have travelled across time and space, testing their new continuon flux drive-and found themselves in the midst of a planetary conflict!

The Meeting
[translation by RALUCA BALASA]
Two star-crossed lovers, doomed by their strange malady to never meet, must share their thoughts and feelings by the letters they hide within their asylum chambers!

Short Stories

Ascension Star
Free trader Remi Gavilan’s world is turned upside down when he crosses paths with a pleasure girl…the same day the Jinlintan royal family is systematically murdered!

Why Did You Leave Your Last Employer?
George may have found his dream job-keeping bees for the eccentric Dr. Rotstein! But what is the aim of the doctor’s experiments? Why does the honey taste strange?!

A Judgment of Lestrel
Penne has spent his Re-Gen-enhanced lives going on one bender after another-his last chance to break the cycle may be the incomparable world of Lestrel!

Henry and the Prince of Cats
A strange incident has left his master dead! With his newfound intelligence, Henry, a Scottish Terrier, sets out to solve the mystery of what happened to all the humans!

Bad Luck Charm
Larry Colton has had quite the run of luck! He’s got a good job and a new girlfriend he thinks is out of his league…Things are great, aside from a few strange nightmares!

Death’s Shadow
Iraq War vet Matt Barnaby has been blessed-and cursed-by the ability to see the shadow of death, hanging about the auras of those around him!