I mean, in case you didn’t already know…
Jon del Arroz posted the Happy Frog’s Hugo Slate yesterday; Cirsova was his pick for best Semi-Pro Zine. It’s cool to be recognized (thanks, Jon!), and while I’d be honored if the magazine received the nomination in 2018, I’d much rather see some of our stories up for awards. I’m not saying don’t vote to nominate us, but I’d like to point out that people talk about stories that are nominated for awards, not publications.
The three magazine categories, editor, podcast, and (to a lesser extent) artist categories were footnotes to the discussion last year. Stories in all categories, movies, tv, and (to a lesser extent) related work are where all the buzz is.
There are several noms for Cirsova stories for this year’s Planetary Awards, which is cool, cuz folks are talking about our stories.
Anyway, no reason why I shouldn’t put forward some picks of my own, since I still have nominating privileges:
Best Novel: Aye, Robot, by Rob Kroese — This has been one of my favorites from last year.
Best Novella: The First American, by Schuyler Hernstrom — This one is fantastic, has met with some rave reviews, and looks like it could be a favorite for this year’s Planetary Awards. The Adventure of the Incognita Countess, by Cynthia Ward was also a lot of fun; I mean, if you’re going to play the game and don’t want your vote divided, I’d say vote for the story we published, but still go ahead and check this one out.
Best Novelette: We published two novelettes last year — The Magelords of Ruach by Abraham Strongjohn and The Last Job on Harz by Tyler Young, both in our fall issue.
Best Related Work: The Ideological Conquest of Science Fiction Literature, by QuQu Media
Best Graphic Story: Gotham Resistance — I’ve been loving DC’s metal event, but this 4-part crossover between Teen Titans, Green Arrow, Suicide Squad and Nightwing was really the peak; it had a huge ensemble but didn’t suffer at all from your typical ensemble comic problems.
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) — Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) — I’m torn on this one. Either Buddy Thunderstruck’s Haters of the Lost Arcade or the episode of Sab Jholmaal Hai where they throw trash on a wizard and he turns one of the cats into a giant chicken.
Lastly, pretty soon I hope to be able to do a thorough piece on Outsiders Vol. 1. I’m a few issues from the end, but just found out that one of the last arcs feeds into and gets resolved by the Millennium crossover event. Once I finish that, I’ll have to decide whether I should try to fill out my collection with Volume 2 or go straight up to Batman and the Outsiders Volume 2. I’m leaning a bit towards the latter, since it’s a Chuck Dixon book and it ties into the Grant Morrison “Bat Epic” run I recently sort of finished (still haven’t read the Crises or Batman Inc. Vol 2.) and starts with a “Getting the Band Back Together” mini-arc that I have three issues of.
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.
“But Cirsova, you’re not a furry publication!”
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:
- The First American, by Schuyler Hernstrom (Issue 5) – [Features lizardmen and human-to-lizard transformation]
- 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.
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.
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.
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”.
Cirsova’s 2017 stories, by category, can be found here.
One of our contributors, Michael Reyes, has a new anthology out. It features several stories about Clock, the invisible dwarf chaos sorcerer who guards Coney Island from all manner of extradimensional horrors. You might remember him from the title story, Clock’s Watch, in Cirsova #3.
The eBook of Clock’s Watch is free all day today, but soon, you’ll also be able to buy it in softcover and hardback.
I think if you like Weird Occult pulp, this sort of thing would be right up your alley—I think that one thing that is strongly to Clock’s benefit is that rather than being a throwback in time, setting stories in the pulp era, Reyes takes the classic weird occult format and places it in the modern day. So rather than pastiche or homage, Clock feels more like a contemporary, new weird* (but not New Weird) occult adventure series.
Disclosure: While I didn’t edit these, I did do cover and interior layout and formatting (it’s not a service I advertise, because I don’t always have time to, but it never hurts to ask if you need it done), so when the physical copies are available be sure to check them out, too, and let us know how we did!
If you enjoy this book, the next story in the sequence, The Iynx, will be featured in the upcoming spring issue of Cirsova.
Clock’s Watch Available now at:
Okay, there have been lots of conversations going on that are conflating certain things and certain arguments as being one and the same, and this leads to a lot of goal-post moving, so I’m going to try to untangle stuff here.
- Dungeons & Dragons was not “Tolkien + a few other things”
- Dungeons & Dragons was “Lots of things, including some Tolkien”
- Elves in the Hobbit are substantially different from Elves in Lord of the Rings and later Tolkien Legendarium; they are not “Tolkienesque” in the way that the term is generally understood.
- “Dungeons & Dragons is a Tolkien/Middle Earth adventure game” is a false statement.
- Chainmail, however, does include significant elements from the Hobbit; saying that the fantasy portion of Chainmail is Tolkien-the Game, is not entirely ridiculous.
- The Hobbit was far more influential on Chainmail and Dungeons & Dragons than the Lord of the Rings proper.*
- Elves in Chainmail are not explicitly “Tolkien elves”; they bear little resemblance to Lord of the Rings elves, though they do resemble elves from the Hobbit or the Rankin & Bass cartoon.
- Do people consider the Rankin and Bass elves “Tolkienesque”?
- Chainmail elves are mechanically identical to Fairies and share an entry.
- Chainmail elves can turn invisible at will;
- Orcs in Chainmail ARE explicitly “Tolkien Orcs”; their tribes are described in terms of “Hand Orcs”, “Mordor Orcs”, etc.
- Elves as they appear in D&D are substantially different from Elves as they are depicted in either the Lord of the Rings or the Silmarillion. Though a case can be made that they bear similarities to the wood elves from The Hobbit, they bear a much stronger resemblance to humanoid fey races from Poul Anderson.
- PC Races in D&D do owe some to Tolkien, but only Halflings are explicitly Tolkienian
- Tolkien did not have a literary monopoly on stout and hardy dwarves who live in the mountains, mine for treasure, or craft fantastic weapons; it does not pass a reasonable-doubt check, but it’s not far-fetched to say they were, if they did not become, Tolkien dwarves.
- Shifts in D&D towards more Tolkienian/Tolkienesque/Tolkiengrotesque races and trappings are the result of Tolkien becoming the “Goto” name in fantasy from the late 70s on as Tolkien Clones and Branded Gaming Fiction began to dominate the market and public conscious and therefore the minds of the people playing and later the people developing the game; this was not by design.
Note that all of the above is completely separate from the original discussion that:
- I hypothesize that The Hobbit had little/no impact on the 1st and 2nd waves of 20th Century Fantasy, though I remain open to and will look for evidence to the contrary.
- The Lord of the Rings’ influence on fantasy in the 70s and beyond is undeniable; its influence on fantasy prior to the mid-60s highly suspect
- Questioning Tolkien’s influence on literature from periods immediately contemporary with him and the intervening years between the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings or the latter’s eventual paperback release =/= dismissing Tolkien’s work or his subsequent influence or denigrating it ala Michael Moorcock.
Lastly, if I’d remembered that this was the 80th Anniversary of the Hobbit, I probably would’ve avoided the topic entirely.
*:This one definitely needs citation, and I am looking for it, but it came from an interview with Gary where he pretty much comes out and says something along these lines.