As some of you may or may not know, our friend and contributor Robert Zoltan has been working on and publishing a new SFF publication, Sexy Fantastic, for folks into retro-pulp bodice rippers [think the sort of Andrew J. Offutt stories he published under his own name].
Robert will be doing a Kickstarter to raise additional funds for this project soon [July 1], and are accepting submissions through 15th of June.
Looking for superb heroic fantasy/sword and sorcery stories for Issue 4 of Sexy Fantastic magazine: Swords & Shadows! The fiction in the first three issues has been of incredibly high quality, and we seek to maintain that standard. Sexy Fantastic prefers mystery, strangeness, eroticism and atmosphere over violence. Note: this is not an erotica magazine; it simply does not censor stories for sexual content and treats sex as a normal part of life. $100 payment. 3K-10K word length. Deadline June 15th. See guidelines for tips and detailed submission instructions. https://sexyfantasticmagazine.com/fictionsubmissions/
If you have a story that you’ve been holding onto for us, give Robert’s mag a shot first, especially if it contains erotic themes and content. Right now, it’s looking like we won’t be able to take submissions until July, maybe August, so don’t hold anything back on our account! Send Robert your best!
I really hope that in the future we’ll see even more discussion on the younger Hawthorne and his works. Since embarking on this project, I’ve had the pleasure to read quite a handful of his writings: The Golden Fleece, Six Cent Sam’s, The Cosmic Courtship, Absolute Evil, A Goth From Boston, and Sara Was Judith, and I can’t help but feel like we’ve stumbled upon a forgotten but significant missing link in the history of early Weird Fiction. Julian bridges the gap between the high gothic era, writing throughout the gilded age, and the early golden age of pulps.
Just how influential was he on early writers of Weird Fiction? How influential were other early writers of Weird Fiction on him? In his final novel from 1920, he describes a cult of lads at Harvard who refer to themselves as “Dagons” and proceeds with a litany of old and exotic tomes kept on their shelves in what most would immediately recognize and refer to as “Lovecraftian” in manner and style. Hawthorne had a keen interest in the metaphysical and where it clashed with rapidly advancing sciences and medicines–the very core, some scholars would say, of Lovecraft’s brand of cosmic horror.
Right now, it would be very difficult to say or do more than just speculate on his significance. What we do know is that he was incredibly prolific and at one time fairly well-regarded. Indeed, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is on record stating his preference for Julian over Nathaniel. While we can’t really make any broad declarations as to his significance or lasting influences, I do believe that this project and our next one going forward will have laid the foundations to re-evaluate the significance of Julian Hawthorne’s writing and influence in our contemporary context.
We aim to have The Cosmic Courtship out the door by August at the latest. Retailers should have them before the end of the year. If you’re looking for other ways to support Cirsova publishing, look no further than Amazon, where you’ll be able to find all of our titles just by searching for “Cirsova.”
Misha Burnett has recently announced a new anthology project through Cedar Sanderson’s new Sanderley Studios imprint which he will act as editor for.
The focus of the anthology will be stories for young readers. I’m guessing and hoping this means classic boys adventure in the vein of RL Stevenson with some rip-roaring swashbuckling of Dumas and relatable levity of Twain. And maybe the princesses and aliens of Burroughs and Kline.
Submissions are looking for stories that will appeal to both teen boys and girls.
I am looking for exciting adventure stories that showcase (but not preach) virtues, suitable for boys and girls in their teens.
Submissions open on Mar 15th and will run until May 15th.
The ideal story would be between 5,000 and 10,000 words and be action oriented. All genres considered, but exotic settings preferred–Science Fiction and Fantasy, but also Wilderness Survival and Historical Fiction.
Recently, I was sent a review copy of Matthew “Skinny” Vealey’s indie horror comic, Otis Stein.
Otis, a strapping young redneck, is the husband of Mary, a reformed cultist. Their daughter tragically died of cancer, and her medical expenses have left them ruined.
They’re about to be foreclosed on, Otis blows himself up in a moonshining accident, and Mary’s old “associates” come looking for her!
Mary’s attempt to use her occult arts to resurrect her husband is interrupted as the cultists close in. The cultists have their own designs on Otis to use him as a host for dark supernatural powers! Will the evil forces hold sway or will love triumph?
Otis Stein is a book that I appreciated more on subsequent reads. At first, it seems rather rough and simple, but there’s actually some nice depth and nuance that you’ll catch reading it more than once. The art is ugly, but in a way that is suited for the genre and story; “grotesque” may be a more accurate term. It gives the book a throwback vibe to some of the more obscure black & white indies of the 80s. The art does what it needs to for the story, and it does it well enough.
The pacing of the book is a steady launch ramp, starting with a slow burn setup, but never really wasting time getting where it’s going. The turns from mundane to macabre to monstrous in the three acts of the book are nicely done and reminiscent of Swamp Thing’s origin in House of Secrets [though much more grisly]. Much of the last section of the book is pure grisly action-horror, where the art style really has a chance to shine.
To be honest, at first I wasn’t impressed by Otis Stein, but I think I just didn’t know what to expect and failed to appreciate it on its own terms. I think it’s easy to read a single issue comic and not really appreciate it on the first read and then toss it aside and forget about it. But with Otis Stein, the more I come back to it, the more I find that I really do like it and the more it grows in my esteem.
If you enjoy horror comics or gore comics or even romance comics, you might consider picking this one up.
Larry Niven’s masterpiece Ringworld includes a conversation which alludes to SF world-making in a mildly funny way. Louis Wu’s shipmate Teela Brown objects to the idea that the makers of the Ringworld would bring only “safe” animals to their artificial world; she asks “What if the Ringworld Engineers [who built the huge Ring] liked tigers?”
Most readers of Cirsova don’t come here for the science, and some will question the review of a zoology book on this site. Nevertheless, worldbuilding for fantasy, gaming, and SF authors usually includes descriptions of animal life, as well as the role played by predators in myth, art, and the story itself.
Good world-makers, such as Hal Clement, craft all from top to bottom; some more careless authors simply throw a slew of carnivorous beasts at their heroes without wondering who eats whom. On Earth, the top predators which have survived the end of the Ice Age are central both to ecology (as keystone species) and to myth (as gods, as beings created by God, or as the enemies of gods or heroes).
The four ‘monsters’ of the title are lions in India, crocodiles in Australia, bears in Romania, and Siberian tigers. In each case we look both at the beasts and at the humans who have to deal with them: avoiding them, fighting them, hunting them, worshipping them.
The book reflects on the past as well as the future: like the makers of the Ringworld, we are building a habitat which is more and more artificial. In our future, will we like tigers? Will we like them enough to give them enough space to live freely in the wild? And will we like them enough to tolerate them occasionally killing us?
What can we make of this sojourn through lions, and tigers, and bears (and crocodiles!)? On one level, the travel story is light reading, like a Bill Bryson story with more science asides. The careful reader will note that the science is a very readable introduction to topics like trophic collapses and keystone predators (this section could make a whole fantasy campaign in a setting such as Nicholas Eames’ or Lois McMaster Bujold’s worlds, where losing one species, even a mightily nasty one, causes all heck to break loose). On another, the SF writer could see here a reply to Niven’s question. Well, what if they liked grizzly bears? Heinlein’s dragon-infested forest in Glory Road is an example of a good use of these concepts; there are many others.
The book is a lesson, an enjoyable one, in how to use animals such as Burroughs’ banths or the “grezzen” in Buettner’s novels. The thoughtful author or GM will profit from reading it. Recommended.
In putting together a selected bibliography to include in the new edition of The Cosmic Courtship that we’re putting out, I came across one book called Six Cent Sam’s–I couldn’t find out much of anything about it, but surprisingly there was a facsimile edition available, so I went ahead and nabbed it. [Yes, I bought it just so I could add a couple words to the bibliography page.]
Six Cent Sam’s is a weird mystery short fiction anthology with a fascinating framing device: the narrator is ushered into a quiet and exclusive dive by a friend. That dive is Six Cent Sam’s–it only costs six cents to get in, but there are a few catches: you have to pay your own way [no treating to get in], Sam has to like you, and you have to be of ‘a certain sort.’ The six cents gets you admission, a booth, a meal, and whatever entertainment is on the tap, but there’s a special rule: anyone can drop by one of the other booths and offer additional food and libation which may only be accepted if repaid by a tale of one’s latest adventures and/or strange happenings.
While there’s clear demarcation between the tales, Hawthorne is more clever than just having his narrator go from booth to booth. While the first story serves as an introduction to the concept and has a marginally science fiction premise [an inventor is in love with a woman whose father is a doctor; inventor has an ailment that the doctor tries to use hypnosis to cure; doctor can’t hypnotize the guy, but the guy’s susceptible to his daughter; after several sessions, doctor and daughter disappear; guy finds out doctor has stolen his invention and patented it, using the hypnosis sessions to work out the kinks the guy himself had not yet worked out; he’s broken up about it, cuz he still loves the girl; end of his tale, the girl walks in–she’s broken up about it, her father’s dead, and they’ve got some stuff to talk about.] The next story begins on another night, in the middle of drinking and cards among friends [including the narrator, who is now a regular at Sam’s], and there is concern over a missing friend–he was with one of them on the street one moment, and was gone the next! At the heart of the mystery is a beautiful Persian exotic dancer and a progressive modern girl, that the young lad was absolutely torn between.
Mary Faust, a brilliant scientist, has developed a machine that can allow the conscious human soul to explore the cosmos! Her promising young assistant Miriam Mayne has accidentally transferred her consciousness to Saturn, where she falls under the enchantment of an evil sorcerer! Jack Paladin, her love, sets out after her on a thrilling celestial journey to the ringed planet! Swashbuckling adventure and high romance await in Julian Hawthorne’s The Cosmic Courtship!
While most are at least somewhat familiar with Nathaniel Hawthorne as one of the great American authors, less well known is that his son Julian was an incredibly prolific writer in his own right. Julian wrote on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from literary analysis of his father’s works to poetry to period romances and adventures. Late in his career, Julian even dabbled in the emerging genre of Science Fiction.
The Cosmic Courtship was serialized in Frank A. Munsey’s All-Story Weekly across four issues, beginning with the November 24, 1917 issue and running through the December 15, 1917 issue. While this story has been in the public domain for some time, it has never been collected or published elsewhere until now.
Cirsova Publishing has taken on this exciting project with the aim of preserving this story for posterity and ensuring that it is not lost to future generations.
Michael Tierney is a pulp historian and archivist who has written extensively on Edgar Rice Burroughs, having created the massive four volume Edgar Rice Burroughs 100 Year Art Chronology, and is currently working on another Art Chronology about Robert E. Howard. He has been involved in the comic book industry for 40 years, owning two of the oldest comic book stores in Central Arkansas until switching to mail-order only in 2020. He is also an accomplished science fiction writer and artist, having worked on his Wild Stars saga since the 1970s. Michael not only made his pulp library available for this project, he provided the photographic images of these rare magazines so that a manuscript could be produced. He has also lent his years of experience digitally restoring damaged pulp art to restore the original cover by Fred W. Small to create a unique cover for this edition.
Robert Allen Lupton is a prolific author, pulp historian, and commercial hot air balloon pilot. He has published nearly 200 short stories across numerous anthologies, including the New York Times Best Selling Chicken Soup For the Soul series, and has published several anthologies and novels. His most recent novel, “Dejanna of the Double Star” was published in December 2020. Robert has been an active Edgar Rice Burroughs historian, researcher, and writer since the 1970s, including at ERBzine, where several of his articles and stories are published. Robert has painstakingly recreated the text as it was originally published from the digital images provided from Michael’s collection.
Cirsova Publishing has been publishing thrilling adventure science fiction and fantasy since 2016. They have published nearly 20 issues of their flagship publication, Cirsova Magazine. Additionally, they have published a number of anthologies, a fully illustrated edition of Leigh Brackett’s Planet Stories-era Stark adventures, Jim Breyfogle’s Mongoose and Meerkat, and the 35th Anniversary Editions of Michael Tierney’s Wild Stars.
I’m long overdue on this review of The Blazing Chief, the third and final book in Matt Spencer’s Deschembine trilogy. Awhile back, Matt sent me review copies of some of his stuff, and apparently some of our review was glowing enough to be included in the ‘praise’ section for this volume! You can check out those reviews here and here.
I’ll also note that Matt Spencer has a Deschembine gaiden story that was published in our 2020 Fall Special.
The most important question about any final book in a series is, did it stick the landing? Was it a satisfying conclusion to the story being told and did the loose threads get tied up?
I’d say, for the most part, yes.
One of the things that I noted when reading The Night and the Land was how, despite being an almost complete monster, by the end of the book you felt for Sheldon and even if you didn’t want him to succeed, you were kind of glad he survived his encounter with Rob. As the trilogy unfolds, Spencer leans into this, and while you can’t really call him the protagonist in a book with so many shifting view points, by the end of book 3, he’s something of “the hero, ackshually,” particularly as the focus shifts away from Rob as a person and more a force or nature.
I’ll admit that one of the plot twists part way through this final installment was something of a gut-punch that makes a big chuck of the story something of a shoot-the-shaggy-dog. Spencer is generally pretty liberal with his character deaths, but they’re usually secondary characters. This one was almost as surprising as when Tomino killed off Amuro halfway through the last Gundam novel (though admittedly Spencer handled this one better.)
In a way, it serves to remind that in times of crises, it’s not just one person’s story, and everyone else’s stories still go on without them, but it’s a risky choice to make in a fictional story.
Where The Blazing Chief succeeds best, I think, is its transition from modern fantasy [it’s hard to call it Urban Fantasy, when so much of it takes place in small towns and rural backwaters] to mythic fantasy. Readers who are waiting to finally get a glimpse of Deschemb will not be disappointed.
Overall, I’d say The Blazing Chief delivers a satisfying ending to series. Given the “deep lore” nature of this trilogy, I think it’s even worth it to go back and reread the whole series after finishing this one.
I also received a copy of Changing of the Guards, which is a prequel/sidestory that takes place in Old Deschemb that was written while the rights to trilogy were in limbo with a past publisher. I actually read this before The Blazing Chief, but I hadn’t had a chance to review it.
Changing of the Guards is an action-packed grimdark fantasy with lots of brutality, blood and guts, etc. It’s all right for what it is, but I think it lacks some of the spark and mystery of the main Deschembine books. While Spencer was able to craft an incredibly deep and mythic setting on earth with aeons of a hidden secret war occurring beneath the noses of mankind [until everything blows up] with the Deschembine Trilogy, Deschemb itself in Changing of the Guards feels a bit flat. I think the biggest weakness in Changing of the Guards is the anachronistic dialog–the sort of speech that worked well in the Deschembine Trilogy, which mostly took place on contemporary earth, felt strange in the mouths of fantasyland characters. Most notably, I’d say, “glowstick” as a pejorative for Spirelights makes sense in a contemporary setting, but not in a fantasy world that ostensibly never had a candy-raver scene.
Also, some of the violence and brutality was a bit too callous for my taste. While the Deschembine Trilogy featured a pretty rough cast, and most of the characters had done some really bad thing at some point or another, you still got the feeling that some of them were good people trying to do good in some rough and rotten circumstances. You don’t really get that in Changing of the Guards, where the characters are all almost irredeemably and unapologetically evil, with the only saving grace being that their machinations are aimed at individuals even more corrupt and evil than themselves.
That said, it was still an intriguing read and worth checking out if you can’t get enough of Deschemb.
Very soon, we’ll have an audiobook edition of Misha Burnett’s Endless Summer available. Read by Brandon Casinelli, this is a work that Misha Burnett considers his masterpiece. You will not want to miss it.