Reviews on Issue 5, CL Moore & Hugos

Issue 5 is finally starting to get some more reviews on Amazon! A huge thank you to everyone who has taken a moment to review this or any of our other issues!

Five issues on, and Cirsova is keeping up with its high standard. Even tho the large chunk of this issue is based around this same shared fictional background, stories are as varied in theme, tone and style as ever, with now usual mixture of new authors and zine veterans. Burnett’s short piece stole the show for me. In this age of “subversive” takes on Lovecraft, it is surprising to see one such story in a magazine like this one, one that is actually good at what it does unlike many a thematically similar yet preachy and cringe-inducing piece whose fame lies on its fashionable themes alone. – Paul Blagojevic

The hype is real. A themed issue based on the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft upon which is backdropped some of the most rousing adventure fiction I’ve read in some time. No need to fear the dreck of such pastiches often rolled out by inferior immitators, Cthulhu is not namedropped even once. Like Adventure Stories and Weird Tales before it Cirsova continues to dominate short fiction and has my life long support.

Immensely pleased. – Anon

The Misha Burnett piece is the best story I’ve read yet this year. Since writing Appendix N, I’ve been on the lookout for a magazine that could put out short science fiction and fantasy along the lines of what people were reading back when fantasy role-playing games were a brand new thing. Cirsova is it! – Jeffro Johnson*

*:Jeffro’s been a past contributor of non-fiction for us.

One of Jeffro’s pieces for us, in our third issue, was his Retrospective on The Best of C.L. MooreRetrospective piece on The Best of C.L. Moore. I’d read some Moore, but I’m just now getting around this classic anthology edited by Lester Del Ray.  I was left a bit unimpressed by her collab with Kuttner on The Last Citadel, but I gave the grande dame another chance when I found a Jirel anthology, which I enjoyed thoroughly, yet now, reading a bit broader range of her stories, I’m blown away. I’m only a little ways into this anthology, but The Black Thirst and The Bright Illusion… Wow. C.L. Moore may be better at writing Lovecraftian Science Fiction than Lovecraft!

I’d strongly recommend that anyone considering trying their hand at writing “Lovecraftian” or Weird Fiction in general would be doing themselves a huge favor in reading Moore and looking to her for inspiration rather than those who were trying to directly ape Lovecraft’s writing.

Lastly, I’ll note that the voting for the Hugo Awards closes on Friday. It’s been interesting to see just how little discussion there is on categories that do not focus on a single work; there’s been next to no talk about our category, the pro-zine category,  or the fanzine category. It’s understandable, though. It would be a struggle for most folks to get through all of the fiction categories in time to make a somewhat informed decision on them, much less slog through portfolios of two and a half dozen zines and editors. Much more so than the fiction, which is heavily reviewed and discussed on merit**, it’s a popularity contest and PR game, and as the guy from Amazing Stories pointed out, one we’re not the best at playing. Between being a last-second Rabid Puppy addition and of our support for a pro-ethics movement that was relentlessly smeared by the media it was trying to hold accountable, I hold no illusions as to our chances of winning. I’ll be happy so long as the magazine of the guy who was tweeting out pro-Antifa memes doesn’t win.

**:Even if you disagree with the standards or lenses the stories are measured against, you can’t deny that they are being discussed on those merits.

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Sad Puppies Are Up + My Hugo Recs

Let’s take a look right quick:

Back in February, I said this would be the Sad Puppies Novel list:

A Long Time Until Now – Michael Z Williamson
Seveneves – Neal Stephenson
Uprooted – Naomi Novik
Honor At Stake – Declan Finn
The Just City – Jo Walton
Somewhither – John C Wright
The Fifth Season – NK Jemisin
The Aeronaut’s Windlass – Jim Butcher
Nethereal – Brian Niemeier
Strands of Sorrow: Black Tide Rising – John Ringo

And a month and a half later, this is the Sad Puppies Novel list:

Somewhither – John C Wright
Honor At Stake – Declan Finn
The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass – Jim Butcher
Uprooted – Naomi Novik
A Long Time Until Now – Michael Z Williamson
Seveneves – Neal Stephenson
Son of the Black Sword – Larry Correia
Strands of Sorrow – John Ringo
Nethereal – Brian Niemeier
Ancillary Mercy – Ann Leckie

The only difference was I assumed Correia would bow out again (which isn’t to say he won’t) and stuck in Jemisin and Walton, who were tied only to be beaten by Leckie by one vote probably voiced in the month  between when I made my call and when Kate closed the comments section.  As Judgedeadd points out below, votes for Leckie were miscounted, so I called it right back in February after all.  Jemisin and Walton should both be on the list with 8 votes each.

We’re on the cutting edge here at Cirsova, folks.

It may have been a mistake to post a recommended reading list with probably over a million words of content two weeks before nominations close.  Unless it was a clever trick to say “aha!  Sad Puppies was about the discussion, not the final list!” in which case, well played.  That means that those who came over from places like File770 to leave comments and votes are now Sad Puppies.

Without the synergy between Sads & Rabids this year, I think we’ll see less of a direct impact this time around, but I think that it gives a pretty good look at how the Hugo noms would’ve shaken out with or without the Puppies. Plus, it may give the statisticians out there a better look at just how much pull Vox has.  There was a lot of talk last year that there were actually only a handful of Sad Puppies and the 500 or so Vile Faceless Minions were the deciding factor.

Vox has been posting his own list slowly over the course of the last month and a half showcasing some of his own bizarre and sometimes hilarious picks. After a friend and I clicked through some titles the other night, absolutely cracking up laughing, I’ve decided that Chuck Tingle probably deserves an award for something .  Maybe not a Hugo, but sure, man, somebody toss that guy a trophy.

In any case, the lack of media circus with its libelous accusations this year can’t be a bad thing.

Below are my own picks and recommendations (in categories where I recommended more than 5, I’m not saying who I did and didn’t vote for).

Best Novel
Torchship – Karl Gallagher
The Sceptre of Morgulan – Matthew D. Ryan

Best Dramatic Presentation Short
Star Wars: Tie Fighter – Paul Johnson
Modern Educayshun – Neel Kolhatkar
iZombie: Blaine’s World – Michael Fields / Rob Thomas

Best Dramatic Presentation Long
Jupiter Ascending – The Wachowskis

Best Related
Retrospective: Appendix N – Jeffro Johnson
Safe Space as Rape Room: Science Fiction Culture and Childhood’s End – Daniel Eness
The Story of Moira Greyland – Moira Greyland
Gamergate Life – Kukuruyo

Best Graphic Story
Rusty & Co.: Circus Minimus – Mike R.
Gamergate Life – Kukuruyo

Best Fanzine
The Book Wars
Castalia House
Superversive SF
Lurking Rhythmically
Mad Genius Club
File 770

Best Fancast
Honey Badger Radio
NEET Life: Dead Gamers Talking

Best Fanwriter
Sci-fist
Dyvers
Douglas Ernst
Jeffro Johnson
Planetary Defense Commander
Ron Edwards
Zenopus Archives

Best Fan Artist
Kukuruyo
Jabari Weathers

Too bad one of the requirements for Semi-Pro Zine is having at least 4 issues; if the field is really as thin as Kate suggests, it would be a great opportunity for Cirsova to swoop in and raise some eyebrows.  We may have 4 issues by next spring, though.  More on that soon, I hope!

 

Pulps and Puppies

Cirsova got a mention the other day in a French SFF blog post where I get name dropped as a Puppy supporter. It’s in French, but fortunately French is one of those languages that doesn’t parse into total gibberish with translation software.

The Short version is ‘the Puppies are made up of ultraconservative American authors’ and ‘while the Puppies are nominally defenders of the pulps and the pulpy, they might not actually be very pulpy in practice’.

While the first point is utter nonsense, the latter is a bit more interesting. Yes, my biggest gripe with the Puppies was that I didn’t feel like they were putting forth the sort of pulpy SF that I’d hoped for. Even this year there’s a lot of squee about Tuesdays with Molakesh the Destroyer that I just don’t get.

It’s less, I think, that the Puppies aren’t what they claim to be and more they are not what others claim them to be.

I supported the Puppies largely because a lot of what I saw written about them was awful bald-faced lies, but also in part because based on those bald-faced lies I expected something different; what I read between the lines of the lies ended up being rather false as well. If the critics of the Puppies hadn’t called them sexist, racist, homophobic nazis who wanted to put people on trains and send them to the camps after running women and non-white authors out of science fiction rather than let their recommendations stand or fall on their own, I probably wouldn’t have been so outspoken on the Puppies’ behalf.

I’ve already posted most of my recommendations for the Hugos this year. It’ll be interesting to see how they jibe with whatever the Puppies pick, but I doubt there will be much overlap in the categories I talked about.  A lot of what’s on my ballot hasn’t matched Ted’s recommendations and I doubt it’ll match what Kate, Sarah and Amanda eventually post.  I don’t know if that makes me Puppy or not this year.

Back to the original post, I’m glad this guy pointed out Airship 27; I took a look at the website and I think I’ll be checking out. It’s also cool that this guy talks about Pulp influence in the OSR community (of which I consider myself to be part). Hey, man Appendix N and all that! OSR is what got me embroiled in the Hugos last year in the first place when Jeffro Johnson got his nod.

Anyway, I appreciate the mention and hope that Fabian considers checking out issue #1 of Cirsova. I think he’d dig it.

More Hugo Recommendations: Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form

Star Wars: Tie Fighter – Paul Johnson

Modern Educayshun – Neel Kolhatkar

I haven’t decided on an episode yet, but I’d also recommend iZombie.  It’s kind of like a cutesy gender-flipped Forever Knight that has been dipped in Crossing Jordan, and that appeals to me in ways I can’t quite articulate.  It is also one of the first things I’ve seen that has managed to make zombies interesting.

And Now for Something Completely Similar: Fanzine & Fancast Recommendations

Admittedly, I don’t follow a whole lot of Fanzines out there, so this list will be shorter than my list of Fanwriters, but I did want to give some shout-outs:

The Book Wars (http://thebookwars.wordpress.com) – The Book Wars tends to cover a lot of stuff I don’t normally read and sadly often don’t get around to, but they are arguably one the best fanzines focused on Young Adult literature, much of which includes Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Even though I usually haven’t read the books they’re talking about, I’m always interested in reading what they have to say about them.

Castalia House (http://www.castaliahouse.com) – There’s a lot of great writing going on at Castalia House, and it keeps getting better.  I’m not just saying that because I have a column there.  Jeffro’s RETROSPECTIVE series here is one of the major highlights, but there’s a lot of other great stuff that is rapidly making CH the connoisseur’s STF and gaming magazine.

Superversive SF (http://www.superversivesf.com) – This is one of those sites that makes me really wish that commercial wordpress sites could be followed through free wordpress’ reader feed.  There’s a great range of writers here covering a wide range of topics in science fiction.

Lurking Rhythmically (http://lurkingrhythmically.blogspot.com/) – I’ll say that this counts as a fanzine since it’s a site shared by two writers.  They cover everything from guns to games, from Traveller to My Little Pony; it’s one of my favorite sites that I check less often than I should (why are so many of the best sites on blogspot!?)

File770 (http://file770.com) – File770 is indisputably one of the best places to go if you want a snap-shot of what’s going on in SF today.

Mad Genius Club (http://www.madgenuisclub.com ) – Though I find myself reading MGC less regularly these days, there’s always at least one post a week that I find worthwhile bits in.  It’s more shop-talk than SF, but as an indie who’s trying to figure out what’s what, the shop-talk can be helpful and informative.  I also enjoy Sarah Hoyt’s rants, even if I don’t always have time to read more than the first few paragraphs of them.

Onto Fancasts!  There’s only so much youtube time in the day, so I don’t follow a lot of fancasts, but these that I do are excellent.

Honey Badger Radio: Nerd Cast & Nerdrevolt – These guys get together a great array of guests from sci-fi and gaming to talk about all things nerdy, books, games, TV, movies and music.  It’s one of the best and broadest fancasts out there.

NEET LIFE: Dead Gamers Talking – This podcast is mostly gaming focused, but it’s absolutely hilarious. Socks is one of the best ranters on the tubes, and Optimus Deadpool never fails to crack me up.

And Now For Something Completely Different: Fanwriter Recommendations!

I saw the first half of the Hunger Games series last night, but rather than blog politics/culture wars two days in a row, I have a better idea: Hugo recommendations!

I’m not listing who I’m nominating, because some of these will come to a coin-toss (not going there, I said I’d stay away from politics!) when I finish my final ballot.  Rather instead, consider these some people who I seriously think are worth checking out:

Sci-fist ( https://scifist.wordpress.com/ ) – This guy does some amazingly in-depth looks at truly rancid classics of sci-fi film, looking not only at the film and the production but everyone who had anything significant to do with it and their careers before and after they worked on whatever schlock-fest he’s reviewing.

Charles Akins / Dyvers (http://dyverscampaign.blogspot.com/) – Charles has done a great service to the gaming community by curating the Great Blog Roll Call; I only wish he’d been able to do more Best Reads of the Week in 2015, but keeping up with a community of that size, finding and spotlighting the best AND creating your own quality content is a daunting task.

Douglas Ernst (http://douglasernstblog.com/) – Doug Ernst writes about culture wars and Spider-man; he’s in Dan Slott’s head big-time.  In fact, the antagonism between these two is one of the most entertaining ongoing reads online today!

Jeffro Johnson ( https://jeffro.wordpress.com / https://www.castaliahouse.com ) – Jeffro’s a knight-errant on a chivalric quest to find and shine a light on old and sometimes near-forgotten science fiction.  I’ve checked out more authors on his recommendation than nearly anyone else, because his enthusiasm is so contagious, and I’m very happy that I have.

Ron Edwards (http://adeptpress.wordpress.com) – This guy knows comics.  His pieces on silver-age through early modern comics, the zeitgeist certain titles capture and the cultural shifts reflected in them makes for some of the most fascinating reading on the web.

Planetary Defense Commander (https://planetarydefensecommand.wordpress.com/) – The quantity of SF this guy covers is amazing.  He’s one of the few people I’ve seen on wordpress really hitting the magazines hard to look at what’s going on in the SF short fiction world.

Zenopus Archives (http://zenopusarchives.blogspot.com) – I don’t use many homebrewed tools in my games, but when I do, they’re from Zenopus Archives!  His love of the Holmes edition has certainly rubbed off on me.  He’s reaching the end of the massive undertaking of going over the Holmes manuscript with a fine-toothed comb, comparing it to the published version of Holmes Basic, spotting and sourcing differences, and creating a treasure trove of old-school fantasy bits on the side.

 

 

A Quick Look at Likely Sad Puppy Novels Recommendations

I did a quick tally of the novels being bandied about over at the Sad Puppies site’s page for Best Novel.  Now, I haven’t weighted the results, and if they toss out the guys who seconded everything AND posted lengthy lists of their own, the end results might be a bit different.  This isn’t done by any statistical analysis, just a quick look at what’s being talked about.

In no particular order, the books seem to be:

A Long Time Until Now – Michael Z Williamson
Seveneves – Neal Stephenson
Uprooted – Naomi Novik
Honor At Stake – Declan Finn
The Just City – Jo Walton
Somewhither – John C Wright
The Fifth Season – NK Jemisin
The Aeronaut’s Windlass – Jim Butcher
Nethereal – Brian Niemeier
Strands of Sorrow: Black Tide Rising – John Ringo

Correia’s Son of the Black Sword would probably bump off The Fifth Season or The Just City if he doesn’t/didn’t say “Don’t put me forward this year”.

If SP4 were only going with 5 noms (which they’re not), the list would probably have been:
Somewhither, Seveneves, Uprooted, the Aeronaut’s Windlass and a toss-up between Long Time Until Now and Honor at Stake.

Again, this is just my guessing based on what’s out there in the public forum (per Brad Torgersen, I believe, SP3 included recommendations from emails and skype or IRC chats); I could be completely off, miscounted or, as I said, given undue weight to the certain seconders who seemed to second every over thing (try saying that three times fast!).  Ultimately, the call will come down to Paulk, Hoyt and Green; it’ll be interesting to see how close my guesses were.

Disclaimer: Whatever the puppies decide, my nom vote is going to Torchship.  I doubt I’ll be a particularly active participant in whatever happens this year.