Last Day For the Wild Stars IGG! + On Geek Gab with Jeffro Johnson

Update: John Trent’s interview with Michael Tierney at Bounding Into Comics has gone live!

Today is the last day for the Wild Stars IndieGoGo. And while I don’t expect a miracle that would land us $5500 in backers on the last day, it would be nice to get some numbers up. [It’s a flexible campaign, and all backers will have their perks fulfilled.]

We got all of the cover art in from Mark Wheatley, so we should be able to start getting the softcover proofs very soon.

Back Covers

I did another Wild Stars Noise Stream. This time, actually live. But because it was my first time, and I am a pleb, you can hear the “how does i obs?” vid I was checking to make sure I could hear my own streaming audio in the first couple seconds of the stream.

 

In a non-Wild Stars related note, I was on Geek Gab with Jeffro Johnson to talk about AD&D. This was really cool, especially since this is the first time Jeffro and I have actually talked, not just via email and blog comments. So it was kind of a big deal to me!

70th Anniversary Illustrated Edition of Leigh Brackett’s Enchantress of Venus Out Today!

Dark Secrets of an Inhuman Race Lie Hidden Beneath the Seas of Venus!

Eric John Stark travels the shores of Venus’ gaseous red seas seeking the whereabouts of a missing comrade. Pursuing this mystery puts him in the hands of the Lhari, a cruel and power-hungry family that rules over the pirate enclave of Shuruun!

Beneath the waves, the Lhari’s doomed slaves live and toil among ancient ruins, seeking out the lost super-weapon of the precursors. And Stark must join them or die!

If Varra, a vain and petty Lhari princess, can control both Stark and this lost weapon, all of Venus may be within her grasp!

An all new edition of Leigh Brackett’s classic planetary romance, fully illustrated by StarTwo and with a foreword by Jeffro Johnson, author of Appendix N: A Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons!

Enchantress Cover for ebook

Cirsova Publishing Announces Fully Illustrated 70th Anniversary Edition of Leigh Brackett’s Stark Trilogy

Little Rock, AR, 4/1/2019— Cirsova Publishing has teamed up with StarTwo to create an all-new, fully illustrated 70th Anniversary Edition of Leigh Brackett’s original Eric John Stark Trilogy. Cirsova Publishing aims to bring the action, adventure and romance of Leigh Brackett to a new generation of readers.

First published in the Summer of 1949, Queen of the Martian Catacombs introduced the world to Eric John Stark, the black mercenary swordsman. Stark’s adventures continued on Venus in 1949’s The Enchantress of Venus, and the swordsman returned to the Red Planet in 1951’s Black Amazon of Mars. While Brackett would revisit the character in 1970s with the Skaith trilogy, the original novellas are significant as one of the last iconic Sword & Planet cycles of the pulp era.

These stories will be presented like never before, featuring all new original artwork, including new covers paying homage to Allen Anderson’s originals for Planet Stories and 33 interior illustrations. Each has been checked and corrected against the original texts as they appeared in Planet Stories magazine and will feature introductions by Nathan Housley, aka the Pulp Archivist, Jeffro Johnson, the author of the critically acclaimed Appendix N: The Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons, and culture commentator, critic, and pulp enthusiast Liana Kerzner.

The 70th Anniversary Illustrated Stark will be released as individual volumes, in a softcover omnibus, and in a coffee-table hardcover art edition.

  • Queen of the Martian Catacombs + Illustrated Stark (Hardcover) – 4/30/2019
  • The Enchantress of Venus – 5/31/2019
  • Black Amazon of Mars – 6/28/2019
  • The Complete Illustrated Stark (Paperback) – 7/31/2019

Our end-goal is to put these classic works of science fiction back in the hands of readers, young and old.

Little Rock, Arkansas based Cirsova Publishing was founded in 2015. Its flagship publication Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine was a 2017 Hugo Award finalist for Best Semi-Pro Zine.

For More Information, visit https://cirsova.wordpress.com/Illustrated-Stark

StarTwo: http://www.startwo.net/

Cirsova Featured on Hollywood in Toto: Plus Bonus Content–The Origins of Cirsova

We did an interview with Paul Hair the other day for Hollywood in Toto. It went up yesterday and can be read here.

https://www.hollywoodintoto.com/young-tarzan-mysterious-she/

(Big shiny link so you don’t miss it ^^^^)

The article mostly features the exciting story of how we came to be publishing a brand-new Tarzan Story in our Spring Issue.

Some of the interview had to be truncated for length, so as a bonus, here’s a bit about the history of Cirsova, where the name comes from and why we started the magazine.

Cirsova started out as a TTRPG (think D&D) setting blog. Cirsova was the name of both an empire and its central province. I lucked out that Cirsova was one of those made-up words like “Kodak” that didn’t really exist in any language and didn’t really mean anything, so I was the only one using it. When I first started, if you tried to search for us, Google would ask “Do you mean Alissa Firsova?” (Look her up, she’s good.)
 
The setting was unused (it’s not a great setting, and while the “Encyclopedia” posts are all still on the blog if anyone really wants to read them, I wouldn’t recommend anyone try gaming in it). I did write a Choose Your Own Adventure book that took place in the distance past of the setting called “City at the Top of the World” which, despite Cirsova Magazine’s success has probably sold maybe a dozen copies.
 
The blog morphed towards more mechanical game-oriented topics as I became involved with the OSR [Old School Renaissance, though there’s disagreement about what the R really stands for]. This in turn led to additional focus on old school science fiction and fantasy writing. Conversations with Jeffro Johnson, who was a Hugo Awards finalist for his writings on 1e AD&D’s Appendix N works (books that had influenced the development of D&D), along with the Sad Puppies debacle got me thinking “I should start my own SFF zine”.
 
At this point, the most important thing to know is that it’s pronounced with a hard Latin “C”.
[…]Jeffro Johnson and the Sad Puppies had a lot to do with [why I started the Magazine].
 
I became aware of the latter because I was friends with the former, and he was on their short-list for best fan-writer.
 
How cool!” I thought “The serious-business science fiction community has taken notice of the OSR!”
 
The history of the Sad Puppies, the name-calling, the record number of No Awards given out is too long and, at this point, too stupid to devote much time to.
 
But one thing that Sad Puppies had promised was what Brad Torgersen called “Nutty Nuggets”; basically if a spaceship and action was on the cover of a book, you ought to find action and spaceships in the book—just like if a box of cereal says “Nutty Nuggets”, you expect the box to have “Nutty Nuggets” inside.
 
Except a lot of the short fiction that the Sad Puppies nominated was not discernibly different from a lot of the stories that I’d seen some members of Mad Genius Club (a blog behind the Sad Puppies campaign) complaining about.
 
Jeffro Johnson had a joke about needing to “regress harder”, and I’d been reading a bunch of Planet Stories and whatnot around that time and thought “Surely there are people out there actually writing stories like this today; I’ve just got to find them.” So, instead of doing something sensible like trying to find a magazine that published the kind of fiction I enjoy, I started my own and was willing to pay around $75-$100 per story for short fiction.
 
I managed to cobble together a first issue with a handful of stories and some great art from Jabari Weathers. It was a little bit sloppy, especially compared to our current issues, but it was a shot across the bow. By the end of 2016, we’d put out 4 issues and around 250k words of fiction.
 
This got us a Hugo nod in the Best Semi-Pro Zine category in 2017 (apparently it doesn’t take many votes for non-pro magazines to get nominated). And we were No Awarded, as expected, because we were one of Vox Day’s recommendations that year and because I review old pulp stories and old war games on the Castalia House blog.
 
But we closed out 2018 having put out 10 issues in 3 years.
 
[RE: rebranding] (…)even though Tarzan’s technically SFF because he exists in the same setting as Pellucidar, the dinosaur-filled hollow earth, he seemed as good an excuse as any to reposition ourselves as something of an Argosy, rather than a Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

Interview With Jon Del Arroz, Jeffro on Geek Gab, and Cirsova Line Art

Not long after our interview with Chris Lansdown, we also spoke with Jon Del Arroz about Cirsova’s background as an RPG setting and the types of stories Cirsova publishes and is looking for.  You can read it here.

Also over the weekend, Jeffro Johnson, one of our regular columnists and the author of the bestselling Appendix N: The Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons, was on Geek Gab.

Finally, I took a minute to snap the line-art that Ben Rodriguez sent for our Eldritch Earth cover.

Line Art photo.png

Should I have put this up on the chopping block? Probably, but I wanted to actually own an original piece of Cirsova artwork, at least for a little while.

Please consider backing us on Kickstarter! Only $1 gets you a digital subscription to our 2017 issues.

Hugo Noms are Live!

So a few of my picks made it!

Huge congrats to Jeffro Johnson, Douglas Ernst, and Kukuruyo.

Also, to the Castalia House family which I’m honored to be a part of.

A bunch of my picks were underdogs, so I didn’t expect them to get it, but hey, some of the names I’d floated even before SP4/RP2 made it.  The only real shame is that TIE Fighter didn’t make Dramatic Short Form.

Some of the Noms this year are positively magic.

I am, as has been pointed out, more “puppy-adjacent” than I am a Puppy, but I really can’t help but rub my hands together in glee over a few of these, particularly Kukuruyo, whom I DID vote for, and Chuck Tingle.

I wasn’t sure if I’d spring for a voting membership this year, but I think I just might…  Also, yay for the Leigh Brackett in the Retros!

Weekend Haul + Updates (Appendix N Book and Wargame Wednesdays)

I’d been getting better about my book buying, but being in the same town as one of the best flea market book-stores in the state over the weekend meant another stack of paperbacks to add to my To-Read pile.  I’m being a bit more judicious about what I grab, simply because I have so much already, but I did not want to pass some of these up:  Sword of Rhiannon (Brackett), Hiero’s Journey (Lanier), Berserker (Saberhagen), a crumbly Incompleat Enchanter (deCamp) that was thrown in for free on account of being crumbly, as well as a book each by Norman Spinrad and Philip Jose Farmer (I don’t remember the titles offhand).  I passed up a pretty sweet looking Gardner F. Fox book in part because I’ve already got a huge stack of him in unread magazines (including the next story I have to read in the Fall 1945 Planet Stories!), but I may pick it up some other time if I make more headway in my stacks.

One guy at one of the place who has all sorts of cool toys and magazines and stuff (who I got some Astounding from before) continued to posture about how rare and expensive and hard to find Planet Stories was when I asked if he’d seen them (“Oh, some of them go for over a hundred bucks!” “most of the ones I’ve found, I’ve got for $8-$12, and I’ve got about a dozen of them” “Oh, well they must not’a known what they had!”), so if I’m going to keep collecting them, I’m probably going to need to turn to eBay (where they still mostly cost around $8-$12).  Then again, I really need to read all (or some) of what I have first.  These magazines have waited 70 years for me, they can wait until I’ve at least finished half of the stack I’ve got.

I’m about halfway through Sceptre of Morgulan, and I have so many thoughts about it, especially in light of Matthew Ryan’s guest post in which he cites Tolkien as one of his biggest influences.  His own tale is very un-Tolkienien, and while the D&D influence is obvious, the output is much more in line with pre-Shannara fantasy than it is with the sort of ‘pink-slime’ fantasy that normally comes out of D&D + Tolkien.  I am not kidding when I say it’s like “vampire-hunting in Lankhmar”.  Can the process be reversed?  Can Appendix N-like stories be extracted from D&D + Tolkien by someone who has paid careful enough attention to the implicit setting and mechanical minutia of demonology even without the benefit of directly having been influenced by those things literary forebears?  Am I giving Ryan too much or too little credit?  I don’t know, but his books are amazing and a breath of fresh air!

Jeffro’s at one of those stages of “done” with his Appendix N book that is somewhere between “completed” and “finished”, but when it is done done, you can bet I’ll be buying copies for my friends and try to bully local book clubs into reading it.  I’m hoping he will go for multiple formats, including a coffee-table edition with Doug Kovacs or Erol Otis dust jacket for myself and a student’s paperback edition I can snap up a few of for everyone else.

I was going to announce this earlier, but Wednesday came and went and a few hiccups resulted in delays, but everything’s good now.  I’ll be writing an occasional piece at Castalia House for Wargame Wednesdays.  I will not be moving my entire posting series over there, since there is a rotating weekly group of writers, but generally speaking, I’ll be featuring the first of whatever series I’m covering over there and the rest over here.  So, uh.  Avalon Hill’s Bull Run pt. 1 is up!  Part two will go up here tomorrow or Wednesday.

Cirsova Issue # 1 Line-up Announcement + Other Updates

I’ve gotten an amazing response from the SFF writing community over the last month and some change. I’m finally ready to announce the contributors to Issue 1 of Cirsova.

The hardest part of this has been holding my tongue until now because of how much I’ve wanted to sing the praises of the Cirsova authors. Seriously, these guys (and gals) rock, are totally amazing and certainly names to be on the look-out for.

Issue one of Cirsova will feature the following:

Short Stories
The Gift of the Ob-Men by Schuyler Hernstrom
This Day, At Tilbury by Kat Otis
Rose by Any Other Name by Brian K Lowe
Late Bloom by Melanie Rees
The Hour of the Rat by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt
At the Feet of Neptune’s Queen by Abraham Strongjohn

Novelette
A Hill of Stars by Misha Burnett

Poetry
My Name is John Carter by James Hutchings

Feature Column
Retrospective: Toyman by E.C. Tubb by Jeffro Johnson

The magazine is moving into phase two now. I’m soliciting artists for the first issue. As much as I would like to offer a fully illustrated first issue, I will probably only be looking at cover art at this time so I can keep the per-issue costs low for readers.

During this time, I’ll be doing some minor layout stuff and calculating available adspace. I will try to keep adspace unintrusive, mostly using it to fill white space between stories with a page or two devoted to potential sponsors.
Hopefully phase two will go as swimmingly as phase one did. Once that’s taken care of, I’ll be moving to phase 3: Kickstarter. When I initiate the Kickstarter for this, I want to have an almost finished product ready; once I get advertisers locked in and their advert images placed, I can go straight to print.  This will NOT be one of those Kickstarter debacles where a project is “almost finished and going to ship soon” for months or years.  Layout will be more or less done, all authors have been paid, the artist will have been paid, things will be almost ready to go BEFORE we Kickstart.  The Kickstarter will be about investing in the FUTURE of the Cirsova zine.  Any profits it makes will go toward making a second issue.

That said, there’s not going to be stretch goals, T-shirts, stickers, secret forums or skype calls; just what I know I can put in your hands: a high quality SFF adventure magazine full of great stories.

In other no less exciting news, in a week, Cirsova will have a guest post by Matthew D. Ryan, author of the excellent Drasmyr books!

Hugo Awards Best Fan Writer Category

Even after all this time, I’m still trying to nail down a definition in my mind of what “Best Fan Writer” really means. So today, I’m going to try to define it for myself, and if that definition helps others, so be it!

Wikipedia says “The Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer is the Hugo Award given each year for writers of works related to science fiction or fantasy which appeared in low- or non-paying publications such as semiprozines or fanzines or in generally available electronic media during the previous calendar year. There is no restriction that the writer is not also a professional author, and several such authors have won the award for their non-paying works. The award was first presented in 1967 and has been awarded annually.”

The Hugo Awards official webpage simply says: “This is another person category. Note that it does not just apply to writing done in fanzines. Work published in semiprozines, and even on mailing lists, blogs, BBSs, and similar electronic fora, can be including when judging people for this Award. Only work in professional publications should not be considered.”

Sadly, neither of these definitions really convey what it means to be a fan writer beyond the barest qualifications. While it would be nice to see a few pieces try to objectively define what it means to be a fan writer, most of what I’ve seen have been Phillipics or Jeremiads in the Hugo Blogosphere decrying Mixon for even having the audacity to be nominated in the same year that the Puppies dominated the categories.

So, in this post, I will try to define what “Fan Writer” means and use it to justify my support of Jeffro Johnson in this year’s Best Fan Writer category.

On the face of it, a Fan Writer is just that. A fan who writes. They are a fan of something in the realm of fantasy and science fiction, and they write about fantasy and science fiction from the perspective of someone who is a fan to an audience of fellow or potential fans. A good fanwriter is like an evangelical minister of fantasy and science fiction; they give sermons to the believers to help them better understand the texts they know and love and they take the good word to those who have not heard it. You’ve been missing something in your life, and you don’t quite know what it is, but I think I can help you; here’s this story by Lord Dunsany!

To me, Jeffro Johnson has provided a treasure trove of knowledge and insight into a wide range of games and fiction, some of which I have only had a passing familiarity with others which I knew and loved but still gained new insight into. First and foremost, Jeffro Johnson is a fan. Not an elitist hipster fan who only likes that band because no one has heard of them and those who have can’t stand them, but a true and loving fan who wants to share the joy he has found in games and fiction with others. “Look at this awesome thing! Share in its awesomeness with me!” Of course like any devout, Jeffro has his shares of quirks. Monopoly orthodoxy, for instance, is as passionate a subject for Jeffro as politics and religion for most. But that’s part of why we love him, right? He has passion for the things he enjoys! Plus, his Google feed is like Drudge Report for nerds.

The hardest task for me this Hugo voting season is going to be ranking the Mad Genius Club Writers. They’re all amazing, and I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve read by them. The catch is, I know about the Mad Genius Club writers BECAUSE of Jeffro. I’m not going to attempt to rank any of them here, because I still have no idea which one is my favorite (but I suggest you check them all out, because they’re all great).

Mixon’s post on Requires Hate stands out like a sore thumb among the rest of the fan writing nominees. While I’m sure her piece is an excellent and important TL;DR (sorry, I really wasn’t interested enough to read all of it. The word count: it’s OVER 9000!!!) piece of serious journalism, I’m hesitant to call it Fan Writing. I’m sure that Mixon is a Fan, but her piece is not about fantasy/sci-fi written to the fandom or in an effort to expand the fandom in an effort to proselytize the genres further. It targets and pertains to very particular groups within the community in relation to the adverse actions of an individual -who sounds like an absolute reprobate-, but to me it does little of what the best sorts of Fan Writing ought to do.

Compare and contrast
Baird Searles’ now all-but-forgotten blurb from F&SF 1977:
“Probably the best reason [why the show works] is that Wonder Woman, by its very nature, doesn’t take itself at all seriously. And therefore, by a curious paradox, becomes much easier to take seriously, on its own level.”

“Keeping that blank naievete(sic) without coming across as stupid and boring is very difficult, and [Linda] Carter manages it beautifully”…”Besides, she fills those golden breast cups without looking grotesque, which is no small feat (take a look at some 40s s/f pulp covers and you’ll see what I mean).”

Laura J. Mixon’s Hugo Nominated Blog Post from 2014:
“Benjanun Sriduangkaew has established herself over the past two years as a well-liked and talented newer writer. As a lesbian Thai woman, she identifies as a member of a highly marginalized community, and there has been quite a bit of excitement in progressive circles around her rise in popularity as a short story writer.”

“I think of what happened this last August in Ferguson, Missouri. As a mother of two young adults around Mike Brown’s age, I break into a cold sweat when I think what his mother must be going through. I feel deeply angry, that in my own country today an unarmed young person can be shot on the street by a uniformed police officer, and months later there is no indictment, no criminal charges, against that man.”

“Between 37 and 40% of [Benjanun Sriduangkaew] targets, or nearly two-fifths, were people of color. Given that the field has been, and still is, predominantly white, this is disproportionately high. In other words, POC are much more likely to be a target of her attacks than whites.”

That Linda Carter sounds hot and that Benjanun Srimalamadingdong sounds like bad news. Requires Hate, from what I’ve gathered, is a far left radical progressive who pissed off a lot of people by harassing other far left radical progressives while ignoring the ‘rules’ set by the progressive stack. Linda Carter, from what I’ve gathered, is a hot lady who is staring in an awesome sci-fi show based on an old comic book, and all three sound like they’re worth checking out, amirite?

I’m not trying to minimize the work that Mixon did on her write-up on Requires Hate; that would take editing skills far beyond my own (wakka wakka!). But seriously, this might have belonged more in the Related Work category than Fan Writer. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to spit shine the dust jackets of those Jack Vance books Jeffro convinced me were worth checking out!

I was going to do a roundup of some terrible Hugo Related posts

but most of what I’d be posting would just be stolen from Jeffro’s Google+ feed.  So just check that, read Sarah Hoyt’s blog and register to vote*.

The point that a lot of people complaining about the Sad Puppies seems to be missing is that if half a dozen writers with blogs are enough to completely sweep nominations off their slates by doing a simple vote-registration drive, just how many people were determining who the “best writers in science fiction” was until now?  50? 100? 500?  1000?  Certainly not a large cross-section of fandom, if some of the past winners I’ve seen were any indication.

What you hope for reading "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love"

What you hope for 

What you actually get

What you actually get

So, the problem that has everyone up in arms is that MORE PEOPLE AND MORE FANS ARE GETTING INVOLVED IN THE GENRE.  Because there is suddenly a huge influx of fandom willing to put their money where their mouth is, these people are saying they’d rather take their ball and go home than let the filth and rabble who actually reads and buys science fiction have any say in who is named the best of the best in the field.

What happens when fans get involved with the Hugos?  The gatekeepers of the genre say “This isn’t for the fans!  The fans should just go away!”  Well, fans are going away – they’re moving away from the dribbling idiots for whom gender, race and whatever else scores points in the game of oppression politics and running to the arms of people who are willing to embrace their fans.  They are running away from the sort of people who would in the same breath say that Zelazny’s “Lord of Light” was eye-opening and then call it cultural appropriation.

The saddest thing are the people who WERE nominated by SP/RPs who declined the nomination because the “wrong kind” of fans thought that they were the best of the best.  If someone that you didn’t like or didn’t agree with said “Look, I think you’re awesome and what you’re doing is valuable and worthwhile”, what kind of shit-bird do you have to be to say “Fuckyouverymuch, but I’m not the best and I’d rather work in ignominy than think that someone I disagree with believes that I’m doing something worthwhile”.  Hell, if someone that I’ve crapped on nominated me for something, I’d be all “oh, wow… maybe I should re-evalute my opinions of you and your work.  Fresh beginnings and all that.  Let’s find some common ground!”  The next saddest thing is the amount of harassment and threatened harassment coming from the anti-Puppy crowd towards authors who were on the slate; “how dare the writers who nominated these people not warn some of them ahead of time that they were nominating them? Don’t they realized how much shit we’re going to talk about them and how much dogpiling we’re going to do to them because someone we don’t like thought that they were making valuable contributions to the industry?”  It is the freaking scorpion and the frog!  Sci-fi frog friends out there: don’t take these idiots across the river with you, because you’re all going to drown!

Up later this week: Shadow Over Alfheim update, routing Israelis on the Bar-Lev Line (it’s a board game, not anti-Zionism), and more misadventures of J’Rhazha.

*:Once I figure out how to do this, I’ll put up a post to let everyone know how.  The Loncon3 registration site for supporting seems to be be broken or disabled, so I’ll be trying out the Sasquan registration.  I’ll let you know how that goes.