House of Seven Gables + DC Festival of Asian Heroes

Given how much of Julian Hawthorne I’ve been reading lately, I thought it behooved me to read a bit more of his father’s work, and I just happened to have a fairly nice illustrated copy of The House of Seven Gables lying around waiting to be read.

I get why kids who had to read this in high school hated it, I really do. Though it is a tale of mystery, murder, madness, mesmerism and a wizard’s curse, so very little happens and Hawthorne takes his sweet time in the telling to get there.

Yet, despite how tedious and absolutely turgid House of Seven Gables is, I feel like it could be easily adapted into Children’s Puppet Theatre, probably boil the whole bloody gist of it down to about 20 minutes.

I have to admit that I felt a bit smug that Henry James’ afterword for House of Seven Gables seemed to entirely support and justify this belief.

He notes that the characters, while lavishly and intricately detailed, are mere “pictures” and grotesques, acting out their tropes, than truly fleshed out ‘real’ characters. The book focuses almost entirely on tableau and scene, painting the picture of these characters.

So, while the “story” is, imo, great–fantastic, really–it is such a small portion of the work itself–buried, really, like the old sorcerer himself, underneath the endless description of the house and its accursed inhabitants.

I think that it could be distilled easily into 20-30 minutes:

  • Narration of the Pyncheon vs. Maule saga culminating in the bloody death
  • A brief parade of the characters and their foibles, culminating in Phoebe’s awkward introduction to Jaffrey
  • Tableau of the dinner, Phoebe and Clifford’s relationship, maybe the bit with the weird chickens, done in a couple minutes’ description and puppet pantomime
  • Phoebe and Holgrave + Holgrave narrates the story of Alice, Phoebe departs.
  • Jaffrey’s attempt to confront Clifford
  • Clifford and Hepzibah’s flight + a very condensed version of Clifford’s rant about impending modernity
  • The return to Seven Gables, Phoebe & Holgrave’s union, and the discovery of the lost “treasure” could be condensed to a single scene with a narrated happily ever after.

I’d probably cut Uncle Venner, since, while he may be thematically important, I think he can be removed wholly from the narrative and the story remain unaffected. He’s there only as commentary and to comment on the other characters who are engaged in the plot.

Anyway, whether or not I’ll have time to come up with a puppet operetta, we’ll have to see…

So, I recently picked up Festival of Asian Heroes as an excuse to introduce myself at a new shop. I don’t know what I was expecting, but somehow this book was much worse and much more cringe than I imagined. Practically no one knows how to write cape stories anymore… practically every story just doing the “here is the character monologuing about their life and their feels while things happen in the panels.” Plus the awful strawman villains in the Katana story were oof.

Literally the only short I liked was Tamaki’s Cassie, and even tho it was mostly monologuing, at least it pulled off being cute. It sucks that they chose to showcase Asian capes [somehow Damian Wayne qualifies as this?] in such a lousy book with such lousy stories. I’d say these characters deserve better, but I’m not really caring that much anymore.

Foreword: “There just weren’t any Asian heroes in comic books when I was a kid.” will_smith_wildly_gesticulating_at_the_glut_of_now-forgotten_asian_led_titles_in_the_70s_and_80s.jpg

Dice Latte - DC Festival of Heroes The Asian Superhero Celebration #1 (One  Shot) Cover B Stanley Artgerm Lau Variant
Pretty much the only reason I bought this.

The ArtGerm variant was gorgeous, I was curious to see what Gene Luen Yang was gonna do [was kinda disappointed] and it was an excuse to meet the new store without having to add it to a pull [so at least DC doesn’t get to boast about order numbers from picking up an extra that the new place had.]

  • Sounds: Liked it, favorite of the bunch. I think I’m forgiving of internal monologuing when it’s Cassie because she has a speech impediment.
  • Dress Code: eh… So, asian green lantern wears an asian dress tunic. plz do not make fun of him.
  • Hawke and Kong: okay, I guess. Two Asian expys of other heroes who don’t get along fight a villain and become friends. Whatever…
  • Special Delivery: didn’t like it, also I guess Damian Wayne is Asian?
  • Masks: okay, but mainly I guess it was the sort of story I would’ve liked to have seen after the new Cheshire had been brought into Catwoman [I don’t know that they’ve done anything at all with her since she was introduced, and I had just about forgotten about her.]
  • What’s in the Box: I don’t even know who the other character who is not Cassie is
  • Family Dinner: Cringe and tired ‘meeting the parents’ story. Seriously, can we stop doing “gay superheroes meet dad/mom over dinner and it’s awkward” comics?
  • Kawaii Kalamity: cute but didn’t really do anything for me
  • Festival of Heroes: Ultra cringe with a stupid strawman villain [a bunch of white supremacists show up to harass people at an Asian food festival]; sad that this was what they had for the Katana story.
  • Perseptible: dull, didn’t like it, but I’ve never really liked Captain Atom.
  • The Monkey Prince: torn between okay and cringe; kinda wanted to like it cuz I love what Yang has done w/other books, but I rolled my eyes a lot. May still give it a chance. On one hand, a Son Goku vs. capes comic could be a lot of fun, but this gave off really bad “How do you do, fellow kids?” vibes that are really disappointing considering that Yang writes/wrote two of my favorite DC titles [Terrifics and Batman/Superman]

Really, DC missed out on a great opportunity to introduce a new anti-Asian villain, The Fixer–an obese enby who goes around “fixing” Asian people’s artwork.

Speaking of comics, be sure to check out the next installment of Badaxe in the Summer issue!

Advanced Review of The Cosmic Courtship + Cirsova Publishing Featured in Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

The Pulp Archivist recently posted a fantastic review of Julian Hawthorne’s The Cosmic Courtship. We sent out a handful of ARCs to assorted pulp scholars and historians, and Nathan’s one of the first who has his thoughts up. We also had the privilege of speaking with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette about project; they did a write-up for the Sunday edition [alas, bumped back a week by the editor and so unable to run before pre-orders closed!]

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.”

$10k Stretch Goal Met! + Sneak Peek at Scenes of Hawthorne’s Romances

Thanks to everyone’s support, we’ve hit our $10k goal and will be starting a Cirsova Classics imprint focused on bringing previously unscanned and uncollected Public Domain pulp works back into print in modern formats. I know that Michael and Robert are already chomping at the bit to get started on the next project. We may even be able to begin as early as this fall [roughly as soon as we get The Cosmic Courtship out the door]. Most likely the next work we get out will be the uncollected Hawthorne novel, Sara Was Judith, and with the novella A Goth From Boston as a companion volume. We’ll try to get both of those by mid-2022. 

Hawthorne was fascinated by the concepts of astral travel, out of body and out of time experiences, hypnotism, and clairvoyance.  These play a central role in several of the short stories of his that I have read and is the means by which the heroes travel to Saturn in The Cosmic Courtship.  While I have not yet had a chance to read Sara Was Judith, it’s not hard to guess from the pitch that it will be about some form of clairvoyant astral discorporation. 

We’ve got an idea or two for the third project/fourth book, but haven’t quite settled on it just yet.  We’ll let you know when we do.

A few people have asked about illustrations–unfortunately, The Cosmic Courtship, like many stories published in All-Story, did not have accompanying illustrations [many of the well-known later pulps that were fully illustrated tended to be monthly or quarterly]

We are, however, including a facsimile reprint of Scenes of Hawthorne’s Romances in all formats but the pocketbook [it’s just too small, sorry!], which IS lavishly illustrated.

Below is just a small sample of the work, and you’ll understand why we went with a facsimile approach–also why, even though the text is extant, we felt it worth including in its original presentation, as it is available nowhere else. 

The Cosmic Courtship – $10k Stretch Goal: Ongoing Imprint

Things are going so quickly for our project to restore The Cosmic Courtship that we’re already almost to our next stretch goal before having a real chance to even talk about it!

When we first started this project, we weren’t sure what the reaction would be. We’ve all been pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm for this project, and even before we had hit the last stretch goal, Robert, Michael, and I had been talking about what was next.

“Cirsova Classics” is our working title for the imprint [we’ll keep “Cirsova Presents” around for other special one-offs.]

For the time being, we hope to continue with a couple of Hawthorne’s other uncollected works, though we’ve got arrangements made for up to three titles already. Next in the queue will be Hawthorne’s strange mystery “Sara Was Judith.”

A Quick Look at Julian Hawthorne’s Six Cent Sam’s

So, one of the things I’m trying to do since I’m publishing work by Julian Hawthorne is to familiarize myself with some of his other stories. I’ve already reviewed The Golden Fleece

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.

Anyway, it’s been loads of fun so far, and the facsimile edition is fully illustrated. I recommend you check it out!

Also, we’re right on the cusp of our $8k stretch goal for The Cosmic Courtship!

Plus, test copies of the pocket paperback arrived yesterday!

Cirsova Publishing to Reprint Nearly-Lost Julian Hawthorne Planetary Romance, “The Cosmic Courtship”

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.—Cirsova Publishing is proud to announce that it has partnered with Michael Tierney and Robert Allen Lupton to restore and reprint Julian Hawthorne’s The Cosmic Courtship, a never-before-collected pulp Planetary Romance by the son of famed American author Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The Cosmic Courtship Serialized across four issues.

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.

Fred A. Small Cover Restored by Michael Tierney

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.

This collected edition of The Cosmic Courtship will be released later in 2021.

Short Reviews – The Golden Fleece: A Romance, by Julian Hawthorne

The Golden Fleece: A Romance, by Julian Hawthorne, was originally published in the May 1892 issue of Lippincott’s Magazine. It can be read here.

When you go into a book with a title like “The Golden Fleece,” you don’t expect a modern adventure in the American Southwest [California, particularly], but here we are!

The titular Golden Fleece, in this case, is a mysterious wool garment with strange symbols woven into it. Is it under an enchantment? Is it a map to lost Mesoamerica treasure? Who knows! It has been passed down matrilineally and ended up in the hands of the mixed-race daughter of a general who fought in the Mexican American war.

The setting and much of the background are revealed through an airy and whimsical dialog between an old professor and his friend, an old general who fought in the war with Mexico. After the war, the general settled down with a beautiful Mesoamerind woman and now has an alluring daughter who is her spitting image. The daughter has an old Indian servant who had been something of a oathman to her mother, but more on that in a minute… The general and the professor discuss the possibility of treasure in the California desert–the greatest treasure would be fresh water that would make the land arable and instantly much much more valuable to investors who had purchased it cheaply. On his way to possibly assist in the endeavor is a young civil engineer who was once a student of the professor.

The old Indian manservant is actually a witch priest in service to the last princess of an Aztec city; he’s been kept immortal by the gods so the treasures of the city could be restored to the rightful owner. He’s able to bring the spirit of the dead princess into the host body of the general’s daughter. Both the princess and the girl she’s possessing fall in love with the young civil engineer, creating an awkward love triangle. The princess is determined to get the treasure back so she can shower the young man with wealth. The old Indian becomes reluctant to assist because he feels bad for the girl and it would be a disaster if the spirit of the princess killed her.

The Golden Fleece turns out to be some sort of protective garb [whether magical or mechanical is never explicitly stated] that allows the wearer to enter the lost pyramid [revealed by seismic activity] and retrieve the chest with the hidden treasure without being harmed by the poison gasses in the treasure room. Removal of the treasure chest also unstops the spring which will flood the valley with fresh water.

There’s a hackneyed sub-plot where the engineer initially meets and falls for a shop-girl who’s coming out west from New York. The engineer instantly falls for the beautiful Mestiza girl, and cultivates a rivalry with a local Mexican aristocrat in an attempt to distract the shop-girl and fix their attentions on one another. The protagonist is kind of a dick, and you feel for the poor Mexican sod who he corners into potentially dueling to the death [as the professor says, it would have been an execution had he gone through with it], but the Mexican guy does end up with the shop-girl and they live happily ever after–even after he finds out she was a lowly shop-girl, his fascination with modern American capitalism leads him to placing her in even higher esteem when he finds out.

Now, I say that it’s hackneyed, and it kind of is, but Hawthorne’s breezy writing style brings enough wit and humor to it that it’s still enjoyable. In fact, that can be said for the whole book in some regards. While it’s not particularly innovative [it’s a very typical lost city/lost treasure story] and the characters are VERY flat, there’s something about the flow of Hawthorne’s prose that still makes it a delight to read. There’s a bit of musicality to it, and some clever humor, though, unlike many authors who write clever, he never seems too enamored with his own cleverness. There is also a stab at making a statement on mixing of ethnicities, royal and common blood, and how America has made such a thing uniquely possible, with the unions of the A & B couples of the story symbolizing the triumph of the time and ideas, but it doesn’t really beat you in the face with it and may be easily overlooked.

It’s worth checking out, to say the least. I managed to read the whole thing in one sitting Saturday night.

Will definitely be looking at more of Julian Hawthorne’s writing in the near future. The man was apparently incredibly prolific, and he even wrote some early science fiction, though virtually none of it is presently available.