Stark 70th Anniversary Featured on Hollywood in Toto

I wrote a short article on the 70th Anniversary of Leigh Brackett’s Stark that was run on Hollywood in Toto. It even got picked up by a few other outlets.

It can be read here.

Be sure to check out Illustrated Stark! And don’t forget Duel Visions and our Spring issue!

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Illustrated Stark Featured on Black Gate

John O’Neill of Black Gate did a great little write-up on the new Illustrated Stark project, which can be found here.

Be sure to check out our Aerbook store or the links below to pre-order!

Queen of the Martian Catacombs (Available 4/30/2019)

This 6″ x 9″ volume contains Queen of the Martian Catacombs, fully illustrated, with an introduction by Nathan Housley.

Cover Only JPG

The Enchantress of Venus (Available 5/31/2019)

This 6″ x 9″ volume contains The Enchantress of Venus, fully illustrated, with an introduction by Jeffro Johnson.

Enchantress Cover for ebook

Black Amazon of Mars (Available 6/28/2019)

This 6″ x 9″ volume contains Black Amazon of Mars, fully illustrated, with an introduction by Liana Kerzner.

Black Amazon of Mars Front Only

The Illustrated Stark: 70th Anniversary Edition Softcover Omnibus (Available 7/31/2019)

This collects all three fully illustrated stories in a single 6″ x 9″ volume. Note that it does NOT include the bonus content from the Hardcover Omnibus.

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/

Projects Update! Wild Stars III and Cirsova #8 & #9

 

First, we’re gearing up for Wild Stars III: Time Warmaggedon.

This is a high-octane space and time-travel in the vein of Gardner F. Fox, Albert DePina, and Raymond F. Jones. Written by Michael Tierney, whose 4-volume history of the Art of Edgar Rice Burroughs is coming out this summer, and edited by Brian Niemeier (The Soul Cycle) and yours truly, I can assure you this is gonna be one heck of a ride.

What does Brian think about this project?

Wild Stars III is just what fans of fun, heroic action stories have been starving for. How do I know? Easy. I’m the book’s editor.

Michael Tierney has been a joy to work with. He is a true pro whose style and outlook remind me of the old pulp masters. His latest book is a whirlwind space adventure that will become the gold standard for putting fun first.

Wild Stars III: Time Warmageddon is a significant source of all your daily pulp requirements:

 

The more I’ve read this story, the more I love it. We understand, though, that since this is the newest entry into a franchise that has been around for 35 years, it might not be immediately accessible to new readers, so not only will we be making some of the rare and out-of-print Wild Stars material available, we may even be giving the 2002 comic-run away for free to new fans and old picking up this limited edition of Wild Stars III on Kickstarter.

Wild Stars 3 covers.png

More details on that soon, but we’re looking at taking pre-orders in June, once we get the cover art in from Tim Lim (yes, that Tim Lim).

In other news…

Cirsova #8 draws ever nearer to being done and ready to go out the door. Actually, it should’ve been ready today, but Amazon is being weird about stuff and they have an obnoxiously long turn-around time for corrections.

But the digital editions are done and there is a pre-order page up.

Issue 8 Cover w Clock ad v2 Front Cover ONly updated

Issue 9’s art is done and the latest work-file is in the hands of one of our trusty editors.Issue 9 Cover Front Only low res.png

I’ll be ready to start taking subscription orders for the final issues of Cirsova Volume 1 soonish.

Lastly, here’s a tease for you:

Stark Tease.png

Art by Star Two.

On Eric John Stark and the D&D Barbarian Class Part 2 – Civilization and Barbarism

The other day, during the discussion about Stark and Barbarians, I noted that Stark does NOT come from the template of European Barbarians, and would be more akin to an African warrior or Indian wild-boy. Cirsova contributor Jon M. Weichsel (whose story “Going Native” will appear in our Summer issue) jumped in, and we drilled down a bit on the nature of “barbarians”, though it’s a digression that took us fairly far from the original topic of Dungeons & Dragons.

 

Gitabushi: I still think y’all are overthinking this. Appendix N is supposed to be inspiration, not source documents. The authors draw upon Euro-American legend to make stories, just like the game does. Europeans were barbarians to the Greco-Romans, but the Norse were barbarians to Euros. Hence, barbarians are norse/scandi berserkers. And Brackett, REH, et al, drew upon the *Euro* legend to make their barbarian characters.

Cirsova: Except that’s not the case for Stark, at all. He’s closer to either Mowgli or a sub-saharan african.

JonWeichsel: Yes. Stark is closer to Mowgli or Tarzan than Conan. He was an orphan raised by savage aliens on Mercury and was then rescued and civilized by a human but still carries some of the savage ways he was brought up with. I wouldn’t call him a barbarian.

Bushi: I think there’s an argument for that. There’s also an argument that Mowgli and Tarzan would be barbarians, too. Comparing Conan and Stark in text, they’re both uncivilized men who can function in society but still hold it in contempt.

JonWeichsel: But Conan is a foreigner who adheres to a Barbarian code despite the pressures of civilization. With Stark/Tarzan/other feral children there is an internal conflict between their wild upbringing and their humanity.

Bushi: I understand the distinction as you are laying it out, but I don’t get how they can’t all fall under the barbarian umbrella.

Cirsova: Well, in part because we need to define what we mean by “Barbarian” mechanically. If we mean “Barbarian” in the 1e mechanical sense, Conan’s a Barbarian, Stark is not. If we mean “Barbarian” in the trope as it was understood during the 70s S&S revival, then yes [Stark is]. Also worth noting, in 1e, there’s no restriction on a Barbarian’s armor, so yes, your Conan-esque barbarian could be wearing full plate.

Bushi: I mean a barbarian can mean a tribesman, sure. But it can also just mean a savage, uncivilized person, no?

JonWeichsel: Stark does combine the feral child and barbarian tropes, but as far as literature goes, I’d say barbarian is a social class while feral child is a condition of being. Like, if you found some guy living in the woods who had been raised by wolves, would you call him a barbarian?

Bushi: I probably wouldn’t reject the classification, but it’s possible that [I] don’t have an accurate conception of “barbarian.” As I suggested, I’ve always just kind of thought “one who is apart from civilization; a savage.” I’m sure it’s a useful distinction, just not one I’ve drawn (though perhaps I should?)  Following that line of thought, it’s maybe barbarian vs wild man.

Cirsova: It’s a one-way window. The Civilized person can observe and perceive the Barbarism of another, but to the Barbarian, he simply sees himself and his way of life, not any barbarity. It’s a false/illusory binary. Because Conan and Stark and Tarzan have come to the other side, they can see their own Barbarism from the perspective of civilization, and they are analytical of their past and/or present condition.

Bushi: So would you class Stark, Conan, Tarzan the same?

Cirsova: We’re getting into philosophical stuff that doesn’t reflect at all on D&D’s mechanics, but they all existed in a condition that the civilized man would call “Barbarity”, they all move to a place where they could observe and reflect that Barbarity from a civilized perspective, and they all took very different things from their self-reflection on what the conditions of Barbarity meant and how they contrast for better and worse with a “Civilized” state. The reason it is a false/illusory binary is that the “Barbarian’s” state may also be one of Civilization and a Civilization’s may appear to another as a state of “Barbarity”. Barbarity is not an absence of civilization but a one-sided perceived drastic imbalance between them. Tarzan and Stark were born into more savage (less civilized) circumstances than Kull or Conan, but even Tarzan’s upbringing among the apes was not anarchic.

Bushi: Ok well. I am going to make the great leap and say that absent other evidence barbarian rage comes from Stark. Because it will help me sleep tonight.

On Eric John Stark and the D&D Barbarian Class

I’ve realized that one of the reasons why you don’t see as much gaming content here as you once did is that much of my energy now goes towards having discussions on game and Appendix N theory with Cirsova Contributor PC Bushi (whose story Antares will appear in our Fall issue) instead of blogging.

So, for those of you who mostly just follow the blog, I thought it would be worthwhile bringing the discussion over here to share some of our insights.

Bushi muses that Stark may have been a more likely inspiration for the Barbarian Rage trope than Conan. The most interesting highlights, though, are that I dug up both Tom Moldvay’s stats for Stark (15th level Fighter), which predates the official Barbarian PC class, and the first official writeup for a Barbarian class in AD&D. While the ur-Barbarian PC class does not feature a “Rage” ability, Moldvay’s Stark does, in which he ‘reverts to N’Chaka’ and gets crazy stat bonuses for a short period of time.

Bushi: So not that Conan doesn’t get pissed and kill people/things, but it strikes me that Eric John Stark is a more likely inspiration for the tropey barbarian rage.

HP: If you’re going to use “barbarian” as a distinct class in an RPG, Stark is the better source material in general.

Bushi: An interesting thesis. Tell me more.

HP: I sort of touch on it here.

Bushi: I don’t think any of that is wrong, but it doesn’t exactly make the argument that Stark is more of a barbarian than Conan. At least the literary Conan.

HP: I’m not saying he more of a barbarian, just better grist for a barbarian class.

Cirsova: I mean, I have made the argument in the past that Conan is what you get when you have 16 STR and 18 CON and say “Think I will roll a Thief then Dual-Class over to Fighter at some point so I can wear heavy armor.”

Gitabushi: Y’all might be overthinking this. D&D draws upon European history (or bad history) as much as fiction. And it draws upon fiction that draws upon fanciful variations of European history. That’s why the Cleric and Paladin are based on Catholic priest-warriors rather than Muslim. So rather than the Barbarian class being based on a literary figure, the class is best seen as based on the legendary Scandinavian Berserker that the literary figures are also based on.

Bushi: Sure. I’m just specifically thinking about the “barbarian rage” thing, which I think D&D probably made ubiquitous. I didn’t mean to imply that barbarians came from D&D. Was talking about “barbarian rage” as a game/media trope. Which I’m sure in part comes from historical berserkers, sure.

Cirsova: I somehow have the sneaking suspicion that most folks playing Barbarians wouldn’t know this and at best would picture Fafhrd & book Conan and at worst picture movie Conan.

“I am playing a barbarian. Basically he’s just a dude who is not Greek.”

And the game probably takes more inspiration from fantasy BS barbarians than actual Norse or Celtic warrior cultures. But it would be interesting to work some equivalent of the Ragnarok passion plays. It would make a great funnel.

Youth of the tribe go to collect their gravegoods, meet with the grave-maiden, fight the “werwolves” in the symbolic world’s death battle around winter solstice, then surprise! Something vaguely Fenrir-like shows up and starts killing people for realsies!

Count Donku: I’ve been beating this drum since forever, but Conan is definitely more of a fighter who dipped a few levels of rogue early in his career, which isn’t really optimal as a PC but he makes up for that with insane stat rolls.

Cirsova (aside): Actually, it would be good at early levels, because with the high con bonus and how quickly thieves level up, he’d have Fighter HP and decent thief skills by the time most folks were reaching level 2.

Bushi: I mean it kind of depends what we mean by “barbarian.” Conan is basically a tribesman who’s accumulated all sorts of different martial and leadership experiences, but Howard always stresses his disdain for civilization. In that regard I’m not really sure he’s any less barbarian. His sharp, primal instincts are often called by by Howard. What I’m referring to is more how Stark seems to fly into legitimate berserk rages and Conan doesn’t. Sure, but Stark also goes to cities. Not like he hates civilization so much that he’s become a hermit, either.

Cirsova: Stark also has PTSD from being left alone on hell world as a child having to fend off giant lizards with a stick until a space cop found and adopted him.

Bushi: Yeah, that could be a big contributor. Anyway my main point was that Stark seems to me like a likely genesis of the sterotypical barbarian flying into a fit of blind rage and killing everything. And yes, as [Gitabushi] says, that can go back further to berserkers.

Cirsova: Stark makes more sense if you look at him as more nuanced version of the Angry Black Man trope; he was marginalized himself, and is an outsider even in the world that took him in, so he sympathizes with and is angry for other marginalized peoples. Sometimes that anger boils over.

Gitabushi: I still think y’all are overthinking this. Appendix N is supposed to be inspiration, not source documents. The authors draw upon Euro-American legend to make stories, just like the game does. Europeans were barbarians to the Greco-Romans, but the Norse were barbarians to Euros. Hence, barbarians are norse/scandi berserkers. And Brackett, REH, et al, drew upon the *Euro* legend to make their barbarian characters.

Cirsova: Except that’s not the case for Stark, at all. He’s closer to either Mowgli or a sub-saharan african.

Bushi: Also Conan is basically a proto-Celt, no?

Cirsova: Yeah

Bushi: I’m sure the Norse berserkers were an inspiration for these guys, even if they weren’t the only ingredient.

Cirsova: Also, Tom Moldvay has Stark as a 15th level Chaotic Good Fighter in AD&D. https://annarchive.com/files/Drmg028.pdf

Bushi: Did AD&D have the barbarian class?

Cirsova:  Stark’s stats apparently pre-date the Official inclusion of the Barbarian class. And Moldvay’s stats for Stark include “reverting to N’Chaka” ability, which is basically Rage. Dude, we are “an hour or two’s more research than I have time for” away from a major breakthru in proving you may be right! There is literally now evidence that would support the theory that “Berserker Rage mechanics as it appears as an ability of the Barbarian Class directly descending from some BS Moldvay cooked up to stat Stark.”

Okay, now to burst your bubble. Original AD&D Barbarian class didn’t have Rage. It was originally an outdoorsy, high HP Fighter/Thief/Ranger mix. https://annarchive.com/files/Drmg063.pdf

Bushi: My question is when did they pick up rage, and was there any cited or suggestion inspiration?

Cirsova: Well, I linked the original official class. I don’t know when Rage was introduced. I don’t have time to research it right now, but I’ll try to aggregate some stuff for a post next week.

Also worth seeing how Rage stacks up to N’Chaka Beastmode: +5 to hit +7 to damage +5 AC penalty +8 save vs. empathic spells/charms 2d4 rounds

There’s an interesting digression on the nature of Civilization vs. Barbarism, but I’ll save that for tomorrow!

Happy Birthday Leigh Brackett!

Look, I don’t have any new or insightful content to share right now, but let’s at least revisit these highlights:

https://cirsova.wordpress.com/2017/08/21/did-you-just-misgender-leigh-brackett/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-the-moon-that-vanished-by-leigh-brackett/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/short-reviews-the-vanishing-venusians/

http://www.castaliahouse.com/retro-fandom-friday-bring-us-the-head-of-harry-parkhurst/