Cirsova-Published Works Make Tangent Online’s 2017 Recommended Reading List

Each year, Tangent Online publishes a list of the stories they felt were the best among the pieces that they reviewed over the course of that year.

We are thrilled that this year’s recommended reading list includes Brian K. Lowe’s diptych of stories, “War of the Ruby”/”Shapes in the Fog”, in the Short Stories category and Schuyler Hernstrom’s Novella “The First American”.

All three of these stories can be found in Cirsova #5, which is available in ebook, paperback, and hardcover.

Tangent Online’s full 2017 list can be read here.

Cirsova’s 2017 stories, by category, can be found here.

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Donate Sci-fi to Children in Need

Here is an idea:

The Greenville Highschool/Indian Valley Academy has put out a call for books to help them expand their horribly out of date and under/un-funded library.

“I’m not asking for money. I’m asking for you to send a new book or film or cd to us to help us build a library we can be proud of. Just one book.”

Jeffro Johnson has just posted a list of links to Appendix N works on Amazon.com.

Now is your chance to put top notch fiction into the hands of children in need!

Everyone is talking about Shannara this week, so I will too

With the 35th anniversary annotated Sword of Shannara coming out next week, there is a lot of buzz about the book that may have ruined fantasy. Brooks did not set out to ruin fantasy in much the same way that the Gracchi did not set out to cause the fall of the Roman Republic, but the aftermath is undeniable. Following Shannara’s commercial success, the demand for Tolkienian high fantasy was met with a new wave of Brick Fantasy. While most spec-fic had enjoyed popularity in shorter novella formats, publishers saw that the market for multi-inch thick sprawling fantasy trilogies was ripe. Though D&D was not birthed by this maelstrom, it certainly fed into it; by the 80s, spec-fic shelves were filled with trilogies, quadrologies and even sextets of books featuring some combination of guy-with-sword, dwarf, elf, and mythic creature (usually, but not always, a dragon) in some wooded/mountainous/pastoral tableau; by the 90s, everybody was reading Wheel of Time, Dragonlance, Shannara, or Drizzt, and though I saw his name in my friend’s AD&D Deities & Demigods, I never heard anyone actually talk about Fritz Leiber until my late 20s and Vance was just the name that people blamed D&D’s magic system on.

I can’t remember how old I was exactly, but I was fairly young when I was first exposed to Lord of the Rings. It was somewhere between kindergarten and second grade, but on a really long road-trip, after an “Are we there yet?” I was kept entertained by my parents for the duration of the car ride with a rather impressive retelling from memory of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. Not long after that, the Hobbit was read to me as a bedtime story, and my father was both proud and disappointed when mid-way through Fellowship I announced that I had started reading it all on my own and was almost finished.

Fast-forward a few years (maybe 5th grade?), having finished LotR, the Silmarillion, the Prydain Chronicles, the Singreale Chronicles, and at least the first Dragonlance trilogy or so, I got the Shannara Trilogy from a relative for Christmas. Interestingly enough, I found Sword of Shannara to be a remarkable plod but felt slighted that the story wrapped up in a single (albeit 3-inch thick) volume; I mean, I was promised a trilogy! But the remarkable dullness of the characters, obvious knock-offery of the Nazguls Skullbearers looking for the ring sword, painful attention to tactical minutia, and awful twist ending weighed upon my little kid heart like an anvil! What do you mean that the next book in the series is about the first characters’ grandkids? Those first characters weren’t great, but I was already familiar with them, who are these new guys? But they were fantasy books and christmas presents, so I continued trudging on. I made it 3/4s of the way into Elfstones, but when it became obvious that the second book’s twist was that the whiny cleric girl was gonna turn into a tree, 11 year old me was all “FTS!” and went back to Dragonlance, because at the time it seemed so much better in comparison.

Happy 35th Anniversary, Shannara! Ya lousy bum…

Bad and/or Weird Books I’ve Been Reading

Not long ago, I mentioned how I’d been reading Clan of the Cave Bear and then suddenly the second-hand book market got flooded with hardcover copies of several of Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children books. In the middle of Clan and loving the hell out of it, I picked up several of the sequels for a couple bucks a piece.

Well, I’m about 2/3s of the way through Valley of the Horses, and I’m a little blah about the direction it’s been going. The first half of the book is like two different books that have been spliced together. The first book is the actual sequel to Clan of the Cave Bear in which Ayla finds herself struggling to live in exile, adapting to life along, and winning over awesome animal companions. The second book, whose chapters are interspersed with the first, is rather awkwardly written and fairly explicit caveman erotica. The inevitable conclusion is going to be when Ayla and the new protagonist finally meet up and Ayla’s loneliness and isolation is cured by the new male protagonist’s giant caveman dong.*

I plan on finishing it, because I really hate not finishing books I’m in the middle of, but I don’t know if I’m going to read any of the other sequels.

Now, one book that I don’t think i can finish is Godhunter. It was one of several free books I downloaded from Drive-Thru Fiction months ago. Of the books I downloaded, the one of the only ones I was able to read all the way through was Thieves at Heart. I wanted to like Thieves at Heart, and at times I really did enjoy it, but it took some really bizarre turns, and I doubt I’ll ever get around to finishing the series. It sells itself as a fantasy take on Oliver Twist, only Oliver in this is a half-elf girl and the Fagin character has on his one ward and is not so entirely characterized in terms of his Jewishness. It had some nice slice of life, life of a petty thief and shill stuff that might give you some interesting game ideas, but the later portion of the book gives a pretty strong focus to the protagonist’s puberty, upon the reaching of which she goes into full-on sex-fiend mode. While it’s nowhere near as explicit as Valley of the Horses, it was not particularly pleasant. When I grabbed Godhunter, I didn’t know that it was an “erotic thriller” though despite that, it is generally less explicit than either Thieves at Heart or Valley of the Horses. It is laughably bad, though laughable badness can only carry one so far through a book before the boredom sets in. Godhunter is a tongue-in-cheek-but-not-parody-unless-Poe’s-Law story of a woman who kills gods who are actually ancient-evil-atlanteans-who-have-deceived-mankind-but-not-all-of-them-are-evil-some-want-to-save-mankind-from-the-evil-ones. The protagonist ends up having a rocky relationship with Thor, who, honest-to-god, is written in such a way that I can’t imagine him being anything other than Aquaman from Batman: Brave and the Bold. Seriously, imagine this guy as the male love interest in a smutty romance novel:

Like I said, the “oh, god, this is so bad it’s funny” humor only got me so far, and I don’t think I can force myself to finish this trainwreck. I can totally understand why people are so apprehensive of self-published ebooks, especially free ones. The ones I’ve read so far have been pretty iffy. Except Ava Delany. Thirst was okay, I guess, but I don’t think I’m going to read any of the others in the series.

I think I’m going to turn to non-fiction for a book or two once I’m done with Valley of the Horses. I’ve got a bio of Tallyrand that’s just screaming to be read.

*:like serious, it’s an important character development point how big this dude’s dong is, and he’s kind of mopey that none of the cavewomen he meets on his adventure are able to take all of it.

Alfheim non-update, current and future reading

Alfheim was postponed this week, due to the absence of two players. My guess is despite the lousy weather, wrist-band night at the state fair may have taken priority.

So, a handful of us got together and threw down at some Wii U Smash Bros and Mario Kart. I miss gamecube controllers. The movements on the Wii control stick was kind of, well… sticky? I refuse to believe that I was just that rusty! As for Mario Kart, I’ve always sucked on tracks where I can fall off the edge, and I always do, without fail. Goblin/halfling/ranger’s girlfriend wiped the floor with fighter and me using Dry Bones.  I managed to eke out a close second place overall in one of the piddly cups, but she took 1st every other cup we ran.

Anyway, I was given a chance to ask my players about my game in a slightly more casual setting, as we were doing other things. I was happy to find that most of the players seem to be really enjoying it; one seemed a bit dismayed that I was considering wrapping up soon (“we just really were getting into the swing of things, the meat!”), and my player for whom this is his first table-top experience ever told me privately that he has been absolutely loving the game, and his friend who invited him to our group has confirmed that he has been digging it and talking about it regularly. So that has definitely helped with my ‘DM fatigue’. What it doesn’t change, though, is that I want to play as a player in someone else’s game and that my situation makes it next to impossible to game multiple nights a week. Maybe I can change that situation, but it’ll be kind of painful. We’ll see.

One thing I may have overestimated was how quickly the party would level up. I want my group to be around level 5-6 by the time I decide for the scheduled story climax to occur, but that will involve clearing out at least one more big dungeon before I run Deathcrypt of Khaldun (or Caelden, as it will be in this case) followed by a showdown with the vampiric elven king.

Speaking of Vampires, I’ve just about finished Children of Lubrochius. It’s a bit slower than Drasmyr, but it’s a slow burn into the bigger 4 book story, whereas Drasmyr could (sort of) stand alone. I’m calling it now that Gaelan is probably the reincarnate of Morgulan. Which has some interesting implications regarding Zarina the Black’s role in the great war 1000 years ago…

Until Sceptre of Morgulan comes out, I’ll probably be reading the several sequels to Clan of the Cavebear. Not sure what happened, but my town’s second-hand marked came to be flooded with Jean Auel books, and I managed to snag several of the hardcovers (with the dust jackets in tact, even!) while I was still mid-way through Clan.

Children of Lubrochius

So, with my own vampire campaign really ratcheting up, it’s been the perfect time to start reading the second Drasmyr book. I know, it’s Ashes of Ruins book 1, but I can’t help but think of it as Drasmyr 2.

I think I’m encountering some strangeness with it early on, as I’m not sure if the exposition is meant to allow it to stand on its own without having read Drasmyr. From what I’ve gathered, Drasmyr was originally meant to be a prequel to the Ashes of Ruins series, but it got finished and published first, making it a prelude instead. I’m not certain about the order in which some of the writing was done, so it might make sense for the early chapters of Children of Lubrochius to recap previous events a bit more thoroughly than if it were a straight-up sequel to Drasmyr. I guess it lets you jump into the story without having read Drasmyr, but I don’t know why you’d want to, especially considering how good it was by itself.

Right now Korina seems a bit more petty and junior league than she did in Drasmyr, but at the same time it makes sense given the reveal at the end about just how petty and small minded her evil plan had been (extra creepy, given the brutal lengths she went to accomplish it).

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the trio of bounty-hunters imminent dungeon crawl back in Drasmyr’s castle to hunt down the Sceptre of Morgulan and the showdown between whatever rival forces are looking for it. Given that it’s the first book in a trilogy and the second book is called “The Sceptre of Morgulan”, my guess is that the good guys aren’t going to find it first, or, if they do, the mages guild is not going to be prepared for what will happen when they find it. Or they find it and end up accidentally bringing it to Korina just like they ended up bringing her an ancient vampire thrall which she can barely control.

Maybe after I finish it, I can get Matt D. Ryan back here for another interview.