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.
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Cirsova Makes the Sad Pookas!

The Sad Pookas is “a recommendation list…for you to consider when deciding on what to nominate for Science Fiction and Fantasy awards, such as the Hugo or the Dragon…composed of Furries and allies to the Furry cause.”

Cirsova has been given a nod for Best Semi-Pro Zine, and I’ve been given a recommendation for best Short Form Editor!

They have a lot of other really great picks, too, particularly Fan Writer and Podcast, both categories significantly overlapping with what I’d probably recommend people check out, myself. Also, Cirsova contributor Donald J. Uitvlugt’s “In the Days of the Witch-Queens” makes their pick for best short story.

Now, while it may seem odd at first glance that Cirsova and the Pulp Revolution folks at places like the Puppy of the Month Book Club have caught the eye of the Furry community, keep in mind that Furries have SFF fans among them just like any other group, and anthros are actually a pretty common feature in science fiction and fantasy. But, you tend to get your talking gorillas, cat people, wolf-men, etc. in the kind of wild and fun anything-goes SFF that has been championed by the likes of the Pulp Revolution crew.

For the curious, I did an interview with The QuQu and Dan Wolfgang, the driving duo behind QuQu Media, which can be found here at Castalia House.

 

Best Short Fiction (Only Part of the Hugos I’m Gonna Get Mad About)

For the most part, the outcome of the Hugo Awards on Saturday did not surprise me. While I’m bummed that Ku Kuru Yo and Castalia House didn’t win, it was still expected, and for the most part, I wasn’t particularly invested in a lot of the categories.

Best Short Fiction was really the only point of outrage for me. I would have loved to see Chuck Tingle* take the prize in that category.  I would have been fine with one of the other stories winning, and even No Award would not have been as terrible, given the circumstances.  But the notion that Cat Pictures Please was the best that the Science Fiction field had to offer makes me want to dash my brains out.  It was almost kept off the ballot except that one Rabid Puppy pick withdrew their nomination, allowing Cat Pictures to back into a slot.

Now, for a minute consider this comment left on a Guardian article:

“Science Fiction is defined by Clarke’s Three Laws, Fantasy is defined by Tolkien’s On Fairy Stories.

That is the end of the matter.

If the right-wing want “swashbuckling fun”, they can create their own damn genre. No, sf/f has never been about “inclusiveness”. It has almost exclusively been left-of-centre visions. Right-of-centre visions are more often found in pay-to-pray megachurches.”

Ignoring the political idiocy of the Guardian commenter, the notion that SFF is not supposed to be swashbuckling fun MUST be pervasive given the support for this sort of stuff.  This change in short fiction was already well under way by the 1970s, as was apparent in some of the worst stories I read in Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

And consider that Cat Pictures Please is a preachy little piece about an AI that outs a flimsy stereotype of a closeted gay minister cuz he’ll be so much happier out of the closet.  This is what is considered the best in Short Science Fiction? This is why, while it stands to have so much potential, especially in a tablet-happy reader market, SFF short fiction still feels stuck in a rut.This is why, despite my love of SFF short fiction, I don’t waste my time on the contemporary ‘big name’ publications.

It’s not just Cat Pictures Please, or the laughably bad If You Were a Dinosaur My Love – plenty of Puppy picks and favorites last year and this were twee, saccharine little puffs of winks and cuddles fit more for a volume of Chicken Soup for the SF Soul than to be called “Best Short Story”.  I’ve made no bones ::pun intended:: about the fact that my disappointment with some of the Puppy picks was part of what inspired me to try to promote Heroic Fantasy and pulpy Science Fiction.

Are we regressives? In the sense that we’d like to drag genre fiction kicking and screaming back to a place where it was fun and awesome, I suppose so. SFF at its best should be inspirational and aspirational. There is so much potential, as I’ve said, for this kind of science fiction. People are hungry for new stories, stories they can read in their spare time, on the go, on vacation, and on their tablets—short fiction is PERFECT for that.

By supporting Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, not only are you helping us fight back against the notion that science fiction and fantasy should not be “swashbuckling fun”, you are supporting authors who create swashbuckling fantasy and science fiction by enabling us to buy their stories while paying competitive rates.

*:Worth noting that Chuck Tingle’s Space Raptor Butt Invasion has done far more for mainstream gay acceptance within the SFF community beyond capital “F” Fandom than a thousand little softly bigoted pieces like Cat Pictures Please could dream to. Also, never forget that despite the faux show of solidarity, Tingle was No Awarded after having initially been bullied and told he needed to drop out by N.K. Jemisin who went on to win Best Novel this year.

A Brief Summary of the Tingling

  • Vox Day & Rabid Puppies say “Let’s Nominate Chuck Tingle for the lulz!”
  • Chuck Tingle gets nominated, proceeds to be awesome and hilarious, even in the face of pressure from anti-puppies that he withdraw because he’s ruining the Hugos by being there.
  • Puppies and Puppy Adjacents say “Chuck Tingle is awesome, let’s get him a Hugo!”
  • Chuck Tingle posts jokes about Vox Day and announces Zoe Quinn will accept the award for him.
  • Many of the people previously saying Tingle should withdraw because he’s ruining the Hugos say “Let’s get Chuck Tingle a Hugo; that’ll show Vox Day, the Puppies and Gamergate!”
  • Puppies and Puppy Adjacents – “We’re okay with this!”
hunchbacknotredam

Love is Real

For some reason, I don’t think giving Space Raptor Butt Invasion—a work that wouldn’t even be on the ballot if it were not for Vox Day—a Hugo is going to teach Vox Day a lesson.

Just as planned

Just as planned!

All I know is that my Legends of Science Fiction T-shirt should be arriving sometime this week, and I can’t wait.

Serious important post and announcement later today.

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!

Genrefication and Dragon Awards

Over at Mad Genius Club, some folks are celebrating the genre stratification at DragonCon for their Dragon Awards.  Rather than Best at some length category, they have split categories into Best Science Fiction, Best Fantasy or Paranormal, Best YA/Middle Grade, Best Mil-SF or Mil-Fantasy(!?), Best Alternative History, Best Apocalyptic, Best Horror, and with further breakdown along similar lines for film and gaming.

This strikes me as a terrible idea.  These categories reinforce the notion that a story can be only one of these things.  Where would Philip Jose Farmer’s Maker of Universes fall on this?  Is Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth Fantasy, Science Fiction, Alternative History or Apocalyptic?  Why break out Horror into its own category, and where would something like Matthew D. Ryan’s ‘Vampire-hunting in Drisdak’-style Drasmyr books end up?

No, no, no, no!  This isn’t a victory, unless your aim is creating genre ghettos.

In response, I propose an alternative.  If I ever get the reach to make such an endeavor feasible, I will give you the Brackett Awards:

Categories will include, but are not limited to, in Long and Short Form:

  • Best Space Princess/Classiest Dame
  • Most Dashing Swordsman/Gunman
  • Creepiest Monster/Alien
  • Most Exotic/Erotic Xeno-hominid
  • Best Explosion
  • Coolest Spaceship
  • Best Empire (domineering, crumbling or otherwise)

Will these categories end up punishing certain books under the SFF umbrella?  Probably, but not the most awesome ones.

On Writers’ Response to Sad Puppies, Medicide Review, and Magazine Update

In light of the responses I’ve seen from authors who were in the top 10 of the open forum Sad Puppies IV vote, which ranged from confusion and mild annoyance to shrill angry freak outs, I’d like to share one of my favorite quotes from Varg Vikernes:

I might be Nordic, heterosexual and have a Pagan ideology myself, but why would I expect the fans of my music to be just like me?

I am a narrow-minded ultra-conservative anti-religious misanthropic and arrogant bigot, alright, and I have a problem with just about everything and everyone in this world, but I am not demented, and if those who are not like me are able to enjoy my music that is all fine by me. Be a Christian-born black gay feminist converted to Judaism for all I care, or worse; a Muslim. Just stay off my lawn…  – 2010 Interview w/Stereo Gum

If only some of those in the sci-fi community could be so magnanimous!

Rather than harp on about that, I would like to share a review I recently received. No, not for Cirsova, but for medicide’s latest album, Supernova Black:

5.0 out of 5 stars Open Up & Take Your Medicide
By S. Rosin on March 20, 2016
Supernova Black

If you like your Industrial music “old school”, then you’ve come to the right place. Herein are practiced the sonic rituals as they were originally taught before the term degenerated into nothing more than dance music with a bad attitude. This is light years away from any dance floor with a focus that is beyond the void where these sounds are being generated. This duo are on a mission to mess with your mind, inspired by Magick and the malevolence of a corporate pharmaceutical industry that places profit over people. To that end, the technicians at Medicide Industrial now present 5 new prescriptions for altering your perceptions. The first thing you need to get about these guys is that they are a LIVE band, man. Everything is recorded live in a live room with microphones. The air is just as important to the sound as the instruments making it. What you hear is what you get and there’s no messing around. These sounds exist in the real world where they shudder and vibrate the air as a physical manifestation of the will of its creators. That fact makes these recordings as vital and dangerous as a rattlesnake. You just don’t know when it’s going to strike. It’ll hiss and chatter at you with menace and then spring forward with a thrust and get you right in the jugular. So if you’ve got some bottle, you can make like one of those southern Baptist snake handlers and pick up this serpent for a little soul salvation. If you’re lucky, you might even survive!

Now that’s the kind of love I’m talking about!

Even though we didn’t technically announce it until mid January, Supernova Black’s Amazon release date is Dec 30, so we ARE technically eligible for Best Related Work… I kid, I kid, but you should check us out!

I did some catching up on my reading this weekend, and though I didn’t quite clear my inbox, I made some pretty big steps towards doing so. I am now more determined than ever to step up Cirsova’s output this year because I have so many great submissions. I’m not ready to officially announce that I’ll be buying for two or three issues – that will happen some time after submissions are closed at the end of next month – but I’m probably going to be buying for at least two issues. That’s just how much great stuff I’ve gotten. I’m losing my mind with how exciting some of this stuff is!