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Issue 7 Cover 1 Front Cover lower res

We need to increase our readership if we’re going to keep this going. Our target for next year is 200 subscribers. Tell your friends!

We’ll have the art for Summer available soonish and will be posting it as soon as it’s ready.

For those of you who’ve been digging the art for spring, you can get it on Mugs, T-Shirts and more from our Tee Public store!

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Sick Kitty Super Sale Fundraiser

I hate eBegging, so I’m not going to eBeg unless I get really desperate. But here’s the scoop…

This is Millie, my one year old kitty:Millie.png

She’s had a handful of health problems and managed to rack up quite a vet bill! While it looks like some recent freelance work will cover her bloodwork and heartworm test, she still needs a chest X-Ray and some some medicine, which will total out to an additional $250.

Kitty comes before Cirsova, so this will be coming largely out of our 2018 art budget (which at the moment has just shy of that amount actually sitting in it).

If you want to help out either Millie or the Magazine, here’s what you can do to help:

Buy an ad in the Spring issue. This will help right away because that money doesn’t have to filter through payment networks for a month before hitting the account. I know that it’s gonna be a minute before the Spring issue comes out (late February/early March), but at this point it would really help us out.

Buy a hardcover. We make a bit more per unit on these, so if a dozen or so folks spring for one, it would shore up our budget a lot. Everyone who’s gotten these has been blown away by the quality.

-Buy softcover copies for your friends. Or for your doctors and dentists. If you want to buy a stack so you can leave copies in waiting rooms, we offer really cheap bulk rates ($30 for 5 copies + $20 for each additional 5). This would also fall under “helping right away”, since you’d pay us directly and we’d put in the fulfillment order.

Buy yourself a copy on Amazon. Even though the money will take a few weeks to filter to our account, healthy and steady sales allow us to keep our coffers reasonably filled, especially when accounting for emergencies that can hit the personal budget hard.

-If you already have copies of every issue, feel free to buy some Cirsova Merch.

Robert E. Howard, Feminist! – Guest Post by Paul Lucas

Now that I’ve click-baited you with that misleading title, I’m going to spend some time introducing you to one of The Forgotten Kick-Ass Women of PulpTM – Dark Agnes, the heroine of REH’s Sword Woman. And kick-ass she most certainly is.

According to both howardworks.com and isfdb.com, Sword Woman was not published during Howard’s lifetime, so it’s hard to date. However, C. L. Moore corresponded with him about it at the start of 1935 – she loved it – which gives us a reasonable idea. It’s been published a few times since it was rediscovered, but the version I read was in The Second Book of Robert E. Howard, edited by Glenn Lord, published by Zebra Books in 1976.

Our heroine is called Dark Agnes because of her ferocity, not because of her colouring. In fact, she is one of those redheads that fantasy writers love so much. REH even works that into the first line of the story. “Agnes! You red-haired spawn of the devil, where are you?” It was my father calling me, after his usual fashion.”

So, we are quickly introduced to Agnes de Chastillon, a fiery young woman living in a village in post-mediaeval France. The story starts on the day that she is supposed to be married off to the ‘fat pig’ Francois by her brute of a father, who thinks nothing of knocking her out and dragging her home by the hair when she refuses. In a moving early scene, Agnes’s downtrodden sister gives her a knife with which to take her own life and save herself from a life of drudgery. Of course, this being an REH story, Agnes disdains both choices proffered to her by other people – death or domestic slavery – and uses the knife for something else – to cut her way to freedom. She stabs her betrothed, flees, makes a friend on the road called Etienne Villiers, but is betrayed by him and almost sold into prostitution, beats him up in return, makes another friend, the more honourable Guiscard de Clisson, a leader of mercenaries, then fights again, is shot and so on and so forth, as you’d expect of Howard.

However, this isn’t a manic story, just fast paced. The story is told through lots of action, but the action fits the psychology of Agnes. She is a female berserker, driven with rage to fight her way out of her vulnerable position in society. Indeed, I was convinced enough by her rage and her backstory, which are given in a few vivid strokes by Howard, to overcome my disbelief about her fighting abilities. She doesn’t suddenly turn into a fighting machine, but develops by stages, first standing up to her father, then stabbing her betrothed, and progressing from there. Even so, she is not invulnerable and needs some help in becoming the independent fighting woman she wants to be to escape from the drudgery of domestic life.* Hence, she gains her own martial mentor who is then shuffled off the page, Obi-Wan Kenobi style, when he’s served his purpose. Pulp writers never let a character grow old or outlive their usefulness.

Most of the men who mistreat Agnes, she either kills or beats up herself in one of her rages, or they suffer at the hands of others. In this, she is a catalyst for chaos, but the chaos is already part of her society and she simply brings it out. Her brutal father is ‘marked with scars gotten in the service of greedy kings and avaricious dukes’. The land outside their village is a desperate place filled with criminals, vagrants, wandering mercenaries, and retainers working for unscrupulous nobles. France and the Holy Roman Empire are on the brink of war. It is a turbulent age. No wonder she is so angry all the time.

Agnes is simply someone fighting against her position in a dangerous society, and the same applies to her friend-cum-adversary Etienne Villiers. He is initially her silver tongued rescuer but is later revealed to be a blackguard; however, he does, perhaps, have more fairness buried even deeper still. Both of them are interesting characters with their own sense of honour, their own moral codes, perhaps alien to those of us living in the twenty-first century. It’s their alien codes that gives these characters life, their sparkle.

Despite all the indignities heaped on Agnes, the story isn’t a hate filled screed against men, nor is it a political tract – not that you’d expect any of that from Howard. He just produced a story with a different type of protagonist for his market – a peasant girl. He did give her the expected motivation for many a fictional character – the desire to escape a miserable life – but made sure her motivation was different in other ways – the need to escape a forced marriage to a man she despises, and the need to hide her sex from the world as she flees. That gave Howard interesting material to combine into something new, and it worked. Given Agnes’ background, you would almost think that Howard was writing the prototype of a progressive or feminist story, but in his case the ‘progressive’ elements were there in the service of the story rather than driven by a political agenda.

In fact, Dark Agnes is much more interesting than the gender-neutral characters we see in a lot of stories these days – ‘there are no differences between the sexes’. Thankfully, 1 To use the jargon, she has a character arc. Howard harnessed these differences between men and women, their psychologies and their positions in their society, to produce a vivid and exciting story, much as C. L. Moore did with Black God’s Kiss. It’s no wonder the Queen of Weird Fiction liked this story so much.

My blessings! I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed ‘Sword Woman.’ It seemed such a pity to leave her just at the threshold of higher adventures. Your favorite trick of slamming the door on a burst of bugles! And leaving one to wonder what happened next and wanting so badly to know. Aren’t there any more stories about Agnes?

In fact, there were two sequels, Blades for France, which was left unpolished, and Mistress of Death, left unfinished. Howardworks.com and ISFDB list the completed 2 3 and published versions of these stories.

*To use the jargon, she has a character arc.

Paul Lucas is a writer with a story in an upcoming issue of Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine; he can be found here on WordPress.

Did You Just Misgender Leigh Brackett!?

Okay, there’s been this long-running narrative myth that while Leigh Brackett didn’t have to change her name to hide that she was a woman, she somehow flew beneath the radar with a masculine sounding sound name and found success that would’ve been denied to her if it were more commonly known she was not a man.

Well, I’ve found a smoking gun.

Not only was it known that Leigh Brackett was a woman, Wilbur Peacock, the editor of Planet Stories at the time, went out of his way to correct someone who referred to Brackett as “he” in a letter to the Vizigraph (Planet Stories’ letters section).

Brackett Planet Stories

Planet Stories, May 1943 Issue, P 124

This was relatively early in Brackett’s career, too. She’d only been publishing scifi in the pulps since around 1940, but in 1943 Peacock stated with confidence (and accuracy) that she would be one of the greats of science fiction.

So, a couple things. Sometimes the pulps, SF pulps in particular, are painted as some kind of boys’ club, yet most evidence I’ve seen implies that couldn’t be further from the truth. Weird Tales had several women writing both stories and letters. The issue of Thrilling I read had a pretty even split in the letters section. This is one of the earlier Vizigraphs I’ve read; here you have the Editor not only praising Brackett and confirming that she’s a woman, he even encourages the female readership he’s certain exists to interact more and get involved. Given that the later issues I’ve read tended to have more women writing into to the letters section, it seems they did!  Even if there wasn’t anything close to gender parity, the picture of the pulps and sci-fi as hostile and closed off to women just doesn’t jibe with reality.

Anyway, I would’ve included some more links, but Jeffro scooped me on writing the actual article, since I found this over the weekend and was gonna wait (but clearly this was important enough that it couldn’t wait!)

 

Greater than Gods

Given the Google nonsense, I think it would be fun to give a little synopsis of C.L. Moore’s Greater than Gods.

Male babies are dying out, and a scientist is working on a means of using X-Rays to ensure a balance between the genders. More importantly, though, he’s trying to decide between Betty and Veronica (their real names are unimportant). His friend comes in and tells him how crazy it is that the future exists in a quantum state and how our choices can cause entire universes to come into or flash out of existence. Coincidentally, the scientist is psychically contacted by his future descendants at the same time… But they are from completely different timelines!

Short version, if the Doctor marries Betty, he spends more time with his beautiful but vapid wife, he has a kind and sensitive daughter, his work fails, and mankind slouches into a decadent feminist dystopia in which everyone is hippie-dippie and living in peace and harmony in little groves as all knowledge and technology is lost, dooming the race of man to end in a whimper.

If the Doctor marries Veronica, the sexy brilliant scientist gives him a brood of strong and virile young men, his work succeeds but leads to endless war and conquest of earth and someday the stars, with a mankind bred to rule and be ruled.

One of his lines of descendants will be wiped from existence, and he can doom mankind to a future of decadence and death or galactic immortality and perpetual war.

Given the choice between feminist dystopia and war world, he immediately proposes to his secretary instead, wiping out both possible futures and  opting instead for the unknown.

Reviews on Issue 5, CL Moore & Hugos

Issue 5 is finally starting to get some more reviews on Amazon! A huge thank you to everyone who has taken a moment to review this or any of our other issues!

Five issues on, and Cirsova is keeping up with its high standard. Even tho the large chunk of this issue is based around this same shared fictional background, stories are as varied in theme, tone and style as ever, with now usual mixture of new authors and zine veterans. Burnett’s short piece stole the show for me. In this age of “subversive” takes on Lovecraft, it is surprising to see one such story in a magazine like this one, one that is actually good at what it does unlike many a thematically similar yet preachy and cringe-inducing piece whose fame lies on its fashionable themes alone. – Paul Blagojevic

The hype is real. A themed issue based on the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft upon which is backdropped some of the most rousing adventure fiction I’ve read in some time. No need to fear the dreck of such pastiches often rolled out by inferior immitators, Cthulhu is not namedropped even once. Like Adventure Stories and Weird Tales before it Cirsova continues to dominate short fiction and has my life long support.

Immensely pleased. – Anon

The Misha Burnett piece is the best story I’ve read yet this year. Since writing Appendix N, I’ve been on the lookout for a magazine that could put out short science fiction and fantasy along the lines of what people were reading back when fantasy role-playing games were a brand new thing. Cirsova is it! – Jeffro Johnson*

*:Jeffro’s been a past contributor of non-fiction for us.

One of Jeffro’s pieces for us, in our third issue, was his Retrospective on The Best of C.L. MooreRetrospective piece on The Best of C.L. Moore. I’d read some Moore, but I’m just now getting around this classic anthology edited by Lester Del Ray.  I was left a bit unimpressed by her collab with Kuttner on The Last Citadel, but I gave the grande dame another chance when I found a Jirel anthology, which I enjoyed thoroughly, yet now, reading a bit broader range of her stories, I’m blown away. I’m only a little ways into this anthology, but The Black Thirst and The Bright Illusion… Wow. C.L. Moore may be better at writing Lovecraftian Science Fiction than Lovecraft!

I’d strongly recommend that anyone considering trying their hand at writing “Lovecraftian” or Weird Fiction in general would be doing themselves a huge favor in reading Moore and looking to her for inspiration rather than those who were trying to directly ape Lovecraft’s writing.

Lastly, I’ll note that the voting for the Hugo Awards closes on Friday. It’s been interesting to see just how little discussion there is on categories that do not focus on a single work; there’s been next to no talk about our category, the pro-zine category,  or the fanzine category. It’s understandable, though. It would be a struggle for most folks to get through all of the fiction categories in time to make a somewhat informed decision on them, much less slog through portfolios of two and a half dozen zines and editors. Much more so than the fiction, which is heavily reviewed and discussed on merit**, it’s a popularity contest and PR game, and as the guy from Amazing Stories pointed out, one we’re not the best at playing. Between being a last-second Rabid Puppy addition and of our support for a pro-ethics movement that was relentlessly smeared by the media it was trying to hold accountable, I hold no illusions as to our chances of winning. I’ll be happy so long as the magazine of the guy who was tweeting out pro-Antifa memes doesn’t win.

**:Even if you disagree with the standards or lenses the stories are measured against, you can’t deny that they are being discussed on those merits.