Duel Visions – New Anthology of Horror and Weird from Misha Burnett and Louise Sorensen (Feb 14th)

front cover only jpgCirsova Publishing is thrilled to announce Duel Visions, an all-new anthology of horror and macabre by Misha Burnett and Louise Sorensen.

Duel Visions marks Cirsova Publishing’s second departure from its flagship publication, Cirsova Magazine, and its first ever traditional format book release.

A literary venture in the spirit of the classic horror showcases, such as Tales that Witness Madness and Tales from the Crypt, this new volume collects ten tales that approach terror from all angles, supernatural to science fiction, monstrous to mundane, encompassing the occult to the simply odd.

Misha Burnett has been regularly published in Cirsova Magazine and is known for The Book Of Lost Doors series of novels as well as the Eldritch Earth shared setting.

Louise Sorensen is also a veteran of Cirsova Magazine and has been published in several issues of Just a Minor Malfunction…

Duel Visions will be out in Paperback and eBook online and at retailers February 14, 2019!

Additional outlets and formats will be listed soon!

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Some Thoughts on Conan + Margaret Brundage

Though I read and talked about Kull some time back, I have only recently started reading Conan. Beginning at both ends, I’ve been reading the Del Ray collection “The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian” in bits on my lunch breaks and have just finished the 1977 edition of Red Nails over the last couple days at home.

Though I’m enjoying the hack & slashery of the late Conan (I haven’t made it far enough into the early stories to form an opinion), I have to say that it does not quite reach the momentous depths of Kull. Of the stories collected in Red Nails, Beyond the Black River comes the closest to those gloomy and brooding tales of the Atlantean King, with its sense of impending doom that hangs over the fragility of civilization’s facade.

Thulsa Doom

Okay, so maybe Delcartes’ Cat wasn’t a high point for Kull, Thulsa Doom or Howard.

However things that were absent from Kull (namely the copious amounts of naked shrieking women and girl-on-girl whipping) did leave the impression that they were tacked on in an attempt to make sales and land a Margaret Brundage cover*, and, in isolation, could explain why Lovecraft scholar ST Joshi would write Howard off as a hack and why his statements would be so perplexing to someone who had read Kull but not Conan. Brundage had real influence on the magazine’s content, and writers would more or less cater to her fetishes in hopes that Wright would throw one of their story’s scenes her way for a cover.

Brundage herself is experiencing a bit of a resurgence; she received a posthumous award at last year’s Worldcon and is up for another this year, I believe. As female icons of the early sci-fi era are being rediscovered and celebrated, Brundage gets to enjoy some of the deserved accolades for her contribution to the field, but she also presents a bit of an uncomfortable truth that iconic women aren’t always going to be what people who are looking for iconic women want to see.

While some women in SFF have faced erasure, Brundage apparently faced pillory. In the Foreword and Afterword of the 1977 hardback of Red Nails (published only a year after Brundage’s death), Karl Edward Wagner took the opportunity to excoriate Brundage for terrible art no less than four times**.

Today’s controversial figures like Bayonetta or Lara Croft pale in comparison to those depicted by Brundage, who herself was clearly fascinated (perhaps enamored) with BDSM. As people rediscover her and her artwork, they are bound (pun intended) to be polarized by her subject matter.  Regardless of how you feel about her and her artwork, her influence on the fiction of the 1930s is undeniable.

*There was additional intent for Howard, however, as he’d said once wanted to explore the themes of how institutionalized deviant sexuality was symptomatic of cultural decadence.  Worth noting that by Howard’s comments on sexuality, law and civilization, we’re probably about where Xuchotil was right before their wizards all died off.

**:I’ll admit, I misremembered this; while he mentions Brundage several times, he does not out and out say that she herself is bad, but does reference a few of her works negatively:

“It is late spring of 1935. Despite the wretched Margaret Brundage cover, you have just plunked down a quarter for the May issue of Weird Tales.”

“Wright seems to have been experimenting: the issue featured “a weird Craig Kennedy murder mystery” by Arthur B. Reeve, set off by a non-erotic Margaret Brundage cover that was possibly her worst ever.”

and he does go on to praise the cover for “Shadows in Zamboula” as “one of Margaret Brundage’s best pastels”.

 

Jirel of Joiry

Why is Jirel of Joiry, one of few bona fide woman pulp Sword & Sorcery heroes, so comparatively obscure? Is it because Jirel is a female protagonist? Or is it because C.L. Moore is a woman author?

To those last two questions, the answer is “Of course not”; C.L. Moore is beloved and influential, and with so many people supposedly out there looking for women heroes in SFF to hold up, Jirel’s sex is certainly not the reason.

I think Jirel’s relative obscurity has to do with the intensity and complexity of the source material. When Weird Tales billed Black God’s Kiss as “The Weirdest Story Ever Told”, they were perhaps only being slightly hyperbolic. Barbarians with swords killing shapeshifting reptile cultists? Kinda weird, I suppose. Tentacle monsters from beyond the stars driving a New England poof crazy? That’s pretty weird, I guess. Jirel of Joiry? It is weird in ways that cannot really be described; loud tastes, flavorful sounds, deafening sights – Edvard Munch’s the Scream, but in blacks and purples and greens and with words.

If Jirel were just some woman who fought monsters with swords and had adventures and quipped “I pity you, traitorous wizard!” as she vanquished some foe, she might very well be much more widely beloved and remembered today* and placed alongside John Carter, Conan and Stark on the pantheon of pulp action heroes, but she would also lose so much, if not all, of what makes her a fascinating character.

First off, you really have to accept the premise that you can’t staple the male hero’s journey to a female hero to understand why Jirel is so different. Yet in her life prior to where Moore’s stories pick up, Jirel may have been attempting to undertake the male hero’s journey, which is why things have immediately gone to hell (quite literally) in her debut adventure.

The male’s journey is to achieve stature, dominance, then legacy; the female’s journey is to achieve stature, security, then legacy; of course that is a gross simplification because how they go about these things are entirely different. The woman does not have to seek virile stature among men to achieve her second or third goal, merely appeal to those who can help her achieve them. The legacy may be achieved by works** or parenthood, leaving a mark upon the world, but the woman can best achieve legacy through motherhood and upbringing of children with (in conjunction with the goal of security) a man or without him. In her pursuit of the male’s journey, Jirel has forfeited, to her regret, her feminine security and legacy by destroying someone who may have been able to provide them to her. This forfeiture, and how she feels it has ruined and cursed her, is central to Jirel’s character. And it is a VERY uncomfortable thing.

In a way, Jirel is a character in another’s story, Guillame’s; in Guillame’s story, he bravely fights against one of the strongest kingdoms, led by one of the strongest leaders, a brash and haughty woman waiting to be tamed…only she kills him. Rather than be tamed by the strong heroic swordsman, Jirel sells her soul and literally goes into hell to retrieve a “weapon” to kill him. But it is not a warrior’s weapon; it is a woman’s weapon—a kiss. A kiss that will kill and damn to hell. Too late does Jirel realize that Guillame was someone who could have given her security and legacy. He was stronger than her and could have protected her. She realizes that perhaps she wanted to be tamed by this rogue. And it devastates her to the core of her being. She is Belit killing Conan. Leia shooting Han.

While Jirel is, by outward appearances and actions, the dashing and brash heroic swordsman, that is a mask (one which her supernatural foe uses to mock her). She’s not a ‘man with boobs’ (though she at times tries to be one), but a feminine woman with feminine needs, emotions and desires. The Black God sequence is a terrifying look at the emotional turmoil and consequence of a woman who has tried to live the trope of Strong Female Protagonist and been utterly crushed and broken by it.

*: Copious amounts of erotic art aside
**: Oftentimes works are not enough, particularly in the heroic mold and tradition. It is not enough to create or maintain, one needs to pass on. For instance, part of what makes Kull a tragic figure is that for all of his efforts to sustain his empire, he left no line—doubly tragic for the importance he placed on love and marriage’s role in society while he himself never found a mate.