Epic Fantasy

I’ve been reading Footfall by Niven and Pournelle lately. It’s the second joint of theirs that I’ve read, the other being Mote in God’s Eye.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that they’re basically writing epic fantasy where they namecheck Carl Sagan.

>multiple POV
>world/empire-spanning action
>epic fate of the world stuff
>monsters and magic

One of the places where these works are different from most l’epic fantasies is that they’re self-contained works. You get all of your heroes, villains, factions and whatnot, and you get your complete story, beginning, middle, and end in one go.

Lately, there has been some very loud complaining that the market seems to be shifting against Epic Fantasy, and the blame is, naturally, being put on people like Martin, Rothfuss, and Jordan. Yes, sometimes authors never finish their foreverlong series cuz they get lazy or don’t have an ending planned and find they’ve written themselves into an inescapable corner. Other times, authors die, leaving their story to be completed by others.

But there’s also a general shift, I think, in what readers are wanting: stories with payoff. It’s not just a question of whether a series will finish, it’s a question of will it stick the landing and make the lead-up worth the investment. If a series goes for 5 books, and the ending sucks, readers might feel cheated by their investment in the previous 4 volumes. It’s been speculated that one reason Martin can’t finish his series is that he realizes he can’t offer any satisfying payoff in a series that was about destroying tropes and expectations of Epic Fantasies.

Conventional wisdom has been “Write long series to boost your numbers and milk the fans of your series.” There’s an assumption, with some data to back it up, that standalone books are harder to market than series, in part because series can build momentum.

But momentum is not exclusive to series: telling good stories and establishing a solid track record builds momentum, too. Michael Crichton only wrote one sequel, and he likely whiffed it to not become the series guy. Dick Francis’s stories were mostly standalone, though thematically tied. Tony Hillerman’s mysteries are part of a series, but they’re all standalone stories. There are not intense debates over the read order of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books.

While everyone loves Tolkien, and some will go out of their way to posit him as a herculean be-all, end-all of fantasy, one of the examples no one wants to follow is “write your story first.” Tolkien submitted Lord of the Rings as a complete work which his publisher broke into separate volumes due to the length. He did not write the first 20% of a story and hope it did well enough to justify writing the other 80%. But no, some would argue, it’s impossible to expect that authors wanting to follow in Tolkien’s footsteps, these hypothetical “Tolkien 2s” as some writers have referred to them, follow their idol’s example and write their whole damn story before asking for reader buy-in.

While it’s taken awhile for us to roll out Mongoose & Meerkat serially, it was actually brought to us as a finished work. It could’ve been published as a single doorstopper volume, but it worked out better for us, and hopefully for Jim, to publish the stories first serially in the magazine and then as collections as the serialization progressed. But the series has been in the can since at least 2017, and we’ve had the full publication arrangements for it in place since at least 2019.

Wild Stars is a bit of a different animal, and I think that the realities of today’s market is what makes it a tougher sell for us. While Wild Stars is unfinished, we stepped in as publisher VERY late in its history [nearly 35 years in, to be exact], yet 2/3s of the Wild Stars in print now has been both written and published in the last 4-5 years. If anything, our own publication schedule has been slowing Michael down since his retirement, but we can only manage serializing and publishing one Wild Stars book a year. This year, we begin serialization of the 7th installment, collection of the 6th, and Michael has already shown me the draft for the 8th book in the series. While most of the Wild Stars adventures work as stand-alone stories, the length and history of the series, not to mention the drastic shift in mediums might make entry into the series somewhat daunting for new readers.

However, if you are waiting for Wild Stars to be finished before committing to the series, please know that I do not think you are, as one FamousTM Epic Fantasy writer so recently put it, an “entitled little shit.” Instead, let me say that I hope that you will check out the series when it is finished, which should be around 2028 at this rate. By then, we will probably have 3 coffee table omnibus collections, each collecting four volumes of Wild Stars. If you’re wanting to give the series a shot now, however, you can pick the first omnibus up for $68 + S&H if you use the promo code WELCOME15 at checkout.

Or, if you just don’t like huge sprawling epics or even series at all, we invite you to check out Misha Burnett’s upcoming anthology, Small Worlds, or his Chinaski Award-nominated An Atlas of Bad Roads (audiobook coming soon), Erik Rugar, or Endless Summer.

Spring 2023 Issue Out Now!

The Spring 2023 Issue of Cirsova is Out Now!

The Unshrouded Stars

When an astronaut confronts a lamia, she has a proposition for him: she will refrain from eating children for an entire year…if he will take her into outer space!

Hunger in the Void

Allan Buxley, a daring-hearted Voyager, ventures into an Orion Gate with his robot companion Sigma-6 in the Sagan-12… and finds a black hole on the other side!

The Gold Exigency
(Part 1 of 4)

A race of birdlike alien humanoids are being hunted and murdered for the gems grown in their skins! A cop seeking answers and looking to stop the killings is approached by an unlikely benefactor: Achilles Hister of the Artomique Corporation!


Cartmill Station has an outbreak of a deadly virus! Can a daring rescue mission to deliver nanomedicines using a dangerous experimental rocket reach them in time?

Comes the Hunter

Following the trail of dead, the hunter closes in on his quarry: the last of the wizard knights! His magic exhausted, can he defeat his dastardly foe with his wits alone?!

Starring Hedy Lamarr

An alien intelligence on the moon with the ability to possess victims engages in an all out secret war against Earth! It’s up to a secret world-wide conspiracy to stop it!

The Feast of the Fedai

Kat is intent on raising an army to reclaim Alness! Can she and Mangos arrange to recruit an elite core of highly trained Fedai in Alomar before her secret gets out?!


A geo-seismic research team is stationed on the strange moon Epsilon Epsilon Six, better known as Egg, a smooth and volatile body that could go at any moment!

Search Pattern

A strange woman seemingly miraculously cures a man’s terminal cancer! His son has devoted his life to data sciences, but can he follow the clues to track her down?!

My Name is John Carter (Part 15)

Wild Stars and TTRPG Patron Play

Been thinking some about Michael Tierney’s Wild Stars. In some ways, it is, in fiction, the closest you get to something as off-the-wall as a #BROSR-style 1:1 time game with patrons in space with multiple factions, pieces on the board and off the board, all in motion simultaneously.

Left to Right: Carthage, two Brothan, Daestar, and Mack

One of the reasons why it’s hard to pitch is that it’s SO off the wall and chaotic, it’s not easy to either compare it to other works or really capture in a nutshell what’s going on. How would you elevator-pitch the narrative of what’s going on in #BROvenloft right now?

Wild Stars VII [which we’re serializing next year]: With adventuring hero-teams still regrouping, the Wild Star patrons Strazis off the board still and Erlik dead, you’re left with the Artomique Space Nazis who control earth, the Space Pirates, the telepath guild, and the psionic T-Rexes vying for control of known space.

The God Father is back, but his faction [the Purple Order] is out of commission until he can breed more with other immortal women. Phaedra is in play and gathering her own allies to wreck the Artomique / Pirate alliance.

We haven’t seen much of the Brothan (space werewolves) lately. I’m sure they’re still out there, though, but the Black Star Reavers (Space Lizardmen) are a new wildcard faction that may or may not be allied with the Artomiques, but not the telepaths guild (or vice versa).

Carthage, the renegade Wild Star, who was a Patron from the Brothan for awhile, has been factionless for some time, but he’s still around in some capacity due to Dalucar, the Saturnian.

The crabmen’s influence is still being felt across the galaxy, and their evolutionary spike that landed on Mars led to the ascendance of the telepathic T-Rexes. We haven’t seen them directly, though, since the flashback to the 20th century in the prologue of Wild Stars V.

In the context of this Patron Level game, the Ancient Warrior/Strazis is an ascended PC who went from sword & sandal Fighting Man to name-level patron for an interstellar confederation.

If you were to run a Wild Stars Braunstein, though, you’d need the following factions:

  • The Artomiques (Achilles Hister)
  • The Wild Stars (Strazis)
  • Atlanteans [specifically the pre-Wild Stars Atlanteans and those who did not become Wild Starriors after the exodus](Broadwater)
  • The Brothan (Brotah or Carthage)
  • The Five-Thousand-Fingered Hand (the Madam)
  • Space Pirate (Red Queen)
  • The Saturnians (Dalucar)
  • The Purple Order (The God Father)
  • Phaedra’s coalition (Phaedra)
  • The Black Star Reavers (?????)
  • The Marzanti (?????)
  • The Dire Griefs (?????)

And that’s just off the top of my head and for starters. Each of those Patrons has henchmen [such as Genghis and Georgian, Achilles’ two main mooks] as well as a number of adventurers.


Because within those various groups, you have Erlik, who is Strazis’ son and one of the main leaders of the Wild Stars, his wife Daestar, who’s a member of the Five Thousand Fingered Hand (telepath’s guild that is actually a rival faction against Strazis’ Wild Stars).

Earth faction, you’d have Bully and Risky Bravo and their other family members, who are off adventuring on behalf of both earth and the Wild Stars, or, in Bullson’s case in the last volume, the Artomiques.

Different “PCs” are constantly forming, disbanding, and reforming adventuring parties against the backdrop of the machinations of the various factions vying for control of the Galaxy.

Anyway, Wild Stars VI: Orphan of the Shadowy Moon is being currently serialized in Cirsova Magazine. Part 3 just dropped. Parts 1 & 2 are on Amazon now.

We also recently published the collected edition of Wild Stars V: The Artomique Paradigm, which also reprints an original 1970s Wild Stars short story from The Multiversal Scribe that serves as a prelude to next year’s Wild Stars VII: The Gold Exigency. Plus, it contains some TTRPG write-ups for some of the major characters in case you would be interested in trying out a faction-based Wild Stars Braunstein.

Wild Stars V Out in All Formats

Michael Tierney’s Wild Stars V is out now in all formats.

Need to catch up on Wild Stars? Really, at this point, the cheapest and easiest way is with the Wild Stars Omnibus. Use promo code WELCOME15 at checkout for 15% off. This tome contains all 4 previous volumes of Wild Stars in a single coffee table format.

What IS The Artomique Paradigm + Interview on Critical Blast

Last week, we did an interview with Critical Blast talking about the Wild Stars. I was hesitant to post it, because I feel like we were all over the place and didn’t really do a good job of conveying what the book we’re publishing is about.

On the face of it, Wild Stars may seem like a daunting IP to get into, because it’s been around for 40 years, has a huge cast of characters, and a wide varieties of stories and storytelling that takes place within it told across different media.

Michael looks at Wild Stars in the whole of what he’s doing and what he’s done with it, so his pitches can lack a bit of focus with his excitement for the work in its entirety. So, I’ll take this opportunity to try to give a more concise Wild Stars and Artomique Paradigm pitch:

Wild Stars is an action scifi epic in the tradition of the classic pulps that brings in innumerable elements to make it truly unique and, well, WILD! It’s the saga of two branches of humanity: those who left for the stars 75,000 years ago when Atlantis fell, and the human population of earth which remained. These branches have had occasional encounters over the course of that time [Ancient Aliens are really just our galactic cousins!] but the two have remained largely apart while Earth has caught up with the Wild Stars.

The Artomique Paradigm takes place when these two branches of humanity are attempting to formally establish relations. Achilles “Whip” Hister, the son of an alternate reality Hitler, is poised to take his seat on the head of the board of the Artomique Corporation, which now controls Earth. Whip is determined to walk his own path and lead the Artomique Earth in a different direction, but his father has other plans! A secret alliance between the Artomiques and Space Pirates almost guarantees the Artomique Earth’s dominance over the stars, and Whip finds himself on the run with his new friends Daestar, the telepath and wife of an immortal prince of the Wild Stars, and Bully Bravo the last Republican President of Earth before the Artomique takeover.

The Artomique Paradigm features covers by Anton Oxenuk, Genzoman, and DarkFilly, with interior illustrations by Dark Filly.

Softcover copies are as low as $20.

Critical Blast Interview is below the Kickstarter embed.

Cirsova Spring 2022 Issue Is Out Now!

The Cirsova Spring 2022 Issue is Out Now!

Amazon Paperback

Amazon eBook

Lulu Hardcover

Lulu Paperback

Orphan of the Shadowy Moons (Part 1)
At long last, the origins of the Ancient Warrior are revealed! Fleeing from the Artomique fleet, Daestar, Bully Bravo, and the Ancient Warrior find a refuge of the immortal race—it is there that the psychic locks on his past are finally released!

The Flying Mongoose
Dragons have cut off the smiths of Pytheas, but Kat and Mangos have a plan! Un-fortunately, it will require the duo taking to the skies themselves!

Channel 121, After Midnight
Bored on a Saturday night, Caleb discovers a new channel that has never appeared on the cable box before, offering strange programming and an ominous warning!

The Recorporator Finds a Live One!
A lone Recorporator has just blown a ton of money on rights to a world that he thinks may be a dud… until strange things begin to happen to his scanner drones!

Serpent God of Mars
Though defeated by the trainee witchfinder, Arrul Voruum, the sorcerer Rannas Kavannian has survived in a broken stolen body and hides in the depths of Mars!

The City of the Crocodile God
Strange things are afoot in the city sacred to the Crocodile God—her son dead, the high priestess is in a malaise… and a sacred crocodile attacks during the festival!

Darla of Deodanth: Firewood
After the incident at Machu Hampacchu, all that was left for Darla to do was to re-stock firewood for the excavation site—but no task is simple on the Eldritch Earth!

An Ayre By Landor
A magic potion has rendered the Duke of Vardix invulnerable! Can Morca stop the Duke’s scheme to assassinate Lady Niada before all at the Festival of Azamodius?!

Just Another Crappy Story That Kills Everybody In It
By Jim Breyfogle
The Fictionverse is where stories are acted out when pen hits paper—but what happens in a bad or poorly written story? Bob the Guardsman is about to find out!

Dreaming of Mart Senson
By LIVIU SURUGIU [Translated by J.S. Bangs]
Something strange is happening to Mart Senson! The faces of individuals he has dreamed of, and who have dreamed of him, are appearing in portrait on his skin!

Touch of Night
Edward Argot, PI, is approached with a strange job: go deep undercover to inform on a mysterious prisoner… The catch? Said prisoner is reputed to be immortal!

The Sound of Silence
An orphan is assaulted by the monstrous Professor Wilberforce—killing her as-sailant lands her in an institution, where trauma manifests in her strange powers!

My Name is John Carter (Part 11)

[Also, don’t forget that the Kickstarter for Michael Tierney’s Wild Stars is live!]

Initial Goal Met! First Stretch Goal: TTRPG Write-ups

Thanks to everyone who backed the project yesterday! We hit our initial goal.

Next goal will be adding some bonus TTRPG content. We were sort of inspired to do this because of Troll Lord Games’ 5e Adventures supplement for Wild Stars that came out a couple years back. While that product tried to create an entire and encyclopedic setting for Wild Stars based on the Multiversal Guide in Wild Stars volume 4, what we’re looking to do with this is something simpler, akin to the old D&D magazines where you’d see various pulp heroes like Stark or Cugel the Clever statted up to drop in your AD&D or B/X game.

While we plan on a systemless approach to the write-ups, we hope they will be written in such a way that you could easily drop them into your game as wild card factor or a faction patron, outlining some of their motivations, skills and abilities, and an approximation of level/strengths.

Just a reminder, too, if you want to get caught up on the earlier volumes of Wild Stars [linked in the Kickstarter description], you can use either of the following promo codes for 15% off your order: EMPOWERMENT15 or WELCOME15

Wild Stars V: The Artomique Paradigm is Live!

The Kickstarter for Wild Stars V: The Artomique Paradigm is now live!

75,000 years ago, an immortal being from another universe known only as the Ancient Warrior led mankind on an exodus to the stars in the face of a massive alien invasion. While the branch of humanity remaining behind survived the Marzanti attempt to terraform earth into a paradise for aquatic alien nightmares, their cousins settled in the distant reaches of space known as the Wild Stars. 

The Artomique Paradigm takes place at the first formal reunion of Earth and their Wild Stars cousins. Erlik, the son of the Ancient Warrior,  and former President Bully Bravo hope that a summit between the myriad factions now populating space will bridge gaps and build trust throughout the galaxy. However, the Artomique Corporation aims to become one of the dominant players in Earth and interstellar politics using the stolen Wild Star technology they acquired in the late 20th Century. For them, this meeting is an opportunity to solidify Artomique Earth’s dominance over the stars and implement the Artomique Paradigm.

A secret alliance between the Artomique Corporation and space pirates led by the notorious Red Queen threatens to turn the balance of power in the galaxy upside down!

The Artomique Paradigm is the 5th installment in Michael Tierney’s Wild Stars series. The previous four volumes, The Book of CirclesForce MajeureTime Warmageddon, and Wild Star Rising are available now from Cirsova Publishing, or you can pick up the 35th Anniversary Omnibus that collects all four in a single hardcover.

[use promo code: EMPOWERMENT15 for 15% off all Lulu orders].

What’s Cirsova Reading?

I’ve been trying to do a lot more reading lately, to get through my giant stack of unread books. A big part of why is that I inherited my dad’s gigantic library of history books, and I have nowhere to put all of them, so I’ve been trying to read them as quickly as possible and then give them away to friends and followers to make room for more boxes of books. If you want a chance to get your hands on the books I’m giving away, be sure to follow us on twitter [twitter.com/cirsova], where I regularly raffle off the books I finish.

The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

This has been a fantastic read. I’m about half-way through. I don’t think I’ve ever read a clearer narrative by a soldier and commanding officer of his campaigns. Even if it were only the first 100 pages covering the Mexican War, this would be a priceless account.

While extremely detailed, it serves to give the reader vivid and precise accounts of the action rather than bog the reader down.

Grant’s deference in his prose to the various commanders under him and over him is delightful–the frank portrait of Zachary Taylor as a commander in the Mexican War, his friendship with and deep admiration for Sherman, his frustration with Halleck as his superior and McClernard as his subordinate, are all laid out from a Grant who is focused principally on the facts of events, generous with praise for men who did their duty’s well and reluctant to disparage those deserving beyond stating what occurred in the course of things.

Lorena – Frank G. Slaughter

I’ve taken a quick break from Grant at roughly the half-way point [Chickamauga & the relief of Burnside in Knoxville] to read a period romance from Frank G. Slaughter. I really enjoyed his Phoenician romantic adventure, The Purple Quest, and have been meaning to read more of his books. I grabbed this and read the first four chapters while my GF was shopping at the Goodwill, and so far, it has not disappointed.

A brilliant young woman from the East coast has married a southern officer who is the heir to a massive plantation. The officer turns out to be a total wastrel and scoundrel; his father, the old county judge, realizes this and, before his death, teaches Lorena the ins and outs of the business of running a plantation.

Fast forward to mid-to-late in the Civil War: Lorena has managed to keep things running and profitable after the Judge’s death and while her husband is fighting in the war, though her methods are rather unorthodox for a Southern Lady [among other things, she has made a black her bookkeeper!] Her husband thinks himself a Rebel Hero and looks down on his wife; if he ever gets back and in charge, he’ll run the place into the ground. On the other hand, when the North inevitably wins the war, will Lorena be able to hold things together? She is well-loved and respected by the blacks on her plantation, including some who would be willing to stay on with her after the liberation–but if her rotten no-good husband has anything to say about it, he’ll drive them all to ruination.


Okay, this is just a for funsies thing on the side [and no, I’m not raffling these off]. Redfox is a British indie sword & sorcery comic from the 80s. It’s been amusing and pretty fun so far. Redfox is looking for treasure in dungeon, but it turns out that the treasure is bogus and the rumors existed so that at some point someone would come and revive a wizard from a healing torpor he placed himself in.

The wizard DOES reward Redfox, offering to teach her magic; while she’s an apt student, however, magic ultimately disagrees with her barbarian nature.

While the art isn’t amazing, the story has been pretty engaging. It’s a little shlocky and gaggy the way a lot of indie comics tend to be, but it’s not so much so that it detracts from the enjoyment.

So far, I think my favorite character is Whitefox… After Redfox leaves the wizard, the wizard becomes despondent and fixated. He ultimately creates a clone of Redfox who he makes his new apprentice. She is powerful and brilliant but like the other living magical creations of the wizard, she struggles with her identity [it has very strong Dying Earth vibes.] You just want to give her a hug.


We’re going to be taking pre-orders soon for Michael Tierney’s Wild Stars V: The Artomique Paradigm on Kickstarter! Please sign up for notification!

We’ll also begin serializing Wild Stars VI: Orphan of the Shadowy Moon in our Spring issue that will be out March 15th!

Also, I was sick with the flu, so I didn’t get to properly advertise that the retail edition of Absolute Evil & A Goth From Boston is now available on Amazon!

Coming Soon: The Artomique Paradigm Collected Edition

Be sure to sign up for notification for our Kickstarter!

75,000 years ago, an immortal being from another universe, known only as the Ancient Warrior, led mankind on an exodus to the stars in the face of a massive alien invasion. While the branch of humanity remaining behind survived the Marzanti attempt to terraform earth into a paradise for aquatic alien nightmares, their cousins settled in the distant reaches of space known as the Wild Stars. 

The Artomique Paradigm takes place at the first formal reunion of Earth and their Wild Stars cousins. Erlik, the son of the Ancient Warrior,  and former President Bully Bravo hope that a summit between the myriad factions now populating space will bridge gaps and build trust throughout the galaxy. However, the Artomique Corporation aims to become one of the dominant players in Earth and interstellar politics using the stolen Wild Star technology they acquired in the late 20th Century. For them, this meeting is an opportunity to solidify Artomique Earth’s dominance over the stars and implement the Artomique Paradigm.

A secret alliance between the Artomique Corporation and space pirates led by the notorious Red Queen threatens to turn the balance of power in the galaxy upside down!

The Artomique Paradigm is the 5th installment in Michael Tierney’s Wild Stars series. The previous four volumes, The Book of Circles, Force Majeure, Time Warmageddon, and Wild Star Rising are available now from Cirsova Publishing, or you can pick up the 35th Anniversary Omnibus that collects all four in a single hardcover.