Thursday, April 06, 2017

Magazine Rack Revolutionary

Earlier this week the nominees for the 2017 Hugo Awards were announced, and while for the most part I can't really gin up much of a reaction I was quite gratified to see that Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine has won a nomination (which, these days, is almost more prestigious than actually winning) for Best Semiprozine. Now, I've been an eager reader of Cirsova since it premiered on Kickstarter in January 2016, but have inexplicably failed to talk about it here.

Time to fix that.

 Inspired by what he called "older, weirder, and pulpier" fiction and seeking to provide an outlet for the same, editor P. Alexander really hit the ground running with Issue #1. Basically every story, from the alternate-history Spanish-Armada-with magic story by Kat Otis to the pure undiluted sword-and-planet tale by Abraham Strongjohn to the first part of James Hutchings's poetic adaption of Edgar Rice Burrough's "Princess of Mars" has something to recommend it. My personal favorite, I must say, is "A Hill of Stars" by Misha Burnett, which has a great take on the Howardian pre-historic civilization idea, mainly by using the Old Ones from H. P. Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness" as the just-fallen empire which the dinosaur-riding human barbarians are in the process of looting. The main character is a former slave of the Old Ones who uses their knowledge to win life, love, and liberty in a terrific example of what the "Pulp Revolution" literary movement is about.

And I'm not the only one who thinks so - shortly after the issue was published, Misha Burnett opened up the "Eldritch Earth" setting for other writers to use, and the just-released Issue #5 of Cirsova is reported to have several of the resulting stories. Alas, while I have downloaded the issue I haven't yet found time to read it, but I'm definitely looking forward to it.

Certainly the middle three issues have consistently met the expectations set by #1. While there's certainly an emphasis on science-fantasy stories of one sort or another, there's really something for everyone here. Just to give a quick idea, some of the other stories that impressed me the most included -


  • "Hoskins' War" by Brian K. Lowe, from Issue #2, a Weird American Revolution story.
  • "The Lion's Share" by J. D. Brink, from Issue #3, featuring a space pirate operating in the classic piratical mode.
  • "Blood and Bones: Caribbean 1645" by Jim Breyfogle, also from Issue #3, in which a young wizard pulls a fast one on both the colonial government and a pirate crew.
  • "The Lady of the Amorous City" by Edward Ermelac, from Issue #4, in which a not-yet-King Arthur fights a really weird knight.
And that's just a few of the dozens of stories that I found the most memorable - I haven't even mentioned the essays by Jeffro Johnson and others analyzing the older pulp stories, or the fact that Issue #3 was designated the "Pirate Issue", or hardly anything other than the surface of this fine magazine. And to top it all off, all the content from the first two issues is available free at the links above!

Even if, like me, you're a fan of science fiction or fantasy but don't consider yourself a short fiction reader, if anything would change your mind, Cirsova would. I really don't know of anything else (except maybe Skelos) like it.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

SF&F History Month - From Amber to Avalon

Well, we've had some schedule slippage, which I apologize for, but I have a semi - decent excuse in that some personal life changes meant I was without ready Internet access for some of the last month. On the plus side, I was able to finish both Nine Princes in Amber and its first sequel, The Guns of Avalon. Before I get to my thoughts on them, however, I wanted to highlight a bit of (less than hot-off-the-presses) relevant news - The Chronicles of Amber appears to be in production as a television series.

As neat as it would be to see, the most interesting thing about the press release is the many comparisons to Game of Thrones, especially the ones that claim the Amber was an inspiration for Westros. Now, I have yet to read any of the books and have only seen a little of the show, but I can definitely understand where such comparisons come from, given all that happens in Amber in these relatively short books.

(Spoilers Ahead:)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Gabbing Geeks on Appendix N

Alright, so the last 2016 Science Fiction and Fantasy History Month post is . . . quite late, and I apologize for that (I'll make my excuses when I'm finally done with it). In the meanwhile, yesterday the podcast Geek Gab released their 84th episode, "Super Secrets of Appendix N"*. Now, I'm not a regular listener to Geek Gab, but I was especially interested because the guest this week was none other than Jeffro Johnson, who, as I've mentioned, inspired last month's blogging topic (he even gave it a nice shoutout at the Castalia House blog).

So I was interested to hear what he'd have to say on the topic:



Wow. That turned into quite the manifesto, at the end. If you're at all interested in the history and current state of science fiction and fantasy literature, you should definitely give this a listen.


*Defined most poetically in the episode as "a list of the stuff Gary Gygax ripped off to make Dungeons & Dragons.