Pre-Tolkien Fantasy Challange Roundup: Part II

PreTolkien

We are on week three of the Pre-Tolkien Challenge and the whole adventure has been very successful. A lot of great people have joined up and written about their favorite fantasy work from a great era of fiction. Check some of it here in the Pre-Tolkien Challenge Roundup: Part I.

Reading the classics of Fantasy and Science Fiction, writing about the great stories and great authors, and having good discussions is critical now more than ever. The relentless Cult of Resentment is constantly attacking every single pillar of our civilization and culture. Today the festering anal fissure of science fiction and fantasy Tor.com vomited another “problematic” book burning screed where the author flat out said that Lovecraft should never be recommended and that Tolkien makes him uncomfortable. Read the garbage here.

Of course once you look deeper you realize that the writer of the piece is a fantasy author himself. A creepy, balding, gummy creep with a pedoface like no other. He shits on the classics, shits on Tolkien and then hustles creepy cheap Narnia ripoff YA. Described by Kirkus “paid” reviews as “Madeline is white and blonde, Jason is Chinese-American, and their culturally diverse friend group in the Sunlit Lands includes an Apsáalooke and a Native Hawaiian boy. For Narnia fans who enjoy heavy snark, this is a must-read.”Check that part out Narnia fans who enjoy heavy SNARK. 

These two bit poverty pimp hustlers want to memory-hole and destroy the greats of our genre and replace their work with their own cheap soulless garbage. This example being Tor.com is appropriate, after all, Tor is the home of John Scalzi, the scribe of resentment who made a career rewriting Hadelman, Heinlein, Herbert, and Piper, but snarky. Fuck snarky. Nobody likes snarky. The snarky teenage girl trope was invented by pedo 80s movie writers. It isn’t real except maybe in the damaged mind of former child actors.

So, yes fellow pulp warriors. This isn’t just a fun exercise where we blog about our favorite stories. This is us taking the field against enemies that hate everything we love.

So, without further commentary, check out these posts:

Once again, these posts are awesome. I’m sure I’ve missed a few, so I will go through all my Twitter mentions and comments, and I have a few more of my own pending. Lets keep the conversation going. Lets talk about what made the old pulps and the old writers great. Because if we don’t we cede the ground to people like the Tor crowd who are hell bent on tearing down and destroying.

 

The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard

coverRobert E. Howard is the master of 1930s pulp action. One of my favorite writers. It was Conan that got me into Fantasy, and it was getting back into reading Conan that brought me back and excited about the Pulp Revolution happening right now.

But, I have to admit that I have not read very much of Howard’s non-Conan stories. So when I came across this beast for 4.99 in the Kindle store I picked it up. Holy shit it was awesome. When I get big ass short story collections I usually read a few in between novels, or I read one or two stories during my lunch breaks. Not this time. I read this collection all the way through.

This collection is massive, with 30 or so stories and a bunch of assorted poems. The stories span Howard’s entire career and are chock full of his usual badass action. You get everything from ghost haunted sailors, voodoo zombies, cursed rings, desert explorers, and weird western.

Howard’s characters are not your usual pansies that populate modern horror. No, these guys are tough motherfuckers that when presented with tentacled horrors from the stygian depths they go a killing with sword and pistol. In one of my favorite stories, The Horror from the Mound, when our cowboy protagonist accidentally digs up a 17th-century Spanish Vampire buried by Conquistadores who begins murdering the local Mexicans, he doesn’t run away. Hell no, he breaks its spine and sets the moldy motherfucker on fire.

One thing I want to mention that some of you readers might find sacrilegious. I think Howard writes Lovecraftian fiction better than Lovecraft. I like the idea of Lovecraftian more than I actually like Lovecraft’s writing. I find all his crap boring as all shit, filled with idiotic purple prose. Lovecraft’s characters are boring, unmemorable, wimps(I think Lovecraft was some loser recluse himself, either way he looked like Pongos owner in 101 Dalmatians,) who are usually professors or tourists. The whole “ohh muh god I saw something that made me go insanee.. soo horrible, much tentacle,” nonsense bores me to tears. Howard’s characters respond to the Lovecraftian shit by going “da fuck is that, ok deep breath, I have to kill it.”

cthulluwater

My favorite stories in the collection are pieces well worth reading: Pigeons From Hell, a scary haunted house story featuring voodoo, slaves, and southern plantations, Black Cannan about a bunch of racists and a black revolt involving some terrifying swamp creatures, The Fire of Asshurbanipal where two treasure hunters end up in a haunted desert city, and one that really did it for me, Out of the Deep, where the washed ashore body of a sailor is really a fucked up sea creature.

Of course, like in all huge collections, some of the stories aren’t my kind of beer. There were a few stories, and this is a theme both Howard and Lovecraft share, focusing on some de-evolved proto-humans living beneath the earth. Not a huge fan of the whole racial memory, obsession with miscegenation these guys had, and the stories were mostly dudes going down into holes where indescribable shit was going on. Worth reading but not my favorite. Give me the voodoo zombie vampires.

So yeah, drop the 5 bucks and pick this collection up. If you like short stories, pulp fiction, and Conan, this one will not disappoint. I think my next Howard read will focus on Solomon Kane.

Addendum to the post: I hope much more knowledgeable pulp readers correct me if I am wrong. It seems that Howard is not only the father of Sword and Sorcery but also the Weird Western. The story I mention above, The Horror from the Mound, about a cowboy digging up a vampire on the Texas frontier, was written in 1932. My google-fu indicates that this is the first story mixing a realistic wild west setting with the supernatural in a modern fashion.

Cirsova: Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine #3

cirsova3.png

During one of my recent adventures through the blogosphere, I came across Cirsova and Cirsova Magazine. Reading the mission statement and description intrigued me so I picked up the latest issue. I put my current read on pause and read the excellent stories found in issue number 3.

Wow! Finally, some fantasy short stories that capture my imagination. Finally, short stories filled with action and adventure!

Before I give a more thorough review I want to make it clear that I really enjoy the short story. I own numerous collections and compilations of everyone from Hemingway to Gaiman. I even have active digital subscriptions to Analog and Asimov’s.

Yet, I often find myself being bored with a lot of modern SFF shorts. The last issue of Asimov if DNF’ed 90% of the stories. There seems to be a recent trend in the short story world away from action, adventure, and heroism. The focus seems to be on the literary, the urban, the fairytale magical, or magical realism in the vein of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

A good example of this is the Hugo Award winner The Water that Falls on You From Nowhere by John Chu. A well-written story that I find excruciatingly boring and barely Fantasy. It seems that so many SFF writers come out of literary circles and workshops that Fantasy has become as monotonous as your stuffy slice of life short story in the New Yorker.

So how do I like my fantasy? Adventurous, mysterious, massive, and wild. I want to read stories that take me back to when I first cracked open my AD&D players guide and ran my friends through skeleton filled dungeons and protected villages from goblin raids. I want to be transported to worlds where Barbarians pit their swords and strength against evil serpent worshiping wizards. I crave stories filled with adventure and mystery. Fabulous ancient ruins filled with unspeakable horrors, vicious creatures, and evil wizards.

Cirsova Magazine is attempting to provide exactly what I am looking for. A pulp revival magazine focused on action and adventure, and issue #3 succeeds while leaving enough room for improvement that will keep me looking forward to the next issue.

 

The issue has several exciting adventures. A heavy focus on the Age of Sail mixed with magic in two stories, space piracy, futuristic space mercs, and sword and sorcery reminiscent of Conan. My favorite of the bunch was Clock’s Watch, an urban fantasy Lovecraftian possession story that begged to be turned into a full novel.

Cirsova is an indie publication so they need all the help and word of mouth. So if you love pulp adventure Fantasy and Sci-Fi hop over to Amazon and pick up the digital copy. It’s easily worth the price of a medium coffee at Starbucks.

P.S.

Because I linked to a Tor.com short story I didn’t like I will link to one that I loved. Give this one a read for The Hell of It.