Sunday, May 14, 2017

recent read; StoryHack Issue #0

StoryHack Issue #0

Bryce Beattie is launching a new "pulp" magazine, StoryHack, joining a growing field of magazines/eZines returning to pulp storytelling.

Issue #1 is Kickstarting now. As a proof of concept, Issue #0 was produced and is available for free (follow the link above.)

So, what do you get with StoryHack, issue #0?

A mystery adventure in a gunpowder fantasy setting, a werewolf private eye, a bounty hunter in a lost city adventure, a sword-&-sorcery tale of Biblical times, a world-traveling vigilante, a sword-& sorcery tale from a prince's bodyguard, a Victorian spy team, cosmic horror on a galactic, apocalyptic scale, and an urban fantasy with gun-play, zombies, and magical artifacts.

As with any anthology (be it magazine or book,) not everything is probably going to jive with personal tastes - especially when StoryHack is welcoming all genres so long as the story focuses on action & adventure. This held true for me but the quality throughout the magazine was fine, even when a story wasn't appealing to me.

I enjoyed this issue. There are fun tales in here.

If your reading tastes align with mine - you know who you are - then you want to add StoryHack to your reading pile, for certain. I'm looking forward to issue #1!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

recent read; The Iron Company

The Iron Company by Chris Wraight

I like to knock off a Warhammer novel now and then. This was a good one, focusing on the engineers. Ironblood, an alcoholic washout, is granted forced into a commission to command an artillery company. The army is going to war with local rebels. The rebels have holed up in a near impregnable fortress. Ironblood convinces an old comrade to join the effort. And a dwarf with his own agenda joins in, as well.

Trials and tribulations await. Bloodshed, too. Cannons, and machines, and madmen who consider engineering no better than sorcery. Lots of elements in the story that Wraight blends well.

I enjoyed it.

Monday, April 10, 2017

recent read; Siege at Jadotville

Siege at Jadotville by Declan Power

Jim Cornelius brought this to my attention when this story was adapted to film last year.  In 1961, Katanga in the Congo was a dangerous place. The Irish A Company were sent into the Congo as part of UN peacekeeping forces. They found themselves surrounded in a remote outpost without the necessary tools to affect a win or even a lengthy holdout.

For many years, public perception did not view A Company fairly, feeling they had surrendered too easily and put a black mark on Ireland's army on the world stage. After many years, survivors of A Company and Power's book have set the record straight.

I have yet to see the movie, I don't know how much background is included, but Power's book does a fine job of laying out all the chaos of the region and the UN's flawed bullshit approach to the situation.

A Company were under-equipped, under-informed and it's a wonder they weren't rolled over on day one. The Irish were a largely green force (no pun intended)--even the officers hadn't had much combat experience, if any--and they held out against a much larger force of battle-hardened Belgian and French mercenaries intermingled in the Katangan forces. A Company were hamstrung (to put it lightly) by poor equipment, poor supplies, and poor "planning" from their superiors and the UN. Also, of course, was their charter as peacekeepers while the enemy played by rules they could not.

I definitely recommend this book if you want to understand how the whole siege came to be and played out for the men of A Company.

RCW: Writing for Comics and Graphic Novels seminar

River City Writers strike again!

This weekend I attended a seminar on Writing for Comics by Christopher Golden.

I learned a whole lot. I didn't know the nuts & bolts and now I feel like I do. It's surprising to recognize what has been on the page in front of you but you hadn't noticed as a reader.

Chris covered a lot in three hours; less is more, trust & know your artist, scene breakdown, page breakdown, panel breakdown, story arcs, and much more. Augmented with a vignette script and comic from his own BALTIMORE series for tangible examples of everything discussed.

If you're interesting in writing comics this seminar is a surefire way to ramp up quickly.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

recent read; Jake Istenhegyi: The Accidental Detective, Vol. 1

Jake Istenhegyi: The Accidental Detective, Vol. 1 by Nikki Nelson-Hicks

This book collects three tales featuring Jake Istenhegyi, a post-Prohibition, Hungarian immigrant to New Orleans who finds himself pulled into the world of pulp occult detective work (hence, the "accidental.")

"A Chick, A Dick, and a Witch Walk Into a Barn..." starts of the volume with a pulp occult detective bang. When Jake's private detective roommate goes missing, Jake picks up the investigation and finds himself knee-deep in vicious chickens, a loa possessed rooster monster, and a voodoo queen.

In "Golems, Goons, and Stone Cold Bitches," Jake gets caught between two sisters and the artifact they most desire. Along the way, Jake finds a ghost and learns disturbing family history concerning his uncle, from whom Jake inherited his bookstore. An uncle whose large illegal debt Jake is now expected to carry. By the end of the tale, Jake experiences magic that forever changes his life.

The volume closes with "Boo Daddies, Bogs, and A Dead Man's Body." This is the longest story and the most ambitious, with a large cast of characters, sub-plots, intriguing mysteries, and good twists. Laugh-out-loud moments, too.

Each story, while readable stand-alone, builds on the previous entries adding new elements to the world-building as well as revelations. They all flow naturally, nothing felt forced.

Bottom line; these stories are pulp fun. If you want some rollicking pulp occult detective tales, look up Jake Istenhegyi!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Much nothing ado

Quiet month here at the blog. Sorry about that.

I've undertaken recently not to post negative reviews. Unfortunately, my last couple of reads haven't really wowed me enough to post about them.

I am happy to report my current read (audiobook) is a lot of fun. I hope to finish it up this week and review soon.

I've been reading various short stories and comics, too.

The month is almost over so I guess I can add the "writing roundup" report for March. Eh. Too many zeroes. But, on the writing days I had good output. I also spent a good number of days editing. I submitted two stories (one by invite, one to a slush pile.) The current horror novel progresses, albeit slower than I would like.

I have a half-dozen submissions out there now. I hope to hear back on some of them during early April.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

recent re-read; Prince Raynor

In the 1930s, pulp writer extraordinaire, Henry Kuttner, tried his hand at sword-&-sorcery. Elak (of Atlantis) is the better known series but Kuttner also contributed to the genre with a different set of tales, featuring a character named Prince Raynor.

Raynor only lasted two stories, each appearing in STRANGE STORIES - another pulp that tried to go to the mat with WEIRD TALES. Lasting thirteen issues, STRANGE STORIES lasted slightly longer than STRANGE TALES, which only managed seven issues.

"Cursed Be The City" appeared in the April 1939 issue. The city of Sardopolis is under siege. A prophet within the city declares the city's doom. But he also declares the conquering King Cyaxares shall also be cursed. The doom that once dwelt in Sardopolis shall return.

Cyaxares conquers, kills the king, and places the king's son, Raynor in the torture chambers. Raynor escapes with the aid of his faithful Nubian servant, Eblik. They save a dying priest, and Raynor's path is set. He must free the great god Pan, whose altar once stood in the wild place that became Sardopolis.

I won't give away any more.

"The Citadel of Darkness" appeared in the August 1939 issue. In aftermath of Sardopolis's doom, Raynor, Eblik, and their female companion, Delphia, are wanderers. Grouping together some of the city survivors, they are beset by brigands and Delphia is kidnapped. A wizard named Ghiar aids Raynor, but pulls a sorcerous double-cross. Raynor finds himself in a battle with the brigands and the wizard and mighty powers of darkness beyond the ken of men.

The Raynor tales are darker than Kuttner's Elak of Atlantis stories. There is a feeling of direness and darkness akin to Robert E. Howard. While Kuttner was no stranger to employing the Cthulhu Mythos in his stories - indeed, one of the Elak stories is titled "Spawn of Dagon" - the crushing inhumanity of cosmic forces are conveyed more effectively in the timbre of the Raynor stories.

In "Cursed be the City," Raynor's willingness to unleash preternatural powers in his vengeance bring to mind Bran Mak Morn and "Worms of the Earth." Karl Edward Wagner pointed out there is a tragic/dark feel like Moorcock's Elric. Raynor is the last royal remnant of a destroyed empire, after all.

Reading the two stories in succession does highlight a formula. Both end with the hero employing a talisman to bring about the destruction of his foes. Kuttner sets the stage so that the resolution does not smack too heavily of Deus Ex Machina. Reading the two stories back-to-back, the technique feels a little heavier handed than it probably is.

As others do, I wish Kuttner had cranked out a few more Raynor adventures. It would have been interesting to see where he went. I wonder if he would have continued to formula or changed some plotting to be different, or it if would have been enough to crank them out easier with a set format and get his pay.

I first encountered Raynor in the excellent, three volume series ECHOES OF VALOR. Published by TOR, Karl Edward Wagner presented various selections from classic pulps, and Wagner knew his stuff.

The two Raynor stories were also tagged onto the end of Paizo's ELAK OF ATLANTIS book as part of their PLANET STORIES line.

Both print books are, unfortunately, out of print.

Griasol produced some STRANGE STORIES replicas but it doesn't appear that they replicated the issues featuring Raynor.

Luckily for us, the two stories have been collected for ebook (at least, for Kindle.)

If you are a sword-&-sorcery fan and have not read Prince Raynor, I encourage you to do so.