Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Quick One

Today is a bit of a slow one for me, so I'm gonna do a quick lyric post for one of the songs that anyone who was alive in the '90s (the better half) probably remembers. If you remember the first few notes of this song, then this post is for you:

This is not an altogether serious or deep song, I just wanted to post something a bit more fun. Listen and enjoy. Good sound and excellent lyrics. Just don't expect to hear something like this on the radio and time soon.

Written by: John Popper
Performed by: Blues Traveler

Once upon a midnight dearie
I woke with something in my head
I couldn't escape the memory
Of a phone call and of what you said

Like a game show contestant with a parting gift
I could not believe my eyes
When I saw through the voice of a trusted friend
Who needs to humor me and tell me lies
Yeah, humor me and tell me lies

And I'll lie too and say I don't mind
And as we seek so shall we find
And when you're feeling open I'll still be here
But not without a certain degree of fear
Of what will be with you and me
I still can see things hopefully

But you
Why you wanna give me a run-around?
Is it a sure-fire way to speed things up
When all it does is slow me down?

And shake me and my confidence
About a great many things
But I've been there I can see it cower
Like a nervous magician waiting in the wings

Of a bad play where the heroes are right
And nobody thinks or expects too much
And Hollywood's calling for the movie rights
Singing hey babe, let's keep in touch
Hey baby, let's keep in touch

But I want more than a touch I want you to reach me
And show me all the things no one else can see
So what you feel becomes mine as well
And soon if we're lucky we'd be unable to tell
What's yours and mine, the fishing's fine
And it doesn't have to rhyme, so don't you feed me a line

But you
Why you wanna give me a run-around?
Is it a sure-fire way to speed things up
When all it does is slow me down?

Tra la la la la, bombardier, this is the pilot speaking
And I've got some news for you
It seems my ship still stands no matter what you drop
And there ain't a whole lot that you can do

Oh sure the banner may be torn and the wind's gotten colder
Perhaps I've grown a little cynical
But I know no matter what the waitress brings
I shall drink it and always be full
Yeah, I will drink it and always be full

Oh I like coffee, and I like tea
I'd like to be able to enter a final plea
I still got this dream that you just can't shake
I love you to the point you can no longer take

Well, all right, okay
So be that way, I hope and pray
That there's something left to say

But you
Why you wanna give me a run-around?
Is it a sure-fire way to speed things up
When all it does is slow me down?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Last of the Heroes

Alright, so finishing off my last bit of these reviews is the rest of the issue. It's quite the packed issue for its size.

The final three stories (and essay!) in the first issue of Cirsova include Late Bloom by Melanie Rees, The Hour of the Rat by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt, A Hill of Stars by Misha Burnett, and an essay by Jeffro Johnson.

Of this set the first is Late Bloom. It is a story of a woman who is heavily abused by a petty tyrant and longs to be free of him. It involves a mad inventor, a time device, flying ships, and a daring escape. As an adventure story it is quite engaging with a lot of neat ideas, though the main story takes a while to get going. The fact that it is the weakest here shouldn't be considered a slight, because the other two stories are the best in the issue.

The Hour of the Rat is a hard story to explain without ruining the fun, so I'll let the blurb do it for me:

"Moving swiftly through the shadows and evading guards and servants, a girl means to retrieve an important heirloom, but Nezumi would soon find out she was not the only one looking for revenge in the house of Lord Tomigawa no Kana that night!"

Think ninjas, sword battles, and an epic monster confrontation, and you're pretty close to nailing it. This was probably my favorite story here, and there were some great ones like the next tale.

Finally, A Hill of Stars is the longest story here, and quite the treat. It's the story of a man who was once the servant of a being from the race known as the Great Ones who sets out on his own after his master dies to see the world for himself. On the way he meets new faces, races, places, and other things that might rhyme with "aces" ending in a final confrontation that is quite, uh, hairy.

It was a wise choice to put this at the end of the issue not only because it is the longest, but because it feels a bit like the culmination of the other stories ending with a finale that really sells the spirit of adventure.

The last thing to talk about is the essay by Jeffro Johnson on the novel, Toyman, by E.C. Tubb, and comparing the rules it established in space travel with the game Traveller which took much inspiration but forgot a lot of the appeal. As someone who had either never played Traveller or read the book in question I quite enjoyed his comparison between the two as it did shine a light on a problem I see a lot, especially these days. When we don't go to the source and consider the roots of what we love, we might not only miss out on seeing it from a new perspective, but we might even miss why it exists in the first place!

I know this from experience with my read of Three Hearts & Three Lions by Poul Anderson. I don't read much modern epic fantasy and this book emphasized a lot of the reasons why. That said, I thought the book was excellent as a fantasy tale and a story, but the elements that had been borrowed for D&D and in turn swiped for many other fantasy stories miss a lot of the heart (pun intended) that beat at the center of this story of a man fighting for a world he never knew could exist. Reading it was such a fresh experience because I had never read a modern fantasy novel that ignores unwritten rules because they simply didn't exist when the story was written.

The essay explains this much better than I can, which also helps it serve as a great final capper on the issue. Heroic Fantasy & Science Fiction was once standard for the genre(s) and reading these proved to me why that is. There's a great sense of timelessness in stories about those who bravely fight against the odds as the darkness encroaches on them. It's why Lord of the Rings is a classic despite so much gnashing of teeth and why magazines like Cirsova are such a breath of fresh air in such a stale climate.

In case these reviews haven't convinced you yet, well, what are you waiting for? Go read Cirsova and experience some fun adventure! Stuff like this doesn't come around every day, even if it should.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

More On Heroes!

Continuing from last time, I managed to read a few more stories in Cirsova's first issue, so I will let you in on my opinions on them. Next week I'll probably wrap it up.

First up is the poem "My Name is John Carter (Part 1)" by James Hutchings which is an epic poem retelling of A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I'm not an expert on poetry at all, but it managed to catch the feel of John Carter up to where the poem ends. It certainly made me want to read more epic poetry.

"This Day, At Tilbury" by Kat Otis and "At the Feet of Neptune’s Queen" by Abraham Strongjohn were the next two stories, and I wanted to talk about them both at once. Tilbury is mostly a war story involving a boy (who becomes a man) in the midst of a war and Neptune's Queen is a very John Carter type of sword and planet fantasy. They are very entertaining with cool fight scenes and good characterization, but I'm not a fan of either's ending. The ending to Tilbury is kind of a downer that makes it feel more typical to modern stories instead of the swashbuckling that is the genre's calling card. Neptune's Queen made me shake my head that the main characters did not see that coming even though it was fairly telegraphed what was going to happen. I also wasn't a fan of a cliched turncoat moment that added nothing to the story. Otherwise I highly enjoyed both of them.

The last one I'll be talking about today is "Rose by Any Other Name" by Brian K. Lowe. This one was a lot of fun. a tale of a time traveler lost in time and dealing with a pursued pair of strangers at the same time. There is a sex scene in the story (though not graphic) that turns out to be a little icky after a reveal later on and the ending isn't really an ending, but those are really the only faults here. Everything else is very old school science fiction adventure and I totally enjoyed the experience.

For those who want to read it themselves, Cirsova's first issue is FREE on Kindle until Saturday. You can get it here.

Oh, and happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Going Old School

I was recently a backer on Kickstarter for Cirsova's Heroic Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine which deals in short stories (there is a novel and poem as well!) of the genre listed. Though I have only read the first story so far, I have to say it was worth the money I backed it for.

Now, I don't have a background in anthology magazines or specialized genre mags like this. Most of my reading was confined to novels or graphic novels so I never really had the experience this offers me, but I have to say it does make me realize how much I've missed out.

People like me are why this had to be kickstarted in the first place. Heroic stories are not in vogue, and magazines which deal in them are even rarer still even though they are the stories which most enjoy partaking in whether on TV or in film. But this is still a neat little treasure that inspires me to know that stuff like this still gets written even amongst all the nihilism and message fiction that floats around in the mainstream. I'm glad I was able to be a part in helping to at least fund it, since I doubt another magazine like this will come around any time soon.

As I stated, I have only read The Gift of the Ob-Men by Schuyler Hernstrom, which instantly took me back to another era. It's the story of an exiled warrior named Sounnu who runs across a group of mushroom men that end up changing his destiny. There's a lot of good stuff in this story from sword fights to a really cool mystical plot device to an ending that really brings everything around. Sounnu is an honorable warrior thrown about in a world gone mad and rotting away, though he soon finds that everything is not as straightforward as he first believed it to be. This truly feels like the kind of story I would have read from a fantasy magazine ages ago, and I really can't wait to read more of what issue one has to offer.

Next week I'll see if I can get a post about more of the stories out. Until then, I've got more to read!

If you like what you've read, check out Cirsova here.