Monthly Archives: September 2017

Reading Robert E. Howard on National Poetry Day


I saw somewhere that today is supposed to be National Poetry Day, so I thought I would read some selections by one of my favorite poets.  Robert E. Howard is held in pretty high esteem in these here parts.  This is a side of Howard’s writing that isn’t as well known as it should be.The volume you see on the left is over 700 pages in length. It was published by the Robert E. Howard Foundation Press.  If you don’t have a copy, that’s unfortunate. It’s out of print.  (And you ain’t gettin’ mine.)

Here are some of my favorites. Continue reading

Pulphouse Is Back!

So, way back in the 90s there was this interesting thing called Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine.  It was soon followed by Pulphouse Fiction Magazine.  At the time I was a starving graduate student who wanted to be a writer.  That last part is still true.

The hardback was a little out of my budget at the time, although I’ve got an almost complete set now, with a couple of duplicates.

I did manage to find the cash for a subscription to Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, all the way to the end.  (I think I have a complete run.)  I read each issue eagerly, not just for the fiction but the columns on writing.  I’d met the editorial team of Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch at a science fiction convention in Dallas early in Pulphouse’s run.  I paid attention to what they said about writing.

Pulphouse folded in 1996.  Time marched on, and the publishing landscape changed.  Rusch and Smith dipped their toes back into publishing  with Fiction River, a publication regular readers of this blog know I‘m a fan of.  (I’m also way behind on in my reading, but we won’t go there.)

Fiction River has been a success, as has Smith’s Monthly.  Now Pulphouse is being revived, with Dean Wesley Smith as the editor and Kristine Kathryn Rusch serving as Executive Editor.  They’ve launched a Kickstarter.  I’ve pledged and subscribed.  (My only complaint is there isn’t an option for a combined electronic and print subscription.  I went with print.)  Pulphouse isn’t going to be limited to a particular genre. That is something I like.

So if you like short fiction and want to see more of it, especially a variety, consider pledging.


Under The Bloody Black Flag

The Bloody Black Flag
Steve Goble
Seventh Street Books
Trade Paper $15.99
ebook $9.99

The Bloody Black Flag is both a murder mystery as well as rousing pirate adventure. I’ll look at the historical adventure aspect of the novel here. The mystery component I review at Gumshoes, Gats, and Gams.

The story opens in October 1722. Spider John and his friend Ezra, fleeing from the British Navy, have given up their attempt to establish honest lives on shore and are returning to a life of piracy, or going back on the account as they would say.  They sign up with Plymouth Dream, a pirate ship captained by the despotic Captain Barlow. Unlike most ships, where the crew votes on all decisions except during combat, when the captain has absolute authority, Barlow rules with an iron hand at all times.

Barlow is sailing for Jamaica, which suits Spider and Ezra just fine.  Trouble comes during the first night, when one of the crew murders Ezra.  Spider John swears to find the murderer and kill him, but he has more immediate problems, such as staying alive himself.  Before his death, Ezra was recognized by one of the crew and accused of having witchblood because of his family history.  The same accusation could be made against Spider, so he has to keep a low profile while he pursues his investigation, pirates being a superstitious lot. Fortunately, his role as the ship’s carpenter gives him a reason to move about and talk to the other pirates.

It doesn’t take Spider long to figure out that Plymouth Dream is not your typical pirate ship, and not just because of the way things are run.  Barlow, the first mate Addison, and the second mate are hiding secrets.  They have a small item they intend to sell in Jamaica to an agent of the French crown.  When the item goes missing, Spider finds he’s shipped out on the pirate ship from Hell. Continue reading

Blogging Brackett: “Black Amazon of Mars”

“Black Amazon of Mars” appeared in its original form in Planet Stories, March 1951. It was later expanded into the short novel The People of the Talisman (1964). This post will review just the original version. I’ll save comparison of the two for another day.

The story starts with Eric John Stark accompanying a Martian companion, Camar, home to the city of Kushat just south of the northern polar ice cap. Camar is dying and wants to return a sacred talisman he stole. The talisman was left by the legendary Ban Cruach to protect the city from a danger in a canyon to the north known as the Gates of Death.

Camar dies in the opening scene of the story, but not before Stark promises to fulfill his quest. The talisman is a jewel. Stark puts it against his temple, sees strange visions that come straight from Ban Cruach’s mind, and takes it off. He hides the talisman in his belt and sets off for Kushat. It isn’t long before he runs into trouble. Continue reading

Blogging Jirel of Joiry: “Hellsgarde”

Published in the April 1939 issue of Weird Tales, “Hellsgarde” is in many ways the last of the Jirel stories, at least her solo adventures.  She will meet up with Northwest Smith in “Quest of the Starstone”.  That’s another post for another day. “Starstone” was actually published first, in 1937, but all collections I’ve seen place it last in the book.

I found this story to have a bit more depth than “The Dark Land”, which we looked at yesterday. YMMV. There will be spoilers in this post. You have been warned.

It opens with Jirel riding to the castle of Hellsgarde,which sits in a vast swamp of quicksand and only appears at sunset. Two hundred years ago, Andred, master of Hellsgarde had found a great treasure which he kept in a small box. No one knew the exact nature of the treasure, but many coveted it. Andred died defending his treasure, but his killers never found it. Since then many have died trying to find it, and Hellsgarde has gained an evil reputation.

Now Guy of Garlot has taken some of Jirel’s men prisoner. He’s told Jirel that he will kill them unless she brings him Andred’s box from Hellsgarde. Guy’s fortress sits atop an unassailable cliff. Jirel has no choice but to go for the treasure. Guy is too cowardly to attempt finding it himself. Although it’s never stated, I suspect Guy hopes to take control of Jirel’s lands if she fails. Continue reading

Blogging Jirel of Joiry: “The Dark Land”

“The Dark Land” was the fourth of the Jirel of Joiry stories. It was originally published in the January 1936 issue of Weird Tales.

Of all the Jirel stories I’ve looked at so far, I found this to be the weakest. The story opens with Jirel lying unconscious and near death from a pike wound to the side. As the priest shows up to give her last rites, she disappears.

She finds herself on a platform facing a giant statue of a man. Around his head is a crown of flames. It isn’t long before the subject of the statue shows up. He appears in a swirl of light whose description sounds a lot like the transporter effects from Star Trek TOS.

The man informs her his name is Pav. He’s brought her to his kingdom of Romne. He intends for Jirel to be his queen. It’s her fiery fighting nature that’s drawn his attention. Continue reading

A Look at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly 33

The latest issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly (issue 33 for those who are counting) went live a few weeks ago.  Let’s take a look at it, shall we?

This is a standard issue of HFQ, in that there are three pieces of fiction and three poems.  I’ll review the fiction and mention the poems.  I’m not sure I can keep my comments shorter than the poetry, and since I’m not sure what purpose that would serve, I’ll keep my trap shut for once.  Two of the three stories take place in Central America, and all of them have female protagonists (although in one story, the viewpoint starts out female and changes to a male after another character enters the scene).  I don’t know if there is an unofficial theme at work, or if things just turned out that way.  Not that it matters. What counts is if the fiction is any good. Continue reading

Rest in Peace, Jerry Pournelle

Adventures Fantastic is deeply saddened to report that Jerry Pournelle passed away in his sleep this morning, September 8, 2017.  Pournelle was born on August 7, 1933.

I never had the chance to meet Mr. Pournelle.  He was a noted science fiction author, both on his own and in collaboration with Larry Niven.  Some of his better known works include the Falkenberg’s Legion series, King David’s Spaceship, and Janissaries. Among his collaborations with Larry Niven are the novels The Mote in God’s Eye, Lucifer’s Hammer, and Footfall.

Pournelle was also the editor on a number of anthology series, foremost among them the There Shall Be War series.

I would like to extend my condolences to Jerry Pournelle’s family, friends, fans, and his collaborator Larry Niven.