“Men of the Shadows”
First published in Bran Mak Morn, Dell 1969
written circa 1925-1926
The first of Howard’s tales of the Pictish king Bran Mak Morn, “Men of the Shadows” was rejected by Weird Tales in 1926. Upon reading it, it’s easy to see why.
The story starts out strong. Narrated by a Norseman in the Roman army, he and his companions are nearly cut down in a battle with the Picts. Five of the Roman soldiers survive, but as they make their way back to Roman territory, they are one by one cut down until only the Norseman is left.
He’s taken captive by a group of Picts and taken before their chieftan, Bran Mak Morn. (Bran is merely a chieftan in this story, not a king.) None of the soldiers knew what their mission was except the commander, and he took that secret with him to his grave. Bran introduces the soldier to his sister and tells him that a reward had been posted for whoever captured the girl and brought to a Roman merchant. Continue reading →
The good folks over at Ragnarok Publishing are running a Kickstarter for a new anthology featuring female protagonists, Hath No Fury, which ends in a few hours. They asked me to help get the word out and offered suggestions that would help to do that, including possible guest posts by some of their contributors. One of the authors with a story in the book is Bradley P. Beaulieu. His contribution features the protagonist from his current series, The Song of the Shattered Sands. I reviewed the first volume, Twelve Kings in Sharakaihere.
So without further ado, here’s Brad:
I was recently at a convention—GenCon down in Indianapolis—and I was doing a short video interview where we got to talking about the state of the field and how quickly (or not) it changes. My basic take was that it’s a field, much like most of the entertainment industry at large, that’s pretty slow to change.
Why? Well, it’s complicated, but I think a lot of it boils down to how editors (and these days more and more, purchasing panels) decide what a publisher is (and isn’t) going to buy. For the purposes of this conversation, I’m just going to call these folks “editors”, but know that these days it’s almost never a single person that’s making the call, but rather a number of people, including sales, marketing, and other executives—especially if we’re talking about a hot author or property—but it all starts with the editors, so let’s be reductive for the time being. Continue reading →
Normally I would post this review on Futures Past and Present, my science fiction blog, since Interspecies is most definitely science fiction and not fantasy. However, I’m making an exception for a couple of reasons. First, my friend Woelf Dietrich is a contributor, and I want the book to do well. This blog is the one that gets the most traffic. I’d also like to thank Woelf for sending me the review copy. Interspecies doesn’t go on sale until the 27th, so keep your eyes peeled. I’ll post an update here with pricing information and links when it does.
Second, Kosa Press (long “o”; I’m not sure how to get the bar over the “o”) is an interesting publishing venture, and I want to give it some exposure just on general principles. I’m a big fan of innovative publishing strategies, especially those that cut out a lot of the middle men. The authors get more money per sale that way. Kosa Press is a group of writers who have gotten together to publish not only their works but other writers as well. Interspecies is their first anthology. What’s different about this group is that some of the writers are in San Francisco, and (at least) one is in New Zealand, making this an international collaboration.
I can hear you now saying, “That’s all well and good, but what about the book?”
I don’t normally do two posts so close together, but I wanted to make those of you who haven’t heard aware of a new award. Dragoncon is one of the largest sff conventions in the world. They’ve just announced a new set of awards, called the Dragon Awards. Unlike the Gemmell, which focuses on written fantasy (and is IMNSHO the best in the field), the Dragon Awards will award science fiction, games, comics & graphic novels, horror, alternate history, YA, and other categories. It’s open to anyone. You don’t have to shell out $50 just to vote.
Richard Matheson, one of the greatest fantasists of the 20th Century, entered the world 90 years ago (February 20, 1926) in Allendale, New Jersey. When we lost him (June 23, 2013), I paid tribute to him, as did many others.
Matheson is best known for scripting some of the best Twilight Zone episodes, horror movies for Roger Coran, and his novels The Shrinking Man and most especially I Am Legend. I read that book about 35 years ago, give or take a year. I really need to revisit it.
But it was Matheson’s short stories that really caught my attention. He was a master of the short form, and it broke my heart that he quite writing them later in his life. He could take an idea, usually a one with a dark twist, and punch you in the gut with it. And you would enjoy it and want another.
There’s a tendency, which seems especially prevalent these days, for writers to drop out of print shortly after their deaths. This is true even of writers who were considered giants in their fields while they were alive. A number of writers come to mind: Asimov, Heinlein, MacDonald (John D. and Ross). These guys all have some titles in print, but good luck finding the bulk of their work in new additions.
I sincerely hope that Matheson (who is still in print) doesn’t suffer such a fate.
Rough Edges Press announced their next anthology earlier today. I’m announcing it here because I’m included in it and am not above a little shameless self-promotion. Tales From the Otherverse is an unthemed anthology of alternate history stories, meaning they don’t all deal with the same concept, such as Carthage defeating Rome or the Spanish Armada reaching England or Dewey actually defeating Truman. I don’t know anything about the other stories (with one possible exception), but looking at the lineup, I’m humbled to be included in that group. I’m also impressed with some of the company I’m in. There is at least one person who hits the bestseller lists and at least one who is a multiple award nominee (multiple nominations for mulitple awards).
I said there was one possible exception to my statement that I didn’t know anything about the other stories. I may have heard one of the authors read their story at a convention early in the year. I know I heard one of them read a story that would fit this anthology, and I really hope it’s in here because it was awesome. Since I don’t know the titles of any story but mine, I can’t be sure.
Anyway, setting my ego aside, I would encourage you to check this book out. There are some top-notch authors in this anthology. Rough Edges Press puts out some good books. I’ll let you know when I get a publication date.
Charles W. Chesnutt was an African-American writer who published two volumes of short stories and a handful of novels in the late 1800s and early 190s. It’s his first collection that interests us here, since it consisted of “conjure” stories set in North Carolina.
The stories revolve around an elderly former slave named Uncle Julius McAdoo. In this story, the unnamed narrator (who is white) has moved to North Carolina for his wife’s health and is looking to start a vineyard.
While visiting an old plantation that once had a thriving vineyard, he encounters an old former slave who is eating some grapes of a variety called scuppernongs. Uncle Julius tells the narrator that he once worked on the plantation and that the man shouldn’t buy it because the vineyard had been goophered (hexed). Continue reading →
Before I begin this review, I’d like to thank Douglass Draa and John Betancourt for providing both electronic and print review copies.
There are 19 pieces of fiction here along with 8 poems by new and established authors. The Table of Contents is provided at the end of the review. I’m not going to try to provide a synopsis for all of them. Some are quite short. I don’t want my discussion of any of the stories to be longer than the stories themselves. So I’m going to take a different approach. Continue reading →
Before I get started, I’d like to thank Roc books for providing me with the review copy.
Now, in three words, my reaction upon turning the last page of The Aeronaut’s Windlass:
I want moar!
The Aeronaut’s Windlass is the first volume in Jim Butcher’s new series, The Cinder Spires. It’s got airship battles. It’s got bravery and derring-do. It’s got nefarious sneak attacks and villains you’ll love to hate. It’s got dueling. I like dueling. (I think we should bring it back. One way or another, there would be fewer a******* wandering about mucking up the place.)