Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Call To Action: The Swords of Saint Valentine



The Council has met, and come to a decision. Well, actually it was a bunch of yahoos on a discord server, but nyewhatever, details. The Steempulp Warband is putting on an event through the end of February, and you can take part! The full details you can read on Warboss Cheah's Steemit post about the event, and if you're wanting to contribute you're more than welcome to join us on the blockchain-powered blogging platform.

The basic rundown is this: It's past New Year's, and it's Valentine's Season. Being the intrepid neo-pulpsters and hopeless romantics that we are, a bunch of us fungus monkeys with keyboards got together and decided to host an event for the fiction side of Steemit. 

We're having an open call for tales of chivalric heroism and romantic love, preferably together in the same story. They can be a whole post or a serial, but the one thing they must be other than chivalrous and romantic, is pulpy.

Did you really expect any different from us?


Also nothing over 15,000 words. We're doing this for an eventual anthology, akin to the PulpRev Sampler, and the stories chosen for invitations to the anthology will be voted on by some group of jackholes in their discord server, based on non-bot, non-paid upvotes. I'm one of those jackholes, along with Warboss Cheah, Noughtshayde (you may know him as Conner Goff of Darkest of Dreams), t2tang, notjohndaker/themixedgm, and J. D. Alden. The Chief Editor shall be the PulpRev's own Jesse Abraham Lucas, editor of the Sampler. 

Also your story can be anything, so long as it has chivalry and romance. Set it in space, prehistoric times, other planets, fantasy worlds of your own creation, whatever you like. You're not limited to knights rescuing princesses, and frankly in my opinion if that's all we got it would be a pretty boring anthology. So go buck-fucking-wild with. Bring out the true batshit, and let's give these people a taste of the pulp side of things they won't soon forget. 

Once again, full details at the Warboss' post. I just wanted to give y'all a quick rundown and point you in the right direction. If it sounds up your alley, then hit us up. See you on the S.S. Steempulp!

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Attempted Murder of Sword & Sorcery



So the good people over at Castalia House have put out a review of the new Gardner Dozois/George R. R. Martin anthology, The Book of Swords. You can read the autopsy of this shitpile here, but I'll just let you know that it doesn't look pretty. This is the same problem they had with their Old Venus anthology, which is that these people fundamentally do not understand the medium they're working in. Either that, or they're actively trying to kill it. They say you shouldn't attribute to malice what could be attributed to ignorance and incompetence, but at this point I'm really starting to fucking wonder over here. 

The problem with Old Venus, as expounded on in many places, is that the stories went nowhere and did nothing. They were vehicles for preachy wannabe litfic, not adventure stories exploring the possibilities of Venus as an inhabitable world in the way that the old pulpsters did. So in the interest of showing these wankers how it's done, I wrote a story playing with the concept of Old Venus, and it'll be appearing in Cirsova Heroic Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine this summer. It's called "Slavers of Venus", and you can support their Kickstarter here.

Unfortunately, it looks like we're going to have to do more of this kind of thing, because these people are apparently damned and determined to slaughter everything that used to be fun about these old genres. What really pisses me off here is that there are authors in this new anthology that I actually respect, and they're engaged in this exercise in killing the primary genres that I write in. My opinion on Martin is already well known (for those who don't know, I really actively dislike the fucker, and try to steer people away from his nihilistic celebration of his personal fucked up sexual fantasies), but some of the rest of these people formerly had my respect. 

Robin Hobb is one of my favorite fantasists, and I routinely praise her series of books dealing with Fitzchivalry Farseer and the Liveship Traders. She knows how to tell a damn fine yarn, and it's very disappointing to see her be apart of one of Martin's deconstructions and subversions of the genre that she has formerly imbued with so much wonder and so many brilliant ideas. 

C. J. Cherryh I'm particularly disappointed about, because I love her Faded Sun trilogy, and I know she's a better writer than someone who thinks the subversion gimmick is any kind of original or even fun. And really? Beowulf? You're going to subvert Beowulf and make him the bad guy? While Grendel was raiding the feasting halls while people slept and devouring entire innocent human beings, the hero who came and stopped the slaughter of innocents was the bad guy the whoooole time!

You're better than this crap, and you know it. 

And I know the people running the show know that fiction better than this crap exists, because they published some in that very anthology! The person at Castalia who reviewed it had some very nice things to say about a few of the stories in this book, and more often than not my tastes and theirs' align enough so I know whether I'll like a book or not based on the review. If they enjoyed it, chances are I will as well. It's not enough to get me to buy the anthology, because I'm not paying god only knows how much for 10 stories I'll hate and 3 I'll like. On top of that, I'm no longer in the habit of giving money and time to people that hate me.

So the real question here is this: Is this intentional or is it incompetence?

I know what my guess is, but more importantly this is symptomatic of the slow death of fantasy literature. Everybody wants to be Martin, nobody wants to be Tolkien, Burroughs, Howard, Merritt, Leiber, Vance, et al. Much as I enjoy Tolkien's work, there was only one of him, and all the imitators (slavish or otherwise) since his debut have been a little bit worse. Or a lot worse, depending on who we're talking about. People are hungry for short, punchy, weird, out there, batshit insane, heroic fantasy adventure fiction. This anthology is not going to give it to them. 

Instead what it appears to be actively doing is just giving them enough of what they're after to make them want more, but letting them know that what they're after is only a small part of the genre in question. No, the REAL point of fantasy literature is boring think pieces that go nowhere and subversions of heroic tropes so that the characters you've always loved were really the bad guys all along! There are no more exemplars, no heroes, no true adventure, no true monsters, no true fun in this genre.

This pisses me off in particular because this genre is my home. Fantasy adventure fiction has been my bread and butter since I was very young, and continues to be my favorite genre to read and write in today. It pains me on a spiritual level to see these heathens defiling my temple, and I want them gone. They don't deserve your respect, your time, or your money. These people simply do not understand anymore (if they ever truly did) that the entire basis of swords and sorcery is high-flying adventure, dastardly villains, heroic heroes (or at the very least a protagonist who's willing to risk danger for personal gain, a la Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser, or Cugel The Clever), mystical locales, deadly magics, and batshit insane supernatural creatures. 

Sword & Sorcery is most definitely not a genre in which to make social commentary the point of your story. That can happen, of course. In "Phoenix on the Sword" REH makes a point about lower taxes making people happy and prosperous, then moves on. In most Drizzt books Salvatore makes a point about racism at one time or another (usually often, and easily spotted), but the rest of the book is an adventure story. In The Dying Earth Jack Vance makes a point about how dreadful the world would be if everybody were solely out for selfish, personal gain. 

However, what you notice with all these examples is that the story, the adventure being described, takes primacy. The lesson is merely a throwaway line, or something minor that happens but means a great deal to that particular character. It isn't the overall focus of the story. If you absolutely have to put politics into your stories, that's how you do it. Making the whole story a commentary on racism, sexism, insert your pet issue here, is a fast way to make your story boring as shit. It's the equivalent of making your story all about how much you love Jesus, on the Christian side of things.

Nobody who doesn't really care about your pet issue is going to think it's anything but you preaching, and that isn't what they came to sword & sorcery for. They came here to watch good guys bash bad guys (or at least reasonably okay guys bash bad guys), airship pirates conducting daring raids, wizards of vast and deadly power hurl spells, monstrous creatures eating people, underwater kingdoms threatened by ancient evil, unthinkably valuable artifacts stolen by intrepid thieves, and on and on the list goes of things you could be doing rather than putting people to sleep with your boring message fiction that seems to be trying to take up the majority of fantasy literature these days.

Fortunately for everyone who actually does like this kind of thing, there are people out there working to reverse this trend and bring things back to the golden days of Conan, Cugel, Elric, early Drizzt, Fafhrd & The Mouser, and all the rest. You can find some of them in the PulpRev Sampler (only one (1) single United States Dollar on Amazon in the Kindle store), and we're also beating it up on Steemit under the pulprev and steempulp tags. The stories on Steemit are 100% free for anyone to read, no account required.

If you want to see what real pulp looks like, look us up. Accept no substitutes, because these half-hearted attempts to murder genres like sword & sorcery will only leave a bad taste in your mouth. The indies are where the real writing is, so get some books like the Sampler, or Paragons, or our DimensionBucket Media horror anthology Darkest of Dreams. The big publishing stuff is just a waste of time at this point. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Bright Is An Absolute Smash



So this is a movie that I had studiously avoided watching for a while now. It looked dumb as shit, I'm not gonna lie. I had also seen snippets in various trailers that didn't do much to mollify my opinion. Seeing Will Smith's character yell, "Fairy lives don't matter today!" wasn't exactly encouraging, given that I'm part of a literary movement that wants to kick politics out of writing/film/etc as much as possible, I'm not looking for a movie that plays to either side of the current political divide, right or left. I'll still laugh at jokes that agree with my politics, because I agree with them, but at the end of the day a fun sci-fi/fantasy/drama romp with a good plot and decent acting and writing is all I'm looking for. I don't want something that plays to my biases.

Well, I'm here to tell you that I was wrong about Bright.

I know, stop the presses, holy shit I was wrong about something. Shockingly enough, that tends to happen more often than I'd like, and Bright totally blew me away. Going in I was fully expecting a bare-bones buddy cop movie with heavy political overtones that were an obvious allegory to what's currently going on in politics, and there are some nods in that direction, to be sure.

But first and foremost, this movie is built to be entertaining, which as Bradford C. Walker has stated, should be the primary goal of any piece of fiction. I'll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but I can't make any promises. 

The basic plot of the movie is that at some point in the past there was a war against a Dark Lord, and the orcs chose to fight on his side. This has led to a certain stigma against orcs, which has caused them to be ghettoized to an extent. Human society has dealt fairly well with the introduction of fantasy races, developing to a technological level about on par with what we have now in the real world.

Magic exists, and it's incredibly dangerous, only able to be wielded by a select few, called Brights. There are magic wands, and if you're not a Bright, simply picking one up could have disastrous consequences to say the least. This is most definitely not a universe where the average person can become a wizard, or Bright, through diligent study a la Dragonlance.

There is what could charitably be called a cult looking to bring back the Dark Lord, and another cult looking to stop it. These two are constantly engaged in a kind of underground war, and both are despised by the authorities, but things are coming to a bit of a head when our story takes place, and it falls to our unlikely and (sometimes) unwilling heroes to put a stop to it and save the world from the return of the Dark Lord.

Will Smith plays a police officer five years out from retirement, just trying to do his job and get by without any trouble. For unknown reasons (to me, at least, as I only watched the movie once, maybe they did go into it) nobody wants to partner up with him. He does his job, but he's not overly nice about it, and simply views it as a paycheck. He doesn't have any high-minded ideas about justice or the greater good weighing him down. 

Joel Edgerton (whose work I'm not personally familiar with outside of this film) plays the first orc law enforcement officer in the world. He's a rookie, and despised by his own people, who see his turn to law enforcement as a betrayal. But this is what he wants to do and he is determined to be good at his new job. He doesn't suck up to Ward (Smith's character), but throughout the first half of the movie it becomes clear that he's an idealistic cop who wants to do right and clean up the streets. 

And absolutely nobody wants to partner with him, because he's an orc. Including Ward.

These two being basically mashed together despite mutual antipathy leads to some of the best character interaction I've seen in a non-established movie series since some of the earlier Marvel movies. Smith and Edgerton play off of one another so well it's almost akin to something like Reservoir Dogs, or Goodfellas, in the sense of you put two great actors in a room or car together, and they're constantly trying to out-do one another. 

I'll come out right now and say I think Smith is an amazing actor, and I haven't seen a movie that he's acted in that I've disliked, or that I think he's done a bad job in. Hancock, I, Robot, I Am Legend, all of these movies I think he did a great job as the character he was attempting to portray, and I think he gets unnecessarily shat on because he's Will Smith. Much like Keanu Reaves gets shat on because he's Keanu. 

Reaves' performance as Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker's Dracula is to die for, and if you think he did a bad job as Robert Arctor in A Scanner Darkly I'd advise you to go watch that again and pay close attention to his performance. Smith, like Reaves, is actually a solid actor, and given the right role and proper direction he's able to shine and bring a special bit of personality to a role that few other actors can match. And this absolutely bears true in Bright.

His character is a street-level cop that's seen too much, is far too jaded for his own good, and absolutely refuses to put up with other characters' bullshit. He calls people on their shit immediately, but is also willing to make deals to save his own skin. At the same time, he's willing to abandon said deals just because he knows the people engaging him are trying to fuck him. Smith brings this character to life with a realness that I doubt other actors put in the same roll could deliver. 

Edgerton, on the other hand, brings a bit of almost whiteness to his role. He's awkward, he doesn't understand how to act in police culture within the context of the movie, he gets why people dislike him but is determined to prove them wrong, and his delivery of the dialogue is spot on. Personally I don't think they could've cast a better person as Jakoby, and I'm looking forward to seeing other programs Edgerton has acted in. I might've seen him here or there in minor roles in the past, but regardless I'm going to be paying attention to his career in the future. The guy's damn good, and he played Jakoby to the hilt in this movie. 

So far as the character interaction in this movie goes, Smith and Edgerton have serious chemistry. I'm talking chemistry like Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor had chemistry. These two play off one another so well that if I had any faith in any film awards ceremonies anymore I'd nominate them for everything they were available for with regards to this movie. Once again, this goes back to my comparison to Reservoir Dogs or Goodfellas.

If you put two amazing actors in a room together and tell them to play off one another, they should immediately start trying to out-do one another. This is the precise dynamic we see in Bright. Smith and Edgerton are constantly trying to one-up each other, and the overall effect doesn't lead to overacting as seen in Patrick Stewart's portrayal of Gurney Halleck in Dune, wherein if he's on screen, he's the most overly dramatic motherfucker on the screen. These two build on each others' portrayal of their characters very naturally, and the overall effect comes across like a buddy cop movie straight out of the 80's, with all the animosity, rivalry, ribbing, and eventual getting-along that entails.

Which leads me to my next point, the buddy cop dynamic. If you'll remember, most 80's buddy cop movies had the two characters be initially combative, but eventually set aside their differences in the face of the greater threat. Through combating this greater threat they come to understand and have a grudging respect for one another, and even develop a rudimentary friendship to hopefully be expanded on in future sequels. This is precisely the kind of relationship we see in the main characters in Bright, and it was very refreshing in the Era of Subversion™ to see this dynamic played completely straight as it was in the movies in this genre that preceded it. 

The writing in this movie is also extraordinarily good. The dialogue sounds 100% natural, and it was nice to see Will Smith getting another role that allowed him to talk straight as a character (like in Hancock) rather than make the character out to be something he's not. He's a reluctant hero, but a hero he becomes. Not through some prophecy, but by a combination of predestination and his choices as a person, which make perfect sense within the context of the events in question.

Which leads me to my one gripe with this movie. There are politics in it.

This is by no means an overriding message the movie is putting before the story. Make no mistake, Bright is meant to be a fun, buddy cop, urban fantasy, let's-save-the-world-even-though-we're-nobody's-and-probably-can't romp before it's meant to be any kind of political commentary. However, with a producing studio named Trigger Warning, we can expect a couple of political messages with our fiction.

The scene I mentioned at the beginning of this review is probably the worst offender in this regard. Fairies are regarded as a nuisance in this world, and one is bothering Ward's bird feeders. His wife orders him to go kill it, and he proclaims to a crowd of gangsta motherfuckers, "Fairy lives don't matter today!" and proceeds to beat the fairy to death with a broom, because they're little better than vermin.

There was also specific mention of "diversity hires" several times in the movie, and allusions to law enforcement being constrained by diversity education and having to make allowances for Jakoby because muh diversity rather than him having proven himself worthy of being a cop. I'm not going to lie, this shit is tired. 

I don't really care which side of the political spectrum you happen to be on. I'm obviously more right-leaning, myself, but I'm not looking for fiction that plays to my personal biases. I'm looking for entertaining stories. That's why I've studiously avoided the vast majority of Hollywood movies that have come out in the past few years, as well as shows and movies on Netflix.

I'm not interested in this kind of shit.

If you want to make mild political points or jokes, fine, be my guest. As long as it doesn't detract from the overall story, I'm good with it. For example, in Welcome to Night Vale (before I stopped listening because the main voice actor told me personally on Twitter I should be physically assaulted because I disagreed with him politically), they make several jokes about gun nuts. I admit that gun nuts are kinda crazy, and despite essentially being one I can take and even laugh at some good-natured jabs at our side. Especially if the fiction is overall very good. 

What I don't countenance is preaching, and I'm happy to report that although Bright engages in lighthearted jabs towards the left-wing and right-wing of politics, none of this is overbearing, has any real weight it applies to the story, and are nothing more than one-time gags played for laughs and quickly abandoned. They make their joke, often in one line of dialogue, and move on. The overall plot itself is able to be enjoyed while completely ignoring these jokes. Few of them that I noticed were plot-specific, and the ones that were are inoffensive unless you're just looking for something to bitch about.

There is definite political commentary there, but like any good story it's delivered within the context of the world they're presenting to you, and any allegorical connotations can be safely ignored in the interest of enjoying the overall story. These jokes can be safely written off as, "Oh, they're ripping on BLM," or, "Oh, they're ripping on racists," because while some of them have a bearing on the overall plot, they're one-note jokes and are quickly lost in the onrushing stream of the actual plot of the movie.

Which, I think, might have something to do with its critic ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. 

At the time of this writing, Bright has a rating of 27% from critics, but 87% from fans on the aggregate review site. I think this might be because Bright is an actual heroic adventure story, and it doesn't pretend to be anything else.

Understand, Bright is the story of two cops finding out that a cult is operating in their jurisdiction to bring about the second coming of the Dark Lord and slaughter billions of people, and these two unlikely assholes figure it's their duty to stop it. These two characters are beat to shit, shot, blown up, run over with cars, and god only knows what else, and yet they persevere in their quest to stop this horrible thing from happening.

They're not heroes out of legend, they're just the guys who were there, and were able to do something about it. 

This is 100% a heroic adventure story akin to The Lord of the Rings, wherein a couple of random, no-account people were in the wrong place at the right time, and decided they had to fix things, because if they didn't then who would? They didn't want to be there, but they were, so they might as well try to save the damned world. 

This is an unabashed, unapologetic, urban fantasy pulp romp, and I couldn't enjoy it more if I tried. If you have Netflix, you could do far, far worse than spending the two or so hours it would take you to watch this movie. There's also a shoutout to my personal favorite movie of all time, The Fifth Element, when they pick up the Elven chick and she's spouting incomprehensible gibberish in the back of the car while they're being trailed by people who very much want to hurt them and her.

And fam.

If you're going to do a shoutout, however subtle, to my top-tier favorite movie in the history of film...

Well, I don't have much choice but to endorse your movie. Simple as that.

Go watch Bright. It's fun as fuck. Moreover, it's fun as fucking. This movie is like good sex, and like with good sex I may have my gripes, but those gripes are mere nitpicks. Overall there is nothing wrong with this movie, and I'm very much looking forward to the sequel. Smith and Edgerton did an amazing job in this movie, and the overall product is absolutely worth your time.

Ignore the critics, and go watch this movie. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Dungeons & Dragons! The Temple of Elemental Evil!






Okay, so I'm running a D&D campaign! Don't get too excited, I'm a first time DM, and have only the barest handle on what I'm doing. Thankfully, a couple of my players have a better handle on this ruleset than I do, and we're going to get into some old-school Moldvay Basic D&D for you guys!

Originally I was just going to record sessions because not every player I've roped into this insane endeavor is going to be able to show up every session. So I wanted to have a definable record of what went down so people who couldn't make it could catch up. But, I figure why not share that with you guys as well? And so here we are. 

These'll hopefully be going up about every Sunday or Monday. I made a mistake this time and didn't do screen capture, so I had to take the time out and put the maps into the various time slots in the video I'm eventually going to upload to YouTube. Unfortunately I had an accident while editing, and the video is going to be slightly delayed while I re-render the entire fucking thing. 

However, the audio version is ready to go, and that's what I'm bringing right now. If you're not interested in seeing the maps for the places the player characters go, this'll be right up your alley. 

Next time I'll have actual screen capture as well as audio so that everything is preserved properly, but for now, this is all I got.

So I hope that you enjoy my abortive attempts at DM'ing, and that you tune in next time to The Adventures of the Murder-Hobo's in The Temple of Elemental Evil!

[NOTE: This post will be updated with the video for those interested]

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The JimFear 138 Podcast Ep.76 - #FreeJDA, Sci-Fi Pedos, and Lion & Dragon



Hello everyone, and happy new year! Welcome back! I've had some computer and health issues over the past month, but I'm almost back on track. This episode I go over some atrocious Scalzi writing, talk about Jon Del Arroz getting pre-banned from Worldcon, discover that scifi fandom has no leg to stand on with regards to moral superiority, discuss the jacking around of Kasimir Urbanski's new RPG rule set Lion & Dragon, and talk about the difference between fans and customers. 

Hope y'all enjoy!

Conservative Hispanic Writer Jon Del Arroz Banned from Worldcon Sci-Fi Convention: https://pjmedia.com/trending/sjws-bar-conservative-hispanic-writer-worldcon-claiming-racist-bully/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

WorldCon Banning May Be Tied To Its Pedo Problem: https://bradfordcwalker.blogspot.com/2018/01/worldcon-banning-may-be-tied-to-its.html

Safe Space as Rape Room: Science Fiction Culture and Childhood’s End (Part 1 of 5): http://www.castaliahouse.com/safe-space-as-rape-room-science-fiction-culture-and-childhoods-end-part-1-of-5/

Safe Space as Rape Room Full PDF: http://www.castaliahouse.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Safe-Space-as-Rape-Room-Hugo-Packet-Daniel-Eness.pdf

RPGNow Has Screwed Me Over YET AGAIN, Day 3: https://therpgpundit.blogspot.com/2018/01/rpgnow-has-screwed-me-over-yet-again.html

Kasimir Urbanski on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KasimirUrbanski

Lion & Dragon on RPGNow: https://www.rpgnow.com/product/226022/

The Dream of One Book Shelf: https://gamingwhileconservative.wordpress.com/2018/01/04/the-dream-of-one-book-shelf/

The Gathering Storm by InternetAristocrat/MisterMetokur: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrih2LmNgPw




Social Media Dump:

Hatreon: https://hatreon.us/JimFear138/

Steemit: https://steemit.com/@jimfear138

Itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/jimfear138/id1107844659?mt=2

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JimFear138

Tumblr: http://jimfear138.tumblr.com/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/JimFear138

Blogspot: http://jimfear138.blogspot.com/

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Gab: https://gab.ai/JimFear138

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Dailymotion: http://www.dailymotion.com/jimfear138

Opening Music:
Honey Bee by Kevin Macleod: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?isrc=USUAN1100755
Honey Bee Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The PulpRev Sampler Review [SPONSORED]



All right, so, first things first. This is, as it says in the title of the post, a sponsored review. I was not involved in the production of this anthology in any way, shape, or form, other than cheering from the sidelines. I was approached by one of the writers, who cleared this with the others, nearly all of which I know and communicate with on some personal level, and I was paid the fee I mention in the podcast ($20 for a month of advertising), and then I went and bought a copy of the book so that I wouldn't be lying when I made remarks as to the quality. Of course, I had total faith from the beginning that this would be the best damn anthology to come out of 2017, but I wanted to be sure before I ran my mouth off and got bit for it. So now that you know that they paid me not only for advertising on the blog, the podcast, and social media, as well as to write this post, you can decide for yourself how seriously to take this review. The review is going to be glowing, can't be helped, but I am attempting to remain as objective as possible on a subjective matter, and not let the cash I was paid color my opinion. If there were shitty stories in this, I'd let you know. But, again, how seriously you want to take that opinion is your decision.

Disclosure achieved, let's get into the review.

This is, in my opinion, the best damn anthology to come out of 2017. 

No, seriously. I know it sounds like I'm heaping praise because I'm being paid to heap praise, but I was paid for an honest opinion (and to advertise the work regardless of that opinion), and that's what I'm doing. The ads go on the social media, podcast, and blog. The opinion goes here. Guys.

This shit is really, really good.

There is not a single story in this anthology that isn't original, entertaining, weird, and downright fun to read. These stories, all of them that I read, are absolutely riveting. Now, I say, "all of them that I read," because two stories, the ones by Jon Del Arroz and David J. West, are excerpts from their novels For Steam And Country and Walking Through Walls respectively. These novels I want to read in their entirety, and so I skipped the stories. But I'm certain that if you choose to read them you will not be disappointed. I skipped them personally because, as they say, spoilers. There was also an excerpt by John C. Wright that I did read, and didn't realize it was part of a larger thing until he started using a lot of jargon that I just did not understand, so I guess now I have to pick up the rest of that series.

Anyway, back to the ones I did read. Most of these stories are fairly short (the entire anthology is only about 146 or so pages), and as such they're very action packed. Lots of them involve fighting of some kind, a couple involve romance, all of them are fun.

So this anthology opens up with The Knights of Aos Si, by N. A. Roberts. Knights is a very tight story about a duel between some elven knights and some witch knights. It's a straight up fight, with little sandwiching the fight itself. This story feels like a complete tale unto itself, as the fight only happens once every hundred years or so, and not much of a picture of the world outside the fight itself is given. For what it's worth, the elves in this story feel more Dunsanian than Tolkienesque, which was a very refreshing change up from the incredibly vast majority of modern fantasy. There's just enough there to whet your appetite, and leave you wanting more. Which, honestly, is true of all the stories in this anthology.

Next there is The Ghost Fist Gambit by Bradford Walker. This is a very impressive story about a battle between two space navies, whose commanders are rivals. There is a feint, a boarding action, a laser sword fight, and a victory, but I won't tell you who wins. It's well written, the action doesn't let up for a second, and I want to personally thank Bradford for stealing back laser swords from Star Wars. Somebody had to do it first, and it might as well be the PulpRev. Bradford's action flows like a raging river, pulling you along in a Flash Gordon-esque space opera (minus one exploding planet. Next time, Bradford) reminiscent of Star Wars but infinitely more interesting. At least to a jaded old fuck like me. 

After this there is Primitive Life Forms by Julie Frost. This was the first story that threw me for a loop. It begins with a man who is far too complacent about being infected (sexually) with lycanthropy. He's just kind of accepted it by the time the story starts, which is fine, but he seems a little too easygoing for someone who turns into an eight foot tall, razor clawed and fanged, damned near immortal killing machine. And then he gets abducted by aliens. You can see why I was thrown right about here. The aliens then proceed to regret abducting this particular human, very quickly. This story started as a standard werewolf story and then took a sharp left turn into fucking crazytown when the aliens showed up, and it's right about here that you realize that this isn't your usual sci-fi/fantasy anthology. 

The Plowshare's Lament is the next story, by Jesse Abraham Lucas. This was one of the more inventive or outside-the-box stories, as it's not about people, but sentient magical weapons. They live for centuries, change hands, see the rise and fall of kingdoms, and come to an ignoble end. I have to applaud Jesse's creativity here, because this is not a story that would've occurred to someone like me to even entertain the idea of writing, and it was an interesting take on a classic fantasy concept that I personally haven't seen done before.

Yes, we're going through all of them, because I need you to understand precisely how awesome and different all of these stories are.

Herald of the Dead by Todd Everhart is next. This story is more of a prologue to a fantasy novel in feel, as it deals with the invasion of a village by an undead army from underground. One teenage boy escapes, and runs to warn the king that his kingdom is in danger. As I say, it feels more like a traditional fantasy story, but the way Todd handles it makes it immediately engaging, and as with most of these stories, it ended too soon and I wanted more.

Silence in the Cell Block by T. T. Arkansas is an incredibly weird story that accurately captures the ethos of "weird fiction." It would've been right at home in the pages of Weird Tales right alongside Lovecraft and Howard. It's the tale of an innocent man imprisoned, who dies in his prison cell and meets a creature that's described like Nito from Dark Souls but in reality just wants some company. There is danger in the hereafter, but there is also hope of peace, however distant. This story is a mystery wrapped in an enigma, and not a lot gets properly explained with expository dialogue or prose, which is precisely how I like it. It keeps one guessing, and there is fodder enough here to keep fan theorists busy for several months at least.

The King's Portion by David Skinner is the tale of a ruler in exile, fleeing the userper's hordes, who is dragged from a hopeless fight by his servant and into a demon-haunted wood to speak with a terrifying forest spirit. It seems, though, that even deadly demons respect royalty. This was, once again, very competently written, and highly enjoyable. It's a take on the king-in-exile trope that I haven't personally seen done before, and makes a point of how human nobility, arrogance, and a touch of hubris can help you live to fight another day, if not outright win the war. 

Excerpt: Assassin in Everest by John C. Wright is the one I was too stupid to realize was part of something larger till about halfway through the story. This story features a technologically advanced group of people called "The Lords of Creation" with tech that is functionally indistinguishable from magic. One of them, Aeneas, is attacked in his room by an assassin with a similar level of technology. The entire story is a fight scene, and an incredibly entertaining one, at that. It really has to be read to be believed, but now I understand why Wright garners so much respect with regards to his fiction.

Into The Hands Of A Living God by Dominika Lein was another that threw me for a loop. It takes place in a fancy ballroom in space, with the humans in the room captivated by an alien creature. The story is told first-person, and our protagonist is infatuated with this creature as well, despite being no human. A man shows up to fight for her hand, but as the title says, what chance does he have against a living god? The tone of this one is remarkably consistent, and I loved the way it was written. It never once deviates from the first-person perspective, which is no mean feat in writing, and the reader knows precisely as much as the character relating events at the time those events happened. It also has far more bloodshed and monsters than your average ballroom, which is always a favorable thing.

Lucky Spider's Last Stand by JD Cowan is next, and this was one of my favorites. In a collection this good it's hard to pick a favorite, or a few favorites, but this is one of them for sure. It's the tale of a gangster who was his boss' right hand. The boss is dead, there's a legit, no-shit superhero who is immune to bullets called "A Crusader" (nice touch btw), and Lucky Spider has to fight this superhero with a healing factor in a god damned sword fight. This story read like an old-school Dark Horse comic, and I loved every line of it. Spider was sympathetic without having a tragic backstory, the Crusader was a kickass honor-at-all-costs hero presented more as a force of nature than a man, and the action was quick paced and very well detailed. You'll want to watch all the writers contributing to this anthology, but I'm going to be paying special attention to JD's career in the future, because hot damn can that boy spin a yarn.

Avatar of Pain by PR Marshall is an interesting tale that might be a little too out there for its own good. Don't get me wrong, it's a very good story. It's the tale of a warrior sent by the chieftain of a tribe to rescue his daughter from the cult of the god of suffering. Very cool stuff, and I liked the touches with the alcohol and the ax. It's essentially Conan on another world, and that, honestly is what lends to the overall busy-ness of this story. None of the characters are humans, and the various skin tones vary wildly, so it leads to a lot of description about the various players in the story that tends to weigh it down a bit in parts. However, this is not a critical flaw, just something I noticed while I was reading it. Very good story, awesome premise, a well told tale that I thoroughly enjoyed, as I enjoyed all the stories in this anthology.

The Red World Dies by Fenton Skeegs is another example of the diversity of ideas in this anthology. It's the tale of a barbarian warrior come into the ruin of the former civilization to kill a wizard, and they wind up banding together to escape the encroachment of faceless savages as the wizard goes on about the people of another planet whom the previous civilization modeled their...well, pretty much everything after. A very interesting concept, it had me riveted throughout, and left me wanting to know more about this. I hope that most of the stories in this anthology are continued in some fashion, because quite a few of them, this one included, sound like tales just begun.

Longman & Cobbledick (snrk) by David Godward was another of my favorites, because it played with a lot of ideas and had a good time doing it. It was obviously set in a kind of modern day, but the main character has had interactions with gods that let him bend reality a slight bit, and give him a bored, hard-boiled detective internal monologue that serves as the prose of most of the story. This was Longman. Cobbledick is a kind of magic-user, who's infiltrated a magic cult to rescue the son of a rich family, and he can hear Longman's internal monologue. This story was incredibly fun to read, had good amounts of action, a few twists and turns, and a couple of good funny surprises that got me to chuckle more than once. 

Danger On The Colony Ship by John Daker is a classic action story about a security officer on a ship that has been boarded by raiders determined to kill the civilians, and so he dons his armored boxing gloves and proceeds to beat some aliens to death. This was a lot of fun as well, and I liked the idea of honest-to-god fisticuffs against a multi-limbed alien monster that could end your life by putting one of its claws through your heart. If there was a problem with this story, it's that there were a few echoes near the beginning, meaning a word was used twice in the same sentence. The idea of the sentence was put across without an issue, but that's one of my personal bugbears in my own writing, and it's something I tend to notice easily when reading the work of others. Apart from that, this story stands proudly alongside the rest in this anthology, and the heroism of the main character was very inspiring. Particularly that little bit at the end, and if you go read it you'll know what I'm talking about. But again, spoilers.

Defiance by Jon Mollison is the last story in the group, and here's another one of my favorites, but I might be biased because I've read Jon's work before and I greatly enjoy it. He writes with a Robert E. Howard flair and attention to heroism and bravery in the face of seemingly unbeatable odds, and that is most certainly not lacking in this story. The King of Eternity, master of multiple universes faces down one defiant man who has vowed to kill him and free the multiverse from his tyranny. There's some good banter, high stakes, a gorgeous redhead (bonus points, btw), and no small amount of good old hack and slash action. It was definitely the right choice to end the anthology on, because I'm not sure much else could've topped it in my estimation, even the venerable John C. Wright's work. But then again, Jon and I come from the same school of writing, so I might be biased in that regard. 

I have to stress that there are no, zero, absolutely not a single damned low spot in this anthology. All of the stories fire on all cylinders, and it seemed to me that all the authors were trying to out-do one another in sheer gonzo levels of action, adventure, and wild ideas. Some succeeded more than others in my personal opinion.

As I said, I'm quite partial to the stories by Bradford Walker, Dominika Lein, Jon Mollison, JD Cowan, and David Godward. But this isn't meant to disparage or put on a lower tier the other writers. These people merely appealed to my sense of enjoyment in fiction more. This is without a doubt the craziest collection of short stories I've ever read in my life, and quite frankly they're undercharging by only asking one dollar American for the whole kit and caboodle. 

This anthology is worth what the big name publishers charge for their collections of garbage think pieces dressed up as science fiction and fantasy. It blurs the lines between action, adventure, horror, fantasy, and science fiction in the best spirit of the old pulps, and I'm currently trying to convince them to put it in print via Createspace so that I can bother friends, family, and strangers by breaking into their houses in the middle of the night and leaving a copy on their coffee tables. Whether or not that happens is up in the air at the moment, but we'll see.

Without doubt this is an anthology that you do not want to miss. It contains, and I speak from the heart and head with all the honesty I can muster in my being, stories by the absolute best of the best up and coming authors writing in the field of speculative fiction. Some of these stories are on the level of my personal deity Robert E. Howard, and the rest are at least as good as Fritz Leiber. 

These people set out on a mission, that being to prove that the PulpRev wasn't just bluster and hot air. That we were serious about this shit, and we meant what we said when we wanted to recapture the spirit of the pulps, not merely ape them for brand recognition or to tug on the heartstrings of those nostalgic for the days when scifi and fantasy didn't have to be ideologically motivated. To, in a phrase, make fiction fun again.

After reading the book, I can safely report that they have accomplished this goal in spades and then some. There's merely meeting a bar, then showing you're better than everybody else currently trying to meet that bar, and then there's The PulpRev Sampler. With the possible exception of Cirsova Magazine, this is the absolute best anthology to be published this year. Buy it, and tell your friends that fun fiction just came back in style.

Here's a link to the Amazon store page where you can get this landmark in the revival of SFF literature for one measly dollar.

I'm sure you've got a dollar to spare. Put it where it counts and get this anthology on your kindle or phone. I can guarantee that you will not in any wise regret it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The JimFear138 Podcast Ep. 75 ft. The Mad Shangi



Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the podcast! Sorry this one is late, I ran into an issue with my conversion software that ate up an entire day to fix because I'm almost tech-illiterate. But late is better than never, or so I'm told, so here we are! This episode I talk to The Mad Shangi about Phantasm and other horror movies, the insanity in Hollywood lately, and then we get into MGTOW for a while.

Hope y'all enjoy!

The Mad Shangi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MadShangi

And YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHbE75zwJRfU3LP0Ca1EbFg


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MP3 Download of this episode:  https://ia800408.us.archive.org/25/items/jimfear_audio_productions/ep75.mp3


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Opening Music:
Honey Bee by Kevin Macleod: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?isrc=USUAN1100755
Honey Bee Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Closing Music: 
Crunk Knight by Kevin Macleod: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?isrc=USUAN1400044
Crunk Knight Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
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