Astounding Frontiers Issue 5 is out Now

In Issue #5 of Astounding Frontiers we bring you more pulpy goodness with stories from Julie Frost, Arlan Andrews and Patrick S. Baker as well as continuing serials from Ben Wheeler, Corey McCleery and David Hallquist. We also have another article from Pulp expert Jeffro Johnson and a fun poem by myself that should be familiar to long-term followers of this blog.

Please join us in travelling to Astounding Frontiers!

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Astounding Frontiers Issue 3 is Out Now!

Astounding Frontiers Issue 3 is out now on Amazon. Experience post-apocalyptic battles against carnivorous chickenmen, razor storms, vicious chitinous cave creatures, being trapped at the bottom of an impossibly deep ocean, a motorcycle chase across the plains and valleys of Mars, and more!

Grab your copy now

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Astounding Frontiers #2 –Pulp Revolution Meets Superversive!

Astounding Frontiers: Give us ten minutes, and we’ll give you a world! 

Issue two of our new pulp magazine is out:

Astounding Frontiers is a new pulp magazine from the minds at Superversive Press that will transport you to far off worlds of adventure! In our second issue we have stories and continuing serials from Dragon Award winners and nominees and many other great authors.

We have stories from Scot Washam, Karl Gallagher, and Russel May, and Dragon Award Nominee Brian Niemeier!

We continue on with Serial from John C. Wright, Ben Wheeler and Nick Cole!

And we have a new serial starting by Corey McCleery called Daughter of Sol.

Please join us in travelling to Astounding Frontiers!

Some praise for Astounding Frontiers #1:
“Grab a beer or an ice tea, your copy of Astounding Frontiers, and hit the hammock or the beach for a few enjoyable hours.” 

“. . .I gave the authors 10 minutes of my time and they gave my imagination a boost beyond belief.” Don E. Nelson

“The zeal and fun of the pulps without the Depression and world war looming in the background. Yes, things are bad now. But they were FAR worse in the Thirties, when the pulps arose, and they’ll get better yet.” Author Steve Johnson

 

Astounding Frontiers Issue 2 is Out!

Dull and Preachy stories beware…

Astounding Frontiers Issue 2 is now out on amazon, featuring stories by Dragon Award Winner Brian Niemeier, Karl Gallacher, Scott Washam and Russel May. The serials by John C. Wright, Ben Wheeler, Nick Cole and Jason Anspach continue, and the cover features the beginning of a new serial by SuperversiveSF contributor Corey McCleery, whose awesome dad has been helping me with music videos. (there are more to come of those) Click on the image below to grab yourself a copy for the low, low price of $2.99!For those of you who’d like a more epic version of the above video, using some music by the ever-excellent Kevin Macleod, your wish is granted:

Review: A Pius Man by Declan Finn

A Pius Man has gotten a bit of an update and has been re-released by Silver Empire Press this month. It’s available in print and ebook on Amazon.com.

I thought the book was an great story back when I first reviewed it. It is amazing how some minor edits turned this great story into a “Wow! I’ve got to read this again” story. In fact, when I was checking back at scenes in the book while working on this review, I found myself getting lost in the pages again.

Re-reading books for fun is not something I normally do, because once I’ve read a book, I move on to the next one. I can’t help it with this one. I’m looking forward to re-reading A Pius Legacy.

—–

A murder at the Vatican sets in motion the wildest story you’ll ever read.

Dr. David Garrity uncovers a secret about Pope Pius XII’s actions during WWII, which gets him killed. An odd alliance forms between the head of Vatican security, an ex-stuntman, an American Secret Service agent, a member of Mossad, a spy and Pope Pius XIII, in order to find out who murdered him and why.

Set in Vatican City, the story is a mix of nonstop action and fascinating political intrigue that not only keeps you glued to the book, but it also corrects some of the falsehoods that have persisted about Pope Pius XII since his reign as pope.

Unlike Dan Brown’s novels which set off my BS meter on the facts, A Pius Man appears well researched. With Declan’s background, I’m not at all surprised that it’s historically accurate. The best part, though, is that the history doesn’t read like a text book, it is worked in between the gun fire, which adds to the drama and depth.

It’s got the fast paced action that the #PulpRev readers can appreciate as well as the battle of good/evil that the #Superversive crowd will love. It’s not just about action for action, it’s about action to defend the Pope, the Church and right the wrongs of history. And I might add, their is a Deus Volt vibe going on as well.

As far as the characterization, Declan does an excellent job of giving the large cast of characters distinct personalities and roles in the story. While most of the characters are a bit over the top, totally understandable for this genre, they are interesting. If these characters were real people, I think it’d be fun to hang out with Sean A.P. Ryan, even though I’d need to wear a kevlar vest because he is always getting shot at. I’d also be all over getting to hang out with Pope Pius XIII. You just can’t help love that character.

And the one story line that I’m partial to is the budding romance between Scott Murphy, a nondescript Mossad agent, and the beautiful spy, Manana Shushurin. They are the light spot in an otherwise heavy book. The two are so cute together.

Honestly, one of the best thrillers I’ve ever read. I would put it on part with Michael Crichton’s State of Fear.

 

Pius #PulpRevolution? Or Superversive?

I’ve been looking at the Pulp Revolution lately, as well as hanging out here, with the Superversive crowd. Recently, I have been pondering if A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller fits into either of these movements. Mostly because 1) I have no idea, and 2) it might help me understand these movements better if I see what can and can’t match up.Well, as Pulp is mentioned first, I should probably see if I check any boxes. Yes, I HAVE READ APPENDIX N. I’ve even reviewed it. It was awesome. It was also sprawling, and if I used that as the basis for a definition, I’m going to have to do a bullet point for each chapter, since each chapter has a point to it.

I had to go in Castalia’s archives, and found the post … not by Jeffro. In fact, it even cites another blog by Misha Burnett.

Huh. Okay. I guess what I’m going to have to do is go down and break this down as I read along. Basically, I’m going to write the post as I read the blog, like I do with Fisking posts that are so painful, I can only read through it by breaking it apart.

So what I’ll do is break down the Burnett post, and then use the add-ons by Castalia.

With my luck, I’ll make no one happy.

Action: The focus of the storytelling is on what happens. We know who people are by what they do. This does not mean that every scene has to involve a knife fight on the top of a speeding train. Ordinary every day actions can also inform—Raymond Chandler could describe a couple’s relationship by showing us the man lighting the woman’s cigarette. We don’t want the writer to tells us that a scientist is an unconventional genius, we want to see him tearing a rival’s paper to shreds and throwing the pieces out the window when asked to critique it.

Huh. I thought this was called “show don’t tell.” It’s basic story telling. I don’t see how that’s particularly pulpy. I make sure to do that as often as possible.

As for the knife fight on top of a moving train…. [Makes a note to include that in the next book]

Anyway, I do have an action sequence every once in a while. I open with an assassination, then a bombing, and I wait thirty pages before I have a fight scene with a commando priest, who has another fight a few pages later involving throwing scalpels, then there’s running gun battle with the RPGs…

So I have a little action. Here and there.

Impact: These actions have consequences. While a character’s actions do inform us of that character’s personality, significant actions should never be only character studies. They have lasting real world consequences. You don’t go into a pulp story with an expectation of a happy ending. Pulp heroes are fallible heroes, and when they fail, bad things happen. Neither, though, is worse coming to worst a forgone conclusion. Up until the very end a pulp character has the power to change his or her fate. They can always do something.

MAUHAHAHAHAAHAHAAHAAHAHAAHAHAHA

Oh, trust me, these actions are going to have consequences. Over the course of the Trilogy, when they fail, train wreck to follow.  Sometimes when they succeed, a train wreck will follow.

Moral Peril: Consequences are more than just material. In Pulp stories there is not simply the risk that that the hero may fail to defeat the villain, there is also the greater risk that the hero may become the villain. A hero should have a code to follow, and lines that he or she is resolved not to cross. That line should be close enough that the temptation to cross is real—maybe not constantly, but from time to time. There is almost always a really good reason to break one’s moral code, particularly to protect a loved one in danger.

I was actually about to say that A Pius Man[/easyazon_link] fails this part of the test. I figured there was no one and nothing in the entire book that really threatened the heroes. There may have been the temptation just to get out of the cross fire, but that was it.

Then I realized that I quite literally looked past the white elephant in my story. It’s basically the primary subplot, and I didn’t even consider it.

Romance: Pulp heroes are motivated by love. Not always romance in the modern sense of a relationship involving physical attraction, but a relationship that obligates the pulp hero to take risks on behalf of another. An old military buddy, a long lost friend, even a client who paid in advance. The consequences, both physical and moral, effect more than just the hero, and those affected should be given a human face. When the hero is working to thwart a villain’s plan we want to see the potential victims not in the abstract, but in the concrete. “Saving Humanity” is a vague, bumper sticker kind of motivation, saving the fair maiden with the sparkling eyes and plucky wit, or the ragged waif with a mewling kitten is much more satisfying.

Huh. I’m getting the feeling that this is going to be far, far too easy. Then again, I did grow up with Die Hard as my Christmas movie, so maybe I was wired for the Pulpy people.

But, yes, suffice it to say, there is romance. I’ve even done a post or two on this over time. But I’ve got someone there fore love. I’ve got several people who go there because of their jobs, but the reasons they stay … is spoilery in nature.

Mystery: I am using the word here not in the genre sense of a plot concerned with discovering the identity of a criminal, but in the broader sense of the unknown. There are many potential unknowns—the setting, the true identities of other characters, the events that led up to the current crises. Something is going on and neither the protagonists nor the reader should be quite sure what. Things are never quite what they seem which, of course, also serves to increase the tension. A pulp hero is playing a very dangerous game for high stakes, and no one knows all of the rules…

MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHA.  Wow, have I got this one covered six ways from Sunday.  The long version is over in this blog. I didn’t even know that this was going to be here when I wrote that one. Heh.

Let’s see what else is mentioned …. “More traditional boy-girl romances.” Okay, check. I don’t even have a gay character, to my knowledge (there is a character who I haven’t “asked” yet, so I don’t know. She could just be apathetic).

“More action-oriented fiction.” Check.

“No real distinction between sci-fi and fantasy – those genres should blend more. Into a new genre…pulp” …. well, I understand what JD Cowan meant with I blurred genre lines. Sadly, this has limited SFF qualities here.

But yeah, it looks like I’ve hit a lot of these boxes. Yes. I might even be considered pulpy by nature! Yes!

…. Sigh.

Anyway, so I talked to the guy who WROTE the article. I hang out with him as part of the Superversive Crowd. Jeffro, in the comments, disagreed with him vehemently.

So I then did something I never do, and I dug through the comments….

Apparently, Pulp really does boil down to “I know it when I see it.

I was then referred to a post by a fellow named Nathan, I believe he’s a Nathan Housley of the Puppy of the Month Book Club.

According to THAT post, we can keep action, romance, moral peril isn’t needed, but it can stay…. And “Impact” includes “consequences,” all actions are final. No take backs.  Okay. Still qualifies.

detective pulps “heart interest and human emotion are the special requirements. Stories should be strongly melodramatic, the characters should be very real and appealing, and situations should deal with the poignant phases of crime.” (2) To accomplish this, pulp writers avoided the Cloud Strife ciphers used today as reader surrogates.  Instead, they took likable characters with personality and ratcheted up the stakes, creating tension that built an unease and concern in the reader

Likable characters with personality.

Heh. Yeah. You could say my characters have personality.

Okay. Reading down… mystery can stay, good.

Then there’s story structure…

Sigh. Someone else will have to tell me if I’ve done enough with that. I don’t outline, I don’t really use structure. I have–“Attack! What did this encounter tell us? Move forward. More action. Repeat.” So, it’s a structure.

So, Nathan’s bullet points are

  • Action — Check
  • Romance — Check
  • Moral peril — Check
  • Consequence — Check with smoking bullet holes.
  • Emotion — God, I hope so.
  • Mortal peril — This is an understatement.
  • Exploration of the unknown: We got that. It’s in archives, but we’ve got that.
  • Love for the unknown: [Coin Toss]. Read Sean AP Ryan, get back to me.
  • Story structure: Check. I hope.

Okay. I guess it passes the Pulp Test.

I think I’ll do Superversive in the next post. This was a long one.

Illegitimi non carborundum
So, I guess if you’re into Pulp, [easyazon_link asin="1547196939" locale="US" new_window="default" nofollow="default" tag="superversivesf-20" add_to_cart="default" cloaking="default" localization="default" popups="default"]A Pius Man might just be your cup of tea. Just click here, and you can orderit.

 


And, if you’ve done that….

The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.

Review: The Raven, The Elf, And Rachel

You might remember we reviewed the Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, in which a magical girl ended up at a magical school, collected nearly a dozen magical friends, joined a dueling society, investigated a mystery, saw an omen that heralds the doom of worlds, headed off an attack by an army of dozens of mind-controlled students, saved the entire campus, and provided support for a battle that involved the dragon that used to be Professor Moriarty.Not bad for the first week, huh?

No. Sorry, my mistake. It’s not bad for the first five days of school. Take that, Harry Potter.

How do I know that book one was the first week? Because book two opens only a few hours after the end of book 1, and states she’s only been there five days.

If the books get any more dense, we’re going to have to call Rachel Griffin “Jack Bauer.”

And no. There are no spoilers in the opening. Trust me, that’s nothing without the context. Because it’s even MORE awesome in context.

And then, we have book two, The Raven, The Elf, And Rachel. The plot wraps up a lot of plot threads from book 1. And there’s a lot to wrap up: the raven that heralds the doom of worlds; the Outsiders from other worlds; the “Lightbringer,” the ones behind Moriarty; the one behind THAT threat; Rachel’s relationship status; the story behind Rachel’s father and his work as an agent … there’s an awful lot kicking around. And we aren’t even going to get into all of the new various and sundry plot elements.

In spy novels, most people will cite John Le Carre, usually for good reason. As far as I’m concerned, his crowning achievement were his George Smiley novels. The middle book of his Carla trilogy was called The Honorable Schoolboybook 1, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, ended with the discovery of a mole in MI^, and his unmasking. Much of the second book is walking back the cat — going through the mole’s history and discovering exactly what havoc he hath wrought upon the spy service during his period working for the other team.  Much of The Raven, The Elf, And Rachel proceeds forward in a similar manner. Book one was so dense, and the implications from them so vast, we essentially need an after action report just to get a good idea of the fallout.

In fact, the first 100 pages of The Raven, The Elf, And Rachel handles: recaping the first book, reintroducing the characters, walks back the cat on the enemies from book 1, as well as sets up the conflict going forward.  Not bad, huh?

So, if you think that the first book ended a little abruptly, without any follow through, there’s a good reason for that. It would have added another 50-100 pages. This follows hot on the heels of book 1, only hours after the battle royale is over. Even Terry Goodkind waited for the next day before the blowback kicked in. But don’t worry, there is enough solid data here that you can read these books back to back without it being a problem. How do I know that? Because I have three other people I convinced to read these books who did just that. And I’m going from #2 directly to #3.

On a Superversive level, it works fine. We have good guys, bad guys, a relatively clear sense of right and wrong (Rachel’s a 13 year old who worries over right and wrong, so things go a little gray, as we are in her POV), a charming little romance in the middle, men are men, girls are girls, and there will be chivalry or THERE WILL BE DOOM. (Long story. Bit of an in joke. People who have read the novels will get it). So, yeah, I think it covers that threshold.

On a Pulp level, if that’s what you’re into, let’s see … we have dark demonic forces trying to destroy the world, human sacrifice, magical duels, divine protectors, small dragons, huge dragons, shape shifters who turn into dragons, a superhero, and a breakneck pace so fast that this one is the slower of the two novels, and I still finished 400 pages in a day. If that’s not Pulpy enough for you, I suggest reading the books to see everything I left out.

For those of you who fear the repetitive nature of YA books … no. Not at all. There is nothing repeated here. In fact, this one continues to wrap up plot threads left over from the first books — there actually were plot threads dangling, but I didn’t realize it with all the screaming, chaos, and running about in the grand shootout in the finale. I’m almost afraid to see how the series will end…. answer: in fire, probably.

And good God, the references. Everywhere. I think you need a degree in classical literature and be in on the jokes of three different languages and five different cultures in order to get all of the little hints and nods and such in the novels. But that’s a general observation, not specific to this book.

Now, I’ve seen that Jagi doesn’t like having her book compared ti Harry Potter. I know. It’s not fair to JK Rowling. But I’ve given book 1 to other people. And they read only 10% into Unexpected Enlightenment and decided that it was a deeper and richer world than Potter. And the farther in we go, the deeper everything is. Or maybe it just shows us how shallow Potter was and we never realized it. There are no johnny one-note characters here. Everyone has different emotions and moods and personalities. Hell, I think Rachel went through more emotions over the course of any five pages of The Raven, The Elf, And Rachel than the entire body of Hogwarts in 7 novels. That may be unfair, but I don’t think so.

In The Raven, The Elf, And Rachel, you see more sides to people we’ve already seen. Whether it’s the magical prince of Australia, or the Artful Dodger and his pet dragon, or even Vladimir von Dread (I’m almost certain that his family crest reads DREAD IS BAVARIA. BAVARIA IS DREAD, but I haven’t asked yet). In fact, if she ever wants to do an anthology, I call dibs on von Dread shorts, he’s just that interesting. It is a vast and colorful crew, and I suspect we’re going to see more of their own backstories as time goes on.

At the end of the day, the Rachel Griffin novels are very much in the tradition of Narnia. As one reviewer once sniffed, “These are too good to be wasted on children.” Heh.

SHORT VERSION: five out of five. Go read it.

The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.

The Love at First Bite series.