Issue 6 is Now Available!

Issue 6 is out now!

Broadswords and Blasters Issue 6: Pulp Magazine with Modern Sensibilities (Volume 2) by [Gomez, Matthew X., Walton, Robert, Rose, Rie Sheridan, Furman, Adam S., Hansson, Marcus, Cole, Catherine J., Graves, J.D., Mason, Jared]

Okay, so if all you do is follow the blog, you might think once a week articles on pulp (and pulp adjacent) properties might be all we do. Not the case though! We also put out a quarterly magazine, featuring at least seven stories of action and adventure and running the gamut of genres.

Issue 6 (currently available on Amazon in both digital and dead tree format), dropped this past Friday and features some of the best writing you can find anywhere.

“The Ogre’s Secret” by Robert Walton gets us kicked off in the right way with a nail biting mountain-climbing excursion. Definitely a different sort of Viking tale, but one that will have you holding your breath… and maybe laughing a bit as well.

“Marshal Marshall Meets the Mechanical Marauder” is an Old West Steampunk tale of a robber in search of one last score and a lawman looking to make a name for himself. But there’s also the local madam looking to make money as well. Rie Sheridan Rose does an excellent job of injecting action and a touch of romance into this story. (You can also follow her on twitter).

“Collateral Damage” by Adam S. Furman caught both editors unexpectedly right where our hearts are supposed to be. A tale of a dad looking for his son… all while kaiju and mecha battle out in the background. If you ever watched Godzilla and wondered what the poor civilians underfoot might be going through this is the story for you. You can follow Adam on Facebook and Twitter.

Marcus Hansson greets us with a weird, quiet sort of post-apocalyptic tale in a “A Scent of Blood and Salt” where violence lurks waiting in the wasteland and sometimes a man can’t be trusted… or can he? You can find more of Marcus on Twitter.

Catherine J. Cole brings us space adventure, royalty, panspermia and giant tardigrades all in one package with “The Royal Stowaway.” The only question is: does answering a distress call make sense, or just put the entire crew of a salvage operation in danger? Interested in what else Catherine’s got to offer after this brief taste? Check out her Facebook and Twitter.

What can I say about “Her Coffin’s Colder than the Mink Glove” that won’t spoil it? It’s a spy caper that puts the reader in the shoes of the protagonist. It’s meta as hell. It is also an entertaining read that both editors immediately latched on to. J.D. Graves (editor of the pulp rag EconoClash Review) can be found on Twitter.

Jared Mason (who, for shame, didn’t provide us any social media links) penned “Pigsty,” a story reminiscent of Michael Moorcock wherein a dream weaver is kidnapped and forced to try and remove some painful memories. But he has a sister, his protector, and she’s on his trail. And some memories don’t deserve to be erased.

Last, and certainly not least, we have “Tomorrow’s Eyes” by David VonAllmen. A man taking an experimental drug realizes he can see into the future. But how can you tell what’s happening now and what’s yet to happen? And what does it mean when you can’t see past a certain point in time? This is a dark near future piece that might have the reader second guessing their own senses. David can be found on Facebook and Twitter as well.

 

We do hope you’ll check the magazine out, and as a bonus, Issue 5 is on sale for kindle this week as well. So what are you waiting for? Grab some pulp today! Broadswords and Blasters Issue 5: Pulp Magazine with Modern Sensibilities (Volume 2 Book 1) by [Gomez, Matthew, Chan, L, McBain, Alison, Emmel, Aaron, Rohr, J., Shultz, David, Williams, Dianne, Howard, Tom]

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Pulp Consumption: Playback

RaymondChandler_Playback

Raymond Chandler is one of the foundational authors of noir. His Philip Marlowe is the quintessential hardboiled private investigator, a character Chandler rode until Marlowe seemed to become a pastiche of himself. This is not to say the acclaim Chandler derived in his career was unwarranted, but the pressure took its toll the author, and in his later years he became cantankerous and hard to work with, partly because he’d been taken advantage of (or so he felt) by the film industry and partly because he was a sour, curmudgeonly man. It didn’t help that he was also an alcoholic.

All of his novels, bar one, were filmed in one incarnation or another. The Big Sleep is the most famous as it established him on the pulp fiction scene, and the film version with Humphrey Bogart is as iconic as Bogart’s turn as Sam Spade, the PI creation of Dashiell Hammett. The Long Goodbye is probably Chandler’s best in terms of quality and substance and is my personal favorite. But this article is about Playback, specifically the film treatment that never got made.

MV5BYjQwNDI5ODctZGU3MC00NzIwLWE3ZmQtYjQxYWE5NTlmMjE0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjUxODE0MDY@._V1_UY317_CR73,0,214,317_AL_Playback went through development hell, with Chandler and producers butting heads so frequently the script was all but abandoned. In fact, it was presumed lost until the 1980s when it was rediscovered. In the interim, Chandler had reformed the script into a Philip Marlowe novel, but Marlowe is totally absent from the script and was a later addition when reworking it into longer form. Playback is not as well regarded a book as the rest of his, and for good reason. It’s not as well-written as his other works, with a plot lacking significant stakes for Marlowe, and which, as I indicated above, reads more like a pastiche of Marlowe than an original. One of the main criticisms from literary circles is the simplicity of the plot, which does seem to have been streamlined from the screenplay. It’s like Robert Jordan’s take on Conan: It attempts to hit the story beats of the original but never really feels correct.

In 2006 a French duo, writer Ted Benoit and artist Francois Ayroles, turned Playback into a graphic novel, which was my first exposure to the script, many years after I’d read the novel. While I enjoyed looking at what is effectively a storyboard for a film, I can see why it didn’t get made.

Main character Betty Mayfield is fleeing to Canada after being acquitted of her husband’s murder. Her husband had been abusive and drunk after his service in WWII. He needed a neck brace or else he might die, and in a fit of rage, removed it himself. But Betty’s father-in-law, a powerful man with connections, all but forced the jury into deciding Betty had removed the brace and killed her husband. The judge recognized the truth and overturned the conviction, at which time the father-in-law issued a death threat. While on the train to Vancouver, without proper passport identification, she meets a playboy who schmoozes the customs official and gets Betty a room in a swanky hotel. A while later she gets invited to a party, where the playboy drunkenly makes a pass, which she rejects, but when she gets back to her room, his dead body is on her balcony. All signs point to Betty having murdered him, but of course there’s more to the story. Since Betty doesn’t want to out her past to the police, she’s uncooperative. Oh, and there’s another woman, one the playboy had been seeing until his infatuation with Betty. But the plot shifts again, and it’s neither of the obvious killers. Turns out there’s blackmail, a hit man hired by Betty’s father-in-law, and it all climaxes with a boat chase in the foggy Vancouver sound.

If that sounds a bit convoluted, it is. Like many noir works, it has double and triple crosses and mixed story threads in abundance. You could say many of Chandler’s works are the same, but perhaps they are polished enough the rough cuts don’t seem quite as disjointed as here. But where Playback really fails is its rushed ending that seems disconnected from the story at large.

Playback cover

Cover of the Graphic Novel

The graphic novel gets mixed reviews, mostly because readers don’t like the art style, but I thought the art was decent enough. It’s certainly period appropriate art for the source material (heavy inks in black and white) instead of contemporary color paintings the way most modern comic books are created. That said, the script itself is online, and reading Chandler’s scene descriptions make the story more enjoyable than the storyboards alone. The old adage of a picture being worth a thousand words is decently accurate, but in this case, as in most, I’ll take the words. I need to reread the novel version now to see if my opinion on it has changed in light of reading the graphic novel and screenplay.

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Pulp Consumption: Chinatown

“Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown.”

Arguably one of the greatest noir films in existence, CHINATOWN exemplifies the best of the genre. Jake Gittes isn’t what anyone would consider to be a typical hero. He’s ex-police turned private eye, more interested in making a buck than seeing justice done. He’s hired by someone claiming to be Evelyn Mulwray, the wife of the city’s water commissioner. Only a simple job turns out to be not so simple when Mrs. Mulwray turns out not to be Mrs. Mulwray and the water commissioner ends up dead.

What follows is an excellent example of crafting plot and counter plot, of showing the not only the big picture plot elements (the water shortage and its cause), but the personal elements as well. Jake, while not what anyone would call a knight-in-shining-armor does come to care for the real Evelyn, which makes the ending even more of a gut punch at the end. It’s the idea that the hero is so low on the totem pole, so powerless in the face of evil, that the villain doesn’t even bother to have him killed because there is literally nothing Jake can do to get to him.Image result for chinatown movie

The character of Noah Cross, played by John Huston, is quite possibly one of the evilest villains to grace the screen. He’s not driven by a need for money, or even greed, but simply because he has so much money that he can get away with whatever he wants. Unshackled by any sort of morality, he is able to take what he wants without repercussion[1]. That includes raping his daughter, forcing her to have his child, and possibly raping the granddaughter as well. If anything, his motivation is to be able to shape the future, simply because he has enough money to make it happen.

In many ways, this film goes in the opposite direction of many of its hardboiled predecessors. Jake Gittes isn’t able to get the real villain in the end. Evelyn Mulwray isn’t a femme fatale but ends up the victim. Cross doesn’t face justice of one kind or another but disappears with his granddaughter. Even the concept of the hard-boiled detective being on some side of good is undermined, when it is shown that his client Curly beats his wife as a direct result of Gittes showing Curly the pictures proving his wife’s infidelity. Perhaps most telling, is that if Jake had done as little as possible, had steered clear of the case completely then it is possible Evelyn and her daughter could have escaped LA and her father’s clutches. Unfortunately for all involved, Jake didn’t, quite simply making everything worse for everyone but Cross.Image result for chinatown movie

The movie is also an excellent example of how noir doesn’t have to be all rain slicked streets and night time rendezvous. Much of the film makes use of California’s sunny climes, making a contrast between the sun-drenched setting and the darkness of the characters and acts taking place.

So if you haven’t watched it in a while, now might be good time to revisit what is easily one of the best film noir movies in existence, and one that rewards rewatching.

[1] There is a lesser known and regarded sequel THE TWO JAKES that Nicholson directed in 1990 that gives a better sense of closure for the characters, but if you only watch CHINATOWN,

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Pulp Consumption: Fletch

Fletch DVD Cover

This is the cover on my DVD. The original movie poster is much better.

We talk a lot about movies and tv shows here, and you might think we don’t read much pulp, but we do and are. Both Matt and I recently picked up a collection of Seabury Quinn’s Jules de Grandin stories and I bought a new collection of Hap and Leonard by Joe R. Lansdale (RIP the tv series after three seasons), so we’ll get back to written pulp in a week or two. However, I wanted to explain why so many of the Pulp Appeals and Consumptions seem focused on visual media.[1]

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This is a very young Geena Davis in only her second movie role.

In between the fall of the pulp greats and the rise of new pulp magazines in the last ten years, much of what we would consider to be pulp fiction was in fact being produced on film. This is still true to a large extent. Pulp magazines were first established as the entertainment for the masses in the age when televisions were new and expensive and radio ruled the night for entertainment. As television slowly took over, and as a moral majority began to censor pulp fiction in the name of protecting children and advancing moral correctness, pulp as a medium made two major shifts–to film, in the guise of noirs, and to television, in the guise of procedural drama, particularly police procedurals. What was left in print were the comic books and a few hangers-on. The fiction landscape for magazines was firmly entrenched in the New Wave. There are still some written gems from the 70s through the 90s, but the pulp of old was pretty much left only in film. Although born at the end of the 70s, I identify as an 80s kid, with Transformers, GI Joe, Ghostbusters, and Friday the 13th (and a healthy dose of 70s era Scooby-Doo), and that era had a lot of great pulp in the form of television and movies.

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One of Fletch’s many costumes throughout the movie.

And that brings me to the 1985 pulp neo-noir, Fletch, starring Chevy Chase as Irwin Fletcher, an LA Times reporter who is brought into the dark world of millionaires with sordid pasts, police corruption, drug-smuggling, and murder-for-hire. At the start of the film, Fletch is working on an expose of the drug trade along the beach, when he is approached by an aviation executive. The executive tells Fletch a story about terminal cancer and wanting to go out on his own terms, so he hires Fletch to kill him and then run away with the money. Of course there’s a lot more to the story, as alluded to above.

Although Chevy Chase is better known for his madcap antics in the National Lampoon’s Vacation movies, here he is more restrained, and, I believe, better capable of demonstrating his range as an actor. In that, he shares a lot with Robin Williams and Steve Martin. When left to the antics and wild stream-of-consciousness, they can go off the rails enough that the story gets lost. When reined in a bit and directed more closely, they manage to transcend the work. That’s not to say the wacky behavior doesn’t work occasionally, because it does, but when they slow down just a touch, the rest of the film can shine through, creating something stronger.

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I just like the look on Fletch’s face in this scene (near the end of the movie)

In any case, if you haven’t seen Fletch in awhile (or at all, but who are you people?), think about it again in terms of pulp serials, with intrepid undercover reporters caught up in a world of greed, sex, and murder. The movie has some fantastically funny parts, as when Fletch impersonates a rich tennis bro and puts thousands of dollars on the jerk’s tab, but what makes it work for me is when it embraces its pulp roots.


[1] The revival of pulp magazines is relatively new. As such Matt and I have been attempting to keep up with other publications doing what we do, so you should check out our Twitter, where Matt does a great job of highlighting other places you can get your pulp fix.

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Pulp Consumption: The Adventure of the Incognita Countess

Title: The Adventure of the Incognita Countess

Author: Cynthia Ward

Publisher: Aqueduct Press

What do you get when you take a mixture of sources from the turn of the 20th century and sling them into a blender? Well, you might get something very much like the “The Adventure of the Incognita Countess.” Cynthia Ward takes from a variety of different sources, including CARMILLA, DRACULA, SHERLOCK HOLMES, and TARZAN to tell a tale of Titanic, German and English spies, vampires, and Martian super science after their failed attempt at an invasion. Suffice to say, having a grounding in the references Ward makes adds an element of enjoyment to the story, but if you are a relative neophyte, she still crafts an engaging story sure to delight fans of pulp. The twist in that the main character is anything but a lantern-jawed hero. Instead, we are treated to a young woman who happens to come from a rare parentage and exquisite schooling. She also happens to be an agent of the British Empire.

One of the standouts is that, while it has plenty of action, there is an undercurrent to it as well of how people judge others. One of the key plot points to the story is whether vampires (and by extension, other monsters) possess souls, and whether they in fact are still, in essence, human. It is this plot point that drives the majority of the conflict in a way that more classic pulp would miss for its nuance.

The Adventure of the Incognita Countess (Conversation Pieces Book 53) by [Ward, Cynthia, Ward, Cynthia]

One of the few places that the story faltered was that, as a result of it being a first-person narrative, there are times when the action comes second hand, a secondary character relating to the narrator action that happened. While understandable, it does put further distance between the text and the reader, and, as a result, the action doesn’t come across as nearly as immediate as some of the other scenes.

Overall, however, if you enjoy pulp, and like your heroes to come with an edge, then this is a novel for you.

Cynthia Ward will have a story in Issue 8 of Broadswords and Blasters (January 2019).

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Pulp Consumption: Sneaky Pete

817ul4O3GoL._RI_If you’re a con man who has been recently paroled but people you conned are out to get you, what do you do? Maybe you assume a new identity and ply your conjob skills on other people. That’s exactly what Marius Josipović (Giovanni Ribisi) does in the pilot episode of Sneaky Pete.

sneaky-pete-giovanni-ribisi-bryan-cranstonMarius has shared a cell with Pete Murphy (Ethan Embry) for the last three years, where Pete has regaled Marius with stories of his family ad nauseum. So when Marius is paroled and finds out the gangster (Bryan Cranston, still cashing in on the bad guy persona he developed on Breaking Bad) he stole $100,000 from is still after him, Marius simply takes on Pete’s identity and goes to hang out with the extended family, his “grandparents” Otto and Audry Bernhardt and his “cousins” Julia, Taylor, and Carly Bowman. Pete was estranged from his family as his mother had run away with him as a young boy, and Marius is able to take advantage of this because they simply don’t know what Pete would look like as a grown adult.

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Otto and Audry run a bail bonds business, which gives Marius some cover as they have money in a safe as collateral just in case one of their clients skips bail and they’re forced to cover the rest of the bond. They ask Marius to stay on as a skiptracer. He agrees to because he has hatched a plan to get at their money to hopefully repay the gangster. As they invariably do, things start going sideways right from the start, and Marius’ actual brother’s life is on the line while other family drama threatens to derail everything.

Watching as Marius works his cons, both long and short, on friend and foe alike is unsettling because he seems so good at it. We learn along the way that he has a whole crew of various niche skills, as all conmen seem to in tv shows (*cough* Leverage, one of my guilty pleasures) and movies, which he can put together to pull off elaborate schemes. This is reminiscent of Ocean’s Eleven,[1] but in the Ocean’s movies the viewer never really sympathizes with the victims. Where Sneaky Pete hits the mark for me is where it doesn’t shy away from demonstrating exactly how deceitful Marius can be. And although the family he is crashing with has their own baggage and gets in trouble on their own, you can’t help but feel sorry for the way Marius plays them for his own ends.

I won’t spoil anything more as the show only recently released its second season on Amazon Prime earlier this year. What I will say is the performances from Giovanni Ribisi and Margo Martindale[2] are the highlights for me. All the acting is in the show top notch, as should be expected, but these two stand out.

If you have Amazon Prime and you like pulp driven crime drama, you’d be remiss if you didn’t watch this show.


[1] Releasing this weekend is an all-woman reboot Ocean’s Eight, but so far it’s been getting mixed reviews, including from a personal friend and professional film critic.

[2] Martindale was also in Justified, about which we’ve already written, playing the matriarch of the Bennett clan, the main antagonists of Justified‘s second season, and Ribisi is (or should be) a household name who acted in everything from My Two Dads, The Wonder Years, and Friends to Gone in 60 Seconds, Ted, and James Cameron’s Avatar.

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So You Got Rejected by Broadswords and Blasters

I know, there’s probably ten or so of you that are absolutely devastated that this isn’t a pulp appeal article where Cameron or I talk about some pulp (or pulp adjacent property). Instead, this is going to be about our last submission period, and some of what we saw. So this is for the writers in the audience, which, going by our Twitter and Facebook feeds is, well, most of you[1].

The Guidelines Are There For a Reason (Part I)

We have guidelines on our website. They detail, in what we hope is clear and concise language, what we are looking for. They can be broken down in two parts. The first is the genres we are looking for:

  • sword and sorcery;
  • westerns (Weird or otherwise);
  • horror (Cosmic, Southern Gothic, visceral, and psychological);
  • detective tales;
  • two-fisted action;
  • retro science fiction

If you can squint real hard and fit your story into one of those buckets, yeah, we’ll read it and give it due consideration. Mash-ups of the above are also great[2]. Here’s what we see too much of:

  1. Epic or high fantasy.
  2. Fantasy that is a reskin of a Dungeons and Dragons game.
  3. Engineering science-fiction where the hero can solve the problem with a calculator and wrench[3].
  4. Stories where talking about the problem somehow solves the problem.
  5. Slice of life stories that would fit better in a literary magazine. No speculative gloss at all which made both editors scratch their heads and ask “Why did they send this to us?”
  6. Urban fantasy.
  7. Allegories (religious or otherwise) where a solid chunk of the story relies on telling some sort of moral.

Continue reading

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