With a Bang: Issue 12 Release

Cover Image of Issue 12

Issue 12 will be the final issue of Broadswords and Blasters for the foreseeable future. Both editors are old enough to know that never is a really long time, so we aren’t permanently closing the door on it ever coming back, but we both acknowledged earlier this year that we were starting to get burnt out on the endeavor. We wanted to end while it was still fun and entertaining instead of trying to drive it down into dust. When will we be back? We can say with all honesty: We don’t know.

That said, we decided to go out in style with a tremendous double issue to celebrate three years of awesome New Pulp fiction. Because why go out with a whimper when you can go out with a bang?

J. Rohr returns to Broadswords and Blasters (he was last seen in issue 5) with “Riding the Rails,” a kick-ass Weird Western of dragons, veteran gunslingers, and redemption.

Veteran BS&B alum Richard Rubin (issues 4 and 7) brings us another two-fisted “Captain Saturn” story, this time going up against the Air Bandit of Mars, and DJ Tyrer’s Nyssa of Abanos is also back (having first appeared in issue 8) this time in “Journey to Mount Argaeas”. Tryer previously also had a story way back in Issue 4 with “The Sewers of Paris.”

Kristen Reid is new to us, but come with a great Civil War era horror story in “American Appetites,” while Jonathan Mast steers us into weird sci-fi with “Callahan and the Bomb Squid.”

No Broadswords issue would be complete without a few Westerns, and S. Gepp brings that with “No Stand.”

Ben Serna-Grey is no stranger to these pages (see issue 7), but “Smoke and Hamsters” is definitely the weirdest story we’ve had the pleasure to publish.

Keith Kennedy flips the magazine over to the dark side with the deliciously dark noir piece “The Drive Home” while E.G. Thompson follows a couple of soldiers in dragon ravaged post-apocalypse with “The DSD.”

“Crowbait” by T.L. Simpson takes a good hard look at the price of vengeance and where swallowing grief and moving on may be the best course of action.

It’s not often we’re sold on a story from the title, but “Shootout at Namaste Mart” nearly did that for one editor… and the story kept getting better from there.

“Spaceman and the Freakshow” by Roger H. Stone deals with a smartass thirteen year old girl, the autistic boy next door, and the friendship they forge.

Steve DuBois went ahead and sent us his weirdest story yet in “The Professionals” which is all about “magically-enhanced urban professionals escorting a Kennedy baby to the ruins of Dallas for inauguration as God-Emperor.”[1]

Our cover story is “Aces and Rogues” by Anthony Picket, a two-fisted space action tale complete with dog fights, hard choices, and moral dilemmas.

“Don’t Let the Law Hit Ya Where the Good Lord Split Ya” spilled off the keyboard of Russel W. Johnson and into our laps and left us with a big ol’ grin on our faces.

Kristen Brand’s “Starstruck” is a sci-fi tale of solar guardsmen, celebrity, mixed loyalties and duty.

“A Lone Man is No Warrior” by Scott Forbes Crawford’s traces the tale of a man out of place, finding purpose again when a mob boss attempts to murder a local woman.

Finally, we end the issue with Matt Spencer’s occult tale “The Radiant Abyss.” Spencer has been with us since day one, and we felt it apt to end much like we began.

As always, Luke Spooner of Carrion House created the gorgeous artwork for the cover.

As a final word, thank you. Thank you to the writers, the readers, the reviewers, to Luke for the covers, and to our friends and families for your support as we undertook this endeavor. We couldn’t have done this without you.

You can grab issue 12 at amazon in either digital or print.

[1] His words, not ours.

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Pulp Consumption: The Mandalorian

I’ve been a fan of Star Wars for as long as I can remember, but I’ve actually never been a fan of the Expanded Universe books and shows. Maybe it’s my character flaw, but nothing outside of the self-contained movie series has ever really captured my attention. I mean, I’ve read the Admiral Thrawn books and some of the New Jedi Order. The book Kenobi was decent enough, as have been some of the short story collections, but even those didn’t excite me the way the original trilogy did. People kept telling me to watch the CGI cartoons like Clone Wars and Rebels, but I can’t stand that kind of animation outside of video games. And, yes, I’ve played a lot of the games, but again they are sort of stored in a separate vault in my brain, alongside the tabletop RPG versions. They’re fun, but if they didn’t exist I don’t think I’d have a hole in my geekdom, whereas if Star Wars hadn’t been made there sure would be.

All that is to preface The Mandalorian, which is everything I wanted the EU to actually be. It keeps the tone of two-fisted pulp space-western from the original films and doesn’t crap on anything. The acting is superb, the CG is unobtrusive and blends pretty naturally, and the character development is justified and earned.

As if most of you readers don’t know…The Mandalorian traces the story of a bounty hunter after the Empire has fallen at the end of Return of the Jedi but before the New Order has arisen in The Force Awakens. The whole series starts off with the bounty hunter walking into a saloon, getting into a gun battle, and taking his bounty. It’s the clearest western influence seen in Star Wars since perhaps meeting Han Solo in the Mos Eisley Cantina, as later movies borrowed more heavily from Lucas’ Asian influences (I’m looking at you, prequels!) and the more recent Disney movies are trading much more heavily on Disney Princess storylines (orphaned castaways are secretly powerful Mary Sues) except in Disney Princess movies the writers are competent and actually justify the character development (I don’t think there’s any doubt how I feel about Rey’s character, is there?).

After that opening, the real meat of the series begins. The Mandalorian takes on a job, and is supposed to adhere to The Transporter rules (Never open the package), but circumstances interfere and eventually he has to choose between the bounty and doing what is right. Our hero does both. At this point the Western influence remains strong, but then the Japanese metaplot of Lone Wolf and Cub takes over for the rest of the first season.

I’m sure I can’t really spoil the series since most people here have probably watched it, but I’m still not going to say much more. Suffice to say I’m hooked in here. The Mandalorian is doing what the movies wish they could do – compelling, earned character development while honoring source and inspiration material, and somehow managing not to alienate huge sections of fandom in the process.

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Pulp Consumption: Storyhack #4

Storyhack continues to put out an extremely professional looking magazine, and issue 4 is no exception. Each story comes with an internal illustration, and the external artwork leaves no doubt as to what the magazine is about. It is highly recommend for people who want action-adventure in their stories, but are less concerned with stories fitting within a certain genre as editor Bryce Beattie tends to pull from all conventions… so long as there is action to be had.

StoryHack Action & Adventure, Issue Four by [Beattie, Bryce, Blaylock, Sidney, Hart, Spencer, Restrick, Jason, Barrows, Brandon, Burnett, Misha, Frost, Julie, Mollison, Jon, Olsen, John, Mincemeyer, Damascus]

HawkeMoon by Sidney Blaylock, Jr. A king has been assassinated, so the captain of the royal guard goes in search of the one master assassin who was responsible… only it turns out she wasn’t the one behind it. This story is memorable for its characters, but even more so for the ultimate villain of the piece, The Scarecrow King.” I wished the setting had been a bit more developed than it was, as it felt very much a cardboard backdrop against which the characters acted, as opposed to a fully developed world. I know, that’s a lot to ask for in a short story, but I still think the overall setting was too roughly sketched, and thus seemed fairly generic for my taste. This story is the cover story for the issue, and I can absolutely see why.

Island Rescue by Spencer E. Hart. A group of mercenaries invades the private island of a billionaire. It’s up to the son of a computer engineer, Frank, and the billionaire’s daughter, Denise, to stay safe and get help before their fathers are hurt or killed. Honestly, I had a hard time getting into this story, but the writer does keep the action moving at a steady clip. I did feel the romance aspect forced, especially since Denise is said to have lived an extremely sheltered life. While she ends up getting a bit more freedom at the end of the story than what she started with, the idea that she is somehow beholden to her rescuer didn’t sit quite right with me. I would have preferred it if there was more of her making a definitive choice as opposed to her picking the only real option available.

Beyond the Temple of Baktaar by Jason Restrick. An American soldier in the trenches of World War I is approached by an apparition of a old comrade thought lostin an expedition three years ago. The action moves between the current of the war and the journal entries of his comrade as the main character seeks him out. The story comes across more disjointed than I would like, and the style is archaic, making it a bit harder to get into and enjoy. I did appreciate the character of Sam Walters, as he is a throwback to the heroes of Robert Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs, but the way the story was told I didn’t ever feel as if I was on the sharp end of danger as much as I would have liked.

Wild Yellow by Brandon Barrows. A dying man in the desert frontier is rescued by a local lawman. Only it turns out there’s trouble in town as someone is stealing from the local silver mine. But can the hero overcome his own cowardice and rise to the occasion? A well told Western, and one that isn’t nearly so gritty or grim as the ones we tend to publish. The dd thing out was the local sheriff’s daughter pledging to marry the man who brought her brother’s killer to justice. Sure, she might have said that because she liked the looks of the main character, but it still seemed more the kind of thing you’d find a fantasy princess saying than in a Western period piece.

My Foe Outstretched by Misha Burnett. Two men in a future setting enter into a controlled arena… where only one can exit. While the action is tense, there is not a great sense of what led to the current action… except that one man felt that he was wronged by the other. The ending was a surprise, but made me think of the saying: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

Alpha Equation by Julie Frost. Werewolves in space. The youngest of the pack tries to escape his new over domineering alpha by escaping off world. There’s a good amount of action to this, and the development of the characters is well done, especially with how the main character eventually warms to and befriends his new “pack.” The sci-fi and fantasy tones feel a bit forced at times, especially since there’s no real explanation why moons other than the one around earth has any affect on werewolf cycles. I don’t say this often, but a bit more exposition wouldn’t have gone amiss.

The Bouncer’s Tale by Jon Mollison. Part three of an ongoing crime story, but instead of the parts being sequential, it is a Rashomon style story where each character in it gets to tell the story from their viewpoint. In this case, it is the bouncer who is dragged into the criminal world against his will and the choices he’s forced to make along the way. Well written, and with a good deal of action, but I can’t help but feel if some of the tension is taken out since the basics of the story don’t change much from view to view.

Retirement Plan by John M. Olsen. A military veteran settles on a backwoods planet and plans to enjoy his twilight years in idyllic rest. Unfortunately, a band of outlaws show up which ruins that plan. The science-fiction aspect is well done with detail paid to how the tech works, but more importantly the character of Brad Smith feels well-developed, helped along by the first person narration.

The Spirit of St. George by Damascus Mincemeyer. Flying aces against dragons in the Rocky Mountains. This was easily the best story in the collection and the one I most enjoyed, complete with cultists, intrigue, and high-flying action. The nods to actual historic events and figures was a nice tough and showed the writer put quite a bit of care into the story.

Storyhack 4 is available in print and kindle at Amazon.

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Pulp Consumption: Almuric by Robert E. Howard (Guest Post by Anthony Perconti)

Editors’ Note: Anthony Perconti lives and works in the hinterlands of New Jersey with his wife and kids. He enjoys well-crafted and engaging stories across a variety of genres and mediums.  His articles have appeared in several online venues and can be found on Twitter at @AnthonyPerconti.

Robert E. Howard’s novella Almuric[1] was his first and only foray into the ‘sword and planet’ subgenre of science fiction. Published posthumously in the pages of Weird Tales in 1939, Almuric recounts the trials and tribulations of Texan Esau Cairn on the savage planet of the story’s title. Howard presents a character, born in the wrong era, who is an out and out bruiser; a man so strong and physically imposing that he must always keep his strength in check. While on the run from the law for the accidental killing of the crooked political boss Blaine, he encounters one Professor Hildebrand, the inventor of a teleportation device (with the wonderfully pulpy name, the ‘Great Secret’). In dire straits, Cairn agrees to be the test subject of this device and is transmitted (presumably) light years from Earth.

Upon his arrival on this savage planet, Cairn is freed from the fetters of the modern era. He is able to test his mettle against an inimical wilderness and the various cultures of this world. In this new environment, Cairn is able to cut loose from the societal restraints of the 20th Century and utilize his full strength for the first time in his life. As he fights for survival against the wild animals and the hominids that he encounters, Cairn goes through a crucible process, coming out the other side as a tougher, more resilient individual. “Yet, I gave a good account of myself. Ears split, noses crumpled and teeth splintered under the crushing impact of my iron hard fists and the yells of the wounded were music to my battered ears.” He eventually is adopted into the hominid culture of the Guras, where he is considered an equal member of the tribe and given the appellation ‘Ironhand’[2].

Howard crafted a tale very much in the Burroughs mold, in which those familiar John Carter story beats are front and center. Cairn even falls in love with his own version of Dejah Thoris, the beautiful tribal maiden Altha and wins her hand in the process. The antagonists of the piece are the Yagas, a decadent, bat winged species that prey on the Guras. Ironhand wages war against these winged reavers, runs afoul of their queen Yasmeena and the piece de resistance, battles a gigantic electric slug (no, really). Almuric is not exemplary when held against Howard’s greater body of work. It is quite formulaic, faithfully following Burroughs’ Barsoom recipe. So why read this you ask? The main strength of Almuric lies not in its originality, but rather in Howard’s lean and mean, muscular prose. “He was primitive in his passions, with a gusty temper and a courage inferior to none on this planet….Born in the Southwest, of old frontier stock, he came of a race whose characteristics were inclined toward violence, and whose traditions were of war and feud and battle against man and nature.” Unlike John Carter, there is no pompous, self aggrandizing, genteel posturing with Esau Cairn. The man knows exactly what he is and makes no qualms about it. He is a straight up head smasher, who thrills in the simple kill or be killed ethos of his adopted world. I’m of the opinion that Esau Cairn has more in common with that other Burroughs character, Tarzan, than he does with that gentleman form Virginia. Like Lord Greystoke, Cairn has an unhampered view of the natural cycle in which, an individual is either a predator or prey; he is perfectly at home surviving and thriving in the wilderness for an indefinite period. With Almuric, Robert E. Howard formed a thrilling piece of (sword and planet) pulp fiction in the tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs. What it lacks in originality, this story certainly makes up for it in cheap thrills.

[1] Dark Horse Comics collected and published the Marvel Comics, Epic Illustrated adaptation of Almuric in the early 1990’s. With REH alum, Roy Thomas on scripting duties and superstar illustrator Tim Conrad on art, this superbly rendered graphic novel goes for a pretty penny (if you can find a copy).

[2] In 1991, Dark Horse Comics published Ironhand of Almuric, a sequel to the adventures of Esau Cairn, written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Mark Winchell. I wrote a detailed review of this miniseries back in 2018. If interested, you can find it here: https://dmrbooks.com/test-blog/2018/10/9/ironhand-of-almuric-a-review

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Issue 12 Cover Reveal

Early on we were so excited about the cover art we had blog posts that were just cover reveals. We never lost the enthusiasm for the cover art, but somewhere along the way we just forgot to highlight it on its own. Well, let’s rectify that with the end of our third year of production, Issue 12. As always, Luke Spooner/Carrion House has knocked it right out of the park. This cover illustrates a scene from Anthony Pinkett’s “Aces and Rogues.” Issue 12 is scheduled for release around January 15th. Stay tuned for Kindle preorder information.

Cover of Issue 12, shows two starfighters roaring in from the top left.

Make sure you save a few dollars/pounds/yen/shekels/euros/etc from your holiday shopping. You’ll definitely want to get your hands on this beefy boy. You are reading that cover right: there are 18 authors listed, meaning this is indeed a double issue! Yes, we may be biased, but as a standalone issue, this really may be our best one yet. There should be something in here for everyone. Just look at this cover!

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