Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Love of Craft: An Appreciation of Cirsova #5

New Pulp has no flagship. No Admiral on Earth could keep these particular frigates from sailing joyously off in whatever direction they please. But…if New Pulp DID have a flagship, it would probably be Cirsova. Under P. Alexander’s leadership, the magazine has acquired a wide enough following to lock down a Hugo nomination, and will soon publish its seventh issue. 

Issue #5 is seen by many as a particular bright spot for Cirsova, with stories nominated for both the Planetary and Ursa Major awards.  Recognizing the opportunity to achieve a wider readership, the editors elected to make the issue free via Amazon for a week.  I like New Pulp, for the most part.  I like free things even more. I jumped at the chance.

Cirsova #5 is divided more or less evenly between standard tales of pulp adventure and a thematically linked series of stories from Misha Burnett’s “Eldritch Earth” universe.  The editor describes the concept as a sort of Lovecraft-Burroughs fusion:  the setting is the Earth during the Triassic era, at the tail end of its occupation by squamous alien entities who have not yet retreated to their slumber beneath the glaciers. The Great Race are still hanging around their back porches, where they shake their pseudopods irascibly at the kids in their yards, while various subject races of their creation squabble for control of the primordial world. One of those subject races is humanity, and it’s on that basis that the writers seek to wed the “sword and planet” heroic fiction concept to the Lovecraftian milieu.

I struggle with this idea, and Mr. Alexander’s own notes at the outset of the issue anticipate my objection:

“I have found cause for gripe about a lot of fiction that’s labelled ‘Lovecraftian’—the biggest being that it is not particularly Lovecraftian at all. To a large extent, ‘Lovecraftian’ falls into the same rut as Steampunk, only instead of gluing gears to everything, it’s tentacles.”

This begs the question:  what IS Lovecraftian fiction?  For me, the defining characteristic is a cosmic horror born of the sudden realization that humanity is not, in fact, at the top of the food chain; indeed, that from a universal perspective, we’re not even insects.  Lovecraft posits that entities exist whose motives are not exactly malevolent, but so far beyond our understanding that to even encounter them is a sanity-shattering experience.

Bluntly, I don’t know that this leaves much room for the heroic.  I don’t think Lovecraft’s stories would have been improved if Randolph Carter had been handed an SMG and he’d started mowing down shoggoths.  New Pulp is a celebration of human ability and potential.  Lovecraft’s message is “your abilities are irrelevant in a cosmic context, and you are potentially something’s dinner.”  I don’t think, in short, that heroic fiction can be made Lovecraftian by gluing some tentacles to it.

All the stories of Cirsova #5 are well-written on a line-by-line level, but there are times when the conceptual tensions show. The stories work least well when they try to transplant Robert E. Howard to the Triassic, with brawny iron-age heroes mowing down scads of enemy henchmen and advancing towards boss fights.  Additionally, the whole Eldritch Earth concept is still in an early stage developmentally, and as with other such experiments (notably Baen’s Grantville) there are times when the authors involved seem to be proceeding from fundamentally incompatible concepts of how the story’s world works.  I can just about buy that humanity was designed as a slave race by Mind Flayers, but what’s up with all these other late-Pleistocene mammals popping up all over the place?  The horses?  The dogs?  The tapirs?  Or even Cretaceous critters such as birds, for that matter?  These aren’t story-killers, but they’re anti-atmospheric and destructive of reader immersion, and the Eldritch Earth stories will become more fun for readers once the authorial community leaves the tropes of iron-age Earth behind.

Now, all that aside, there is some damned good stuff in here.  In fact, in spite of my conceptual misgivings, the Eldritch Earth stuff is as a whole the better half of the issue.  Three stories in particular stood out to me.  My favorite is actually not one of the two award nominees; rather, I’d opt for the Eldritch Earth creator’s own contribution, IN THE GLOAMING O MY DARLING by Misha Burnett. Burnett’s tale is, for me, the most Lovecraftian of the bunch, in the sense that it places its two young protagonists in a helpless position at the mercy of alien enemies with inhuman agendas. The pathos of their situation is well-conveyed; both characters pop as individual personalities and earn the audience’s rooting interest. In addition to being a skilled crafter of characters, Burnett shows a willingness to abandon the conventions of heroic fantasy when doing so serves the story.

Schuyler Hernstrom decidedly does not abandon the conventions of heroic fantasy. But why the hell would we want him to? Some people are just right for their role, and Hernstrom is unmistakably right as an author of New Pulp.  The Planetary Award-nominated THE FIRST AMERICAN is a story born of a genuinely brilliant twist on the Eldritch Earth formula, the nature of which is foreshadowed in the title. Unmistakably Barsoomian in its approach, the story is action-focused in the extreme, the plot not so much advanced in stages as shot out of a cannon.  And only a fool would wish it to be otherwise. In the passages above, I’ve been dismissive of the “slaughter henchmen en route to the boss” formula, but damnit, we NEED that sort of story sometimes, and there’s a huge difference between seeing that sort of story done well and seeing it done badly.  Hernstrom does it so well that I worry he may have been born seventy years too late to find his audience. Hernstrom is potentially the paradigm-defining author of New Pulp.

I was also a big fan of S.H. Mansouri’s Ursa Major-nominated BEYOND THE GREAT DIVIDE, the title of which describes the author’s daring decision to adopt the perspective of the insectile Slagborn, one of humanity’s rival races.  Looking at humanity through segmented eyes, Mansouri successfully conveys a very Lovecraftian sense of human fragility and impossible odds, but succeeds nonetheless in conveying a sense of hope. In particular I respect Mansouri’s judgment in rejecting the obvious authorial decisions—rather than going with the “hive mind” concept, he adopts a more interesting perspective that fuses individual identity with collective reasoning, and rather than rejecting emotional influences on his perspective characters, he permits them to be influenced by them in insidious ways, with full awareness, as if anger were a drug.

Cirsova #5 is, above all else, a reminder of what wonderful days these are to be an author and a reader. Even five years ago, these authors would have been scrambling to shape their unique visions to a corporate audience, and those who enjoy their work would have been subsisting on inferior scraps from other sources. Technology truly has proven liberating for both creators and their audiences. Here’s hoping that Cirsova’s still around to scratch its readers pulp itch for a long, long time.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Sneetches of Sexuality

"The Book That Turned Me Gay," a story which could well prove career-ending for me, is up at The Overcast.  Podcaster JS Arquin absolutely crushes the narration, providing wonderful character distinction and a narrative spirit entirely faithful to my vision of the story.  There's also an audio postscript to the story, narrated directly by me, which 1. explains why I wrote it, and 2. demonstrates that I really, really need to buy a new mic.

In that postscript, I reference the situation at the library at the school which employs me.  The real world version of the story has no villains, and certainly no counterpart to Weston Munsch.  The school library--er, the "learning commons"--is in capable hands, and everybody involved, from administration on down, is operating from understandable motives.  But I make no apologies for being bothered by it.  I'll always push back against the sentiment that a high school can be made a better place by having fewer books around.  God bless librarians, Little Free and otherwise.

A secondary theme of the piece, which I don't discuss in my postscript, is the fundamental futility of wondering why people develop same sex attraction.  There's a bizarre maze of arguments and agendas wrapped up in the question.  Progressives who believe in virtually no prenatal component to cognition, who would be desperately offended by the assertion that other aspects of character or ability are largely determined in the womb, suddenly assert that non-traditional sexual orientations are ENTIRELY prenatal--that kids are "born this way" and that environment plays no part at all.  Meanwhile, conservatives who believe that government is utterly incapable in every other area of human life suddenly convince themselves that government affirmation is the key to civic virtue, and moreover, that gay kids can be trained like dogs.  These intellectual contortions are amusing.  The problem is the idea that it's necessary to make these arguments in order to justify or dejustify homosexual orientation or behavior.

But it isn't necessary.  The question of where sexual attraction comes from is immaterial.  Nobody else has the right to tell you who to love.  This is equally true in a world in which nature makes people gay, in which God makes people gay, in which people become gay because it's fashionable, or in which aliens are creating homosexuals as a labor force to build landing strips outside Des Moines.  The question "why are people this way" blinds us to the more important question of "what should we do," the answer to which is, "treat people with respect regardless of how they use their genitals."  We make it more complicated than it ought to be.

The other question which readers will ask is:  who the hell am I, a straight white guy, to write about gay kids?  The short answer to which is: a human with an interest in the welfare of other humans, which is all the qualification I need.

A somewhat longer answer:  I'm a believer in imaginative empathy.  I believe that fiction can help us to appreciate the humanity of people who may not be exactly like us in terms of ethnicity, income level, or sexual orientation. I recognize that representations of experiences that aren't are own are likely to be imperfect, but I don't think that's a good reason not to write.  If our identities are defined intersectionally, then NOBODY'S experience is like our own, and memoir becomes the only legitimate form of creative expression.  The fear of imperfect representation is valuable if it causes us to try to write more accurately, but poisonous if it keeps us from writing at all.

For this reason, I choose to take risks.  I imagine life from the perspective of people who aren't me--women, LGBTQ individuals, Congolese child soldiers.  I research as thoroughly as possible and check my work, when I can, with people whose lived experiences are similar to those of my characters.  And then I turn the work loose, and subject it, and myself, to judgment.

This week I re-read A Wrinkle in Time in anticipation of the movie.  I was struck, as I did so, at the utter fearlessness of Madeleine L'Engle.  She opens the book with "It was a dark and stormy night."--the exact line Charles Schultz has Snoopy use when he's up on his doghouse being a hack writer.  L'Engle's characters are colorful in ways which other writers wouldn't dare, sometimes successfully (Charles Wallace and Meg) and sometimes less so (has any human being in history ever spoken the way Calvin O'Keefe does in this book?).  She ladles the Christianity and the techno-magic on in heaping helpings, and dares the reader to disbelieve.

I'm no Madeleine L'Engle.  I can't match her writing chops or purity of spirit.  But I can try to be more like her.  I can choose to write without shame, and to set aside my fear of judgment in order to tell my stories. 

And I do so choose.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Giving you the Finger

Greetings, readers of The Arcanist.  I promise that, despite that story, I'm not a horrible person (or a horrible anything else).  Plenty of more cheerful stories are linked in the banner at right.  And I've got another one on the market that has an adorable baby goat in it, so there's that.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Let's Talk About Six, Bay-bee.

I began writing short fiction in 2015.  In my first two years polishing my craft, I sold two short stories total.  In the ten weeks since Thanksgiving, I have sold six short stories.  Either I’m getting better at this or the literary world’s standards are collapsing.

A brief summary of the work I’ll be hyping in the months ahead:

“BEEN THERE, DONE THAT:”  This story began as an attempt to rewrite Atlas Shrugged as a high school romance, took a detour through a Bill Murray movie, and wound up as…well, as whatever the hell it is.  Already released in print form by The Colored Lens, the free online version will be out any day now.

“FINGER:”  Horrible people doing horrible things to people to determine whether those other people are people.  Coming in March from The Arcanist.

“THE BOOK THAT TURNED ME GAY.”  A tribute to libraries and librarians.  Presented in podcast form, featuring shifting narration by seven characters, all portrayed by The Overcast's fearless narrator, J.S. Arquin.

“ALL THAT GLITTERS.”  A desperate thief invades a dragon’s lair to discover an even deadlier enemy within.  A July release from Bards and Sages Quarterly.

 “MAGIC BEANS.”  Evil bioscientist battles flatulent pixies for control of a world-altering crop.  Coming this fall from Outposts of Beyond.

“APPROPRIATE.”  A school goes the extra mile to ensure that its students resist the lure of cultural appropriation.  Soon to appear in The Centropic Oracle.

And, in addition to these recent sales, an older sale which will hit the shelves soon:  “THE PRINCESS AND THE P.”  The heiress to a magical monarchy discovers that controlling problematic language can be…well…problematic.  In the midsummer release Perilous Princesses, from one of my first and favorite partners in publishing, CBAY Books.

Needless to say, it’s been a successful couple of months.  Looking forward to sharing these with you.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Leroy Jenkins of American Liberty

In a world without Benedict Arnold, the United States as we know it would not exist.

The critical event that preserved the American Revolution was French intervention.  The French intervened as a result of the colonial army’s crucial victory at Saratoga.  And the colonial army, under the command of the overcautious general Horatio Gates, who never left his tent during the fighting, should at best have fought the battle to a draw.  But at a critical moment, General Benedict Arnold—who had been relieved of his command by Gates and who was very possibly drunk at the time—came storming out onto the field in defiance of his commander’s orders, and led an entirely unauthorized assault on the British right that broke their lines and sent them scurrying off the field, leading ultimately to the surrender of General John Burgoyne’s entire invasion force. 

Leading his troops from the front, Arnold had his left leg shattered by grapeshot and then crushed under a falling horse; subsequent medical butchery left it two inches shorter than his right leg, leaving him in agony for the rest of his life.  Had he been shot in the head instead of the leg, Arnold’s face might today adorn our currency.  Instead, to his great misfortune, he survived.

The story of Benedict Arnold has long fascinated me; it reads less like the tale of a founding father and more like that of a loose-cannon cop in a bad action movie.  He attempted to join the colonial militia at the age of fourteen, motivated by the sound of a regimental drum and an overwhelming desire to kill Frenchmen.  A successful businessman who enriched himself via Caribbean trade, he unaccountably insisted on captaining his own trading vessel and wound up fighting duels with random people he insulted on his journeys.  As a smuggler in the days of the Stamp Act, he was considered to be so headstrong and violent that the Sons of Liberty were forced to throw up their hands and back away slowly.  His Revolutionary War service consisted essentially of a list of ill-planned attacks on heavily fortified targets, some of which, such as Fort Ticonderoga, wound up being caught with their pants down and surrendering—it simply had not occurred to them that anybody would even consider attacking them.  As often as not, Arnold's commanding officers were as surprised to learn of his victories as his enemies were; his general method seems to have been to spot a target, spend a couple of hours rounding up the most psychotic set of volunteers he could find, and race towards it screaming with bayonets fixed.

For some unaccountable reason, people in positions of authority found Benedict Arnold difficult to get along with.  Beloved by his men and subordinates, he was nonetheless passed over repeatedly for command assignments, denied credit for important accomplishments, and besieged by creditors for debts he accumulated in the army’s service.  Had he been a wiser man, a man less consumed by self-serving and manichean concepts of right and wrong, he would have sought some form of accommodation.  But had he been a wiser man, he would not have been Benedict Arnold.  So he made one last headfirst plunge, this one into outright treason, and wound up spending the remainder of his life in exile, excoriated by the nation in whose service he had crippled himself.


My young adult novel Axis of Eternity (available for free; the chapters are posted in one of the menus on the right side of the page) places Benedict Arnold in command of a community on a post-mortal planet inspired by Phillip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld.  This version of Benedict Arnold is formal, disciplined, and consumed with shame for his earthly misdeeds.  It’s not a very historically accurate version of the character.  It doesn’t quite work, but that’s okay, because based on the 130+ rejections the book accumulated from agents and publishers, the novel doesn’t work either.

It occurred to me, as I observed the growing popularity of the New Pulp movement, that Benedict Arnold deserved a more accurate literary portrayal—one which treats him as the man of action and skilled soldier he was, and which also acknowledges the crippling lack of foresight and addiction to outrage that would up undoing him.  “Monsters in Heaven,” available in Issue Four of Broadswords and Blasters, returns to the world of Elysium as portrayed in Axis of Eternity—a world in which free-floating souls rebuild their earthly bodies, seeking a second shot at life beneath an alien sky.  It’s a world full of historical personages, both famous and unknown, to make allies and enemies of.  And for those who got it wrong the first time, it's a world that offers a shot at redemption.

I enjoyed writing "Monsters in Heaven", but in retrospect I'm not sure that it fully works as a stand-alone story—it’s too clearly a fragment of a larger narrative, one unusually dramatic snapshot in the afterlife of a man with a tendency to create drama for himself and everyone around him.  Maybe one day I’ll choose to return and tell more of Benedict Arnold's story.  If not, I take some comfort in the fact that I’m sending him off as the man he was, not as the man Axis made him out to be.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Weird and Wonderful: an appreciation of Broadswords and Blasters

In a couple of months, I’ll have a story published in the pulp periodical Broadswords and Blasters.

“Pulp” is a writing form that had its heyday in the early-to-mid 20th century and which is experiencing a contemporary revival at the semipro level.  While there’s a general agreement that pulp stories are action-focused and a shared appreciation for the classics of the genre, there’s no one fixed definition of what the term entails, and markets such as CirsovaStoryHack, and Broadswords and Blasters exhibit marked contrasts in their overall feel.  Whereas the former two periodicals seem to work primarily with authors who identify as members of the #PulpRev movement*, B&B editors Matthew X. Gomez and Cameron Mount have used social media to make clear that they don’t wish to be confined by any particular label.  Instead, they identify as a “pulp magazine with modern sensibilities”.

Some have implied that this is an implicit criticism of the undertones of classic pulp and therefore constitutes “pulp shaming”.  I think I agree with the former assessment and disagree with the latter.  Gomez and Mount, as far as I can tell, affirm the quality of even controversial classic pulp, such as the stories of Lovecraft.  They do not, however, accept the premise that all of the subtext of those stories--such as Lovecraft's racism--is necessarily intrinsic to the greatness of the work.  Indeed, there’s a certain irony in this criticism:  Gomez and Mount’s definition of pulp is meaningfully broader than that of editors who call for “stories with heart” or who expect story outcomes to be “superversive” in their affirmation of modern concepts of virtue.  This frees up B&B to greenlight darker material that might be rejected by other markets--see, for instance, Sara Cordair’s “Soul Plantation” in issue two, or C.R. Langille’s explicitly Lovecraftian homage “The Deep Well”.

Some readers within the new pulp community won’t find B&B’s horror-pulp stories to their tastes.  There’s nothing wrong with that; more markets means more satisfied readers.  I myself enjoy both takes on the subgenre, and I find that the Gomez/Mount approach has one intrinsic advantage over the narrower formulations of pulp:  as a reader, I’m less able to guess how the story is going to end.  What’s most important to me as a reader is that the editors and authors of B&B honor the most important principle of new pulp:  the purpose of the story is to entertain the readers, not to lecture them.

I had the opportunity to review B&B #2 and B&B #3, and found them both to be worth my time.  My overall impression is that the earlier issue lacked some of the self-assurance of the later one, which is understandable in that any new periodical will take some time to find its feet and shape its identity.

Cover design is a bit of an issue for me.  Cover artist Luke Spooner is certainly gifted.  His style is very busy, which isn’t a problem in and of itself—but coupled with the editors’ decision to include big blocks of text, the information density is a bit much to grapple with:

This is an even larger problem when the covers appear in thumbnail form in electronic formats.  The masthead attempts to use a font shift to convey an archaic/futuristic dichotomy, but it feels a little clunky to me.  If it were somehow possible to transfer about 25% of the filigree on the cover to the internal layout--not the actual content, but the general ornateness of the thing--I think I’d be happier with both.

Story concepts are a strength of both issues; the authors are an imaginative bunch.  In issue two, there’s an occasional contrast between the quality of the ideas and the execution of those ideas; the writers are mining diamonds but occasionally leaving them incompletely polished.  I'm not trying to sound superior when I say this; as a developing writer, I struggle with the same problem in my own work.

A standout exception is KAUAHOA VS. THE MU by PATRICK BAKER, a heroic tale set in Hawaii prior to European contact.  Baker has researched his setting out six ways from Sunday, and I don’t envy him the task; the spelling issues alone would kill a lesser writer.  He compliments his excellent world-building with a magic system unlike any I’ve encountered elsewhere.  There are people who argue that authors shouldn’t “appropriate” cultural milieus outside of their own; I am damned glad Baker ignored those people.

In issue three, Gomez and Mount announce in their editors’ notes that they have “a much better sense of the kind of stories [they’re] after,” and I agree with their assessment.  B&B takes on a much more distinctive identity with this issue, and let me tell you, folks, that identity is WEIRD.  Herein you will find tongueless cowboys with skinless faces, computer code laced with magic, and cities which morph into constantly shifting Rubik’s Cubes.

The general quality of the prose and storytelling feels a bit more polished than was the case in issue #2, and elements such as dialogue and story structure play a larger role in making the stories fully immersive.  My personal favorites included:

MOSS by WILL BERNARDARA JR.—the tale of a cursed pirate with apparent access to a thesaurus.  Bizarre, loquacious, utterly original.

COMPARTMENTS by JOHN WAYNE COMUNALE—Set in a city in which all outdoor areas have been entirely enclosed, this story metaphorically explores the walls we build against the people with whom we are forced to spend time, and eschews the happy-sappy take on that concept in favor of something a bit spicier.  Both character and concept-driven; the writer has a gift for juxtaposing realistic dialogue with surreal circumstances.

VALERO SERVES A HUNGRY GRAVE by COY HALL—a fairly standard western, but extraordinarily well-written and cunningly structured.

Broadswords and Blasters makes me glad to be a writer in this day and age, and even gladder to be a reader.  There’s a whole world of terrific imagination out there, and there’s never been more of it in print.  That a subgenre such as pulp could have so many different iterations, could cater to so many different tastes, is a tribute to the free market and to artistic inspiration in general.  I just hope I don’t let down the side when they put out my story in issue four…

*  (EDIT:  Cirsova disputes this categorization, as they discuss here.)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

No Hacks Herein: StoryHack Action and Adventure #1

I’ve written before of the nascent Pulp Revolution—of the authors who, operating under the aegis of #PulpRev, have sought to restore the glories of the pulp magazines of the first half of the twentieth century.  Their work eschews politics (for the most part) in favor of a primary focus on action, and in most cases affirms rather than subvert the traditional heroic narrative.  The protagonists are not flawless, but are generally admirable in their skills and motives, and by and large succeed against the odds.

One of the brighter emerging lights in this movement is Bryce Beattie's StoryHack Action and Adventure, in which I had the good fortune to be published earlier this year.  The magazine is back with another installment(confusingly designated as Issue #1), and it’s a solid effort all around, well worth the four-dollar Kindle price.

The layout and mechanics of the issue are consummately professional and almost completely free of errors, the inserts provide a persistent thread of chuckle-worthy humor, and the cover and story artwork contributes positively to the overall reader experience.

A magazine of this sort will, of course, rise or fall based on the quality of the writing.  As with the first issue, a number of the brighter lights of the new pulp community have turned up with new work, as well as several writers who are better known for work outside of that subgenre.  The diversity of the pulp movement is well-represented here, with work ranging from traditional detective fiction to steampunk superheroics to weird westerns.  Moreover, the issue gives the lie to pulp critics who claim that the movement is intended as a playground for white men; both the authors and the heroes they portray vary widely in culture, ethnicity, and gender.

This set of writers brings to bear many distinctive sets of specific skills and passions which influence their work.  Here is an obvious expert in the mythology of indigenous Canadians; over there is a writer who has carefully studied the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; over here’s somebody who just plain knows about guns.  I suspect that for this reason, every story will be somebody’s favorite.  As for me personally, I was especially fond of:

Frost, a standout in StoryHack Issue Zero, is back with another tale of werewolf private eye Ben Lockwood.  Frost’s take on lycanthropy is far more detailed and interesting than is the standard in paranormal fiction, as Lockwood doesn’t just take on fur and claws—he takes on a canine psyche as well, with the attendant focus on scents and dedication to/reliance upon his “pack”. 

This particular story starts out in the same gritty, noir vein as Frost’s previous story.  Then it takes an entirely unexpected turn into another genre altogether.  It’s best if I don’t reveal more about the plot than that.  Frost’s primary gifts, though, lie in prosecraft, and about those gifts there’s a GREAT DEAL to be said.  Her line-by-line writing is elite by any standard, and her ability to infuse her heroes with vulnerability is a particularly rare and valuable skill within a subgenre that tends to brim over with steely-eyed supermen.  For all the ornate mechanics of this story, Frost never loses sight of the man at its center—a PTSD survivor who’s taking it one day at a time, and who learns the value of self-care in a very literal way.

UNDER THE GUN by David J. West
A supernaturally-influenced western that follows immediately upon the events at the Little Bighorn, in which one of America’s most celebrated military villains gains a new lease on life in the form of a possessed firearm.   One of the primary merits of the new pulp movement is its heavy emphasis on action, and West understands better than some of the other authors in this issue the necessity of getting the action underway early.  The voices of the two primary characters are resonant, distinctive, and interesting, and the central conceit of the plot is compelling.  This is the most absorbing piece in the issue on a line-for-line basis, a genuine page-turner that will have readers eager to read more of West’s work.

An impeccably researched tale of the post-Battle-of-Britain standoff between the RAF and the Luftwaffe, full of language that soars in both the literal and figurative sense.  Adamson’s narrative voice, positioned here as a pilot’s memoir, rings with authenticity; in his hands, the technical language of the piece is engaging rather than confusing.  The sensory detail here—the thrum of the airplane engines, the feel of the sheepskin jacket—is impressively rich.  I found myself reminded of the aerial scenes in Dunkirk, and it seems to me that's a pretty good piece of art to be evoking.

Really, though, the narrative style is the star in this one.  Both in the opening half, where combat details alternate with the pilot’s internal narrative, and in the second half, where the protagonist finds himself at sea in an open boat, the writing is reminiscent of Stephen Crane in style and quality. 


All told, StoryHack Action and Adventure #1 is a fun read, a positive manifestation of the new Pulp movement, and well worth your time.