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Review of HFQ Issue 16

How do we rock?  Hard!   Bringing non-European fantasy settings and pro-orc stories to the masses!  http://swordssorcery.blogspot.com/

Review of HFQ 15

Not a lot of action on the HFQ livejournal over the last few weeks.  However, I thought I'd pass along that we got a great review from Keith West at Adventures Fantastic Blogspot- http://adventuresfantastic.blogspot.com/2013/02/heroic-fantasy-quarterly-sets-high-bar.html


HFQ issue 15 Posted!

Well, it was posted a day or so ago, but let the word go out!  What do we have to offer?  Awesome!

Fiction Contents

Dusts of War, by Ben Godby
Get your new year started with the kind of moral ambiguity that only this tale of sorcery noir can deliver!

Shadows and Hellfire, by R. Michael Burns
The warrior Hokage and his cursed blade are back for a descent into the afterlife that will try the iron of both!

Kingdom of Graves, by David Charlton
Last but far from least, fantasy newcomer Charlton delivers some solid S&S half-orc action! A mysterious plague means extra coin in the pouch for Rakhar, but in perilous times even a gravedigger can rise to the level of hero.

Poetry Contents

Yashub-Geb, by James Hutchings
What’s the saying — better to burn out than fade away? In this piece, HFQ may have just discovered a new favorite dragon.

The Bull of Conflict, by Lorna Smithers
A warrior’s wisdom survives the ages to counsel us today.

The Hobbit- A review

Seasons Greetings from HFQ! Issue 15 is a scant ten days away, eager to be let loose upon the world!

Went to see The Hobbit earlier in the week. Awesome, as expected! One could quibble with changes from the book(s), but honestly, at this point I've come to realize that when I walk into that theater Peter Jackson is the BOSS of me, so I won't spit into that wind.

It is a movie that, much like ...the book it is based on, straddles the line between kinda-silly, and kinda terrifying. Bilbo's world is full of creatures that want to eat him, but first they want to talk to him- about eating him!

Okay, one quibble that I'll delve into here.- and it's a holdover quibble from LoTR movies. I really wanted the orcs/goblins to have some teeth, you kow? In the books, even when Gimli and Legolas are killing dozens of them, each orc/goblin/Urik Hai, is still potentially deadly, but in the movies? Eh.... just filling up space. And THAT gives the whole movie(s) a video-gamish feel, fighting orcs is just so much button-mashing until you get to the level-boss of the troll or the nazgul or what-have-you. Could have been better!

So, my big complaint on the Hobbit is that I'd have rather had one exciting fight scene with the goblins than the long chase scene. In fact, we got 13 dwarves, wold it kill Peter Jackson to break an arm or two? Just show 'em bandaged up or something... walking with a limp even.

Oh!  And it just occured to me that they should totally have had Vin Diesel playing Azog the goblin.  Box Office GOLD!

Wizards, Sarumon, and a re-print

Back in 2011 I got an essay posted about the wizards in Lord of the Rings at Rogue Blades.  Mostly it had to do with Sarumon and what makes him tick.  Tick so eeeeevily.  Anyway, the rights reverted back to me and with the new Hobbit movie coming out soon I thought I'd fish around and see if anyone wanted to run it, and Black Gate did.  So, wizards.

Belated movie review: BRAVE

Went to see BRAVE at the dollar theater last night- a movie that hits pretty much all the heroic-fantasy high-points. I thought it was quite good and recommend it to those who haven't seen it. I'll also be talking about some spoilers, so if you haven't seen it keep that in mind.

I think that, unlike a lot of other movies in the sub-genre, the main action wasn't so ...
much against a "bad guy" as a "bad situation". Something pretty rare in movies of this ilk. Yes, there was a kind -of-villain (Mordru? Morgu?), but he was more like the big snake in the pit as opposed to Thusla Doom (to throw in a 1980s Conan reference). Actually, you could almost say Mordru was well-nigh a force of nature and/or a powerful statement on man's inhumanity to man.

Of course, 'Brave' isn't 'Conan', it's a kid's movie, so you've got to keep that in mind. It is also rare in that instead of dad-issues it's about mom-issues (although 'Mirrormask' and 'Corraline' did tread that path), and a nod to some general resonsibilites of being a grown-up.

One of the most interesting bits for me had to do with the fact that going in, I had no idea what the movie was about. Red-head princess with a bow... something something...monster inthe woods...something something. Her mom getting turned into a bear ? No idea. That was a nice switch from all the movie previews that give away every aspect of the move. If it had been a little more standard, if Mordru had kidnapped the triplets or something and she had to go tet them, I think we would have gotten that in the prviews. But explaining that someeone gets turned into a bear? And that Mordru isn't really the leader of any invading horde or anything? Much more complicated.

I also wonder if they are going to make an sequels? After all, it was a lot of work to put in the history of the kindom(s), and the mention of the northmen, and Meridiah and the three princes, and whatever bits of the old kingdom may be floating about.

It's a trap!

Been doing a little reading in the sword-and-planet sub-genre.  I'll go ahead and name names:  The Grey Prince by Jack Vance, and Earth in Twilight by Doris Peirschia.

I'll also go ahead and give a little backstory.  I picked up both of these books from a used bookstore near my house; they are the yellow-spine DAW books from 1978 and 1981, respectively. 

To be blunt, both of these books are mediocre. 

More! More! More!Collapse )

FenCon schedule!

HFQ will be at FenCon in Dallas next week.  What's the schedule?  Glad you asked:

Saturday  11:00 AM  - 12:00 PM  Live Oak    
Artistic License to Kill   

Description: Our panelists discuss creative and inventive ways to bump off characters in their stories. 

C. Clamp , B. Kemper , J. Mandala , K.Hutson Price , A. Simmons , S. Wedel 


Saturday  12:30 PM  - 1:00 PM  Pecan    


A. Simmons 

Manifest and Notes:

Sunday  11:00 AM  - 12:00 PM  Pin Oak    
Alchemy & Algorithms   

Description: More and more, authors are creating strict rules for how magic works in their stories. Are these rules turning Fantasy into Science Fiction-lite? 

Authors who have created original, effective magic systems explain how their choices shaped their stories, along with what they like and dislike about other systems they've seen in books, movies and games.

A. de Orive , L. Donahue , J. Fancher , A. Simmons , J. Mandala 

More of the HPL

Holy smokes! Has it really been almost a month since I posted the first part of this? Ah well, busy. Busy culling the vast numbers of submissions at HFQ to bring you the crème de la crème of heroic fantasy fiction! And Lovecraft is getting talked about all over fandom right now (for good or bad).

To continue:

At the Mountains of Madness
I think this is one of his best. It starts off, honestly, fairly dull, and there are delicious hints that "this is what I said in my report, but that isn't really what happened", and as it gets further and further into the realm of weird and fantastic it gets better and better. The great trick that I think he really pulls off in that story is that the Elder Race is presented as alien and horrible and then gradually as sympathetic. They have their troubles (sweet fancy Moses, how would you like to have been the immortal plant-man on the committee to hammer out a treaty with Cthulhu?). And the inevitable decline of their society is powerfully affecting. But then there is that odd glimmer of hope- there are a few left after all (they, uh, killed and ate our dogs and friends, but again, omelets, eggs) but then he takes that away with the shoggoth at the end. Heartbreaking!

It is a similar trick that JRR Tolkien pulls in "Two Towers" when Shagrat and Gorbag come across as being just Average Joes-- dogfaces in a war that nobody really wants. But then their true nature, that Shaggrat can't believe that they really won't torture Frodo horribly just because, at that moment the sympathy is taken away, they are damaged beyond hope. Kinda stings.

I think this story has some weak spots toward the end, though. He has that whole "something even worse" is beyond the next range of mountains, and his lack of description of it comes across as kind of lazy, not really suspenseful. Honestly, he had me at the shambling decrepit shoggoth society. And then having Danforth just recite names of HPL stories? Weak.

Shadow Over Innsmouth

Man... talk about telling! That's pretty much all this story is. The guy at the train station tells about Innsmouth, the drunk old man tells about Innsmouth's history, the narrator doesn't want to believe it, can't believe it. Aaand it's all true.

You know, it's kind of odd that given HPL's real-life racism he didn't just truncate the scene at the train station with some of that. They don't like those half-wit half-breeds inbreds in Innsmouth. Oh, and we're double damn resentful of their success (sort of ) in the fish and gold departments.

He uses the mundanely of the town itself to good advantage, kind of like "ATMOM", then things speed up when he runs into Zadok. Zadok's story is cool, but I think that, seeing how bad things are in Innsmouth that makes you get a perverse enjoyment out of his story. How'd things get this bad? I'll tell you how it got that bad! Plus if you're half-assed travel plans have ever included an unscheduled stay in the bad side of say... Lubock... in a bed that is so filthy you just roll your sleeping bag out on top of it... yeah, SOI brings some of that back!

As I mentioned at the beginning of this essay-- really the Deep Ones seem to be happy to fool with us, or not. Yes, human sacrifice isn't a good thing-- IF that is what they actually do, but it's for a good cause, right? You know, keeping Cthulhu down and all (... I guess... there really isn't a hint given as to what becomes of the people taken out to Devil's Reef).

For that matter, I'm not sure what the relationship between Cthulhu and Dagon and Mother Hydra is, however, I don't really get the feeling that the Deep Ones want Cthulhu awake again, and as mentioned, Cthulhu doesn't like the water. One gets the feeling that after thousands, maybe millions, of years of sacrificing their immortal selves to keep Cthulhu both dead AND dreaming, we owe them a few of our own. Or did you want to be ass-deep in starspawn?

Dreams in the Witch House

Okay, I didn't like this one much. On the one hand, he's pretty short about the telling of the backstory, but then it doesn't make much sense. And the protagonist, even for HPL, is a little dense. Too dense to be likable.

It is very cool how he seems drawn to a point under the earth in the morning, and just over the horizon at noon, and far in the sky at night and finally pieces together that it's a star or planet that he is feeling drawn to. It is cool when he has the dream of meeting the elder race on the three-sunned planet. Although, why they would be hanging around with an earth witch from the 17th century seems a bit odd.

Maybe what turns me off about this one is there is a certain horrible bleakness to it all. The great realms of space and time are ours for the taking, but we have to like murder people and sacrifice children and cut a deal with Nyarlothotep to get to them. Unless our young dislikable mathematician had been on the cusp of figuring out a way to do these things without resulting to sacrifice, and then abandoned it. Either way, it's kind of depressing.

Whisperer In The Darkness

This story is, honestly, pretty dull. Telling. Telling via letters, and then sitting with an old invalid (hah ahah!) and telling some more. Wilmouth is unforgivably dumb for going to Akeley's without telling anybody and unbelievably naive to actually consider staying the night. Akeley is unforgivably foolish for even wanting to stay in his ancestral home.

But again I think you can see the similarities with other stories. The Mi-Go don't make us do anything, they just want the metals and to be left alone. They'll even cut you deal! nigh immortality in a brain-canister. Tour the universe! Stimulating dreams! In fact the Mi-Go are almost completely comical.

You've flown here, on your own muscle power, from Pluto, and you can't get a rock out of an old man's house? The best you can do is stand outside and get chewed up by dogs and shot? Really, not that scary. Yes, eventually you get some agents/cultists to come and help and they finally get things moving again. And I suppose the idea of having your brain stuck into a canister against your will would kind of suck, but hey Akeley, you damn near got us all ass-deep in Mi-Go ya old fool!

Also HPL again recycles the idea that even on Yuggoth there are ruins of a far older race that even the Mi-go fear.

The Thing on the Doorstep

Although many people seem to dislike this story quite a bit, I kind of like it. It has, for HPL, a fairly strong start. Upton, while not an action hero by any means, at least takes some agency. And by having the story told through Upton's POV instead of Derby's, I think he gets around the problem he has in Whisperer in Darkness-- that if this had been from Derby's POV he would have been such a remarkably weak and unlikable character that most readers would have skipped it. While at the same time some of the really good stuff-- waking up in possession of your body and mind again, and having no idea where you are and how to get back-- he just has to tell us that happened.

While this is a sequel to Shadow Over Innsmouth, I'm not really sure if that is done very well. The Man knows all about Innsmouth by now, but the Waite family just gets a free pass? It doesn't 100% jive.

He actually has a female character for once... well... kinda, Asenath Waite. There is a sort of expansion on the dream/mind connections hinted at in Shadow Over Innsmouth, which is kind of cool, but then there isn't any kind of precedent for being able to re-animate the corpse you find your mind transported into.

Total Recall, totally late review

Went to see TOTAL RECALL last week.  ...I think I like the 90s version better.

Part of that is because when Arnold S. throws a guy across a room you can totallly believe it 'cause its Arnold.  Collin Farrel throws a guy across a room?  Not so much.  And yeah, he's supposed to be all super-secret-agent, but... well, when Matt Damon as Joason Bourne hits a guy it looks lke he's putting every pound of Matt Damon into that punch, but not so with Collin Farrel. 

I'm pretty sure the director knows how to choreograph a fight scene, so this (and the fact that therea re often armed bad guys kind of standing around NOT shooting in several scenes) leads me to believe that the 2012 TOtAL RECALL is, in fact, all a dream, it is exactly what he paid for.