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Review: In the Dark, Soft Earth by Frank Watson

Frank Watson’s collection In the Dark, Soft Earth is filled with haiku-like moments, distillations of nature into short, punchy poems. In the zeitgeist there tends to be a lot of hand-wringing over concepts like nostalgia, as though looking at things through the haze of past experiences is the wrong way to go about life, but I don’t share the zeitgeist’s distaste for it[1]. And it seems that neither does Watson.

There’s a seemingly gossamer-hazed shimmer between narrator and the scenes being described that I quite like. The poems are direct and not lost in the poetic-for-poetic sense of language, but the emotional distance is both far away and close to home, much like the haiku I hold in highest esteem. Disconnected but utterly present. That’s what I mean when I say “gossamer-hazed shimmer.” It is at once touchable and also just outside of reach, the word on the tip of your tongue that you had available to you just before you actually needed it. You know it’s there, that if you could roll back just a second or two into the past you could get it, but physics does not allow for such time travel above the quantum state, so you sit in a pool of cognitive dissonance. This is the haiku moment for me, and this is the area where most of Watson’s poems take me. It’s why I have zero reservations recommending you buy this when it releases in July.

My favorite lines and stanzas in the collection come earliest on (perhaps because what I describe in the next paragraph shades my overall enjoyment just a touch), as in the poem “entangled,” “those eyes that flicker / like sunlit grass between / the fallen leaves.” I love this stanza because I could have written it, but somehow never put that connection together. In fact, I think that’s what I most admire about the collection as a whole. It’s real language and relatable, and just at the point where a poet reads it and thinks, “Dammit, I wish I’d written that.”

There are a few times when some of that personal connection breaks for me, but that says more about my distaste for rhyme in poetry than it does about the craft of the poem or poet. It’s definitely a personal taste problem, but just like some people dislike bitterness in coffee or beer, I find that rhyming is cloyingly saccharine to my ear. Again, this is not Watson’s problem as his poems are well-written and still have that haiku-like sense of timeless immediacy[2]. It’s entirely about me.

Later on, in the fourth section of the book called “Percussion Mind,” there is a perfect haiku slap-dab in the middle of the poem “rhythms.”

in the dark
rhythms of the night
a cricket’s cry

In the Dark, Soft Earth by Frank Watson, pg. 57

This is without question my favorite moment in the entire collection. I would change not a single word in this haiku, and if it had stood on its own in any issue of Frogpond or Modern Haiku or Red Moon Press I’d have bookmarked it for future reference. I believe I will even pull it in as an example the next time I teach my creative writing course. That line break from “dark” to “rhythms” just floors me.

This is a collection well worth a spot on your nightstand. Even more than that, it’s a collection well worth a spot in your brain. The book is available to pre-order at Amazon right now – https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Soft-Earth-Poetry-Spirituality/dp/1939832209/


[1] Indeed, I named my latest collection Nostalgia and Ruin.

[2] Yes, oxymoronic in phrasing, but I don’t really know how to express it better than that two-word phrase. The best haiku are both immediate moments personal to the poet and immutable truths universal to all readers.

(I was provided an e-ARC to review, but I will buy it when it releases just to show my support.)


With a Bang: Issue 12 Release

Broadswords and Blasters

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)…

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Pulp Consumption: The Mandalorian

“I have spoken.”

Broadswords and Blasters

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…

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Issue 12 Cover Reveal

Broadswords and Blasters

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…

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Pulp Consumption: Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Garden of Forking Paths” (Guest Post by Anthony Perconti)

Broadswords and Blasters

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.

I was introduced to the writings of Jorge Luis Borges through the recently departed American fantasists, Gene Wolfe. The two authors shared concurrent interests in exploring grand themes and big ideas in their respective works. Borges is the type of writer that is at once easily accessible and like Wolfe, highly perplexing. His stories are only a few pages long, yet they are densely packed with such information that relates to the metaphysical. One such tale is his 1941 offering, “The Garden of Forking Paths”. Published in English in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in August 1948, “Garden” is a ‘metaphysical detective’ yarn…

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Pulp Consumption: Pulp Modern Tech Noir

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Yes, this actually captures the mood quite well.

Pulp Modern Tech Noir is the second barrel of bleak dark futurism that came out this fall (the first being from Switchblade which we covered last week). As it turned out, it was originally supposed to be a Switchblade only venture, but Scotch Rutherford had so many quality entries, he was able to talk Alec Cizak into taking some on. If Switchblade’s theme was the deal gone wrong and plans upended, this volume focused on the sex trade of the future because if one thing is true about humanity, it’s we haven’t lost our interest in the prurient, and the writers here don’t think we ever will.

Ran Scott provides a fantastic Blade Runner by way of a red-light
district wrap around cover, as well as lead in illustrations for each story to
set the tone.

C.W. Blackwell kicks things off…

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Pulp Consumption: Switchblade TechNoir

Broadswords and Blasters

By now most of the New Pulp and PulpRev folk must have been exposed to the advertising for the crossover event of the year. Yes, I’m talking about the TechNoir special editions of Switchblade and Pulp Modern. Maybe Matt or I will cover the Pulp Modern issue next week, but today I’m going to focus on Switchblade.

First off, the covers for Switchblade are amazing. Editor Scotch Rutherford and I had a brief Twitter exchange this past week discussing good art–prompted by A.B. Patterson‘s tweet about putting together a collection of his stories. I said something about needing to pay good money for good art, and Scotch replied that good covers don’t always have to cost a lot. While that may be true for those with strong visual arts skills, I don’t think either Matt or I have the artistic eye to capture photographs quite the way…

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Pulp Appeal: MAXINE UNLEASHES DOOMSDAY

I agree with everything Matt said here. This is good stuff.

Broadswords and Blasters

Maxine Unleashes Doomsday by Nick Kolakowski
You wish your cover popped like this.

Nick Kolakowski (Boise Longpig Hunting Club, Slaughterhouse Blues, Main Bad Guy, et al) dropped this bomb of a book in our laps with a mad cackle before leaping into a stripped down war buggy with a fifty cal mounted on top…

Okay, so that’s not quite true, but this is one hell of a ride of a book packed with gun fights, snow plow thefts, rogue AI, car chases and crime. It’s a twenty minute leap into the future when the world (or at least humanity) is shuffling a bit closer to the edge of extinction, where all the current problems we’re seeing now (rising sea levels, crumbling infrastructure, corporations at the expense of people) is turned up to 11.

Enter Maxine, a born-loser, born into poverty and crime and with no clear way out. Her mother is reliant…

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Pulp Appeal: The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

Broadswords and Blasters

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Netflix title card
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Netflix title card

Last week Matt tackled the 1982 film The Dark Crystal, one of the most impactful movies of my childhood, right up there with Stand by Me, Labyrinth, and the hundreds of action movies I devoured in the 80s and early 90s. I could easily overstate The Dark Crystal‘s importance in my life because as much as I am a fan, I’m not diehard enough to have sought out the various comic book and novelization follow-ons. I do have some Brian Froud art books because I like those, but I never felt like I needed more from The Dark Crystal than was presented to me in the film.

I still felt that way when Age of Resistance was rumored to be in production a couple years ago. I figured it’d be some CGI laden crapfest seeking to “correct”…

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Pulp Consumption: The Dark Crystal

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Image result for jen the dark crystal
The hero of the Dark Crystal.

“The Dark Crystal,” for anyone that doesn’t know, was a 1982 film by Jim Henson that follows Jen, the presumed last of the Gelflings, as he tries to fulfill a prophecy. The prophecy in question relates to the titular Dark Crystal, and how a Gelfling would be the one to heal it after it had cracked. The original split of the crystal, which happened one thousand years before the events of the film, caused two races appear on the planet Thra, the evil and scheming Skeksis and the peaceful to the point of doormats Mystics.

As a result of the prophecy, the Skeksis engage in a
genocide against the Gelflings, including Jen’s family. As a result, he is
taken in by the Mystics and raised by them until the day he is told about the
prophecy. Along the way, he encounters another Gelfling orphan…

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Pulp Consumption: Years and Years (Guest Post by Julie Rea)

Broadswords and Blasters

Editors’ Note:Julie Rea’s work has appeared in several places, includingThe Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine,Nude Bruce Review,BLYNKT,andHalfway Down the Stairs. She lives in the Philadelphia area, where she teaches and writes about life in a wheelchair and other fascinating subjects. You can follow her on Twitter @phillylitgrl. Her story“Lela and Bat”was published in issue 10 ofBroadswords and Blasters.

In HBO’s Years and Years, the show about the very near future by Russell T. Davies (formerly of Doctor Who and Torchwood), the problem is an acceleration of the forces that are currently tearing apart the real world. The show examines how this destruction impacts a British family, the Lyons: a grandmother, her several adult grandchildren, and their children. The opposition to the inhumanity the series depicts manifests in various characters: Bethany’s transhumanism, Edith’s humanitarianism activism, and the…

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Pulp Consumption: Tough 2 (Crime Stories)

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Cover image for Tough 2

One of the unexpected side benefits to starting Broadsword and Blasters was discovering the plethora of other short fiction being published, especially by small independent presses. One of those happens to be Tough, headed by Rusty Barnes. Tough is primarily an online journal, but supported periodically with an printed collection, and the second one has recently been released. While some of the names were familiar to me (Thomas Pluck, Alec Cizak, Chris McGinley, William Soldan), I came to the majority of writers fresh. Tough goes for a no-frills approach. No editor’s note. No writer bios. No illustrations to mark the stories. All you get is the text.

Michael Bracken kicks things off with “Itsy Bitsy Spider” with
a private detective, Morris, his tattooist friend, and the trouble a young
woman brings into his life. The way Bracken weaves the detective’s work life in
with…

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Pulp Consumption: Bone Tomahawk

Broadswords and Blasters

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.

As in many things in relation to pop culture, I am a late arrival to the party in viewing S. Craig Zahler 2015 film, Bone Tomahawk. [Editor’s Note: I’d never even heard of it until this review. You better believe I went right out and watched it!] Zahler is credited as the movie’s screenwriter along with directing the film (his directorial debut in fact). This feature has garnered lots of positive praise from critics and moviegoers alike. Billed as a Western Horror mash-up, the film’s plot revolves around a small band of men on a rescue mission to save…

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Pulp Consumption: The (Original) Adventures of Ford Fairlane (Guest Post by Anthony Perconti)

Broadswords and Blasters

Editors’ Note: Anthony Perconti lives and works in the hinterlands of New Jersey with his wife and kids. He enjoys good stories across many different genres and mediums. His articles have appeared inSwords and Sorcery MagazineandDMR Books Blog.

To me, the name Ford Fairlane was always associated with the
1990 Renny Harlin cult film, starring Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay and the actor who
played Nightmare on Elm Street’s
uber-villain, Freddy Krueger, Robert Englund.
That is until now. I had the opportunity to read Rex Weiner’s The (Original) Adventures of Ford Fairlane
and I was in for very a pleasant surprise. This slim volume, published by Rare
Bird Books, collects the two Fairlane shorts that were serialized in The New York Rocker and LA Weekly, respectively. The two tales
fall squarely in the Black Mask
school of crime fiction, in which private investigator, Ford Fairlane works
cases pertaining…

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A Review of Nostalgia and Ruin

Rusty Barnes wrote a really nice review of my poetry book Nostalgia and Ruin.

Cameron Mount’s Nostalgia and Ruin is a great example of a transitional work. Mount is one half of the duo that runs the pulp magazine Broadswords and Blasters, and I get a sense that this book is very much the work of an excellent writer feeling out interesting ways what will become his permanent subject matter.   

Rusty Barnes, Live Nude Poems

Read more here – Book Review: Nostalgia and Ruin

Book is available for purchase at Amazon and Lulu. Or if you’re in the US, you can send me $15 at Paypal, including your address in your message, and I’ll send you a signed copy.


Pulp Appeal: Penny Dreadful

Broadswords and Blasters

Penny Dreadful main cast advertising image. From left to right, Josh Hartnett, Billie Piper, Harry Treadaway, Eva Green, Reeve Carney, Timothy Dalton, Danny Sapani

Cover ad for an original penny dreadful from the late 1800s for "Spring Heeled Jack."

Penny dreadfuls of the late 19th Century were the direct ancestors of pulp fiction rags of the early 20th Century. The name is definitely British in origin, and the publications themselves were most popular in Victorian England, though they were sometimes brought in to America by travelers. The closest neighbor native to the US were the dime novels, though as the name suggests they cost a dime rather than a penny and were often full novels in length, whereas the penny dreadfuls were more like comic books in length, each one roughly a chapter of a larger piece, costing one British penny each. Like the dime novels and later pulps, penny dreadfuls were printed on the cheapest of the cheap wood pulp material. Sadly that means they don’t hold up much over time, and the ones that still exist need to be handled relatively carefully.

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives

Penny Dreadful is the Showtime/Sky…

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Pulp Consumption: He, She, and It by Marge Piercy (Guest Post by Julie Rea)

Broadswords and Blasters

Editors’ Note: Julie Rea’s work has appeared in several places, including The Intima: A Journal of Narrative MedicineNude Bruce ReviewBLYNKT, and Halfway Down the Stairs. She lives in the Philadelphia area, where she teaches and writes about life in a wheelchair and other fascinating subjects. You can follow her on Twitter @phillylitgrl. Her story “Lela and Bat” will be appearing in issue 10 of Broadswords and Blasters. If you’d like to submit an article, send us a pitch. Payment is one digital copy of your choice of any issue of Broadswords and Blasters.

He, She, and It by the amazingly prolific Marge Piercy (a poet and memoirist in addition to being a novelist), is a cyberpunk novel set in the near-future. It was originally published in 1991 and won the 1993 Arthur C. Clarke prize for the Best Science Fiction novel.

The book explores ethical issues…

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Pulp Appeal: Pulp Modern Summer 2019

Broadswords and Blasters

I’m not just covering Pulp Modern’s latest issue because Matt has a story in it. Honest. In fact, although Matt and I have been friends long enough that we started this publication together, he’s not even the reason I picked up this issue. Nope, I picked it up because I wanted to read more Adam S. Furman, Rex Weiner, and C.W. Blackwell, all of whom have graced our own pages. I’m a touch jealous, but damn if these stories don’t deserve to be read. And not just those three, but all of them.

The issue starts off with editor Alec Cizak’s foreword. Other reviews have highlighted his discussion on imagination and done so better than I would, so I’ll just leave it to them. I did want to highlight his discussion on world psychology and how we in 2019 are entering the same headspace as people a hundred years ago…

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Pulp Appeal: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Matt got to see John Wick Chapter 3, and I’m envious.

Broadswords and Blasters

So we’ve talked about John
Wick
before, but with Chapter 3: Parabellum having just been released, we
figured it would be a good idea to revisit the franchise. Some spoilers will
follow.

For anyone that doesn’t know- John Wick, prior to the events of the first movie, was a retired assassin, the one you sent to kill other assassins in fact. Over the course of the films, he is brought back into the underworld of crime, only to find himself on the wrong side of well, just about everyone. The third movie picks up exactly with where the second one left off, with John tired and wounded, with an hour to go before an open bounty of fourteen million dollars is called. What with being in New York, people are coming out of the woodwork to collect.

Image result for john wick chapter 3
Yes, Keanu Reeves rides a horse in this installment. Yes, it is glorious.

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Pulp Appeal: The Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le Pacte des Loups)

Broadswords and Blasters

The Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) is a French language ahistorical fantastic retelling of the legend of the Beast of Gévaudan. It is what happens when French moviemakers (director/co-writer Christophe Gans and story creator/co-writer Stéphane Cabel) emulate Chinese wuxia, Gothic Horror, and a touch of the American West as seen through the eyes of Sergio Leone. It’d be reductive to merely call it French wuxia, as I’ve seen it described online, since such description misses the presence of both the spaghetti-Western ironic aesthetic and also the distinctive flair of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto or Matthew Lewis’ The Monk. The convoluted overlapping plot threads of those stalwart Gothic novels is absolutely in play in Brotherhood, as are the shifting allegiances and dramatic irony of Leone’s The Man with No Name trilogy. Also, while there is definitely wire-work involved in the fight sequences, it’s not quite as over-the-top as

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Pulp Appeal: Kung Fu Hustle

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Pulp Appeal: Kung-Fu Hustle

KUNG FU HUSTLE, directed, produced, written and starring Stephen Chow, is perhaps the most over-the-top, troperific, batshit insane kung fu movie to not strictly be a parody. It features dancing criminal gangs, old kung fu masters hiding out in slums, evil kung fu masters hanging out in insane asylums, musical assassins, over the top action, and even a sequence straight out of a Looney Tunes short.

Set in 1940s Shanghai, the city is controlled by gangs, none more feared than the notorious Axe Gang. Sing is a low-level crook trying to get in good with the gang, and through his attempts to get in good with the criminals, he ends up creating an escalating conflict between the Axe Gang and the impoverished residents of Pig Sty Alley… which just so happens to be the home of a number of powerful martial artists, not the least…

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Pulp Appeal: Voltron: Defender of the Universe

Broadswords and Blasters

“From days of long ago, from uncharted regions of the universe, comes a legend. The legend of Voltron, Defender of the Universe.”

LEGO Voltron! I can’t wait for the semester to be over so I can start assembling this 2300+ brick masterpiece.

As a kid growing up in the 1980s I was naturally attached to cartoons. That’s one of the defining characteristics of late Gen-Xers/early millenials (I’ve seen us referred to as a crossover generation, but isn’t everyone really?). For me, those cartoons were GI Joe, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and Voltron. I’m sure I’ll tackle the first two at some point in the future, but Voltron is at the forefront of my mind today because one of my best friends sent me a special birthday gift for my 40th birthday (May 4th): LEGO Voltron. (Thanks Kyle!)

Voltron is a mecha series of the…

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Pulp Appeal: Moon Knight: From the Dead (guest post by Anthony Perconti)

Broadswords and Blasters

Editors’ Note: Anthony Perconti lives and works in the hinterlands of New Jersey with his wife and kids. He enjoys good stories across many different genres and mediums. His articles have appeared in Swords and Sorcery Magazine and DMR Books Blog.

Copyright text page for Moon Knight: From the Dead, with a snippet explaining how Moon Knight gained his powers. "Mercenary Marc Spector died in Egypt, under a statue of the ancient deity Khonshu. He returned to life in the shadow of the moon god, and wore his aspect to fight crime for his own redemption. He went completely insane, and disappeared. This is what happened next."

In the early years of this century, in addition to all of the mainstream comic work that was on his plate, Warren Ellis took the time to  create a line of standalone pulp inspired one shots for Avatar comics, under the heading of “Apparat.” The goal of these 4 titles was to present specific pulp subgenres (science fiction, aviation, detective and pulp vigilante) as a first issue of a series from a parallel universe where pulps made the direct translation into comic books, without the invention of the superhero. These four one shots was Ellis’ attempt to directly create new pulp stories for a modern comic reading audience, replete…

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Issue 9 is here!

Broadswords and Blasters

Issue 9 Release!

If you’ve been following us on twitter at all you know that this
day was coming. No, not tax day in the US of A (though that too), but the long awaited release
of issue 9. So what do we have in store for you this time?

R.A. Goli
returns with a tale of how far a mother will go for her daughter in the tale
“Griffon Eggs.” The first time she graced our pages was way back in issue 1, so
we’re especially happy to have her back again.

Rex Weiner, veteran writer probably best known as the
creator of Ford Fairlane, graces us with “Camera Obscura,” a noir tale of a
shady real estate developer’s fall into obsession.

Ethan Sabatella hits us with
a tale of ancient Nordic horror in “The Pole-House.”

Broadswords and Blasters Issue 9: Pulp Magazine With Modern Sensibilities (Volume 3 Book 1) by [Gomez, Matthew, Goli, R.A., Fox, Cara, Weiner, Rex, Carpini, Vince, Spencer, Matt, Blackwell, C.W., Sabatella, Ethan, Furman, Adam, Rutherford, Scotch]

Cara Fox spins a steampunk revenge tale with a twist in “The…

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