Cower not, fierce reader! Today we examine another entry into the attempts to revive pulp sff magazines. And while this magazine does get some things right, I'd say it misses a big point, at least as far as the pulprev crowd is concerned. And while I can't speak for them, I think I've read enough of several members' thoughts and fictions to know where most of them sit on some of these things. Let's look at these stories
Skin Deep by Nicholas Ozment- This is a really strong opening of two friends traveling with other swordsman to see creatures of legend. Our protagonist goes to see beauty, his friend goes out of friendship; the others go for less noble reasons. There is a falling out, and we see heroism, and what is the most noble piece here.
Dead Men Tell Tales by Dave D'Alessio- We've got an SF detective story, or maybe it's more along the lines of a crime story, as there's no mystery to be solved. There's a body, a beating, some nice subterfuge, and little bits of tech extrapolation and orbital mechanics. I don't know that I'd really say there's conflict here, but I like the mix of things in here.
The Executioner's Daughter- by R. A. Goli- While well written, this didn't feel pulp at ALL. If anything, it's almost a historical story, and that's fine, but it's a puzzle piece. There's a burden of family, and it feels like it was written as a jab at patriarchy and monarchy. But, there's literally no conflict, merely a challenge to overcome, and it is no ennobling thing.
Pension Plan by Dusty Wallace- Another piece that feels at least close to a proper pulp story. We've got a heist on a mob vault, aliens, prospectors, and a dying boomtown. Are they heroes? Nope, just against bigger bad guys than them.
Saturday Night Science by Michael M. Jones- Well, it's fast writing, and there is at least perceived conflict. And we have a mad scientist, so there's some entertaining goings on there. There's even a bit of modernist romance, though I care not for it in this tale.
Island of Skulls (part one of two) by Matt Spencer- This has a lot of the elements I'm looking for in a sword and sorcery tale. There's clear evil, and people opposed to it, as well as those actively serving it, and others following out of fear. There's a bit of magic, and a sense of local enmities, but not much action as yet. Perhaps in part two.
The Waters so Dark by Josh Reynolds- This comes SO close to being the story I want to read. It has notes of Unspeakable Horror, a figure that has a little in common with Solomon Kane, and an unfortunate final take of hopelessness. Our protagonist is a man of faith who has been though horrors, with a blessed sword, but not skill to use it well. This I would be OK with, if his faith had proven to be a proper weapon, but unfortunately, the author saw fit to be subversive instead.
Thicker than Water by Rob Francis- This is another piece that may be more a historical fiction than fantasy or such. Our main character, while far from a good man, has qualities that look to eventually redeem him. Unfortunately, his companion in this story has learned another lesson, and the conflict of lessons leads to an abrupt end.
Now, what is missing from most of these stories? Well, with the pulprev crew, there is an understanding of the import of Christendom, even among at least some of the atheists. There's no such thing here; in fact, I'm reminded of other authors who were the hangers on of Lovecraft who missed the whole reason the horrors worked. Without a cultural foundation, there's no core morality, and most of the stories fall flat here, as there's little heroism to be found.
Does it fit the pulp ethos outside of this? Well, mostly yes. The stories move, there's no genre boundaries, though only a few have real conflict.
Story quality: 6 of 10 fell deeds
Pulp feel: 7 of 10 fell deeds
When you play Social Justice, the world loses.