I’ve mentioned Alex’s Cirsova blog numerous times as one of the main inspirations for my foray into pulp/classic SFF. It’s been more than a few months now since the publication of the first volume of the titular retro SFF magazine. I was quick to buy but very slow to read, and I just this morning finished up. In my defense, since reading Jack Vance’s Gray Prince and ERB’s Mars books last spring, I don’t think I’ve cracked anything (save Cirsova) written since the late 70’s.

I just wanted to get down a few thoughts, then, to mark this occasion. First a minor disclosure – I’ve acknowledged that Alex has been an influence of mine. We’re on friendly terms online and travel within some of the same social media and blogging circles.

I really appreciate what Cirsova magazine is doing. That’s why I was quick to back the first volume on Kickstarter and didn’t hesitate to do the same for the next three volumes, despite having only had a consumed a small sample.

If you haven’t read H.P.’s review, I would direct you do to so. I think I largely agree with his takes on the individual stories.

Jeffro wrote a while ago about being a literary critic, and I commented that doing so requires some very particular skills, plus a certain kind of courage (or else lack of empathy, I suppose). I’ve never enjoyed panning other people’s work, except in the case of smug, bloviating arseholes, perhaps. As this pertains to Volume 1, let me just back up a moment and first say that overall I thought it achieved what it set out to do. I thought it had some solid entries, led by Hernstrom’s Gift of the Ob-Men and Burnett’s A Hill of Stars.

Although I must note here that while I enjoyed Hernstrom’s first Cirsova entry (I know there are more in successive volumes), I was nowhere near impressed enough to compare him to Jack Vance. That’s not a knock on the guy. For me to make that leap, I’d need to see a consistently top-notch level of output. Maybe that’ll be the case with Hernstrom. I haven’t read his short story collection or other Cirsova pieces yet, so I can’t say. Maybe I’ll jump on board with Jon Mollison at some point. For now I may be too enamored by the classics.

Jumping back to the topic at hand, I also enjoyed Jeffro’s piece (full disclosure that Jeffro is another blogging/reading influence of mine and another friendly). Though I’ve never played Traveller nor yet read any EC Tubb, Jeffro, true to form, delivers a thoughtful and fun exploration of Dumarest’s contribution to the popular pen and paper RPG. References to other nerd favorites like Daredevil and Firefly provide interesting tidbits and observations for most of the sort who would likely be reading this kind of a magazine.

I found most of the rest of the volume to be a little uneven. The John Carter tribute was appreciated, but I have a difficult time with long poems. So I think My Name is John Carter (Part 1) was a worthy addition to the publication, just not for me.

The other stories were, for the most part, forgettable for me. I didn’t think they were all bad, though there were a couple that had me scratching my head. Interesting ideas but somewhat flawed technical execution, it seemed to me. It’s my hope that all of the writers will continue to grow and improve, as will Cirsova. I’ll need to strive to broaden my reading queue a bit over the next half year and get to Volume 2 quicker this time.

You can buy Cirsova Volume 1 over at Amazon to support the cause, or read it for free online on its website.


I’m loving the Jabari Weathers cover art, by the way.





7 thoughts on “Cirsova

  1. Thanks for the review.
    Most of the Vance comparisons for Hernstrom come from his novella in the second issue and a few of the stories in Thune’s Vision. His style isn’t ‘all-Vance all-the-time’; more a mix of Offutt, Howard, Burroughs and several others, with a few that are more obviously in the style of Vance’s satires and farces.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t really rap about Hernstrom yet, having only read that one story. I liked it, and I wasn’t really comparing him to Vance stylistically (as a matter of fact I think Jon M. explicitly contrasts the two, calling Hernstrom uplifting where Vance is more of a downer). I hope big things for him, and I’ll be proud to own hard copies of some of his early stuff in the Cirsova magazines. =)

      What I was driving at is that even my personal budding fanboyism for Vance aside, the guy was a Grandmaster. Even if Hernstrom’s got the right stuff, I think he’s got a ways to go for the comparison to be fitting or fair. But that’s just my take.


      1. I don’t disagree with any of that. I later clarified that my Vance exposure is limited to Dying Earth and one or two other works, so that might color my analysis.

        As for career wide body of work comparisons…naturally. It’s a bit apples and oranges to compare a guy in the spring of his career to a writer dead and gone. Which is also why I walked my comparison back a bit.

        The larger point remains, though. If you like Vance it’s a safe bet you’ll Hernstrom.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks for dropping a message, Jon. Your point is well-taken. I’ll likely revisit this topic once I’ve had a chance to read some more of his stuff. My exposure is limited, as well!

        Again, all that said, I enjoyed Gift of the Ob-Men. I haven’t read any of the old classic pulp magazines, so I really have no idea of the overall quality of the stuff that passed through those pages (I only know that some of the greats were published). But I thought Ob-Men probably would have been a solid entry for one of them, as it was here.


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