I have fallen behind in my Cirsova reading. With the name change and the change in focus, I decided to jump ahead from the last issue I read (issue no. 3 from volume 1) to the newest issue.
Formerly, Cirsova: Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, the new title is Cirsova: Magazine of Thrilling Adventure and Daring Suspense. The name change signifies both a shift and focus and an attempt to more squarely brand the magazine based on its content: as a modern day pulp magazine, something “adventure” conveys better than “fantasy and science fiction.” Per the editor, he sees Cirsova as more of an Argosy than a Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
So how well does the issue reflect that? The Tarzan fragment (more on that in a bit!) is an obvious aide. Tarzan is speculative fiction, if not obviously so. But it doesn’t fit into any of the modern SF genre categories. In addition to the Tarzan story, I would group 3-5 of the other stories into the “adventure” category rather than one of the more usual and modern SF genres. Not a sharp change, but not an insubstantial one either and probably just what the editor was looking for—he never intended to drop the fantasy and science fiction entirely. There are still plenty of examples of those, including a wonderfully bizarre and grotesque Vancian tale, a novelette that would have been at home in Weird Tales, and a couple science fiction that would have fit right in during the Golden Age of Science Fiction.
The big news here, of course, is the Tarzan fragment. The story of the fragment is as good (better, honestly) than the story in the fragment. The fragment lay undiscovered for decades. When it was discovered, several writers passed on completing it. Michael Tierney (a Cirsova regular) agreed to do it. Before he did, though, Burroughs’ grandson Danton, also the president of Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., died. When Tierney resumed discussion of the fragment with ERB, Inc., they initially did not realize that he was talking about a fragment rather than a piece of Tierney’s original work. Eventually the confusion was rectified and, remarkably, the original of the fragment, thought lost in a fire, was discovered. (You can read the full story here.)
The finished Tarzan fragment is also responsible for what is probably my second favorite Cirsova cover.
Young Tarzan and the Mysterious She by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Michael Tierney. I largely bounced off this story for three reasons. One, the title and even the cover suggest something akin to the H. Rider Haggard novel She, which I love, but the story and the titular she here are very different. Two, this is actually the first Tarzan story I’ve read. It isn’t an ideal introduction. One of the most interesting things about the fragment, from what I gather, is that it presented inconsistencies in established Tarzan lore that Tierney had to deal with. All of that was lost on me. Three, it is a finished fragment, but it does read like a fragment.
Atop the Cleft of Ral-Gri by Jeff Stoner. What says pulp SF like Nazis exploring the Himalayas for occult relics? You might think that line of stories played out, but it absolutely isn’t. When I say this story is better than Indiana Jones, keep in mind that I am a famed hater of Indiana Jones.
The Idol in the Sewers by Kenneth R. Gower. A heist gone bad leads a thief to flee an incensed sorcerer. While in the sewers he gets caught up in rat-men politics. I could see this one in an issue of the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Not a bad thing.
Born to Storm the Citadel of Mettathok by D.M. Ritzlin. This is the “Vancian” story I referenced above. Ritzlin isn’t the stylist Vance was, but his story is every bit as bizarre and grotesque as anything Vance could come up with. This may be my favorite story from the issue.
The Book Hunter’s Apprentice by Barbara Doran. Doran includes rather elaborate worldbuilding around the titular book hunters that absolutely works within the pulp setting. One of the strong stories in the issue.
How Thaddeus Quimby the Third and I Almost Took Over the World by Gary K. Shepherd. Two low-lifes come into the possession of a device that creates perfect, temporary “three-dimensional, five-sensual” illusions. One of my least favorite stories from the issue, not the least because of the awful colloquial English of the henchman character (one of my pet peeves).
Deemed Unsuitable by W.L. Emery. A science fiction story that could have found a home in a good science fiction magazine in any number of decades (albeit probably not this one). It has some good shootouts, which no pulp magazine can have enough of.
Warrior Soul by J. Manfred Weichsel. The story suffers both from reminding me of the story two stories prior and of a certain Chappelle Show skit, which is a shame, because this is an excellent story, creative and atmospheric. It is probably my second-favorite story in the issue, but also the hardest to pin down.
Seeds of the Dreaming Tree by Harold R. Thompson. A fantastical story that does a great job recapturing the pulp magic of exploration.
The Valley of Terzol by Jim Breyfogle. Another exploration story and the fourth Mongoose and Meerkat story published by Cirsova. It features a giant snake. Robert E. Howard would approve.
The Elephant Idol by Xavier Lastra (novelette). Speaking of REH, this is the story I think would have been right at home in Weird Tales. It is weird and inventive and horrific in an unsettling way. Terrific story.
Moonshot by Michael Wiesenberg. A satirical story about the government sending a barn to the Moon. It is funny, although even at just a handful of pages it threatens to wear out its welcome.
4 of 5 Stars.