Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Call of Adventure

Just a short snipper today, a quote from Adventure Magazine's earliest days which sums up much about the pulp age:

The first issue of Adventure contained 19 stories on 188 pages, but prior to the first story was a message on pages [iii] and [iv]. It is signed The Ridgway Company but may have been written by White or perhaps even by Arthur Sullivant Hoffman, the man who would become his successor; it provides the editorial philosophy of the new magazine:
Have you ever noticed how the recital of an adventure always finds ready audience? 
The witness of an accident never wants for listeners, and if peculiar and mysterious circumstances surround the accident, the interest is all the keener. The man with a story of some stirring adventure always gets the floor. Men will stop the most important discussion to listen, women will forget to rock the cradle, boys and girls will neglect any sport or game. 
Try it some time and see how it grips all kinds, all ages. 
And the reason is that none of us ever really grows up. We are always boys and girls, a little older in years, but the same nature—alert to the new, questioning, investigating, growing, living; stirred by martial music; thrilled by the sight of the fire-horses dashing madly down the street; lured by tales of subtle intrigue and splendid daring. 
It will be a sad day for this old world if men and women ever lose this capacity to be gripped by tales of heroism. The man whose heart leaps for joy at sight of a heroic deed is the man who will act the hero when his turn comes. 
No, the love of adventure will never be lost out of life. It is a fundamental of human nature, just as sentiment is a fundamental, and it is almost as moving. So we reasoned that a magazine edited for this universal hunger of human nature for adventure ought to have a wide appreciation and appeal, and we decided to publish such a magazine and call it ADVENTURE. 
It is published in the hope and belief that hundreds of thousands of men and women will be glad to have a magazine wherein they can satisfy their natural and desirable hunger for adventure. 
A magazine wherein they can find adventure without being obliged to read through reams of stuff they care little about for the sake of getting a little they care a lot about. sto
A magazine published by the publishers of Everybody’s Magazine and edited with the same care and concern as is Everybody’s Magazine, but frankly made for the hours when the reader cannot work, or does not wish to, or is too weary to work. Frankly made for the reader’s recreation rather than his creative hours. 
If you care for stirring stories (and who does not?) — if you wish to get away for a brief time from the hard grind of the daily mill so that you can come back to it again with new zest, so that you can walk through the knotty problems and nagging limitations with renewed courage — get a copy of Adventure. 
You can get away for such a trip every month for 15 cents or you can get a season ticket entitling you to twelve trips for $1.50. 
No other kind of story in the magazine; just Adventure Stories. Factstories as well as fiction stories. If you don’t like that kind, don’t buy; but if you do like that kind, Adventure is sure to delight you.
A better mission statement for the writer I've yet to find. For more information on Adventure, (and the source for the quote) see "A History of Adventure" by Richard Bleiler. And thanks to StoryHack Magazine for pointing me to this.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

A Snake's Life and So I'm a Spider, So What?

The litRPG and isekai portal fantasies have long looked to various gimmicks to differentiate themselves from the crowded field of video game heroes in other worlds. The common assumption is that characters from our world will become heroes in the next. But what if they became monsters instead? Rogue Dungeonreviewed last week, turned its hero into a troll. But books like A Snake’s Life, by Kenneth Arant, and So I’m a Spider, So What?, by Okina Baba, push the frontiers of heroism in a more beastly direction.
Both A Snake’s Life and Spider share similar origins as online web novels before publishers picked up these books. And they share more than that. The basic premise is the same. Reincarnated into a monster, the hero(ine) must survive, thrive, and evolve in a litRPG world where skills are more important than stats and where today’s predator can become tomorrow’s prey. Along the way, the hero(ine) catches the notice of a god, who’s blessing turns out to be as much of a curse, and whose guidance will send the protagonist towards a collision course with another character’s future heroic fantasy. Until that point, the hero(ine) must survive, get stronger, and evolve into more powerful forms. The similarities between these two progression fantasies are such that one wonders if A Snake’s Life was patterned off the older Spider, but with a character and Nordic setting more familiar to Western audiences.
A Snake’s Life begins immediately on the death of Albert, who is now looking forward to a long eternity with his wife. Unfortunately, she’s slated to be reincarnated in 300 years as the Chosen One for a new world, and Albert is not. His only chance to see his wife again is to be born as a snake. If he survives and grows powerful enough, he might live long enough to meet her again. So, like many recent litRPG heroes, he bets everything to see his wife one more time. It’s an interesting premise, and one far more mature than the light novels that spawned litRPGs. Unfortunately, this widower’s nightmare loses track of that motivation in the sudden shift to litRPG character progression. For the next 3/4ths of the novel, Albert is more concerned with helping a family of druids he encountered than about his wife. In hindsight, that is a blessing, as when he does remember, he eats a hero just to speed up his wife’s return–an act that will hold more consequence to Albert than just a full stomach.
Nicknamed “Kumoko” (little spider/spider girl) by the fans, the anonymous heroine of So I’m a Spider, So What? starts in direr straights. After an inter-dimensional magic blast annihilates her homeroom class, Kumoko wakes up in the middle of the world’s largest dungeon, surrounded by thousands of her new spider brothers and sisters all eager for a bite. She flees the cannibalistic buffet, setting out on a course to escape the dungeon and become human once more. But setbacks keep dropping Kumoko into deep and more dangerous levels of the dungeon. Her story is occasionally interrupted by flashes forward where the rest of her classmates have grown up in their new world as heroes and prodigies, weaned on strange tales of a white spider who terrorized the dungeons and a pale girl who works for the demon king they must defeat.
By comparison, A Snake’s Life becomes a power fantasy in the mold of today’s litRPGs. Albert is only occasionally in danger and quickly grows large enough to outmatch most of his intended prey. Most action scenes get resolved when someone gets eaten, and there is little doubt that Albert will slither away victorious and with a full stomach. Fortunately, the dressings of contemporary litRPGs apply to the progression system that takes Albert from a snake to the various steps on his path to becoming a world serpent. Stats and skills are sparse, logical, and written to minimize the interruption to the story. 
Kumoko’s character sheet and progressions sprawl across the page, and the former gamer girl lovingly dives into paragraphs of exposition discussing the crunch of mechanics. Then again, Kumoko needs to, just to find every advantage she can. Her battles are far less certain. As a spider, she is weaker than just about everything else in the dungeon, so she has to rely on strategy and positioning instead of strength. And even the best-laid plans of spiders can leave her scurrying away from a predator with a limp and a cracked carapace to show for her efforts. Tension and desperation fill each encounter as Kumoko can and does lose.
When prose is considered, A Snake’s Life and Spider excel in different ways. Both novels are written in first person. Albert of A Snake’s Life uses the standard transparent fantasy prose expected of today, which mostly stays out of the way of telling his story. It’s a more mature diction than Kumoko’s. However, no character in either book has as distinct a voice as Kumoko. Okina Baba pens a teenaged gamer girl indulging in flights of fancy and appeals for praise between monster encounters, complete with squeals and daydreams. Sure, Kumoko might have slept through her composition classes, but the delivery is endearing (or annoying, depending on one’s tolerance for teenager silliness). Unfortunately, Kumoko is such a bright voice, it’s easy to skim past the merely average adventures of her classmates to get to the spider girl’s next mishap.
Of the two books, A Snake’s Life is mechanically better, with more adult prose, a clearer vision of its hero’s goals, and a less cluttered approach to story-telling. But it lacks the spark and the spirit of the comparatively unpolished So I’m a Spider, So What?. 

Friday, April 17, 2020

The King in Yellow: The Mask

The yellow ribbon binding the eponymous collection by Robert W. Chambers together, the play known as The King in Yellow is infamous for causing madness among its readers, performers, and audiences. But what other horrible secrets lay in its pages, waiting for the unsuspecting student?

For that, we must go to Paris, to the time before the French confiscated the copies, to the story of "The Mask." Boris, a renowned sculptor, reveals to his friend Alec the existence of a new chemical that can turn living flesh into exquisite marble stone. Suspicion sets in early, as an uneasy tie between the chemical's effects and Boris's sculptures can be made. But suspicion turns to dread as soon as Genevieve enters the conversation. No matter how many declarations by Boris that the formula will die with him, the idea that the next time that Genevieve may sit as a model for sculpture might be her last persists. Worse still, her doom might be accidental.

In truth, the excellent audio performance of "The Mask" by HorrorBabble, linked above via video, hammers this dread home harder than a perusal of the text. But there is no doubt that, from this innocent start, something more sinister shall grow. All from an obsession with the chemical processes of fossilization, mixed with a dash of the ancient and mysterious art of alchemy. But Boris is a sculptor, not a fussy chemist, and so leaves large quantities of his petrification formula out and open.

Enter The King in Yellow. For as soon as Alec stumbles across the book in Boris's possession, Genevieve is caught up in a fit and a fever. In its course, she declares her love for Alec, who she rejected two years prior. That night, Alec falls prey to the same illness. During that time, all he can recall is an allusion to the Pallid Mask, a character alluded to in an excerpt before the story. Soon, his mind is swept up with images of marble creatures, of the King in Yellow and Carcosa, the Hyades and Hastur. Alec describes a fit of faraway visions with the vividness of Clark Ashton Smith, and the imagery and symbolism of the mask of self-deception link the petrification formula to the play.

When Alec awakes, Genevieve and Boris are dead. Of petrification and suicide, respectively. Out of caution, a friend of all three has disposed of the petrification fluid and burned Boris's notes. Shattered, Alec spends two years wandering the East, until he returns to the parlor once more. Boris's experiments are depetrifying...

"The Mask" is a strange inversion of "Rappacini's Daughter" and other poisoned garden tales, perhaps even a continuation, For where the strange concoctions of science doom the love of Rappacini's daughter, the same does so for Boris's love of Genevieve. Yet Alec, already rejected, is reunited with Genevieve through the expiration of the same concoction that doomed Boris. But the danger does not lie in the misuse of exotic chemistry as in Rappacini, but through whatever madness in The King in Yellow that inspired. It is a surprise, however, that this tale of strange and deadly science actually ended on a happy note.

The Gothic fingerprints are all over, with a penchant for correspondence and travels fitting the genre. If the beginning started a bit mundane and unfanciful, hinting at a hard science fiction of the chemical variety, it was to let the madness of Carcosa shimmer as brightly as the exquisitely detailed statues. And science itself becomes as dark and dangerous as any of the other unknown arts that wreak terror on the Gothic protagonists. As such, "The Mask" deserves a slow read. Even the most innocent of exchanges hides portents, and not all madnesses are harbingers of destruction.

Even now, I still grapple with passages and elements of the story, only to see fine details and constructions, like a living man turned to marble.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Pineys

In 1950, towards the end of Weird Tales's run, yet just before his first John the Balladeer story, Manly Wade Wellman turned to the forest for inspiration for a ghost story, "The Pineys". For amid the dense longleaf pines lives a strange folk known as the Pineys, and those who trespass into their lands vanish. The Indians who once lived around this particular pine grove say that the Pineys were there first. Some even say that the Pineys have been defending their groves since before the dinosaurs, and that their king walks among humanity, ever vigilant for those who would disturb his pine groves. What is clear, as many who live uneasily around the pines repeat, is that no one knows what the Pineys do to those who they capture.

Nothing but tall tales and campfire scares, right?

Beau Sawtelle believes so, and it is his job to survey the piney grove for logging. He's brought his niece, some men, and a local named Mac to assist him. The local tales of strange and furred creatures don't scare Sawtelle's party, but rather provide a bit of amusement as they journey deep into the forest. But as the canopy darkens overhead and the shadows grow longer, the discussion takes a more fearful turn as they discuss the Pineys' king while they make a campfire...

Some stories just ache to be told out loud, and this last gasp of a Gothic tale, stitched together from campfire recollections and short tales, sounds like the stories told late at night by a storyteller aiming for a little mischief. As mentioned, this is a ghost story, so the impact rests on the final revelation, heightened further by whom the narrator is.

All the hallmarks of a proper Wellman tale are present. Mac's voice is reminiscent of John the Balladeer, who would appear in "O Ugly Bird" a mere three months later. The Pineys themselves fit the inventive bestiary that fills Wellman's tales, and he even draws a distinct parallel to the Shonokins, a race that filled several of his earlier Weird Tales. And finally, Sawtelle's niece relies on the same European folk magic and grimoires that John the Balladeer would use to great effect in his short stories. It's easy to see "The Pineys" as a sinister rehearsal for what would John's adventures, more so that "Frogfather" or "Sin's Doorway". Just call Mac "John..."

"The Pineys" may be a simpler scare than the heyday of Weird Tales under Farnsworth Wright, but atmosphere and voice can make even the simplest tales breathe with sinister life. Fortunately, the most affordable place to find "The Pineys" is in the new reprint of Worse Things Waiting, which is still available through Amazon.

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Forgotten XSeed

The Corona -Chan anthology has a surprise for fans of Brian Niemeier's Combat Frame XSeed series. Among its many stories lies the first XSeed story published. Called "Anacyclosis", or, perhaps more fittingly renamed in the series' current nomenclature, CY 73, it is a more contemplative story, befitting its first publication in the Sci Phi Journal nearly five years ago. As such, it offers a glimpse into the history of the XSeed universe between CY40: Second Coming and the recently announced XSeed S. And for those who might be confused by the seemingly random string of letters and number, that means war and giant robots.

Humanity is locked in a long stalemated war against the Ynzu, a race known for exterminating everything in its path. Yet despite frequent losses, humanity has still spread to the stars. Above one colony, mecha pilot Kob Agur is about to learn the cost of his monomania: immortal glory earned by fighting the Ynzu.

Kob is the typical anime protagonist; determined, skilled, and utterly clueless with the ladies. His brusque refusal of a co-worker's advances sets the stage for how his obsession with glory brings death all around. The disasters around Kob spiral, from doomed wingmen, to destroyed carriers, and razed colonies. But when the cold embrace of space is about to claim his drifting combat frame, Kob is discovered by a hidden settlement filled with strange monks obsessed by collecting the computerized memories of Witnesses to history, including many of the leaders of the original XSeed novel. Once Kob awakens, he is tested to see if he might join this immortal archive.

Given the tendency towards violent death in XSeed, one wonders how so many characters' memories were captured. Perhaps it is something to do with the XSeed combat frames' computer systems. Or maybe the technology is similar to the Rimway AI simulations in Jack McDevitt's Alex Benedict novels. What is soon clear, however, is that Kob's nature will claim more victims.

Kob's fate is a darkly ironic take on the typical anime protagonist, and an inversion on the typical plot armor granted by determination, skill, and cockiness. Some would say more realistic, but the same traits that doom Kob are rewarded elsewhere in the XSeed series. Not all who are named Destroyer bring ruin to their enemies.

Briefly considered in the story is the possibility that humanity might have beaten the Ynzu, in a future far away from CY 73. However, there is no hint to the gnarled path that might lead humanity to that destiny. And with two novels remaining, that will undoubtedly be a rollercoaster full of switchbacks before readers see that future. But while we wait, "Anacyclosis" is a splash of Soul Cycle contemplation between thrill rides.

And it's free.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Rogue Dungeon and Tearmoon Empire

As one of a dwindling number of freedom fighters opposing the Tyrant King, Roark risks everything in an attempt to free his people. But that final confrontation quickly went awry. Clutching one of the Tyrant King’s treasures, Roark flees through a portal, only to find himself trapped in one of our world’s MMOs. Worse still, he has now become the lowliest of trolls, trapped inside a dungeon that exists only to be farmed by ingrate players. Roark’s way home lies through the party of players, through the dungeon boss, and finally, through the minions of the Tyrant King who have followed him to the game world. Even if it means embracing his new nickname, “The Griefer.”
Like most dungeon builder fantasies, Rogue Dungeon, by James Hunter and eden Hudson, is a genre-blender, merging epic fantasy and portal fantasy conventions with those of game world litRPGs. Unlike most dungeon builders, Roark does not start out in control of his dungeon. Instead, he must usurp control, first of his floor, and then of the entire dungeon. This is no mean feat when players raid the dungeon ever few hours, erasing whatever experience Roark can cobble together. This means that Roark has to rely on actual strategy and alliances instead of simply abusing skill and stats. Here, his past as an oppressed freedom fighter comes in handy, as the only way to fend off players and floor bosses alike is through an ever-changing list of deceits, feints, and foul tricks. It adds depth and variety to the battles compared to the typical munchkinning of litRPGs, as the advantage in one battle doesn’t turn out to be the advantage for all battles.
Written at a time when wish-fulfillment harem stories were popular, Rogue Dungeon takes a different course. The key to Roark’s survival in the game world is tied to the growth and development of his and his allies’ skills, as well as in the various new constructions in the dungeon. With all the exposition spent on these changes and their effects on the various conflicts forced upon Roark, there just is not any space to waste on relationship drama or ego-stroking. Between the game rules and the lack of romance, the resulting fantasy evokes the same feel as a cozy mystery, just with fireballs and player killing. But while Hunter and Hudson are inviting the reader into a game with strict rules, they deftly balance the mechanical demands of their game world with the demands of story. The often cursed-at trope of the stat sheet is present, but care is taken to minimize the quantity, duration, and length of its appearances. The game serves the story, not the other way around. But stories like these survive on characters, and Kaz, a troll turned chef that joins with Roark, stands out among the admittedly small cast.
The mix of novelty and quality makes Rogue Dungeon an excellent introduction to dungeon builders and litRPGs for newcomers to the genres. Especially for those who like their heroes not to be bound to one spot.

In her last moment, Mia, the selfish princess of the fallen Tearmoon Empire, watches the sun as she waits for the headsman’s blade to fall. In the next moment, she wakes up as her twelve-year-old self, painfully aware of the mistakes and disasters that cost her empire and her life. She now has eight years to change her history–and that of her people’s–or face the guillotine once more. Did Mia have a change of heart? Let’s call it enlightened self-interest instead.
Something strange is happening in the wish-fulfillment stories over in Japan, as a sub-genre of fantasy has formed of selfish princesses who, under threat of a painful doom, learn that a little compassion and a kind word unlock more doors than throwing fits. Along the way, these otherwise stubborn princesses experience first hand how taking an interest in the well-being of others oftentimes gets them their desires when selfishness will not. Mia also learns how the seeds of her demise were planted in the random acts of pettiness, cruelty, and self-aggrandizement she committed at school. The key to success for Mia is simple–fake it until you make it. And she’ll have plenty of chances to practice as she goes off to school, to rub shoulders with the princes who destroyed her empire in her past life.
In lesser hands, this type of magical academy tale can become the self-validating Mary Sue story which plagues light novels, young adult books, and comics. But Nozomi Mochitsuki opts instead for a comedy of misunderstandings. Mia’s sterling reputation is contrasted with her internal self-interest, which grounds her from the head-swelling adoration sent her way. And the misunderstandings go both ways, as not everything Mia perceives is as she thinks it to be. The perils Mia falls into out of these new misunderstandings tend to be good-natured and charming. But, as her journal from her past life says, she’s not out of danger yet.
Most astonishingly, Tearmoon Empire is blessedly free of fannish trappings, which means that the fannish deviancies that plague light novels are mercifully absent. What remains is a slow romance and an exhortation to be better that only occasionally dips into preachiness. As such, Tearmoon Empire is a rare young adult story aimed at teens instead of young professionals, and one I would have no qualms handing to a niece or a younger sister interested in anime and manga.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

A Song of I.C.E. and Fire

As the last vestige of the men's adventure genre, paramilitary monster-hunting stories have fallen on hard times. Popularized most recently by Monster Hunter International, and fanned into an indie craze by Seal Team 666, the genre, like Navy SEAL fiction and other men's adventure genres, has been rendered safe for editor's tastes and politics through series like Joe Ledger until what was once a vibrant genre is now forgotten among a slew of monster girl harems and monster evolution fantasies.

Enter the Corona-Chan anthology.

In "A Song of I.C.E. and Fire", renegade author Jon del Arroz uses monster-hunting on the border to take a pot-shot at the idea that "all X must Y". In this case, it's that all Hispanics must be for illegal immigration. However, what should have been eye-rolling politics is kept to a mere scene as Gabriel Hernadez and his fellow I.C.E. agents hunt down a Mexican vampire clan preying on children trying to cross the border.

I am not a fan of politics in science fiction--real-world, fresh off the headlines screeds age horribly in a matter of weeks as the headlines change, but to deny that some of the best science fiction explores timeless social issues would be foolish. As in all things, Harlan Ellison's advice should be followed. Before one can educate, one must first entertain. And the admittedly real-world, straight from 2019 headlines immigration protests take a back seat to a simple tale of a man doing his duty by fighting monsters.

That's the key. The action comes first. And the action holds its own against the monster-hunting books of the early 2010s and the Dick Marcinko-clones they are patterned after. Honestly, Latino I.C.E. should have been as cringe-inducing as the standard fare from del Arroz's political opponents. In the hands of a lesser writer, it would have been. But del Arroz gets the banter right, gets the action right, gets the focus on the job right. While others would dwell on the politics (or even the ten thousand varieties of firearms and ammunition on the market), del Arroz writes Gabriel to focus on the task at hand.

If anything, "A Song of I.C.E. and Fire" is too short, reading as the introduction to what might be a classic monster hunter novel stripped of the normal excesses. But I'm not sure we can tear Jon del Arroz away from his beloved comics and steampunk to write it.

Check it out for yourself in the free pulp anthology, Corona-Chan: Spreading the Love.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Pendulum

In 1939, while science fiction was on the cusp of its first successful bid for recognition, a small fanzine, Futuria Fantasia, presented the first story by the legendary Ray Bradbury. Titled "The Pendulum", this story hinted at Bradbury's future works, which Leigh Brackett declared as not science fiction, but too wonderful not to be included. More Gothic Weird Tales than Campbelline Astounding, this atmospheric tale of a scientist's punishment and vicarious retribution against his tormentors is just a hair out of step with the fashions of its time, but a worthy bit of science fictional horror that holds up to this day.

Bradbury riffs on the old misunderstood scientist theme and succeeds in making a haunting tale of a man essentially trapped on a giant swing. But what he captures is the shocking arrogance that is too common in the scientist fiction of that day. (See Jack Williamson's "The Iron God" for one example.) Compare the scientists in many of the stories in the 1930s and 1940s, slipshod, power-mad, and quick to experiment on humanity, and quicker to take offense when any sort of accountability is required of them, to the obligation of the engineer:

This obligation, written by Rudyard Kipling in 1925, is still repeated by new engineers today. But engineering is a profession, while science fictional scientists are mavericks.

As a result of Layeville's own errors, thirty men were killed by his invention. Rather than show remorse, he is outraged by the condemnation of the crowd. After all, he was only doing it for the betterment of humanity. However, Bradbury never puts to bed the nagging suspicion that this man whose errors caused so much death deserves every second of his later treatment, cruel and unusual it may be.

While other authors would attempt to make heroes out of these inferior men who lack conscience social grace, and any semblance of charity, Bradbury instead gives the tormented Layeville the cold comfort of a front seat to the extermination of his tormentors. Although what comfort could such give the mad? But Bradbury is playing with irony, not seeking to elevate broken men into romantic heroes as other writers in the genre attempted to.

Like many of the moodier stories of its time, "The Pendulum" benefits from being read out loud. Think of it as a kind of science fictional campfire tale. And a warning. Not to be cruel, not to be merciless, and not to forget to doublecheck your work.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Mongoose and Meerkat Kickstarter

The Kickstarter for Jim Breyfogle's Mongoose and Meerkat as now live.
He's a bit of a bravo, ready to knock a few heads for some coin. She's a mysterious wanderer with more than her share of street-smarts and a head for ancient history. Together, the Mongoose and the Meerkat are a pair of rogues looking for coin to keep their bellies and wine skins filled and are sure to appeal to fans of classic Sword & Sorcery.
This volume collects Kat and Mangos' first five adventures with illustrations by the incredibly talented DarkFilly and is available in four formats.
This volume features...
The Battlefield of Keres - An ill-conceived bet brings Mangos and his new companion Kat to a vast no man's land full of relics and magical anomalies in search of a fabled helm! 
Brandy and Dye - High atop rock spires, above the breeze from the Devil's Arse, men toil to collect the valuable guano of the Minix bird for Royal Dye, but when the production is threatened by distillers at dizzying heights, the dyers hire Mangos & Kat to bust a few heads! 
The Sword of the Mongoose - When a shady merchant loses a bet with Mangos, he has nothing to pay with but the story of where a masterwork blade may be found! Can Mangos reach his prize before other treasure hunters? 
The Valley of Terzol - Kat and Mangos are hired to accompany an adventurer to the ruins of Terzol in search of a lost delivery: a thousand-year-old receipt offers a clue to either fabulous rewards or certain death! 
The Burning Fish - Seeking out the fabled Burning Fish for a client, Mangos and Kat instead find a strange cult devoted to keeping a simple life and protecting the secret of the fish at any cost!
As a bonus, this collection will feature Deathwater, a never before published original novelette!
Ebooks start at $3, with pocketbooks, paperbacks, and hardcovers also available. Cameos and original art are available as well.