I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly Cirsova magazine delivered their product after their successful kickstarter a couple of months ago. Usually so much time goes by between kickstarted work that I’ve forgotten I’ve backed it before I received it. The paperback has a nice thick quality to it, big, a beautiful cover, great and professional aesthetic just on that front alone. It’s no wonder this magazine received a Hugo Award nomination.
Now to the stories!
I don’t know about you, but I don’t always read short fiction magazines or anthologies in order, or even usually make it all the way through one without skipping a few stories. With Cirsova, I didn’t read in order — as I was extremely excited to read Schuyler Hernstrom’s novella after what I saw in Cirsova #2. His work “The First American” in this volume lived up to the hype I generated about Hernstrom’s work in my own mind (why aren’t more people talking about him?!). I was thoroughly entertained the entire way through. I note that he very much likes the concept of having space tech having crashed on a fantasy world planet and implementing something from there, a fond reminder of his story in issue #2. That said, this work was wholly different and original, and well worth the read.
I was hesitant about this issue because I learned after I kickstarted that this was a themed work (unlike the other issues of Cirsova) revolving around a Lovecraftian world that Misha Burnett developed. My problem isn’t with Misha, who’s a fine writer, but with Lovecraft, as I’ve really never enjoyed much of his work or the Cthulhu mythos. I’m not much one for horror in general, only reading it very sparingly. Monsters in the dark don’t really appeal to me, as I like to read more positive things about humanity progressing to the stars.
Fortunately, my fears proved to be unnecessary. Misha actually created a very nice world and the authors, though using these Lovecraftian monsters as a backdrop, still told stories about heroes being heroes and good triumphing over evil. Misha’s own “In The Gloaming O My Darling” actually was the closest of the set to something of traditional Lovecraft horror, but the way it was presented with the characters was far more enjoyable than most of the other work I’ve read in that genre. He really told a classic short story very well with this one.
My other favorite was “The Queen Of Shadows” by Jay Barnson. This had a great heroic adventure to it that was extremely fun, with a Tarzan-esque main character performing rescue work in a city. I loved how this went. The pace was fantastic, villains challenging and it held my interest as one of the longer pieces in the magazine. I’ll be looking for more of his work later.
After the 6 tales of Eldtrich Earth, there were a couple of non-related stories. Adrian Cole’s “Killing in Karkesh” I believe is part of a serial he’s working on — I remember the star lance from issue #2, though I feel like it would have been better if I’d read all of the other stories leading up to it. At some point when I have time I will track down issues 3-4. What surprised me was “The Bears of 1812” by Michael Tierney. I thought this was a silly title and I wouldn’t enjoy the historical fiction as much as the others — but it was really interesting. I like what he did with Sacagawea, and I haven’t researched how accurate it is historically, but I did buy it as a short story, very satisfying.
Overall, I very much enjoyed. These were my favorites, but everything was solid as I’ve come to expect from Cirsova from reading issues 1-2. This magazine is well deserving of your Hugo consideration.