StoryHack remains the most visibly appealing of the new pulp markets, highlighted by the trademark recaptioned retro graphic art and excellent story illustrations. And, as has been the case in each issue to this point, the writing is strong, with a heavy action focus.
It occurred to me as I was reading this issue that the general tone of new pulp seems to be shifting. To this point much of the work produced for magazines in this subgenre has been one-off stories which create an interesting world which is never revisited. Increasingly of late, and particularly in this issue, I find familiar authors choosing to build in familiar universes. This isn’t entirely new, of course—StoryHack has published multiple installments of Julie Frost’s Pack Dynamics stories, and Cirsova once dedicated half of an issue to Misha Burnett’s Eldritch Earth—but it’s nonetheless encouraging to see the authors involved finding a secure footing and choosing to build on what they created. Many of the great pulpateers of yore built their reputations in this fashion—Howard and Burroughs to name two—and I hope some of the new generation attain similar heights.
My particular favorites in this issue included:
SHOOT FIRST by JAY BARNSON. Barnson’s world of The Order—an underground organization policing abuses of magic and particularly of magical artifacts—was first introduced in StoryHack #0. Barnson’s work is action-forward to an almost ludicrous extent and moves at a breakneck pace from one beat to the next, yet he still manages to create a fascinating world and interesting characters, most notably the series’ magically underpowered but highly resourceful viewpoint character. I’d be interested in seeing some long-form work by Barnson in this universe, something that explores the Order’s role, internal dynamics, and history more fully.
SHOWDOWN AT STONE RIDGE by JASON McCUISTON. McCuiston’s really onto something with his “Wyld West” story universe—a far-future North America in which environmental catastrophe has brought on technological decay and the simultaneous return of magic. The United States has been reduced to squabbling fiefdoms, and power in forms both arcane and mundane is there for the taking by men and women strong enough to seize it. Magical Mad Max, if you will. This one’s more or less a straight-up Weird Western, but populated by unusually vivid and memorable personalities and unraveled with great narrative skill. I’m told there are more stories set in this universe in other periodicals, and I’ll certainly be seeking those out, as well as awaiting more work by this impressive author.
MASTER OF THIEVES by AARON ZIMMERMAN. A heist caper set in pseudo-medieval surroundings, in which two thieves of considerable skill and even more considerable ego engage in a contest for bragging rights. The twist isn’t entirely surprising, especially to readers who’ve seen the movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, but the execution is so much fun that it doesn’t really matter. Zimmerman manages the difficult trick of advancing a complicated plot while keeping the reader laughing throughout.
- Paperback: 106 pages
- Publisher: Independently Published (8 October 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1726866998
- ISBN-13: 978-1726866996
- Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 0.6 x 25.4 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 259 g
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