When I grow up, I want to be Jeffro Johnson. His Appendix N web series, soon to be released in full book format, is much reviled by all the right people, and justifiably so. A bit late to the party, I was nonetheless impressed with his analysis which shed new light on old works, and helped revive my much atrophied interest in the sci-fi/fantasy genre.
The backlash against Jeffro by the followers of the modern day Gog and Magog (Progressivism and the Narrative) seemed at the time to be over the top and un-necessary. So what if an RPG nerd likes books that inspired the hobby? In retrospect, the naysayers and perpetually offended had good reason to lash back so forcefully. They saw what a deep and profound impact Jeffro’s writing could have on the genre, and in their talentless boots the Scalzi’s and mini-Scalzi’s of the world trembled.
The next generation in the evolution of the genre magazine, Cirsova picks up where the dry and dusty modern magazines left off. It has abandoned the dry and ‘meaningful’ stories carefully crafted to appeal to the right kind of readers, and instead offers the kind of adventurous fun that the pulps used to offer.
Consider for a moment children’s programming. When I was a wee lad adventurous shows were fun for their own sake. Thudarr didn’t need diversity or lessons about not petting stray dogs, he just needed a wizard in a busted down casino to stab. At some point the producers were pressured into including a message, and we had to suffer through a one minute warning from Scarlet and Snow Job about how knowing we should eat our vegetables is half of the battle. That was bad enough, but then came the inevitable message fiction cartoons such as the execrable Captain Planet and long slog through years of drek. For all I know cartoons are still mired in that preach-first entertain-second mode – the short fiction magazines sure are.
At least until now. Cirsova brings back the fun without the preaching, and in so doing signals a new and exciting era in sci-fi and fantasy stories. It’s shaping up to be part throwback to the old days where world-building took a back seat to story-telling, but one that acknowledges that the last five decades did happen. It’s as good as the first issue, though the variety of stories doesn’t run quite as full of a gamut as its predecessor. It’s clear the editors didn’t front load the quality into the first issue and finishing this one only leaves the reader’s appetite whet for more.
Now look, I’m not a particularly smart guy, and I’m not particularly dialed into the sci-fi/fantasy scene. I’m just a guy who knows what he likes, and one who knows he can’t get it from the big publishing houses these days. Whether this meets the criteria for an egghead like Jeffro or the Superversive crowd or not is beyond my simple ken. You can ask them yourself.
What I can tell you is that Cirsova is a vindication of Jeffro’s work. It represents a step towards the classic quality and anything-goes storytelling that attracted the original generations of nerds to fantasy and sci-fi. As such it also serves as an important data point for the inadvertent revolution started by Jeffro’s Appendix N series. It may be one of the first, but it’s unlikely to be the last.
Full disclosure: I’m not being paid for this review. Not only am I NOT being paid, I paid extra money for this issue of Cirsova; instead of the cheap PDF, I paid extra into the KickStarter for the hard copy. Not only that, but I’m paying extra EXTRA money to be a part of Cirsova Issue 3 by purchasing ad space in it. Not because I have anything to advertise, but just as an excuse to give it more of my money.