Issue 5 of Cirsova represents a return to form after an average outing with Issue 4. While Issue 4 included a few gems, it also suffered from the inclusion of far more stinkers. Frankly, the double issue was a mistake – at half the size it would have offered the same value for the price by cutting the dross. Issue 5 on the other hand is strong from top to bottom, with stories by several of my favorite authors:
- Schuyler Hernstrom brings the heat with another grim faced barbarian encountering ancient future-tech in a quest to save his village.
- Misha Burnett continues to show the world how to give the old New Wave spin on things a fresh face.
- James Hutchings reminds the world that there’s life left yet within the Homeric epic genre with more of the John Carter saga.
- Brian K. Lowe’s outing doesn’t quite rise to the level of his fantastic Invisible City, but he’s another author that has yet to let me down.
- Michael Tierney manages to present a heroic Sacagawea who doesn’t feel like a forced “U Go Grrl” within that sadly neglected setting for fantasy – the American frontier. Okay, so it wanders from the frontier back to Madison’s Washington D.C., but it still counts.
Even the stories in this issue that didn’t pin my ears back left me feeling satisfied. Lynn Rushlay, Jay Barnson, and Louise Sorensen’s tales only suffer from being sandwiched so close to works by the authors listed above. They are all fun stories that round out the issue without feeling like additions made just to fill space and pad the word count.
Beyond just proving that Cirsova can survive a dip in quality and come roaring back, this issue made me sit up and take notice of something that has happened over the last year. After a decade long spell of having roughly one go-to author names (Glen Cook, for the record), I now have more than I can keep track of. I was eagerly anticipating this issue not just because I trust the editor, but because I really enjoy the authors on the cover. They give me something positive to look forward to, and that’s something that I haven’t had in a long time.
It’s a great sign, this return to fun, and the rise of a new culture of writers dedicated to ‘Cirsova style fiction’ serves as a much needed corrective to the market.