Review of Broadswords and blasters

Broadswords and blasters markets itself as a pulp magazine with modern sensibilities. The editors, Matthew Gomez and Cameron Mount have based their thrust and ethos on the old pulp magazines (remember those – the mainstay of writers such as Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Robert E.Howard and Arthur C. Clarke.) With a dearth of such offerings in this particular niche, B&B has brought a much needed outlet for stories in the SF and Fantasy genres. That said, the content falls into a wide spectrum of subject matter; from steampunk to suspense to horror—but all with that vibe of yesteryear brought kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century.

Now running into its fourth issue (published quarterly), the editors are to be applauded for their determination to make this publication work in a difficult marketplace. Judging by the contributors in this issue, they seem to be attracting some rich and interesting talent.

So, what about the stories?

Matters kick off with Commander Saturn and the deadly invaders from Rigel written by Richard L. Rubin. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to make of this opening tale. It read like a teenager’s high school short story but substantially well edited. If you like Flash Gordon (the original) or the early work of Harry Harrison then this might appeal to you. It’s a tale you might read to a youngster as a bedtime story. However, given the nature of the remainder of stories in this publication, it seems an incongruous fit as a starter.

Demons within is a nicely crafted story written by Karen Thrower about a demon ‘tracker’ hunting down another rogue demon for his master. The renegade proves elusive and inventive. Given the pulp vibe of B & B this story is a perfect fit and ends with a surprise conclusion. I enjoyed this tale.

Monsters in Heaven is one of the strongest in this publication. Steve Dubois has created a brutish, austere world named ‘Elysium.’ Benedict Arnold is cursed to remember his past in a new world where most men are cursed to forget. Dubois’ narrative style immersed me in his world immediately, whether it was his imaginative naming of creatures such as ‘burrowbugs’ and ‘carrion raptors’, or the premise of an alternative afterlife, or even the concept of an ‘axis.’ This was a higher order tale and one that kept me gripped until the end.

A brush with death by Benjamin Cooper is a fairly conventional crime story that, while not particularly innovative in the plot department, is saved by some fairly deft characterisation. I was waiting for some kind of supernatural element to impinge on the story given the nature of the publication, but this wound up without any such inclusion. So, not a bad story at all and I imagine Mr Cooper could probably weave an excellent detective novel given this short offering.

Granny May saves the day by Freddie Silva jr. reveals a well-told tale with a hometown-backwoods charm mixing a first person narrative with visiting aliens and a sinister undertone surrounding a grandson – granny relationship. It’s a quirky story, original in its premise and the like of which I could imagine Stephen King penning in one of his collections.

Regarding the Journal of Jessix Rutherford and its connection to the Beacon’s Tower Island massacre of 1446 AR is a long title, necessitated by an unusual storytelling device.  The author, CB Droege has produced a refreshing and interesting story structure involving a rune-guarded tome which is revealed as a journal written by a once-merchant, Jessix Rutherford. As a team of investigators unlock the secret entries, they discover a tale of grief and woe triggered by the loss of the author’s sisters. In his quest to resurrect them, Rutherford sinks deeper and deeper into his allegiance with a cult of ‘life haters.’ His union with ‘the lady’ leads him along a path of depravity, the end of which is left hanging. But we are given a glimpse of a rich fantastical world which reminded me a little of Robert E. Howard’s Conan epics, although it featured no barbarians! I always think one sign of a good fantasy story is the naturalness of the naming systems – whether this is people, places or date structures. CB Droege has achieved this and constructed a believable world. A very satisfying story.

The Lady and the Gunsmith by Chad Eagleton

This is an entertaining period piece story in the style of Alexandre Dumas. Indeed, Eagleton acknowledges him as an inspiration. This is a deftly written tale about a French spy called Leon and his attempt to wrest the plans for a new weapon out of the hands of Italian noblemen. There’s some well written dialogue and swashbuckling action, although no twists of plot or particularly unique storytelling. That’s not to detract from the story for what it is. It serves as an excerpt of perhaps a longer work that Eagleton might be pursuing. The writing is strong enough to pique one’s interest as to what this might be.

The sewers of Paris by DJ Tyrer winds up this issue and features a female protagonist called Camille Castaigne. As such, it’s nice to read a story that tips the gender balance in a favourable direction. Tyrer provides a short but successful bit of world-building at the start which serves to set the scene as an alternative steampunk reality based in a besieged Paris. The inhabitants, of all social classes, are forced to eat rats and endure a constant bombardment of artillery from the Prussian army. In the midst of this, Camille is charged with investigating the disappearance of people from the sewers of the French capital—a place where many have fled to for their own safety. The writing is a little clunky in places, but the story is entertaining enough and reads like a steampunk role-reversal of a Conan mini-epic with Camille dealing death to a host of subterranean monsters. Again, like other stories in this issue, the story seems to represent a cameo of something that could be a much larger work—and one I’d be keen to read.

In conclusion, this relatively new magazine can take pride of place alongside other freshly established publications such as ‘Unnerving’ magazine. A final word of appreciation must be reserved for Luke Spooner, the cover artist, who has created a frontage for B&B that sums up the whole vibe that it is trying to achieve. Broadswords and Blasters is  available in both print and e-book formats from Amazon.

The publication also has a website at https://broadswordsandblasters.com/

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