He Paid the Price

The Dark Herald manfully suffers through the fourth episode of DEM RANGZ so you don’t have to. The least you can do is read through the whole thing, which you really have to do in order to grasp the full magnitude of the self-immolatory incompetence of the Amazon Studios team.

The smelting guild member is giving an incendiary speech about illegal elf immigrants sucking up their jobs and I’m not kidding in the slightest. It’s a “Dey tuuk r’ jubs” thing. The crowd is getting pretty worked up about these wet ears who work harder, never sleep, never need retirement benefits because they are immortal, and will soon storm the borders… Wait a minute. What borders? Númenor is an island and there is exactly one elf on it, and she would very much like to leave.

And just a reminder. What made the Men of Númenor come to resent the Elves was their immortality, (not their willingness to do the jobs Númenoreans wouldn’t). They wanted to be immortal themselves. The Men of Númenor had pretty long life spans too, one hundred years old was just hitting middle-aged maturity so far as the *Númenoreans were concerned. Which made this desire a bit petty.

Chancellor (gack) Ar-Pharazôn arrives and steals the guild master’s thunder by giving a populist speech that allays the crowd’s fears and gets them chanting his name in the media-approved Alt Right fashion.

Well, now we know the form of the destructor. In the legendarium, he was known as Ar-Pharazôn the Golden. He seized the throne by forcing his first cousin Míriel into a marriage with him against her will. In Tolkien’s world, she was a tragic figure rather than an annoying one. Ar-Pharazôn himself led a war against Sauron. Scattered his army of Orcs and took Sauron back to Númenor in chains. He was the kind of guy you would have hired Yul Brynner to play.

Even though, his later actions directly lead to the destruction of their beloved and beautiful homeland, Elendil’s surviving Númenorians erected a giant pillar as a monument to Ar-Pharazôn in Minas Arnor to honor his great victory over Sauron. When Sauron’s forces captured Minas Arnor the first thing he did, was to have the pillar destroyed.

Ar-Pharazôn was an Adonis. An Alpha’s Alpha who was ultimately brought to ruin by his pride and his own iron will.

In this version he’s Trump.

What were you expecting? Something good and/or original? These guys were trained by JJ Abrams.

They just can’t stop telling the same non-story again and again and again and again. Trump has been out of office for two years, and yet they’re still obsessed with him. Then again, their other stock bad guy, Adolf Hitler, has been dead for nearly 80 years and that hasn’t caused them to give it a rest, so this may only be the beginning of the trend.

On the plus side, Amazon is inadvertently making a strong case for why women have no place in government, be it democracy, republic, or monarchy.

Karen-Galadriel forces her way into the manager’s office to give the queen a piece of her mind, she has once again exchanged her resting bitch face for her active bitch face. The queen is as ever, unmoved by it.

The Elf Warrior Princess vociferously demands that Queen Míriel, on Galadriel’s, say so and nothing else, go to war out of the blue and invade the Southlands. She is to then put Not-Sauron, (a castaway hobo and bar room brawler, whose claim to the throne is based solely on the Southlands royal sigil he is wearing on a hunk of driftwood hanging on a piece of string around his neck) on the fucking throne of the Southlands. Which incidentally hasn’t had a throne for a hundred years or so.

I suppose this is their version of Aragorn begging King Théoden to send the Riders of Rohan to Gondor.

Míriel rejects this idea due to the fact that is fundamentally retarded. Karen-Galadriel demands to speak to the manager’s manager and orders Míriel to give her an audience with her father, the king. Míriel remains unmoved by Galadriel’s bitch-face.

Nope my mistake, she is moved enough to throw Galadriel in the clink.

I got to say it, I’m starting to warm to Míriel.

Now, what sort of person imagines that a foreigner should be able to simply show up in a country and demand that its rulers put their entire military forces at their disposal in order to invade a sovereign country to which neither the foreigner nor the rulers have any connection? What sort of person…

Sometimes you don’t even need to check Early Life On Wikipedia. And apparently, sometimes you don’t even need to know the name. Karen-Galadriel is bad enough. But Karen-Galadriel-Neocon?

To call this show an abomination and an insult to the legacy of Tolkien would be too kind. It’s also an insult to human intelligence.


Tolkien Knew

It’s easy to understand why the Prometheans hate Tolkien so much and why they want to destroy his legacy. He knew. He absolutely knew. He knew about them, their evil, and the source of that evil, as evidenced by the Dark Herald’s review of the third episode of The Rangz:

The Men who sided with the Valar during the War of Wrath got a nice off-the-cuffo from the gods. An island kingdom flowing with bounty and whatnot. And the Men were happy. For a while. However, a division rose up; there were those who remained loyal to the Valar and excepted Iluvater’s gift of death, they thought Elves were super cool too. But the vast majority of the Númenorians resented the Elves’ immortality and wanted to be immortal themselves.

Sauron was captured by the Númenororians and was imprisoned but then like an evil Joseph worked his way up to becoming the high advisor to the king. A cult of Morgoth was established complete with human sacrifice of the Elf Faithful humans with the goal of achieving immortality. Finally, the last king of Númenor launched an invasion of Valinor to steal immortality. Iluvatar Himself intervened and destroyed the entire fleet of Men by opening a chasm in the sea. Then Númenor itself was sunk beneath the waves during a night of fire and whatever that will cost a lot to CG. The Elf Faithful escaped under the leadership of Elendil, who became their king and founded Gondor.

Read this sentence again: A cult of Morgoth was established complete with human sacrifice of the Elf Faithful humans with the goal of achieving immortality.

Fascinating, is it not, that a high fantasy writer could foresee today’s transhuman global technocrats in the 1940s? It’s because their goals are no different than they were back before the dawn of recorded human history: to be like God.


The Hubris of Morgoth

The review for which you’ve all been waiting. The Dark Herald reviews The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power for Arkhaven.

You would have to have had the hubris of Morgoth himself to take on this project.

As a writer, I would have been terrified of it. If the producers had come to me to finish the Unfinished Tales by Tolkien plus some original pastiche based on the Appendixes, I would have told them. “Look, I’ll require two years prep time before I write word one. I’ll need to completely immerse myself in Tolkien’s work to the exclusion of all else. Then I have to spend a lot of time with Tom Shippey and other scholars, plus a Catholic priest with three doctorates who is really into JRR’s work. And at the end of the day, it still won’t be Tolkien, just so you know.”

Who would take this on? Bad Reboot that’s who.

The inarticulate slaughterer of every franchise where they press diseased foot is their bread and butter. Their mode of operation is now predictably obvious. Being completely incapable of creativity themselves, they select anything at all that might have an audience, invade and metastasize, then give it a Bad Reboot treatment. This consists of a Feminist Heroine’s Journey combined with a bunch of mystery boxes to lure foolish audiences along. Be sure to break the bank on flashy effects scenes.

I spent some time in sales, so I can see what Jar Jar Abrams’s school of non-writing is. It is sales technique disguised as writing. That’s it. That is all that the Abrams Mystery Box school really is. It’s just a hook with nothing attached to the hook but the next hook. It’s just one long sales pitch trying to keep you watching despite the fact that there is in fact nothing to watch.

Let me assure you now, there is nothing to watch here.

There is, however, quite a bit to read. And you should read the whole thing. After which, you should congratulate yourself for not adding to the “record numbers” that Amazon claims to be achieving.

So anyway, we get to see Commander Galadriel the Warrior Princess take up her brother’s quest to find Sauron. Like every feminist heroine, her primary obstacle is disbelief. Her MEN don’t believe in her quest to find Sauron. This is fundamentally stupid because it’s based on the belief that he died of old age which is kind of hard for an immortal to do.

So, they go to some Ice Fortress of ice, (Geode makes a guest appearance) and she kills an ice troll single-handedly, (second step of the Feminist Heroine’s Journey is now in the bag). She find Sauron’s mark thus proving Galadriel was right all along, but her men quit on her anyway. So, she is forced to turn back and report to Gil-Gilad.

Let me be clear about this, in a really bad show, Karen-Galadriel is the worst thing in it. Morfydd Clark is horrendously miscast. I’ve seen her act but only in Little Wounded Bird roles.

We meet Neil Patrick Harris Elrond. It’s an absolutely cringe scene as they declare their platonic love for each other. In the Legendarium, he’s her son-in-law. Here, he’s obviously gay. Elrond attempts to mansplain things to Galadriel who shoots him down as she’s supposed to in the Feminist Heroine’s Journey. She then gets some leaf crown as an award from Gil-Gilad. He then declares her recon team the greatest heroes in all of elf-kind so they get the super big prize. A one-way ticket back to Valinor.

Oh. What. The. Fuck?

Okay, after the War of Wrath all the elves had the option of going back to Valinor… EXCEPT GALADRIEL! If you know anything at all about Valinor then you know she can’t go there.

Galadriel was specifically prohibited from returning by the gods of Middle Earth themselves.

That door was completely closed to her until she refused the offer of the One Ring by Frodo. Only then was she allowed to “…diminish. And go into the west. And remain Galadriel.”

Just to state this one more time. Galadriel could not fucking go to *Valinor.

All of this nonsense has inspired me to set a goal of finishing and releasing the complete A SEA OF SKULLS in electronic form before the end of the year, with the print edition to follow once a few rounds of typos have been identified and corrected. This is doable; just last night I finished Theuderic’s second-to-last chapter.


Thank You For Your Service

They watched the Amazon Abomination so you didn’t have to subject yourself to it.

  • I got 18 minutes in before I had to switch it off. The writing is so awful and cliched that at points I thought I was having a stroke. I love Tolkien and I hope Amazon loses a fortune for what they have done because this really isn’t good entertainment.
  • It genuinely felt like a parody. Tolkien reimagined by Human Resources Equality and Diversity branch.
  • Why describe the entire episode? It was cr@p anyway.
  • Oh lawdee dem rangz
  • I’ve loved everything The Lord of the Rings for decades now but I had trouble getting through the first episode of The Rings of Power.
  • I tried to start the lord of the rings trilogy last night (for no reason at all). i got the best sleep i had in months.
  • The diverse cast is encouraging to me, but Tolkien would have wanted it to address the pressing social issues of our time such as climate change and vaccine hesitancy.. let’s wait and see before passing judgement.

Black elves, black hobbitses, and black dwarfs. Checkmate, racists!


“So Staggeringly Bad”

Don’t hate-watch the Amazon abomination. Don’t indulge whatever curiosity you might have about precisely how bad it happens to be. Don’t think that you’ll score points with anyone by cleverly pointing out its copious problems that even a half-wit could have anticipated. Just stand back, ignore it, and leave it to burn.

Turkey is not the word. No turkey, however bloated and stupid, could ever be big enough to convey the mesmerising awfulness of Amazon’s billion dollar Tolkien epic.

This is a disaster dragon – plucked, spatchcocked, with a tankerload of Paxo stuffed up its fundament, roasted and served with soggy sprouts.

The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power (Amazon Prime) is so staggeringly bad, it’s hilarious. Everything about it is ill-judged to a spectacular extreme.

The cliche-laden script, the dire acting, the leaden pace, the sheer inconsistency and confusion as it lurches between styles – where do we start?

One disconnected style follows wildly after another. A static scene in which elves journey by ship is conceived as a PreRaphaelite painting – each actor stock still in silver armour, swords clasped to their chests, long hair rippling, eyes fixed on the horizon in pious awe. Inspired by a flock of birds, they lift their voices in a heavenly choir.

There’s a lot of this quasi-religious imagery. The first episode begins with a cod Bible reading: ‘There was a time when the world was so young, there had not been a sunrise, but even then there was light.’

Popular culture invents blether like this to replace real religion. It’s scientology for the superhero movie era.

‘Year gave way to year, century gave way to century,’ the narrator continues, and already this reviewer was giving way to laughter. Soon, every fresh clunker provoked such hoots that I had to keep pausing to gather my composure.

It will be beneficial for the world to observe, yet again, what inevitably happens when SJWs are permitted to acquire the rights to well-loved intellectual property.

If this show fails, say insiders, executives could be forced to shut down Amazon Studios.

Let it fail. Let it fail in such a proverbial manner that it will replace Heaven’s Gate as an industry byword for complete and utter catastrophe.


The Siege of the Black Citadel


The first in a series of Conan novels by The Legend Chuck Dixon is also appearing in the new Illustrated Text format on Arktoons. A limited signed edition will be available soon on the Arktoons store.

Slender and lithe, the girl spun in the firelight to the hypnotic beat of the drums. A trilling flute rose and fell with each twirl of her body. A necklace of long white feathers offered tantalizing glimpses of swaying breasts as she danced. Sky blue eyes flashed from beneath a mane of cornsilk hair plastered to her face by a sheen of sweat, her taunting gaze set off by a band of charcoal ash streaked across her face as a mask. Anklets of silver bells made their own music as her feet flew across the sand.

The air was thick with the scent of men and spices under the broad market tent that dominated the settlement of camp followers. Braziers offered meat, most probably horse, served piping hot on rods of oak. Barrels of ale and spirits, certainly watered down, were drained at a dear price that rose each day. There were women as well, and the cost to lie with them remained affordable. there was no scarcity of whores of all kinds in the rebel camp.

The men who crowded the rugs and tables that encircled the center ring of the tent paid the steep prices for food and drink with a grumble, yet they paid. The tedium of garrison life and the increasing cold of the coming winter forced them to find distractions within the souks and bordellos of the nomadic village of merchant tents that had come to rest beyond the log ramparts of the siege fort. The anticipation of battle to come—a battle many of them might not survive—made a man think more of the pleasures of the day than a full purse in a future he might not be alive to see.

“Cimmerian, I would speak to you,” Danix said, touching the broad shoulder of a man seated on the ground at the edge of the open ring.

“Conan cannot hear you, captain,” said M’ollo, a swarthy Turan with a braided topknot that reached the small of his back.

“Your words are drowned out by the tinkle of that harlot’s chimes,” laughed Lugan, a Nemedian with a thick brush of white blond hair and a puckered scar where his right eye had been.



Backings Old and New

First, CASTALIA JUNIOR CLASSICS backers will be pleased to know that a) ebook editions 4, 5, and 6 are now available on the Arkhaven store and can be downloaded at no charge with the same coupon that was utilized for books 1, 2, and 3. If you don’t have the code, or misplaced it in the interim, we’ll be sending out an email this weekend.

Second, CASTALIA JUNIOR CLASSICS 1-6 leather editions will be bound in August. They will ship in late August/early September. If we have any extra sets, we will make them available in that time frame. And if you’re one of the five goatskin buyers, we’ll need to get your color selected this weekend, so please send an email to confirm that you still want one.

Third, for Lodi fans, Alex Macris is running a crowdfund for BY THIS AXE: The Cyclopedia of Dwarven Civilization. In this tome you will find the secrets of the great and proud race of dwarves, compiled, codified, and curated for use in your favorite old-school fantasy role-playing game.

And fourth, Arkhaven’s Jon Del Arroz is running a crowdfund for OVERMIND, a science fiction graphic novel. Ayla Rin, Agent of Terra Prime has uncovered a plot against the Imperium! On a faraway colony planet, the governor is linking his populace into an ethernet where they are being mind-controlled by a rogue artificial intelligence that seeks galactic domination! Only Alya Rin can stop this nefarious plot and save humanity as we know it.


Of Books and Things

ITEM: There are 4 signed DEATH MASK editions left in stock.

ITEM: The current Castalia Library book is THE PROMETHEAN by Owen Stanley. It is designed to be a set with THE MISSIONARIES, both 1st and 2nd editions.

ITEM: The previous coupon will work with the JUNIOR CLASSICS 4-6 downloads when they go up on the site tomorrow. We’ll also email a download link to a zip file of all three to backers in order to maximize the hit rate.

ITEM: HYPERGAMOUSE will now run twice a week. We anticipate a hardcover edition next spring.


It’s Going to be So Bad

How to demonstrate you don’t understand the work of JRR Tolkien in three words or less:

Season 1 has a $465 million budget. Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke stated in May 2021 that she was “pretty confident” that the show will draw the required viewership to make the money worth spent.

Back in 2017, when it was reported that Amazon had bought the rights to “The Lord of the Rings” — winning a bidding war against Netflix — the number reported with that sale was $250 million. That number alone made it the most expensive television series ever, but later, The Hollywood Reporter reported that the whole series would end up costing more than $1 billion, due to production expenses (casting, producers, visual effects, etc.). “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy’s own Elijah Wood reacted to that particular figure during an interview, saying, “That’s crazy to me.” For context, the Peter Jackson trilogy grossed $2.92 billion worldwide. The combined budget for all three films was $281 million.

That $250 million rights deal for “The Lord of the Rings” also came with a five-season commitment for the series. A guaranteed five seasons should also guarantee at least one full story told from beginning to end, even though there’s always the possibility of more, depending on the series’ success. The deal also allowed for the potential of spin-off series, which could mean the potential for even more of Middle-earth outside just this adaptation. In November 2019, Deadline confirmed that Amazon had officially ordered a second season of the series and that it was already in the works. According to the report, the official early renewal means that there will be a shorter wait time between the first two seasons come release.

However, the series may not ever get out of the Second Age — which is, again, 3,441 years long, so it’s got a lot to work with — as, according to Tolkien scholar and “The Lord of the Rings” consultant Tom Shippey, the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien has refused to grant Amazon permission to film anything other than the Second Age, as to not alter the history of the more fleshed out Third Age. “But you can add new characters and ask a lot of questions…”

The tagline of the newly-released trailer? “Nothing is evil…in the beginning.”

When you already suspect – no, when you already KNOW – that the series is going to be a converged abomination wearing the title of the books as a skinsuit, you shouldn’t be surprised by anything the Hellmouth producers come up with.

And yet, to begin with a marketing tagline of “Nothing is evil…” is really going a bit far even for a collection of inverted anticreatives. No matter how it is subsequently modified after the ellipsis.

It’s going to be bad. It’s going to be so bad, it’s going to make THE WHEEL OF TIME and the last season of A GAME OF THRONES look good by comparision.


Interview with Razorfist

Dark Herald interviews Razorfist for Bounding Into Comics about his new Dark Legion book, DEATH MASK as well as the decline and inevitable rise of pulp fiction:

DARK HERALD: Your Nightvale series appears to be strongly inspired by pulp era adventure stories. Pulp fiction was fairly common through the 1980s, but then interest started to taper off over the next twenty years. Why do you think that happened?

RAZÖRFIST: “Logistically speaking, what killed the pulps were the wood rationing and shortages of the mid-’40s.”

“The Shadow, the most popular of the ‘hero’ pulps for a long while, dropped to a shorter digest format and even cut Walter Gibson’s pay to keep the lights on. He would ultimately quit Street & Smith over it. Most pulp publishers were already dead after World War 2 and just didn’t realize it until the bills came due all at once over the next decade.

In the ’50s, those old yellow paperbacks (for a time, distributed via vending machine) seemed to replace Pulp as Television and Comics came to the fore. Ultimately, those got thicker and more pretentious until they became the ‘elevated’ gas station literature you see today”

“With thirty different titles ‘written’ by James Patterson, none of which he was ever even dimly aware of. They did sort of morph into the ‘genre fiction’ you’re alluding to throughout the ’80s. And in a weird way, they live on through Star Trek and Star Wars books, Battletech and so on.

These publishing houses are essentially printing pulp. It’s just a bit more bloated and seems to have aspirations to be more than it is. Sorry to say, it isn’t and never will be. Which is exactly the way I like it.”

DARK HERALD: I’ve recently run into a few other authors like you and Sky Hernstrom that have written new Robert Howard style high adventures. Do you think there is pulp revival underway? Also, who else do you know of who is working in contemporary Pulp?

RAZÖRFIST: “Yeah, I’ve read some of Sky’s stuff in Cirsova and enjoyed it. The first ‘New Pulp’ writer I was aware of was Barry Reese, who does a Shadow-esque vigilante series featuring characters like ‘The Peregrine’ and ‘Lazarus Grey’.”

“I think a Pulp Revival is inevitable. Whether it happens now or decades hence. Attention spans have fallen. Smart devices are tucked away in every pocket. Short fiction and bite-sized stories seem the way to go.

Yet, the ‘Phonebook Fantasy’ writers seem to have a minimum page count of 500 and fill the majority of it with worldbuilding bloat. And despite the name, it isn’t all that novel, either. None of them are doing anything terribly interesting to justify it.

Writing straightforward Fantasy is fine – I love it to death – It’s the pretense that it’s anything more that I can’t abide. And the smug superiority as they look down their nose at shorter, more plot-driven fiction.”