Goth Chick News: The Scary Games I Can’t Wait to Play in 2022

Goth Chick News: The Scary Games I Can’t Wait to Play in 2022

I realize that persons of a certain age have literally been witness to dramatic (and drastic) evolutions. Consider the term “gamer.” Webster’s online dictionary defines this term as, “a person who plays video games or participates in role-playing games.” However, until the early 1990’s the definition stated only, “a person who plays or participates in role-playing games.” Literally, the term “gamer” immerged along with Gary Gygax and Dungeons and Dragons in the 1970’s, but now encompasses previously unimaginable experiences like VR.

Given the current Webster’s definition, I myself am a gamer and have been for… well… awhile, though there are younger gamers who might scoff at my saying so. However, when one has amassed enough expendable income to commission the building of a water-cooled supercomputer called “Winston” whose primary function is to run the mother of all VR gaming systems, I’m pretty comfortable with the label. And though I would likely be brutalized in the Warcraft waiting room, I have a significant talent in a certain type of gaming environment, most of which involve… wait for it… horror storylines.

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Random Reviews: The Yeast Men

Random Reviews: The Yeast Men

Amazing Stories, April 1928
Amazing Stories, April 1928, cover by Frank R. Paul

Throughout 2022, I’ll be reviewing short stories. Some of these may be classics, others forgotten. The two things that all will have in common is that they are part of my personal collection and they will be selected through a randomization process.  What works and authors I look at will be entirely selected by a roll of the dice.

The Yeast Men,” which originally appeared in the April 1928 issue of Amazing Stories, was the second science fiction story published by David H. Keller, M.D., as his byline often read. He had actually been publishing as early as 1895, with the story “Aunt Martha” in Bath Weekly, under one of many pseudonyms that he used. He is believed to have been the first psychiatrist to write science fiction.

When Hugo Gernsback launched Science Wonder Stories in 1929, he listed Keller as the magazine’s Associate Science Editor. Keller also served as the editor of Gernsback’s Sexology magazine from 1934 to 1938.  Keller lived from 1880 to 1966. He served in the US Medical Corps during World War II. A fan of H.P. Lovecraft, Keller was able to provide August Derleth with a sizable loan to keep Arkham House from going bankrupt during a period when there were cashflow issues.

“The Yeast Men” is set in 1930 in the fictitious European countries of Eupenia and Moronia. Premier Plautz of Eupenia is planning ahead for the next war with Moronia with the plan of utterly destroying the neighboring country, much as Cato the Elder ended every speech by calling for the destruction of Carthage, Plautz ends each speech calling for the destruction of Moronia.

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Ellsworth’s Cinema of Swords: The Barbarian Boom, Part 3

Ellsworth’s Cinema of Swords: The Barbarian Boom, Part 3

Conan the Destroyer (Universal Pictures, 1984)

Filmmakers jump on a hot new genre with alacrity if it looks like it can be reduced to an easily replicated formula. That was certainly the case with Eighties sword-and-sorcery films, which were happily adopted as a replacement for the dying genre of Westerns. Producers of formulaic genre and exploitation movies, such as the notorious Roger Corman, practically started an assembly line to produce quickie barbarian pictures. Following the heroic fantasy formula probably reached its qualitative peak with 1984’s Conan the Destroyer, which has a story by Marvel comics writers who had already worked out every variation of standard sword and sorcery plots and characters, so they knew what worked best. Following that film, the best fantasy movies of the later Eighties would be those that broke formula to a greater or lesser extent.

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Celebrate Derek Künsken’s First Trilogy, The Quantum Evolution

Celebrate Derek Künsken’s First Trilogy, The Quantum Evolution


The Quantum Evolution trilogy by Derek Künsken (Solaris; 2018, 2019, and 2021). Covers by Justin Adams

You lot know that every time one of our authors publishes a novel, we celebrate with dinner at the Black Gate rooftop headquarters in downtown Chicago. And you’re also aware that every time an author completes a trilogy, we bake a cake. So what do we do when a Black Gate author completes a trilogy, as our own Derek Künsken just did with the release of The Quantum War, the third novel in The Quantum Evolution?

Why, it’s cake for dinner, of course. In fact, it’s cake and bubbly for everyone! Have a drink on us to join in the celebration*!

(*Conditions apply. Must be 21 years old. Offer not valid outside the continental United States. Or anywhere that serves bubbly.)

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Neutron Stars, Dead Brains, and an AI in a Prison Colony: January/February 2022 Print SF Magazines

Neutron Stars, Dead Brains, and an AI in a Prison Colony: January/February 2022 Print SF Magazines

January/February 2022 issues of Asimov’s Science Fiction, Analog Science Fiction & Fact, and The
Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Cover art by Dominic Harman, Eldar Zakirov, and Kent Bash

There’s a good mix of covers for this month’s crop of print magazines. All except F&F, an ugly piece which prominently features a man smoking. I haven’t seen SF heroes smoking on covers for a very long time; seeing it now, in 2022, is a major disappointment. I have absolutely no interest in that at Black Gate; this is the first time we’ve showcased a cover with smoking in well over a decade (and probably longer). Don’t expect to see it again.

Other than that blemish, the January/February print magazines have the usual mix of intriguing contributors, including Michael Swanwick, Tom Purdom, A.A. Attanasio, Ian Creasey, Nick Wolven, Tony Ballantyne, Adam-Troy Castro, Stephen L. Burns, Eugie Foster, Bogi Takács, M. L. Clark, Karen Heuler, and many others.

Victoria Silverwolf at Tangent Online has been doing a fine job discussing Asimov’s and Analog for the past half-decade. Here’s her thoughts on the latest Asimov’s.

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I Know That Actor (follow me on FB!)

I Know That Actor (follow me on FB!)

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I enjoy posting in an ongoing series I call I Know that Actor. It started a year or two ago, as I was re-watching Columbo periodically. I love that show – and one of my favorite things about it is the wide-ranging guest stars. I’d see Robert Stack in this episode. And then, Leonard Nimoy in the next. Hey, that’s Jose Ferrer! And isn’t that Jane Greer? Man, Martin Sheen was young in that one! And I would snap a screen shot on my phone, or find a pic on the internet, from that episode.

I’d say a bit about them: mostly other roles I liked them in. Columbo was a Who’s Who of stars. And various FB friends would leave comments – often some other show or movie that person had been in. The posts and the discussion are always positive, and information is shared. I like adding something that isn’t negative to FB.

I watch/re-watch a lot of shows with guest stars, which feeds this game: Monk, Psych, Suits, House, Leverage, Burn Notice, In Plain Sight, Royal Pains (USA shows shared a lot of folks), Star Trek: Discovery -I’ve probably done a couple hundred posts.

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Pushing Us Away from Gender-Based Assumptions: “Winter’s King” by Ursula K. Le Guin

Pushing Us Away from Gender-Based Assumptions: “Winter’s King” by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Wind’s Twelve Quarters (Harper & Row, 1975). Cover by Patricia Voehl

After a bit of a hiatus, I’m returning to my series of essays about stories I find particularly interesting – often because of how good they are, but sometimes for other reasons. My goal is to examine them closely, and to try to understand – at least a bit – why they work, or why they don’t, or at least why they are interesting.

Ursula Le Guin is a favorite writer of mine. That’s hardly a challenging stance to take! I love many of her novels: The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed of course, and the Earthsea books, but also her last novel, Lavinia, and the YA novels that preceded it, collectively called Annals of the Western Shore; and her first completed novel (published much later): Malafrena. And too I love her short fiction, above all I’d say “Nine Lives” and “The Stars Below”. Another short story – or novelette – that has long been a particular favorite of mine is “Winter’s King.”

I first read “Winter’s King” in her collection The Wind’s Twelve Quarters (a collection I chose long ago as the best single author collection of SF of all time (not counting “Best of” collections, or “Collected Stories”).) (Since that time I’d allow Stories of Your Life, and Others, by Ted Chiang, as another contender.) But, intriguingly, Le Guin’s introduction to that story in her collection mentions that it is revised from its original version in one important way: the gender of the characters from the primary planet of that story, Winter, is represented as female in the new version, but in the original version they were depicted as both male and female.

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Vintage Treasures: Isaac Asimov’s Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction 1: Intergalactic Empires edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh

Vintage Treasures: Isaac Asimov’s Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction 1: Intergalactic Empires edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh


Isaac Asimov’s Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction 1: Intergalactic Empires (Signet, December 1983). Cover by Paul Alexander

Last year, while I was researching an article on Asimov’s industry-changing success as a science fiction anthologist, I came across some amazing stats. Here’s the summary:

The Internet Science Fiction database lists nearly 200 anthologies with Asimov’s name on them, averaging around seven per year between 1963 and his death in 1992… the vast majority were produced in partnership with a team of editors, especially Martin H. Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh. In the early days Asimov compiled anthologies the old-fashioned way: by himself. It was the enduring, decades-long success of those books that paved the way for the massive literary-industrial complex to spring up around Asimov in the 80s and 90s.

Ha! That ‘literary-industrial complex’ line still busts me up. But the really interesting thing to come out of all that research was an obsession to track down all ten volumes in Isaac Asimov’s Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction, starting with Volume 1, Intergalactic Empires. In the process I also managed to find the last surviving editor of the series, Charles G. Waugh, who proved a fascinating correspondent.

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Cleve Cartmill, The Devil’s in the Details

Cleve Cartmill, The Devil’s in the Details


Astounding Science Fiction, March 1944, containing “Deadline” by Cleve Cartmill. Cover by William Timmins

Pulp writer Cleve Cartmill (1908 – 1964) is probably best known for writing the story that prompted an FBI visit to John W. Campbell’s office at Astounding. The story in question, “Deadline” (March, 1944), featured a bomb eerily similar to the one being developed by the Manhattan Project at the time. As an educated science fiction audience, Black Gate readers probably do not need that old story re-hashed. Instead, I’ll tell you about three of Cartmill’s fantasy stories published in Unknown, all of which are interesting and worth reading.

Historically, Cartmill is considered a competent but undistinguished pulp writer. In A Requiem for Astounding, Alva Rogers writes — “Cartmill wrote with an easy and colloquial fluidity that made his stories eminently readable.” I agree. But I also think there’s more to him than that. In the three pulp fantasy stories I’ll be reviewing here — “Bit of Tapestry” (1941), “Wheesht!” (1943), and “Hell Hath Fury” (1943) — Cartmill examines some deeper themes including free will and what makes us human. Although he doesn’t always follow through on these ideas, you are asked to think about them.

As a heads up, there will be heavy spoilers in this article.

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Goth Chick News: Traveling the Road of Bones

Goth Chick News: Traveling the Road of Bones


Road of Bones by Christopher Golden (St. Martin’s Press, January 25, 2022). Cover artist unknown

I have recently been entertained by a Facebook group called View from My Window. People from around the world post pictures of just that; the view they see outside their windows. The fascinating bit is seeing postings from people in the farthest-flung corners of the globe, including Siberia. I didn’t know much about Siberia before, other than Russian dissidents being banished there, but seeing the pictures made me do a little research. I now know that Siberia is home to 33.7 million people, but that number is a little rough since there is no single precise definition of Siberia’s territorial borders. That population occupies 5 million square miles, so my concept of “sparsely populated” is mostly true. And boy is it cold. The average temperature in January −13 °F (no wind chill factored in) and warmest temps averaging around 50 °F.

So why am I telling you this and what does it have to do with horror?

Because my recent fascination with Siberia coincides nicely with a recent horror release from St. Martin’s Press, titled Road of Bones by Christopher Golden.

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