The Future of Fantasy: March New Releases

Sunday, March 1st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Buried Life-small The Devil’s Detective-small Defenders of Mankind-small

Ah, March in Chicago. The ice finally starts to melt off the porch, and you can find all that lost mail you’ve been looking for (and occasionally, a frozen postal worker.)

March is packed with exciting fantasy releases — featuring a detective in Hell, a subterranean city, a teenage boy who squares off against Deep Ones, mysterious goings-on in an old cemetery,  a new anthology of Lovecraftian fiction, and much more. Sit back and let us do our job, and fill you in on all the noteworthy fantasy fiction coming your way in the next 30 days.

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Leonard Nimoy Saved My Life

Sunday, March 1st, 2015 | Posted by Thomas Parker

Spock-smallI was born in 1960, so the original Star Trek was a first-run series for me. The show and its characters were constant presences during my childhood and adolescent years, first during its original broadcast on NBC from 1966 to 1969, and then in endless syndicated reruns in the years after, all the way up to the advent of the home video age, when I of course bought the series as soon as it became available.

Star Trek, even at its best (the first two years, before the disastrous third and final season, when changes in production personnel made every week a turkey shoot) was a very uneven show. Just doing an evaluative run down of the season two episode list makes it clear how different the show was from standard network fare, and how difficult it was to write well for: excellent episode, decent, excellent, one of the best, stinker, excellent, terrible, so-so, so-so, excellent, stinker, stinker… and so on.

These evaluations are naturally highly personal and different fans will have their own judgments, but I think most people who love the series will have to admit that the truncated “five-year mission” had a lot of flat tires along the way. (Stranded one hundred light-years from the nearest filling station — that’s trouble. No, wait a minute — that’s Voyager.)

Arguably this doesn’t reflect the challenges of an offbeat show like Star Trek so much as it does the grind of network television in those days, the relentless production pressures that turned the medium into what Stephen King has called “the bottomless pit of shit.” (In looking back at the Twilight Zone, Rod Serling reckoned that a third of the episodes were pretty good, a third were only fair, and a third were just terrible… and he figured that all things considered, that was a decent ratio, or at least about the best you could hope for given the limitations of a commercial medium.)

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The Son of Satan: A Gem from the Marvel of the 70s

Saturday, February 28th, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Son of Satan 2

So many demons to fight.

While interviewing Associate Editor Jake Thomas of Marvel Comics for my last blog post (see Middle Child) , we also talked a bit about horror in comics and where it fits, what fans are looking for, etc. It turns out that until recently, I hadn’t gone all the way to thinking about comics as a horror medium, partly because I’d never found them scary.

Marvel Spotlight 22

Human side versus devil side plus sister thrown in for family angst, and a guy on a flaming motorcycle. Freud! Help!

The old saw is that, other than superheroes, comics chased movies and TV, so that when westerns were popular, the comic industry produced cowboy books, and when SF movies were popular, they made SF comics, etc. And the 70s of course was the era of The Exorcist, The Shining, Jaws, and so on.

Some of the grotesqueries of the 1950s drove the creation of the Comics Code, but I guess I’d looked at the post-Code books like Tomb-of-Dracula and Man-Thing and Werewolf by Night as monster books, rather than horror.

There’s only so much you can do within the code, which was part of the reason why Marvel experimented with magazine-sized black and whites in the 1970s, which, by today’s standards (ex.: Severed or Wytches, from Image) look like a tea party… the little kid play, not the political movement.

However, despite being not scary, there was a rich subtlety in some of Marvel’s spooky books, an unreliability of perception, that drew me in, as a pre-teen and teen, and probably helped form some of my tastes.

In the summer of 1981, my mother gave me four comics, one of which was Doctor Strange #43. Doctor Strange was soooo wierd, but good, knock-off Chthulhu good.

And I hunted down Doctor Strange everywhere I could find him, which led me to the Defenders, another oddball child of the 1970s.

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Vintage Treasures: Echoes of Valor III, edited by Karl Edward Wagner

Saturday, February 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Echoes of Valor III-smallAnd so we come to the end of our all-too-brief series on Karl Edward Wagner’s ambitious and highly regarded sword & sorcery anthologies. Echoes of Valor III was published in paperback by Tor Books in September 1991, just three years before poor Karl drank himself to death in 1994.

The three Echoes of Valor books are perplexing in some regards, especially for collectors. Wagner had taken a huge step towards literary respectability for Robert E. Howard in 1977, by compiling and editing the definitive three-volume hardcover collection of the unexpurgated Conan for Berkley: The People of the Black Circle, Red Nails, and The Hour of the Dragon. It’s clear that he intended Echoes of Valor to accomplish the same feat for a wider rage of his favorite writers, by assembling the defining collection of their best heroic fantasy in hardcover — and with non-fiction commentary that treated them to genuine scholarship.

It didn’t quite work out that way. The first volume of Echoes of Valor appeared only in paperback in 1987, and it had no non-fiction content at all. It was also burdened with a Ken Kelly cover that pretty obviously had originally been intended for Tor’s Conan line — I wouldn’t be surprised if most book shoppers in 1987 mistook it for just another Conan pastiche, and didn’t give it another glance.

With the second volume, Echoes of Valor II, Wagner finally got the book he’d aspired to. It appeared in hardcover in 1989 with an original cover by Rick Berry, and no less than eight non-fiction pieces (autobiographical sketches, forwards, and author appreciations) from four distinguished writers: C.L. Moore, Forrest J. Ackerman, Sam Moskowitz and Wagner himself.

Echoes of Valor II was one of the first books to treat sword & sorcery as serious fiction, and the hardcover format meant that Tor was able to sell it into libraries and schools across the country. It was a groundbreaking book for the genre. So it was a bit puzzling when Echoes of Valor III appeared three years later — exclusively in paperback, and with only one brief essay from Sam Moskowitz.

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New Treasures: The Thorn of Denton Hill by Marshall Ryan Maresca

Saturday, February 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Thorn of Dentonhill-smallI don’t know much about this Marshall Ryan Maresca fellow. His short fiction has appeared in Rick Klaw’s anthology Rayguns Over Texas, and Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer.

But his debut novel sounds like a lot of fun. The Thorn of Denton Hill follows the adventures of Veranix Calbert, diligent college student by day, and crime-fighting vigilante by night. When Calbert intercepts two powerful magical artifacts owned by a local drug lord, he suddenly becomes a major player in the nighttime struggle for control of Maradaine. But he also becomes a major target…

Veranix Calbert leads a double life. By day, he’s a struggling magic student at the University of Maradaine. At night, he spoils the drug trade of Willem Fenmere, crime boss of Dentonhill and murderer of Veranix’s father. He’s determined to shut Fenmere down.

With that goal in mind, Veranix disrupts the delivery of two magical artifacts meant for Fenmere’s clients, the mages of the Blue Hand Circle. Using these power-filled objects in his fight, he quickly becomes a real thorn in Fenmere’s side.

So much so that soon not only Fenmere, but powerful mages, assassins, and street gangs all want a piece of “The Thorn.” And with professors and prefects on the verge of discovering his secrets, Veranix’s double life might just fall apart. Unless, of course, Fenmere puts an end to it first.

This is the first novel set in the fantasy city of Maradaine, but it won’t be the last. DAW has Maresca’s A Murder of Mages: A Novel of the Maradaine Constabulary, the first novel in a new series, on the schedule for July 7, 2015.

The Thorn of Denton Hill was published on February 3, 2015 by DAW Books. It is 400 pages, priced at $7.99 in paperback ad $6.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Paul Young.


Fantasy Literature: That Conan Thing & The Sword of the Lady, Part 1

Friday, February 27th, 2015 | Posted by Edward Carmien

The Sword of the Lady-smallAs the treasure map says, here there be spoilers. This isn’t exactly a review, and besides this is just Part 1 of my look at The Sword of the Lady, of S. M. Stirling’s Emberverse series. As the novel begins, the CUT are determined to kill Rudi McKenzie no matter the political cost of attacking him and the leader of Iowa, a powerful post-change entity. After the attack fails (naturally), Iowa becomes a Good Guy, Rudi & Co. head off to Wisconsin, Major Graber & Co. regroup with some new allies, and the quest continues.

But enough plot. Let’s talk Robert E. Howard’s Conan. Let’s talk S. M. Stirling’s Rudi McKenzie. Let’s talk the hard-eyed desert of the real making it with the saucy romantic.

In Fantasy Literature: The Scourge of God & “I See You” I referred to Conan/Rudi as a way of highlighting how Stirling manages, in a somewhat realistic way, to portray the ultimate warrior at work. Able to reach down and tap deep bodily resources at will, in a tall, well-muscled frame, with a lifetime of martial training (from the very best instructors), and equipped with the best that can be made, Rudi is indeed like Conan himself, a practically unstoppable killing machine. Yet Stirling keeps it real, or a reasonable facsimile of real, making the danger to Rudi palpable. For example, Odin foretells Rudi shall not live so long as to see his hair go gray with age. Better yet, Rudi will die with a blade in his hand.

Conan himself could wish for no better end. Indeed, as mercenary, thief, pirate, and eventually king, Conan risked far worse during his career. Of course, when it comes to career path, Rudi McKenzie, Artos, Ard Ri of Montival, owes more to Aragorn than to Conan, but for now a comparison of how melee is portrayed serves us better than mere kingly politics.

Let us first enjoy some Conan, dug from the very roots of Sword & Sorcery (for this IS Black Gate, isn’t it?).

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Leonard Nimoy, March 26, 1931 — February 27, 2015

Friday, February 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Leonard Nimoy Dead-smallLeonard Nimoy, the gifted actor who breathed life into the emotionless Vulcan Spock — and in the process created one of the most famous and enduring TV characters of all time — died today in Bel Air, California.

Nimoy was born in Boston in 1931. His first major role was at the age of 21, when he was cast in the title role of the film Kid Monk Baroni (1952), followed by more than 50 small parts in TV shows and B movies, including an Army sergeant in Them! (1954) and a professor in The Brain Eaters (1958). He was a familiar face in westerns throughout the early sixties, appearing in Bonanza (1960), The Rebel (1960), Two Faces West (1961), Rawhide (1961), Gunsmoke (1962), and on NBC’s Wagon Train four times. He starred alongside DeForest Kelley (the future Dr. McKoy) in The Virginian (1963), and with William Shatner in an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E (1964).

Nimoy was the only actor to appear in every episode of the original Star Trek series, which ran from 1966-69. He received three Emmy Award nominations for playing Spock, and TV Guide named him one of the 50 greatest TV characters in 2009. The role both haunted him and enriched for the rest of his life — which he famously addressed in two autobiographies, I Am Not Spock (1975) and I Am Spock (1995). After Star Trek ended Nimoy found regular work on the small screen in Mission: Impossible for two seasons, the TV documentary In Search of… , and more recently in Fringe. He also appeared in eight feature-length Star Trek films, including the recent reboots directed by J.J. Abrams. He directed two, Star Trek III: Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Star Trek was one of the first science fiction shows to be taken seriously as adult entertainment, and Leonard Nimoy was a huge part of that success. In his near-perfect portrayal of a hero in flawless control of his emotions, Nimoy connected with his audience — and an entire generation of young SF fans — in a way that very few actors, living or dead, have succeeded in doing. Leonard Nimoy died today of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, at the age of 83.


Future Treasures: Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume Two, edited by Kathe Koja

Friday, February 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Year's Best Weird Fiction Volume 2-smallThe first volume of Year’s Best Weird Fiction looks like it has been an unqualified success.

In his review, James McGlothlin wrote:

We are long overdue to have a year’s best anthology dedicated specifically to the weird… The craft of fine writing is quite exemplar here… Barron has successfully compiled an excellent anthology.

Now Undertow Books has revealed the cover and the complete Table of Contents for Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume Two, to be published later this year. Here’s the TOC:

“The Atlas of Hell” by Nathan Ballingrud (Fearful Symmetries)
“Wendigo Nights” by Siobhan Carroll (Fearful Symmetries)
“Headache” by Julio Cortázar. Translation by Michael Cisco (Tor.com, September 2014)
“Loving Armageddon” by Amanda C. Davis (Crossed Genres #19, July 2014)
“The Earth and Everything Under” by K.M. Ferebee (Shimmer #19, May 2014)
“Nanny Anne and the Christmas Story” by Karen Joy Fowler (Subterranean Magazine, Winter 2014)

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When I Win the Lottery; Or, I Should Be So Lucky

Friday, February 27th, 2015 | Posted by Violette Malan

Jackson LotteryThe phrase “when I win the lottery” seems to be used in two distinct ways. The first and, I hope, the most common usage, has the same “ain’t gonna happen” meaning as “when pigs fly,” and connotes a certain sense of realism on the part of the speaker. The second, and I think sadder, usage stands for a certain lack of foresight. It’s been said, for example, that a sizable percentage of people include winning the lottery as an element in their retirement plans.

In our house the phrase also stands for any unlikely event beyond our control that we would nevertheless welcome. Like “when they finally come up with a retina chip that will fix my right eye,” or, “when the Dhulyn and Parno novels are optioned for TV.”

The lottery as a phenomenon is now so pervasive that it’s almost impossible not to think about lotteries and winning/losing them. The concept has formed the basis of a wide variety of movie and TV plots – mostly on the negative aspects of winning, but I think that’s meant to comfort those of us who, well, lost.

How are lotteries treated in Fantasy and SF writing? I don’t mean games of chance as such, though that gives us magnificent stories like “Gonna Roll the Bones” from Fritz Leiber. Nor do I mean criminal activities like numbers running, or even straightforward betting, whether on or off track or line. No, I mean actual lotteries. You get your ticket, and you wait your chance.

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Goth Chick News: Gather Around, It’s Time for the Annual Stoker Awards

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist

A Stoker – the coolest literary trophy ever

A Stoker – the coolest literary trophy ever

Just when you thought you were going to go all Freddy Kruger due to cabin fever, we’ve got a real reason for you to hunker down and stay inside for a while.

The Horror Writers Association just announced the 2014 nominees for the iconic Bram Stoker Award.

Hurrah!

Named in honor of Dracula’s beloved Pappa, the Stokers are presented annually by the HWA for superior writing in eleven categories including traditional fiction of various lengths, poetry, screenplays and non-fiction.

The HWA also presents a Lifetime Achievement Award to living individuals who have made a substantial and enduring contribution to the genre. This year’s Lifetime Achievement recipients are Jack Ketchum (The Box and Closing Time) and Tanith Lee (Cruel Pink and Space is Just a Starry Night).

Presentation of the Stoker will occur during the World Horror Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, Saturday, May 9, 2015.

So get ready to make a list – remember, the groundhog saw his shadow, so you have ample time to get through a few of these.

Here’s the complete list of nominees.

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