Adventures In Near-Future Sci-Fi: Black Mirror

Monday, April 27th, 2015 | Posted by markrigney

Black Mirror White BearI don’t watch television. Or not, let’s say, broadcast television. Since the first X-Files video tape showed up, I have, instead, binge-watched episodic TV in irregular, spasmodic doses via VHS, DVD, and Netflix. I watch with my wife, and we’re not (to the shows) faithful: if a particular series bores us, we move on. Even Breaking Bad, after three seasons, felt like a joke gone on too long.

But Black Mirror. Holy cats!

It’s the best sci-fi you’ve never heard of.

A British show made for Channel Four, Black Mirror is the brainchild of one Charlie Brooker — whom you haven’t heard of, either. The series aired in the UK from 2011 through 2013. Based on that time span, you’d think it was a fabulous success spanning dozens of episodes. Only half true. Black Mirror consists of six shows total (plus a 2014 “Christmas Special,” which I have yet to see), and each is self-contained, a hermetic “What If?” often compared to Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone. The reference is not especially apt, but like Velcro and old chewing gum, it’s a label that seems to have stuck.

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Fantasy Scroll Magazine 6 Now Available

Monday, April 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Fantasy Scroll Magazine 6-smallThe sixth issue of the online-only Fantasy Scroll Magazine is now available.

Fantasy Scroll was launched with a Kickstarter campaign on April 23, 2014. It raised enough to fund a full year (four issues); all four issues were released last year, as promised. Since then it’s been continuing nicely under its own steam. It has supported itself by selling merchandise, launching a mobile app, soliciting donations — and through a Starlight Patrol of enthusiastic backers and supporters at Patreon who help keep the magazine going.

The previous issue was cover-dated February 2015; this one is April 2015. It seems to have switched to bi-monthly publication, which is great news.

Fantasy Scroll has published original short fiction by Sarah Avery, Ken Liu, Mike Resnick, Piers Anthony, Cat Rambo, Rachel Pollack, and many others. The magazine is edited by Iulian Ionescu, Frederick Doot, and Michelle Muller. It contains all kinds of fantastic literature, including science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal short-fiction.

Issue #6 includes nine short stories from Robert Reed, Ian Creasy, Beth Cato, and others, plus interviews and a handful of book and film reviews.

In his editorial, Iulian Ionescu reports that the magazine is experimenting with publishing longer stories (novelettes) for the first time.

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How I Discovered David Drake by Accident: Confusion, Redliners, and Why I’m Glad I Made a Mistake

Monday, April 27th, 2015 | Posted by Nick Ozment


David Drake

Back in 2007, when I was getting ready to attend my first World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, New York, I was trying to remember a book.

I’d read it years earlier: a science-fiction thriller about colonists who unwisely set down on an alien planet with an environment so hostile that their top high-tech special forces are about as equipped to handle it as the Kardashian sisters if they were dropped onto the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. The planet is lush, tropical: at first blush very inviting, having all the necessary elements for survival. Only one problem: evolution on this planet has followed a very lethal trajectory, developing predators that would make our own Earthly alpha predators – tigers, sharks – seem like domesticated pets in comparison. The bottom of the food chain on this planet would eat the top of our food chain for a quick snack. A seemingly innocuous, pretty flower is likely concealing fly-trap jaws full of acid. If you get ten yards in this jungle environment still in possession of most of your limbs, you count your lucky stars that you’re still alive.

So. What was that book? Obviously, I turned to Google. And engaged in a pursuit most of us have at one time or another: search for a book without knowing the title or the author, hoping that I could locate the elusive text with the right combination of key words.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Richard Diamond, Private Eye

Monday, April 27th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Diamond_PowellA topic that I’ve long intended to visit is that of old time radio shows. Of course, it’s no surprise that Sherlock Holmes has been a popular subject for radio dramas. Arthur Wontner (who I’m sure you read about here) and William Gillette (again, here…) reprised their film roles for radio.

Richard Gordon, John Stanley and Richard Hobbs had long runs as Holmes. And of course, the most popular film Holmes, Basil Rathbone, had a long-running serial with his Watson, Nigel Bruce.

More recently, Clive Merrison starred in the entire Canon (and more) for BBC Radio. Also, Jim French’s Imagination Theater features new Holmes radio dramas (along with several other characters). I’ll certainly be writing about that one.

In the forties and fifties, detectives, newspaper reporters and even insurance investigators were popular heroes for radio dramas. Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, The Fat Man (ostensibly created by Dashiell Hammett) and Johnny Dollar were some of the radio stars of the day. One of the most fun was Richard Diamond, Private Detective.

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A Shout-out Over Innsmouth

Sunday, April 26th, 2015 | Posted by Jackson Kuhl

Innsmouth Olde AleNarragansett Beer has released the second offering in their Lovecraft Series of craft beers, Innsmouth Olde Ale.

When I first read it, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” was not among my favorite H.P. Lovecraft stories; I was drawn to more cosmic works like “The Whisperer in Darkness” and “The Shadow Out of Time.” But “Innsmouth” has grown on me over the years, in part because I can better appreciate its sophistication and in part because technology has evolved to the point where the story is as much prescience as fantasy horror. Ken Hite’s discussion of Robert M. Price’s essay prefacing The Innsmouth Cycle made me realize the story is more than just a guy being chased by a bunch of inbred townies:

Among other things, Price makes the point that Obed Marsh is the prophet of a Cargo Cult, one which implicitly casts Lovecraft’s New England as a primitive backwater. … Lovecraft’s story brilliantly inverts the colonialist understanding of the Cargo Cult by demonstrating that the Other (the non-white, the “Kanak,” the foreign) is the far more sophisticated myth, one with a better claim both on the past and the future than white Massachusetts Protestant Christianity.

If you haven’t read the story, then spoilers crawlin’ an’ bleatin’ an’ barkin’ an’ hoppin’ after the jump!

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Future Treasures: When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner

Sunday, April 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

When the Heavens Fall-smallThere are times when you want something light and quick to read… and then there are times when you want to sink your teeth into an epic packed with heroes, meddling gods, necromancers, empires, and darkest intrigue. If the latter appeals to you, Marc Turner’s debut fantasy When the Heavens Fall, which goes on sale in three weeks, might be just what you’re looking for.

If you pick a fight with Shroud, Lord of the Dead, you had better ensure your victory, else death will mark only the beginning of your suffering.

A book giving its wielder power over the dead has been stolen from a fellowship of mages that has kept the powerful relic dormant for centuries. The thief, a crafty, power-hungry necromancer, intends to use the Book of Lost Souls to resurrect an ancient race and challenge Shroud for dominion of the underworld. Shroud counters by sending his most formidable servants to seize the artifact at all cost.

However, the god is not the only one interested in the Book, and a host of other forces converge, drawn by the powerful magic that has been unleashed. Among them is a reluctant Guardian who is commissioned by the Emperor to find the stolen Book, a troubled prince who battles enemies both personal and political, and a young girl of great power, whose past uniquely prepares her for an encounter with Shroud. The greatest threat to each of their quests lies not in the horror of an undead army but in the risk of betrayal from those closest to them. Each of their decisions comes at a personal cost and will not only affect them, but also determine the fate of their entire empire.

The first of an epic swords & sorcery fantasy series, Marc Turner’s When the Heavens Fall features gritty characters, deadly magic, and meddlesome gods.

When the Heavens Fall is Book One of The Chronicles of the Exile, and will be published by Tor Books on May 19, 2015. It is 544 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover, and $14.99 for the digital edition. No word on the cover artist.

Collecting Lovecraft, Part III: The Arkham Hardcovers

Sunday, April 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Dunwich Horror and Others Lee Brown Coye 1963-small At the Mountains of Madness Arkham House Lee Brown Coye 1964-small Dagon and Other Macabre Tales Lee Brown Coye 1965-small The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions 1970-small

[Click any of the images for bigger versions.]

In Part I of this series, I looked at the Ballantine paperbacks edited by August Derleth and published by arrangement with Arkham House in the early 70s. In Part II, we examined the Lancer and Ballantine paperbacks of the late 60s and early 70s. In Part III, I want to showcase the volumes that most serious Lovecraft collectors start with — the Arkham House collected works, published in three volumes: The Dunwich Horror and Others, At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels, and Dagon and Other Macabre Tales, plus a collection of Lovecraft’s revisions, those tales he re-wrote for various clients to make them acceptable for Weird Tales, The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions.

Now I want to start off by saying that, while these four books are some of the most important in 20th Century Horror — and, indeed, they form the cornerstone of any serious horror collection — they still represent a pretty hinky way to gather Lovecraft’s fiction. Why? The Dunwich Horror is subtitled “The Best of H.P. Lovecraft.” At the Mountains of Madness collects his longer tales (At the Mountains of Madness, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, as well as the rest of the Randolph Carter stories.) Which leaves Dagon with the unofficial subtitle, All the Stuff That’s Not Lovecraft’s Best. Seems a strange way to assemble a third volume, that’s all I’m saying.

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Read An Interview With Author Christopher Moore, Windycon 42 Guest of Honor

Sunday, April 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Christopher Moore-smallMy Guest-of-Honor interview with Christopher Moore, author of Bloodsucking Fiends, Coyote Blue, and many other fine fantasy novels, has just been posted. Here’s a sample.

So, did you became a full-time writer with your very first novel? Because, damn.

I did. Disney bought the film rights to Practical Demonkeeping before the book rights ever sold and that gave me enough money to quit my job as a waiter and go to writing full time. Although I didn’t get paid for six months and I ended up kiting credit cards and eating grilled ham and cheese sandwiches on credit at my friend’s diner… I wrote my first three books in his diner.

I’m interested in what you felt you were writing. What genre, I mean. I frequently hear you described as a “comic fantasy” writer. Did you set out to be a fantasy writer?

I didn’t really think about genre. I knew what I was doing would be “between genres.” I had read an essay by Kirby McCauley, who was, I think, Stephen King and George R.R. Martin’s agent at the time, that said, “any genre can be combined with horror except for whimsy. Whimsy and horror just won’t work.”

Something like that. So I decided, “Hey, I think I’ll write a whimsical horror novel.”

Read the complete interview at the Windycon 42 blog.

The Three Phases of Marvel’s Adam Warlock: Last Half of Part Two – The Thanos Arc

Saturday, April 25th, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Warlock_Vol_1_12Adam Warlock was one of those brooding, tragic, lonely heroes I gravitated to as a thirteen-year old, along with Dr. Strange and Son-of-Satan and the oddball Defenders. I’ve broken up Warlock’s chronology into the three phases. I covered the first, the pre-Jim Starlin era, in my first post. I covered the first half of Jim Starlin’s 1975-1977 run, the Magus saga, in my second post.

Today, I’ll discuss the last half of Starlin’s run in the 1970s, where Thanos plays the big heavy. As always, this post is nothing but spoilers, so read it with your eyes closed if you still haven’t read Warlock. If you’d prefer to read the comics first, they’re all available at; today’s Adam story covers Warlock 12-15, Marvel Team-Up 55, Avengers Annual 7 and Marvel Two-in-One Annual 2.

So, although Thanos helped Adam Warlock killed his future evil self in Warlock 11, he doesn’t come back immediately. Thanos is the Titan with a plan, and so Starlin takes a couple of episodic detours.

First, Pip the Troll, the moral degenerate who is Adam’s only friend, avoids arrest by trying to spring a prostitute from her pimp. Hilarity and tongue-in-cheek ensue. I’ve never been a Pip fan, but I get how Adam’s unique and tragic fate means he gets to have one friend in life (one and a half if you count Gamorra).

Then Adam fights the Star-Thief, another original and surreal creation of Starlin’s. A man born on Earth, with a functioning brain but bereft of the five senses, the Star-Thief is completely trapped in his mind. With nothing else, he explores the inner parts of his brain, gaining tremendous power and a grudge against humanity that makes him want to extinguish the stars.

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New Treasures: Freeport: The City of Adventure for the Pathfinder RPG

Saturday, April 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Freeport The City of Adventure for the Pathfinder RPG-smallFreeport is one of my favorite RPG settings. It debuted in a slender 32-page module called Death in Freeport, from a young company called Green Ronin Publishing, at GenCon 2000 — simultaneous with the Third Edition D&D Player’s Handbook. As the first adventure to take advantage of the OGL (Open Game License), it was one of two products that launched the d20 era.

Freeport has been expanded and supported with a host of products over the years, and now Green Ronin has upgraded the setting for Pathfinder with a massive new full color hardback edition, with new locations, new NPCs, and a brand new adventure for low-level characters. It was funded by a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign that completed on April 1, 2013 — and now you can share in the fruits of that success.

Freeport is one of the classic city settings of fantasy roleplaying and it’s back — bigger and better — in this monstrous new sourcebook for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Clocking in at a massive 544 pages, Freeport: The City of Adventure lovingly details a metropolis that mixes fantasy tropes, piracy, and Lovecraftian horror into an action packed setting for your RPG campaign. The city is now more detailed than ever, with added locations, characters, hooks, and a brand new, full-length adventure. The book, featuring a cover by fan favorite artist Wayne Reynolds and a fold-out map of the city, also includes full rules support for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: new classes, archetypes, feats, and magic items. As always you can use Freeport on its own or drop it into your campaign setting of choice. So set sail for Freeport, mateys! Come for the pirates, stay for the cosmic horror!

Freeport: The City of Adventure for the Pathfinder RPG will be published by Green Ronin on April 29, 2015. It is 544 pages in hardcover, priced at $74.95 or $29.99 for the PDF. Learn more at the Kickstarter page here.

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