Firefly Friday – Firefly: The Game

Friday, October 24th, 2014 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones


Ever want to just buy a ship and take off into the night sky, making your own rules and living a life that was truly free? Firefly: The Game (Amazon) gives you the chance to do just that, if you think you’re up for it.

On the off chance that you’ve been in a coma for the last decade: Firefly was a tragically short-lived television series created by Joss Whedon. After his success on Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Angel, he turned to science fiction, creating a series that can best (but simplistically) be described as “cowboys in space.” The series centered around a spaceship crew living on the fringe of society, taking jobs of questionable legality while trying to stay off the radar of the government. It was cancelled before all 13 of the episodes even aired, but fan enthusiasm resulted in a feature film, Serenity, that gave some measure of closure for fans.

But, as so often happens in our little world of fandom, even that was not the end of the story. In a few short episodes, Joss Whedon had created a rich and dynamic universe of rugged heroes who traveled the expanse between worlds just trying to find a job, work the job, get paid, and keep flying. It has continued in a number of forms, from comic books to board games. As I’ve mentioned before, my shelves contain a number of these related materials. (More than I typically care to admit.)

It’s hard to overstate how great this short television series was … And it’s equally hard to overstate how well Firefly: The Game captures the feel of trying to make your way out in the black, even if that means you have to misbehave a bit.

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Goth Chick News: Clive Barker Lets His Fans Back Into Hell… Finally

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 | Posted by Sue Granquist

The Scarlet Gospels-smallWaiting for a sequel for nearly two decades could be considered one of Satan’s personal jokes, were it not for the fact that in  this case the irony would be too blatant even for the Prince of Darkness himself.

Clive Barker’s The Scarlet Gospels has been teased for so long, and in so many incarnations, that it was beginning to look like one of the worst publicity stunts in publishing history. As far back as 1993 Barker talked about a new book of short stories that would include a sequel to The Hellbound Heart, the novella that introduced the world to the Cenobites.

Those rumors soon morphed into scuttle about a potential short novel pitting the most famous Cenobite, Pinhead, against another iconic Barker character, the occult detective Harry D’Amour.

However, as the story developed over the course of several years, Barker decided to expand the concept into a novel and the unrelated short stories were put aside.

Rumors of a release date were bantered about, sending Barker fans into repeated frenzies of speculation. But delays came in the form of Barker’s several throat surgeries, and in 2012 his lapse into a coma for eleven days following a trip to the dentist that led to blood poisoning. Barker recovered but his near-death experience left him with “many strange visions” (which may or may not have found their way into his work).

Finally on Sept 9, 2013 Barker announced via social media that although no date has been set for release, “The Scarlet Gospels are finished.”

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See the Teaser Trailer for Avengers 2 (or, Why Can’t I have Hulkbuster Armor?)

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Avengers 67 Ultron-smallAll work at the rooftop headquarters of Black Gate came to a standstill this afternoon, due to the surprise release of the first teaser trailer for Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron.

Now, this doesn’t happen for just any trailer. (At least, not those that aren’t Star Trek-related). However, we are big fans of the Avengers, both their comic incarnation and the Joss Whedon movie.

Also, we’re fans of Ultron.

Ultron usually gets a bad rap. Did you know he was the first person (erm, machine), to speak on the cover of The Avengers? True story. Before that, everyone on the cover — superheroes and villains alike — stood brooding in heroic poses, afraid to say anything. Ultron finally opened his mouth on the cover of Avengers 67 (saying “Die, Avengers, Die!”, y’know, as he usually does), and after that, you couldn’t get people to shut up on the cover of The Avengers.

Did you know Ultron was built by Henry Pym, also known as Ant Man? Okay, everybody knows that. How are they going to ret-con that into the movie continuity, given that the Paul Rudd Ant Man movie doesn’t come out until July 2015, two months after The Avengers 2? No one knows. I’ve looked for any trace of Rudd or Henry Pym in the IMDB cast list, but no dice.

As cool as Ulton is, of course, his creation The Vision (first appearance: Avengers 57, 1968) is even cooler. According to IMDB the Vision does appear in the movie, played by Jude Law (who also plays the voice of Tony Stark’s robot assistant, Jarvis). Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Anyway, check out the trailer below. There’s all kinds of mysterious individuals and brief glimpses of cool things, including Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch (first glimpsed in the end-credit hidden scene of Captain America 2), and Tony Stark’s hulkbuster armor. We’ve watched it 134 times, but maybe you can catch things we haven’t. Enjoy.

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The Books of Blood, Captain Blood

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

blood novelA few months ago I discovered that Fletcher Vredenburgh was reading Captain Blood at the same time I was working my way through the lesser-known book-length Captain Blood story collections (Captain Blood Returns – aka The Chronicles of Captain Blood – and The Fortunes of Captain Blood). We made a solemn pact to compare notes and share our findings on Black Gate, which brings us here today.

Now Blood isn’t remotely a fantasy figure – except in the loosest of senses – but historical swashbucklers had a huge impact on sword-and-sorcery, my favorite flavor of fantasy, so Sabatini and other writers like him are “in the wheelhouse,” if you will pardon the pun, and certainly merit a look if it’s the action and swordplay in fantasy that you most enjoy.

Also, pirates. With Treasure Island, Captain Blood is probably the most famous of all pirate stories. Many people have certainly heard of it who’ve never read it. And if they’re curious, they should probably give it a go. Fletcher and I will explain why over the course of the rest of this article.

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NaNoWriMo: How to “Pants” Through Your Novel like a Rampaging Panzer Division in 1940 France (and Why You Should)

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 | Posted by M Harold Page

First, Art and Music.

Hopefully, we don’t much like Nazis. Even so, it’s hard not to admire the way the panzer divisions rampaged across Europe, redefining modern warfare as they went. We’ll come back to them.

First, Fine Art and Music.

A friend of mine is a well-known Scottish landscape artist. He goes about his paintings pretty much how you would expect: roughs them out on the canvas itself, then adds layers of precision until he has an amazing picture. However, a friend of his, another professional artist (who shall remain nameless) starts painting in the top left hand corner of the canvas, and like a color laser printer zigzags across the thing until the picture is complete.

This, I am assured, is not normal.


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World War One: An International, Multiracial Conflict

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


Tirailleurs Sénégalais in World War One, 43rd Battalion. Senegalese troops fought with distinction throughout the war on both the Western Front and the Dardanelles.

With the centennial of World War One in full swing, there’s a lot of press repeating the received truths about the war. If one listens to the UK media, it sounds like the British dealt with the Germans almost single-handed, saving Brave Little Belgium with a bit of help from the French and of course the Commonwealth allies.

American media coverage, such as it is, stresses the American role, while glossing over the first three years they missed. Neither of these national media spend much time on the wide diversity of people involved in the conflict.

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Fanfiction and Me

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 | Posted by marthawells

Starlog 40-smallI was introduced to fanfiction after The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980, when I was around fifteen. This was long before the Internet, and fanfic was printed in fanzines, fan-produced magazines that were mimeographed or xeroxed, or if the editor could afford it, offset printed. But finding them, if you didn’t already know someone who knew about them, was nearly impossible.

As a lonely, feral, anxiety-ridden, teenage fan, my only connection to the fandom world at all was Starlog magazine. Back then, Starlog was a lifeline for me, and it not only featured articles and news about TV shows, movies, and books, but also fan groups and conventions. (I chose the university I went to because Starlog had an article that mentioned its student SF/F club and convention, but that’s another story.)

The magazine also had a section of small cheap personal ads in the back for fan-related merchandise. One issue, a fanzine called Facets, dedicated to fanfic about Harrison Ford’s various characters (mostly Han Solo and Indiana Jones) bought an ad, and I sent my money in (I don’t remember how much, probably less than $10) and bought a couple of small fanzines.

I was hooked. The back of each fanzine was filled with ads and flyers for other Star Wars fanzines, and I dived in and ordered more.

At their height of popularity in the 80s and early 90s, Star Wars fanzines were gorgeous productions. There were zines that were more than 300 pages long; with color covers and black and white illustrations; and filled with stories, poems, and cartoons. The best editors would copyedit the stories and some made suggestions and asked for revisions, helping the writers produce their best work.

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New Treasures: Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, Volume Two, Adapted by P. Craig Russell

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Graveyard Book Volume Two-smallBack in August, I reported on the arrival of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, Volume One, the first half of a handsome hardcover graphic novel adapting Gaiman’s famous contemporary fantasy.

I’m very pleased to report that the second half has now arrived, and it looks just as sharp as the first. Volume Two includes the last three chapters of Gaiman’s novel, skillfully adapted by Russell and illustrated by several of the top artists in the field.

The second volume of a glorious two-volume, four-color graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s #1 New York Times bestselling and Newbery and Carnegie Medal-winning novel The Graveyard Book, adapted by P. Craig Russell and illustrated by an extraordinary team of renowned artists.

Inventive, chilling, and filled with wonder, Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book reaches new heights in this stunning adaptation. Artists Kevin Nowlan, P. Craig Russell, Galen Showman, Scott Hampton, and David Lafuente lend their own signature styles to create an imaginatively diverse and yet cohesive interpretation of Neil Gaiman’s luminous novel.

Volume Two includes chapter six to the end of the book.

Once again the colorist is Lovern Kindzierski, who brings a solid cohesiveness to the project, tying together so many disparate art styles with a unified look.

The Graveyard Book, Volume Two was published by Harper Books on July 29, 2014. It is 164 pages, priced at $19.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition.

Art of the Genre: The Top 10 Dragon Magazine Covers of the 1970s & 80s

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Dragon_88_Cover_largeToday would have been the 56th birthday of artist Keith Parkinson, and so I dedicate this post to his memory.

Over on my own Art of the Genre site, I talk a lot about Dragon Magazine.  And why not, there are tons of them, and most are filled with great artwork. Typically, I review at least one Dragon a week, and after doing this for a couple of years I felt it was high time I composed one of my infamous ‘Top 10’ lists here on Black Gate, this time around ‘The Top 10 Dragon Magazine Covers of the 1970s & 80s!’

First off, apologies to the 1990s and 2000s, but you all didn’t make the cut for this list and I’ll have to address those two decades in a later post.

Now, for me, finding 10 ‘top’ covers is a hard list to make, primarily because so many Dragon magazine paintings have strong feeling of nostalgia attached to them. The greatest of these, of course, would be the very first Dragon magazine I ever saw, #88, with cover by Jim Holloway. That, in my book, is #1, but I’ll do my best to take a step back, evaluate with a more critical eye, and see what that list actually shakes out as.

And remember, I’ve been blogging Art of the Genre for five years, am approaching a quarter of a million unique page views, all for free, so please don’t troll my list, I think I’ve earned the right to post it, but feel free to share memories or your own favorites!

So, without holding you hostage any further, I present my list of the Top 10 Dragon Magazine Covers from the 1970s & 80s!

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Ancient Worlds: Gilgamesh and Enkidu

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

Enkidu and his other best friend, Kitty.

Enkidu and his other best friend, Kitty.

I like a good romance.

(Yes, we’re still talking Gilgamesh, I haven’t hit my head. Just give me a second. Haven’t we developed that kind of blogger/reader trust yet?)

In fact, I love a good romance. Give me a lady in a corset and a handsome young duke/earl/suitably wealthy gentleman/starving but really charming young artist, 300 pages and a stretch of time that my weesters are occupied elsewhere and I am all yours. I think the romance genre of fiction is underrated and, frankly, under-read by writers in many other genres.

But romance, or more precisely eros, has taken over fiction and fandom. Romantic relationships have become the primary relationship we see in our entertainment. Romantic tension is wedged into stories, often awkwardly. It’s often justified by seeking to appeal to a female demographic, as if women were incapable of liking stories without romance or that romance is the only relationship that we value. This is not only condescending, it’s exclusionary on a number of levels. And it is sad, because some of the greatest relationships in history were not romantic or familial, but friendships.

And the first great relationship we have recorded is just that. As we discussed last time, Gilgamesh has been making a royal pain of himself, and when his people pray for help, the gods respond by creating a man who will be his match. That man is Enkidu, and once the gods breathe life into him, they set him down in the wilderness.

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