The Sillliest Stuff I’ve Ever Read: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

The Sillliest Stuff I’ve Ever Read: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

HIPPOLYTA

’Tis strange, my Theseus, that these lovers speak of.

THESEUS

More strange than true. I never may believe
These antique fables, nor these fairy toys.
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold;
That is the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy.
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear?

If you take the time to skim over the history of criticism of William Shakespeare’s sublime A Midsummer Night’s Dream (ca. 1596), you might lose your mind. Early commentary seems to have centered on the appropriateness of depicting imaginary beings such as the fairies while more contemporary scholars (say, over the last fifty years) have seen support, as well as opposition, to such things as patriarchy and the “hegemonic order.” All sorts of dark sexual allusions are intimated by several authors.

It’s not all like that, with much focus on metatextual aspects like artistic creation, dream versus illusion, or metamorphosis. Some of this is interesting, some of it ridiculous.

Oh, there are things being said about art, love, and perception, but little of that matters much to me, and none of it matters to the pleasures of the play. For my tastes, the most accurate comment  about A Midsummer Night’s Dream is from Thomas McFarland, who described it as “dominated by a mood of happiness and that it is one of the happiest literary creations ever produced.”

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Goth Chick News: And Then We Went to the Midwest Haunters Convention…

Goth Chick News: And Then We Went to the Midwest Haunters Convention…

Last week I told you all about the adventures Black Gate photog Chris Z and I had on the Haunted House Bus Tour which was the appetizer for the Midwest Haunters Convention. The MHC, held in Chicago in early June, is the largest Halloween show of its kind in the US, targeted at haunt actors, attraction owners, home haunters and Halloween enthusiasts, making it the place to be for all aficionados of scary stuff.

Unlike a lot of shows we cover for Black Gate, the MCH is open to the public and we met attendees from all over North America, which helped explain why my favorite season is a $10B+ annual money spinner.

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Exploring Complex Human Themes by Blowing $%#! Up: Teenage Space Mercenary by M. Harold Page

Exploring Complex Human Themes by Blowing $%#! Up: Teenage Space Mercenary by M. Harold Page

That is a slight oversimplification of M. Harold Page’s mission as a fiction writer. Let’s get the whole thing: “The exploration of complex human themes through the medium of interpersonal violence and blowing $%#! up in space.” If you threw “and magical worlds” on the end, you’d have a pretty good starting description of what most of us Black Gate readers look for in a book.

That may sound a bit flippant, but in fact Page can be deeply thoughtful and historically informed about interpersonal violence. I confess, I’m biased in his favor. Page and I have corresponded off and on over the years, often through comment threads on BG. I’ve reviewed a couple of his books, historicals with a light sprinkling of fantasy elements, both of them great fun.

So when I saw the announcement that he had a new book available for preorder, I had to see it. Now you can find it here.

Which brings us to the cover copy:

Jason is a NetShooter champion. Now he must do it for real.

The teen coding nerd escapes hi-tech slavery only to end up on a gloomy jungle moon guarding an archaeological expedition, literally light years in the wrong direction from the comfortable new life he planned.

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Random Reviews: “Yuli” by Daniel Abraham

Random Reviews: “Yuli” by Daniel Abraham

Cover by Rovina Cai
Cover by Rovina Cai

Yuli” is a character study of a mercenary who has retired and is taking care of his teenage grandson. Unexpectedly living in a small house in the US, Yuli has allowed himself to lose the edge he held as an elite mercenary. He sits around his house all day, chain smoking and drinking, occasionally eating at a local diner where some other former mercenaries get together. He listens to his grandson playing a fantasy role-playing game as their conversation comes up through the house’s vents, not fully understanding what they are doing.

Although the role-playing sessions in which the party is preparing to go up against a dragon seems almost like a non sequitur grafted onto the story, Abraham actually builds it as a parallel to Yuli’s own life, with Yuli taking on the role of the first dragon, Aufganir.

Yuli’s life is turned upside down when one of his former companions, Wrona, warns him that some people who they upset several years earlier may have discovered where they are living. Abraham isn’t overly concerned about Wrona’s well-being and, aside from a flashback, he promptly disappears from the story after delivering his warning, but the news wakes Yuri from his dragon-like stupor and he quits smoking and drinking, focusing on getting back into shape, and building up his situational awareness, mirroring the role-playing his grandson’s friends are doing in the basement.

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New Treasures: Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry

New Treasures: Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry


Kagen the Damned (St. Martin’s Griffin, May 10, 2022). Cover design by Bob Grom

Jonathan Maberry is a prolific guy, with dozens of science fiction and horror novels under his belt — including ten volumes in the popular Joe Ledger series, which Brandon Crilly described in his Black Gate review as “filled with a host of deeply-imagined heroes and villains… Every novel features some sort of established horror premise and gives it a mad science twist.” As a fervent supporter of mad science, that’s definitely an endorsement I can get behind.

Kagen the Damned is Maberry’s first straight-up adventure fantasy, and it looks like a winner. Publishers Weekly calls it “gripping… peppered with figures from European folklore and monsters from the Cthulhu mythos,” and Fantasy Book Critic describes it as “a violent pulp read, fast and furious, with fantastic ideas and creepy mythos.” In true adventure-fantasy style, it’s the first installment of an epic fantasy series, and that’s okay by me. Here’s an excerpt from the notice at Kirkus Reviews, which labels it “a vibrant, textured, and exciting admixture of subgenres.”

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A Book of Wisdom and Wonder: Aspects by John M. Ford

A Book of Wisdom and Wonder: Aspects by John M. Ford


Aspects by John M. Ford (Tor Books, April 5, 2022)

John M. Ford died in 2006, not yet 50 years old. He had been publishing SF, Fantasy, poetry, games and nonfiction for some three decades, and his fiction was gaining a reputation, for originality, intricacy, beauty, and cleverness; but he was still not truly widely known. Still, novels like The Dragon Waiting and stories like “Mandalay” (the first John M. Ford work I really noticed), “Walkaway Clause,” “Fugue State,” and “Erase, Record, Play” were highly respected by the cognoscenti. And on places like the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.sf.written I heard his friends mention a huge novel he was working, to be called Aspects — all I knew about it was that it was partly about trains (a favorite subject of Ford’s.)

But when he died, everything stopped. His heirs had no connection to the SF world, his agent left the field, and his works fell out of print. People knew that Aspects, unfinished, existed in some form, but hopes for any movement towards publishing it seemed pointless. But in 2019, a journalist named Isaac Butler got interested in his case, and found his heirs, leading eventually to plans to republish his existing works. The Dragon Waiting appeared from Tor in 2020, The Scholars of Night in 2021. And now, in 2022, we have Aspects — his big unfinished novel.

Is it worth it? Oh Goddess yes!

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Spicy Adventures from Robert E. Howard

A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Spicy Adventures from Robert E. Howard

“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

Last week, we followed Robert E. Howard out of our usual mean streets, and into the Shudder Pulps. Well, Two-Gun Bob is our tour guide again this week, as we wander into Spicy Adventures territory. I’m kinda liking this REH theme, and I’ll see if I can’t follow up with a story from the boxing pulps, and maybe an Oriental adventure (which is not what we think of from that title, today).

In the early Pulp days, girlie magazines were known as ‘smooshes.’ The Great Depression hit them hard – just as with all the other pulps. And, they were under attack from civic and morality groups, as well.

In April of 1934, pulp publisher Harry Donenfeld, with editor Frank Armer (Donenfeld had previously bought out that struggling publisher, then hired him) created the Spicy Pulp formula with Spicy Detective Stories. Under the Culture Publications masthead, it took the type of hardboiled crime stories in popular pulps like Black Mask, and Dime Detective, and added in the racy elements of the smoosh mags. Picture Sam Spade leaving no doubt that he bedded a scantily-clad Brigid O’Shaughnessyy in his apartment.

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Vintage Treasures: Life During Wartime by Lucius Shepard

Vintage Treasures: Life During Wartime by Lucius Shepard


Life During Wartime (Bantam Spectra paperback reprint, July 1991). Cover by Mark Harrison

In April 1986 Lucius Shepard published his famous novella “R&R” in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. It was the tale of young David Mingolla, an American draftee reluctantly fighting a war in a near-future Central America, where psychics predict enemy movements and soldiers are fed a cocktail of experimental combat drugs. It was an immediate hit, nominated for a Hugo Award and winning the SF Chronicle, Locus, and Nebula Awards.

Shepard expanded it into Life During Wartime in 1987, his most successful novel, nominated for the Locus, Dick, and Clarke awards. I read it in the summer of 1988 and found it filled with haunting scenes. It’s perhaps the most memorable SF depiction of war I’ve ever seen, a scathing indictment of American interventionism, with insane A.I’s (who still make more sense than the war), secret psy-ops, a Heart of Darkenss-like trek through a twisted and lethal jungle, and the dark secret of the war’s origins waiting for Mingolla at the end of his harrowing journey.

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GenCon Writers Symposium (Aug 2022) : R. A. Salvatore Guest of Honor

GenCon Writers Symposium (Aug 2022) : R. A. Salvatore Guest of Honor

GenCon Writer’s Symposium is back!

Aug4-7th, 2022; Indianapolis, IN

Gen Con just announced that legendary fantasy author R. A. Salvatore is the 2022 Author Guest of Honor!

Thirty-four years ago, he created the character of Drizzt Do’Urden, the dark elf who has withstood the test of time to stand today as an icon in the fantasy genre. With his work in the Forgotten Realms, the Crimson Shadow, the DemonWars Saga, and other series, Salvatore has sold more than thirty million books worldwide and has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list more than two dozen times. He considers writing to be his personal journey, but still, he’s quite pleased that so many are walking the road beside him!

He will be participating in several Writer’s Symposium events (click to browse and register via the GenCon portalduring the convention, including book signings and appearances.

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Goth Chick News: Midwest Haunters Bus Tour – Because Its Only 130 Days Until Halloween

Goth Chick News: Midwest Haunters Bus Tour – Because Its Only 130 Days Until Halloween

I’m going to go ahead and say it, because I know you’re thinking it. Yes, its only June and yes, there are a solid four months until Halloween.

But all the spooky wonderfulness that pops up in the month of October doesn’t materialize overnight. Nope, it requires months of planning, therefore making it necessary for Black Gate Photog Chris Z and I tool around the Midwest wracking up enormous expense reports to bring you news from this incredible unseen world; a world which is moving year-round, and ultimately generates $10B plus annually in the US alone (NRF, 2021).

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