Vintage Treasures: The Horror Horn by E. F. Benson

Saturday, October 25th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Horror Horn E.F. Benson-smallIs Bruce Pennington the finest cover artist in publishing history?

Probably. I talked at length about my own interest in his art — and how we licensed two of his paintings as covers for Black Gate – in The Lost Art of Bruce Pennington. Over the years I’ve collected much of his work, and seen a great deal more online and in various art books, but from time to time I’m still surprised to see a previously undiscovered Pennington cover on a hard-to-find book (as I was with the Panther edition of Fritz Leiber’s Night Monsters back in January.)

So you can understand my delight last week when I stumbled upon The Horror Horn on eBay, a 1974 by collection by British horror writer E. F. Benson. It had a marvelously macabre cover by Bruce that I’d never laid eyes on before. In fact, I didn’t even know this book existed. The bidding stood at 5 bucks, with less than two days to go.

Well, you know how reluctant I am to pay more than $8 – $10 for a paperback. It’s rare indeed that the patient collector has to pay more than that for anything. But this was an exception, and I submitted my bid for $14 and sat back to see what happened.

In the meantime, I did a little homework on E. F. Benson. We’ve never really mentioned Benson here before (although he’s popped up in horror collections from time to time, including Otto Penzler’s magnificent The Vampire Archives, and Henry Mazzeo’s Hauntings: Tales of the Supernatural), and that’s probably an oversight.

Benson, who died in 1940, was an English novelist and short story writer, with 68 novels to his credit and 10 collections published in his lifetime. He was a frequent Weird Tales contributor, and he also appeared regularly in British publications like Hutchinson’s Magazine and The Illustrated London News.

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New Treasures: City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Saturday, October 25th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

City of Stairs-smallLast month I made a feeble attempt to sneak in a three-year old book as a New Treasure: The Company Man, a Robert Jackson Bennett novel I’d missed when it first came out. Truthfully, I’d only stumbled on The Company Man because of all the pre-publication buzz around his newest, City of Saints, and I didn’t want to seem late to the party.

I’m not going to make the same mistake with City of Saints, a tale of vast conspiracies, dead gods, buried histories, and a mysterious, protean city. Robert Jackson Bennett, author of Mr. Shivers (2010), The Troupe (2012), and American Elsewhere (2013), is quickly gaining recognition as one of America’s most acclaimed young fantasy writers.

Personally, I think he owes at least part of his fame to the fact that he’s a dead ringer for Chris Pratt, star of Guardians of the Galaxy. (See the results of our explosive investigative report: Robert Jackson Bennett and Chris Pratt: Separated at Birth?)

The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions — until its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become just another colonial outpost of the world’s new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself — first shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it — stands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy.

Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov’s oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country’s most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem — and that Bulikov’s cruel reign may not yet be over.

City of Stairs was published by Broadway Books on September 9, 2014. It is 452 pages, priced at $25 in paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Sam Weber.

The Solar Pons – Fu Manchu Connection

Friday, October 24th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

200px-OTSolarPonsOmnibusExpoloits_of_solar_ponsMy colleague Bob Byrne has already introduced many new readers to August Derleth’s wonderfully tongue-in-cheek exploits of the unlikely-named Sherlock Holmes-inspired consulting detective, Solar Pons of Praed Street.

Derleth loved tossing in nods to mystery works outside of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional universe. These included three memorable encounters with Sax Rohmer’s insidious Dr. Fu Manchu.

“The Adventure of the Camberwell Beauty” was the first of the appearances to see publication in 1958. The story presents an unnamed Dr. Fu Manchu hiring the celebrated consulting detective to recover Karah, his beautiful young ward who has been abducted by his archenemy, Baron Corvus. The tale is set in the early 1930s and although the first chronicled, it is not our heroes’ first encounter with the Devil Doctor.

Structured as a tribute to Rohmer’s 1933 novel, The Bride of Fu Manchu, the story reveals Karah (named for Rohmer’s Karamaneh) as the granddaughter of the Devil Doctor. Showing a nice bit of fidelity to Rohmer’s early tales, the unnamed Doctor resides in an underground Thames-side lair in Limehouse.

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The Lost Lands: A New Campaign World for Pathfinder

Friday, October 24th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

LostLands_StoneheartOn the opening day of Gen Con 2000, Third Edition Dungeons and Dragons was unveiled. That same day, Necromancer Games released The Wizard’s Amulet, more or less the second OGL/D20 adventure (that’s another discussion).

Necromancer, working with other companies such as White Wolf, Judges Guild and Kenzer and Company, became one of the most successful d20 companies. Their mega dungeon, Rappan Athak, is one of the best known Third Era adventures.

However, the advent of Fourth Edition spelled doom for Necromancer. Co-founder Bill Webb founded Frog God Games, a clear successor to Necromancer, and they published products for Paizo’s Pathfinder. Frog God produced new items and also updated old Necromancer goods as well, Pathfinderizing them.

With the advent of Fifth Edition D&D, Frog God is now publishing for both lines (in addition to retro-clone, Swords & Wizardry). Necromancer and Frog God adventures and supplements had loosely been connected in that they took place in Webb’s personal campaign world.

Frog God is currently putting out that campaign world under the moniker The Lost Lands. It is going to incorporate nearly everything produced by Necromancer and Frog God Games. Some products, such as their Judges Guild updates and the Hex Crawl Chronicles, belong to other folks and won’t be included. But if you look at the long list of products, there’s an awful lot, including Gary Gygax’ under-appreciated Necropolis.

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Miracles, Mystery, and the Ghost of Hank Williams: Steve Earle’s I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive

Friday, October 24th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive Steve Erle-smallFantasy is an odd genre, filled with surprises.

I was browsing the remainder table at Barnes and Noble earlier this month, when I stumbled on a dark fantasy featuring ghosts, mystery, drug addiction… and miracles. The author was none other than singer Steve Earle (Copperhead Row), who’s had his own battles with heroin addiction. I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive is Earle’s only novel (he published one collection of short stories, Doghouse Roses, in 2001), and the back cover was plastered with enthusiastic reviews from The New York Times, USA Today, Rolling Stone, and even Patti Smith. But it was the brief book description that won me over.

Doc Ebersole lives with the ghost of Hank Williams. Literally.

In 1963, ten years after he may have given Hank the morphine shot that killed him, Doc has lost his license. Living in the red-light district of San Antonio, he performs abortions and patches up the odd knife wound to feed his addiction. But when Graciela, a young Mexican immigrant, appears in the neighborhood in search of Doc’s services, miraculous things begin to happen. Everyone she meets is transformed for the better, except, maybe, for Hank’s angry ghost — who isn’t at all pleased to see Doc doing well.

Legendary American singer Hank Williams died — at the ripe old age of 29 — in 1953, and on the night he died, a doctor did indeed give him an injection of vitamin B12 mixed with morphine. I think we can safely assume the book departs from reality after that point, however.

Steve Earle is something of a Renaissance man. In addition to being a singer-songwriter, record producer, and author, he’s also an actor. He’s appeared on two HBO series, The Wire and Treme, and briefly appeared on 30 Rock. His fourteenth studio album, also titled I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, arrived in 2011. On September 16, The Wrap reported that Chris Hemsworth (Thor) will star in and produce a film adaption of I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive. It was published by Mariner on May 22, 2012. It is 256 pages, with a cover price of $13.95 in trade paperback. I bought my copy remaindered for $4.98.

The Perils of Writing a Series, Er, Part Two

Friday, October 24th, 2014 | Posted by Violette Malan

Blood PriceLast time I talked about writing a series and how there can be other things, besides how a character ages – or whether they age at all – that can complicate things for the writer. I mentioned the type of detail that can catch a writer flat-footed in a contradiction or even a simple change, which likely occurred because the writer, unlike the reader, didn’t write all of the books in one sitting.

Even when a writer does write all the books of a series in one sitting (which is to say, one after another) it can still be tricky. Some people keep extensive and detailed charts on the things that they’ve said about each character, for example. For us Fantasy and SF writers, that might also include what we’ve said about magic systems, technological differences from our own society, and basic socio-political infrastructures. And when it comes to the characters themselves, every writer of a series has to keep track of not only details like hair colour, eye colour, and clothing preference, but family relationships, education, and training. You may need to remember that casually mentioned cousin in the military or that aunt in the sorcerer’s guild.

In fact, it can be those “casual mentions,” things that somehow supply the right touch of verisimilitude at the time, that can come back and haunt you two or three books down the line. When you think about it, it’s no wonder so many main characters are orphans.

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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 Ultron 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 the exception of 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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