Vintage Treasures: Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Damnation Alley hardcover-small Damnation Alley Berkley Medallion-small Damnation Alley Movie tie-in-small

Roger Zelazny is one of my favorite authors. He wrote a wide range of fantasy, from Hugo-winning science fantasy (the brilliant Lord of Light) to a wildly original epic (the ten-volume Chronicles of Amber) to Sherlock Holmes-Lovecraft pastiche (A Night in the Lonesome October). Only one of his novels has ever been adapted for the screen, however: his post-apocalyptic adventure Damnation Alley, first published in hardcover by Putnam in 1969 (above left, cover by Jack Gaughan).

The book follows Hell Tanner, a condemned murderer, who’s offered a pardon if he will attempt a suicidal run across the blasted terrain from L.A. to Boston to deliver a plague vaccine. Tanner faces radioactive storms, 120-foot-long snakes, killer bats, giant mutated scorpions, and desperate human survivors as he traverses the thin habitable zone zig-zagging across the nuclear-scarred ruins of America.  The movie, which barely rises above the level of camp, was expected to be a major blockbuster. But it had the misfortune to be released the same year as Star Wars, and it sank without a trace.

The movie did a lot of things wrong… but one thing it did right was to focus much of the marketing on Tanner’s sweet ride: the Landmaster, a gigantic, grenade-throwing, nearly impenetrable all-terrain vehicle. It was custom designed for the film. Only one was every built — at a staggering cost of $350,000 in 1976 — and it still survives today. That’s why it pays to get the extended warranty, especially during periods of nuclear armageddon.

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New Treasures: Swords of Steel edited by D.M. Ritzlin

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Swords of Steel-smallSwords of Steel is a brand new sword & sorcery anthology edited by D.M. Ritzlin, filled with stories written exclusively by heavy metal musicians. In his introduction, David C. Smith says the “idea was to create a collection of the kinds of stories you would have found in the late 1960s and 1970s — in the Swords Against Darkness anthologies, for example.” I’m a fan of Andrew Offut’s Swords Against Darkness, and I heartily approve of any effort to recapture their spirit.

Swords of Steel is an anthology of fantasy/horror adventure stories; it  includes interior illustrations and maps by a variety of artists, and poems by Sean Weingartner. There’s also an artilcle, “Headbanging Warriors,” by Black Gate‘s Thursday blogger  M Harold Page.

Mighty-thewed barbarians… vengeful lords of chaos… desolate devil-haunted ruins… carnage-soaked battlefields… forbidden spells of great power… All of these you will find in the works of authors of heroic fantasy as well as heavy metal musicians. But modern fantasy has been plagued with convoluted plots and series without end. Who better to return traditional fantasy to its former glory than the heavy metal bards?

Swords of Steel is an anthology of fantastic and horrific adventure stories, each penned by a heavy metal musician. Members of such bands as Bal-Sagoth, Manilla Road, Twisted Tower Dire, Cauldron Born, Solstice, and more — proving their talent for the written word as well as song — cut through the modern wasteland, wielding Swords of Steel.

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The IX by Andrew P. Weston

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_235511s7P3HzLYAre you old enough to remember the Kirk Douglas Saturday Night Live sketch from 1980 that asked the important question: “What if Spartacus had a Piper Cub?” Well I am, and it was the first thing that popped into my head when I received a review copy of Andrew P. Weston’s new novel, The IX, from the fine people at Perseid Press. I don’t read or review much sci-fi, but they suspected, quite correctly it turns out, that this would be right up my alley.

No, modern aviation doesn’t save the famous Roman IX Legion from destruction. Instead, the IX — and a host of other soldiers from across the ages — get a chance to play with advanced weapons to stave off a massed army of energy-devouring monsters on a star far across the galaxy from Earth.

The Ardenese, a highly advanced race, rule dozens of worlds, crossing the stars in ships that rip holes in space…until they encounter an enemy they come to know only as the Horde.

First discovered on a colony world, the energy-devouring Horde manage to secrete themselves aboard Ardenese starships. One by one the colonies fall, until all that remains is the homeworld and the capital city, Rhomane.

Even protected by barriers and nearly impregnable walls, the Ardenese know they are doomed. In the end, and it is surely near, they will all die, subject to the hideous ravages of the Horde. To ensure the survival of their race, the handful of survivors turn their fates over to the Architect, a massive AI computer.

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Wanderings on Writing by Jane Lindskold: Enter to Win a Signed Copy!

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 | Posted by Emily Mah

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I am back! In the months since you last heard from me I started up a ebook and paperback formatting company, and we’ve formatted some very cool stuff. The coolest, I will post about here on the site (note, this is not all I will post about and I do not benefit commercially from these postings. This is all stuff I want to shout from the rooftops because of its coolness.)

First up is: Wanderings on Writing by Jane Lindskold, which is a compilation of essays about writing, plotting, storycrafting, characterization and much, much more. She is giving away a signed copy here –> a Rafflecopter giveaway.

Wanderings On Writing-small

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Leah Schnelbach Ranks the Fantasy Films of the 1980s

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Krull poster-smallOver at, Leah Schnelbach is having entirely too much fun ranking the major fantasy films of the 1980s. Here she is on Krull, which she ranks an abysmal 17 (out of 18):

What this movie’s actually about is the Glaive, but it only gets like ten minutes of screentime. This film was developed as a starring vehicle for the Glaive, the five-bladed boomerang-like weapon wielded by the hero. Unfortunately, the Glaive’s career never really took off: After one too many brawls at the Viper Room, and one two many sunrises spent waking up on the lawns of strangers, the weapon checked itself into a much-needed stint at Hazelden. Deciding that the Hollywood lifestyle just wasn’t enough to fill the void in its soul, the Glaive finally retired to Oregon, where it raises alpacas, and is said to be very happy.

I’m pretty sure her article is a lot more fun than watching Krull all over again.

If there was a decade of fantasy film tailor-made for impassioned fan debate, it’s the 80s. It’s ten years of classics, and stinkers, and classic stinkers, like The Beastmaster, Dragonslayer, Highlander, and many more. Schnelbach is hilarious, and even Excalibur doesn’t escape her snarky commentary (“Have you heard of an actor from Ireland or England? Yeah, he’s in this movie.”)

The article isn’t perfect (um, where’s the timeless S&S classic The Sword & the Sorcerer?) But she does give real movie fans the true gift of being dead wrong on several occasions (Master of the Universe is better than HighlanderWillow and Clash of the Titans both rank above Excalibur??), and we all know movie fans cherish nothing as much as a good debate.

Read the complete article at, and leave your impassioned defense of Labyrinth or the original version of Conan the Barbarian in the comments.

February 2015 Nightmare Magazine Now on Sale

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Nightmare Issue 29-smallThe February 2015 issue of Nightmare Magazine is now available. (Truthfully, issue 30 will be on sale any day now too, but I’ll get to that later.)

Nightmare is the sister publication of the highly-regarded science fiction and fantasy magazine Lightspeed. It’s an online magazine of horror and dark fantasy, with a broad focus — editor John Joseph Adams promises you’ll find all kinds of horror within, from zombie stories and haunted house tales to visceral psychological horror.

This issue has two pieces of original fiction:

“The Garden” by Karen Munro
“Descent” by and Carmen Maria Machado

As well as two reprints:

“Fishfly Season” by Halli Villegas
“Cult by Brian Evenson

There’s also the latest installment of their column on horror, “The H Word,” plus author spotlights, a showcase on thecover artist, and an interview with award-winning author Chuck Palahniuk.

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Bernie Mireault: The Forgotten Herald of the Modern

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Bernie MireaultOver the weekend, Mark Shainblum pointed me towards columnist Timothy Callahan’s article in Comic Book Resources discussing the work of artist Bernie Mireault. It’s been around for a while, but I’d managed to miss it, so I appreciated the link. Here’s a snippet:

If we look around the axis of American superhero comics, at the groundbreaking Modern work produced in the mid-1980s, it’s the same four or five names that keep popping up in our conversations: Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Rick Veitch, Howard Chaykin, maybe Matt Wagner. These were the creators who changed the landscape of American superhero comics, for better or worse. They heralded the Modern.

Yet there’s one creator who doesn’t get mentioned nearly as often. A writer/artist who was combining the high Romanticism of the fantastic with the mundane life on the street as well as any of the others. A comic book creator whose visual style has rarely been duplicated… I’m talking, of course, about Bernie Mireault.

Mireault (rhymes with “Zero”) has been working continuously in the comic book industry for the past 24 years, but he gets almost none of the acclaim given to his peers… in the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s, Mireault produced or helped produce three essential texts of the Modern era, and it’s time those three books were given their due.

I first met Bernie in 1985, when he crashed at my home in Ottawa, Canada, while attending a local comic convention. I was impressed with him immediately — especially his groundbreaking work on the hilarious Mackenzie Queen for Matrix Comics. He’s extrememly gifted as a comedic artist, and his character design is second to none — as you can see from his marvelous panel illustrating “The Loiterer in the Lobby” by Michael Kaufmann and Mark McLaughlin for Black Gate 4 (above). I hired Bernie as an illustrator when I launched Black Gate, and he graced virtually every issue of the print magazine. I profiled him back in 2009, and Matthew David Surridge wrote a detailed review of his excellent comic The Jam last December. His other work includes Grendel (with Matt Wagner), The Blair Witch Chronicles, and Dr. Robot.

Read the complete CBR article here.

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Lords of Dus

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Dus_BasiliskThe eighties was full of epic fantasy series’ by the likes of David Eddings, Raymond Feist, Stephen R. Donaldson, Terry Brooks and Katherine Kurtz, to name a few. While many remain giants in the history of the genre, Lawrence Watt-Evans wrote a largely forgotten series: The Lords of Dus.

Watt-Evans has written quite a bit of fantasy, science fiction and horror and is probably best known for his Ethshar series. Ethshar was created as a role-playing game world and he ended up writing many novels and short stories using the setting.

Watt-Evans had flunked out of Princeton’s architectural school and had to wait a year before he could re-apply. He had heard (the possibly apocryphal story) that Larry Niven started his career by deciding to write for one year and if he sold something, continue on: if he didn’t, he’d give it up. Watt-Evans decided to do the same and wrote a slew of short stories, selling one.

He did go back to school, but he wrote a novel (The Cyborg and the Sorcerer) on a summer break and after two years of college, gave it up to make a living with the typewriter (as a writer, not a typewriter salesman).

Influenced by Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock and Lin Carter’s anthologies (Flashing Swords, anyone?), he was ready to spin a fantasy saga featuring a non-human (but less effete than a Melnibonian) hero. Thus, the race of overmen.

He wanted to write a ‘quest’ series, so he needed somebody to tell Garth what to do. He borrowed from Robert Chambers and came up with The King in Yellow (yes, people were influenced by Chambers before HBO’s True Detective). So, we had a sort of Elric meets the Labors of Hercules.

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High Space Opera: Jim Starlin’s Metamorphosis Odyssey and Dreadstar

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Marvel Graphic Novel #3: DreadstarRecently, Black Gate overlord John O’Neill reported the news that Jim Starlin’s comic-book creation Dreadstar was in development as a TV series. Starlin will be a writer and executive producer of the new show, which is to be developed for television by Universal Cable Productions and Benderspink. No network was announced for the series, but io9 observed that Universal’s behind a number of shows for Syfy, where a Dreadstar show would presumably fit nicely.

As it happens, I was a fan of Dreadstar when it was being published back in the late 80s. It had been years since I’d looked at an issue, though, so the news of the TV deal prompted me to dig out the old comics and go through them again. I ended up with mixed feelings. For me, at least, the golden age of Dreadstar was about twelve. But if I can see problems with the book more clearly now, I can also see what works. And I can see how an ongoing TV show makes a certain amount of sense.

To explain that I need to start by going through the book’s publishing history. This gets complicated. Before Dreadstar there was The Metamorphosis Odyssey, a painted serial that ran for the first nine issues of Marvel’s Epic Illustrated. Epic was an anthology of creator-owned work somewhat along the lines of Heavy Metal magazine. By the time Starlin’s serial ended, late in 1981, he’d also published a related story through Eclipse Comics, a painted story called The Price. (Originally in black-and-white, it would later be reprinted by Marvel in colour. The Metamorphosis Odyssey, meanwhile, was in black-and-white for its first few chapters, then switched to colour as it went on.) The next chapter of the story came in Marvel’s third “graphic novel” — a line of books which somewhat resembled softcover European graphic albums — called, simply, Dreadstar.

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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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