The German Indiana Jones: Out of the Rat Trap: Desert Adventures with Rommel by Max Reisch

Friday, December 19th, 2014 | Posted by M Harold Page

Out of the Rat Trap

What should we see in the middle of the desert but a bedside cabinet! Yes, really…no human brain could be capable of inventing something so idiotic

Why, you ask, am I reviewing a book by a former Africa Korps officer?

Partly, this:

What should we see in the middle of the desert but a bedside cabinet! Yes, really… the picture is pointless because all it shows is a single piece of furniture. There’s nothing to prove that it is standing in the middle of the Libyan desert. But you can take my word for it… because no human brain could be capable of inventing something so idiotic.

Reisch, Max. Out of the Rat Trap: Desert Adventures with Rommel.

But also because it reads like something Edgar Rice Burroughs might have written.

In a classic ERBish foreword, Reisch describes how he wrote the manuscript high in the Italian mountains. The Nazis were in retreat, and this seemed like a good place to wait out the mayhem and surrender on his own terms. To pass the time, he purchased writing materials from a local farmer and recounted his escape from another military disaster — the collapse of the Africa Korps.

As we read, we discover that he’s the German motorised Indiana Jones, with pre-war capers including biking from Vienna to Bombay.

Come World War II he found himself in the desert  helping run transport for Rommel’s army. This meant scavenging abandoned British equipment picked up during long missions into the desert flank.

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New Treasures: Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

Friday, December 19th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Lagoon Nnedi Okorafor-smallWhen Nnedi Okorafor’s first novel for adults, Who Fears Death, won the 2011 World Fantasy Award, a lot of people sat up and took notice.

It was also a 2011 Tiptree Honor Book, and a Nebula nominee. She followed it up the same year with her third YA title, Akata Witch, a Junior Library Guild Selection and an Andre Norton Award nominee. Her first collection, Kabu Kabu, appeared from Prime Books in 2013 — with a foreword by Whoopi Goldberg.

But it’s her second novel for adults that looks like it will really put her on the map. A tale of a strange alien invasion just offshore of the Nigerian city of Lagos, Lagoon has been getting a lot of the right kind of attention. It’s not yet for sale in the US, but it’s worth the effort to track drown a copy of the British edition.

Three strangers, each isolated by his or her own problems: Adaora, the marine biologist. Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa. Agu, the troubled soldier. Wandering Bar Beach in Lagos, Nigeria’s legendary mega-city, they’re more alone than they’ve ever been before.

But when something like a meteorite plunges into the ocean and a tidal wave overcomes them, these three people will find themselves bound together in ways they could never imagine. Together with Ayodele, a visitor from beyond the stars, they must race through Lagos and against time itself in order to save the city, the world… and themselves.

Lagoon was published in the UK by Hodder Paperbacks on Sept 25, 2014. It is 301 pages, priced at £8.99 in trade paperback, and £3.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Joey Hi-fi.


Revising and Editing Part I: The Big Picture

Friday, December 19th, 2014 | Posted by Violette Malan

Tim Powers

Tim Powers

A very long time ago I was taught how to write a piece of prose. Our teacher told us to write on every other line (yes, that’s how long ago it was) in order to leave ourselves room to make corrections and changes. I couldn’t think what she was going on about. Why would I want to change or correct anything? Why wouldn’t I just write it correctly in the first place? Wouldn’t that be a big savings in time and energy?

Aside: I’m a big saver of time and energy, otherwise known as a professional lazy person, or “prolazy,” as in “She’s extremely prolazy.”

Back in class, I ended up by making fake corrections to keep my teacher happy. There was no way she was going to believe that I could have gotten it right the first time. Of course, I was right, but the problem is, so was my teacher. We just didn’t realize that we weren’t on the same… well… page.

Back then, I didn’t realize that I was already changing and correcting. I was just doing it in my head before I put it down on paper. Just about anybody can do that for a paragraph or so. But no one can do it for anything much longer than that – nor for something a lot shorter, if you think about Twitter.

So, nowadays I agree with Tim Powers, who, on a panel at a World Con, once said that all professional writers revise, only amateurs think they got it right the first time.

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Goth Chick News: Redrum the Musical? Thank You Santa!

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 | Posted by Sue Granquist

The Shining-smallYou don’t have to hang around Black Gate for long to know that The Shining is my favorite horror movie of all time. So it goes without saying that today’s news is proof positive that Santa is real, I’ve been really good, and he wants me to be happy.

Indy film writer Joe Lovero, a former auto insurance salesman who sold a full-length screenplay to Universal Studios, began work on a musical parody of The Shining entitled REDRUM: The Unauthorized Musical Parody of ‘The Shining, back in 2009. After several years developing the show with composer Jon Hugo Ungar, they decided it was time to put the concept to the test by recording song demos and film a scene to promote the project.

They landed Broadway actor and three-time Tony Award nominee Marc Kudisch to play Jack Torrance in musical short film of REDRUM, which was released in October of last year. The short parodies the scene from the film version of The Shining between Jack and Delbert Grady in The Overlook Hotel’s red bathroom and features the original songs “Correct Them” and “You’ve Turned On My Light.”

I nearly killed myself laughing.

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Vintage Treasures: The Alien Upstairs by Pamela Sargeant

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Alien Upstairs-smallI don’t know a lot about Pamela Sargeant. But I knew one thing when I saw The Alien Upstairs on eBay: I didn’t have a copy. And I wanted one.

Who wouldn’t? Big spooky house, spunky heroine in the foreground wearing a sun hat, vast stretches of blasted heath… erm, I mean unmowed lawn. Anyway, it sure looks like a modern gothic novel. Except for the honkin’ big spaceship hovering stealthily in the clouds, where it thinks no one can see it.

And the marvelous What the hell is going on? look our heroine is sporting. You just know she’s going to get to the bottom of things, like a good gothic romance heroine should. You go, spunky lady with strange fashion sense.

Sarah and Gerard were dreamers — two young lovers fighting to make something of their lives in an America battered by depression and despair.

Then a mysterious stranger came to stay in their small, rural town, a handsome, enigmatic being from another world who promised to lead them to a realm beyond their wildest imaginings. But was he an angel, come to rescue them from the harsh reality of their lives, or a darker being, bent on a strange and terrible purpose?

The Alien Upstairs. An awe-inspiring tale of worlds beyond our own by the author of Watchstar and The Golden Space.

The Alien Upstairs was published in February 1985 by Bantam Books. It is 165 pages, priced at $2.75 in paperback. The too-cool cover is by Wayne Barlowe. I bought an unread copy on eBay for $1 (plus shipping.) Don’t be jealous, there are plenty more copies available.


Sample the Best of the Pulps with Wildside Pulp Classics

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Black Amazon of Mars-small Far Below and Other Horrors-small Hellhounds of the Cosmos-small

Back in September, I wrote a Vintage Treasures article about Clifford D. Simak’s Cemetery World. Simak is one of my favorite authors and much of his work — especially his early pulp fiction from the 30s and 40s — is tragically long out of print.

While I was researching the article, I discovered to my delight that Wildside Press had produced several slender volumes reprinting some of Simak’s pulp short stories, as part of the Wildside Pulp Classics line. I mentioned two: Hellhounds of the Cosmos and Other Tales From the Fourth Dimension and Impossible Things: 4 Classic Tales. As soon as I was done with the article, I ordered a copy of the former. The paperback edition was just $6.99 and it was hard to resist. It’s hardly the comprehensive Complete Short Stories I might wish for, but it did include the title story, a novelette from the June 1932 Astounding Stories that had been uncollected and out of print for nearly 80 years. And that was pretty cool.

When the book arrived, I was very pleased with it. It’s an oversized trade paperback with a glossy cover and quality paper. As I expected, it’s quite short — 142 pages — but it includes four complete tales, and the price is right.  It also includes an (uncredited) introduction, as well as a nice review of Simak’s career and the themes common in his work.

Naturally, I went back on the hunt to see what else Wildside had produced in a similar vein. It wasn’t long before I found collections for Leigh Brackett (Black Amazon of Mars and Other Tales from the Pulps), Fredric Brown (Daymare and Other Tales from the Pulps), E. Hoffmann Price (Satan’s Daughter and Other Tales from the Pulps), H. Bedford-Jones (The House of Skulls and Other Tales from the Pulps), Ray Cummings (The Fire People: Classic Science Fiction from the Pulps), Murray Leinster (The Runaway Skyscraper and Other Tales from the Pulps), and many others. Most were priced from $10-$15 or less (much less, for the digital editions).

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Recycling the Trash of War

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

Playing on a tank in Ethiopia.

Playing on a tank in Ethiopia.

Last week, we looked at some of the arms and armor of the Abyssinian Empire. With the holidays coming up, I decided to do something a bit more peaceful. On my trips through Africa, I noticed a huge amount of detritus from its various wars. I was impressed at how the people adapted this stuff into something more useful. A lot of the spare metal is picked up and sold for scrap. Old battlefields once littered with burnt-out tanks get cleared out, only a few rusting hulks being left behind.

As you can see in the picture above, one of the tanks that was left behind has been turned into the local jungle gym. This photo was taken in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, near the Eritrean border. The tank was probably a casualty of the bitter war between the two countries. These kids are Eritrean refugees from a nearby refugee camp, whose only playground is a symbol of what made them refugees in the first place.

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Future Treasures: When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

When the Heavens Fall-smallI just received Tor’s Spring 2015 catalog and it’s crammed full of great-looking titles. I’ve only perused about a third, and I’ve already flagged some promising titles. Right at the top of the list is the opening volume in a new epic fantasy series featuring dark gods,  necromancy, and a very dangerous book….

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 trilogy for fans of Patrick Rothfuss, Marc Turner’s When the Heavens Fall features gritty characters, deadly magic, and meddlesome gods.

When the Heavens Fall 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.


Sing, Muse: Ody-C Provides a Hundred New Twists on an Ancient Tale

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

ODY-C-1-CoverI love Classical literature. I have since the third grade, when I first picked up a copy of D’Aulaire’s Greek Mythology. That love drove my choices in schooling until fairly recently, and there was no work I enjoyed more than Homer’s Odyssey.

You may have noticed.

I also love comic books. I’m much more of a dabbler on that front, but I’m always looking for a new book to follow.

So when I heard that Image Comics was putting out Ody-C, a gender-bent Sci-Fi version of the Odyssey, I was excited. Actually, I think I squealed, screamed on Facebook, and immediately made plans to blog about the title here. This past weekend, I finally sat down and read through the premier issue.

And I still don’t know what I think. So while I will tag this a review, call it more a series of impressions and a place for discussion, while I wait for the next issue (which will be available December 24th).

Now, when I say I don’t know what I think, that doesn’t mean that I don’t like it. I think I do. In fact, I think I’m going to love it. But Ody-C is so deeply, intensely strange that it is taking me a long time to wrap my brain around it. Matt Fraction and Christian Ward have come up with a work that is thoroughly alien, shocking, and surreal.

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Lawrence Schick on “Dash and Daring Never Go Out of Style”

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Outlaw Angus Donald-smallLawrence Schick has posted an intriguing article on modern swashbucklers over at The Huffington Post.

I am a connoisseur of old swashbuckling stories, the kind of historical adventure tales that were arguably the western world’s most popular form of fiction in the hundred years from the publication of Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe in 1820 to Johnston McCulley’s first Zorro novel in 1919… and I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to go back to the 19th century to find a thrilling swashbuckler. A strong story boldly told never truly goes out of fashion, and there are some excellent novelists working today whose stories hearken back to the old swashbucklers, but whose writing is thoroughly modern.

He points to several recent titles, including William Dietrich’s Ethan Gage books, and a sparkling new translation of Dumas’s The Three Musketeers. He also enthusiastically recommends the Outlaw Chronicles by British author Angus Donald:

The titular outlaw in the series is none other than Robin Hood, the original swashbuckler himself… The books in this series are fast-paced, the characters are memorable and well-drawn, and the dialogue is crisp and modern. But Donald’s Robin Hood isn’t Scott’s merry and chivalrous rogue, he’s a much more dangerous man: he’s a charismatic but ruthless renegade knight with a grudge against the aristocracy, and the author’s portrayal of the hard life of a band of medieval outlaws rings true…

The author has done his homework, and his depiction of the bloody work of combat in the 12th century is in equal parts thrilling and horrific. This is solid historical adventure that doesn’t shy away from the nasty realities of life in the Late Middle Ages: Donald tells it as it was.

Lawrence Schick’s most recent post for us was Compiling The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure. Read the complete article at The Huffington Post.


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