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Art of the Genre: I.C.E.’s Middle-Earth Roleplaying Part Four: The Maps

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 | Posted by Scott Taylor

MIddle-EarthHave you ever designed a campaign and thought to yourself, ‘Damn, this is so good, I should build a company on it?’ Well, certainly you aren’t the only one, and dozens of game companies have been born from folk’s home brew campaigns, but it wasn’t until very recently that I realized that I.C.E.’s Middle-Earth Role-Playing was born of the same ilk.

Now before you all go running off to Twitter about Tolkien being a RPG nerd, you have to have the full understanding of what I’m talking about. First and foremost, Tolkien WAS NOT a gamer, but that didn’t mean that his world wasn’t ripe for table-top role-players to want to explore in the mid to late 1970s.

One case in particular came out of the University of Virginia in 1977, when then student Pete Fenlon decided he wanted to create a role-playing game around Tolkien’s world for some friends on campus.

My first question upon finding this out was, ‘Why didn’t you just play D&D?’ and Pete’s answer was simple: D&D simply wasn’t Tolkien. As an avid camper and backpacker, as well as a member of the SCA, Fenlon understood way too much about Tolkien to throw a campaign into a world of negative integer armor classes and D20 to-hit charts.

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The Series Series: Forever in the Memory of God and Other Stories by Peadar O Guilin

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Avery

Forever In The Memory Of God-smallHow did he pull it off?

The stories in Peadar O Guilin’s Forever in the Memory of God are in some ways old-school weird fiction, Clark Ashton Smith style, heavy on disturbing imagery and sanity-shattering trauma so far over the top that it risks going beyond gallows humor and straight into comic absurdity, and yet it works. Every time. Even for me, and this is usually not my kind of thing. What these stories have going for them that the old pulp classics didn’t is striking characterization, a flesh of psychological realism animating some surprising configurations of plot bones.

The characters in the three stories here collected find themselves in dire predicaments. These characters — not all of them can be called heroes — bring their own moments of insight and blindness, laughter and grief, to their struggles. O Guilin keeps them struggling against plot twist after plot twist, all the way to twisty endings that gave me that wonderful readerly shock followed by a sense of inevitability: What?! Oh, but of course!

In the opening story, “The First of Many,” a young woman, born into the Rememberer tribe in a post-alien-invasion Earth, is the first of her kind to be a host organism to the larval young of the slug-like conquerors. She copes with the gradual loss of her arm and her privacy in her own mind — as the larva learns to read her thoughts and chemically manipulate her emotions — with a gallows humor that will be familiar to anyone who has lived with a chronic illness.

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The Kick That Did Not Start

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014 | Posted by FraserRonald

Not all Kickstarters will fund. Farewell, Something Lovely didn’t.

That was unfortunate, but it was not a complete loss. Some of the backers hadn’t backed Centurion: Legionaries of Rome, my successful Kickstarter, so I had increased my network. I also learned some lessons which helped me prepare for my ongoing Kickstarter for Nefertiti Overdrive: Ancient Egytian Wuxia. Since I’m a generous guy, let me share my lessons learned with you.

1) Expect failure and you can expect failure.

I went into Farewell, Something Lovely with a strong suspicion that I would fail. I’m not saying that I created my own failure… actually, I am saying that, but not that I gave up on the Kickstarter.

I kept pushing until the end. I wonder, though, if that expectation of failure curtailed my efforts in some way. Perhaps I could have done more if I believed the Kickstarter would succeed.

It’s similar to an explanation of backer psychology I heard: backers will only pledge to a Kickstarter they expect to fund. Just as a backer will create a failure by expecting a Kickstarter to fail, I have a feeling that if you go in with your parachute on, maybe you’ll bail out of the plane before absolutely necessary. Maybe if I had put more effort into the Kickstarter, I could have saved it.

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The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in February

Monday, March 31st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

AD&D DMGScott Taylor’s massive survey of the top artists working in the role playing industry since its birth — the latest in his popular Art of the Genre series — was our most popular article last month.

In second and third place were our reports on the latest fan turmoil inside the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), including a series of ugly personal attacks on ex-SFWA Vice President Mary Robinette Kowal.

Fourth was the first installment of Jon Sprunk’s Firefly retrospective, now up to seven chapters.

For fifth place it was back to the People-Behaving-Badly part of our program, with a report on Macmillan Associate Director of Contracts Sean P. Fodera’s threat to sue everyone who linked to the Daily Dot report on his attack on Mary Robinette Kowal (including Black Gate, presumably). We’re still waiting for that thick Fed Ex envelope from a legal firm.

The complete Top 50 Black Gate posts in February were:

  1. Art of the Genre: The Top 10 RPG Artists of the Past 40 Years
  2. Robert Silverberg, Gregory Benford, Dave Truesdale call for Changes to SFWA
  3. SFWA Ugliness Spreads to Personal Attacks on Mary Robinette Kowal
  4. Firefly, a Retrospective – Part 1
  5. Sean P. Fodera Threatens to sue 1,200 Writers
  6. Read More »

The Top 20 Black Gate Fiction Posts in February

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

AppleMarkMark Rigney’s “The Find,” part of his perennially popular Tales of Gemen series, maintained  the top spot last month, holding off a stiff challenge from Jon Sprunk’s hit novel Blood and Iron.

“The Find” is actually Part II of the series. It began with “The Trade,” which Tangent Online called a “Marvelous tale.” Read all three tales in their entirety right here.

Jon Sprunk’s Blood and Iron, Book One of The Book of the Black Earth, was released this month by Pyr Books and we offered an exclusive pre-release excerpt of this brand new sword & sorcery epic in February.

Next on the list was Joe Bonadonna’s fast-paced adventure “The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum,” followed by E.E. Knight’s sword & sorcery epic “The Terror of the Vale,” the second in the Blue Pilgrim sequence, and sequel to “That of the Pit.”

Fifth and sixth were our excerpt from Sword Sisters, the new novel from Tara Cardinal and Black Gate blogger Alex Bledsoe, and “The Sealord’s Successor,” by Aaron Bradford Starr, a new tale of Gallery Hunters Gloren Avericci and Yr Neh, last seen in “The Tea-Maker’s Task” and “The Daughter’s Dowry.” Next was Martha Wells’s complete novel, the Nebula nominee The Death of the Necromancer.

Also making the list were exciting stories by Dave Gross, Jamie McEwan, Janet Morris and Chris Morris, Mike Allen, Ryan Harvey, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, C.S.E. Cooney, Vaughn Heppner, Jason E. Thummel, David C. Smith, Michael Shea, and John C. Hocking. If you haven’t sampled the free adventure fantasy stories offered through our Black Gate Online Fiction line, you’re missing out. Here are the Top Twenty most-read stories in February.

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Future Treasures: The Silk Map, A Gaunt and Bone Novel by Chris Willrich, Due May 6

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Silk Map Chris WillrichWe published Chris Willrich’s gloriously imaginative sword-and-sorcery tale “The Lions of Karthagar” in Black Gate 15. I’ve been very curious about his popular Gaunt and Bone tales, which have appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Flashing Swords, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and other places. The first Gaunt and Bone book, The Scroll of Years — which contained a complete novel plus the very first published story, “The Thief with Two Deaths” (from F&SF, June 2000) — was released in September of last year and now we have the details on the sequel.

At the end of The Scroll of Years, the poet Persimmon Gaunt and her husband, the thief Imago Bone, had saved their child from evil forces at the price of trapping him within a pocket dimension. Now they will attempt what seems impossible; they will seek a way to recover their son. Allied with Snow Pine, a scrappy bandit who’s also lost her child to the Scroll of Years, Gaunt and Bone awaken the Great Sage, a monkeylike demigod of the East, currently trapped by vaster powers beneath a mountain. The Sage knows of a way to reach the Scroll — but there is a price. The three must seek the world’s greatest treasure and bring it back to him. They must find the worms of the alien Iron Moths, whose cocoons produce the wondrous material ironsilk.

And so the rogues join a grand contest waged along three thousand miles of dangerous and alluring trade routes between East and West. For many parties have simultaneously uncovered fragments of the Silk Map, a document pointing the way toward a nest of the Iron Moths. Our heroes tangle with Western treasure hunters, a blind mystic warrior and his homicidal magic carpet, a nomad princess determined to rebuild her father’s empire, and a secret society obsessed with guarding the lost paradise where the Moths are found — even if paradise must be protected by murder.

Chris Willrich is also the author of the Pathfinder Tales novel The Dagger of Trust.

The Silk Map will be on published by Pyr Books on May 6, 2014. It is 442 pages, and will be priced at $15.95 in trade paperback and $11.99 for the digital edition. Visit Chris’s website here.

The Novels of Michael Shea: The Mines of Behemoth

Friday, March 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Mines of Behemoth-smallThe last two Michael Shea novels we discussed, The Extra and Attack on Sunrise, took his career in an intriguing and very different direction. But I still admit a greater fascination with his Nifft the Lean novels, Nifft the Lean (1982), The Mines of Behemoth (1997), and The A’rak (2000). Baen Books published the last two in attractive paperback editions, with covers by Gary Ruddell, and I’ve always thought they were some of the most eye-catching sword-and-sorcery on the market.

We lost Michael last month, but very fortunately for us, he left a fine body of work behind to remember him by, including The Color Out Of Time (1984), In Yana, the Touch of Undying (1985); and his highly acclaimed collections Polyphemus (1987), The Autopsy and Other Tales (2008), and Copping Squid and Other Mythos Tales (2010).

Nifft the Lean, and his companion-at-arms, Barnar Hammer-Hand, were often lucky. Enroute to working Costard’s sap mine — very dangerous, and sometimes nauseating work far below ground — they were shipwrecked. But this proved fortuitous, when they met Bunt, who had been seeking just such as they. If they would work the sap mine, but also bring back twenty gills of fluid, he would make them exceedingly wealthy. So it was settled. They would suck the sap from the servants of the monstrous insectile queen — and they would bring back some of the ichor that she alone exuded — and they would be rich. It seemed relatively easy. They wouldn’t have to go to hell at all, for instance.

Of course, the best laid plans sometimes do go a little astray.

The Mines of Behemoth was published in 1997 by Baen Books. It is 256 pages, with an original price of $5.99 in paperback. It is out of print and there is no digital edition.

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New Treasures: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Friday, March 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Cruel Beauty Rosamund Hodge-smallRosamund Hodge’s story “Apotheosis” from Black Gate 15, was a brilliant and wholly original tale of three brothers who undertake a dangerous voyage to find a new god for their small village. She’s also been published in Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Lightspeed Magazine.

Cruel Beauty, her first novel, arrived in January, and has already received wide acclaim. I finally acquired a copy last month and it looks gorgeous. I plan to settle in with it this weekend and find out what just what wonders Rosamund has accomplished with her fairy tale source material.

The romance of Beauty and the Beast meets the adventure of Graceling in a dazzling fantasy novel about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom, Nyx has always known her fate was to marry him, kill him, and free her people from his tyranny.

But on her seventeenth birthday, when she moves into his castle high on the kingdom’s mountaintop, nothing is as she expected — particularly her charming and beguiling new husband.

Nyx knows she must save her homeland at all costs, yet she can’t resist the pull of her sworn enemy — who’s gotten in her way by stealing her heart.

Cruel Beauty was published by Balzer + Bray on January 28, 2014. It is 352 pages, priced at $17.99 in hardcover and $9.99 for the digital edition.

See all of our recent New Treasures here.

Jon Sprunk’s Blood and Iron, Volume One of The Book of the Black Earth, on Sale Today

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Blood and Iron Jon Sprunk-smallJon Sprunk’s highly anticipated Blood and Iron, the first book in his new series, The Book of the Black Earth, finally goes on sale today. We gave you the scoop on the book last month; last week Jon peeled back the curtain on the book’s origins in a guest post at Fantastical Imaginations.

The Book of the Black Earth series is set in the same secondary world as my Shadow Saga, but in a different region far to the east of Caim’s adventures. It follows three people as they struggle for freedom in an ancient land called Akeshia, where magic is worshipped and powerful God-Kings (and –Queens) hold the power of life and death over a vast race of people.

Horace is a shipbuilder and sailor who embarks on a Great Crusade for his country, but winds up shipwrecked on the shores of his enemy. Taken captive and made a slave, he discovers a hidden talent for sorcery, and thereby comes of the attention of the local ruling queen. Alyra is a slave. As one of the queen’s handmaidens, she is lovely, intelligent, and obedient. She is also a spy in the service of a foreign government, sent to turn the greedy eyes of the Akeshians away from her homeland. Jirom is a former mercenary turned gladiator. Dragooned into the queen’s army, he joins a group of subversive slaves who crave freedom…

One of the things I really wanted to tackle in this series was an original magic system. I played around with a few concepts until I hit on one that fit my world and my story. It plays on the basic “elemental” magic (earth, air, fire, and water) with a few twists of my own.

Jon Sprunk is the author of the Shadow Saga (Shadow’s Son, Shadow’s Lure, and Shadow’s Master) and a mentor at the Seton Hill University fiction writing program. He is a regular blogger for Black GateBlood and Iron was published by Pyr Books on March 11, 2014. It is 445 pages and is available in trade paperback for $18.00 ($11.00 for the digital version). Learn more at Pyr Books or read our exclusive excerpt here.

Dabir and Asim Return in Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters

Thursday, March 6th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Kaiju Rising Age of Monsters-smallYou want to know my three favorite things? (It’s a rhetorical question; you don’t actually have to email an answer. Seriously, don’t.) Dabir, Asim, and Kaiju. Sometimes Kaiju is #2, ’cause Asim is occasionally kind of a lunkhead.

So how awesome would it be to have Howard Andrew Jones’s Arabian adventurers Dabir and Asim in the same volume as some of the most diabolical Kaiju of the decade? (Again, rhetorical question. Stop e-mailing me stuff.) For the record, if would be thoroughly awesome.

Well, I think you can tell where this is going. Kaiju Rising, the Kickstarter-funded anthology we pulled the lid back on last September, has finally landed — and left a Godzilla-sized footprint on the industry. The Kickstarter campaign was a rousing success, raising $18,562 against a $10,0000 goal, and one of the unlocked stretch goals was a new Dabir and Asim story from the distinguished Mr. Jones. Here’s what Howard had to say about his contribution:

Monsters turn up a lot in my fiction, and Kaiju style critters wandered across the stage in the first two Dabir and Asim novels. In true Ray Harryhausen fashion, The Bones of the Old Ones features a titanic battle between a Roc (the giant predatory bird of Arabian Nights fame) and a huge spirit wolf fashioned of snow and ice.

Given my interests, I naturally jumped at the chance to create a story for Kaiju Rising. In one or two of the Dabir and Asim stories I’ve referenced a deadly encounter the boys had on the ocean, and now I’m finally setting the tale down.

Howard’s story is “The Serpent’s Heart,” and it appears alongside 22 other stories focused on the theme of gargantuan creatures in the vein of Pacific Rim, Godzilla, and Cloverfield. The authors include Larry Correia, James Lovegrove, Gini Koch (as J.C. Koch), James Maxey, C.L. Werner, Joshua Reynolds, Jaym Gates, Shane Berryhill, Natania Barron, Paul Genesse & Patrick Tracy, and many others. Howard’s tale isn’t the only one to draw on existing characters; Edward M. Erdelac’s story is set in the world of the Dead West and James Swallow contributes a Colossal Kaiju Combat tie-in.

Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters was published February 9, 2014 by Ragnarok Publications. It is a massive 493 pages, priced at $4.99 for the digital version. The print version is forthcoming; its price has not yet been announced.

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