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A Saxon Tower in Oxford

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

The Saxon Tower rises above a busy shopping street.

The Saxon Tower rises above a busy shopping street.

Ha! I bet you were expecting another Spanish post, weren’t you? Well, I spend the summers in Oxford, so this week you’re getting something a little more northern. When I’m not researching my next book in the Bodleian Library, I set out to explore the city and surrounding countryside for sights of historical interest.

Oxford is a beautiful university town filled with fine architecture. It’s also an ancient city with roots back into prehistory. It first came into prominence in Anglo-Saxon times and a trace of this has survived. On busy Cornmarket Street, there’s a well-preserved example of a Anglo-Saxon tower. It’s part of St. Michael at the North Gate church and was built around the year 1040. This makes it Oxford’s oldest building and one of the oldest Anglo-Saxon structures anywhere.

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New Treasures: There is No Lovely End by Patty Templeton

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

There is no Lovely End-smallIt’s always a delight when one of our bloggers publishes a book. But it is a very special delight to see the brilliant Patty Templeton release her first novel, There is No Lovely End, which I have been enjoying in tiny snippets at various readings across Chicagoland for the last two years.

There is No Lovely End is a ghost book with a truly amazing cast of characters, living and dead — including Hester Garlan, once the most powerful medium in the nation, bereft of her supernatural gifts and in relentless pursuit of the boy she thinks can return them: her son Nathan; and Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester Rifle fortune, on a quest of her own to rid herself of ghosts. Not to mention a very resourceful rat named O’Neill. C.S.E. Cooney calls the novel ”a New World populated with a new kind of ghost. Templeton’s language is lavish and diabolical, as if Charles Dickens strolled into the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and came out the other end wearing ruby slippers.” How right she is.

Apparitions! Outlaws! Mediums! 1884. Nathan Garlan hears and sees the dead. Using his uncanny aptitudes to assist society and its specters, he has become the most acclaimed medium in Boston. But not all esteem him. Nathan Garlan’s own mother craves her boy butchered — and she’s not the only one…

Misery! Lust! Murder! New Haven. Sarah Winchester is the heiress to the Winchester Rifle fortune and a haunted woman. She has searched for release from familial phantoms for two decades, yet found no respite. However, she has heard of a medium in Boston who regularly administers miracles…

Wit! Wonders! Outrage! Who is the Reverend Doctor Enton Blake? Why does the lawless Hennet C. Daniels search for him? What form of profane curio is a trick box — and what, precisely, does one inter within it? Will Sarah Winchester find serenity through Nathan Garlan’s services? Or will Hester Garlan find her son first?

There is No Lovely End was published on July 1st by Odd Rot. It is 444 riveting pages, priced at $16 in trade paperback, and $4.99 for the digital edition. Check out the trailer here. The cover and interior spot art are by Matthew Ryan Sharp. It gets my highest recommendation.


Art of the Genre: Gandalf, Conan, and Gray Mouser review Tales from the Emerald Serpent Volume II: A Knight in the Silk Purse; moderated by Cthulhu

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Another Word for Rain art by Jeff Laubenstein and writing by Dave Gross

Another Word for Rain art by Jeff Laubenstein and writing by Dave Gross

Somewhere, in the labyrinthine halls of time and space, three figures sit in what would be considered a green room by the standards of the world we know today.  Each, in their time, was brought forth by the hand and mind of a great writer, but upon their passing, most of their tales came to an end, so what else is there to do but sit in the purgatory of licensing and read about other adventures that they can no longer partake.  So it is that these three immortal characters have come to discuss a new work of fiction, one that has a seed of commonality with the genre they so thoroughly understand.  And to keep them on track, the Great Cthulhu has been summoned from R’lyeh to moderate the affair.

Cthulhu: zzzzzzzz

Gandalf: Introductions you say, why yes, I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me!

Gray Mouser: Seriously, if I have to hear him say that one more time, Cat’s Claw is coming out…

Conan: Nay, friend Mouser, stay thy hand that it can be put to better use on dark sorcerers like those of ancient Stygia and not this kindly grey-cloaked priest.

Gandalf: Priest! I dare say you misjudge, my heavily girded friend, but you do bring up a point of interest, that being the mage-craft and wizardry, something that appears in the tale Water Listens.  Now Cenote is indeed one of my kindred and has the grace of the Secret Fire and the flame of Anor certainly burns within her.

Gray Mouser: Flame?  Did you read as I did, Stormcrow? That woman is more reminiscent of Sheelba of the Eyeless Face, and there was no fire in her at all, but instead she seems filled with water as deep as the soul of Sea-King.

Conan: Tis true, Gandalf, yet she has friends of the flame, her slave Hunhau and the stout black, Tohil.

Cthulhu: zzzzzzzzzz

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Headed For a Watery Grave: The Adventures of Captain Marvel, Chapter Ten: Doom Ship

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Thomas Parker

Captain Marvel Chapter Ten BettyI’m glad to see that you’ve gotten here early — as we near the end of our saga, seats are going to be at a premium, and you’re fast running out of opportunities to see Frank Coughlan Jr. and Tom Tyler perform their mystic switcheroo. I mean, once this silly thing is out of the theater, it’ll be forever relegated to the realm of nostalgic memory — it’s not like anyone will be able to watch it at home sixty years from now! That would be magic…

And so, while we still have the chance, let’s join the ragged remains of the Malcolm Scientific Expedition in their struggle against the malific machinations of the sinister Scorpion in this week’s chapter of The Adventures of Captain Marvel, “Doom Ship.” Shazam! (Cough, cough…)

Pay close attention to this week’s title cards, recapping Chapter Nine; there will be a quiz after the main feature. “The Scorpion — Forces Doctor Lang to reveal the hiding place of his lens.” “Doctor Lang — Gives Betty the combination to his safe.” “Captain Marvel — Tries to warn Betty of a death trap at Lang’s home.” “Billy Batson — And Betty decide to get the lens.” Now to pick up where we left off…

Last week, we left Billy and Betty standing in front of the late Doctor Lang’s safe, unaware that two tommy guns were aimed at their backs, primed to fire as soon as the safe is opened. (They’re also unaware that Barnett and two other Scorpion men are watching them from hiding.) Just as Billy turns the safe’s dial to the last number, but before he can open the door, Barnett and his boys emerge from behind the drapes.

One of them shoves Betty out of the way. She slams against the wall and is knocked out (by the serial’s end, this woman will have suffered more concussions than Brett Favre) and then he slugs Billy on the head with a gun, laying the intrepid broadcaster out cold.

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Game Changers

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 | Posted by James Maliszewski

book4In previous posts, I may have mentioned that, as a kid, there were three roleplaying games that I liked – and played – above all others: Dungeons & Dragons, Traveller, and Call of Cthulhu. I played lots of other games, too, but these were the ones that most strongly captured my imagination. Because I played these three so much, I was also a voracious consumer of supplementary materials produced for them. Of course, being a young person, my funds were limited; I had to be judicious in what I purchased. Consequently, I tended to put a priority on items I deemed to have the most overall utility. This meant, in the case of AD&D for example, that I placed greater value on hardcover rulebooks than on adventure modules (though I still bought plenty of adventures over the years).

My appetite for such broadly “useful” supplements was practical, since my friends and I played RPGs a lot. We were young and well nigh addicted to this weird new form of game. During the summer months, we quite literally played all day long, from the time we got up until the time the sun set, taking brief breaks only to scarf down some food before returning to the table. I’d conservatively reckon that, in terms of raw hours of play, my friends and I had probably played more than had many of our elders who’d started roleplaying years before us. That’s the nature of youth, as we had the free time to indulge our boundless enthusiasm in a way that most people do not.

I hesitate to say that, because we played so much, we more quickly became jaded than did many of our peers, but it’s probably true nonetheless. We were constantly on the lookout for ways to take our campaigns in new directions, to stoke the flame of our RPG ardor. The first supplement that I remember achieving this was Book 4: Mercenary for GDW’s Traveller. My friends and I started playing Traveller with The Traveller Book, which was released in 1982. That book alone was enough to keep us busy for many, many months of science fiction adventure in the far future. However, we did eventually want more out Traveller and Mercenary fit the bill, providing us with new skills, equipment, and – most importantly – expanded rules for generating Army and Marine characters.

Mercenary changed the way we played Traveller forever. Previously, Merchants, Scouts, and Navy personnel were favored, because these careers were all space-based and thus what we considered to be the stuff of sci-fi. But Mercenary-generated characters were so much better than those generated using the original system. They had more (and better) skills, as well as lots of fun perks like advanced training and commendations. Our campaigns quickly shifted gears to focus on ground-pounding mercenaries involved in interstellar brush fire wars (which, as it turned out, was how nearly everyone else we knew played the game). Mercenary had a profound impact on us and extended the life of our ongoing Traveller campaign considerably.

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Vintage Treasures: Subterranean Magazine, Issue #2

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

SubterraneanMmagazine 2-smallAfter the the 2014 Windy City Pulp & Paper show in April was over, I collected all the pulps, vintage paperback, fanzines, art books, and old magazines I’d acquired and packed them snugly in two boxes next to my big green chair. I’ve been digging into the boxes at my leisure ever since.

I highly recommend this. Strange as it sounds, it’s a little like time travel. Most of the old magazines I bought — including OMNI, Interzone, Weird Tales, Starlog, Cosmos, Galileo, and the great Fantasy Review — are from the 80s and 90s. Which means they’re largely concerned with the same group of writers, movies, and books.

After a few weeks of reading ads and reviews from the early 80s, you start to feel oddly plugged in to the state of the industry thirty years ago (and realize just how much good reading you have to catch up on – and I’m not even caught up on my reading from last year!)

You also start to appreciate what a fabulous resource magazines are. No one can keep up on even a fraction of the genre novels published every year. But the best fiction magazines will keep you current on the exciting, new, emerging writers, with a diverse range of short fiction — not to mention novel reviews.(And the ads. Let’s not forget the ads.)

One of the great delights I pulled out of those Windy City boxes was a pristine copy of the second issue of Subterranean Magazine from 2005, back when it was still available in print. The magazine is still very much alive and excellent as ever, published these days as Subterranean Online (see their latest issue here.) But nine years ago, you could curl up with a thick issue printed on quality paper, and believe me, it was definitely worth your time.

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The Start Of A Grand Adventure Goblin Moon by Teresa Edgerton

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_2254425vQLXHqXWMatthew David Surridge reviewed Teresa Edgerton’s Goblin Moon (1991) here at Black Gate early last year, and here I am to write about it again. It’s a book that, though recently reprinted, I suspect most readers are unaware of, so I want to shine another spotlight on it. Also, since reading Tim Powers’s The Drawing of the Dark, my itch for swashbuckling adventure got itchier.

I read this when it first came out and my memory of it was very pleasant. I remembered loving the dry humor and also the tremendous detail. Now my friend Carl, on the other hand, said he hated any book that spent as much time as it did describing characters’ clothes. My response was, if I recall correctly, that he was missing the point or something like that.

On rereading Goblin Moon this past week, I was happy to find that, one, the book held up very well and two, yes, Carl missed the point or something. Actually, the point he missed was that Teresa Edgerton created a deliriously detailed world, down to the clothing, that is richer than just about any other in fantasy.

There are a host of things that make Goblin Moon a fun read. The elaborate world-building, the intricate plot, and the colorful characters, to name an important triumvirate, are exactly the sorts of things you want to find in a book with its roots in Stevenson, Thorndike, and Sabatini. Add a lively pace and clever writing and you’ve got the perfect way to while away several lazy hours amidst floating coffins, decadent diabolists, a vengeful fairy, and an interlude with pirates.

Goblin Moon opens with a pair of river scavengers, Jed Braun and his uncle Caleb, drawing a coffin out of the waters of the River Lunn. The casket bears the strangely undecayed body of a man and several tomes of dark magic. Their discovery leads Caleb back to an old companion, the bookseller and one-time alchemist Gottfried Jenk, and consequently leaves young Jed in need of a new way to support himself.

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Adventure On Film: Time After Time

Monday, July 21st, 2014 | Posted by markrigney

Movie fans will forever remember Malcolm McDowell for his simpering, ultra-violent turn in Aimages Clockwork Orange (1971), but actors aren’t the sort to rest on their laurels, and by 1979, McDowell felt ready to embody a genuine historical figure, H.G. Wells.

The film was Time After Time, not to be confused with the Cyndi Lauper song (or the infinitely better cover by songbird Eva Cassidy), and if there’s a more definitive origin point for the Steampunk movement, I’d like to know what it is.

At the helm is first-time director Nicholas Meyer, who must have a soft spot for science fiction. Only a few years later, and armed with a much heftier budget, he was tapped to captain Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982).

As for Time After Time, it’s far from perfect –– the script contains several gargantuan plot holes, and we viewers (if I may be forgiven the mixed metaphor) must swallow hard to keep up –– but it does work in fits and starts, thanks especially to the looming presence of David Warner as a time-skipping and dangerously prescient Jack the Ripper.

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Han Solo Breaks a Leg

Monday, July 21st, 2014 | Posted by Nick Ozment

Han-Solo-Harrison-Ford-Star-Wars-7As with most “BIG EVENT” movies, from the first day the new Star Wars film was announced, fans, critics, and Hollywood pundits have been speculating about what the storyline will be. The rumor mill is in full gear and so it will go until the first previews are actually screened late next year. The studio and filmmakers have been playing their part by keeping everything mum, hush-hush, top-secret –  confidential scripts and non-disclosure clauses in actors’ contracts (on threat of being tossed into a rancor pit). The usual.

So when Harrison Ford broke his leg on the set a few weeks back (as I’m sure most of you have heard), the Hollywood gossip machine was already fired up and spitting out rumors on cue.

First, though, if somehow you missed it, this is what happened: Apparently, a door on the Millennium Falcon fell on him. And pause for a moment here to let that sink in. Could you have imagined, ten years ago, that in 2014 you’d be reading about Han Solo breaking his leg on the Millennium Falcon? The Falcon is undoubtedly a bit more dangerous to navigate when you’re 72 years old — but who would have thought that old space smuggler would be back on the big screen? Ford has vehemently insisted for the past THIRTY years that he would never again reprise the role that made him famous. The prequels came and went, and the clock kept ticking, and George Lucas said he wasn’t going to make any more films, and most people just naturally assumed that Ford was probably correct. But — surprise — Han Solo is back!

And then he breaks his leg.

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Cemetery Dance #71 Now on Sale

Monday, July 21st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Cemetery Dance 71-smallCemetery Dance is a magazine I buy rather sporadically. I should probably remedy that, as its non-fiction features – especially their news and reviews columns – are consistently excellent. It does a terrific job of keeping you up on the latest in the horror field.

I’m usually a fiction guy, which is why their All Fiction Special Issues are particularly appealing. There’s only been two others in their 25-year history, so when I saw this one on the magazine rack a few weeks ago, I bought it immediately.

This issue has a stellar cast of contributors, including Bentley Little, Simon Clark, Darrell Schweitzer, Jack Ketchum, and many others. The cover is by Alan M. Clark, and the issue is cover-dated May 2014. Here’s the complete table of contents:

Fiction

“In the Room” by Bentley Little
“Sacred Duty” by Simon Clark
“Odd Man Out” by Darrell Schweitzer
“A Million Miles from Graceland” by Christopher Reynaga
“Gorilla in my Room” by Jack Ketchum

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