Knight at the Movies: The Battery (2012)

Monday, October 20th, 2014 | Posted by eeknight

GregBunburyTheBatteryMoviePosterAs Black Gate‘s resident oddball zombie movie reviewer (Honest! John O’Neill did it in style of Mad Men‘s Roger Sterling, he did a Jedi hand wave and anointed me thus) I have to say a little bit about the ultra-low budget 2012 movie The Battery.

The zombie movie has reached the arthouse at last. And the arthouse loved it, this micro-budget film won numerous awards.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a traditional zombie movie as much as the next fan. I have a soft spot in my heart for 2008′s Day of the Dead, despite such howlers as the assertion that zombie Bud is safe because he was a vegetarian in life, as though that moral choice trumps thousands of years of cultural conditioning toward a similar moral choice against cannibalism.

But back to The Battery. Filmed on a budget of $6000, writer/director Jeremy Gardner put together a horror film that delivers the most entertainment per budget dollar since Blair Witch Project – though I expect The Battery, while not as original as that legendary effort, will prove more enjoyable on the re-watch.

Its strengths are the same as Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead: a limited budget means you have to spend your time on character and tension. Without money for a lot of extras in zombie makeup to be featured more than briefly, you have to make do with the sounds of zombies outside the windows, which is creepier anyway.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Ellery Queen’s Misadventures of SH

Monday, October 20th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Misadventures_CoverYou’ve probably heard the name ‘Ellery Queen,’ but you may not know that it’s actually the name for joint efforts by cousins Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee. They were important players in the mystery field for decades, with Dannay being a notable Sherlockian.

In 1943, Dannay planned The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes, an anthology of parodies and pastiches. Unlike today, Holmes anthologies were unheard of back then. Due in large part, as we’ll see, to the management of the Doyle Estate by Sir Arthur Conan’s sons, Adrian and Dennis.

The book, by Ellery Queen, was unveiled at a Baker Street Irregulars gathering in 1944. I gave a taste what dealing with Doyle’s two sons could be like my post on “The Man Who Was Wanted.” There’s more of the same in this tale.

Adrian heard about the collection and went off in his usual rage, telegramming his brother Denis (also a wastrel) in Spain. Denis cabled the Estate’s law firm and instructed them to demand that Queen and the publishers, Little, Brown and Company, stop publication and withdraw all copies. They were also to be sued for damages.

To quote Denis’ cable to the lawyers: “It is obviously a flagrant example of that very sort of piracy, striking at the very roots of the literary value of the property which my father left to his family, against which we have fought together in the past…books which will completely devaluate and ruin the whole value of the Holmes property, including films, radio and stage.”

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Selling Short Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror Fiction, Part I

Sunday, October 19th, 2014 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Asimov's Science Fiction February 2014-smallA little while ago I blogged about The Economics of Short Fiction, and feedback was that there’s interest in a short series (no pun intended) on the selling of short fiction, which is a fascinatingly complex topic.

To be clear, this won’t be about the craft of writing. I’ve got lots of thoughts on creativity and the craft, some of which came out in an interview I gave to the excellent podcast the Creative Writer’s Tool Box.

In this first post on selling short fiction, I want to tackle three important pieces: (1) finding markets, (2) knowing the markets, and (3) knowing yourself.

So let’s assume you’re reading this post because you’ve written a short story, of say 5,000 words, and you’ve never looked at markets before. That’s where I was about eleven years ago.

Finding markets

There are a few places that compile market information on publishers of short fiction. I know some people swear by others for their multifunctionality (like www.duotrope.com or The (Submission) Grinder), but I find www.ralan.com far easier to use because independent of filters, there’s a list I can just browse. I’ve donated money to Ralan because I find his site so useful.

At Ralan under the banner, you’ll see links to click on Pro markets, Semi-Pro markets, Pay markets, and Token markets (which I believe was once called 4-the-luv markets, which seemed more evocative to me). Pro markets pay SFWA rates which is 6 cents a word and more. Semi-pro markets pay 3-5 cents a word, pay markets pay 1-2 cents, and token markets are anything below that. Ralan also shows you the lengths they publish and any sub-genres (ex.: sf/f/h means they take science fiction, fantasy and horror).

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New Treasures: Short Sharp Shocks 1: Amok! edited by Neil Baker

Sunday, October 19th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Short Sharp Shocks Amok!-smallThe fine folks at April Moon Press have really hit the ground running. Their first anthology, The Dark Rites of Cthulhu, appeared in March and was a major success — so much so that they’ve now launched an ambitious line of dark fantasy and horror books.

The first to arrive is Amok!, a collection of intense short fiction from multiple genres — mystery, thriller, dark fantasy, and outright horror — focusing on the modern boogeyman: the spree killer. Amok! is the first release in April Moon’s Short Sharp Shocks anthology series; the next, Stomping Grounds!, features monsters causing mayhem and misery. They will be followed by Ill-Considered Expeditions (“Pith helmets at the ready for some unfriendly welcomes!”), Spawn of the Ripper, a tribute to Hammer horror films, and The Stars at my Door, a collection of optimistic science fiction.

An unnerving anthology featuring tales of psychological decline and murderous frenzy!

Office workers snap and vengeful ghosts go on a murderous rampage; a giant, blood-crazed pig rubs shoulders with a monstrous alligator while kids experiment with runes and drugs and suffer the consequences.

Ghouls of every foul persuasion tear through the streets and would-be serial killers stalk every alley way in search of hapless victims. Dark magicks destroy cities and brings warriors back from the grave, and madness eats away at the minds of explorers both past and future. Criminals enjoy violent crime sprees while our uniformed protectors themselves fall under the spell of murderous intent.

Here then, are 26 stories spanning a multitude of genres and themes to both alarm and amuse you as events spiral rapidly out of control, and mankind, monsters and minds run terribly, catastrophically, AMOK!

Short Sharp Shocks 1: Amok! was edited by Neil Baker and published by April Moon Books on September 27, 2014. It is 244 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $3.99 for the digital edition. The cover and interior illustrations are by Neil Baker. Order directly at the April Moon website.


Art of the Genre: The Artistic Mystery of The Temple of Elemental Evil and the Turmoil of 1985 TSR

Sunday, October 19th, 2014 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Parkinson does an awesome cover, but don't just this book by that or you'll be disappointed

Parkinson does an awesome cover, but don’t judge this book by that or you’ll be disappointed

Back in 1985 I was fourteen, had recently entered the gaming hobby as a hardcore fan and not a passing-fancy type player. It was during my plunge into the hobby that I began grabbing up whatever I could get on my monthly trips to the ‘big city’ of Lafayette, Indiana. During one of these outings with my mother, who would entice me to go to the Mall or any other boring errands she had by offering to also take me downtown to Main Street Hobbies, that I acquired T1-4, The Temple of Elemental Evil.

It was my first ‘super-module’, and although I’d missed the chance to get most of the original-run TSR modules from 1979-82, I was thrilled to grab this new breed module by Gary Gygax and Frank Mentzer. Little did I realize at the time what it took to actually produce this module. I mean, by 1985 Gary was already on the chopping block at TSR and the company was ready to undergo a massive changeover that would result in AD&D 2E, and the ‘downfall’ of the company as we knew it. Times, as they say, were a’changin.

Now I can’t speak for the inner workings of how this module was made, but it is well documented that Gygax himself began work on T2: The Temple of Elemental Evil after he’d completed T1: The Village of Hommlet in 1979. However, probably due to the company’s rapid expansion and then his departure to Hollywood to work on the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, his work was never completed by his own hand. Enter Frank Mentzer, who completed the module, and finally allowed it to see the light of day six years after players had been introduced to the story line in T1.

When I purchased it, I wasn’t ready to run such a complex dungeon crawl, and so I turned the module over to my friend Mark who ran me through it over the course of our summer vacation. I well remember running four characters in the adventure, and I’m sure Mark had the same number of NPCs, the bulk of it played on the floor of the downstairs living room at my mother’s house.

It wasn’t until 1988 that I actually ran the module myself, this time with my friend Murph who was helping me develop my own gaming sandbox of The Nameless Realms. It was another epic ‘run’, and afterward, I put the module away and have thought of it fondly ever since.

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Devon Monk’s House Immortal is Based on her Black Gate Short Story “Stitchery”

Friday, October 17th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

House Immortal Devon Monk-smallLast month, I reported on Devon Monk’s newest novel, House Immortal, the tale of Tilly Case, one of thirteen unfathomably strong creatures stitched together nearly a century ago, who finds herself tangled up in a deadly struggle between powerful Houses for dominion over death itself. One of the things I commented on in my article was the intriguing resemblance between House Immortal and the excellent short story I bought from Devon nearly 15 years ago, “Stitchery.” On her blog this week, Devon confirmed the connection.

[House Immortal] isn’t a “standard” urban fantasy, but more like a science-fiction-y urban fantasy. But even though it’s set in the future a bit, it still (I hope) reads like urban fantasy, with a strong female lead character, some butt kicking, some humor, some trouble that could spell out the end of a world or two, and a host of interesting people and places.

Publisher and Editor John O’Neill at Black Gate noted here, that it reminded him of ”Stitchery” the first short story he bought from me for Black Gate. I’m so happy he noticed! The series is based off of that short story, (albeit loosely) and Matilda, Neds, and Grandma were all first introduced in that short.

Now, the novel went quite a different way than the short story, so I think of the short story as an alternate timeline Matilda may have lived, but not the timeline she is living in the trilogy.

If you want to check it out (“Stitchery” also was chosen for David Hartwell’s Year’s Best Fantasy #2) you can find it in Black Gate #2, or in my short story collection: A Cup of Normal.

I’m very proud to see Devon nurture the terrific story idea she had for “Stitchery” into something far more ambitious. Check out her complete comments on her blog here. House Immortal was published on September 2 by Roc Books. It is 351 pages, priced at $7.99 for both the paperback and digital versions. The cover artist is not credited. The second volume, Infinity Bell, is scheduled to be published on March 3, 2015.


Art of the Genre: A Review of the 5E Monster Manual and its Place in D&D Product History

Friday, October 17th, 2014 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Pick your weapon, any weapon will do!

Pick your weapon, any weapon will do!

So a month ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing the new Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Players Handbook. At first, it seemed to me that I’d be doing a rather standard review, but the more I read the product, the more it began to light a fire in me about what the game had to offer.

New mechanics, or should I say neo-retro, because it seamlessly combines great features of both old and new D&D, had me wondering just how the game played on a table-top. By the end, I fully understood that this was not only a product to be respected, but also that I had to take the first chance I got to play it.

That said, I began to break down the mechanics and tried to extrapolate them into a small adventure that would help new players better understand the flow of the game. It was a truly fun and insightful process, but the double-edged sword of it was that I needed monsters!

Now sure, as an experienced DM with 30+ years behind the screen, I was able to extrapolate statistics from older versions of the game and translate them to 5th Edition, and it also helped to have a copy of the 5E Starter Kit, but if you’ve ever run a game of D&D, you know that it is always nice to have a copy of the Monster Manual close by! So, it is with great pleasure that I get to introduce players and fans alike to just what has changed in the 5E version of the game where monsters are concerned.

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Goth Chick News: The Woman in Black Gets Back Up In Your Face

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image006When we first told you about it, the seriously creepy novel The Woman in Black by Susan Hill had already been a long-running play in London’s West End, a made-for-TV movie in the UK, and barely a rumor from Hammer Films about a theatrical remake starring Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter); which turned out to be true after all. The WiB with Radcliffe in the lead role hit theaters in February, 2012.

Almost immediately, Hammer Films made the announcement of its intent to pursue a sequel – which was kind of a no-brainer considering they grossed $112 million globally on a $17 million investment.

Love it or not, the old girl made bank.

The first film saw Radcliffe as lawyer Arthur Kipps, who travels to Eel Marsh House on an assignment, only to discover the house belonging to his client is haunted by the ghost of a woman who is determined to find someone and something she lost.

The film was Hammer all the way, intending to shock and in many scenes being quite successful. The atmosphere is moody and brings to mind the old Roger Corman movies based on Edgar Allan Poe stories. The movie version won’t go down as a personal favorite, mainly because the play was just so darn awesome.  Still, it’s worth a look if you haven’t seen it.

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The Hunt is On: Werewolf Game Review and Kickstarter Alert

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

One Night Ultimate Werewolf cards

One Night Ultimate Werewolf cards

You’re just a villager, going about your daily villager-related business. What could possibly go wrong?

How about there being a werewolf secretly hiding in your village?

Ultimate Werewolf Deluxe Edition (Amazon)

That’s the premise of the popular game Ultimate Werewolf, designed by Ted Alspach and published by Bezier Games. There are two teams: villagers and werewolves. You get on a team by being randomly dealt cards at the beginning of the game. Everyone sleeps through the “night” and a moderator tells the werewolves to open their eyes. So the werewolves all know who each other are. Then the moderator has everyone open their eyes and wake up for the “day” … and the town debates who to kill. There’s a vote, and whoever gets the most votes dies. Then the village sleeps again, and the next day they vote on another person to kill.

Will the village kill a werewolf, or will the werewolves fool the villagers into killing an innocent? This continues until either all werewolves are dead, or enough villagers have been killed that they no longer outnumber the werewolves.

But the village can contain more than merely run-of-the-mill villagers. The Seer, for example, is able to point at one player during the night and be told by the moderator if that player is a werewolf. The Tanner hates his life and wants to die, so he wins if he can get you to kill him. (Screaming “I’m a werewolf!” is not usually a winning strategy for this role. You’ve got to be a little more subtle.)

The current edition of the game produced by Bezier games is actually Ultimate Werewolf Deluxe Edition, which contains dozens of extra roles beyond villagers. In total, the Deluxe Edition can support play with a group of up to 75 players … which is a bit extreme, even for an avid gamer like me, but makes for a great party game, and you can create a set of cards tailored toward the comfort level of the group, to avoid overloading those who might be intimidated by the idea of so many different roles.

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New Treasures: Hawk by Steven Brust

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Hawk Steven Brust-smallI was surprised and delighted to receive a new book in the Vlad Taltos series from Steven Brust in the mail last week.

Hawk is the 14th novel in the adventure fantasy series that began with Jhereg (reviewed by Fletcher Vredenburgh here) way back in 1983. A total of 19 are planned; the last one was Tiassa (2011), and the next is Vallista. If you’re a newcomer to the series, I highly recommend The Book of Jhereg, a paperback omnibus collection of the first three novels (Jhereg, Yendi, and Teckla), which has been in print from Ace for over 15 years.

Vlad Taltos was an oppressed and underprivileged Easterner — that is, a human — living in Adrilankha, capital of the Dragaeran Empire. Life was hard. Worse, it was irritating. Then Vlad made a great discovery: Dragaerans would pay him to kill other Draegarans. Win-win!

The years of Vlad’s career as a crime boss and top assassin were cut short by a revolution, a divorce, and an attack of conscience (not necessarily in that order). In the midst of all that, he broke with the Jhereg, the Dragaeran house of organized crime. He’s been a marked man ever since. The Jhereg want to kill him. The Jhereg would love to kill him.

So Vlad’s been avoiding Adrilankha as much as possible. That hasn’t worked out too well. His life is there: his ex-wife Cawti, his son, and all his friends. One of those friends is his former assistant Kragar, who’s taken over Vlad’s old territory and criminal operations. Vlad will need Kragar’s help if he’s going to return to Adrilankha and deal with this mess.

It won’t be easy, and it certainly won’t be simple. Because there are no messes like the ones you make yourself.

Hawk was published by Tor Books on October 7. It is 320 pages, priced at $24.99 in hardcover ($11.99 for the digital edition). The cover is by Stephen Hickman. Read an excerpt at Tor.com.


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