Susan Kaye Quinn on Mind Control, Cashing Out Souls, and Publishing Your Own Way

Sunday, March 29th, 2015 | Posted by Emily Mah

The Legacy Human-smallSusan Kaye Quinn is an author and a rocket scientist who hails from the Chicago area. It’s hard to say what she’s best known for. Her YA science fiction Mindjack trilogy, noir science fiction Debt Collector serial, South Asian steampunk Dharian Affairs trilogy, and middle grade fantasy Faerie Swap have all been well received.

Her most recent release is dystopian cyberpunk The Legacy Human, which is the first book of her Singularity series. A member of the Indelibles (one of the first indie author groups to take off, back in the day) and the Emblazoners (an equally pioneering middle grade indie author group), she is also the author of The Indie Author’s Guide.

Now, this interview is a little out of sync with reality. I conducted it in September 2013, and then hit some technical difficulties, and then got buried by my startup business, so I apologize that the projects she’s talking about are now all published (but that means you don’t have to wait to read any of them.)

I have the privilege of sharing a German translator with Susan, and we both started our indie careers at around the same time (I’m E.M. Tippetts in indie world, a chick-lit writer). Together we’ve seen indie publishing evolve from an unheard of option with a strong stigma, to what it is today, providing both her and me a living. I’m just lucky.

She, on the other hand, is good, so I strongly recommend you hear what she has to say!

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What Really Happened at the First Siege of Orleans? And, Where Does Dark Age History Come From?

Saturday, March 28th, 2015 | Posted by M Harold Page

Copy of Final Cover

I borrowed a trick from Bernard Cornwell and plunged my hero into the thick of all the epic battles.

When I was writing Shieldwall: Barbarians! I borrowed a trick from Bernard Cornwell and plunge my hero into the thick of all the epic battles. That’s how Prince Hengest and his Jutes ended up at the Siege of Orleans.

No, not the Battle of New Orleans. And not the one with the Maid in it either.

This one was much much earlier – AD451 – when Orleans was Aurelianum. There was however a hero in a dress, if that’s an appropriate way of referring to a bishop’s vestments.

Here’s what happened:

King Attila with perhaps 100,000 Huns, Lombards, Gepids, Ostrogoths, renegade Romans and other riffraff pushed through the patchwork remnants of Roman Gaul, knocking over cities for supplies, until he reached Orleans.

Then he went away again.

Oh, was that anticlimactic?

You want to know the detail of what happened?

Hah! Sorry, the Dark Ages should really be called the “Historiographically Challenged Period”, meaning the ages are “dark” because we have difficulty seeing what was going on.

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Book Clubs. No, I Said BOOK Clubs. Not The Other Kind

Friday, March 27th, 2015 | Posted by Violette Malan

Station ElevenAre there many of you out there who are members of books clubs? I have other questions, but my first is: Why?

I know why I joined one, and, frankly, I’m trying to compare my own experiences to those of others, see if I can find some common ground. Answer some questions that have popped up over the last few months. Like, do men join book clubs? Do all clubs read the same kinds of books?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start with why I joined a book club in the first place. In a way, it’s because I both read too much, and not enough. As a fantasy writer, my percentages probably break down something like this: 40% fantasy; 20% SF; 20% crime and mystery; 20% research and related materials (such as posts in Black Gate magazine).

That’s probably not entirely accurate, but it’s close enough to have made me feel that my reading was getting narrower than it has been in the past; maybe I was getting a little too comfortable and stuck in my ways, maybe I needed to shake things up. I think I was looking for the type of experience that’s often found in university and college, where there’s so much required reading, and so much that’s possibly outside of the student’s comfort zone.

Keeping in mind that outside of one’s comfort zone is a place writers often need to be.

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Saying Goodbye to Those We Never Quite Knew

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

weefreeThe death of Sir Terry Pratchett hit me hard.

It’s a strange thing, to mourn a man you’ve never met in person, but in truth he’s had more impact on my life than many people I’ve spent a lot more time with.

My first encounter with him was in 1995. I went to a small high school called the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics and the Humanities (along with fellow Black Gate blogger Andrew Zimmerman Jones), and my group of friends were all obsessed with Sandman. This was the final year of its regular publication, and we had weekly pilgrimages down to the comic shop to see if the latest issue was in. Someone showed up in the lounge one day with a copy of Good Omens and said “The guy who writes Sandman wrote this too! With some other guy.”

Later, when I was a practicing witch (I’ve led an interesting life. Sometimes I wonder what I’ll tell the children.) the coven I was a member of owed more to Terry Pratchett than to, say, Starhawk. Granny Weatherwax was our patron saint, and the kind of magic I learned had more to do with her than any other twentieth century influence.

In short, since I was sixteen, Pratchett has been one of the languages I spoke. In the way of all literate societies, quotes and reference makes up a large portion of our patois. Pratchett was as much a part of our cant as Latin derived terminology, and there is no way on earth you can convince me that scientists won’t eventually find a way to quantify Narrativium.

Of course, he wasn’t the only author or creator to fill that space in my life.

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Building Up Fantasy Readers

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

micemysticsIn a recent post, M. Harold Page gave some thoughts for gamer parents which I found very helpful. Particularly that instead of focusing on our old games, we should look to new games as perfectly acceptable entries into tabletop.

I spend a lot of time gaming with my kids, and it’s very easy for me to want to rush them. For example, at my wife’s urging, when my 9-year-old grew enamored with one of my NPCs, I decided to try to bring him into our adult Pathfinder RPG gaming group by letting him take over the character. He was constantly impatient, wanting to jump his turn in the cycle, asking questions constantly. Enthusiastic … but in a way that clearly drove the other players nuts.

However, instead of going full-on RPG, we can play games such as Mice & Mystics (Plaid Hat Games, Amazon) or the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (Paizo, Amazon), games which have a lot of moving parts and tell a story, but are also more structurally well-defined than a traditional tabletop RPG.

It’s very easy for me to want to share with the kids the games that I most want to play, instead of taking a step back to find the ones that are more appropriate for them. I have to meet them halfway.

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Adapting Nostalgia to Be More Awesome (And How I Try to Contain my IDW Anger While Remaining Spoiler Free. Mostly)

Friday, March 20th, 2015 | Posted by mariebilodeau

Reboots are awesome. There you go. I’ve said it. Call blasphemy all you want, but I’m a fan of (some) adaptations, and 80s cartoons are high on my list of “Yes, please adapt.” It’s not just that modern companies are making the storylines better; they’re quite frankly making some of them make sense. Not in all cases, but in a heck of a lot of them.

I’m a child of the 80s. I grew up on these cartoons, and enjoyed their adaptations. I followed their various incarnations, too, but now is a golden age for storylines, with plenty flourishing.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I would not pause to admire these turtles' beauty. I would pause to stare at them in confusion.

Knee pads are a ninja’s BFF.

I’ve always been a fan of witty repartee, martial arts and turtles. Combine all three and you’ve sold me. Easily.

TMNT started as a rather dark comic book, grew into a 10-year long cartoon show in the 80s, then a 6-year run starting in 2003. Nickelodeon bought the rights in 2012, and BOOM, started everything up again.

IDW has two new comics lines, one based on the new cartoon show and one more based on the old comics (and much darker. I love it). I struck that out because they just repeated one of my least favorite storylines ever (spoiler link). No conclusion on that yet, so I’m no longer including it (take that, IDW!) Let’s also ignore anything live action, because there is absolutely no winning there.

Anyway, back to the new cartoon. What makes the new turtles unique? Their personalities are more defined.

Michelangelo, the party one, is now more funny than annoying. Donatello gets more chances to shine (he’s my fave). Leonardo, the poor always responsible lead turtle, is now a geek and gets excited about Space Heroes (a riff off Star Trek: The Animated Series). Raphael is still angry and one of the most loyal and, although he pretends to be a hard-ass, he’s one of the more sensitive.

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The History Manifesto and Sweeping Histories

Friday, March 20th, 2015 | Posted by M Harold Page


“History is the science of Science of Science Fiction”

If History is the science of Science of Science Fiction — who said that? — then History is the bedrock  of Fantasy.

In High Fantasy the characters make new history by engaging with the old; Frodo disposes of the ring and secures Middle Earth’s future, but the Ring Wraiths are ancient kings and the politics is grounded in the past. In Low Fantasy — what we mostly call Sword and Sorcery — the characters forage like ants in the debris of history; Conan loots ancient tombs, and loses his sweetheart to an antique monster.

In between, the heroes of Heroic Fantasy delve in the past in order to remake the present; the heroes in Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria Chronicles actually resolve the geopolitical plot with an extended stint of dungeoneering.

And if Science Fiction is about future history, then it’s also often about future ancient history. We love our alien artefacts and lost forerunner civilisations. What is Aliens if not a Dungeons and Dragons story, but with more face huggers?

So we readers of Speculative Fiction also have an appetite for history, not just the down in the dirt tales of derring-do with William Marshal or Harald Hardrada, or the Rifle Brigade, carving out their personal histories with blade or bullet, but longer thrilling stories of the rise and fall of civilisations, or the evolution of a particular strand of human experience, whether it be war or sexuallity, or gender, or commerce.

Oddly, as noted by a pair of top historians, not a lot of these books are written by card carrying academic historians anymore…

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Kickstarter Alert: Vault Wars Card Game

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

VaultWarsFloodgate Games has a successful track record of Kickstarter projects, starting with their fun time-travel technology-creation game Legacy: Gears of Time. After Legacy and its expansion, Floodgate Games created Epic Resort (Amazon), an unorthodox game set within a traditional fantasy world. In Epic Resort, you run a resort vacation spot where adventurers spend their time to recuperate and heal between adventures. You accumulate gold and hire workers, and then win with victory points gained by building attractions at your resort and having heroes heal up to full health. The twist of the game is that occasionally monsters attack your resort, and the heroes must stop them, which can result in new injuries or even death.

Something of a thematic (and artistic) sequel to Epic Resort, Floodgate Games’ new Kickstarter Vault Wars  asks what happens when heroes die and their vaults of equipment go up for auction, so that other heroes can gain the benefits of a fallen heroes’ previous efforts. You can find out more about the game and its related stretch goals on Kickstarter, but one of the best ways to get a feel for the game (if you have about a half hour) is by watching this video of a walkthrough play of the game. It features a lot of strategic choices and, as it mimics an auction, is built around the idea of bidding and bluffing. One of the stretch goals that’s coming up is a Worker Expansion, which allows players to hire workers that give special one-time bonuses within the game.

The Kickstarter project has passed its funding goal of $10,000, and the opportunity to back the project ends on March 27. The game is slated for delivery in August 2015. Kickstarting price for the basic game is $20, while $45 will get you a deluxe edition with metal coins. Higher cost tiers include copies of Epic Resort and Legacy: Gears of Time, for those who are interested in those games as well.

Wild West Outlaws of the Silent Screen: When Hollywood Hired Real Bandits

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

Jesse James Jr. (left) in a promotional still from Jesse James Under the Black Flag.

Jesse James Jr. (left) in a promotional still from Jesse James Under the Black Flag.

When movies first became popular at the beginning of the twentieth century, the world was already captivated with tales of the Wild West. Dime novels, plays, and traveling shows entertained millions in the U.S. and abroad. Movie directors were quick to pick up on this and Westerns were a popular film genre right from the start.

The first years of film overlapped with the last years of the Wild West. The last corners of the frontier were being settled, and some towns still had the shoot-em-up reputation movie viewers craved. Directors often went on location and hired real cowboys to do their stuff in front of the camera. One of them, Tom Mix, became one of the genre’s enduring stars.

But movie directors wanted bad men too, and they didn’t have to look far. Several real Western outlaws reenacted their crimes on camera.

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Dungeons & Dragons Releases Free Elemental Evil Player’s Companion

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

D&D Elemental EvilThe Dungeons & Dragons world is ramping up for their major event for 2015, which is the Elemental Evil storyline. I previously discussed this when it was first announced, but it’s worth mentioning again for one important reason: they’ve put out some free gaming materials!

Recently, Dungeons & Dragons released the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion as a free supplement, available through both their website and DriveThruRPG. This 25-page digital supplement contains some good material, a set of new races and spells designed specifically for use with 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons. The 9 of the pages are devoted to descriptions, details, and character creation information for 4 races:

  • The avian species Aarakocra
  • The subrace of Deep Gnome
  • The element-linked Genasi, in air, earth, fire, and water varieties
  • The mountain-dwelling Goliath

There are also 13 pages of spell lists and descriptions, featuring a total of 43 spells, almost all of them linked to the four elements (or their related damage type, such as the acid-based spell Vitriolic Sphere).

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