Take Advantage of the Fantasy Flight Games Holiday Sale!

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Gearworld The Borderlands-smallI jumped over to the Fantasy Flight Games website last night as I was fact-checking my article on their acquisition by Asmodee, when what did I discover but a major holiday sale, running from November 19th through December 1st.

The sale covers a wide range of their catalog, from board and card games to miniatures and expansions for their Dust Tactics, Tannhauser, and Wings of War games, as well as great prices on their Warhammer, Warhammer 40K, and Anima RPG products. They’ve even got great discounts on 20 of their novels. Here’s just a sample of their holiday pricing:

City of Thieves: King of Ashes — list $39.95, sale price $10
Descent: Sea of Blood Expansion — list $59.95 sale price $5
Fortress America — list $79.95 sale price $25
Gearworld: The Borderlands — list $49.95 sale price $10
Reiner Knizia’s Kingdoms– list $29.95 sale price $10
The Hobbit Boardgame — list $34.95 sale price $10
Ventura Board Game — list $79.95 sale price $10
Warhammer FRPG: Black Fire Pass — list $39.95 sale price $5
Warhammer FRPG: The Edge of Night — list $29.95 sale price $5
Black Crusade: Core Book — list $59.95  sale price $20

Whether or not the sale is linked to their recent acquisition (and whether or not it signals they will no longer be supporting some of these products in the future) is obviously open to debate. All the more reason to move quickly if you’ve been contemplating getting any of these games — they may not be available for much longer.

There are hundreds of items on sale, but they won’t last long at these prices, so act fast. Check out the sale here.

Sofia Samatar Confronts the Elephant in the Room

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Sofia Samatar with the World Fantasy Award. Photo by Nathan Ballingrud.

Sofia Samatar with the World Fantasy Award. Photo by Nathan Ballingrud

As I was pleased to report last week, Sofia Samatar won the 2014 World Fantasy Award for her acclaimed first novel A Stranger in Olondria. And as I also mentioned, Sofia addressed “the elephant in the room” in her remarks to the audience, saying a few words about the fact that she was being honored with a bust of Lovecraft, a man who expressed profoundly racist views in his fiction and poetry. Nonetheless, she was articulate and extremely gracious, and accepted the award with humility and gratitude.

In the days since, she has expanded slightly on her remarks, saying on her blog:

I said it was awkward to accept the award as a writer of color. (See this post by Nnedi Okorafor, the 2011 winner, if you are confused about why.) I also thanked the board for taking the issue seriously…

I am not telling anybody not to read Lovecraft. I teach Lovecraft! I actually insist that people read him and write about him! For grades! This is not about reading an author but about using that person’s image to represent an international award honoring the work of the imagination.

While the issue of replacing Lovecraft’s image on the award continues to be hotly debated, I was pleased to see that Sofia’s remarks in large part have not been. She is a class act, and if there’s anyone who can gently nudge the calcified old guard of fantasy into accepting that the field’s highest honor remains (at best) a dubious honor for people of color as long as it bears Lovecraft’s image, it’s Sofia Samatar. In the meantime, she reminds us that, if she can maintain a sense of humor in all this, so can the rest of us. On her Facebook page she posted the image at right, captured moments after accepting the award (snapped at her table by fellow Small Beer author Nathan Ballingrud), along with this comment:

And also, to be real, we’re practically identical. Race is a construct! TWINSIES!

This is how you win arguments. By being simultaneously more articulate and dignified — and funnier — than everyone else in the room. I know who gets my vote to replace Lovecraft’s visage on the statue. Perhaps they won’t even have to modify it all that much. But trust me, when they’re done, it’ll be a lot more beautiful.

New Treasures: Burnt Black Suns by Simon Strantzas

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

Burnt Black Suns-smallAnother interesting thing about exploring the Dealer’s Room at the World Fantasy Convention was meeting all these marvelous small press publishers, and discovering just how many delightful books they’ve produced. Hippocampus Press, whom I’m not really familiar with, had a table packed high with books by H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, S. T. Joshi, Wade German, Algernon Blackwood, William F. Nolan, Donald Wandrei, and Thomas Ligotti, as well as several copies of their journals, Dead Reckonings, Spectral Realms, and The Lovecraft Annual.

I had to try at least one. I was sorely tempted by John Langan’s collection The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies and Clint Smith’s Ghouljaw and Other Stories. But the one I eventually settled on was Simon Strantzas’s most recent collection, Burnt Black Suns, mostly because I was drawn to the cover and the story descriptions on the back. Adam Nevill’s quote on the back cover (“In Burnt Black Suns Strantzas casts far into time and space to find the alien, and what comes back wriggling inside his net is ghastly”) didn’t hurt, either. The first story, “On Ice,” described as “a grim novella of arctic horror,” will be the story I read this weekend.

In this fourth collection of stories, Simon Strantzas establishes himself as one of the most dynamic figures in contemporary weird fiction. The nine stories in this volume exhibit Strantzas’s wide range in theme and subject matter, from the Lovecraftian “Thistle’s Find” to the Robert W. Chambers homage “Beyond the Banks of the River Seine.” But Strantzas’s imagination, while drawing upon the best weird fiction of the past, ventures into new territory in such works as “On Ice,” a grim novella of arctic horror; “One Last Bloom,” a grisly account of a scientific experiment gone hideously awry; and the title story, an emotionally wrenching account of terror and loss in the baked Mexican desert. With this volume, Strantzas lays claim to be discussed in the company of Caitlín R. Kiernan and Laird Barron as one of the premier weird fictionists of our time.

Burnt Black Suns was published by Hippocampus Press on May 1, 2014. It is 310 pages, priced at $20 in trade paperback and $6 for the digital edition. The Foreword is by Laird Barron. The cover art is by Santiago Caruso. Burnt Black Suns is available for half price on the Hippocampus Press website this month — check out their November specials here.

Can You Really Role Play on a Board?: Pathfinder: Rise of the Runelords

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Pathfinder Rise of the Runelords-smallFantasy board games have tried to capture the addictive nature of role playing for decades, but without much real success. In the past few years though, a number of dungeon-delving games have come close, including Descent, Talisman Fourth EditionCastle RavenloftLegend of DrizztClaustrophobia, and a few others. In his recent review of Paizo’s second Adventure Card Game Base Set, Skull & Shackles, Scott Taylor fingered another contender, this one from Paizo:

Of late Paizo had expanded their market with several new product lines, the most intriguing of which are their Boxed Set Card Games. These sets ingeniously combine card building with role-playing with table-top (Think D&D meets Magic the Gathering meets anything done by Fantasy Flight!) Indeed, it is an amazing breakthrough by the Paizo design team, and guess what, it actually works!

Bob Byrne was even more positive in his assessment of the first title in the series, Rise of the Runelords, in his August article on “RPGing with a board

By far, the best board/card game I’ve found that emulates the role-playing experience is the Pathfinder Rise of the Runelords Adventure Card Game. The adventures get more difficult, you level up and the gear gets better. You maintain your items, spells, and levels from scenario to scenario through an entire Adventure Path, rather than start over each game play session. I’m sure I’ll post on that excellent game in the future.

While I wait impatiently for Bob’s full review, I went ahead and ordered a copy. It arrived a few days ago and, while I haven’t had a chance to play a full game yet (mostly because I haven’t figured out how to do that without tearing the shrinkwrap), it looks very promising indeed.

Read More »

2014 World Fantasy Convention: Sunday — World Fantasy Award Winners Announced

Monday, November 10th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

World Fantasy Award Lovecraft-smallI was able to attend the World Fantasy Convention this year, for the first time since 2011, and I really had a terrific time. It was fabulous to attend all the panels, readings, parties, and events — and especially to re-connect with so many old friends, and make so many new ones. Years ago, Mark Kelly at Locus Online called World Fantasy “a reunion,” and I think that’s really the best description.

The highlight of the convention is the Sunday banquet, where the World Fantasy Awards were presented. The toastmaster for the event was the delightful Mary Robinette Kowal, who gave a highly entertaining speech about rejection, and the awards themselves were presented by Gordon van Gelder and David Hartwell. I sat at Table 25 with my new friends Amanda C. Davis and Matt O’Dowd, where we had a great view of the proceedings.

The World Fantasy Award itself is a cartoonish bust of H.P. Lovecraft sculpted by the brilliant Gahan Wilson (seen at left). It’s an extremely distinct award that honors the contributions of perhaps the finest American horror writer of the 20th Century. But using Lovecraft as the poster child for the awards has also caused some recent controversy (that surfaced twice during the proceedings.) I’ll get to that in a minute.

But first, the Awards themselves. This year’s winners of the World Fantasy Awards are:


  • A Stranger in Olondria, Sofia Samatar (Small Beer)

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Uncanny Magazine Issue 1 Now on Sale

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Uncanny Magazine Issue 1-smallWith all the bad news swirling around genre magazines over the past few years, I can’t tell you how uplifting it is to celebrate the arrival of a brand new magazine — especially one as promising as this.

Uncanny is a bimonthly magazine of science fiction and fantasy, showcasing original fiction from some of the brightest stars in the genre, as well as reprints, poetry, articles, and interviews. The first issue, cover-dated November/December 2014, is on sale today. It contains new fiction by Maria Dahvana Headley, Kat Howard, Max Gladstone, Amelia Beamer, Ken Liu, and Christopher Barzak, plus a reprint from Jay Lake. There’s also articles by Sarah Kuhn, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Christopher J Garcia, and a special Worldcon Roundtable featuring Emma England, Michael Lee, Helen Montgomery, Steven H Silver, and Pablo Vazquez. The issue also contains poetry by Neil Gaiman, Amal El-Mohtar, and Sonya Taaffe, and interviews with Maria Dahvana Headley, Deborah Stanish, Beth Meacham on Jay Lake, and Christopher Barzak.

If that’s not enough, the magazine’s staff has also produced two stellar podcasts. Episode 1, released today, features the Editors’ Introduction, Maria Dahvana Headley’s “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White” and Amal El-Mohtar’s poem “The New Ways” (both read by Amal), as well as an interview with Maria conducted by Deborah Stanish. Episode 2 (coming December 2) will contain an Editors’ Introduction, Amelia Beamer reading her story “Celia and the Conservation of Entropy,” Sonya Taaffe’s poem “The Whalemaid, Singing” (as read by Amal El-Mohtar), and an interview with Amelia conducted by Deborah Stanish.

Uncanny was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign that had over 1,000 backers and raised over $36,000 (surpassing its goal by over $10,000.) The magazine is available for purchase as an eBook in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI formats. If you’re the type of buyer who needs to sample things first, the website features free content that will be released in two stages — half on November 4 and half on December 2.

Uncanny is published and edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas. The first issue is priced at $3.99; order directly from the website. The cover is by Galen Dara.

Michael Bishop on Tom Hanks’ Story in The New Yorker

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Tom Hanks in The New Yorker-smallMichael Bishop, Nebula Award-winning author of No Enemy But Time, Ancient of Days, and Philip K Dick Is Dead, Alas, has posted a brief review of Tom Hanks science fiction story in The New Yorker magazine.

Yes, Tom Hanks has a story in The New Yorker. And yes, it’s science fiction. It’s titled “Alan Bean Plus Four.” Yes, the Tom Hanks who played Forrest Gump and Captain Phillips. Look, just read what Michael said.

I read it with some initial skepticism. Sure, Hanks is an Academy Award-winning actor, but can he write?

Well, yes, he can. This tale works at the level that Hanks shoots for, and the prose, pointedly colloquial and science-savvy, shows him to have a fine command of 21st-century English as well as of current cultural, social, and technological innovations. I really like it.

You can read the complete story online here. There’s even an audio version on the same page (read by Tom Hanks. How cool is that?).

Read Michael Bishop’s complete comments on his Facebook page.

See a 1942 Pulp Magazine Rack in All Its Glory

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

1942 pulp magazine rack picture-small

The Shorpy Historic Picture Archive, a terrific photo blog which posts vintage high-definition pics from the 1850s to 1950s, has posted an absolutely gorgeous picture of a 1942 magazine rack, crammed to overflowing with pulp magazines, slicks, comics, and much more. It’s a reminder of what newsstands were like in the heyday of the pulps. Visible in the (much reduced) image above are Astounding, Planet Stories, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Future, Fantastic Adventures, and nearly a hundred others.

What’s truly unusual about this image is that it’s in color. The original image, however, is black and white — the finished product was hand colorized after nearly a year of painstaking detective work, matching the pulp images in the racks (sometimes barely visible) to actual covers. See the complete tale of the research involved here, and see the astounding high-resolution original (all 4.2 million pixels) here.

Get a Dozen E-books for Just $1.99 Each from Harper Voyager

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Ghosts By Gaslight-smallHarper Voyager has announced a special Halloween sale: a dozen urban fantasy, science fiction, and horror ebooks are on sale for $1.99 or less.

Titles on the list include novels from Vicki Pettersson, Nick Cole’s Soda Pop Soldier, The Stolen by Bishop O’Connell, Katherine Harbor’s Thorn Jack, Jack Heckel’s Once Upon a Rhyme, and additional suitable Halloween fare.

Also included is the excellent anthology Ghosts By Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense, edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers, containing seventeen all-new stories from Peter Beagle, James Morrow, Sean Williams, Gene Wolfe, Garth Nix, Jeffery Ford, Robert Silverberg, and others. This one’s well worth your attention, and at $1.99 you can’t go wrong.

The sale is for a limited time only — presumably until at least Halloween – so be sure to move quickly.

See the complete list of available titles here.

Robert Silverberg on Cannon Propulsion in Space

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Original Science Fiction Stories February 1959-smallIn my Sunday article on The Art of The Original Science Fiction Stories magazine, I called out the bizarrely goofy February 1959 cover (right), illustrating “Delivery Guaranteed” by Calvin M. Knox (Robert Silverberg). It’s the kind of gonzo image that only could have fit on a 1950s science fiction digest; but I was dying to know if Bob’s story actually had an intrepid couple piloting a cannon-powered wooden raft in space, and how the cover came about. Bob was gracious enough to answer; here’s what he said:

I often worked with Ed Emsh to produce cover/cover story combos for [editor Robert] Lowndes. Ed would come into the office with an idea, I would wrap a plot around it, Ed would go home and paint a picture, and I would write the story. It was Ed who thought a cannon might be sufficiently Newtonian to provide reaction mass in space; I agreed in delight, and that was how “Delivery Guaranteed” happened. (Randall Garrett sometimes wrote cover stories too, and one time Ed turned in a painting showing the drive room of a spaceship, with his signature, EMSH, on the base of the biggest gizmo. Randy promptly dubbed the gizmo “the Remshaw Drive” and made it clear that the four visible letters were part of the manufacturer’s label.)

I also asked about the cover of the November 1955 issue, illustrating Clifford D. Simak’s “Full Cycle,” which was re-used on the March 1959 issue of Double-Action Detective and Mystery Stories. (See the full article for details.)

In the case of the Simak/Silverberg story, Bob Lowndes was just being thrifty toward the end of the life of his magazine group, and recycled that Simak painting to use with my story in his crime mag a couple of years later.

Read the complete article here. And thanks to Robert Silverberg for being gracious enough to solve those mysteries for us!

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