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Geek Tyrant on “10 Great 1950s Sci-Fi Movies You May Never Have Heard Of”

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Flight to Mars 1951-smallWhen I was growing up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, there was a theater that had a science fiction and monster-movie double feature every Saturday. After we finished our paper route, my brother Mike and I would walk downtown and plunk down our hard-earned money for three and a half hours of monster movie bliss.

The theater was always packed with screaming kids. There Mike and I saw films that are still burned into my brain today — like the terrifying Planet of the Vampires (1965), giant-monster classic Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965), and the greatest film of all time, Destroy all Monsters (1968).

Needless to say, I still have a weakness for classic monster movies, and especially the great science fiction films of the 50s and 60s. Also, the not-so-great science fiction films of the 50s and 60s.

You can’t walk downtown with 50 cents and watch a monster-movie double feature these days. Fortunately, you don’t have to — virtually every science fiction film of the 20th Century is available on DVD, Blu-ray, or download, for your home-viewing enjoyment. The real question these days isn’t how to see these great old films, but which ones are worth your time?

The answer, of course, lies on the Internet. There’s a ton of info out there, if you’ve got the energy to look for it (and sort out the relevant stuff). Or you could just rely on us — that’s what we’re here for.

One of the most useful articles I’ve stumbled on recently is Joey Paur’s Geek Tyrant piece ”10 Great 1950s Sci-Fi Movies You May Never Have Heard Of,” which covers many terrific SF films I really enjoyed, such as When Worlds Collide (1951),  and more than a few I’ve never seen, such as Flight to Mars (1951) and 4-D Man (1959). Lots here to keep you entertained in the late hours — check it out here.

Thanks to SF Signal for the tip!

The 2014 World Fantasy Awards Ballot

Thursday, July 10th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

A Natural History of Dragons A Memoir by Lady Trent-smallThe 2014 World Fantasy Awards Ballot, listing a bunch of books I haven’t read yet, has just been released.

The ballot is compiled by the voting attendees of the World Fantasy Convention, all of whom clearly read a lot more than I do. Seriously, where do you people find the time? Don’t you have blog posts to write, like normal people?

Once again, the coveted Life Achievement Award is being given to two recipients: Ellen Datlow and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. I think this is a new trend. Last year, it was awarded to Susan Cooper and Tanith Lee. (I’ve read their books; at least that’s something.)

The winners in every other category will be selected by a panel of judges. Here’s the complete list of nominees, with links to the online stories (where available) and our previous coverage:

Life Achievement

  • Ellen Datlow
  • Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Read More »

Harry Potter Returns in New Short Story by J.K. Rowling

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Harry Potter 2014-smallEarlier today, J.K. Rowling posted a brand new 1,500-word story featuring Harry Potter at her Pottermore website. Titled “Dumbledore’s Army Reunites at Quidditch World Cup Final” and written as a July 8th Daily Prophet article by gossip correspondent Rita Skeeter, the story highlights the media circus surrounding the reunion of Potter and those who fought beside him to bring down Lord Voldemort, at the 2014 Quidditch World Cup Final in the Patagonian Desert in Argentina. Here’s a snippet:

The Potter family and the rest of Dumbledore’s Army have been given accommodation in the VIP section of the campsite, which is protected by heavy charms and patrolled by Security Warlocks. Their presence has ensured large crowds along the cordoned area, all hoping for a glimpse of their heroes. At 3pm today they got their wish when, to the accompaniment of loud screams, Potter took his young sons James and Albus to visit the players’ compound, where he introduced them to Bulgarian Seeker Viktor Krum.

About to turn 34, there are a couple of threads of silver in the famous Auror’s black hair… The famous lightning scar has company: Potter is sporting a nasty cut over his right cheekbone. Requests for information as to its provenance merely produced the usual response from the Ministry of Magic… So what are they hiding? Is the Chosen One embroiled in fresh mysteries that will one day explode upon us all, plunging us into a new age of terror and mayhem?

While there’s little dialogue in the “news piece,” the story is surprisingly satisfying, briefly featuring Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, most of the Weasley clan, and a handful of others, including Harry’s sixteen-year-old godson, the half-werewolf Teddy Lupin. In her catty tabloid style, Rita Skeeter skillfully highlights major events in the lives of our favorite characters since the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sixteen years ago — there’s even a nice twist at the end.

Read the complete story at Pottermore (free registration required).

Watch The First Full-Length Trailer for The Boxtrolls

Saturday, July 5th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Waahh!! The Boxtrolls movie is ALMOST UPON US.

As I reported when the teaser trailer was released last July, this is sort of a big deal for me personally. The Boxtrolls is based on Alan Snow’s hilarious fantasy Here Be Monsters, the last book I read out loud to my three children. I could tell it was time to give up our night-time reading sessions because they grabbed it from me when I stopped and started reading it on their own.

Here Be Monsters is the opening volume in the YA series The Ratbridge Chronicles – a fantasy series so overlooked that America forgot to publish it — and is being adapted into a feature film by the creators of Coraline and ParaNorman. The second book in the series is Worse Things Happen at Sea, which was finally released in the US just last year. The third volume, Thar She Blows, came out last December.

The Boxtrolls will be released on September 26 by Laika animation studio. It is directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi and stars the voice talents of Ben Kingsley, Simon Pegg, Elle Fanning, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Toni Collette, and Jared Harris. Check out the trailer below, and then go get in line now.

Support The Collectors Book of Virgil Finlay Kickstarter

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Space Police Virgil Finlay-smallI don’t often report on Kickstarter projects. But in this case, I’m making an exception — both due to the quality of the book and the people involved.

Bob Garcia’s American Fantasy Press is publishing The Collectors Book of Virgil Finlay, the first new Virgil Finlay art book in twenty years, featuring art from the extensive collections of Robert Weinberg, Doug Ellis, Glynn Crain, and Robert K. Wiener. The publishers have launched a Kickstarter Campaign to help defray some of the considerable costs in preparing and publishing the book. Here’s Donato Giancola, cover artist for Black Gate 15, on the artist:

Finlay’s dizzying compositions and incredible draftsmanship recall the dense compositions of Renaissance artists Hieronymus Bosch and Albrecht Durer, while at the same time embracing the modern aesthetics of abstraction. His black and white images are ground breaking, unforgettable, and reflective of a genius at play in the world of art.

From 1936-1971, Virgil Finlay illustrated an astounding amount of pulp fiction, including 19 Weird Tales covers and fabulous interior work for Amazing, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Fantastic Novels, Fantastic Universe, Galaxy, IF, and many others. See samples of his work in Bob’s last article for us here, and a few of his covers here, here, and here.

The Collectors Book of Virgil Finlay is scheduled for release at this year’s World Fantasy Convention. It will contain 35 full color paintings, the largest collection of his color work ever assembled in print, plus another 13 pages of additional color work, over 150 pages of black and white artwork, and commentary on the artist by two of the field’s foremost pulp art collectors: Robert Weinberg and Doug Ellis. It is an oversized 9″ x 12″ hardcover, 208 pages.

The Kickstarter campaign is scheduled to end on Virgil Finlay’s Centenary Birthday: July 23, 2014; after just 10 days, the project is already fully funded. Get more information or contribute at the Kickstarter page here.

The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in May

Sunday, June 29th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

GodzillaMillenniumIt was all about the king of monsters at the Black Gate blog last month.

Ryan Harvey’s Godzilla review was our top article in May. His mammoth 5-part history of the Big Guy was also picked up by Boing-Boing, among other places, exposing the series to thousands of new readers; the final installment came in at #3 for the month. If you visited the site last month and read nothing but Godzilla articles, you weren’t the only one.

My analysis of John C. Wright’s conservative manifesto “Heinlein, Hugos, and Hogwash,” and the frequently hilarious response in the blogosphere, was our second most read article last month. Garrett Calcaterra’s well-researched “Can SF Save the World From Climate Change?” came in at #4.

Rounding out the Top Five was Fletcher Vredenburgh’s warm appreciation of Keith Taylor’s sword & sorcery classic, Bard.

The complete Top 50 Black Gate posts in May were:

  1. Godzilla (2014) Is a True Godzilla Film and a Unique Blockbuster
  2. A Ride Along with the Thought Police: John C. Wright, Foz Meadows, and Rachel Aaron
  3. A History of Godzilla on Film, Part 5: The Travesty and the Millennium Era (1996–2004)
  4. Can SF Save the World From Climate Change?
  5. A Perfect Artifact from the Glory Days of 1970s Swords & Sorcery: Keith Taylor’s Bard
  6. Read More »

Evidence of a Higher Power at Work: Pacific Rim 2 Gets a 2017 Release Date

Friday, June 27th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Pacific Rim is too good for you-smallPhilosophers and scientists search for God using logic and telescopes, while evidence of the divine at work in their daily lives escapes them. Me, I look for God in the Hollywood press. Certainly no truly loving deity would allow Pacific Rim, the best film of 2013, to wither away without a sequel.

And lo is my diligence and faith rewarded. BuzzFeed reports this morning that Pacific Rim 2 will arrive in theaters April 7, 2017. Here’s Director Guillermo del Toro:

The characters I love will return… Raleigh, Mako, Newt, Gottlieb and who knows, maybe even Hannibal Chau – but we are taking them into a fresh territory that will display amazing sights and battles. The first film set the stage and now we’re ready to have a blast.

Del Toro is currently wrapping up production on Crimson Peak and his upcoming TV series The Strain. Box Office Mojo reports the first Pacific Rim earned over $411 million (against a budget of $190 million), by far the biggest hit of Del Toro’s career, but a sequel was by no means a sure thing – especially considering the relatively anemic domestic box office ($101 million.)

This is the best news of the week — especially for my son Drew, who’s a huge Pacific Rim fan. If you haven’t seen the first film yet, I urge you to get the Blu Ray edition, cook up a big bucket of popcorn, and settle in for a joyous two hours of giant-robot-versus-mega-monster mayhem. (And be sure to turn the speakers WAY UP.) Read Ryan Harvey’s deliriously happy Black Gate review “Pacific Rim Loves You. Love It Back” here, and the complete BuzzFeed article here. (Thanks to for the tip!)

io9 on The 20 Most WTF Magical Items in Dungeons & Dragons

Thursday, June 26th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Magic potion-smallOver at i09, Rob Bricken takes a hilarious look at some of the goofiest magic items in Dungeons & Dragons, including the infamous Wand of Wonder, the Bowl of Watery Death, and the Robe of Vermin.

Here he is on the Druid’s Yoke:

If you’re in a D&D campaign where you need to do any kind of farming, you have bigger problems than any magical item can fix. But this yoke allows characters to — when they put it on themselves — turn into an ox. Not a magical ox; a regular ox. Then you can till your field yourself! You can’t do it any faster, because again, you’re just a goddamned ox, but it does allow you to… do the horrible manual labor… instead of the animal you’ve bred for this exact purpose. So that’s… something someone would totally want. The best part? Once you’ve put it on, you can’t take the yoke off; someone else has to do it for you. Because you’re a goddamned ox.

I think he’s reaching pretty far afield for some of these items, because I sure as hell don’t recall a Druid’s Yoke or Crystal Parrot in the Dungeon Masters Guide (or Unearthed Arcana, for that matter). Since he doesn’t cite any references, it’s entirely possible he’s making half of them up. (I mean… the Brooch of Number Numbing? That’s gotta be from an April 1 issue of Dragon or something, right?)

In any event, the article is well worth a read. Check it out here.

The Top 20 Black Gate Fiction Posts in May

Monday, June 23rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Alchemist's Revenge-smallThe most-read piece of fiction on the Black Gate blog last month was our exclusive excerpt from The Alchemist’s Revenge by Peter Cakebread, the first novel from the co-author of the role playing games Airship Pirates and Clockwork & Chivalry. The first volume in the Companie of Reluctant Heroes takes place in a 17th century that didn’t quite happen, in a nation torn apart by civil war.

When an embittered mercenary agrees to escort a grieving widow to visit her husband’s grave, little does he realize the dangers they will face. This is the story of their struggle through a country divided. As they journey through tainted lands, ravaged by alchemical magic and giant clockwork war machines, they are reunited with old friends and stalked by sinister foes. The reluctant heroes band together in this tale of loss and despair, of redemption and friendship, and ultimately, of retribution and revenge!

“Stand at Dubun-Geb,” Ryan Harvey’s second tale of Ahn-Tarqa, returned to the setting of “The Sorrowless Thief,” for another heroic fantasy packed with adventure, swordplay, and weird magic. It took second place this month.

Steven H Silver’s tale of the strange astral adventures of Hoggar the Cremator, “The Cremator’s Tale,” continued its run at the top of the charts, taking third place.

Also making the list were exciting stories by Janet Morris and Chris Morris, Mark Rigney, C.S.E. Cooney, Michael Shea, David Evan Harris, Aaron Bradford Starr, Joe Bonadonna, John C. Hocking, E.E. Knight, David C. Smith and Joe Bonadonna, Jason E. Thummel, Jon Sprunk, John R. Fultz, Dave Gross, and Harry Connolly.

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 May.

Read More »

An Open Letter to Dave Truesdale

Thursday, June 5th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Dave Truesdale 1997Dear Dave,

I wanted to applaud you for the exceptionally thorough review Tangent Online put together for Lightspeed #49, June 2014, the special “Women Destroy Science Fiction” issue. I was always deeply appreciative of TO‘s detailed reviews of Black Gate — starting with our print issues, and continuing without a hitch when we switched to publishing online — but we never enjoyed anything as elaborate as the 15,000-word round-robin review you assembled for this issue of Lightspeed.

Seriously, kudos. I’m certain it wasn’t easy to coordinate. I’m also glad you recognized just how important this issue of Lightspeed is. John Joseph Adams and guest Editor Christie Yant have assembled what is clearly a landmark issue of one of the most important publications in the genre. You and I have both seen the ridiculous claim that “women have destroyed science fiction”… watching a group of 109 talented women co-opt that phrase and make it their own is uplifting and frankly empowering to both sexes. I know you agree with me on that.

But I think you really put your foot in it with your closing comments, particularly where you say “science-fiction hasn’t a racist or sexist bone in its body… Not once have I personally seen a smidgeon of racism or sexism.”

I have to call bullshit on you, buddy. In those 18 months you were working for me as Managing Editor of Black Gate, from early 2001 to 2002, and while we were buying fiction together, we were blatantly, nakedly sexist — and I think you know it.

Read More »

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