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The New York Times on How Dungeons & Dragons Influenced a Generation of Writers

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

AD&D Monster Manual-smallEthan Gilsdorf, a contributor for Gygax Magazine, wrote an intriguing feature for the Sunday New York Times last weekend. Interviewing several popular writers, Gilsdorf shows how profoundly Dungeons and Dragons, which turned 40 this year, has influenced the current generation of fantasy authors.

For certain writers, especially those raised in the 1970s and ’80s, all that time spent in basements has paid off. D&D helped jump-start their creative lives. As [Junot] Díaz said, “It’s been a formative narrative media for all sorts of writers.”

The league of ex-gamer writers also includes the “weird fiction” author China Miéville (The City & the City); Brent Hartinger (author of Geography Club, a novel about gay and bisexual teenagers); the sci-fi and young adult author Cory Doctorow; the poet and fiction writer Sherman Alexie; the comedian Stephen Colbert; George R. R. Martin, author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series (who still enjoys role-playing games)…

Mr. Díaz, who teaches writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said his first novel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, was written “in honor of my gaming years.” Oscar, its protagonist, is “a role-playing-game fanatic…” Though Mr. Díaz never became a fantasy writer, he attributes his literary success, in part, to his “early years profoundly embedded and invested in fantastic narratives.” From D&D, he said, he “learned a lot of important essentials about storytelling, about giving the reader enough room to play.”

Read the complete article here.

Scott Taylor’s A Knight in the Silk Purse Now Available

Monday, July 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

A Knight in the Silk Purse-smallScott Taylor’s latest anthology, A Knight in the Silk Purse, the sequel to his blockbuster, Tales of the Emerald Serpent, is now available.

If you’re a regular Black Gate reader, you’re familiar with Scott’s popular Art of the Genre column. But Scott is more than just a blogger and writer — he’s also an accomplished editor and publisher, with seven successful Kickstarter publishing projects under his belt. Inspired by classic shared world anthologies like Thieves World, Scott created the Free City of Taux, a sprawling fantasy port of “cursed stones, dark plots, and rich characters who share space inside the infamous Black Gate District,” and invited some of the genre’s most popular writers to tell its stories — including Lynn Flewelling, Juliet McKenna, Martha Wells, Julie Czerneda, Harry Connolly, and many others.

The result was Tales of the Emerald Serpent, one of the most acclaimed anthologies from last year. Lou Anders, editorial director at Pyr Books, said “I’m very impressed… it’s a smart, good looking package with some real gems of fiction inside.”

As we reported last year, Scott launched another successful Kickstarter to fund a sequel and A Knight in the Silk Purse was born — featuring virtually all of the writers from TotES, plus Dave Gross, Elaine Cunningham, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. Fans have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the second volume and now the wait is over.

Here’s the book description.

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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).

CJ Henderson, December 26, 1951 – July 4, 2014

Sunday, July 6th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANeil Baker, publisher of The Dark Rites of Cthulhu, informs us that fantasy short story writer and novelist CJ Henderson lost his battle with cancer earlier this week.

His first novel, Brooklyn Knight, was published by Tor in 2010; it was followed by one sequel, Central Park Knight (2011); his short story collection, Where Angels Fear, was released by Dark Quest Books in 2010. I first encountered him with Kolchak and the Lost World (Moonstone, May 2012), one of several licensed tie-in novellas he wrote featuring the great occult investigator Carl Kolchak, which I bought at the Moonstone booth at the Windy City Pulp and Paper show in April.

Neil writes:

A prolific writer for decades, CJ had a successful collection of novels to his name, numerous short stories for a wide selection of publishers and comic books for Marvel, DC and others. He also wrote books featuring Kolchak, wrote for Clive Barker’s Hellraiser series and collaborated with William Shatner on Man of War.

Personally, I only got to know him through my first publication, and he was an open and generous soul. He fought the disease all the way to end, determined to make it out to future conventions to sell more books and meet more fans, and in his many emails to me he would discuss his fight, his deep love for his wife and his passion for writing.

CJ leaves a legacy filled with hard-boiled characters, ripping yarns and good humor. He will be missed.

CJ Henderson died on July 4, 2014. He was 62 years old.

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.

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!)

Star Trek 3 Confirmed

Saturday, June 21st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Star Trek Spock and Kirk-smallParamount Pictures confirmed on Wednesday that the third film in the J.J. Abrams-helmed Star Trek reboot has been green-lit for a 2016 release.

I haven’t been the biggest fan of the new films. Sure, they are highly watchable blockbuster action pics — fast moving, splendidly acted, and with terrific effects. But to me they haven’t captured the spirit of the original show and the creators seem kinda oblivious to this fact, turning characters I’ve loved for 40 years into action-film superheroes, with Spock getting into prolonged fistfights with superhuman opponents and Kirk ascending confidently into the Captain’s chair of the Enterprise in his early 20s, less than 24 hours out of the academy. It’s been more like watching The Expendables filmed on a Star Trek set (which actually sounds sorta cool, now that I say it out loud.)

But that’s okay. The films have been popular and have kept the franchise in the public eye. And they’re by no means bad films — they’re just not the Star Trek I wanted. So I was pleased to hear that there would be a third. Especially since the ending of Star Trek Into Darkness strongly implied the next one would be closer in spirit to the original version, with the crew finally beginning their five-year mission of exploration.

We don’t know a lot about the new movie yet. We know it will be directed by Roberto Orci, screenwriter and producer of Star Trek Into Darkness, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and the Sleepy Hollow TV show, in his directorial debut. In a recent interview, Orci stated that he wants the film to be more original, and to stay in the classic Trek world, which at least sounds good. His co-writer J.D. Payne also dropped a few clues about the plot.

Star Trek 3 (no idea if that’s the final title) will be written by Patrick McKay, Roberto Orci, and John D. Payne, and produced by J.J. Abrams and David Ellison. It is scheduled for a 2016 release, just in time for the show’s 50th anniversary. (Thanks to for the tip.)

Robert Hood’s Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead Wins the Ditmar Award

Friday, June 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

fragments of a broken land-smallWhat the heck is the Ditmar Award?

The Ditmar Awarda are the Australian Hugo Awards, recognizing superior achievement in Australian science fiction, fantasy, and horror. They’ve been awarded every year since 1969. They’re named after Martin James Ditmar “Dick” Jenssen, an Australian fan who footed the bill for the awards way back when they were just getting off the ground. Awards are given for best novel, short story, fan writing, and other more boring categories.

All very interesting. But what’s more interesting is that a major international award just went to a fantasy novel with GIANT TENTACLES ON THE COVER. And a floating red eyeball.

This is watershed moment, people. Thousands of years from now, future civilizations will point to this moment and say, “Yep, right there, that was it.” There will be no need to explain further, because future people are cool and will understand immediately.

I do not have a copy of Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead. But I really, really want one. I want to know what all the cool future people are talking about, and those Australians with their funky awards. Plus. Giant tentacles.

Read More »

Strange Chemistry Shuts Down

Friday, June 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Pantomime by Laura Lam-smallStrange Chemistry, the innovative YA imprint of Angry Robot Books, has closed its doors. Here’s the announcement made earlier today by Caroline Lambe, Publicity Manager at Angry Robot:

Angry Robot Books has a history of innovation and we continue to go from strength to strength. We’re constantly trying out new concepts and new ideas, and we continue to publish popular and award-winning books. Our YA imprint Strange Chemistry and our crime/mystery imprint Exhibit A have – due mainly to market saturation – unfortunately been unable to carve out their own niches with as much success.

We have therefore made the difficult decision to discontinue Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A, effective immediately, and no further titles will be published from these two imprints.

Strange Chemistry launched in September 2012 with editor Amanda Rutter at the helm, and released 17 books in its first year. Last summer, they produced this splendid montage displaying all of their book covers, and we helped them celebrate their first birthday just last August.

Over the last two years, Strange Chemistry has published a marvelously diverse range of titles, including Martha Wells’s Emilie and the Hollow World, Jonathan L. Howard’s Katya’s World and its sequel Katya’s War, Broken by A. E. Rought, Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier, Pantomime by Laura Lam, and many others. The sudden shut down leaves nearly half a dozen previously announced titles in limbo, including Eliza Crewe’s Crushed, Rabble by Rosie Best, and A Curse of Ash and Iron by Christine Norris.

As disappointing as the news is, Angry Robot reports that their core SF and fantasy imprint is still very robust, and in fact they plan to increase output from two books a month to three. Read the complete announcement here.

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