Forbes on the Books that Inspired the New Dungeons & Dragons

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Name of the Wind-smallGary Gygax, creator of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, famously listed the fantasy writers and books that inspired him in Appendix N. We’ve had lengthy discussions on Appendix N, and its suitability as a jumping-off point for a fantasy collection, here on Black Gate.

Now that there’s a new version of D&D on the market, it’s not too surprising that its creators have included their own version of Appendix N. And while I consider Gygax’s Appendix N to be a terrific resource for classic fantasy fans, I was pleased (and not at all surprised) to find that the new inspiration comes chiefly from a new generation of fantasy writers.

Forbes magazine writer David M. Ewalt, who’s written about Dungeons and Dragons before, interviewed Mike Mearls, head of R&D for Dungeons & Dragons and co-lead designer on the fifth edition rules, and designer Rodney Thompson. Here’s some excerpts:

Patrick Rothfuss ”showed that bards didn’t have to suck,” according to Mearls. Fifth edition designers knew that players would use the bard class to create characters inspired by Kvothe, the hero of Rothfuss’ novel The Name of the Wind. “We actually talked about using words of power as big element of the bard, but toned it down as too on the nose.”

Saladin Ahmed ”did a great job of capturing the concept of an adventuring party in Throne of the Crescent Moon,” says Mearls. “A lot of the stuff behind bonds, flaws, all the stuff that binds characters to the campaign, was inspired by reading Throne…”

Mearls, Thompson and the rest of D&D team are also inspired by the storytellers who wrote for previous versions of the Dungeons & Dragons game. Last week, Wizards of the Coast announced “Elemental Evil,” a new storyline in the Dungeons & Dragons product universe tied into several new products: The storyline is based, in part, on the 1985 game module The Temple of Elemental Evil, which was written by Gary Gygax and Frank Mentzer for the first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules.

David M. Ewalt is also the author of Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It. See his complete article here.

Crush It Like Cthulhu

Friday, January 16th, 2015 | Posted by Jackson Kuhl


Southern New England staple Narragansett Beer is trying to corner the Weird Tales beer-drinker market by releasing four beers inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. The first, available this Monday, is based on Lovecraft’s, “The Festival”:

[O]nce Narragansett came up with the idea to release a line of H.P. Lovecraft beers, it made sense. “The Festival” is generally acknowledged as the first story in the Cthulhu Mythos. It was published in January of 1925, almost 90 years ago exactly. And the Cthulhu Mythos has a name for the stuff that Kingsport’s residents drink to allow them to survive the ride across interstellar space on the back of the Byakhee: space mead.

“Our head brewmaster, Sean Larkin, was just fascinated with this idea of space mead,” says Hellendrung. “So he tried to come up with a recipe, inspired by the honey meads that were popular in Lovecraft’s time.” The finished beer is a robust dark ale with an edge of sweetness, brewed from five malts and two different kinds of hops.

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C.C. Finlay Appointed Editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Charles Coleman Finlay-smallC.C. Finlay has been named the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. He replaces Gordon van Gelder, who has been editor since 1997. C.C. Finlay was the guest editor of the July/August 2014 issue, which was well received, and had been expected to edit two additional issues in 2015. Several reviewers noted that he brought a high percentage of new names to the magazine.

He is the author of the Traitor to the Crown fantasy trilogy, published by Del Rey in 2009. Under the name Charles Coleman Finlay he has published some highly regarded short fiction, including the Hugo and Nebula Award nominees “The Political Prisoner” and “The Political Officer.” We published his story “The Nursemaid’s Suitor” in Black Gate 8. In 2003 he was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. He addresses the announcement on his blog:

As some of you may have guessed, my guest editing gigs at F&SF were a job audition. I guess I did okay…. Officially, I take over with the March/April issue this year… March/April is at the printers so that means I’m already working on May/June. I started reading submissions for the magazine on January 1. Originally, it was going to be just for a guest editor spot in September/October, but now it is for all future issues of the magazine. So that worked out well…

Current editor Gordon Van Gelder has an inventory of stories for the magazine. After the March/April issue, these will be mixed in with the stories that I select. It will probably take a few issues to make the transition, but it won’t be sudden. Readers will still see many of the familiar writers they love. And I expect there to be new voices as well.

Gordon Van Gelder will remain publisher. We covered the January/February issue of F&SF here.

George R.R. Martin’s The Winds of Winter Will Not Appear in 2015

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Martin The Winds of Winter-smallHopes that the sixth book in George R.R. Martin’s epic Song of Ice and Fire would arrive this year were dashed earlier this month, when Martin’s UK publisher Jane Johnson tweeted that the book was not on the 2015 schedule.

There was a flurry of speculation about the imminent release of The Winds of Winter late last year, triggered by a Twitter countdown from his publisher, but Martin put the rumors to rest on his blog, saying:

I don’t play games with news about the books. I know how many people are waiting, how long they have been waiting, how anxious they are. I am still working on Winds. When it’s done, I will announce it here.

It’s been almost four years since the release of the fifth volume, A Dance With Dragons; that book appeared six years after A Feast for Crows.

Given that two volumes remain in the series, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, and that Martin has said that he expects both to be big (1,500 manuscript pages each), fans are understandably nervous that the series may never be completed. More than a few recall the unexpected death of Robert Jordan, who left his 14-volume Wheel of Time series incomplete at the time of his death in 2007.

Altogether, it took Martin 11 years to produce the two most recent books. Martin is currently 66 years old; if he stays true to form, we can reasonably expect him to complete the series in 2022, at the age of 73. Jordan died at age 58.

For those who can’t wait, Martin offered an excerpt from The Winds of Winter on his blog two years ago; check it out here.

James Bond is in the Public Domain in Canada

Sunday, January 11th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

James Bond 007-smallNews that the character of James Bond entered the public domain in several countries around the world, including Canada, on January 1st 2015, has stirred considerable excitement among small press publishers.

As io9 reported on Thursday, for many countries who signed the international Berne Convention governing copyright, an author’s works are protected until 50 years after her death. Ian Fleming died in 1964, which means his work entered the public domain this year. Fleming’s original novels can now be published by anyone in Canada, and new film adaptions of those works are fair game.

Canadian publishers such as Neil Baker’s April Moon Books, who recently produced the popular anthologies The Dark Rites of Cthulhu and Amok!, are exploring what this means to those interested in producing new Bond-related books and anthologies. Here’s Neil:

Here is what I know so far. The name James Bond is currently not trademarked, and it wouldn’t be an issue if it was. However, James Bond OO7 is trademarked, and would cause a kerfuffle. The movies are off-limits, so no fluffy white cats or Q. Movie versions of James are off-limits, as is SPECTRE and, to some extent, villains using nuclear threats. It’s all a bit murky, but I’m still digging.

I’m trying to clarify the position of writers outside of Canada, bear with me on this.

Keep up with developments on the April Moon Facebook page.

The 2014 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees

Sunday, January 11th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Reach For Infinity Solaris-smallThe Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually for distinguished science fiction originally published in paperback in the United States. The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society.

The six finalists this year are (with links to earlier Black Gate coverage, where appropriate):

Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett (Aqueduct Press)
The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter by Rod Duncan (Angry Robot)
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison (Sybaritic Press)
Memory Of Water by Emmi Itäranta (Harper Voyager)
Maplecroft: The Borden Dispatches by Cherie Priest (Roc)
Reach For Infinity edited by Jonathan Strahan (Solaris)

I wasn’t aware that anthologies are eligible for the Dick Award, but I’m very pleased to see Jonathan Strahan’s Reach for Infinity on the list this year.

Last year’s winner was Countdown City by Ben H. Winters, author of The Last Policeman, with a special citation going to Toh EnJoe’s Self-Reference Engine.

This year’s winner will be announced on Friday, April 3, 2015 at Norwescon 38 in SeaTac, Washington. The 2014 judges are Jon Armstrong, Ritchie Calvin, Ellen Klages, Laura J. Mixon (chair), and Michaela Roessner. See more details at the Official Philip K. Dick Awards Home Page.

See all of our recent News articles here.

The Anti-Tolkien: Michael Moorcock in The New Yorker

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Michael Moorcock-smallI was surprised and pleased to see a lengthy feature on Michael Moorcock in that bastion of American literature, The New Yorker.

Peter Bebergal, author of Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll, wrote the piece, which was published online on December 31, 2014. It’s a well-informed article which celebrates Moorcock’s substantial contribution to fantasy, but doesn’t gloss over his years as a young muckraking editor at the helm of the New Wave:

It was fifty years ago this year that Moorcock, then twenty-four years old, was offered the editorial helm of the British magazine New Worlds… Moorcock and his peers had become tired of the dominant science-fiction landscape: vast fields of time travel, machismo, and spaceships, as well as the beefcake heroes of the fantasy subgenre “Sword and Sorcery.” The Golden Age of Science Fiction, held aloft by authors like Frederik Pohl, John W. Campbell, and Robert Heinlein had, by the nineteen-sixties, sputtered out into a recycling of the same ideas. Within the pages of New Worlds, Moorcock created a literary revolution, one that would have science-fiction fans calling for his head.

The focus of the piece, titled “The Anti-Tolkien,” is on Moorcock’s criticism of the “troublesome infantilism inherent in Tolkien’s work,” and his response to it in his own work.

Read the complete article online here.

Clarkesworld 100 now on Sale

Friday, January 2nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld issue 100-smallThe award-winning Clarkesworld magazine published its 100th issue this month — a landmark by any measure. Very few SF and fantasy magazines have made it to 100 issues, and this is something that deserves to be celebrated.

This bigger-than-average issue contains fiction from Naomi Kritzer, Kij Johnson, Catherynne M. Valente, Jay Lake, Damien Broderick, Karl Schroeder, and others. The four non-fiction pieces are “Song for a City-Universe: Lucius Shepard’s Abandoned Vermillion,” by Jason Heller, “Exploring the Frontier: A Conversation with Xia Jia,” by Ken Liu, “#PurpleSF” by Cat Rambo, and an editorial by Neil Clarke: “On the Road to One Hundred.”

This issue’s podcast is “Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight” by Aliette fde Bodard, read by Kate Baker.

Kate Baker, Neil Clarke, & Sean Wallace won the World Fantasy Award in the Special Award Non-Professional category for Clarkesworld in November (see our complete report here).

We last covered Clarkesworld with Issue 97 and the anthology Clarkesworld: Year Six edited by Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace. The anthologies are inexpensive and a great way to introduce yourself to Clarkesworld. Every purchase helps support the magazine… definitely worth considering if you’re at all a fan of short fiction.

Clarkesworld 100 was published by Wyrm Publishing. Individual issues are $1.99; a 12-issue subscription is $23.88. Learn more and order individual issues at the magazine’s website. This issue’s cover is by Julie Dillon.

Marvel Casts Luke Cage

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Luke Cage NetflixI’ve been following the news surrounding Marvel Entertainment’s upcoming Netflix shows with a great deal of interest. Originally announced last November, the plan is for Netflix to launch four live-action dramas focused on Marvel’s street-level heroes, leading to “a mini-series programming event” that will rival the blockbuster Avengers. Quoting from the press release:

Led by a series focused on Daredevil, followed by Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage, the epic will unfold over multiple years of original programming, taking Netflix members deep into the gritty world of heroes and villains of Hell’s Kitchen, New York. Netflix has committed to a minimum of four, thirteen episodes series and a culminating Marvel’s The Defenders mini-series event that reimagines a dream team of self-sacrificing, heroic characters.

Like many Marvel fans, I’ve been very intrigued by the possibilities of a gritty, realistic TV series focused on some of the most popular characters in the Marvel canon. A big reason for all the excitement is the collaboration of Marvel and Netflix; the latter has a stellar rep based on the ground-breaking House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey. Daredevil is already underway, with episodes set to premiere in May 2015. It will be followed by Jessica Jones, which stars Krysten Ritter (Veronica Mars, Breaking Bad) as a retired superhero with post-traumatic stress disorder working as a private detective in New York. Jones was created by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos for the excellent (and underrated) comic Alias (2001-2004), the flagship title in Marvel’s adult MAX imprint.

A recurring character in Alias was Jones’s boyfriend — none other than Luke Cage, one of the most famous superheroes of the 70s and 80s. Cage first appeared in Marvel’s Hero For Hire #1 in June 1972, and it’s believed he’ll guest-star first in Jessica Jones before spinning off into his own series. Yesterday Marvel announced that Cage would be played by Mike Colter, who’s currently playing a drug kingpin on The Good Wife.

There’s been lots for superhero fans to talk about in the last few weeks. Our latest Marvel news was the announcement that Benedict Cumberbatch was confirmed to play Doctor Strange.

C. S. E. Cooney Joins Uncanny Magazine as a Podcast Reader

Friday, December 12th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

C. S. E. Cooney has hair like Medusa seriously it's amazing-smallThe brand new fantasy magazine Uncanny — which we discussed excitedly last month when its first issue went on sale — has shown uncanny good sense by hiring our very own C.S.E. Cooney as a podcast reader. Here’s a bit cribbed from the press release:

Uncanny Magazine is thrilled to announce that the marvelous C.S.E. Cooney has agreed to join us as the second reader on the Uncanny Magazine Podcast! Ms. Cooney is a Rhode Island writer and actor… She loves to read aloud to anyone who will sit still long enough to listen. Some of her narration work can be found on Podcastle and Tales to Terrify. With her fellow artists in the Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours, C. S. E. Cooney appears at conventions and other venues, singing from their growing collection of Distant Star Ballads, dramatizing fiction, and performing such story-poems as “The Sea King’s Second Bride,” for which she won the Rhysling Award in 2011.

Ms. Cooney will make her debut as an Uncanny Magazine Podcast reader in Episode 3 this January.

So much exciting C.S.E. Cooney news! Just last month, we reported on Amal El-Mohtar’s review of her short story “Witch, Beast, Saint,” and our roving reporter Mark Rigney interviewed her in late October. The two C.S.E. Cooney short stories we published here at Black Gate, “Godmother Lizard” and “Life on the Sun,” consistently rank among the most popular pieces we’ve ever published. Her most recent blog post for us was Book Pairings: Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells and Royal Airs, published last Sunday. She is a past website editor of Black Gate, and the author of How to Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes and Jack o’ the Hills.

In other C.S.E. Cooney news, today is her birthday. Happy Birthday, Claire!!

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