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The Start Of A Grand Adventure Goblin Moon by Teresa Edgerton

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_2254425vQLXHqXWMatthew David Surridge reviewed Teresa Edgerton’s Goblin Moon (1991) here at Black Gate early last year, and here I am to write about it again. It’s a book that, though recently reprinted, I suspect most readers are unaware of, so I want to shine another spotlight on it. Also, since reading Tim Powers’s The Drawing of the Dark, my itch for swashbuckling adventure got itchier.

I read this when it first came out and my memory of it was very pleasant. I remembered loving the dry humor and also the tremendous detail. Now my friend Carl, on the other hand, said he hated any book that spent as much time as it did describing characters’ clothes. My response was, if I recall correctly, that he was missing the point or something like that.

On rereading Goblin Moon this past week, I was happy to find that, one, the book held up very well and two, yes, Carl missed the point or something. Actually, the point he missed was that Teresa Edgerton created a deliriously detailed world, down to the clothing, that is richer than just about any other in fantasy.

There are a host of things that make Goblin Moon a fun read. The elaborate world-building, the intricate plot, and the colorful characters, to name an important triumvirate, are exactly the sorts of things you want to find in a book with its roots in Stevenson, Thorndike, and Sabatini. Add a lively pace and clever writing and you’ve got the perfect way to while away several lazy hours amidst floating coffins, decadent diabolists, a vengeful fairy, and an interlude with pirates.

Goblin Moon opens with a pair of river scavengers, Jed Braun and his uncle Caleb, drawing a coffin out of the waters of the River Lunn. The casket bears the strangely undecayed body of a man and several tomes of dark magic. Their discovery leads Caleb back to an old companion, the bookseller and one-time alchemist Gottfried Jenk, and consequently leaves young Jed in need of a new way to support himself.

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Adventure On Film: Time After Time

Monday, July 21st, 2014 | Posted by markrigney

Movie fans will forever remember Malcolm McDowell for his simpering, ultra-violent turn in Aimages Clockwork Orange (1971), but actors aren’t the sort to rest on their laurels, and by 1979, McDowell felt ready to embody a genuine historical figure, H.G. Wells.

The film was Time After Time, not to be confused with the Cyndi Lauper song (or the infinitely better cover by songbird Eva Cassidy), and if there’s a more definitive origin point for the Steampunk movement, I’d like to know what it is.

At the helm is first-time director Nicholas Meyer, who must have a soft spot for science fiction. Only a few years later, and armed with a much heftier budget, he was tapped to captain Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982).

As for Time After Time, it’s far from perfect –– the script contains several gargantuan plot holes, and we viewers (if I may be forgiven the mixed metaphor) must swallow hard to keep up –– but it does work in fits and starts, thanks especially to the looming presence of David Warner as a time-skipping and dangerously prescient Jack the Ripper.

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Too Grand a Vision: A Review of Jodorowsky’s Dune

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 | Posted by James McGlothlin

Jodorowsky Dune poster-smallFrank Herbert’s groundbreaking 1965 novel Dune is still rightly considered one of the greatest sci-fi novels ever. This majestic novel justly won the 1966 Hugo award and the first ever Nebula in 1965. As fans of Dune know, it’s a book (and a series) dealing with a host of interesting and complex philosophical and religious concepts.

If you haven’t read Herbert’s original novel, then perhaps you’re familiar with David Lynch’s infamous 1984 movie version of Dune. (Oh James, please don’t go there!) This was an early letdown — something that us genre fans are unfortunately far too familiar with by now — and was quite a bomb. (Personally, I think there are some elements of that movie that are quite good.)

One of the most interesting things about the theatrical version of Dune is its “development hell” history. For example, were you aware that after the Hollywood execs edited the movie the way they wanted, David Lynch refused to have his name attached to the movie and early cuts claim to be directed by Alan Smithee?

But even before any of that, you also may not know that Dune had been vigorously pursued as a possible movie by a Chilean surrealist filmmaker named Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Never heard of Jodorowsky? Few have. I personally was familiar with his name from behind-the-scene footage and documentary interviews on DVD extras. Jodorowsky’s name often comes up in discussions about the making of Ridley Scott’s 1979 movie Alien or his 1982 Blade Runner.

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The Series Series: The Night of the Swarm by Robert V.S. Redick

Friday, July 18th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Avery

The Night of the Swarm Robert VS RedickIt’s one of the classic dilemmas all fantasy readers face: When the last volume in a series finally comes out, do you go back and reread from the start so you can reach the end with all the grace notes and loose ends fresh in memory as the author ties them off? Or do you dive in immediately because you’ve been longing to resolve the suspense of the last volume’s cliffhangers?

If you’ve been reading Robert V.S. Redick’s delightful series, The Chathrand Voyage, you face this decision again with the arrival of the final book, The Night of the Swarm. The opening volume, The Red Wolf Conspiracy, was Redick’s debut novel, so we’ve never seen him bring a series to closure before. The first three books were delicious, but will he pull off the conclusion well enough to justify the time it takes you to reread the whole set?

Yes. Do it. Go find your copy of The Red Wolf Conspiracy, or buy a new one if you’ve mislaid it. I’ve just finished The Night of the Swarm, which I dove into without reacquainting myself with the earlier books, and though it was immensely satisfying, I will definitely be rereading the whole series.

And if you’re a newcomer to The Chathrand Voyage, oh, you are in for such a treat. Get all four books at once, turn the ringer off on your phone for a few weeks, and set up an auto-response for your email, because you won’t want to leave the battered, glorious world of Alifros until you’ve seen its struggles through.

Our young heroes Pazel, Thasha, and Neeps — along with a ship’s company of fanciful, and sometimes frightening, supporting characters that Charles Dickens might have come up with if he’d been trying to adapt his favorite techniques from George R.R. Martin — have only been at sea for a year, but what perils they have weathered! They have resisted a madman whose army of followers worship him as a god, rescued Thasha from political assassination, fled by sailing ship across an almost unimaginably large and wild ocean, and rediscovered civilizations no one from their continent has seen in centuries.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer…In the Beginning, Part Two

Friday, July 18th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

illo-Sax Rohmerrohmer2“The Green Spider” marked Sax Rohmer’s third foray into short fiction. Still writing under the pen name of A. Sarsfield Ward, the story first appeared in the October 1904 issue of Pearson’s Magazine. It was not reprinted until 65 years later in Issue #3 of The Rohmer Review in 1969. Subsequently, a corrupted version, with an altered ending courtesy of the editor, appeared in the May 1973 issue of Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. The restored text was included in the 1979 anthology, Science Fiction Rivals of H. G. Wells. More recently, the story has appeared in the 1992 anthology, Victorian Tales of Mystery and Detection, the September 2005 issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and as the title story in the first volume of Black Dog Books’ Sax Rohmer Library, The Green Spider and Other Forgotten Tales of Mystery and Suspense (2011).

The story itself shares in common with Rohmer’s first effort, “The Mysterious Mummy” the presentation of a seemingly supernatural mystery that has a rational explanation. In the nine months that elapsed between the publication of “The Leopard Couch” and “The Green Spider,” Rohmer honed his writing skills and became a more devoted student of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and deductive reasoning. “The Green Spider” concerns the disappearance of the celebrated Professor Brayme-Skepley on the eve of an important scientific presentation. It appears to onlookers and Scotland Yard that the Professor has been murdered by a giant green spider that apparently made off with his corpse. The unraveling of the mystery reveals the green spider is no more authentic a threat than the phantom Hound of the Baskervilles. While a minor effort, the story retains its charm more than a century on and shows that the mysterious A. Sarsfield Ward was steadily improving as an author.

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Rocket Girl: Times Squared

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

Rocket Girl volume 1One of the chief appeals of this comic, for me at least, is nostalgia. The story moves between two bygone eras: the 1980s and the future. I grew up in the 1980s and, like a lot of people my age, had almost as solid of an idea of what the future looked like as the present. In 1986, we all knew about the future. We’d been seeing it for decades on television and in the movies, after all. The future was filled with steel and plastic, robots and flying cars, bright colors and hope. Sure, there were some stories out there where the future turned out horrible, but we understood these as cautionary tales, warnings about the problems we’d avoid to guarantee that amazing era of endless innovation. We knew that 2013 would be so different from 1986 that anyone stepping through a time machine would think he’d set foot on an alien world. Even the slang would be different. But, for better or worse, that future is now past.

So, Rocket Girl starts in 1986, where a team of young quantum engineers (just run with it) are testing their Q-engine (which, for the story, is essentially a McGuffin device), when Dayoung Johansson, teen police officer from the year 2013, appears and places them all under arrest for crimes against time. Then she passes out.

As the story progresses, we get further clues to the exact nature of the “crimes” that have been perpetrated (or which will be perpetrated, given your point of view), with the implication that Dayoung’s actions in 1986 will either completely erase the 2013 she knew or unintentionally ensure that it happens. Meanwhile, as long as she’s in 1986 New York, she decides to use her futuristic technology (including her standard-issue rocketpack) to fight the crime and corruption that infests the city. Curiously, helping innocent people is not misinterpreted, she is not labeled a freak, and people treat her like a hero. It’s been a while since we’ve seen something that upbeat in a comic book.

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Pat Murphy’s Three Books of Adventures

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

There and Back AgainThere was an extended period of time in the 1990s and the first decade of this century when I didn’t read much science fiction or genre fantasy. I started reacquainting myself with these fields a few years ago and I’m still in the process of learning what I missed. It’s not uncommon for me to only now find out about an author who established themselves during those years. Which brings me around to Pat Murphy.

A little while ago, I stumbled on three books by her that make up a highly distinctive sort of trilogy: There And Back Again, Wild Angel, and Adventures in Time and Space With Max Merriwell. They were published one a year from 1999 to 2001. They don’t really share a plot or setting, though some characters cross over from one to another. They’re linked by concepts both metafictional and science-fictional, which is a surprisingly unusual pairing, and while each can easily be read alone, the third book ties them all together with surprising effectiveness. ‘Surprising’ because at first the links between the books aren’t obvious. But by the end of book three, you realise what Murphy was driving at, and why these things had to be done in this particular way.

So what are these books? There And Back Again is a futuristic sf story about Bailey Beldon, a simple ‘norbit,’ a human inhabitant of an asteroid, who gets tied up with an oddball wanderer named Gitana and a family of thirteen clones. The clones have a map that’ll lead to a treasure with a fearsome guardian — and Gitana has decided that Bailey will accompany them on their quest. It is, in fact, a science-fictional and somewhat gender-flipped version of The Hobbit, and extremely effective. Similarly, Wild Angel is a story set in nineteenth-century California of a girl whose parents were killed when they came west to look for gold; the girl’s raised by wolves in exactly the same way Tarzan was raised by apes. But it’s the third book where things get really strange.

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Secret Caverns and Death Traps: The Adventures of Captain Marvel, Chapter Nine: Dead Man’s Trap

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 | Posted by Thomas Parker

Adventures of Captain Marvel Part 9 lobby card-smallA seat in the balcony today? Good choice — the view is great from up here, and during the slow stretches that are inevitable in any Bette Davis picture (you know, all that kissing), there’s always the fun of candy-bombing your friends down below. But before we get to any of that, there’s this week’s edge-of-your-seat installment in The Adventures of Captain Marvel, “Dead Man’s Trap.”

Three title cards will remind us of the situation at the end of the previous chapter. “Billy Batson — And Whitey accuse Doctor Lang of being the Scorpion.” “Doctor Lang — Tries to take Billy to a place of safety in his car.” “The Scorpion’s men follow in Billy’s car which has been mined.” Now for the amazing acronym that will transport you to realms of action and adventure far beyond the ken of classmates who couldn’t scare up the price of admission! Shazam!

Recapping last week’s conclusion, Lang and the unconscious Billy hurtle down the road, closely pursued by two Scorpion thugs. The goons are blissfully unaware that there’s a bomb under their hood that will detonate when they exceed fifty miles per hour. As this is going on, back at Lang’s house the gate guard (a Scorpion stooge — damn that temp service) calls the Scorpion’s head henchman, Barnett, and tells him that Lang and Batson have driven out on the Mill Valley Road; Barnett jumps in a car with two other goons to head them off.

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June Short Story Roundup

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_1525953ATtCjv09It’s story time, kids! For the newcomers, that’s when I pore over the new short heroic fiction stories published in the previous month and let you know what I think about them. My goal is to shine a spotlight on the authors and magazines doing the yeoman-like work of creating new swords & sorcery tales and getting them into the reading public’s hands. It is my contention that S&S is a genre best served by short stories. I hope, with Black Gate as my bullhorn, I’m helping draw readers to some exciting and interesting new writing with each installment of the roundup.

For two-and-half years, Swords and Sorcery Magazine, published and edited by Curtis Ellett, has presented two new stories every month. That’s over fifty stories so far — the equivalent of four or five Lin Carter-edited anthologies. I’ve written before that the magazine’s sensibilities are pretty much exactly aligned with what it says on the masthead: swords and sorcery. But there are times the magazine shifts its focus a little.

By Any Other Name” by S. A. Hunter is about what happens when a nameless young girl and her guardian are visited by a minstrel. The girl suffers under a curse and despite strong warnings, the bard proves too persistent for his own good and tries to overcome it. The story and the minstrel put me in mind of a host of fairy tales that tell of the unfortunate older brothers who die before their youngest one shows up and saves the princess.

Keshia Swain’s “Inner Strength” is narrated by a trainee healer, Damali. When her mistress travels to spend time with her dying brother, Damali is confronted by intruders and finds herself drawing on heretofore unrealized reserves to confront them. There was just enough going on here to keep me interested and enough questions left unanswered to leave me wanting more.

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Original Fantasy? In a Video Game? It’s About Time

Sunday, July 13th, 2014 | Posted by Connor Gormley

Dark Souls-smallThere he was; a sliver of midnight set against the deeper black of the room behind him. The Black Knight. When he moved, he moved with the easy lope of the master, the practised ease of the warrior. There was silence in the moonlit hall, silence save for the cold metallic chink of his armor and the hammering of my own heart.

He was twice my height, broad of shoulder and clad entirely in black armor. A sword, five feet in length, gleamed in his right hand. He didn’t seem to have a face; no flesh peeked from the slits of his face plate, there was nothing quite so fragile, instead a sulphurous yellow gas twisted and swirled, burning through the thick shadow of the hall. My hand tightened around the hilt of my sword, tightened so that my knuckles went white, so that my skin went taut.

Then, before I knew it that great black blade was arcing through the air towards me, splitting the thin rays of moonlight as it raced towards my heart. I only just parried it with my shield, then it was coming back again, this time from left to right, and I threw myself to the floor, rolling back out of reach and sprang back up again, already deflecting perfectly timed blows, expertly aimed thrusts.

Already I was being forced backwards, driven back into the darkness, back into the cold. Every strike sent pain rippling up my arm; every blow brought me closer to death, to defeat; I could already see that sword diving through my flesh, already feel its kiss on my skin. Desperate now, I struck back, and felt his armor give way, felt my sword hew through bone, felt his ghostly flesh shudder and saw black, oily, blood crawl from his chest. No sound escaped the Knight’s lips, but its sulphurous yellow eyes seemed to burn that bit brighter, all before his sword came crashing against my shield once more.

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