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Headed For a Watery Grave: The Adventures of Captain Marvel, Chapter Ten: Doom Ship

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Thomas Parker

Captain Marvel Chapter Ten BettyI’m glad to see that you’ve gotten here early — as we near the end of our saga, seats are going to be at a premium, and you’re fast running out of opportunities to see Frank Coughlan Jr. and Tom Tyler perform their mystic switcheroo. I mean, once this silly thing is out of the theater, it’ll be forever relegated to the realm of nostalgic memory — it’s not like anyone will be able to watch it at home sixty years from now! That would be magic…

And so, while we still have the chance, let’s join the ragged remains of the Malcolm Scientific Expedition in their struggle against the malific machinations of the sinister Scorpion in this week’s chapter of The Adventures of Captain Marvel, “Doom Ship.” Shazam! (Cough, cough…)

Pay close attention to this week’s title cards, recapping Chapter Nine; there will be a quiz after the main feature. “The Scorpion — Forces Doctor Lang to reveal the hiding place of his lens.” “Doctor Lang — Gives Betty the combination to his safe.” “Captain Marvel — Tries to warn Betty of a death trap at Lang’s home.” “Billy Batson — And Betty decide to get the lens.” Now to pick up where we left off…

Last week, we left Billy and Betty standing in front of the late Doctor Lang’s safe, unaware that two tommy guns were aimed at their backs, primed to fire as soon as the safe is opened. (They’re also unaware that Barnett and two other Scorpion men are watching them from hiding.) Just as Billy turns the safe’s dial to the last number, but before he can open the door, Barnett and his boys emerge from behind the drapes.

One of them shoves Betty out of the way. She slams against the wall and is knocked out (by the serial’s end, this woman will have suffered more concussions than Brett Favre) and then he slugs Billy on the head with a gun, laying the intrepid broadcaster out cold.

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Game Changers

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 | Posted by James Maliszewski

book4In previous posts, I may have mentioned that, as a kid, there were three roleplaying games that I liked – and played – above all others: Dungeons & Dragons, Traveller, and Call of Cthulhu. I played lots of other games, too, but these were the ones that most strongly captured my imagination. Because I played these three so much, I was also a voracious consumer of supplementary materials produced for them. Of course, being a young person, my funds were limited; I had to be judicious in what I purchased. Consequently, I tended to put a priority on items I deemed to have the most overall utility. This meant, in the case of AD&D for example, that I placed greater value on hardcover rulebooks than on adventure modules (though I still bought plenty of adventures over the years).

My appetite for such broadly “useful” supplements was practical, since my friends and I played RPGs a lot. We were young and well nigh addicted to this weird new form of game. During the summer months, we quite literally played all day long, from the time we got up until the time the sun set, taking brief breaks only to scarf down some food before returning to the table. I’d conservatively reckon that, in terms of raw hours of play, my friends and I had probably played more than had many of our elders who’d started roleplaying years before us. That’s the nature of youth, as we had the free time to indulge our boundless enthusiasm in a way that most people do not.

I hesitate to say that, because we played so much, we more quickly became jaded than did many of our peers, but it’s probably true nonetheless. We were constantly on the lookout for ways to take our campaigns in new directions, to stoke the flame of our RPG ardor. The first supplement that I remember achieving this was Book 4: Mercenary for GDW’s Traveller. My friends and I started playing Traveller with The Traveller Book, which was released in 1982. That book alone was enough to keep us busy for many, many months of science fiction adventure in the far future. However, we did eventually want more out Traveller and Mercenary fit the bill, providing us with new skills, equipment, and – most importantly – expanded rules for generating Army and Marine characters.

Mercenary changed the way we played Traveller forever. Previously, Merchants, Scouts, and Navy personnel were favored, because these careers were all space-based and thus what we considered to be the stuff of sci-fi. But Mercenary-generated characters were so much better than those generated using the original system. They had more (and better) skills, as well as lots of fun perks like advanced training and commendations. Our campaigns quickly shifted gears to focus on ground-pounding mercenaries involved in interstellar brush fire wars (which, as it turned out, was how nearly everyone else we knew played the game). Mercenary had a profound impact on us and extended the life of our ongoing Traveller campaign considerably.

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Vintage Treasures: Subterranean Magazine, Issue #2

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

SubterraneanMmagazine 2-smallAfter the the 2014 Windy City Pulp & Paper show in April was over, I collected all the pulps, vintage paperback, fanzines, art books, and old magazines I’d acquired and packed them snugly in two boxes next to my big green chair. I’ve been digging into the boxes at my leisure ever since.

I highly recommend this. Strange as it sounds, it’s a little like time travel. Most of the old magazines I bought — including OMNI, Interzone, Weird Tales, Starlog, Cosmos, Galileo, and the great Fantasy Review — are from the 80s and 90s. Which means they’re largely concerned with the same group of writers, movies, and books.

After a few weeks of reading ads and reviews from the early 80s, you start to feel oddly plugged in to the state of the industry thirty years ago (and realize just how much good reading you have to catch up on – and I’m not even caught up on my reading from last year!)

You also start to appreciate what a fabulous resource magazines are. No one can keep up on even a fraction of the genre novels published every year. But the best fiction magazines will keep you current on the exciting, new, emerging writers, with a diverse range of short fiction — not to mention novel reviews.(And the ads. Let’s not forget the ads.)

One of the great delights I pulled out of those Windy City boxes was a pristine copy of the second issue of Subterranean Magazine from 2005, back when it was still available in print. The magazine is still very much alive and excellent as ever, published these days as Subterranean Online (see their latest issue here.) But nine years ago, you could curl up with a thick issue printed on quality paper, and believe me, it was definitely worth your time.

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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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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Copyrighted Detective

Monday, July 21st, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Copyright_SnoopyThis column was written the day before a nine-day, 1,900 mile round trip venture to Disney World. So, it’s a bit of a rush job. I’ll tackle the issue in more depth when the Supreme Court gets going.

Did that catch your interest?

Beginning with his children, the heirs of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have battled to maintain control of the Sherlock Holmes copyright. The sons developed a reputation that endures to this day of gleefully trying to stick it to anyone who wanted to use Holmes without paying them their due.

When August Derleth attempted to publish his first collection of Solar Pons tales (you’re going to be reading lots more about Pons in this column: trust me!), the deceased Doyle’s sons threatened to sue him. Derleth persisted and happily, over 70 Pons stories would be published.

Derleth said, “The plain fact is that the Doyle sons are a pair of lazy bastards who have tried to eke out a complete living from proceeds of their father’s writings. Others have told me that before; I was dubious; but I am less so.”

All 60 of Doyle’s Holmes stories are in the public domain in England. At one time they also were in America, but when Disney backed legislation to protect their ownership of Mickey Mouse, the last set of Holmes stories, collectively known as The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, came back under copyright protection.

The characters from all non-Casebook stories and those previous stories remained in the public domain, for use by all. To avoid “trouble,” and/or to get the Estate’s blessing, many authors, filmmakers, etc., have paid a fee to use Holmes.

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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!


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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Vintage Treasures: H.P. Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space

Thursday, July 17th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Lovecraft The Colour Out of Space-smallThe first Arkham House books I ever bought were the 3-volume 1964 edition of the complete stories of H.P. Lovecraft (The Dunwich Horror and Others, Dagon, and At The Mountains of Madness). It was a beautiful set, and one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.

On the other hand, having the complete Lovecraft at an early age robbed me of the joy of tracking down and collecting his fiction in paperback. I’ve been trying to rectify that over the years, starting with the marvelous Ballantine Adult Fantasy editions.

In the comments section of a recent post, John H. noted his first encounter with Lovecraft was:

Colour Out of Space… the title story scared the bejeebers out of me (and to this day still creeps me out)… it was actually the Jove edition; the one with the Rowena painting of a Great Old One from “Shadow Out of Time” on the cover. Needless to say, it was the cover that drew me.

The Jove edition of The Colour Out of Space was one of two paperback Lovecraft volumes Jove published in 1978; the other was The Dunwich Horror. That’s it at right.

Joe’s comments intrigued me… I vaguely remembered a gorgeous set of Rowena covers on a pair of slender Lovecraft paperbacks in the late 70s but, like all Lovecraft paperbacks at the time, I scorned them because I had a complete set at home in hardback.

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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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