Diversity in Fandom: Lessons from Worldcon

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

OMG!!! This fan is different than me! Panic!!!

OMG!!! This fan is different than me! Panic!!!

This post is for whites only.

If you aren’t white, go away. Even if you are white but aren’t straight, I don’t want you reading my post. White women probably don’t need to read it either. And if you’re Muslim, get out of here.

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A Phoenix, A Carpet and A Sand Fairy

Friday, August 15th, 2014 | Posted by Violette Malan

nesbit itLast week I was talking about Lord Dunsany and his role both as an early 20th-century fantasist and the founder/inventor of the club or bar story. Talking about Dunsany reminded me of another early 20th-century fantasist, E. Nesbit. Edith Nesbit’s work actually pre-dates Dunsany’s, but there are a couple of reasons she’s not as well known, or as well respected outside of our field, as he is.

The first one is fairly obvious: female writers don’t get as much recognition and respect as male writers*, but even more obvious is that she’s considered a children’s writer – not YA – and they get even less respect, regardless of gender. About 40 of Nesbit’s approximately 60 novels were written for children.

Not all of these were gems, of course, but there are several which earn Nesbit a place on anyone’s book shelves. The first notable fantasies are her stories of the Bastable children,  The Treasure Seekers (1899), The Wouldbegoods (1901), and The New Treasure Seekers (1904). These were widely (and wildly) popular both at the time they were written and subsequently, but I have to say that even as a child myself, I thought Oswald Bastable needed taking down a peg, and my personal favourites were what’s called the Psammead Series, featuring the siblings Robert, Anthea, Jane, and Cyril, along with their baby brother known as the Lamb.

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25 Ways to Support (Indie) Authors

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 | Posted by Patty Templeton

Has this thought ever walked across your brain: My friend wrote a book. What now? It ain’t selling and I want to help.

Well, bless your soul, dear heart. You are a darn good friend. Here are a few suggestions on how to bump up your friend’s confidence and sales.

1. Give the author your money. Buy the book.

Patty cat's paw

2. Give them more money. Buy the book as a gift, too.

Give them money

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Why I Write What I Write How I Write it

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Frostborn with Blurb

If you haven’t heard yet, award-winning editor and art director Lou Anders’s new book has hit the shelves, and it’s causing quite a stir. It’s already chalked up a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly and critical acclimation from a whole host of additional outlets. I thought it high time to sit down with Lou so he could tell Black Gate readers what his book was all about! Take it away, Lou.

I’ve always loved fantasy stories. As a child, I read The Hobbit over and over. One of my most prized possessions is a large, coffee table edition of Tolkien’s original version, featuring concept art and production stills from the 1977 Rankin/Bass animated musical television special. It was given to me by my uncle’s family, and I still have it today, dust jacket and everything! I studied the lavish illustrations for hours on end and taught myself to draw the Goblin King. It was the first in a large collection of Middle Earth-related volumes.

When I wasn’t reading, I painted miniature figures. I had a huge, faux-grass covered table in my bedroom where I’d assembled an entire army of Riders of Rohan versus orcs and half orcs. My friends and I played Dungeons & Dragons on weekends (guess who was the game master?) and my best friend and I watched Star Wars over a hundred times easy. I read everything I could get my hands on by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Michael Moorcock, Robert E. Howard, and Fritz Leiber. I even built a round wooden shield out of a barrel top (it was heavy!) and used a staple gun to attach strips of thin metal to craft an outfit out of canvas.

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Writer’s Workshops: Under the Black Flag

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 | Posted by Robert J Howe

Clarion 85 shirtI actually once said to a fellow writer, “The best thing you could do for art is cut off your hands and bury your typewriter.”

Beyond the words themselves, it’s hard to know what’s worse about this: that I said it to someone I’m sure I liked or that I can’t remember to whom I said it.

I know it was at the Clarion Writer’s Workshop in the summer of 1985, then held at Michigan State University in East Lansing. I knew it was someone I liked, because I liked every one of my fellow workshoppers. As I got to know the 16 other participants, I felt these are my people!

The context for the remark was a workshop session. For those unfamiliar with the format, everyone in the workshop delivers an oral critique of a manuscript handed out — and one hopes, read — in advance, then the author responds. Clarion workshops are machines for producing pithy one-liners — often put downs — the best (worst?) of which are memorialized on tee-shirts printed in the last week or two of the workshop.

So how was my comment received? With laughter, unbelievably. It was even graphically depicted in our year’s tee-shirt. (Image courtesy of Bill Shunn.)

I should say that my class was, according to our instructors, famously cohesive and collegial. Either they lied to make us feel good or other Clarion classes went at each other with lawn darts.

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Lord Dunsany and the Billiards Club

Friday, August 8th, 2014 | Posted by Violette Malan

Jorkins1I’ve always thought that “Lord Dunsany” has to be one of the more perfect names for a fantasy author. You might argue that this isn’t his name, merely his title, and that Edward Plunkett might not sound quite so perfect, fantasy-wise. But on the other hand, it’s really Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, and growing up I always believed that the “Drax” must somehow derive from “draco.” While I’ve never been able to confirm that, I still feel that it should be so, and that in a perfect world, someone in his lordship’s family was named for a dragon – which really would make it the perfect name for a fantasy author.

All of which would work out quite well, not just for his lordship, but for us, since Dunsany is one of the leading figures in 20th-century fantasy, whose work predates that of Lewis and Tolkien. The quality that I’ve always associated with Dunsany’s writing is an air of sublimity. There’s always the feeling in his work of great immensity, of something just outside of our reach, that we’re only being shown a part of a much greater whole. A couple of posts ago, I was talking about types of magic, and in those terms, Dunsany’s falls into the category of the mysterious, rather than the quantifiable.

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A Must for Sax Rohmer Fans – A Rohmer Miscellany

Friday, August 8th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Rohmer Miscellanysumuru-cover-final+flapsJohn Robert Colombo is a Canadian author and poet with over 200 titles to his credit. Apart from the acclaim his creative work has brought him, he is also a lifelong Sax Rohmer fan and collector, who has distinguished himself in this rarefied circle. A charter member of the now-defunct Sax Rohmer Society and early contributor to the society’s official publication, The Rohmer Review, Colombo never lost his passion for the weird fiction of this former bestselling thriller author. Rather late in his prestigious literary career, Colombo decided to contribute to Rohmerania by expanding the author’s catalogue in conjunction with Dr. George Vanderburgh’s Battered Silicon Dispatch Box imprint.

Colombo edited the definitive collection of Rohmer’s female variation on Fu Manchu with The Sumuru Omnibus, a massive tome which brought together all five Sumuru novels, penned during the author’s last decade, and preserved them in their original unexpurgated text. Colombo also compiled a monograph of Sumuru’s aphorisms direct from Rohmer’s original text with Tears of Our Lady. The unique feature of the monograph being that this same title exists within the fictional universe of the books and is referred to and quoted from frequently. Now, thanks to Colombo’s efforts, Sumuru’s fictional monograph exists as a real world collectible. Colombo and Vanderburgh also competed (unknowingly at first) with Will Murray and Altus Press in publishing the first book to collect all of Rohmer’s tales of The Crime Magnet. Still later, they teamed to produce the first anthology of Rohmer’s non-fiction articles and autobiographical essays, Pipe Dreams, spanning the author’s entire career.

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Writing a Fantasy Series

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014 | Posted by Jon Sprunk

Shadows Son Jon Sprunk-smallThe fantasy genre loves series (especially trilogies.) As a fantasy reader, I love them, too.

However, my first published novel, Shadow’s Son, was originally written as a stand-alone. I suppose I had an idea that publishers would be more inclined to take a chance on a single book from an unknown writer, so I was shocked when my agent came back with a deal for a three-book series that would become the Shadow Saga. I’m not ashamed to admit I was also a wee bit terrified.

How in the seven hells was I going to write a trilogy? I had never written anything longer than a single book before.

And each of the sequels has a contractually-agreed deadline? AND they want outlines for books two and three right away? Gulp.

Despite my trepidations, the adventure of reaching out into unknown territory was also thrilling, so I dove in head-first. What was the big deal, right? Writing a series is probably just like writing three separate books, isn’t it?

Well, yes and no.

My personal philosophy is that every novel must contain a complete story. That means my books each have their own plot that begins and ends within those pages. However, with a series there is also a series arc in play, another plot (super plot?) that starts in the first book and continues to develop through each subsequent novel to the very end.

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Not A Visit From The Suck Fairy

Friday, July 25th, 2014 | Posted by Violette Malan

My Real Children Jo Walton-smallA while ago, I was reminded of Jo Walton’s post on the “Suck Fairy.”

You should look at the whole post yourself, here, but let me give you a quick recap: when you reread something you once loved, that had a significant impact on you, you sometimes find that it has deteriorated considerably from what you recall.

Don’t worry, says Walton, it’s not you, it’s just that the book has been visited by the Suck Fairy, who has endowed it with… well, you get the idea.

This is an experience we’ve all had, I’m sure, but being reminded of it started me thinking about why we reread books in the first place, and, if we do, what books do we re-read?

Of course, the Suck Fairy can only affect beloved books which haven’t been revisited in some time, though they may have been read and reread often in the past. For example, I read LOTR at least fourteen times between the ages of eleven and twenty-one, but I haven’t reread it in its entirety since. I’m not afraid of the Suck Fairy – I’ve written papers on LOTR, and if that doesn’t bring on the Suck Fairy, nothing will – I’ve just been a bit busy.

No, I’m talking about books you might reread or re-visit maybe only once, maybe twice, as well as those you might regularly reread. I reread the novels of Jane Austen every year or so, for example, and the Sherlock Holmes Canon every two or three years.

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Welcome To The Commonwealth: John Myers Myers’ Silverlock

Friday, July 11th, 2014 | Posted by Violette Malan

Silverlock Ace paperbackLast week, I was talking about L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt’s Compleat Enchanter and it occurred to me that one of the great pleasures of that work is encountering familiar myths, persons, and fictional events in a new guise and from a new perspective. It’s also a bit intimidating, from the point of view of a writer, to realize just how thoroughly de Camp and Pratt had to know their source materials.

It doesn’t take very long to go from these thoughts to the great masterwork of this type, John Myers Myers’s Silverlock. On the surface, the book tells the story of  A. Clarence Shandon – re-christened Silverlock due to a white streak in his hair –  on his journey of self-discovery after being shipwrecked on the shores of the Commonwealth.

It doesn’t take long, in fact he’s still in the water,  for the well-read person to begin to find a certain quality of familiarity in the narrative, to figure out that Shandon has made landfall in the Commonwealth of Letters. From the very first, every  person he meets, every place he goes, everything that happens to him, alludes to some piece of literature. Every single person, place, or thing. What adds to the pleasure is that Shandon himself has no idea of what’s happened to him. His degree is in business administration.

Now this might strike you as a bit overwhelming, or even a bit tedious, but it isn’t. Shandon himself, without being aware of it,  provides the key to enjoying the book:

At times the mind works on two levels at once, and it was so with mine on this occasion. Half of it was giving itself gleefully to the moment, while the other half was revolving a new idea. What had impressed me was that this friar was well-informed and had a lot of fun out of that fact alone…  I glimpsed the concept that to know a thing for itself could be a source of joy. Take the song we were bellowing. It was easy to appreciate, but I would have had more chuckles out of if I had known, as the others did, about the personages involved.

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