Walter Booth: Pioneer of British Science Fiction Film

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

A fearsome foe in The Magic Sword (1901)

A fearsome foe in The Magic Sword (1901)

Last week, I talked about the Spanish master of silent film, Segundo de Chomón. This week, I’d like to talk about another early genre filmmaker who has also been all but forgotten.

Walter R. Booth was an English stage magician who teamed up with film pioneer Robert W. Paul, who was making and screening films as early as 1896 at London’s Egyptian Hall, where Booth did his magic act. In 1899, Booth and Paul co-founded Paul’s Animatograph Works, a production house that specialized in trick films using Paul’s technical know-how and Booth’s skill at magic and illusion. These short films wowed audiences with special effects such as animation, split screen, jump cuts, superimposition, multiple exposures, and stop motion animation.

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Art of the Genre: The Top 10 TSR Cover Paintings of All Time

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Sorry Wayne, you aren't making this list

Sorry Wayne, you aren’t making this list

I’ve spent 30+ years looking at RPG artwork and I’ve yet to get tired of doing so. Sure, there are days when I wonder how the fantasy art world went to hell, but those are few and far between, as there are enough great new artists that still manage to inspire me in the mix of things [yeah Cynthia Sheppard I’m talking to you].

Nonetheless, I did begin thinking about well-aged TSR art this past month when James and I started digging in the nostalgia mines of old boxed sets. It prompted me to consider just what a ‘Top 10 list of TSR cover artwork’ would look like.

And to be clear, I wasn’t thinking about D&D in particular, but simply TSR catalogue stuff, which of course puts any artwork post WotC acquisition out of the picture. It does, however, allow for the additional inclusion of other games, although as I comprised this list I found it nearly impossible to include them. D&D, as it should be, dominated the RPG landscape from the mid-1970s, and thus is the bag of holding that any role-player will go back to again and again.

There are so many ‘things’ that could go into the making of this list, but for today I’m going to go with my gut. If I had feelings for it, it gets considered. If I know a lot of people owned it, it gets considered. Other than that, I don’t really have much to lean on other than the fact that this is what I do. I deal in old art. I buy it, I sell it, I broker it, I contract for it, I agent for its creators, and as you can see here, I blog about it. My only regret is that I wish it paid more, but since when does living your dream always to come with luxury?

That said, one name found on most RPG art lists these days won’t appear here because he came too late, and frankly, his greatest recognizable cover was done not for TSR, or WotC, but for Paizo. Yes, this means no Wayne Reynolds, but that is how this list is going to roll, so without further introduction, I give you my personal list of ‘Top 10 TSR Cover Paintings.’

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A Mining Colony, a Blind Date, and a Ghostly Alien Hand: A Review of Outpassage by Janet Morris & Chris Morris

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Outpassage-smallOutpassage
By Janet Morris & Chris Morris
Perseid Press (430 pages, February 10, 2014, $24.95 trade paperback/$6.99 digital)
Cover by Vincent Di Fate

You only live once.

That is not only the theme of this excellent science fiction novel — it is also at the very heart of the novel’s story premise. Once again, I continue with my reviews of my favorite novels by Janet Morris and Chris Morris. But how I ever missed Outpassage when it was first published in 1988 I cannot say, because this is exactly the type of science fiction story I grew up reading in the pages of Amazing Stories and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. So this is the first time I’ve had the pleasure to read this great science fiction adventure.

Outpassage is action-packed, character-driven, and thought-provoking. The science is grounded in reality, but isn’t integral to the plot, and the tech never gets in the way of story and character: there is no garbage science or techno babble to muddle the plot. While this story has the feel of an old-fashioned, traditional science fiction novel from back in the day, it has a hip and modern sensibility to it. The characters are vivid and memorable, and the lean prose style is perfectly suited to the story. The dialogue is perfectly matched to each character — crisp and sharp, and very smart, with a fine balance of humor and gravitas.

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Future Treasures: Old Venus, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Old Venus-smallA while back, I was lamenting the disappearance of the modern SF anthology, and commenting that very few editors (or publishers, for that matter) have been successful at individual anthologies — let alone the anthology series, like the old Orbit and New Dimensions.

In so saying, I was overlooking the team of George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, who have produced a loose series of top-selling SF and fantasy anthologies over the last few years – including the massive heroic fantasy volume Warriors (2010), the star-crossed love story collection Songs of Love and Death (2010), the massive Jack Vance tribute Songs of the Dying Earth (2010), the urban fantasy-focused Down These Strange Streets (2011), the even massive-er 800-page Dangerous Women (2013), and the just-released Rogues (2014).

My personal favorite was Old Mars, a tribute to “the Golden Age of Science Fiction, an era filled with tales of interplanetary colonization and derring-do” — which, if you’ve read even a handful of posts here at Black Gate, you’ll understand is the kind of thing that makes me very happy. When I blogged about it in January, Gardner sent me this intriguing message:

Glad you enjoyed it… If you liked this one, keep an eye out for Old Venus from the same publisher; same kind of thing, although I think it’s even stronger than Old Mars. Pub date is sometime in 2015.

I was delighted to hear it. Now Bantam has released the cover, and it looks gorgeous — and makes a terrific companion piece to the Old Mars cover. These will look very handsome indeed, back-to-back on my bookshelf.

Old Venus will be published by Bantam Books on March 3, 2015. It is 608 pages, priced at $30 in hardcover and $11.99 for the digital version. No news on who the contributors are — when we learn more, so will you.


Dueling Rakes, Mysterious Women, and the Goblin Aristocracy: The Queen’s Necklace by Teresa Edgerton

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_1605134EiRbubaPThe Queen’s Necklace (2001) by Teresa Edgerton (with its title borrowed from Alexandre Dumas) is a perfectly splendid swashbuckling adventure in an Age of Reason-like world as it teeters on the precipice of collapse.

For five thousand, years Goblins using powerful magical gems ruled the world, keeping Humans enslaved and uneducated. Fifteeen hundred years ago, Humanity rose up and slaughtered most — but not all — of the Goblins. Now a millennium of plotting by the Goblin aristocracy is about to culminate in their return to power in a wave of chaos and destruction.

The Queen’s Necklace (TQN) is one of the many (too many!) books that’s sat unread for years on my shelf. Ocassionally the thought would occur to me to pull it down and finally give it a go, but I never followed through. When I reread and reviewed Edgerton’s earlier novel Goblin Moon this summer, she suggested I give The Queen’s Necklace a try, mentioning that it was possibly going to be reprinted in the autumn. So I figured, what the heck, I had bought it with every intention of reading it at some point, so why not now? And I’m glad I did.

While not connected to Goblin Moon and its sequel, The Gnome’s Engine, TQN occurs in a similar Enlightenment setting. There are perfumed fops, dueling rakes, mysterious women, and equal parts quackery, science, and magic.

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Fantasy Out Loud V: Steeleye Span Meets Terry Pratchett

Monday, September 15th, 2014 | Posted by markrigney

815A5CiM4DL._SL1200_In late 2013, a strange event occurred: Steeleye Span, a British band that has outlived just about all other contenders except the Rolling Stones, released a CD entitled Wintersmith.

Coincidence? After all, there’s a Discworld spin-off by that name, too, a Terry Pratchett novel aimed at the young adult market and starring the infinitely resourceful tween witch, Tiffany Aching. Could there be a connection?

Indeed. It turns out that Pratchett has been a fan of Steeleye since the early seventies (“Boys Of Bedlam” was a particular favorite), and Steeleye’s lead vocalist, the incomparable Maddy Prior, has been, in turn, an unabashed fan of Pratchett’s. They got to talking, and next thing you know, the world was gifted with a terrific fantasy-driven album of folk, rock, and traditional Morris dances, all tied together by the Great A’Tuin and a nasty case of winter.

Pratchett’s Wintersmith is the third installment in the irregular Tiffany Aching series, a sort of sideline to the “official” Discworld novels (The Color Magic, et al). The story centers on Tiffany’s impulsive decision to “dance the Dark Morris,” a rite that shifts summer to winter – except that when Tiffany includes herself, both summer and winter, elemental godlings, take note of her and seek, in their own ways, to possess her. Tiffany now faces the possibility of endless winter, in the demi-human form of a smitten teenage boy.

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Hearing the Voices of Dead Authors in the Present Tense

Monday, September 15th, 2014 | Posted by Nick Ozment

tolkien lighting pipeThere are a number of citation styles for a variety of fields, but the two biggies are MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association). The latter is used in the natural sciences and research fields. The former is used in the humanities — literature, philosophy, visual and performing arts — so it’s the one I grew intimately familiar with while earning my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English Literature and Language.

MLA is also the one I primarily taught my first-year composition students during my nine years as an English instructor (which, in retrospect, was a bit of a disservice to all the kids who were going on to pursue non-humanities degrees). In my defense, it is the style primarily used in high school, so it is the one that most students entering college have some degree of familiarity with — which is strange when you think about it: it’s as if our secondary-school system assumes most students will go on to pursue degrees in theater or English. The way I couched my presentation of MLA went something like this: “Whatever field you go into, you will have to write papers that follow a particular formatting and style guide. It may not be this one — it may be APA or Chicago — but using this one will get you accustomed to using one.”

In recent years, I’ve had to get more familiar with APA because I do a fair amount of copy-editing on the side for education, sociology, and psychology professors who write their chapters and academic papers in APA style. The differences between the styles are myriad — each one, after all, has its own labyrinthine manual of hundreds of rules in small type (with sometimes counter-intuitive indexing — as anyone who has spent wasted minutes vainly searching for the guideline pertaining to this one particular set of circumstances knows). Whatever the differences in details, though, their main purpose is to provide a consistent way for other scholars to easily locate the sources one has cited.

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New Treasures: House Immortal by Devon Monk

Monday, September 15th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

House Immortal Devon Monk-smallThe first story I ever bought for Black Gate was by Devon Monk.

I was probably more excited than she was. “Stitchery,” the tale of a young woman struggling desperately to hold her farm together, and drawing on her unique ability to create new creatures from the flesh of dead ones, eventually appeared in Black Gate 2, and was selected for David Hartwell’s Year’s Best Fantasy 2.

I’ve been following Devon’s career ever since — and an impressive career it’s been, too. Since her appearance in BG 2 she’s published over a dozen novels in three different series: Allie Beckstrom, Broken Magic, and the steampunk Age of Steam books.

Now she kicks off a brand new fantasy series, House Immortal, an intriguing take on the legend of Frankenstein, featuring a main character who’s been stitched together into an immortal body… it reminds me of that excellent story I bought from a promising new writer, all those years ago.

One hundred years ago, eleven powerful ruling Houses consolidated all of the world’s resources and authority into their own grasping hands. Only one power wasn’t placed under the command of a single House: the control over the immortal galvanized….

Matilda Case isn’t like most folk. In fact, she’s unique in the world, the crowning achievement of her father’s experiments, a girl pieced together from bits. Or so she believes, until Abraham Seventh shows up at her door, stitched with life thread just like her and insisting that enemies are coming to kill them all.

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Remembering The Tragic Fate of Moonbase Alpha, Fifteen Years Later

Monday, September 15th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Space 1999 moon breakaway-smallOver at SF Signal, Jeff Patterson recalls the tragic accident that hurled the brave men and women of Moonbase Alpha out of our solar system and into the cold reaches of space fifteen years ago.

On September 13, 1999, our dear Moon experienced a catastrophic nuclear explosion which hurled it out of orbit into deep space. It took with it the brave men and women of Moonbase Alpha. In the years that followed the Alphans encountered Joan Collins, Christoper Lee, Brian Blessed, and whip-wielding women in red catsuits.

Space: 1999 still gets a lot of flak for being cheesy SF TV, but one cannot understate the profound impact the show had on fans in the 1970s. It was the only new effects-heavy space-based show at the time, and a syndicated show at that. It had a fairly diverse cast, at least by 70s TV standards. It featured the distinct Gerry Anderson vibe that had made Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet such eye candy, mostly due to the astounding effects work of Brian Johnson and Martin Bower.

As a child of the 70s, I remember racing home after school to catch the show in re-runs. The rockin’ theme music in the opening credits still gets me.

Read the complete article at SF Signal.


The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Doyle in The Resident Patient?

Monday, September 15th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Resident_Richardson Bell

One of my favorite Holmes’ also played Joseph Bell

Apologies for this post running a bit long. While I’m a devoted Sherlockian, I’m not particularly a great fan of Conan Doyle himself. However, I find this tidbit from his life to be pretty interesting. So…

Biographers and devotees of Sherlock Holmes have written much regarding who the detective was modeled after. Joseph Bell is widely regarded as the primary inspiration, a belief bolstered by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s own words more than once.

In his autobiography, Memories and Adventures, Doyle said, “I thought of my old teacher Joe Bell, of his eagle face, of his curious ways, of his eerie trick of spotting details. If he were a detective he would surely reduce this fascinating but unorganized business to something nearer to an exact science.”

Add another comment, “Sherlock Holmes is the literary embodiment… of my memory of a professor of medicine at Edinburgh University.”

Now, it has been asserted that one can find bits of Doyle himself in the great detective. His second wife said that her husband had the Sherlock Holmes brain, solving mysteries that puzzled the police.

Son Adrian Conan Doyle vehemently (even militantly) argued that his father was Holmes. Seemingly more likely is that the stolid, patriotic Doctor Watson drew in great part from his creator.

But can we examine one of the sixty Holmes tales and discover biographical pieces of Conan Doyle? As a matter of fact, we need look no further than “The Adventure of the Resident Patient” and Dr. Percy Trevelyan.

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