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Mashed Up

Sunday, April 20th, 2014 | Posted by FraserRonald

FireflyAs might be expected from the guy who wrote Sword Noir: a Role-Playing Game of Hardboiled Sword & Sorcery and is now Kickstarting Nefertiti Overdrive: Ancient Egyptian Wuxia, I love a good mash-up. I use the term mash-up to refer to a creative work that blends two or more apparently dissimilar genres. The mash-up most genre fans would know would be Firefly, mashing-up space opera and westerns.

Brotherhood of the WolfNow space opera and western are not terribly dissimilar, but Firefly included many of the trappings as well as the tropes of the western. The characters carried six-shooters and lever action rifles, they had costumes that appeared quite close of 19th century American frontier clothing, and pseudo-frontier language dotted their speech – along with Mandarin. While I often hear Firefly referred to as sci-fi with some western aspects, I think it is more fitting to call it a western in space.

That’s kind of splitting hairs.

Firefly melded two genres, but there is a wonderful French movie that mixes at least four – period drama, martial arts, horror, and romance. The Brotherhood of the Wolf is one of my favourite movies and an inexhaustible source of inspiration. It might not be the finest movie of its age, but it was my favorite movie of 2002.

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The Best One-Sentence Reviews of Edmond Hamilton: The Winner of The Collected Edmond Hamilton, Volume Four

Sunday, April 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Collected Edmond Hamilton Volume Four-smallLast month, we invited Black Gate readers to send us a one-sentence review of their favorite Edmond Hamilton novel or short story.

In return, we offered to award a copy of the long-awaited fourth volume of The Collected Edmond Hamilton from Haffner Press to one lucky winner. The winner was randomly drawn from the list of all qualified entrants.

Before we announce the winner, let’s have a look at some of the entries. We can’t reprint all of them, but we can hit the highlights. (But fret not — all qualifying entries received before April 20 were included in the drawing.)

We left the choice of what novel or story to review up to you and we weren’t too surprised to find the most popular topic was Edmond Hamilton’s The Star Kings series. Robert James Parker kicked things off with this review:

John Gordon, suffering from an existential crisis, agrees to travel through time and space to the far future where he gets caught up in a sweeping space opera full of cosmic space battles, beautiful princesses, and bizarre monsters.

Andy Sheets gets bonus points for a completely à propos Alan Rickman reference.

How can you not be enticed by a story about an out of step WWII veteran getting mind-swapped into the body of a prince 200,000 years in the future, hooking up with a foxy future princess, and battling The League of Dark Worlds, lead by a guy who should totally be played by Alan Rickman in the movie, with a super-weapon called the Disruptor, all tightly packed into a fast-moving novel not even 200 pages long?!

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Open to Chance

Sunday, April 20th, 2014 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Book sale posterLeaving the dark brick stairwells of the Lucien L’Allier métro last Sunday morning at 10, we found the rain was holding off: something not to be expected. Forecasts called for meteorological chaos in Montréal over the following days. Up to 24 degrees celsius, down to 2, thunderstorms, snow. But that was in the future. For the moment, Grace and I were looking for books to hold us through those unsettled days and more.

Not that we were lacking for books to read, truly. But the point of a used-book sale isn’t just to buy a title you could (if you don’t mind cheating) get from Amazon or Abebooks. It’s to find something you didn’t know you want, or something you never thought you’d find, at a price you can’t believe; to get a chance at something that happens to come around just at that moment. To be in the right place at the right time.

It had already been a busy weekend. I’d been to two book sales over the previous two days, with my girlfriend Grace joining me at the last one. I’d found some nice titles (Carter’s Nights at the Circus, the Strugatskys’ Roadside Picnic, Danielewski’s Only Revolutions, many more), but nothing too surprising. Both those sales were the most recent iteration of annual events, so we knew what to expect of them going in. The one we were approaching now, at the Hotel Espresso on Rue Guy, was more of a mystery. MonSFFA, the Montréal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, was holding what they promised would be a massive sale of sf and fantasy books. The books came from a fan who had to liquidate his collection and officially the sale started at 1; but I’d seen an appeal on Facebook for volunteers to come in early to help set up in exchange for first crack at the stock, so Grace and I had decided to lend a hand. We had no idea what kind of collection this was or what we’d find.

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Vintage Treasures: Men, Martians, and Machines by Eric Frank Russell

Sunday, April 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Men Martians and Machines-smallLast Sunday, I posted the latest article in my Ace Double series, this time focusing on Sentinels of Space by Eric Frank Russell and Don Wollheim’s The Ultimate Invader.

It made me realize that I’ve given precious little coverage to Eric Frank Russell over the years — really, a pretty serious oversight, considering what a fine writer he was. So I thought I’d remedy that here, starting with his 1955 volume Men, Martians, and Machines.

Men, Martians, and Machines is something of a problem child for catalogers. Wikipedia lists it as a novel, but it’s really not — it’s a collection of four linked stories, three published in Astounding during World War II, and one original. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database entry for Russell lists it as neither a collection nor a novel, creating a separate category for it.

In some ways the book is an early precursor to Star Trek. The stories follow the exploits of the rough-and-tumble crew of the solar freighter Upskadaska City, known more commonly as the Upsydaisy, who follow their Captain as he takes charge of one of the first faster-than-light starships, the Marathon. Captain McNulty leads his mixed crew of humans, jovial tentacled Martians, and one robot on voyages of discovery to far stars and strange alien planets.

Star Trek fans will certainly enjoy these proto-Trek stories and see how they influenced that seminal series two decades later. For me, these tales represent something even more primal. When I think of Golden Age robot stories, I think of Asimov; when I think of military science fiction, I think Heinlein. When I think of tales of brave exploration and camaraderie in the face of the vast mystery and terror of deep space, I think of Eric Frank Russell.

It’s his unique voice, I think, and the poetry and humanity of his prose, mixed with all the marvelous ray-gun trappings of pulp science fiction, that makes him such a joy to read. Here’s a snippet from the first story, “Jay Score,” as our unnamed narrator meets with the imposing new emergency pilot shortly after blast off.

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Future Treasures: Mirror Sight by Kristen Britain

Saturday, April 19th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Mirror Sight-smallOne of the most rewarding things about running a pair of fan sites for nearly two decades — starting with SF Site in 1996, and continuing with the BG blog in late 2000 — has been being on the scene when a major new talent debuts. Those are the books you remember: Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind, Steven Erikson’s Gardens of the Moon, Martha Wells’s ‘The Element of Fire, Jeff VanderMeer’s City of Saints and Madmen, James Enge’s Blood of Ambrose, Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora… and Kristen Britain’s Green Rider.

Green Rider made a huge splash with my small staff when it arrived in April 2000. Even my sister-in-law called me to complain, because I’d handed my niece a copy and now she wouldn’t budge from her room until she’d finished it. It was fast-paced, exciting, and everyone was asking me if there was going to be a sequel. (How the heck should I know?)

Well, there was a sequel — First Rider’s Call, in 2004 — followed by The High King’s Tomb (2008) and Blackveil (2012). And now the long-awaited fifth volume of one of the most popular fantasy series of the 21st Century is scheduled to arrive next month. My copy arrived this week and it looks fabulous.

Karigan G’ladheon is a Green Rider — a seasoned member of the elite messenger corps of King Zachary of Sacoridia. King Zachary sends Karigan and a contingent of Sacoridians beyond the edges of his nation, into the mysterious Blackveil Forest, which has been tainted with dark magic by a twisted immortal spirit named Mornhavon the Black.

At the end of Blackveil, in a magical confrontation against Mornhavon, Karigan is jolted out of Blackveil Forest and wakes in darkness. She’s lying on smooth, cold stone, but as she reaches out, she realizes that the stone is not just beneath her, but above and around her as well. She’s landed in a sealed stone sarcophagus, some unknown tomb, and the air is becoming thin.

Is this to be her end? If she escapes, where will she find herself? Is she still in the world she remembers, or has the magical explosion transported her somewhere completely different? To find out, she must first win free of her prison — before it becomes her grave. And should she succeed, will she be walking straight into a trap created by Mornhavon himself?

Mirror Sight will be published by DAW Books on May 6th. It is 775 pages, priced at $27.95 in hardcover and $11.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Donato Giancola.


Ed Greenwood and Tattoos and Geek Inked at Ad Astra in Toronto

Saturday, April 19th, 2014 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

250px-Elminster_Enraged546987-LI last blogged from the Saturday morning of As Astra, one of Toronto’s premiere fan conventions. While I was there, I had the good fun of running into Ed Greenwood, Ad Astra Special Guest, and one of the early D&D legends.

Ed and I breakfasted and chatted, which seems to be turning into an annual thing because we both get up early. Ed is still super-busy, turning out lots of new game tie-in novels.

Later on, he was interviewed by Geek Inked magazine and spoke on not only his experiences with early D&D, some of his current projects and hints at some of his others, but also tattoos! Geek Inked is an online magazine that obviously specializes in Geeks and Tattoos, so the conversation, as it says in the mandate of Geek Inked, goes interestingly sideways.

I wanted to share these two segments of the interview because the conversation relates back to some of the themes I touched on in my interview with module-writer Geoff Gander, especially about some of the opportunities opening up with crowd-funding.

That interview with Geoof, incidentally, also encouraged me to pull out my old Basic and Expert rules and look at the free common source Basic modules available online and start introducing my son to D&D. It turns out his interest is 100% on the dungeon crawl and 0% on the role playing. :)  Check it out here.

Major props to Rob at Geek Inked Magazine for an excellent interview.


Derek Künsken is a writer of science fiction and fantasy in Ottawa, Canada. You can find out more about him at www.derekkunsken.com or @derekkunsken.


New Treasures: The Raven’s Shadow by Elspeth Cooper

Saturday, April 19th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Raven's Shadow-smallElspeth Cooper is a British fantasy writer whose first novel, Songs of the Earth, appeared in February 2012. It kicked off a new series, The Wild Hunt, with the tale of Novice Church Knight Gair, a man sentenced to death — and ultimately exiled — for his magical abilities.

The sequel, Trinity Rising, appeared in February 2013. Gair has proven himself to be the most powerful Guardian, but he’s still bound by grief over the loss of his home and his beloved. Gair and his mentor Alderan are being hunted by those who seek to extinguish the power of the song, and Gair quickly discovers he’s hurtling towards a conflict greater and more deadly than either of them expected. The third volume, newly arrived in March, finds war brewing on both sides of the Veil between the worlds.

The desert of Gimrael is aflame with violence, and in the far north an ancient hatred is about to spill over into the renewal of a war that, a thousand years ago, forged an empire. This time, it may shatter one.

Wrestling with his failing grip on the power of the Song, and still trying to come to terms with the horrifying events he witnessed in El Maqqam, Gair returns to the mainland with only one thing on his mind: vengeance. It may cost him his life, but when everything that he had to live for is being stripped away from him, that may be a fair price to pay.

Old friends and old foes converge in a battle of wills to stem the tide of the Nimrothi clans as they charge south to reclaim the lands lost in the Founding Wars. If they succeed, the rest of the empire may be their next target. And with the Wild Hunt at their head, the overstretched Imperial Army may not be enough to stop them.

Elspeth Cooper’s website has book trailers, summaries, and the first three chapters of all three books — including a sneak peek at her next book, The Dragon House. Check it out here.

The Raven’s Shadow was published by Tor Books on March 11. It is 567 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover and $14.99 for the digital edition. The cover art is by Dominic Harman.


The Series Series: The Barrow by Mark Smylie

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

The Barrow-smallThe book mugged me. It was supposed to stay safely several weeks down in my queue while I kept commitments to other law-abiding books that had been waiting patiently for review. Then up walks The Barrow, brazen as you please, distracts me by flashing its jacket copy, and steals two weeks of all my attention right out of my calendar. But what else can you expect from a book full of gangsters, extortionists, rabble-rousers, mercenaries, slumming disgraced nobility, and assorted other low-life types?

I haven’t quite figured out how Mark Smylie pulled it off. The book has some obvious excellences, and some obvious failings, and some oddities that might be mistaken for one only to turn out to be the other. I’ll need to read more of Smylie’s work to figure out what tipped the balance in the book’s favor.

I found most of the characters somewhere between off-putting and odious, and nearly every time the body count went up by one, I was relieved at not having to put up with that character for one page longer. It’s as if Smylie had set himself the task of outdoing George R.R. Martin for grittiness of characterization, and overshot by twenty miles.

There are readers who love that sort of thing; I’m not usually one of them. As the endgame of the novel came in sight, there were only three characters I cared about at all — the enigmatic hero Stjepan Black-Heart, the cross-dressing street fighter Erim, and the disgraced noblewoman Annwyn. I kept coming back to my two snarky rhetorical questions: How are these two women going to survive ten more minutes surrounded by all those sociopaths? And when is Stjepan going to have a male friend who does not suck?

Only it turns out those are the questions that matter most, and several of the glitches I had mistaken for goofs on the author’s part ended up being the keys to the story’s other puzzles.

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Blogging Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon, Part Twelve

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

Barry Gordonkurtzman_flash_gordon_cvr11“Starling” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from July 11 to September 3, 1955. “Starling” starts off with Flash visiting Dr. Zarkov one evening to find his old friend depressed, as the U.S. Government has turned down his request for an additional million dollars funding to finish construction of the Super-S Rocket. It is a nice hint of direction for the strip to come, which will take the series closer to its roots. Flash and Zarkov are startled by the discovery of a prowler outside, but the man gets away.

Over the next few days, similar disturbing incidents occur. Flash and Dale are nearly run down by a speeding car while out walking one afternoon on the grounds of Zarkov’s estate. Later, a crate is dropped off the roof of a downtown building when Flash is walking beneath and just misses him. Shortly thereafter, Zarkov receives a telephone call from B. B. Remsen, the billionaire industrialist requesting an interview with Flash.

Upon visiting Remsen’s estate, Flash is outraged to discover Remsen hired his goon, Byron, to test Flash’s reflexes by nearly running him down with a speeding car and dropping a crate off a building. Byron was the prowler at Zarkov’s estate who learned of the need for financing for the Super-S Rocket. Remsen agrees to finance the rocket if Flash will take on a unique assignment. Remsen’s very wild granddaughter, Starling, wants to travel in space and Remsen wants Flash to pilot the rocket that will take her to the stars.

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The Mind and Soul of an Honest Creator: Paul Di Filippo on Robert Moore Williams

Friday, April 18th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Time Tolls for Toro-smallOver at Locus Online, author Paul Di Filippo reviews the latest in the Masters of Science Fiction line from Armchair Fiction, Time Tolls For Toro and Other Stories by Robert Moore Williams, which collects a nice assortment of pulp fiction from Super Science Stories, Amazing Stories, Fantastic Universe, Planet Stories, and Imaginative Tales from 1950 – 1959.

Like a combination of Asimov’s robot stories and Simak’s robot stories, “The Soul Makers” (Super Science Stories, 1950) takes us to the far-off year of 1987, in the middle of an atomic war. Humanity’s sentient robots are going AWOL, and the two men sent to discover the reason uncover more than they anticipated. Williams extracts a fair measure of pathos from the noble actions of the robots, and the inevitable doom and rebirth of humanity… “The Diamond Images” (Fantastic Universe, 1959) is one of those “Old Venus” tales so common in the consensus future history of this era. A butterfly collector named Wolder has made friends with the seemingly unsophisticated Venusians after eight years among them. But then his son arrives, unwittingly leading pirates to the treasure of the natives…

There’s an almost Ballardian feel to the opening of “To the End of Time” (Super Science Stories, 1950). A Venusian song, brought back to Earth, is literally driving people insane. Into the jungle wastelands of Venus, our psychologist hero Thorndyke sets out to find a cure, encountering a strange race of Venusians and the human missionary and his beautiful daughter who minister to them…

Reading this volume is no chore or dull swotting up of past history for academic purposes. The stories, however creaky at times, remain very entertaining and illustrative of the mind and soul of one honest creator, doing the best he could to enrich the soil of the genre.

Read the complete article here. We covered the launch of Armchair Fiction back in January 2012 and Paul’s review of Masters of Science Fiction Vol. #8, Milton Lesser’s A is for Android, last May.

Masters of Science Fiction, Volume Ten: Time Tolls For Toro and Other Stories by Robert Moore Williams was published by Armchair Fiction on January 22, 2014. It is 320 pages, priced at $16.95 in trade paperback. There is no digital edition. No word on who did the cover… Emsh, maybe?


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