The Stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and RiffTrax Mark a Milestone

Monday, July 27th, 2015 | Posted by Nick Ozment

mst3kHuluWhen you watch a film synched up to RiffTrax, do you still picture the silhouettes of wisecracking ‘bots Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot in the little Satellite-of-Love screening room of your mind?

And if not a smidgen of that question made sense to you, this post probably is one you can skip (unless you’re a completist, and have thus far read every Black Gate post to date. In which case, we should probably know who you are. Has anyone read every single BG blog all the way back to day one?).

This report goes out to fellow Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) fans out there in the blogosphere. On July 9 of this year, on special assignment from BG’s Midwestern outpost in Minnesota, I attended a live screening of the RiffTrax presentation of Sharknado 2: The Next One. Two fan-buddies who share my adoration of Michael J. Nelson and his crew accompanied me on this outing (readers here will be familiar with one of those friends: none other than sometime BG scribe Gabe Dybing). In a bona fide movie theater we would share with other diehard fans an experience usually relegated to our laptops and living room televisions.

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The Future of Fantasy: The Best New Releases in July

Monday, July 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Bone-Swans-CSE-Cooney-small Last First Snow-small The-Great-Bazaar-and-Brayans-Gold-small

We’re more than three quarters of the way through July, and I’ve barely scratched the surface on the 30 new books we covered in The Best New Releases in June. If I want to get caught up, I’ll have to cut back on late-night superhero movie marathons with my kids (and probably sleeping, and eating.)

July’s crop of new fantasy releases includes some terrific work from C.S.E. Cooney. Peter V. Brett, Max Gladstone, Wesley Chu, Lou Anders, Melinda Snodgrass, Victor Milan, Chris Willrich, Elizabeth Bear, Nnedi Okorafor, D.B. Jackson, and many others. There are 33 in the list this month, so let’s get started.

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The Worst AD&D Spell Of All Time

Monday, July 27th, 2015 | Posted by markrigney

Arcana UnearthedSo there we stood, surrounded. Demons in all directions, converging fast – and we’re not talking garden variety patsies. Even for our major league party, the future looked bleak, bloody, and painful. On the plus side, we had our pizza in place, our dice at the ready. Beers and sodas hovered with popped caps and bated breath, anticipating action.

“Initiative!” cried the DM.

We each rolled. One of the demons, which just happened to moonlight as a spell-caster, moved first — and what did that pipsqueak no-good blackguard cheat of a demon cast our way?

Chain Lightning.

At fifteenth level.

Two hours later, with the pizza cold and stiff, the beers stale and the sodas flat, we finally finished adjudicating the effects of that single spell. We were in shock, and grumbling to beat the band. The DM, equally weary and perplexed, said, “Okay. Still first round. Who gets to take the next action?”

That I no longer recall, but this I know: we won the battle, and the demons lost. So did Chain Lightning. We made a solemn pledge that very day to never again allow that spell to eclipse the glory of our triumphant campaigning. Banned it was, all but ripped from the pages of the rulebook. And good riddance, too.

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Future Treasures: Chasing the Phoenix by Michael Swanwick

Monday, July 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Chasing the Phoenix Michael Swanwick-smallMichael Swanwick’s Darger and Surplus stories, featuring a con-man and a genetically engineering talking dog, began with the Hugo-award winning short story “The Dog Said Bow-Wow” in 2002. Since then there have been many additional tales of adventure featuring the two, including the 2002 Hugo nominee “The Little Cat Laughed to See Such Sport,” and the 2011 novel Dancing with Bears (which finished sixth in the 2012 Locus Poll for Best SF Novel).

Swanwick’s latest novel, Chasing the Phoenix, finds our two con-men/heroes in post-collapse China, in the middle of a brand new con… one that quickly spirals beyond their control, and soon attracts the kind of attention they’d much rather avoid.

In the distant future, Surplus arrives in China dressed as a Mongolian shaman, leading a yak which carries the corpse of his friend, Darger. The old high-tech world has long since collapsed, and the artificial intelligences that ran it are outlawed and destroyed. Or so it seems.

Darger and Surplus, a human and a genetically engineered dog with human intelligence who walks upright, are a pair of con men and the heroes of a series of prior Swanwick stories. They travel to what was was once China and invent a scam to become rich and powerful. Pretending to have limited super-powers, they aid an ambitious local warlord who dreams of conquest and once again reuniting China under one ruler. And, against all odds, it begins to work, but it seems as if there are other forces at work behind the scenes…

Chasing the Phoenix will be published by Tor Books on August 11, 2015. It is 320 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover, and $12.99 for the digital version.


Enter the Grimdark Magazine Battle-off Competition

Monday, July 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Grimdark Magazine Battle-off Competition

Grimdark Magazine is getting some great notices among fans of heroic fantasy — including from our own Fletcher Vredenburgh, who said in his review of the first three issues, “From a swords & sorcery perspective, the biggest — and potentially most interesting — new publication out there is Grimdark Magazine.” Grimdark editor-in-chief Adrian Collins contacted us this morning to let us know of a new contest sponsored by the magazine, open to heroic fantasy writers of all kinds. Here’s the deets:

We’re running a competition over at Grimdark Magazine that may interest some of Black Gate‘s followers — both readers and writers. It’s a battle-off, where self and small published authors enter a 1K word excerpt featuring a battle scene, the readers then vote on a top 7 and a panel of judges then decide on the top 3 to win awards.

It will run for a couple of months between mid August and the end of October… There are some pretty awesome prizes up for grabs, including a Kindle HD, signed hardcovers, plenty of paperbacks and ebooks, editing services and cover art services.

This is one of the most unusual writing contests I’ve heard of, and I highly approve. So sharpen your pens, all you aspiring adventure fantasy writers. This is your chance to show that you have the chops to deserve wider attention — and maybe win something that could help your new novel really stand out. Get the complete details here.


The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: By Crom – Are Conan Pastiches Official?

Monday, July 27th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

ConaPas_Ace2Today’s post is actually about Robert E. Howard’s Conan, but (in a stunning surprise) it’s got some Sherlock Holmes at the foundation. No, Conan never met the great detective…

Hopefully you’ve been checking in on our summer series, Discovering Robert E. Howard. There are plenty more posts coming, so stay tuned. While I very much like Howard and his works, I came late to his stories and I’m certainly no expert.

There is one area I’ve found…curious, which relates to the “official” status that seems to be accorded to the authorized pastiches written since Howard’s death. It’s quite different in the Holmes world.

There are sixty official Sherlock Holmes tales. Period. Fifty-six short stories and four novels (more novellas, really), all penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and published during his lifetime. There are two Holmes short-shorts, “How Watson Learned the Trick” and “The Field Bazaar” and there is no disputing that they were written by Doyle. But they are not included (by anyone, I believe) in the official count.

You, oh enlightened one, know that the Doyle Estate tried to include a sixty-first story, found among ACD’s papers by a researcher, but it turned out to have been written by Arthur Whitaker.

To quote myself, from my first Solar Pons post here at Black Gate:

Parodies are stories that poke fun at Holmes. But the more serious Holmes tales, those that attempt to portray Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective to varying levels, are called pastiches. Just about the earliest ‘serious’ attempt at a Holmes copy was by Vincent Starrett, who wrote “The Adventure of the Unique Hamlet” in 1920.

Doyle’s son Adrian, sitting at his father’s very desk, produced The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes (half of the stories were co-written with John Dickson Carr, who would quit mid-project).

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New Treasures: Black Gods Kiss by Lavie Tidhar

Sunday, July 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Black Gods Kiss Lavie Tidhar-smallLavie Tidhar has made a heck of a big name for himself in a very short period of time. His novel Osama won the World Fantasy Award, and his “Guns & Sorcery” novella Gorel & The Pot Bellied God won the British Fantasy Award. His novel The Violent Century was called “A masterpiece” by both the Independent and Library Journal. And his second short story collection, Black Gods Kiss, has just been nominated for the British Fantasy Award.

Black Gods Kiss is set in the same world as Gorel & The Pot-Bellied God. Theaker’s Quarterly called it “Classic heroic fantasy,” and Locus called it “One of the most flamboyantly entertaining collections of the year… almost the pure essence of pulp – violent, action-packed, paced like a runaway freight train, politically incorrect and socially unredeemable.” Originally published as a limited edition hardcover in the UK, it is now available in digital format.

His name was Gorel of Goliris and he was a gunslinger and an addict, touched by the Black Kiss. Gorel wanted nothing more than to return to his home, the greatest empire the World had ever known, from which he was banished by sorcery as a child. But wherever he went, trouble doggedly followed, and death preceded his steps.. . In Black Gods Kiss Lavie Tidhar returns to the vivid world of his 2012 British Fantasy Award winning novella, Gorel & The Pot-Bellied God. It collects 5 long adventures set before and after the events of Pot-Bellied God, and includes a brand-new novella, “Kur-a-Len.” In these pages you will find thrilling tales of guns and sorcery, filled with ghosts, mercenaries, necromancers and gods – not to mention sex, and death!

Black Gods Kiss was published in a limited edition hardcover by PS Publishing in October 2014. It was released in digital format by the Jabberwocky Literary Agency on April 30, 2015. It is 174 pages, priced at $35 in hardcover and $6.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Pedro Marques.


Things Your Writing Teacher Never Told You: Pro Tip From Lawrence Watt-Evans

Sunday, July 26th, 2015 | Posted by Tina Jens

Lawrence Watt-Evans-smallAffectionately known as LWE (pronounced Louie) by many of his friends and fans, Lawrence Watt-Evans is the second author in our series of Pro Tips — wit and wisdom from professionals across the Spec Fic field. (You can find our first one, from Laura Anne Gilman, here.)

LWE is the author of more than four dozen novels and short story collections and more than a hundred short stories, in addition to comic books, poems, and more than 150 non-fiction articles. He works mostly in the fantasy genre, but has numerous science fiction and horror publications, too. He sold his first novel at the age of twenty-four, and has been a full-time writer ever since.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started writing/ publishing?

I wish I had known that the publishing business is always changing. Always. Publishers come and go, genres rise and fall, formats change. When I broke in, mass-market paperbacks sold on newsstands were where the money was, fantasy was a poor stepchild of science fiction, and there were a dozen or so major fiction publishers and no one else mattered.

Then national chain bookstores blossomed, the old paperback distribution system collapsed, fantasy surpassed SF in sales, horror boomed and then busted… and that was before the internet, Amazon, ebooks, print-on-demand, self-publishing, etc. I learned more about publishing history and discovered that the system I had thought had dominated forever only came into its own in the 1950s.

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Fantasy Literature: The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth edited by S. M. Stirling

Sunday, July 26th, 2015 | Posted by Edward Carmien

The Change Tales of Downfall and Rebirth-smallIn The Change, the author of the Emberverse novels opens the doors to his post-apocalyptic universe wide. A substantial text at more than 600 pages, it contains 16 stories and an introduction by S.M. Stirling, who also contributes “Hot Night at the Hopping Toad,” featuring the most contemporary protagonist of the Emberverse series, Orlaith.

Sterling’s series has seen extensive attention here in the Fantasy Literature column at Black Gate. Those entries were less reviews than low brow scholarly chatter about the many interesting features, issues, and aspects of the Emberverse. This, however, is a review. But what is this Emberverse?

In short, the Emberverse begins with something commonly called the Change (some tales here call it other things, of course). In 1997 all high-energy technologies cease to function — something tweaked the rules of physics. Guns won’t fire. Electricity doesn’t electricit. Even steam engines won’t steam — at least not usefully. While the sun burns on, here on Earth, the technological culture we take for granted grinds to a halt. Billions die by violence, through hunger, and from disease.

Some small number survive; Stirling’s early novels in the series describe the events of the Change and the first ten or so years; 2014′s novel, The Golden Princess, features the granddaughter of various key players of the recovery from the Change in the Pacific northwest: Orlaith Mackenzie. A lot of war and politics lies behind the cutting edge of the series, but these stories take place at various points in the chronology of the Emberverse.

The first question: can a reader new to the Emberverse read and enjoy this anthology? Yes.

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Interzone #259 Now on Sale

Sunday, July 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Interzone 259-smallThe July – August issue of Britain’s longest running science fiction and fantasy magazine is now on sale. The cover, by Martin Hanford, is titled “Green Tea.” (Click the image at right for a bigger version.)

This issue has an intriguing installment in an ongoing series by Chris Butler. Here’s Lois Tilton at Locus Online on “The Deep of Winter”:

A prequel to this author’s series in which people emit spores that signal their emotions to others. Because some persons’ spores are more powerful, a coercive aristocracy has been built on them. Here, our protagonist is Sebastián, trusted servant of the Winter Duke, a member of his Guard. People have been reported missing, and the Duke has ordered the Guard to search the buried old city, where trespass has long been forbidden. Sebastián’s narrative alternates with that of Aluna, a mad scientist from an alternate world, ambitious to experiment with other realities, regardless of the consequences to the inhabitants of those worlds. When they meet in the buried city, questions are answered at last.

Read Lois’ complete comments on the issue here.

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