Goth Chick News – It’s Never Too Early to Talk About Halloween

Goth Chick News – It’s Never Too Early to Talk About Halloween

Let me start by saying yes, I know it’s only June, aka ‘summer’…

But here in the subterranean office of Goth Chick News we literally only hit pause on Halloween for the last two weeks of December, and then grudgingly. Aside from that we are either thinking about, planning for, or attending Halloween activities and we are definitely not alone.

For example, we were crushed this year to miss out on our annual February sabbatical to the Halloween and Attractions Show industry convention in St. Louis, which is the normal kickoff event of the Goth Chick year. Our incredible friends at Transworld who run that event also hold another event closer to home, and this is where Black Gate photog Chris Z and I spent last Saturday.

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The Wit and Wisdom of Connie Willis

The Wit and Wisdom of Connie Willis


Asimov’s Science Fiction, December 2011, containing “All About Emily,” and the Subterranean
Press hardcover edition (January 31, 2012). Covers by Duncan Long and J.K. Potter

Far too often, the best among us are roundly ignored. This can hardly be said of Connie Willis, who has collected an astonishing array of Hugo, Locus, and Nebula awards, yet her name somehow doesn’t seem to ring from the battlements. Perhaps I’m simply attending to the wrong battlements, but when I hear discussions of the great women of science fiction, I tend to catch the names LeGuin, L’Engle, Butler, and, now, Jemisin. Willis seems to come up less frequently.

Better yet, let’s just leave gender entirely out of the equation.

Willis’s name deserves to come up front and center in any discussion of top-tier sci-fi, first and foremost because she is very funny.

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A to Z Reviews: “The Adventure of You,” by Paul La Farge

A to Z Reviews: “The Adventure of You,” by Paul La Farge

A to Z Reviews

Paul LaFarge wrote five novels before his death in January 2023 from cancer. His essays and fiction appeared in a variety of magazines. Only a small portion of his work was within the genre, but the story “The Adventure of You,” which appeared in Gordon van Gelder’s original anthology Welcome to Dystopia in 2019 is one of those genre stories.

In an unspecified time and place in the future, John Arnold Arnold is working as a debris removal specialist for a company. The story is told through a memo from the company’s HR department, ostensibly to help Arnold’s mental health, but it quickly becomes clear that the program being offered is more for the company’s benefit than Arnold’s. The memos offer an explanation of the situation in the company town for the reader while providing indoctrination for the workers.

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Lord of a Shattered Land and The Doom of Odin: Howard Andrew Jones and Scott Oden Deliver High-octane, Euro-Mediterranean Adventure

Lord of a Shattered Land and The Doom of Odin: Howard Andrew Jones and Scott Oden Deliver High-octane, Euro-Mediterranean Adventure

I just finished two Euro-Mediterranean-inspired fantasy novels, and, by chance, both feature dragons on their beautiful covers. This post showcases both. Scott Oden’s The Doom of Oden wraps up a trilogy (Grimnir Series) and Howard Andrew Jones’ Lord of a Shattered Land begins a five-book series (Hanuvar Chronicles). Each offers anti-Roman myths/legends, Oden’s Grimnir overtly calls out Rome (and then introduces loads of Nordic fantasy) and HAJ’s Hanuvar’s primary antagonist is the Dervan Empire (obviously inspired by the Roman Empire). In the spirit of Robert E. Howard’s Conan, who roamed the Euro-Mediterranean continue of Hyboria, these both continue a tradition with a unique flair. These series are not to be missed!

Both are veteran authors with respect for history and historical fiction (HAJ is known for his Harold Lamb series editing and Oden for his bibliography that includes The White Lion, The Lion of Cairo, Men of Bronze, and Memnon). Here they write sagas about veteran protagonists. Don’t expect coming-of-age stories or epic fantasy, five-character parties either. These provide the classic Sword & Sorcery approach: the protagonists may have sidekicks, but they operate primarily on their own, and they are already equipped with experience/skills/power from page one. So the pace is fast and focused.

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Unabashed Pulp: Dire Planet by Joel Jenkins

Unabashed Pulp: Dire Planet by Joel Jenkins


The first three novels in the Dire Planet series (Pulp Work Press, 2009).
Covers by Mats Minnhagen, Noel Tuazon, and Michael Dean Jackson

Joel Jenkins has written 9 books in his Dire Planet series, and a tenth is planned, which Joel suggests may end the series. The published books are:

Dire Planet
Exiles of the Dire Planet
Into the Dire Planet
Strange Gods of the Dire Planet
Lost Tribes of the Dire Planet
Abominations of the Dire Planet
Immortals of the Dire Planet
Forbidden Cities of the Dire Planet
Final Outpost of the Dire Planet

Garvey Dire is representing the West in a space race with China to establish the first manned base on Mars. Garvey’s ship crashes though, and as he lies dying, he is visited by an image of a green skinned woman swordslinger and ends up being transported 50,000 years into Mars’s past. From there Garvey’s adventures follow the pattern established by ERB in his Barsoom books, although with many fresh details and inventive twists.

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New Treasures: Ragged Maps by Ian R. MacLeod

New Treasures: Ragged Maps by Ian R. MacLeod

Ragged Maps (Subterranean Press,
September 15, 2023). Cover by Dominic Harman

Ian R. MacLeod’s novels include The Light Ages (2003) and sequel The House of Storms (2005), but his greatest acclaim has come from his short fiction. He’s produced no less than seven short story collections since 1996, including Voyages by Starlight (1996), Frost on Glass (2015), and the World Fantasy Award nominee Breathmoss and Other Exhalations (2004).

His latest collection, Ragged Maps, was released by Subterranean Press in a hardcover limited edition last year, and I finally got the chance to curl up with it this week. In contains fifteen stories, including an original novella and the Sturgeon Award nominee “The Visitor from Taured.” In his Locus Online review Paul Di Filippo called MacLeod’s prose “Just gorgeous… elegant, complex, mysterious, empathetic, melancholy, mystical, and, somehow, quintessentially British… he’s a peer and heir to Aldiss, Peake, Ballard, Priest, and Moorcock.”

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A Weird & Wonderful Treasure Trove: New Gaming Releases

A Weird & Wonderful Treasure Trove: New Gaming Releases

Legacy of the Green Flame (Pacesetter Games)

Fellow RPG enthusiasts, if I may, I would like to direct your attention to a few fine new projects that recently funded on Kickstarter.

Legacy of the Green Flame (Pacesetter Games)

Legacy of the Green Flame (solo play for 5e and “classic”): It was the oldest trick in the book. A man on a dark road asked for directions and you let your guard down. You awake in a nearby inn with a bruised skull and ego. All your possessions are gone, but your courage endures. Helped by the kindly and concerned innkeeper, you are equipped and the chase is on. The bandits fled into the forest, but you will have your vengeance. (Series of linked adventures; this was the first description).

The project successfully funded on Kickstarter in less than an hour, and wrapped up September 21. According to the April 8 Progress Report, they are close to ordering books for retail delivery. Keep an eye out for this one.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Ya Gotta Ask – Reprise

A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Ya Gotta Ask – Reprise

“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

Nine years ago this past January, I wrote a post here titled, Ya Gotta Ask. I felt like that one could use a bit of polish and expansion, and it would still be a pretty good post. So, here’s a revised version, as the Monday morning column gets ready to kick off another Summer of Pulp with A (Black) Gat in the Hand.

One of the cool things about Black Gate is that there are a bunch of authors who blog here. These are Writers with a capital ‘W’. I have worked hard to become a pretty good blogger, and I think I’ve succeeded. I’ve got a couple awards to back that up. I’ve published some short stories and non-fiction, as well. But I still think of myself as a lower case ‘w’ writer. I am working towards capitalizing that letter, but as any Writer will tell you, you just gotta keep working at it.

Now, some authors here at Black Gate can (and have) given you advice on how to write a novel, or get a book published: be it here, or on their own blogs or other sites. Follow their advice, make it happen, and then you can be a Writer too (a novel isn’t the defining element: I’m just using it as a benchmark for this essay). I’m going to make a suggestion on how you can become a writer, like me. I know, I know: you’re all atingle.

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Vintage Treasures: Tangled Webs by Steve Mudd

Vintage Treasures: Tangled Webs by Steve Mudd


Tangled Webs (Questar/Popular Library, August 1989). Cover by Blas Gallego

There was a time, not so many years ago, when my reading was spontaneous. My wife would mention an intriguing mystery she’d just finished, I’d pick it up for a minute, and the next thing you know I’ve spent two hours with my feet up on the washing machine. I could get lost in a book in a bookstore. I would miss stops on the bus. Once I was listening to the audiobook  of John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief during a nighttime road trip to Canada, and by the time that damn tape ended I’d missed the turnoff for Detroit by about two hours and was deep in northern Michigan. I still smell pines trees whenever anyone mentions pelicans. True story.

Anyway, the sad truth is these days my reading is by necessity much more planned. I have commitments that will take many months — to publishers, authors seeking cover blurbs, and writers looking for manuscript feedback. On top of that, there are new releases I dearly want to read, and only so many hours in the day.

I can’t let myself get distracted by the many tantalizing old books that pass through my hands. Even when they have cyborg assassins right there on the first page, like Steve Mudd’s forgotten 80s paperback Tangled Webs.

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A to Z Reviews: Sync, by K.P. Kyle

A to Z Reviews: Sync, by K.P. Kyle

A to Z Reviews

K.P. Kyle’s debut novel Sync is the first of three novel-length works that I’ll be looking at in this series. Published by Allium Press, in 2019, Kyle offers the story of Brigid, who picks up a hitchhiker on a cold, rainy night in New England and she drives home to Boston. Although Jason doesn’t smell very good and seems to be suffering from paranoia, Brigid invites him to spend the night at her apartment so he can get cleaned up and get a good night’s sleep before getting on a train for somewhere.

When a burglar breaks into Brigid’s home that evening, she and Jason go on the lam, trying to avoid the men who apparently actually are after Jason. Jason also reveals his secret to Brigid. He was part of an experiment that allows him to temporarily jump from one reality to another, although the process leaves him naked.

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