Fantasia 2018, Days 1 and 2: Five Fingers of Death

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

FantasiaFantasy’s described by fantasy: consider John Crowley’s Little, Big, a novel about a faerieland where the further in you go the bigger the land becomes. A powerful image, it echoes the way fascinations gain in depth and scope the more you explore them. How familiar experiences can become strange the more you dig deeper into them, birthing mystery, growing weird. Art and story perhaps most of all. So I am about to begin my coverage of the Fantasia International Film Festival for the fifth year here at Black Gate, and I feel I have less of an idea of what I will see than ever. It is a place, a time, a state of mind, where anything can be seen; it is one of those notorious worlds whose only boundaries are that of imagination. And so the more you explore the more you learn how much more there is to explore.

This will be the twenty-second edition of the festival, North America’s largest genre film festival, featuring over 130 feature films from around the world. Last year more than 100,000 spectators saw a film at Fantasia, which is impressive in a time of declining theatrical attendance on this continent. But what’s most impressive is the range of offerings at Fantasia. Action-adventure films, experimental and underground films, rediscovered classic films — these things are only the beginning. I argued after last year’s festival that this is a new golden age of science fiction and fantasy film; spend time going through this year’s festival listings and you can see why. Modern genre film is in a complex dialogue with itself across languages and film industries, across years and filmmaking traditions. It is fluid, unpredictable, and international.

I write these posts in a diary format because I think that the experience of attending the festival is worth recording. Over the course of three weeks you see the same people in the media line, you talk with them, you get to know them. And then you see them again the next year. More than that, these are people you talk about films with, agreeing, disagreeing, asking questions, sharing information. I have a number of friends I only see at Fantasia. It’s a community that grows over twenty-one days or so, a little like a science-fiction convention — there’s even a bar where a lot of the festival community hangs out — but instead of (mainly) discussing works of art, we experience the art and then talk about it informally as opposed to attending a panel.

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Treasure from a Phoenician Shipwreck

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


For the past couple of weeks I’ve been blogging about the sights of Málaga, Spain, most notably the popular castles of Alcazaba and Gibralfaro. Less well-known to casual visitors is the Ifergan Gallery, a private collection of ancient art collected by local wealthy collector Vicente Jimenez Ifergan.

I’d like to meet Ifergan, because if I ever get to be rich, this is something I’d do — collect ancient treasures from a dozen different civilizations and open a museum to show them off. The museum, while rather small, has some choice finds from Greece, Rome, Egypt, Iran, Mesopotamia, and more. The most interesting room showcases a large collection of Phoenician terracotta votive statuettes from the 9th to 3rd centuries BC.

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The Beloved Battling Robot Dinosaurs

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018 | Posted by Steve Carper

Sinclair Oil Dinosaur exhibit color postcard

Oil comes from dinosaurs. That’s not true, but millions of kids in the 20th century knew this as a fact. They were the victims of one of the most wildly successful marketing campaigns of all time. Or maybe the marketers were, because their modest claims were equally wildly misinterpreted by a wholly credulous audience of scientific illiterates. How do I segue from oil and dinosaurs to robots? Just like every other journey I’ve ever taken I do it by changing planes in Chicago.

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Birthday Reviews: Paul Cornell’s “Michael Laurits Is: Drowning”

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Donato Giancola

Cover by Donato Giancola

Paul Cornell was born on July 18, 1967.

Cornell’s short story “The Copenhagen Interpretation” was nominated for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and won the British SF Association Award. His novella Witches of Lychford was also nominated for the British SF Association Award as well as the British Fantasy Award. He has been nominated for the Hugo Award nine times for Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form, Graphic Stories, Novelettes, and Fancasts, winning for both of his Fancast nominations as part of the SF Squeecast, with Lynne M. Thomas, Seanan McGuire, Elizabeth Bear, and Catherynne M. Valente. He won the 2007 Writers Guild of Great Britain Award for his work on the series Doctor Who.

“Michael Laurits Is: Drowning” was originally published in Eclipse Two: New Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Jonathan Strahan. In 2015, Cornell included the story in his collection A Better Way to Die: The Collected Short Stories.

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3 New Titles at Once: Rogue Blades Entertainment’s Ambitious New Agenda

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018 | Posted by Jason M 'RBE' Waltz

Crazy Town RBE Crossbows and Crosses

A few days back, Black Gate guru John O’Neill wrote perhaps one of the best articles to appear here during 2018. Then he invited me to comment further in my own post on behalf of Rogue Blades Entertainment’s latest titles. So let’s get to it!

One point I wish to make from the onset — all three of 2018’s open calls for submissions are for first-ofs for RBE. We have always intended to be the publisher of everything heroic action adventure (fiction and nonfiction), and we began with our first love — fantasy. Since we started up our presses with extreme, sword- and sorcery-slinging short story heroics, we often are considered a Sword-and-Sorcery publisher.

I love that, and utterly embrace the genre, but RBE is more than that, so I don’t want anyone confused as to our identity or aim. We publish heroics and deliver intense action adventure. Our byline “Putting the HERO back into HEROICS” isn’t just a cool soundbite — it’s what we do.

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A Ball of Confusion: Bleak Seasons by Glen Cook

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_16212649x4iuiFoAWith Bleak Seasons (1996), Glen Cook broke a six year hiatus from the series that had made his reputation as an important voice in epic fantasy. The previous book, Dreams of Steel (1990), had ended in chaos, with Lady and Croaker reunited, but their newborn daughter stolen by murderous Deceiver, Narayan Singh. The siege of Dejagore was finally lifted, but Soulcatcher remained at large and the Shadowmaster Longshadow continued to build his mega-fortress, Overlook, and field powerful armies. During that six very long years, I became increasingly doubtful I’d ever learn what happened next, or just what made the siege of Dejagore so horrible.

And then Bleak Seasons appeared — just showed up on a Barnes and Noble shelf one day. I bought and devoured it almost immediately. I couldn’t really say my questions had been answered since it had been so long since the last book I forgot some of them. On top of that, the book was a mess; its narrator literally jumping around in time with no clear rhyme or reason. That it was packed with tons of great stuff made it a frustrating read. All the good bits were enough to tilt it to the good side, and I trusted Cook enough to hope the next book would be a return to form.

My reread of the book over the last two days didn’t change my opinion one bit. Well, except that reading Bleak Seasons right up against Dreams of Steel does make all the cool stuff cooler. The jumping around in time, that remains frustrating and poorly explained and with little obvious justification.

Bleak Seasons opens with a short chapter that clearly tells us four years have passed and terrible things have happened. Based on the timelines in the previous book there would seem to be no way this could make sense unless something drastic had happened.

The second chapter introduces us to the book’s narrator, Murgen. The youngest member of the six Company survivors from the original trilogy, he was standard-bearer and, before the disaster under the walls of Dejagore, Annalist-in-training. He opens with a tour of the city of Dejagore during the siege and an introduction of the factions defending it against the army of the Shadowmaster Shadowspinner.

The Black Company and its Taglian auxiliaries have split into two camps. The first is composed of the Northerners and most of the men recruited on the road to Taglios, and is led by Murgen — because no one else wants to be in charge. The second, and stronger, is led by Mogaba and his fellow Gea-Xle warriors. Mogaba is not happy with the situation and soon it’s clear he has it in for Murgen and friends.

Mogaba, possessed of a will of steel and a willingness to do every single bloody act necessary, is the overall commander of the defense of Dejagore. As supplies dwindle, Mogaba routinely ejects members of the Jaicuri population to almost certain death. Later, it’s learned he has returned his fellow Gea-Xle to the darkest part of the Black Company’s origins as soldiers of Kina, the goddess of destruction.

The Nyueng Bao are a third party; a group of pilgrims from the distant Main River delta in the east who had the misfortune to be caught in Dejagore when the siege started. They are secretive, insular, and, it becomes clear quickly, dangerous. Finally, the native Jaicuri, peaceful by nature and beaten down by years of Shadowmaster rule, just try to stay on the good side of Mogaba’s and Murgen’s soldiers and hope for the best.

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Birthday Reviews: Cory Doctorow’s “Chicken Little”

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Pablo Defendini

Cover by Pablo Defendini

Cory Doctorow was born on July 17, 1971.

Doctorow won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2000. He has won the Prometheus Award three times, for his novels Little Bother, Pirate Cinema, and Homeland. Little Brother also won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, Golden Duck Award, the Emperor Norton Award, and the Sunburst Award. Doctorow had previously won the Sunburst Award for his collection A Place So Foreign and Eight More. He received the Copper Cylinder Award for the novel Homeland. His story “The Man Who Sold the Moon” received the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award in 2015. Doctorow is also one of the editors of the website Boing Boing.

Doctorow originally self-published “Chicken Little” in his collection With a Little Help through CorDoc-Co, Ltd., the company’s only project, in 2009. The next year it was included in Gateways, a Festschrift anthology celebrating the life and work of Frederik Pohl, edited by Pohl’s wife, Elizabeth Anne Hull. On April 6, 2011, the story appeared on, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Liz Gorinsky. Gardner Dozois included the story in The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Eight Annual Collection. Nielsen Hayden and David G. Hartwell chose the story for their anthology Twenty-First Century Science Fiction, published in 2013.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from and you me.” Cory Doctorow takes this statement to the extreme in “Chicken Little.” Leon works for an ad company whose sole purpose it to figure out what product can be sold to one of the super-rich quadrillionnaires who live in vats, having shuffled off their human bodies, but not their mortal coils.

When it becomes clear to Leon that he issn’t doing anything useful at the company, he began delving into what everyone else at the agency is working on, trying to build up a complete picture and unable to come up with any leads. This approach, however, brings him to the attention of Ria, a representative for Buhle, one of the super-rich. Ria gives Leon insight into the levels of mechanization the super-rich employ.

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New Treasures: The Reign of the Departed by Greg Keyes

Monday, July 16th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Reign of the Departed-small The Reign of the Departed-back-small

Greg Keyes is no stranger to epic fantasy. He’s the author of the Age of Unreason series, The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, and the Children of the Changeling novels. For much of the past two decades he’s made his living primarily through media tie-in novels, including Star Wars, Elder Scrolls, XCOM, Babylon 5, Independence Day, Pacific Rim, Planet of the Apes, and others.

So I was pleased to see a major new release from him on the shelf at Barnes & Noble last month. The Reign of the Departed is the opening novel in a new dark fantasy series, The High and Faraway, which features a golem, a giant, a ghost and a wizard, on the run from a Sheriff and his shapeshifting posse. Carolyn Cushman at Locus says:

Errol Greyson says he didn’t intend to commit suicide – but he wakes in a body carved of wood and joined by wire and bolts, and his classmate Aster tells him his real body’s in a coma. She’s originally from another world, and needs to re­turn there for the magic water of health to save her father, and maybe help Errol. For her quest, she needs three companions: one mostly dead (Errol), one completely dead, and a giant – so off they go to find a local ghost, Veronica, a girl who’s been dead for 30 years. Errol goes along, stumbling through a series of strange adventures in a world of nightmarish creatures, curses, and transformations, where twisted fairy tale elements mix with Weird Western bits, and some references to Pinocchio. At times the story reads like YA fiction, with its messed-up young protagonists and recurring theme of bad parents, but it’s a dark tale; not horror, exactly, but seriously twisted and dramatic…

The Reign of the Departed was published by Night Shade on June 19, 2018. It is 348 pages, priced at $14.99 for both the trade paperback and digital versions. The cover is by Micah Epstein. Read more at the Night Shade website.

A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #1

Monday, July 16th, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne


“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 Chandlers’ The Big Sleep

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

Of course, we’re all friends here at Black Gate. But if you’re my friend on Facebook, you have probably seen at least one of my Back Deck Pulp posts (I mean; how could you miss them?). I am reading a TON of pulp stories and also reading info on pulpsters for A (Black) Gat in the Hand. And when the weather permits, I’ve been sitting on my very nice back deck and taking a picture with the story of the moment. I include a bit of info on the picture’s story or author or magazine issue. Thus, ‘Back Deck Pulp.’

I think they’re neat, myself. And most of the topics I cover will end up being A (Black) Gat in the Hand posts. Friend me on FB and see what I’ve been writing about.

Well, I started collecting all those posts and discovered that I’ve already done enough for at least two Black Gate essays. So, here’s the first. It’s very informal, and it doesn’t read like a normal post: think of it like an anthology of short stories. There’s no continual narrative – But there’s some good pulp info! I made very minimal changes and most read exactly as the original FB post did.


Today’s Back Deck Pulp is Norbert Davis’ “Red Goose,” the first of his two Black Mask stories featuring PI Ben Shaley.

When Raymond Chandler began writing for the pulps, he said that “Red Goose” impressed him more than any other tale he had read. Years later, he said he had not forgotten it.

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Birthday Reviews: Esther M. Friesner’s “Miranda’s Muse”

Monday, July 16th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Treachery and Treason

Treachery and Treason

Esther M. Friesner was born on July 16, 1951.

Friesner has won the Nebula Award for her short stories “Death and the Librarian” and “A Birthday,” the latter of which was also nominated for the Hugo Award. She has also received nominations for the Gaylactic Spectrum Award and the James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award. In 1994, she was the recipient of the Skylark Award, presented by NESFA.

“Miranda’s Muse” was written for Laura Anne Gilman and Jennifer Heddle’s anthology Treachery and Treason. The story has not been reprinted.

Miranda Ford is a highly successful romance author who seemed to lead a perfect life with her husband, Alan. After Alan’s death, however, Miranda finds herself suffering from writer’s block and, more importantly, is confronted by her new agent, Billy Samson, about the extremely overdue manuscript her publisher is clamoring for. Billy quickly learns that Alan was very definitely Miranda’s muse. His poor and boorish behavior provided her with all the villains in her novels, with barely any modifications. Billy offers Miranda a solution that she can’t believe. He explains that he is a necromancer and can bring Alan back from the dead.

Although Miranda doesn’t believe Billy will be successful, she accompanies him to the graveyard and watches as he brings her husband back to life, or at least unlife, using an incantation analogous to a high school football cheer. While Alan’s partial resurrection is potentially good for her career, Miranda didn’t question Billy too closely about the specifics, and Billy didn’t offer the information, so everything that happens next –Billy’s binding of Alan and Miranda, the rules that govern their new relationship, and the fact that Alan is no longer jealous of Miranda’s success — all come as a surprise.

Feeling betrayed by Billy, Miranda’s vengeance on him also backfires, but in the end, she and Billy are able to work out a new, amicable working relationship and, perhaps, even a level of mutual respect. Although Alan was a horrific human, and likely to remain that way as a revenant, Miranda isn’t a whole lot better herself, but she is also Billy’s meal ticket if he wants to be a successful agent.

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