She-Ra is Now Even More She-Ra

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018 | Posted by mariebilodeau

she-ra-poster

For the first time since 1985 (that’s 33 years, people), She-Ra: Princess of Power is getting a full cartoon reboot. Her twin brother and forefather, in a strange, slightly uncomfortable and incestuous link, has already received multiple reboots, some more popular than others (New Adventures, anyone?), but She-Ra hasn’t been seen since the 80s except in some toys and very dark DC storylines. Which mostly focused around her brother, of course.

This time, She-Ra is breaking free! And, from all accounts, she represents her She-Ra-ness more than ever before.

Read More »


Birthday Reviews: Bruce McAllister’s “World of the Wars”

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Carl Berkowitz

Cover by Carl Berkowitz

Bruce McAllister was born on October 17, 1946.

McAllister’s s novelette “Dream Baby” was nominated for the Nebula and Hugo Award in 1988. He was nominated for a second Hugo Award in 2007 for his short story “Kin.” His novelette “The Bleeding Child” (a.k.a. “The Crying Child” earned him a nomination for the Shirley Jackson Award in 2013. He edited the anthology There Won’t Be War with Harry Harrison. He has collaborated on fiction with Barry N. Malzberg, Andreas Neumann, Patrick Smith, and W.S. Adams.

“World of the Wars” was originally published in Mars, We Love You: Tales of Mars, Men, and Martians, edited by Jane Hipolito and Willis E. McNelly in 1971. The book has also been published as The Book of Mars. The only other time the story has been reprinted was in McAllister’s 2007 collection The Girl Who Loved Animals and Other Stories.

Read More »


Stuffed Fables: If Toy Story Were a Role-Playing Board Game

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

StuffedFablesDemoYou are a stuffed animal, who has watched over and cared for your child for many years. Tonight is a big night, though, as the parents have bought your child a big girl bed. As the lights go out, your child goes to sleep for the first night without the protection of her crib. Little did you know that this was the night you were preparing for … when dark forces of nightmare would reach out for your child, trying to destroy the hope and joy that you cherish within her.

This is the premise of the board game Stuffed Fables, by Plaid Hat Games. Plaid Hat has created a number of exceptional games, including Summoner War and the zombie survival Dead of Winter franchise. Stuffed Fables is designed by Jerry Hawthorne, who is also responsible for Plaid Hat’s Mice and Mystics franchise games, including the spin-off battle game Tail Feathers. Each of the games is great to play and worth an in-depth review of its own, but for now, let’s get focus back on Stuffed Fables.

Read More »


A Treasure Trove of Classic British Horror: Darkness Mist & Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basic Copper

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

basil-copper-darkness-mist-shadow-small

I first saw the three volumes of Darkness Mist & Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basic Copper at Greg Ketter’s booth at Windy City seven years ago. It was a gorgeous set of hardcovers, with magnificent wraparound Stephen Fabian artwork, and it drew my eye immediately.

It was prohibitively expensive, however — nearly $200 for the set, if I remember correctly. Two hundred bucks buys a lot of vintage paperbacks. I put them back on the shelf with a sigh, and headed for the back of the room, where the cheap paperbacks were piled high on countless tables.

Darkness Mist & Shadow was published by Drugstore Indian Press, a division of PS Publishing in the UK, which means it wasn’t widely distributed here in the US. I’ve always been curious about Basil Copper’s fiction… not curious enough to part with $200 on an impulse purchase, but still. Bob Byrne is a fan of his Solar Pons tales (also available from PS Publishing), and Bob has good taste, so that heightened my curiosity.

I’m not always in the mood for classic British horror, but when October rolls around, with its long evenings, hot chocolate, and a cat that insists on climbing into my lap at seven o’clock and staying there, immobile, until midnight, I’m much more receptive. The promise of a virtual library of short stories and novellas — painstakingly gathered from such hard-to-find sources as the Dark Terrors anthology series, the Pan Book of Horror Stories, New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, and long out-of-print Arkham House volumes — gets a lot more appealing. So when PS reissued the books in beautiful trade paperback editions, priced at just £9.99 each ($17 from most US sellers), it was simply too hard to resist. I paid $45 for the complete set, and I’m very happy I did.

Read More »


The Claw of the Conciliator by Gene Wolfe

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_164159RYRk8xECHaving set out to discuss The Claw of the Concilator (1981), the second entry in Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun, I’m completely unsure of what to write. Oh, I can tell you what happened, even how some things happened, but I’m not sure I can tell you why a lot of things happened. It’s probably due to a lack of context as two books remain in the series, but I’m not totally sure about that. Much of the story is conveyed via weird encounters, dreams, memories, fables, and even the text of a play. It’s challenging to piece the parts together to form a linear narrative, let alone anticipate the tale’s direction, which remains nearly as mysterious at the conclusion as at the start.

At the end of the previous book, The Shadow of the Torturer, Severian and his companions were caught in a violent outburst among the crowd of people at the great gate exiting the city Nessus. Severian is now accompanied by Jonas, a man with “a jointed contrivance of steel” for a right hand. The others he traveled with, Dr. Talos, Baldanders, Jolenta, and Dorcas, were lost to him in the chaos. While intent on reaching Thrax to take up his assignment as the town’s executioner, Severian and Jonas still hope to find the others. Severian makes his way serving as itinerant headsman and torturer in several towns along the road. It is in the mining town of Saltus (its mine is the buried ruins of an ancient city) that we find Severian and Jonas as Claw opens.

After he carries out a pair of executions, Severian is lured into danger by Agia. Previously she had colluded in setting him up to be killed and robbed, resulting in her own brother’s execution. She had also stolen the powerful artifact, the Claw of the Conciliator, and hidden it on Severian. Having discovered it, he has begun to realize it can emit a powerful light, heal wounds, and even raise the dead. With it, he is able to survive and overcome the trap set for him.

Unfortunately it can’t keep him from falling into the hands of the rebel leader, Vodalus. This encounter leads to Severian and Jonas signing on with the rebels and being sent to the House Absolute, the secret palace of the Autarch. There he must deliver a message to another agent of the uprising. They will also find their friends there who have been hired to put on a play. Along the way things get extra weird.

By book’s end, Severian has still not reached Thrax. He has, though, explored the House Absolute, one of the coolest works of fantastical architecture. It is covered with lawns and gardens to keep it from be spied from the sky. Miles and miles of tunnels lie below it, some, perhaps, even reaching all the way back to Nessus. Even more mysterious than the secret passages and rooms that seem de rigueur for any self-respecting palace, is the Second House. Instead of just adding more hidden chambers, the Autarch’s mysterious aide, Father Inrie, added an entire new house within the very structure of the House Absolute.

Read More »


Birthday Reviews: Lawrence Schimel’s “Taking Action”

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Barclay Shaw

Cover by Barclay Shaw

Lawrence Schimel was born on October 16, 1971.

Schimel won the Rhysling Award for Long Poem in 2002 for “How to Make a Human.” In 2007, he shared the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Other Work with Richard Labonte for their anthologies The Future Is Queer. Schimel has also been nominated for the James Tiptree Jr. Award and the Lambda Award. In addition to his collaboration with Labonte, he has edited multiple anthologies with Martin H. Greenberg and has collaborated on fiction with Mike Resnick, Billie Sue Mosiman, and Mark A. Garland. He has, on occasion, published using the pseudonym David Laurents.

Schimel published “Taking Action” in Mike Resnick’s anthology Alternate Warriors in 1993. The story has never been reprinted.

One of the issues with the anthology Alternate Warriors is that many of the individuals who became the focus of stories were known for their advocacy of non-violence. Someone who advocates peaceful means to achieve their goals must change so much to become a warrior that they are practically unrecognizable. Schimel manages to overcome that issue in “Taking Action” by offering a plausible reason for Martin Luther King, Jr. to use violence in his campaign for civil rights.

Read More »


Mysterious Stones, Hidden Gardens, and Small-town Secrets: Simon Strantzas’ Nothing is Everything

Monday, October 15th, 2018 | Posted by Mario Guslandi

Nothing Is Everything Simon Strantzas-small Nothing Is Everything Simon Strantzas-back-small

Trade edition. Art by Tran Nguyen

Nothing is Everything
By Simon Strantzas
Undertow Publications (237 pages, $29.99 in hardcover/$17.99 in trade paperback/$4.99 digital, October 16, 2018)

Canadian writer Simon Strantzas is a talented and successful author of dark fiction, whose short stories have been favorably received by both readers and critics. Nothing is Everything, his fifth collection, assembles nine stories (five reprints and four originals), plus a new novella “All Reality Blossoms in Flames.”

The novella just didn’t work for me. Maybe because, as a short story lover, my suspension of disbelief isn’t built for that length, especially when, as is the case here, the plot seems to drag on without any substantial development. But this might be an unfair assessment on my part, and other readers may well enjoy it.

Being more at ease with tales of standard length, I’d like to mention four stories which struck me as particularly accomplished.

“In This Twilight” is a fine, introspective piece featuring a young woman haunted by a tragic memory from her past, who, driving back to her hometown on a bus, finds a glimpse of hope for a better future.

Read More »


A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Thomas Parker’s ‘Pulp Repurposed – They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

Monday, October 15th, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Gat_RobinsonCoverClassicFellow Black Gater Thomas Parker and I have been exchanging our thoughts on the various topics covered here in this column. I mentioned Horace McCoy’s Jerry Frost, head of Hell’s Stepsons, sort of a Seals team for the Air Texas Rangers (also fictional). McCoy is, of course, best-known for his novel, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?. Which I’ve never read. Nor have I seen the movie. So, I asked Thomas. if he’d like to write a guest post on that book. And boy, did he! Read on.


A while back our own Hardboiled Bob Byrne gave us a run-down of the May, 1934 issue of Black Mask, which featured a story by Horace McCoy, a writer whose fame rests solely on his 1935 novel, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? which probably more people know from the fine 1969 film version starring Jane Fonda than from actually having read. McCoy’s novel is an ambitious piece of work, and with it he was clearly seeking to extend himself beyond the boundaries of commercial pulp – and yet, the mark of Black Mask and its ten and fifteen cent brethren is everywhere in the book. In They Shoot Horses Don’t They?, pulp atmosphere and pulp devices are deployed, but with a deadlier intent than any found in the pages of Dime Detective. Call it pulp repurposed.

In what amounts to a manifesto for the American pulp style, Raymond Chandler famously declared (in his 1944 essay, “The Simple Art of Murder”), that Dashiell Hammett had started the ball rolling because he

gave murder back to the kind of people who commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse; and with the means at hand, not with hand-wrought dueling pistols, curare, and tropical fish. He put these people down on paper as they are, and he made them talk and think in the language they customarily use for these purposes.

In other words, Hammett and those who followed him were realists, in both style and substance – at least as compared with proponents of the unbearably artificial (in Chandler’s estimation, anyway) English school like Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and the American S.S. Van Dine, the creator of amateur sleuth Philo Vance, dismissed by Chandler as “the most asinine character in detective fiction.”

If the American pulp style praised by Chandler consists of realistic characters with realistic motives using realistic means to commit crimes in contemporary urban settings, then They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? must be considered a prime example of the form, even more so than Chandler’s own Philip Marlowe stories, with their stainless hero and romantic patina.

Read More »


Birthday Reviews: James H. Schmitz’s “The Vampirate”

Monday, October 15th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Frank R. Paul

Cover by Frank R. Paul

James H. Schmitz was born on October 15, 1911 and died on April 18, 1981.

Schmitz was nominated for the Hugo Award in 1962 for Best Short Fiction for his story “Lion Loose” and in 1967 for the novel The Witches of Karres. In 1966, he had four Nebula nominations for his short story “Balanced Ecology,” the Novelettes “Planet of Forgetting” and “Goblin Night,” and for the novella “Research Alpha,” co-written with A.E. van Vogt.

“Vampirate” was first published in Science-Fiction Plus in December 1953. It was the magazine’s final issue and the last science fiction magazine edited by Hugo Gernsback. When Eric Flint and Guy Gordon included it in their collection of Schmitz’s stories, Telzey Amberdon in 2000, they changed the story’s title to “Blood of Nalakia.”

Lane Rawlings is a slave who learned a secret about her master, the Nachief of Frome, and made the mistake of sharing that secret with two other slaves. The three of them find themselves on a ship with the Nachief heading for an unnamed planet, where he intends to kill all three of them. Before they can land, however, their ship comes under attack. While Lane and the Nachief survive, the other two slaves are killed. Lane escapes her master and manages to convince Frazer, the only person on the island where they landed, that the Nachief is a sort of vampire.

Read More »


Future Treasures: Restless Lightning by Richard Baker

Sunday, October 14th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Valiant-Dust-medium Restless Lightning

Richard Baker’s new military SF series Breaker of Empires, set in an era of great interstellar colonial powers, began with Valiant Dust last year, and the second installment is scheduled to arrive in trade paperback from Tor next week.

I’m glad to see it. Baker began his career as a game designer at TSR where he co-designed the Birthright campaign setting. His first novel was Forgotten Realms: The Adventures: The Shadow Stone (1997). He wrote nearly a dozen more for TSR over the next decade, but Breaker of Empires is his first non-licensed project. It’s generated plenty of interest — Booklist called the first volume “a great start,” and Michael Stackpole proclaimed it “an excellent example of military SF at its best.”

Richard Baker continues the adventures of Sikander North in Restless Lightning, the second book in his new military science fiction series Breaker of Empires and sequel to Valiant Dust.

Lieutenant Sikander North has avoided an outright court martial and finds himself assigned to a remote outpost in the crumbling, alien Tzoru Empire―where the navy sends trouble-makers to be forgotten. When Sikander finds himself in the middle of an alien uprising, he, once again, must do the impossible: smuggle an alien ambassador off-world, break a siege, and fight the irrational prejudice of his superior officers. The odds are against his success, and his choices could mean disgrace ― or redemption.

We covered Valiant Dust here.

Restless Lightning will be published by Tor Books on October 23, 2018. It is 429 pages, priced at $18.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Larry Rostant.


  Earlier Entries »

This site © 2018 by New Epoch Press. All rights reserved.