Conan Returns

Friday, January 25th, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Those familiar with Conan only from the pastiche, or the movies, or the comic books, don’t know the real article, who has far greater range of emotion and zest for life — and is at the same time more primal. Those acquainted with the character from other incarnations likewise have no idea of Robert E. Howard’s power as a writer. He is an able plotter with a splendid imagination, but it is in his narrative that Howard truly excels, and that can’t translate into another medium. His scenes are drawn swiftly, skillfully, with a few sharp brush strokes. A movie version isn’t necessary because his prose is so cinematic to begin with.

But, so long as there is going to be a movie version, I sure hope that those who’re putting it together keep in mind what Eric Knight said recently on his blog.


Thinking of Heroes

Monday, January 21st, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

My little girl brings home reading practice sheets every week. Each day we’re to time her reading the fluency sheet for a minute, three times, the idea being that it will improve her reading. She does get better at reading each time through, naturally, but she also gets pretty bored – I suppose I would, too, if I had to read the same thing over and over three times a day. But she’s also bored because the stories as a whole haven’t been very interesting. Until last week.

She brought home the story of Butch O’Hare. I’d never given much thought to whom O’Hare airport was named after. I suppose I assumed it was named after a politician. None of these fluency stories can be read completely in a minute—she was only about a third of the way through when the minute timer dinged. My son, her older brother, was so interested that he looked up from his own homework and said “actually, that’s pretty interesting.” I agreed, and asked her to keep reading, and she was intrigued enough herself that she kept going without complaint.

Stories about heroes fascinate my family, at the least, and, I believe, humanity as a whole. I think that we’ve become so cynical that we sneer a little when we hear stories of heroics and imagine that it can’t really be true, or we wonder if the hero secretly beats his wife. We are programmed to think that we REALLY need to read stories of ordinary people or cowardly people or despicable people and that stories of heroes are for children. We’re savvy enough now not to believe everything we hear or read, because, God knows, we’ve been fooled plenty of times.

But we still need heroes. And Butch O’Hare was one. In WWII, O’Hare was a fighter pilot on the aircraft carrier Lexington. No less than three separate patrols had been launched from the Lexington to investigate radar contacts, so that when a fourth popped up there was only O’Hare and his wingman left to investigate. What they discovered was a flight of nine — count ‘em, nine — Japanese fighter bombers (called Betties) en route to the Lexington.

My knowledge of WWII is pretty scant, as it’s pre-industrial history that’s always fascinated me, so I had to look up entries on these fighter bombers. A few of them would have had enough bombs to sink an aircraft carrier, and here came nine, each manned by a tailgunner as well as boasting regular armaments. O’Hare had only a little over 140 seconds worth of ammunition in his machine guns. To make things worse, once he and his wingman were airborne and getting ready to engage, the wingman discovered that his guns were jammed. It was O’Hare alone against the bombers.

He flew up one side of the V formation and then dived under to swoop beneath the other. His shooting was so exact that he completely blew off the fuselage of one of the Betties. One of the Lexington’s other patrols came screaming back when the fight was almost over, and the officer reported seeing three bombers going down in flames at the same time, so rapid and efficient was O’Hare.

Only three of the bombers got past O’Hare, and amazingly none of them hit the Lexington. The ship’s commanding officer said that O’Hare might well have saved the entire ship. Even more amazingly, O’Hare’s plane only got hit once. And don’t think that these were slow, plodding craft he was fighting. These were dangerous planes. He was just skilled, capable, and lucky. Not to mention heroic.

It brought to mind a preface I’ve always liked. Edison Marshall wrote one of my favorite historical novels, Earth Giant, the narrator of whom is none other than Heracles. He drafted these words at the end of a short introductory essay:

I feel mystically about heroes, whether Heracles, Arthur, Roland, Ragnar Lothbrok the great Viking, Siegfried, Captain John Smith, John Paul Jones, and some living in the last century or even alive today. It seems to me that the Gods love them, that Olympian lightning plays about their heads, that Chance suspends her dull laws when one of the breed comes nigh, that Fate will meet them more than halfway, that event in ratio to their own greatness is their daily fare as long as their heroism lives.

We need our heroes. We need to know that when the chips are down people can stand up — stories like that of Butch O’Hare’s, or the story of Martin Luther King Jr., or the stories of Brave Horatius, Robin Hood, and heroes appearing within the pages of Black Gate — we need hear and read tales both true and fictional to inspire us to stand up when the chips are down, when someone needs to do something to right a wrong, when someone needs to stand up for the little guy or to protect home, hearth, and comrades.

Who are your heroes, and why?


Knight at the Movies: The Roots of Action/Horror

Sunday, January 20th, 2008 | Posted by Web Master

There’s been action and horror in films since the very beginning — but when did the now-distinctive “action/horror” genre come about? Join Black Gate‘s E. E. Knight on a journey across decades in search of the milestones in this longstanding admixture of spooks and dukes. Aliens, bugs, skeletons, vampires and…RVs? They’re all here for this eclectic romp through movie history.


Harold Lamb and the Crusaders

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Whew. I thought I’d take an hour this morning and wrap up the new Harold Lamb Crusaders book, Swords From the West, but the hours kept ticking by as I checked that and added to this, and rewrote that backmatter section… and before I knew it the work day was done, dang it. So, no progress on my own writing or anything OTHER than the Lamb book. On the other hand, I’m now pretty sure that the text I’m turning over to Bison is in excellent shape. So — good news, I’ve e-mailed the text off to the University of Nebraska Press’s Bison Books imprint. Better news is that I turned it in early. After I got in all the stories I HAD to have I ended up under page count, so I slipped in three more stories and still ended up under my projected page count. Hopefully they’ll be pleased. Early, organized, and slightly under the enormous projected page count.

This Crusaders book is chock full of great action-packed tales of brave knights and is some of Harold Lamb’s very best work. I’ll write more about it when it gets closer to publication. For now, I will bask in deadline glow and contemplate writing some of my own stuff on the morrow.


The New Semester

Monday, January 14th, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

I put on my official professor disguise and headed in for the start of the semester today. I had a long list of goals I wanted to get done between the end of last semester and start of this one. I hit some of them and made good progress on almost everything.

1. Spend some quality time with the wife and kids — I definitely did that. We had a lot of fun just being together, reading together, playing together, talking together. It was nice.

2. Get back into teaching piano to the kids — here’s where I dropped the ball the worst, for I only managed one piano lesson for one kid between Christmas and now. Whoops!

3. Finish the rough of three chapters of my sequel novel — almost. I have two and 3/4 of a chapter. With luck I should be able to finish chapter 3 this week.

4. Write all my game reviews for Black Gate 12. Almost — at the last minute I added the immense Castle Whiterock to the list of products to review, and I just finished reading it a few days ago. I wrote all the reviews I’d intended to write when I planned out my wish list, but I technically didn’t get everything done.

5. Start prepping two of the three new Harold Lamb collections. Yes — most of the material for Swords From the East is off to the author, Scott Oden, who’ll be writing the introduction. I prepped all of the front and back matter for Swords From the West, and, thanks to some timely assistance from fellow Adventure and Lamb fans got my hands on another copy of a misplaced letter. I should be able to steal enough time Tuesday to make a final proof pass and send the text for Swords From the West off to Bison Books.

6. Revise my syllabus and get it ready for the new semester — yes. My printer died, which made things a little hectic, but I’m here now on campus as the office printer is blasting the thing out.

Bonus activities — I’d hoped to spend some more time teaching my kids some role-playing, courtesy of some Dark City Games adventures, but their spring semester started on January 3. Their vacation was too short, to my mind. I did, though, get in a full day of gaming with most of my rpg friends, and have joined the Halo collective courtesy of E. E. Knight, who’s been teaching me how to blast evil aliens.


A Review of The Name of the Wind

Sunday, January 13th, 2008 | Posted by Web Master

To start off the new year, Black Gate‘s Robert Rhodes reviews the first volume in a new trilogy of novels penned by a fresh voice on the fantasy scene, Wisconsin’s Patrick Rothfuss. This story was seven years in the making, and it shows. Click inside to discover how Rothfuss’ world of fantasy and magic differs in intriguing ways from the work of past masters like Lewis, Tolkien, and Rowling.



Thursday, January 10th, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

My i key keeps sticking, which results in interesting typos in almost every post…

But on to horses. As someone who is very new to this whole horsecare thing, I never realized before that a stall is a lot like a really big litterbox. When it rains, the horse stands in that litterbox all the time, unless you want to ruin your pasture. This means that the litter box must be cleaned. Frequently.

One of the steps to this stall cleaning involves the laying down of that stall version of kitty litter, sawdust. As you can imagine, it takes a lot of sawdust to fill a stall, or, in my case, three stalls, and the sawdust has to be added to frequently. Here in our watchtower on the Thorncrest peninsula on the hilly ground sloping down to the Sea of Terror, we have five stalls, one of which is given over to holding sawdust. We were running low, so I paid a fellow to dump some more from a small dump truck. It took yours truly some three and a half hours to shovel it into the stall. I’m in decent shape, but the muscles one uses for shovelling aren’t ones I normally use and I’m a bit sore today as a result.

I was talking with John about the irony of these horses at Black Gate’s southern outpost. Here, now, I finally have hands-on, eyewitness experience working with horses every single day, and there isn’t a single horse in the novel series I’m working on, nor will there be, since the whole thing is a sword-and-planet seafaring thing. I used to write pieces with horses all the time. When I next do that, I’ll be able to write of them far more convincingly. Maybe I’ll have Dabir and Asim solve the mystery of a murdered horse. Hah.


Off with a Bang

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

The new year rolls on. I can’t say that it’s started with a successful charge, exactly. My van was damaged in a head-on collision in which I escaped any injury whatsoever. The other driver is sore but okay, but his car is a mess, whereas mine has superficial but expensive damage. His insurance is paying, fortunately for me. In an odd moment of synchronicity one of my sisters had a car accident on the very same day within an hour or two of mine. She, too, is okay, but her car is totalled.

All in all, though, things here in Black Gate’s southern outpost overlooking the Sea of Terror are pretty good. John is working hard on BG 12 and making some very tough decisions on a final handful of subs (we really will get back to all of you, soon!). I am working on reviews for said issue, which includes the onerous task of reading through a big stack of really amazing new gaming products. Man, the material produced these days is just really good. It’ll be hard to find much bad to say about anything I’m seeing this time around, but then I come from the school of review where I just tell it like I see it. If all the products get a big thumbs up it doesn’t mean I’m going soft, it just means that they’re all pretty danged cool.

Speaking of danged cool, I just got Haffner Press’s second Brackett collection (or third, if you count the collection that also reprinted some Edmund Hamilton). It’s glorious. Soon all of Brackett’s short science adventure stories will be in lovely hardbacks, courtesy of Haffner Press. Paizo’s gearing up for some paperback reprints of some of Brackett’s Eric John Stark adventures, which will be a great way to introduce a new generation of readers as to why having hardback sets from the Queen of Space Opera is a must. The borders between sword-and-sorcery, science fiction, and fantasy all blur when you plop down with a Brackett story. All that really matters is how good the stories are.



The New Year

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Black Gate News

The New Year has dawned, bright with promise. Here at Black Gate we have lots of plans we hope to carry to fruition over the course of the year, starting with issue 12 come February. 

All old submissions should be answered at this point. If not, please drop us a line! The caveat is that a few authors who’ve been previously accepted have some things they turned over in the last few months — we’ll be getting to those shortly.

I know there are many of you who are curious about when we’re going to re-open. Well, our first priority was finishing off the submission pile. The next priority is Black Gate 12. We don’t need any distractions from that. So it may be a few months yet before we open to unsolicited subs, and when we do, we will definitely be using reading periods. We’ll keep you posted. 

The Old Year

I’ve been pretty busy and I know I missed out on all kinds of great reading this year. I’d be curious to hear what you all thought were some of the best novel reads of ’07. Most of my favorites were unpublished (or soon to be) manuscripts, but I really enjoyed the historical by Scott Oden, Men of Bronze, and Jack Vance’s The Demon Princes (vol 1), and Arundel. I read the last Harry Potter and I liked it, but I doubt I’ll ever revisit it. Aside from Potter, all of my reading choices were at least a couple of years old, and, in the case of Arundel, multiple decades. About the only modern stuff I read is by friends or Black Gate submitters and writers. I need to branch out more. Hopefully this year I’ll have a wee bit more time.

What were your favorites?



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