Knight at the Movies: James Bond, The Ultimate Fantasy Hero

Sunday, March 30th, 2008 | Posted by Web Master

When we think of Ian Fleming’s iconic superspy, our thoughts turn to action, sleuthing, womanizing, and of course hi-tech gadgets. But how many of us has ever considered James “007” Bond primarily a fantasy hero? E. E. Knight does, and at Black Gate this week he takes a long, thoughtful look at one of the greatest literary and filmic creations of all time, showing us how Bond’s appeal is not just as a cold war soldier oozing cool, but as the memorable hero of “fairy tales with Aston Martins, fables with Walthers, swashbucklers with assault helicopters.”

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A Review of The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008 | Posted by Web Master

Most of us remember John Steinbeck (1902–1968) for classic novels such as Tortilla Flat, Of Mice and Men, Cannery Row, The Pearl, East of Eden, and of course his Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath. But how many of us knew that at his death he left an unfinished adaptation of Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, a labor of love he had been tinkering with for over ten years?

Mark Rigney, a longtime fan of T. H. White’s The Once and Future King and all things Arthurian, has perused the fine new edition of this book released last fall by Viking Press, with a foreword by Eragon author Christopher Paolini.

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Return of the Sword

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Today I want to give a shout out for a book from the minds at the new Flashing Swords E-zine.

Return of the Sword is a multi-author collection of adventure stories. If you’re looking for sword-slinging, action-packed mayhem then you ought to be pretty happy with what you’ll find within. (If you’re more into lit fantasy or urban women who sleep with vampires, then you should probably wander elsewhere, but I won’t be wandering with you.)

In addition to featuring a Morlock story by Black Gate stalwart James Enge, the book contains a thrilling Cossack short from Harold Lamb, tales from authors who’ve sold stories to future issues of Black Gate, like S. C. Bryce and Robert Rhodes, and fiction from numerous friends and colleagues now working with Black Gate or dating back to my own tenure at Flashing Swords, like Bruce Durham, Nathan Meyer, Steve Goble, Thomas MacKay, Allen Lloyd and Bill Clunie, and many others. RotS editor Jason Waltz asked me to introduce both the Harold Lamb story and an in-depth (and interesting, and helpful) essay on fiction writing by E. E. Knight, so my name’s on the table of contents as well.

If heroic fiction and sword-and-sorcery are your thing, or maybe just an occasional guilty pleasure, I urge you to pick up this book. Jason and the rest of the crew at the new Flashing Swords are out fighting the good fight trying to give folks another market for adventure fantasy. They need your support.

For even more details, Eric has covered the book in great depth. Click on the picture above for more information.
Howard


Game Day

Sunday, March 9th, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Warning — there’s RPG-heavy talk in this post. Non gamers will probably pass out from boredom…

Our role-playing group gets together almost every Friday, and we decided to work our way through an old 1st edition D&D module to remember the passing of the father of role-playing games. We didn’t know it was Gary Con until I visited The Lair of the Evil DM today (I usually visit once a week or so). The idea of Gary Con was that everyone get together to play a game this weekend. A fine idea, and I’m sure we’re not the only gamers who decided on a tribute without even knowing there was something of an official movement.

I divested myself of almost all my D&D modules at some point in the ’80s. There were a few I couldn’t sell off — not because of sentimental value, but because everyone in my group then, and in other groups in the area, thought Shrine of the Kuo-Toa was dull and that Tomb of Horrors was impossible. For those not in the know, Tomb of Horrors is an expedition into the tomb of an undead wizard and is infamous for its difficult, nay, ludicrous challenges. Because I didn’t want to kill off my players or try to work the dungeon into the existing fantasy campaign, where it had no place, I just told them they were having a shared dream.

This time, what had seemed impossible and annoying proved a laugh-riot. The traps WERE impossible. “Why would anyone DO that?” we found ourselves asking. Instead of grinding our teeth in frustration when something went amiss, though, we dissolved into laughter. All the characters got blasted into smithereens when someone touched an exploding altar, so  I ruled that they woke up from their dream, had a little trouble returning to sleep, then reappeared in the tomb in the same spot…

We didn’t quite finish the whole thing, but we had fun, and afterward we all reminisced about early campaigns and looked over copies of the 1st edition books one of our players had retained. All of us had come from different groups, but we’d all started with AD&D. It’s funny, but I hadn’t ever thought about how MANY of my friends come from role-playing, and for most of us, that started with AD&D. One little game had a huge, long-lasting, extremely positive impact on my life.

Friday I played part of a module from Dark City Games with my kids, and another part of it with them today. They loved it, and so did I.

Some say that tabletop RPGs are on their way out. I sure hope not. I’m a little too tired to wax too philosophical about it, but I sure hope not. Here at the southern outpost of Black Gate, on the shores of the Sea of Terror, we’ll be playng for many a year to come.

Here are two more links I wanted to share. The first is to a nice RPG celebration my good friend Eric Knight put up over the weekend.

The other is a nice cartoon from Order of the Stick.

Next time I post I’ll finally put up that small Black Gate 12 sneak preview I mentioned.

Howard


A Good Run

Thursday, March 6th, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Well…. Damn. My cat’s dead.

I’m not really a cat person: I like medium to large-sized dogs that you can play frisbee with or hike with or wrestle with… but this little yellow longhair  tabby has been part of the family for 18 years and when I came home and found her lying there all still I got a lump in my throat.

Damn, she could be annoying as hell. But she liked to sit next to me while I was working at my desk, and she greeted me every morning (and sometimes in the night for no good reason) with that meow that sounded increasingly like a rusty hinge these last few years. She was a good mouser, and she liked my kids. She was the queen of the house, a grumpy old lady who liked sleeping in the sunbeams and grew increasingly brazen the last few years — standing on the table top while we were clearing it off after dinner, for instance. Maybe we all get more stubborn and determined when we’re older.

I’m going to miss little Camilla. Hell, she’s been our cat since before we were married, back when we had a dive apartment and a sequence of crummy first jobs. Even though mostly she’s been sleeping for the last three years, in retrospect it was nice knowing she was somewhere around. The house will seem a lot more lonely without her.

Now I’ve got to tell the kids, and pick out a nice spot in the yard to bury her. Near a tree, maybe, where the sunbeams will fall in the afternoon.

Howard


Black Gate Symposium: A Tribute to E. Gary Gygax (1938 – 2008)

Thursday, March 6th, 2008 | Posted by Web Master

The death of Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, marks the passing of an era. Gygax changed the face of fantasy like no other since J.R.R. Tolkien or Robert E. Howard. D&D brought people together, forged lasting friendships, and introduced a whole new generation to classic fantasy — in the process firing imaginations, heavily influencing the fledgling computer and video game markets, and laying the foundation for the billion-dollar online RPG industry. Just as importantly Gygax invited — indeed, demanded — that his readers become creators themselves, and the young fans he inspired eventually became some of today’s bestselling authors, including Raymond E. Feist, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, R. A. Salvatore, Ed Greenwood, and dozens of others.

While his creation became famous the world over, Gygax never truly left his home in Lake Geneva, WI, and remained approachable and active until his death on Tuesday, March 4, 2008. To mark the passing of one of our generation’s most creative minds, Black Gate has assembled several personal reminiscences, from BG webmaster and Cimmerian editor Leo Grin, Planet Stories editor and publisher Erik Mona, and Black Gate editors Howard Andrew Jones and John O’Neill.

Finally, we invite you to drop by the Black Gate blog, where you can leave your own memories and thoughts, either about Gygax or any of his varied creations, from D&D to Greyhawk, Drow to Fantastic Journeys, Lejendary Adventure to Castles & Crusades.

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He Will Be Missed

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Some people light a candle or two in the house of imagination; Gary Gygax fired an immense bonfire, and one which has sparked countless other fires as well.

I know I’m not the only one who called up old gamer friends yesterday to mourn the passing of an age. Even if you haven’t played the game in a dog’s age, or a couple of dog’s ages, if you’ve gamed, you’ve been influenced by Gygax. And I don’t mean just pencil and paper gaming — the mindset behind D&D permeated electronic fantasy games and the newer online worlds. I haven’t used D&D mechanics for years (mostly because I, as the game master, can’t keep all those numbers and charts straight) — but D&D was the first role-playing game I ever played. Like countless others, if I hadn’t played THAT one, and if it had never existed, I would never have played the others. Countless hours of entertainment and inspiration can be traced back to the game Gygax helped create.

Lest we forget, Gygax also introduced gamers  to fantasy literature. Those of you who had that first hardback Dungeon Master’s Guide may well remember the suggested reading list, mentioning such names as Howard and Leiber and Moorcock and Vance and so on. I remember heading to the library with that list. Gygax led me to Fritz Leiber’s Swords Against Death, which has remained one of my all-time favorite fantasy collections. I was talking with Black Gate‘s Ryan Harvey just last night, and he told me that list had introduced him to one of his very favorite writers, Clark Ashton Smith.

I never had the opportunity to meet the man, but his friends and family are in my thoughts. E. Gary Gygax  was an opener of the ways. He will be missed.

An especially thoughtful remembrance can be found here at the Paizo blog.

Howard Andrew Jones


Dave Truesdale’s 2007 SF and Fantasy Recommended Reading List

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008 | Posted by Web Master

OK, so you’re an avid reader of sci-fi and fantasy, and you’re always on the lookout for new material. Trouble is, in a field as diverse and prolific as this, where do you start searching? The list of books and other publications released last year is a daunting one. With hundreds — thousands? — of novels, novelettes, and short stories to choose from, it’s tougher than ever to winnow them all down to a manageable selection of the very best stories.

Black Gate correspondent Dave Truesdale is here to help. He has done all of the groundwork for you, scouring a vast array of books, anthologies, magazines, and small-press items for the cream of the 2007 crop. The result is a select list of 214 of the top tales printed last year, all of them sorted and arranged right here at your greedy fingertips. All the standouts are here, stories culled from anthologies such as The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Future Weapons of War, Alien Crimes, Logorrhea, The New Space Opera, Coyote Road, Eclipse One, The Solaris Book of New Fantasy, Man vs. Machine, Writers of the Future XXIII, and Thrilling Wonder Stories, along with magazines like Asimov’s, Analog, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Realms of Fantasy, Interzone, Paradox, Weird Tales, H. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror, Talebones, Apex, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and of course Black Gate. It’s a massive list that will keep you enmeshed in the best that sci-fi and fantasy has to offer for a long time, and it’s only available here at Black Gate. Dive in!

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