Black Gate 12, Morlock, and Other Musings

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

1. I finished proofing Black Gate 12 and will be dropping the pages with corrections in the mail around noon. You’d probably expect me to say this, but it’s my favorite issue yet. All but one of the entries is a fantasy adventure piece, which is about the perfect ratio. Those of you who want to see Black Gate as the home for exciting sword-and-sorcery and heroic fiction should rejoice. If you don’t want to see that, don’t hold it against me. There’s plenty of magazines NOT offering adventure stories. Really. Some are pretty good, too. Don’t complain to me; go read those and point your friends who DO like adventure our way.

2. John will make the corrections and ship it to the printer, and launch promptly into prep work for number 13. In the meantime, yours truly is going to take a whack at layout of number 14. It will speed everything up if both John and myself can be relied upon to lay out the magazine, and if I’m working on 14 it gives me more time to learn the program.

3. I’ve been reading more and more Morlock these days. James Enge has a new Morlock tale in this issue of Black Gate, and I had two more in my in box that I read last night, so I’ve had three more Morlock tales this week than almost anyone else. I feel like a guy who got let into the kitchens of some posh restaurant to sample the finest meals before they were introduced to the rest of the world.

4. I’ve been re-reading some texts for historical research on the Abbassid Caliphate. You know, Thousand and One Nights era Baghdad. What to do when one source says ALL men were wearing turbans, and another that says turbans were optional? What to do when one calls the outer layer of clothing a diraa and the other calls it a jubba? More cross referencing, of course. Sources on the period in English are scarce. Perhaps I should get back to learning French beyond counting exercises and tourist information.

5. I have a novel out making the rounds. I grew accustomed some years back to the fact that publishing moves at the speed of slow, so I don’t think too much about a manuscript out there until at least three months have gone by. I figure a year with an agent or publisher probably means it’s time for a query. If anyone else has opinions out there on that, I’d love to hear it. Unfortunately, I’m not even at the six months spot with either the agent or the publisher considering the book, so I shouldn’t have my curiosity up. But I do. No news is good news, right?

6. Work continues apace on my Dabir and Asim novel. The break away from mist novel 2 has gotten me liking the whole mist world again (I needed either a pat on the back or a breath of fresh air) but in absence of any movement with mist novel 1 I’m going to keep cranking on the Dabir and Asim novel, which I’m really enjoying. If someone comes knocking about mist world 1, I have an outline and over 30 k of text roughed out on mist 2, so I’m in what I think is respectable shape. I must admit, however, to giving some thought to “branding.” As I’ve said, I consistently sell Dabir and Asim, and the stories helped land me this Black Gate gig. If those stories are a wedge in to publishing, maybe I should keep hammering away with them, hence the novel. Maybe writing of other characters and settings, much as I like them, isn’t as smart as creating a “brand” and honing that and getting it out there until it’s established. I would say if rather than until, but I would tell myself and other writers to practice craft and believe in yourself. Not because I’m promoting arrogance, but because we need to believe in our work if it’s going to shine, and because the world, honestly, doesn’t really care that much and a writer has to learn that and live with it and find support from within. We also have to work hard on our craft, but that’s a whole separate post.

7. We have a huge number of reviews in the queue. I’m not sure about the monthly game column now, as I’d like these book reviews to come out sooner rather than later. Maybe I’ll take a vote. How many of you want a monthly game column? Maybe bi-monthly is the way to go.


A Review of The Sword-Edged Blonde by Alex Bledsoe

Sunday, May 25th, 2008 | Posted by Web Master

Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review and called it “evocative of fantasy legend Fritz Leiber’s classic tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser” and “Raymond Chandler meets Raymond E. Feist.” It’s the genre-warping debut novel from Alex Bledsoe, mixing sword-and-sorcery and noir into something funny, stylish, and original.

Join Black Gate correspondent Jeff Mejia for an inside look at one of the more audacious fantasy novels to appear in recent years.



Friday, May 23rd, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

The new WIP feels real this morning, as I have just crossed over the 10 k mark. Not bad for a month’s work, especially since this last month I usually got less than an hour to write on writing days, and usually only managed about four writing days a week. I’m hoping I can improve that over the next three months, as I’m not teaching. Or editing anything but Black Gate.

My goal will be to write between 500-1000 k a day, and to manage 5000 k a week. Will I make it? I don’ t know. I’d like to have a 68 k historical mystery/fantasy piece drafted by the end of August. 10 k down, 58 k to go.


Movie Musings

Friday, May 23rd, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

First, I’m almost through with my once-over of Black Gate 12, which I’ll be sending back to John this weekend.

I’ve been looking forward to Indy IV for a while, but as reviews come in I’m less excited. Don’t get me wrong; I’ll probably go see it. Reviews have been fairly positive; the problem is that the descriptions make it sound like the things that bugged me in Last Crusade are to be found in Crystal Skull. My kids just turned old enough to watch the movies, so I borrowed the trilogy from my friend Brad. Crusade ended up being better than I remembered; Temple much worse. Raiders was nearly as good as I remembered it being when I was, what, 10, 12, and that’s saying something. Some of what I liked when I was 12 seems pretty execrable now.

For me, Raiders inspires a willing suspension of disbelief; Crusade only a grudging suspension of disbelief. Temple of Doom didn’t inspire much of anything at all except groans this time through. It was painful. I had remembered later parts of it being better, and while watching it with my kids I kept thinking, ah, well, after this groaner part is a good bit — but, really, not so much.

Temple and Crusade both seem to have lost their footing. Everything is more cartoonish. Take Marcus Brody. In Raiders, while Indy is packing to go after the Ark, Brody says something like “You know, five years ago I would have gone after it myself” and you believe him. He seems competent and seasoned and is played with gravitas. Come Crusade, he’s a goofy absent-minded professor and is scripted only for laughs. Contrast the ridiculous relationship between Indy and the Austrian beauty in Crusade — which is truly awful to watch — and the dialogue between him and Marion in almost any part of Raiders. It’s almost as though they got Raiders right by accident and never figured out how to do it again. The writing is several degrees sharper in Raiders. There’s no villain in the rest of the series who is scripted to be even half as interesting as Belloq, and even the “infodump” scene in Raiders, when Indy and Marcus are telling the American Agents about the Ark, is good. Rather than sounding like an infodump, it’s revealing of character AND builds interest and suspense. That’s just good writing. And acting. In the next two it’s almost as if they got the script to a certain point and said “ah, it’s good enough, let’s go.”

On the whole, I’d rather watch the first of the Brendan Frazer Mummy movies than either Crusade or Temple. It has a bad infodump scene early on, but after that it fires on all cylinders like Raiders, and unlike Temple and Crusade. To my mind, even a movie that is supposed to be “light” has to take itself seriously rather than going in with a wink and a nod at its own cleverness and the audience. I didn’t make it through the second Mummy movie, which seemed to have lost sight of what worked about the first one, but I saw a preview for the third that actually has my interest up. More fool me, probably, but I do love a pulpy romp done properly, and my hope springs eternal.

Now, though, the wife and I are heading out to see Iron Man this weekend. Almost every one of my friends has called or e-mailed to say that I MUST go see it. So we will.


Of Dice and Men: Modern Fantasists and the Influence of Role-Playing Games

Sunday, May 18th, 2008 | Posted by Web Master

This week we lower the drawbridge at Black Gate headquarters and invite you to head out to Clarkesworld magazine for your weekly genre fix. Clarkesworld has just published a lengthy article on the profound effect that fantasy gaming has had on fantasy writing. Written by Justin Howe and Jason S. Ridler, the piece is titled “Of Dice and Men: Modern Fantasists and the Influence of Role-Playing Games.”

Black Gate Publisher John O’Neill and Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones are both quoted in the essay, as are such luminaries as Jeff VanderMeer, Paul Witcover, Tim Pratt, Catherynne M. Valente, Jay Lake, Tim Waggoner, and China Miéville. Pretty cool company!


Black Gate 12

Thursday, May 15th, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Black Gate 12 appeared on my doorstep today. As someone who was a fan of the mag before I joined the staff, it’s still a fanboy thrill to get to see the issue before anyone else. Next issue I’ll start seeing some of the stories I was involved in selecting — these last few, though, have been complete surprises.

12 will be in my hands for just a short while as I perform a proof pass, then the layout zombies will take another crack at it, then off it goes to the printer.

And issue 13 will follow close on its heels.

More news on other things soon. I need to figure out how to set up that “poll taking” feature I see on other people’s blogs so I can finally offer folks a choice on the title of the new Black Gate web column. Maybe I’ll take a crack at that Friday.


Black Gate at Late Night JengaJam

Sunday, May 11th, 2008 | Posted by Web Master

Last week Black Gate Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones was the guest of Jefferson Jenga at his popular and well-regarded call-in podcast show Late Night JengaJam. During the interview they talked with callers and each other about the ups and downs of the fantasy field, numerous authors such as Robert E. Howard, Harold Lamb, and J.R.R. Tolkien, and especially about the perils and rewards of editing one of the premier magazines of fantasy fiction.

It was a lengthy and engrossing conversation, so grab the entire show, pop it onto your iPod, and give it a listen. You can download the entire podcast in MP3 format here.

A Review of Dossouye by Charles R. Saunders

Sunday, May 4th, 2008 | Posted by Web Master

The man is back!

Charles R. Saunders rocked Sword-and-Sorcery in the ’70s and ’80s with his African fantasy hero Imaro, a compelling character who tore through the pages of numerous magazines and whose exploits were ultimately collected in three volumes from DAW. Over the last few years two of those were generously updated and republished by Nightshade Books, causing fans of Saunders’ unforgettable heroes to rejoice at the return of one of the masters of the field.

Now, via Brother Uraeus’ newly created Sword & Soul Media imprint, Saunders brings us the tales of Dossouye, a warrior woman from an alternate Africa that — while not the same as Imaro’s Nyumbani — nevertheless brims with all of the jeweled kingdoms, scheming sorcerers, doomed quests, and death-defying heroes ravenous fantasy fans have come to expect. It’s epic storytelling immersed in a feat of enchanting world-building that at its best rivals Tolkien, and this week at Black Gate reviewer Bill Ward brings you all of the exciting details.


Webcast Appearance

Thursday, May 1st, 2008 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

I Get Interviewed Tonight.

I’ll be on Late Night Jenga Jam tonight at 10:30 PM Eastern. I hope you’ll tune in to listen, and that you’ll be sending me good karmic vibrations or what have you. I’ll be talking about Black Gate and, knowing me, some writing thoughts and opinions on sword-and-sorcery — Robert E. Howard and Harold Lamb are likely to come up.

You can call in live to the show to ask questions of me or listen to the discussion by calling Talkshoe at (724) 444-7444 then entering the Talkcast ID of 6478. for information on joining the chat or phone conversation.

I hope a few of you will tune in!



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