Black Gate 13

Monday, March 9th, 2009 | Posted by David Munger

Black Gate Issue 13 CoverWhat awaits you in the latest issue of Black Gate, the finest adventure fantasy magazine on the planet? Gunslinger Charles Duke (Black Gate 4) returns in a weird western tale featuring gods, demons – and a sorcerer who drives a hard bargain indeed.  A resourceful thief uncovers a most unexpected surprise deep in a deadly tomb… Grimsort the necromancer  learns just how dangerous it is to court a beautiful ghost in the treacherous city of Narr… a small band of soldiers finds they are the last hope in a river battle against alien bonesetters… and the desperate survivors of  the Selvanos colony retreat before the advancing horror of the antriders to make a last stand in St. George.  Featuring John C. Hocking, L.E. Modesitt, Peadar Ó Guilín, John R. Fultz, David Wesley Hill, and the conclusion of Mark’s Sumner riveting novel The Naturalist.  All this plus our Letters column, book and game reviews, and a brand new Knights of the Dinner Table strip!  At $9.95 for 224 big pages, it’s the best bargain in fantasy reading.

Check out the Issue 13 preview page.

The Triumph of John Norman

Sunday, March 8th, 2009 | Posted by Theo

Although it’s more than a little gauche in SF/F-writing circles to say it, I rather liked John Norman’s Gor series. Despite their overt sensuality and “sexism” that was so often decried by male and female authors alike, I always found the Gor novels to be far more societally and historically sophisticated than REH’s books, even if the repetitive theme of uptight girl meets boy, boy enslaves girl, girl loosens up and discovers orgasmic ecstasy in boy’s chains does tend to get a bit old.  Perhaps the physics of the Counter Earth were less than accurate, but that’s why Gor was rightly characterized as sword-and-planet fantasy, not science fiction.  But the deeply ironic thing about Norman’s much-despised works was that they were known to have a VERY enthusiastic female following, which tended to fly directly in the face of the theory that the Gor novels were deeply offensive to all women and of little appeal to anyone who wasn’t an overheated adolescent boy with no actual experience of women.

However, a recent article on ITWorld highlighted the interesting fact that ebook purchases are currently being driven by erotic fantasy purchased by female readers. In fact, “of the top 10 bestsellers under the “Multiformat” category, nine are tagged “erotica” amd the last is “dark fantasy”.” Best-selling titles include The Demon’s Librarian, Mastering Chaos, and Submission.

So, it seems John Norman may have had it right after all. Not only does she look beautiful in chains, but she likes it. A lot.

Festival of the Book

Saturday, March 7th, 2009 | Posted by Soyka

One of the advantages of living near a college town is The Virginia Festival of the Book.  The two things that persuaded me to move to Charlottesville were the extensive music scene  — the hometown of Dave Matthews with venues for just about any major artist from Dylan and Springsteen to Bill Frissel and Jane Siberry to locals such as Devon Sproule ( just this past week I saw Joan Baez and Ani DiFranco); and the home of WTJU, one of the last remaining noncommercial free form terrestrial radio stations where they even let someone like me spin discs on a Saturday night —  and the fact that in the downtown there are literally a half dozen used and independent book stores  all within strolling distance.  This year’s book festival has Mary Doria Russell, though she’s assigned to historical fiction which has been her genre of choice lately, but it also has some comics, fantasy, SF discussions that I’ll probably attend, though I’m not overly familiar with most of these authors. The danger, of course, is the likelihood of adding even more books to the already overweighted “to be read” shelves.

Check it out, if you’re in the neighborhood.

Short Fiction Review #14: Interzone #220/February 2009

Thursday, March 5th, 2009 | Posted by Soyka

Back in June, Interzone published an edition dedicated to “Mundane SF,” which essentially means the story’s future speculative setting must be based on plausible science. So, no FTL, which virtually eliminates space opera, or telepaths or pointy eared aliens who speak English and act more or less like human beings except that they have pointy ears even though they live on planets light years away from Earth.  I guess. It all sounds to me like Hard SF in a girdle, and I don’t quite get it. You could, for example, group fiction that takes place only in New York City, or must involve farm implements, or that is first person narration by a transsexual. I mean, it might be interesting to read a collection of stories that take place in New York City, if only to say, “Oh, I recognize that restaurant where the characters are eating, I go there all the time,” but, beyond that, I’m not really sure how the categorization serves to help the reader to appreciate the author’s technique or critical perspective. Geoff Ryman’s introduction seems to say that one purpose of mundanity is to provide hope (and, indeed, his own contribution, “Talk is Cheap,” seeks to show how hope springs eternal in even direst circumstances). But, I’m not so sure why that should be the case. After all, On the Beach takes the mundane approach to the possibility of nuclear holocaust that is plausible, but certainly not hopeful.

I was thinking about this in reading the latest Interzone, which, with one exception, could be a mundane issue.  Not only in the sense of plausible scientific extrapolation, but also in the sense of, well, being mundane in trodding  familiar ground.  Not that this is necessarily a bad thing; the better stories here manage to unearth some disturbing ideas that are certainly relevant to our mundane existences.
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The Nebulation: Short Stories

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009 | Posted by James Enge

When I became eligible to become a member of SFWA last year I thought about it long and hard and finally decided to join. I forget why, now. The experience hasn’t exactly been a bad one–it’s been oddly non-experiential, as a matter of fact. For instance, you may have noticed that the final ballot for this year’s Nebulas was recently announced, here… and here (and elsewhere). The information content is not identical on these apparently official pages, and they don’t seem to be aware of each other’s existence. There is no link to an actual ballot where one might actually vote (here or apparently in the members-only section of the site), or any information on the deadline for voting. I queried for info at the “query for info” email address; I was told that I’d be told when the final ballots were mailed. Old school mail: carried by weary snails and weighed down with stamps and stuff.

I am a traditionalist, and all that. But maybe not all that. The thing is, I like the snails pretty well, but they don’t seem to be able to find my house reliably. Email is faster, more reliable, cheaper, more check-backable. Why not use it? Are we not Living in the Future? Also, doesn’t SFWA know now when the votes are due? Why can’t they tell us? Why not have, say, one page with all the relevant info or links between all relevant pages? Where shall wisdom be found? Where is the place of understanding?

You practically can’t be an SFWA member unless you’re kvetching about something, so there’s my kvetch of the day.

But to celebrate my first and possibly last Nebula vote, I thought I’d read as much of the nominated work as I can and inflict it on share it with you readers of the Blog Gate. This week: short stories.

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Tarzan Swing-By: Tarzan and “The Foreign Legion”

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

Tarzan and Foreign Legion 1st edI would like to step forward at this moment to address the audience before the curtain rises on our feature book review presentation so that I may make a personal observation about Edgar Rice Burroughs. Specifically, I would like to explain why I’ve written so many posts about his work in the last few weeks.

Burroughs needs no excuse for discussion in a magazine dedicated to heroic fantasy and planetary romance. Adventure literature as we know it springs from the influence of Burroughs in the early twentieth century. Although pulp magazines existed before Burroughs published Under the Moons of Mars (later titled A Princess of Mars) and Tarzan of the Apes, this double-punch in 1912 changed the style of this publishing medium for the remainder of its lifetime, and the influence continued into the paperback revolution and on into our era. Burroughs looms as one of the Titans of genre literature. But the true question is: Why am I re-reading so much of his work right now, in concentrated doses that I usually reserve for no author?

One answer is that I enjoy writing about Burroughs almost as much as I enjoy reading him. For an author who supposedly crafted straightforward entertainment, Edgar Rice Burroughs’s novels contain a remarkable breadth of ideas for debate and consideration. But a deeper reason for such current copious reading of Burroughs is that his work always gives me a unique uplift. In times of uncertainty and concern, I find that no author can temporarily re-energize me than ERB. Even a violent and embittered book, such as the one I’m about to discuss, provides an energy boost like a literary vodka with Red Bull. Burroughs knows how to make life seem wild, colorful, and far removed from the petty concerns of the everyday. It isn’t strictly “escapism,” a word I dislike, but a form of romantic empowerment. Burroughs’s daydreams on paper enhance our yearning for that which is beyond what we have to struggle with in day-to-day life.

End of psychological exegesis. The curtain now rises on today’s Tuesday Topic: one of Burroughs’s most unusual books, one that few people have read because — let’s face facts — how many but the most dedicated fans manage to reach Book #22 in any long-running series?

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The Pity of the Wolves: Joseph Campbell, part 2

Monday, March 2nd, 2009 | Posted by Judith Berman

wolf-and-sisiutlsmall1A few years ago, for one of Brian Swann’s anthologies of traditional Native American literature, I translated a quasi-historical story from Kwakwaka’wakw oral tradition that contained in it an episode in which a dead man is brought back to life by wolves. One of the English word choices I struggled with was the term the revivified character later used to describe why the wolves had done it.

Stories about wolves resurrecting the dead permeate older bodies of Kwakwaka’wakw story, and range from ancestor myths to first-person accounts of shamanic initiation. The myths have a subgenre featuring adolescent heroes who go out into the wild, enter the spirit realm, encounter dangerous and beneficient beings–not infrequently dying and resurrecting in the process–and return home with spiritual treasures. Does that not sound just a little bit Campbellian?

One problem with seeing this subgenre as more evidence of the universality of Campbell’s monomyth is that the genre as a whole also has stories featuring magical children and stories featuring mature heroes, each of which has a characteristic structure that is distinct from the adventures of the adolescent hero. Read More »

Writing as contact sport

Sunday, March 1st, 2009 | Posted by Theo

Back in December, I recommended a web site known as the Ranting Room to writers and would-be writers as a useful resource. Like many deceased sites, the Ranting Room has closed its doors, unlike most of them, it has risen, Phoenix-like, from the embers of its demise and been resurrected in a form that is even more useful and entertaining than before.

What is now known as The Friday Challenge is a group blog which consists of professional writers, non-professional writers, and interested readers. Each Friday, a writing challenge is posed by one of the luminaries, which include fantasy eminence grise Joel Rosenberg as well as the guy who coined the term “Cyberpunk”, and anyone who happens to be interested in meeting the challenge has a week to write a story in response. I was charged with providing last week’s challenge, which was to rewrite a fairy tale in the spirit, if not the vein, of Tanith Lee and Neil Gaiman; you can read the various entries here if you are so inclined. Winners are announced the following Sunday, and while the quality of the entrants is often mixed, it often makes for interesting reading, in part due to the chance to see how 10 or 12 different writers go about approaching the same subject.

Other features include the Monday Monologue, the Wednesday Review, and the Story Morgue, where literary post-mortems are performed by sadistic critics upon stories deemed to have been failures. It’s a site that should be of interest to any writer, and may even be of passing interest to readers eagerly awaiting the much-anticipated arrival of Black Gate #13.

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