Targetted Book Recommendations #2

Sunday, May 10th, 2009 | Posted by peadarog

Part One of this enthralling series is here.

Finally, I shut my big mouth and show a few cards. Novels are what it’s all about, but not just any novels. We want something immediate. We want action and adventure. And although introspection and other, more literary qualities won’t be run out of town with the imprint of my boot on their buttocks, they must never, ever slow the story down. In short, we’re after books that embody the spirit of Black Gate.

Got it? Let’s see then… Read More »

It’s the End of the World as We Know It…

Saturday, May 9th, 2009 | Posted by Soyka

A few posts ago, I asked if, given current economic and political conditions, the next thematic trend in SF and fantasy will be a return to woeful tales of doom and disaster. Sure enough, lately I’m coming across signs that the zeitgeist might be finding a warm place in Cold War era end-of-the-world narratives.

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal there’s a short review of Genesis by Bernard Beckett.  Yeah, I know, the title is cringe-inducing, but it actually fits (both the title and the author’s surname), at least according to writer Jeffrey Trachetenberg’s description:

…survivors in a world destroyed by nuclear and biological weapons are forced to re-think what makes the human species special…the issue of machine self awareness emerges as pivotal.

Not exactly original, but, then again, “nothing is new under the sun” as Ecclesiastes noted back in antiquity and, as Trachetenberg notes, revisiting this time honored trope is in part a result of “deep-rooted international concerns about such issues as global warming and the 9/11 attacks.”

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Internet Review of Science Fiction reviews Black Gate 13

Friday, May 8th, 2009 | Posted by John ONeill

Every month Lois Tilton covers the best new short fiction in her column at The Internet Review of Science Fiction, one of the genre’s most respected and enjoyable e-zines. This is what she had to say (in part) about Black Gate 13:

In recent issues, this zine has shifted its emphasis toward the Sword and Sorcery end of the fantasy spectrum, and every piece of fiction here could be described to some extent as Dark Fantasy. But there is dark Dark Fantasy and light Dark Fantasy, and most of the stories here are on the lighter side.

“The Good Sheriff”  by David Wesley Hill

Charles Duke, in a previous installment of this series, has found himself in another world, where the gold he has accumulated is worthless. Here, the local currency is grains of good. Duke locates a sorcerer who agrees to send him back to 1879 Texas in exchange for a fee, and since he has just killed the local sheriff, he takes over the job and finds several ways to make it pay. But of course there are complications:

“‘Ah, crap,’ Duke muttered, and sprinted for the constable’s office, where the three deputies were standing on the porch rail and goggling at the energy display.

Duke’s first instinct was to take down “Old Reliable” from its peg on the wall, but instead of the shotgun, he armed himself with his Henry repeater.”

This light fantasy is pretty fun to read and stands quite well on its own. Duke is an interesting character, well-suited to this sort of tale.


You can find the complete review here.

Imaro: The Trail of Bohu

Friday, May 8th, 2009 | Posted by Bill Ward

trail-of-bohuImaro: The Trail of Bohu
Charles R. Saunders
Sword & Soul Media (217 pages, $20.00, January 2009)

Fans of Sword & Sorcery and Heroic Fantasy had reason to rejoice as 2009 kicked-off with a big release from one of the genre’s master storytellers. No, it wasn’t a new Elric novel, nor a previously undiscovered Fafhrd and Gray Mouser short. And not a book by one of those other famous names, Howard, Vance, Gemmell, or Wagner, either. It was Imaro: The Trail of Bohu, the third in the Imaro series, by the best fantasy author you’ve never heard of.

Of course, many of Black Gate’s readers have heard of and are fans of Charles R. Saunders, but the world at large has been slow to catch up. The perilous journey of the Imaro series into and out of print has been related elsewhere, but finally it seems things have gotten on the right track and this previously unfinished series will at last be in the hands of fans everywhere, thanks to new imprint Sword & Soul media.

Imaro: The Trail of Bohu continues the saga of the outcast warrior Imaro in the land of Nyumbani; a rich fantasy setting based on African history and myth. But, while the first two books in the series, Imaro and Imaro: The Quest for Cush, were essentially episodic in structure (constructed as they were of Saunders’ short stories), The Trail of Bohu, the first Imaro book written as a novel from start to finish, presents us with a bigger overall story — it is, in fact, the beginning of the arc that will carry the reader through books four and five and, let’s just say, things really start to get going in this installment of the Imaro saga.

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Gulo Gulo IV

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009 | Posted by James Enge

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is zapped into obscurity by the twin phaser-blasts of Trekstalgia and JJAbramitude, I would like to point out that the movie doesn’t actually suck.

I don’t know why I care. Big-budget summer blockbusters don’t weep for me; why should I weep for them? What’s Hecuba to me, or me to Hecuba?

Still, there was a lot of Wolverine hate fogging up the internet in the last week. A fair sample is the AV Club review (and the AV Talk segment that followed). If it hadn’t been for some dissenters, like the wide-ranging, always shrewd Ryan Harvey, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to see the movie at all. But I think it is worth seeing, for anyone who liked X-Men and its sequel, anyway.

More maundering, speckled with caveats and spoilers, after the jump.

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Kobolds Ate My Baby! Super Deluxx Edition

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

Kobolds Ate My Baby! Super Deluxx Edition
By Chris O’Neill and Dan Landis. Illustrated by John Kovalic. (Dork Storm Press, 2005; $14.99)

I’ve previously mentioned in a comment thread that when it comes to tabletop role-playing games, I lean toward the rules-lite side of the equation. I’d rather have a system that allows flexible play, with minimal die-rolls and looking up charts, and greater focus on the “role-playing” instead of the “game.” Given a good Game Master, rules-lite games can feel as close to realistic as any of the more simulationist systems. My favorite RPG of all time, Fudge, has managed to adapt and handle any other game system, setting, or style I’ve thrown at it. In fact, it’s almost the only system I use. Any RPG that comes out I translate into Fudge…

…with the exception of “Beer and Pretzels” RPGs, in which sheer simplicity and ludicrousness are the norm.

Most rules-lite systems are geared toward the Beer and Pretzels genre: RPGs that are played for comedy and speed and with minimum planning and plenty of bad bad bad beer. Risus is the Beer and Pretzels equivalent of Fudge, a complete generic system (six pages long!) usable for quick ‘n’ silly RPGs late at night. I might discuss Risus in another post—it’s interesting both as a rules-lite system and as a purposeful parody of all other early RPGs. Fudge also deserves a long review, because it’s so wonderful that it’s a shame it isn’t spread like a beautiful pandemic to every corner of the hobby.

But today I bring you the most popular setting-specific Beer and Pretzels game, a funny and witty spoof on the concept of “cannon fodder” in Dungeons & Dragons: Dork Storm Press’ Kobolds Ate My Baby! Super Deluxx Edition, written by Chris O’Neil and Dan Landis—and hereafter abbreviated KAMB! (The manual loves exclamation marks! With a passion! See!)

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Bill Ward reviews Black Gate 13

Monday, May 4th, 2009 | Posted by John ONeill

Welcome back Bill!

We’ve missed Bill during his sabbatical from the BG blog. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been busy. On Sunday he posted another in his regular series of Black Gate magazine reviews. Here’s what he said about our latest issue, in part:

One look at Black Gate and you understand what makes it the leader in this field. Gorgeous cover and interior art, a huge amount of content including short stories and novellas, non-fiction, and an extensive reviews section that takes on both gaming and current fiction offerings, makes Black Gate a magazine that delivers on all cylinders…

Fans of John C. Hocking’s story in Lords of the Swords, ‘Vali’s Wound,’ will be excited to see the precursor story to that tale of vikings, ‘The Face in the Sea.’ Peadar Ó Guilín returns to Black Gate with another weird tale, ‘The Evil Eater,’ a contemporary fantasy in which a forbidden food leads to an underworld of horror. And John R. Fultz offers another strong fantasy, one of the best in the issue, with a tale of wizards and rebels in a most compellingly drawn setting in ‘Return of the Quill.’

You can find the full review here .

The REAL economics of fantasy

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009 | Posted by Theo

Just a short post as I’ve been occupied today with discussing the economic situation with a few executives in key industries. It’s a bit of a good news/bad news situation… which do you want first?

Very well, the bad news is that the global economy is looking in atrocious shape indeed. By which I mean that the financial crisis that was theoretically contained last fall by the various fiscal and monetary authorities appears to have finally spread into the material economy; I’m not talking about the April OECD outlook or anything that you see on the news but rather the sort of thing that’s going to be showing up in reports three months from now.

The good news, on the other hand, is that this sort of situation tends to boost books and games. When people stay home, they usually read a lot more and there are very few entertainments with a less expensive cost per hour than games. It’s probably not an accident that Robert E. Howard’s works were born during the Great Depression or that Tolkein wrote The Lord of the Rings during World War II, writers seek escapism for much the same reason readers do. Since those magazines that survive hard times tend to thrive both creatively and commercially, based on John’s previous comments we can predict that Black Gate will not only continue to improve, but may well become the foremost magazine of fantasy literature.

Targetted Book Recommendations for Non-Existent Readers

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009 | Posted by peadarog

You and Me

Once upon a time, I met a guy who only ever ate fries*. Anything else, it was claimed, would make him violently ill. Now, he looked healthy enough and suffered no heart attacks while I was watching him, so who knows? Maybe it worked out well for him. But it’s rare in life to find an adult whose belly is so cantankerous that it rejects even pizza with such colourful speed. And it is equally rare to meet an adult reader who only wants Sword and Sorcery, or Flying Carpet Wonder tales. Or whatever.

Most people, enjoy a bit of variety. Personally, I feast at many tables — historical fiction, mysteries, SF hard and soft; fantasy high, low, light and dark. I love it all depending on my mood, and I imagine that most of you will have similar lists, maybe replacing the SF with Romance, or the mysteries with Great American Novels. The only thing we can be sure of having in common, is a penchant for character-driven SFF adventure stories — i.e. the type of thing that BG does best. You probably wouldn’t be reading this otherwise.

Targeted Book Recommendations

Recommending books, as we all know, is a bit like giving presents to a loved one. You can give something that you would like, or, if you’re feeling more generous, you can take their tastes into consideration too.

I remember one particular disaster when a friend of mine suggested George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones to One-Footed Jimmy, even though everybody knew poor Jimmy has had an aversion to swords since that time the display came loose during his visit to a museum… OFJ wouldn’t touch Black Gate with a barge-pole, but imagine, if you will, that you had to buy a book for somebody who loved the magazine. What would you pick? You’re not trying to educate this person, you’re not allowed to show-off. The one thing you know about your victim’s diet is that he or she drools twice a year over the brown envelope that Mr. O’Neill sends from Chicago.

What would you choose? Why?

I’ll be putting up my answers to these questions some time next week.

* In Ireland, we refer to them as “chips”. Do NOT be confused.

Finding a cure…

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009 | Posted by Soyka

While public health officials and the vice president fear for the worst, I haven’t started wearing a face mask. If there’s anything that looks to me like something out of a sci-fi movie, it’s people going about their daily business with those things on. Can designer face masks be far behind, maybe just the sort of thing to stimulate consumer spending and get the economy going again?

In any event, Steve Carper has devised a particularly ironic solution to the problem in A Kiss is Just a Kiss, which is a sample of his tales collected in Tyrannosaur Faire. You can buy his book here as either a downloadable PDF or good-old fashioned print. The collection includes Steve’s “Pity the Poor Dybbuk,” which first appeared in Black Gate’s second issue, back in the Summer of 2001, when everyone was breathing easier.

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