Disney buys Marvel Comics

Monday, August 31st, 2009 | Posted by John ONeill

Holy cow, Disney just agreed to buy Marvel Comics for $4 billion.

Not bad for a company facing bankruptcy just a few years ago.

Clearly the properties they’re most interested in were the movie franchises. Still, I wonder how it will affect comics over the next few years… Will we see more cross-overs? Will Thor face Donald Duck? Will Spider-man appear in the next Toy Story (as one of the executives in the article jokes)?

Certainly the biggest immediate impact will be in merchandizing – not just toys and such, but cross promotion. Likely we’ll see Peter Parker in line for the next Pixar movie, and people in Disney movies will be seen picking up Marvel comics – just as the hip characters in the Fox TV show The O.C were always seen reading D.C. titles

I don’t know how it will affect the comics I still read and care about (like the Brian Michael Bendis Ultimate Spider-man), but I fear it won’t be good.


Non-Fantasy Reading

Saturday, August 29th, 2009 | Posted by Soyka

c595ea9a962fb1e597a344c5551417941414141I tend to go through my “to be read pile” looking for themes as an approach to wend my way through and choose what  I want030727944801_sx50_sclzzzzzzz_ to attack next. These two are about the realities of war and the casualties of those who manage to survive.  The first, Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke is a novel about the Vietnam war fiasco; the other is non-fiction, The Forever War (also the title of  Joe Haldeman’s classic satire of hard SF and the Vietnam war, whether by coincidence or intention I don’t know), a memoir by Dexter Filkins of his experiences as a reporter in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Harrowing, unsettling stuff and highly recommended as a dose of “reality” (even when, as in the case of Johnson’s novel, it is presented through a fictional lens) from fantasy swashbuckling.


Recent Books from Black Gate contributors

Saturday, August 29th, 2009 | Posted by John ONeill

johannes1What’s the point of toiling long hours in relative obscurity for Black Gate, if we don’t pimp your new books?

With that in mind, I’d like to draw attention to a trio of new and upcoming titles from BG contributors – starting with a handsome little volume that caught my eye on the New Arrivals table at Borders last week.  The summary sounded terrific, but it wasn’t until I saw the author photo on the inside flap that I exclaimed “Hey!  I know this guy!”

That’s because Johannes Cabal the Necromancer was written by Jonathan L. Howard, author of the lead story in our last issue, “The Beautiful Corridor,” a nifty little tale of a resourceful young thief penetrating a very dangerous crypt – and the talking corpse (and other surprises) that await her at its heart.

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The Call of Cthulhu Movie, 2005

Friday, August 28th, 2009 | Posted by Bill Ward

the_call_of_cthulhu_dvd_coverDirected by Andrew Leman; starring Matt Foyer, Chad Fifer, Noah Wagner, Ramon Allen Jr., and Ralph Lucas.

I cannot say I’ve ever been impressed with any film I’ve seen purporting to be based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft, as they have all tended to stray pretty far from what makes Lovecraft’s stories interesting in the first place. And they generally show the limits of their budget as well as being both poorly shot and acted. But then I heard about this little gem, distributed by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, that adapts Lovecraft’s foundational short ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ in as loyal and accurate a way as possible. Not only that — and here’s the really interesting bit — the movie itself is a black and white silent film, as if it had been filmed at the time of the story’s publication in the 1920s.

The choice to make this a silent film was a smart one. Firstly, it does help evoke the period of Lovecraft in a way no film before it ever has (all of the ones I’ve ever seen where contemporary pieces, for a start), and also makes it feel like a world apart from our own. In leaving some things unseen and unsaid, and in creating an at times stylized environment, this film activates the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks — and speeches or effects which would seem silly or dreadful when laid bare in a modern film are instead left in the shadows. In surmounting the very limited budget for this project, the choice could not have been better.

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Howard Andrew Jones and the WSJ

Thursday, August 27th, 2009 | Posted by John ONeill

swords21Eric Knight scooped me by breaking the news below, but I thought this was worth making a little noise about.

BG Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones has been quoted extensively in today’s edition of the The Wall Street Journal, in reporter John J. Millar’s lengthy article on the Harold Lamb revival, “Shepherding a Lamb’s Lost Legacy” (available in its entirity here.) 

The article follows the completion of Howard’s eight-volume reprint series of Lamb’s work, now available from Bison Press and Amazon.com

Here’s the opening paragraphs:

“Imagine rummaging through an old stack of pulp magazines and coming across a lost story called ‘The Three Musketeers’ by Alexander Dumas,” says Howard Jones. “If nobody had heard of it, you’d feel compelled to tell people what they were ­missing.”

That’s how Mr. Jones, a writing teacher at the University of Southern Indiana, likens his discovery of Harold Lamb’s historical-adventure fiction. For years, he has tracked down dozens of obscure tales and ­novellas by Lamb. This literary search-and-rescue mission has led to a small boom in the ­author’s popularity. Lamb won’t ever achieve the rank of Dumas, but he may yet win some well-deserved ­posthumous recognition. 

And Mr. Miller closes with:

Lamb’s obituaries in 1962 barely mentioned his fiction. By then, the cheap magazines that had published his yarns were long forgotten except by a few passionate collectors. Like a burial mound’s hidden hoard of treasure, they lay undisturbed, awaiting their rediscovery by Mr. Jones—and now a growing band of admirers.

Once again Howard beats me to one of my life-long ambitions, getting quoted as an expert in the WSJ, and manages to make it look easy.  Fitting with my long and warm friendship with Howard, my immediate reaction was “Rat Bastard!  He’ll pay!”

But until that day – congratulations Howard!


Serpent of Hellas

Thursday, August 27th, 2009 | Posted by ScottOden

On this date, August 27th*, nearly 2500 years ago, the straits of Artemisium came alive with the creak of oar-locks and the bellow of horns. Countless voices raised the paean, the battle-hymn of Athena, to the heavens. As the song reached its crescendo bronze-sheathed rams found their marks, splintering hulls and snapping oars. And so began the Greeks’ three-day clash against the numerically superior armada of Great King Xerxes of Persia, for control of the waters off the northern shore of Euboea—and ultimately, for control of Hellas, itself.

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Lamb gets some notice in the Wall Street Journal

Thursday, August 27th, 2009 | Posted by eeknight

I just wanted to give a quick heads-up that our good friend Howard got some press for his Lamb anthologies in the Wall Street Journal!


Review Roundup

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

With summer waning, I wanted to take a moment to provide thumbnail reviews of things many of you should find of interest.

DVD

rome1Rome – Pretty much a must-see for any fan of sword-and-sorcery or historical fiction. As far as I’m concerned, the two genres are closely related, and I’m sure a fan of either will be a fan of this.Not for the faint-of-heart due to sex and violence… but extremely well written and acted. The story arcs get more and more compelling the deeper into the series you watch. I haven’t been this caught up in a TV series since a friend loaned me the Firefly boxed set.

 

BOOKS

blood-of-ambroseBlood of Ambrose – It should come as no small wonder that I enjoyed James Enge’s first Morlock novel. I’ve been a fan of his work since his first appearance in Black Gate. Good stuff, brimming with brilliant world building, witty characters, and swordplay and foul sorcery.

Bill Ward and I are planning an in-depth look at some of the fine work coming out from the Warhammer game publisher, and I wanted to provide a sneak peek of the goodness we found within.

 

blackheartsBlackhearts Ominbus – I’m halfway through Nathan Long’s collection and have loved every minute of it. A dirty dozen type series in a fantasy land, with flawed but likable characters, fabulous pacing, and great action sequences. I have the suspicion that the rest of it will hold up just as well.

 

eisenhornEisenhorn Omnibus– Dan Abnett wasn’t satisfied with creating a fabulous lead character in an action-packed space opera; he sent him to fantastic places and provides a series of detective/investigative stories full of logical turns, surprises, and plenty of action.

 

 

witch-hunterWitch Hunter Omnibus – I finally got to read C. L. Werner’s first two Mathias Thulman books, full of Gothic menace and brooding castles. I would never have guessed that I would be rooting for a witch hunter, but Werner pulls it off, and delivers plenty of surprises along the way.

 

 

GAMING

travellerMongoose Games has a license for Traveller, and the core book and first supplements (High Guard and Traders and Gunboats) have been well-handled. I look forward to seeing what more they have planned.

 

 

 

cortexCortex System Role Playing Game, from Margaret Weis games, is the engine behind their Firefly game. It’s a slim, elegant-looking system, and will be reviewed in-depth in the next issue of Black Gate.

 

 

level-upGoodman Games has a new magazine, Level Up, that seems at least partly inspired by the original Dragon. Adventures and articles on game play and character interaction are included within. We’ll be reviewing in-depth next issue, but my initial impression is one of delight.

Howard Andrew Jones


The “Other” Harryhausen: The 3 Worlds of Gulliver

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

3_worlds_of_gulliver_posterThe 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960)
Directed by Jack Sher. Starring Kerwin Mathews, June Thorburn, Grégoire Aslan, Basil Sydney, Jo Morrow, Sherri Alberoni, Peter Bull.

First there was the Dynamation spectacle of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. Then there was Mysterious Island. Then the miracle of Jason and the Argonauts, and… wait, I seem to have skipped one. Oh yes, The 3 Worlds of Gulliver, made right after Sinbad. Now how did that one slip away?

Among the “Core Ten” Harryhausen films, the ten color fantasy and period science-fiction pictures he made between 1958 and his retirement in 1981 (all but one produced with Charles H. Schneer), The 3 Worlds of Gulliver gets the least amount of love now. For most of the 1980s, it was probably the unfortunate The Valley of Gwangi that suffered the most neglect, but that was because of its unavailability on video. (The weird name wasn’t helping it either; it certainly wasn’t the filmmakers’ first choice for the title.) Today, The 3 Worlds of Gulliver has turned into something of “the other movie” in the list of Harryhausen classics, even though it came out in 1960 fresh after the smash global success of The 7th Voyage Sinbad and featured that movie’s star, Kerwin Mathews, and its composer, Bernard Herrmann. In fact, Herrmann’s score is well-loved and appreciated among music fans through multiple re-recordings, but those same music lovers often haven’t watched the movie that inspired the music.

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Genre distractions

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009 | Posted by Theo

I’m a fan of Guy Gavriel Kay. Not a big fan, but a definite fan. I recently re-read both The Lions of Al-Rassan and The Fionavar Tapestry recently and realized two things. First, Lions is a really good book. Second, Fionavar is a well-written trilogy that borrows so many elements from so many well-known fantasy novels that it actually detracts from the story.

Just off the top of my head, I specifically noticed ideas taken from Joel Rosenberg, Stephen Donaldson, Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander, and Roger Zelazny. No doubt there were more; I’m not including the obvious Arthurian theme, which frankly I think the books could have done just as well without. I think in the hands of a lesser writer, Fionavar would have been a lifeless Frankenstein’s monster, but it’s interesting to see how Kay’s skill is such that he can weave a reasonable story out of so many begged, borrowed, and stolen threads.


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