Saturday, October 31st, 2009 | Posted by Soyka

200px-imagofparn_spanVery much looking forward to this. 3752907268_a45d683fc41

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is directed by Terry Gilliam, stars Tom Waits as the Devil and Heath Ledger, notwithstanding how they marketed Batman, in his last (albeit, incomplete, which the movie reportedly got around by casting multliple actors in the same role after Ledger died) screen appearance. Here’s the Wikipedia summary. Premiers November 2 and it is to be hoped soon at a theater near you.

On another note, despite my aversion to “dress-up,” I’m going to a party tonight in a t-shirt to which my wife has pinned my daughter’s old Barbie collection (which she never played with, I’m happy to report). I’m going as a “chick-magnet.”

Happy Halloween.

Specialist and Generalist Readers

Friday, October 30th, 2009 | Posted by Bill Ward

stack-of-booksWhen people ask me what I like to read I usually answer with a simple ‘everything,’ but of course that’s not strictly true. I don’t read trigonometry textbooks or Romance novels, celebrity memoirs or cookbooks, monographs on the evolution of sheep shearing or anything by Dan Brown (in fact, just give me that thing on sheep first). But when I say ‘everything’ I’m being figuratively if not literally honest, because my tastes — especially when compared to the average reader — are very broad. I don’t read only one kind of thing. I’m a generalist.

There are plenty of people — possibly even the majority of people — that have a wholly different approach to reading. They are the specialists, and they only like one kind of thing and that is what they read to the exclusion of all else. It is tempting for me to regard this alien species as outside the category of ‘reader’ as I understand it — you know, the sort of person that, as a kid, spent all his lunch money on books, who’s tempted to get rid of his furniture to make room for his library, and who would rather read than watch TV, play jai-alai, or attend model home open house events in the hopes of a buffet spread. To me, a real reader is a voracious omnivore; metaphorically a gaunt, hollow-eyed ghoul with ink-stained fingers and sharpened teeth who knows an insatiable hunger so keenly painful it has in fact become a pleasure of sublime proportions. Our ghoul/reader will eat and eat and eat to the point of dieing, and ask for more with his last breath. Real readers are all a little bit insane — and they hope that no one ever finds the cure for their condition.

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Where The Child Things Are

Thursday, October 29th, 2009 | Posted by James Enge

I finally saw Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are a few days ago (because I’m never the first to see anything, as a matter of policy) and I thought it was pretty good. Some people have reacted with shock and horror to the violence and the scary bits, and maybe I’m over-reacting against them, but there wasn’t anything scarier in the movie than a regular kid might have to face in an average week. Which may, itself, be rather scary, but more so for adults and their illusions than for kids.

Naturally, a two-hour movie can’t be a faithful adaptation of a picture book that has less than twenty sentences in it. And this is often a sort of extended meditation on the book: variations on a theme by Sendak; a movie about being a child rather than a movie for children. If that sounds a little slow, it is a little slow at times; it’s a movie that isn’t afraid to spend a few minutes to make a certain kind of meditative impact. And it does generally end up hitting its target.

[Where the Wild Spoilers Are: beyond the jump.]

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Short Fiction Beat: Halloween Treats

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009 | Posted by Soyka

203In the mail today, just in time for Halloween, is the blood-spattered graphic of the October/Novemberapexmag100109 cover of Black Static magazine, the horror and dark fantasy counterpart that alternates monthly appearances with Interzone science fiction published by the folks at TTA Press. The artwork is by David Gentry.  The stories are:

“Cuckoos” by Tim Lees
“The Shadow Keeper” by Kim Lakin-Smith
“Dead Loss” by Carole Johnstone
“Some of Them Fell” by Joel Lane
“My Secret Children” by James Cooper

There are also several regular nonfiction columns, book and film reviews.

Also just out is dark fiction from  Apex Magazine, available in pdf, web, Kindle and even good old-fashioned print. The October issue features short stories by Alethea Kontis (“A Poor Man’s Roses”), Peter M. Ball (“To Dream of Stars: An Astronomer’s Lament”), Jason Sizemore (“Yellow Warblers”) and Paul Jessup (“Ghost Technology From the Sun”), and a poem by  J.C. Hay (“After, Thoughts–A Pantoum”).  There’s also an interview with Brandon Massey by Maurice Broaddus and recommended reading from  Ekaterina Sedia.

Concerning National Novel Writing Month

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

In a few days, the clock will click over from October 31st, Halloween, and pass into November 1st, a day usually associated with the major retailers of North America vomiting out as much Winter Holiday displays they can. (Once they waited until the day after Thanksgiving, but now I think they are prepared to creep into mid-October as well, before the pumpkins are even carved.)

But for tens of thousands of people across the globe, the seam between October 31st and November 1st marks the dramatic beginning of one of most anticipated events of their year: the start of National Novel Writing Month. ( A month of “literary abandon,” as its website proclaims. Established in 1999 between a few friends in San Francisco who wanted to know what it would feel like to be “novelists,” those magical people who had actually written a full-length novel regardless of whether it would ever go public or not, NaNoWriMo (the customary abbreviation) has expanded into one of largest creative writing projects in the world. As of this writing, 82,000 people across the world, from teenagers to nonagenarians and at least one other Black Gate contributor, have signed up to participate, and the numbers will leap dramatically in the remaining few days before the start mark. The event has not only led to published novels and new careers, but also offered form of therapy and creative exploration for people who never would dream of trying to get published. It embraces noveling as a form recreation, not an idea often associated with it.

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Short Fiction Review # 20: “Unbound” from GUD 4

Saturday, October 24th, 2009 | Posted by Soyka

home-issue4For this edition of my irregular review of the latest (more or less) short fiction, I thought I’d try something a little different.  Usually I try to focus on the stories that worked the most for me, with maybe some attention on those that didn’t and why; at the same time, I also try to convey a flavor of everything else, if only just to alert you that an author is in the publication without, for any number of reasons, wanting to get into discussing the story to any great length.  Note the use of the word “try.” One of the challenges here is to provide some substantive, possibly even useful, discussion to an audience that I’m assuming hasn’t already read the material. As noted elsewhere here in the Black Gate blog, that’s a distinction between literary criticism, which assumes knowledge of the work and doesn’t worry about spoilers, and a review, which is still critical (not just in the sense of pointing out flaws), but, out of necessity, less fully detailed.

The job as I see it  is to do justice to  two or three stories of note for how good — or bad — they are, while at least acknowledging the existence of other contributions in a publication that might contain works from five, ten or even more writers. Consequently, the “hit and miss” approach is unavoidable.  Frequently, I  feel that in trying to do justice to the entire publication, I short sheet individual content. So, this time around, I’m going to focus on just one story, “Unbound” by Brittany Reid Warren, which leads off issue four (really the fifth, since the inaugural issue was #0) of the twice yearly GUD (aka Greatest Uncommon Denominator), as exemplifying the pub’s literary new wave fabulist, paraspheric, interstitial, elves-need-not-apply ethos.

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A Clash of Babels

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009 | Posted by James Enge

I’ve been guest-blogging (with fellow Pyr author Matt Sturges) over at the Borders “Babel Clash” blog for the last week and a half, and rather than let another week go by without a Blog Gate post, I thought I’d create a handy linkdump of my posts over there. Because, candidly, I’m a little talked out at the moment. (And you thought that could never happen!)

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DC Comics Goes Back to the Pulps

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

batman-pulpThe comic book superhero was born in the late 1930s, during the time when the dominant form of popular culture reading was the pulp magazine. During the next decade, the pulps would start their slow demise: wartime paper shortages that forced the publishers to cut back on the more risky material to focus on the steady sellers, the paperback influx competed on the genre scene and were popular with soldiers overseas, and the rise of the comic book took away much of the younger readers. That the comic book should play such a large part in the end of the pulp magazine industry is an ironic reversal, since the hero pulps fueled the creation of those first four-color superheroes. No Batman without the Shadow. No Superman without Doc Savage.

The comic book industry is now doing some payback to the long-vanished cheap paper fiction magazines. DC Entertainment Inc. has an upcoming project where they are going to let their characters revert back to the 1930s and turn into true pulp heroes once more. It’s an alternate universe version of the DC Universe with no super-powered characters, set firmly in the 1930s. And it will not only feature their own creations like Batman, but also genuine pulp stars Doc Savage and the Avenger, to whom DC owns the comic book rights. The first publication in the new setting is next month’s Batman/Doc Savage Special, written by Brian Azzarello and illustrated by Phil Noto.

That’s all you need to get my blood a’ rushing. I rarely buy DC or Marvel monthly comics, since I think their indulgence in crossover mega-events has reached a level of mania/boredom, but this… oh, I am all over this in so many ways. Just having Doc Savage back in comics is enough, but Batman is also going to get pulled back to the decade of his nativity. I love comic book superheroes (Batman in particular), but since my mid-twenties I’ve turned more toward the pulp characters (The Shadow in particular), and seeing them get a whole corner of the universe of one of the two big comic book publishers is like a five-Red Bull high. And behold the Bama-influenced Doc Savage on the cover!

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Win a Copy of This Crooked Way!

Monday, October 19th, 2009 | Posted by David Munger

thiscrookedway_mechJames Enge’s Morlock stories have been some of the most popular fiction we’ve published in Black Gate.  His first Morlock novel, Blood of Ambrose, published by Pyr in April, was very warmly received, and described as “A future classic… this novel succeeds beautifully” (The Great Geek Manual) and “Like Conan as written by Raymond Chandler” (Paul Cornell).

The second volume, This Crooked Way, went on sale October 6th.  More than just a collection of previously published Morlock fiction, This Crooked Way has 15 chapters, only 5 of which have previously appeared.  We’ve received a small number of advance copies, and we want to give them to you.

We’ve asked James Enge to compile a list of questions, the answers to which lie in the five Morlock stories that have appeared in Black Gate.  The first five readers to fill out and submit the quiz below with the correct answers will receive a copy of This Crooked Way, compliments of Black Gate, James Enge, and Pyr.

The usual legal disclaimers apply: Offer void where prohibited.  No purchase necessary.  Must be 18 to enter.  Judges decisions are final.  Postage costs outside the US are the responsibility of the winner.  Additional disclaimers apply as we think of them.  Eat your vegetables.

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Why I Like Lin Carter

Sunday, October 18th, 2009 | Posted by Don Lee

enchantress-small3Linwood Vrooman Carter (1930-1988) was one of the heroes of my youth. In the decades since his death his reputation has wallowed in the aftermath of the Last Great Sword & Sorcery Boom. He helped start it, with the Conan books he and L. Sprague de Camp brought back into print, edited, and in many cases wrote, as with the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series of works he edited and thus brought back into print. (Not adult fantasy as in sex, but adult fantasy as in great classic works that weren’t kid stuff). Books by Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith and James Branch Cabell; title I never would’ve read in a million years otherwise, but books which shaped the tastes of many another fantasy enthusiast, myself among them.

Despite the vast number of books written in the Sword & Sorcery genre in the past 80 years, when I found myself again turning an eye toward them, one of the first people I sought out was Carter. I distinctly remember the day, age 13, when I bought his Enchantress of World’s End off the spin rack at the Wal-Mart in Harrison, Ark.

The bare-bosomed, bright red beauty on the cover caught my eye, as did the unpronounceable names (Northern YamaYamaLand, Dzimdazoul’s Deep – not to mention the Ethical Triumvirs of Chx!), and of course the cast: Ganelon Silvermane, muscle-clad hero with the mind of a child, his master the Illusionist of Nerelon, face always hidden behind veil of purple mist, and the delightful, freckled, long-legged and sexy Xarda, Knightrix of Jemmerdy.

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