GOTH CHICK NEWS: Hanging Around with Dead People

Monday, November 30th, 2009 | Posted by Sue Granquist

ghostadventures2I’ll bet you’ve noticed a rather interesting trend on your cable channels lately. Namely, ghost hunting reality shows.
I’ve counted no less than seven without even trying: The Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures and Most Haunted, The SyFy Networks’ Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters International, and Ghost Hunters Academy, The Discovery Channel’s Paranormal State, and one of my personal favorites, A&E’s A Haunting
Now, I could whip out my psychology degree and tell you that this saturation of fascination with the dead stems from a need to dodge the harsh reality of plunging stock markets and home foreclosures by indulging our primal attraction to the unknown, but that wouldn’t be entirely the whole story. 
I think it has way more to do with the fact that we’re all just closet adrenaline junkies, and at least some of these shows offer a few moments of genuine spine-tingling escapism. 

ghost-huntersThen again, an equal number are train wrecks of over-acting we just can’t look away from.
But either way, it’s an addiction.  I can say this without compunction, as I’ve been addicted for years.

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Spectrum 16: Now Fortified with Black Gate!

Sunday, November 29th, 2009 | Posted by John ONeill

spectrum16spectrum-16b1Spectrum 16, edited by Cathy and Arnie Fenner, was published this month by Underwood Books.

I’ve been a fan of these books since the first, way back in 1994.  There are a lot of Best of… anthologies gathering the most acclaimed short fiction each year but, until Arnie and Cathy thought of it, no anthologies collecting the finest art. It was a stroke of genius, and that first volume was a hit. They’ve been at it ever since.

The books are full color and include lush layouts covering Advertising, Books, Comics, Concept Art, Sculpture, Editorial, Institutional, Unpublished — and even a lengthy Year in Review.  Spectrum 16 weighs in at 264 pages, and is just $39.95 for the hardcover (I bought mine for $26.37 from This year the Grand Master is Richard Corben.

Browsing these books is marvelous. Top-notch science fiction and fantasy often sets my imagination soaring, but not in the way that really great artwork can. The editors collect an astonishing array of diverse images from hundreds of gifted artists — pictures that are humorous, baffling, erotic, beautiful, disturbing, breath-taking, and everything in between. Depending on what your imagination is like, these books can be more diverting than a Stephen King novel.

This year is a special treat because the editors have seen fit to include Malcolm McClinton’s cover to Black Gate 13  in the Editorial section — in all its wrap-around glory. “Gladiatrix” was Malcolm’s first cover for Black Gate, and the first wrap-around image we’ve published since BG 3. It’s a knockout piece, and the response from readers was universally positive.

It’s a proud moment for us.  I’d like to congratulate Malcolm for being included — and also for a fabulous cover.

Short Fiction Beat: On Spec

Saturday, November 28th, 2009 | Posted by Soyka

os_fall09_coverCanadian SF magazine On Spec completes its 20th anniversary of publication.

The Fall 2009 issue is guest edited by Robert J. Sawyer, and features fiction by Brent Knowles, Joanna M. Weston, Dave Cherniak, Amanda Downum, Erin Thomas, and Andrew Bryant. There are also poems by Phoebe T.H. Tsang and Lynn Pattison, as well as author interviews and other commentary.

Quite an accomplishment, eh?

Happy Thanksgiving! Celebrate with an Uncanny Story

Thursday, November 26th, 2009 | Posted by John ONeill

It’s Thanksgiving here in the United States.  One of the better holidays ever invented, even if you’re a displaced Canadian like me.

american-fantastic-tales2In addition to eating, putting the finishing touches on BG 14, eating, writing my editorial, and eating, I’ll be stealing a few hours for leisure reading. Thanksgiving weekend usually involves at least a little travel (this year we’re celebrating in Madison, Wisconsin, three hours from our home in St. Charles, IL), so anything too long is out.  I need something I can finish in short bursts, in between sequential naps in a big green recliner.

Fortunately, a perfectly apropos choice landed on my doorstep last month, compliments of the Library of America. Peter Straub’s two-volume American Fantastic Tales, subtitled Terror and the Uncanny, is one of those genre-defining collections, a banquet of spooky fall reading that will likely last me months. And just like Thanksgiving, it’s unapologetically American in focus.

As we’ve already established, I’m a sucker for big retrospective collections.  This one reminds me of a favorite from my childhood, Anthony Boucher’s seminal two-volume A Treasury of Great Science Fiction. Gathering numerous tales of vintage SF and even a few complete novels (including Alfred Bester’s The Stars Our Destination and A.E. Van Vogt’s The Weapons Shops of Isher), it captivated me for weeks in the summer of 1977, most of which I spent reading in the trailer in our back yard. 

Straub doesn’t include any novels among his selections.  But like Boucher’s classic, American Fantastic Tales is huge — nearly 1,5oo pages of fiction, carefully selected to showcase the best horror tales in American history, from Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne to Joe Hill, Kelly Link, and Michael Chabon.

treasury-sfVolume One, From Poe to the Pulps, features Herman Melville, Robert W. Chambers, Edith Wharton, Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Bloch and many others.  Volume Two, From the 1940s to Now, includes John Cheever, Charles Beaumont, Vladimir Nabokov, Harlan Ellison, Richard Matheson, John Crowley, Stephen King, Steven Millhauser, and over a dozen more.

While I sometimes wished for a few more editorial notes on the selections, overall I’m very impressed.   I’m sure this collection (also available in a handsome boxed set from Amazon) will be on more than a few Christmas wish lists.

I hope you find suitable treasures of your own to snuggle down with this weekend. Happy Thanksgiving, Black Gate readers.

Batman/Doc Savage Special #1

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

batman-as-the-shadowI am going to semi-repeat myself in my next two Black Gate posts, going over graphic novel versions of material that I’ve discussed over the past few months.

First up, and the more immediately timely subject because it just hit the newsstands on November 11, is DC Comic’s Batman/Doc Savage Special #1, a one-shot designed to set up a new alternate universe called The First Wave. As I posted before, this is one of few mainstream superhero comic ideas that to really excite me over the past two years, since it would re-imagine the modern comic heroes into the world of 1930s pulp. No super-powers, no aliens, just guns and gadgets . . . plus the re-appearance onto the comics pages of the some of the classic figures of the pulps.

When I bought Batman/Doc Savage Special #1 at my local comic book store, it was the first time I had bought a “monthly” mag in a few years. Usually, I wait to purchase trade paperbacks, but this was a must-have. There was no way I could wait until this got collected with the issues of the upcoming regular First Wave series, which doesn’t start until March. And, unfortunately, Batman/Doc Savage Special was over all too quickly. Another reason I usually don’t buy monthlies and wait for the book publication.

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Goth Chick: Pondering Scary Stuff

Monday, November 23rd, 2009 | Posted by Sue Granquist

dracula-1931In my favorite month of October, I spent an inordinate amount of time away from my beloved book stores opting for movies and TV instead.  Though I rarely pass on a horror flick in either venue, it’s equally rare for me to stumble across an offering that comes close to the entertainment value and overall creepiness of the vintage black and white, Universal Studio classics. 

Contemporary horror movies of late seem to be less about giving the audience a good scare and lean more toward what my friends and I refer to as “psychopath training films.”  Films like Saw and Hostel are bloodbaths that rely on their gross-out shock factor far more than actual scares. 

They do stay with you, but in my opinion, for entirely the wrong reasons.  Apparently theater goers have become so hard to impress that movie makers must resort to ever-more-realistic intestine-spilling, and must literally wire-snip our fingers off to get to our $10. 

Then came the month of October and a decidedly fresh, if perhaps a bit fetid, breath of air. 

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My Sword-and-Soul Brother

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009 | Posted by Charles Saunders

Sword-and-soul is the name I’ve given to the type of fiction I’ve been writing for nearly 40 years.  The best definition I can think of for the term is; African-inspired heroic fantasy.”  Its roots are in sword-and-sorcery, but its scope is likely to expand as time passes.

Meji Poster by Mshindo

Meji Poster by Mshindo

To the best of my knowledge, I was the first fantasy writer to utilize in a positive way settings and themes drawn from the abundance of information available on the real Africa, rather than the “Dark Continent” that lives on in the minds of those who are satisfied with stereotypes. 

These days, however, I am no longer the only writer of sword-and-soul.

Two years ago, Brother Uraeus, the man behind Sword & Soul Media, publisher of my latest books Dossouye and Imaro: The Trail of Bohu, introduced me over the Internet to a writer from the Atlanta area named Milton J. Davis.  As it turns out, Milton’s African dreams were similar to mine.  Before he had ever heard of me or Imaro, he envisioned his own alternate-Africa — the continent of “Uhuru,” which is conceptually different from Imaro’s setting, Nyumbani.

Uhuru forms a vivid backdrop for Meji, Milton’s sweeping story of the lives of a pair of portentous twins.  Appropriately enough, the Meji saga is told in two volumes.

Soon after getting in contact with Milton, I read the entire Meji epic in manuscript.  I was so impressed that I volunteered to write the introduction to the first volume (award-winning author Linda Addison wrote the intro to Meji II).  In the interest of full disclosure, what I have to say about the books should be viewed in that context. Read More »

Harry Connolly’s Child of Fire

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009 | Posted by John ONeill

childoffireHarry James Connolly made his first fiction sale with “The Whoremaster of Pald,” way back in issue 2 of Black Gate. 

It was the most popular piece in the issue by a fair margin, and not just because the title grabbed readers’ attention (although, speaking as the person who picked it out of the submissions pile, the title definitely didn’t hurt).

Since then Harry has appeared frequently in our pages and his fourth story, “Eating Venom,” will be in BG 15.  But he hasn’t spent all his efforts on short fiction, as evidenced by the arrival of his first novel, Child of Fire.

Child of Fire is described as “a contemporary fantasy in the tone and style of a crime thriller,” and it’s received a lot of great press — including a mention on the Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2009 list. 

Here’s what bestselling author Jim Butcher says about it:

“Excellent reading… has a lot of things I love in a book: a truly dark and sinister world, delicious tension and suspense, violence so gritty you’ll get something in your eye just reading it, and a gorgeously flawed protagonist. Take this one to the checkout counter. Seriously.”

And here’s the publisher’s blurb:

Ray Lilly is just supposed to be the driver. Sure, he has a little magic, but it’s Annalise, his boss, who has the real power. Ray may not like driving her across the country so she can hunt and kill people who play with dangerous spells­especially summoning spells­but if he tries to quit he’ll move right to the top of her hit list.

Unfortunately, Annalise’s next kill goes wrong and she is critically injured. Ray must complete her assignment alone­he has to stop a man who’s sacrificing children to make his community thrive, and also find the inhuman supernatural power fueling his magic.

 I finally got my hands on a copy, and I can’t wait to dig in.

Oh, well… but not everything is so bad

Saturday, November 21st, 2009 | Posted by Soyka

425x159_prisonerThough I had unrealistic high hopes for the remake of The Prisoner, if only because of the presence of Ian McKellan, early returns are not good,other than noting that Ian McKellan is the only redeeming value.

Sigh. I guess the success of Battlestar Galactica and perhaps also the Star Trek reboot resulted in unwarranted optimism about remakes, as the track record remains mostly abysmal, with the exceptions proving the rule. And the exceptions usually have the advantage of source material in sore need of improvement.

cover_smallOn a more positive note, I just finished Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City I’ve only read a few reviews, and then only just skimmed them, which can be the only explanation why I haven’t seen anyone draw the obvious line between Philip Dick and this novel. Besides the overall Dickian theme of “just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me,” one example of Lethem’s riffs on Dick is the protagonist’s highly publicized relationship with his astronaut fiancée, trapped in orbit by Chinese mines, whose love letters try to make the best of both their situations. I’m assuming it is not coincidental that in Dick’s Dr. Bloodmoney, the character Walt Dangerfield is also stuck in permanent orbit around the earth, and whose daily broadcasts inspire his devoted listeners to carry on in the aftermath of catastrophe. Somewhere, there’s a master’s thesis in picking out all the Dickian parables in Lethem’s wonderful novel.

You might have to be a bit of a geek to appreciate this (and would you be reading this if your weren’t?). Highly recommended.

Short Fiction Beat: Interzone #225

Thursday, November 19th, 2009 | Posted by Soyka

204In today’s mail arrived the December 2009 Interzone #225, containing these stories:

“Here We Are, Falling Through Shadows” by Jason Sanford
“By Starlight” by Rebecca J. Payne (a debut)
“The Killing Streets” by Colin Harvey
“Funny Pages” by Lavie Tidhar
“Bone Island” by Shannon Page & Jay Lake

As well as the usual assortment of columns and reviews.

Also in the mail is a slew of short story collections, including Interfictions 2, Paper Cities, Kurt Vonnegut’s posthumous Look at the Birdie, Conjunctions: 52 Betwixt and Between, and McSweeney’s Thirty Two.

As soon as I’ve read them, I’ll let you know. Just don’t expect anything in time for your Christmas shopping decisions.

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