GOTH CHICK NEWS: The End of 2009

Thursday, December 31st, 2009 | Posted by Sue Granquist

true-blood2As 2009 comes to an end I find the events of the last twelve months firing past my sub-conscious like the recap sequence before one of those lame “it was all a dream” mini-series endings. 

Unfortunately any list of highlights from 2009, besides proving that reality is far more frightening than fiction, would also be intensely boring.  I’ll leave that to CNN and NPR. 

Instead, here are a few random thoughts – on Dacre Stoker’s Dracula the Un-Dead,  the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures show, HBO’s True Blood and the new Sookie Stackhouse novel, the upcoming film version of Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, the return of the Halloween, Costume and Party Show to Chicago, and more.

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IMARO: The Naama War by Charles Saunders

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009 | Posted by Howard Andrew Jones and John ONeill

naama-warBack when Black Gate‘s editor John O’Neill lived in Ottawa in the early 80s, he was a member of a small SF fan club.  His first meeting featured a reading from the editor of an excellent local fanzine, Stardock, who had just completed his first novel.  The author was Charles Saunders, the novel was Imaro, and the reading he never forgot.

DAW released the first three Imaro novels between 1981 and 1985, then dropped the series for reasons arising from textbook bad marketing decisions, a lawsuit from the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate over a poorly chosen cover quote (“The Epic Novel of a Black Tarzan”), and publishing delays.

For the whole sordid tale, read Charles de Lint’s introduction to the Night Shade edition of the first novel.

Night Shade books released the first two books, Imaro and The Quest for Cush, in handsome new editions in 2006 & 2007, and Saunders self-published the third volume, The Trail of Bohu, through his Sword & Soul Media press last year.

The true tragedy of the saga of Imaro is that the fourth novel has never been published – until now.

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AVATAR flies high; SKULLS is on the way…

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009 | Posted by John R. Fultz

SOARING ON THE WINGS OF MYTH:
James Cameron’s AVATAR revels in the grand traditions of fantasy

 The other day I slipped on a pair of 3-D glasses and was transported to a primordial world of alien beauty and high adventure. I was watching James Cameron’s new film AVATAR, which has become a full-fledged cultural phenomenon. Much has been made of the film’s absolute perfection of special effects because Cameron creates a fantasy world that is truly believable. Thanks to his breakthroughs in computer-generated imagery and sheer breadth of imagination, AVATAR is more than a mere film… it’s an EXPERIENCE.

SKULLS starts right here at blackgate.com on Jan. 6

SKULLS starts right here at blackgate.com on Jan. 6

Comparisons to other blockbuster fantasy/sci-fi films are inevitable. Everything George Lucas attempted to do in his three STAR WARS prequels, Cameron actually succeeds at, i.e. building a fully realized and eminently believable fantasy world that is breathtaking in scope and packed with sheer wonder. But that perfection of simulated reality, that ability to make the fantastical seem genuine was NOT what I enjoyed most about this movie.

All the visual flair would be meaningless if the film didn’t draw upon the classic power and inspiration of the great fantasy tales. AVATAR is a fantasy fan’s ultimate cinematic experience. The fact that this fantasy is wrapped in the guise of science fiction only makes it more appealing and marktable to the average moviegoing audience. Both sci-fi and fantasy fans will be enraptured by the AVATAR experience.

thorsflight Cameron’s inspirations for AVATAR span the gamut of everything from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ BARSOOM (John Carter of Mars) stories to Lucas’ STAR WARS (which were inspired by FLASH GORDON comic strips, among others), to the deep myths of the Old West, stone-age adventures, Jungle Tales comics, American Indian mythology, and wraps it all in a lush visual style worthy of the master Frank Frazetta himself.

One of the tropes Cameron plays with in this story–to great visual and emotional effect–is the riding of winged creatures by the Na’vi alien warriors.

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Howard’s Forgotten Redhead: Dark Agnes

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

sword-womanIt’s strange that Robert E. Howard’s most famous female character is one he didn’t actually create: Red Sonja, the work of comic book writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith, based on the historic adventuress Red Sonya from the story “The Shadow of the Vulture.” Red Sonja has been erroneously credited to Howard for years; even the movie Red Sonja lists him as the creator on the main credits.

This accidental attribution might explain the scant attention given to a fierce, red-haired, sword-swinging woman that Howard did create: Dark Agnes of Chastillon, sometimes called Agnes de le Fere. She appears in two stories and a fragment, and if Howard had sold the stories during his lifetime he might have written far more about her. She’s much-neglected in discussions of the author, and none of her stories have been in print since Ace’s 1986 printing of Sword Woman, which was first published by Zebra in 1977 and then re-printed by Berkley in 1979.

Another reason for the general obscurity of the abbreviated Dark Agnes cycle is that the stories are lesser pieces that feel rough alongside Howard’s classics. But their content is worth examining to see the author exploring the first-person female point of view. Detractors who consider Robert E. Howard—and sword-and-sorcery in general—misogynistic will discover a genuine surprise in Dark Agnes.

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New Review of Black Gate 13

Monday, December 28th, 2009 | Posted by John ONeill

black-gateissue-13-coverLuke Forney reviews the latest issue of Black Gate at his blog.

Black Gate kept my attention far better than any other fiction magazine… Almost all of the stories I found immediately wonderful, engaging, and very easy to lose oneself in. The quality was beyond impressive, and the extras (reviews sections) were brilliant.

Luke compares John C. Hocking to Robert E. Howard:

“The Face in the Sea” by John C. Hocking: This wonderful story tells of Viking-like people returning from a raid on their enemy’s stronghold to recover their princess, and one shaman’s all-out assault to stop them. A very well told story, reminiscent of Robert E. Howard. I’ll be looking for more by Hocking.

And was equally impressed by L. Blunt Jackson:

“Spider Friend” by L. Blunt Jackson: A brilliant fable-like tale, with an ending that I didn’t see coming, but that didn’t interrupt the wonderful style that Jackson worked throughout. One of the best “modern fables” I have read.

He also comments favorably on our non-fiction:

This issue also contained a number of comic strips, and two brilliant review sections. I have never seen a magazine have such a detailed, extensive reviews section that covered so many books. It was a wonderful surprise… The fiction reviews section was lovely, and covered far more than the large press magazines do.

He closes with a fine suggestion: 

Anyone who is a fan of adventure or fantasy should immediately check out Black Gate…  it contains a LOT of content (224 pages, full magazine size, not digest), good stories, interesting essays, wonderful departments, even an illustration for each story, which is a feature sadly missing in most other magazines. Grab issue 13 while you can, and keep your eyes peeled for the next issue!

You can read the complete review here.


GOTH CHICK NEWS: Hanging Out With Dead People, The Last Bit

Sunday, December 27th, 2009 | Posted by Sue Granquist

magnolia-manor1Mr. Goth Chick is a civil war buff and two summers ago on a road trip, we stopped off to tour the battlefield at Shiloh, spending the night at a gorgeous old southern mansion a few towns away, called Magnolia Manor. I found the place on a web search by Googling “haunted hotel Shiloh” (would you expect any less?). When I called for the reservations, the owner informed me that we would need to stay in the guest house behind the main building as the main house was reserved by a ghost hunting group filming a documentary.

Of course through a series of particularly smarmy tactics, I negotiated an invitation for us to join the ghost hunt.

On this trip we were already armed with some of our own equipment such as a digital voice recorder and a high speed video camera, but the leader of the group called Memphis Mid-South Ghost Hunters, was kind enough to provide me with an EMF detector as well.

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Short Fiction Beat: Making Lists

Saturday, December 26th, 2009 | Posted by Soyka

It’s the end of another year which means everybody’s thinking up “best of lists.” Partially, that’s a marketing thing — and it apparently works because I’ve just finished ordering a couple of albums that were on various critics “best of list” that I hadn’t heard. As a DJ for a local radio station, I’m supposed to be up on these things. Also as a DJ, I was supposed to have submitted my own “best of list,” but haven’t. Maybe as the short fiction guy hereabouts, I’m also supposed to come up with a list of top short stories. But, I won’t. I just have a hard time with this exercise. There’s a lot of stuff that I’ve found interesting, but whether that qualifies as “best of” I’m not sure. And, then, whatever I come up with will invariably leave out stuff that I simply didn’t get to, or didn’t even know existed, which doesn’t seem fair.

Worse, as the end of a decade, there’s also these best of the decade lists. Again, this is largely to fill traditionally slow periods in the news cycle, but it is a conversation starter, which can be fun. I’m not going to provide a list (mainly because I just don’t want to spend the time thinking about it; I’d rather catch up on my to-be-read and to-listen pile), but here’s one by Jonathan Strahan that caught my eye. I like to think I’m fairly well-read and stay on top of these things, but of the ten “best of the decade” short fiction collections cited by Strahan, I’ve only actually read two, though I own two others that I never got around to (yet, I hope). At least, I’ve read all these authors, even if I haven’t made it through all the collections. If you haven’t already jumped, here’s Strahan’s list:

  1. Beluthahatchie and Other Stories, Andy Duncan (2000)
  2. Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang (2002)
  3. Black Juice, Margo Lanagan (2005)
  4. 20th Century Ghosts, Joe Hill (2005)
  5. Magic for Beginners, Kelly Link (2005)
  6. The Empire of Ice Cream, Jeffrey Ford (2006)
  7. Map of Dreams, M. Rickert (2006)
  8. Pump Six and Other Stories, Paolo Bacigalupi (2008)
  9. Oceanic, Greg Egan (2009)
  10. Cyberabad Days, Ian McDonald (2009)

Books at Christmas

Friday, December 25th, 2009 | Posted by Bill Ward

holiday-tree-book-artSome of my fondest Christmas memories involve getting (and, later, giving) a new crop of books as gifts every year. Unique among my interests, books have bridged the gap from childhood to adulthood — from the era of plastic battlesets and bolt-spitting robots to that of of daily planners, jumper cables, and bottles of Irish Cream. Books have always been there.

In fact, they tend to be the only thing that still recaptures a bit of that childhood glow of excitement of getting a gift, for me at least. The car wax, wide-toed socks, and jumbo pack of batteries are all very nice and thank you — they just don’t spark the imagination. And I think, ultimately, when you’re a kid that’s what all the excitement is about — not the getting per se, but the finding out. As a kid Christmas, for those of us privileged Westerners that celebrate the holiday in all its modern commercial glory, is an undiscovered country. In a society increasingly dominated by instant gratification, it may be one of the few delayed pleasures left to todays’ children.

And books always hold that promise of exploration — even when firmly in our hands they are unknown to us, not yielding up their secrets until we’ve read them. And reading, too, is a form of play, of the kind of stimulation we partake in less and less as responsibility waxes and innocence wanes. I’m seldom surprised by the titles of the books I’m given as gifts — after all I’m usually the one that suggested them in the first place — but that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because a book is a wrapped gift in-and-of-itself, and needs no bow, ribbon, or paper to make it so.


Having a Medieval Solstice

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

dsc01072I hadn’t planned on doing a post today, since foreign travel makes it difficult to keep up a decent post aside from writing, “Hey, I’m in Bavaria with my sister and my nephew, can’t toss you anything today.”

However . . . going to a medieval-themed Christmas Market . . . well, let’s just say it’s far better than any attempt at something remotely medieval or Renaissance that I’ve seen in North America, and I feel like telling you briefly about it. This is my vision of a grand Winter Solstice celebration: hooded peasant outfits, burning hot spiced wine, a full pig on a spit, and halberds for sale. For children! (Für kinder!)

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My Sword-and-Soul Sister

Sunday, December 20th, 2009 | Posted by Charles Saunders

When you search for my novel, Imaro, on Amazon.com, the “Customers Also Bought” and “Frequently Bought Together” categories on its page include a novel called Wind Follower, by Carole McDonnell.  As you will see, there is good reason for that connection.wind-follower2

When I first became aware of Wind Follower through Amazon, I was so intrigued I bought the book right away.  As I began to read it, I quickly realized that it was, like Imaro and Milton Davis’ Meji novels, part of the sword-and-soul subgenre.  Carole did not know that at the time, as I coined the term “sword-and-soul” to describe African-oriented fantasy fiction only a few years ago.

Actually, a better description of Carole’s debut novel would be soul-and-sword.  It is a literary equivalent of soul music, which combines rhythm-and-blues with a strong measure of the gospel sound.

Like my stories and Milton’s, Wind Follower is set in an alternate version of Africa — one in which spirits are real and magic works, for both good and ill.  However, Carole’s story and setting are different from just about anything else that has been based on the so-called Dark Continent, going all the way back to the “jungle stories” of pulp-fiction times.

Indeed, it stands to reason that once the “jungle stories” template is broken, different writers can conjure a variety of other-world versions of Africa.  Look at the hundreds of re-tellings of a single European legend: the Saga of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

Africa is a place of numerous cultures, which have spawned a plethora of myths and folktales.  Those source-stories can easily inspire infinite successor tales. Wind Follower is one of those new tales. Read More »


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