The Weird of Cornell Woolrich: “Dark Melody of Madness”

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

dimemysteryContinuing from last week’s look at the weird tales of pulp suspense maestro Cornell Woolrich, today I’ll walk around another bleak urban corner of the midnight-hued world of my favorite pulp author.

“Dark Melody of Madness,” first published in the June 1935 issue of Dime Mystery and often reprinted under the less-chilling title of “Papa Benjamin,” is one the superb pulp horror stories, and one of Woolrich’s earliest classics, written during the first year of his career as professional magazine writer. In its use of race as an undercurrent, it has connections to some of the great horror works of Robert E. Howard, in particular “Pigeons from Hell,” which also uses the device of voodoo of the West Indies. Anyone interested in the American Weird should read it. Fortunately, it’s been reprinted in many anthologies.

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Black Gate 14 Sneak Peek: “The Bonestealer’s Mirror” by John C. Hocking

Monday, February 8th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

brand-demon-smallBrand and his shipmates face dread sorcery on a strange isle in John C. Hocking’s “The Bonestealer’s Mirror,” the sequel to “The Face in the Sea” from Black Gate 13.

We searched the labyrinth of sea-caves for hours, finally emerging in early afternoon, wet, hungry and tired. Asbjorn decided to return to Mord’s steading to collect Vali and Asdis, and to ask if the isle had more sea-caves in which the demon might lair.
      We knew something was amiss as soon as we came over the ridge and could see Mord’s home below. Vali and Asdis sat on the low roof of the longhouse, but of the dwelling’s owner there was no sign. As we approached they stood, and I saw Vali held his sword.
      “Where have you been?” yelled Asdis. Anger made her voice hard. I felt she was speaking to me alone and could not have uttered a reply for a chest of gold.
      “Just taking our ease,” said Asbjorn, “walking about in the black belly of a mountain hunting a demon out of Niflheim.” 

“The Bonestealer’s Mirror” appears in Black Gate 14, coming in February.  You can read an excerpt here.

The complete Black Gate 14 Sneak Peek is available here.

John C. Hocking is the author of Conan & the Emerald Lotus (Tor, 1995).  The first tale of Brand the Viking, “The Face in the Sea,’ appeared in our last issue, the second, “Vali’s Wound”, was in Daniel Blackston’s anthology Lords of Swords (Pitch-Black, 2005). “The Bonestealer’s Mirror” is the third installment.

Art by Storn Cook.

Super Sunday

Sunday, February 7th, 2010 | Posted by Theo

Today, millions of people will be watching armored gladiators bash themselves violently into other armored gladiators. The wounded will fall and limp, aided by small men half their size, off to the sidelines. The crowd will roar with each brutal collision. The victors will bask in the ecstacy of victory and the losers will hang their heads and slip off in silence to lick their wounds and nurse their disappointment.

One thing that has puzzled me about the science fiction and fantasy genre is the near-complete inability of an otherwise creative collection of authors to create credible futuristic or fantasy sports. As a longtime member of the SFWA I have observed that writers tend to be endomorphs. So, my pet theory is that the main reason for the relative lack of sports in the literature stems from a general lack of personal familiarity with sports combined with the intellectual tendency towards the obscure and the cerebral. I would venture to guess that there are more published fantasy authors with fencing experience than ever played high school football. On the other hand, the number of serious martial arts practitioners, a few of whom are physically imposing specimens, tends to belie this notion. But, it seems to me that given the high level of interest in sport across a wide variety of modern societies, it is remarkable that it’s not something that most fantasy authors are inclined to write about.

Of course, when one considers the complete silliness of the few attempts in this area, such as Quidditch and Warhammer’s Bloodbowl, it’s easy to conclude that perhaps the authors are doing the wise thing by leaving well enough alone.

Short Fiction Review #25: Interzone #226

Sunday, February 7th, 2010 | Posted by Soyka

213The January/February Interzone features a very cool, magna-like cover by Warwick Fraser-Coombe; he’ll be doing the cover art for all six issues in 2010, which are intended to be put together to form a larger image. Collect them all and assemble the collage to see exactly what’s up with this. As far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with the contents of the magazine, which, by the way, has  returned to a color interior; it’s a very attractive package, as you’d expect from the folks at TTA Press.

The retro-look does reflect the fiction, however, in the sense that, for the most, part the fiction could have been ripped right out of a 1950s/1960s pulp magazine. A swashbuckling fantasy, space adventure, post-nuclear holocaust dystopia. It’s  déjà vu all over again.

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Black Gate Giveaway: Eberron Campaign Guide

Saturday, February 6th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

eberron-campaign1A strange box covered with cryptic glyphs recently parachuted onto Black Gate‘s rooftop headquarters. It landed near Howard Andrew Jones, who was working on his next Dabir & Asim novel by candlelight in the restricted section of our pulp library.

Due to a small misunderstanding with Gordon van Gelder and the staff of Fantasy & Science Fiction over an unpaid lunch bill at Windycon, all unmarked mail here in the inner sanctum is routinely handed over to the Chicago bomb squad for immediate disposal. Doubtless due to the Zen-like focus on his novel (or perhaps because he’d just ordered pizza) Howard forgot, and pried open the box.

Inside, between shredded pages of the Necronomicon used as packing paper, were pristine copies of the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Eberron Campaign Guide, compliments of Wizards of the Coast.

That explains the cryptic glyphs.  In case the copies are laced with exotic contact poison, or otherwise booby-trapped (Gordon’s minions can be very creative), we’re doing the only logical thing: giving them away.  To you.

How do you win? By writing a two-sentence review of your favorite Eberron product, and sending it us to

The eight best reviews — as selected by Black Gate staff, and maybe whatever bill collectors happen to be in our offices at the time — will be published here on the BG website, and the authors will receive a copy of the Guide

All entries become the property of New Epoch Press. No purchase necessary. Must be 12 or older.  Decisions of the judges (capricious as they may be) are final. Not open to employees of Wizard of the Coast, or Gordon van Gelder. Not valid where prohibited by law.  Or anywhere postage for a hefty hardcover is more than, like, 5 bucks.  Seriously, we’re on a budget.

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Black Gate 14 Sneak Peek: “The Hangman’s Daughter” by Chris Braak

Friday, February 5th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

hangmansSomething is crawling into Cresy’s bedroom each night… something not human.

The Thing was here, in her room again, shuffling softly by her bed. She could hear it, and it made her afraid. And more than anything, the fear made her angry.
        I am the Hangman’s daughter
, in her mind, her voice echoed from the walls. I am strong. I am not afraid of you!
       After what seemed like an eternity, Cresy sat bolt upright in her bed, and the sounds of the city came back to her. But this time, this time she saw it. A black shadow by her window, curved, hunched over. It was built like a therian — small, like a child, but with long arms and huge hands, hands built for strangling. Its eyes glowed, featureless yellow orbs. And in the light from those eyes, she could see its face, and she could see that it had no lips. Just skin, stretched across its jaws, as it tried to scream, and couldn’t.

Chris Braak is a novelist and playwright from Philadelphia.  His first novel is The Translated Man.

“The Hangman’s Daughter” appears in Black Gate 14, coming in February.  You can read an excerpt here.

The complete Black Gate 14 Sneak Peek is available here.

Art by John Kaufmann.

Goth Chick News: How I Nearly Killed Myself Laughing…

Thursday, February 4th, 2010 | Posted by Sue Granquist

villains-guide1I’m sure you’d never guess this, but my taste is a little left of center. 

I have a full suit of armor I dubbed “Prince Vlad” which looms large over my comfy reading chair.  For my last birthday, my amazingly normal friends Mr. and Mrs. Disney presented me with a picture of Tippi Hedren from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, which was autographed by Tippi herself. I was nearly brought to tears I was so touched.  I have a full-on voodoo shelf with authentic trinkets from Africa and the Caribbean, which Madam Laveaux herself would envy. 

  Tippi Hedren

Tippi Hedren

I think I should mention here that the Catholic cleaning lady will not go near my office.

As it would naturally follow, my sense of humor is a tad off too; as in I got a nearly fatal fit of giggles during a relative’s funeral.  Though I admit this was entirely improper and uncalled for, I take heart in the idea that the deceased would probably have found the cause as hilarious as I did. 

My parents continue to pull me aside and give me “the talk” about not embarrassing them before important family events, something Mr. Goth Chick finds especially amusing, but I think you see my point.

It is because of these unfortunate traits that I find myself drawn to the strange and unusual gems of the literary macabre; often those items tucked into back shelves at the book store or better yet, at the flea market.

In my defense, the written material which occupies the place closest to my blackish, goth chick heart wasn’t written for me specifically and did find its way to a publisher and into the general marketplace. 

Therefore, I conclude I must share this morbid sense of humor with others, closeted though you may be.

Which is why it my pleasure this week to share some my favorites with you.  Their titles speak to their literal subject matters so I’ve just included a couple of succulent tidbits from each.  Ironically, most of this advice would be just as easily at home in the latest “How to Succeed in Business” publication, but there you go.

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SKULLS – Chapter 5

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010 | Posted by John R. Fultz


For best viewing:

– Scroll to the right to see the entire comic page

– Hit your F11 key to maximize your viewing area

– Scroll down to read from page to page

To read earlier chapters:

– Type SKULLS into the search field at the left and the earlier chapters will pop up. Enjoy…

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The Weird of Cornell Woolrich: “Jane Brown’s Body”

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

harry-clarke-upon-the-bedIt might surprise regular readers of this website that Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard are not my favorite pulp writers. They rank among the authors who have influenced and inspired me the most—and they provide endless material to discuss and analyze. But my favorite pulper, perhaps my favorite writer of all time, is Cornell Woolrich.

I haven’t written anything about Woolrich on Black Gate before because his genre doesn’t intersect with the dominant focus of the magazine, except maybe in the broad way that Black Gate readers are usually interested in the pulps in general. Woolrich wrote suspense and mystery stories, and the majority of his work appeared in crime magazines like Dime Detective, Detective Fiction Weekly, and the legendary Black Mask. His specialty was the “emotional thriller,” harrowing trips into fear and paranoia with suspense set pieces that no author has equaled. Often called by admirers and critics “the literary Hitchcock” and “the twentieth-century Edgar Allan Poe,” Woolrich could wring more palpitating dread out of everyday life than any writer I’ve encountered. His style is defining of noir, the existential crime tale. Eventually, Hitchcock and Woolrich did merge, when Hitchcock turned Woolrich’s short story “Rear Window” (originally published as “It Had to Be Murder”) into a film that you might have heard of.

But there is one part of Woolrich’s oeuvre that falls into the compass of Black Gate: he made occasional forays into stories of the fantastic. He was actually ideally suited for the horror story, but the market for such tales was not as strong as the crime fiction market (just ask anybody to whom Weird Tales owed money). Woolrich had a personally dismal view of existence—universe and fate are essentially hostile to humanity, and the inevitability of death made life pointless—that could transfer perfectly to the supernatural, where those malign forces of the universe manifest in the unnatural occurrences. The idea that the world doesn’t care for you is one also found in H. P. Lovecraft, although visualized in a different way. If the two men had ever met, there would have been a strange, strange discussion. (Woolrich, however, could rarely be budged from his hotel room in Manhattan. H. P. Lovecraft was a partying socialite in comparison.)

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The Year’s Best SF & Fantasy 2009, edited by Rich Horton

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

years-best-2I’m supposed to be putting the finishing touches on BG 14, figuring out how to use Google Ad words, and about a million other things tonight. But man, I am beat.

Besides, the copy of Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2009 I ordered finally arrived a few weeks ago, and it’s been sitting there on my desk, unopened. That’s just criminal. So I packed it in early tonight, and curled up with it in the big green chair.

As we’ve established here already, Rich Horton is some kind of crazy person.  It all started with his newsgroup at SFF Net, where he was reviewing every single magazine in the entire universe.  Or as close as damn is to swearing, as they used to tell me while growing up in Nova Scotia.

Then he began compiling lists of his selections of the best short fiction of the year, and we started reprinting them on the BG website (in 2005, 2006 and 2007.)

In between, he knocked out detailed articles exploring the rich history of the SF & Fantasy genres for virtually every issue of Black Gate, starting with Building the Fantasy Canon: the Classic Anthologies of Genre Fantasy: Part One, (BG 2) and continuing with things like an exploration of The Big Little SF Magazines of the 1970s (BG 10), and Fictional Losses: Neglected Stories From the SF Magazines (BG 11).

Now he’s turned his talents to something closer to home: making books.  He’s become an anthologist of note, with over half a dozen Best SF and Best Fantasy volumes to his credit, chiefly from Prime Books.  This year Prime has re-launched the series, with a snappy new cover design and a big bump in size and page count (to 540 pages).  This is a hefty volume, with 37 short stories, detailed author biographies, and Honorable Mentions.

There are a great many Best of the Year books in the genre, but so far this is my favorite.  More later as I make my way through the book.

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