The Weird of Cornell Woolrich: “Speak to Me of Death”

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

speak-to-me-of-deathMost pulp writers of the 1930s were itching to break into the hardcover book market. Since reprints of pulp stories in book form were rare at the time, these writers did not expect that their work for the newsstands would survive past an issue’s sell-date. They felt comfortable re-working and expanding on them to create novels. Raymond Chandler famously called his process of novelizing his already published work as “cannibalizing.” He welded together different short stories, often keeping large sections of text intact with only slight alterations. Other authors took ideas that they liked, or else felt they could do more justice to in the novel format, and enlarged them into books without text carry-over. Robert E. Howard used “The Scarlet Citadel” as a guide for The Hour of the Dragon. And Cornell Woolrich turned many of his short stories into novels. “Face Work” became The Black Angel. “Call Me Patrice” became I Married a Dead Man. “The Street of Jungle Death” became Black Alibi. And “Speak to Me of Death” became Woolrich’s most depressing novel (which is really saying something), Night Has a Thousand Eyes.

In most of these cases, Woolrich made major changes from the short version to the longer one. “Face Work” is a minor piece and only remains as an incident within The Black Angel. “Street of Jungle Death” is a pretty wretched piece of junk, and yet Woolrich took this silly “big cat on the loose in Hollywood!” and fashioned it into a grim classic — one of his best novels — set in the web-ways of a South American city.

But in the case of “Speak to Me of Death” and its growth into Night Has a Thousand Eyes, Woolrich changed little of the story. He instead deepened this examination of fate, psychic powers, and police work so it lasted over three hundred pages. The short story is a classic, and so is the novel — it’s merely a matter of the length of the author maintains the effect. If Night Has a Thousand Eyes is the superior work, “Speak to Me of Death” might be better for your nerves because it ends much sooner.

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Gary Con II Report

Monday, March 22nd, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

gary_con2-logo1On Saturday I drove to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, for the second annual Gary Con, a friendly gathering in honor of Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons and the father of role-playing games.

You can read the Tribute to Gary Gygax, written by the staff at Black Gate magazine and Paizo publisher Erik Mona after Gary’s death in 2008, if you’re not familiar with his work.

Chainmail re-enactment of T1: The Village of Hommlet at Garycon II

Chainmail re-enactment of T1: The Village of Hommlet at Garycon II. Click for bigger version.

Lake Geneva is the birthplace of D&D and, consequently, the entire RPG industry. It was here that TSR, the company Gary co-founded in 1973, was headquartered for over two decades, and where many of the creative minds who helped it grow from a fledgling hobby company to the most influential game publisher of the last 30 years still live today – people like Tim Kask, founding editor of Dragon magazine, Gamma World author James Ward, RPGA founder Frank Mentzer, Snit’s Revenge creator Tom Wham, and many others.

The stated goal of the con is to “harken back to the early days of gaming conventions where role-playing was in its infancy and the players shared a strong sense of camaraderie,” and in that respect Gary Con was an unqualified success.

Players gathered around dozens of tables enjoying highlights from TSR’s early catalog, including first edition AD&DMetamorphosis Alpha, Dawn Patrol, Boot Hill, Dungeon, Chainmail, and more modern games that strive to capture that sense of old-school adventure, such as Hackmaster, Castles and Crusades, and even Gygax’s fondly remembered post-TSR effort, Dangerous Journeys.

Best of all, I saw many renowned game designers and early TSR employees mingling with the crowd, or acting as dungeon masters for classic Gygax modules such as Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, The Temple of Hommlet, and Castle Greyhawk.

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Movies in transition

Sunday, March 21st, 2010 | Posted by Theo

I came across some interesting information last week. It appears that more women than men now go to the movies. In fact, the MPAA reported of those in the 18-24 demographic who go to the movies more than once a month, that 3.4 of the 6.5 million are women.  That’s 52.3% for those of you scoring at home, or in other words, more than half.  If you figure that a reasonable percentage of the 3.1 million young men are only buying tickets because they’re on a date, that indicates a female ticket-buying influence that could theoretically approach conventional household spending levels in the 70-80% range.  This has some interesting implications for what movies are made in the future.  While it may speak well for more attention to dialogue and character development, I’m not so sure this is a positive development for fans of adventure fiction.

I don’t happen to care one way or the other myself since I much prefer books and games.  I think the last movie I saw in the theater was The Return of the King. But it is clear that there has definitely been a sea change in the SF/F literary genre since urban fantasy became big, and it will be interesting to see if the movie industry follows the same pattern.

Short Fiction Beat: Polyphony 7?

Saturday, March 20th, 2010 | Posted by Soyka

Via Torque Control I just learned that Wheatland Press won’t publish the seventh volume of its Polyphony series unless it gets a certain number of pre-orders by March 19, 2010. Of course, that was yesterday, but perhaps there’s still time to come to the rescue. My order was processed (no need to worry, by the way, that you might lose your money; the publisher promises to refund all orders if the book is ultimately aborted).

In fact, I’ve never read any of this series. But a quick scan of the authors for this volume and previous ones tells me I perhaps should have.

Hey, the economy is picking up. What better way to celebrate than to contribute to a stimulus plan for a book publisher.

Black Gate 14 Sneak Peek: “The Girl Who Feared Lightning” by Dan Brodribb

Friday, March 19th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

lightninggirl-277The sarcophagus was empty, the mummy was on the loose, and Corporate expected her to deal with it. Seemed like a lot to ask, especially for minimum wage.

     “So where’s the mummy?” Cara asked. She ran her hand along the edge of the sarcophagus.
     “Well.” The man in the suit cleared his throat and studied the floor. “It escaped.”
     “You mean it was stolen?” she said.
     “I mean, it got up and walked away.” With his right hand, the man made a walking movement with his fingers; with his left, he pointed to the corner of the ceiling. “See that camera up there? We got the whole thing on film.”
     Slowly, very slowly, Cara pulled her hand away from the sarcophagus and looked around for something to wipe her fingers on.

Dan Brodribb is a Canadian writer and stand-up comic, whose stories have appeared in Canada, the U.S., and Australia.

“The Girl Who Feared Lightning” appears in Black Gate 14.  You can read a more complete excerpt here.

The complete Black Gate 14 Sneak Peek is available here.

Art by Bernie Mireault.

Goth Chick News: And You Can Quote Me

Thursday, March 18th, 2010 | Posted by Sue Granquist

beetlejuice1I freely cop to having the sort of geeky sense of humor that is immediately triggered by someone coming up with the perfect movie quote for any given situation. For that matter, the level of hilarity is proportionately magnified by the obscurity of the quote, how quickly I was able to identify it, and any subtle, “insider” references the quote might invoke.

Recently at my day job (no, I’m not doing this whole Goth Chick thing from my own Eastern European castle…yet) as my team faced a particularly nasty and potentially explosive dilemma, the guy to my left leaned over and whispered, “We’re going to need a bigger boat.” At which point I disrupted the whole proceeding with one of those incontrollable fits of laughter I told you about earlier.

Though I’d be extremely skeptical to learn you’re a fan of Black Gate and haven’t done this sort of thing yourself, or for that matter, don’t know precisely where that quote originated, I’ll give you this one just for conversation sake; it’s the famous line uttered by Chief Brody when the enormous shark from Jaws rears up along side his small fishing boat and gives him the eyeball.

It is one of the most used favorites from my own repertoire and, though it doesn’t score impressively high on the obscurity scale, it never fails to get a reaction.

OK, you get the idea. So for the rest of these, you’re on your own for the context. However, I will recommend that if any of the movies quoted here are unfamiliar, the next thing you should do is get them on your movie watching schedule. They’re quotable for a reason, even if that reason is extreme cheesiness.

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SKULLS – Ch. 11 – Conclusion!

Tuesday, March 16th, 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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No Mere Nostalgia: The Original Clash of the Titans

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

medusa-defeatedOn April 2nd, “Titans Will Clash!” Which is perhaps the worst tag-line I’ve seen since “The Story That Won’t Go Away” for JFK. I wonder why the tag-line on director Louis Lettier’s previous film wasn’t “This Summer, The Hulk Is Incredible!”

And the Titans will also clash in 3D. But not real 3D; this is a post-production fix designed to cash-in on the success of another 3D movie. Clash ‘10 wasn’t shot with the extra dimension in mind, so don’t expect me to shell out extra cash for the polarized goggles.

I would feel a bit easier about the upcoming re-make of Clash of the Titans if it weren’t for the attitude of some online movie sites and critics who seem to take pleasure in putting down the 1981 original in their anticipation of the new film. I should feel nothing but excitement; who am I to object to Greek myth and big beasts on the silver screen? But I have this discomfort with those critics who normally object to re-makes but somehow feel that the Ray Harryhausen classic is going to get improved in a re-do because the original is only “cheesy nostalgia.”

No. It’s. Not.

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Black Gate 14 Sneak Peek: “Devil on the Wind” by Michael Jasper & Jay Lake

Monday, March 15th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

devil_on_the_wind-277It was Lena’s fifth suicide. Such was the way of the Killaster Witches. But as ambitious as she was, Lena’s schemes for revenge might not be quite treacherous enough…

     After a few more steps, I realized Rego was no longer behind me.
     From the corner of my eye, I could see him. He was not alone.
     “Lena…” His voice was thick with fear. “Should’ve gone ‘round.”
     Dripping dirt, dust, and strips of leathered flesh, four corpses had risen from the dirt to surround Rego. His mount’s back was arched, its tail puffed up and thick. The skeletal hands clattered as they beat ragged chests and yellowed ribcages, inching closer to Rego. They glowed with the same sickly light as the cauldron beast. Even as I watched, more corpses pulled themselves from their shallow, unmarked graves.

Michael Jasper has three novels in print, and his collection Gunning for the Buddha is now available from Prime.  Jay Lake is the award-winning author of over 250 short stories and ten novels, including Green and Escapement.

“Devil on the Wind” appears in Black Gate 14.  You can read a more complete excerpt here.

Note: this story contains some adult themes.

The complete Black Gate 14 Sneak Peek is available here.

Art by John Kaufmann.

Black Gate Giveaway: Eberron Campaign Guide

Sunday, March 14th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

eberron-campaignLast month we announced we were giving away eight copies of the Eberron Campaign Guide, a 4th Edition D&D Supplement from Wizards of the Coast.

How do you win? By sending a two-sentence summary of a recent Eberron product to The best eight — as selected by a capricious panel of barely-literate judges — will be published here, and the authors will be awarded the prizes.

That’s it. No forms to fill out.  No skill-testing questions. No money down. No fine print.  OK, maybe a little fine print, so sue us. It’s a contest, no one’s gonna believe it’s legit until they see some fine print.

It’s a mighty fine book, too.  Yes, that’s Edward Scissorhand’s dad on the front cover.  And his dogs Zipper and Papercut.  They bring a whole new level of menace to “running with scissors.” Ouchie ouchie.

Come on, this is the easiest contest we’ve ever run.  Maybe the easiest contest in the whole history of civilization.  I could even make it even easier by pointing you to a complete list of Eberron modules and sourcebooks to get you started, but that would be spoon feeding you, wouldn’t it?  Yes it would.

Time is running out to claim one of these fine D&D books, and perhaps to introduce yourself to the very cool Eberron setting. E-mail us at now.  Operators are standing by.

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