Starblazer and Mindjammer

Sunday, April 11th, 2010 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

spiritOne of the most promising new game systems I reviewed in Black Gate 14 was used for the pulp role-playing game Spirit of the Century from Evil Hat Productions. FATE is a streamlined set of rules based more on adjectives and descriptions than complicated and time consuming point allocations. Not only does the system make task resolution fast, it encourages players and game masters alike to storytell more than die roll.

I was unabashedly excited about Spirit of the Century and couldn’t help wondering how the mechanics designed for pulp 1930s role-play would work in another setting.

An English game company named Cubicle Seven must have been wondering the same thing, because they took up the system and retooled it for science fiction role-playing.

Starblazer Adventures is a beautiful, thick hardback of 629 pages, stuffed full of art taken from a popular British space opera comic from the 1970s and ’80s. Nearly every page is decorated with exciting action pics evocative of high octane adventure.

But more than 600 pages, I can see you asking, isn’t that… needlessly long? Is it crammed with charts that you must consult?

No. What it is crammed with is all the information that a game master could need to run a thrill-packed space campaign, and then some.

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Black Gate 14 Sneak Peek: “The Lady’s Apprentice” by Jan Stirling

Sunday, April 11th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

apprentice-277Lady Nyla was once rich and powerful. Now she lived in a hut on a lonely road. But tonight the Mother Goddess gave her back a measure of her old power — to set her against a terrible foe.

      Nyla lay upon her stomach on the frozen ground and watched the black magician work. He and his familiar concentrated on the task at hand, unaware of being watched. They had not wasted energy on wards against humankind, for they feared no mundane danger on this bitter night. But from the protections they had drawn they were mortally afraid of the thing they summoned.
      The baby lay upon the altar, loosely wrapped in purple cloth. Occasionally it wriggled and let out a weak cry as it suffered in the cold.
      The familiar, she decided, was the weak link.

Jan Stirling’s first sale was to Esther Friesner for Chicks In Chainmail. She lives in New Mexico.

“The Lady’s Apprentice” 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 Matthew Laznicka.


Eberron Campaign Guide winners Announced!

Saturday, April 10th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

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

Contestants were asked to submit a two-sentence summary of a recent Eberron product. The most enthusiastic and literate responses (or the ones that made us laugh the hardest, depending), were awarded the prizes.

We received a wide range of entries, from gushing to gonzo. Our panel of distinguished judges sobered up just long enough to announce that Colin Marco, Luke Forney, Baron Swodeck, and Risen Fiend were the real standouts.

Our judges issued a special citation to Risen Fiend for his particularly insightful and tantalizing two-line treatise on the Secrets of Sarlona adventure supplement:

Secrets of Sarlona unveils a continent under the domination of the immortal Inspired who rule thorough charming guile as much as psionic might powered by their otherworldly connection to the insidious Dreaming Dark. While presenting in detail the homeland of one of the gravest threats to the world of Eberron, Secrets of Sarlona also features one of the greatest hopes against the Dreaming Dark in the stalwart Kalashtar refuge of Adar, allowing heroes to choose their side in this epic transdimensional struggle.

I once dated someone who “ruled thorough charming guile.” I still shudder when I think about it.

Congratulations to all the winners! You’ll be contacted shortly to receive your prizes.

Game on!


Short Fiction Round Up (Short)

Saturday, April 10th, 2010 | Posted by Soyka

Over at Locus, Lois Tilton reviews Analog, Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, Jim Baen’s Universe, and Subterranean Online.

In his “Scores” column for Strange Horizons, John Clute reviews the first volume (Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to the Pulps) of Peter Straub’s American Fantastic Tales. As usual, it’s always an experience to read Clute.159853048802lzzzzzzz


A Look at Matthew Sturges’ Midwinter

Friday, April 9th, 2010 | Posted by Bill Ward

midwinter-cover-sturgesMidwinter
Matthew Sturges
Pyr  (345 pages, Trade Paperback, March 2009, $15.98)
Reviewed by Bill Ward

Midwinter is the debut novel from comics writer Matthew Sturges, and it has elves in it. In fact, it’s all about elves, taking place as it does in the land of faerie. But these elves, dear reader, are not your Daddy’s elves — or, more to the point, they are not the sort of derivative elves that tend to find their way into the fiction of writers who have trouble thinking outside their last D&D campaign. Midwinter’s Fae, in all their variety, are much more reminiscent of  the Sidhe of Celtic myth that is clearly Sturges’ jumping off point, perhaps with a bit of Tolkien and Moorcock thrown in for good measure. Those who can’t stand heavily derivative fantasy need not worry — in fact, it’s Sturges’ willingness to play with tropes and inject his tale with the unexpected that is the main attraction of his world.

For an example of one of those ‘sit up on the edge of your seat and take notice’ turns, we have an event that occurs early in the book. The premise of the quest is established quickly, and this ‘dirty dozen with elves,’ as Sturges has described the book, kicks off in much the expected direction. We are introduced to disgraced Guard Captain Mauritane, in prison, as well as his despised enemy — a Fae who conspired to bring him down in the first place. The quest is laid out (though not explained — the revelation of the true purpose of the quest isn’t provided until the end), and Mauritane’s team of fellow prisoners assembled. But just when you think the direction of things is all mapped out, Mauritane, seemingly as an aside, ends up traveling back in time (!) and participating in an episode the significance of which is only shown later. Throughout the novel Sturges shows a willingness to make a hard right without taking his foot of the gas — leaving some rubber on the road and, just  maybe, making a few white-knuckled passengers uncomfortable —  in a way that reminded me of the more daring and fluid fantasies of the past.

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Goth Chick News: The Compendium Monstrum and Other Unusual Stuff

Thursday, April 8th, 2010 | Posted by Sue Granquist

vampires-21For the next two weeks Mr. Goth Chick and I are out of town, for what will sound to everyone else like a really normal vacation. But you lot know better.

I will, of course, tell you every gory detail when I get home, but for now I’m penning a couple of entries ahead of schedule which one of the Goth Chick Interns will gratefully post on my behalf, all the while averting his eyes and addressing me as “Mistress.”

Yes, these are the moments worth opening the coffin lid for.

But I digress.

A couple weeks back I told you about an amusing collection of tombstone writings called Comic Epitaphs From the Very Best Old Graveyards, brought to you by the clever folks at Peter Pauper Press. Shortly thereafter, a Ms. Suzanne Schwalb, an editor from Peter Pauper, got in touch to inform me that though they were grateful for the mention, the book in question was out of print.

I was about to be concerned I had gotten some of you interested in something you’d never get to experience for yourself when I found 42 of them on Amazon.com, starting at $0.99.

Crisis averted.

But then something really amazing happened.

Quite a large box was delivered to my door (and who doesn’t like getting surprise parcels in the mail?) with a return address of Peter Pauper Press in New York. Apparently, I was way behind the times with regards to the offerings available from the company.

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The David Gemmell Legend Award for Best Fantasy Novel of 2009

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

gemmell2

The nominations for the David Gemmell Legend Award for Best Fantasy Novel of 2009 have been announced by the DGLA.  May we have the envelope please!

  • Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson (Tor US)
  • The Cardinal’s Blades, Pierre Pevel (Gollancz)
  • Empire: The Legend of Sigmar, Graham McNeill (The Black Library)
  • Best Served Cold, Joe Abercrombie (Gollancz & Orbit)
  • The Gathering Storm (Book 12 of The Wheel of Time), Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (Tor US)

The David Gemmell Legend Award for Best Fantasy Novel was first granted in 2009, to Andrzej Sapkowski’s Blood of Elves.

The DGLA also gives out The Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Newcomer, and The Ravenheart Award for Best Fantasy Cover Art.

The complete list of nominations is at the DGLA website, as part of a cool video set to music. I had to watch it six times, scribbling down notes, to make sure I got the list of nominees right (of course, then I found the convenient summary card. Figures.)  Now I can’t get that music out of my head.

In any event, congratulations to all the nominees!  Man, I have a lot of great reading to catch up on.


Cthulhu Has Risen…

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010 | Posted by John R. Fultz

Anticipating CTHULHU’S REIGN (Part 3 of 3) cthulhu32

 

    “You made me master of the world where you exist
     The soul I took from you was not even missed.”

–Black Sabbath, “Lord of This World”

 

“The process of delving into the black abyss is to me the keenest form of fascination.”

–H. P. Lovecraft

 

At last, the stars are right.

The long-anticipated horror anthology CTHULHU’S REIGN finally hits stores this week, and the world of Lovecraft-inspired fiction will never be the same.

Last week I interviewed a few of the authors who contributed to the collection. In this third and final installment of “Anticipating CTHULHU’S REIGN several more Architects of the End have shared with me the dark secrets behind their stories.

Although these 15 tales share a common concept (Great Cthulhu rising up to reclaim the world for the Old Ones), there is a wide array of story types and styles at play here, from cosmic adventures to philosophical nightmares, to humanistic stories of survival in a world gone mad, and more. The sheer diversity of storytelling in this single volume is stunning–a testament to the anthology-building skills of editor Darrell Schweitzer. Yes, there are some experimental pieces in CTHULHU’S REIGN, but there is just as much old-school Weird Tales flavor, which makes for a delicious blend of horror and strangeness.

Richard Lupoff’s “Nothing Personal” takes a science-fiction approach to horror. “The first decision I had to make was, Will this be a science fiction story or a supernatural fantasy? I then referred back to an earlier story of my own, utilizing the theme of a distant planet that had gone undiscovered because its orbit is at right angles to the plane of the ecliptic, and moved on from there.” That planet is Yuggoth, which (like its grotesque inhabitants) is composed entirely of antimatter.

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2 Clash 2 Titans: Clash of the Titans (2010)

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

clash-of-the-titans-1Clash of the Titans (2010)
Directed by Louis Leterrier. Starring Sam Worthington, Mad Mikkelson, Gemma Arterton, Alexa Davalos, Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson, Pete Postelthwaite.

You may not believe this, based on other things I’ve written at this site, but I walked into my local movie theater showing the re-make of Clash of the Titans with an open mind. Or as open as possible for someone who can pinpoint the original 1981 film as the moment from his childhood when he awakened to fantasy adventure.

And I’m glad I kept my mind pried open. Because Clash of the Titans: 2010 is a perfectly adequate modern fantasy movie, and I was able to enjoy the good that it had to give.

This may not sound like a stirring recommendation, but when you consider the complete Olympian thrashing the film is getting from the majority of critics, for a Ray Harryhausen defender to say, “Hey, I kind of liked that,” is, ahem, a titanic deal. (I’m really, really sorry about that pun.)

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The Sorcerers Guild Interviews John C. Hocking and John O’Neill

Monday, April 5th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

brand-demon-smallJeff Crook at The Sorcerers Guild interviews John C. Hocking and John O’Neill, following last week’s announcement that “The Face in the Sea” won  for best all-around Sword & Sorcery short story of 2009.

SG: What’s on your launch pad right now? What’s in your future?

John C. Hocking: The third Brand tale, by far the longest and most ambitious, is in Black Gate 14, which just came out. Five years back, when Howard Andrew Jones was editing the Flashing Swords e-zine, I wrote a trio of stories for him about a different set of characters. I’ve written two more tales of the Archivist and his friend Lucella, and Black Gate has accepted them. I’ve been stalled on both a novel about the Archivist and the final Brand story, “Home to Midgard,” but I hope to get both into action before too much longer.

You can read the complete interview here. And you can read an excerpt from the third Brand tale, “The Bonestealer’s Mirror,” now appearing in Black Gate 14

Look for John C. Hocking’s tales of the Archivist and his friend Lucella in future issues, starting with Black Gate 15.

Art by Storn Cook.


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