The Cimmerian Takes a Final Bow

Monday, May 31st, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

cimmerian2The Cimmerian, one of the most respected websites devoted to heroic fantasy — indeed, perhaps the most respected — has announced it will wrap up in on June 11.

The Cimmerian began as a bi-monthly print journal in April 2004. Edited by Leo Grin and dedicated to the work of Robert E. Howard, it ran for thirty-five issues and was twice nominated for the World Fantasy Award.

The Cimmerian website launched the following year, featuring contributions from Steve Tompkins, Rob Roehm, and Mark Finn, and it attracted considerable attention. When the print version came to an end in December 2008, Grin handed the reins to Tompkins, who managed the site until his tragic death a few months later. 

Since December 2008 the website has broadened focus, becoming “a website and shieldwall for Robert E. Howard, J.R.R. Tolkien and the Best in Heroic Fantasy, Horror and Historical Adventure.” Under the guidance of new manager Deuce Richardson, over the past year it’s also turned its keen critical eye to Sax Rohmer, David Gemmell, Karl Edward Wagner, Charles R. Saunders, Michael Moorcock, Clark Ashton Smith, H. P. Lovecraft, and many others. With the greater scope has come greater readership, growing to nearly 100,000 viewers/month.

The articles at The Cimmerian, by such folks as Miguel Martins, Al Harron, Barbara Barrett, William Maynard, Jeffrey Shanks, Keith Taylor, Brian Murphy, and Jim Cornelius, have never been less than fascinating, covering everything from the latest on the new Conan movie to Weird Tales to the recent — and excellent — tributes to Frank Frazetta.

Leo Grin says the blog will continue until June 11, the anniversary of Robert E. Howard’s death, and after that the site will be archived.  Its loss will be keenly felt.

Short Fiction Roundup: Coming Soon

Saturday, May 29th, 2010 | Posted by Soyka

A new online science fiction magazinelightspeedplaceholder1, coming soon to a monitor near you. Looks promising.

Goth Chick News: Pass Me the O-Positive Please

Thursday, May 27th, 2010 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image008Back in 2005 I had the pleasure of lunching with Charlaine Harris, who was on a book tour celebrating the release of her fourth Sookie Stackhouse novel Dead to the World.

It was a major milestone — not only was it her first hardcover release but the cover was embellished with gold sparkly bits; naturally Ms. Harris and her publicist were thrilled. Frankly, being a novice contributor to Black Gate at the time, it was really hard to say which one of us was more thrilled, but I’m pretty sure it was me.

Always the quintessential Southern lady, Ms. Harris was the picture of floral-print charm as she quite proudly told me about the advent of her characters and how excited she was about her next series, Grave Sight, to be released later that year. It was with a slight blush that she admitted her writing mortified her teen-aged children, which made me like her even more.

At the end of that lovely lunch I followed Ms. Harris across the parking lot to a Borders bookstore, where she appeared before a small but adoring crowd of around thirty fans who greeted her like a rock star. And I drove home that day thinking that those sexy, imaginative Sookie books which had become favorites of mine didn’t seem like the sort of stories that would spring from someone who smelled of lilacs and carried a patent leather purse.

Around that same time, on the other side of the country Alan Ball was stuck in an LA airport waiting on a tardy departure when he stopped into a news stand and picked up a paperback copy of Living Dead in Dallas, Ms. Harris’ second Sookie Stackhouse novel, thinking he’d kill some time with a pulpy vampire story. Having just wrapped Six Feet Under for HBO, Alan Ball was looking for his next project, never believing he’d find it in an airport. Numerous interviews indicate that once Alan Ball dug into chapter one of Living Dead, he didn’t close it until he’d read the last page.

And that is precisely when sexy, steamy, vampire magic happened, and though I didn’t know it at the time, I was practically at ground zero.

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Original Fiction: “THE WEIRD OF IRONSPELL” by John R. Fultz

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 | Posted by John R. Fultz

“The Weird of Ironspell” by John R. Fultz

Illustrations by Alex Sheikman


4. The Jewel and the Giant-King


Yom was a city of magicians.

Of all the kingdoms lying west of the Greyfold Mountains, only Yom boasted that its walls were defended by a legion of sorcerers, or that its wizard-king had slain a dozen ancient wyrms to free the Western Realms of the dragon plague. In the inky depths of night the city’s towers and ziggurats gleamed with all the brilliance of the wizardry that was its claim to fame.

Of all magical arts only the practice of necromancy was banned from the city’s environs, for the people of Yom did not want their dead disturbed. Yet every other manner of sorcery thrived here. Alchemists, adepts, enchanters, conjurors, soothsayers, theosophers, prestidigitators, thaumaturges, and mages wandered its marbled streets and hobnobbed among its hanging gardens. Yom was also home to vast wealth, and the penalty for thievery was death.

So it came to pass that Tumnal the Swift found himself locked in a damp cell, his limbs heavy with enspelled chains, deep in the catacombs below the wizard-king’s palace. Once known in seven realms as the Lord of Thieves, Tumnal was destined to be a footnote in the pages of an executioner’s journal. Although Yom’s penalty for thievery was precise, the bureaucracy of the place was staggering. Through no fault of his own (other than his libidinous nature) Tumnal had been caught and sentenced to death one month ago. But he might linger for years among the rats and roaches of the dungeon until the headsman came with his axe to carry out the sentence.

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Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1—1 Million Years B(ruce) W(ayne)

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

return-of-bruce-wayne-1After reading the Batman/Doc Savage Special, I didn’t imagine I would return to pick up any monthly Batman comics—or any monthly comics—for a span. I’m a trade paperback fellow who follows news of monthlies so I know what to buy in larger bound form when it reaches the bookstores.

Then I saw the sneak of the cover for issue #2 of the limited series Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne. And I screamed “Solomon Kane!” and rushed to find out what writer Grant Morrison was doing with this series. I learned that he was going to give me six issues of pulpy adoration, with Batman filling in a series of legendary pulp hero roles throughout history: barbarian Stone Age warrior, puritan witch-finder, pirate swashbuckler, and hard-boiled P.I.

Okay, I was on board for this, even though it rises out of the confusing mess of recent crossovers and events in the DC Universe, a mix-up that has alienated a lot of Bat-fans.

The events leading up to The Return of Bruce Wayne come from Grant Morrison’s run as writer on the monthly Batman comic and on the massive DC Universe event Final Crisis. Morrison is either a genius or a madman, probably both, and his time with Batman has seen developments that absolutely stagger the mind. The guy brought back Bat-Mite, for cryin’ out loud! Other crazy things he’s done: give Bruce Wayne a son with Talia; suggested that Bruce’s father, Thomas Wayne, faked his own death and is still alive; created a league of international Batman-and-Robin imitators; put Batman up against an adversary who might be the devil himself; and included “the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh” from some nutball 1961 story where Batman discovers a colorful version of himself on another planet.

And the amazing thing about all this? It works. Morrison is maniacal, but he layers on so much dementia that it is impossible not to ride along with it, even if half the time while I was reading it I was thinking “Huh?” That was fine, because the other half of the time I was thinking, “Whoa, cool!” . . . usually right after thinking, “Huh?”

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Signing the Contract

Monday, May 24th, 2010 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

whispers_from_the_stoneLast week I wrote about obtaining my first book deal. Over the next few months I thought I’d talk from time to time about what happens next.

As the point of my first essay was mostly about the importance of contacts (and in working steadily and not giving up), I mentioned some things in passing that I thought I’d cover in more detail. For instance, how did I get the offer? By air mail? Phone call? Candygram?

My friend Scott Oden had submitted my manuscript to his editor at Thomas Dunne Books, Pete Wolverton. A little over three weeks later, I received an e-mail from Pete asking me to give him a call at my convenience.

When I’d sent previous novels to other publishers, at best I had only ever received pleasant e-mail rejections, or, in olden times, a letter. Sometimes my novels had just disappeared, with nary a response at all. I had never received a request to call, and with Sherlockian-like deductive reasoning figured that was a promising sign.

I deliberately slowed down, made myself a cup of tea, and took my time drinking it. About twenty minutes later I dialed the number Pete had provided.

I found myself on the phone with a bright, friendly professional who’d enjoyed my book and wanted to talk about it, and to talk to me to get a sense of who I was… and to discuss a book offer.

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For the olde school gamers

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010 | Posted by Theo

squadleader21After reading about John O’Neill’s early gaming experiences in Black Gate 14, I was inspired to get back to my earlier attempt to create a VASSAL module for the monster game of strategic space combat, Fifth Frontier War. For those who are unaware, VASSAL is an adaptation of Rodney Kinney’s Virtual Advanced Squad Leader program which allows board-and-counter or card-based gamers to play games live or by email over the Internet.

After more than twelve years of development, both VASL and VASSAL are very robust software systems with a remarkable degree of sophistication. They are not computer games proper, as they lack artificial intelligence and there is no way of using them to play against the computer since the game rules are entirely external to the system.

Instead, they are an electronic replacement for the board, counters, cards, and dice that were traditionally used to play games like Squad Leader, Midway, Afrika Korps and other games from long-dead companies like Avalon Hill, SPI, and Game Designers Workshop.

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Rogue Blades Announces Challenge! Writing Contest

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

2010-discoveryRogue Blades Entertainment (RBE) has published some terrific fantasy anthologies over the past few years, including Return of the Sword and Rage of the Behemoth, featuring original work from writers such as E.E. Knight, James Enge, Bill Ward, Michael Ehart, Thomas M. MacKay, S.C. Bryce, Steve Goble, Brian Ruckley, C.L. Werner, Harold Lamb, and many others.

This week Rogue Blades publisher Jason M. Waltz announced the first annual RBE Challenge! Writing Contest. The competition is open to anyone, and the top stories will be printed in the competition anthology, Discovery (cover at right).

Submissions must consist of heroic adventure in any genre, and must arrive between June 1st and September 1st, 2010.  The top twelve stories will recevie a copy of the anthology; the top three will also receive cash awards, and a detailed critique from the contest judges.

The entry fee is only $10, almost criminally cheap. If you’re any aspiring writer looking for an opportunity to show your stuff, now’s your chance to appear in a new anthology from one of the top publishers of modern heroic fantasy.

More information is on the Official Announcement page, including this invitation from Jason Waltz:

Using V Shane’s artwork and the title Discovery as inspiration, pen me mighty and mysterious tales of action and adventure. Speculative fiction is NOT required… Sword & Sorcery, Sword & Planet, Soul & Sandal, Western, Mystery, Dark Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Sci-Fi, even Horror and Romance! You name it, so long as it’s heroic fiction, you can submit it.

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Short Fiction Review #27: Conjunctions 52

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010 | Posted by Soyka

conjunctionsThe Spring 2009  issue of Conjunctions (yeah, I know, my reading is way behind) edited by Bradford Morrow and Brian Evenson, the twice yearly literary magazine published by Bard College, is a follow-up to its New Wave Fabulists issue of about eight years ago. This time around there’s less effort expended in attempting to define a “new” subgenre. Instead, there’s a simple page-and-a-half introduction and a title, Betwixt the Between: Impossible Realism, that I find more concisely descriptive of this type of  fiction than the extensive critical commentary contained in its predecessor. Alas, I found the fiction selections overall less compelling than when the earlier volume was trying to prove something.

Part of the reason I didn’t connect with some of these stories may be the underlying premise of the objective here. I don’t have a problem with the premise. I just don’t think it was fulfilled. According to the editors,

Betwixt the Between investigates ways in which, on the one hand, works of fiction treat the impossible as if it were the solid groundwork of the real or, on the other hand how the ineffable can sometimes flash lightning-quick through the realms of the real, leaving everything the same and yet unaccountably changed. Worlds and concomitant models of logic are offered here that reveal something about our daily existence and yet turn away from it to forge disjointed realities that strike the reader simultaneously as familiar and anything but.

p. 7

I get that. But a number of these tales don’t strike me as weird for the purpose of explicating the wondrous underpinning of human existence that otherwise seems mundane, they strike me as weird just for the sake of being weird.

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A Reader’s Guide to Sword & Sorcery Magazines

Friday, May 21st, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

avon_fantasy_reader_17sI recently stumbled across G.W. Thomas’ marvelous Reader’s Guide to Sword & Sorcery Magazines, which is well worth a look for short fiction readers interested in the history of the genre.

G.W. Thomas is editor and publisher of Dark Worlds,  the pulp-Descended magazine of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery and other genres.  Dark Worlds was nominated for the Harper’s Pen Award earlier this year for Michael Ehart’s original sword & sorcery tale “Tomb of the Amazon Queen.”

But back to the Reader’s Guide already. You should check it out, it’s cool.  There are more complete magazine guides out there, certainly — the amazing Coverpop site, for example, with scans of literally thousands of old SF magazines, and a truly fun all-in-one SF Cover Explorer, as well as the magazines section of The Ultimate Science Fiction Web Guide, and even Wikipedia’s Science Fiction Magazine entry is pretty darn comprehensive — but few assembled with such a  focus on, and devotion to, heroic fantasy.

Thomas’s guide covers all the magazines that were instrumental in shaping modern Sword & Sorcery, starting with Weird Tales and Strange Tales, and continuing through Unknown, The Avon Fantasy Reader, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Fantastic, Weirdbook, Dragon, and many more. In between he also highlights lesser known (but still fascinating) titles such as The Fantasy Fan (1933-1935) and Midnight Sun (1974-1979). Finally, he provides links to some of the best sources of online S&S today, including Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Silver Blade, and Sorcerous Signals.

Here’s what he says about Black Gate:

This recent publication is the hottest place to read new S&S today. With authors like Martin Owton, Howard Andrews Jones, Charles Coleman Finley, Darrell Schweitzer, Charles deLint , it delivers a mix of Sword & Sorcery and other forms of Fantasy.

The guide includes some magnificent cover art, commentary from G.W, and links. The commentary is very short, and you can read through the entire guide in a few moments.  But the fiction it will introduce you to will last a lifetime. 

If you enjoyed the Reader’s Guide to Sword & Sorcery Magazines, you will likely also enjoy his broader and more ambitious Reader’s Guide to Sword & Sorcery, which also covers anthologies, short fiction, comics, TV/films, and much more.  I especially recommend his encyclopedic A-to-Z Guide to S&S authors, which covers virtually every major S&S writer of the last century, with copious cover scans of much of their major work. It’s still being updated, with links to work published as recently as last year. It’s like wandering though a well-stocked library.

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