Frank Frazetta enters Valhalla

Monday, May 10th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

death-dealer2Frank Frazetta, the greatest fantasy artist of his generation, died today at age 82.

Frazetta got his start in comics in the early 1950s, working with legendary artists such as Al Williamson, Roy Krenkel, Al Capp, and Harvey Kurtzman on Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and Li’l Abner, as well as many titles at EC Comics.

In 1964 Frazetta did his first movie poster for (of all things) Woody Allen’s first film, What’s New Pussycat?  This eventually led to cover paintings for some of the most popular paperbacks of the 60s and 70s, most notably the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, including Tarzan and John Carter of Mars.

For fantasy fans Frazetta is best remembered for his groundbreaking Sword & Sorcery images — such as “Death Dealer” (right), the cover to Lin Carter’s 1973 anthology Flashing Swords 2 — and most especially his colorful and visceral depictions of Conan, which revolutionized fantasy art.

Until Frazetta, Conan was primarily depicted as a white, clean-cut warrior in pseudo-roman garb, straight off the set of a Cecil B. DeMille film (see the covers of Robert E. Howard’s first Gnome Press editions from the 1950s, such as Conan the Barbarian).

But Frazetta swept away all who had come before, re-envisioning Conan as a muscular, dark-skinned titan, a true barbarian in spirit and appearance. Since Frazetta, in defining work by artists like Ken Kelly, Sanjulian, Barry Windsor Smith, Mark Schultz and Gary Gianni, Conan has been revealed as both heroic and fearful, a thick-sinewed, long-haired mongrel, a truly striking figure in all respects.

Frank Frazetta died at a hospital near his home in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

For a sampling of some of his finest work, visit the unofficial Frazetta Fantasy Art Gallery.

Exploring Towers of Adventure

Monday, May 10th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

towers-of-adventureA while back I placed an order with one of my favorite online vendors, FRP Games, whose selection and discounts are both excellent. At the last minute I added an item to my cart that I hadn’t budgeted for: James Ward’s Towers of Adventure, a boxed set for Castles & Crusades from Troll Lord Games.

Not only had I not planned to buy it, I’d never even heard of it until I saw it in FRP’s product newsletter.  What can I say, I’m a sucker for marketing copy:

Towers of Adventure offers the Castle Keeper a marvelous set of interchangeable tower levels, rooms, monsters, NPCs, traps and treasures. This box set allows you to make literally millions of exciting towers for your players to explore. Treasures, tower inhabitants, and tower maps are at your fingers and so easy to use you can put together a complex adventure in five minutes or less.

It’s true!  This isn’t a typical adventure supplement, with a set of interlinked encounters and rooms carefully described for the game master. In fact, while the box contains designs for 15 wildly different towers — including a Zombie Tower, Vampire Tower, Cloud Giant Tower, and Lonely Wizard’s Tower — I couldn’t find a room description anywhere.

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Heroscape Wave 11

Sunday, May 9th, 2010 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Heroscape’s 11th wave arrived the other day and some valiant play testers stepped up to try out the new pieces with me.

wave-11Some of you might have missed the battle recap of an epic Heroscape battle posted at Eric Knight’s blog; these play tests weren’t nearly as involved, but they were a lot of fun.

As you might remember from my last Heroscape review, a wave is a new issue of figures in four packages. This one is titled Champions of the Forgotten Realms, in reference to the Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms campaign world, which ties into the most recent Heroscape expansion set.

Of the four packages of the new wave, the easiest one to get the hang of was The Warriors of Ghostlight Fen. Its hydra and phantom warriors were pretty easy to figure out how to deploy on the battlefield. One of the great things about Heroscape is that the best way to use the figures isn’t always obvious – it requires experimentation, which is nice, because if the battle outcomes were obvious the game simply wouldn’t be as much fun.

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Short Fiction Roundup: WLT

Saturday, May 8th, 2010 | Posted by Soyka

may10coverWorld Literature Today (WLT), a publication of the University of Oklahoma, has an issue devoted to “International Science Fiction,” though a cursory review of the contributing authors makes it seem that “international” has a mostly eurocentric slant. In any event, you can read Kij Johnson’s story, “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss,” as well as various non fiction pieces and a poem that have been posted on line.

Pyr Books Fall Winter 2010-2011 Season

Friday, May 7th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

thewolfage1Editorial director Lou Anders has posted Pyr’s complete Fall Winter 2010-2011 catalog online.

There’s a lot of great stuff to look forward to, including James Enge’s third Morlock book, The Wolf Age:

Wuruyaaria: city of werewolves, whose raiders range over the dying northlands, capturing human beings for slaves or meat. Wuruyaaria: where a lone immortal maker wages a secret war against the Strange Gods of the Coranians. Wuruyaaria: a democracy where some are more equal than others, and a faction of outcast werewolves is determined to change the balance of power in a long, bloody election year.

Their plans are laid; the challenges known; the risks accepted. But all schemes will shatter in the clash between two threats few had foreseen and none had fully understood: a monster from the north on a mission to poison the world, and a stranger from the south named Morlock Ambrosius.

Morlock first appeared in Black Gate 8, in the story “Turn Up This Crooked Way.” 

Now he’s all grown up, and taking on Strange Gods in werewolf cities.  It makes us proud.

hornsofruinThere’s plenty more on the Pyr list to command your attention, including Tim Akers’ The Horns of Ruin, which sounds very intriguing indeed:

Eva Forge is the last paladin of a dead God. Morgan, God of battle and champion of the Fraterdom, was assassinated by his jealous brother, Amon… When a series of kidnappings and murders makes it clear that someone is trying to hasten the death of the Cult of Morgan, Eva must seek out unexpected allies and unwelcome answers in the city of Ash. But will she be able to save the city from a growing conspiracy, one that reaches back to her childhood, even back to the murder of her god? 

All this plus Pierre Pevel’s The Cardinal’s Blades, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Salute the Dark, and new novels from Paul McAuley, Mark Chadbourn, Mark Hodder, Jasper Kent, Sam Sykes, Joel Shepherd, James Barclay, and many more.

Check out all the details (and the fabulous cover art) here.

Goth Chick News: A Decomposing Neverland — an interview with Douglas Clegg

Thursday, May 6th, 2010 | Posted by Sue Granquist

neverlandImagine the family vacation from hell.

I know you can do that because you’ve had one, and I know you’ve had one because everybody has. Usually the “from hell” part has to do with long-term forced exposure to family members in an environment you have no hope of escaping for the duration of your tortured imprisonment (known as the “vacation”).

For me it was a remote cabin in the Canadian woods; go north, turn left at anything that looks like fun, and drive for another four hours. The location alone was the perfect setting for a knife-wielding maniac to off a few sinful teenagers including at least one cheerleader; which is probably what got me to where I am today. But enough about me…

What if your personal family vacation from hell, contained a real Hell? I mean a dictionary-definition Hell complete with a soul-eating demon? It is under this premise that we follow author Douglas Clegg into the no-Tinker-Bell, Peter Pan-less nightmare called Neverland.

Beau Jackson is destined to spend another summer with his extended family in their run-down “summer home” on Gull Island. Isolated and remote, the island is privy to even more nasty little secrets than the ones the adults spill out each evening during their alcohol-induced arguing, and Beau’s cousin Sumter is up to no good at all in that broken down shed at the back of the property.

Sumter has always been a little off, maybe even a little evil. But what he’s got hiding in a box back there is about to rip the fabric between reality and Sumter’s sadistic imagination, taking Beau and the rest of the Jackson family along for the ride.

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

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010 | Posted by John R. Fultz

In the grand tradition of the classic heroic fantasy pulps comes “The Weird of Ironspell” — a series of all-new Sword-and-Sorcery adventures coming to you over the next few weeks, a new self-contained chapter every Wednesday right here at The saga begins now…

“The Weird of Ironspell” by John R. Fultz

Illustrations by Alex Sheikman

1. Born of Stone

The child would never know its father. 

In the amber glow of their hearth fires, villagers traded whispers about its mother. The witch had come out of the forest heavy with child. Some said she dallied with a demon, or a wood-spirit, but the witch never revealed her secret paramour. She gave birth in the light of a silver moon, while wolves howled like ghosts among the hills. 

As the child grew, its mother worked like a man at her anvil, forging a blade for her son. She smelted a strange, gleaming metal from the heart of a stone that had fallen from the sky while she was in labor. The village elders said she must be weaving a great spell, and her hammer rang across the village like a doomful bell. In the space of a month she had finished the sword. She christened it with several drops of her own blood, which flowed down the blade’s length and sank into the metal, taking on the shapes of crimson runes. 

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C.S.E. Cooney reviews Black Gate 14

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

hangmans1Author C.S.E. Cooney has become the third reviewer to post her thoughts on our latest issue, which she read over several train rides:

It’s MASSIVE! It’s GLOSSY! It’s full of ILLUSTRATIONS! There are THREE POEMS in it!… After chortling my way through John O’Neill’s wry romp of an editorial, laughing though the letters, and reading Rich Horton’s essay on older fantasy fiction… I finally started on the actual fiction.

She seemed to particularly enjoy “The Hangman’s Daughter” by Chris Braak:

HURRAH for the FORMDIABLE girl-child protagonist with her laconic but fiercely interesting dad and the incredible world built around them… This story was, in a word (an old-fashioned hippie word), BITCHIN’.

Dan Brodribb’s “The Girl Who Feared Lightning

My favorite bit in “The Girl Who Feared Lightning” was a short exchange between the protagonist and her boyfriend over the phone. It was very natural and easy, yet loaded with all sorts of things left unsaid. It’s always amazing to me how a few sentences of dialogue can define an entire relationship. And then, of course, there were the mummies.

And Robert J. Howe’s “The Natural History of Calamity”

Witty and well-plotted. I expended very little effort in reading – the story just swept me along. It took most of two train rides, and I was in a panic lest I’d have to get off the train before I’d FINISHED it. Another author I must GOOGLE. Kick-ass lady protag, too, I must say. And kick-ass without being INDOMITABLE, you know. She gets knocked around her fair share and is not NOBLE about it all the time. I’d like to meet her again. In, like, a novel. Please.

Claire’s complete (and highly entertaining) review is here.

Art by John Kaufmann for “The Hangman’s Daughter.”

The Spider vs. The Empire State

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

Layout 2The Spider Revival: Part III

The Spider vs. The Empire State
Norvell Page (Ace of Aces Books, 2009)

I have previously written about the revival in trade paperback of the adventures of The Spider, the bloodiest of all 1930s pulp heroes. My reviews of The Spider: Robot Titans of Gotham and The Spider: City of Doom, both published by Baen, contain plenty of background about the character and his main author, Norvell Page, so if you’re unfamiliar with the blood-soaked vigilante insanity of this region of the pulp universe, I’d advise that you start there.

This third collection of Spider adventures comes from a new publisher (Ace of Aces Books) and presents for the first time three connected novels that were originally published consecutively in The Spider Magazine. These three novels, which ran in the September, October, and November 1938 issues, form “The Black Police Trilogy,” one of the darkest episodes in the character’s history. Norvell Page and his editor Harry Steeger decided to put newspaper headlines and national fears into their pulp adventures: an allegory for Nazism, viewed as it might arise in the middle of contemporary New York State. It Does Happen Here might serve a good alternate title.

The first book of the trilogy, The City That Paid to Die, came out exactly a year before the Nazi invasion of Poland. The U.S. and the rest of the world were in an uneasy position with the seemingly unstoppable rise of fascism in Europe and the apparent weakness of the liberal democracies. A few small fascist sympathetic groups bubbled up in the U.S., but by 1938 the isolationist nation was becoming concerned about the ambitions of the regimes of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. It was an era ripe for terror and panic—and Norvell Page seized those feelings to create a pulp adventure uncomfortably close to 1938 concerns.

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Black Gate 14 now available in PDF

Monday, May 3rd, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

bg-14-cover3Black Gate 14 is now available in PDF format for just $4.95. 

Black Gate 14 is a landmark issue ­ and at 384 pages, it’s also the largest in our history. The print version retails for $15.95, but now you can order the complete magazine — including the wraparound cover — for the same price as all our PDFs: $4.95/copy, or as part of a 4-issue PDF subscription for just $17.95.

Existing subscribers can purchase the issue for just $2.95.

Here’s what  Grasping for the Wind has to say about our latest issue:

One of the best collections of fiction on the market – whether books, magazines, or online. The latest edition has just been released, and Black Gate 14 is massive, topping out at 384 pages …  this massive collection of fiction shows why, even with their irregular publishing schedule, Black Gate is one of the most popular magazines (print or online) available today.

The issue includes a Morlock novella from James Enge, and new fiction from John C. Hocking, Michael Jasper & Jay Lake, Pete Butler, Robert J Howe, Martin Owton, Chris Braak, Matthew David Surridge,  and much more — including an 8-page Knights of the Dinner Table strip!

The complete Table of Contents, with artwork and brief story excerpts, is here, and you can read the complete reviews from Grasping for the Wind and Locus Online here.

Order the magazine on our Subscription page here.

Cover art by the great Bruce Pennington.

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