Everett F Bleiler, April 30, 1920 – June 13, 2010

Thursday, June 17th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

years-best-sf-1949aEverett F. Bleiler, one of the most accomplished early anthologists of science fiction and fantasy, passed away this week in Ithaca, NY.

Bleiler created the tradition of “Year’s Best Science Fiction” anthologies with his co-editor, T.E. Dikty, starting with The Best Science Fiction Stories: 1949. He continued the series until 1954, producing a series of volumes that are highly collectible — and still very readable — today. Since the mid-1950s, few years have passed without at least one anthologist following in Bleiler’s footsteps with a “Year’s Best Science Fiction” anthology.

He produced dozens of highly-regarded anthologies, collections, and nonfiction books on all aspects of science fiction and fantasy between 1948 and 1998, including the Checklist of Fantastic Literature (1948), Imagination Unlimited (with T. E. Dikty, 1952), A Treasury of Victorian Detective Stories (1979), and A Treasury of Victorian Ghost Stories (1981).

Two of his detailed retrospectives of early science fiction, Science-Fiction: The Early Years (1990) and Science-Fiction: The Gernsback Years (1998), were nominated for the Hugo Award.

Bleiler received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1988, the First Fandom Hall of Fame award in 1994, and the International Horror Guild Living Legend award in 2004.

On a personal note, I’ve spent many hours curled up with Bleiler’s volumes, especially his Best Science Fiction Stories and the massive The Gernsback Years, which details every science fiction story published in Gernsback’s Amazing Stories and Science Wonder.  The field has lost one of its finest editors and one of its leading scholars.

Goth Chick News: Close Encounters – The Week We Made Contact

Thursday, June 17th, 2010 | Posted by Sue Granquist

ce3k1Back in May I told you all about cyber-stalking little Barry Guiler, that adorable little tot from the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind (now apparently referred to as CE3K by you unbelievably cool kids).

I also let you know that though at the time I had turned up a fat lot of nothing in my attempt to contact Barry, who is Cary Guffey in real life, something told me I was eventually going to meet with success. I mean, what little I had read about Cary seemed to point to him being a nice normal guy, which by default meant he was likely the opposite of that other child actor I tried to interview who by all on-line accounts is a bit of a tool.

So for three weeks I busied myself rearranging my voodoo dolls and abusing my new crop of interns, all the while hoping for pay dirt in the form of an email from Cary. So I would be spared from looking like a hopeless poser who spends a lot of time writing about great interviews, without ever closing escrow.

Well, today I am here to tell you that though I may indeed be a grade-A cyber stalker, I am definitely NOT a poser.

Cary Guffey did get in touch and he is indeed a nice guy; actually a really nice guy with a great sense of humor. And since none of you believed I’d end up interviewing him and therefore didn’t send in any insightful and provocative questions, I was forced to make up my own.

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

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 | Posted by John R. Fultz



“The Weird of Ironspell” by John R. Fultz

Illustrations by Alex Sheikman


7. On the Mountain of Sorrows


Lightning raged about the peak. Ironspell pulled himself toward the sky, finding handholds in precarious places. Storm clouds cast ominous shadows upon him. Peals of thunder rolled across his back like boulders. It had taken the better part of a year to reach the Mountain of Sorrows, and neither gods, demons, or nature itself would keep him from reaching the summit.

A voice in the back of his mind whispered unheeded warnings:

How do you know your son will truly be here? This is another trap Azazar has set for you. Your son is dead. You’ll find his animated corpse walking rotten and full of hate… 

He screamed his rage into the storm, drowning the voice of caution. He must scale this mountain; he could do no less for his own flesh and blood. If Tyneus were dead, at least he would finally know. And if he lived…

Ironspell had crossed the length of Dylestus, the dead kingdom where ghosts, wights, and ghouls prowled the remnants of shattered cities. The depraved descendants of the ruined realm had quickly captured him and Tumnal. They dragged the duo into a subterranean realm to feed a swarm of ravenous young. But the seekers escaped into an underworld of blind, crawling monsters and passed through a fungoid city of grotesques.

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Frederick Faust, Bound for SF and The Smoking Land

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

smoking-landThe Smoking Land
Frederick Faust writing as George Challis (Argosy, 1937)

I’m returning to the subject of Frederick Faust for the third time this year. But I have a specific, Black Gate-centered justification for it: I wish to unearth his single novel of science fiction, a piece of Lost World and Weird Science strangeness called The Smoking Land.

Faust, under Max Brand and his eighteen other pseudonyms, made his reputation with Westerns, but he did write in almost every genre that appeared in the story magazines of the time. He penned historical adventures, detective tales, mainstream short stories for the “slicks,” and espionage yarns. In 1937, he authored his one true science-fiction work, the novel The Smoking Land, which appeared serially under the pseudonym George Challis in the old warhorse of the pulp world, Argosy, starting in the May 29 issue.

(In fact, this Saturday evening I stood face-to-face with one of the actual issues of Argosy in which the novel was serialized, housed in the pulp collection at Author Services in Hollywood. Actual surviving issues of the self-destructive pulps are rare finds, and they need special protection to survive. And hey look! One of the Argosy installments of The Smoking Land shares space with the Cornell Woolrich story “Clever, These Americans”! . . . Okay, so maybe only I care.)

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Al Williamson, March 21, 1931 – June 13, 2010

Monday, June 14th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

al-williamson2Al Williamson, one of the finest science fiction artists of all time, died yesterday in New York City.

Williamson began his career assisting Tarzan cartoonist Burne Hogarth in 1948. His first professional credit was a three-page crime story, “The Last Three Dimes,” in Wonder Comics #20 (Oct, 1948), co-penciled with Frank Frazetta. In 1952 Williamson began working for E.C.Comics, joining the legendary Wally Wood, Frazetta, and Roy Krenkel on Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, and Incredible Science Fiction, illustrating stories by Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury, among others.

By 1966 he was drawing Flash Gordon for King Features, which garnered him an award from the National Cartoonist Society. In 1967 he took the reins on another Alex Raymond creation, Secret Agent Corrigan, which he drew for over a decade. Art historians note that Williamson used his own face as the model for secret agent Phil Corrigan, which made him easy to recognize at conventions.

In the 1980s Williamson began his famed Star Wars comic adaptations, starting with The Empire Strikes Back for Marvel. Williamson was reportedly George Lucas’ first choice for the Star Wars newspaper strip, as Lucas was a fan of his EC Comics and Flash Gordon, and Williamson drew the daily and Sunday feature until 1983. He did additional work throughout the decade for Pacific Comics (Alien Worlds), Marvel (including Blade Runner and Epic Illustrated), and DC (Superman #400).

Since 1998 half a dozen retrospectives of his work have been published, including Al Williamson Adventures, The Al Williamson Sketchbook, The Al Williamson Reader, Vol. 1, and Al Williamson: Hidden Lands. Most of these had tiny print runs, and I had trouble tracking several of them down a few years ago.  If you want copies, I suggest acting quickly.

Science Fiction site io9 has a gallery of some of the best work of this incredible artist, and comics writer and artist Jimmy Palmiotti has written a eulogy here.

Ye’d Best Start Believin’ in Ghost Stories

Monday, June 14th, 2010 | Posted by Jackson Kuhl

We're naught but humble pirates.Bloodbones
Jonathan Green
Wizard Books (240 pp, ₤5.99, CAN$12.00, April 2010)

In 1982, Puffin Books unleashed The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, the first in the Fighting Fantasy line of gamebooks. The book was conceived and written by Steve Jackson (the British one) and Ian Livingstone, co-founders of Games Workshop. Although predated by solitaire RPG scenarios, Fighting Fantasy combined a choose-your-own-adventure decision-tree structure with a simple dice mechanic to mimic an RPG experience. The quick-start rules, brisk pacing, and art by New Wavey fantasists like Iain McCraig, Chris Achilleos, and Richard Corben, all bundled in a mass-market paperback retailing for $1.95, made Fighting Fantasy wildly successful. The series ran until 1995, along the way spawning ancillary media like novels, computer games, even a full-blown Fighting Fantasy RPG. Fan enthusiasm still burns bright today, with a downloadable fanzine and its own wiki.

Screw Narnia; had I ever discovered some magic wardrobe, I would have jumped with both feet into Titan. As it was, chores were done and allowances scraped together in anticipation of infrequent family expeditions to the mall bookstore. There I could pay to wade through the mire of the Scorpion Swamp, survive Baron Sukumvit’s Deathtrap Dungeon, rally freed slaves to overcome the sinister Gonchong on the Island of the Lizard King. Now I’ve been playing the books all over again, this time with my young sons, imparting to them the same vital life lessons I learned as a young boy: don’t trust strangers; never put your hand in someplace you can’t see; and if you kill someone, you might as well go ahead and take his wallet.

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Read the first three chapters of The Way of Kings

Monday, June 14th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

way-of-kingsTor.com has put the first three chapters of Brandon Sanderson’s new epic fantasy novel, The Way of Kings, online for free.

Sanderson is the author of Warbreaker, the Mistborn trilogy (Mistborn, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages), and the book that got him his own publicist, The Gathering Storm, the 12th and final novel in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, written from extensive notes Robert Jordan made before he died.

Charlene Brusso reviewed Warbreaker for the Black Gate blog here, calling Sanderson an “expert at spinning fantasy stories packed with memorable characters, crisply detailed settings, unique magic, and major helpings of intrigue.”

The Way of Kings is the first book of The Stormlight Archive series. Set in the world of Roshar, where mighty storms cause trees to pull in branches, grass to retract into the ground, and cities to be built only where there is shelter, the novel follows a large cast of characters, including medical apprentice Kaladin, reduced to slavery in a war that rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. 

The Way of Kings will be available August 31st, and weighs in at over 1000 pages. Looks like Sanderson served his apprenticeship under Jordan well.

If you haven’t already, you’ll need to register at Tor.com to read the 50-page excerpt.  Registration is free and fairly painless.

Play a science-fiction mini-game from Dark City Games

Sunday, June 13th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill


To promote their new science-fiction role-playing game At Empire’s End, Dark City Games has created S.O.S, a short solitaire SF role-playing game. We’re pleased to reprint the game in its entirety here on the Black Gate blog.

You can either read the text as choose-your-own-adventure style paragraphs, or grab some dice and play according to the short rules. Experienced role players, or those familiar with The Fantasy Trip, should be able to jump right into the action.

Without further ado, we present S.O.S, a Legends of Time and Space science-fiction role-playing adventure by George Dew.

You come out of hyperspace around the barren, rocky, waste-planet of Lemm. It orbits a distant star, and lacks an atmosphere. As a result, the inhospitable grey surface boasts temperatures hundreds of degrees below zero.

Your sensors scan for traces of the distress signal, when suddenly, an alien contact flashes across your navigation screen. Do you want to hail it (001) or attack with initiative (002)?

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Letters to Black Gate

Sunday, June 13th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

btga41Kim Patrick Weiss, of Bavaria, Germany, writes:

I tend to browse the Black Gate website every day, to check the news and, of course, read the new chapter of “The Weird of Ironspell” every Wednesday. When I read your article about Before the Golden Age by Isaac Asimov, two things immediately caught my interest: “…civilizations in grains of sand…” and “…humans in rags taking on entrenched alien conquerors…” and I knew I had to look into getting this book.
      Well, a couple minutes after I finished reading the article, and with my imagination already running wild, I decided to pick up a used copy from Amazon. I was in luck, the 1974 hardcover version by Doubleday was available for only $20. The book arrived today and I already read “Submicroscopic” and “Awlo of Ulm”, the ones that seemed the most appealing, and I can’t say I regret buying the book right away instead of checking out that website you mentioned first. Your article opened my eyes to a wider variety of sci-fi stories and authors, and I just have to say thanks for that :)
       It’s also a very nice experience to find out about so many old classics that I never knew existed. Your magazine and website are a great source for new (well, new to me) books and authors and I’m sure there’s still a lot more to discover in the archives. So, thanks again for a great website and an awesome magazine, both of which I hope will stay around for a long, long time!

Glad you enjoyed it, Kim.  “Submicroscopic” and its sequel “Awlo of Ulm,” both by Capt. S. P. Meek, are in fact the stories I had in mind when I mentioned “civilizations in grains of sand.”  They first appeared in Amazing Stories in 1931, and they’re still great fun today.

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Summer Reading

Saturday, June 12th, 2010 | Posted by Soyka

62540212Right now, I’m about a quarter of the way into Robert V.S. Redick’s The Ruling Sea, the sequel (second of a planned four book sequence) to The Red Wolf Conspiracy.  I’m reading this in part for an SF Site review, where I previously took a look at the first volume. My interest in Redick stemmed from seeing him at the 2009 Virginia Festival of the Book, held annually in my home base of Charlottesville.  To quote myself,

I was struck by how intense Redick was, how much he cared about his characters and the world he created and how eager he was to share it (and how he struggled to cover as much as he could within the constraints of his allotted time). He didn’t strike me as a “Tolkien by the numbers” kind of guy. So I was mainly intrigued by his personality to read his book.

BlackGate fans should probably put it on their summer reading lists, even if they aren’t reviewing it. Things  I’m looking forward to reading this summer that I’m not reviewing include:

  • The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  • Horns by Joe Hill
  • Angelology by Danielle Trussoni
  • Bright Dark Madonna by Elizabeth Cunningham
  • The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers by Thomas Mullen

Of course, that’s just the tip of my tottering to-be-read pile.  But I’m optimistic that I’ll manage to make a dent in it.

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