Black Gate Zeppelin to Dragon*Con Update Episode 3: the Salad is Tossed

Friday, August 27th, 2010 | Posted by eeknight

All hands repel boarders!

All hands repel boarders!

Gentlemen!

I can indeed verify that Howard von Steppenwolf-Jones’s fearful presentiment about the revelation of our route is correct. We are compromised and our mission imperiled. While returning home from a convivial evening of cards and tawny Port at my club (Le Cheveux Club Pour Les Hommes — best steak au poivre in Chicago, I might add) I noticed my door had been  jimmied with a crude textural analysis and took the precaution of drawing my trusty life preserver. Senses, pistol, and wits half-cocked, I entered. From my library, I heard a whispered chant:

Mene, mene, Derrida upchuckin’
Dulce et decorum est, pro postmodernism scribtum

I’d heard those black words before, in the nightmarish 2006 free-for-all at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival.  A claven of MFA candidates, driven mad by Midwestern Chardonnay and a few passed-around copies of Rosebud, had very nearly cost me my life.

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Black Gate Zeppelin to Dragon*Con Update

Friday, August 27th, 2010 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

zepplein-brochure2bThere’s a temporary lull in operations and the skies are clear over Oklahoma, so I thought I’d take the time to set the record straight about our expedition to Dragon*Con via the Black Gate zeppelin, the Harold Lamb. John described the start of our journey just after we departed the Black Gate rooftop headquarters Thursday.

Those of you who know publisher John O’Neill are aware that he has a tendency to exaggerate. For instance, he stated that the zeppelin is capable of Mach 2, but it usually maxes out around 1.5. He’d probably report that we were attacked by a flock of cybernetic pterodactyls, but in truth it was really only a half dozen, and Bill Ward and I took out most of them with the electric railguns. John was only blown back a few feet when the aft railgun exploded, too, so just nod politely if he tells you he was smashed into the hull and stunned.

I really wish John hadn’t broadcast our route, because I’m afraid it’s attracted unwanted attention. I’m fairly certain Dr. Zaius sent the cybernetic pterodactyls after us, but John Fultz tells me he sent mocking letters to both Aquaman AND the Legion of Doom on Black Gate letterhead, so there’s just no telling. Still, we’re prepared for pretty much anything on our journey, and we’ve decided to stick with the plan.

Now I thought I’d take a few moments to respond to some questions that have come in during our trip.

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Climbing Aboard the Dragon: Maps and the Fantasy Writer

Friday, August 27th, 2010 | Posted by Michael Jasper

The world is a miracle, unfolding in the pitch dark.
— Barry Lopez, “The Mappist”

Just because you can travel to a place doesn’t mean you can know it.
—Alan DeNiro, “Salting the Map”

Like most things with us fantasy readers and writers, it started with Tolkien.

Map of the Wilderlands, from THE HOBBIT

I saw the map at the beginning of my now-battered Ballantine version of The Hobbit all those years ago. The book had two maps in it, for crying out loud — my eleven-year-old self had never seen such a thing. I wondered if there’d be some sort of quiz at the end of the book — was Mount Gundabad at the northern or southern tip of the Misty Mountains? (No fair peeking!)

I can’t tell you how many times I drew and re-drew that map. I think I even tried to recreate it on an old Apple II computer, using BASIC (ouch, just aged myself, big-time). I studied it, wondered about those Woodmen living on the western border of Mirkwood, and of course traced the path taken by Bilbo and the dwarves on the way to their final meeting with Smaug the dragon.

And then I got a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring and saw how that little slice of the world from The Hobbit fit into the much bigger world of Middle-Earth, and I was hooked. Forget sketching the map of the land — I wanted to live there! (Orcs and wargs and all.)

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Dark Worlds Magazine #5 Arrives

Friday, August 27th, 2010 | Posted by G.W. Thomas

darkworld5aDark Worlds #5 (Summer 2010) is online at last.

Fans of the magazine will notice a few changes. First, it’s now in quarto size (7 1/2″ x 10″) instead of 6″ x 9″ trade paper size (to make it more like an old pulp) and the cover is a wraparound.

The cover illustrates “Of Kings and Servants,” and is painted by M. D. Jackson. The interior pages have a new graphic look as well.

This issue features the work of C. J. Burch (author of The Star of Kaleel – a novel  reviewed in this issue). C. J. offers the Tiana Dumond and Krystyn Hamerskjold novella “Of Kings and Servants,” a Sword & Sorcery tale of undead pirates and evil magicians. Cover artist M. D. Jackson also did the illustrations.

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Blogging Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon – Part One: “Flash Gordon on the Planet Mongo”

Friday, August 27th, 2010 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Alex Raymond created Flash Gordon for King Features Syndicate to compete with the successful science fiction strip, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Raymond’s creation was decidedly more space fantasy than science fiction, combining elements borrowed from Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sax Rohmer, Alexandre Dumas, and Anthony Hope to great effect. Flash Gordon debuted January 7, 1934 with the strip, “Flash Gordon on the Planet Mongo” which would be serialized each Sunday through April 15, 1934.

fg-blb-1The strip kicked off with an exciting documentary-style depiction of an unforeseen catastrophe assailing our world. An unknown planet mysteriously appears in our solar system and is hurtling rapidly toward Earth. Destruction seems unavoidable. We are quickly introduced to a scientist, Dr. Hans Zarkov who is rapidly completing a rocket ship which he plans to man on a suicide mission to try and divert the oncoming planet from Earth’s trajectory.

“Flash” Gordon is a Yale-educated world-renowned polo player (I’m sure we can all name a handful of world-renowned polo players). He and a young woman named Dale Arden are the only known survivors of a plane struck down by a meteor heralding from the approaching planet. Flash and Dale parachute just outside of Dr. Zarkov’s observatory. Paranoid from overwork, Zarkov pulls a gun on the startled plane crash survivors and forces them to accompany him on his suicide mission to space. The first installment ends with Zarkov’s rocket ship on a collision course with the rapidly hurtling planet.

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Black Gate Zeppelin Pointed Towards Dragon*Con

Thursday, August 26th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

zepplin2I arrived at our building this morning to find people milling around in the street, pointing into the air. A fat, smoke-shrouded zeppelin was moored to the Black Gate rooftop headquarters.

“Oh God, no,” I thought. “I was sure Howard was joking. That thing is a death trap.”

Howard wasn’t joking. I took the elevator to the roof, punched in the secret code, and stepped out into chaos. Minions were scurrying everywhere, loading cargo into the airship. John Woolley, our graphic designer, was stuffing our brand new 12-foot banners into a well-worn travel case from the 1920s. I caught him just as a strong gust of wind damn near took him over the edge, and we got it stowed into the cargo hold.

I found Howard commanding operations. “Are you crazy?” I shouted at him. “That thing will never make it to Atlanta. It can barely do five knots!”

Howard did look slightly crazy, dressed in jungle fatigues and standing on a desk. He was clutching a worn parchment. “Isn’t she beautiful? Jason Waltz completely re-built the engines. She hit Mach 2 just after midnight last night during our test run!”

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Goth Chick News: Best In Show; The Chicago Comic Con

Thursday, August 26th, 2010 | Posted by Sue Granquist

wizardworldHave you ever woken up in an extremely good mood, found you were left enough hot water for a skin-peeling shower, stepped on the scale and found it down two pounds in spite of the bacchanalia of the night before? Have you ever leapt out of bed feeling euphoric and thought, “I really love my life?”

For me, the sun rose over the Chicago skyline last Saturday and found me gleefully clutching my press pass to the Chicago Comic Con.

It was about to be one of those days.

Last weekend, Wizard World made the Chicago stop on its nationwide tour, bring pop culture, comic books, toys and general weirdness to the Windy City. I brought my good friend and photographer Mr. Disney along, not only to help capture every precious moment on film, but to assist in with the non-stop stream of snarky commentary that was unavoidable at an event such as this.

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ON WRITING FANTASY: Setting & the Five Senses

Thursday, August 26th, 2010 | Posted by John R. Fultz

maskofthesorcerer“The city is a different place in the daylight, bright banners waving from towers, houses likewise bright with hangings and with designs painted on walls and roofs. The ships of the river unload by day, and the streets are filled with the babble of tongues, while traders and officials and barbarians and city wives all haggle together. It is a place of sharp fish smells and strange incense and leather and wet canvas and unwashed rivermen who bring outlandish beasts from the villages high in the mountains, near the birthplace of the river.”
        — Darrell Schweitzer, MASK OF THE SORCERER

“I have never seen a city in the world so beautiful as Merimna seemed to me when I first dreamed of it. It was a marvel of spires and figures of bronze, and marble fountains, and trophies of fabulous wars, and broad streets given over wholly to the Beautiful. Right through the centre of the city there went an avenue fifty strides in width, and along each side of it stood likenesses in bronze of the Kings of all the countries that the people of Merimna had ever known. At the end of that avenue was a colossal chariot with three bronze horses driven by the winged figure of Fame…”
        — Lord Dunsany, “The Sword of Welleran”

“Beyond the forest opened a feral country, where many things grew, but out of control and out of a pure determination to be born. Here the huge-thorned roses bloomed spotted as cats on the briars, the apples were salt, and the fruit of the quince tree was like wormwood. Bright birds lived in the thickets but they had no song. The native beasts were savage, but they did not often hunt men, for men did not often come there to oblige them.”
        — Tanith Lee, DEATH’S MASTER


Where in the world are we?

When it comes to Fantasy Fiction the importance of a unique and original Setting cannot be overstated. Every story has to take place SOMEWHERE…and the Where of a story often determines every other aspect, including Who, What, and Why. Instead of relying on a re-creation of the “real world,” fantasy writers must create new worlds, which demands a whole new set of skills.

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Howard Andrew Jones’ The Desert of Souls available for pre-order on Amazon

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

whispers-from-the-stone-small3Howard Andrew Jones’ Dabir and Asim stories are some of the most popular we’ve published in Black Gate. His first novel featuring his 9th Century adventurers, The Desert of Souls, is now available for pre-order from Amazon.com.

Howard’s tales of Dabir and Asim have appeared in many fine venues, including the anthology Sages and Swords, and Paradox, the magazine of historical and speculative fiction. In “Sight of Vengeance” (Black Gate 10), our intrepid heroes investigate a fiendish foe who claims the eyes of his victims.  In “Whispers From the Stone” (Black Gate 12), Dabir and Asim find themselves trapped in an ancient tomb, up against an sinister conspiracy led by a long-dead — and very formidable — opponent.

Howard has discussed the fascinating details of selling his novel here on the Black Gate blog (“How to Get a Book Deal“). We’ll publish an excerpt from the novel in our next issue, Black Gate 15. But for now you’ll have to content yourself with the enticing plot summary from the Amazon listing:

In 9th century Baghdad, a stranger pleads with the vizier to safeguard the bejeweled tablet he carries, but he is murdered before he can explain. Charged with solving the puzzle, the scholar Dabir soon realizes that the tablet may unlock secrets hidden within the lost city of Ubar, the Atlantis of the sands. When the tablet is stolen from his care, Dabir and Captain Asim are sent after it, and into a life and death chase through the ancient Middle East. Stopping the thieves — a cunning Greek spy and a fire wizard of the Magi — requires a desperate journey into the desert, but first Dabir and Asim must find the lost ruins of Ubar and contend with a mythic, sorcerous being that has traded wisdom for the souls of men since the dawn of time. Debut author Howard Jones breathes new life into the glittering tradition of sword-and-sorcery, combining the masterful fantasy of Robert E. Howard with the high-speed action of Bernard Cornwell.

Already being described as “A thrilling, inventive cross between One Thousand and One Nights and Sherlock Holmes,” The Desert of Souls will appear in hardcover in February, 2011, from St. Martin’s imprint Thomas Dunne Books.

Art by Storn Cook for “Whispers From the Stone.”


Hyperborean Mice: Grim Swords & Sorcery Action… With Talking Mice

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

hyper-miceAm I a bad gamer if I really, really want to play this game?

I mean… a role playing game of heroic rodents, tiny critters struggling valiantly against barbarian rat tribes,  gargantuan predators such as foxes and owls, legendary horrors that prowl the land, and foul sorcery.  All in Conan’s backyard.

Just listen to this product description:

The ancient White Lords, albino mice with magical powers, rule over the valley of Hyperborea, but their empire is crumbling. Barbarian rat tribes, deadly predators and political intrigue threaten to bring their mousy civilization to an end. Terrible predators like foxes and owls take the place of giants and dragons. Voracious shrew clans raid the Fallows, seeking mice and rats to fill their larders. Centipedes scuttle beneath the underbrush, seeking prey. Hawks force the inhabitants to stay under cover during the day, while owls stalk the sky at night… Legendary horrors stalk the land, unique predators with potent magical abilities of their own. The terrifying Mocker, a centipede whose only voice is the imitated cries of his victims. The serpent Ssaaa gathers a cult of worshipers to do her bidding in the valley. And no mouse dares stand against dread Hoorooru, the ancient ruler of Rookswood and the enemy of the gods.

It’s like Robert E. Howard was hired to write the screenplay for The Secret of Nimh. Scott Oden reports that it’s “Filled with REH and Lovecraft homages! Like an owl that’s worshipped as a god by clans of savage mice.” I got chills, I swear.

Hyperborean Mice was written by Frank Sronce and published by Kiz and Jenn Press. It’s 102 pages, and is available as a softcover book from Lulu.com or as a digital download PDF from RPGNow and DriveThru RPG. Show it some love and check it out, and let me know I’m not crazy.


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