Art Evolution 2: Eric Vedder

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 | Posted by Scott Taylor


Last week I kicked off the Art Evolution blog series, explaining my plan to collect ten of the greatest fantasy role-playing artists for a shared project to illustrate a single character in their best known style. For my first installment I chose Earthdawn and Shadowrun artist Jeff Laubenstein.

With Jeff Laubenstein and a Shadowrun Lyssa‘ in the fold, I took stock of my list and imagined how I would gain other universally recognizable names. I determined that each name carried a ‘weight’, a kind of industry standard validity recognizable to other artists.

Remember, I was working this alone, without a single writing credit to my name, so I had to find legitimacy where I could. Understanding that, and without a previously established friendship with the lion’s share of these artists, I needed a greater combined ‘weight’ of already contracted artists to approach the next heavier weighted contributor on my list.

At this point I only had a single artist signed so I went back into the few art connections I’d made during my time trying to market my other writings. Like most struggling writers in their publishing infancy, I believed there might be a shortcut or magic bullet to getting published. J.K. Rowling couldn’t buy bread before Harry Potter, but she went out and purchased a lovely red transparent folder to place her Potter manuscript in before she sent it to a perspective publisher.

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Supernatural Spotlight – Season Two and Three Recap

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

supernatural-season21When last we left Sam and Dean Winchester, they’d rejoined their father, John, and confronted the demon that killed their mother (a demon with glowing yellow eyes, named Azazel), but the demon got away. Season one ended with their car being slammed into by a semi being driven by a demon.

Now, allow me to spoil a couple more seasons of the show, before the season 6 premiere on Friday.

Season Two

Season two starts immediately after the accident, with the demon trying getting out of the semi to kill them. Sam, however, is conscious, and he’s able to chase the demon off with the Colt. (Remember, the Colt is a special gun they located which can kill any demon.)

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A Review of The House of Dead Maids

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

house-dead-maidsLast week I was contacted by Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media, who’s been recommending and sending review copies to me for nearly fifteen years. Barbara had flagged The House of Dead Maids by Clare B. Dunkle (author of the Hollow Kingdom trilogy), just released in hardcover from Holt, as of possible interest to Black Gate readers. And from her description, it sounded like she could be right:

The House of Dead Maids is billed as a prelude to Wuthering Heights, as it features a character who will come to be known as Healthcliff. The novel is a scary blending of Yorkshire lore and Bronte family history. The child (Heathcliff) is already a savage little creature when Tabby Aykroyd arrives at Seldom House as his nursemaid. The ghost of the last maid will not leave Tabby in peace, and her spirit is only one of many. As she struggles against the evil forces that surround the house, Tabby tries to befriend her uncouth young charge, but her kindness can’t alter his fate.

The real task, as always, was matching the ideal reviewer with the book… a bit more of a challenge for a 151-page book with an eleven year-old narrator, I grant you.

As luck would have it, I happened to have an eleven-year old reader in the house, who innocently picked up the book the day it arrived.  I know when the stars have aligned, and sat down with a notepad and pen to interview her minutes after she finished reading The House of Dead Maids.

We’ll call this young reader “Tabitha,” because of what happened when her mother found out I was going to use her picture and real name on the Internet.

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Pastiches ‘R’ Us: Conan and the Amazon

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

081252493401lzzzzzzzConan and the Amazon
John Maddox Roberts (Tor, 1995)

You may have noticed that in my series of reviews of Conan pastiche novels, I have yet to review an entry from Roland Green.

That is correct. I have not. Noted. Moving on. . . .

Of the authors of the long-running Tor series of novels, which started with Robert Jordan’s Conan the Invincible in 1982 and concluded with Roland Green’s Conan and the Death Lord of Thanza in 1997, with Harry Turtledove’s Conan of Venarium as something of a “coda” in 2004, John Maddox Roberts is the most consistently entertaining. (I love the novels from John C. Hocking and Karl Edward Wagner, but as each man unfortunately wrote only a single book, the sample is much smaller.) Roberts was the first new author to take over when Robert Jordan retired from the series after seven books published over only three years. In the eight novels that Roberts wrote, he shows deft ability with storytelling and action scenes, and a thankful tendency not to overplay his hand and try to ape Robert E. Howard’s style. His first Conan novel, Conan the Valorous, is one of the best of the Tor series, and shows a superior handling of the barbarian’s homeland of Cimmeria than Turtledove would achieve in Conan of Venarium.

However, Roberts had his down moments, and alas he stumbled at the finish line.

Conan and the Amazon is the last of Roberts’s Conan novels. It’s also his poorest, although a plot description, the salacious promise of the title, and a great cover with a super-croc would indicate it has sword-and-sorcery joys aplenty inside.

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Werewolves and Ghost-powered Zeppelins: Sample Chapters from The Wolf Age Now Available

Monday, September 20th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

thewolfageJames Enge tells us (rather gleefully) that “A slab of The Wolf Age is up at the Pyr samples site. Werewolves. Ghost-powered zeppelins. The usual stuff.”

The Wolf Age is the third novel of Morlock the Maker.  Morlock, the soft-spoken hunchback and recovering alcoholic who may also be the finest artificer the world has ever seen — not to mention a formidable swordsman — featured in Enge’s first published story, “Turn Up This Crooked Way,” in Black Gate 8, and has appeared six times (so far) in our pages, most recently in Black Gate 14.

Tired of dominating Black Gate‘s pages with an iron fist, Enge turned to more ambitious goals, producing the first two Morlock novels Blood of Ambrose (2009) and This Crooked Way (also 2009 — it makes other writers look bad, doesn’t it?), both published by Pyr.

Blood of Ambrose was recently nominated for the World Fantasy Award, the obvious next step in Enge’s ruthless plan for domination of Western civilization.

You can read the first two chapters of The Wolf Age at the Pyr website, and see for yourself how Enge’s evil scheme is taking shape.  It’s not to late to stop him.

Werewolves. Ghost-powered zeppelins. On second thought, it probably is too late.  Join the Black Gate staff in line to sign up as Enge’s evil henchmen, and get your black leather tunics and infrared goggles before they’re all gone.

Writing Tools: Notebooks, the Kind with Paper

Monday, September 20th, 2010 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Ye olde trusty notebook.

Ye olde trusty notebook.

From the time I was in grade school all the way up until after I graduated from college I wrote in notebooks. It seemed such a natural process that I wonder now how I got away from it, and why it was such a revelation when I took up writing in notebooks again.

In my school days I used to carefully comb through available notebooks  and select one with multiple subjects, college-ruled. Usually it would be a spiral-bound Mead, 8 1/2 by 11, but sometimes I’d experiment with slightly smaller sizes. When I was older and wandering through the Kansas City Renaissance Festival with my wife, I purchased a lovely Celtic leather notebook cover with an unlined sketchbook, and I filled a succession of replacement sketchbooks between those covers with my scribbles for years after.

As striking as that notebook was, though, I eventually fell out of using the thing. It became impractical to drag it wherever I went: my student days were over so I no longer had a backpack over one shoulder, and I didn’t have the kind of job where I always toted a briefcase. In those rare instances where I DID have a briefcase, it was already so loaded down that something weighing as much as a hardback book was a nuisance. I never used a notebook for writing unless I was at home, at which point I might as well have been writing on the computer. I thought that I had “outgrown” the use of a notebook.

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Worlds Within Worlds: The First Heroic Fantasy (Part IV)

Sunday, September 19th, 2010 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

This is the fourth in a series of posts investigating the question of who wrote the first otherworld fantasy (you can find the first part here, the second here, and the third here). By ‘otherworld fantasy’ I mean a story set entirely in another world, with no framing device to connect it to reality. Traditionally, the credit for inventing otherworld fantasy has been given to William Morris. I have another figure in mind.

You can see her there on the right.

In 1837, Sara Coleridge, the daughter of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, published a book called Phantasmion, which was received, and reviewed, as a fairy tale novel. And, at first glance, it certainly seems similar to the German and French fairy tales that were popular at around that time. But I don’t think it reads like a fairy tale, certainly not once it gets going.

It reads very like a high fantasy. In fact, like an otherworld fantasy.

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Mortals, meet Demon Lovers: A review of Goblin Fruit Magazine, Part II

Sunday, September 19th, 2010 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney

goblin-fruit-autumn2Okay, this is the Age of the Internet, so you’ve probably had this experience.

Say you’ve met a couple of like-minded ladies at a few writing conventions (as described in Part I). Say these conventions were World Fantasy 2007 and WisCon 2008 respectively. Say you’ve set about exchanging a million emails with these ladies, the occasional phone call, friending them on LiveJournal and Facebook, and rediscovering, happily, the merits of snail mail. These ladies just happen to be the two editors of Goblin Fruit Magazine.

Fantastic! You send them your really long rhyme-y poems nobody else wants, and sometimes they even take them, and even when they don’t, they seem to like you anyway. Life is totally Utopian.

You all read fantasy, right? What happens after Utopia?


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Adventures in Pulp Awesomeness, Part Deux: Planetoids of Peril

Saturday, September 18th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

clayton-astounding1Back in April we told you about the first volume of this excellent new Clayton Astounding reprint series, compiled by Dark Worlds editor G.W. Thomas: Vagabonds of Space.

Vagabonds collected the best Space Opera from the Clayton years, the first three years of the most honored science fiction magazine in history: January 1930 – March 1933, when it was briefly owned by Clayton Magazines. This was the era before the pulp magazine was renamed Analog in 1960; even before the name was changed to Astounding Science Fiction — when it bore its original title, Astounding Stories of Super-Science, and was edited by Harry Bates, a skilled writer and editor whose landmark 1940 Astounding story “Farewell to the Master” was adapted as the classic film The Day the Earth Stood Still.

The Clayton years preceded the so-called Golden Age of Astounding when, under legendary editor John W Campbell, it discovered and promoted the work of young new writers such as Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and Hal Clement. The fiction in the Clayton Astounding was raw, undiluted Buck Rogers stuff; the tales that first established the genre and defined for the American public what science fiction was all about.

G.W. Thomas followed Vagabonds with Out of the Dreadful Depths, pulp tales of undersea adventure, and now comes the third volume, Planetoids of Peril:

Not the Golden Age Astounding of John W. Campbell but the fun, Bug-Eyed-Monster-filled pulp of SF adventure. This volume is filled with tales of planets and moons covered with alien monsters and terrible chills. Featuring work by Anthony Pelcher, Sewell Peaslee Wright, Edmond Hamilton, Charles W. Diffin, Paul Ernst and Robert H. Wilson. With introductions and commentary by G. W. Thomas.

The Clayton Astounding: Planetoids of Peril is available from Lulu, priced at$13.99 for 218 pages. It’s also available in electronic format for just $4.99.

A Look at The Night Life of the Gods (1931)

Saturday, September 18th, 2010 | Posted by Bill Ward


by Thorne Smith
Published by Dodo Press, Copyright 1931
Reviewed by Mark Rigney

In searching for the earliest inspirations for sword and sorcery, one perfectly reasonable starting point would be Ancient Greece. The Grecian stories, after all, have survived in marked detail, and the adventures themselves are epic in scope, bloody to a fault, and literally crawling with terrifying beasties. Adapting those tales has been the work of many a writer, including (James) Thorne Smith, a massively successful fantasist now largely forgotten, who posed himself the question, “What if someone could turn the various Olympian statues in the Big Apple’s museums into flesh and blood?” Smith’s answer was The Night Life Of the Gods (1931), a cheerful Shaggy Dog of the New York variety, and a fine example of a book that no modern publishing house would touch with a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole.

If Thorne Smith’s name is sounding suspiciously familiar, perhaps it should, as he is the earnest scribbler behind Topper (1926), the very same Topper in which Cary Grant later starred (as a ghost), and which eventually became a staple of early television, featuring Leo G. Carroll and sponsored by Jell-O. (Night Life Of the Gods also found its way to the silver screen; the 1935 production, starring Alan Mowbray, is said to be (deservedly) buried in a vault at UCLA.) As a book, Night Life, like virtually all of Smith’s fantastical, debauched novels, was wildly popular. That it has not remained so is perhaps a testament to the complete inability of post-modern Homo sapiens to imbibe anywhere close to the quantity of alcohol consumed by Smith’s louche, soused-to-the-gills characters.

Let me put it more bluntly: a truly astounding amount of liquor gets dispatched in the course of this book. Given that the action takes place smack in the midst of Prohibition, an era when American breweries were busily hawking malt syrup just to say alive, the book’s blood alcohol content becomes all the more astounding.

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