After Halloween: Novel Writing

Sunday, October 31st, 2010 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

NaNoWriMo web badgeTonight, children go trick-or-treating, and many adults go to Halloween parties, thereby, perhaps, proving Ogden Nash’s line that children get more joy out of childhood than adults get out of adultery. For myself, though, I’ll be counting down the minutes to midnight, scrawling notes and making plans. Because at 12 AM, November 1, National Novel Writing Month begins.

National Novel Writing Month, more accurately International Novel Writing Month, is a worldwide challenge anyone can sign up for: you pledge to write 50,000 words in the month of November. You have to have those words written by midnight, November 30; otherwise, anything goes.

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Remembrance of Things Past

Saturday, October 30th, 2010 | Posted by Soyka

_49643496_009891365-11The woman held in one hand a small cigarette-package-sized radio, its antenna quivering. From this sprang tiny copper wires which ended in a dainty cone plugged into her right ear. There she was, oblivious to man and dog, listening to far winds and whispers and soap-opera cries, sleep-walking, helped up and down curbs by a husband who might just as well not have been there. This was not fiction.

This was Ray Bradbury, quoted in Kingsley Amis’s New Maps of Hell, in observing that the “seashells” he had made up for people to listen pressed against their ear had actually been invented with the transistor radio (a very, very, very primitive iPod, for you youngsters).  Ray’s point was that the seashells transported people into artificial environments that imperiled human interaction.

This quote appears on the back of my Ballentine Books 1962 paperback edition of Fahrenheit 451 (purchased when I was in sixth grade for the enormous sum of 50 cents).  As you should know, the novel is an indictment of a media-obsessed dystopia that burns books so people aren’t exposed to disturbing ideas and can be kept “happy” with mindless entertainment.  This was written in the early 1950s, and while Bradbury may not have had the details right (and that’s never been his interest), he certainly anticipated our Internet Age (which Ray has described as a “waste of time”).

While the transistor radio may have been the first step, the real giant leap in which we’ve beomce technological islands unto ourselves was the invention of the portable cassette player, the  Sony Walkman, in 1979. With the transistor radio, you listened to what someone was playing for you, usually for the purpose of selling you something. With this clunky piece of machinery, you could choose what you wanted to listen to, wherever you wanted to listen to it. Not quite as passive as today’s MP3 player as you actually had to load into it a a cassette tape, the contents of which you may actually have put some effort into creating as your own personal playlist, without the assistance of a computerized “genius” that’s supposed to know your tastes for you.

The Walkman officially no longer roams the Earth. Sony has announced that production has shut down. Another era has passed.  Alas, Bradbury’s vision of a witless America hasn’t.


Marvel’s The Monster of Frankenstein, Part Three

Friday, October 29th, 2010 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

fm12The 19th Century adventures of Mary Shelley’s famous monster conclude with Issue 12 of Marvel’s The Frankenstein Monster as the new creative team of writer Doug Moench and artist Val Mayerik begin the drastic process of updating the series to the present-day.

The Monster is dying of a gunshot wound inflicted by Vincent Frankenstein in the previous issue. After surviving an attack by a pack of wolves, the Monster falls off a cliff into an icy river. The story then jumps ahead to 1973 as an oil freighter hits an iceberg containing the frozen body of the Monster. This being a comic book, the Monster never died of his gunshot wound since the ice preserved him in a state of suspended animation.

The sailor who spotted the Monster trapped in the ice has a brother who runs a carnival. They conspire to steal the body before it can be turned over to the authorities. We are then introduced to a young neurosurgeon, Dr. Derek McDowell who sees the Monster exhibited at the carnival and correctly concludes that it is the immortal creation of Victor Frankenstein.

mu2From here we segue to the pages of Marvel’s more mature (as in free of the censorship imposed by the Comics Code Authority) comic magazine, Monsters Unleashed which first launched the Frankenstein 1973 feature in their second issue the preceding year under the aegis of Gary Friedrich and John Buscema. The events of The Frankenstein Monster # 12 would now be considered an example of ret-conning in order to retroactively satisfy the continuity established in the sister magazine.

Friedrich’s portrayal of Derek McDowell is far from appealing. He’s an abusive hippie loser who beats up his fiancée, Tisha in frustration when the carnival refuses to sell the Monster to him. McDowell believes he has the skill to bring the Monster back to life whereas Tisha just wants things to go back to the way they were before he became obsessed with the journals of Robert Walton and the story of Victor Frankenstein and his creation. To this end, Tisha decides a little arson at the carnival is in order.

The fire ends up not only disfiguring Tisha, but ironically melting the ice and reviving the Monster. The military is called in while the Monster climbs to the top of a roller coaster. He’s shot with a mortar, falls to the ground, lands on some cables and is electrocuted. The issue ends with the hard luck Monster who can’t seem to catch a break apparently killed off mere minutes after he awakens from his 80-year slumber.

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The end of Realms of Fantasy begs the question: Too much fantasy on the market?

Thursday, October 28th, 2010 | Posted by Brian Murphy

realms_of_fantasy_199410_v1_n1This post over on the Cyclopeatron blog closely mirrors my own thoughts on why I think Realms of Fantasy and other magazines in the short fiction market are largely a dying or endangered breed.

It’s not necessarily the bad economy (though I don’t doubt this is a contributing factor). And it’s not necessarily the changing face of publishing, which is moving from print periodicals to PDF and/or web delivery (though this likely is a contributing factor, since publishers of all stripes have struggled with monetizing content delivered on the web).

Rather, like Cyclopeatron, I’ve long believed that there’s simply too much fantasy fiction on the market, and that magazines have gotten the squeeze as a result.

At first this may seem like a ridiculous notion. Realms of Fantasy, one of the few remaining print fantasy magazines in the market, goes under, and it’s because there’s too much fantasy for it to complete against? Yes, at least in my opinion. Here’s why.

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Goth Chick News: Featuring Tabitha, Goth Girl in Training

Thursday, October 28th, 2010 | Posted by Sue Granquist

lovely-bad-ones2During Goth Chick’s absence she’s asked our resident Goth Chick in training, eleven year-old Tabitha, author of our recent review of The House of Dead Maids, to fill in.

Tabitha: What exactly are we supposed to be doing?

Black Gate: Your friend Goth Chick is on vacation this week. She’s asked you to be her replacement on the Black Gate blog.

Tabitha: Goth Chick? The one we go to scary movies with?

Black Gate: Yes.

Um… okay. So what am I supposed to do?

Black Gate: How about you pick some of the scariest books you’ve ever read, and tell me about them.

I’m more of a scary movie person.

BG: But… you’ve told me about a bunch of scary books you’ve read recently.

They weren’t very scary. And there’s only one that jumps to mind: All The Lovely Bad Ones.

BG: I’m scared already. Tell me about it.

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I’ve Been Podcasted!

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 | Posted by John R. Fultz

Wow! I just listened to the wonderfully done podcast version of “The Taste of Starlight” at www.lightspeedmagazine.com

This is the first time I’ve had a short story of mine read aloud and podcasted. It’s one of the coolest things about LIGHTSPEED–they do podcast readings every month. And let me tell you, Kristoffer Tabori does an AMAZING job of bringing this story of Dr. Pelops and his dilemma to life.

This guy has a voice you could listen to for hours. However, the story podcast is only 64 minutes long. WARNING: Do  not eat anything while listening to the story, and if you don’t have a strong stomach, skip it altogether.

Tabori’s voice brings all the gravity of an OUTER LIMITS announcer to the story, and his lively, chilling tones are worthy of an Edgar Allan Poe tale. I feel that the story has been elevated to a whole new level by Tabori’s bravura performance.

Even if you’ve read the story, I recommend paying another visit to LIGHTSPEED and listening to it through Tabori’s immense talent.

Here’s the direct link to the podcast.

Fantastic!

John R. Fultz


Art Evolution 7: Jeff Easley

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Six artists were now represented in my Art Evolution project, beginning here, and the feelings of dread that I couldn’t get this accomplished were turning into the problematic emotion what will I do if this success continues? I needed to push forward with the concepts involving Art Evolution, and the Eras of Art that I’d put into play.

mmii-254My newest contribution, ‘Planescape Lyssa’, gave me a great snapshot of the twilight of TSR. This time-period was something I called The CCG Era [Collectible Card Game], and with the artists I’d already collected I had wonderful representations of The OGL Era of the two-thousands, The Independents Era of the late eighties, and The Groovy Era of the late seventies. A fine collection, but I was missing one glaring contribution, something from The Masters of Oil Era of the early eighties.

To fill this slot, I was going to have to go after at least one of the Big Four, Larry Elmore, Jeff Easley, Keith Parkinson, or Clyde Caldwell. I’d studied the names and their art, and for the first time began putting my research down in a written format. Research became paramount as I started piecing together my feelings on the subject matter.

Styles came out, mediums used in different time periods, and what the industry was leaning toward from year to year. It was a revelation, and I used whatever knowledge I could to push the project forward.

Of the Master of Oil, Easley was certainly the most prolific in gaming terms of the remaining artists but he had no website or available email. I managed to get some contact information from Jeff Laubenstein, who had met Easley during his time at FASA and at several renaissance fairs around the Chicago area. Connections inside the industry were starting to come together, and the more I talked to artists, the more entwined I became in their world.

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Nov/Dec Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine Now on Sale

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

fsfnov-dec2010aHuzzah!  The latest issue of my favorite fantasy magazine goes on sale today.

Ahem.  Favorite other than Black Gate, of course.

The big November/December double issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction includes contributions from Robert Reed, Alan Dean Foster, Albert E. Cowdrey, Alexander Jablokov, and many more.

Here’s what the editor, Gordon van Gelder, tells us about the issue:

The Robert Reed story about running in this issue is so effective that I lost 8 pounds and knocked 0:31 off my best mile time just by editing it. Speaking of editing it, it is 100% true that when it was on submission, I read one of the stories in the issue while attending one of my daughter’s tea parties. (I won’t say which story.) Jerry Oltion has bought 5,000 copies of this issue and stored them away, just in case he might need them in the future. Alex Irvine didn’t get the memo that he was supposed to send me a story just so his name could be on the cover.

We last covered F&SF with their Oct/Nov issue, with Richard Chwedyk, Michael Swanwick, Terry Bisson, and Richard Matheson. If you missed it, maybe it’s time to consider subscribing?

Complete details (and a subscription form) are available on their website.


“We Belong Dead”: Bride of Frankenstein

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

I will be one of the Black Gate team present at the World Fantasy Convention this weekend, so if you are there as well, just look for the guy who appears lost. (I’ve never been to one of the big conventions before.)

bride-of-frakenstein-universal-weeklyTwo weeks ago I discussed the key Hammer Horror film for Halloween, Dracula (1958). It would be a grave omission not to discuss my key Universal Horror film for Halloween—especially since this year is that movie’s seventy-fifth anniversary.

This is going to be a “strolling” review, in which I walk through an entire film and simply point at things. It’s a good sort of October stroll, I think.

Three-quarters of a century ago, on April 22nd, Universal Pictures released the long-rumored, delayed, and awaited sequel to their 1931 smash hit adaptation of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: Bride of Frankenstein. The world of Gothic film has never been the same. Bride is the highest achievement of the Universal Horror series, the best film ever from director James Whale, and a defining moment in the cinema of the fantastic, weird, and grotesque. Every viewing of the film is an unfettered joy and a voyage through the dark imagination.

(Promotional materials advertise the film as The Bride of Frankenstein, but the actual on-screen title eliminates the definite article, and I’m a martinet about these things.)

Universal in the 1930s built their House of Horrors on the twin success of Dracula and Frankenstein in 1931. A later successful double feature of the two would create the Universal Horrors of the 1940s. And it was the director of Frankenstein, British import James Whale, one of many theatrical directors who were given film directing jobs in the new world of the “Talkies,” that the studio pegged as their great hope not only for horror, but to put the studio on a competitive level with MGM. Whale wasn’t only a sure hand with horror movies like Frankenstein, The Old Dark House (1932), and The Invisible Man (1933), but also produced successful stylish comedies, musicals, and murder mysteries for the studio.

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Black Gate at the 2010 World Fantasy Convention

Monday, October 25th, 2010 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Only a few years ago I looked on attending a convention as a useless expenditure, an indulgence I didn’t think I had time for — probably because the unfamiliarity of it made me uncomfortable.

wfclogo1Fortunately, my friend Eric Knight shook up my composure, insisting it would be good for me to go. So I went, and my first convention ever was The World Fantasy Convention in Madison, Wisconsin, 2005, and I can still recall how nervous I was and how astonishing it was to be standing in the same room or even rubbing shoulders with writers I had respected and admired for long years. Luckily, Eric took me under his wing and showed me around. Before long we’d found our way to the dealer’s room — which didn’t seem too different from a cave of wonders — and I was soon talking for the first time with Black Gate‘s publisher and editor, John O’Neill.

A few months ago I wrote a brief primer about why conventions are worth attending, and rather than covering that again, I’ll point you there. If you’ve gone to other conventions you’ll be surprised by WFC. Only about 1,000 attendees are allowed, which promotes a greater intimacy than you’ll find at many other conventions. There are no costumes, and the many panels and readings and workshops are focused fairly specifically on writing and editing and working in the industry. Professional editors, publishers, writers, artists, and agents are everywhere, because this is the serious industry convention, although serious in this instance shouldn’t be confused with dull.

This year the 36th World Fantasy Convention is being held in Columbus, Ohio, from October 28-31, and Black Gate will be there in force. It’ll be pretty easy to find our booth in the dealer’s room, but one or more of us will be visiting panels, participating in panels, attending readings and signings, or wandering from one late night party to another, so if you want to meet us it should be pretty easy to accomplish. If you’re planning to be there we hope that you’ll drop by the booth, and that you’ll make sure to come to the Black Gate reading Saturday night, where you’ll be able to hear several dozen Black Gate authors reading from their own works.


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