Join the Sorcerer’s Guild Today

Thursday, October 21st, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

harpers-penJeff Crook, the mastermind behind The Harper’s Pen Award, has announced some changes to the Award, and opened up membership to the Sorcerer’s Guild, the voting body.

He’s also offering a free PDF copy of Black Gate 14 (sold here for $4.95) to the first 100 members:

The time has come to start thinking about nominations for the next Harper’s Pen Award. That means it’s time to unlock the adamantine doors of the Sorcerer’s Guild and open our membership drive. The Sorcerer’s Guild is an autonomous anarcho-syndicalist collective of fans, editors and authors of the short fiction genre commonly known as Sword and Sorcery (cue lights, smoke, thunder). We gather once each year to trade spells and knitting patterns and select the winner of the presigious and lucrative Harper’s Pen Award. The 2009 winner was John C. Hocking for his story “The Face in the Sea” published in Black Gate #13.

Beginning this year, you must be a member of the Sorcerer’s Guild to nominate a story for the Harper’s Pen. Cruel, I know, but we must maintain some standards. Luckily, joining the Sorcerer’s Guild is not only easy, it’s rewarding, because we are prepared to offer the first 100 new members a pdf download of Black Gate #14. Yes, that’s right – by joining today, you will receive a free magazine of the some of the best Sword and Sorcery short fiction being published today.

The complete announcement is here.

If you’re interested in Sword & Sorcery or short fiction, or nominating authors for the Harper’s Pen Award, joining the Sorcerer’s Guild could be extremely rewarding — and not just for the free issue of Black Gate.

Brent Knowles Reviews Black Gate 14 on the iPad

Thursday, October 21st, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

ipad1So this is kind of cool.

Long time reader Brent Knowles, who reviewed our last issue here, has now also weighed in on Black Gate 14, as viewed in PDF on the iPad:

Earlier in the year I changed my print subscription to Black Gate into an electronic one. This was done mostly to save postage expense, I love the print magazine and have every issue and so this was my first time reading it digitally. I transferred the PDF through the iTunes Books folder and read it using the iBooks app. As you can see the text and images look sharp on the iPad… So all in all I’m pretty happy with reading Black Gate this way.

Brent did acknowledge the one drawback other readers have commented on — the  two-column format:

About the only difficulties I encountered were with the two-column layout that appeared for longer stories (most stories were single column). The two-column stories and articles were more of a challenge to read because the text became rather smallish.

Something of a dilemma, since the feedback on the two-column format for print readers has been universally positive, and we plan to switch the entire issue to two columns starting with Black Gate 15. We’re still looking for a solution for PDF readers.

Concerning the contents of the issue itself, Brent had several kind things to say.

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Goth Chick News: Magical Expectations from a Tough Audience

Thursday, October 21st, 2010 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Kings Cross Station, London

Kings Cross Station, London

“Do you think a ghost will follow you home?”

This is coming from my six-year-old niece, who has finally began to grasp that her Auntie is up to some intriguing shenanigans. Her two older siblings went through the same phase; when they were around this age I spent a year in the UK, and had convinced them I was a guest professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Having never quite grown up myself I had no end of fun perpetuating this fantasy in my two young nephews who, at the time, were obsessed with Harry Potter. I emailed back pictures of Kings Cross Station, where the Hogwarts Express leaves from platform “nine and three-quarters.”

Contrary to popular belief, the Brits do have a sense of humor and proved the point by putting up a sign between platforms nine and ten and displaying a luggage cart pushed half way into the brick wall below.

My nephews apparently held this picture up to my sister as proof positive that I was at Hogwarts, but she was having none of it.

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The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics, by James Kakalios

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

amazingquantumJames Kakalios, the author of The Physics of Superheroes, is out with another popular science text: The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics: A Math-Free Exploration of the Science That Made Our World.

I took a couple courses in Quantum Theory, including a graduate course in Quantum Mechanics as part of my Ph.D. at the University of Illinois —  just about the most difficult course of my career. And mama, it had some math.

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, Schrödinger’s wave equation, the Atomic orbital model and Quantum field theory. Good times, good times.

Now James Kakalios is trying to make all those anguished nights attempting to comprehend the inner workings of the universe using only my incomprehensible class notes obsolete, with a new book that depends on far more reliable sources: comic books and American pulp magazines. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Most of us are unaware of how much we depend on quantum mechanics on a day-to-day basis. Using illustrations and examples from science fiction pulp magazines and comic books, The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics explains the fundamental principles of quantum mechanics that underlie the world we live in.

Sheer genius.  More complete details are in the listing.

Kakalios, buddy, where were you 20 years ago?  All those evenings wasted studying, when I could have been trying to pick up girls. Don’t make my mistake, students of the future. Buy your copy today.

Peadar Ó Guilín’s “The Evil-Eater” Podcast on Pseudopod

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

The Evil EaterOne of our more popular recent stories, Peadar Ó Guilín’s “The Evil-Eater,” has been given the full podcast treatment by

Dave Truesdale at Tangent Online described the story thusly:

Toby works nights at the desk of a European hotel and dreams of becoming an actor. His one and only acting gig was a cola commercial a year before. His new girlfriend, the beautiful but shallow Marie, was first attracted to him on his claim of being an actor… Toby comes into possession of a printed invitation to a very exclusive — and expensive — restaurant, a 2,000-year-old establishment shrouded in mystery. As a last ditch attempt to impress Marie, he invites her to accompany him. What Toby and Marie discover at first delights them, but Toby soon discovers to his horror that not paying for his meal has consequences far beyond his imaginings…

“The Evil-Eater” first appeared in Black Gate 13.  You can read an excerpt from our Sneak Peek of the issue here.

Pseudopod is a free weekly horror podcast hosted by Alasdair Stuart.  “The Evil-Eater” is episode 208, posted October 15, and is ably read by Wilson Fowlie, who has a clear gift for Irish accents.

The complete podcast is available here.

Original art by John Kaufmann.

Art Evolution 6: Tony DiTerlizzi

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Art Evolution continues, this week’s image coming from a member of the later days of TSR. The character is yet another in a shared project representing a single figure created in many famed RPG artists most recognizable style. The project began here.

So I now had five, the newest of which was an ‘L5R Lyssa’. Half my list down and seemingly half to go, assuming I could flesh out my article with other greats I’d fantasized about since I wore parachute pants.

planes-254Sitting back, I took stock of all my memories on gaming, tried to picture the art that moved me the most, and I came onto some really profound names like, Larry Elmore, Jeff Easley, Tony DiTerlizzi, Wayne Reynolds, Todd Lockwood and Erol Otus just to name a few. Yeah, this was getting very real very fast.

These people were more than RP artists — they were industries unto themselves. Wayne Reynolds doesn’t take personal commissions, Jeff Easley’s email isn’t exactly public knowledge, and Tony had transformed from TSR ‘pit’ artist to award winning and New York Times best-selling children’s author and illustrator.

What these artists brought to anything they were involved in was profound legitimacy, something I had very little of at this point. Still, I needed something binding, something tangible to offer up to these artists. I was a writer with no credits to my name, but I could still list myself as a ‘freelance’. That was a truth, and it is always better to provide honesty than fiction, especially when dealing with an established and intelligent clientele.

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Time Element

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

fine-print-poster1The false motivational poster to the left has nothing to do with the rest of my post today, except that it came as a reward to myself after a week of tough self-disciplined writing, aided by the simple power of time awareness. As I finished my enormous work on late Sunday evening, I celebrated my triumph with a small but exquisite waste of time, creating one of the many “demotivational posters” that travel around the ‘net as humor or an approximation of humor. Better than LOLCats, at least. This is my deep inner Tolkien Geek, who has always wondered what the Lord of the Nazgûl thought as he died under Éowyn’s blade on the Pelennor Fields. My guess: “Damn fine print!”

It’s little time-waster rewards like this that make getting through heavy writing projects just a bit easier.

But the real writing-aid VIP for me, and which has been a tremendous help since I started using it about two years ago, has been a time log. I’ve written previously about how I did revising “on the clock” for National Novel Editing Month (a March event—edit for at least fifty hours during the month) by turning on a desktop stopwatch whenever I sit down to do any writing or editing. I hide the clock, and have it set to chime at the half-hour. I use Apimac Timer, a Mac OS X application, for the stopwatch. For specifically timed exercises, I use a countdown on the same timer. After each work day, I record in a notebook how much time I’ve spent working, and my word count (if applicable). Apicmac Timer also also you to record a log on the program and not lose count of the time you spent

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A Review of King’s Blood Four, by Sheri S. Tepper

Monday, October 18th, 2010 | Posted by Isabel Pelech

kb4aKing’s Blood Four, by Sheri S. Tepper
Ace (202 pages, $2.50, 1983)

I know Sheri S. Tepper primarily as a science fiction author. She tends to write sociological stuff, a little bit like Ursula K. LeGuin’s science fiction. I feel that she’s prone to having her message hijack her story, but I still read her books whenever I see a new one in the library. I wasn’t sure what to expect out of her fantasy.

As it turns out, King’s Blood Four might or might not be set in a fantasy universe. There is a strong hint that it might be crypto-SF. In a way, it doesn’t matter; fantasy or science fiction, it’s still a study of an alien society.

The story is narrated by Peter, a fifteen-year-old boy who lives at a boarding school devoted to teaching a peculiar chess-like game. In fact, it’s a training exercise for the deadly True Game. It seems that many people in this world have magic — or possibly psychic — powers, and the True Game forms a framework for their power struggles. It includes everything from dueling to intrigue to outright war, and children such as Peter are sent to the Schooltowns so that the True Game doesn’t chew them up as cannon fodder before they can come into their power. (We find out later that peasants — called pawns, in keeping with the chess theme — don’t ordinarily get this privilege, although at least one pawn’s mother found a way to manage it.) We also find out that Peter has been seduced by one of the teachers, a man named Mandor. The affair is forbidden, and one of the other teachers tries to warn Peter about it, but he’s convinced that he has it all under control.

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R.I.P. Realms of Fantasy

Monday, October 18th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

rofoct1Tir Na Nog Press has shuttered Realms of Fantasy magazine, this time apparently for good. Its last issue was September/October, pictured at left.

Realms of Fantasy was one of the few remaining professional fantasy fiction magazines. Founded in October 1994 by Sovereign Media as a sister magazine for Science Fiction Age, it published acclaimed  fiction from some of the biggest names in the industry. Its long-time fiction editor was Shawna McCarthy.

In addition to fiction and top-notch review columns, the magazine was well known for its slick look and thoroughly professional design, and it pioneered a mix of art and fiction with gorgeous color galleries of top fantasy artists virtually every issue.

In a controversial move early this summer, publisher Warren Lapine threatened to close the magazine if enough subscribers didn’t renew — which generated some lively discussion on whether publicizing approaching doom was a workable marketing tactic for a modern magazine. [Looks like it wasn’t.]

In his farewell note, Lapine complains about how much money the magazine cost him, and offers to sell it to “a responsible party” for $1. He claims the December issue is ready for publication, and will be released in PDF format on the website for free download by subscribers. He is also closing his vampire magazine Dreams of Decadence.

Realms of Fantasy was well known for discovering and nurturing writers who have since gone on to stellar careers, something done by fewer and fewer magazines. Its departure leaves a significant void in the industry.

Supernatural Spotlight – Episode 6.4 “Weekend at Bobby’s”

Monday, October 18th, 2010 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

The most recent episode of Supernatural brings back a major hanging plotline focusing on one of the major secondary characters in the series. Bobby Singer is a sort of mentor and father figure to the boys, the closest thing they have left to family (except, of course, for the sudden arrival of their previously-deceased grandfather and an entire family of hunters they never knew about).


Bobby Singer (right) helps Rufus Turner (left) dispose of the body of an Okami, a Japanese demon.

Last season, Bobby made a deal with the demon named Crowley in order to stop Lucifer. (He also got healed from paralysis, allowing him to walk again.) He had to offer his soul up to Crowley, but it was sort of a short-term deal … Crowley promised to “rip up the lease” when they beat Lucifer.

In the first few moments of this episode, we see that Crowley didn’t hold up his end of the deal. In a flashback to a year previously, just after Lucifer’s fall, it’s revealed that Bobby summoned Crowley about getting his soul back. Crowley says he can’t do it, citing a loophole in the contract that says he’d make his “best efforts” to give back his soul, which means “I’d like to — but I can’t.” Crowley gives him 10 years to live before collecting. Bobby’s attempt to capture Crowley in a Devil’s Snare is thwarted because Crowley summons hellhounds, forcing Bobby to let him out.

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