Harry Connolly and the Black Gate Interview

Monday, October 18th, 2010 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

childoffireWhen people tell us about their favorite Black Gate authors and stories, one name that inevitably turns up in both staff and fan discussions is Harry James Connolly, whose tales have appeared three times now in our pages, with more on the way. You may not have seen much of him lately over at Black Gate, but he’s been very busy writing some best selling novels. You can find all about that over here, and a little bit more about Harry and his writing if you just keep reading.

A Conversation with Harry Connolly

Conducted and transcribed by Howard Andrew Jones October 3 – Oct 10 2010

BG: First tell us how long you’ve wanted to be a writer, and how long you were mulling over the novel that launched your career before you finally sat down to draft it.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was very small.  I was an early reader — like, age 3 — and when my parents explained that people made a living writing books like the one in my hands, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

Not that I had any idea what that meant.  I do have a distinct memory of sitting in kindergarten learning to write the letter “M” and thinking  this is totally going to come in handy! (to paraphrase my young self).

As for Child of Fire, it’s a setting that I’ve written in before (some short fiction and a pair of novels–but with different characters), butI knew I wanted to do something very specific with it.  I spent several weeks working out the story and, more importantly, the tone before I dug into the writing.

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The Time is Out of Joint: The Silver Skull, A Review

Sunday, October 17th, 2010 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

silver-skull2The Silver Skull is the first book in a new series by Mark Chadbourn, Swords of Albion, following the adventures of Will Swyfte, spy for Queen Elizabeth the First of England, as he fights a secret war against the faerie-folk of the Unseelie Court. That’s a brilliant hook for an ongoing series of adventure novels. And in fact Chadbourn’s new book is best described as modern-day pulp, with all the strengths and weaknesses that implies.

It’s a swashbuckling tale of adventure, filled with sword-fights, melodrama, action set-pieces, heroes, and villains. But its characters are flat and uninteresting. And, ultimately, its depiction of its setting is gravely disappointing.

Let’s look first at what the book does well. The plotting is strong and sure, and builds nicely through a series of action sequences. Tension is manipulated skillfully, and the staging of events is imaginative and clearly described. Chadbourn moves his story through a number of interesting places in the Elizabethan world, filling those places with cloak-and-dagger suspense, mysterious riddles, ancient Indiana-Jones-style deathtraps, and the like.

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Howard Andrew Jones’ Pathfinder Tales: Plague of Shadows Available for Pre-order

Sunday, October 17th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

Pathfinder Tales: Plague of Shadows, by Howard Andrew Jones. Coming February 2011Black Gate Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones has had a busy year.

In addition to his upcoming Dabir & Asim novel The Desert of Souls, due in hardcover February 2011 from Thomas Dunne Books, Howard’s second novel Pathfinder Tales: Plague of Shadows will appear from Paizo in early 2011.

Pathfinder Tales novels are standalone novels set in the world of Golarion, home of the succesful Pathfinder role playing game.  The first two volumes are Prince of Wolves by Dave Gross (August 2010) and Winter Witch by Elaine Cunningham (November).

Here’s the book description:

The race is on to free Lord Stelan from the grip of a wasting curse, and only his old elven mercenary companion Elyana has the wisdom — and swordcraft — to solve the mystery of his tormentor and free her old friend before three days have passed and the illness takes its course. When the villain turns out to be another of their former companions, the elf sets out with a team of adventurers across the Revolution-wracked nation of Galt and the treacherous Five Kings Mountains to discover the key to Stelan’s salvation in a lost valley warped by weird magical energies and inhabited by terrible nightmare beasts. From Black Gate magazine’s fiction editor Howard Andrew Jones comes a fantastic new adventure of swords and sorcery, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

You can pre-order copies directly from Piazo, either individually or as part of their Pathfinder Tales subscription.

Black Gate 14 Sneak Peek: “Destroyer” by James Enge

Sunday, October 17th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

Morlock the Maker.  Art by Chuck LukacsThe second novella in Black Gate 14 was “Destroyer” by James Enge, the sixth of his extremely popular Morlock stories to appear in our pages. Here’s what Tangent Online had to say:

Thend, his mother, Morlock and the rest of the family are fleeing some calamity from Sarkunden in the south towards a high pass in the northwest — attempting not to be seen by the insect-like Khroi and the Khroi’s enemies, the giant spiders, by staying between the territories of the two species. Thend and Morlock come upon a Khroi, trussed up and hanging from a tree — awaiting his eventual fate as a meal for the spiders — and because Thend is young and passionate about doing the right thing, [he] frees the Khroi, which will have consequences later… I’m going to search out Enge’s other stories about Morlock.

Lois Tilton at Locus Online comments:

Part of a dark fantasy series which has by now accumulated a massive weight of backstory. Fortunately, most of it has been left behind as the wizard Morlock and his companions continue their journey across a range of mountains infested with spiderfolk, dragons and the insectile warrior Khroi. It is the Khroi who capture the party, with the intention of laying their eggs in the human bodies. But their primary purpose has been the elimination of Morlock, whom they call the Destroyer; their seers have foretold that he will be the destruction of their horde, despite Morlock insisting that he has no such intention. Intention, however, isn’t everything.

And Sherwood Williams at SF Site observes:

It turns out that the Khroi have been told that Morlock would cause their destruction, which is why they must destroy him first. This causes a fascinating debate between the Khroi leader and Morlock on dreams, foretelling, and predestination, echoed by conversations among the companions. Enge builds an imaginative world with intriguing details, but never loses sight of character development. Thend, the boy who is struggling to understand his own visions, is an appealing contrast to the mysterious Morlock who talks to dragons.

“Destroyer” appears in Black Gate 14. You can read an excerpt here, and the complete Black Gate 14 Sneak Peek is available here. You can find additional reviews of the entire issue here.

Art by Chuck Lukacs for the very first Morlock story, “Turn Up This Crooked Way” (Black Gate 8).

My First Novel Sale

Saturday, October 16th, 2010 | Posted by Harry Connolly

childoffireThis essay first appeared as a part of Jim C. Hines’s First Book Friday series, in which authors describe their first sales. You can read the entire series on his blog or LiveJournal. This piece has been lightly edited for clarity.

The first thing to know about selling Child of Fire, my first novel, is that it happened after I’d already quit writing.

I’d spent years trying to sell longer works, but had no success; you might say I was a smidge discouraged. The book I’d written just before Child of Fire was very difficult and very personal; I’d literally wept while composing the first draft. What happened when I sent it out? Form rejection after form rejection.

I was angry (with myself, not with the people who’d rejected me; that’s one of my most important rules). I thought I’d been doing everything I needed to do, but apparently not.

For my next book, I used my anger as fuel. I started with a strange incident that needed to be investigated. I loaded the story with antagonists and conflicting goals. Then I ramped up the pace and kept it going, making even the slower parts, where the characters just talk with each other, quick and full of conflict.

But I was sure I was wasting my time. If my last book hadn’t gone anywhere, why should this one?

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Short Fiction Roundup

Saturday, October 16th, 2010 | Posted by Soyka

230_295__final_coverOxford American Magazine is a literary quarterly focusing on Southern culture. A particular favorite of mine is its annual music issue that features articles on both well-known and obscure Southern musicians with an accompanying CD.  The current fall issue’s theme is the future, including 11 short stories set somewhere around in 2050. I’m not familiar with these authors, the one exception being Charles Yu whose first novel, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, has been getting some attention.

Marvel’s The Monster of Frankenstein, Part One

Friday, October 15th, 2010 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

300px-essential_frankenstein1Click on images for larger versions.

Following the success of The Tomb of Dracula in 1972, Marvel Comics launched The Monster of Frankenstein the following year. Gary Friedrich and Mike Ploog kicked the series off with a fairly faithful three-part adaptation of the Mary Shelley novel.

At the outset, Marvel determined to keep the Monster in period. This was an interesting approach considering the modern update Dracula had received. Vampires were an easier sell for the twentieth century as numerous film and television updates had already established contemporary vampire stories whereas the Frankenstein Monster somehow seemed an antiquated concept, despite the character’s ongoing appeal.

It is important to remember that at the time the series debuted, literary critics had not yet embraced Mary Shelley’s work as a classic. Shelley, like Bram Stoker, was looked down upon as low-brow and her work was not afforded serious consideration.

Television syndication of the Universal Frankenstein pictures of the 1930s and 1940s and the character’s transformation into the patriarch on the 1960s sitcom, The Munsters were largely responsible for its longevity. It would be several more years before Shelley’s cautionary tale would gain widespread acceptance as a modern myth whose resonance had not diminished with the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

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Zombieland: Bringing the fun, and a few rules to live by

Thursday, October 14th, 2010 | Posted by Brian Murphy

zombieland-posterLike most horror fans, I love zombie movies because they’re fun, gory, and suspenseful. I find the survivalist angle intriguing, too (I often find myself wondering if and how I could survive an initial outbreak of the walking dead. Equipped with my copy of The Zombie Survival Guide I’d like to think at least I’d have a fighting chance. But probably not).

But in the end the zombie films I like best are those that aspire to more than just empty action. Like all good movies, the best zombie films contain underlying social and/or political messages that give them an added dimension and another level on which they can be enjoyed.

I’m not a horror historian, but as far as I can tell the zombie film as social commentary started with George Romero. Broadly, zombies have always been a metaphor for death, but it wasn’t until 1978’s Dawn of the Dead that the walking dead were used to critique concepts like capitalism and unchecked consumer culture (as a sidenote this is why I didn’t like the new Dawn of the Dead as much as the original—the 2004 version is not only too nihilistic, but it removes all the subtext in favor of high-speed, sprinting zombie carnage).

Since Dawn other zombie films have hopped on the bandwagon of zombie apocalypse as societal/cultural critique. The most recent example is the comedic zombie horror of Zombieland (2009). Zombieland tells the story of a group of survivors trying to find their way in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. These include 20-something “Columbus” (played by Jesse Eisenburg), a nerdy, World of Warcraft playing recluse; “Tallahassee” (Woody Harrelson), a modern cowboy with an apparent death wish, a sardonic sense of humor and a mean streak a mile wide when it comes to zombies; “Wichita” (Emma Stone), a beautiful, guarded, hard-bitten realist, and “Little Rock” (Abigail Breslin), Wichita’s younger sister and resourceful partner in crime.

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Goth Chick News: Candy Corn for the Imagination

Thursday, October 14th, 2010 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image0062The six-foot grim reaper is out in the front yard pointing eerily at the tombstones poking out of the grass. The fog machines are strategically placed; one in the bushes and one in the coffin leaning against the house. There’s a sound-activated specter that will slide from tree to gutter, moaning and waving its arms at the slightest hint of a visitor. And most important, there’s an eight-foot python curled around the mailbox.

The python is the sure-fire giveaway; it’s Halloween at Chateaux Goth Chick.

Now all that’s left to do is relax and wait for the thirty-first when, decked out in full zombie regalia, I will lie in wait in that front yard coffin, concealed in machine-made fog and scare the crap out of the neighbor kids.

The anticipation is brutal.

But adequately filling the moments between now and then calls for a lot of activity, some of which I described to you last week; the rest of my time I spend buried in my favorite Halloween-time books.

Are there really books such as these, you ask? Stories that make the blood run as cold as the dry ice in my cauldron of rum punch? Tales that cause more terror than running out of bite-sized Snickers before the doorbell rings for the last time?

You betcha.

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Art Evolution 5: Cristina Dornaus McAllister

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 | Posted by Scott Taylor

In my ongoing Art Evolution series, I explained my plan to collect ten of the greatest fantasy role-playing artists of all time for a shared project. They were to illustrate a single character in their most recognizable style. So far, the list has included Jeff Laubenstein, Eric Vedder, Jeff Dee, and David Deitrick with this week adding the first female name to our list of esteemed artists.

crane-254The ‘Space: 1889 Lyssa’ was in the bank, and by the this time I was seeing there was a kind of universal key involved in the process. I needed a perfect combination of money, sincere flattery, and being as genuinely personable as email allows to sway this pool of talent. Artists are a funny lot, as are writers for that matter, and I’d begun to get the hang of corresponding with them. I’d also started a rather fine collection of art and the more I got, the more I understood that I needed a venue for what I was trying to accomplish. Still, my project was in its infancy, and I figured as long as I was making progress with my list of favorites, why not ride it out and worry about the details later.

Looking over the latest images, I came to the conclusion that David, like Jeff, was a gem in my eye but had moved out of the industry’s limelight a decade ago. Although popular and recognizable in his day, the RP art world had moved on. It was something I noted a great deal in my list, and as a person with deep feelings toward the work these men and women created, it was a tough pill to swallow.

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