TRON: Legacy

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

tron-legacy-posterTRON: Legacy (2010)
Directed by Joseph Kosinski. Starring Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, Michael Sheen.

Disney has sunk a hefty amount of money into the making and marketing of TRON: Legacy as a blockbuster and a future franchise. Given the long-term currency of the 1982 original, this is what you would expect. The IMAX 3D release that coincides with last year’s release of Avatar makes Disney’s scheme of conquest obvious.

And yet, after watching the film, I have to wonder if Disney had any idea what they were doing with this, uhm, strange and mostly airless film. It’s decked with gorgeous neon visuals and special effects, but it is neither an action extravaganza to grab the young viewers nor an intelligent enough follow-up to the heady ideas that TRON smashed around in 1982 at the edge of the computer revolution. It appears that the revolution has not been televised. Or not screened.

TRON: Legacy is no fiasco—it will make a profit and I imagine that international box-office will make up the significant part of it—but it’s only “adequate” all around. Considering that I went into the film with the realistic expectation that it might very well suck, I can say with enormous lack of passion that I am “satisfied.” However, this won’t be a film I’ll want to revisit the way I do its predecessor, nor will it make it onto my DVD shelf. The benefit of the IMAX 3D presentation is significant enough (see it in this format if you can) that my disappointment would increase in its absence.

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Black Gate 14: Review Features

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

deader-stillBlack Gate 14 was the biggest issue in our history, with 158,000 words of fiction. We knew the Review Features had to be just as impressive, and the job of ensuring that fell to Contributing Editor Bill Ward.

To that end, Bill assembled a team of over a dozen of our top writers and reviewers.  The final result: a massive 32 pages of reviews, covering thirty of the finest fantasy books to cross our path in the last nine months:

Swords From the West, Harold Lamb (Bison Books)
Swords from the East, Harold Lamb (Bison Books)
Blood of Ambrose, James Enge (Pyr)
This Crooked Way, James Enge (Pyr)
Summa Elvetica: The Casuistry of the Elvish Controversy, Theodore Beale (Marcher Lord Press)
The Vampire Tarot, Robert M. Place (St. Martin’s Press)
Drood, Dan Simmons (Little, Brown)
Treason’s Shore, Sherwood Smith (DAW)
Black Horses for the King, Anne McCaffrey (Magic Carpet)
Dark Road Rising, P.N. Elrod (Ace)
The Stepsister Scheme, Jim C. Hines (DAW)
Flesh and Fire, Laura Anne Gilman (Simon & Schuster)
Deader Still, Anton Strout (Ace)
Gamer Fantastic, edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Kerrie Hughes (DAW)
Intelligent Design, edited by Denise Little (DAW)

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Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Monday, December 20th, 2010 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Scott Pilgrim levels up when he gains the Power of Love.

Scott Pilgrim levels up when he gains the Power of Love.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World , a live-action film based on a popular comic book limited series which was written to mimic a quasi-video game world, goes beyond “quirky” into a new realm of meta-film.

What do I mean by this? I guess the best way to explain it is that at no point during the film is the viewer really allowed to forget that they’re watching a film. Watching the film is like watching a mix of anime and video game which happens to be performed by real actors. The fight scenes are extremely impressive, a mix of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Super Mario Galaxy, with some Guitar Hero thrown in for good measure.

“Realism” has no place in this film.

At first, you might think that things like this would ruin the film, but instead it allows you to engage with the film on a whole different level than what you’re used to … and it works.

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H.P. Lovecraft: The Style Adjectival

Monday, December 20th, 2010 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Howard Phillips LovecraftEveryone has their heresies. Things they believe, or things they perceive to be true, with which many if not most authorities would disagree. That’s especially so, I think, with readers. Everybody who reads is going to have a list of writers who they feel are unjustly praised or unjustly criticised. Or, in some cases, writers whose work is wrongly praised or criticised; writers accepted as great, for example, but who you think are great for some other reason than is held by most people.

I’ve got a bunch of these heresies. I want to talk here about one such: I believe that H.P. Lovecraft is not only a major writer, but a major stylist. I think his use of language is powerful and original. I think he’s often misread as failing to do things he has no interest in, and I think what he is interested in doing is not often discussed on its own terms.

Before going on to explain what I mean, I should probably make a couple of points clear. Firstly, I have no particular interest in discussing Lovecraft`s life and personality except to note that the desire of many critics to focus on Lovecraft as an individual may suggest a need to evade dealing with the horrors of his fiction. In any event, Lovecraft was not a static thinker; his perspectives and opinions on many things changed over the course of his life. In writing this post, therefore, I’m going to try to talk about “Lovecraft” as a back-formation from the texts of his stories; I mean simply that I’m going to write about what I see in the fiction, treated as a whole, and not worry much over the details of his biography.

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When I was Jung

Sunday, December 19th, 2010 | Posted by Bud Webster

space-service2My folks taught me to read when I was four or five, and by the time I was in first grade I was reading on a third or fourth grade level. Nothing unusual about that in a subculture made up of readers, of course, but it got me sidelong glances and furrowed brows from a few of my classmates during my formative years. Got my butt kicked once or twice (or a hundred times), too, because those of us who read are not only suspected by those who don’t, but we also tend to be smart-asses.

I began raiding the school library early on. The librarians loved me, because I checked out the maximum number every week and brought them back on time to get more. Librarians like that sort of thing in kids, even today.

I began reading mythology (well, after I had exhausted all the Dr. Seuss1 and the like), fairy tales, tall tales, that sort of thing. I also had a strong interest in science; this being the beginning of the Space Age, and it was inevitable that I’d start noticing all those books with rockets and atoms on the spines. Boy, did I get hooked.

I read pretty much whatever sf I could find in the school and public libraries, and when my family moved in with my aunt on her farm in the country, the lady who drove the bookmobile began loading extra science fiction on her weekly pass through Botetourt County so I wouldn’t pout.

I’ll jump ahead, since this is less about me than it is about what I’m doing, both here and elsewhere.

I think it’s only natural for those of us who read to make lists of our favorites; those writers who make our eyes widen, who set our minds to wondering, who haunt us even when their books are shut and on a shelf.

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New Treasures: A Salute to ChiZine Publications

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

monstrous-affectionsAt the end of October I found myself at the World Fantasy Convention, with Howard Andrew Jones, Bill Ward, Ryan Harvey, and pretty much the entirety of Team Black Gate — talking publishing with other small press owners on panels, attending late-night parties, and cheering on the mighty James Enge during the World Fantasy Awards.

It wasn’t all fun and games, of course. We bought a table in the Dealer’s Room, and for most of the convention I was parked behind it, selling magazines. It was a chance to meet some of our authors and subscribers face-to-face, and put Black Gate in the hands of folks who’d never beheld it before. Always a pleasure to see the looks on their faces as they hefted the latest issue, and to hear them say “Wow — this is a magazine? It’s enormous!”

There were slow moments, of course. And during those I had a chance to catch up with friends who came to hang out at the booth, like author Ted Chiang, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly editor Adrian Simmons, SF Signal‘s John DeNardo, and many others. More rarely I’d steal a moment to wander the rest of the Dealer’s Room, an Aladdin’s Cave of Wonders for fantasy readers, where you can find virtually any book, no matter how rare or obscure. I’ve made many a prize find there over the years — that’s how I ended up paying $575 for a copy of Robert E. Howard’s Skull-Face And Others, the beautiful and seminal Arkham House edition from 1946, which I bought (after some hard negotiating) at the 2006 convention.

Right across from the Black Gate table were the friendly folks of ChiZine Publications, with hands-down the most handsome and impressive collection of new releases at the con. I found myself sneaking over to their booth every chance I got, returning with a volume or two each time. Eventually I purchased over half a dozen and only now, six weeks later, am I truly beginning to realize what treasures I brought home.

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She Likes Us…

Saturday, December 18th, 2010 | Posted by Soyka

Lois Tilton has some nice words to say about content provider (or what used to be called a magazine) Blackgate in her year-end evaluation of sources for SF&F short fiction:


Black Gate put out only a single issue this year but made up for it in the sheer mass of sword and sorcery and other adventure fantasy. The quality was high; I’m happy to see this zine has given up its excessive attachment to endless story series. My favorite was “The Word of Azrael” by Mathew David Surridge, possibly the ultimate sendup of sword and sorcery.

She also cited Interzone as her favorite SF magazine.  While I hardly begin to touch the depth of her coverage, I feel the same way.  I was also interested to see her comment that,

F&SF remains one of the most diverse publications in the field, with a mix ranging from mundane science fiction to horror. It provided more stories that ended up on this list than any other publication, but I wish there hadn’t also been so many silly stories of little merit…

That’s always been my impression and I wonder if Gordon van Gelder feels compelled for some reason to publish these “silly stories” as a kind of tribute to the pulp tradition of stories that were silly even by the standards of the era.  Of course, that’s part of the charm, I suppose.  Sort of like the whole “Crouching with Dragons” phenomenon in which you’re making a purposefully bad movie, but doing it really well.  On the other hand, seeing it one time is kind of amusing, but a regular diet makes you all the more desirous of something with higher nutrition.

Blake Edwards: A Personal Remembrance

Friday, December 17th, 2010 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

peter_gunn_tie-inThis wasn’t the article I planned on posting this week. Those that know me are aware of my obsession with Blake Edwards’ work. It is also true to say that I am obsessive about the work of Hammett, Chandler, Ross Macdonald, Sax Rohmer, Ray Davies, and countless other writers. However, my love of writers and writing begins and ends with Mr. Edwards.

Blake Edwards’ passing this week brings his work back into focus again for the public at large. He was a prolific writer/producer/director with a body of work that spanned nearly eight decades and ran the gamut from film, radio, television, and theater. A native Oklahoman, the stepfather who adopted him made him the third part of a family that now boasts five generations in the entertainment industry.

His early success came in radio creating the hardboiled detective series, Richard Diamond, Private Detective which later made a successful transition to television and led Edwards to produce his own television variation in the form of the classic Peter Gunn. The latter project began an association with composer Henry Mancini that continued for over 35 years until Mancini’s death.


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Dark City Games Christmas Special

Thursday, December 16th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

raid-on-cygnosaWe’re big fans of Dark City Games at Black Gate. Todd McAulty first reviewed their solitaire fantasy adventure The Island of Lost Spells  in Black Gate 10, and Andrew Zimmerman Jones picked up the thread with a look at Wolves on the Rhine (BG 11), and Void Station 57 (BG 13). Howard Andrew Jones carries on the tradition in the upcoming BG 15 with a review of one of their latest titles, The Oracle’s Breath.

We even included a complete solo adventure from Dark City Games in Black Gate 12, Orcs of the High Mountains, and posted a short solitaire SF adventure by Dark City here on the BG website, S.O.S, a prelude to their At Empire’s End.

Dark City have re-captured the spirit of the best solitaire adventures from the dawn of role-playing, particularly the classic Metagaming titles like Death Test. Their games are easy to learn, quick to play, and a lot of fun.

To celebrate their success during the year, Dark City Games is offering a buy 4 get 1 free special on their website — a 20% discount.

Select any four games from their extensive catalog of Ancient World (fantasy), Time and Space (science fiction), or Untamed West (western) titles, and receive a fifth game of your choice free. The sale even includes their newest titles, such as Raid on Cygnosa and At Empire’s End.

And tell them Black Gate sent you!

Goth Chick News: There’ll Be Scary Ghost Stories

Thursday, December 16th, 2010 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image0022Here at Chateaux Goth Chick, the holidays mean spending a lot of time with family. In your house you may be drinking eggnog and celebrating your annual traditions and at my house it’s the same, only different. Here, December first marks the start of approximately four weeks of  more self-restraint than I exercise in all the preceding months put together.

Allow me to explain.

Although it is generally playful, for the eleven previous months I will have been teased about my taste in music, movies and books; about my “little side job” writing a blog for a disgruntled, anti-establishment audience and about how I’ve run all over the planet looking for ghosts when I’d probably scream like a little girl if I ever saw one.

Yeah? So?

My Mom will have told a small number of stories a large number of times about how I was always a “weird little kid” preferring to sit up all hours reading comics with a flashlight under the covers or sneaking out to the living room in the middle of the night to watch reruns of Son of Svengoolie, while other girls my age were playing with Malibu Barbie.

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