Engineering Infinity

Saturday, December 11th, 2010 | Posted by Soyka

infinityOver at Locus Online, Lois Tilton reviews short fiction so I don’t have to.

Of particular interest this week is that in addition to the wide range of print and on-line magazines, she takes at look at Engineering Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan, a collection of hard SF with the sort of authors you’d expect, e.g., Stephen Baxter, Peter Watts, and Karl Schroeder.  

Looks interesting.

ODIN’S RETURN: A Great New Era for THOR

Saturday, December 11th, 2010 | Posted by John R. Fultz

The latest issue of Marvel's THOR features Odin the All-Father and his return from the death of Limbo.

The latest issue of Marvel's THOR features Odin the All-Father and his return from the death of Limbo.

You’ve probably heard about Marvel Comics’ latest big movie sensation, THOR, coming soon to a theatre near you. You may know that Anthony Hopkins is playing Odin the All-Father, Natalie Portman is involved,  and the great Kenneth Branagh is directing in a feat of Shapespearean brilliance.  You may be convinced (as I am) that this will be the best “comic book movie” since SPIDER-MAN.

Well, forget all that and pick up the latest issue of Marvel’s THOR comic.

Writer Matt Fraction and artist extraordinaire Pascal Ferry took over the title a few months back and Asgard may never be the same. It has quickly become one of Marvel’s best books. For fantasy lovers of all stripes, this is THE monthly book to buy into. Ferry’s art is truly amazing, a blend of fantasy and science fiction that creates its own unique style while hearkening back to the original Jack Kirby THOR designs with an amazing energy. The panels fairly leap off the page.

thorkirby2A little context: I am a huge fan of the old-school Stan Lee/Jack Kirby THOR run from the 1960s. Not the entire run, mind you, just the really good second half when Kirby was really off the hook. The Origin of Galactus, Ego the Living Planet, the ManGog, Tales of Asgard, just amazing and timeless Kirby goodness. There’s a reason this guy was called the King of Comics, and this series shows it like no other.

I also love the run that followed Kirby’s departure, the early 1970s run by the legendary John Buscema, who brought a whole new lithe and streamlined style to the Thunder God and his cast of friends and foes. Anybody into THOR will also tell you about the landmark Walt Simonson run of the early 1980s; this was the run that brought Thor back to the top of Marvel’s list.

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Blogging Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Part Five: “The Witch Queen of Mongo”

Friday, December 10th, 2010 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

flashgordon2_1cvr1“The Witch Queen of Mongo“ was the fifth installment of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon Sunday comic strip serial for King Features Syndicate. Originally printed between April 21 and October 13, 1935, “The Witch Queen of Mongo” picked up the storyline where the fourth installment, “Caverns of Mongo” left off with Flash and Dale setting out to conquer the cave kingdom that was awarded to Flash following the tourney held by Ming and Vultan.

Writer/artist Alex Raymond benefitted greatly from the contributions of ghost writer Don Moore who developed characterization to bring much-needed balance to the nonstop parade of cliffhangers. The serial quickly sets the tone with Dale’s mounting frustration with Flash’s preference for continued adventures over settling down and marrying her. This development coincides with the introduction of Azura, the titular Witch Queen of the Kingdom of Syk.

azuracomicsAzura is the second of Alex Raymond’s stunning exotic women of Mongo and rivals Aura in complexity and appeal. The Witch Queen’s descent from the heavens on a stair of flames is an iconic image that may have influenced Frank Frazetta’s cover art for Conan the Freebooter three decades later. Likewise, Flash’s Nordic-style horned helmet suggests the strip was a vital inspiration on the depiction of Robert E. Howard’s barbarian pulp hero.

From the very start, the point is made that the Witch Queen’s “magic” is nothing more than advanced technology. The continued juxtaposition of the futuristic with medieval fantasy remained a potent formula for success with the stip.

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And now a word (or several) about Ideomancer

Friday, December 10th, 2010 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney

Leah Bobet of <i>Ideomancer</i>

Leah Bobet of Ideomancer

At Readercon 2009, I wended my way through the lobby crush until at last I came upon a clump of ladies who were more or less my friends. A few strangers, true. A few people I had adored only cyberspacially, true. However, everyone was cheerful and in the mood to be introduced.

Introductions were made.

One of the strangers was a tall, smiling, black-haired (with a bright blue streak, like a sailor’s vocabulary) lady who may or may not have been wearing at the time (if she wasn’t then, she certainly was later) a wicked cool corset. Her name was Leah Bobet, and she was the Editor-in-Chief of Ideomancer Magazine.

Upon learning my name, she grinned and said, “Oh! I think you’re in my slush pile.”

If slush could blush, this one certainly did. I mean, what do you say to that?

Except, “Uh… Uh-oh. Ha-ha. Well. Ahhhh, NICE TO MEETCHA!”

Or some stammering equivalent thereof.

Since then, I did make it out of the slush and into an issue of Ideomancer, and have pursued my acquaintance with the Lady Bobet through the usual social networking sites (LiveJournal chief among them) and what other writing conventions we happened to attend together.

bg1It gives me great pleasure, now, to invite Leah here to talk to us about Ideomancer and its exciting current issue.

Ladies and Gentlemen of Black Gate, I give you… Leah Bobet.

Ideomancer‘s one of the longest-running speculative fiction zines on the Internet. It’s been publishing regularly since 1999, and has gone through four publishers, been based in three countries, and had several different publication schedules. What hasn’t changed is the aesthetic: complex, literary speculative fiction from authors you might not have heard of right now, but will soon.

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AMC’s The Walking Dead: Devouring six million viewers, and me

Thursday, December 9th, 2010 | Posted by Brian Murphy

the-walking-dead-comic-imageConfession: I watch almost no TV. Well, that’s not quite true: NFL football, an occasional news program, and the odd episode of The Simpsons aside, I watch no TV. Lost is lost on me. There aren’t enough hours in the day for 24. The Sopranos? Fuggedaboutit. There are too many good books to be read in the world and not enough time for television.

Another reason I avoid TV, particularly serialized programming, is the “that guy” phenomenon. When it comes to shows like Lost, there’s always one person in the office who insists on telling you how much you’re missing, or describing the minutiae of a cast of fictional characters’ lives for whom you know and care absolutely nothing about. It just ends up making me hate the boob tube even more.

So now that I’ve set the stage for why I avoid TV, let me tell you all about AMC’s The Walking Dead! I’m a huge fan  of the zombie genre and the temptation to watch a TV program about the undead was too great not to tune in. After an excellent episode one I was hooked. I’m mortified that I have to wait until the fall for episode 2.

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The Four-Window Method

Thursday, December 9th, 2010 | Posted by ScottOden

lion-of-cairoDuring the course of the past few days I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with a goodly number of writers. It’s been good for my soul to talk shop with knowledgeable peers. But one question that invariably cropped up concerned my method of writing. How did I prepare my drafts? And as I explained it, curious looks would blossom over the visages of my brother-and-sister scribes.

Apparently, my method is just a little odd.

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What I Do and Why I Do It

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010 | Posted by Bud Webster

hawk-amongI’ve got this problem, see. I’m not the only one, of course, I’m sure you know all too many others with the same problem, only in different areas: gamers, motorheads, movie freaks, sports goobers, NASCarians, record dweebs, comic nerds, Star Trek dorks, computer yahoos, stereo-tweaks.

Me, I’m a book-geek. More specifically, a science-fictional book-geek.

If you know anybody like the above (and you do), you know that even with their widely differing interests, they all have one thing in common – they will drive you absolutely batshit telling you All About It.

You’re nodding your heads. Yep, you all know someone like this, many of you live with one, and more than a few of you are some variety of what used to be called “enthusiasts” yourselves.

I’ve been chasing people out of con-suites and rooms at parties for decades now, yattering on about pulps, writers, pseudonyms, artists, publishers, editors and trimmed versus untrimmed until people begin to back away, smiling desperately and looking at their watches.

‘Sokay, I’m used to it. Hey, you should see what happens when I mention deckled edges. Or start listing edition points.  But you know, there were always one or two guys in that room who stayed behind and listened.  Fellow geeks, anxious to hear all the minutiae and trivia I had stuffed into what few brain cells I had left after the ’60s.  An audience, if you will, that few other “enthusiasts” enjoy.

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Art Evolution 13: Den Beauvais

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010 | Posted by Scott Taylor


Art Evolution, the continuing study of a single iconic character as imagined by the greatest fantasy RPG artists in the past thirty years continues, but if you want to view previous artists, you can begin here.

‘Dragonlance Lyssa’ was complete, as was a personal dream. I’d managed to get Larry Elmore, and was continuing down my list of incredible talent. As I’ve mentioned several times before, I like to read old issues of Dragon Magazine, and you can’t possibly do that without stumbling over an issue with a Den Beauvais cover.

This is also a good jumping off point in itself, and that is the very important role Dragon Magazine played in the landscape of the RPG field. In its original incarnation, ‘The Dragon’ was first published in June 1976, predating even the module series we’ve seen thus far in this article. Even its founder, Gygax, didn’t believe it would have the lifespan or impact that it did for gamers across the globe, but in its finality that print version of Dragon lasted thirty-one years.

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Wizard Trails: On the Making of the Black Gate Trailer

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney

Not so very many months ago, we posted Black Gate‘s first trailer ever.

We are still very proud of it. So proud, in fact, that we’re bringing it up again! Oh my gosh!

I figured, in the light of Harry Connolly’s posts about Walking the Trail(er), it would be interesting to interview the wizardly gentleman who aided and abetted (and conjured and conspired) in the making of Black Gate‘s own fabulous trailer.

So I wrote to Magill Foote and asked him some impertinent questions, and he was kind enough to answer them!

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A Writing Lesson about Pettiness from Poe

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

cask-of-amontillado-harry-clarkeIn his famous essay “The Simple Art of Murder” (1944) noir author Raymond Chandler discusses the separation between loftiness of subject in writing and its literary success:

Other things being equal, which they never are, a more powerful theme will provoke a more powerful performance. Yet some very dull books have been written about God, and some very fine ones about how to make a living and stay fairly honest. It is always a matter of who writers the stuff, and what he has in him to write with. As for literature of expression and literature of escape, this is critics’ jargon, a use of abstract words as if they had absolute meanings. Everything written with vitality expresses that vitality; there are no dull subjects, only dull minds.

Chandler’s thesis here also applies to an author’s intention as well as his or her subject matter. Most of us can safely say that anyone who sets out to write “The Great American Novel” or “The National Epic of [Insert Nation Here]” will inevitably fail at that task. On the other hand, an author might produce an enduring work of literature if he or she simply sets out to jab some pins into another author over a petty feud. That may sound dull-minded, like a schoolyard tussle over who was next in line for handball, but if the mind behind it isn’t actually dull, then the result could be a masterpiece.

Case in point: “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe. If you haven’t read this 1846 tale of revenge in Italy, than you must have been home sick from school that day in sixth grade.

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