The Scar-Crow Men, Faustus, and Wizards: Three Posts

Monday, January 31st, 2011 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Marlowe's FaustThis week I read an advance copy of the second book in Mark Chadbourn’s series of espionage-fantasy-adventure novels, Swords of Albion. The Scar-Crow Men begins with the first performance of Christopher Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus, and the story of the novel and the story of Faust end up connecting in a number of ways. It got me thinking about Faust, and why the story of Faust has flourished in the centuries since Marlowe wrote, and how many different ideas about wizards there really are.

So this post breaks down into three posts, offering ruminations on the book, on Faust, and on wizards.

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“My Firefly Atonement” or “Get Cheap RPG Books Today Only!”

Monday, January 31st, 2011 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

When a show with a large fan base – especially a large SF fan base – ends, the fans have some small amount of solace, because there’s usually a rich bounty of “extended universe” materials to keep the fix going for a while. Often the avid fan, deprived of new episodes of the show, can enjoy exploring the novels, comic books, and, yes, even role-playing game supplements which are created through license with the show … but all good things must end.

Last Chance to Buy Serenity & Battlestar Galactica RPGs

In recent years, one of the publishers that’s been dominant in the field of licensed RPG materials from such show – including SmallvilleSupernaturalSerenityLeverage, and Battlestar Galactica – is Margaret Weiss Productions, founded by (and named after) the legendary co-creator of the Dragonlance D&D setting and co-author of most of the relevant novels that established that setting, notably the Chronicles and Legends trilogies. These have been some great games, all built around MWP’s proprietary Cortex Rule System (reviewed in Black Gate 14). Serenity RPG was reviewed back in Black Gate 10 and my own review of the Supernatural RPG is slated to come out in Black Gate 15.

The problem, of course, is that both Serenity and Battlestar Galactica are based on franchises that have been over for quite some time. The licenses may have expired or MWP may have just decided it wasn’t profitable to keep the lines going, but the result was the following message in my e-mail today:

You have one day left to purchase The Serenity and Battlestar Galactica RPGs from Margaret Weiss Productions!

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Charlene Brusso Reviews Magic in the Blood

Sunday, January 30th, 2011 | Posted by Bill Ward

magic-in-the-bloodMagic in the Blood
Devon Monk
Roc (360 pp, $6.99, May 2009)
Reviewed By Charlene Brusso

Urban fantasy walks a fine line between engaging the reader with magic that feels real, while operating in a gritty modern setting that seems as far from magical as possible. Devon Monk’s series (starting with Magic to the Bone) is set in gray, yet somehow inviting, Portland, Oregon, offering many repurposed old buildings, and lots of colorful characters in addition to the incessant rain.

Our heroine, Allie Beckstrom, is a Hound, a magically gifted person who can sniff out the caster of any spell: really sniff, that is. Hounding can be a good way to make a living, but magic has its price since “using magic means it uses you back.” Cast a spell without deflecting the painful backwash means aches, pains, exhaustion, and worse, depending on the strength of the spell. There are rules. Legally, spells can only be cast on a person with their consent. And “Offloading” the bad side effects of magic onto another is strictly forbidden.

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Race Matters: A Writer Blogs About Process

Saturday, January 29th, 2011 | Posted by markrigney

bgdancersNearly a decade ago, having spent four nights reading my story “A New Grave For Monique” aloud to a late-night workshop audience, I won an award for fiction from the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference.  The audience (and the conference in general) was uniformly Caucasian.

About a year later, I showed the story to my friend Ellie, who immediately noted that when I introduced the Haitian character, Monique, I stated in the text that she was black.  Not a foul in and of itself, except that I did not introduce any of the story’s many white characters as white, a fact Ellie was quick to note.  Had I read “A New Grave For Monique,” since published in Traps (Darkhart Press, Scott T. Goudsward, Editor), at a conference of African-American or multi-national writers, I suspect I would have won little more than a pie in the face.  And deservedly so.

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Saturday, January 29th, 2011 | Posted by Soyka

inthenightgarden1Back at around the turn of the century when I first started writing reviews for various SF/F on line publications, there was a lot of heated discussion about something called “The New Weird.”  Some of it got a little silly, but, recovering English majors tend to like to categorize things as some kind of shorthand for what you might expect from a literary work.  In the academy, that means things like gothic,  romance and  post-modernism, among other designations. In genre, riffing off the rock music punk rebellion — a reaction to pretentious art-rock and boring corporate rock (see, you can’t get away from categorizing) — came a series of “punk” movements, starting with cyberpunk and then steampunk and splatterpunk and whatever you could stick “punk” onto similar to the way political scandals have become a “gate” ever since  Watergate.

The latest such entry appears to by “mythpunk,” more about which you can read in this interview with Catherynne M. Valente, who is credited with coining the term in 2006 (which goes to show how clueless I am, as this is the first I’ve heard of it).  For further discussion, visit the Strange Horizons blog.

Convention Report: ARISIA 2011

Friday, January 28th, 2011 | Posted by George R. Morgan

arisia-2011Arisia is one of three prominent SF/F/H conventions held each year in the Boston area (Boskone and Readercon being the other two). This year was Arisia’s 22d edition (January 14-17, 2011) and my 18th consecutive Arisia.

Each of these three conventions has its own distinctive focus. Readercon, usually held in July, is devoted entirely to the reading, writing, editing and publishing of SF/F/H. Its Dealers Room is unashamedly devoted entirely to books and other genre related printed materials. Readercon  does not stage an art show. Boskone, usually held in February, has its primary focus on genre writing , editing, and art with a secondary, minor, interest in gaming, filking, costuming and films. Boskone’s Dealer Room is strong on genre books but also gives a noticable nod to games, crafts, and costuming. Boskone stages an art show as a major element of its programming.

Arisia, usually held in January, was founded in 1989 by members of Boskone who wished to expand the range of interests served by the convention, and held its first separate convention in Boston in 1990. Like Boskone, Arisia took its name from the works of E.E. Smith. In Smith’s universe the Boskones were the bad guys and the Arisians were the good guys. In its fourth year, 1993, Arisia became the Boston area’s most attended annual genre convention, at about 1700 persons. This year’s attendence looks to match or exceed last year’s mark of just over 2400, making it about twice the size of Boskone and Readercon.

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Graphic Noir: A Random Sample

Friday, January 28th, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

peter-gunn-dell-4colorNoir comics have bubbled under the surface for decades. Even the mainstream success of the Dick Tracy newspaper strip failed to bring hardboiled detectives to the forefront of the medium. Batman started off as a noir title before quickly eschewing dark corners for brightly-colored superhero theatrics for decades. TV and movie tie-in’s, usually one-off’s from publishers like Dell popped up here and there but failed to be anything more than curios.

playback1A quick look at Dell’s Peter Gunn one-shot from 1959 is a perfect example. The television series was strictly adult fare in its day with a 9:30 PM time slot so it’s strange to see a kid-friendly comic with Pete tracking down a maker of counterfeit postage stamps as the lead story.

Dell fared much better with the simultaneous publication of a TV tie-in novel by the author of the Peter Chambers series, Henry Kane. That book managed to aim for a more sophisticated audience than late fifties network television standards would allow making Dell’s dime comic all the more strange in comparison.

The advent of the graphic novel was really the medium that allowed noir titles to flourish. Darker, more adult and frequently self-contained, the graphic novel was the perfect vehicle to bring hardboiled detectives into the graphic medium. Jim Steranko may have been the first to exploit the combination with Red Tide (1976) featuring the adventures of a gumshoe named Chandler in an appreciative nod to the creator of Philip Marlowe. That seminal work was the first graphic noir in the United States, Europe having got the drop on us first.

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A Critical Appreciation of James Enge

Thursday, January 27th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

thewolfageNo sooner does our man James Enge — World Fantasy Award-nominated author, Black Gate blogger, and international man of mystery — appear on the scene with his third novel The Wolf Age, than Western Civilization finally begins to acknowledge his genius. The latest accolades are courtesy of John H. Stevens at SF Signal:

Enge has described in his Black Gate interview how he “took a big hammer” and smashed away at Morlock to transform him from a “mopey Byronic wish-fulfillment self-image” into a more flawed character. He did this to a large extent to get away from what he saw as the “wish-fulfillment” in much of fantasy fiction. But after reading Enge’s work it is clear that he has continued hammering away at fantasy to bend it into spooky and unconventional shapes…

His third novel has a richer texture to its plot, and this makes it the most enjoyable, and in some ways the most profound, of his major works to date… There is a surer hand at work here, and a smoother progress in the story than in the first two novels.

Stevens links to much of the recent coverage of James, and includes what is already my favorite quote of the year, from an interview with James at Civilian Reader:

I like Zelazny’s description of his masterwork, the original Amber series: ‘a philosophical romance shot through with elements of horror and morbidity.’ That’s what I try to write: philorohorrmorbmance.

Sample chapters from The Wolf Age are available here.

The complete Critical Appreciation of James Enge is available here.

Goth Chick News: “Slasher Films”… Really?

Thursday, January 27th, 2011 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image0043I was right on the verge of having a field day with this and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

It starts with today being exactly 24 hours past my usual Black Gate deadline. The events leading up to this would appear to be insignificant, but trust me when I say their aggregated affect — culminating in the toilet set being left up (again) in the “unisex” Black Gate bathroom — had wreaked utter havoc with my normally cheery disposition.

But then a ray of sunshine penetrated the underground bunker of the Goth Chick offices; a statement so rife with possibilities that I was mentally riffing on it before the final syllable was spoken.

“Slash is starting a horror movie production company.”

Oh yes, it was going to be a good day after all.

Let me back up and color this in a bit for you.

The year is 1988 and a hair band out of Los Angeles called Guns n’ Roses finally scores a number one hit with “Sweet Child o’ Mine.” There’s a guy with a wild mass of long, frizzy black locks, banging away on lead guitar who was christened Saul Hudson when he was born in Hampstead, England but was now know by the far cooler name “Slash.”

Yep, that Slash.

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Bud Webster Joins Black Gate as Poetry Editor

Thursday, January 27th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

bud-websterGenre historian and poet Bud Webster, author of Anthopology 101, joins the Black Gate team as our first poetry editor, effective immediately.

Bud Webster is a prize-winning epic poet, and served as poetry editor for the online magazine HELIX SF. During his tenure there, eight of the poems he published were nominated for the Rhysling Award, with one taking first place in the Long Poem category. He was co-editor of SFPA founder Suzette Hadin Elgin’s The Science Fiction Poetry Handbook (Sam’s Dot Publishing, 2005), and has been nominated for the Rhysling himself a couple of times.

Bud has gained considerable renown over the past decade for his Past Masters columns, examining and promoting the work of some the finest of science fiction and fantasy authors of the 20th Century. He continues that theme with his Who? columns for the print edition of Black Gate magazine. The first Who? column, on author Tom Reamy, appears in the upcoming Black Gate 15.

Bud’s first online article for us was What I Do and Why I Do It in December of last year; his most recent was What I Do It With. His enthusiasm for — and encyclopedic knowledge of — classic SF and fantasy, and the tireless energy with which he promotes neglected authors, are a welcome addition to the Black Gate team.

Bud will be purchasing 6-10 original fantasy poems for each issue of Black Gate magazine. The first issue to feature his selections will be BG 16.

For a complete list of the folks responsible for Black Gate, visit our Staff Page.

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