Sword and Sorcery Music

Thursday, January 27th, 2011 | Posted by Howie Bentley

bghowie3Across a misty battlefield, a dim, imposing figure stalks into view.  Blood  rolls off of his massive battle-axe, and his hair and face are caked with the crimson wound-dew. He threw his helmet away hours ago.  His armor is dented.  Blood drips from his wounds as he wades through his fallen enemies like a steel juggernaut, mowing them down like wheat before a scythe.

At last, after months of marching his troops across the wastelands, living like an animal and enduring weather conditions that would kill a civilized man, he comes face to face with his most hated enemy.  He throws away his axe and draws his sword.

Two men standing on a battlefield, eyeing each other through a mist of red.  One of them will shove cold steel through the other one’s guts, and decapitate him, holding up his enemy’s head, to show to his gods, or anyone fortunate enough to be left standing.  Smouldering blue eyes shining with battle-madness burn in his scarred face, as it is suddenly split by a rictus grin.”

bggodA blood-curdling war-cry comes screaming out of the speakers!

Now, there are all kinds of music, for all kinds of people, moods, and situations. But to my mind, there is only one kind of music to host a scene like I just described, and that is heavy metal.

Read More »


Changes at Weird Tales

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

weird-tales-357Weird Tales editor Ann VanderMeer announces a re-vamped website, higher pay rates, a nifty new submissions portal, a new schedule, and a blog:

In addition to launching this new website, editor-in-chief Ann VanderMeer and publisher John Betancourt have raised the pay rate to 5 cents per word and implemented a new submissions portal for potential contributors… The new site also features a blog, through which VanderMeer and the rest of the Weird Tales team will discuss fiction and topics related to the revamped magazine…

Weird Tales will return to its normal quarterly schedule this year, with future issues slated for May, August, and November.

The submissions portal is based on the one designed by Neil Clarke for Clarkesworld magazine, and he implemented this one for Weird Tales.  Matt Kressel designed the new website.

The upcoming issue of the magazine, number 357 (!) includes fiction from N.K. Jemisin, author of Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Karin Tidbeck, and J. Robert Lennon, plus an interview with Caitlin R. Kiernan.

The Weird Tales team includes Paula Guran, nonfiction editor, and art director Mary Robinette Kowal. Dominik Parisien and Alan Swirsky have joined Tessa Kum as editorial assistants.

The new website is here.


Rich Horton Reviews Song of Time

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 | Posted by Bill Ward

song-of-timeSong of Time
Ian R. MacLeod
PS Publishing (253 pages, $14.95, October 2008)
Reviewed by Rich Horton

Ian R. MacLeod is one of the supreme SF writers of recent years, especially at novelette and novella length, and so it is something of a disappointment that his novels seem to have struggled to find an audience. His newest work is so far only out in the U. K. from the excellent but definitely small outfit PS Publishing. Yet in considering this book I am inclined to understand its failure (so far!) to attract a trade publisher. Song of Time is not a high concept book. Indeed it is difficult to capture it with a single thematic statement. (His two Ace novels, on the other hand, were distinctly about the magical substance aether and the ways in which its use paralleled the Industrial Revolution.) Thus it is, I imagine, a bit harder to “sell” the book. And I must also add that while that is not always a shortcoming, in the present case I think it is rather. About which more later.

Song of Time opens with an aging woman rescuing a drowning man from the ocean off her Cornish house. The man, whom she calls Adam, is a mysterious figure – he has no memory, but he knows – or learns quickly – a great many things, some of which are quite unexpected. He is also a remarkably quick healer, and otherwise unusually constructed. Thus a puzzle is established – but really the book is not about this puzzle (though in the end it is solved, quite satisfactorily).

Read More »


What I Do It With

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 | Posted by Bud Webster

doriangrayYou already know I’m a recalcitrant book-geek, right? Loads of books, scattered all over the house, piled up and in boxes, and covering almost every flat surface – including the bookshelves. Where in hell did they all come from, anyway?

That’s the $64,000 question. I’ve been accumulating books since I was in junior high school (“middle-school” to you kids), when I traded a stack of comics to a friend for his copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

It wasn’t a first edition, of course, but it was an early one and did have Wilde’s signature reproduced on the front board in gold. It was also in pretty rough shape; the front hinge almost completely gone and the cover hanging by only a few threads.

Didn’t matter. Doesn’t even matter that, looking back on it, I realize that the comics I turned loose in swap were worth a hell of a lot more – I’d heard a lot about that book (and the movies made from it) in the pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland, and I wanted it. I kept it for years until it got lost in some move or another, and I’ve missed it ever since.

It was inevitable, really. Anyone who collects anything – from Beanie Babies to boy-dolls (or “action figures” as a friend of mine insists) – eventually acquires enough of them to require books about their collections, just to keep them straight and as a guide to what they have so they’ll know what they still need. So it was with me and my books.

Read More »


Wizard and ToyFare Magazines Cease Publication

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

wizard-issue-234Longtime comic magazine Wizard, once one of the most popular publications in the industry, has folded. Its sister magazine ToyFare, dedicated to pop-culture toys and action figures, has also ceased publication. Both magazines were owned by Wizard Entertainment.

Wizard was launched in 1991, near the height of the “speculator boom,” fueled by the arrival of Image Comics and the rise of superstar artists such as Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee. Dedicated to covering news, pricing trends, and personalities in the field, Wizard quickly captured a large readership and brought real production values — including glossy paper, full-color interiors, and rock-star journalism — to comic fandom for the first time.

With its regular Wizard Top 10 and Market Watch columns, which reported on the “hottest back issues” of the month and predicted future price trends, Wizard catered to a new generation of fans and buyers who purchased comics chiefly for their collectability and perceived future value.

It also shared much of the blame when the comic marketplace collapsed as those speculators, burned by numerous bad investments, fled the market in the late 90s.

toyfare-16111Two-thirds of comic book stores across the country closed between 1993 and 1997,  many major publishers were driven out of business, and even Marvel Comics declared bankruptcy in 1997.

For most of its life every issue of Wizard also had a price index, allowing collectors to track the price of their latest hot comics month-to-month (but I only read it for the articles).

At the peak of its popularity Wizard sold over 110,000 copies/month through Diamond alone.  With its final issue, that number had dropped to 17,000.

Publisher Wizard Entertainment made this announcement yesterday:

Wizard Entertainment is ceasing publication of the print magazines Wizard and ToyFare. Wizard World, Inc. will begin production of the online publication ‘Wizard World’ beginning in February. We feel this will allow us to reach an even wider audience in a format that is increasingly popular and more readily accessible.”

Wizard Entertainment continues with its other ventures, including the Chicago Comic Con and many other conventions. Their website is here.


Howard Andrew Jones Reviews Legends of Steel RPG

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

legendsofsteelSavage Worlds is a gaming system designed to provide a basic framework around which games in all sorts of settings can be built, but especially games in the Sword & Sorcery genre will perhaps find the best home there. Howard Andrew Jones explores one such setting …

Legends of Steel: Savage Worlds

Jeff Mejia
Evil DM Games (70 pp, $12.00 PDF, January 2009)
Reviewed by Howard Andrew Jones

A lot of games wear their hearts on their sleeves. They’re labors of love. They almost have to be, because one doesn’t usually get wealth, fame, and women by playing and designing games. When it comes to Legends of Steel, the heart it wears on its sleeve is mine. I wasn’t remotely involved in its creation, but I’m a huge fan of sword-and-sorcery, and Legends of Steel seems to have been designed, more than most other games I pick up, with me in mind.

Read More »


Centurion: How Many Times Can I Use “Brutal” in a Review?

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

2852-FINAL_CENTURION 70x100op 50 %.inddCenturion (2010)
Directed by Neil Marshall. Starring Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko.

If you did not see Centurion during its U.S. theatrical release, that’s probably because you blinked. The British film ran in only a small number of theaters in August on limited engagements, with a simultaneous release on Video on Demand. It played at the Nuart Theater a few miles from my home for a week, and I was unable to get to it. I regretted it at the time because the trailers got my thrill glands pumping: a bloody historical action movie starring a Roman legion. Now that is my kind of fun! I also had faith in director Neill Marshall; I had enjoyed all of his previous movies, and they more than proved that he could handle violent mayhem.

Now that Centurion is on DVD and Blu-Ray, I’ve been able to see what Mr. Marhsall did with the murky historical legend of the Ninth Legion: he made a bloody historical action movie out of it.

Centurion is as straightforward as they come, something the director admits: “It’s not meant to be historically perfect. I’m picking up on a legend and exploring it . . . it’s an action thriller.” The Ninth Legion, which supposedly vanished on an expedition to Scotland in the second century, serves as a springboard for Marhsall to return to the territory of “soldiers-behind-the-lines” from his first movie, the werewolf thriller Dog Soldiers, and sprinkle it with Xenophon’s Anabasis and various World War II movies featuring tough guys doing what has to be done. It is a stripped-to-the-bone bloodletting, filled with decapitations, throat-slittings, head-crushings, and any other mutilation you care to mention.

Not every movie needs deep psychological character explorations or nuanced drama. Centurion knows what it wants, runs after it, and spikes it gorily to the ground. If you think you might enjoy this film, then you will enjoy it — Marhsall delivers the goods as promised.

Read More »


Happy 100th Birthday, C. L. Moore!

Monday, January 24th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

shambleau1Catherine Lucille (C.L.) Moore, one of the great pulps writers of the 20th Century and author of Judgment Night, Shambleau and Others, Northwest of Earth, and Jirel of Joiry, was born 100 years ago today, on January 24, 1911.

Moore’s first story, “Shambleau,” the tale of a beautiful alien vampire, introduced interplanetary adventurer and pulp hero Northwest Smith  in the November 1933 issue of Weird Tales. The next year she published “Black God’s Kiss,” the first tale of Jirel of Joiry. They remain two of the most famous stories Weird Tales ever published.

Much of Moore’s early science fiction and fantasy stories were collected by Gnome Press in handsome volumes that are still highly collectible today, including Judgment Night (1952), Shambleau and Others (1953), and Northwest of Earth (1954).

Moore married fellow science fiction author Henry Kuttner in 1940, and they collaborated on many classic tales for the pulps, including “Mimsy Were the Borogroves,” (filmed in 2007 as The Last Mimzy), “The Twonky,” and “Vintage Season.” Much of their work together appeared in Astounding Science-Fiction,  usually under the name Lewis Padgett or Laurence O’Donnell.

judgment-nightMoore published three novels before her death in 1987: Doomsday Morning(1957), and two with Kuttner: Earth’s Last Citadel (1943) and The Mask of Circe (1948).

Unlike most pulp authors, C.L. Moore’s fame continued to grow after her death, and the past decade alone has seen several major collections of her work including two Planet Stories editions from Paizo: Black God’s Kiss (2007) and Northwest of Earth (2008); as well as Volume 31 in the Fantasy Masterworks series from Gollancz, Black Gods and Scarlet Dreams (2002); and two huge retrospectives: Two-Handed Engine (Centipede Press, 2006) and Detour to Otherness (Haffner Press, 2010).

Over the years we’ve done our own tributes to C.L. Moore, including Ryan Harvey’s Jirel of Joiry: The Mother of Us All, Paul Di Filippo’s review of Judgment Night, and C.S.E. Cooney’s recent Jirel, Ma Joie!

Celebrate the life of one of our finest writers this week — pick up and enjoy a C.L. Moore story. You’ll thank us later.

[Thanks to Stephen Haffner of Haffner Press for the tip.]


A Review of The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter

Monday, January 24th, 2011 | Posted by Isabel Pelech

time-shipsI’m not entirely sure how to review a sequel that’s written by a different author. I’m even less sure how to proceed if that sequel happens to be for a classic.

It’s not enough that it be a good book on its own. It also has to carry over themes from the original, and ideally, it should measure up to the original — which is almost impossible, because classics tend to become classics because the ideas in them are unique, cutting edge, or at least presented in a fascinating new way.

The Time Ships, by Stephen Baxter, is a sequel to H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine, and that’s one of the most impossible legacies in science fiction.

It’s a very good book, but it isn’t revolutionary in the way the original is — in part because it really can’t be. To top The Time Machine, you’d pretty much have to invent a new genre.

When The Time Machine ends, the nameless Time Traveller promises to be right back, departs for the future, and vanishes forever. The Time Ships repeats this scene from his perspective (in the original, we see it from the Writer’s point of view) and explains what happened to him.

Read More »


Robert E. Howard: The Barbarians

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

The Anatomy of CriticismIn the opening pages of The Anatomy of Criticism, Northrop Frye introduced a theory of modes, of types of stories, based on the power of action held by a story’s hero. If the hero has powers superior in kind to other characters, the story is a myth; if the hero has powers superior in degree, like a Launcelot or a Charlemagne, then the story’s a romance (in the old sense of a fantastic adventure story). A hero superior to other characters but not to the world around him is a leader, the kind of protagonist you might have in an epic or a tragedy, like Macbeth or Odysseus, and so belongs to the high mimetic mode: a mode imitating life, but at a higher pitch than life is commonly lived. A hero “superior neither to other men nor to his environment” impresses us with a sense of shared humanity, and exists in the low mimetic mode. A hero with less power or agency than ourselves creates the ironic mode, a story about “bondage, frustration, or absurdity.”

Frye has a lot more to say about all these different modes, but that’ll do for a start. I’ve been thinking about Frye and his theory of modes with respect to Robert E. Howard and to Howard’s three great barbarian heroes: Kull, Conan, and Bran Mak Morn. It seems to me that the theory of modes helps to explain the substantive difference between the three characters; why their stories, as far as I’m concerned, feel so different one from another. All of them are characters of the romance mode, but a story in one mode can be pulled toward another, and I think that’s what’s happening with these characters.

Read More »


« Later Entries   Earlier Entries »

This site © 2018 by New Epoch Press. All rights reserved.