Win One of Five Copies of The Desert of Souls

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

desert-of-souls21While the festitivites of Howard Andrew Jones month continue with no slowdown here at Black Gate HQ (if you don’t count those two hours Sunday night when we had to turn off the lights and hide out from the Chicago PD), mail continues to pour in from readers with the sad refrain, “How can we get in on this terrific Howard Andrew Jones action?”

Now you can — courtesy of Thomas Dunne Books, who are sponsoring a giveaway of Howard’s breakthrough first novel The Desert of Souls, featuring Dabir & Asim, the brave adventurers who originally appeared in Black Gate 10 (in “Sight of Vengeance“), and in Black Gate 12 (“Whispers From the Stone“).

How do you enter?  Easy!

Just visit the contest website and fill out the simple entry form. All entries must be received by March 1, 2011 11:59 p.m. EST, and all entrants must have a valid email address.

From all eligible entries Thomas Dunne Books will hold a random drawing on March 2, 2011. Five winners will be chosen; each will receive a hardcover copy of The Desert of Souls. Winners will be notified by e-mail.

Are we good to you, or what? (The answer is “Yes.”)  Don’t thank us; it’s our job.

Good luck in the contest.  And keep celebrating Howard Andrew Jones month, party faithful.

A review of Changeling by Roger Zelazny

Monday, February 21st, 2011 | Posted by Isabel Pelech


Changeling, by Roger Zelazny
Ace Books (251 pages, $2.95, June 1980)

I don’t know how the idea got started, but I’ve seen a number of books where magic is seen as a force fundamentally opposed to technology.  It doesn’t always make sense to me, since “technology” is an extremely diverse thing, but it makes for some good stories — not to mention a decent limitation for characterrs who would otherwise become much too powerful.  Changeling, by Roger Zelazny, is built on this concept.

The story starts with the defeat and death of a sorcerer called Det, Lord of Rondoval.  The conquering forces seriously consider killing his infant son as well, but they find another solution.

Thousands of years ago, the world split into two seperate dimensions, one ruled by magic, the other by technology.  If the baby were sent to the technological dimension, his sorcerous potential wouldn’t endanger anyone.

Of course, something else living would have to be brought back from that world to maintain the balance.

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Supernatural Spotlight – Episode 6.14 “Mannequin 3: The Reckoning”

Monday, February 21st, 2011 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Sam (right) and Dean (left) have yet another brother-to-brother chat, apparently in front of jarred biological specimens. (From a previous episode)

Sam (right) and Dean (left) have yet another brother-to-brother chat, apparently in front of jarred biological specimens. (From a previous episode)

Last episode ended with a cliffhanger, with Sam’s memories busting out from behind the mental wall that Death put up to keep them hidden. This episode begins about a minute later with Dean slapping Sam awake. He seems groggy and has a headache, but is otherwise little the worse for wear. Kind of an underwhelming resolution to a cliffhanger.

Cut to a janitor cleaning a science lab who, it appears, is murdered by the anatomy mannequin that normally hangs in the lab.

Once Dean lays down the law on no trips down memory lane for Sam, they begin investigating the janitor’s death. Their only lead is some funky electromagnetic readings at the science lab, focused on the anatomy dummy that Dean can’t help but pull bits and pieces off of … but they quickly get a break in the form of another murder, this time at a clothing factory.

Again, Sam’s electromagnetic scanner again goes haywire, giving him an idea. “Wait, that anatomy dummy you were molesting at the lab.”

“Excuse me?” Dean replies.

“What if that’s what this is about?”

Cautiously, Dean asks, “What exactly are you accusing me of?”

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The Decline and Fall of Bankrupt Nihilism

Sunday, February 20th, 2011 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

The Return of the KingThis post is the latest installment of an ongoing discussion in the fantasy blogosphere, which I think has raised some interesting questions about fantasy and the fantastic tradition.

It began when Leo Grin put up a post at Big Hollywood arguing that modern fantasy writers, specifically Joe Abercrombie, were inferior to J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, and other past writers; the inferiority, argued Grin, was a function of modern writers’ desire to tear down heroic ideals of the past. Abercrombie wrote a post responding to Grin; so did a number of other people, including John C. Wright (pro-Grin), R. Scott Bakker (mostly anti), and Jeff VanderMeer (fairly neutral and descriptive). Adam Whitehead, Phil Athans, and Paul Charles Smith, among others, also had comments. Around these parts, John O’Neill put up a post on the Black Gate blog which spawned an interesting discussion. Earlier today, another blogger here, Theo, put up a post restating Grin’s thesis and responding to Grin’s critics. I think Theo’s post was much clearer than Grin’s, though I still disagreed with the basic argument profoundly. I had a long response in the comments thread of that post, expressing that disagreement, but also noted that I had more to say. Which I now want to say here.

Grin and Theo both argue, among other points, that fantasy fiction was originally heroic and inspiring, but in recent years has become dominated by the anti-heroic and the disheartening. The point seems to be that while Tolkien and Howard can both be tragic, modern fantasy seems to question the existence of any meaningful system of values. From the heroic, fantasy has become ironic. Theo, specifically, argues that “something material and significant has changed within the field of fantasy fiction” in the past 71 years (roughly since the publication of the last of Howard’s stories), and specifically in the past 52 years (since the publication of Return of the King). I think that this argument raises a number of issues, and that it’s worth looking at them to see what we might learn about fantasy and the development of fantasy fiction.

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The Decline and Fall of the Fantasy Novel

Sunday, February 20th, 2011 | Posted by Theo

the-blade-itselfLast week, I read with great interest the discussion that began with Leo Grin’s comparison of the heroic fantasy fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard with the anti-heroic fantasy fiction of Joe Abercrombie. As this is a topic that has interested me for years, I have a number of thoughts regarding it.  However, since I am a political commentator who is correctly said to be well outside the ideological mainstream of the SF/F community, I think it is best to begin by pointing out to those on both sides of the spectrum who may be eager to turn this into a political debate that this is not a political subject, but rather a historical, literary, and philosophical one. And as such, there is no need to argue over whether the trajectory over time that Grin observes is desirable or not, since that is a matter of perspective and personal opinion.

Regardless of one’s ideological self-identification or opinion on the specifics of Grin’s observations, it should be eminently clear to all and sundry that something material and significant has changed within the field of fantasy fiction in the 71 years that separate Howard’s final publication from Abercrombie’s first one and the 52 years that separate the publication of The Return of the King from The Blade Itself. I should also point out that I offer no personal criticism of Joe Abercrombie here, as he merely happens to serve as a representative of modern fantasy fiction and one of its more accomplished representatives at that.

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Arabian Culture Myth as Fantasy: interviews Howard Andrew Jones

Saturday, February 19th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

desertofsoulsWe ran out of bubbly grape juice by Friday morning, but that hasn’t stopped the non-stop celebration of Howard Andrew Jones month here at the Black Gate rooftop headquarters.

Today we’ve been clustered around computers reading the lengthy and far-ranging interview with Howard at, which covers Howard’s literary inspirations, his research methods, and how long years toiling for Black Gate molded him into the literary titan he is today:

Are there other novels that inspired this series? Perhaps in unexpected ways?

Tthe books I’ve read the most times are probably Leiber’s collection of Lankhmar stories, Swords Against Death, and Zelazny’s Amber books… I can’t imagine that Leiber and Zelazny haven’t had a lasting influence upon me. I love the world building and pulp noir sensibilities of Leigh Brackett, queen of space opera, who was writing of Firefly-like characters twenty and thirty years before Han Solo every reached the silver screen.

How would you say your career as an editor at Black Gate has helped shape you as an author?

That’s an interesting question. I suppose it’s gotten me to think about the starts to stories even more than I was already. I see a lot more beginnings than I do endings, to be honest. That’s just the way it works when you’re reading submissions. The biggest impact, though, probably comes from the number of people I’ve had the privilege to meet thanks to Black Gate’s John O’Neill… I think my writing career would have had a much harder time getting launched without my work with the magazine and the Harold Lamb collections.

The complete interview (and an absolutely smashing photo of Howard in a paisley shirt) is here.

Larry Nolen’s Best Heroic Fantasy of 2010

Saturday, February 19th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

corvusOver at Locus Online Larry Nolen’s, editor of The OF Blog, has posted his rundown on the Best Heroic Fantasy of 2010:

Heroic or high fantasy, whether it appears under the guise of multi-volume “epics” or the shorter-length Sword and Sorcery fantasies, is often overlooked when it comes to judging a year’s best. Due to the outsized conflicts and emphasis in most such stories on plot over theme or minute characterization, such stories cannot be judged in the same fashion as a realist or surreal fiction. Heroic fantasies depend much more upon immersive experiences for the reader to enjoy the unfolding narratives. Resembling more cinematic serials in their wide scope, plot-driven action, and formulaic characters and situations, heroic fantasies have long appealed to readers…

In his follow-up to the acclaimed reimagining of Xenophon’s history of the Greek Ten Thousand, The Ten Thousand, Paul Kearney in Corvus revisits the world of the Macht over two decades after the heroic events of the first novel… Kearney masterfully reveals Rictus’ conflicts, his reluctant assumption of command in Corvus’ army, and the terrible events that sunder him from all which he has loved. Corvus is perhaps one of the best character-driven heroic fantasy novels published in recent years.

Some great titles on this list, including a few I might have overlooked.

The complete list, including titles from N.K. Jemisin, George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, Ian Cameron Esslemont, and Jonathan Strahan & Lou Anders, is here.

Short Fiction Review 34b: Intellectual Property

Saturday, February 19th, 2011 | Posted by Soyka

2881Dhaka, the capital of Gano Projatontri Bangladesh.  With a  population of thirteen million the city was a madhouse. Buses and plastic Tata Kei Cars spewed thick smoke from their struggling two cylinder aluminum engines. The heat and pollution were stifling and the cacphony of car horns relentless.  This place was more than enough to drive you mad. It was dirty. It was overcrowded. It was dangerous.

I loved it

p. 16

We’re in cyber noir territory, and this kind of thing just hooks me in.  As I work my way through the January-February Interzone, I’m reminded of why this is one of my favorite SF magazines — I’m just an old cyberpunk at heart.  Having spent a good part of my working life with high-tech companies, the amoral shenanigans of near future corporations in the relentless pursuit of profit where human casualty is not a bottom line consideration is fascinatingly all too familiar. To bad it’s not outright fantasy rather than speculative fiction that hits close to the bone.

Case in point is Michael R. Fletcher’s “Intellectual Property” set in a third world country in which it is easier for a multinational to exploit human resources because, as Richard Blaine once put it, “Life is cheap.”  There are two alternating first person narrators.  The first is  a “deep cover agent for a Corporate Espionage Black Ops unit” whose world weary cynicism provides the opening lines above.  The second, Anomie, is a young woman bioengineered with a neural socket that allows a complete takeover of her consciousness by her research employer; a significant drawback is that once unplugged, she has no recollection of what her employers are using her for.

While you should be able to figure out the connection between these two characters before the story’s end, it is nice to have the good guys — or, at least, maybe not the good guys but the victims of the bad guys — win out.  Which is why it is fiction.

Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu, Part Five – “The Coughing Horror”

Friday, February 18th, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

devil20doctor20black20dagger201994“The Coughing Horror” was the fifth installment of Sax Rohmer’s Fu-Manchu and Company. The story was first published in Collier’s on April 3, 1915 and was later expanded to comprise Chapters 14-17 of the second Fu-Manchu novel, The Devil Doctor first published in the UK in 1916 by Cassell and in the US by McBride & Nast under the variant title, The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu.

consuldevilThe story sees Rohmer return to fine form with Dr. Petrie awakening to Nayland Smith’s strangled cries for help from the room above his. He bursts through Smith’s door in time to hear a strange coughing sound from the window and the crack of a whip before he spies what appears to be a grey-skinned snake retracted from Smith’s neck and pulled bodily out the window as if it were riding a beam of light. Petrie provides much-needed medical attention for his friend has barely escaped this seemingly supernatural assassination attempt.

Interestingly, Smith insists there were small hairy fingers around his throat, but his bed is four feet from the window and no human could have reached him nor is there any explanation for the ghostly sight Petrie glimpsed. Smith was awakened by the sound of the mysterious creature coughing and tried fighting it off. He scratched off a layer of grey hairy skin which he shows to Petrie. They are still puzzled on how to rationally explain these bizarre sights, sounds, and sensations.

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George R. R. Martin weds Parris McBride

Friday, February 18th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

grrmGeorge R. R. Martin married his long-time sweetie Parris McBride on February 15th. The announcement on GRRM’s blog reads:

Back in 1981, Parris left Portland, Oregon for Santa Fe, and moved in with me in my old house on Declovina Street. We’ve been together ever since, for good times and bad, a move or two, more cons and road trips and adventures than either of us can remember now in our advanced old age. After thirty years, we finally decided that maybe this relationship was going to work out after all.

So on the evening of February 15, we finally made it official, and married in front of our hearth at our home here in Santa Fe…. Unlike most Westerosi weddings, no one was killed and only tears of joy were shed.

(I can hear some of you saying ‘What took you so long?’ What can I say? I’m slow. With writing and with… ah… other things.)

Martin is the author of the Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series, which includes A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings.

More details (and pics) are available at George R.R. Martin’s LiveJournal blog, and Raya Rambles‘.

Congratulations to George and Parris! May a flock of blessings light upon thy back.

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