Malcolm McClinton sells a Cover to Kobold Quarterly

Thursday, March 31st, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

golden-dragonMalcolm McClinton, who painted the cover for Black Gate 13 and has been doing interior art for us since Black Gate 10, has sold another cover to Dungeons & Dragons magazine Kobold Quarterly.

The cover, Golden Dragon, pictured at right, will be on the fall issue. Concerning the piece, Malcolm says:

Most of the time I find that Asian dragons seem too cartoonish and almost comical in their deception and I was really excited to try and bring one to life in a way that captured them in a more living realistic way. Any one that knows my  intrepid boarder collie Lilly, might instantly recognize her influence on the piece.

You can read more details and see more samples of Malcolm’s terrific art at his blog, Hanged Man Studios.

Kobold Quarterly is celebrating their 5th Anniversary this year.  The magazine, edited by Wolfgang Baur, was created to focus on open design, and now fills the niche once occupied by Dragon and Dungeon magazines, both now sadly defunct.

The latest issue, Winter 2011 , is the 16th, and is the launch issue for the new Midgard campaign setting. It features official Paizo magic items for Golarion, the Pathfinder world and setting for Howard Andrew Jones’ novel Plague of Shadows, Harem Assassins feats and spells for Pathfinder, Potion Miscibility rules for 4th Edition D&D, the Ecology of the Gearforged for the Midgard campaign, an interview with gaming legend Robin Laws, Monte Cook’s column, the return of popular Dungeon Magazine author Willie Walsh with a humorous mini-adventure, plus a sneak peek of the Northlands sourcebook with a beer run among the Thursir Giants — two complete Pathfinder mini-adventures. The issue is 76 pages with a cover price of $5.99, and you can order it in PDF format here.

Malcolm’s last cover for Kobold Quarterly was Issue 13, in Spring 2010. Their website is here.

LA Times Brings the Snark to A Game of Thrones Preview

Thursday, March 31st, 2011 | Posted by Brian Murphy

gameofthrones-jamieEvery time I think I’ve moved on from the fantasy/realism debate, someone drops the gauntlet and I find myself back in the thick of the fray, giving and receiving hard blows in turn. The latest exchange stems from this preview of the upcoming HBO miniseries A Game of Thrones, courtesy of the LA Times:

Based on George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels, the 10-episode saga is a high-stakes move for HBO — an expensive leap into spectacular fantasy for a network whose reputation was built on nuanced, character-driven dramas geared toward adults.

So … ASOIAF is a risky move for HBO because it’s fantasy, and therefore cannot be possibly be nuanced, or character-driven, or geared toward adults. Good to know.

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Goth Chick News: 13 Questions for Special Effects Artist Brian Demski

Thursday, March 31st, 2011 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image0062Let’s be honest. A skull in a bell jar with an eyeball hanging off of it would attract anyone’s attention, so you can’t say it’s just me.

Special effects artist Brian Demski’s booth at the Haunted Attractions Show in St. Louis may have just as well grabbed my wrist in a boney hand for the hard left it caused me to take; out of an aisle of more latex body parts and straight into a Victorian Steampunk nightmare.

Over the next hour Brian talked me through his many skeleton-filled art pieces, molded by his own hands (directly from samples of the real thing, I might add).

The results are mesmerizing, disturbing and sure-fire conversation starters.

When I also learned that his “day job” was as a Hollywood special-effects creator, I knew I had to find out more.

So, may I introduce you to Mr. Brian Demski and his beautifully creative yet somewhat twisted imagination.

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Pathfinder Tales: “The Walkers from the Crypt” by Howard Andrew Jones

Thursday, March 31st, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

pathfindertales_360Howard Andrew Jones’ four-part story “The Walkers from the Crypt” has now been posted in its entirety at The Pathfinder Tales site at

Elyana had no time to waste educating the young bard. There were but a few minutes left before the hounds would reach them.

She’d caught sight of the animals almost a half hour ago as she and her four companions fled across the grasslands of southern Galt. The seemingly inexhaustible hounds had slowly gained on their horses, and the party had finally picked out a rise from which to make a stand.

Vallyn gazed apprehensively out at the wedge-shaped formation of hounds sprinting forward through the high grass. “How can they keep running like that?”

“They’re dead,” Arcil said in his low, smooth voice. “They need neither breath nor rest.”

Pathfinder Tales are complete short stories set in the detailed world of Golarion, home to the Pathfinder role playing game. Novels released under the Pathfinder Tales brand include Prince of Wolves by Dave Gross, Winter Witch by Elaine Cunningham, and Plague of Shadows by our own Howard Andrew Jones. Pazio has also begun presenting complete tales set in the same setting on their website — including pieces from Monte Cook, Ed Greenwood, Dave Gross, Richard Lee Byers, and others.

“The Walkers from the Crypt” features the continuing adventures of Elyana, Vallyn, Stelan, and other characters from Howard’s new novel Plague of Shadows, in a complete standalone adventure. Read more about Plague of Shadows here.

You can read Part One of “The Walkers from the Crypt” here, and all four parts are now available at

King of Cats, Queen of Wolves

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney

apexmagazineWhat do you get when you take Monster Blogger Mike Allen, a dark spark of poetic genesis, two fellow Rhysling Award winners, Sonya Taaffe and Nicole Kornher-Stace, throw them in a cauldron together with some wine and a few herbs and some sauteed onions…

Oh, wait. Sorry. Forget it. You know how they say never shop when you’re hungry? Well, same rule applies to writing blogs. Where was I?

Right! This POEM! “The King of Cats, the Queen of Wolves.”

It’s up at Apex Magazine, which continues to publish fine fiction and poetry under editor Catherynne M. Valente, not to mention an often fun blog.

Speaking of Fun Blogs! There I was, trawling Facebook, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, this LINK jumped out at me! It howled, it gnashed its teeth, it gnawed upon my ankle. Surrending to the inevitable, I followed it.

And LO! See what Francesca Forrest (Go FRANCESCA! I shall put you in my soup as well! ) hath wrought:

AN INTERVIEW with the aforementioned three poets of the aforementioned poem, which you really should go and read before you read the interview. After which, you should read the outtakes of the interview.

For, as fantasy author and poet Saladin Ahmed said in the comments section beneath the poem:

“Dear God, that was just wonderful.”

Art of the Genre: Legend of the Five Rings

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011 | Posted by Scott Taylor

I loved L5R and Chris Dornaus so much, I commissioned her to do line art for two of my characters in 1st Edition glory.

I loved L5R and Chris Dornaus so much, I commissioned her to do line art for two of my characters in 1st Edition glory.

Sometimes art pulls you into a game, sometimes its marketing, sometimes it takes place in a genre or storyline you like, but most times I find people get into games because of a friend. In 1998 my friend Mark bought three copies of the Legend of the Five Rings RPG, trucked them eight-hundred miles to my house in Maryland, and forced me to play it. I’ve never been so happy about being bullied into a game in my life.

L5R was epic, a Matt Wilson cover making me sit up and take notice, and the mechanics of game play a fresh change from the D20 of D&D and the D6 of Shadowrun as L5R introduced ‘exploding D10s’. The setting, an amalgam of Asian culture called Rokugan, overwhelmed, and although my mindset is distinctly and irrevocably western, I still fell into this game head first.

I credit this addiction to two things, the absolutely incredible writing of John Wick, and the stellar black and white artwork of Cris Dornaus.

Let me first start off with John Wick. I know absolutely nothing about John personally, but my experience reading his RPG work leaves only one singular fact, he can write! If you’ve ever sat down to read an RPG, you typically get a good feel for the game, perhaps have a laugh, and come away educated on the subject. When you read L5R 1st Edition, you come away entrenched in a world so deep that you’d swear it had been around for decades.

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Today is Deathless Day!

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney

catherynne-m-valente-deathless1Great tidings of joy! Today Deathless, a novel by Catherynne M. Valente, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, Nook and iPad!

The author writes:

In brief terms, it is a retelling of Marya Morevna and Koschei the Deathless set during the Stalinist era and the siege of Leningrad.

Cory Doctorow says:

This is a book that broods but never stoops to cynicism, a book full of dream-logic and eros. Valente is a major talent, and this is some of her best work.

Cat also tells us in her colossal post with the cool links that the audiobook will be available in a few days.

For myself, I can tell you that I read this book in its early draft, and that it’s a gut-punch of gorgeous. It’s funny, it’s sexy, it’s dark as midnight in Midwinter Siberia, and it glitters like blood and rubies.

Here is the beautiful YouTube trailer for Deathless.

The Hobbit: The 1977 Animated Television Movie

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

hobbit-77-opening-shot1The Hobbit (NBC TV, 1977)
Directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. Featuring the Voices of John Huston, Orson Bean, Hans Conried, Richard Boone, Theodore Gottlieb, Otto Preminger, Cyril Ritchard, Paul Frees, Don Messick.

A few years ago, in my early posting days on Black Gate, I wrote a lengthy overview of Rankin/Bass’s strange but oddly likable animated television movie of The Return of the King. I intended to review Rankin/Bass’s other Tolkien TV movie, The Hobbit, some time later. “Later” took the form of two years, give or take a day, but has become “now,” thanks to Peter Jackson.

With The Hobbit back in the front lines of entertainment news because of the start — finally! — of production on Peter Jackson’s two-movie adaptation of the book, it’s the appropriate time to re-visit the first film version of the story. A Long Expected Party for an old friend.

Full disclosure: I have an enormous nostalgic fondness for the 1977 animated Hobbit, since it introduced me to one of my favorite authors at a young age. This movie was my first exposure to anything related to J. R. R. Tolkien when I saw it at age five on its second network broadcast. I already adored monsters of any kind, branching off from a natural adoration of dinosaurs, and my mother told me that The Hobbit was a book chock-a-block full of strange beasts: goblins, trolls, dragons, giant spiders, giant eagles. Since I was still too young to read the book, I took up the movie as my Middle Earth introduction and loved every minute of it. When I read the book myself for the first time three years later, it was in a coffee table edition that used stills and production art from the Rankin/Bass production to illustrate Tolkien’s text. The combination of the TV broadcast and this edition of the book have made the Rankin/Bass movie an inseparable part of my Tolkien experience.

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Diana Wynne Jones (1934 – 2011)

Monday, March 28th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

hexwoodDiana Wynne Jones, author of dozens of fantasy books including Howl’s Moving Castle, Archer’s Goon, Hexwood, and Dark Lord of Derkholm, died on Saturday, March 26, 2011.

The first Diana Wynne Jones novel I ever bought was Howl’s Moving Castle, in 1986. Everyone at the science fiction bookstore where I shopped — the House of Speculative Fiction, in Ottawa, Canada — was talking about it, and Pat Caven the owner pressed it into my hands.  It was by no means the last.

Jones studied English at St Anne’s College in Oxford, where she famously attended lectures by J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis before she graduated in 1956. She began her writing career with plays, and had three produced in London between 1967 and 1970.

In 1970 she switched to prose with her first novel, Changeover, a comedy marketed for adults. She began writing for young adults with her second book, Wilkins’ Tooth (1973, published in the US as Witch’s Business), and never looked back.

Although Jones is widely admired as a YA fantasy writer, she had a surprising range. Perhaps my favorite of her books is The Tough Guide To Fantasyland (1996), a hysterical tourist guide which skewers dozens of fantasy clichés as it catalogues the common places, weird items, people, governments, and situations readers are likely to encounter as they journey through a typical fantasy novel.

tough-guideHer later novel Dark Lord of Derkholm (1999), set in a Fantasyland which steadfastly adheres to the conventions she described,  is seen by some as a conceptual sequel to The Tough Guide.

Jones was nominated — and won — numerous awards in her lifetime. Her novel Archers Goon was nominated for a World Fantasy Award; The Tough Guide To Fantasyland was nominated for both a Hugo award and a World Fantasy Award, and Dark Lord of Derkholm won the 1999 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. The same year she won the Karl Edward Wagner Award in the UK.

She received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2007, perhaps the highest honor our field has to offer.

Her novels have enjoyed extended life in other media: Archer’s Goon became a BBC television serial in 1992, and Howl’s Moving Castle was famously adapted as an animated feature by Hayao Miyazaki in 2004.

Jones continued to work until late in life, publishing her last novel, Enchanted Glass, last year. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009, and died on March 26, 2011.

I Am Number Four: Why Movies Are Rarely As Good As Books

Monday, March 28th, 2011 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

i-am-number-fourI am in my mid-thirties and my wife is in her mid-twenties. The eight-year difference between us can be jarring at times, especially because I am a pop culture junkie and she grew up without cable television (and rarely watched the network television she did have access to, as I learned when I discovered she’d never seen an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard, even in rerun).

Recently, this generation gap has became particularly evident. A close friend of hers has formed a book club, of which I am the only male attendee and also about the only thirty-something. As such, the books that we’re reading tend to track toward chick lit, much of it in the Twilight-like realm of paranormal, horror, or fantasy-related romance novels, many targeted toward young adults.

Some of the books that fall into this category these days are truly outstanding, such as The Hunger Games, but many of them have serious issues … which brings us to last month’s book, chosen in part to coincide with the release of its film version: I Am Number Four.

I Am Number Four: The Premise

As the planet Lorien was being destroyed by a race known as the Mogadorians, a group of Loriens came up with a plan that would have put Jor-El to shame. They cram 9 of their young on a spaceship to Earth, along with 9 mentors. The Lorien youth are of a class known as the Garde, who will eventually develop powers, called Legacies, intended to defend Lorien. The mentors are part of the class known as Cepan, who help train the Garde.

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