R.A. Lafferty: An Attempt at an Appreciation

Sunday, March 27th, 2011 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

R.A. LaffertyA little while ago, John O’Neill posted a news item on this blog about the literary estate of R.A. Lafferty (1914-2002) being put up for auction, with the current bid being $70,000 for the copyright to all his works. It’s an odd development, but then Lafferty was an odd writer. I want to try to say something about his work here, not because I’ve read everything he’s written — I’ve read only a fraction of his output, which runs to over two dozen novels and two hundred short stories — but because he’s a writer strong enough to have hooked me to want to read more. And I want to say something about why.

Which is tricky, because that means having to identify what it is that Lafferty does that’s so intriguing. And I think much of what is powerful in his work comes from its sense of strangeness. Almost all of his writing feels like nothing else; not like a traditional sf tale, not like a New Wave tale, not like typical fantasy or horror, less like a mainstream writer trying out genre. You could say there’s something folkloric, but not mythic to it; so it’s become almost a truism to say that Lafferty wrote tall tales. It’s an accurate statement, but what does it mean?

Read More »


Goth Chick’s Crypt Notes: The Best of C2E2

Sunday, March 27th, 2011 | Posted by Sue Granquist

C2E2_Logo4aIt isn’t very often that I suffer from complete sensory overload, but the Haunted Attractions Show in St. Louis, immediately followed by the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo nearly did me in. It was therefore necessary to retire to the underground offices of Goth Chick News, barricade myself in with the espresso machine, the blender and a bottle of good tequila, and take a few quiet days to absorb everything I had seen.

Black Gate editor and big cheese John O’Neill graciously stood in for my post last Thursday, partially out of sympathy for my over-stimulated state; but mostly because he wanted the blender back.

Now rebooted with sufficient caffeine and marguerites, I am ready to begin telling you more of the amazing events of the last two weeks.

C2E2 takes place in Chicago’s largest convention center, McCormick Place and the event consumed all of one of the largest buildings. Focusing on all manner of artwork, collectibles, music, film and entertainment, it was… well, gi-normous.

Though it will take several weeks of posts to delve into detail on all of the fantastic things I saw, I start as always with a Best of Show overview.

Read More »


Selling SF & Fantasy: 1969 Was Another World

Sunday, March 27th, 2011 | Posted by Darrell Schweitzer

seas-with-oystersI think what many aspiring writers today fail to grasp — very much as a result of not having been there — is that 1969 was another world.

Books were sold and distributed very differently. Big chain bookstores barely existed. There were many times more distributors than there are today. Science fiction mass-market paperbacks could be found in drugstores or bus stations, as could the digest magazines.

It was the time of the much maligned “science fiction ghetto” but really a time of innocence, in which we tended to assume that if you made it into the pro ranks, you were there for life. (How else could a writer as unimportant as, say, Robert Moore Williams have continued to publish over 40 years?)

There were no post-novelist writers, i.e. good, respected writers still writing but unable to sell novels anymore.

As somebody commented in one of those very early SFWA Forums I have been reading (I have them back to issue #3), “It’s a seller’s market. We’ve never had it so good.” This from about 1968.

It was a time in which a writer did not have to worry about selling his fourth novel because of the sales record of the previous three.

Read More »


SF/F Books You Must Not Read

Sunday, March 27th, 2011 | Posted by Theo

choose-your-enemiesInspired by a list of classics to be avoided at all costs, I found myself thinking about what books from the SF/F genre should come with warning labels and came up with the following list of six books. In reverse order of importance:

6. Were-seal novel by someone or other. I can’t remember the name of this one, but it was an astonishingly bad novel about a lonely lighthouse keeper and a sexy were-seal. Hawt stuff. I don’t have the book because a friend lost a bet and had to read it… it was so horrific that by the second chapter, he paid $100 to let him off. This would be higher, but there is almost no chance you will read this unless you a) are on a fiction jury or b) lose a bet.

Read More »


Writers’ Nights, Open Mics, Literary Soirees: The Importance of Community

Saturday, March 26th, 2011 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney

A Reading in the Salon of Mme Geoffrin, 1755

A Reading in the Salon of Mme Geoffrin, 1755

I’m here to talk to you about the benefits of writers’ nights, open mics and literary soirees. Um. As you have seen. In the title. Of this blog.

“What brought this on, Claire?” you ask.

Why, thanks for your interest! I’ll tell ya!

Tomorrow night, my buddy Patty Templeton (one of the mighty slushers and bloggers for Black Gate) is hosting a small private “Fiction Fun Time Potluck ” at her place. I’m very excited. I will dress up, maybe even wear lipstick! There will probably be candlelight and a lot of giggling. And WORDS! Glorious words — from the mouths of aspiring novelists and struggling upstart writers: each of us, manuscripts in hand, getting a moment in the spotlight. My favorite thing ever!

Wikipedia (it being Wikipedia, all normal cautions apply) has the definition of a salon (literary, that is, not hirsute) thus:

Patty "La Marquise" Templeton, our beautiful and educated Patroness.

Patty "La Marquise" Templeton, our beautiful and educated Patroness.

Portrait of salonniere Élisabeth, comtesse Greffulhe, by Laszlo

La Salonniere Élisabeth, Comtesse Greffulhe, by Laszlo

salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine taste and increase their knowledge of the participants through conversation… Carried on until quite recently, in urban settings, among like-minded people…

…Some scintillating circles formed in the smaller courts which resembled salons, often galvanized by the presence of a beautiful and educated patroness…

I’m not sure how much refinement there’ll be (we all cuss like sailors and flirt like courtesans. But I’ll betcha good working-class wages they didn’t do things all that different in 18th century Paris and Venice), however, I do know we’ll come away with a thorough knowledge of  monsters, robots, murderers, gods and maybe even faeries.

My excitement for tomorrow’s revelries got me thinking about events similar to these I’ve attended or invented over the last few years.

Read More »


Interzone March-April 2011

Saturday, March 26th, 2011 | Posted by Soyka

303_largeIn the mail this week is the latest Interzone. The  fiction features a novella by Nina Allan, “The Silver Wand,” and stories by Tim Lees (“Crosstown Traffic”), Chris Butler (“Tell Me Everything”), and Ray Clule (“Tethered to the Cold and the Dying”).

The magazine is the print home for David Lanford’s “Ansible Link,” a miscellany of genre news. I found this item from the regularly featured “As Others See Us” department particularly humorous:

Kazuo Ishiguro’s clone-themed novel Never Let Me Go can’t be sf even though he says it is, because he’s respectable. To clarify: “It isn’t science fiction–indeed its procedures are the very reverse of generic, for there is no analogy at work in the text, which instead labours (sic) to produce its iterative naturalism as a kind of sub-set or derivation of our own.” (Guardian)

That certainly clears things up.


Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu, Part Nine – “The Six Gates”

Friday, March 25th, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

fumanchu4“The Six Gates” was the ninth installment of Sax Rohmer’s Fu-Manchu and Company. The story was first published in Collier’s on October 23, 1915 and was later expanded to comprise Chapters 27-30 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.

face-fu-manchu-poster1The story opens, like many early Rohmer tales, with the unexpected arrival of a late night visitor. In this instance, Smith and Petrie are preparing for the raid on the Gables when Aziz, Karamaneh’s brother, turns up at Petrie’s door. While initially skeptical of trusting him, both men are quickly won over by the young man’s tale of how Karamaneh was abducted by Fu-Manchu’s minions shortly after he and his sister returned home to Cairo; how Karamaneh was rendered amnesiac by a drug administered by Dr. Fu-Manchu; and how Aziz followed their trail from Cairo to Rangoon to London in his desperate quest to free his sister from slavery. Smith and Petrie leave Aziz in police custody as they join Inspector Weymouth for the police raid on the Gables.

Smith and Petrie foolishly separate from the Scotland Yard men and encounter Karamaneh in the house. She warns them that they are walking into a trap, but Smith disregards her warning and he and Petrie step right into a trapdoor hidden behind a curtain. They recover consciousness to find Dr. Fu-Manchu gloating over their blundering incompetence. He mocks them for being inferior to children who learn from experience to fear fire lest they be burned a second time. Presently coming to the point, Fu-Manchu explains that Smith is to be tortured with the Six Gates of Joyful Wisdom while Petrie, his devoted friend, is provided with a samurai sword to end Smith’s sufferings if he dares.

Read More »


Inheritance by Christopher Paolini to be Released November 8

Thursday, March 24th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

inheritanceI share a lot of books with my kids. I have two sons, ages 15 and 13, and an 11-year-old daughter. As you can imagine, they have a wide range of tastes. It’s uncommon for two to enjoy the same book (or series), and virtually unheard of for all three to agree. They couldn’t even agree on Harry Potter – my youngest two enjoyed the books, but my oldest turned up his nose.

The solitary exception is Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle. All three have devoured every book in the series, and all three have been clamoring for more.

For years. The first novel, Eragon, famously completed when when Paolini was only 19, was released in 2002. My oldest, Tim, read it first, and immediately started asking me when the next one was coming out.

Eldest arrived in 2005, and by then Tim’s brother Drew had read the first one.  Within two weeks of Eldest‘s publication date, both of them were asking me to check Amazon.con for news of the third. Brisingr landed in 2008, and by then (of course) my daughter had leaped enthusiastically on the bandwagon.

It’s now been almost three years that I’ve put up with endless questions about the arrival of the fourth book (the most recent was last Saturday. Man, these kids do not give up). So it was with considerable relief that I saw news articles this week about the fourth and final volume, Inheritance, scheduled for release by Knopf Books on November 8, 2011. Thank. God. I thought I was going to be pestered about this book until retirement.

You’re on your own for a plot summary, or any further details. I’m already tired of hearing about this book, and I first heard about it yesterday.  Read all about it on Paolini’s website Alagaesia.com, or better yet ask a nearby teenager. They’re sure to have all the details.


Dragons + Napoleon = MIGHTY FINE READING!

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney

temeraireOh, gosh! I’ve been reading Naomi Novik’s Temeraire books. My buddy (and dread Goblin Queen) Jessica Wick has been telling me I should read them for ages. And then the most fair and perilous Patty Templeton chimed in. And then my cool co-worker Janelle “I’m totally surviving the Zombie Apocalypse” McHugh started harping about them too, and I finally got a clue.

So I was all like, “FINE! I will read your 19th Century Dragons-as-Aerial-Calvalry in the year ‘O6 book, and I will see if it’s REALLY as good as all y’all are saying it is.”

Oh, it is. It is. Sea battles! Sea Serpents! Terrible storms! Travels to China! To Prussia! Blockades! Border patrols! Abolitionists and Assassins and fire-breathing Kazilik dragons, oh my!

I ordered His Majesty’s Dragon through Amazon.com and then I sort of ate it. And then I wheedled Patty (who works at a library to which I have no card) into checking out the next three books (Throne of Jade, Black Powder War and Empire of Ivory) for me (the latter of which I’m currently on). Last week, in anticipation of running out, I batted my not terribly impressive eyelashes at Janelle  (who happened to be going to the library that day) and asked if she might, just might, be willing to check out Victory of Eagles for me.

In the meantime, I ordered them all for our bookstore, so that I can hand-sell them  to unsuspecting customers in search of something bright and new and rambunctiously scrumptious in Fantasy. They’re sitting on my Employee Recommendation Shelf, right beside James Enge’s The Wolf Age, Terry Pratchett’s Nation, and Robin McKinley’s Sunshine. So they’re in good company!

Now, I’ve actually read (and watched) Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander, and also I love Susanna Clarke’s work, so I knew whereof Stephen King spoke when he wrote:

“Is it hard to imagine a cross between Susanna Clarke, of Norrell and Strange fame, and the late Patrick O’Brian? Not if you’ve read this wonderful, arresting novel.”

Only, see, I liked these books even better than Master and Commander, coz there were actually WOMEN in the pages. Female dragons as well as pilots — and boy, does that disturb our doughty protagonist Will Laurence! Before he got accidentally bonded to his Imperial Dragon Temeraire, he was just your ordinary, average (awesome) naval captain, with all that being British, a guy, and a naval captain in the 19th century implies. His time with the Aerial Corps, but most especially with Temeraire, works on him, until by the fourth book in, Laurence thinks and acts in ways that surprise even himself. It’s wonderful!

But really. I’m not here to write an in-depth review. I’m just here to alert you. You can be stubborn like me and wait a year or three before taking my advice and reading these books. YOUR LOSS THOUGH!


Philosopher of Gor

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 | Posted by Jackson Kuhl

This was the most family friendly cover I could find.io9 has an interview with the author of the Gor novels, John Norman — a.k.a. John Lange, PhD and professor of philosophy at Queens College CUNY. Who knew?

Lange responds at length on Nietzsche:

In Nietzsche, the expression is ‘Übermensch’, which might be translated variously. A common translation today would be ‘Overman’. It might also be understood as a higher person, a superior person, an ideal as to what a human being might be, a comprehensible ideal toward which a human being might aspire, and such.

I confess I’ve never read any of the Gor books, although I’m certainly aware of their notorious sexy-time reputation. And, even putting that aside, the interviewer’s statement that “people frequently describe Gor as a Nietzschean society” doesn’t entice me to read them anytime soon since Nietzsche is so clearly misunderstood in popular culture. Yet while I disagree slightly with Lange’s interpretation of the Ubermensch (the reason why “The word is always used in the singular, never as though there could be more than one,” is not because there can only be one Highlander, but because Nietzsche realized the transformation was an individual experience, not a collective one, similar to the Buddhist idea of enlightenment), I think he provides a fine explanation of Friedrich’s world-view, which had nothing to do with master races and rippling pecs but rather with internal epiphanies and ideals.

Sword-and-sorcery has always been a perfect vehicle for existentialist themes. Here’s hoping, to paraphrase the interviewer, that Nietzsche becomes more popular not only among young philosophers and post-modern theorists but among fantasy writers as well. Just with fewer whips and chains.


« Later Entries   Earlier Entries »

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