Art of the Genre: Against the Giants

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Ryan Harvey is at it again in the Black Gate L.A. offices, his collection of vintage zoot suits making the reception area look like a rainbow of color from the 30s. Having no desire to see him try on another while our two receptionists cheer him on, I decided to take my recently received VIP passes to the premiere of Sucker Punch at Mann’s Chinese Theatre [BG membership has its privileges] and exited to the observation deck.

Jeff Dee introduces us to Ice Toads

Jeff Dee introduces us to Ice Toads

L.A. is a funny place, bright, beautiful, and hiding a pasty underbelly that’s only seen if you know where to look. It’s nothing like Indiana, my place of birth, where poverty isn’t hidden behind a veil of Botox and palm trees.

I’d just returned from the Hoosier state, my little town surrounded by corn fields and meth labs, but no matter what, it’s there I can truly feel comfortable. Seated in the house where I was raised on the banks of the Tippecanoe, I found myself surrounded by friends I’ve had for thirty-five years, and the reason we’re still friends is and will always be role-playing.

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New Treasures: Who Killed Science Fiction? by Earl Kemp

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

who-killed-science-fictionIn 1960, only 34 years after the launch of Amazing Stories, the first true science fiction magazine, fan Earl Kemp mailed a set of questions to 108 SF writers, editors, artists and fans. 71 responded, including Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Hugo Gernsback, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Poul Anderson, Ray Bradbury, Fritz Leiber, Andre Norton, Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Silverberg, John W. Campbell, Horace Gold, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and many others. The questions were:

1) Do you feel that magazine science fiction is dead?
2) Do you feel that any single person, action, incident, etc., is responsible for the present situation? If not, what is responsible?
3) What can we do to correct it?
4) Should we look to the original paperback as a point of salvation?
5) What additional remarks, pertinent to the study, would you like to contribute?

Kemp published the results in his one-shot fanzine SaFari Annual #1 in 1960. Only 125 copies were printed, and it instantly became a collector’s item. A candid dialog on the flaws and fate of the genre between most of its brightest lights, Who Killed Science Fiction? achieved near-legendary status in the SF community, and SaFari Annual #1 won a Hugo Award in 1961 based on that sole issue.

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Happy 80th Birthday, William Shatner!

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

william-shatnerMy fellow Canadian William Shatner turns 80 today.

For much of my life I watched him, in his role as Captain Kirk, help program Americans to accept Canadians as their leaders.  Made things a lot easier when I moved to the U.S. in 1987 to finish my Ph.D, let me tell you. Not to mention numerous D&D games, in which elves (and anything else with pointed ears) immediately referred to me as “Captain.”

It did not, unfortunately, make picking up girls easier. For which I blame fellow Canadians Dan Aykroyd, Mike Meyers, and especially Jim Carrey. Doofus.

Anyway, back to Shatner. The Great One was born on March 22, 1931, in Montreal, Quebec. He had a starring role in Roger Corman’s 1962 film The Intruder and numerous appearances in film and television, including the classic Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” and “Cold Hands, Warm Heart” for The Outer Limits. In 1964 he guest-starred with Leonard Nimoy in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode “The Project Strigas Affair.” I’m serious — check it out. Shatner plays a pest exterminator, and Nimoy a sinister-looking assistant Balkan diplomat. It’s sort of like watching the Trek episode “A Piece of the Action,” if you’re drunk enough.

From 1966 to 1969 Shatner was cast as James T. Kirk, captain of the USS Enterprise, in the role that defined his career, and made things easier for a generation of Canadians living in the U.S. He reprised the role in Star Trek: The Animated Series from 1973 to 1974, and in seven Star Trek feature films between 1979 to 1994. He was a lead in the popular Boston Legal, currently stars in the CBS comedy $#*! My Dad Says, and has a cameo in the upcoming Horrorween.

Happy Birthday, William Shatner! You are a god among men.

Peter Jackon Proves that The Hobbit Is Actually Shooting

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

peter-jackson-hobbit1Only a short post today, following up on John Fultz’s report on the final progress toward the two-part film adaptation of The Hobbit:

Principal photography is officially underway! Footage is occurring. Right now, in New Zealand, a crew is shooting the much delayed and hazard-prone project, under The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson.

The public announcement from the studios involved was made yesterday, March 21, on the official Hobbit movie blog.

Better yet, we have proof that it is occurring: these two photos (second beneath the cut), initially posted to Peter Jackson’s Facebook page, of the director on a fully-dressed Bag End set, prepared and lit for the cameras.

It’s strange to think how much time has passed since that thrilling day in October 1999, when Variety and The Hollywood Reporter contained a two-page spread to announce that photography had started on the three Lord of the Rings films in New Zealand. The spread was a gorgeous Alan Howe painting of a Nazgûl perched on a hill over the Shire with the original logo design for the film. (I still have that older design on an edition of the novel I purchased soon after shooting began, just to have my first “merchandize” of the production). I cut out the ad and had it on my wall for ten years.

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Fantasy Literature Reviews Black Gate 14

Monday, March 21st, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

bglgTerry Weyna at the Fantasy Literature blog has posted a detailed and embarrassingly complimentary review of our latest issue:

I’ve only just discovered [Black Gate]. And what a time to do so! The Winter 2010 edition, Number 14, is 385 pages long, the size of a hefty book. The price reflects that; few magazines will run you $15.95 in the print edition… But then, few magazines will give you as much great fantasy as this one, including first stories by four promising new authors. There are a very great many stories in this issue – 16 short stories and three novellas… More than a few of the pieces are exceptional, real standouts in a day when fantasy stories are as numerous as stars.

She was particularly struck by “Devil on the Wind” by Michael Jasper and Jay Lake:

It reminds you how what is old can be made new. This story is about Lena, one of the Killaster Witches, a woman who has just committed suicide – and been reborn – for the fifth time. There are eight witches, led by Black Mattieu, and they demand obeisance from the kingdoms that surround their hold. When Prince Falloe of Ironkeep fails to send the proper tribute, substituting instead two coppers (symbols of the pennies laid on a dead man’s eyes), Black Mattieu sends Lena to teach the kingdom a harsh lesson. To say that Lena is not saintly hardly begins to tell the tale… The language used to describe her doings is rich and graphic, and the twists and turns of the tale unpredictable. “Devil on the Wind” is a marvelous story.

And Pete Butler’s novella “The Price of Two Blades:”

Equally original and refreshing. A bard who is heading into a village notices the sizable cemetery outlying it, and notices that a great many of the tombstones all show the same date of death. He theorizes that the deaths could somehow be connected to the disappearance of the noted bandit gang led by King Kruthas. Soon, the villagers reveal that this, in fact, the case, and they sit him down to tell him the tale of how they were rescued from that dreaded army. The method of their rescue is one completely unique to fantasy, so far as I know, and the lesson one learns is sad and necessary. This novella is a small masterpiece, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it grace an awards ballot or two.

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A Review of Unquenchable Fire, by Rachel Pollack

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

unquenchable-fireUnquenchable Fire, by Rachel Pollack
Overlook Press (390 pages, $13.95 in trade paperback, March 1992)

Reading fantasy or science fiction, they say, is not as easy as checking a book out of the library and digging in. You need to know the pattern. From the very beginning of the book, you look for clues about how the world works. When odd words are dropped into the narrative, you already know they won’t show up in any dictionary; if there isn’t a glossary in the back, you work them out through context. People who don’t know the code — people who are used to reading mystery, say, or mainstream literature — find themselves lost and frustrated within pages or even sentences. And there’s a similar phenomenon with every genre. It would be ridiculously difficult to read a mystery story, for instance, if you weren’t prepared for misdirection and red herrings.

When I was reading Rachel Pollack’s Unquenchable Fire, I struggled with the strong sense that I didn’t know the code.

Unquenchable Fire is, on the face of it, a fantasy novel set in a near-future America that has been transformed by a magical religion. Some decades ago, a group of people called the Founders converted the whole country with miracles and storytelling, which in this universe are very close to the same thing, and they’re revered somewhat like saints. Spirits and totems are everywhere and often have real physical effects. If someone’s soul rises during a particularly uplifting concert, it really, literally leaves their body and might possibly get caught in the propellers of a low-flying plane. Government agencies and businesses deal with magic; there’s an organization that will find any dream in their catalogue and tell the dreamer what it means, for instance. And it’s quite possible to be threatened by an evil spirit on the streets of New York, then rescued by a good one and given a mysterious task.

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Tanith Lee’s “The God Orkrem” & Interview at Fantasy

Monday, March 21st, 2011 | Posted by John R. Fultz

tanithlee1It’s a great week for lovers of fantasy fiction!

A brand-new Tanith Lee story, “The God Orkrem” has just been posted for free reading at FANTASY Magazine:

Also a special treat for Lee fans is the brand-new interview:

The Winter Triptych, Papaveria Press, and Doctors Without Borders

Monday, March 21st, 2011 | Posted by Mike Allen

Have you read Nicole Kornher-Stace’s wickedly twisted fairy tale retelling The Winter Triptych?

I have, and this is what I had to say about it.

“Nicole Kornher-Stace ‘The Winter Triptych’ is an icily glittering marvel of storytelling construction. This wicked tale of evil queens, mad huntsmen, martyred witches and a terrible curse that unfolds over a century executes its sleight-of-hand in diabolical layers. The immediate tableau before your eyes never flags as it pulls you in with its sweeping cast of characters, coldly terrifying villains and earnestly compelling heroines. And underneath it all, piece after piece locks and turns into place, until the entire triptych unfolds in a stunning revelation of inexorable fate, time-bending wonder and blood-curdling horror. I hold Nicole in both awe and envy: at the start of her career, she has already produced a masterwork.”

Although it’s hard to beat this line from Black Gate editrix C.S.E. Cooney:

Nicole Kornher-Stace plays with Time like it was her very own Tetris game.

But you don’t have to take our word for it. You can check out check out this review from Tori Truslow at Sabotage And this one from the indomitable Charles Tan of Bibliophile Stalker.

You can order it directly from the website of the publisher, Papaveria Press, or, if you don’t want to wait on overseas snail mail, you can snag it for your Kindle.

If you buy the book now, or buy anything from the Papaveria Press website, you’re helping out a good cause. Nicole is currently donating all her royalties from book sales to Doctors Without Borders. That includes both The Winter Triptych and her challenging debut novel, Desideria, which Booklist called “exceptionally well-crafted” and “spellbinding.”

Erzebet YellowBoy Carr, the totally awesome artist behind Papaveria Press, is doing likewise. Aside from many beautiful handbound volumes from the likes of Hal Duncan and Catherynne M. Valente, Papaveria published Amal El-Mohtar’s The Honey Month and C.S.E. Cooney’s own Jack o’ the Hills.

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The Literature of Ideas: Always Coming Home

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

Always Coming HomeThese past two weeks I’ve found myself writing here about science fiction, or speculative fiction, as the literature of ideas. It seems to me that ‘the literature of ideas’ implies something other than what we normally find in sf; I feel that it suggests writing that uses ideas to establish the structure of a work, instead of relying on traditional narrative. I’ve found a couple of early examples in Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker and Jack London’s The Iron Heel. As a way to wrap up the discussion, I thought this week I’d look at a more recent example of what I mean by the literature of ideas: Ursula Le Guin’s Always Coming Home.

The book’s mostly set in a post-apocalyptic or at least post-industrial future, on the Pacific coast of the United States. It examines the folkways of the people called the Kesh, giving examples of their dramas and poems, examining their way of thinking and symbol-systems, and, since autobiography is one of the arts practiced by the Kesh, incidentally giving the life story of several members of the culture — most notably the extended narrative of a woman called Stone Telling. Stone Telling’s tale can easily be seen as the backbone of the book; divided into three parts, it functions as a recurring structural element that ties the mass of material together. But the book also has the feel of a well-stuffed anthology, a collection of fables and lore and myth that make the people as a whole come alive. And, as well, there are brief sections in which Le Guin herself ruminates on the difficulties and joys of writing this sort of “archaeology of the future” when the future does not yet exist, and must be imagined.

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The Desert of Souls Chosen as a Feature Selection of the Science Fiction Book Club

Sunday, March 20th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

desertofsoulsHoward Andrew Jones’s first novel  has been chosen as a Feature Selection of The Science Fiction Book Club. Rave reviews continue to accumlate for The Desert of Souls, including this recent article from The Green Man Review:

Barely into the third month of 2011, I’m wondering if I’ll read anything else this year as good as The Desert of Souls. In it, Howard Jones proves himself a rare master of the storyteller’s art, a talent uncommon even amongst successful novelists. He’s written a pure, unapologetic, classically-structured adventure tale. In the vein of the Arabian classic, One Thousand and One Nights, Jones invites us into a fictional ninth-century Baghdad: one of mysterious figures, magical artifacts, frightening djinn, and lost cities damned by God…

Brilliant and immediate characterization, not only for Asim, the narrator, but Dabir, as well, perfect pacing, and a truly intriguing mystery draw the reader deeply into the world of the story. At one point, a story within the story allows Jones to comment on the act of storytelling itself. The novel is polished to a mirror sheen, but it has that something extra that takes a story beyond technical excellence and into the human heart.

Jones is an editor at Black Gate, a Harold Lamb scholar, and has written short stories in the world of his novel for many years. The Desert of Souls doesn’t read like a first novel, and perhaps that’s why. If you have any interest in historical fiction, fantasy adventure, Robert Howard, Harold Lamb, or the One Thousand and One Nights, you will love this book… Stories that stay with me as this one has don’t come around very often.

I’ve been a member of the Science Fiction Book Club for many years, and enjoy their low-cost editions of popular SF bestsellers.  The Desert of Souls will be featured in their June catalog, mailing out May 20, 2011. You can read the complete Green Man Review of Desert of Souls here.

Congratulations Howard!

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