“Captivated and Disquieted”: ARCANE Arrives!

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 | Posted by John R. Fultz

arcanepic2ARCANE is a slick new magazine from Cold Fusion Media and publisher Sandy Petersen. The first issue just dropped and it’s quite a breath of fresh air for horror fans — or should that be a fetid, graveyard breath? Anyway, this new quarterly publication is both an e-mag AND a print mag—it  plays no favorites in the “print vs. digital” debate. According to its manifesto ARCANE will be publishing “weird horror, the supernatural, and the fantastic. ” It aims to leave readers highly entertained and slightly disturbed, like the best weird fiction always does.

Copies are now available on Amazon and the mag’s official site: www.arcanemagazine.com.

Here’s an interview with ARCANE Editor Nathan Shumate, who gives BG the inside track on all the weirdness. Find out where ARCANE came from and where it’s going, as well as what kinds of stories the editor is looking to find.

An Interview With Nathan Shumate

Conducted and Transcribed by John R. Fultz, May 2011

BG: We keep hearing that the “market’s down” — yeah, what else is new? But the market’s also up: E-books are outselling print books on Amazon, millions of dollars spent on books print AND digital. You obviously saw a way to capitalize on both online and print markets when you launched the beast that is ARCANE: PENNY DREADFULS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY. But the question remains: Why start a magazine? What drove you to the mad proposition of launching a fantastic new fiction venue?

ARCANE (Shumate): I originally started the magazine ARKHAM TALES in late 2008; I had always wanted to edit a “weird fiction” magazine, and I realized there was no time like the present.  Actually, any time would have been better, as late 2008 was right when the U.S. economy started circling the bowl.  The business model I had was a free PDF magazine, paid for with ads, but the ad sales never panned out, and five issues in, I had exhausted the funds on hand to keep the magazine afloat.  The magazine was subsequently bought by Leucrota Press, which retained me as editor, but the format stayed the same — even as I realized that a Kindle format, which precluded the inclusion of ads, would have a much larger potential marketshare than a PDF format. Leucrota and I didn’t see eye to eye on that, and I left when the eighth issue was completed, which is right before Leucrota declared bankruptcy.  (I swear I had nothing to do with that.)

I had the opportunity to buy back the ARKHAM TALES intellectual property, but I decided to make a clean break rather than spend months deciding which contractual commitments I’d be taking on, and instead formed ARCANE (the name is intentionally reminiscent of that of the former magazine) with Lovecraftian game guru Sandy Petersen, with whom I’ve been acquainted for a few years.

BG: ARCANE crosses the line between fantasy,  horror, sci-fi, and more horror. Is genre ultimately meaningless when you find a Great Story to publish?

ARCANE (Shumate) : I  think that everything we publish in ARCANE, whether sci-fi, fantasy, or what have you, has cross-pollinated with horror; there is a certain darkness, a certain sense of brooding disquiet, that characterizes our magazine more than out-and-out horror.

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Why Do You Like to Write? The Story of Janelle

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

mead-notebooksWriters of the Future Volume XXVII is now available for pre-order from Amazon. That any book with my work in it is available on Amazon blows my mind.

Anyway . . . this week I started writing some more observations on my experience at the Writers of the Future Workshop, but somehow got sidetracked into the rest of what you’re going to read. So I’m delaying more WotF until next week.

“Why did you become a writer?” or “Why do you like to write?” These are variants of the same question — one that most writers, whether career authors, part-timers, or hobbyists, encounter many times. The simplest questions are the trickiest to answer, as the Tao Te Ching points out: “Straightforward words sometimes seem paradoxical.”

Here are my straightforward words to answer both these questions: I enjoy telling stories by using words in interesting ways.

Now, to confuse the issue and make it paradoxical, allow me to tell you about a girl named Janelle.

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Solitaire Adventure with Victory Point Games

Monday, May 30th, 2011 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

astra1This February I sat down with a copy of the excellent solitaire game Astra Titanus and shared the review with Black Gate web site readers.

Astra Titanus wasn’t the only great looking game in the Victory Points Games stable, but it’s taken me a while to clear my schedule so that I could try out some more of their products.

Today I’m going to introduce you to two more, one which puts you in command of what is arguably the most famous submarine in history, Captain Nemo’s Nautilus, and the other which pits you against a horde of fantastic creatures assaulting your castle.

Be warned! You may not return alive!

Well, okay, YOU will, but you might lose the game.

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Supernatural Spotlight – Season 6 Finale!

Monday, May 30th, 2011 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

SUPERNATURALIn this double episode finale, we get to the end of one of the best seasons. It started out a little rocky, but had some of the series’ best episodes, I think. The finale happened while I was a on a plane to Arizona for vacation, so I wasn’t able to review it until I got back this week. (Gotta love DVR!)

Things start out at a rapid clip, with a man at a typewriter in 1937. Shortly after finishing a manuscript, he is murdered. His blood splattered across the manuscript, revealing the man’s name: H.P. Lovecraft.

In the present, Bobby discovers that Castiel has stolen one of the Campbell family journals, by Moisha Campbell (of the New York Campbells). Fortunately, the paranoid Bobby had already made copies, so they’re able to figure out that Moisha Campbell had interviewed Lovecraft, who (as they explain to Dean) had a tendency to write stories about portals opening up and nasty stuff coming out.

Things change tack as demons break into Lisa and Ben’s house, killing Lisa’s boyfriend and capturing her. Ben is hiding in his room and calls Dean, but is caught. Crowley picks up the phone and demands a meeting with Dean. Dean goes to the meeting with Sam, but tells Bobby to keep looking into the Lovecraft connection.

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Self-Publishing: What I’m Doing, and Why

Sunday, May 29th, 2011 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

The Fell Gard CodicesThere’s been a lot of talk around the blogosphere lately about self-publishing, and its merits relative to traditional publishing. I’m not going to say anything about that, as such. But it seems obvious to me that self-publishing has a value if you have a story that could not, due to the nature of its form, be published traditionally.

Which brings me to an announcement: I’m beginning a self-publishing venture of my own, The Fell Gard Codices. It’s an ongoing fantasy serial, and the first chapter goes live Wednesday, June 1. The web site’s already up, at Fellgard.com. I’ll be posting chapters every day for six days, and after that putting up three chapters a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The serial is free through the web site, though readers can donate through PayPal, if they’re so inclined; and once I have enough material, I’ll be selling collections as ebooks.

So, given how I started this post, the questions become: why am I doing this? What is it about this story that makes this approach seem like a good idea?

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Estate Your Business, Please

Sunday, May 29th, 2011 | Posted by Bud Webster

Christopher Anvil, Jerome Bixby, Raymond Z. Gallun.

raymond-z-gallunA couple of years ago, Michael Capobianco, then President of the Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), approached me for help on a project.

See, I’ve sort of acquired a reputation as a genre historian, and a fair number of editors and publishers have come to me over the past decade in hopes that I might know who was in charge of dead authors’ literary estates so that they could gain permission to reprint a story and make payments.

I had already run across a few agents and individuals while writing about one Past Master or another.  I also had access to a network of other sf tweaks who might have data on the ones I didn’t.  This put me in a good position to research the list and not only correct it but add to it.

P. Schuyler Miller, Ross Rocklynn, Wallace West.

What Capo wanted from me was my help in updating and correcting the list of estates that SFWA publishes each year in the SFWA Directory.

This is important to the organization, as the information is vital to keeping classic material by founding members available to a new readership, not to mention making sure that the information on writers who had passed more recently stayed current.

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In Search of the Ideal Reader

Sunday, May 29th, 2011 | Posted by Theo

ecoI was reading Umberto Eco’s book On Literature the other day and his essay entitled “Intertextual Irony and Levels of Reading” caught my attention, particularly in light of Matthew’s intriguing series of essays on Tolkien. (I haven’t commented upon them yet because they are sufficiently deep to require a second reading before opining, Matt, so my apologies for the tardiness.)

Because the flip side of readers, presumably non-Ideal, who read things into the text that are not there are readers, definitely non-Ideal, who fail to recognize the deeper layers of the text that are, in fact, there.

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E.E. Knight Reviews Flesh and Fire

Sunday, May 29th, 2011 | Posted by Bill Ward

fleshandfire-vineart-war-lauraannegilmanFlesh and Fire
Laura Anne Gilman
Simon & Schuster Adult (496 pp, $9.99, September 2010 (originally October 2009))
Reviewed by E.E. Knight

Laura Anne Gilman is a fantasy author I not only read, but teach. The reason is simple: when I’m giving a class in the writing of science fiction and fantasy, I rarely know what to say about magic. I point the students toward authors who handle it better than I ever could, and try to explain why I think it works for an audience in those books.

Maybe I’m just reading the wrong fantasists, but I find only a few authors whose use of magic interests and pleases me. One of those is Gilman. In her urban fantasy Retrievers series, her heroine used something called “Current” – more or less the ability to manipulate electricity to get it to win items and influence people. But it was a quirky power and her heroine could accidentally get into difficulty if she wasn’t very careful with how she used it (blowing out airport x-ray scanners and such). Creative, intriguing, and just plausible enough for me to suspend disbelief, something that rarely happens when the hero just fires off a few latinesque magic words and points his finger.

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The WSJ on the Ascendance of Genre over Literary Fiction

Saturday, May 28th, 2011 | Posted by Soyka

wk-ax955_cover__dv_20110526103748The Wall Street Journal weighs in on the ascendance of genre fiction over literary fiction.  Of course, this being The Wall Street Journal, the answer seems to be that the growing popularity of genre in mainstream markets is because it sells.

Something strange is happening to mainstream fiction. This summer, novels featuring robots, witches, zombies, werewolves and ghosts are blurring the lines between literary fiction and genres like science fiction and fantasy, overturning long-held assumptions in the literary world about what constitutes high and low art.

Leave it to a mainstream publication to finally catch on to something that has been happening for, oh, a few decades now, as a “summer phenomenon.”

To be fair, the author does note that such a distinction between the use of the fantastical in so-called high and low art is a modern (20th century) sensibility. Whether Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians and its (surprise, surprise) forthcoming sequel, is right that genre fiction is becoming mainstream is perhaps less a concern than whether mainstream success is ruining it for those of us who value genre precisely because it is not mainstream.  Though that may be a reverse snobbery more pretentious than the editor quoted about the forthcoming, and expected blockbuster, The Last Werewolf :

“We’re Knopf, we don’t do those kinds of books,” says editor Marty Asher. “I got completely sucked in despite my better judgment.”

Blogging Marvel’s The Tomb of Dracula, Part Three

Friday, May 27th, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

tod-131tod-141The Tomb of Dracula # 13, “To Kill a Vampire” really delivers on the promise of Marv Wolfman’s continuing storyline. Quincy Harker , Rachel Van Helsing, and Taj Nitall are overcome with grief over the loss of Edith Harker. Frank Drake is consumed with rage for his hated ancestor and Blade has no patience for their grieving and is eager to take the reins of the group or resume the hunt for Dracula alone. Clearly the group will continue to have issues functioning as a collective thanks to Frank and Blade’s respective personalities. Meantime, Dracula continues his reign of terror in London while an unseen Chinese criminal genius, Dr. Sun dispatches his minions to the morgue to reclaim the body of the vampire Brand.

There is a nice bit where Dracula attends a prize fight and is sickened by the spectators’ reactions to violence as entertainment. He fails to appreciate boxing as a sport from the perspective of the medieval conqueror he once was or the predator he has become. Following Edith’s cremation, there is a quiet interlude among the group of vampire hunters where Blade reveals his origin. His mother was killed by a vampire while giving birth to him. That one brief flashback provides all the information the reader needs to understand the character, his anger, and what drives him to obsessively hunt vampires. Again, Wolfman’s masterful skill with characters combined with Gene Colan’s stylish art sets this series well above the standard maintained by most comics of the era.

The issue races to a breakneck conclusion with Harker and his band of vampire hunters following a lead that takes them to Dracula’s hideout. The ensuing battle is particularly vicious. The vampire apparently has the upper hand thanks to his strength and supernatural powers when suddenly and unexpectedly Blade puts a knife through Dracula’s heart and kills him as the issue comes to an abrupt finish.

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