Goth Chick News: Time To See More Dead People

Thursday, June 30th, 2011 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image0101Believe me, fighting off the urge to be snarky every time I read something about Slasher Films is an exercise in self control.

If you recall, back in January I told you about the Guns ‘n Roses guitarist “Slash” who had just announced the launch of his new horror movie production company with a very cheesy name.

This had all the elements that make for a good rip on how running around looking like a rock and roll version of Son of Svengoolie doesn’t automatically mean you can make a palatable scary movie. However, before I was able to launch into a truly hardy, sarcastic tirade I was struck by the seemingly intriguing story lines that would be the first few big screen releases.

Maybe, just maybe this was going to be good after all.

Originally, Slasher Films announced four new projects; Nothing to Fear, Theorem, The Other Kingdom and Wake the Dead, billed as a film version of the graphic novel by Steve Niles who also happens to be Slash’s business partner.

This week we learned which of these concepts are going to become reality first.

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Fantasyscapes 4: Dark Places

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011 | Posted by Erik Amundsen

bglangoWhen last we met, we walked into Mordor, because, well, finding a fantasyscape that I can talk about, not mention Professor Tolkien and also not be remiss isn’t something I’ve managed, yet (it’s not happening this time, either).  This month, Mordor’s following us home.

After last time’s trip to the wasteland, there was a lot of stuff left on the old conceptual cutting room floor, stuff that looked and felt similar, but walked and crept and stalked, and most important, meant differently.  It followed us, hunted us down, and now we are off the path, in a strange place, miles from home.  But then, that’s what these excursions are all about.  This time we’re going to the Dark World, or, more accurately, it’s coming to us.

The dark world is a reflection of what is; a shadow.  It’s often a forbidding and dangerous place, like the wasteland; no one wants to live there, like the wasteland; and what it is probably rates less important than what it means, like the wasteland.  The difference is what it means; to oversimplify Jung for a moment, the wasteland is other.  It is elsewhere, different, a blasted land and a dark lord on a dark throne.

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Art of the Genre: The Black Company

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Kerdark grabs a chance at the original Black Company cover

Kerdark grabs a chance at the original Black Company cover

In 1984 author Glen Cook published The Black Company. In 1990, my freshman year in college, this book was passed to me by a person on my dorm and I spent the next decade following the exploits of the last of the Free Companies of Khatovar.

Now, as a storyteller myself, the book resonated with its rather unique concept, that it was actually a tale written by the Company annalist as he continued the four hundred years of written tradition the company had laid down since its came out of the distant south.

This is a military book, although cast in a fantasy setting. To that point, there are wizards present, although all of them are seemingly either competent illusionists or powerful necromancers. You don’t see any fireballs or lightning bolts, and the craft of a medieval military is kept up in rather precise fashion as the Black Company moves from what I would perceive as northern Europe, through Africa, and finally ending up someplace in India.

It’s a fantastic tale, one so well crafted that I’m actually floored even today when I remember a three-book long twist that had me shaking my head and calling for Cook to be given a Hugo. If you haven’t read the series, I certainly suggest it, even if the first book is over twenty-five years old and what was acceptable for publication then is much different than today. I still think these books hold water and are well worth your time, but on to the reason I assume you’re here, the art.

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Estate Your Business Part II: A Writer’s Guide to Organizing a Literary Estate

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011 | Posted by Emily Mah

cemetery-smallFirst of all, let me say hello and introduce myself. I’m an author of about half a dozen published short stories, one of which has just come out from Black Gate. I also, once upon a time, went to law school and for six years I worked as an attorney, first at a large firm, and then as a solo practitioner in northern New Mexico. I did real estate, contracts, and estate planning.

Northern New Mexico is crawling with writers and their kin and given I was active in the writing community it naturally followed that I did quite a few literary estate plans. I have since gone inactive in the bar, moved to London, and had two children who don’t ask me a lot of legal questions to keep me on my toes (yet), so please don’t rely on this post for hard and fast legal advice. I can, however, provide some general guidance about literary estates, what they are and how you get one.

What happens if I don’t have a literary estate?

That has already been answered on this site in Bud Webster’s illuminating first Estate Your Business post. In it he documents his hard work on the SFWA Estates Project, and all I can add is, don’t bank on there being a Bud Webster on the planet when you pass on. With a few simple precautions you can keep your body of work available to publishers, and thus available to earn money after your death, without a saintly individual like Bud burning up the phone lines to find whomever inherited your copyrights.

Bud explained what happens when you don’t have a literary estate, and I hope he convinced you to get one.

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Matthew Wuertz reviews Black Gate 15

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

bg-15-cover2Long time reader Matthew Wuertz contributes one of the first reviews of our latest issue on his blog, Adventures of a Fantasy Writer:

The immense tome is now the standard size, much to the chagrin of mail carriers everywhere. For those who love adventure fantasy, however, it is a welcome change for the bi-annual publication.

This is one of the best issues I’ve read. There is a mix of old and new writers, and there is even a theme around strong female protagonists (or “Warrior Women” as John puts it). If you’ve read Black Gate in the past but have fallen away from it in recent times, this is an excellent issue to jump back in with. If you’ve never read Black Gate, check them out.

Matthew has particular praise for “World’s End” by Frederic S. Durbin, “Groob’s Stupid Grubs” by Jeremiah Tolbert, “The Lions of Karthagar” by Chris Willrich, and stories by John R. Fultz and Maria V. Snyder. But he reserves his highest praise for “The Oracle of Gog,” the first story in an ambitious new S&S sequence by Vaughn Heppner:

Lod has survived as hunters’ bait and seeks to end his slavery. Meanwhile, the Nephilim, Kron, comes to his master – the terrible Firstborn named Gog – who has peered into the future and sees a threat. Kron’s mission is to eliminate that threat, while Lod’s mission is to simply survive in his newfound freedom. This was my favorite tale within the issue. Heppner’s narrative style wrapped me into each scene and into the characters’ minds. I hope to see more stories of Lod in future issues.

Read Matthew’s complete review here.

You can get more details on Black Gate 15 here, and purchase copies for just $18.95 (shipping included) at our online store.

You Don’t Need to See Cars 2 to Watch the Brave Trailer

Monday, June 27th, 2011 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

Pixar has maintained such an amazing line of success with their mixture of intelligent adult themes and child-pleasing action and characters in their CGI films, that the studio’s turn toward sequels hit me in the face with the great massive gauntlet of disappointment. I did enjoy Toy Story 3, but it was nowhere near the level of brilliance of my trifecta of Pixar favorites: The Incredibles, WALL·E, and Up. And when I found out that the follow-up for Toy Story 3 would be a sequel to Cars, easily my least favorite Pixar film so far, the massive gauntlet of disappointed almost pounded me head-first down into the soil.

Cars 2 is the first Pixar film ever to have critics turn against it. The Rotten Tomatoes review aggregator has given the movie a “Rotten” rating, currently holding at a morose 33% positive, a sad first in Pixar’s history. It seems the best I’ve heard about the movie from viewers is, “Eh, my kids liked it.” Considering the steep prices for the 3D screenings — which are the only screenings available at my local theater — this may end up being the first Pixar movie I skip in theaters, and wait for the Blu-ray.

There is one temptation, the trailer for Pixar’s next films, a non-sequel heroic fantasy set in Scotland: Brave.

But now the trailer is on line, so never mind. This looks not only like a return to form for the company, but a step into territory they’ve never explored. In particular, this is the fairy tale and fantasy world that we often associate with the classic Disney films of the Golden Age. But Pixar’s take looks sharper and harder than that, although I only have this trailer, plus posters and artwork to go on. But the mystic and Celtic, adult fantasy feel of this trailer is breathtaking — I can hardly wait to see what the company does with this setting and its fiery red-haired heroine. There will be comedy, but as director Mark Andrews told Entertainment Weekly, expect something fitting the bold declaration of its title: “What we want to get across is that this story has some darker elements. Not to frighten off our Pixar fans — we’ll still have all the comedy and the great characters. But we get a little bit more intense here.”

And it does appear intense. That final bow-shot to the camera? Sign me up!

If you want something else to hold you over, Entertainment Weekly has some beautiful concept art.

Also behold the thrilling teaser one-sheet (full sized!):

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Behind the Plague of Shadows

Monday, June 27th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

Pathfinder Tales: Plague of Shadows, by Howard Andrew Jones. Coming February 2011Over at Flames Rising, Black Gate Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones talks about the genesis of his Pathfinder novel Plague of Shadows:

I pitched [editor James Sutter] “Jirel of Joiry crossed with Unforgiven.” I wasn’t planning to lift the character or the plot, but I hoped to evoke a similar feel… I’d never written anything with orcs or dwarves, and while I’d scripted an evil sorcerer or two, they’d never been Pathfinder magic users. Writing deals in a lot of archetypes, and fantasy gaming fiction tends to wear those archetypes proudly on its sleeves — the elven archer, the surly half-orc, the mysterious wizard. I embraced those archetypes and tweaked them, as any gamer would when designing a character for play. I planned out scenes that would put the characters in conflict so I could get a better handle on who they were and what was important to them.

I started writing within a day or two of getting my outline approved, and pretty quickly I realized that I needed to stat out my main characters. I’ve been gaming regularly with a variety of systems since I was about 9, but in all that time, I’d never rolled up story characters prior to writing about them… I kept the rule book handy so that my spell descriptions would match, as closely as possible, the spiffy descriptions drafted by the Paizo maestros.

You can learn more about Plague of Shadows here, and the complete conversation with Howard is at Flames Rising.

The Dream-World of Lud-in-the-Mist

Sunday, June 26th, 2011 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Lud-in-the-MistHope Mirrlees’ stunning 1926 novel Lud-in-the-Mist begins with the following epigraph:

The Sirens stand, as it would seem, to the ancient and the modern, for the impulses in life as yet immoralised, imperious longings, ecstasies, whether of love or art, or philosophy, magical voices calling to a man from his “Land of Heart’s Desire,” and to which if he hearken it may be that he will return no more — voices, too, which, whether a man sail by or stay to hearken, still sing on.

It’s a quote from the classical scholar Jane Harrison, who was Mirrlees’ close companion at the time Mirrlees was working on Lud-in-the-Mist. It’s a perfectly chosen introduction to the book. It sets out the themes, and to an extent the method, which Mirrlees used: the conflict between instinctive desires and the conscious will, that tries to repress those desires and establish a social harmony — all symbolically realised through the imagery of myth and fantasy.

The sirens sang to Odysseus, who had himself lashed to his mast to hear their song while his crew went about their duties with their ears stopped up with wax. Apollonius of Rhodes says that they also sang to the Argonauts, but that their song was overcome by Orpheus, and the sirens threw themselves into the sea and became rocks. And I will note here, for reasons that should become clear later, that Apollonius also says that only a little later the Argonauts came to the garden of the Hesperides, in the far west, where the golden apples of Gaea had been kept, a marriage gift for Hera, until Hercules had took them as part of his labours.

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Andrew Zimmerman Jones Reviews The Authorized Ender Companion

Sunday, June 26th, 2011 | Posted by Bill Ward

the-authorized-ender-companionThe Authorized Ender Companion
Jake Black
Tor (432 pp, $27.99, November 2009)
Reviewed by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

One of my most prized possessions is a signed hardcover copy of Orson Scott Card’s Hugo and Nebula award winning Ender’s Game. Before the signature, Card inscribed “A survival guide for geniuses.” This is a wonderful tagline for Ender’s Game, which has spoken to a full generation of science fiction fans. Now, Jake Black has written a complete and authorized companion to the set of nine (so far) novels and assorted short stories – the Enderverse, as it is known to fans.

The bulk of The Authorized Ender Companion is taken up by the 315-page “Ender Encyclopedia,” which lists every individual, place, or thing that shows up anywhere in the Enderverse. This ranges from the detailed (a 15-page entry on Bean and 20-page entry on Ender) to the passing (such as the one-line entry that reminds us all what a “barkdancer” is). Probably one of the best entries is the 3-page lexicon of Battle School Slang.
The end of the Encyclopedia lists all of the sources, which is very helpful for those of us who haven’t yet read all of the short stories, followed by a couple of pages of “Ender’s Time Line” which, while interesting, is in print that is so small you may need a magnifying glass. (Note: I read an advanced review copy, so hopefully some sane editor will decided that this must be enlarged for the final edition.) Beyond the Encyclopedia, however, are some of the more substantive aspects of this book and the ones that fans should really be looking forward to.

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True Blood and the appeal of the vampire

Sunday, June 26th, 2011 | Posted by Theo

I for one, am delighted that Black Gate purposefully eschews what has somehow become one of the dominant themes in fantasy. Nevertheless, this Smart Pop essay by the Original Cyberpunk and his wife is both intelligent and amusing, even for those who regard vampire fiction as being little more than tedious teen necrophilia.  Note, however, that it does contain spoilers concerning the first season of the HBO series:

I will break the guild’s Code of Silence now and let you in on a little sci-fi writer’s secret: in fantastic fiction, all monsters are really either lions, bears, wolves, or snakes. It doesn’t matter how the critter is packaged. It may come from Mars, sport six arms, and have ice-cold hydrofluoric acid for blood, but if it’s silent, strikes from hiding without warning, and causes a lingering and painful death, it’s a snake. If it hunts humans by surprise in the dark and tears them to pieces, it’s a lion. If it’s an unstoppable behemoth, it’s a bear, and if it stalks humans openly and inexorably in the broad daylight, it’s a wolf.

And then there are vampires. Vampires are different from all other monsters; their strongest roots lead back not into the ancient tribal folklore of hunting stories, but into the dark twisted tangles of medieval religion and spirituality. Vampires are revenants: unclean spirits, vengeful ghosts who feed on the living and bring terrible sickness and slow, wasting death. Vampires are the dead who don’t have the decency to stay in their graves, and as such, their stories pack an emotional wallop entirely different from that of your more common monsters.

With a beast-type monster, your choices are simple: escape from it, kill it, or be killed by it. But vampires are human, or at least may remember being human. They can have human emotions and motivations, however befouled and twisted. They can have voices and speech, which make them worse. As an object of horror, they cut much closer to the quick than any inhuman beast, as there is nothing at once more horrible and more piteous than a human who has been transformed into some wily and treacherous monster—especially if “monsterness” is a communicable disease. With a vampire, it’s even possible to empathize with and feel pity for the monster, and at the end of the story to regret having had to destroy it, assuming—

My Co-Author, As Usual, Is Completely Missing the Point

Okay, Karen here, and I have to jump in and take over right now because Bruce has completely missed so many really important and obvious points.

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