Steve Ditko and The Start of Something Strange

Sunday, July 31st, 2011 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Origin SplashOne of my favourite Marvel Comics characters, certainly my favourite of all their big names, is Doctor Strange. Like most established Marvel characters, he’s been handled a lot of different ways over the course of time. I’d like to look back, and look closely, at one of the early tales that defined him most clearly — specifically, his origin story.

Doctor Strange first appeared in Strange Tales 110, in which he investigates a man’s recurring bad dreams and battles an old enemy, Nightmare, master of the Dream Dimension. Strange is a kind of occult detective, a figure in the tradition of Martin Hessselius or John Silence (or, more closely, Mandrake or Zatara). Unlike them, though, he’s more magician than detective. Although we meet him here for the first time, he’s clearly an experienced wizard — “Never again shall you thwart me!” claims Nightmare. We don’t discover in this five-page story how Strange came to have his powerful magical amulet, or who his mysterious mentor is.

The next month’s story gives us a bit more background, introducing another archenemy who has a history with the good doctor — Baron Mordo, a former student of Strange’s mentor and master. We get a sense of Strange’s power, too, as he has a battle of astral forms with Mordo. The next two issues didn’t have a Doctor Strange story, then issue 114 presented another battle with Mordo. It was with the next story, in issue 115, that we finally learned who this man of mystery really was.

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Broadly Speaking Interviews C.S.E. Cooney

Sunday, July 31st, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

cseBroadly Speaking, the podcast about the adventures of women writing science fiction, fantasy, horror, has interviewed Black Gate website editor C.S.E. Cooney.

For their July episode Broadly Speaking host Julia Rios interviewed C.S.E. Cooney, Gwynne Garfinkle, and Mary Robinette Kowal (sort of) on the ins and outs of writing humor.

Here’s C.S.E. on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies:

The thing is, I love Jane Austen… I found it delightful to have Elizabeth Bennet wanting to cut off people’s heads when they threatened her honor. I liked the whole thing between samurais and ninjas. I liked that the Bennet sisters fought back-to-back at the Netherfield ball… I do think that there is something exquisitely funny in having girls in dresses with swords. It speaks to my inner She-ra, Princess of Power.

C.S.E. Cooney is the author of Jack o’ the Hills and The Big Bah-Ha. Her poem “The Sea King’s Second Bride” won the Rhysling award for long form poetry. Gwynne Garfinkle’s short stories and poems have appeared in The Wiscon Chronicles, Volume 4, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Growing Up, and No Body’s Perfect. Mary Robinette Kowal won the Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2008, her latest fantasy novel is Shades of Milk and Honey.

The complete podcast is roughly 39 minutes; you can find it here. And you can find C.S.E. Cooney’s behind-the-scenes article on the interview (including how she managed to channel Mary Robinette Kowal) right here at Black Gate.

Register Your Interest, Copyright for Paper and E-Books

Saturday, July 30th, 2011 | Posted by Emily Mah

Copyright is a term well known to any author, or artist of any kind, for thatwindupgirlsmcover matter, but I’ve often been surprised at how many misconceptions there are about this area of law.  Now, here I must insert my usual disclaimer. Even though I am a lawyer, I am inactive in the bar at the moment and thus do not keep on top of every development in statutes and case law. I write this as a general guide, a place for you to get started, but if you have any concerns regarding your copyrights, I always recommend you hire a lawyer who is currently practicing law. That said, let’s discuss copyrights and some basics about how they work.

There are two current developments in the publishing industry that have inspired me to write this post.

1) The rise of the indie author, meaning an author who publishes without using a publisher or agent.

2) The unprecedented growth in e-publishing.

But first a little background.

What Is Copyright?

Copyright is the right you have to exploit your artistic work for commercial gain and exclude others from doing so without a license. It attaches to your work the moment it is “fixed in a tangible medium”. In other words, once you write it down, record it on a CD, or save it to your hard drive, you own the copyright in your work. The term “tangible medium” is dated, because we can’t really touch computer files on a hard drive – or, at least, we shouldn’t try it – but computers and their data storage devices have been around long enough that they are included in this definition. I’ve surprised many people by saying this, though it is nevertheless the truth. All you need to do to own the copyright in your work is create said work.

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Black Gate Interviews Dave Gross, Part Two

Saturday, July 30th, 2011 | Posted by Bill Ward

the-hobbit-tolkien-ballantineLast week in part one of our interview Black Gate sat down with Forgotten Realms and Pathfinder author Dave Gross to talk about writing, gaming, and his latest Pathfinder novel, Master of Devils. This week Dave tells us more about his early influences and his transition from gamer to game fiction writer.

Chicken or egg time: what came first for you — gaming or storytelling?

Definitely storytelling. I was learning to read around the time I was learning to walk.

My first geekdom was ghost and horror stories, collections of which I’d order every time the Scholastic Books flyer came around our grade school. I can’t remember when I was first writing stories, but I’m sure it was in homeroom with a half pint of milk nearby. Later I burned through all the SF at our city library, and one day my cousin Francis handed me a copy of The Hobbit, and fantasy became my favorite. After burning through the Tolkien trilogy I devoured everything I could find by R.E. Howard and his clan. It was around that time that a classmate and his elder brother introduced me to D&D. They taught me the game from the original saddle-stitched books. Once the boxed game came out, I began DMing. Which, of course, is its own sort of storytelling.

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Ancient Worlds: The Island of the Lotus-Eaters

Saturday, July 30th, 2011 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

bluelotusThe Odyssey stands alongside Gilgamesh as perhaps the earliest Western examples of fantasy literature. You can still start a fight among Classicists over who wrote the epic and its companion, The Iliad: for that matter, you can start a fight over precisely when it was written. (Or compiled. Or told by one person and written down by another. Or, according to one theory, the year that a Boeotian sat down and decided to invent the Greek alphabet solely for the purpose of recording the best story he’d ever heard.) The current consensus says the 8th century BCE, but ask again in twenty years.

While thematically the Iliad is a work about power and anger, the Odyssey is about the consequences of anger, about the effort it takes to leave warfare and vengeance behind. But above all else, it’s about homecoming, and what homecoming means in the aftermath of Troy. Most specifically, it’s about the journey of Odysseus, the architect of the Trojan Horse, from the beaches of Asia Minor to his home on the Greek island of Ithaca.

The trip would have been faster if he had decided to walk.

Odysseus’ journey home is told in the first person: he has washed up on the shores of Phaeacia and is found by Nausicaa, daughter of the king of Phaeacians. She brings him home (hoping to keep him), and once he’s gotten a bath and his first hot meal in years, he begins to tell the story of why, ten years after the fall of Troy, he still hasn’t managed to make it home. As he tells of his adventures, he quickly moves out of the known world (first Troy, then an encounter with the Ciconians of Thrace) into the unknown, the land of myth.

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On the Future of Bookstores

Saturday, July 30th, 2011 | Posted by Soyka

220px-borders_flagship_storeSo everyone’s crying about the demise of Borders, though it wasn’t that long ago we were all crying about how it and evil twin Barnes and Noble were driving  local independent bookstores out of business, even as we were shopping mostly at Amazon to get the books we found browsing at the physical bookstore at a better price (sinner, heal thyself). Like everyone else, I used to love going into the megastores, and maybe felt a little guilty about it, but not so much that I stopped doing it, because the small guys just didn’t have the inventory to browse through.  Which is also why I used to like going into Tower Records, too, but the same thing that’s happening to the music megastore (of which “Borders ‘n Noble” was once a subset) is catching up to the bookstore. You want to browse inventory, you go online, for both selection and prices. And you don’t have to get into the car and drive anywhere to do it.

On a personal level, the Borders closing doesn’t affect me. Here in Charlottesville, we have more used bookstores per square foot than coffee shops, along with long established local retailer of new books and, yes, a Barnes and Noble (though not a superstore, meaning little in the way of music or video, though that’s being downsized anyway).  And, truth, be told, it’s been a while since the Borders experience peaked; in an effort to become profitable, the chain started emphasizing mass merchandising over book selling, becoming more like a mall store than an intellectual haven, and there was nothing more idiotic than staff running around with those silly headsets to give the illusion of instant customer service.

The primary attraction of going into a Borders (and Tower and all the other megastores) was that feeling that you can get in your hands just about almost anything you wanted, no matter how esoteric, and that’s not quite the same thing as pressing “The Look Inside” link online. While as eReaders ultimately displace the physical book, that distinction may become less important, but whether chat rooms and customer reviews can replace the barista who can recite from Nietzche, Heinlein and Bob Dylan is another matter.

Nor is the experience disappearing entirely for bookstores (or record stores), but it’s going to be harder to find if you don’t live in Portland (Powell’s Books) or New York City (Strand, for example, which is cleverly offering a free gift at its store to anyone who comes in with a Borders Rewards card).  These bookstores continue to survive because, unlike Borders, they haven’t tried to replicate their physical presence across the country like the Borg while still expanding their online footprint. Moreover, their brand identity distinguishes themselves from Amazon as knowledgable curators of their product (as opposed to a legion of Harriet Klausners and algorithms that tell you what you like based on past purchases).  Therein may lie the future of the physical bookstore.

That and maybe Apple acquiring Barnes and Noble.

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Blogging Marvel’s The Tomb of Dracula, Part Eleven

Friday, July 29th, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

tod-55The Tomb of Dracula #55, “Requiem for a Vampire” is highlighted by the stunning artwork of Gene Colan and Tom Palmer, which is exceptionally beautiful even by their high standards. Marv Wolfman’s script cleverly builds on the conflict between Dracula finding marital bliss with his wife and their infant son and the nagging doubt that he was capable of siring a child in his undead state. Adding to his concerns is the fact that his son resembles the angel he battled several issues earlier. Only the vampire’s lust for power distracts him from pondering this further. Anton Lupeski’s growing awareness of Dracula’s madness convinces him he must remove him once and for all before the vampire turns on him. Meantime, Quincy Harker is recovering from his heart attack and meets with Frank Drake, Rachel Van Helsing, Harold H. Harold and Aurora Rabinowitz to discuss their next move. Harold successfully infiltrates the Satanic christening ceremony held in the Dark Church where Lupeski christens Dracula and Domini’s son, Janus and declares the child is the promised anti-Christ. Dracula realizes that Lupeski is setting up his infant son as the focus of the cult to minimize the vampire’s influence and rebukes Lupeski publicly, abruptly departing the ceremony with his wife and son and leaving the High Priest fuming over his humiliation. What follows is a wonderful piece of writing with husband and wife alone together, bearing their scarred souls to one another. Dracula opens up about his fractured relationship with his daughter, Lilith and Domini goes into greater detail about how she fell into the Church of Satan. Wolfman is as bluntly honest as the censorship of the day would allow in depicting real life sexual abuse by cult members.

The literate, moving dialogue combined with Colan’s realistic artwork combine to make this issue a landmark installment in this fine series. It seems impossible not to be moved by these two lost souls whose one desire is to find peace after living lives of degradation and abandonment. Of course, moments of peace are short-lived in broken lives and Lupeski is overheard by another vampire plotting with one of his cult member to kill Dracula once and for all. The loyal vampire reports Lupeski’s betrayal to Domini who chooses to pay a clandestine visit to Lupeski herself rather than inform her husband that the High Priest is plotting his murder. The issue ends with the vampire prowling the night skies in bat-form ruminating as he had at the start of the issue over the points that continue to cause him unrest. His melancholy mood is tempered by the belief that he has a loving and devoted family and has finally found some semblance of peace.

tod-56#56, “The Vampire Conspiracy” is the title of Harold’s fictionalized account of his encounters with Dracula. This is really just a humorous filler issue which neatly summarizes the Boston-based storyline thus far and wrings some humor out of the contrast between Harold’s narration (where he depicts himself as capable, heroic, and distinctly Sherlockian) and the reader’s recollection of what has occurred in the narrative up to this point. It is interesting to note that Harold portrays Rachel and Aurora as helpless damsels in distress in a fashion that is very familiar to those who grew up on a steady diet of Universal and Hammer horror. Most intriguing is a purely fictionalized encounter between Dracula and Satan who appears in the form of a black panther. While no such event has occurred, it does prefigure the direction Wolfman is about to take with the storyline in coming months. As it is, the issue remains a diverting time-filler.

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Goth Chick News – JP4: A Whole New Lizard, or Just Another Clone?

Thursday, July 28th, 2011 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image0023Let’s start with the picture on the left.

This is the back of my SUV. I would like to draw your attention to the customized wheel cover one of my artist friends presented me with a couple Christmases ago. If you were sitting in the driver’s seat you’d be perfectly positioned to see my Jurassic Park Test Vehicle Identification Tag hanging alongside a tiny Velociraptor.

This of course proves I am a geek. We established that quite some time ago so let’s move on. What this really proves is that I’m a huge movie geek with a major Jurassic Park fixation, which coincidentally positions me perfectly to deliver the following news in the most expert of fashion.

JP4 is coming and I can prove it. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is up to you to decide, but I think you’ll agree it’s at least worth imagining at this point.

Let’s start with the basics in case some of you were still in diapers when this story kicked off

The original 1993 Jurassic Park movie, which earned over $914 million, and the sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which earned $618 million, were based upon novels by Michael Crichton, who died unexpectedly in November 2008. Jurassic Park 3 departed from Crichton’s story line and was largely considered “the end” of the franchise due to its very poor box office performance.

What you probably have already heard is that Steven Spielberg raised the hopes of geeks everywhere by telling fans at San Diego’s Comic Con that a new JP sequel might be coming out “in two or three years.” Spielberg also mentioned he might oversee the new project as a producer.

But I’ve got some additional scoop you may not have heard.

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Art Evolution 2011: Janet Aulisio

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 | Posted by Scott Taylor

obsidiman_merchant-254Art Evolution continues with the second entry into this exclusive club for 2011, but if you’ve missed any of the other contributors you can find them here.

I can’t remember the first time I saw a Janet Aulisio piece of art, but I presume it was in the pages of FASA’s Shadowrun RPG in 1992. Like most games of the era, interior work was done in black and white line art [although FASA was the first to include color plates which took the product to whole new levels of RPG design]. Janet, for her part, was tasked with adding a different level of art to the games 2nd Edition and her technique stood out in a style I like to refer to as ‘art of the scratch’.

This is a kind of Russ Nicholson school of art, a concept where ink is used in every aspect of the picture, even the negative space. White is almost seen as an enemy, and Janet herself has said ‘I’m like any other artist, greedy for lots of space to spread my art’.

Oddly, I was instantly taken with her style. I note this as ‘odd’ because to that point I’d been a kind of beauty purist, a clean image always more appealing to me than sketchy stuff. I can only guess that by 1992 my former ‘teenage eye’ was being replaced by something more accepting of a larger world of artistic style.

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Readercon 22: Meeting Mark Twain, Winning a Rhysling, and Sundry

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney


(Part I can be found here.)

Readercon 22: Saturday

Now. Where was I, where was I?

Ah, yes. Readercon.

Me, Gwynne Garfinkle and My Sinister Puppet Hand

Me, Gwynne Garfinkle and My Sinister Puppet Hand

Think back. Stretch your minds back. It’s Saturday, July 16th. Where are you? Sipping ice tea on your veranda while the dog pants at your feet and the cicadas whine and the barbecue sizzles — and it’s a summery summertime stretch of summeriness — and you’ve even remembered to put on your sunblock? GOOD FOR YOU!

Me, I hardly saw the sun that weekend. I was in the Boston Merriot Burlington, where the air conditioning was fierce and the convention programming intense!

Julia Rios Makes Every Hotel Room a Castle!

Julia Rios Makes Every Hotel Room a Castle!

In the morning, Erik Amundsen and Patty Templeton and I stole away to Panera Bread, to consume an inexpensive breakfast of sandwiches and rubbery room-temperature soufflés. I was back to the hotel in time for my 11 o’ clock interview with Julia Rios.


An interview!!!

That makes me sound VERY POSH AND IMPORTANT, doesn’t it? Only it wasn’t like that, really, because the interview was recorded as a podcast for Broad Universe (called “The Broad Pod“), and it was to involve me and Gwynne Garfinkle and Mary Robinette Kowal, and if you think that I’M the posh and important one in that group, then I don’t know which current affairs rack you’ve been hanging your hats on lately, misters and mistresses!

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