Movie review: Captain America: The First Avenger

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Directed by Joe Johnston. Starring Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, Haley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones.
How much a geek am I? After my first screening of Captain America, I stood up and thrust both my hands in the air with balled fists and screamed “Hail HYDRA!” Yeah, they may be the bad guys, but they have a great rallying cry.

I have waited since I was twelve years old for a big theatrical Captain America movie. (That 1990s straight-to-vid quickie directed by Albert Pyun does not count.) Ever since I was old enough to read comics on my own, Cap was my favorite superhero. I have spent an enormous amount of time on my own blog going through the chronological history of the Captain America comic book. All that Captain America: The First Avenger needed to do was not mess up the Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s star-spangled hero and I would be happy.

Now I’m ecstatic. I unabashedly love this movie. It is the finest product yet to come from Marvel Studios and one of the best superhero movies ever made. I’m going back to see it a second time the moment I can. (In fact, by the time you read this, I probably will already have seen it a second time; I watched the first show on Friday morning.)

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A Beautiful Trilogy – Uglies Film Announced

Monday, July 25th, 2011 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

ugliesScott Westerfeld has posted on his blog a press release announcing upcoming film adaptations of his popular Uglies trilogy, set in a post-apocalyptic future where everyone, at age 16, is made “pretty” through an intense surgical procedure. When everyone is Pretty, the idea is, everyone is equal and happy, so there’s no reason for discord.

Why the Books Rock

Uglies is a powerful book which features some of the best of science fiction. It has action, but also deep thematic elements. It has social context, without being preachy. It has deeply realized characters and very human conflicts between them. It is a rich world that grows more complex with each book.

And, of course, being a modern young adult series, it also features a love triangle. (A couple of them, actually.)

The story of the first book, Uglies, starts with the main character, Tally Youngblood, who is nearing 16 (and her surgery) with anxious anticipation. One great thing about this book is Tally, because she’s not your typical hero. She’s fairly selfish and certainly short-sighted. It often doesn’t occur to her, especially in the first book, that she should take into account much beyond her own immediate wants and desires … which makes her a perfect teenage protagonist.

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Win a Limited Edition Copy of Rage of the Behemoth from Rogue Blades Entertainment

Monday, July 25th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

rotbJason M Waltz, publisher of Rogue Blades Entertainment, is giving away a free copy of the limited edition of Rage of the Behemoth to one lucky winner this week.

Described as “Almost 150,000 words of monstrous mayhem recording the ferocious battles that rage between gargantuan creatures of myth and legend, and the warriors and wizards who wage war against, beside, and astride them,” Rage of the Behemoth gathers 21 splendid tales of pure adventure fantasy under one cover, including contributions from Bill Ward, Andrew Offutt & Richard K. Lyon, Lois Tilton, Mary Rosenblum, Sean T. M. Stiennon, Brian Ruckley, Bruce Durham, Jason Thummel, C.L. Werner, and many more.

How do you win? Easy!

Just comment on any of the three posts this week at Rogue Blades Entertainment’s Home of Heroics , and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a copy. The Home of Heroics is the Grand Central Station for heroic fiction on the Web, and previous writers have included Martha Wells, E.E. Knight, David C. Smith, Charles Saunders, Bill Ward, and many others.

Comments must be made between Monday, July 25, and Friday July 29. Complete details on the contest are here.

Learn more about Rage of the Behemoth here.

You won’t find many contests this easy — or this much fun. Check out Home of Heroics today. You can thank us later.

Mark Lawrence on Prince of Thorns

Monday, July 25th, 2011 | Posted by Mark Lawrence

prince-of-thornsThat fantasy story you love, the one where the farm boy gets the sword and kills that monster so the bad overlord is cast down and the princess is freed… I didn’t write that one. Those stories, wrapped up in more sophisticated prose with a twist and turn and an OMG, are great. They’re the strength and the curse of the genre. I didn’t write one. I wrote an ugly awkward thing that has seriously made someone blog ‘I got that horrible feeling in my tummy and could not read any more.’ Prince of Thorns is an ungentle book.

In 2004 I got my first ever check for writing fiction, a princely $31 for ‘Song of the Mind-born,’ a story that Black Gate had turned down. Between 2003 and 2006 Black Gate turned down about five of my short stories. John O’Neill writes the best rejections of any magazine editor I’ve ever encountered, and believe me if we lived pre-email I would have enough rejections to reconstitute a sizeable tree.

Reading an O’Neill rejection you know that the man has read your submission from top to bottom and put some thought into letting you know why he’s not going to pay you for it. He lets you walk away with dignity and hope.

This was the last O’Neill rejection I got:

It is with great pain that I am forced to reject you yet again. I really liked this story and read to the end, even though I was sure after the first few paragraphs that it wouldn’t be a fit for Black Gate. It was very nicely done, and hit me on an emotional level. It works at all levels, I think — except it’s not a fit for Black Gate. Please put some of your excellent talent to use on an adventure story with some unique world building, and ship it my way.

I took John’s advice and the next three submissions were all accepted. ‘Bulletproof,’ accepted in 2006, will appear in Black Gate 16, perhaps Spring 2012? And that’s another thing I love about Black Gate (apart from the fact you can actually buy it off the shelves of real shops) – the optimism, the way they put the season on each issue as if the year wasn’t enough to uniquely identify it!

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Ruminations on Ice and Fire

Sunday, July 24th, 2011 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

A Dance With DragonsI recently had the chance to review George R.R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons for my hometown newspaper, The Montreal Gazette. Looking at both the new volume and the previous four installments in his Song of Ice and Fire series, I found myself wondering what it is that makes the books work so well both with critics and a mass audience.

A Dance With Dragons reached the top of the best-seller lists in its first week of release, and had the highest first-day sales of any fiction book this year. The initial wave of reviews were widely positive, with glowing praise from Jeff VanderMeer and Lev Grossman among others (I liked it, too). There have been some dissenting opinions, though, one example of which is Theo’s post from earlier today. Oddly, it seems many of the people most disenchanted with the book have been (some) long-standing fans.

Perhaps it’s not so odd. It’s been six years since the last book in the series came out, and another five years since the book before that. Because of the way Martin structured these books, that means fans have been waiting to read about some of their favourite characters for eleven years. That’s quite a while; longer than the gap between the cancellation of the original Star Trek TV series and the premiere of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, for example. Expectations had to have been running high. But this only brings me back to what I was wondering before: why have people been waiting so fervently for the book?

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A Look behind Lod’s World, or How to Strike Gold

Sunday, July 24th, 2011 | Posted by Vaughn Heppner

Lod in "The Oracle of Gog," by Vaughn Heppner (from Black Gate 15). Art by Mark Evans.

Lod in "The Oracle of Gog," by Vaughn Heppner (from Black Gate 15). Art by Mark Evans.

Believable world creation lends greater enjoyment to fantasy and science fiction stories. One need merely consider some of the classics like The Lord of the Rings or Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian to see how vital this is. Dune also comes to mind or Asimov’s Foundation series. In fantasy, Tolkien is the accepted master at world creation, having invented alphabets and entire new languages for his books.

Edgar Rice Burroughs added another trick to this in the Pellucidar and John Carter of Mars novels. Usually in the introduction, Burroughs went to great length to tell us how he received the various manuscripts from the hero of the tale. In this way, he helped create the illusion of reality. It was a powerful practice and was copied by such different authors as Lin Carter and John Norman, both ERB imitators.

It seems that the more one can attach the fantasy world to the real world, the greater becomes the reader’s ability to suspend his disbelief. This temporary suspension of disbelief is considered critical in order for the reader to enjoy a fantasy story.

Howard’s Hyborian Age chronicle helped give the impression that the Conan stories and the earlier Kull tales had taken place in man’s distant past. This feel of reality gives the story greater depth. Instead of feeling as if the hero walks on a cardboard stage, we feel as if he moves through a genuine world and thereby we enjoy the tale more.

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A Dance with Dragons Review – No Spoilers

Sunday, July 24th, 2011 | Posted by Theo

a-dance-with-dragonsIt was interesting to read George R.R. Martin’s latest so soon after seeing HBO’s Game of Thrones and reading two fantasy series that some have attempted to compare to Martin’s epic, The First Law by Joe Abercrombie and The Prince of Nothing by R. Scott Bakker.

My first thought upon simply viewing the size of the tome was that Martin is clearly suffering from the same disease that inflicted Stephen King and JK Rowling before him. It would appear that some time in between A Storm of Swords and A Feast For Crows, Martin came down with a bad case of morbus nemendatorus.

This is the illness which strikes an author after he has become so prodigiously successful that he no longer sees any need to pay heed to an editor. It can be diagnosed on sight by the simple measurement of the thickness of the first book in the series and comparing it with that of the last book in the series. After reading A Dance with Dragons, it is abundantly clear that Mr. Martin has not yet recovered from it.

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The Nightmare Men: “Physician Extraordinary”

Sunday, July 24th, 2011 | Posted by Josh Reynolds


‘Rich by accident and a doctor by choice, John Silence took only those cases which interested him.’

The above is from “A Psychical Invasion” (1908), the first of Algernon Blackwood’s stories to feature Dr. John Silence, the ‘psychic doctor’.  Blackwood chronicled six of Silence’s cases, though only five appear in the initial collection, John Silence (containing “A Psychical Invasion”, “Ancient Sorceries”, “The Nemesis of Fire”, “Secret Worship”, and “The Camp of the Dog”; “A Victim of Higher Space”, the sixth story, was included in later collections) released in 1908 (then re-issued in 1942). Even if you can’t get your hands on one of the many reprint collections (or on the 1942 re-issue as I was lucky enough to do), you can rest easy…Blackwood’s work is in the public domain and is freely available from a variety of electronic sources.

The stories themselves are in the inimitable Blackwood style, seen at its most effective in “The Wendigo” and “The Willows”, and display the author’s interest in the occult. The horrors that Silence faces are nebulous things, at once more vast than the horizon and smaller than the inside of a cupboard. They range from nightmare assaults out of deep time to unrequited yearnings gone impossibly savage, originating in both human action as well as from events far outside of human understanding. Time and space are suggestions at best, and as in the works of Hodgson and Lovecraft, reality itself comes under assault from outside entities which seek to impose themselves on their victims.

Enter John Silence, MD.

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The Man They Call Sean

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 | Posted by Sean Stiennon

I’ve never had a nickname that stuck.  Well, that’s not completely true — I can think of at least one occasion when people have called me “Flinteye” and expected me to respond, but they were just reading off my baseball cap.  All in all, this is probably a good thing, since nicknames that stick tend to be less cool stuff like “Grinder” or “Shadowman” and more like “Chunk” or “Barfbag”.

A candid look at my gruesome features

A candid look at my gruesome features

So, as much as I’d like to introduce myself as Sean “Dark Smoke Puncher” Stiennon, just Sean will do nicely.  You might already have noticed my name attached to a review of Jasper Kent’s Twelve.

By day, I inhabit an apartment in sunny Madison, Wisconsin (as well as an office nearby) and produce the valuable carbon dioxide that keeps our planet green.  By night, I sleep.  I also read ridiculous books, play manly video games, practice ryuukyu kenpo karate, and otherwise live the high life.  I write fantasy and SF regularly, and if any cool people or gorgeous space princesses out there want to see some, send me a carrier pigeon!

My nerd profile is that of a dilettante.  I enjoy many things, from manga to games, but haven’t really ever plunged into one particular thing.  There are few authors I’ve read exhaustively, few franchises I’ve mined deep enough to go toe-to-toe with their true devotees.  That means my thoughts on any geeky subject tend to be a loose mix of ignorance, knowledge, and apathy.  I love Cowboy Bebop and Trigun, but have never seen Akira or Dragonball Z.  I got sick of Drizzt after three volumes, and only read four.

Anyway, I like to think my broad-but-shallow nerd experiences give me a habit of making interesting connections.  So, when I watch the first few episodes of classic head-bursting anime Fist of the North Star, it brings Superman to mind.

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Glory Be to the Bomb, and to the Holy Fallout

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 | Posted by John R. Fultz

Ten Reasons why BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES is the best movie of the classic series.nova-lh1

Once again the Time of the Ape draws near.

The latest incarnation of the legendary cinematic franchise PLANET OF THE APES draws near with the impending release of a new film–reportedly planned from the get-go the first in a new series. What does that mean? That RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES would have to fail utterly at the box office to kill this new version of the franchise. Tim Burton’s remake of the original 1968 original PotA met with mixed results, but ultimately failed to relaunch an entire franchise. Perhaps because Burton, who picks his own projects these days, had far too many other ideas to explore instead. Whatever the case, there is nothing like the original movie and its once-in-a-lifetime shocker ending.

But nothing was more shocking, more terrifying, or more unforgettable than the end of the second Apes movie, my personal favorite, BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES. Critics and fans may argue, but there is no real doubt that BENEATH is the best of the four sequels. As I stated before, there’s no comparing any of the sequels to the sacrosanct status of the first movie. The first PLANET OF THE APES movie came out in ’68, the year before I was born. I had no idea what was in store for me.

I was only four or five years old when BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES finally came to the local one-screen cinema in Olive Hill, Kentucky, where I lived with my grandparents while my mother finished college at Morehead State University. The year was most likely ’74 or ’75. I remember it all in bits and pieces, the way I remember scenes from the movie itself. It was my first conscious experience of seeing a movie…in a movie theatre. I was being imprinted. My uncle had taken a group of us kids–cousins all–to the movie theatre because our grandparents weren’t the moviegoing types. They’d rather wait and watch movies on TV. But it was the mid 70s and going to the movies was an adventure–even before the wrecking ball of cinema culture that is STAR WARS came along.

What I remember most, burning into the neural pathways of my brain and the sketchpad of my imagination, was the bloodcurdling scream my cousin Regina let out when the mutants in BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES peeled off their fleshy masks and revealed their true monstrous faces. This was, as they say, a moment of sheer movie terror. Especially for a precocious little five-year-old who was already reading comics before entering first grade.

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