Black Gate Interviews Dave Gross, Part One

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 | Posted by Bill Ward

dg-photoAuthor Dave Gross is perhaps best known for his Forgotten Realms novels such as Black Wolf and Lord of Stormweather. He has also worked as an editor of several gaming publications, including the one-and-only Dragon Magazine, and has most recently become one of the core authors for Paizo’s new Pathfinder Tales line of fiction. I recently had a chance to talk to Dave about his writing, and about his newest Pathfinder novel, Master of Devils.

A Conversation with Dave Gross

Before things get too tangential, Dave, I’d like to ask you about your latest Radovan and Jeggare novel for Pathfinder, Master of Devils. For readers perhaps unfamiliar with Pathfinder, how would you describe the world of Golarion, and the story of Master of Devils in particular?

Golarion is a big, varied world. While many of its countries are intentional reflections of real-world places (Ustalav draws on Eastern Europe, while Osirion is a fantasy version of Egypt), others are complete fantasy inventions with little or no connection to historical sources (The Worldwound, Numeria, or Nex). That combination of the familiar and strange is one of the things that draws me to the setting. It lets you pull details out of real-world cultures and history while allowing plenty of freedom for invention and extrapolation from other fantasy tropes.

The protagonists I introduced in Prince of Wolves come from an area of Golarion’s Inner Sea region that is roughly analogous to Earth’s Southern Europe. Master of Devils takes place in Tian Xia, Golarion’s equivalent of East Asia. Since the journey takes Radovan and the Count completely out of their element, they must learn how to survive in this unfamiliar land at the same time as the readers discover it. Count Jeggare is a scholarly sort who’s read and heard much about the place, but he’s never actually experienced it. Radovan is a complete fish out of water, having left the country of his birth for the first time only a few months earlier. The third progatonist … well, let’s just say the third POV character has a completely different perspective than the others. My hope is that readers who might not otherwise snap up an Asian-based sword & sorcery novel will find Master of Devils an easy and fun journey into the distant lands of Tian Xia.

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Among Others

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 | Posted by Soyka

among-others1It’s hot, I just downloaded Lion (which is the only cool thing happening in these parts) and I’ve managed to avoid any car crashes. Unlike other folks here, since I don’t have much going on, here’s my review of Jo Walton’s Among Others.

Could do worse things than turn the AC up high and read this one.


Borders Begins Liquidation

Friday, July 22nd, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

borders-lockedBorders, one of the largest bookstore chains in the United States, has began the process of closing its doors.

Going-out-of-Business sales started today at all Borders, Borders Express, and Waldenbooks locations, with up to 40% off most items. The store has announced that gift cards will be honored during the liquidation, Borders Rewards Plus discounts are good through August 5th, and Borders Bucks will be accepted until July 31.

CEO Mike Edwards sent this e-mail to all Borders Rewards members yesterday, saying in part:

We had worked very hard toward a different outcome. The fact is that Borders has been facing headwinds for quite some time, including a rapidly changing book industry, the eReader revolution, and a turbulent economy. We put up a great fight, but regrettably, in the end, we weren’t able to overcome these external forces.

Going out of business sales begin in stores Friday, July 22. I encourage you to take advantage of this one-time opportunity to find exceptional discounts on your favorite books…

When I moved to my current home in St. Charles, IL in 1997, it was a town filled with many bookstores. The arrival of Borders and then Barnes & Noble gradually killed virtually every one of them.

But I consoled myself with the fact that Borders was, in fact, a superb book store. Clean, well organized, and marvelously well stocked, it was a terrific place to browse and find books. And now it is gone, leaving my town with one small bookstore: Town House Books, the sole survivor of the coming of Borders over a decade ago. One town over, there’s also a B&N superstore — another marvelous place for book lovers.  Until it too goes bankrupt, as many investors are now predicting.

It is the end of the bookstore?  I hope not, but time will tell.  And until then, I’ll be shopping at Town House books.


Blogging Marvel’s The Tomb of Dracula, Part Ten

Friday, July 22nd, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

tod-49tod-50The Tomb of Dracula #49, “And With the Word There Shall Come Death” is an intriguing issue which nicely develops Anton Lupeski’s ambition to see the Church of Satan grow into a cult that could become a One World government. Of course, Lupeski sees Dracula as both his means of achieving this goal and an obstacle to remove before he vampire is firmly entrenched as the head of the church. Dracula returns home to his pregnant wife, Domini, but is almost immediately mystically spirited away to another dimension. The subplot with Blade and Hannibal King battling Blade’s vampire doppelganger ends with Blade disappearing into his undead twin leaving only the vampire Blade to confront King. Meantime, Frank Drake and Harold H. Harold are captured by Lupeski’s followers when they infiltrate a Black Mass. Rachel Van Helsing is seen about to attempt their rescue while Dracula materializes in the library of a woman named Angie Turner who possesses the apparent ability to summon literary figures to life from her library. The vampire lord finds himself encountering the likes of the Frankenstein Monster, Zorro, D’artagnan, and Tom Sawyer. Dracula is confused as to the nature of Angie’s powers. When she burns Bram Stoker’s novel, the real Dracula is returned home to Domini and the reader learns that Angie Turner is a mental patient locked in a padded cell in a nice twist ending worthy of Rod Serling or Richard Matheson at their peak. Marv Wolfman’s concept of comic book/literary reality vs. the real world the reader escapes from raises what would otherwise be considered mere filler to genuine delight.

#50, “Where Soars the Silver Surfer” is yet another crossover with a more mainstream Marvel character. The interconnected Marvel Universe concept is one I always enjoyed, but felt it never really worked outside of superhero books. Happily, Dracula’s meeting with the Silver Surfer comes off more satisfying than expected. The story gets off to a strong start with a predatory Dracula scared off by an angry crowd who come to his helpless victim’s rescue. We then switch to Anton Lupeski explaining to four unseen guests his plan to kill Dracula once Domini gives birth to his heir. From there we switch scenes to the ongoing fight between Blade’s vampire doppelganger and Hannibal King and then we view Lupeski and his four unseen cohorts performing an occult ritual to summon the Silver Surfer to their dimension. Dracula is finding life as head of the Church of Satan to be frustrating. Writer Marv Wolfman does well in portraying Satanists as regular folk and high-ranking politicians and not just stereotypical occultists. The ongoing subplot involving the portrait of Christ in the deconsecrated church is developed further. The Surfer enters and exits through the portrait as a portal between dimensions and understands that Christ has a plan for Dracula that involves both Domini and their unborn child. The decision to have the mystical Surfer possess an understanding of Christ is as effective as the suggestion that both the Church of Satan and God are using the Surfer for the same purpose. Wolfman was walking a tightrope in these portrayals and offended more than a few readers along the way. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide whether his bold experiment worked or failed, but I found his integration of mainstream religion with supernatural fiction to be a highly effective one that harkened back successfully to the vampire’s literary roots in Stoker’s Victorian classic.

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Encouraging Production Video of The Hobbit Released

Thursday, July 21st, 2011 | Posted by Brian Murphy

the-hobbit-cover1I’m officially Much More Encouraged about The Hobbit now that I’ve seen the latest production video released today. You can view it here on Peter Jackson’s Facebook page.  

I’ve long believed that The Hobbit is (or was) a risker film to make than The Lord of the Rings. Not now of course—The Hobbit is all but a guaranteed hit, as most LOTR fans would lap up a Jackson-directed four hour Tom Bombadil Lifetime special. But I think it was a smart move to make The Lord of the Rings first. Even though Rings is five times the length of The Hobbit, features far costlier set pieces, and has a much more complex, sprawling narrative, The Hobbit has its own unique movie-making handicap: Namely, that it’s about a hobbit and 13 dwarves. Hunks like Orlando Bloom and Viggo Mortensen and chicks like Cate Blanchett and Liv Tyler are nowhere to be found (though most of these guys are getting cameos, it seems. And Kili is the token heartthrob). A troupe of short, bearded, rotund men is a tougher sell for mass audiences used to handsome stars and starlets.

In perhaps the only serious moment of an otherwise fun, lighthearted clip, Jackson admits as much. “Thirteen dwarves is one of the reasons why I dreaded The Hobbit, and why I really didn’t think I was going to make it for such a long time. But the irony is, it turns out to be one of the joys.”

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Goth Chick News: 13 Questions for Robert Browne, Author of The Paradise Prophecy

Thursday, July 21st, 2011 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image0022In spite of it being a gorgeous, sunny couple of weeks in Chicago, I remain unnaturally pasty.

No, that’s not normal for me, but thanks for asking.

Even I occasionally venture out of the subterranean offices of the Black Gate headquarters for a little fresh air, some more salt for the margaritas, or to affix sticky notes with snarky comments on the paint-ball equipment posters of the boys in the upstairs staff room.

But for the last few days I have remained glued to my comfy chair and Robert Browne is to blame.

One of the joys of this job is the occasional pre-publication copy of a soon-to-be-released book. Even more joyful are those that turn out to be a decent read. But the pinnacle and rarest of joys is the book that is one-of-a-kind special.

The Paradise Prophecy is one of those.

Not that I wasn’t prepared to be skeptical (because frankly when am I not?). But almost literally from the first page I was hooked. And so there I sat in my comfy chair; bereft of vitamin D and not even bothering to reach over to press “crush” on the blender controls, totally enslaved by one of the most uniquely told tales I’ve come across in a very long time.

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Readercon 22: In Which the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood (well, some of them) Encounters Cannibal Towns, Dirty Limericks and Googly Eyeballs

Thursday, July 21st, 2011 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney

Cannibal Country. (AKA Guilderland, New York)

Cannibal Country. (AKA Guilderland, New York)

The thought that preoccupies me is, “How the heck am I going to find enough pictures to go with this post?”

Unlike that one time when we crashed a Zeppelin into Madison, we did not document our epic journey across America with anything so practical as a camera. No!

Instead, we marked the miles in the bellowing of bawdy (need I say, alternate?) lyrics to “There’s a Hole in My Bucket, Dear Liza,” the scrawling of character notes, place names and plot devices for a story about a stolen moon, the counting of times the word “Beloit” was mentioned in the back seat (Brendan Detzner being an alum and S. Brackett Robertson, or “Brackett,” a current student), in Billy Joel sing-alongs and idle speculations about the nature of certain malevolently leaning shacks in Guilderland, New York.

The B-Train. (AKA, writer Brendan Detzner)

The B-Train. (AKA, writer Brendan Detzner)

“Meth shed?” Patty postulated.

“Cannibals?” I countered.

“CANNIBAL METH SHEDS!” we roared together, with, perhaps, more delighted gusto than was strictly necessary.

“So… Do the cannibals eat the meth heads?” Brendan asked. “Or are the cannibals themselves meth heads?”

The conversation went on. I will not trouble you with further details. By this time we had been driving approximately ten hours and still had nine to go.

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The Death of an Audi

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

audi_a4I usually reserve the Black Gate blog strictly for topics related to the genre.  I hope you can forgive a brief trespass on that tradition today, as I celebrate being alive.

This morning I was on IL-47, a single-lane country highway, heading south to Champaign, where I work as a software salesman. At approximately 10:32 a.m. I watched as a fully-loaded 18 wheeler in the northbound lane went into a lock-up to prevent a crash with a stopped car. The truck lost control and twisted across the center meridian until it fully occupied both his lane and mine, still coming very fast and leaving me without a lot of options.

I hit him doing slightly over 60 mph. I’d already gone off-road on the right shoulder, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a collision. The impact triggered four of my Audi’s airbags, including three I didn’t even know I had.  Seriously — there were airbags everywhere.

I took the hit on the driver side. It drove the chassis down into my left rear tire, immobilizing it and sending me into a 60-mph uncontrolled spin — past the truck and back onto the road, then deep into the shoulder on the right. Fortunately the road and the shoulder were both clear. I leveled about 120 feet of grass in a dead line.

I got out of the car without a scratch, for which I thank God, and German engineering.

I can’t say the same about my loyal car, which took a critical hit.  It took ten minutes with a chain and a tow truck just to get it back on the road, and I can’t say for sure if it will ever move under its own power again.

But today, I have absolutely no complaints. I’m just glad to be alive.  Alice and our three kids showed up in her van three hours later, and drove me home to St. Charles, where we went out to dinner and celebrated. I consider myself a very lucky man.

But tomorrow, I will miss my car.


Art of the Genre: An Interview with Matthew D. Wilson

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011 | Posted by Scott Taylor

iron-kingdoms-254Once again I get a chance show you all the inner workings of the Black Gate LA offices. Yep, it’s always about living the dream, so I hope you enjoy the view.

After having finally convinced my secretary, Kandline, that cosplaying an elf wasn’t required when she challenged me to afternoon games of Conquest of Nerath, I sat back in my chair and watched a trio of surfers try to catch some rather pathetic waves rolling in along our bit of the Redondo beachfront. From across the hall I could hear Ryan Harvey spouting copious amounts of venom toward Peter Jackson and his newest release of dwarf images for the upcoming Hobbit adaptation, something along the lines of ‘Rankin and Bass will be rolling over in their graves about now!’ a consistent theme.

Enter the dreaded buzz from the front desk. Yep, John O’Neill was at it again, this time his rather brief list of demands of the west coast offices ending in my traveling up the 405 to Santa Monica for an interview with Privateer Press Creative Director Matt Wilson.

Now if you know one certain fact about Matt, it’s that he’s a kind of workaholic. I dig that about him, and while he’s no longer in the Pacific Northwest exclusively doing Privateer work, his mind is ever pushing for bigger and better things at that gaming company.

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Masterpiece: The Seventh Man by Frederick Faust (Max Brand)

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

seventh-man-modern-coverPrelim: The Seventh Man is in the public domain and available for free from Project Gutenberg in a variety of e-book formats. If you want a hard copy, there is a paperback print-on-demand edition available from Phoenix Rider; I do not know what the text quality is on it, but it’s only $5.99. Bottom line: no excuse not to give the novel a try.

Last year, I posted three articles about Frederick Faust, a staggeringly prolific author of Western fiction and other genres for the pulp magazines. Writing under the pseudonym “Max Brand” and eighteen others pen names, Faust was a one-man writing army that dominated the Western fiction field from the end of World War I until his death as a journalist on the Italian front in World War II. Readers responded positively to the three articles, the first covering Brand’s general career, the next analyzing a collection of his early Western short fiction, and the third examining his rare foray into science fiction, The Smoking Land.

But the response that interested me the most was my own. Those are among my favorite posts I’ve put up on Black Gate in the three years I’ve held this Tuesday spot. It isn’t that I feel proud of the writing and research on them. It’s that they made me realize what an anchor Frederick Faust is in my own writing, and how much I learn from him every time I read one of his works. Reading Faust and researching his life and letters is like coming home to a place that I didn’t realize is “home” when I was away from it.

So I’ve returned to the topic, and I’ve brought one of Faust’s great novels with me, The Seventh Man (1921). So far, I’ve only examined the Western through his short stories, but Faust’s major impact on the genre is in his novels.

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