Art of the Genre: Paraffin dreams and dye contemplations

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011 | Posted by Scott Taylor

I know when you saw this that somewhere inside you felt it too...

I know when you saw this that somewhere inside you felt it too...

School is getting back in session, the joyful days of summer turning into a slog of winter, and yet for one small moment in time the thought of school isn’t such a bad thing in kid’s minds. Why, you might ask? Well, because of the chance to shop for school supplies, and this is especially true for the younger set.

I’m sure most of us can well remember heading to the store where you got to go down the school supply isle like it was Christmas morning. Everything was new, crisply packaged, and waiting to be organized into that perfect set of a survival gear for the beginning of classes. In a sense, it was almost like you were a little soldier, explorer, adventurer, etc, and that Trapper Keeper was your backpack ready for the unknown.

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Ancient Worlds: In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man will still eat you for supper.

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

After Odysseus, famed warrior and inventor of the Trojan Horse (the original wooden one, not the one you can pick up from questionable internet sites), left behind the Island of the Lotus-Eaters, he sails on to a far more dangerous location: the Island of the Cyclops.




Whatever. The island where a bunch of one-eyed cannibalistic giants live.

Unfortunately for Odysseus and his men, they don’t realize that they’ve staggered out of a naval adventure movie and into a horror flick. All they know is that they arrive on shore, starving and desperate for shelter, and find a giant cave stocked with cheese, and only a complete monster would object to starving, desperate, lost travellers eating. Right?

They’re in for a shock when Polyphemus returns. He not only objects, he turns around and eats two of Odysseus’ crew members (thus proving that the Red Shirt trope is older than dirt). Odysseus objects to this, claiming that it is wrong to eat one’s guests. Or anyone, for that matter. Polyphemus responds that since Odysseus is his guest, he will give him the gift of eating him last.

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September/October Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine Now on Sale

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

fsfsep-oct2011You’re not good enough for the latest issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction. But it went on sale yesterday anyway. Consider yourself blessed.

The latest double issue contains a dozen stories from Geoff Ryman, Esther M. Friesner, Sarah Langan, Albert E. Cowdrey, M. Rickert, and many others. Due to the magic of the internet, there are already two complete reviews of the issue online before it even went on sale. You’re not worthy. But there it is.

Lois Tilton reviewed the issue at Locus Online. Her thoughts on M Rickert’s “The Corpse Painter’s Masterpiece”:

An intriguing title, a very strange and strangely beautiful work, edging over the border of the surreal, about death and the human heart, less about the corpse painter than the sheriff who brings him the bodies from the prison, to be painted before their funerals. Neither the sheriff nor his wife has ever been the same since the death of their young son, years ago… Original and moving, in a not-really-macabre way. –RECOMMENDED

And Tangent Online‘s Colleen Chen on cover story “The Man Inside Black Betty” by Sarah Langan:

A black hole, “Black Betty,” is growing over New York as more matter gets sucked into it. Nicholas Wellington, the world’s foremost expert on black holes, warns that soon the point of no return will pass and it’ll be too late to save the Earth from eventually getting consumed by Black Betty. The story is less about the impending disaster as about why no one will heed Wellington’s advice — he’s a modern Cassandra, tragic and unlikeable, in a position of power yet disempowered by his own spotty past and alienating personality.

In the face of the extinction of all life, Wellington tries to save birds hit by Black Betty’s radiation, reflecting the futility of the hope that people will emerge from the denial that has relegated Black Betty to the background of their lives. I found this story really depressing, even more so because it’s done so convincingly that it makes this scenario seem entirely possible as our future. Not only is the science here excellent, but the story is reflective of modern-day politics and its tendency to argue over personality and minutiae even as the world falls apart.

F&SF is published six times a year; issues are a generous 258 pages. It is the longest-running professional fantasy magazine in the country, and has been published continuously since 1949. It is a great way to sample some of the fast-rising new names in fantasy.

This issue’s cover is by David Hardy, for “the Man Inside Black Betty.” Cover price is $7.50; one year-subscriptions are a bargain at $34.97, and include the giant October/November anniversary issue. You can order subscriptions and browse their blog at We covered the July/August issue here.

Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Venus, Part 2: Lost on Venus

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

lost-on-venus-first-edition-cover1The parade on the second planet continues in Lost on Venus. This is one of the most controversial works that Edgar Rice Burroughs ever published, although it surprises me that enough readers managed to get through the lackluster first book, Pirates of Venus, to want to pick up the sequel and be able to argue about it. But here it is, so get out your anti-tharban gear and be ready to test your genetic purity!

Our Saga: The adventures of one Mr. Carson Napier, former stuntman and amateur rocketeer, who tries to get to Mars and ends up on Venus, a.k.a. Amtor, instead. There he discovers a lush jungle planet of bizarre creatures and humanoids who have uncovered the secret of longevity. The planet is caught in a battle between the country of Vepaja and the tyrannical Thorists. Carson finds time during his adventuring to fall for Duare, forbidden daughter of a Vepajan king. Carson’s story covers three novels, a volume of connected novelettes, and an orphaned novella.

Previous Installments: Pirates of Venus (1932).

Today’s Installment: Lost on Venus (1933)

The Backstory

Burroughs completed Lost on Venus in early 1932, before Pirates of Venus made its first appearance as a serial in the pulp elder-statesmen magazine, Argosy. Since the first novel hardly “ended” at all, Lost on Venus picks up the story moments later, and with only a short gap between the two serials in Argosy. Read More »

Alchemical Storytelling

Monday, August 29th, 2011 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

I haven’t watched much anime in my time. Frankly I haven’t gotten a lot out of the shows I’ve seen, many of which seem to consist of posing in the midst of fights and shouting at opponents. But I chanced upon something a few weeks back that began with potential and then delivered on it episode after episode. I found fabulous world building and strong character arcs.  I watched half hour after half hour the way I devour chapter after chapter in a great fantasy novel, poised on the edge of my seat wondering how things would resolve.

brotherhood2The show that so enthralled me is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. The series is set in an alternate world in the 1900s, one very similar to our own, except that alchemy works. Those talented and diligent enough can transform matter from one state to another — fix a broken radio into one that works, or transform a metal bar into a sword. The story’s protagonists are a pair of young brothers of tremendous talent who used their powers to commit the ultimate alchemical taboo: they tried to bring their dead mother back to life. They paid a terrible price when the transmutation went horribly wrong, and spend much of the series trying to put things right.

As the young men search for solutions, they uncover  hidden layers to the way alchemy, their country, and their world, truly work. As the mysteries deepen, so do the characters and the world. I really don’t want to say much more for fear of ruining the many unfolding surprises.

If, like me, you’re unused to anime, there are a few caveats. There are occasional odd tonal shifts. For instance, when characters feel a really strong emotion (like anger or sadness) they’re often briefly transformed into caricatures of themselves, with exaggerated features. Some of the humor doesn’t translate and comes off as a bit goofy, and characters do sometimes speak over dramatically or are too revealing of their motivations when they talk. I wasn’t sure what to make of it after the first one or two shows, but kept watching… and I was glad I did. Most of the time it works, and overall it works brilliantly. Male and female characters are given strong roles, and face difficult choices.

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Romanticism and Fantasy: A Prelude

Sunday, August 28th, 2011 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Caspar Friedrich: Wanderer Above the Sea of FogI’ve been thinking over the past few days about last week’s post on William Blake and fantasy. I’ve come to realise that post is actually just the start of a much larger project.

I mentioned last week that I agreed with John Clute’s argument that the mid-eighteenth century was the era when fantastika — sf, fantasy, and horror — came into being. I’ll go further. I think the era that followed, the Romantic era of English literature, represented the dawn of fantasy as we know it; and that the major writers of that time pioneered approaches to fantasy, and elements of fantasy fiction, that are still in use today. I’ve realised now that I want to write about this general subject: Romanticism as the start of modern fantasy. But the more I thought about it, the more different connections I found between fantasy and Romanticism. So many, in fact, that I’ve also realised that there’s no way I can cover them all in one post.

I therefore intend to explore those connections in a series of upcoming essays. It’ll be an irregular series, I expect, interspersed with posts about more contemporary elements of fantasy as well. I anticipate it being wide-ranging. There are a lot of different aspects to Romanticism, and it’s a topic and a time that’s endlessly fascinating to me.

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The Boring Borgias

Sunday, August 28th, 2011 | Posted by Theo

borgiasI have to admit, I am a little disappointed with the mini-series about the Borgias.

It is strange, at a time when Batman has grown darker, The Sopranos and The Wire were popular and critically acclaimed cable television series, and epic fantasy has increasingly devolved into nihilist torture porn, that a producer should feel the need to present the most notorious crime family in European history as essentially weak, sensitive, and misunderstood people.

I mean, if ever one was looking for a great excuse to really unleash sex and violence in a charnel house manner that would make True Blood look like The Sound of Music, it should have been The Borgias.

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Is it too early to call Conan the Barbarian a Bomb?

Sunday, August 28th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

conan-2011With a second weekend now under its belt Conan the Barbarian looks on track for an anemic $17 million in total domestic ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo.

Considering it cost an estimated $90 million, and projections for total box office now look dismal, the film is already being called a bomb in the press. As other sites have noted, it squeaked out just $10 million in its first weekend — barely more than the original, and that was in 1982 dollars.

Screenwriter Sean Hood has already posted a thoughtful answer to the question “What’s it like to have your film flop at the box office?” at Quora:

The Friday night of the release is like the Tuesday night of an election. “Exit polls”are taken of people leaving the theater, and estimated box office numbers start leaking out in the afternoon, like early ballot returns. You are glued to your computer, clicking wildly over websites, chatting nonstop with peers, and calling anyone and everyone to find out what they’ve heard. Have any numbers come back yet? That’s when your stomach starts to drop.

By about 9 PM it’s clear when your “candidate” has lost by a startlingly wide margin, more than you or even the most pessimistic political observers could have predicted. With a movie it’s much the same: trade magazines like Variety and Hollywood Reporter call the weekend winners and losers based on projections. That’s when the reality of the loss sinks in, and you don’t sleep the rest of the night.

For the next couple of days, you walk in a daze, and your friends and family offer kind words, but mostly avoid the subject. Since you had planned (ardently believed, despite it all) that success would propel you to new appointments and opportunities, you find yourself at a loss about what to do next. It can all seem very grim.

You make light of it, of course. You joke and shrug. But the blow to your ego and reputation can’t be brushed off. Reviewers, even when they were positive, mocked Conan The Barbarian for its lack of story, lack of characterization, and lack of wit. This doesn’t speak well of the screenwriting…

Here I sit, coffee cup steaming in its mug and dog asleep at my feet, starting my work for the day, revising yet another script, working out yet another pitch, thinking of the future (the next project, the next election) because I’m a screenwriter, and that’s just what screenwriters do.

In the words of Ed Wood, “My next one will be BETTER!”.

A fascinating read — anyone who can optimistically quote Ed Wood in the face of real adversity gets my grudging respect. You can see the entire article here.

Art Evolution 2011: Eva Widermann

Sunday, August 28th, 2011 | Posted by Scott Taylor


Art Evolution 2011 moves forward with the inclusion of a more modern artist, and I’m happy to report the second European talent of the year!

I have to say that I was/am a huge fan of Wizards of the Coast’s D&D 3rd Edition. I’ll not bore you with the details of why, or tell you it’s better than any other edition of the now venerable game, but I will contend that upon its release the art department spared no expense in bringing in new talent and vibrancy to the appearance of the game.

True, if any of you know the history, Hasbro bought the company in the early 2000s and promptly destroyed the final bastion of shared gaming artistry when they fired all their in-house artists from ‘the pit’, but I’ll contend for the sake of argument that not all bad things came from doing so.

By this, I’m saying that not using a set amount of salaried artists opened the flood gates for a whole world of new talent eager to make their mark on the game and the industry as a whole.

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Realms of Fantasy August 2011

Saturday, August 27th, 2011 | Posted by Soyka

august-2011-cover-250x347The August Realms of Fantasy is its 101st issue, the significance of which editor Douglas Cohen makes some sage observations. Fiction includes “The Progress of Solstice and Chance” by Richard Bowes, “Isabella’s Garden” by Naomi Krtizer, “Collateral Damage” by Katie Riedel, “Snake in the Grass” by W.R. Thompson and “Leap of Faith” by Alan Smale.  Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

You can subscribe to either print or digital editions.

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