SEVEN PRINCES – Cover Launch

Monday, September 26th, 2011 | Posted by John R. Fultz

sp-coverOrbit Books just did a cover launch for SEVEN PRINCES on their official site today: I’ve wanted to share this with BG readers for months, and the day has finally come…

Artist Richard Anderson did an amazing job, giving us a silhouette of each prince, evoking the golden sun of a battlefield, the waving standards of ancient armies, and leaving just enough detail to the imagination.

Richard will also be doing the covers for the 2nd and 3rd Books of the Shaper, i.e. SEVEN KINGS and SEVEN SORCERERS. More of Richard’s cutting edge artwork can be found at his own site:

Amazon is taking pre-orders for SEVEN PRINCES right here:


Romanticism and Fantasy: The Neoclassical Background

Monday, September 26th, 2011 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Lemuel GulliverBy way of beginning a discussion about Romanticism and fantasy, I’d like to take a quick look at where the Romantics came from. If Romanticism was a revolt against Reason, what was Reason understood to be? If Romanticism, as I feel, is essentially fantastic, is Reason opposed to fantasy? To know Romanticism is to know the Enlightenment which it was reacting against, so in this post I’ll try to describe some characteristics of the 18th-century Enlightenment in England that seem relevant to the development of fantasy. I’ll go up to about 1760, and then in my next post point out some of the counter-currents and proto-Romantic elements that were developing at the time and after.

A few broad statements to start with: The Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason, started in the mid-seventeenth century, viewed by thinkers at the time as a reaction against the wars of religion that had rocked Europe up through the Thirty Years’ War (which ended in 1648). Reason was considered the fundamental human faculty, and human beings were thought to be fundamentally rational actors. Deism, particuarly prominent in England, was a religious philosophy which suggested that God had created the world and left it to develop according to its own laws, without the intervention of miracle and revelation. Free speech, freedom of thought, and humanism were natural, because rational: in a free market of ideas, reason would naturally turn to the true and shun the false. Human rights as we understand them today derive from Enlightenment virtues.

This wasn’t simply a philosophical movement. This was a change in habits of thought across Europe. The scientific method became broadly diffused and rational thinking became an ideal. Isaac Newton developed new theories of physics and optics; he and Gottfried Liebnitz simultaneously developed calculus. The Royal Society was born in the late seventeenth century, helping to systematically spur the development of science. Europeans discovered the secret of making porcelain; clockwork reached new levels of sophistication; mercury thermometers were introduced.

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Supernatural Spotlight – Episode 7.1 “Meet the New Boss”

Monday, September 26th, 2011 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

God-Castiel faces off against Death, with Dean Winchester looking on.

God-powered Castiel faces off against Death, with Dean Winchester looking on.

The last season ended with Castiel pulling all the souls out of Purgatory. Sam tried to stab him with an angel blade, but the new souls made Castiel so powerful that it didn’t kill him. The sixth season ended with him saying to Sam, Dean, and Bobby:

… the angel blade won’t work, because I’m not an angel anymore. I’m your new God. A better one. So you will bow down and profess your love unto me, your Lord, or I shall destroy you.

Bobby – being the most common sense-having of the trio – begins this episode by bowing down before him. Dean and Sam are about to follow suit when Castiel tells them not to bother, since it means nothing if they’re doing it out of fear. He makes it clear, though, that he has no particular affection left for them anymore. He’s not going to kill them, because there’s no point to it. As long as they do not move against him, he sees no need to kill them.

The status is definitely not quo this season.

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The Seven Greyhawk Classics of the Ancient World

Sunday, September 25th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

against-the-giants1I’ve been pretty hard on Greyhawk novels. They’ve been the butt of more than a few jokes — both mine and others — from those of us who enjoy reviewing and talking about the fantasy genre.

I’m generally pretty forgiving, especially with novels of adventure fantasy. What can I tell you — I’m a fan.  But when books can’t be bothered to clamber over the very low bar of my expectations, I’m as capable of a harsh review as anyone.

The novels of Gary Gygax — and in particular his Greyhawk books — routinely limboed under that bar with room to spar, and I’ve said as much in print several times over the years.

Now, I’m second to none in my admiration of Gygax. I consider the man one of the great creative minds of the 20th Century, full stop.

I believe his work with D&D and Advanced D&D — especially the original hardback rules, and the incredibly inventive adventure modules that accompanied them, such as Descent into the Depths of the Earth and The Temple of Elemental Evil — was directly responsible for the mainstream acceptance of fantasy, as manifested in modern role playing obsessions like World of Warcraft and Warhammer.

But his novels?  Poo poo.

tomb-of-horrorsHowever, Gygax wasn’t the only one to pen Greyhawk novels.

Some of them — especially the so-called Greyhawk Classics published in honor of TSR’s 25th anniversary — are remembed quite fondly.

Written by Paul Kidd, Ru Emerson, Keith Francis Strohm, and Thomas M. Reid, and based on some of TSR’s most famous adventure modules, including Against the Giants, Tomb of Horrors, and Keep on the Borderlands, the seven Greyhawk Classic novels formed a nostalgic return to some of the most fondly-remembered adventure settings in gaming.

They were published in mass market paperback by TSR (later Wizards of the Coast) between July 1999 and February 2002, beginning with Against the Giants and ending with Tomb of Horrors.

Here’s the other thing you need to know about the Greyhawk Classic novels: you can’t have them.

They’re among the most collectible D&D novels ever published, and that’s saying something.

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Review: Kobo eReader Touch

Sunday, September 25th, 2011 | Posted by Theo

koboThis may be going a bit far afield, but since most Black Gate readers are, well, readers, I suspect it will be of interest to many here.

While I am a big advocate of eReaders and digital books, I have avoided eReading devices in the past because they haven’t offered any significant upgrade over reading on my smartphone, at least not without imposing significant costs.

I started with reading .pdb books on various Palm Treos, then enjoyed a significant graphical upgrade to reading .epub books on an Android phone. This works quite well and I still do the vast majority of my reading that way since whether I am out and about or at home, my phone is always handy.

And, since it emits light, it permits reading in the dark, which is an advantage for anyone who customarily goes to sleep later than the bed’s other occupant.

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Strange Horizons 2011 Fund Drive

Saturday, September 24th, 2011 | Posted by Soyka

sh_headWebzine Strange Horizons is conducting its 2011 fund drive, where your donation supports one of the first (and one of the few surviving from that era) on-line speculative fiction markets. Publishing weekly for over a decade (which in Internet time is something like a century/), Strange Horizons features short fiction (this past week it was Lewis Shiner), regular columns from the likes of John Clute and Matthew Cheney, articles, poetry and book reviews. To my knowledge, Strange Horizons is the only paying on-line market that relies on the “public broadcasting” non-profit model of member donations to keep operations afloat. So the one value of “subscribing” is you at least get a tax deduction out of it.

As of Friday, they were a little over a quarter of the way towards their goal of $8,000.

Blogging Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Part Thirteen – “The Ice Kingdom of Mongo”

Friday, September 23rd, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

ice-kingdom-2ice-kingdom-1“The Ice Kingdom of Mongo” was the thirteenth installment of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon Sunday comic strip serial for King Features Syndicate. Originally published between March 12, 1939 and April 7, 1940, the epic-length “Ice Kingdom of Mongo” was the first story whose continuity lasted more than a year. “The Ice Kingdom of Mongo” picks up the storyline where the twelfth installment, “The Tyrant of Mongo” left off with Flash, Dale, Zarkov and Ronal rocketing their way to explore the frozen North. The freezing temperatures (100 below zero) cause their rocket ship to crash. While Zarkov and Ronal use heat guns to carve a shelter in the glacier, Flash goes off to hunt an ice bear for dinner unaware that a snow dragon is stalking him. Flash slays the snow dragon, but his shoulder is badly injured in the process. Ingeniously, he severs the dragon’s broad tail to use as a makeshift sled to transport the ice bear’s corpse and himself back to the glacier.

The four of them are quickly apprehended by Queen Fria of Frigia and her troops who are patrolling the area on skis. Taken captive, the group is set upon by a snow serpent. Flash saves the Queen from the monstrous beast and earns a place driving her snowbird-drawn chariot on the ride back to her palace. This earns him the enmity of Count Malo who turns off the heat to Flash’s bedchamber while he sleeps that night knowing that the freezing temperatures could kill him. Flash’s life is saved only by Zarkov’s timely arrival and superior medical knowledge. Determined to succeed, Count Malo disguises himself as Flash’s doctor and attempts to murder him in his hospital bed. Flash’s life is spared thanks to Dale’s intervention. Malo escapes with his identity still hidden from Flash and Dale.

His third attempt on Flash’s life occurs while a recovering Flash is getting some much-needed exercise in the pool with Dale. Count Malo again tampers with the heating mechanism causing the pool to instantly freeze. Flash and Dale barely manage to escape alive. While hunting snow oxen with the Queen’s hunting party, Flash saves Malo’s life from a ravenous ice worm. Ashamed of his actions, Count Malo confesses to his crimes and is stunned when Flash forgives him without demanding retribution. Of course, Malo’s comeuppance is close at hand as the hunting party fall prey to a tribe of primitive giants. Flash and Fria escape from their clutches, but Dale and Ronal are taken as slaves. While setting out to rescue them, Flash and the Queen come upon the frozen corpse of Count Malo which the giants have left behind as a grim warning.

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Goth Chick News: Logan’s Re-Run

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image011Recently, I made a DVD acquisition that is a tad off the beaten path at Chateaux Goth Chick. While admittedly my movie collection is somewhat top-heavy with an equal mixture of black and white classic horror and modern day scream-fests, there are the occasional outliers such as all the Terminator movies and the complete Harry Potter series.

Apparently, this choice was an outlier of the outliers.

When Logan’s Run arrived in my mailbox, Mr. Goth Chick groaned out loud, announcing that is was very nearly the “cheesiest film of all time.” He then went on to abuse my admiration of what I consider a classic from 1976 until I set him straight on a few points.

For instance.

Did you know that in 1977 Logan’s Run was nominated for two Oscars (Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography) and won a Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects?

The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films gave it six “golden scrolls” that same year, primarily for the special effects that at the time were cutting edge.

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The Joys and Pitfalls of Writing a Series

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011 | Posted by Jon Sprunk

shadows-lureWhen my agent first told me that he had secured a three-book deal with Pyr Books, I was ecstatic. Three books! What a brilliant stroke of luck.

But then reality set in. Wait a tick. You mean I actually have to write all those books on a deadline?

And the publisher wants outlines for the second and third books right away? Gulp.

Eventually I recovered and dove in with gusto. What was the big deal, right? Writing a series is just like writing three separate books in order, isn’t it?

Well, yes and no. The biggest problem I ran into was maintaining a continuous theme throughout the series while giving each book its own separate identity.

Writing a novel, any novel, is a difficult task. Getting all your ideas down and having them make sense, AND be entertaining, is a tall order.

You would think a sequel would be easier because you’ve already introduced the main characters and the setting (if they carry over into the next book), but I found it more difficult because I had to devise a story that fit those specific characters. I couldn’t go too far off the deep end for fear of alienating those who had enjoyed the first book.

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The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011 | Posted by Patty Templeton

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of CuriositiesThackery T. Lambshead
Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
Harper Voyager (320 pp, $22.99, July 2011)

Dr. Thackery T. Lambshead (1900 – 2003) was a fictional collector of the arcane. His cabinet was no mere front room shelving unit of Cracker Barrel knick knacks and China plates. Think pickled punks, death rays and human skulls that scream uncontrollably during new moons. It is unclear whether Lambshead’s entire home was his cabinet, as visitors were not regularly allowed and tours were given only under duress, but it has been rumored that the whole of his estate in Wimpering-on-the-Brook, England was of museum exhibition quality. If you were speculating where the wonder-bits of the world went, the terrifying bygones, the transmundane thingamajigs – Thackery T. Lambshead had them.

Though he spent his hundred-and-three years surrounded by dangerous oddities, precarious art installments and occult objects, Dr. Lambshead didn’t shuffle off to the Greater Unknown through a latent Crowley curse, an infection from preserved plague rats or squashed under one of his many mechanical animals (rumored to be gods). He died of dishwater-dull heart failure. It’s not exactly that I rejoice in his demise…it’s just…well, now that he’s gone Ann and Jeff VanderMeer have finally been able to intensely study his collection and thereby release, The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, an anthology of what they and other artistic scholars found.

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