Fairy Tale Television, Part 1: ABC’s Once Upon a Time Pilot

Monday, October 24th, 2011 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

onceuponpromoThere are two series starting this season which are trying to leverage the world of classic fairy tales to gain ratings on major networks. Though existing fantasy series, like Supernatural, Sanctuary, and Warehouse 13, do often touch on the idea of fairy tales (or mythical creatures, at the very least), a series fully embedded in the classic fairy tales is something I don’t think we’ve really seen before.

The first show, which premiered on Sunday night, was ABC’s Once Upon a Time. In this story, the characters from the classic fairy tales are trapped in our modern world, in Storybrooke main, without even the memory of their lost identities. The story centers around an outsider, Emma Swann, who comes into the town … only to discover that she’s not as much of an outsider as she thought.

The next one, Grimm – which premiers this upcoming Friday – takes a different tactic. In it, the main character is part of a line of monster hunters who have the innate ability to see fairy tale monsters for what they truly are.

It remains to be seen which of these series will have staying power.

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Read Jeffrey Ford’s complete “Exo-Skeleton Town” from Black Gate 1

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

blackgate1Jeffrey Ford’s short story “Exo-Skeleton Town” grabbed a lot of critical attention when it appeared in our first issue in Spring, 2001. Antony Mann, in issue 2 of The Fix: The Review of Short Fiction said:

‘Exo-Skeleton Town’ by Jeffrey Ford… is crazy stuff, man, witty and entertaining.

And Mark R. Kelly, in the September 2001 issues of Locus, said:

Jeffrey Ford’s “Exo-Skeleton Town” is a ribald, scatological tale set on a dark planet populated by alien bugs whose medium of exchange is their own excrement in the form of dung balls. Humans have arrived in force, having learned 1) of the bugs passionate interest in old back & white movies; and 2) of the dung balls’ fantastic aphrodisiac powers. But wait, there’s more… lots of wacky fun. There are some thematic ironies that knit together the story’s various parts… it’s definitely alive.

Recommended Story of the Month: Jeffrey Ford, “Exo-Skeleton Town.”

Now editor Marty Halpern has selected the story for his upcoming anthology Alien Contact, saying:

If you’re not already a fan of the old, classic Hollywood movies — and the actors and actresses that made these films such classics — then you certainly will be after you’ve read “Exo-Skeleton Town.” This is probably the quirkiest story in the anthology. And it remains one of the more unique story concepts I’ve ever read. In fact, even though I’m the editor, I’m almost tempted to ask Jeff: “Where the hell did this idea come from?”…

So, for your reading pleasure, here is “Exo-Skeleton Town,” which won the 2006 Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, the French national speculative fiction award.

You can enjoy the complete story, one of the most unusual and imaginative pieces we’ve ever published, at Marty’s blog, More Red Ink. And you can see the complete Table of Contents for Black Gate 1 — still available in our store for just $18.95 — here.

Supernatural Spotlight – Episode 7.5 “Shut Up, Dr. Phil”

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Buffy: The Vampire Slayer icons Charisma Carpenter and James Marsters face off in Supernatural.

Buffy: The Vampire Slayer icons Charisma Carpenter and James Marsters face off in Supernatural.

When a woman gets cooked by her salon hair helmet, Sam and Dean figure that it’s one in a series of pair of suspicious deaths (along with a guy who boiled to death in a hot tub). They investigate, learning that the woman who died was beloved in the community. Dean finds a strange coin at the scene of the death, which he suspects may be some sort of hex talisman.

Next a man gets murdered in a port-a-toilet by a levitating nail gun. As the Chinese say, may you live in interesting times.

Of course, the boys do still have a Leviathan on their tail, so I guess their times are interesting enough.

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An Excerpt from Prince of Thorns

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011 | Posted by Mark Lawrence

prince-of-thornsJohn told me he doesn’t like to post naked excerpts on Black Gate. Well and good, I thought; it is after all a family site. Turns out though that it means I have to warm you guys up for the Prince of Thorns excerpt that follows.

If you’ve seen many reviews or comments on Prince of Thorns then it’s likely you’ll have read somewhere that it’s the very darkest of fantasy writing, that it’s brutal in the extreme, that it’s wall-to-wall rape… Obviously these are subjective judgements. My subjective opinion is that that’s all… rubbish (family site).

If you look at what’s actually on the page it’s relatively mild stuff. That it has made such a deep impression on so many, and stirred not a few to outrage, anger, and the occasional rant, I shall just have to pocket as a compliment to the writing!

This is described as an excerpt, but it’s an excerpt that starts at the beginning. Really, when you’ve taken the effort to make a story, where else would you want someone to start reading? Anything else would be rather like putting a sheet over the large painting you’ve just completed and attempting to whet the viewer’s appetite with whatever can be seen through a random hole four-inches square. Story needs context. Cut your prose free of its environment and it rapidly loses power. Strip out a line here or there and show it on its own and you make it look as silly as you like.

So read on and hopefully enjoy.

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Asimov on 21st Century Advertising

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011 | Posted by Soyka

imagesBack in 1977, science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov wrote a piece for Advertising Age predicting, among other things, that consumers would opt to receive ads personalized to their interests as well as the role of “persuasion techniques developed by advertology (sic)” to promote social change. While Asimov got the general idea right, he was wrong on the delivery channel for target marketing (he thought it would be television, having no notion of the Internet) and the evolution of political advertising (he thought it would be for the purpose of “battling ignorance and folly” as opposed to most political messages today that’d rather promote ignorance and folly).

Asimov was from a generation of SF writers who saw their avocation in part as to predict the future as a positive, better place to live. In the same article, Asimov conjectured that by 2000, “Energy will once more be relatively plentiful, and it will be used more wisely, we hope, by a world that has been taught by the events of these recent decades to cooperate for survival.” Good luck with that.

I was thinking about this after reading “Novelists Predict Future With Eerie Accuracy” by John Scwartz in The New York Times Sunday Review. He notes the range of predictions that have come to pass, ranging from Jules Verne staging moon launches from Florida to Arthur C. Clarke’s anticipation of satellite communications to Internet virtual realities envisioned by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, two of the founding fathers of the cyberpunk movement in the 1980s. But he fails to distinguish between those like Asimov who hoped they were right in promoting a future enhanced by technological development and those whose extrapolations of global corporate and media trends led to more decidedly dystopic premonitions.

193176591Alas, it seems as if the optimists who envisioned the twenty-first century as some sort of glittering technological utopia might have gotten some of the details right, but the award for getting right the overall picture of media and marketing malevolence goes to the more pessimistic cyberpunks. As the opening line of the archetypical cyberpunk novel — Gibson’s Neuromancer describes it:

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

Gibson delineates a world in which industry, technology, and mass media dominate human existence, but not in good ways that Asimov thought it might turn out. Certainly not one in which we’ve all decided to cooperate for our mutual survival.

Game Review: Innistrad from Magic the Gathering

Friday, October 21st, 2011 | Posted by Scott Taylor


Magic The Gathering has recently released another set, this one featuring the dark plane of Innistrad. The end word of title in itself, Strad, should tell you all you need to know to get started here.

The Vampire Strad, as most older gamers will remember, was the famous vampire found in the classic TSR module I6 Ravenloft. That particular gaming supplement was so popular that it spun off its own boxed set and gothic fantasy dimension in the early 90s.

I’ve always been a fan of I6 for a couple of reasons. A: The cover might be the best work Clyde Caldwell ever did for TSR, and that’s saying something. And B: It featured the first TSR 3D map which detailed Strad’s castle.

Now I recently picked up a copy of this module, took it to Milwaukee, and had Caldwell sign it as Wayne Reynold’s birthday gift because the cover inspired Wayne to become an artist. That in itself should be enough to put it into TSR’s artistic top 10, but as the concept of Strad and his new domain began to grow, the creative think tank at TSR began to fail in how to deliver it.

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Behind the Mask: Dr. Phibes Rises Again from Script to Screen

Friday, October 21st, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

doc-phibestumblr_lfvzefdggz1qc1sduo1_500Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972) brought back Vincent Price and director Robert Fuest for a second go-round with AIP’s favorite madman. Phibes’ original screenwriters William Goldstein and James Whiton penned the first draft of the sequel entitled The Bride of Dr. Phibes. While the resulting film retained significant elements from this work, AIP chose to hand the writing chores over to Robert Blees with director Robert Fuest making final revisions on the produced script. Whiton and Goldstein’s sequel script would resurface several times over the years for AIP as a possible third film re-titled Phibes Resurrectus and later for AIP’s successor, New World Pictures for a revival titled Phibes Resurrected. Between these attempts, Goldstein came very close to getting a television series, The Sinister Dr. Phibes off the ground with comic book legend Jack Kirby providing the designs for the network presentation. A survey of the development of the sequel makes the film’s international title, Frustration seem all too apt.

The October 1971 draft of The Bride of Dr. Phibes makes it evident that Goldstein and Whiton (like many screenwriters before and since) were cheated of a story credit for the sequel since much of the resulting film’s structure is derived from their unproduced script. Phibes’ carefully-planned resurrection and his scheme for reanimating his late wife are exactly as one finds in the finished film. Additionally, the central characters of Emil Salveus and his mistress Daphne Burlingame are virtually identical to the film’s central characters, Jonathan Biederbeck and Diana Trowbridge. Goldstein and Whiton focus the sequel on a the Institute for Psychic Phenomenon which houses a Satanic cult led by the now adult Lem Vesalius seeking vengeance against Phibes nine years after the events of the first film. The Scotland Yard stalwarts, Trout, Schenley, and Crow return to good effect. Although Crow’s role seems better suited to his direct report, Waverley who is missing here. There’s a gripping sequence set at Wembley Arena that is remakably similar to a scene in one of the early Fantomas novels where the detectives think they’ve nabbed Phibes only to discover it is one of his automatons. It is easy to see why this excellent script would not die and resurfaced several times under variant titles over the ensuing decade.

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Sale at Rogue Blades Entertainment

Thursday, October 20th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

sages-swordsRogue Blades Entertainment, publisher of top-notch heroic fantasy, is having a one-of-a-kind online sale.

Here’s RBE publisher-mastermind Jason Waltz  to ‘splain the details:

RBE has to clear the shelves! Rogue Blades presents its first 2-for-$15 sale. Purchase any 2 of these RBE titles for $15.00 plus shipping!

Rage of the Behemoth, limited editions
Mythic Memories
Demons: A Clash of Steel
Sages & Swords

Simple! Now’s your chance to catch up on some of the best in new short fantasy, including fiction by Tanith Lee, Howard Andrew Jones, Joseph A. McCullough V, Sean T.M. Stiennon, Bill Ward, Elaine Isaak, C.L. Werner, and many others, and all at a great price.

Rage of the Behemoth is one of the best fantasy anthologies I’ve read in the past few years. Contributors include Andrew Offutt & Richard K. Lyon, Lois Tilton, Mary Rosenblum, Sean T. M. Stiennon, Brian Ruckley, Bruce Durham, Jason Thummel, and many more. Read more about it, including Theo’s great review,  here.

Demons is an anthology “devoted to the devilish fiends who seek to wreak havoc among mankind upon the mortal plane.”  Contributors include Bill Ward, Brian Dolton, Steve Goble, Elaine Isaak, C.L. Werner, Laura J. Underwood, and many others. You can read more in our news article here.

At $15 for two titles, these books won’t last long.  Check out this terrific sale today.

Goblin Fruit: Autumn 2011

Thursday, October 20th, 2011 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney

gfwolfieThe new Goblin Fruit is LIVE!!! It’s ALIVE, I tell you!

Now, I know I’ve said that before. Always the same way, too. “LIVE!!!” must be capitalized, with exclamation points, because, you see, I’m pretending I’m Frankenstein. I’m sure you knew. It’s not like it’s a secret or anything.

This new issue features poet Neile Graham, including an interview in which her poetry is described as “very green and very blue, full of cedar and rain and stone and sea.” Here is a hint, a taste, a tongue’s dip worth of her verse:

“…Hillfolk trade their cranky babes for our sweet sleepers. Tempt away

our pretty ones. Make deals we pay for. Seduce our poets
underhill for seven silent years then gift them with sore truth…”

– The Ones Outside Your Door

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Goth Chick News: For Your Halloween Reading Pleasure: The Night Circus

Thursday, October 20th, 2011 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image001When I first heard about new author Erin Morgenstern’s book The Night Circus, it was billed as an antidote for the withdraw symptoms Harry Potter fans were experiencing. Though I wouldn’t go so far as saying I’m having Potter DDT’s, I must admit that the sudden void left in my literary life by the lack of pure escapism fantasy was making me a bit twitchy.

But good luck living up to my Hogwarts-sized expectations, I thought. Another book about magic we don’t need.

However, once The Night Circus hit store shelves on September 13th I couldn’t seem to get around the title. It just kept nagging my imagination, which conjured up images of an entire carnival appearing over night in what yesterday was just an empty field, and only being open for business after dark.

“If they’re grouping it in with Harry Potter, it must be a kids book,” I thought, and tried my best to ignore it.

After all, J.K. Rowling’s ability to hit that perfect chord between writing for kids yet entertaining adults was a rare thing indeed.

I busied myself with other things and shunned The Night Circus for a whole 10 days.

Then I read that on September 22nd Ms. Morgenstern’s very first outing as a novelist had reached number eleven on USA Today’s bestseller list, and that a full nine months before the book had hit the stands Summit Entertainment had purchased the movie rights.

All right, fine.

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