Art Evolution 2011: Steve Prescott

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 | Posted by Scott Taylor

prescott-paizo-254

Art Evolution 2011 ends this month with our final artist of the year, but I have to say that once again it was a thrilling ride. Black Gate had the distinct pleasure of featuring the talents of Russ Nicholson, Janet Aulisio , Eva Widermann, and Chuck Lukacs this year and our final entry comes from the epic talents of Steve Prescott.

Now Steve has been doing this a long time, all the way back to the early days of White Wolf when an art director from the company visited his college campus and reviewed portfolios. For my part, I found Steve through Paizo’s Pathfinder. I remember waiting with anticipation for each Pathfinder adventure path to arrive at my home as the company slowly rolled out Rise of the Runelords and Curse of the Crimson Throne.

Both of these six volume series helped set the stage for each of the Pathfinder Iconic characters which were all done by artist Wayne Reynolds. When the company’s 3rd adventure path, A Second Darkness, began I was greeted with a cover credited once again to Wayne, but as I looked over the image I knew another artist had taken over the project with an incredible eye for detail.

Let’s try to put this in perspective, however, because taking over Iconics from Wayne is like replacing Joe Montana at quarterback. Thankfully, like the 49ers of the early 90s, Paizo had their own version of Hall of Fame QB Steve Young with Steve Prescott.

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On the Trail of Vanished Pulps

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011 | Posted by Phil Stephensen-Payne

canadian_war_stories2Collectors have at times in the past discussed the possibility that there may be some fiction magazines issues from the last 100 years for which no copies exist anywhere. Anyone who is disheartened by this news, might take comfort from the following tale which I thought some might enjoy and/or find interesting.

I maintain a sizable online index of fiction magazines at Galactic Central, and although I don’t plan to start any serious work on the Adventure Fiction Index until 2012 (at least), I have spent a little time identifying where there are gaps in the data I have so as to maximise the time I had to fill the gaps.

Top of my list is Canadian War Stories for which, when I started, details were known only of 3 of the presumed 14 published issues – see here.

I knew of the existence of one other issue in “fannish” hands, but in five years had been unable to persuade the owner to send me the Table of Contents (ToC) for the index. As it happened, when I nudged him, he sent me the ToC by return – 4 down, 10 to go!

I put out pleas on the Fictionmags and PulpMags newsgroups, but nobody had any other issues, so the next step was to look at online library listings. No issues were listed for the British Library (or any other British academic library) or the Library of Congress, which wasn’t surprising, but AMICUS (the catalogue of Canadian libraries) identified a single library (the Canadian War Museum) which had a single issue, but it was one I was missing and they kindly sent me the ToC free of charge (they would charge me $15 for a scan or mail me a photocopy free – go figure) – 5 down, 9 to go!

Next up was Google.

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Movie Review: It Don’t Mean The Thing if It Ain’t Got That Swing

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

thing-prequelThe Thing (2011)

Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen.

A dialogue that occurs in the 1982 John Carpenter movie The Thing, as scientist Blair (Wilford Brimley) explains the nature of the twisted dog-mass corpse on his operating table:

Blair: See what were talking about here is an organism that imitates other life-forms, and imitates them perfectly. When this thing attacked our dogs it tried to digest them, absorb them, and in the process shape its own cells to imitate them. This, for instance … [points to bone] That’s not dog. It’s imitation. We got to it before it had time to finish.

Norris: Finish what?

Blair: Finish imitating these dogs.

Now imagine this conversation repurposed slightly:

Blair: See what were talking about here is a movie that imitates a popular movie with enormous name-recognition, and imitates it outwardly perfectly, while inwardly lacking its essential qualities. When it attacked John Carpenter’s The Thing it tried to digest it, and in the process shape its screenplay to imitate it while masquerading as a prequel. This, for instance … [points to film on screen] That’s not The Thing or a prequel to it. It’s a cosmetic imitation. We didn’t get to it before it finished.

Norris: Finished what?

Blair: Finished re-making The Thing while pretending that it wasn’t.

And so my review is finished.

But, if you want some further details, there is a bit more after the jump.

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Romanticism and Fantasy: The French Experience

Monday, October 17th, 2011 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Perrault's Fairy TalesIn my previous posts about Romanticism and fantasy, I looked at British literature in the 18th century through to 1789, and tried to track the emergence of a certain kind of fantastic fiction. In order to understand what happens in British writing (and politics) after 1789, though, we have to look at what happens in France.

Before continuing, I need to emphasise: I am not an academic, or a professional historian. I’ve read a fair amount about the period, and I have an intense fascination with Romantic literature in English. These posts come out of that fascination, and are an attempt to relate what I see in that literature with the contemporary fantasy fiction that seems to me to be its direct descendant. All of which is to say that in writing about French literature and history, I am even more of a dilettante than in discussing British writing. There are people who dedicate their lives and careers to making sense of these subjects, and dissecting their various meanings; I am not one of them.

Having said that, it seems to me that the element of fantasy I found in English literature in the late eighteenth century was not present in contemporary French writing in the same way, or to the same degree. In Britain, it seems almost as though the suppression of the fantastic by neo-classical norms led to its eruption later in the century, at first under cover of antiquarianism, then more and more openly. In France, even more classical in its orientation than Britain, that process didn’t happen; instead it seems another type of fantastic fiction came to prominence.

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The Hound on a Hunt: The Evie Scelan Trilogy

Monday, October 17th, 2011 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

spiralhuntSpiral Hunt
Wild Hunt
Soul Hunt
By Margaret Ronald
Harper Voyager (320/320/320 pages, $7.99, Jan 09/Jan 10/Dec 10)

Evie Scelan doesn’t want to be a hero. Unfortunately for Evie, she is the Hound. If it’s lost, she can find it, but in her world there is much that’s best left lost. This natural ability keeps drawing her into elaborate mystical conspiracies, drawing more and more unwanted power – both the social and metaphysical kinds – her way.

She’s more than happy to cruise under the radar, using her talent to sniff out lost objects (literally) on a freelance basis, but really doesn’t want much to do with the “undercurrent,” the supernatural world around modern-day Boston in Margaret Ronald’s urban fantasy setting.

You can’t really blame Evie for wanting to keep on the outside of things, because these undercurrent types seem kind of kooky. And not a good-natured type of Harry Potter wizard kooky, but more like Harry Dresden with Asperger Syndrome, sometimes with some pyromaniac tendencies thrown in. Any sane person would want to stay completely clear of this bizarre world, if they could.

Evie, unfortunately, can’t.

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The Road to The Heart of Darkness

Sunday, October 16th, 2011 | Posted by Shawn L. Johnson

oath-of-sixIt took me years to complete the first draft of Oath of Six, the first volume in my fantasy series The Heart of Darkness.

I wrote the prologue pretty much straight through, but then lost steam. After muddling through chapter one, I skipped ahead to the epilogue because I was more sure of the ending than the beginning. I then returned to working on the second chapter, only to jump to the end again, and then back to the beginning. My productivity was even more inconsistent than it sounds since I would stop writing for weeks at a time.

After I did finish, the readers of my first draft kept saying the story started off too slowly. I had to admit there was a lot of backstory and world-building in the early chapters. However, isn’t that the norm in fantasy novels, I argued. An author spends almost as much time creating the world as he does fleshing out the characters and storyline.

Interestingly, my initial readers unanimously agreed that the early material bogging down my story didn’t include the earliest part — i.e. that prologue that I wrote so easily. They were referring to the first eight or so chapters where I was dithering my way through, stopping and starting, jumping around. No doubt my readers had sensed my original inability to immerse myself in my storyline.

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ChiZine Publications’ eBooks Now Available on iTunes Store

Sunday, October 16th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

isles_coverChiZine Publications, one of the best of the genre small press, has announced all of its titles are now available for the iPad, iPhone and iPod through Apple’s iTunes Store.

This is pretty cool, because I just bought an iPad to experiment with electronic versions of Black Gate, and I’ve been trying to find some good books to read. ChiZine Publications already has their titles — including The Door to Lost Pages by Claude Lalumière, and Isles of the Forsaken by Carolyn Ives Gilman — available for the Amazon Kindle, Kobo reader, Barnes & Noble Nook, and other e-formats.

But the iPad is where most of the action is, at least in terms of sales (nearly 4 million per month, and growing rapidly), and iPhone sales are even higher.  ChiZine co-Publisher Sandra Kasturi said this about their commitment to electronic readers:

You can really see the change from a year ago. Get on the bus or subway and you’ll find half the people are reading off a device rather than a physical book. We take pride in our physical books and ebooks. We want to reach both readers and for them to have great experiences because of the writing and the visual impact.

Makes sense to me. ChiZine’s eBooks can be purchased and downloaded via iTunes by searching for the author name or title, and the publisher promises to have direct links on their website in a few days. Other electronic formats are available today.

We profiled ChiZine Publications back in December of last year.


Soporific Plasmaphages and the Guide to Genre

Sunday, October 16th, 2011 | Posted by Theo

deaduntildarkAfter reading the entire Southern Vampire series and watching an episode of The Vampire Diaries, I have reached the conclusion that John O’Neill is entirely correct to cast a deeply skeptical eye upon the entire genre of the vampire story. As strange as it may seem to assert this, it appears that vampires simply aren’t very interesting in and of themselves. They appear to exist primarily as a means of expanding the appeal of the traditional romance novel to audiences that would find themselves embarrassed to be reading a traditional bodice-ripper or watching a soap opera.

For example, if one considers the structure of the Charlaine Harris novels and compares them to other urban fantasies, it becomes readily apparent that this genre is little more than a hybrid of the traditional romance novel with the mystery novel, colored by a dash of fantasy that is exotic only to young readers and older readers coming from the romance and mystery markets. This also explains why the novels hold relatively little appeal to traditional SF/F readers and their irritation at the otherwise reasonable classification of urban fantasy in the fantasy genre.

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Supernatural Spotlight – Episode 7.4 “Defending Your Life”

Saturday, October 15th, 2011 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

This week begins with a car chasing a man through the streets of Dearborn, MI. He gets into his 10th floor apartment … only to find the car in the room waiting for him, slamming him into the wall.

Sam defends his brother, Dean, when put on trial for his life by the Egyptian god Osiris.

Sam defends his brother, Dean, when put on trial for his life.

Sam and Dean are happy to be working a more normal case. They briefly wonder if the case could be a Christine-style living car, but that doesn’t explain how it gets onto the 10th floor. The victim is a recovered alcoholic and makes monthly flower deliveries to a cemetery.

Seems the guy may have been a drunk driver who killed a girl a decade earlier. The boys dig up the girl’s body and burn the bones, which should take care of everything … but another guy goes through a similar situation, this time mauled by a dog.

Looks like there’s more going on here than just a ticked off spirit.

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A Pleasure to Read

Saturday, October 15th, 2011 | Posted by Soyka

bradbury-burn1Ray Bradbury’s A Pleasure to Burn is a collection of short stories that served as the basis for one of his novels (and what few novels he has written are based on his short stories) Fahrenheit 451. This is repackaging, recycling, and rebranding old stuff (really old, as the novel appeared in 1953 and the stories date back to 1947) to make it appear fresh. Now in his ninth decade, Ray has more than earned the right to let his publishers generate some cash for him the same way the Beatles (as well as a multitude of musical groups from the era) and their heirs keep coming up with repackaged versions of the same old catalog. But, just like repeated listening to the Beatles over the decades, anything that makes you reconsider some “old” notions in a new context still has value.

If you’re not familiar with Fahrenheit 451 (and you really need to rectify that), the premise is that of a dystopia in which television is the ruling order’s opiate to keep the masses content and placid; to that end, reading is literally outlawed as disruptive to social conformity. Firemen no longer put out fires but set fires to surreptitious libraries of the banned books. The protagonist is a fireman who begins to question his purpose and eventually decides to take a look at what he’s supposed to be destroying. Needless to say, his experience in reading books proves the authorities right. Which, of course, Ray wants us to understand, is actually a good thing.

Remember, this was written in the 1950s, back before anyone could even begin to imagine something as stupefying today as The Situation and Snooki, or the anti-intellectualism of the Republican presidential field, or 150 channels and nothing much to watch. This was also the era of McCarthyism, though Bradbury always maintained his novel was not about censorship, easy as it would be to interpret it that way, but rather a critique of American culture.

It still is.

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