Special Fiction Feature: “The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum” by Joe Bonadonna

Saturday, December 31st, 2011 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

mad_shadowsBack on August 9, 2011, I wrote an article entitled “Dorgo the Dowser and Me,” which John O’Neill graciously posted on the Black Gate website here.

It was all about my first published novel of swords and sorcery, Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, the influences that inspired the book, plus some teaser “trailers” about each story. Mad Shadows is really a picaresque novel — a collection of six stories linked together by a main character, and a cast of recurring characters. While the first three stories are somewhat humorous in tone, they contain all the ingredients of sword and sorcery fiction: magic, mayhem, monsters, and murder. The final three stories are darker, grimmer, and deal with loss and tragedy.

Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser can be purchased online at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, or directly from the publisher, at iuniverse.com. It’s available in hardcover, trade paperback, and as an eBook for both Nook and Kindle.

The story I’ve chosen for the Black Gate website is “The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum.” This is the third story in the book, and the only one not told in first person. While it contains its share of humorous scenes and amusing characters, the theme is one of loss. And of course, the shadow of death is constantly lurking in the shadows…

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Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Hand of Fu Manchu, Part Eight – “The Shrine of the Seven Lamps”

Friday, December 30th, 2011 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

sifanmys2hand-original3“The Shrine of the Seven Lamps” was the eighth installment of Sax Rohmer’s The Si-Fan Mysteries. The story was first published in Collier’s on April 21, 1917 and was later expanded to comprise Chapters 30 – 33 of the third Fu-Manchu novel, The Si-Fan Mysteries first published in 1917 by Cassell in the UK and by McBride & Nast in the US under the variant title, The Hand of Fu Manchu. The US book title marks the first time that the hyphen was dropped from the character’s name, although it was retained within the text.

“The Shrine of the Seven Lamps” picks up the story five months after the events related in the previous installments. This narrative gap proved fortuitous for those who have helped to keep the characters alive after Sax Rohmer’s passing by affording continuation authors an opportunity to craft additional titles set during the classic early years of the series. Dr. Petrie begins the account having concluded settling the estate of a recently-deceased relative. Petrie is returning to London by rail and happens to share a berth with a beautiful and mysterious Eurasian girl. Everything about his silent traveling companion – her eyes, her skin, her perfume – leave Petrie intoxicated. Tellingly, the woman’s beauty and unique eyes evoke memories of both Petrie’s beloved Karamaneh and the insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu. The overpowering mental force Petrie feels invading his mind and fighting to master his will likewise recalls the Devil Doctor. While Petrie feels an understandable sense of relief when this fascinating woman departs the train with her silent and menacing African servants, the reader is positive that Petrie has not seen the last of her.

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Goth Chick News: Just When I Thought It Would Be a Slow News Week…

Thursday, December 29th, 2011 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image0044This time of year is always a bit slow around the Goth Chick News room.

The interns have all gone home for the holidays to convince their parents that working here isn’t the harbinger of a career spent flipping burgers.  The staff is woozy from several days of celebrating and let’s face it; reporting too many stories about projectile vomiting eventually gets old, even for me.

And with the Western world taken over, temporarily at least, with a general feeling of happiness and good will, news of the Goth Chick variety is pretty scarce.

So just when I was about to give in to a bout of shameless self-promotion by presenting you with a “Goth Chick’s Best of 2011” recap, the Brits came through.

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Art of the Genre: I.C.E.’s Middle-Earth Roleplaying Part Two, Angus McBride [1931-2007]

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011 | Posted by Scott Taylor


It’s the day after Christmas here in L.A. as I write this, the office quiet, but I felt like going in anyway and getting some work done. Perhaps it was because yesterday, after a wonderful feast of turkey, potatoes, and all the fixings, I took a walk with the family three miles from my home out onto the Palos Verdes peninsula. This walk, in seventy degree temperatures with a slight easterly breeze and done in shorts and a T-shirt, held an immense amount of physical beauty.

With a cloudless azure sky, and a tranquil ocean all the way to the mountainous shadows of Catalina Island, the channel is was an epic vista. Still, what strikes a writer’s soul is often the movement of it all, the flights of pelicans looking like pteranodons sailing at eye level as you walk atop the hundred foot bluffs that drop into the whitewater curls of water churning below. If you look down into the kelp fields further out from the breakers you can spy the blazing orange Garibaldi, the state fish of California, as they shine under the waves amid the deep green strands, and further out into the endless blue go the whales.

Gray’s this time of year, majestic and high breaching, they spew mist into the air in pods traveling south, their monstrous tales fully lifted from the waves before plunging down once more into the depths.

It’s a stirring event, these migrations, and as I went home I couldn’t help but think about my next article and how the artist I’d be featuring had first seen and been moved by similar events, this time humpbacks, off the western cape of South Africa.

This gift of nature, and having shared his life between England and Africa, helped shape an artist who transitioned from full-time historical military drawer to the role of visionary painter in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.

So, today I bring you the next part of my argument as to why the Middle-Earth Role Playing game is the most beautiful RPG ever made.


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The Desert of Souls is One of the Best Fantasy Novels of 2011

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

the-desert-of-soulsHoward Andrew Jones’ first novel The Desert of Souls has been named one of the best fantasy novels of the year by Barnes & Noble.

Paul Goat Allen, a full-time genre book reviewer who’s reviewed thousands of titles over the past 20 years, posted his choices for the Best Fantasy Releases of 2011 at Explorations, the highly respected Barnes & Noble science fiction and fantasy Blog. In addition to Desert of Souls (#4), the list also includes Prince of Thorns by Black Gate blogger and author Mark Lawrence (at #5), and our good friend James L. Sutter’s first novel, Death’s Heretic (#3).

The top two books in the list were The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss and Farlander by Col Buchanan. Allen writes:

The sheer amount of noteworthy fantasy debuts in 2011 was remarkable. Besides Buchanan and Sutter’s stellar first novels, this year gave us The Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones, Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns, Stina Leicht’s Of Blood and Honey, Courtney Schafer’s The Whitefire Crossing, Paula Brandon’s The Traitor’s Daughter, The Emperor’s Knife by Mazarkis Williams, Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick, Michael J. Sullivan’s Theft of Swords, and Teresa Frohock’s Miserere.

You can read an exclusive excerpt from Prince of Thorns, Brian Murphy’s recent review of The Desert of Souls, and Andrew Zimmerman Jones’ review of Death’s Heretic, all right here at Black Gate. Don’t tell us we don’t point you to the best fantasy.

Congratulations to Howard, Mark and James!

The Natural History of Unicorns

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

natural-history-of-unicornsThe Natural History of Unicorns (2009)
By Chris Lavers

Some book titles can grab you across a room and demand your money. Such was the case with The Natural History of Unicorns, which I discovered not in a bookstore, but in a curio shop in San Francisco specializing in . . . actually, I have no idea what the store was really selling, except that it was next to the Pirate Supply Store (no joke, this exists, although principally to fund a writing workshop in the back) and the excellent science-fiction and fantasy bookstore Borderlands. A bit of both stores rubbed off onto this one, and so in the midst of taxidermy snakes was this book promising to tell me the Natural History of a fantasy animal. Immediate sell.

Well, almost immediate. I did check to see that the book was not crazy pseudo-science making the claim that the fantasy version of the unicorn was real and scientists were refusing to admit the truth. But the book appeared to be exactly what I wanted: a multi-discipline exploration of the development and evolution of the unicorn legend.

On the surface, the unicorn is the simplest of fantastic creatures: a horse with a single horn jutting from its forehead. Of course something like that might exist! There are plenty of horned hoofed animals, a unicorn isn’t much of a stretch.

But the unicorn carries a trainload of baggage behind it: a symbol of spirituality and Christianity, emblem of British royalty, symbol of virgin purity, a creature in roleplaying games, icon of New Age thinking, and decoration on a third-grade girl’s wall. The unicorn is indeed, as legend has often claimed, tough to hunt and harder catch.

Chris Lavers, a lecturer in natural history at the University of Nottingham, writes in a friendly, humorous style that feels like an Oxford professor during the off-hours entertaining guests around the fire with brandy in ample supply. In places, Lavers seems to channel Avram Davidson and his Adventures in Unhistory, although not quite as obtusely or wittily. (Davidson’s book has a chapter on unicorns, by the by.) The book makes for fast nonfiction reading, although Lavers does go off on a dull detour from his topic in the center of the book, occasionally relies too heavily on long quotations, and fails to explore an important avenue of unicorn history that I hoped to learn more about.

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Knights of Badassdom Gives Us Hope

Monday, December 26th, 2011 | Posted by Isabella Woods

baddassOccasionally a project comes along that is so cool, that you find yourself trying not to get your hopes up too much.  Comic-Con is a great place to discover fantasy books, series, and movies that fit this profile.

Recently, a feature film that somehow flew under the radar premiered its first trailer in Hall H at the San Diego Comic-Con, and now I can’t spend 10 minutes on Facebook without hearing friends rave about it.

The film is Knights of Badassdom, and was made over the course of summer 2010 in Spokane, Washington by director Joe Lynch and a talented dream cast that has everyone drooling.

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Got an eReader for Christmas? Try some $0.99 Titles from Harper Voyager

Monday, December 26th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

den-of-thievesI bought my first e-readers two months back — a Kindle Fire and an iPad — in preparation for converting Black Gate to digital format (a project that bore its first fruit with BG 15, now available in its full digital glory, complete with enhanced content and cool color images. Woo hoo!)

Mostly I’ve been using them to review dozens of different iterations of BG 14 & 15, as John Woolley and I constantly tweaked and improved the digital versions. But I’m gradually getting used to them, and despite having a library of thousands of print volumes, I can see how digital readers could easily become my preferred medium for leisure reading. They are light, compact, and perfect for the kind of quick web surfing needed to check on that curious fact or two that comes up during reading. Plus, they’re capable of surviving a gentle plummet from about three feet when I doze off in my chair, just like real books.

I told myself I’d finally use one to read a novel over the Christmas break, and see if I found them as compelling for lengthier work. But I haven’t made the time to pick a book; and besides, most of ones I want to read I’ve already purchased in print, and I wasn’t wild about shelling out another seven to eight bucks just to get a digital version.

But that was before I got an e-mail from Harper Voyager yesterday, with a list of digital fantasy titles specially priced at $0.99 to $1.99 — including a handful that were on my reading list this month, like David Chandler’s Den of Thieves and Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey. The books are available for Kindle, Nook, iBookstore, and Google eBookstore, and titles include:


Den of Thieves by David Chandler ($0.99)
Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey ($0.99)
Nightwalker by Jocelynn Drake ($0.99)
White Tiger by Kylie Chan ($0.99)
Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris ($0.99)
The Scent of Shadows by Vicki Pettersson ($0.99)
Every Which Way But Dead by Kim Harrison ($1.99)
Shaman’s Crossing by Robin Hobb ($1.99)
Rides a Dread Legion by Raymond E. Feist ($1.99)
The Heir of Night by Helen Lowe ($1.99)
Earth Strike: Star Carrier One by Ian Douglas ($1.99)

For 99 cents, I don’t mind buying a digital version of a novel I already have in print, and I bought four (the Chandler, Kadrey, plus The Scent of Shadows and The Heir of Night).

The complete list of titles is here, or you can just do a search for each of the above digital titles at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, or Google eBookstore. The website doesn’t say how long the pricing will last however, so if you’re interested, I would act now.

A Merry Christmas to All

Sunday, December 25th, 2011 | Posted by Theo

stupefyingstoriesIn addition to any loot that may have found its way under your arboreal home decor courtesy of a gentleman of garish sartorial tastes and an indifferent attitude towards trespassing on private property, the good people at Rampant Loon have a pair of Christmas presents for you.

The first is the announcement of the December issue of Stupefying Stories, which is available for $1.99 from Amazon and features “six all-new tales of the fantastic, frightening, and funny by Gary Cuba, Ron Lunde, Tyler Tork, David W. Landrum, and Justin Williams — and featuring “Snow Blind,” by acclaimed mystery and horror writer Trent Zelazny” as well as a Christmas mini-anthology that consists of stories by Kersley Fitzgerald, Aaron Bradford Starr, and Bill Ferris.

The second is a free ebook featuring two new stories from the Original Cyberpunk himself, Mr. Bruce Bethke, entitled Jimi Plays Dead, which is available as a free Christmas download for Kindle readers today and tomorrow.

Osprey Adventures

Saturday, December 24th, 2011 | Posted by Joseph McCullough

teutonic-knightWhat if one day you woke up and found yourself in charge of a publishing imprint?

You had financial backing, the support of an experienced production and marketing team, and a wide-open remit. You also had the weight of a lot of expectation.

Well, about a month ago, this happened to me.

My name is Joseph McCullough, which some of you may recognize from Black Gate. At various times I have worked as an author and an assistant editor for the magazine, and I continue to be a fan and supporter.

I have also recently been made the Project Manager for Osprey Adventures, an imprint of Osprey Publishing.

I mentioned my new position to John O’Neill, and he kindly invited me to write a series of blogs about my experiences in the publishing world, and my trials and tribulations as I attempt to bring some new, fun, semi-fantasy books to market.

For those who don’t know, Osprey Publishing is arguably the most famous publisher of military history in the English language.

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