Some Xmas Cheer from Apex Magazine

Saturday, December 24th, 2011 | Posted by Soyka

cover-kindleThis month’s Apex Magazine features E.E. Knight’s essay on holiday-themed movies, with a couple of odd picks. Other things you might want read after finishing your gift wrapping (or your bah-humbumbing) include fiction by Christopher Barzak, Sarah Monette and Michael Pevzner’s first professional sale.  Poetry by Sandi Leibowitz and F.J. Bergmann and an interview with Jennifer Pelland.

This and more of the Lynne M. Thomas edited on-line publication can be found here.

Whether you believe in Santa or not, happy holidays.

Fantasyscapes 6: Setting as Character

Friday, December 23rd, 2011 | Posted by Erik Amundsen

bayouI have to imagine that it’s a pretty poor guide who gets lost, but here I am, having found the path after a couple of months wandering afield. The explanations and excuses for this straying off the path aren’t terribly interesting, I’m afraid. I won’t belabor with details, but I thought that returning after time away might give us a chance, before we start again, to talk about why I chose to do this in the first place. To tour all the different places you can go in fantasy with an eye for those who have already been there.

It doesn’t hurt matters that I have to speak intelligently about this subject in front of people who could hurt me if I speak foolishness and lies in about a month at Arisia. Unless I misread my schedule, I am actually moderating that panel, so if I seem unusually motivated, please understand. You see, in Boston, they have these squirrels, and they fear men nor fire and they hunger for the blood of those who speak foolishness and lies at SF cons. All those bark-rending talons, all those shell-cracking teeth…

So to that end, I want to talk more directly than we have in past about settings as character, and what the hell that even means.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Hand of Fu Manchu, Part Seven – “Ki-Ming”

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

hand-pyramid4hand-original2“Ki-Ming” was the seventh installment of Sax Rohmer’s The Si-Fan Mysteries. The story was first published in Collier’s on March 3, 1917 and was later expanded to comprise Chapters 27 – 29 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.

“Ki-Ming” starts off with Dr. Petrie burning the midnight oil one night working on his account of his and Nayland Smith’s recent exploits which he has entitled, The Si-Fan Mysteries. Petrie notes that Smith has gone to the theater for the night with visiting friends from Burma. Like Poe’s anonymous narrator of “The Raven,” Petrie is disturbed by a repeated tapping at his window for which he fails to discover the origin. Throwing the window open, Petrie peers down into the street and hears the tapping now coming from the front door. Rushing downstairs without puzzling over why his late visitor has not rung the doorbell, he stops to arm himself. He throws open the door and steps into a trap as a pair of dacoits lie concealed on either side of the door and a third (having entered through the open upstairs window) has followed him downstairs. Petrie is quickly bound and a bag filled with hashish is tied over his head.

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Updated Blood and Thunder Portends Good Start to 2012 for Robert E. Howard Fans

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011 | Posted by Brian Murphy

blood-and-thunder-2nd-edition2011 hasn’t been the kindest year for fans of Robert E. Howard. January saw the end of the fine Del Rey series of Howard originals with the publication of the 11th and final volume Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures  (sigh). In August we got a crummy new film purporting to be REH’s Conan that resembles no story the Texan ever wrote, and is currently sporting a woeful 22% “rotten” rating over at Rotten Tomatoes (still think you can tell a better story than REH, Marcus Nispel?)

But the waning days of 2011 have brought a bit of good cheer to brighten the day of Howard fans everywhere: News of the publication of a new and improved second edition of the REH biography Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard by Mark Finn.

Monkeybrain books published the first edition of the Blood and Thunder in 2006 in paperback; the second edition is being published in a limited run of 150 hardcover copies by the Robert E. Howard Foundation at a cost of $50 ($45 for members of the foundation). You can pre-order it now and it’s expected to ship by the end of January 2012. Here’s a description from the REH Foundation webpage:

Alongside the success of “Conan the Barbarian” was a neatly packaged, sound byte biography of a tortured young man, full of volcanic rages, playing at war inside his head, while the citizens in the small town of Cross Plains laughed at him behind his back—a man so undone by his circumstances and so strangely devoted to his mother that, on her deathbed, he pre-empted seeing her die by committing suicide.

In Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard, author Mark Finn dispels many of those old, outdated myths that have grown up around Howard and his fictional creations. Armed with twenty-five years of research and a wealth of historical documents, Finn paints a very different picture from the one that millions of fans of Conan have been sold throughout the years.

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The Night Before Christmas at Black Gate

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


Twas the night before Christmas, with manuscripts read,
The staffers at Black Gate all crouched in their beds.
The cell phones were silent, not one keyboard clicked,
And all there played possum, awaiting St. Nick.

Good children slept soundly, with wish letters written,
Sure Santa would make with that puppy or kitten.
But the staffers at Black Gate were naughty it’s said
So they set up an ambush for Santa instead.

But what had they done, what virtues did lag,
That Santa would shun them and keep all their swag?
And drive them to hatch such nefarious ploys,
Such as waylaying Santa and snatching his toys?

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Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and The Fantastic Four

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Fantastic Four 1There are two different stories about how it began.

In one story, there’s a writer-editor of boys’ adventure comics, who’s told by his boss — also his uncle — to create a new team of superheroes, a knock-off of the competition’s high-selling Justice League of America title. This isn’t what the writer really wants to do. But he talks it over with his wife. And he decides: I’m going to write the book the way I want to, without worrying about making perfect heroes. Maybe one of the leads will actually be a monster. Maybe another’ll be a teenager, the kind of character who in other books would just be a sidekick. They’ll bicker among themselves, and fight. They’ll be real people. And, in this story, that’s what the writer did; and it worked.

The other story has a veteran comics artist coming in to the studio of the second-rate company he’s working for. He finds the young writer-editor of the comics line crying because they’re moving the furniture out; the company’s about to close down. No problem, says the artist; you tell your uncle, the owner, to hold off folding the business. The artist, a veteran storyteller, knows how to make grab an audience. He starts cranking out the books, new title after new title. Superheroes are back in, so he starts doing superheroes like nobody ever did them, throwing everything he sees around him into his stories, everything he reads in newspapers and magazines, everything he ever found in history books and myths. Scientists. Mutants. Gods and monsters. In this story, that’s what the artist did; and it worked.

Human memory is fallible, especially when, as in this case, the two people closest to the case become estranged. What can be said for sure is this: starting in 1961, Marvel Comics, a formerly undistinguished publisher, began producing a wave of brilliant superhero comics. Most of them were written by Stan Lee, and most of the best were drawn by artist Jack Kirby — with another artist, Steve Ditko, producing two other remarkable books with Lee’s involvement. Of all the Kirby-Lee collaborations, perhaps the best was the original flagship book of the Marvel line, the first title that came in many ways to define Marvel Comics as a whole: The Fantastic Four.

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21 Questions for Ty Franck

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 | Posted by Emily Mah


Ty Franck being hugged by Jen Taylor

I first met Ty Franck online, then in person at LosCon, and we’ve been friends ever since. He blames me for a lot of things that have happened in his life, but the truth is he warps the forces of space, time, and luck to create his own mini-universe with its own rules, as you’ll see from the interview below. My story of Ty that I think gives the most accurate impression of the kind of guy he is, is one he’s probably tired of hearing me tell. But it bears retelling.

Years ago he was held up at gunpoint at his workplace, after hours. Gangsters broke in, cut the phone lines, and tied up both him and another woman who was working late. Ty managed to keep talking to get the gangsters off guard, and then when they left the room, his coworker untied him and he used the company’s internet (which wasn’t connected to the phone lines) to message another office, who in turn called 911.

Yes, this is a true story, but I haven’t gotten to the most unbelievable part yet. After the police arrived and sat Ty down for questioning. The dialogue went something like this:

“What can you tell us about your attackers?”

“Well, they were armed with a Glock 40.”

“So you know guns, then?”

“No, not really.”

“But you know Glocks?”


“So how do you know it was a Glock 40?”

“Because they were holding it about here-” Ty mimes having a gun held to his forehead “-and you could read it on the side. It said, Glock 40.”

Ty would be my first choice of friend to have around during the zombie apocalypse. I call dibs.

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Art of the Genre: What came first, the writer or the artist?

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 | Posted by Scott Taylor


As I walked into the office today Ryan Harvey was talking Avengers with Kandi at the front desk, a figurine of Captain America in his hand and a smile on his face. Now, for any of you who don’t know, Cap isn’t my favorite super hero. I’m not saying I dislike Cap, but when it comes to heroes, and the Avengers in particular, my personal hero is Tony Stark, aka Iron Man.

Ryan, for his part, can’t stand Iron Man, so the office is often a place of contention between the two heroes, and with this new movie coming out the debate has been taken up a notch.

Still, there’s an interesting note about both heroes, and that is the depth in which people are vested in them. Comic book characters, by their very nature, should inspire people to both discuss and enjoy what lies beneath the costume even more than what happens while the person is in it.

Some might argue that comics are about the art, and there have been times when this was abundantly true, but the hard reality is that at their core it’s really the story that matters. In the world of comics, everything America knows and loves about its heroes was the creation of a writer, the art involved that helped galvanize their place in our subconscious a simple technicolor window-dressing that was added later to an already solid foundation, or so I would contend.

Walking by Ryan, I lifted his Captain America figure from his hand, unceremoniously dumped it in the trash, and then went into my office to write the beginnings of a tale I hope you’ll all find interesting. Now granted, I’m biased here, but since no one jumped up to storyboard this particular piece, it will have to stand on the words alone [although there are pictures… there are always pictures, because John O’Neill once told me that if you want readers for your blog you need to include lots of images because people love them… go figure.]

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Black Gate 15 Now Available for Kindle

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

cover-digitalOur latest issue, Black Gate 15, is now available for the Amazon Kindle for just $9.95. That’s roughly half the cost of the print version.

The Kindle version comes with new content, color art, hundreds of striking color images, and every word of the print version.

Originally published at $18.95 in May 2011, the massive Black Gate 15 is 384 print pages of the best in modern adventure fantasy, with 22 new stories, 23 pages of art, and a generous excerpt from The Desert of Souls, the blockbuster new novel by Howard Andrew Jones featuring the intrepid explorers Dabir and Asim in 8th Century Arabia.

The theme of the issue is Warrior Women, and behind Donato Giancola’s striking cover eight authors contribute delightful tales of female warriors, wizards, weather witches, thieves, and other brave women as they face deadly tombs, sinister gods, unquiet ghosts, and much more. Frederic S. Durbin takes us to a far land where two dueling gods pit their champions against each other in a deadly race to the World’s End. Brian Dolton offers us a tale of Ancient China, a beautiful occult investigator, and a very peculiar haunting. And Jonathan L. Howard returns to our pages with “The Shuttered Temple,” the sequel to “The Beautiful Corridor” from Black Gate 13, in which the resourceful thief Kyth must penetrate the secrets of a mysterious and very lethal temple. Plus other tales of female fighters from Maria V. Snyder, Sarah Avery, Paula R. Stiles, Emily Mah, and S. Hutson Blount.

What else is in BG 15? Harry Connolly returns after too long an absence with “Eating Venom,” in which a desperate soldier faces a basilisk’s poison — and the treachery it brings. John C. Hocking begins a terrific new series with “A River Through Darkness & Light,” featuring a dedicated Archivist who leads a small band into a deadly desert tomb; John Fultz shares the twisted fate of a thief who dares fantastic dangers to steal rare spirits indeed in “The Vintages of Dream,” and Vaughn Heppner kicks off an exciting new sword & sorcery series as a young warrior flees the spawn of a terrible god through the streets of an ancient city in “The Oracle of Gog.” Plus fiction from Darrell Schweitzer, Jamie McEwan, Michael Livingston, Chris Willrich, Fraser Ronald, Derek Künsken, Jeremiah Tolbert, Nye Joell Hardy, and Rosamund Hodge!

Buy the complete issue for the Kindle at, or buy the print version at our online store.  The complete table of contents is here.

Wrath of the Titans Trailer Gives Me a Chimera, But Little Hope

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

wrath_of_the_titansIf you were talking about movie trailers yesterday or over the weekend, chances are the subject was The Dark Knight Rises. The most anticipated film of 2012 revealed its first full-length trailer (after a teaser during the summer) on selected theater screens with Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows. The IMAX six-minute prologue to the film also appeared before 70 mm screenings of Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol. I saw the prologue yesterday in the glorious IMAX presentation, and yes, The Dark Knight Rises is going to be something amazing. (By the way, Ghost Protocol is the best of the “Mission: Impossible” films, and delivers everything you want from a big-budget action movie. Here’s to Brad Bird having a great career in live-action films.)

In the middle of mad speculation and analysis from the new Bat-info Warner Bros. and Legendary Films poured on us, the studio and production company also sneake out the trailer for another of their 2012 releases: Wrath of the Titans, the sequel to the 2010 re-make of Ray Harryhusen’s Clash of the Titans.

From a domestic perspective, a sequel to Clash ’10 feels like a weird choice. The movie had only middling box-office success, and audience reaction was lukewarm to say the best. I reviewed the movie at Black Gate when it premiered and gave a cautiously positive take of it. I would like to retract most of that review now. One of the difficulties of doing reviews of new movies or books is that reviewers’ tastes frequently change on a second visit. Some movies I shrugged off when they first came out I now love. Other films that seemed enjoyable in the theaters end up as lifeless on repeat viewings. In the case of Clash of the Titans ’10, when I returned to the movie on home video, it seemed almost unwatchable. It’s a dead fish, an inert bore. There is no imagination or joy in this thing. I didn’t want a sequel, and I can’t imagine anyone else wanted one either.

But these days, international box office makes all the difference. Clash ’10 pulled in enormous coin outside of the U.S., doing 66% of its worldwide business in foreign markets for a total gross of just a Nemean Lion’s whisker under $500 million — the eleventh highest grossing movie of the year. And that equals “sequel.”

Here’s the trailer from iTunes. Even though star Sam Worthington stated in an interview that he thinks the new film is more “weighty,” this trailer does little to raise my hopes (The YouTube version of the trailer is imbeded below the jump.)

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