Blogging Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Part Eighteen – “Jungles of Mongo”

Friday, January 27th, 2012 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

queendesira21jungles-of-mongo“Jungles of Mongo” was the eighteenth installment of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon Sunday comic strip serial for King Features Syndicate. Originally published between June 21 and November 1, 1942, “Jungles of Mongo” picks up where the preceding installment, “Queen Desira” left off with the seductive Queen and a bare-chested Flash riding the local steed, a gryph through the lush jungles of Tropica with Dr. Zarkov and Dale Arden bringing up the rear. Prince Brazor, who has usurped the throne of Tropica from Desira, releases a pack of bloodwolves to hunt them down.

Alex Raymond captures the beauty of Tropica’s flora and fauna with the same care and attention to detail that he demonstrated in some of his earliest Mongo strips. Flash fells a great tree so that the fugitives can travel down the river and, in a move that is now unthinkable, our hero deliberately sets fire to the forest to aid in their escape from Brazor and his bloodwolves. Of course, the cliffhanger nature of the serial demands constant peril and the fugitives quickly find themselves facing the Whirlpool Falls. Zarkov and Dale survive the falls, but Desira (whose top is provocatively torn going over the falls) is sucked into the whirlpool with Flash apparently sharing her fate in his attempt to rescue her.

Flash and Desira are carried by an underwater current into a cavern beneath the river. Flash climbs astride the prostrate form of Desira to perform artificial respiration to revive her when they are attacked by a giant cavernosaur, a cross between a seal and a plesiosaur. Flash kills the creature after a dramatic struggle. Don Moore’s script and Alex Raymond’s art wring every last bit of sexual tension out of the final panel with a trembling Desira in her torn clothes nestled against Flash’s heaving bare chest after his exertions against the carnivorous mammal. Moore notes that Desira ceases to be a Queen at that moment and is only a woman as she pleads with Flash to hold her.

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Goth Chick News: It’s All One Big, Dark Side to Me

Thursday, January 26th, 2012 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image0062I am not a huge fan of Star Wars.

Now, wait.  Before you start sending me emails of an aggressive variety allow me to say that there are aspects of the movies I like; quite a few actually.

However, I have to say that Lucas lost me with the whole militant teddy bear angle, and being that story line was fairly early on in the series, I never really got my Jedi mojo going.

But if there was one part of Star Wars that did consistently attract my attention it was…

Bet you can guess.

The Sith.

I suppose it’s the whole shadows – darkness – evil thing.  It resonates.

And you can bet George Lucas is well aware that even if there are people like me, who aren’t hard-core acolytes that can speak Wookie, he can still find a way to get me to buy in.

Literally.

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Josh Wimmer Reviews The Darkslayer

Thursday, January 26th, 2012 | Posted by Bill Ward

the-darkslayerThe Darkslayer: An Epic Fantasy, Volume One
Craig Halloran
Two-Ten Book Press (278 pp, $15, November 2009, kindle edition currently free)
Reviewed by Josh Wimmer

In the city of Bone, on the world of Bish, the warrior Venir and his friend Melegal the thief incur the mortal wrath of a royal family. The adventurers quickly get out of town, but not out of danger: the wicked nobles join forces with the most evil race on Bish, the underlings, to track the duo down and kill them.

Actually, mostly the bad guys are interested in Venir. Which would be cause for concern on his part if the big blond fighter weren’t secretly the underlings’ legendary foe, the Darkslayer.

Craig Halloran gets the macro structure of this self-published novel right. He ably juggles a cast of about two dozen characters, both good and evil, switching between their story lines with the appropriate rhythm. He shows us a good chunk of Bish, too, and delves into its history as well as his protagonist’s. Not only do we see Bone, its more multicultural neighbor Two-Ten City, two forests, and a battle-scarred wasteland, we also follow the escapades of the immortal who created the world out of boredom. And it all comes together comprehensibly and sensibly, and sets up its heroes for future outings. All of that takes work.

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New Treasures: Kiss My Axe: Thirteen Warriors and an Angel of Death

Thursday, January 26th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

kiss-my-axeLast summer I played around with Fraser Ronald’s RPG Sword Noir, a fun new game of hardboiled crime fiction in worlds of sword & sorcery.

Readers familiar with Fraser’s story in Black Gate 15, “A Pound of Dead Flesh,” will instantly get what Sword Noir is all about. The story centered on two legionnaires tangled up in a plot to cheat a very powerful necromancer, who quickly find themselves caught in a lethal web of secrets and betrayals. It’s a terrific sword-and-sorcery action piece, with characters who find skill with a sword is only slightly less critical to their survival than the ability to think on their feet — and quickly read a bad situation.

Sword Noir captured the same aesthetic in a wonderfully concise set of role playing rules, offering guidelines on crafting compelling adventures for players interested in unraveling labyrinthine plots in dark urban settings.

As the author described it: “Now is the time for your characters to walk down mean streets, drenched in rain, hidden in fog, and unravel mysteries, murders, and villainy.” (See Fraser’s complete overview in his most recent post for the Black Gate blog here).

Sword Noir was a wonderfully inventive system, and it was obvious Fraser had great ambitions for it. The fruit of those ambitions arrived this month: Kiss My Axe: Thirteen Warriors and an Angel of Death, a role-playing game of Viking adventure.

While it’s based on the underlying system from Sword Noir and the Sword’s Edge System, Kiss My Axe turns its attention to the heroics of the great Norse sagas, and the mechanics have been altered to provide more vivid and exciting combat.

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SF Signal reviews The Desert of Souls

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

the-desert-of-souls-tpSt. Martin’s Griffin re-released Howard’s The Desert of Souls as an attractive trade paperback last week. A new release means additional chances to capture attention and generate buzz, so I was pleased to spot a new review at SF Signal this week.

This one is by Paul Weimer, and here’s a taste:

Desert of Souls is the debut novel from Howard Andrew Jones. Howard Andrew Jones knows sword and sorcery… Jones is also the managing editor of Black Gate, a magazine devoted to adventure fiction, swashbuckling fun with brisk pacing and high imaginative action.

So, does Jones practice what he preaches in his debut novel, The Desert of Souls? You bet! … Dabir and Asim are swept into a tale right out of the Arabian Nights that takes them from the streets of Baghdad to the titular Desert of Souls.

Desert of Souls slides easily from Historical Fantasy to sword and sorcery in surprisingly short order (with the appearance of an animated monkey) and never loses its mise-en-scene of the 8th century Middle East. Here, the characters never take the dark magic and dark doings for granted as everyday occurrences…

In addition to entertaining action that never flags — Jones seems to have taken Van Vogt’s dictum about throwing a changeup at every turn to heart — the novel’s strength is the relationship between scholar Dabir and guard captain Asim… I enjoyed this book immensely. It had me constantly invoking the opening theme song of Aladdin in my head, and the action and adventure kept me turning the pages to find out what was going to happen next. I would be extremely interested in finding out what else Dabir and Asim get up to after the events of The Desert of Souls.

If Paul were a regular Black Gate reader, he’d know that Dabir & Asim will return this August to face shape-changing assassins, a treacherous Greek necromancer, a dangerous cabal seeking ancient magical tools of tremendous power, and a vengeful spirit intent on sheathing the world in ice for a thousand years, in The Bones of the Old Ones. Life is good.

You can read Paul’s complete review here.


Revisiting The Chronicles of Amber

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

amberIn my never-ending quest to bring heroic fiction and sword-and-sorcery to a wider audience, I have been writing essays for National Public Radio. Last May they carried an article I drafted about three books reprinting pulp (and slick)  magazine treasures.

Today, as part of their Guilty Pleasures series, I waxed on about one of my very favorite series, Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber. I can’t say as I feel especially guilty about loving the first Amber series, although I do always have to mention a few caveats when I recommend it. For instance, I usually emphasize that I didn’t care nearly as much for the later sequel volumes.

I discovered Zelazny’s Amber at about the same time I read Fritz Leiber’s Swords Against Death and a whole slew of Michael Moorcock novels. As a young teenager, those stories effectively blew my mind. I can honestly say that there’s no fantasy series that had as great an impact upon me. Even today, some twenty years after my last reading, I can still quote portions extensively. If you’re a fan of heroic fiction and sword-and-sorcery, you really owe it to yourself to give it a try

If you want to know more about Amber, check out the article, and if you’re wanting to see more coverage of genre work at NPR I hope you’ll Like, Tweet, Recommend, or whatever else the page.


Art of the Genre: The Age of Perfect Creation

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 | Posted by Scott Taylor

martin-300Perhaps some of you know of my utter disdain for George R.R. Martin. There are various reasons for this feeling, but this week I had a friend call me to complain about A Dance of Dragons, a book which I’ve refused to read. I must say, however, that I felt a great deal of satisfaction at his ire toward the novel because somehow that made my own dislike of Martin’s post-2000 work all the more valid. My friend’s thoughts were echoed by the bulk of Amazon reviews, and as I did a bit of research on what people were thinking about A Dance of Dragons I remembered my own experience with its predecessor in the Song of Ice and Fire series.

You see, the last Martin book I read was A Feast for Crows. I took it with me on vacation to St. Croix and read it under the tranquil skies of the Caribbean just a few months before my son was born. When I got to the end of the book, there was a note of apology placed there from Martin concerning the text I’d just read. Now I’m no rocket scientist, but if an author has to apologize to a reader AFTER they read his book, then you know you’ve been taken for a ride.

At that point I swore I’d never read anything by Martin again, no matter how much I loved A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords. In that promise to myself, I was vindicated by my friend’s words concerning A Dance of Dragons. Yes, at last a true victory for being a stubborn ass was mine to enjoy!!!!!!

However, after hearing this news concerning the latest volume, a couple of remembered quotes I’d read concerning writing started doing the rockem sockem robot dance in my head.

The first of these random quotes concerns Martin’s publication dates, and his extreme time lag between.

I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words. That’s 180,000 words over a three-month span, a goodish length for a book — something in which the reader can get happily lost, if the tale is done well and stays fresh.

– Stephen King, On Writing.

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Tangent Online Recommended Reading List 2011

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

Art for Jamie McEwan's "An Uprising of One," by Jim and Ruth Keegan (from Black Gate 15).

Art for Jamie McEwan's "An Uprising of One," by Jim and Ruth Keegan (from Black Gate 15).

Over at Tangent Online long-time editor and founder Dave Truesdale has posted his annual Recommended Reading list of the best short fiction of the year, compiled from selections made by eighteen Tangent reviewers.

Tangent Online reviews virtually every science fiction and fantasy short story published annually, combing the big print magazines (including Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov’s, and Analog), semi-professional outlets (such as Cemetery Dance, Interzone, Black Static, Weird Tales, Postscripts, On Spec, Bull Spec, Redstone SF, Albedo One, and Murky Depths), the leading online periodicals (Lightspeed, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, Tor.com, Strange Horizons, and Subterranean magazine) and the best anthologies published this year (Eclipse 4, Life on Mars, Like Water for Quarks, Triangulation: Last Contact, and Welcome to the Greenhouse). Just like Rich Horton, but requiring more caffeinated beverages.

This year’s list includes a total of four stories from Black Gate 15 — including two with their coveted three-star rating, their highest ranking:

  • “An Uprising of One” by Jamie McEwen (Two Stars)
  • “Into the Gathering Dark” by Darrell Schweitzer (Two Stars)
  • “Roundelay” by Paula R. Stiles (Three Stars)
  • “Purging Cocytus” by Michael Livingston (Three Stars)

Congratulations to Jamie, Darrell, Paul and Michael! The complete table of contents of Black Gate 15 is here, and you can still buy print copies through our online store for $18.95 (or as part of a bundle of two back issues for just $25). The PDF version is just $8.95.

The Kindle version, with enhanced content and color graphics, is also available through Amazon.com for just $9.99.

The complete 2011 Tangent Online Recommended Reading List  list can be found here. Last year’s list is here.


Patty on Podcastle!

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney

bgpatty2Don’t you love it when alliteration works out like that? I do.

You know what else I love? Patty Templeton’s story, “Fruit Jar Drinkin’, Cheatin’ Heart Blues.” On Podcastle. Right now.

Templeton is one of our bold and bonny bloggers here at Black Gate Magazine. (Here is her recent interview with Jeff VanderMeer.) Templeton herself was recently interviewed about her story “Fruit Jar Drinkin’, Cheatin’ Heart Blues” (which title I will repeat as often as possible, because isn’t it a FRIKKIN GREAT TITLE???) on Silver Goggles.

“Fruit Jar Drinkin’, Cheatin’ Heart Blues” is one of fifteen “thrilling and ingenious tales” in the new anthology Steam-Powered II. I can’t say too much about the anthology; after all, Yours Truly is one of the authors featured therein, so you’ll never be able to believe a word I say!

Just kidding — it’s great! Of course it is! Patty’s in it!  So is S.L. Knapp, Jaymee Goh, Sean Holland, Jeannelle Ferreira, A.M. Tuomala, Nisi Shawl, Stephanie Lai, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Rebecca Fraimow, Nicole Kornher-Stace, Shveta Thakrar and Zen Cho. What’s not to like, man? Or, more appropriately in this case: WOMAN?


Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Mars, Part 3: The Warlord of Mars

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

the-warlord-of-mars-1st-editionAlthough there are still eight more books to go in the Mars series, with The Warlord of Mars I can bring to a conclusion Phase #1 of the saga: this completes the “John Carter Trilogy,” and the books that follow it take different paths with new heroes. John Carter will not return to the protagonist role until the eighth book, Swords of Mars, published twenty-one years later.

At the end of the thrill-ride of The Gods of Mars, John Carter lost his love Dejah Thoris in the Chamber of the Sun within the Temple of Issus. A whole year must pass before the slow rotation of the chamber will allow Dejah Thoris to escape. She may not even be alive, since the last moments that John Carter witnessed, the jealous thern woman Phaidor was ready to stab Carter’s love. Did she kill Dejah Thoris? Or did the noble Thuvia take the blow instead?

Readers hung on through the middle of 1913 until Burroughs brought a conclusion to the John Carter epic at the end of the year and made his hero into The Warlord of Mars.

Our Saga: The adventures of Earthman John Carter, his progeny, and sundry other natives and visitors, on the planet Mars, known to its inhabitants as Barsoom. A dry and slowly dying world, Barsoom contains four different human civilizations, one non-human one, a scattering of science among swashbuckling, and a plethora of religions, mystery cities, and strange beasts. The series spans 1912 to 1964 with nine novels, one volume of linked novellas, and two unrelated novellas.

Today’s Installment: The Warlord of Mars (1913–14)

Previous Installments: A Princess of Mars (1912), The Gods of Mars (1913)

The Backstory

With a cliffhanger ending to The Gods of Mars, Burroughs was ready to roll with the conclusion. It was a ferociously busy time in his life: All-Story rejected his second Tarzan novel — one of the most comically blockheaded decisions in the history of magazine fiction; he quit his day job and became a full-time author; his third son John Coleman Burroughs was born; days later, his father George Tyler Burroughs died. In the middle of all this, ERB plunged back to working on Mars. He never developed an outline for the trilogy, and so he took the wrap-up of John Carter’s story as it came, daydreaming down on paper.

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