Winter 2012 issue of Subterranean Magazine Now Available

Monday, January 23rd, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

subterr-winter-2012Subterranean Press has published the Winter 2012 issue of their flagship online magazine.

This is the 21st issue. It is presented free by Subterranean Press; content is released in weekly installments until the full issue is published.

This complete issue will feature a pretty impressive lineup:

  • “Water Can’t Be Nervous” by Jonathan Carroll
  • “The Way the Red Clown Hunts You” by Terry Dowling
  • “The Least of the Deathly Arts” by Kat Howard
  • “Seeräuber” by Maria Dahvana Headley
  • “Drunken Moon” by Joe R. Lansdale
  • “Chicago Bang Bang” by C.E. Murphy
  • “Treasure Island: a Lucifer Jones Story” by Mike Resnick
  • “The Last Song You Hear” by David J. Schow
  • “Three Lilies and Three Leopards” by Tad Williams (a new 20,000 word novella)

Subterranean is edited by William Schafer, and published quarterly. The Winter 2012 issue is available here.

The striking cover is by Lauren K. Cannon, whom we met at the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego in November. She had the most impressive booth in the Art Show (by a nice margin), and the unanimous opinion of the Black Gate staff was that it was my duty to lure her into doing art for us — the sooner the better.

We last covered Subterranean magazine with their previous issue, Fall 2011.


New Treasures: Wally Wood: Strange Worlds of Science Fiction

Monday, January 23rd, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

strangeworlds-wally-woodWow.

Wally Wood is one of my all-time favorite artists.  When Scott Taylor asked me to provide my list of nominees for his Top 10 Fantasy Artists of the Past 100 Years post, I had Wood right near the top.

Wood died over 30 years ago, but his influence on SF and fantasy art in the 1950s — especially his groundbreaking work with EC comics, and the more than 60 covers he did for Galaxy magazine — was staggering.

Virtually all of Wood’s EC work has been now been collected, in handsome volumes showcasing his brilliant art for Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Tales from the Crypt, and many others, as have his covers for Marvel, DC, and other top-tier comic publishers.

But Wood first made his name in now-forgotten science fiction comics of the 50s such as Strange Worlds, Captain Science, and Space Detective. Now Vanguard Publishing has collected a fabulous trove of nearly two dozen complete tales from this era, dating from 1950 to 1958, in a thick oversized volume titled Wally Wood: Strange Worlds of Science Fiction (click on the image at left for a larger version).

Strange Worlds is an absolutely beautiful production, 224 pages mostly in full-color. It is edited by J. David Spurlock and designed by Mark McNabb. The paperback edition is $24.95, and I got mine from Amazon for just $16.47, after the Amazon discount. It’s also available in a slipcased Hardcover Edition for $69.95.

The book also includes an extensive gallery of some of Wood’s best covers from the 1950s, as well as a complete story from the pre-Marvel Journey Into Mystery (“The Executioner,” Oct 1956, from issue 39), and a sampling of his full-page Sky Masters of the Space Force comic strip from 1958, with art by Wood and Jack Kirby.

Wally Wood: Strange Worlds of Science Fiction is my most exciting purchase of the last six months. I have no idea what the print run was, so I strongly advise you to get your own copy before it sells out.


Book Review: Orson Scott Card’s Keeper of Dreams

Monday, January 23rd, 2012 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

keeperdreamsKeeper of Dreams (Amazon, B&N)
Orson Scott Card
Tor (656 pp, $16.99, 2008)
Reviewed by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Orson Scott Card’s novels (in hardcover, several autographed) own the lion’s share of the top shelf in my main bookcase. Though he is one of my favorite authors, I’ve read enough of his work to know that it can be, at best, inconsistent. Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead are science fiction classics and also modern classics of children literature. As a teenager, in tears when Ender and Valentine bid each other farewell in Speaker, I thought, “I want to write like this someday.”

But Card does not always hit the mark, either. Xenocide and Children of the Mind are nowhere near classics, even though they are part of the same series. While I have enjoyed all of the Ender’s Shadow books (featuring the secondary character, Bean, from Ender’s Game), they don’t possess the same magic, either. In some ways, they are better than the originals – better character motivation, better structure, better dialogue – but they are not classics. They are not better stories, just better plots.

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A Few Words About The Order of the Stick

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Dungeon Crawlin' FoolsDying is easy, the old saw has it, but comedy … that’s hard. Only — what happens if we’re talking about a world in which miracles happen to order, and people come back to life whenever a priest wants? Dying suddenly isn’t quite so easy. But comedy, real comedy … that’s still pretty hard.

Fantasy’s no more or less risible than almost anything else in life, and you can find comedic fantasy good, bad, and indifferent. I want to talk about one particular example. Lately, I’ve been rereading a lot of Rich Burlew’s webcomic, The Order of the Stick. It’s a successful, funny fantasy; impressive, since it looks like it should have no business succeeding as well as it does. It’s not just a fantasy comedy, it’s a gaming fantasy comedy. Clearly, the strip’s appeal is going to be somewhat limited.

The main characters are adventurers in a fantasy world that operates according to the rules of Dungeons & Dragons (version 3.5); inevitably a good part of the comedy comes from the characters consciously manipulating the rules of the game, and commenting on its conventions and mechanics. But there’s more to it. The strip isn’t just about the game, nor is it just a showcase for Burlew’s killer sense of humour. The comic’s run for over eight hundred installments up to this point, plus extra stories in various print collections; it’s developed a coherent story, and surprisingly sympathetic characters. It’s gone from a gag strip to a fantasy epic — a nice trick, given that the story’s told with stick figures.

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Journey to The Serpent Sea

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

theserpentseaMartha Wells’ tales of Gilead and Ilias have been some of the most popular stories we’ve published in Black Gate. Her opening novel in the Books of the Raksura series, The Cloud Roads (Night Shade Books, March 2011) won her a new legion of fans, and this month the second installment finally arrives.

The Serpent Sea is already getting a lot of great press as a major new fantasy novel. Here’s Keith West over on Adventures Fantastic:

There was a time, more in science fiction than in fantasy, where authors created detailed worlds or universes, such as Known Space (and especially Ringworld), Dune, or more recently Karl Schroeder’s Virga, places unique and filled with that sense of wonder that seems to be missing from so much of contemporary fantastic literature. The Cloud Road and The Serpent Sea are brim full of sense of wonder…  With these books Wells is writing at the top of her game, and given their breath, originality, and complexity, this series is showing indications it could become one of the landmark series of the genre.

When I asked her to describe the series, here’s what Martha shared with us:

The Cloud Roads is a fantasy adventure novel about dragon-like shapeshifters who can fly, but it’s also about searching for a place to belong. When the main character does find his own people, his difficulties don’t end.

The sequel, The Serpent Sea, is about finally finding the place you were meant to be, but realizing that it’s going to take a lot of work to finally belong there. If you can survive long enough.

You can try a sample chapter of The Cloud Roads here, and The Serpent Sea here. Don’t wait to check out one of the most exciting new fantasy series of the last few years.


David Soyka Reviews Prospero in Hell

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012 | Posted by Bill Ward

prospero-in-hellProspero in Hell
L. Jagi Lamplighter
Tor (347 pp, $25.99, August 2010)
Reviewed by David Soyka

As you might expect, L. Jagi Lamplighter’s Prospero in Hell, the second volume of her Propsero’s Daughter trilogy and follow up to Prospero Lost, is loosely based (very loosely) on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. In Lamplighter’s retelling, Miranda, daughter of the magician Prospero, does not marry Ferdinand but instead becomes the virgin devotee of the Greek goddess Eurynome, which qualifies her for a life extension and youth preserving elixir she can share with her father and eight siblings, the results of various Prospero marriages over the centuries. Until Miranda becomes a full-fledged “Sybil” of the Eurynome cult, however, there is insufficient quantity of the elixir available to share beyond her immediate family members. Consequently, the Prospero offspring who marry and have children are doomed to watch them live out their mortal lives. Except, of course, Miranda who must of necessity remain unattached as a condition to continue to receive her elixir allotment.

Flash forward to the present day and Miranda is still not a Sybil, with little idea how she is supposed to be deemed worthy. In the meantime, Miranda runs Prospero, Inc., a multinational corporation that maintains business contracts among magical entities designed to avoid “natural disasters” such as hurricanes and earthquakes these sprites would normally unleash, thus allowing human existence to continue and perfect its technological progress.
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The Last Dragonslayer (if only it were true)

Saturday, January 21st, 2012 | Posted by Soyka

laOf potential interest to readers of this space is my review of The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde over at the SF Site.

This is one of those books where you know exactly what to expect. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. I know what to expect from Häagen-Dazs rum raisin ice cream and just because the high-fat content is not necessarily the best thing to consume doesn’t make the experience of eating it any less enjoyable.

If you’ve somehow managed to miss the Jasper Fforde juggernaut, he is the author of several serial parodies that variously poke fun at super agents and literary theory (Thursday Next), detective noir and kid stories (Nursery Crime Division) as well as dystopias and Wizard of Oz allusions (Shades of Grey). Think whimsical. Think smart-ass. Think about that unkempt guy in college who never attended classes but was obviously pretty smart and never at a loss for a wisecrack.

You’re thinking Jasper Fforde.


Art of the Genre: The Art of Kickstarter

Saturday, January 21st, 2012 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Abandon Hope... and yet we enter anyway... certainly one of the most iconic images from artist Jeff Easley

Abandon Hope... and yet we enter anyway... certainly one of the most iconic images from artist Jeff Easley

Kickstarter… the name in itself is evocative. I’m sure many of you have heard of this new website that supports creative people by giving them a place to ask for pledges in return for project assistance. It’s really an incredible took, and I blogged recently about a Kickstarter project done by former TSR artist Jeff Dee. His initial work with the fan-based pledge site got me thinking about what I wanted to accomplish in 2012.

I mean I had art contacts, right? In fact I had loads of them, so why not try to use some of the old school nostalgia I loved so dearly and market it toward others who felt the same way? In a sense, it’s kind of what Black Gate already does with each and every post on this site.

We get to relive awesome stuff from our past here all the time with stores about classic horror flicks, adventure movies, venerable series books, and comic book heroes. Black Gate, for all intents and purpose is a portal into a lost generation, or perhaps several lost generations.

So for all of you out there who have ever thought about doing something creative, and I mean anything, I’m going to run down how Kickstarter works and how it might apply to your dreams.

First, you have to come up with an idea, in my case I decided to do a project with legendary fantasy artist Jeff Easley. The concept was simple, I would write a short book like those found on dime store shelves in the 60s, 70s, and even the 80s that we all loved. You know the books I’m talking about, 45K words, 180 pages or so that you could read in 5 hours, and then get Jeff to cover it with an awesome old school Swords & Sorcery image. If we got enough pledges, he’d also do some original black and white interior work to help capture the tone. Simple, right?

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Blogging Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Part Seventeen – “Queen Desira”

Friday, January 20th, 2012 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

queendesiragunqueendesira2“Queen Desira” was the seventeenth installment of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon Sunday comic strip serial for King Features Syndicate. Originally published between January 4 and June 14, 1942, “Queen Desira” gets off to a rollicking start with Colonel Gordon called to a meeting with the Defense Department in Washington DC. The US needs Dr. Zarkov’s ray beams for national defense (a subtle reference to the Second World War that the US had recently entered), but the radium shortage prevents the realization of the project. Flash and Zarkov convince the Defense Department to allow them to build a rocketship to return to Mongo to mine more radium. Flash tells Dale that he is going off on a secret mission, but cannot tell her where. Suspicious, Dale pays a visit to Zarkov and snoops around his house for clues. Confronting him with the truth, Zarkov admits their mission is to return to Mongo. Dale pleads with Zarkov to take her with him and he agrees to smuggle her aboard the rocketship in a trunk.

Reunited at last, Flash is overjoyed to have Dale with him once more. However, they experience electrical problems once in Mongo’s orbit and the rocketship is forced to crashland on the uncharted continent of Tropica. Zarkov is seriously injured in the crash. The three of them are soon taken captive by soldiers and come face to face with the exotic Queen Desira of Tropica. Don Moore expands Flash’s backstory a bit by making the renowned polo player a former college football star while Alex Raymond’s artwork is as stunning as ever. His depiction of Dale in this installment may be the most beautiful rendition yet. Desira is portrayed more in the tradition of H. Rider Haggard’s She or Edgar Rice Burroughs’ La of Opar rather than Raymond’s Princess Aura. Burne Hogarth’s run illustrating the Tarzan strip may be the only serious rival that Raymond had at this juncture. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous throughout.

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Real vs. the Unreal, Worlds Other Than Our Own, and the Starting Line of Fantasy

Thursday, January 19th, 2012 | Posted by Brian Murphy

masterpieces-of-fantasy-and-enchantmentWhenever discussions of fantasy fiction arise, the question of “which came first?” inevitably follows. Newbies mistakenly think that J.R.R. Tolkien started the genre, overlooking authors like William Morris and E.R. Eddison who had already begun a rich tradition of secondary world fantasy. The same arguments swirl over the many sub-genres of fantasy, too. For example, most believe that Robert E. Howard is the proper father of swords and sorcery, beginning with his 1929 short story “The Shadow Kingdom.” But others have pled the case for Lord Dunsany’s “The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth” (1908), and so on.

Once begun, these arguments inevitably reach further and further back in time. George MacDonald’s Phantastes (1858) was published before Morris’s The Well at the World’s End (1896), didn’t you know? Oh yeah, what about Malory’s LeMorte D’Arthur (1485)? I’ve got that beat: The Odyssey (8th Century BC). I see your Odyssey and raise you The Epic of Gilgamesh (1300 BC, or thereabouts). And so on. Until it seems that fantasy has always been with us.

But perhaps that isn’t the case. In an introduction to the 1988 anthology Masterpieces of Fantasy and Enchantment, editor David Hartwell draws one of the most neatly defined starting lines for fantasy I’ve encountered. Hartwell describes fantasy as a story written deliberately as unreal, and one which does not take place in the real world.

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