33 Years to Immortality. Maybe.

Thursday, April 26th, 2012 | Posted by Brian Murphy

singularity-coverIn 2045 we will reach Event Horizon, aka the Singularity. In that year we will transcend biology and our bodies will meld with machines. “There will be no distinction, post-Singularity, between human and machine or between physical and virtual reality,” predicts author Ray Kurzweil in his 2005 treatise The Singularity is Near.

Though it built computer intelligence, humanity will be surpassed by its creation. Powered by artificial intelligence, machines will design their next generation without human intervention, growing exponentially beyond all human potential. These machines will not only be smart, but indistinguishable from humans. Writes Kurzweil: “Within several decades information-based technologies will encompass all human knowledge and proficiency, ultimately including the pattern-recognition powers, problem-solving skills, and emotional and moral intelligence of the human brain itself.”

Kurzweil’s predictions of the Singularity are optimistic: Rather than being reduced to ineffectual dinosaurs headed for slow extinction, or wiped out in some Terminator-like rise of the machines, we will merge with technology, and our bodies will no longer be subject to disease and weakness and age. “We can expect that the full realization of the biotechnology and nanotechnology revolutions will enable us to eliminate virtually all medical causes of death,” writes Kurzweil.

So 33 years until immortality. But what sort of a life will we lead in this Brave New World of man-machine perfection?

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Goth Chick News: Once Upon a Midnight Dreary is Friday (again)

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

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Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

You’ve got to go a long way to adequately capture the creepiness that is the poetry of Edger Allen Poe.

And Hollywood has tried… a lot.

There have been 44 films to date dealing directly with Poe material, not to mention all the films with Poe “inspired” material, from the first Batman movie in 1966 to Saw V in 2008.

It started in 1909 when D.W. Griffith created the first Poe bio-pic in the form of a six-minute, one-reeler entitled Edgar Allen Poe commemorating the 50th anniversary of Poe’s passing. Even with all the wonders the turn of the century brought, including moving pictures, Edgar Allen Poe stood out as a mystery.

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LORE Returns from the Grave

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 | Posted by John R. Fultz

lore2

Richard Corben provides a stunning cover for the issue of LORE #2.1, which features a long-lost tale of Seelura by the late, great Brian McNaughton (among other great stories).

LORE is back!

You can’t keep a good mag down. [Insert your own zombie joke here] Back in the 90s LORE was one of the coolest independently-produced horror mags to see the light of day, showcasing stellar talents like Harlan Ellison, Richard Corben, Brian Lumley, and the late, great Brian McNaughton, to name only a few.

Recently LORE dug itself out of its own musty tomb and returned in an improved “2.0” version. I spoke with the mag’s co-founder Rod Heather about where LORE came from, where it’s going, and the resurrection of McNaughton’s THRONE OF BONES setting, Seelura.

More on this and other vital topics follow in the interview:


FULTZ:  For those not familiar with the first incarnation of LORE, can you give us a quick snapshot of the mag’s unique history?

We began to put LORE together in 1994, and released our first issue in June, 1995. Back then, we really had no idea about the market … at all. We had never even heard the term “small press.”  We have always been avid readers of horror, science fiction and fantasy, and it seemed like it might be fun to publish a magazine of horror stories. And, it was.

Though co-publisher Sean O’Leary and I have written stories of our own in the past, we didn’t want to include any of our own stories in LORE. To us, it’s tacky when someone publishes his or her own work in a collection or magazine for which they, themselves, have selected the stories. We wanted LORE to consist of wholly original short stories discovered and captured in the wild, as it were.

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Michaele Jordan Reviews The Dead of Winter

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 | Posted by Bill Ward

dead-of-winterThe Dead of Winter

Chris Priestley

Bloomsbury USA Childrens (215 pp, $16.99 hardcover, January 31, 2012)

Reviewed by Michaele Jordan

First and foremost, the reader needs to know that The Dead of Winter is a traditional ghost story. If you are looking for a modern view point or a cross-genre twist, this is not the book for you. It cleaves to Gothic imagery and draws on many classic antecedents.

It is set in the Victorian era; the year is not specified, but the setting makes it plain. Like many earlier works, it is presented as the journal of a first person narrator, told from a distant future, and opening with a solemn assertion that the contents of the book are entirely true, little as the reader may be inclined to believe them. Preface aside, Priestley draws on a Dickensian model to provide the young protagonist so necessary to a children’s book.

The story opens with Michael Vyner at his mother’s funeral. He is now an orphan, as his father has been dead for years. In fact, the father—an army man—died heroically, saving the life of his superior officer, Sir Stephen Clarendon. Sir Stephen has always been grateful, but Michael’s mother was too proud to accept much assistance, so Michael has never met the man his father died to save or even been encouraged to take pride in his father’s courageous sacrifice.

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Pavis – Gateway to Adventure: The Classic RPG City is Back! (Part One)

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 | Posted by Sarah Newton

Pavis Gateway to Adventure-smallWow. This is a big book. I mean, seriously big. It’s 420 pages of letter-sized softback, absolutely crammed with information about one of the most famous cities in fantasy roleplaying – Pavis, City of Thieves, Gateway to Adventure.

Let me be frank: I’m a fan. I have been ever since Pavis first saw the light of day back in 1983. And, since this freshly published brand new supplement for the HeroQuest fantasy roleplaying game hit my mailbox last week, I’ve become a fan all over again.

This week and next, I’m going to review Pavis – Gateway to Adventure, and try to give some idea of why it’s such a special book. This week, I’ll consider the history of the city of Pavis as a roleplaying game product, and give a high-level overview of what the new supplement contains; next week, I’ll look into the book in much more detail, and provide a chapter-by-chapter breakdown.

So what is Pavis, and why should you care? Well, if you’re a fan of the ancient fantasy world of Glorantha, the invention of RPG and fiction writer (and sometime shaman) Greg Stafford, then you’ll know all about Pavis already. But if you’re not – then prepare yourselves for a treat. Because whether you’re a roleplayer, or a fan of fantasy fiction with a love of well-crafted worlds, meticulous cultural detail, and awesome fantasy cities, Pavis – Gateway to Adventure might just be for you.

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Art of the Genre: When Great Art is actually Bad Art

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

Amazing isn't it?  Is originality dead, or is someone in Hollywood smarter than we give them credit?

Amazing isn't it? Is originality dead, or is someone in Hollywood smarter than we give them credit for?

I had a question proposed to me in my Saturday blog here on Black Gate concerning the multiple covers of Howard Andrew Jones’s The Desert of Souls. I’ll repost the question here.

I see a lot of photo-manipulation covers and hybrid photo/3D/digital painted covers, and I feel that a lot of them actually look pretty cheap and nasty. If I was Howard Andrew Jones, for example, I would be very happy with the first The Desert of Souls cover (100% digitally painted, stirring, full of life and movement, etc) and very unhappy with the second cover (a mish-mash of photo elements and, I don’t know? 3D elements? What’s going on with those faces? It almost looks like a romance novel cover.) What do you think about this trend?

I’m going to break this down into two different answers. The first will deal with The Desert of Souls, and the second on the current state of science fiction/fantasy covers in general.

The question immediately reminded me of Hollywood and their great marketing machine. In 1990 Paramount Studios released Hunt for the Red October. The movie cost roughly $30 million to make and grossed $200 million worldwide, which is to say it was an enormous success. The movie poster featured a shadowy submarine, Sean Connery’s face, all in black and red, and the title in white lettering.

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New Treasures: Goodis: Five Noir Novels of the 1940s & 50s

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

goodis-five-noir-novels1Let’s take stock for a minute. Been a busy week, and it’s only Tuesday. Is it time for another installment of New Treasures already?

Let’s see, let’s see… what did we cover last time? Been so long I barely remember. Well look at that — it was a handsome pair of novels from The Library of America. By coincidence, The Library of America also published the book I want to talk about today: Goodis: Five Noir Novels of the 1940s & 50s.

Or maybe it’s not coincidence. Maybe The Library of America is just that cool. Here’s the back cover copy for today’s omnibus collection of five classic crime novels by David Goodis — you decide.

In 1997 The Library of America’s Crime Novels: American Noir gathered, in two volumes, eleven classic works of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s — among them David Goodis’s moody and intensely lyrical masterpiece Down There, adapted by François Truffaut for his 1960 film Shoot the Piano Player. Now, The Library of America and editor Robert Polito team up again to celebrate the full scope of Goodis’s signature style with this landmark volume collecting five great novels from the height of his career. Goodis (1917-1967) was a Philadelphia- born pulp expressionist who brought a jazzy style to his spare, passionate novels of mean streets and doomed protagonists: an innocent man railroaded for his wife’s murder (Dark Passage); an artist whose life turns nightmarish because of a cache of stolen money (Nightfall); a dockworker seeking to comprehend his sister’s brutal death (The Moon in the Gutter); a petty criminal derailed by irresistible passion (The Burglar); and a famous crooner scarred by violence and descending into dereliction (Street of No Return). Long a cult favorite, Goodis now takes his place alongside Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett in the pantheon of classic American crime writers.

No, it’s not fantasy or science fiction. But it’s a complete noir library in one attractive package, and it has thumbnail pics of five pulp paperbacks from the 40s & 50s right on the cover wrap. Good enough for me.

Goodis: Five Noir Novels of the 1940s & 50s is 848 pages in hardcover. It was published March 29, 2012, and retails for $35.


Five Genre Movies to Look Forward to This Summer

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

prometheus_movie_05Summer is almost here, and the time is almost right, for dancing in the streets. Or sitting your butt down in a movie theater to watch a big green thing in purple pants beat up aliens.

As I more and more become “The Black Gate Movie Guy,” I’ve grown aware of my responsibilities regarding upcoming films of interest to our readership. This summer I promise to post reviews of all the major genre releases, which means that, yes, you will get to hear my thoughts on Snow White and Huntsman. Because you didn’t demand it.

This is also a transparent bid to get officially recognized as a movie critic so that I will be invited to press screenings here in Los Angeles and thus be able to post up reviews of films in the days before they are released.

Looking over the summer roster (posted below — yes, all shall be reviewed), aside from a few groans of anticipatory pain, there are five films that really have my geek adrenal glands turned up to the danger zone. Here are the films I hope will make summer worthwhile.

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Courtney Crumrin Volume One: The Night Things

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

courtney-crumrin-volume-one-the-night-things2Far back in the mists of time (March 2002, if you want to be picky), I picked up an intriguing black and white independent title at my local comic shop. It was Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things #1, written and drawn by Ted Naifeh and published by Oni Press.

The first few pages featured cold and uncaring parents, a spooky house, young bullies, sinister night creatures, and a protagonist who was clearly an aspiring criminal and juvenile delinquent. Before the end of the first issue, young Courtney Crumrin had trapped a goblin and forced it to cruelly devour one of her school mates, bones and all.

Man, this was just what I was looking for. I brought it home and read it to my three children, and they immediately clamored for more.

More is what they got. Over the next few years Naifeh produced over a dozen issues following Courtney and her Uncle Aloysius, a powerful warlock who reluctantly teaches her magic. Courtney’s adventures involved the helpful (but hungry) goblins Butterworm and Butterbug; Boo & Quick, talking neighborhood cats who assist the young aspiring witch; a local Coven of witches and warlocks who frequently turn to Aloysius for help with dread problems; night things from the Twilight Kingdom — including The Dreadful Dutchess, Courtney’s friend Skarrow, and The Twilight King — and the terrible Tommy Rawhead, a giant hobgoblin feared by the Coven, and everyone else.

The various issues of Courtney Crumrin were collected into four handsome trade paperbacks, followed by the short-lived spin-off series Courtney Crumrin Tales in 2005. But that was all, and fans were left waiting while Naifeh turned to other projects, like Polly and the Pirates.

The long drought ended two weeks ago with the arrival of Courtney Crumrin Volume 1: The Night Things, the first hardcover edition of Courtney Crumrin. More importantly, it’s also the first time the issues have appeared in color, and the newly colorized pages look terrific. Volume One reprints the first four issues with special bonus material including sketches and covers of all four issues. The second volume, Courtney Crumrin & The Coven of Mystics, reprinting the next four issues in color, is due Aug 29, 2012.

Courtney Crumrin is one of the finest comics produced in the 21st Century. Don’t miss the opportunity to have these early issues in a handsome permanent edition. Courtney Crumrin Volume One: The Night Things is 144 pages in hardcover; it is published by Oni Press for $19.99.

More than a decade after I read them the first issue at bed time, all three of my children are still ardent Courtney Crumrin fans. But they’ll have to wait for this volume, because Dad wants to read it first.


“What’s Become of Screwloose?” and Other Great Short Fiction by Ron Goulart

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

whats-become-of-screwloose1Ron Goulart has written more than 70 novels, most of them science fiction or fantasy, as well as over a dozen non-fiction titles, including Comic Book Culture and the classic history of the pulps, Cheap Thrills: An Informal History of the Pulp Magazines.

I saw his name countless times in the paperback racks where I hunted for science fiction as a teen, on slender DAW volumes like Calling Dr. Patchwork, The Panchronicon Plot, and Big Bang. He had a reputation for light comedy, not something that appealed to me at the time, and I pretty much ignored Goulart for years.

In fact, I truly discovered Ron Goulart for the first time five days ago, shortly before midnight last Wednesday.

I was bagging a collection of Worlds of IF, a science fiction digest that folded in 1974, which I’d gradually accumulated over several weeks on eBay. I was casually flipping through the April 1970 issue when I stumbled on the short story “Swap,” by Ron Goulart, with this editorial teaser:

What happens when you swap love partners — and win a hot, curvy bundle of hate?

As a student of short fiction teasers — I’ve written a few hundred for Black Gate — I know a winner when I see one. I pulled the lever to recline the couch and, surrounded by nearly a dozen stacks of aging science fiction magazines, settled back to enjoy a 42-year old science fiction story.

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