Charlene Brusso Reviews The Alloy of Law

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

the-alloy-of-lawThe Alloy of Law
Brandon Sanderson
Tor ( $24.99, 329p)
Reviewed by Charlene Brusso

Sanderson burst onto the fantasy landscape with his creative Mistborn series, about a world where allomancers and feruchemists use different metals to feed their magical powers. With its solid world-building, believable characters, and twisty intrigues, the Mistborn series turned what could have been an adequate medievaloid good guys vs the Dark Overlord into a thoroughly memorable read.

Sanderson could have gone ahead and continued to mine that same setting for plenty more stories. And those hypothetical books would’ve been fun–but not half as much fun as what he actually chose to do with The Alloy of Law.

The new book begins some 300 years after the core events of the original Mistborn trilogy. The old characters are now hazy figures of legend. Rising technology, both Allomancy-based and non-magical, means railroads, barges and boats, steel skyscrapers, and, in wealthier enclaves like capital city Elendel, even electric lighting.

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Convention Report: Ad Astra 2012

Saturday, April 21st, 2012 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Ad AstraLast weekend I went to Toronto to attend the Ad Astra science fiction and fantasy convention. It was the third convention I’ve been to in my life. I learned a fair bit.

To start with, I learned a bit about the thriving Toronto sf scene. Toronto’s a huge city, both geographically and in terms of population; over six million people live in the Greater Toronto Area, and over eight and a half in the ‘golden horseshoe’ region around the western shore of Lake Ontario. That’s the population base the sf community there draws from. There are writers of all levels of experience in and around the city, and a friend of mine told me there are at least three critique groups of published writers. Publishers are based in the city, notably ChiZine Publications. And, in tough days for retail booksellers, there’s still a dedicated sf bookstore, Bakka Phoenix. As well as three separate annual conventions, that I know of.

Ad Astra was first held in 1980, and focusses on written fantastika. Guests of honour this year were author Harry Turtledove, writer/actress Lesley Livingston, artist Joe Jusko, editor Shelly Shapiro, and fan organizer/scholar Peter Halasz. The 2012 convention was technically north of the city of Toronto proper, in the neighbouring municipality of Markham.

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Why I Created Labyrinth Lord

Saturday, April 21st, 2012 | Posted by Daniel Proctor

labyrinth-lord2I was around eight years old when a neighborhood friend showed up at my door with a small red box.

The box had a dragon on the cover, crouched over a pile of fantastic treasures. A warrior faced off against the toothy beast, with a magical glowing sword in mid-swing.

That box was of course the Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set (D&D). I can feel my inner geek dripping from my fingers as I type this, but I can honestly say the game changed my life forever.

Many people of my generation were introduced to D&D through this starter set. If you are a few years older you would have encountered similar sets of rules, just with different cover art.

This game captured my imagination in a way that the video games of the 80s didn’t. My friends and I played every day that summer, nurturing an imagination that I am thankful for to this day. I continued to play D&D all the way through high school and after. But around the year 2000 everything changed for me.

Wizards of the Coast had purchased TSR (the original publishers of D&D) and they were planning to release a new edition. When it hit the shelves I was struck immediately by the change — not just in rules, but overall aesthetic.

I’ve never been a big video game player so the over-the-top video game-inspired art was alien to me. The rules made characters more like super heroes than adventurers trying to survive in dank dungeons. Recognizing that I was no longer the target audience for D&D, I largely left the game behind in favor of other role-playing games.

That is until 2006.

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Strange Horizons April 16, 2012

Saturday, April 21st, 2012 | Posted by Soyka

This past week’s issue of Strange Horizons features a story by Andrea Kneeland. “Beneath Impossible Circumstances”:

Analise wants to have a baby. A real baby. I tell her that if we had a baby together, it would be a real baby. It would be a real baby and it would have parts from both of us, and it would be a real person made from both of our genes, and that I want parts of myself in a child just as much as she wants parts of herself in a child. When I tell her these things, she turns on the faucet or runs the vacuum or opens the refrigerator door wide and sticks her head in like she’s looking for something so she can pretend not to hear me and I can pretend not to see how damp and salted her reddening cheeks are, and on days like these, when I tell her things like these, the bed sheets between us stay cool and dry and I remind myself of the virtue of silence and I bite my lip to draw blood so that in the morning, when I move my mouth, the pain will remind me not to say a thing.

Other features include poetry by Virginia M, Mohlere, commentary by Adam Roberts on the 2012 Arthur C. Clarke shortlist and a review of Lev Grossman’s The Magician King by Bill Mingin.


Art of the Genre: Front Loading a Kickstarter

Friday, April 20th, 2012 | Posted by Scott Taylor

This Kickstarter was 70% complete by the closing of the campaign and yet we still are going down to the wire on deadline.

This Kickstarter was 70% complete by the closing of the campaign and yet we still are going down to the wire on deadline.

Ok, could Kickstarter be any more popular than it is right now? I’m thinking no… I mean, if we were looking at a bell curve, beginning in 2009 with Kickstarter’s launch, the top of the bell should be right here, right now.

As I was moving through Facebook yesterday, a place where until November 2011 I’d never heard or seen a mention of Kickstarter, I counted 9 different threads among sites I frequent either pushing a new Kickstarter or asking questions about the platform.

It’s kind of crazy, and yet when the gravy train is running, anyone out there would be a fool not to jump on board, or so all the property flippers from 2006 would like you to believe.

Still, I digress, as this post is about something other than the proliferation of the platform.

This fine Saturday, one in which I incredibly DON’T have a Kickstarter to peddle, I’m going to talk a bit about getting ready for a Kickstarter.

As I mentioned in my last post on the subject, a video is now an even greater key to a Kickstarter’s success, and the days of one-on-one testimonials are dying faster than the people of Portland in the TV show Grimm.

But before I reiterate my discussion on videos from two weeks ago, I really want to take you into the world of Kickstarters, fulfillment, and what it takes to not only get one going, but also how to wrap it up and get it out the door after all the ‘crazy’ ends. This process will take a couple of weeks, so bear with me, but it still begins today with the question I got earlier this week.

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Goth Chick Crypt Notes: Jonathan Frid: December 2, 1924 – April 14, 2012

Friday, April 20th, 2012 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image0021Before we had heard of Lestat, Bill Compton or Edward Cullen, one vampire alone dominated our collective pop culture conscious; the formidable and classic, Barnabas Collins.

This week the offices of Goth Chick News are draped in black, or I should say more draped in black, in respectful mourning for Mr. Jonathan Frid, who portrayed the character on the soap opera/horror series Dark Shadows (making his first appearance at the doors of Collinwood on April 18, 1967) until 1971, and who died last Saturday at the age of 87.

As we’ve previously discussed, Johnny Depp will be reprising Mr. Frid’s iconic role in the Dark Shadows remake set for release on May 11th, though it’s probably more appropriate to call is a “redo” as director Tim Burton has elected to make it a… sigh… comedy.

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Celluloid Heroes

Friday, April 20th, 2012 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

the-vikings1The year was 1958. I was six years-old. Life was a waking dream filled with magic, mystery, and wonder. It was a year that would have a lasting effect on me.

It was the year I first encountered the cinematic “ancestors” of the warriors and heroes I would go on to discover ten or so years later in the paperback pages of Lancer, Ballantine, Avon, Signet, Paperback Library, Pyramid, and other publishers who had taken up the banner of sword and sorcery, and heroic fantasy.

Of course, I had already become a fan of Disney’s Zorro, had seen the Errol Flynn swashbucklers on television, and had desperately wanted to become a pirate when I grew up. I would also see Spartacus, starring Kirk Douglas, The Mongols, starring Jack Palance, Hannibal, starring Victor Mature, and other films like Genghis Khan, The 300 Spartans, and Ben Hur a few years later. On television I would later see the silent Thief of Baghdad and Siegfried, and other adventure films of the 1930s and 40s.

But the movie theater in 1958 would have the most profound impact on my life.

The film that started it all was The Vikings, starring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, and the wonderful Ernest Borgnine, whom I recently had the pleasure of meeting.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Yellow Claw – Part Three

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

wildside-press3yellow-claw-jacket1Sax Rohmer’s The Yellow Claw was originally serialized in five installments in Lippincott’s from February through June 1915. The serial was subsequently published in book form later that same year by Methuen Press in the UK and McBride & Nast in the US. The novel chooses to divide the story into four sections. This week, we examine the third part.

Rohmer shifts the action back to Inspector Dunbar and Gaston Max’s investigation into the murder at the Leroux residence. Despite the press fingering Soames, the Leroux butler, as chief suspect, the detectives are sure that finding Soames will lead them to the mysterious Mr. King, the real culprit. Gaston Max suggests that Mr. King is a Chinaman with the reasoning that since the deceased was an opium addict, the murder is likely tied to Limehouse.

The French detective adopts the false identities of both Abraham Levinsky and Monsieur Gaston of Paris to infiltrate the bohemian circle that frequents the opium den. Max had stumbled onto the trail of Mr. King in Paris where the opium dealer was operating in an apartment next to the historical residence of the late Joseph Balsamo, alias the infamous Count Cagliostro. From here, Rohmer is on familiar territory at last as Max’s description of his raid on the Paris opium den is decidedly more typical of Rohmer’s Fu Manchu thrillers.

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Goth Chick News: C2E2 2012’s Best in Show

Thursday, April 19th, 2012 | Posted by Sue Granquist

c2e2Last weekend, Chicago’s McCormick Center played host to the annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2 for you cool kids), and once again I am reminded that not all the “interesting” people have pulled up stakes for California.

Amidst the oodles of Avengers merchandise, aisles of comic illustrators (many of whom appeared to have a near cult-like following) and celebrity autograph queues, mingled individuals who seemed to have ample expendable income for use on high-end costumes.

Yes, there was indeed a costume contest much later in the afternoon, but that didn’t explain why a very thin dude in a wig and fishnets was walking around posing as Lady Gaga.

It is sights like this which remind me that should I ever venture into the San Diego ComiCon; my head would likely explode.

Still, the popularity of C2E2 continues to grow year over year; so much so that in 2012 it was relocated to a larger venue in the building across the street from 2011’s location.

And though I could have easily grabbed a spot on the floor opposite the entrance and spent the day people-watching, Black Gate photog Chris Z and I waded in with the rest of the press just before the opening bell on Saturday.

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Horror Roleplaying in 1890s England: Cthulhu By Gaslight

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

cthulhu-by-gaslightContrary to what you may read, it’s not all about Barbarian Prince and First Edition AD&D after hours here at the Black Gate rooftop headquarters.

No, sometimes during our friendly evening gatherings we just sit around and reminisce about great gaming sessions of old. I played a bit of Call of Cthulhu in my day; so much so that it’s probably my second favorite RPG (right behind AD&D).

Together with a few close friends I trekked down my fair share of fog-shrouded New England back alleys, trying to sound like Sam Spade while deftly making perception checks and shining feeble torchlight on things better left unseen.

Good times, good times. Except for the failed sanity rolls, of course, and the frequent times I was forced to crumble up my character sheet while Brian Muir, our game master, described how my character was dragged off to the asylum, screaming in wordless horror. Sometimes I wonder how I stumbled into this hobby.

But mostly what I remember about Call of Cthulhu was that Chaosium had hands down the best packaged adventures on the market. Seriously, they were epic. Larry Ditillio’s globe-spanning Masks of Nyarlathotep is still considered the high water mark for RPG adventures in the 1980s, and Keith Herber’s Spawn of Azathoth won the Gamer’s Choice Award for Best Role Playing Adventure in 1987.

Beyond the Mountains of Madness, an enormous 438-page masterwork from Charles and Janyce Engan, commands outrageous collector’s prices today (copies are currently selling at for $555 — and up), and that’s not even the most sought-after. That distinction belongs to Horror on the Orient Express, a fabulous boxed set released in 1991 which sold out quickly and has never been reprinted.

But it was William A. Barton’s Cthulhu By Gaslight that was always my favorite.

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