Alana Joli Abbott Reviews Chicks Kick Butt

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 | Posted by Bill Ward

chicks-kick-butt-anthologyChicks Kick Butt
Rachel Caine and Kerrie L. Hughes (eds.)
Tor (pages 349, $14.99, trade July 2011)
Reviewed by Alana Joli Abbott

Anthologies should accomplish two things. Readers unfamiliar with the authors should have their interest piqued and should want to read more by those authors. Readers familiar with the works of the writers should feel that the story is a reward – an extra – that enhances their reading experience of the other works. In the case of Chicks Kick Butt, several – but not all – of the stories engaged me and left me wanting more by the writers.

Overall, it is a strong collection, filled with writers who have had novels on bestseller lists, many at The New York Times. Perhaps most pleasantly, the stories tend to be about women who are not too awesome to be interesting. While a few of the heroines are amazing fighters who literally kick butt, most are vulnerable or unsure of their own abilities; it is their determination, perseverance, and wits that sees them through. Given frequent complaints about how “strong woman” has had a single definition in the media, this anthology bucks the trend by featuring women with a variety of strengths.

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Art of the Genre: Art of the Iconic Female #2; The Succubus

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Tony DiTerlizzi does the Succubus right for AD&D's Planescape!

Tony DiTerlizzi does the Succubus right for AD&D's Planescape!

I can’t tell you for sure the first time I saw a succubus, but I’d lay money that it was in the 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. The image there, done by David C. Sutherland III, has been the subject of much debate over the years [Supposedly it’s based on this picture of Sheila Mullen, a Playboy Playmate from May 1977], but one thing no one can argue is whether or not it’s sexually inspiring to teenage boys. For that, the answer is an obvious YES!

This sexuality is certainly the key to making the succubus an Iconic Female, and there is little doubt that countless images of feral succubus abound in any fantasy setting worth its salt. For my own fantasy gaming succubus legends, I have a couple, but I suppose my most famous comes not from the succubus herself, but from a succubus’s torrid affair with a Drow wizard that produced an Alu-demon known only as Mithelvarn’s Daughter. This character inspired a deep affection for Alu-demons which first appeared in Monster Manual II and were drawn by Harry Quinn. That tome described them as the offspring of a mating between a succubi and a human, and that these progeny are always female. Cambions, for all you playing a copy of the home trivia game, are the product of a human female mating with a demon, and they are always male.

Still, other than D&D trivia, what do we really know about the succubus other than she’s inherently hot? Well, I did a bit of digging, and what do you know, I found that there is a reason, other than sexual attraction, for me to like a good old-fashioned succubus.

You see, as far as I can tell, Succubi are really old, like the dawn of history old. When you start reading society keywords like Mesopotamian or Babylonian, you know you are getting serious about a demon’s age. In those cultures, they had references to a dream-haunting demon named Lilitu, but it isn’t until the early Jewish faith breaks onto the scene that we find Lilith, the presumed first ‘modern’ succubus, mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud. Here, Adam, product of God that we know in the Christian Bible, takes Lilith as his first wife since she was created from the same earth as he. It isn’t until he breaks with Lilith because she refuses to become subservient to him that Eve is created from Adam’s rib, and therefore a part of man instead of his equal.

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50% Off Sale at Night Shade Books

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

cloud-roadsNight Shade Books, one of the leading small press publishers, is having a 50% off sale. That’s 50% off every book in their catalog, including all existing stock and forthcoming titles.

However the sale only lasts until next Thursday, April 26th, so act fast.

Night Shade publishes some of the most acclaimed authors in the business, including Martha Wells, Manly Wade Wellman, Greg Egan, Glen Cook, David Drake, Paolo Bacigalupi, Kage Baker, Jay Lake, Iain M. Banks, Elizabeth Bear, Charles Saunders, Lucius Shepard, and many more.

Night Shade has also earned a fine reputation for discovering and promoting many of the hottest rising stars in SF and fantasy. Just in the last few years they’ve published Rob Ziegler’s Seed, Cat Valente’s The Habitation of the Blessed, Bradley P. Beaulieu’s The Winds of Khalakovo, J.M. McDermott’s Never Knew Another, Kameron Hurley God’s War, Jon Armstrong’s Philip K. Dick Award nominee Yarn, and the Hugo Award-winning The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, just to name a few.

Looking for recommendations? Here at Black Gate we’ve recently discussed several excellent Night Shade titles, including:

as well as one or two I’m doubtlessly forgetting.

I also highly recommend all four volumes of Jonathan Strahan Eclipse series, perhaps the best original anthology line currently on the market, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s nifty pirate anthology Fast Ships, Black Sails, and Charles Saunders’ legendary sword & sorcery novel Imaro.

To get 50% off you need to purchase at least four titles — which won’t be a problem, considering the rich selection you have to choose from.  Get all the details on the sale here, and start shopping their catalog here.

This Week’s Bargain SF & Fantasy Books at

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

zotI don’t know about these weekly reports. I mean, they’re supposed to be public service announcements that steer you towards cool savings on the latest releases.

Instead, they’re fueling my online shopping obsession. I spend hours every afternoon trolling for bargains, and I call it “research.”

Well, not your problem I suppose. You get to benefit from my compulsive behavior, and I get to fill my house with more books and games in the shrinkwrap. Everyone wins.

Terrific bargains this week include the definitive collection of one of the best comics ever made, Zot!: The Complete Black and White Collection: 1987-1991, as well as a nice assortment of Marvel Essentials and Marvel Masterworks (The Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America).

Discounted fantasy and SF novels include Charles Stross’ Rule 34, the first installment in Richard Kadrey’s popular Sandman Slim series, Orson Scott Card’s latest Ender novel Ender in Exile, and Jonathan Lethem’s first novel Gun, with Occasional Music.

It’s a big list this week — thirty titles, all discounted between 60% and 80%. As always, quantities on these bargain books are very limited. All are eligible for free domestic shipping on orders over $25.

Let’s get to the comics first.

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Angry Robot’s Door Is Open

Monday, April 16th, 2012 | Posted by Jackson Kuhl

Whistle for your post owl, conjure your djinn, geas an itinerant minstrel or passer-by into delivering your parcel: genre publisher Angry Robot is accepting unagented manuscripts for the next two weeks. And they’re interested in classic fantasy only.

What we’re not looking for:

Anything other than classic fantasy – swords, magic, kingdoms, castles. You might describe it as high fantasy, epic, magical, low, classic, medieval, or whatever. If you’ve written an urban fantasy or supernatural modern day chiller, that’s great, but not what we’re wanting this time around. … If it has castles, kingdoms, magic, swords, dragons, you’re on the right track.

The mystical portal will remain unlocked from April 16-30. Alas, this doesn’t help me but maybe it helps you. Just be sure to remember your old chum Jackson when you’re writing the Acknowledgments page.

Doug Draa looks at Frank Belknap Long

Monday, April 16th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

rim-of-the-unknown2Doug Draa has kicked off a new blog dedicated to the golden age of Horror Anthology Paperbacks. His first subject is the much-overlooked pulp master Frank Belknap Long:

I’ve enjoyed Mr. Long’s stories since the middle 70s when I first read “The Space Eaters” in Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, Volume 1. He was a correspondent of Lovecraft’s and wrote several stories incorporating HPL’s Cthulhu Mythos. His attempts at Mythos writing were successful enough that his “Hounds of Tindalos” are more or less accepted as canon.

His stories are pure pulp and crazy enough to stand above the normal horror fare of the 30s and 40s. I find “The Space Eaters” to be one of the very best non-HPL penned Mythos tales ever. It tells of an invasion from beyond (actually from outside and between) in such a cold hearted and nonchalant manner without any of HPL’s typical histrionics that it is truly unsettling without ever being “over the top”. Hats off to the man! But as far as craziness goes, how can you not love such titles as “The Flame Midget,” “The Man with a Thousand Legs” or “The Horror from the Hills”?

Indeed. Frank Belknap Long published a host of stories in the pulps and several fine collections, including The Early Long, Odd Science Fiction, The Hounds of Tindalos, The Rim of the Unknown and Night Fear.

He wrote nearly 30 novels, including Space Station 1 (1957), Mission to a Distant Star, Mars is My Destination (1962), The Horror from the Hills (1963), Monster From Out of Time (1970), and Survival World (1971).

I don’t see a lot of blogs devoted to vintage horror anthologies, but if all the entries are as informative as this one, I’ll be a regular visitor.

You can find Doug’s blog, Uncle Doug’s Bunker of Horror, here.

New Treasures: The Library of America’s A Princess of Mars and Tarzan of the Apes

Monday, April 16th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

a-princess-of-marsSo yeah, I saw John Carter. And I liked it. Liked it enough that I went twice, actually. Been a while since I did that.

Still looks like it’s going to be the biggest box office bomb of the year, but these things happen. Doesn’t mean it’s not a good movie. And let’s face it — it’s helped introduce a whole new generation to the classic science fantasy of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

And not just all those young punks playing video games who don’t read books anymore.  I’m talking about a great many supposedly well-read science fiction and fantasy readers who never bothered to give ERB the time of day.

People like, y’know, me. For instance.

Sure, I’m fairly well read in SF and fantasy. And I have a (nearly) complete set of Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars books in paperback, picked up here and there at garage sales because I liked the covers. But Burroughs just never really appealed to me in my youth, and I never bothered to read them.

I loved the colorful action-adventure of the great pulp serials, but the mid-1930s was about as far back as I went.  Give me Asimov, van Vogt, Clifford D. Simak, Charles Tanner, H.P. Lovecraft. But if you appeared before they did — if your name was H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, or Edgar Rice Burroughs, for example — then you were just old.

Well, it’s never to late to correct past mistakes. Especially when The Library of America is making it easy with two beautiful keepsake volumes celebrating the centenary of Burroughs’ most famous creations: Tarzan of the Apes and John Carter of Mars.

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Chris Braak Reviews Shadow’s Lure

Sunday, April 15th, 2012 | Posted by Bill Ward

sprunk-shadows-lureShadow’s Lure
Jon Sprunk
Pyr (387 pp, $17.00, Paperback, June 2011)
Reviewed by Chris Braak

Shadow’s Lure, by Jon Sprunk, is the continuing story of Caim the Knife, formerly an assassin, then briefly a supernaturally-empowered assassin, now a supernaturally-empowered vagabond. After helping Empress Josphine (“Josey” to her friends) secure the throne of Nimea away from that empire’s totalitarian church, Caim has gone north into barbarous Eregoth, to find out more about his long-lost family, and discover the secret origin of his heritage. While in Eregoth, Caim runs afoul of a duke under the sway of an evil sorceress, and finds himself embroiled in a rebellion against them. Meanwhile, the newly-crowned Empress has to fight off an assassination attempt and a conspiracy to snatch that hard-won throne away.

As with his first book, Shadow’s Son, Sprunk reveals a strong command of the sort of scene-by-scene, action pacing necessary for good, tense battle scenes, and Shadow’s Lure definitely delivers those. The fights are fast and dramatic, primarily because Sprunk doesn’t short-change the stakes; people are in danger, and people die, and there is no sense of Sprunk “coddling” anyone, or letting the reader get off easy by keeping your favorites alive. War is a dirty business, and Shadow’s Lure, for the most part, meets it head on.

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The Best of Modern Arabian Fantasy, Part I: Howard Andrew Jones and The Desert of Souls

Sunday, April 15th, 2012 | Posted by Emily Mah

howard-picThe Middle East has produced some world famous mythology and is fertile ground to base a fantasy novel, as more and more authors are discovering. Over the next several posts I will be exploring this modern day trend and interviewing many of the authors who are mining the lore and culture of the Middle East, and specifically the Arabian Middle East for their work.

My first interviewee is Howard Andrew Jones who sets his novel, The Desert of Souls, in the 8th Century, when the Abbasid caliphate was a center of trade, culture, and learning. In the following interview, I’ve asked Howard what drew him to this particular cultural milieu and how he went about doing the research necessary to create characters and compose their adventures.

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New Pulp Fiction for Our New Hard Times

Saturday, April 14th, 2012 | Posted by David C. Smith

the-pulpsPulp fiction is back — in print, online, in ebooks, and on iPads. Tough guys, tough women, tough prose, action and more action, blood and thunder, heroes and villains presented unapologetically as heroes and villains.

And why not? Why not have as much blood and thunder as we can handle right now, given that the last time we saw this much imaginative raw prose in the hands of readers, we were in the hard times of the early 1930s?

Fans of the original old, tough, wild pulp stories have always been here, collecting the magazines when they found them at garage sales or at science fiction conventions. But after the heyday of these magazines in the 1930s and 1940s, popular fiction in the 1950s and 1960s changed and moved on to paperbacks and digest zines and television shows.

By then, though, pulp had lost some of its edge. In the postwar boom, it became less than it had been, in the same way that the antics of rough early vaudeville, for example, changed as the routines moved to radio and then to early television and then to sitcoms.

The early 1970s saw a boom in nostalgia for the real stuff from the 1920s and 1930s — just in time for the very serious recession then. That’s when you found remaindered copies everywhere of Tony Goodstone’s big old coffee table book The Pulps, still the best introduction to the popular fiction of hard times and war time. Tons of great stories were brought back, and Bette Midler’s Songs for the New Depression sold right alongside paperback reprints of the Shadow and Doc Savage and Max Brand.

We’re back there now. We’re in the Lesser Depression, as Paul Krugman has identified it. And just as in the hard times of the early 1970s and the very hard times of the early 1930s, pulp fiction is here to fulfill its commitment to giving us outlandish, big top entertainment.

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