Going Digital with The Crow God’s Girl

Saturday, June 30th, 2012 | Posted by Patrice Sarath

gordath-woodEditor’s Note: Patrice Sarath is offering a copy of The Crow God’s Girl to a lucky Black Gate reader — just post a comment for a chance to win either an electronic copy or a paperback.

Thanks to John O’Neill and the Black Gate team for letting me share some of my experiences in publishing.

In 2007 I sold my first two novels to Ace Fantasy. I was ecstatic. This was a dream realized. I had doggedly achieved publication after years of writing, submitting, shrugging off the rejections, and celebrating the acceptances.

I cried tears of joy when I held Gordath Wood in my hands. It was awesome. The awesome lasted all that year and the next. I had a very quick turnaround for Red Gold Bridge, but I made that deadline because I was a professional writer.

And then…

That was 2009. It was the height of the recession. No one was buying books, least of all the sophomore effort of a new writer.

And so, after the results were in, Ace turned down the third book in the series, The Crow God’s Girl.

The good news after that, and I won’t pretend it wasn’t a crushing blow, was that publishing had changed. No longer was an orphaned book destined to stay that way. Established writers were selling respectably in e-book form, and I knew there were fans of the series out there who wanted to know what happened next.

So I turned to self publishing.

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Blogging Dell Comics’ Hercules and Hercules Unchained

Friday, June 29th, 2012 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

hercules-dellhercules-unchained-dell1When bodybuilder turned actor Arnold Schwarzenegger brought Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian to the big screen in a pair of stylish costume dramas in the early 1980s, it ushered in a Sword and Sorcery craze with scores of imitators on the big and small screen eager to recapture the first film’s runaway success. For many, it was as if history was repeating itself for in the 1950s, bodybuilder turned actor Steve Reeves had starred in a pair of Sand and Sandal epics, Hercules and Hercules Unchained that created a similar sensation. The Italian sword and sandal craze (or peplum, to use their proper title) dominated the European box office in the late 1950s until the advent of the so-called Spaghetti western in 1964. The film that started it all was Pietro Francisi’s The Labors of Hercules (1957) which was dubbed in English by Joseph Levine’s fledgling Embassy Pictures and released as Hercules by Warner Bros. in the US in 1958. Its success led to a Dell Comics adaptation by the legendary John Buscema in 1959.

The plot of this first film was a reworking of the Greek myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece with Heracles (going by his Roman name, Hercules) promoted from a supporting player to the lead role. Of course within a few years, Charles Schneer and Ray Harryhausen would cover much of the same territory with Jason and the Argonauts (1963) creating a lasting classic which would quickly supplant the movie that started it all. The latter film’s longevity is largely due to Harryhausen’s superb stop motion effects work which continues to influence film-makers after half a century.

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The Historical Urban Fantasy of Thieftaker

Friday, June 29th, 2012 | Posted by D.B. Jackson

thieftakerThieftaker, the first volume in my new series, The Thieftaker Chronicles, is due out from Tor on July 3, just in time for the July 4th holiday. Why is that relevant? Well, Thieftaker is what I call historical urban fantasy. It is set in Colonial Boston in the 1760s, just as the unrest that will eventually lead to the American Revolution is starting to disrupt life in the city. My lead character, Ethan Kaille, is a thieftaker, a sort of 18th century private investigator who, for a fee, retrieves stolen items and returns them to their rightful owner. He is also a conjurer and an ex-convict with a dark past — he is, in my opinion, the most interesting and complex character I’ve ever written.

The novel begins on the night of the Stamp Act riots. While a mob is rampaging through the city streets, a young woman, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is found murdered. Some want to blame the mob for her death, but naturally our hero has other ideas, and soon he’s drawn into a web of intrigue that puts him at odds with representatives of the Crown, with leaders of the revolutionary movement, including Samuel Adams, with a rival thieftaker — the beautiful and deadly Sephira Pryce — and with a mysterious conjurer who is far more powerful than anyone Ethan has encountered before. I won’t say more than that, because I don’t want to spoil any surprises. But basically the book combines fantasy, mystery, and historical fiction in a way that I think turned out pretty well.

This book, my thirteenth (I’ve written a dozen novels, most of them epic fantasy, as David B. Coe; and by the way, pay no attention to the omen of this being my 13th published book — nothing to see here…) has long meant more to me than any of my others, and, to be perfectly honest, I’ve been trying to figure out why. Part of it might be the very fact of the pseudonym. I’m trying something new here — writing historical urban fantasy instead of the epic, alternate world stuff that I’ve done in the past. I’m enjoying myself, and I want to keep writing this series. If the first book does well, I can.

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Goth Chick News: The Woman In Black is Coming for You… Again (and Again)

Thursday, June 28th, 2012 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image0062Apparently The Woman in Black truly is a supernatural, immortal being.

When we first told you about it, the seriously creepy novel by Susan Hill was a long-running play in London’s West End, a made-for-TV movie in the UK, and barely a rumor from Hammer Films about a theatrical remake starring Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter); which turned out to be true after all.

Thankfully that bit about it potentially being shot in 3D never materialized…

At least not yet.

Hammer Films, which grossed $112 million globally on a $17 million investment has already made the no-brainer announcement that it’s moving forward with a sequel and perhaps more.

The Woman in Black: Angels of Death is currently in development with Jon Crocker once again writing the script based on a story by Susan Hill.

But don’t look for this one at your local bookseller, at least until after the movie is released sometime in 2014. Ms. Hill got busy on the follow up at the behest of Hammer Films.

The first film saw Radcliffe as lawyer Arthur Kipps who travels to Eel Marsh House on an assignment, only to discover the house belonging to his client is haunted by the ghost of a woman who is determined to find someone and something she lost.

The Woman in Black: Angels of Death will take place during World War II, forty years after the events in the original. Daniel Radcliffe will likely not be involved though there have been some recent rumblings that a cameo isn’t out of the question for continuity reasons.

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Reimagining Star Wars as West Wars

Thursday, June 28th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

west-wars-vaderI usually ignore the endless stream of Star Wars fan creativity here on the blog — Lego remakes, the Silent Star Wars, and numerous others. Black Gate is all about shining a light on neglected fantasy… if you think Star Wars is neglected, it’s because you’re blind and deaf and you live on Easter Island.

But every once in a while a simple idea comes along that reduces me to a 12-year old Star Wars fanboy again. That’s what happened yesterday when I discovered Sillof.com, the brainchild of Indianapolis, IN, sculptor Sillof, who specializes in making custom action figures and also makes props for films.

Sillof has created a line of action figures called West Wars, featuring a brilliantly realized cast: Luke S. Walker, a young man living on the outer borderlands with his poor aunt and uncle, Leah Orango, daughter of one of the most prominent ranch families in the territory, “Old” Bennet Kennelly, one-time sheriff who was driven into hiding when his former deputy turned on him, and the villainous Sheriff Akan “Death” Vardas, enforcer for the corrupt robber barons and railroad tycoons.

The entire cast is instantly recognizable, even though they’re all in period garb. Sillof has done the same with other periods, giving names and faces to the cast of Samurai Wars, World Wars, Noir Wars, Serial Wards, and others.

Besides making me daydream of someday watching a version of Star Wars set in a western town — sort of like watching MacBeth set during the US Civil War, or Romeo & Juliet in 1950s Brooklyn, both of which I have done — Sillof’s creations remind us just how universal the themes of Star Wars are. And in fact, just how fluid story is… how easy it can be to move the props of narrative to a different stage to make it fresh spin.

Not to mention that they vindicate a decades-long fascination with action figures. Thanks, Sillof!  You the man.

Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things by Ted Naifeh

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

courtney-crumrin-1Be honest.  If you had magical powers when you were a teenager, what would you have done?  How long would you have walked the path of righteousness before cursing the school bullies?  Before casting a spell to make yourself popular?  Before just flat-out killing bad people?  Would you have made friends with elves … or goblins?

Ted Naifeh’s series of fantasy comics for young people (the back label says it’s appropriate for children ages 7 and up), introduces us to Courtney Crumrin on the day her vapid parents move in with her grand-uncle, Aloysius.  After a few restless nights, she discovers that her grand-uncle is more than simply a curmudgeonly hermit.  He’s also a wizard, more feared than respected by his fellow magicians, occasionally called upon to handle those supernatural problems that others don’t want to handle.  Going through his collection of grimoires, she begins her own self-guided education in the magical arts.  In the first volume, she traps a child-eating goblin, enchants herself to become the most popular girl in school, travels to the faerie kingdom to swap out a changeling for a human infant, and gets replaced by a doppelganger who turns out to be nicer than her.

Courtney is an intelligent young woman who’s just naturally drawn to the darker parts of this world, a cynical yet moral protagonist.  These early stories tend to rely a bit much on the “and then her uncle saved her and put everything right” solution; but they effectively convey a child going through those early learning stages, both of magic and of the harsh truths about life.  I’m glad that, after years out of print, the original volumes are being reprinted, even as a new series of adventures begins.

Beth Dawkins Reviews Honeyed Words

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012 | Posted by Bill Ward

honeyed-wordsHoneyed Words
TOR (416pp, $14.99, Paperback, July2011)
Reviewed by Beth Dawkins

Honeyed Words is the second book in the Sarah Beauhall series. Sarah decides to take her girlfriend Katie to a concert in Vancouver for her birthday. When it is over Sarah snags passes for the after-party. There Sarah tries to stop the singer, Ari, from being abducted by what they believe to be dwarves. Afterwards Sarah and Katie run into two trouble-making elves, Gletts and Skella, who only make the couple’s stay in Vancouver even more confusing. There are also some issues back home when Sarah is asked to help Anezka the blacksmith out. The moment Sarah steps onto Anezka’s property she knows something is wrong. Soon Anezka starts acting crazy, and Sarah must ask for help from an unlikely source. While these events don’t seem connected, they come together to unleash a hell storm Sarah and Katie must clean up.

Sarah, the heroine for Honeyed Words, is a strong female lead. She has grown as a character since the first installment, Black Blade Blues, and it shows. She is working past her issues with her sexuality, and shows much more attention to her girlfriend, Katie. There is even a steamy shower scene between the couple. While she has worked things out with Katie, she isn’t carrying around the magic sword she reforged, Gram. She mentions a great deal of how the sword calls to her, how it is dreaming of blood, but we don’t see the sword blazing a path of destruction until the very end.

The story is told mostly in first person — Sarah’s POV, but some chapters switch to third person, and followed the perspective of a scheming character. These chapters were by far not as interesting. They felt jarring in the over-all flow, and the characters themselves were less fun to read.

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Art of the Genre: Art of the Iconic Female #3: Wonder Woman

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012 | Posted by Scott Taylor

megan-fox-wonder-womanI have no memory of the first time I saw Wonder Woman, although I’d assume it wasn’t the comic but the live action 70s TV version with Linda Carter. Recollections of those shows were certainly something that stuck with me as they sparked something in my prepubescent state that would certainly lead to a grander appreciation of the female form as I grew up. Remember, this was circa 1975-1979, so I was only a max of 8 years old when watching them and yet the name Linda Carter still quickens my heart rate to this day. Something about that just isn’t right… or I guess in the case of DC Comics bottom line is exactly right.

Perhaps that reaction today isn’t such a good thing, as my wife is wont to remind me, but the ability of the American propaganda and marketing machine was certainly gearing up to a fevered pitch in that glamorous disco-tropic decade concerning how women should look and what they should wear.

Wonder Woman, for all her powerful beginnings, finds herself cast in the role of sex object just as 95% of all other super heroines, and that is a tragedy.

Silly side note here, my mother has always watched The Young and the Restless, and therefore I’ve always watched The Young and the Restless. It humors me greatly that the twenty odd characters in the show must always get together, break up, and then get together with someone else again and again and again. After several decades, relationship trees become so convoluted that I get great joy at having a running dialogue as I watch the show detailing just how inherently creepy each new relationship has become when I get to count how many people in each scene have slept together. In essence, comic books are the same beast, and with only a very limited number of super heroines to go around, I’ve always been intrigued by covers depicting them in the arms of an iconic super hero, my favorite being those with Wonder Woman and Superman thusly portrayed. I mean seriously, if you put in the words ‘Wonder Woman Kissing’ into Google, the first four default options are Nightwing, Superman, Batman, and Jean Grey [wowza!].

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Black Gate Goes to the Summer Movies: Brave

Monday, June 25th, 2012 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

brave-posterWho would think at the start of the summer that Brave was concealing more of its plot and themes than Prometheus? Strange days, my friends.

Ninety percent of the trailer for Brave comes from the first twenty-five percent of the movie. And to continue with percentages, fifty percent of Brave is a great film, and worthy to stand beside earlier Pixar classics. But except for a few flashes in the trailer, Disney and Pixar have revealed nothing of this later-running time greatness to you. The marketing department and directors Andrew Jones and Brenda Chapman have even specifically asked reviewers to hide what the center of the movie is about.

This is not a case of concealing a twist ending or a mid-movie shocker, but disguising the core of the film. Imagine a trailer for Pinocchio that never reveals that the puppet comes to life: it’s the story of a sad woodcarver and his pets who meet a blue fairy, and later on an enormous whale may peep into the plot. Or a trailer for King Kong that not only never shows the eighteen-foot gorilla, it never hints that there might be a giant monster of any sort in the film. According to this trailer, King Kong looks like the tale of a young woman who goes on a voyage with a film crew, possibly to find (dinosaur- and gorilla-free) adventure and romance away from dreary Depression Era New York.

Brave is the story of Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald), a Scottish princess who hates that her parents King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) are trying to marry her off to a dullard in a political alliance when all she wants is her freedom — like any good Disney Princess™ — and the chance to choose her own destiny. While exploring, Merida discovers magic in the forest after following a trail of Will-‘o-the-Wisps. The rest of the story follows the standard princess adventure: she’ll go out on her own, fight some monsters, discover a handsome and roguish fellow who likes her for who she is, and her parents will finally let their daughter be herself and marry the man she loves.

Except, after the words “The rest of the story…” that is not actually the plot of the film. At all. It isn’t the main character conflict or the thematic center. I made it up. Don’t expect some sort of Sixth Sense twist, such as Merida discovering she’s actually trapped inside a giant video game or Mars invading medieval Scotland, but the story does pick a different and better way than the second half of my Disney-influenced outline. A very average opening gives way to a film that has much more to say, in the vaunted Pixar fashion.

I will reveal at least this: expect a helluva a lot more “bear” than you’ve seen in the trailers. This is a good thing. I like Big Bears and I cannot lie!

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Vintage Treasures: George R.R. Martin’s “Nightflyers”

Monday, June 25th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

analog-april-1980-smallOver the weekend I put away a collection of 80s magazines I purchased a few months ago. In the process I discovered the April 1980 issue of Analog, which I read as a junior in high school in Ottawa, Canada.

There’s a lot to like about this issue, from the gorgeous cover by Paul Lehr — perhaps my favorite SF artist — to a famous short story by one of my all-time favorite SF writers: “Grotto of the Dancing Deer,” by Clifford D. Simak, which won both the 1980 Nebula Award and 1981 Hugo Award for Best Short Story. Even the ads reflect those things I personally found most exciting and fresh about SF and fantasy at the time: a full page ad from TSR for D&D, “The Ultimate in Adventure Games;” an ad for six microgames from Metagaming (the company that introduced me to role playing games), including the classic Ogre; and a subscription form for Ares, the short-lived SF gaming magazine from SPI.

This issue is an intriguing cultural artifact for other reasons. There’s an editorial from Stanley Schmidt in response to the recent kidnapping of 50 Americans at the US embassy in Iran, both a fascinating snapshot of a critical moment in American history, and a typical science fiction response:

What the Iranian crisis really demonstrates, at least as dramatically as any incident so far, is that if we want real freedom, we must produce our own energy… Technologies which can do this are possible, and we should not willingly settle for less. Readers of this magazine are well acquainted with the role space can play, but many people are not — and we need to get the action under way now.

If you read Analog in the 20th Century, you got used to this. Exploring space was pretty much the answer to everything — the energy crisis, the hole in the ozone, foreign policy crises, and crappy network television programming — and the magazine’s self-congratulatory tone clearly told its readership (including 15-year-old readers in Ottawa) that they were smarter and more informed than everyone else, especially on science and technology, topics far more important than cars, sports, and other things kids our age obsessed about. Analog told its readers they were destined for success. The future was ours.

But the real reason this issue is remembered is its cover story, George R.R. Martin’s novella of horror in deep space, the chilling classic “Nightflyers.”

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