Q&A With Tolkien and the Great War Author John Garth on Michael Martinez’ Middle-earth website

Thursday, June 21st, 2012 | Posted by Brian Murphy

tolkien-and-the-great-warAs a subscriber to the Mythsoc listserv, I was very grateful to find a link from Michael Martinez — proprietor of the fine Middle-earth.xenite.org website — to a recent interview conducted with J.R.R. Tolkien scholar, John Garth, author of Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003). It’s a fascinating read and worth checking out; you can find it here.

Some reviewers have dubbed Tolkien and the Great War the best book on Tolkien that has yet been written. I wouldn’t go that far (for the record that book is Tom Shippey’s The Road to Middle-earth) but it is arguably the best book on Tolkien in the last decade. While Humphrey Carpenter’s biography is still the seminal work on the life and times of Tolkien, it brushes only lightly over his military service. Tolkien’s experiences with the Lancaster Fusiliers are stamped all over The Lord of the Rings, as Garth ably demonstrates in Tolkien and the Great War, and so any complete understanding of the influences of Tolkien’s works must account for his World War I experiences.

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New Treasures: Necropolis by Michael Dempsey

Thursday, June 21st, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

necropolis-by-michael-dempseyBack in April I told you about this sale at Night Shade Books (now expired). I took advantage of it myself, and ordered roughly a dozen titles.

I finally found time to put them away this week. They look terrific, and I hope to tell you about some of them over the next few weeks.

Let’s start with Michael Dempsey’s Necropolis, a delicious-looking cross of science fantasy and pulp detective novel:

Paul Donner is a NYPD detective struggling with a drinking problem and a marriage on the rocks. Then he and his wife get dead — shot to death in a “random” crime. Fifty years later, Donner is back — revived courtesy of the Shift, a process whereby inanimate DNA is re-activated.

This new “reborn” underclass is not only alive again, they’re growing younger, destined for a second childhood. The freakish side-effect of a retroviral attack on New York, the Shift has turned the world upside down. Beneath the protective geodesic Blister, clocks run backwards, technology is hidden behind a noir facade, and you can see Elvis and Radio City Music Hall ever night. In this unfamiliar retro-futurist world of flying Studebakers and plasma tommy guns, Donner must search for those responsible for the destruction of his life. His quest for retribution, aided by Maggie, his holographic Girl Friday, leads him to the heart of the mystery surrounding the Shift’s origin and up against those who would use it to control a terrified nation.

Night Shade is discovering and promoting a lot of new talent, and Necropolis is a fine example. It’s Dempsey’s first novel, although he wrote for network TV in the mid-90s.

Necropolis is 361 pages in trade paperback, with a $14.99 cover price. It was released in October 2011. The cover art is by E.M. Gist. You can order it directly from Night Shade here.

See the complete list of New Treasures features here.

Star Trek is New Again With Fresh Animated Intro

Thursday, June 21st, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

Our buddy John DeNardo at SF Signal tells us about this extremely cool re-imagining of the original Star Trek intro, with William Shatner’s famous voice over… and some very compelling animation.

Keep your eye out for a red shirt who buys it half a second after beaming down, right around the 20 second mark.

The video was produced by The Quintek Group, a digital retouching studio in the Detroit area.

I got seriously nostalgic watching this. It makes me want to blow the dust off my DVD box set of Star Trek Season One and enjoy a few episodes.

Thanks, John. Owe you one.

Goth Chick News: Fed Says No Zombie Apocalypse; But Bullets Available Just In Case

Thursday, June 21st, 2012 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image0061When we here at Goth Chick News predicted that “zombies were the new vampire,” we meant it as an entertainment trend, not a doomsday prophesy. But lately all of us here in the underground bunker are a just a tad bit grateful that our offices are in the bowels of Black Gate headquarters where we could conceivably hole up for several weeks, sustained by a stash of Pop Tarts and Patrone.

Because the reanimated dead are in mainstream news a little more often than we’re comfortable with lately.

Beginning with the horrific face-eating arrest in Miami, followed by several other seemingly subhuman acts, there’s been a flesh-munching wave of terror. We’re not the only ones wondering what’s behind it.

A bona fide zombie apocalypse, however, is not what we should be worried about, at least according to the federal government.

Wow… feeling better already.

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The Retro Pulp Art of Tim Anderson

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

blade-runner-pulpWe love pulp fiction. And we love classic SF & fantasy movies.

So what’s not to love about Tim Anderson’s re-imaginings of classic SF films as pulp paperbacks?

Anderson is a concept designer for Electronic Arts in Salt Lake City. He’s also worked as a concept designer for Paramount Licensing, Inc., Radical Comics, and various independent filmmakers.

He’s started working on a personal side project that he hoped would motivate him “into thinking more graphically,” a series of highly detailed period paperback covers for some of the most famous SF films of the 20th Century.

Here’s what he says about his Blade Runner piece at right (click for a bigger version):

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m a huge sci-fi fan, and a huge fan of Ridley Scott. Here’s a pulp cover I have had in the works off and on for a while now. I was inspired by the detective pulp covers of Robert McGinnis. If ever there was a sci-fi movie that lent itself well to a detective pulp cover, it’s Blade Runner.

Anyone who’s a fan of the great Robert McGinnis is okay by us.

Check out Tim Anderson’s versions of Alien, The Matrix and others here.

John Ottinger Reviews Bury Elminster Deep

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 | Posted by Bill Ward

bury-elminster-deep-by-ed-greenwoodBury Elminster Deep
Ed Greenwood
Wizards of the Coast (340pp, $25.95, 1st edition August 2011)
Reviewed by John Ottinger III

Sometimes an author can write a little too much about a character. Like a child who loves a stuffed animal, the repeated play can wear the fabric and loosen the stuffing so much that the very toy that was once so loved is rendered unrecognizable. Sentimentality keeps the stuffed animal by the child’s side, but to outside observers, the toy has lost all value.

So it is, I think, with Forgotten Realms creator Ed Greenwood’s latest story of Elminster of Shadowdale. In Bury Elminster Deep the story opens where Elminster Must Die ended. The spellplague that has ravaged the realms has killed Mystra and killed, scattered, or rendered powerless her Chosen, including Elminster. Storm, one of the seven Chosen sisters and Elminster’s constant companion, has lost all magical power other than a head of living hair. Elminster, the most ancient and powerful of Mystra’s Chosen, who has lived through not one, but two incarnations of the goddess, is bodiless, riding the mind of his granddaughter, the dancer Rune, and is unable to perform magic without also enduring bouts of madness.

But then Mystra reappears and asks her favored Chosen to re-enter the kingdom of Cormyr to save it from yet another takeover by Lord Manshoon, the vampire archmage nemesis of Elminster. Manshoon thinks Elminster’s seeming disappearance is an opportunity to seize power in one of the Realms’ oldest human kingdoms. Though severely hobbled by his lack of magic, Storm’s normality and the jealousy of Rune’s boyfriend, Lord Arclath Delcastle, Elminster and company must stop Manshoon before his coup succeeds.

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Art of the Genre: The Usual Suspects

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 | Posted by Scott Taylor

You want Larry Elmore, I've got Larry Elmore!

You want Larry Elmore, I've got Larry Elmore!

You all know I’m a total art geek, right? I mean, that should be plainly obvious simply by the titles of the blogs I write. To me, the nature of art is tied into my DNA, and although I don’t practice it myself, I certainly find untold joy in the viewing.

I’ve written before about my early years and the influence fantasy art had on me during those times. Without book covers, I’d simply have never begun reading, and therefore my choice of profession would have changed from writer to ornamental iron retailer. Certainly selling, installing, and designing ornamental iron isn’t a bad profession, and there is money in it if the markets are right, but I can’t help but feel a sadness when I consider the joyless toll such a career would have taken on me.

So, instead of being financially secure and responsible, I’ve somehow found myself in L.A. as a writer, editor, and jack-of-all-traders literary amalgamation. All this, because of art, and more particularly the art of old school TSR’s Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

If the above is the keystone to my existence, then I fervently hold to it as all that is meaningful in my professional life. That said, I find the 1980s, in particular, an untold inspirational period, no matter how silly our clothing choice may have been during that decade.

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A Tale of a Vanished Writer: Geoffrey Huntington’s The Ravenscliff Series

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

demon-witch-2If you follow what we call “the industry,” you’re probably aware of a routine publishing phenomenon: a new writer appears, publishes 2-3 novels, and then vanishes. Frequently right in the middle of a promising new series.

Here’s another routine phenomenon: I discover them ten years later.

Fricken’ hell. Where do all these vanished writers come from? People puzzle over where they go; I just want to know how they keep popping up. Vanished writers. They’re all over the place, like discount car insurance.

Last month I bought a collection of 240 new science fiction and fantasy paperbacks (Told you I buy collections. They’re like boxes of Christmas.) This one was an eclectic mix of remaindered titles from the last ten years, all in terrific shape, at about a buck a book. The seller still has a few lots left on eBay, if you’re interested.

Anyway. One of the chief joys of buying books by the quarter ton is finding bizarre stuff you don’t normally come across. (The other is coming up with creative ways to sneak them into the house without your spouse knowing, but that’s a different topic.) One of the many interesting items I came across in the first lot was the 2004 YA novel Demon Witch by Geoffrey Huntington, with this intriguing description on the back cover:

Long before the days of Madman Jackson Muir, a witch named Isobel the Apostate waged war upon her fellow sorcerers, the noble order of the Nightwing. Burned at the stake for her crimes, Isobel vowed to return and conquer the world. Now that she is back, the only person who can prevent hell on earth is fourteen-year-old Devon March. In a battle that takes him from modern-day Ravenscliff to Tudor England and back, Devon must unleash the Nightwing power within himself and call upon friendships in the strangest places to stand against an evil that has waited five centuries for revenge. For at Ravenscliff, friends come in all shapes and sizes — and enemies are everywhere.

Witches, sorcerers, secret orders, and burnin’ stuff at the stake. That sounded pretty good. Naturally, the cover proclaimed it was Book II of The Ravenscliff Series. Which I’d never heard of.

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The Burnham Society

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

the-burnham-society-logoThe premise of this podcast series is that tourists came from as far as the Faerie Kingdom and Hell to visit the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and, once it was over, decided to stay. These sub-cultures continued to co-exist with every other immigrant community in Chicago, integrating just enough to go unnoticed by most people. The Burnham Society was established to intervene in those situations where the sub-cultures don’t peacefully co-exist. The organization is perpetually trying to maintain its lofty goals while dealing with petty day-to-day politics (much like its namesake, architect Daniel Burnham).

The posts (which normally run between seven and eight minutes) are smart, funny and surprisingly touching. We learn why you should never clap for Tinkerbelle, how demons get their restaurant licenses, all the reasons you shouldn’t seek immortality and various other tidbits of secret history and magical advice. Rowan Bristol, the narrator and reluctant book-seller, presents himself as a surly and impatient guide through supernatural Chicago; but there is an undercurrent of optimism in every post. My favorite so far may be episode four (You Are Not the Chosen One), which begins as a snarky deconstruction of the Harry Potter series, but becomes something subtly beautiful and, in many ways more empowering than JK Rowling’s amazing series (brief aside: Does anyone else get the impression that Rowling originally intended Hermione Granger to be the main hero of the books?) The most recent post (Molly and the Dragon by Steven Fluet) is a wonderful short story about how anyone can find magic.

You can find all of the podcasts on the Burnham Society home page or iTunes. You can also learn more about the Burnham Society on its Facebook page. Hopefully, some of you will be inspired to follow Daniel Burnham’s advice and make no small plans.

Drinking Atlantis, No Chaser: Conan the Barbarian (2011) Blow-by-Blow & Play-by-Play

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

conan-poster-1I have a week-long break between summer movie reviews, the gap between Prometheus and Brave, so I have chosen to return to Ghosts of Summer Pasts. Not long past. Just last year. Ladies and gentlemen, Hyborians and Hyrkanians, the 2011 Conan the Barbarian! [Insert tepid Monty Python and the Holy Grail “yeah!” here.]

Many movie websites do play-by-play reviews, essentially a one-post blog-thru of a film, providing comments along with time stamps. I’ve wanted to try my hand at this for years, and this short summer break opened up the opportunity to exercise this review format on an awful film that sword-and-sorcery fans don’t want to talk about. But if I can find a way to wrench some entertainment from the Blu-ray of this movie (yes, I bought it — but used at a bargain price), then let it be so.

It was August of ’11 that saw the release and immediate flop of the Marcus Nispel-directed Conan the Barbarian. Critics savaged the movie, but most fans of Robert E. Howard saw the dire writing in the ancient language of Acheron on the wall long before the release. I gave up hope for the movie when I heard that Nispel was attached to it. Nothing I had seen of the man’s previous work indicated he had any notion of theme or subtlety — or even how to stitch together a comprehensible action scene. The guy came across as a refugee from an awful ’80s metal band who decided to get into directing so he could show “awesome!” stuff on screen. In other words, he was picked for the job because of a superficial resemblance to sword-and-sorcery, not because the man has any affinity for filmmaking or Robert E. Howard.

The casting of Jason Momoa met skepticism when first announced, but among all else that went awry with Conan the Barbarian, Momoa was one thing that went right. More about that on the play-by-play.

I enjoyed the movie more this second time viewing it, but that isn’t because I found any new appreciation for it. Conan ’11 works simply better on home video, where its limited scope and poor VFX feel more appropriate. Also, watching at home meant I could take breaks to go get a drink or read Shakespeare or call my sister in Munich. I could live my life around the film, and the film benefits from my ability to ignore it whenever I want to. The only downside to home video is that the 3D in the theater, terrible as it was, did hide some of visual flaws and clunky special effects.

Okay, queue up your disc or streaming or whatever, and let’s drink Atlantis….

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