No The Dark Knight Rises Review This Week

Friday, July 20th, 2012 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

dark-knight-risesDear Black Gate Readers and all my friends at the site,

I’ve decided not to post a review of The Dark Knight Rises this week as I originally promised. I had planned to get a review up later today, after watching the film in the morning. Although I watched the film as planned, the horrible events in Colorado at a midnight screening of the movie last night have made it impossible for me to write about it at this time. A tragedy in a movie theater, a place where I’ve spent so many happy times in my life, strikes close to me. I tried to begin writing a review, and found I couldn’t. I hope, perhaps at the end of the summer when I do my wrap-up for the season, to speak a bit about The Dark Knight Rises. My thoughts are with the victims of this horrific tragedy and their families.

Some Reflections on The Castle Omnibus

Friday, July 20th, 2012 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

The Castle OmnibusAlmost exactly a year ago, reports suggested that novelist Steph Swainston had chosen to quit writing. This seemed surprising, as Swainston had written four highly-regarded books, all set in a fantasy world where immortals led armies against giant insects: the Castle series. In fact, to judge by the actual interview Swainston gave, her choice seems to have been more nuanced. She felt that the demand for producing “a book a year” was excessive, and also that writing as a full-time occupation was psychologically stressful due both to the isolation needed by the writer and to the need to self-publicise on the Internet. She wasn’t necessarily ceasing to write, but electing to write at her own pace: “I’ve never said I won’t write again, just that if I do write another book, I’ll do it on my terms.”

So would more books from her be a good thing? Sure; more books are always good. To rephrase the question: are her books in particular good enough that it would be worth hoping for more of her work to be published? I think so, yes. I’ve read a collection of her first three books — The Castle Omnibus, which includes The Year of Our War, No Present Like Time, and The Modern World; I gather the fourth book, Above the Snowline, is a prequel to the other three — and I was impressed. I think she’s trying to do some very ambitious things in her fiction, and I’d like to see more of it.

I will also say that I think some of the ambitions of the books may not be fully realised. I found myself somehow skeptical as I read them; it wasn’t that I had difficulty accepting the world or the story, but that I was in some way on the outside of the tale. I find it difficult to articulate why that is, though. Looking around the web, I notice that reaction to her writing mostly seems divided between outright praise and responses vaguely similar to my own — a recognition that this is strong work, but … in some way lacking. My problem is that I can’t quite establish to my own satisfaction what the lack is that I feel. What I want to do here, then, is try to work out what it might be. I want to emphasise that I think these are very good books, and I do recommend them; if I seem to be hunting for a flaw, it’s because the writing here is strong enough that the problems are difficult to isolate.

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The Coming of Dorgo the Dowser

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

mad-shadowfrank_frazetta_manapeGrowing up in the 1970s, the Ballantine editions of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan series and the Ace Conan series were part of my steady diet. Seminal pulp fiction graced with stunning cover art by the likes of Neal Adams, Boris Vallejo, and Frank Frazetta. The cover art for the Conan books perfectly captured a bygone savage world that never existed in mankind’s past, but should have. While most Robert E. Howard fans have long since rejected these editions because of the sometimes gratuitous changes made to the original text, the impact of the Conan paperback series on the proliferation of the fantasy subgenre cannot be underestimated.

My own passion for sword & sorcery waned somewhere around the time that Robert Jordan took up his pen to tell bolder and ever more sweeping tales of the Hyborian Age for Tor Books that dwarfed the originals without ever capturing the same sense of wonder. I closed the book on that chapter of my life not long after starting junior high and never expected to revisit it. Flash forward to 2012 when I discovered Mad Shadows: the Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser by Joe Bonadonna and found that sometimes you can go home again.

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Six Sought Adventure: A Half-Dozen Swords And Sorcery Short Stories Worth Your Summer Reading Time

Thursday, July 19th, 2012 | Posted by Brian Murphy

fantasy-poul-andersonI’ve always enjoyed fantasy fiction in the short form. In an age when a typical series stretches seven-plus doorstopper-sized volumes without the guarantee of an actual ending, it’s refreshing to take a quick dip into the pool of the fantastic rather than committing to a read akin to a trans-Atlantic journey in the age of sail.

If you are new to the heroic fantasy/swords and sorcery genres, the following six stories are fine stepping stones for further exploration, at least in my opinion. I’ve deliberately chosen stories written by authors not named Howard or Leiber; REH and Fritz are the best these genres have ever produced but there’s already plenty of ink spilled about them. I obviously have nothing but praise for “Worms of the Earth” or “Bazaar of the Bizarre” but I’m sure most of Black Gate‘s readers have very likely already read these stories, so I present these six instead.

“The Barrow-Troll,” David Drake, Whispers. Starting in 1977 editor Stuart David Schiff released the first of six anthologies entitled Whispers, a series of best-of collections from a now defunct magazine bearing the same name. “The Barrow Troll” appears in the first of these anthologies.

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New Treasures: Rachel Aaron’s The Spirit War

Thursday, July 19th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

the-spirit-warAlways nice to see a new fantasy series succeed. In particular, it’s nice to see a non-traditional series succeed — i.e. one that doesn’t feature vampires, werewolves, or a stake-wielding heroine with an all-leather wardrobe. And it’s especially nice to see a genuine sword & sorcery series succeed, one whose protagonist is not a swordsman, prince, or naive young hero… in fact, he may not be a hero at all.

Rachel Aaron’s first novel The Spirit Thief (October, 2010) kicked off The Legend of Eli Monpress, a series that has now run to four volumes. The most recent, The Spirit War, was just released last month.

Eli Monpress is vain. He’s cocky. And he’s a thief.

But he’s a thief who has just seen his bounty topped and he’s not happy about it. The bounty topper, as it turns out, is his best friend, bodyguard, and master swordsman, Josef. Who has been keeping secrets from Eli…

Family drama aside, Eli and Josef have their hands full. The Spirit Court has been usurped by the Council of Thrones and someone calling herself the Immortal Empress is staging a massive invasion. But it’s not just politics — the Immortal Empress has a specific target in mind: Eli Monpress, the greatest thief in the world.

Here’s what our buddy John Ottinger III at Grasping for the Wind said about the first novel:

The Spirit Thief is a work of sword and sorcery that will appeal to readers of Jim C. Hines, Karen Miller, Jon Sprunk, and Piers Anthony. It is a thrill ride of a novel, delightfully amusing, based on an original magic system… I loved it.

Missed out on the first volumes? No problem. Orbit has just released all three — The Spirit Thief, The Sprit Rebellion, and The Spirit Eater — in a single handsome omnibus edition for $15 ($9.99 for the digital version).

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Goth Chick News: Get the Lizard Guys on the Horn: We’ve Got Them a Gig!

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

image0021I only remember two things about the 1998 remake of the pop culture film Godzilla (and that’s saying quite a lot since most people don’t remember it at all).

The first is that it starred Ferris Bueller, I mean Matthew Broderick, in a role that was in no danger of making us forget his previous day off.

Second, I remember thinking how nice it was for Tri-Star Pictures to put the lizard effects guys from Jurassic Park back to work. Their unemployment benefits had very nearly run out since The Lost World wrapped in 1997.

Godzilla movies and their collective cheesiness have always been fun in an Ed Wood sort of way, but the 1998 version was cringe-worthy on a whole different scale: which is why I have always fantasized about ambushing Sarah Jessica Parker at a red carpet event to ask her how it feels to be married to the star of a cinematic pile of lizard poop.

And though such a statement might cause Ms. Parker to fall right off her $1200 pumps, it is clearly no such deterrent to the rest of Hollywood who apparently has never met a remake they didn’t like.

Get Industrial Light and Magic on the phone and let’s hope they haven’t chucked those velociraptor puppets…

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Art of the Genre: The Art of Miniatures

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

wm14_trollbloodstarterThere was a time back in the 1980s when I read Dragon magazine and pined over every ad of a game. It was during this time that I saw a picture of a mini-dungeon with some really cool miniatures included. I must have stared at it for hours and finally, when the Sears & Roebuck catalog came and I could pick out my Christmas present, imagine how happy I was to see the set featured in those pages.

My mother ordered if for me, and the day finally came when I opened my gifts and discovered the box I’d been waiting for. Now imagine my shock and disappointment when the incredible color version of the set was this dull grey plastic. It was in that moment that I was both duped by miniatures and also intrigued. Someone, somewhere, had managed to turn that grey plastic to Technicolor gold… but alas, I wasn’t to try myself and so I dumped it and forgot.

When I moved to Frederick, Maryland, back in late 1997, I ended up going into the downtown area to search out a gaming store. I found a good sized store called The Gaming Realm. Although the store would only last another year and a half after I found it, I still have many fond memories of my times there and all the people I met.

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Vintage Treasures: Henry Kuttner’s “The Graveyard Rats”

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

weird-tales-march-1936-coverThis is the latest of my short fiction reviews, following my recent reports on Howard Waldrop’s “The Ugly Chickens,” George R.R. Martin’s “Nightflyers,” and others.

In honor of the recent release of the massive Henry Kuttner collection, Thunder in the Void, I thought I’d talk about Kuttner’s first published story, “The Graveyard Rats,” which appeared in the March 1936 Weird Tales — alongside The Hour of the Dragon by Robert E. Howard, Edmond Hamilton’s “In the World’s Dusk,” Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Black Abbot of Puthuum,” and “The Crystal Curse” by Eando Binder.

Quite auspicious company! I found echoes of both Howard and Lovecraft in the opening paragraphs. Here, see what you think:

Masson… recalled certain vaguely disturbing legends he had heard since coming to ancient, witch-haunted Salem — tales of a moribund, inhuman life that was said to exist in forgotten burrows in the earth. The old days, when Cotton Mather had hunted down the evil cults that worshipped Hecate and the dark Magna Mater in frightful orgies, had passed; but dark gabled houses still leaned perilously towards each other over narrow cobbled streets, and blasphemous secrets and mysteries were said to be hidden in subterranean cellars and caverns, where forgotten pagan rites were still celebrated in defiance of law and sanity. Wagging their grey heads wisely, the elders declared that there were worse things than rats and maggots crawling in the unhallowed earth of the ancient Salem cemeteries.

And then, too, there was this curious dread of the rats. Masson… had heard vague rumours of ghoulish beings that dwelt far underground, and that had the power of commanding the rats, marshalling them like horrible armies. The rats, the old men whispered, were messengers between this world and the grim and ancient caverns far below Salem. Bodies had been stolen from graves for nocturnal subterranean feasts, they said.

What a great opening. I especially enjoyed the promise of a tale of eldritch and powerful subterranean evils… although truthfully, he had me at “frightful orgies.”

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New Treasures: Jason E. Thummel’s In Savage Lands

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

in-savage-landsOne of the many great things about being involved with Black Gate is being exposed to so many terrific new writers. One of the best of the recent lot is Jason E. Thummel, whose short fiction is fast paced, consistently exciting, and packed with invention.

I’ve purchased three short stories from Jason for Black Gate magazine, but we by no means have a monopoly on his work. His story “Runner of the Hidden Ways” was one of the finest stories in the excellent anthology, Rage of the Behemoth (2009), and his fiction has also appeared in the acclaimed (and much-missed) Flashing Swords magazine and the anthology Magic and Mechanica (2009). His first novel, The Spear of Destiny, was published in 2011.

Now comes word that his first collection, In Savage Lands, is available. Here’s the official description:

A small band of rebellious slaves, fleeing an undead terror; an untested leader, willing to sacrifice everything to save his people; a man driven to become the thing he hates most in order to exact a terrible vengeance…

These are just a few of those you will meet within.

Against unfathomable odds, the might of monsters, the cunning of men, and the raw, overwhelming power of the elements themselves, each struggles to survive…

In Savage Lands is a collection of 13 short stories for lovers of Heroic Fiction, Sword and Sorcery, and action-driven Fantasy.

In Savage Lands is 160 pages (approximately 44,000 words). It is available for $8.95 in paperback, and in digital format for $2.99 from, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.

Thanks to the ever-vigilant Jason Waltz for the head’s up on this one!

Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Mars, Part 7: A Fighting Man of Mars

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

fighting-man-of-mars-1st-editionBack on Mars already?

I’ve now crossed the equator of the eleven-book Martian series, and A Fighting Man of Mars is the first volume of “Phase #3” of Barsoom. Phase #1 is the original John Carter trilogy of the early ‘teens. Phase #2 comprises the three books where Burroughs tried new heroes. Phase #3, which covers the three books published in the 1930s, has John Carter return as the protagonist, and shows ERB spreading out the time between the books until he eventually quits writing them altogether. (Synthetic Men of Mars is the last actual novel of the series; the two following books are compilations of novellas.) Even though the first book of the new phase still features a hero other than John Carter, a new decade has arrived, and with this book it seems that ERB is seeking to re-capture the excitement of the first trilogy.

Our Saga: The adventures of Earthman John Carter, his progeny, and sundry other natives and visitors, on the planet Mars, known to its inhabitants as Barsoom. A dry and slowly dying world, Barsoom contains four different human civilizations, one non-human one, a scattering of science among swashbuckling, and a plethora of religions, mystery cities, and strange beasts. The series spans 1912 to 1964 with nine novels, one volume of linked novellas, and two unrelated novellas.

Today’s Installment: A Fighting Man of Mars (1930)

Previous Installments: A Princess of Mars (1912), The Gods of Mars (1913), The Warlord of Mars (1913–14), Thuvia, Maid of Mars (1916), The Chessmen of Mars (1922), The Master Mind of Mars (1927)

The Backstory

Burroughs started writing A Fighting Man of Mars in February 1929. Most of it he dictated onto Ediphone cylinders for his secretary to type later, a practice the author used for the rest of his career. The new book sold faster than The Master Mind of Mars, although All-Story still rejected it before Blue Book picked it up for $8,000 — seven times what Hugo Gernsback paid for Master Mind. The sale must have come as a great relief to ERB, since between writing the book and its appearance in six parts in Blue Book (April–September 1930), two major events occurred that shook up the author’s life. Read More »

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