Goth Chick News: While You’re Waiting for Ridley Scott…

Thursday, October 25th, 2012 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image0023It’s been nearly a year since we told you Ridley Scott had leapt from his lounge chair to dive head-first into a fit of creativity; at the end of which we’d be gifted with extensions of two of his most lucrative and beloved films.

Prometheus, a pseudo-prequel to the Alien franchise hit theaters on June 8th and just became available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D. Among the many special extras included is Scott’s own feature-length audio commentary, wherein he provides a brief update about the status of his upcoming Blade Runner sequel.

“I’m going through Blade Runner now,” Scott says, likening the process to his work on Prometheus. “You start off with a blank sheet and you start to evolve. Sometimes you walk into this wilderness of mirrors that don’t make any sense at all. Then, suddenly, two and two do make four and you think, ‘Oh, that’s good,’ and you put that up there. It’s a series of paving stones.”

What that “wilderness of mirrors” says to us is that as of October, Scott was still working on what is likely the early stages of a script. And though we can confirm a Blade Runner sequel has been green-lighted, it appears very unlikely that we’ll be sitting down with popcorn to find out if Harrison Ford makes an appearance or not any sooner than early 2014.

That’s quite all right Mr. Scott. Take your time. You are fiddling with a cinematic icon there.

But, my replicant covetors, fear not – we have a little something to hold you over…

From Madrid, Spain, award-winning author Rosa Montero spins a futuristic tale also set in Rick Deckard’s replicant-populated world, but told from the replicant’s point of view.

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X-Plorers: Space Exploration the Way it Should Be

Thursday, October 25th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

x-plorersI have to admit I’ve been generally disappointed with science fiction role playing games. It’s true that I’ve discovered some recent gems — especially Ashen Stars and Rogue Trader — but I don’t really get to game much these days, so they’re mostly of academic interest.

You know what would have been great? Discovering a fast-paced, easy-to-learn science fiction RPG when I was still gaming every weekend. One that captured the spirit of 1950s sci-fi, when space exploration meant wide-eyed explorers stepping gingerly out onto mist-shrouded planets, clutching futuristic sidearms and highly unreliable sensing equipment.

I’m talking about the science fiction of Forbidden Planet and Planet of Vampires, where every alien landscape concealed ancient secrets, unknowably strange artifacts of long-dead races, and sinister lifeforms. When an alien encounter meant checking first to make sure the safety was off.

A key feature to this ideal science fiction game, of course, would be that it’s rules-light. Something you and your friends could learn in an afternoon at most, and be deep into your first encounter with space vampires on the rings of Saturn before the evening news.

Believe it or not, at long last my ideal science fiction role playing game seems to have finally arrived: X-plorers, from Brave Halfling Publications. X-plorers celebrates the spirit of pulp science fiction in all the best ways, and it unapologetically embraces those things that made it great, including robots, space pirates, and aliens with tentacles.

There’s even an entry in the Sample Creatures section for Vampire Moths. You see? That’s what I’m talking about.

And yes, it’s a very quick read — about 25 pages of core rules. The chapter on Playing the Game is shorter than the Equipment chapter. These guys know how to write a rulebook.

X-Plorers was written in 2009 by David Bezio, and first published by Brave Halfing in 2011. I have no idea why I haven’t seen it before now, but I’m glad I spotted it on the New Arrivals shelf of my local game store when I did. It is 40 pages, professionally illustrated, and priced at $12.95; a PDF version is available for $5.95. Complete details at the Brave Halfling website.

Teaching and Fantasy Literature: Before They Even Get to the Invented Languages

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 | Posted by Sarah Avery

dictionary-of-etymologyYou know that classic vocabulary assignment, the one everybody’s done because it really works?

As you read a book, keep a running list of words you can’t define, and when you take a break from reading, look them all up and write your own sentences using them. That assignment. It’s still the wheel, so I still don’t reinvent it, but sometimes I get tempted.

Since I took up freelancing eight years ago, nearly all my students have been children of immigrants. The kids are so bright, so hardworking, nobody notices how narrow their vocabularies are until about 7th grade, when the amount and level of writing students have to do shoots up.

The kids’ grades plummet, their English teachers at school shrug, the parents panic, and suddenly I’ve got a new paying gig. The students prefer to read fantasy — I do, too, of course — so I give them the classic vocabulary assignment to apply to the fantasy novel of their choice.

Then this weird thing happens, a thing I haven’t yet figured out how to turn to good use.

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New Treasures: Harbor by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

harborI’m a big fan of Let the Right One In, the Swedish vampire film based on the John Ajvide Lindqvist novel. Creepy, creepy stuff, and any film that can have you cheering for the vampire while simultaneously being 100% faithful to traditional vampire lore gets my vote.

Let the Right One In was re-made for English audiences as Let Me In in 2010, staring Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass). Lindqvist’s original novel was given the same title for its English trade paperback release the same year. His latest is Harbor, and it sounds very intriguing indeed.

With Harbor, a stunning and chilling masterpiece, Lindqvist firmly cements his place as the heir apparent to Stephen King.

One ordinary winter afternoon on a snowy island, Anders and Cecilia take their six-year-old daughter Maja across the ice to visit the lighthouse in the middle of the frozen channel. While they are exploring the lighthouse, Maja disappears – either into thin air or under thin ice — leaving not even a footprint in the snow.

Two years later, Anders, a broken man, moves back to his family’s abandoned home on the island. He soon realizes that Maja’s disappearance is only one of many strange occurrences, and that his fellow islanders, including his own grandmother, know a lot more than they’re telling. As he digs deeper, Anders begins to unearth a dark and deadly secret at the heart of this small, seemingly placid town.

As he did with Let the Right One In and Handling the Undead, John Ajvide Lindqvist serves up a blockbuster cocktail of high-tension suspense in a narrative that barely pauses for breath.

I don’t cover a lot of horror with my New Treasures column, mostly because I don’t get the chance to read as much as I used to. But I plan to make an exception for this one.

Harbor was released by St. Martin’s Griffin in September; it is 528 pages. It is $15.99 in trade paperback, and $9.99 for the digital edition.

You can see all of our recent New Treasures articles here.

The Paris Fashion Week of Fantasy Games, Part II

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

Some of the games I purchased at the Paris Fashion Week of Games. Click for bigger version.

Some of the games I purchased at the Paris Fashion Week of Games. Click for bigger version.

Last Monday I talked a little bit about the Fall Games Auction at Games Plus in Mount Prospect, Illinois. I compared it to Paris Fashion Week because, much like a fashion show, it’s an opportunity to see everything new all in one place.

And not really in a leisurely, browsing-in-a-bookstore fashion, either. While you’re gawking at a fabulous fantasy game you never even knew existed, people all around you are bidding in a frenzy, intent on making sure you never see it again. On average, you get an 8 to 10-second glimpse at each treasure before it’s gone forever.

Unless you outbid all those other bastards, of course.

There’s a perfectly natural outcome to this mad situation. It’s known as “auction fever.” Don’t ask how I know this. (I refer you, without comment, to my March article on my last trip to Games Plus, “Spring in Illinois brings… Auction Fever.”)

In any event, I attended the Fall auction with much greater spousal oversight over my finances, and severely diminished resources. Still, I was able to come away with a host of treasures, and a lenghty list of exciting new science fiction and fantasy games to track down and investigate.

I’m not going to turn this into a catalog of new games I discovered over the span of five hours. For one thing, that would take a lot of pixels. Instead, I think I’ll focus on the most interesting items I brought home with me, and a few of the tantalizing ones that got away.

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Urban Fantasy Corner: Linda Grimes’ In a Fix

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 | Posted by Beth Dawkins

In a FixDoes Urban Fantasy ever remind you of superheroes?

Not the entire genre, perhaps. But for the girl who grew up rotting her eyes out with superhero cartoons, much of it does.

Linda Grimes’s debut novel, In a Fix, reminded me of superheroes. Shape shifters are done all the time, but changing essences to look just like someone else isn’t done that often.

Not only did it bring something new to the table, but it’s also pretty funny.

Snagging a marriage proposal for her client while on an all-expenses-paid vacation should be a simple job for Ciel Halligan, aura adaptor extraordinaire. A kind of human chameleon, she’s able to take on her clients’ appearances and slip seamlessly into their lives, solving any sticky problems they don’t want to deal with themselves. No fuss, no muss. Big paycheck.

This particular assignment is pretty enjoyable…that is, until Ciel’s island resort bungalow is blown to smithereens and her client’s about-to-be-fiancé is snatched by modern-day Vikings. For some reason, Ciel begins to suspect that getting the ring is going to be a tad more difficult than originally anticipated.

Going from romance to rescue requires some serious gear-shifting, as well as a little backup. Her best friend, Billy, and Mark, the CIA agent she’s been crushing on for years-both skilled adaptors-step in to help, but their priority is, annoyingly, keeping her safe. Before long, Ciel is dedicating more energy to escaping their watchful eyes than she is to saving her client’s intended.

Suddenly, facing down a horde of Vikings feels like the least of her problems.

For me, Urban Fantasy doesn’t have to be snarky. I usually go for the darker stuff. I like my fiction to have a bite, a twist, anything that astounds me and takes my breath away. In a Fix is snarky and funny, two things I don’t look for in the genre, but which I loved in these pages.

There are honest laugh-out-loud moments that stay with the reader. Top the snarky with the fact that In a Fix is a debut novel, and I found myself astounded. I look forward to seeing how the next book stacks up.

In a Fix was published by Tor Books on September 4th 2012. It is 336 pages, and sells for $14.99 in paperback, $9.99 in digital format.

Marvel Feature: Red Sonja 1

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

marvel-feature-1-coverThere were a few bumps in the road to Red Sonja’s enduring success as a character/franchise. One of them is the rushed work on Marvel Feature 1, which was meant to be an audience test title. The rationale was that Sonja would appear in several issues of Marvel Feature and, if sales were good enough, would be awarded her own title.

But this really doesn’t read like an audition. It reads more like a fill-in issue. First of all, the story is only eight pages long. Red Sonja finds an ancient temple, mercy-kills a priest who’s been tortured, fights a pack of unarmed satyrs, and gets in one sword-fight. The artwork by Dick Giordano is good, but it’s not Barry Windsor-Smith or John Buscema (the two artists most strongly associated with the She-Devil up to this point). There’s none of the banter that she enjoyed with Conan and no hints of the character’s tragedy. The rest of the issue is a one-page text by Roy Thomas explaining the character’s background and a reprint of the story from Savage Sword of Conan 1 (now in color) where she killed a sultan after he forced her to take a bath.

Honestly, you don’t even get any of the monsters you see on the cover. No demons. No snakes. No skeletons in robes. And it’s a great cover, with Sonja in her trademark bikini, sword in one hand, dagger in the other. She’s even kicking a snake while  slashing at the “hordes of Hell.” It’s only sleazed up a little with the cheesecake pose in the corner label (which gets changed on issue 2).

In short, it’s a decent story, but nothing that would show readers unfamiliar with the character why Red Sonja is more than just a female Conan.

(originally published November 1975, Marvel Comics) (reprinted January 2007 in Adventures of Red Sonja Volume 1, Dynamite Entertainment)

And no bagpipes at my funeral.

And no bagpipes at my funeral.

Next Week: It Gets Better

Win a Free Copy of A Magic Broken

Monday, October 22nd, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

A Magic BrokenLast Monday, Black Gate blogger Theo Beale announced the publication of A Magic Broken, a new novella that marked his first foray into epic fantasy:

A Magic Broken is a tale of ruthlessness, courage and deceit. The novella tells the story of Captain Nicolas du Mere, an exile fleeing the death of his rebel lord, and Lodi, son of Dunmorin, a brave dwarf dedicated to rescuing his fellow dwarves from slavery. Their dangerous paths meet, but in a manner that is anything but predictable.

Theodore Beale is the author of Summa Elvetica: A Casuistry of the Elvish Controversy, which Howard Andrew Jones called “Entertaining… Beale should be applauded for trying to create a medieval fantasy that more accurately replicates historical reality than many of his peers” (Black Gate 14).

A Magic Broken is an appetizer to Theo’s forthcoming epic fantasy novel, A Throne of Bones. It is currently available for Kindle and Nook for just 99 cents.

Theo has graciously offered 25 copies of the digital version of A Magic Broken free to Black Gate readers willing to share their thoughts in a review on If you’re interested, send an e-mail to the editor with the title “A Magic Broken” expressing your willingness to read it and write a review, and we’ll e-mail you your free copy.

No purchase necessary. Must be 12 or older. A maximum of 25 free copies will be awarded. Not valid where prohibited by law. I have no idea where giving away free books might be prohibited, but our lawyers make us say that. Winners responsible for all taxes. Eat your vegetables.

Update Wednesday, Oct 24: We have now passed the 25 response mark, and there are no additional copies to give away. Thanks for all your interest!

Joyce Carol Oates’ Gothic Quintet, Part IV: My Heart Laid Bare

Monday, October 22nd, 2012 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

My Heart Laid BareFor the past three weeks, I’ve been looking at Joyce Carol Oates’s Gothic Quintet, in preparation for the publication of the fifth book in the sequence, The Accursed, set for next March. I started off with 1980’s Bellefleur, which I thought was brilliant. Then I looked at 1982’s A Bloodsmoor Romance, which I found interesting, but not up to the first book’s level, perhaps due to my unfamiliarity with the romance genre. Last week, I considered Mysteries of Winterthurn, from 1984, which impressed me quite a bit. Now, this week, I look at 1998’s My Heart Laid Bare.

It may be worth noting that while My Heart Laid Bare was published in 1998, it was written in 1984. Similarly, The Accursed, under its original title The Crosswicks Horror, was first completed in 1981. Both books were revised in the years since, and I wonder if that might help account for the fact that My Heart Laid Bare has a rather different feel than the other ‘Gothic’ books. Nothing evidently supernatural happens in it. It’s only nominally Gothic in atmosphere, and the narration’s relatively straightforward — it’s told in omniscient third-person, unlike Bloodsmoor or Winterthurn, and is stylistically more restrained than Bellefleur (which admittedly is not saying much). Still, it’s a wild, wide-ranging look at American life in the early part of the twentieth century, incorporating several self-consciously melodramatic touches. It fits in with its predecessors nicely, and overall serves to round off Oates’s Gothic sequence as we’ve had it so far.

The book follows grizzled con-man Abraham Licht and his sons and daughters, from 1909 through to the Great Depression. A prologue suggests that they’re the descendants of a scheming eighteenth-century servingwoman who impersonated her mistress, was caught and sent to America; at any event, the novel shows us the Lichts consistently changing identities, some of which are false and some of which become true. Besides Abraham, we have his three biological sons, his older boys Thurston and Harwood and his younger Darian; his two daughters, Millie and Esther; and his black adopted son, Elisha. Over the course of the book, the children leave and betray and (occasionally) return to Abraham, as Abraham himself plots for money, for power, and, perhaps most importantly to him, for another marriage.

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The Business of Writing: Joining the Community

Monday, October 22nd, 2012 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

communityI spoke to some creative writing students at a local university last Friday and I tried to tell them something it took me a long time to understand: when you begin your writing career, you’re joining a community.

By writing career,  I mean your first published work. In my case, I was first printed in a ‘zine titled Gauntlet. Before I submitted my story to the magazine, about the only thing I knew about Gauntlet was that it was open to heroic fiction and sword-and-sorcery. I was making a common mistake — I didn’t know  the market.

It’s hard to know ALL the markets, especially when, in those bygone days of yore, to know about the magazine you had to buy an issue. (Most of those little magazines couldn’t be leafed through at local bookstores because they weren’t carried.) Today we submitters have it a little simpler because most magazines have web sites where fiction can be sampled. And, of course, an increasingly large number of magazines ARE e-zines.

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