A Weird Fiction Kindle Story Giveaway

Monday, November 26th, 2012 | Posted by Mike Allen

She Who RunsSleepless, Burning LifeStolen Souls

Hello, Black Gate denizens. Mike Allen here of the Monstrous Posts on Monsters and the Clockwork Phoenix anthologies.

John O’Neill has asked me to write you folks a follow up on how the Clockwork Phoenix 4 Kickstarter I told you about earlier this year turned out (SPOILER ALERT: it was a smashing success) and share tips on some of the tricks I learned. I’ve got something laden with all sorts of graphics that I’ll post for you later in the week.

However, this is not that post!

John has also given me permission to plug the Kindle story promotion that I’m in the midst of. (John is a generous guy. Charming, too!) There is some topical relevance, as there’s an excerpt from my weird fantasy novel The Black Fire Concerto slated to appear in the Black Gate online fiction lineup in the not-too-distant future, so here’s a way to get a sample of what I do.

So here’s how it goes: through Tuesday night, I’m offering my weird science fiction novelette “Stolen Souls,” my weird fantasy story “She Who Runs” and my even weirder clockpunk novelette “Sleepless, Burning Life” free to all through Amazon Kindle. Just click on the story titles or the cover art above to nab them. (And if you’re interested but don’t have a Kindle, e-mail me and we’ll work something out.)

And if you’re an aspiring author curious what insights I might have on the freebie Kindle experience, I have an entry sharing my thoughts so far. But feel free to ask me questions, too.

The Guide to Glorantha Kickstarter

Monday, November 26th, 2012 | Posted by Sarah Newton

There’s an amazing Kickstarter running at the moment. If you’re a fan of world-building, if you want to check out a world that’s been built over more than 40 years of group endeavour, with deep myths, histories, and cultures, one of the most compelling worlds in fantasy and certainly in fantasy roleplaying, you may want to take a look.

I’ve written previously at Black Gate about Glorantha, the fantasy world invented by Greg Stafford which lies behind the roleplaying games RuneQuest and HeroQuest. It’s a gorgeously detailed world; back in the days when Dungeons & Dragons was all about faux-medieval Tolkienery, Glorantha emerged as a lavish fantasy analog to the ancient world of Greece, Persia, and Rome. It’s a world of centaurs, heroes in bronze-crested helms, giants as big as mountains, and arcane cults which reshape the world as their worshippers offer sacrifice. Rich, complex, and sophisticated, it can offer the lightest play styles, or a rich immersive shared storytelling experience, with as much detail as anyone could want.

Glorantha owes a lot to Joseph Campbell, too. The “hero path” is an integral part of the world – how its inhabitants relate to the very real (and often mercurial) gods which surround them, and how heroes can penetrate the timeless realms of the gods and return with treasures physical and mystical. If, like me, you’re interested in the transcendent aspects of the stories we tell one another, Glorantha is a compelling world.

I’ve been gaming there since 1980; parts of it I feel I know better than my own hometown. But, over the past few years, Glorantha has entered a new golden age, as under the leadership of Jeff Richard and Rick Meints, Moon Design Publications have released multiple very high quality books providing new and deeper detail to the world. I’ve written about Sartar, Kingdom of Heroes; the Sartar Companion; and Pavis, Gateway to Adventure in previous posts – they’re all well worth a look, and highly recommended.

Over the past few years, Jeff Richard has been working on a book which looks like it will set a new standard in RPG supplements – a guide to the whole world of Glorantha itself. It’s a massive undertaking – an encyclopaedic opus detailing the places and cultures of a whole fantasy world, in exquisite detail. It’s been attempted twice before – once in the 1980s and once a decade ago – but in relatively abbreviated form. The new Guide to Glorantha is anything but abbreviated: it comes in at a whopping 400 pages of 10″ x 12″ book, detailing the geography, history, and cosmology of Glorantha, its cultures and races, as well as two continents, two subcontinents, and multiple archipelagos, plus a massive atlas filled with highly detailed and gorgeous maps – over 64 pages worth at the last count. The Guide to Glorantha is system agnostic – it doesn’t contain any games mechanics content, it’s pure setting detail, so you can use it with any game ruleset, or just read it for the pure pleasure of it. The Kickstarter has been running for a little over a week, and already has blown through its initial target. As a result, the initial scope of the project has expanded hugely, so that we’re now getting more regions detailed, more maps added, and an entire new “Companion” to the guide detailing things like the geography of the mythic regions of Glorantha, plus monographs by key industry writers. For those of us who’ve been playing quests into the realms of myth, this is nothing short of breathtaking in its ambition.

Check it out. If you’re a fan of Glorantha, or of fantasy worlds, or just want to see a beautiful example of world-building, the Guide to Glorantha may be for you. The Kickstarter runs until Tuesday, 18th December, and features a flexible pledging scale and increasingly attractive rewards.

New Treasures: Pax Britannia: Pax Omega, by Al Ewing

Monday, November 26th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

pax-omega-smallI have a weakness for pulp fiction. There aren’t a lot of practitioners of true pulp fantasy today — as opposed to pulp parody, which seems to be all too common.

A notable exception is Al Ewing, whose first novel of the Pax Britannia series, El Sombra, featured stormtroopers from the Ultimate Reich, mechanized horrors terrorizing a small Mexican town, and the torture-parlors of Master Minus and his Palace Of Beautiful Thoughts. The second installment, Gods of Manhattan, introduced The Blood Spider, Doc Thunder, and the monstrous plans of the Meccha-Fuhrer, set against the backdrop of the steam-powered city of tomorrow, New York USS. The final volume of the trilogy, Pax Omega, arrived this spring and sounds like the most intriguing of the bunch.

Doc Thunder’s last stand against a deadly foe whose true identity will shock you to your core! El Sombra’s final battle against the forces of the Ultimate Reich! The Locomotive Man in a showdown with cosmic science on the prairies of the Old West! Jackson Steele defends the 25th Century against the massed armies of the Space Satan! A duel of minds in the mystery palaces of One Million AD! Blazing steam-pulp sci-fi the way you crave it! From the Big Bang to the End Of Time — eleven tales from Pax Britannia’s past, present and distant future combine into one star-spanning saga set to shake the universe to its foundations –- or destroy it!

That’s a lot of exclamation marks. But when your sentences include words like Ultimate Reich and Space Satan, I guess they look kinda naked without ’em.

I don’t have the other two volumes, and I wonder if I can start with this one. I’ll give it a try and let you know.

Pax Britannia: Pax Omega was published by Abaddon in April, 2012. It is 266 pages in trade paperback for $9.99, or $5.99 for the digital edition.

Black Gate Online Fiction: “Awakening” by Judith Berman

Sunday, November 25th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

awakening3Amidst dark necromancy, haunted ruins, centuries-spanning intrigue, a secret oracle, and unquiet dead… an unlikely heroine awakens.

The nightmare began when she opened her eyes and saw the leathery face of a corpse as close to her as a lover’s. She started up with a cry, heart pounding, and found bony hands tangled in her hair, and the smell of cold decay. She tried to jump to her feet, but beneath her dead men were piled up layer on layer and she could get no purchase. Whimpering, she clawed her way toward the only door of the dim chamber.

Rubble blocked the stair. She dug at the loose stones, breaking all her nails; she pounded on them, screaming for help. She screamed until she had no more breath. No one came to let her out.

Trembling, hugging herself, she slid down to sit upon a stair. The corpses gazed back at her. Only scraps of dried flesh adhered to their faces. Their swords were broken, their armor rusted, the quilted leather of their jackets had rotted to fragments like old leaves.

The dead lay still now, but as they stared at her, she became ever more certain that she did not imagine their restlessness.

They must, she thought suddenly, have been walled up to stop them walking.

Judith Berman’s novella “Awakening” originally appeared in Black Gate 10, and was one of the most acclaimed stories we’ve ever published. It was nominated for a 2007 Nebula Award for Best Novella, and Sherwood Smith of Tangent Online wrote:

“Awakening” by Judith Berman begins with the protagonist — unnamed — waking to her lover’s long-dried and crumbled corpse next to her… She encounters then escapes her lord, a sorcerer who has been consuming the souls of the dead so he can stay alive in a twilight existence between the physical world and the gate to death… This story calls to mind fantasies of eighty and a hundred years ago, full of the crumbling remains of ancient civilizations and old rituals that evoked that fin-de-siecle sense of the world’s end… This is a terrific story, beautifully realized and intelligently written — well worth the price of the magazine all on its own.

“Awakening” is a complete 18,000-word novella of adventure fantasy offered at no cost. It is the loose sequel to “The Poison Well,” published right here last week.

Read the complete story here.

Gygax Magazine: A New Gaming Magazine from TSR Games

Sunday, November 25th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

gygax-magazine3There’s been some buzz recently about Gygax Magazine, a new online tabletop gaming magazine set to launch in December.

Editor Jayson Elliot, in a post at ENWorld, revealed that the core team behind the magazine includes Ernie Gygax, Luke Gygax, Tim Kask, James Carpio, and Jim Wampler. The first issue is scheduled for December. TSR, the original publishers of Dungeons and Dragons, was purchased by Wizards of the Coast in the 1997. According to Jayson the TSR trademark was abandoned about nine years ago, and they were able to register it last year. Their first project is Gygax, a gaming magazine, “because we wanted a way to bridge the traditions of the old guard with the awesome new games that are out today.”

Here’s what Tim Kask, founding editor of The Dragon magazine, had to say on his Facebook page:

Gygax is a gaming magazine for new and old players alike. We are looking forward to the games of tomorrow and today, while preserving the traditions and history that got us where we are now.

Our articles and features cover current independent and major publisher games such as Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, The One Ring, Shadowrun, Godlike, Labyrinth Lord, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, Warhammer 40k Roleplay, Traveller, and others, as well as classic out-of-print games with a modern following, like AD&D, Top Secret, and Gamma World.

Our features include comics by Phil Foglio (What’s New With Phil and Dixie), Jim Wampler (Marvin the Mage), and Rich Burlew (Order of the Stick). Contributors include Jim Ward, Cory Doctorow, James Carpio, Ethan Gilsdorf, Dennis Sustare, and many more. Publishing quarterly in print as well as PDF and iPad editions, we hope each issue of Gygax will be an anticipated and treasured addition to any gamer’s library.

The magazine hasn’t even launched yet and it’s already stirring controversy, with Gygax’s widow, Gail, stating publiclyGygax Magazine… does not have the support of the Gygax Family Estate.” Stay tuned for further updates as they become available.

Vintage Treasures: The Case of the Marble Monster

Sunday, November 25th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

the-case-of-the-marble-monster-smallWhen you have kids, I think it’s inevitable that you want them to read the books you loved most as a child. You parents out there know what I’m talking about. And be honest. It’s not enough for them to just read ’em, is it? No. You want your kids to love those books, the same way you did.

I’ve had pretty spotty luck, frankly. Couldn’t get any of my children interested in Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, for example. Sometimes I despair for future generations. I had a bit more luck with my teenage boys and the classic SF and fantasy of my own early teens, such as Dune and Lord of Light.  (Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy was a complete bust, however).

But in terms of reaching all three of my kids, both boys and my 13-year old daughter? Almost impossible.

Except for a few slender volumes from Scholastic Books, that is. Scholastic Books were some of the great treasures of my childhood, and I loved them with a fierce passion. Norman Bridwell’s How To Care For Your Monster, John Peterson’s The Secret Hide-Out, Bertrand R. Brinley’s The Mad Scientist’s Club, Robert McCloskey’s Homer Price, and especially Lester Del Rey’s The Runaway Robot… these were the books I devoured again and again as a child. And the ones that most shaped my future reading tastes, now that I look back on it.

I’ve been able to interest all of my kids in at least one or two. And as you might expect, they disagree on which one is the best. The only one to receive universal praise is a thin collection of short stories originally published in 1961: I.G. Edmonds’s The Case of the Marble Monster.

The Case of the Marble Monster collects the tales of the legendary Judge Ooka, the 17th-century Japanese samurai in the service of the Tokugawa shogunate. Even if you’ve never heard of Ōoka Tadasuke, you’ve almost certainly heard of his cases, some of the most famous legal decisions in history. They include “The Case of the Stolen Smell,” in which an obnoxious innkeeper accuses a poor student of stealing the smell of his food, and ”The Case of the Bound Statue,” in which Ooka is asked to uncover the thief of a cartload of cloth, and he orders a statue of Jizo (a stone guardian) to be bound and arrested for dereliction of duty. All three of my children are in agreement that The Case of the Marble Monster is a fabulous book, and I can’t argue with their judgment. The tales have been passed down for hundreds of years, and it’s not hard to see why.

The Case of the Marble Monster was published by Scholastic Books in 1961. It was 45 cents in paperback for a slender 112 pages; you can buy copies on e-Bay for roughly ten times that. It’s well worth it.

Venture, March 1957: A Retro-Review

Saturday, November 24th, 2012 | Posted by Rich Horton

venture-science-fiction-march-1957-smallAnother magazine from 1957, at the cusp of the Space Age, though this one appeared several months before Sputnik. Venture was a companion magazine to F&SF, intended to focus on pure Science Fiction. Ten bi-monthly issues appeared beginning in January 1957. It was revived in 1969, and six quarterly issues appeared from May 1969 through August 1970. I’ve always thought it a shame they couldn’t (it would seem) make a go of it, though I must say I’d never read a copy until now.

The look and feel of the magazine is similar to F&SF: 132 pages (including the covers), same font and column layout. Unlike F&SF, there are interior illustrations (by John Giunta). There are no features except for a sort of editorial (called “Venturings”) on the inside front cover.

The cover illustration, for Leigh Brackett’s “The Queer Ones”, is by Dick Shelton and it’s a bit odd: in two colors (red and olive green, plus black and white), showing a woman shooting a sort of raygun. It does accurately (if in a slightly symbolic way) depict a scene from the story.

As I said, no features, so let’s get right to the fiction. The stories are:

“Too Soon to Die” by Tom Godwin (15,100 words)
“The Lady was a Tramp” by Rose Sharon (6,700 words)
“Friend for Life” by Gordon R. Dickson (5,200 words)
“The Queer Ones” by Leigh Brackett (14,000 words)
“Blind Alley” by Charles L. Fontenay (2,600 words)
“Vengeance for Nikolai” by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (7,700 words)

Read More »

Apex Magazine #42

Saturday, November 24th, 2012 | Posted by Soyka

apex-magazine-42-smallIssue 42 fiction include “Splinter” by Shira Lipkin, “Sprig” by Alex Bledsoe, “Erzulie Dantor” by Tim Susman, and “The Glutton: A Goxhat Accounting Chant” by Eleanor Arnason.

Non-fiction includes “The 21st Century SF/F Professional at Conventions” by editor Lynne M. Thomas, “Behind the Convention Curtain: Programming” by Steven H. Silver, and “An Interview with Alex Bledsoe” by Maggie Slater.

The cover art is by Nicoletta Ceccolli.

Visit the magazine at www.apex-magazine.com.

Blogging Austin Briggs’ Flash Gordon, Part Eight “The Royal Hunt”

Friday, November 23rd, 2012 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

flash-gordon-4-27lf“The Royal Hunt” was the eighth installment of Austin Briggs’s daily Flash Gordon comic strip serial for King Features Syndicate. Originally published between November 27, 1942 and April 21, 1943, “The Royal Hunt” follows on directly from “Queen Tigra of Forestia” with the Queen decreeing they all take part in a lion hunt. She makes sure that Dale is given an untamed horse in an effort to injure her rival for Flash’s affections. Meantime, her former consort, Prince Cugar, manages to escape from his cell while the others are otherwise occupied.

While Briggs is no match for Alex Raymond when it comes to illustrating the splendor and pageantry of Mongo, his scenes of Flash’s bare-handed battle with the lion, when he breaks the cat’s back, are as exciting as anything found in the contemporaneous Tarzan newspaper strip. The incident itself seems out of character for Flash and more suited to Edgar Rice Burroughs’s celebrated jungle lord, as much as Flash’s punching out a horse seems better-suited to a western pulp hero.

More troubling for contemporary readers is the continued sexism, unique to Briggs’s take on the character, with the fiercely independent Queen Tigra finding she enjoys having a man give her orders. While Alex Raymond’s dichotomy between virtuous Dale and the exotic, sexually liberated women of Mongo may have been rooted in classical virgin/whore stereotypes, his seminal Sunday strip never demeaned his female characters as Briggs regularly did in the daily strip. This is unfortunate and, coupled with Briggs’s relatively inferior art and plotting, serves to undermine his success as Raymond’s heir once the series’ creator departed the Sunday strip.

Read More »

Goth Chick News – 13 Questions for Horror Writer Ania Ahlborn

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image0022Back in September, I had the pleasure of getting an advance look at an apparently rare phenomenon: a horror novel written by a woman.

Perhaps “rare” is not the best word to describe this relatively small pool of talent. But take a moment to enter the words “women horror writers” into Google and the first article that appears is entitled “Top 25 Women Horror Writers You Probably Haven’t Heard Of (But Should Probably Know.)” After that entry, the following articles contain even smaller and more limited lists, most replicating some if not all the names that appear in that Top 25 you probably haven’t heard of.

Maybe (hopefully) the pool of ladies of dark literature is larger than we perceive and it’s the collective psyche which falsely attributes all the good, page-turning frights to the boys.

After all, it’s not like we girls don’t have the ability to scare the snot out of you.

Because you know we do.

Just to prove that point, let me introduce you to Ania Ahlborn, on track to break the conventions around women in horror beginning with her first novel, Seed, and shattering them completely with her upcoming release, The Neighbors.

Read More »

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