Vintage Treasures: Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum

Sunday, November 18th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

alfred-hitchcocks-monster-museum-smallLast month, my son came home from school and began poking through our library. “I have to read a short story collection for Lit block,” he explained.

I think “Lit block” maybe means English class. I’m not going to ask, I already get enough grief for not understanding what kids today are talking about. After a few minutes, Drew gave up. “I’ll check the school library tomorrow,” he said. Please. This is what eBay is for. And sure enough, after a short search, I found a collection he found suitably intriguing. With story titles like “Slime” and “Shadow, Shadow, on the Wall,” how could he not? There was a copy in great shape for just $2.75, and very soon it was ours.

Of course, I ended up being even more interested than Drew. Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum was one of roughly a dozen anthologies published under Hitchcock’s name and ghost-edited by Robert Arthur, including 12 Stories for Late at Night, Scream Along with Me, and Stories That Scared Even Me. This one contains a terrific mix of pulp fiction from 1929 – 1954, from Murray Leinster (Will F Jenkins), Manly Wade Wellman, Theodore Sturgeon, and many others. Here’s the complete TOC:

A Variety of Monsters — Introduction by Alfred Hitchcock
“Slime” — Joseph Payne Brennan (Weird Tales, March 1953)
“The King of the Cats” — Stephen Vincent Benét (Harper’s Bazaar, Feb 1929)
“The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles” — Idris Seabright (F&SF, Oct 1951)
“Henry Martindale, Great Dane” — Miriam Allen deFord (Beyond Fantasy Fiction, Mar 1954)
“Shadow, Shadow, on the Wall” — Theodore Sturgeon (Imagination, Feb 1951)
“Doomsday Deferred” — Will F. Jenkins (The Saturday Evening Post, Sep 24 1949)
“The Young One” — Jerome Bixby (Fantastic, Apr 1954)
“The Desrick on Yandro” — Manly Wade Wellman (F&SF, Jun 1952)
“The Wheelbarrow Boy” — Richard Parker (Lilliput, Oct 1950)
“Homecoming” — Ray Bradbury (Mademoiselle, Oct 1946)

The paperback is abridged from the original 1965 hardcover, which also included “The Day of the Dragon” by Guy Endore, “The Microscopic Giants” by Paul Ernst, and Jerome Bixby’s “The Young One.” I prefer the trade paperback however, mostly because of the gorgeous and moody cover (click on the image at right for a bigger version).

Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum was published by Random House in trade paperback in 1982; the original cover price was $2.50 for 213 pages.


Wake Up to a New World With Awakening: The Art of Halo 4

Sunday, November 18th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

awakening-the-art-of-halo-4-smallI took the family to Best Buy yesterday to buy a new phone for my wife. They didn’t have anything below $250, so we trooped back to the car to return to the Verizon store. My teenage boys, flush with dog-sitting money, were the only happy shoppers, chortling excitedly in the back seat over a copy of 343 Industries’ Halo 4.

I got some scattered details over breakfast this morning. Master Chief, hot-babe AI Cortana, abruptly awakened from deep sleep, a Covenant fleet, a giant Forerunner planet, alien mysteries, and a lot of shooting. Sounds like Halo to me.

So when I sat down to sort through the week’s stack of review copies, my hand naturally gravitated towards the copy of Awakening: The Art of Halo 4, a thick oversize hardcover sent our way by Titan Books. It turned out to be an excellent choice, and  it thoroughly captivated my interest for the next 90 minutes.

Awakening is probably not a good choice if you’re not a fan of art, cutting edge computer games, or far-future science fiction. But if you’re interested in any of those things, you’ll find it very interesting and if, like me, you have more than a passing interest in all three, you’ll find it fascinating.

Awakening is packed with nearly 200 pages of full-color art, concept designs, and sketches from some of the top artists in the field, including Sparth, Robogabo, John Liberto, Glenn Israel, Jhoon Kim, and Thomas Scholes. The descriptive text, by “incurable Halo fanatic” Paul Davies, is brief and to-the-point, rarely more than a slender paragraph on each page. Davies wisely lets the artists do most of the talking, quoting Senior Art Director Kenneth Scott and concept artist Sparth at length.

And the art is indeed spectacular. The design breakdowns — for Master Chief, his mostly naked AI companion Cortana, numerous weapons, the truly splendid vehicle fleet, and the gun-toting alien Covenant and mysterious Forerunners — are detailed and a lot of fun, but it’s the gorgeous alien landscapes and breathtaking unexplored vistas that really fire the imagination. I guarantee there are sights here that you’ve never seen before, from the nebula-like clouds trapped between two vast constructs to the massive Didact ship, so large it can only be explored using a UNSC Broadsword fighter.  More proof that it’s computer entertainment pushing the sense-of-wonder envelope for SF and fantasy fans today.

Awakening: The Art of Halo 4 was published in hardcover by Titan Books on November 6. It is $34.95 for 192 pages. Get more info, including reproductions of some of the artwork, at the Titan website.


A Dark and Glorious World: The New Midgard Campaign Setting

Saturday, November 17th, 2012 | Posted by Wolfgang Baur

midgard-smallI confess that I have a problem with a lot of RPG campaign settings on the market. Some of them are simply tired and played out. Some are designed to lock customers into purchasing adventures and sourcebooks, leaving little room for customization. Some take a “kitchen sink” approach, avoiding anything too distinctive in an effort to support every type of campaign.

As the lead designer and publisher at Kobold Press, I decided it was time to launch a project that would reinvent a few fantasy traditions, and restore all that I think is great and good in classic fantasy RPGs. It would be based on time-tested elements of my own homebrew campaign, not on market research, potential licensing opportunities, or maximizing shareholder value. It was time to let slip the drakes of war, sharpen up the great ax, and split some skulls with a new setting!

With that in mind, I worked with my talented colleagues Jeff Grubb and Brandon Hodge, and the Open Design community, to create the Midgard Campaign Setting. It’s made for conflict, plunder, deep magic, and horrific secrets. That’s reflected in the design choice to provide clear adventure hooks for every place described in the book, for instance, and in the decision to provide a system of ley line magic. Better yet, much original material for Midgard is written by newcomers, so it’s a place where everyone can sharpen their game design chops (more on that in a minute!).

When you’re in Midgard, you’ve got big missions, mythic adventures, and lots of options — but the setting is designed to be compact and easy to pick up. There’s also the part that’s harder to explain, the getting-fantasy-right part. To quote a new fan TwistedGamer

Not since I was a teenager and first peeled back the plastic that had been wrapped around my first Forgotten Realms campaign boxed set have I felt the giddiness that I feel right now…

The masks of the gods, the blending of myth and pure invention, the shadow roads and some new, lighter elements like the beer goddess and the school of clockwork magic all make Midgard sing.

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New Treasures: Legacy of Kings, Final Volume of The Magister Trilogy

Saturday, November 17th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

I rarely read introductory volumes of fantasy series these days. Truthfully, I don’t pay much attention to them. What I do pay attention to is the final volume, as that’s (usually) a sign it’s safe to sit down and enjoy a complete fantasy adventure. That’s why I was very pleased to see Legacy of Kings, the final volume of C.S. Friedman’s Magister Trilogy, arrive in paperback in September. It is the sequel to Feast of Souls and Wings of Wrath.

the-magister-trilogy-cs-friedman

I’ve followed Friedman since she published her first novel, In Conquest Born, in 1986. She is the author of The Coldfire Trilogy, the Braxi/Azea duology (In Conquest Born, The Wilding), and the standalone novels The Madness Season and This Alien Shore. Kings was originally released in hardcover in August 2011; the captivating cover sequence for the trilogy is by John Jude Palencar.

The young peasant woman Kamala has proven strong and determined enough to claim the most powerful Magister sorcery for herself — but now the Magisters hunt her for killing one of their own. Her only hope of survival lies in the northern Protectorates, where spells are warped by a curse called the Wrath that even the Magisters fear. Originally intended to protect the lands of men from creatures known only as souleaters, the Wrath appears to be weakening — and the threat of this ancient enemy is once more falling across the land.

Legacy of Kings was published by DAW Books in September, 2012. It is 498 pages, and priced at $7.99 for both the paperback and digital versions.


Undiscovered Treasures: An Open Call for Self-Published Books

Friday, November 16th, 2012 | Posted by Donald Crankshaw

harpers-pen

John O’Neill has been kind enough to invite me to blog more regularly here at Black Gate. This gives me the opportunity to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a while.

Nowadays, it’s really easy to self-publish a book. However, it’s very, very hard to stand out in the crowd. For every author who breaks through, there are hundreds out there who do not. While many of these self-published books are deservedly unknown, I believe that there are self-published books out there that deserve more attention than they’re receiving, and I’d like to help them get it. So I’m offering to review one self-published fantasy book each month. Considering that there are hundreds or thousands published every day, I’m sure that this won’t even scratch the surface. So in order to help me find out which books I should be reviewing, and to give you the best opportunity to sell yourself, I’m going to set up a submission system.

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Exploring Medieval Baghdad

Friday, November 16th, 2012 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

dsc_0235

Baghdad celebrated its 1,250th birthday this year. It’s been through a lot since it was founded by the Caliph al-Mansour in 762 AD, seeing more than its fair share of invaders come and go. Nowadays, Baghdad shows little of its former glory. It’s a dusty place of crumbling concrete buildings, blast walls, and traffic jams. Look harder, though, and you’ll find some of Baghdad’s former glory still shining through.

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Blogging Austin Briggs’ Flash Gordon, Part Seven “Queen Tigra of Forestia”

Friday, November 16th, 2012 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

briggs_flashgordon1945bbriggsu“Queen Tigra of Forestia” was the seventh installment of Austin Briggs’s daily Flash Gordon comic strip serial for King Features Syndicate. Originally published between July 13 and November 26, 1942, “Queen Tigra of Forestia” gets underway with Flash and Dale leaving Zarkov behind in the radium mines of Electra to pay a visit to Mongo’s capitol, where President Barin welcomes his old friends. Barin is troubled that the last three diplomatic missions to the kingdom of Forestia have failed, with the party disappearing each time, never to be heard from again. Flash and Dale immediately volunteer to investigate.

Flash and Dale’s rocketship speeds along the Great River of Forestia until it encounters a hydra. Dispatching the dragon with ease, they discover the abandoned rocketships of Barin’s three missing ambassadors. After searching the ships for clues, Flash and Dale are cornered by a giant millipede. They are rescued in the nick of time by a mysterious feline girl who has been watching them from the trees. Flash sends Dale back to their ship for safety and then sets out in pursuit of their rescuer. The feral girl leads Flash on a chase through the forest until he falls prey to an arborial version of a Venus fly-trap. The feral girl reveals herself as Queen Tigra and offers to free Flash if he agrees to be her slave. Flash refuses and fights his way free, but is left dazed from his efforts.

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Goth Chick News: Tales of Fear: More Indy Horror Film Fun

Thursday, November 15th, 2012 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image0021Back in the summer, we had the pleasure of getting a behind-the-scenes look at the indy sci-fi film Outpost 13 via an exclusive interview with the creators Wyatt Weed (Pirate Pictures), Billy Harzel, and Corey Logsdon (State of Mind Productions). As you know, Black Gate loves nothing better than spotting a rising talent and when that talent is producing indy horror films, we here at Goth Chick News get as excited as a pre-teen’er in an I-heart-Edward tent, camping out for the Twilight opening.

<insert high-pitched, pre-pubescent squeal here>

Well, you get the picture, even if you wish you didn’t.

On November 12th, State of Mind Productions released the official trailer for its upcoming feature length horror anthology Tales of Fear. Not coincidentally, the release date was also the 30th anniversary of the theatrical release of the classic George A. Romero film Creepshow (Logsdon and Harzel are fans).

Tales of Fear is a six-part horror anthology styled after the EC comics of the 1950‘s. The film seeks to capture the essence of the horror elements of the comics, as well as the crime and mystery aspects that made EC’s stories so popular (and occasionally controversial).

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Art of the Genre: Art of the Disappearing MMORPG

Thursday, November 15th, 2012 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Are we the only two left in Final Fantasy XI?  Yes, but at least we look good together my love...

Are we the only two left in Final Fantasy XI? Yes, but at least we look good together my love...

You can never go home again, or at least I believe that’s the saying. I tend to agree, as my home town in NowhereVille Indiana stands as a shining example of the power that ‘getting out’ has on a person’s life. Still, when I do make it ‘home’ — and yes, although I’ve lived in four other states and half a dozen apartments, condos, and houses longer than the days where I spent my youth, my mother’s house on the Tippecanoe is still my home — I can breathe easy like nowhere else in the world. [On a sad note, someone recently related to me that maturity is achieved the day you lose your last parent because you are truly on your own. I’ve luckily not reached that level of independence, and certainly that is why my mother’s house still holds such warmth, because there I’m still the child, and who doesn’t like being the child once in a while?]

Honestly, I could shed tears as I write such profound revelations, as I think about home, three thousand miles from the City of Angels and all the chaos that goes with it, but I won’t. Instead, I want to try to translate that same feeling to another venue, that being the art of the quickly disappearing MMORPG.

Before I can truly begin to talk about the vanishing, however, I suppose I should first discuss life. On the 16th of March, 1999, Sony’s 989 Studios released Everquest and the world of online gaming was never the same. Sure, Ultima Online had been around since 1997, but it never stole gamers’ attention and basked in the world spotlight like Everquest, or ‘Evercrack’ as it was called by many because of its addictive qualities.

This game, eventually wrapped into the Sony Online Entertainment bundle, had hundreds of thousands of registered players by 2004. Somewhat unbelievably, thirteen years later, another expansion for the game appeared this November [2012], but like most games of its kind, the death throes can be a long and lonely road.

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Teaching and Fantasy Literature: Sometimes the Magic Works

Thursday, November 15th, 2012 | Posted by Sarah Avery

sometimes-the-magic-worksAfter last week’s post on John Gardner’s curmudgeonly classic The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers, it seemed important to look at a writer’s handbook by an unrepentant writer of genre fiction — commercial fiction, even. I wanted a book that was humble where Gardner’s was imperious, practical about the business of publishing where Gardner’s was aloof from it.

Gardner suggests that the young writer read all of Faulkner, and then all of Hemingway to clear Faulkner’s excesses out of her mind. So I turned to Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life by Terry Brooks to recover from all that is magisterial in The Art of Fiction.

A confession: Terry Brooks’s novels are not my thing. That is not a judgment on him, just an observation that so far I haven’t really connected with his work. For the record, in the Grand Taxonomy and Hierarchy of Books That Aren’t My Thing, The Sword of Shannara gave me far more reading enjoyment than did James Joyce’s Ulysses.

A lot of people — critics, teachers, readers, other writers — have judged Brooks harshly for one reason and another. But I will go to school on anybody, absolutely anybody, who seems to know something I don’t. Am I on the bestseller lists yet? No? Then Brooks knows something I don’t. I’m hoping that readers who do connect with his books will stop by the comment thread and share their perspectives.

The Brooks manual has two main areas of insight to offer that balance what’s missing in Gardner, and those two areas couldn’t be more different.

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