A Magic Broken is Available Free Today at Amazon.com

Monday, December 24th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

A Magic BrokenMerry Christmas from Amazon.com! For today only, the e-retail giant is offering Theo’s digital book A Magic Broken as a free download for Kindle readers.

In his review Donald S. Crankshaw wrote:

You may be familiar with Theo Beale as a blogger at Black Gate…. I was looking forward to seeing how his ideas translated into fiction. He’s given me a chance with A Magic Broken, an e-book novella equivalent to about 50 pages, written under the name Vox Day. It is connected to Theo’s novel, A Throne of Bones, but as I haven’t read the novel yet, I can’t say exactly how…

When I first discovered fantasy in the eighties, it seemed that elves and dwarves were staples of the genre — if it was fantasy, it had at least these two demi-human races. In the last twenty years, fantasy has moved away from that, but I must admit that I have a soft spot for them, especially dwarves. So I was happy to see the dwarf, Lodi, as one of the heroes of this story… The story follows Lodi and the human spy, Nicolas, as they go after the same prize — a kidnapped elven woman — for very different reasons…

One character who came across very well was the city of Malkan itself, where the story took place. Malkan is an independent city, built by dwarves, but mainly occupied by humans. The humans acknowledge no outside lord but money, and the merchants control the city more than the nobility, whom they raise and overthrow at will. As we see Nicolas and Lodi deal with slavers, prostitutes, and powerful merchants, we start to see life in the city at ground level. It’s a city where life is cheap, even for the powerful, and where secrets are plentiful. It’s the sort of city that’s teeming with stories, and it’s almost a shame that the characters are in such a hurry to leave.

Download A Magic Broken free here. But hurry — the offer is only good today.

Black Gate Online Fiction: Seven Kings by John R. Fultz

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

seven-kingsBlack Gate is very pleased to offer our readers an exclusive first look at Seven Kings, the latest volume in the Books of the Shaper series from John R. Fultz, the acclaimed author of several of the most popular tales in Black Gate magazine, including “The Vintages of Dream” in BG 15, and the novel Seven Princes.

Dragging the body into the undergrowth, he exchanged his footwear as he had planned. The new boots were tight yet warm on his aching feet. He lifted the bronze helmet with its welded mask from the dead man’s head and placed it on his own. Let one of their own demon faces be the last thing they see as they die. He took what else he could from the body (a few more bits of dried food) and rolled it into a stagnant pool. A viper glided through the black water and wrapped itself around the corpse. Tong caught a glimpse of himself in the surface of the water. A pale broad-chested devil with a leering face of black death, twin horns growing from his temples. His mouth was a fanged grin and his eyes were invisible behind narrow slits. He grinned beneath the mask and walked back to the trail, the bloody sabre in one hand, his knife in the other.

He stalked after them in resolute calm, ready to face the triumph of his death.

Barnes & Noble’s in-house magazine Explorations called Fultz’s first novel “flawless – and timeless – epic fantasy… Seven Princes is as good as it gets.” On his blog, Fultz shared additional details on the new installment:

I don’t want to say too much about the plot, but you will see much more of Khyrei and its poisonous crimson jungles than in the first book. Plus: More Giants…

Seven Kings will be published by Orbit on January 15, 2013. It is 496 pages in trade paperback available for $15.99 ($9.99 ePub and PDF). Learn more at the Orbit website.

Read the first chapter of Seven Kings here.

New Treasures: David C. Smith’s The Fall of the First World

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

the-fall-of-the-first-world-smallThursday I had the pleasure of attending a reading by the distinguished David C. Smith here in Chicago.

Dave’s accomplishments in the field of modern sword & sorcery are legendary. With Richard L. Tierney, he published the Bran Mak Morn novel, For the Witch of the Mists (1978), and six volumes in the Red Sonja series from 1981 to 1983. He wrote one other novel based on the works of Robert E. Howard: The Witch of the Indies (1977), featuring the pirate Black Terence Vulmea.

On his own, Dave produced the highly-regarded story cycle set on the imaginary island-continent Attluma, beginning with Oron (1978) and The Sorcerer’s Shadow (1978). All told, the Tales of Attluma include five novels and eighteen short stories and novelettes written between 1971–1984. In total, Dave has written twenty-one novels in a career spanning over three decades and still going strong — including the occult thriller Call of Shadows, released by Airship 27 in March of this year.

Dave entertained the audience with tales of the heady days of his early career, when young writers named Karl Edward Wagner, David Drake, Richard L. Tierney, and Charles R. Saunders were breathing new life into sword & sorcery — and when he shared an agent with Wagner, Frank Herbert, and an up-and-coming young horror writer named Stephen King.

But the highlight of the reading was the excerpt from The West is Dying, the first volume in The Fall of the First World, a fantasy trilogy originally published in paperback by Pinnacle Books in 1983. Unavailable for nearly thirty years, these exciting volumes are finally being returned to print by Borgo Press. A fantasy version of War and Peace, the saga follows the conflict between two great empires, bringing together legendary historical characters and Western myths including the tale of Helen of Troy. As a king offers his beautiful daughter as a prize, another pursues only endless war… and so the First World begins to collapse.

The West is Dying was published by Borgo Press on November 29, 2012. It is 422 pages in trade paperback priced at $19.99. The cover art is by Dusan Kostic. It is available directly from Borgo Press or through Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and other fine retailers.

2012 SFWA Grand Master Awarded to Gene Wolfe

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

an-evil-guest-gene-wolfe-smallThe Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America has named Gene Wolfe the 2012 recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.

The Grand Master Award is given not for a particular work but for “lifetime achievement in science fiction and/or fantasy.” It is given only to living writers.

Previous recipients include Fritz Leiber, Clifford D. Simak, A. E. van Vogt, Jack Vance, Ursula K. Le Guin, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Michael Moorcock.

Wolfe’s publications include The Book of the New Sun, Peace, The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Soldier of the Mist, The Book of the Long Sun, and The Wizard Knight. His recent works include Pirate Freedom (2007), An Evil Guest (2008), The Best of Gene Wolfe (2009), The Sorcerer’s House (2010), and Home Fires (2011). He has won two Nebulas, five World Fantasy Awards, six Locus Awards, and the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2007.

Read C.S.E. Cooney’s lengthy interview with Gene, conducted over breakfast in November 2010, here.

The award will be presented at the 48th Annual Nebula Awards Weekend in San Jose, CA, May 16-19, 2013. Read the complete announcement at SFWA.org.

Prince of Thorns Available for $1.99 at Amazon.com

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

prince-of-thornsFor today only, Amazon.com is offering the Kindle version of Prince of Thorns, the opening volume of Mark Lawrence’s The Broken Empire trilogy, for just $1.99.

In a Black Gate blog post shortly before publication, Mark Lawrence wrote:

The book I’ve written, Prince of Thorns, has layers, rather like an onion (or an ogre). I hope it can be enjoyed as a violent swords and sorcery romp. Get your teeth into it though and there’s more there – it’s as much about our prince as it is about what he does. This is a damaged person and although the story is told in his words without a hint of excuse, there are lessons to be learned between the lines. It wasn’t until tonight though, desperately scratching at the subject in the effort to come up with something to say in this blog post I was invited to supply, that I discovered another layer, deeper still…

In Prince of Thorns the main character has suffered a personal disaster. It’s not the ‘evil threatens the village’ of classic fantasy. It’s not injured pride or a looming darkness in the east. He’s been screwed over, a tsunami has rolled through his life and left devastation. And the book is in large part his reaction to that. It’s about where he takes his anger and where it takes him.

It’s only through the lens of half a decade and more that I see I was writing out… not a version of my own experience, but a mapping of the emotions.

If you’re the kind of reader who has to think long and hard before parting with $1.99, by all means check out the generous excerpt we presented here last October.

The sequel, King of Thorns, was released in August 2012, and the final volume, Emperor of Thorns, is scheduled for August 2013. We have several of Mark Lawrence’s short stories in inventory, and the first, “Bulletproof,” will appear as part of our Black Gate Online Fiction line early next year.

Prince of Thorns was published by Ace in August 2011. The 336-page hardcover edition is still in print, priced at $24.95. You can buy the Kindle version here.

Thanks to Awsnyde for the tip!

Vintage Treasures: The Casebook of Carnacki The Ghost Finder by William Hope Hodgson

Friday, December 21st, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

the-casebook-of-carnacki-the-ghost-finderWilliam Hope Hodgson is almost unique among his contemporaries: his most famous novels, The House on the Borderland and The Night Land, have been continuously in print for the better part of the last hundred years. H.P. Lovecraft described The Night Land, first published in 1912, as “one of the most potent pieces of macabre imagination ever written.”

But Hodgson wrote many other highly-respected works of horror and dark fantasy, and here his publication history is a little more spotty. Perhaps chief among them are the tales of Carnacki The Ghost Finder, a supernatural detective who came up against horrors that would have made Van Helsing blanche. I’m pleased to say that the Wordsworth Tales of Mystery And The Supernatural have not let us down, and in 2006 they brought the complete collection back in print in a handsome and inexpensive edition.

“‘I saw something terrible rising up through the middle of the ‘defence’. It rose with a steady movement. I saw it pale and huge through the whirling funnel of cloud – a monstrous pallid snout rising out of that unknowable abyss. It rose higher and higher. Through a thinning of the cloud I saw one small eye… a pig’s eye with a sort of vile understanding shining at the back of it.”

Thomas Carnacki is a ghost finder, an Edwardian psychic detective, investigating a wide range of terrifying hauntings presented in the nine stories in this complete collection… Encountering such spine-chilling phenomena as ‘The Whistling Room’, the life-threatening dangers of the phantom steed in ‘The Horse of the Invisible’ and the demons from the outside world in ‘The Hog’, Carnacki is constantly challenged by spiritual forces beyond our knowledge. To complicate matters, he encounters human skullduggery also. Armed with a camera, his Electric Pentacle and various ancient tomes on magic, Carnacki faces the various dangers his supernatural investigations present with great courage.

Josh Reynolds explored the career of Carnacki The Ghost Finder in greater detail as part of The Nightmare Men series last year.

We’ve covered ten volumes in the Wordsworth Tales of Mystery And The Supernatural series so far:

The Crimson Blind and Other Stories by H.D. Everett
Couching at the Door by D.K. Broster
The Casebook of Carnacki The Ghost Finder by William Hope Hodgson
The Beast with Five Fingers by W.F. Harvey
The Power of Darkness — Tales of Terror, by Edith Nesbit
Alice and Claude Askew’s Aylmer Vance, The Ghost-Seer
The Black Veil & Other Tales of Supernatural Sleuths edited by Mark Valentine
Voodoo Tales: The Ghost Stories of Henry S. Whitehead
Sherlock Holmes: The Game’s Afoot, edited by David Stuart Davies
The Casebook of Sexton Blake, edited by David Stuart Davies

There’s plenty more to come, so stay tuned.

The Casebook of Carnacki The Ghost Finder by William Hope Hodgson was published in 2006 by Wordsworth Editions. It is 191 pages in paperback priced at $6.99. There is no digital edition.

Blogging Marvel’s Dracula Lives – Part One

Friday, December 21st, 2012 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

dracula-lives-smallDracula Lives was Marvel’s black and white companion title to the award-winning Tomb of Dracula monthly comic. As a magazine, Dracula Lives was exempt from the strictures of the Comic Code Authority, allowing for more violence and adult themes than would have been possible in the comic at the time. From the magazine’s launch in 1973 with a stunning Boris Vallejo cover displaying voodoo imagery and undead nudes, readers knew they were in for something decidedly different.

Issue #1 gets underway with the excellent “A Poison in the Blood.” Gerry Conway’s contemporary tale of Dracula in New York, suffering from withdrawal after drinking the tainted blood of junkies easily measured up to the high standard set by Marv Wolfman in the monthly comic series. Assigning the monthly’s art team of Gene Colan and Tom Palmer the artistic chores for the story only reinforced the fact that what was to follow would be every bit as good as the award-winning parent series. More importantly, “A Poison in the Blood” began the Cagliostro story arc which would weave its way through history in subsequent issues.

Roy Thomas’s “Suffer Not a Witch” is the first historical tale and also the first Dracula story to team Thomas with artist Dick Giordano. The pair would later embark on a celebrated adaptation of the original Stoker novel. “Suffer Not a Witch” steers the series into Nathaniel Hawthorne territory with the Lord of Vampires visiting 17th Century America and becoming embroiled in the conflict between hypocritical Puritans and the persecuted witches.

The first issue concludes with Steve Gerber’s “To Walk Again in Daylight,” illustrated by Pablo Marcos. This 18th Century tale set in Vienna is well done, but the central concept (Dracula is seeking an alchemical cure from vampirism) contradicts the established continuity for the series and flies in the face of Marvel’s portrayal of the Lord of the Vampires as a truly Satanic unrepentant figure who embraces evil for his own sake.

Read More »

Goth Chick News: Norman Bates You’ve Been a Very Bad Boy…

Thursday, December 20th, 2012 | Posted by Sue Granquist

bates-motel-smallNormally, I’d be prone to bust on this, but either the holiday season has taken a little edge off my snark, or this is actually kind of a cool idea.

This week, A&E released a featurette to promote its upcoming mini-series / prequel Bates Motel. Looks like we’re finally going to find out how Norman became psycho and got his mother fixation.

Freddie Highmore, the adorable little moppet last seen in Finding Neverland and Tim Burton’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, has grown up quite a bit and takes on the role made famous by Anthony Perkins, as a teenager this time; with Vera Farmiga (George Clooney’s love interest in Up In the Air) portraying Norman’s eventually-mummified-Mom, “Norma.”

Hot Mom with an only son who she named after herself…yes the creep-factor is mounting…

A&E joins NBC in bringing another monstrous movie murderer to the small screen to more closely examine what makes him tick. Similar to what Bryan Fuller’s upcoming Hannibal series plans to do with Hannibal Lecter, A&E’s Bates Motel will focus on young Norman’s serial killer psyche and how his backstory turned him into what he’s most known for cinematically.

“Norman has been through a lot. He’s a sensitive boy,” Norma Bates can be heard to say in the new promo. We get a glimpse of Norman fraternizing with some of his female classmates (before Mother put a stop to that) and displaying an early eeriness.

It also looks like we discover where Norman got the idea to hide bodies in the lake behind the hotel. The cast seems especially enthusiastic about the writing talking about crazy turns, suspense and emotional characters, and the music sets a sufficiently ominous mood.

See for yourself with the full trailer, after the jump.

Read More »

Teaching and Fantasy Literature: Do as I Say, Not as I Do (Until I Do because of You)

Thursday, December 20th, 2012 | Posted by Sarah Avery

I commanded my first students to revise, as I had been commanded by my own mentors. Had I ever revised–not just proofread and fiddled, but actually revised–anything in my life before I started teaching? No. When I was a student, my first drafts were clean enough and clever enough, I could get away with handing them in for all my classes. Some of my teachers called me on it, but nobody insisted I do anything differently. When I took the helm of a writing class for the first time, at the absurd age of 24, I could tell my students all the steps of a beginner’s revision process. I knew the platitudes, and for me, that’s all they were. I could not have followed those steps to save my life. My first drafts, while in progress, were plenty messy, but once I finished them, the prose style was smooth as glass. I feared what might happen if I broke it.

To my astonishment, my first crop of freshman composition students followed my directions. Why on earth did they do that? I had no idea what I was doing at the helm of that classroom in 1994. I’ll be grateful to them always, because they did one thing none of my teachers had theretofore accomplished: they made revision look desirable, enviable, even occasionally joyful. They didn’t just shame me into learning how to revise, though I will say that my horror at my hypocrisy was one force that drove me to change my ways. My students were, at semester’s end, happy with freshman composition papers, of all things, because they had accomplished major transformations on their projects. Yes, their sentences got smoother, but more to the point, their ideas grew.

Read More »

New Treasures: Dungeon Command: Curse of Undeath and Tyranny of Goblins

Thursday, December 20th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

dungeon-command-curse-of-undeath-smallBack in August, I made some excited noises about the new head-to-head skirmish game from Wizards of the Coast, Dungeon Command.

At the time, only two Faction Packs were available: Heart of Comyr, including a human ranger, halfling sneak, dragon knight, dwarven defenders, and copper dragon; and the Sting of Lolth, which contained the drow assassin, priestess, wizard, spiders, and umber hulk.

Now, if you’re like me, you probably wondered what a “Faction Pack” was, and how a “head-to-head skirmish game” might work. But that was really secondary, because all the cool toys packed inside were more than worth the money.

If you had to justify the purchase, you could do it on those alone — Dungeon Command components are fully compatible with the Wizards of the Coast games you’re already playing. The miniatures and dungeon tiles can be used with the D&D RPG, and the unique cards provided with each miniature can be used with D&D Adventure System board games like Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, and The Legend of Drizzt.

dungeon-command-tyranny-of-goblins-smallYou don’t have to be an expert on head-to-head skirmish games to appreciate that they’re a lot more fun with a variety of miniatures. So I was intrigued to see the recent arrival of two new factions: Tyranny of Goblins, containing a complete goblin warband — including bugbears, wolf riders, a feral troll, and a hobgoblin sorcerer — and Curse of Undeath, which includes the gravehound, lich necromancer, and dracolich.

Dungeon Command features themed miniature factions designed to play as unified war bands. The game eliminates luck-driven mechanics in favor of player-driven skill, creativity, and quick thinking. Each faction comes in its own box, with a dozen miniatures, a set of unique cards, dungeon tiles, and the game rules.

I’m already hearing reports that the miniatures — and the new rules set — have found favor among roleplayers looking for a quick and refined combat system. Stay tuned for further reports as we experiment with the rules here at the Black Gate rooftop headquarters. Assuming we ever stop playing with the cool minis long enough to read the rules, that is.

Both Tyranny of Goblins and Curse of Undeath retail for $39.99. They were released by Wizards of the Coast in October and November, respectively.

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