Wizards of the Coast Releases the First D&D Next Conversion Notes

Thursday, January 31st, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

D&D Next

We last reported on D&D Next when our intrepid man-on-the-scene Andrew Zimmerman Jones live-blogged the Dungeons & Dragons Next Keynote at GenCon last August. This week, Wizards of the Coast released the first D&D Next conversion notes, as part of the new playtest packet.

The playtest packet is now usable with D&D Encounters seasons. The next one, Against the Cult of Chaos, commences on February 6. Here’s the description:

Against the Cult of Chaos is a new adventure that takes inspiration from classics such as Village of Hommlet and Against the Cult of the Reptile God. Not only does this new story feature characters and locations from beloved past adventures, but there’s another compelling reason to participate – there’s two ways to play! The season runs from February 6 through April 3.

Players will need to decide which version of D&D they want to play — D&D 4th Edition or D&D Next –- when they create their Encounters characters. Dungeon Masters who choose to run the upcoming season under D&D Next rules will be able to download conversion notes at a later date at www.DNDNext.com.

Goth Chick News: Looks Like Someone Fed Them After Midnight…

Thursday, January 31st, 2013 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image006The 80’s films just keep on multiplying…

I suppose it was inevitable once we got an updated look at Footloose, Red Dawn, and Fright Night, but fans of the 1984 horror / comedy Gremlins have sprinkled their doorsteps with 30-year-old Gremlins Cereal in hopes the reboot specter will pass them by.

Alas, the sugary goodness seems to have finally lost its magic.

Last week, sources told Vulture Entertainment that, “in keeping with Hollywood’s mandated pop culture recycling program, Warner Bros. Pictures is negotiating with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment to reboot their horror comedy, Gremlins.”

This particular reboot has been a hot topic for multi-generational furry devotees, none of whom want the franchise resurrected, especially if it involves CGI. The original film utilized animatronic puppets bringing the Mogwai and the Gremlins to life. And much like the cereal, it was a tasty experience lacking in any significant (nutritional) value that made the original such a keeper. Why, only a few months back, I witnessed a fan at an entertainment expo about to drop $300 on an original, 80’s plush Gizmo.

Come on, why tamper with that kind of love?

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The Top 12 Black Gate Fiction Posts in December

Thursday, January 31st, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

whoremaster of pald 4December was only our third month offering original online fiction, and once again I was very pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic response from you, our readers. Our Black Gate Online Fiction line has quickly become one of the most popular sections of the blog.

The Top Twelve stories in December were:

  1. The Trade,” by Mark Rigney
  2. The Whoremaster of Pald,” by Harry Connolly
  3. An Excerpt from The Bones of the Old Ones, by Howard Andrew Jones
  4. The Poison Well,” by Judith Berman
  5. The Renunciation of the Crimes of Gharad the Undying,” by Alex Kreis
  6. The Moonstones of Sor Lunaru,” by Joe Bonadonna
  7. A Phoenix in Darkness,” by Donald S. Crankshaw
  8. Godmother Llizard,” by C.S.E. Cooney
  9. Awakening,” by Judith Berman
  10. The Duelist,” by Jason Thummel
  11. An Excerpt from Seven Kings, by John R. Fultz
  12. The Tea-Maker’s Task,” by Aaron Bradford Starr

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by E.E. Knight, Gregory Bierly, Dave Gross, and others, is here. The most popular Black Gate fiction in November is here.

Art for “The Whoremaster of Pald” by Chris Pepper.

We’ve got plenty more fiction in the coming months, so stay tuned!

Teaching and Fantasy Literature: When All Stories Were Fantasy Stories

Thursday, January 31st, 2013 | Posted by Sarah Avery

Kids under age six are not lying to you, not exactly. When they want something to be true, they genuinely cannot tell that it isn’t. When they fear something might be true, no amount of reassurance is enough, because whatever they project onto the world is indistinguishable from the world itself. My five-year-old really believes his classmate told him it was okay to cut her hair with craft scissors, and he is not trying to manipulate me when he says the monster will emerge from behind his dresser if I turn off his bedroom light. His imagination is as real to him as anything he can touch.

Of course, adults are not always able to distinguish between the world and their mental projections upon the world. We all slip sometimes, a few of us slip a lot, and a very few cultivate slippage deliberately. We like imagining that we could shuck this dreadful adult ability, or avoid developing it at all, as the protagonist of  Michel Gondry’s gorgeous film The Science of Sleep does. The thing is, for all of us, there was a long time in childhood when any boundary between reality and fantasy always seemed more like an arbitrary exercise of power on the part of the adults in our lives than like an externally real fact we had to cope with. Why must my son hold my hand when we cross a parking lot in the dark? He believes he is impervious to cars, and can say so using the word “impervious,” so clearly the hand-holding rule must just be Mommy’s power trip.

It doesn’t help that the real world is weird, and so complicated that grown-up attempts to explain it at a child’s level only pump up the weirdness.

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Join Howard Andrew Jones on Ask Me Anything on Reddit

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Howard Andrew Jones and his attack chickenBlack Gate Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones has put out the word that he’ll be on Reddit tomorrow:

Hope you’ll join me at Reddit Thursday for a live interview, part of their Ask Me Anything series. You can ask me anything you’re curious about regarding this whole fantasy writing gig, so I hope you’ll drop by, and help spread the word!

Howard joined /r/Fantasy for an Ask Me Anything event a year ago, shortly after the release of his first novel, The Desert of Souls, where he was asked “How do you handle portrayals of sexism and racism when writing historical fantasy?”, “What RPGs do you play?”, and “How do you feel about piracy of your books?”

Click here for the official link.

No word on whether or not the chicken will be there.

Myke Cole’s Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier On Sale This Week

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Shadow Ops Fortress FrontierMyke Cole is a class act. Before he launched a career as an internationally celebrated novelist, he did the decent thing: he apprenticed at Black Gate first.

His story “Naktong Flow” appeared in BG 13, and Dave Truesdale at Tangent Online called it “Thoroughly professional… Think Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now and you’re on the right track.” We attempted to lure him back to our pages with insanely generous offers — his own dressing room, and fresh flowers delivered daily — and even sent the lovely Patty Templeton to interview him, but it was all to no avail. Life as a novelist offered him the one thing Black Gate couldn’t: real money. And respect. And fame. And accolades. And a ton of other stuff, but let’s not dwell on that.

In his essay “Selling Shadow Point,” Myke talks about what it took to submit and sell his first novel, saying “You have to have guts… you have to bite the bullet and take it out to market.” In his case it certainly paid off — his first novel was Shadow Ops: Control Point, which Peter V. Brett called “Black Hawk Down meets the X-Men… military fantasy like you’ve never seen it before.” It was an immediate hit, and the reading public clamored for more. Now Cole has delivered and the second volume of Shadow Ops arrives in book stores this week.

The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began to develop terrifying powers — summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Overnight the rules changed… but not for everyone.

Colonel Alan Bookbinder is an army bureaucrat whose worst war wound is a paper-cut. But after he develops magical powers, he is torn from everything he knows and thrown onto the front-lines. Drafted into the Supernatural Operations Corps in a new and dangerous world, Bookbinder finds himself in command of Forward Operating Base Frontier — cut off, surrounded by monsters, and on the brink of being overrun.

Now, he must find the will to lead the people of FOB Frontier out of hell, even if the one hope of salvation lies in teaming up with the man whose own magical powers put the base in such grave danger in the first place — Oscar Britton, public enemy number one…

Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier was published by Ace Books on January 29, 2013. It is 368 pages and priced at $7.99 for both the paperback and digital versions.

The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in December

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

analog-july-1961December was the most active month the BG blog has ever seen, breaking every traffic record in our history. It’s good to have you folks hanging out with us, instead of risking your neck skiing or snowboarding or something. Exercise kills, and it especially has it in for long-time readers with weak vision and poor motor skills.

If you’re just joining us, you missed some great stuff last month. Theo took on the entire SF & fantasy establishment, Rich Horton proved there’s still life in old SF magazines, and tantalizing glimpses of the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness triggered some animated speculation on just who that sinister guy blowin’ up Federation stuff is. I compiled a Black Gate Christmas Gift List, Ryan Harvey continued his enormously popular series on Edgar Rice Burrough’s Mars books, and Howard Andrew Jones offered up a generous preview of his new novel The Bones of the Old Ones.

That’s just a sample — here’s the complete list of the Top 50 articles from last month.

  1. SFF Corruption Part I
  2. Analog July 1961: A Retro Review
  3. Star Trek Into Darkness Poster Fuels Gary Mitchell Speculation
  4. The Black Gate Christmas Gift List
  5. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars, Part 10: Llana of Gathol
  6. Black Gate Online Fiction: The Bones of the Old Ones
  7. A Throne of Bones
  8. Another Arbitrary Top 10 List: Fantasy Films
  9. New Treasures: Obsidian Blood by Aliette de Bodard
  10. Goth Chick News: Troll – Rise of Harry Potter


    Read More »

Poetry in Action: The Return of the Mucker by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

Return of the Mucker FrazettaThis upfront: The Return of the Mucker is less effective a novel than last week’s topic, The Mucker. The strange genre-mashings of the first book give way to the more familiar settings of the American southwest and northern Mexico. The Return of the Mucker plays as an outright Western for most of its length, and offers nothing as lunatic as samurai cannibals. As a story, it doesn’t hold together as well as The Mucker, getting weighed down with too much plot “business” while the first book stripped away extraneous aspects the farther the story advanced until it came down to only the hero and heroine, Billy Byrne and Barbara Harding.

Yet The Return of the Mucker is still a strong work that glosses over its shaky plot elements with a breakneck action finale, fitting developments of Billy Byrne’s personality that merge together his extremes, and one of Burroughs’s most intriguing characters: a hobo-poet hero named Bridge.

Burroughs’s working title for The Mucker’s sequel was Out There Somewhere, the name of a poem that inspired the character of Bridge. (More about that later.) Burroughs submitted the novel to All Story in March 1916, soon after completing it. Editor Thomas Newell Metcalf purchased the story immediately, and the first of five installments appeared two months later under its more marketable title. The Return of the Mucker was published in hardcover in 1921 from A. C. McClurg as Part II of a volume simply called The Mucker.

When the story begins, Billy Byrne is no longer “the mucker.” ERB makes that clear as a cloudless blue sky in the second paragraph: “Billy Byrne was no longer the mucker.” Barbara Harding cured Byrne of his criminal life and coarse ways: everything that defines the now outdated slang term “mucker.” But Billy Byrne surrendered his love for Barbara so she could marry William Mallory at the conclusion of the first book, and he’s now a man without direction — or a complete personality. If he isn’t the mucker, and he’s not with the woman who changed him, what is he? Read More »

Katherine Blake (or Dorothy Heydt) and The Interior Life

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

The Interior LifeI’ve mentioned a few times before that I have a fascination with 80s fantasy, and suspect a number of now-overlooked genre books from those years are worth closer examination. I want to put forward another example of what I mean: The Interior Life, written by Dorothy Heydt under the name Katherine Blake. Published in 1990, it’s a novel that does interesting things in mixing a fantasy world with the experiences of a modern-day housewife.

The book starts with Sue, whose three kids have just started the school year. Sue’s doing some daily chores and remembers how she told herself fairy tales when she was a child, creating and inhabiting fictional characters: “all the people I used to be.” After which, she starts seeing the lives of people in the quasi-medieval world of Demoura. More precisely, she sees things from the perspective of Lady Amalia, a noblewoman with magical gifts, Marianella, her maid, and occasionally others such as Kieran, an innkeeper’s son who joins Amalia’s service. Demoura’s menaced by a Darkness creeping westward across the land, blighting all in its path; the characters of the Demouran story live a fairly conventional high fantasy tale of an evil wounding the land, of the struggle to overthrow the dark and bring healing. But those characters also, as the story goes on, provide inspiration for Sue.

You could in theory read the book as moving back and forth between two separate worlds. Heydt, in the comments to this perceptive review of the book by Jo Walton, has said that she thinks of the fantasy aspects as entirely Sue’s creation; in fact, without being explicit, a number of things about the set-up imply this. It’s subtly done. Notably, the life-and-death drama of the fantasy becomes the venue for Sue’s development as a person. She wants nothing more than to tend her family — raise her kids and cook and keep house and help her husband advance in his career. However old-fashioned this sounds, the novel makes it clear she’s happy with this life, and the point of the book is not that she finds new goals, but that she becomes better at what she does and happier in the course of doing so. Two or three interesting points come out of this. First, the blending of the ‘real’ and ‘fantasy’ worlds is worth considering, well-done and unusual. Second, the book points out a generic similarity in fantasy stories about a protagonist developing skills and learning to master their world. Three, and this is perhaps more marked from a twenty-first century perspective than a 1990 perspective, it raises some interesting questions about what is contemporary and what is archaic. Sue’s life and aspirations feel dated in ways that the fantasy of Demoura does not.

Read More »

Tangent Online on Gregory Bierly’s “A Princess of Jadh”

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

gregory bierly cropCyd Athens at Tangent Online reviews Gregory Bierly’s swords & sorcery novelette, “A Princess of Jadh,” published here on Sunday, January 20:

So often in medieval tales, when a mother dies in childbirth, it is in the process of giving birth to an important, and sometimes only, son. In this dark fantasy, “A Princess of Jadh,” Gregory Bierly strays from that path by giving us a daughter of emperor Thaphsis Amryth X, the youngest of five. Naome is the first red-head born in the empire in a thousand years. In that, and many other ways, she is quite different from her sisters.

At the age of twenty, Naome undergoes the ritual of being presented to her people’s gods – gods in whom she steadfastly does not believe. Though she has a vision during the ritual, and a sensation of being painted, afterward she believes that she has not been changed in any way. It takes little to persuade her otherwise. On her belly, an incomplete but corrupted rune of power now resides. And both the power that began the rune and the one that perverted it are interested in Naome…

“A Princess of Jadh” is a 13,000-word novelette offered at no cost. Read the complete story here, and Cyd’s review at Tangent Online here.

Greg Bierly is a climatologist, professor of geography and director of the honors program at Indiana State University. This is his first fiction sale.

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by E.E. Knight, Jason E. Thummel, Mark Rigney, C.S.E. Cooney, Judith Berman, Howard Andrew Jones, Dave Gross, Harry Connolly, and others, is here.

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