Teaching and Fantasy Literature: So I Guess It’s My Blind Spot, Too

Thursday, February 28th, 2013 | Posted by Sarah Avery

The closest thing to a sports movie I can recall enjoying–apparently far-future dystopia and maiming injuries are what it takes to make a football-like sport watchable for me.

Last week I wrote about trying to understand sports writing as if it were a subgenre of sword and sorcery. For my students’ sakes, I’ll read just about anything–and usually when my students entice or implore me to leave my comfort zone as a reader, something good happens.

I said something myopic last week, and I’m actually glad to have said it here, where it drew thoughtful, friendly responses that have not only helped me get further into my students’ favorite reading, but have also helped me understand what it is about genre fiction that turns off some litfic-only readers. I said:

And what monster does the athlete vanquish in most sporting events?No monster, just a fellow athlete. What threat does the fellow athlete pose, to anybody other than the athlete we’re reading about? In most cases, none at all. In a boxing match, two potentially decent guys beat the snot out of each other, with nothing at stake that truly matters. In a football game, dozens of young men bludgeon their brains against the insides of their skulls, and for what? For bragging rights and cash? How much patience would I have for a fictional character who did as much harm for something as trivial? The more a sport resembles sword and sorcery combat in its results, the less interested I am in it. Conflict will only get you so far when the motives are shallow. Am I a prig? Maybe I’m being a prig.

Nobody said, Yes, Sarah, you’re being a prig. So, um, thank you for your patience and forbearance.

What happened instead was a conversation about conflict and its stakes generally, a conversation I’ve continued having with myself all week.

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Goth Chick News: Stand by With the Defibrillator Paddles: We’re Flatlining Again…

Thursday, February 28th, 2013 | Posted by Sue Granquist

flatlinersOkay, follow me on this one for a minute…

It’s 1990 and you, along with a small group of your fellow-medical-student friends (the majority of whom are smoking hot by the way) start daring each other to prove the claims made by patients who have had near-death experiences.  You figure the best way to do this is to take turns being brought medically to the brink of death in your underwear, then being shocked and mouth-to-mouthed back into existence by your friends.

If you can now imagine that two of your friends are a pre-24, post Lost Boys Keifer Sutherland and a pre-Eat, Pray, Love, post Pretty Woman Julia Roberts, then this next bit will come as no surprise.

This week reports started springing up all over that the latest film to get laid out on the cinematic operating table and given a Hollywood defibrillation is Joel Schumacher’s 1990 supernatural horror Flatliners.

The original film followed medical students played by Keifer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, William Baldwin, Oliver Platt and Kevin Bacon, all of whom were overly interested in seeing what happens during the afterlife, but whose experimentation dragged a bunch of supernatural baggage into the here-and-now.

On the positive side, this reboot has attracted the talent of Swedish filmmaker Niels Arden Oplev (of the original, sub-titled version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo).  Oplev will be working from a script written by Ben Ripley, who is better known for his Source Code screenplay than the latter two Species sequels.

With that talent, a Flatliner remake will likely equal — if not surpass — the 1990 version.  As much as I love the original, it’s more for the abundance of eye-candy than the campy, often painful storyline and dialog.

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The Top 12 Black Gate Fiction Posts in January

Thursday, February 28th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

bones-of-the-old-onesJanuary marked the fourth straight month that we’ve been bringing you the best in adventure fantasy through our new Black Gate Online Fiction line. Every week we present an original short story or novella from the best writers in the industry, all completely free.

The response has been very gratifying, and Fiction has quickly become one of the most popular sections of the blog. Here are the Top Twelve most read stories in January, in case you missed them:

  1. An excerpt from The Bones of the Old Ones, by Howard Andrew Jones
  2. The Terror in the Vale,” by E.E. Knight
  3. A Princess of Jadh,” by Gregory Bierly
  4. When the Glimmer Faire Came to the City of the Lonely Eye,” by John R. Fultz
  5. The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum,” by Joe Bonadonna
  6. The Gunnerman,” by Jason E. Thummel
  7. The Poison Well,” by Judith Berman
  8. An Excerpt from Seven Kings, by John R. Fultz
  9. The Tea-Maker’s Task,” by Aaron Bradford Starr
  10. The Whoremaster of Pald,” by Harry Connolly
  11. The Daughter’s Dowry,” by Aaron Bradford Starr
  12. The Trade,” by Mark Rigney

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

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


Last Chance to Win a Copy of The Complete John Thunstone from Haffner Press

Thursday, February 28th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

The Complete John Thunstone-smallIn a moment of weakness earlier this month, I decided to give away two copies of the long-awaited pulp compilation The Complete John Thunstone by Manly Wade Wellman.

Too late to back out now. How do you win one, you lucky dog? Just send an e-mail to john@blackgate.com with the title “John Thunstone” and a one-sentence review of your favorite Manly Wade Wellman novel or short story. And don’t forget to mention what story you’re reviewing!

That’s it. Two winners will be drawn at random from all qualifying entries, and we’ll publish the best reviews here on the Black Gate blog.

But time is running out — the contest closes March 3. Because if I have to hold these things any longer than that, there’s no way I’ll be able to part with them.

Haffner’s archival-quality hardcovers are some of the most collectible books in the genre. The Complete John Thunstone is 640 pages in hardcover, with an introduction by Ramsey Campbell and cover art by Raymond Swanland. It is edited by Stephen Haffner and illustrated by George Evans, and has a retail price of $40. Our original article on the book is here.

All entries become the property of New Epoch Press. No purchase necessary. Must be 12 or older. Decisions of the judges (capricious as they may be) are final. Terms and conditions subject to change as our lawyers sober up and get back to us. Not valid where prohibited by law. Or anywhere postage for a hefty hardcover is more than, like, 10 bucks. Good luck!


New Treasures: Epic, Edited by John Joseph Adams

Thursday, February 28th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

John Joseph Adams EpicBlack Gate‘s Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones said something in his Monday post on Heroic Fantasy Quarterly 15 that I wish I’d said. So I’m going to repeat it here word for word, and pretend I’m saying it now.

I always wished I could find a way to draw more attention to the Flashing Swords e-zine when I helmed it. Well, it’s gone now. But HFQ is alive and well, and doing good work. So I’m using the mighty bandwidth now possessed by Black Gate online to point you to the e-zine. I can personally vouch for the stories I’ve named above. If you’re a fan of sword-and-sorcery and heroic fiction, you owe it to yourself to check them out. Go there, celebrate the stories, and the writers, and the market, because markets are fragile things and should be cherished while we have them.

Hear hear! We’re always happy when we can point you to a neglected vintage paperback or forgotten silent film. But our greatest pride comes from finding and promoting exciting, vibrant creators doing great work now, who need and deserve your support.

Lately, I feel that way about John Joseph Adams, who’s edited some of the most celebrated anthologies of the past few years — including The Way of the Wizard, Wastelands, Federations, Lightspeed: Year One, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, and many others. But his most recent publication of keen interest to heroic fantasy fans is the monumental Epic, a massive collection of some of the finest epic fantasy from the last five decades. It’s a fabulous collection of many of your favorite writers — including Patrick Rothfuss, George R. R. Martin, Tad Williams, Robin Hobb, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Michael Moorcock — alongside exciting authors you should be reading, such as Aliette de Bodard, Mary Robinette Kowal, N. K. Jemisin, Paolo Bacigalupi, and many others.

The complete table of contents is here. Support John Joseph Adams and Tachyon Publications, and keep them publishing groundbreaking anthologies for the next 20 years.

Epic: Legends of Fantasy was published on October 5th by Tachyon Publications. It is 624 pages in trade paperback for $17.95 ($9.99 for the digital version). Complete details at the Tachyon website.


Vintage Treasures: The Grail and the Ring by Teresa Edgerton

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

The Grail and the RingI’ve never read anything by Teresa Edgerton, but I found myself very intrigued by Matthew David Surridge’s thoughtful review of Goblin Moon last month. You can read the whole thing here, but it was this paragraph that really hooked me:

You could call it steampunk, if you’re broadminded. Personally I feel that it’s something in-between steampunk and medieval fantasy; it’s not quite a fantasy of manners, but close. As I said, it’s a fantasy of the eighteenth century, and revels in the weirdness of that specific era. You can find analogues here for the Hell-fire Club and the Freemasons, you can find alchemists and coffee-houses, you can find apothecaries and fairy godmothers out of some salon fairy tale. It’s a brilliant re-imagining of the pre-Romantic era.

Since I’m a collector, my first reaction was to scurry to my bookshelves and dig around behind all the Harlan Ellison and David Eddings to see if I had a paperback copy. I did — but precious little else by Teresa Edgerton. Since Matthew casually mentioned no less than 10 other fantasy novels, this was dismaying. This is exactly why other collectors always pick on me, and choose me last for dodgeball. I suck.

But it is for this very reason that God invented the Internet, and then flooded it with cheap paperbacks. Less than 48 hours later, I found a virtually complete set of unread Teresa Edgerton fantasy novels online, priced at 14 bucks — less than half the original cover price. Thanks, God. You’re all right.

So now I have a set of beautiful Teresa Edgerton paperbacks, and can hold my head high around my fellow collectors. And they really are beautiful (the paperbacks — not the collectors. Seriously, not the collectors). According to Matthew, Edgerton began her illustrious career with The Celydonn Trilogy of alchemical fantasies: Child of Saturn, The Moon in Hiding, and The Work of the Sun. Goblin Moon and its sequel The Gnome’s Engine were released in the early 90s, followed by a second Celydonn trilogy: The Castle of the Silver Wheel, The Grail and the Ring, and The Moon and the Thorn in 1995.

It would probably make sense to start my reading with Child of Saturn or The Castle of the Silver Wheel, but I decided to open with The Grail and the Ring. Because just check out that Dorian Vallejo cover — a witch, a beautiful maiden, a spooky wood, and a fallen knight with arrows and stuff sticking out of him. You know that’s the one gonna keep me up late.

The Grail and the Ring was published by Ace Books in January 1994. It is 316 pages with an original cover price of $4.99. There is no digital edition, but Amazon recently released a Kindle version of Goblin Moon, so stay tuned.


Modern Space Opera With a Classic Feel

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 | Posted by BryanThomasSchmidt

rgrbanner_july2012“I think it’s pretty cool that crowdfunding allows all the elements of this anthology to come together — a magazine with a history in the space opera community, pro authors who are enjoying a chance to pursue a unique project, and a small press getting a chance to grow alongside a rising editor working with his love of space opera.” – Camille Gooderham-Campbell, Every Day Publishing

I imagine many Black Gate readers came to their love of science fiction and fantasy much like me. I grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when Star Wars was revolutionary, and Star Trek:TOS reruns were bread and butter fare alongside Space: 1999, and Dr. Who. My first speculative fiction novels were mostly tie-ins and Orwell books assigned for school, but soon I discovered Tolkien and Alan Dean Foster and then Robert Silverberg and whole new worlds opened for me. And the stories that most got me excited were the space operas. I loved James Blish’s Star Trek novelizations and then Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, which led to Asimov and exploration of some Lensman and other pulp stories.

It’s no surprise then that my first novel series, The Saga Of Davi Rhii, was inspired by just such work. When the first book, The Worker Prince, got honorable mention from Barnes & Noble Book Club’s reviewer Paul Goat Allen on his Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases of 2011, I was excited to know that an audience for the sort of space opera I loved still existed.

So much of the science fiction and fantasy I was seeing was nihilistic, featuring protagonists that were not only damaged, but not even very heroic. The stories themselves were not hopeful, but depressing. I see so much nihilism in the culture around me that I like my speculative fiction to be an escape. Not that I can’t tolerate a few exceptions at times, but yeah, I’ll admit, I like when the good guys win, and I like to know who the good guys are.

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Final Ballot for the 2012 Bram Stoker Awards Announced

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Cool Bram Stoker trophyThe Horror Writers Association has announced the Final Ballot for the 2012 Bram Stoker Awards. This is the 26th annual ballot; the HWA has been giving out Stoker Awards since 1987.

The award, a miniature haunted house designed by Harlan Ellison and sculptor Steven Kirk, is the coolest trophy in the genre.  Just check it out at right. The little door even opens! If anybody has one of these and they want to unload it, I’m here to help. Seriously. I’m your guy.

Ten more are going to be awarded at the Bram Stoker Awards Banquet in New Orleans on June 15. Let’s get to the nominees.

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A NOVEL

  • Ethridge, Benjamin Kane – Bottled Abyss (Redrum Horror)
  • Everson, John – NightWhere (Samhain Publishing)
  • Kiernan, Caitlin R. – The Drowning Girl (Roc)
  • Little, Bentley – The Haunted (Signet)
  • McKinney, Joe – Inheritance (Evil Jester Press)

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A FIRST NOVEL

  • Boccacino, Michael – Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling (William Morrow)
  • Coates, Deborah – Wide Open (Tor Books)
  • Day, Charles – The Legend of the Pumpkin Thief (Noble YA Publishers LLC)
  • Dudar, Peter – A Requiem for Dead Flies (Nightscape Press)
  • Gropp, Richard – Bad Glass (Ballantine/Del Rey)
  • Soares, L.L. – Life Rage (Nightscape Press)

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Tanith Lee’s Secret Books of Paradys

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

The Secret Books of Paradys I & IIWomen in Horror Month continues, and bearing that in mind I’d like to say a few words about Tanith Lee and the Secret Books of Paradys. Lee’s a prolific writer, and I haven’t read much else of her work — only the novel Heart-Beast besides the four volumes of the Paradys sequence — but after reading only the first Paradys collection, I started buying her work when I found it. Even a relatively small sample of her prose created a remarkable impression.

In some ways, as one reads through the whole series, it’s difficult to know how to take the books. They’re horrific, but also at times absurdly parodic or comic; which is to say grotesque. They’re oneiric, in that not only do supernatural events happen, but characters often act or change without obvious reason, and the fictive city of Paradys itself seems to accrue layers of meaning and complexity like a recurring landscape in a lucid dream. Above all, the books are weird with the weirdness of nightmare; though written with incredible technical skill, it’s difficult to articulate a single overall theme to the books, though multiple meanings suggest themselves.

Paradys is a city in northern France, originally a Roman settlement based around the exoploitation of soon-played-out silver mines. It developed over time into a major city, with a cathedral and taverns and damned poets and all the appurtenances of decadent gothic romance. The various stories of Paradys take place in different eras of the city’s life, told from different perspectives, using different styles. They’re linked by certain patterns of imagery — notably the ambiguous symbol of the moon — and a concentration on colour: each book, or long story, has a certain colour which defines it, and all colour-references within that story will refer either to white, black, or that specific hue. I can only imagine how difficult that technique is, but it’s incredibly effective at building distinct and distinctive atmospheres.

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Red Sonja 12

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

Red Sonja 12 coverWhere were we? Red Sonja and the polygamist exile prince Suumaro were trying to break free of a prison palace, which was built on top of a tree by Suumaro’s sorceress mother Apah Alah shortly after her husband left her. They’d met a horned centaur who used a glass-blowing pipe to create leather eggs that hatched into thumb-sized peacocks that grew to thousands of times their original size in a matter of minutes. The centaur died. The giant peacocks died. Sonja went blind for a while. And after she got her sight back, she was approached by a demon who wanted her to steal something called the Emblem. The demon’s name is Kthonn and he offers both Sonja and Suumaro great wealth if they retrieve this issue’s mystic doodad. That’s page one.

Sonja stabs him on page two. Basically, she knows he’s going to betray her, so why not cut out a lot of useless effort and kill him now? Her logic is sound, but her blade has no effect on the demon. So instead she agrees to find the Emblem. Apparently, among other things, the Emblem has the power to free them all from the prison palace.

Suumaro uses his magic to get a general fix on the talisman’s location. Turns out it’s in yet another tower of the increasingly large prison complex. So the two of them go off in search of the thing and, as soon as they’re out of earshot, Kthonn reveals that (spoiler) he’s planning to sacrifice them as soon as they return with the Emblem. Who’s he going to sacrifice them to? We’re never told. An even bigger demon, probably.

So, Sonja, Suumaro, and Kthonn all know this is a bad deal. But everyone’s going along with it anyway, presumably because seventeen pages aren’t going to fill themselves. And when they reach the (unguarded) chamber where the Emblem is kept, they find four items on a table: a wand, a sword, a coin, and a cup.

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