Spring 2013 Issue of Subterranean Magazine now Available

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

Subterranean Spring 2013Subterranean is a terrific magazine. You’d think that a quarterly publication schedule would give me plenty of time to read each issue, but no — I’m still finishing the Winter issue, dang it.

Nonethless, we have a job to do here. And that job is to tell you all about the sumptuous contents of the latest issue, even if we can’t read it yet (sob).

Here’s the complete table of contents:

  • “The Seafarer,” by Tobias S. Buckell
  • “Painted Birds and Shivered Bones,” by Kat Howard
  • “A Stranger Comes to Kalimpura,” by Jay Lake
  • “The Indelible Dark,” by William Browning Spencer
  • “The Prayer of Ninety Cats,” by Caitlín R. Kiernan
  • “The Syndrome,” by Brian Francis Slattery

Subterranean Press recently announced a fresh crop of fabulous fantasy, including The Bread We Eat in Dreams by Catherynne M. Valente, The Best of Joe Haldeman, edited by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K Wolfe, Five Autobiographies and a Fiction by Lucius Shepard, and many other delights. Get the latest at their website.

Subterranean is edited by William Schafer and published quarterly. The Spring 2013 issue is completely free and available here; see their complete back issue catalog here. We last covered Subterranean magazine with their previous issue, Winter 2013.

Adventure on Film: Why Hollywood Gets it Wrong

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013 | Posted by markrigney

star-trek-game-beams-up-in-april-2013.jpgAs I write this, April is just around the corner, and now that Hollywood’s best and brightest studios no longer know how to calculate the beginning of summer, I smell blockbuster season ripening fast on the vine. Just think, in mere weeks, we can all flock to see Star Trek: Into Darkness, Iron Man 3, Wolverine, Oblivion, Pacific Rim, Elysium, and Man of Steel.

What do nearly all of these movies have in common? I’ll tell you, spoiler-free: the fate of the world will hang in the balance.

Which is why I shall be staying home –– again –– for blockbuster season. If I have learned anything in all my forays into drama, it is this: cinema offers no more boring subject, no greater snoozefest, than global peril.

Heresy, I know.

But I’m right. Here’s why.

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Tarzan and the Valley of Gold, Part 1: The Movie

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

Tarzan Valley of Gold MOD DVDTarzan and the Valley of Gold wastes no time telling viewers of the mid-1960s that this was not going to be their grandfather’s Tarzan. Or their father’s either. With swinging ‘60s big band jazz backed with bongos playing over a Warholian montage of pop art colors projecting scenes from the movie, it’s impossible not to think JAMES BOND! JAMES BOND! from the moment the opening titles start.

No doubt that was producer Sy Weintraub’s intention with this 1966 outing for Tarzan, the first of a trio starring Mike Henry. The credits sequence is a dead-on imitation of the style of Maurice Binder for Dr. No. After the director’s credit fades, the film hops into a Goldfinger-inspired sweep over a tropical resort city, concluding on a helicopter taking off from a luxury yacht in the harbor. Then, in another scene swiped from Dr. No, assassins shoot a limo driver outside the airport, and an imposter chauffeur awaits the arrival of our handsome hero in his impeccable suit and tie. Cue city montage with more swingin’ Latin big band rhythms! Smash into an action scene where a sunglass-wearing sniper tries to pick off our sharply dressed hero in an empty bullring. The crafty Ape Man turns the tables on the gunman and kills him by dropping a giant Coke Bottle advertising prop onto him. Ah, good times.

Sy Weintraub shows with this opening that he has taken the “New Look” Tarzan he introduced in 1959 in Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure one step further to imitate the stratospheric popularity of spy cinema of the decade. Tarzan not only speaks in complete sentences, but he is comfortable donning civilization’s trappings to travel the world to bring savage ape justice to turtleneck-wearing supervillains who adore exploding watches.

The temptation to go this direction must have been hard to resist: by the start of 1966, Bond-mania was approaching its delirious apex; Thunderball came out in December 1965 and was on its way to becoming one of the highest-grossing movies in history. Bandwagon films are often poor quality imitations, but Sy Weintraub already had a famous character available who could cut a dashing a dangerous figure to put at the center of his attempt to grab some Bond cash. It turned out well, better than you might initially think a “Tarzan goes ’60s spy” film would. Tarzan and the Valley of Gold, currently available as a manufacture-on-demand DVD from Warner Archive, lacks the excellent script, performances, and drama of Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure, but it delivers in the breezy fun department.

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Master of Shadows

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

MoS 6As I mentioned last week, Red Sonja’s first series ended with issue fifteen. But cancellation often came quickly and without warning in the Bronze Age of Comics (look it up – it’s my favorite era). So there was already another Red Sonja story written and illustrated, no doubt ready for coloring, when the axe fell.

Well, nothing went to waste at the House of Ideas, so in October 1979, the story was published as a back-up feature in Savage Sword of Conan 45, in glorious black and white. Master of Shadows reads like a new direction for the series was seriously being considered before the whole thing got shut down. It’s one of the rare Red Sonja stories completely free of the supernatural and with a plot that’s far more coherent than what we’ve come to expect from the She-Devil with a Sword.

The new direction is likely due in large part to Roy Thomas being replaced as writer by Christy Marx. If that name sounds familiar, it might be because you heard an interview with her a couple months back. Maybe you’re a fan of her sword-and-sorcery limited series, Sisterhood of Steel. Maybe you’re following her current take on Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld in the pages of Sword of Sorcery.

But, more likely, you’ll remember her as the creator of Jem, the truly outrageous holographic pop singer from the 1980s. Jem would occasionally get transported back in time or shanghaied by yetis in her never-ending quest to keep the Starlight Home for Plot Device Girls open. So Marx certainly would seem to have the writing pedigree to follow-up giant clams and ancient green robots. But she instead chose a rather straight interpretation of the character.

Of course, there’s still room for fun in a straight version of Red Sonja. The story opens with our heroine trying to catch a nap in a public park. Draped out on a park bench in her chain mail bikini, she certainly draws her share of appreciative leers, but three men in particular decide to approach her with the standard “show you a good time” dialogue. Two of the three get tossed in a nearby pond, while the third, who only identifies himself as the Master of the House of Shadow, tells her that she was right to toss them, but now she should leave town as they’ll want revenge. It’s good advice, but Sonja won’t be driven off.

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Purpose Built Centurion

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 | Posted by FraserRonald

Centurion RPGThe idea for a role-playing game focused on playing legionaries was in my head as early as August of 2009 when I did a podcast series on playing military characters in role-playing games, and did episodes on Republican Rome, the Civil Wars and the early Empire. I had always loved Roman history and the image of the legion, and I had run games set in Imperial Rome, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, but hadn’t thought about actually designing a game for legionaries.

Then I created Sword Noir and Kiss My Axe, and I realized this was something I could do. I decided it was something I wanted to do. And thus was Centurion: Legionaries of Rome set on its long path to realization.

What’s the point, you might ask, of developing a game with such a specific focus when there are other games out there that could probably do the job? One of the reasons is because I can. The mountain climber answer never appeased anyone, so let me try this: other games might do the job, but what if one wants a game designed for the job. There’s a good chance that game will do the job better.

I spent most of my role-playing life playing with one system: Dungeons & Dragons. Why bother to learn another system when this one does what I want? And, yeah, sometimes it doesn’t do exactly what I want, but it’s close, and I can always house-rule it.

So until a little under a decade ago, I was in the thrall of D&D. Completely. It was not a bad place to be, and let me tell you, I am excited about 5E … or D&D Next … or whatever it’s going to be. I still love D&D and that’s because it does its own thing so well. It has created its own fantasy genre that is different from anything else out there. That doesn’t mean it is the perfect game for all genres.

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Tell Us About Your Ideal Fantasy Hero, and Win a Copy of Writing Fantasy Heroes From Rogue Blades Entertainment!

Monday, March 25th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Writing Fantasy HeroesPop culture is dominated by fantasy heroes like never before, from Zelda to Harry Potter, Gandalf to Tyrion Lannister. The truth is we’ve always been fascinated by heroes, but in the last few years we’ve turned to fantasy like never before.

What makes a true hero? And which ones will endure, and which will eventually be forgotten?

These are the kinds of questions that require greater minds than ours. In fact, a riddle like this demands the sharpest, most agile minds on Earth. I’m talking about the readers of Black Gate, naturally.

To help us answer the question, we’re inviting Black Gate readers — that’s you — to tell us about your ideal hero. It can be a fictional character, or a general description of those qualities that make one ideal. In one paragraph or less, tell us what makes her a hero.

We’ll publish the best entries here on the blog, and randomly draw three names from all qualifying entries. Those three winners will each receive a copy of the new book Writing Fantasy Heroes, compliments of Rogue Blades Entertainment. Each of these experts on heroes will also be invited to submit a brief review of the book, to be published here on the Black Gate website.

Please submit entries by e-mail to john@blackgate.com with the title “My Ideal Hero.” 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 trade paperback is more than, like, 10 bucks. Good luck!

Weird of Oz Huffs About Hit Points

Monday, March 25th, 2013 | Posted by Nick Ozment

evolutionWith gamer-geek hat still squarely donned following last week’s review of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, today I want to chat about hit points. First off, I think it’s safe to say that the concept of hit points revolutionized gaming for all time. Its influence is seen in almost every video game in existence today. Any arcade game that featured a life bar in the corner of the screen, growing shorter with each bit of damage inflicted until the inevitable “Game Over,” originated from the idea of hit points — a scale that keeps track of the damage a character has sustained and that lets the player know how much more punishment the character can take before he/she either has to retreat or drink a healing potion or die.

What got me thinking about this was reading Michael J. Tresca’s book The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games (2011). Tresca notes that hit points were introduced by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in the 1972 wargame Don’t Give Up the Ship! from Guidon Games (p 50). They would later incorporate it into their most famous collaboration: Dungeons & Dragons. In prior strategy wargames, the winner of a skirmish was determined by first move, rank, or number of troops (sometimes with the added luck factor of a dice roll).

First move is employed in chess or checkers. If your knight lands on my pawn’s square, I lose my pawn. But if my pawn lands on your knight’s square, you lose your knight: There’s no question of whether a pawn could beat a knight in combat, or whether the knight might be able to defend his square against some lowly upstart pawn — even if the pawn did get the drop on him!

Rank is exemplified by card games. King of hearts beats a jack of hearts every time. Never has the scenario come up when a player laid down a king on a jack, and the other player said, “Surprise! My jack was harboring a poison dagger in his sleeve — your king is dead. Et tu, jack of hearts?”

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Black Gate Online Fiction: Waters of Darkness by David C. Smith and Joe Bonadonna

Sunday, March 24th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Waters of DarknessBlack Gate is very pleased to offer our readers an exclusive excerpt from Waters of Darkness, the supernatural pirate dark fantasy novel by David C. Smith and Joe Bonadonna.

The Witch’s shot smashed its prow with a sudden chaos of flame and smoke, blood and cinders. Lengths of oar blew into the air and fell slowly like matchwood to the sea. Sailors and pieces of sailors littered the waves with a red stain. Kate’s ruffians howled, and the crews of the Raven and the Falcon roared with approval.

The Arab ship quickly sank under, the men in her waist and stern jumping overboard. The uglies aboard Kate’s vessel rushed to the gunwales with musket and pistol and fired upon the men in the water.

The Lark then let loose with a thunderous broadside.

The Witch‘s side guns answered, as did the Raven’s. The Falcon’s cannon blasted a second galleass under the waves, her shot striking below the water line and sending the Arabs aboard her to desperate measures, attempting to caulk and repair the wound and return the Falcon’s fire.

Gallant’s crew sent their foes down to a deep grave with a blistering salvo of cannon shot once again aimed at the water line.

Zeus van Rijn’s curses could be heard rising above the din of battle as the Lark swept the waves and bore down upon Buchanan’s ship.

David C. Smith is the author of twenty-two novels, primarily in the sword-and-sorcery, horror, and suspense genres, including The Witch of the Indies (1977), Oron (1978), The Sorcerer’s Shadow (1978), and The West is Dying (1983).

Joe Bonadonna is the author of the sword and sorcery collection Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, the space opera Three Against The Stars, and several short stories, including “The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum,” one of the most popular entries in our Black Gate Online Fiction line.

Waters of Darkness was published by Damnation Books on March 1, 2013. It is 182 pages and currently available in trade paperback for $19.25, and Kindle format for $5.95. The cover is by Dawne Dominique; learn more here.

Read a complete sample chapter of Waters of Darkness here.

Unearthed Adventures: Announcing the Winners of the Best One-Paragraph D&D Adventures

Sunday, March 24th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

unearthed arcanaLast month we announced a contest seeking the best one-paragraph descriptions of your favorite D&D characters.

Because we’re awesome (and because we’re tight with Wizards of the Coast, who are even more awesome), we secured a very special reward for four lucky winners: a copy of the brand new Unearthed Arcana 1st Edition Premium Reprint — which we first examined here. Those four names were drawn at random from the ten best entries, as selected by our judges.

Before we get to the winners, let’s enjoy some of the best entries. First up is Daniel J. Davis:

When I created my first character, a Minotaur warrior named Glokk Maghorn, I rolled an 18/00 for strength. I couldn’t have been happier. At the time, I was an almost perfect stereotype of the “typical” D&D player. I was smaller and weaker than most kids my age. I was uncoordinated, awkward, and bullied. But in the land of Krynn, I was going to be an 8-foot tall mercenary beast man with a battle-axe and a loose definition of “fair play.” I didn’t care one whit about my low charisma score. I spent most of my waking life trying to compromise and bargain with people big enough to wipe the floor with me. This was D&D, and I was going to bash some heads for a change. I retired him at 15th level, after his crowning moment of awesome: Failing a saving throw against a white dragon’s breath weapon, surviving with a single hit point, and finishing it off with a critical hit on my very next action.

Any story involving an 8-foot Minotaur whose name rhymes with Foghorn Leghorn is an instant classic in our book. Nice one, Daniel.

Next up is John Burt, who found a more noble motivation for his character: petty larceny.

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New Treasures: The Shadow’s Heir by K.J. Taylor

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

The Shadow's HeirThere are so many fantasy series crowding the shelves these days that’s it’s hard to know where to spend your hard-earned book dollars.

Here at Black Gate we’re hopeless fans of the fantasy series, but even we can’t cover them all. But at least we can alert you when a promising new one appears, so you can get in on the ground floor. Thus here we are, banging the drums for The Shadow’s Heir, the first novel in The Risen Sun trilogy by K.J. Taylor:

Laela Redguard was born with the black hair of the Northern kingdom and the blue eyes of the Southern people, forever marking her as a hated half-breed child of both. When her only family tie is severed, the fierce and strong-willed Laela decides to leave her adoptive father’s home in the hopes of finding acceptance in the North, where the ruthless King Arenadd and the dark griffin Skandar rule.

While Laela’s Northern features allow her to blend into the crowds of the King’s seat at Malvern, she cannot avoid falling victim to a pair of common thugs. When a stranger saves her life and gives her a place to stay, Laela is shocked to learn he is Arenadd himself — a man said to be a murderer who sold his soul to the Night God — the King without a heart.

Arenadd is unsure what compels him to help this girl, but there is something about her that seems familiar, something he cannot remember — something that may rise up to banish the darkness forever…

K.J. Tayor is the author of The Fallen Moon trilogy and The Land of Bad Fantasy. The second volume of the Risen Sun, The Shadowed Throne, is currently available in Australia, with an American edition scheduled for January 2014. Her website is here.

The Shadow’s Heir was published December 24, 2012 by Ace books. It is 351 pages in paperback, priced at $7.99 for both the paperback and digital editions.

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