Intrigue and Dinosaur Beasts: Tangent Online on “The Sorrowless Thief”

Friday, April 26th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Ryan Harvey-smallJohn Sulyok at Tangent Online reviews Ryan Harvey’s sword & sorcery tale, published here on April 7:

The narrator, a beggar nearly given up on life, spends what little money he has in dream-smoke-filled drug dens, indulging in the illusions brought on by the smoke of the mokkah flower. What wanders in one night is no illusion, it is the thief Dyzan Ludd. He seems immune from the smoke, and immune from what has brought so many into the den: the Sorrow. These facts stir the narrator. He and Dyzan find themselves in conversation about Dyzan’s upcoming plan to rob a caravan coming from the north. It is a fool’s errand, but Dyzan doesn’t listen to reason…

Ryan Harvey’s “The Sorrowless Thief” exists as part of a larger science-fantasy series. The world of Dyzan includes few guns and many (magically) tamed dinosaur beasts… These surrounding details thicken the setting and the plot, adding a lot of intrigue to the events herein…

Ryan Harvey won the Writers of the Future Contest in 2011 for his story, “An Acolyte of Black Spires,” part of the science-fantasy series on the continent of Ahn-Tarqa, which is also the setting for “The Sorrowless Thief,” his ebook novelette “Farewell to Tyrn,” and upcoming novel Turn over the Moon. He writes a regular weekly column at Black Gate. Read John’s complete review here.

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by Steven H Silver, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Emily Mah, David C. Smith and Joe Bonadonna, Aaron Bradford Starr, C.S.E. Cooney, Vaughn Heppner, E.E. Knight, Howard Andrew Jones, Harry Connolly, and others, is here.

“The Sorrowless Thief” is a complete 7,000-word sword-and-sorcery tale. It is offered at no cost. Read the complete story here.

Pass the Salt, Please

Friday, April 26th, 2013 | Posted by Violette Malan

DinnerAccording to some people, I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about food. That’s right, I’m one of those people who start planning lunch while we’re still sitting at the breakfast table. But, see, there’s a reason for that: something might need to come out of the freezer, or come in from the garden.

I also have a good grasp on where my food comes from. As a child, one of my aunts kept chickens in her patio, and we kids used to flush rabbits for my uncle and his friends to kill with sling shots – real slings, by the way, not catapults.

Now that I live in the country, I buy meat and cheese from the people who produce them – my neighbours. I also have a very large garden where I grow my own produce, and as it happens, there’s not a lot about freezing, canning, and preserving that I don’t know.

One thing’s for sure: it takes up a lot of time. And in a pre-industrial age – the time period that most of us use for our secondary world fantasies – it took up almost all of the time. So why don’t we see more of it in our books? Well, it’s just that, for most of us, how to get dinner, where dinner comes from, how to pay for it, grow it, etc. isn’t the story we want to tell – nor the story our readers want to read.

But as I’ve suggested already (and no doubt will again), this is information we need to know. Not doing this right – or not doing it or at all –  is the mark of an amateur. Sometimes, in our modern technological world, we’re so far removed from how the food gets produced, that we can easily make serious mistakes – or worse, overlook significant motivation – by not understanding where food comes from, and how it was produced in a pre-industrial age.

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Set Sail on the Waters of Darkness

Friday, April 26th, 2013 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

waters darknessfrazetta pirate-smallWaters of Darkness is the new novel from David C. Smith and Joe Bonadonna, published by Damnation Books. Longtime readers of my column will recognize Bonadonna as the author of the well-received sword & sorcery title, Mad Shadows and the recent space fantasy, Three Against the Stars. David C. Smith will be familiar to Robert E. Howard fans for his series of Red Sonja novels in the 1980s.

The shade of Robert E. Howard lingers over every page of Waters of Darkness, the first collaboration by these two talented authors to see print.

The principal characters, Crimson Kate O’Toole and Bloody Red Buchanan, would have fit in nicely had this 17th Century swashbuckler first seen print in the pages of Weird Tales in the 1930s. A quest for fabled treasure sets these two buccaneers sailing for the Isle of Shadow in the far distant Eastern Seas.

They find themselves combating an evil priest of Dagon and the sorcerer in his thrall along the way and most of the crew of the Raven pays the cost for their having crossed paths.

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Goth Chick News: Walpurgisnacht, or Those Germans Know How to Party

Thursday, April 25th, 2013 | Posted by Sue Granquist

redrum2As you may (or may not) have noticed, there was no Goth Chick News last week. This was due to my need to spend a little quality time outside of the office with my blender and a bottle of Red Rum.

No I’m not making that up – Red Rum is for real and it’s my fav and so much for those of you who thought this was all an act and I really spend my vacations in Branson, Missouri drinking ginger ale.

Beyond just sitting around soaking up sun and exploring the many different uses for a quality bottle of spirits, I was also deeply engaged in researching an interesting phenomenon that I only just discovered. The impetus was a Black Gate chat with a charming German fellow, who shared it with me just before sliding out of his lounge chair and out onto the deck… where he was promptly collected and hustled away before completing his tale, prompting me to order up another Red Rum and research this intriguing bit of info.

Apparently, the Germans celebrate their version of Halloween on April 30th and unlike the American version, the German take is decidedly “adult” and the “candy” involved is largely a euphemism.

The Walpurgisnacht festival takes its name from Walpurga of Devon, England, an abbess from the 700’s who was canonized as the patron saint of rabies – yes rabies.

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New Treasures: Dangerous Waters, by Juliet E. McKenna

Thursday, April 25th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Dangerous Waters Juliet E McKennaI’m such a sucker for paperbacks. Seriously, put a rogue with a sword and a ship on the cover, and I’ve got that thing to the cash register faster than you can say, “Paper or plastic?”

I think it’s partly because I find paperbacks very inexpensive. That wasn’t always the case. When I  made my weekly pilgrimage to downtown Ottawa bookstores in my teens, clutching ten bucks of hard-earned babysitting money, that was barely enough to get 2-3 paperbacks — if I was selective.

I agonized over each choice. Keith Laumer’s The Time Bender, or Fritz Leiber’s Swords Against Death? Edgar Pangborn’s West of the Sun, or Arthur C. Clarke’s Imperial Earth? These are the life choices that kept me up at night.

Today things are easier. For one thing, paperback prices haven’t budged in over 15 years. I paid $7.99 for a paperback copy of Connie Willis’s To Say Nothing of the Dog in 1998, and I paid $7.99 for the copy of Juliet E. McKenna’s Dangerous Waters I bought last week.

That’s an incredibly long period for anything to be stable in publishing — look at how paperback prices quadrupled in the 15 years between 1965 (around a buck) and 1980 (around 4-5 bucks).

Paperback prices won’t stay this way for long. But while they do, I’m enjoying them. $7.99 (minus my 10% Barnes & Noble member discount) is still an impulse buy for me. Which means I can pick up a book based on nothing more than a cool cover, and take it home guilt free.

I have no idea what it says on the back of Dangerous Waters, but I think I’ll read it now and find out.

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Teaching and Fantasy Literature: More on Writing Fantasy Heroes

Thursday, April 25th, 2013 | Posted by Sarah Avery

Writing Fantasy HeroesLast week I began a review of Writing Fantasy Heroes: Powerful Advice from the Pros, Jason M. Waltz’s collection of essays on craft. Most of the authors seem to assume the reader is a newcomer to fiction writing, but some of the advice is sufficiently specialized that many veteran writers will also find it useful. It’s also a pleasure to see the authors pull back the curtain on their own work, walking the reader through passages, sometimes in early draft, that illustrate the particular technique or concern of each chapter.

Picking up where we left off last week, we find Ian C. Esslemont coming up with something genuinely new to say about the old adage, “Show, don’t tell.” For the benefit of newer writers, he goes over the familiar territory: why to avoid infodumps, how to recognize them in one’s own drafts, ways to replace them with opportunities for dramatic action, classic blunders like “As you know, Bob” dialogue. Stick with Esslemont to the end, though, despite the groanworthy title of “Taking a Stab at Sword and Sorcery,” and he complicates the choice between showing information and telling it with a third possibility I’ve seen handled in other ways, but never right in a discussion of “Show, don’t tell.”

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Sean T. M. Stiennon reviews The Black Prism

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013 | Posted by Sean Stiennon

How could I have ever doubted this cover, this beard?

How could I have ever doubted this cover, this beard?

The Black Prism
Brent Weeks
Orbit Books (640 pages, hardcover first edition August 2010, $25.99)

I’ll admit that, if I hadn’t already devoured Brent Weeks’s Night Angel novels, I probably wouldn’t have picked up The Black Prism (despite the cool, shadowy cover of a man in a magnificent goatee brandishing a mirror-polished blade).  The reason for that is a shallow one: The magic system sounded stupid. It is, in short, rainbow magic, sorcery based on splitting white light into one or more of its component colors to create a magical effect. But the Night Angel books were awesome, and I gave Weeks a chance to impress me again.  It took me ten pages to be thoroughly hooked on his story, and another hundred pages to be sold on his unique approach to magic.

In the world of the Seven Satrapies, trained drafters can draw color out of appropriately shaded objects (or white light viewed through a tinted lens) and draw it into their bodies to create a substance called luxin.  The properties of luxin differ dramatically based on its color: Red luxin is a hyper-flammable jelly, while super-violet luxin (just above the visible spectrum for most people) is as light and strong as spider-silk.  Each color also carries with it a particular emotional state that overtakes the person drafting it.  Green is wild and impetuous, orange slick and dissimulating.  It’s a simple idea with complex uses, both for war and for technology, and the applications Weeks finds for various kinds of luxin are a big part of the The Black Prism’s unique appeal.

Monochromes draft one color, and represent the majority.  Bichromes, the elite among drafters, have access to two, usually contiguous on the color spectrum (i.e., red and orange), and a small handful are polychromes, commanding three or four.  Only one man — the Prism — can split light into all seven stable colors, and he is regarded as high priest of the one god Orholam, the source of all light.  When there is imbalance in the world caused by one color being drafted more than another, it is his vocation to correct it.

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Vintage Bits: Sword of Aragon

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Sword of AragonI’m a huge fan of computer games, and especially role playing games. Perhaps the thing I enjoy most about them is they’re so clearly descended from the hobby I loved as a teen — desktop role playing and Dungeons and Dragons, itself a direct descendent of Sword & Sorcery as written by Robert E. Howard, Jack Vance, Roger Zelazny, and Fritz Leiber.

The things I cherished as a young man have grown up and conquered Western Civilization. The only thing that could be better would be if the Spider-Man and Avengers comics I zealously collected forty years ago suddenly spawned billion-dollar media properties — but come on, what are the chances of that?

But back to computer games. This isn’t going to be a computer-games-aren’t-as-great-as-they-used-to-be diatribe. The fact is, modern computer games are fabulous. I can sit on my couch for hours and be thoroughly entertained watching my son play games like Arkham City, Heavy Rain, Borderlands and Enslaved. These are truly immersive experiences, with captivating plots, great characters, and outstanding pacing.

Still, you’ll notice that I didn’t say I played these games. No, my enjoyment these days is pretty much limited to watching Drew play.

I don’t game much any more. That’s not because the games suck; it’s because I grew up with a very different kind of gaming experience, and the games I want to play just aren’t made any more.

I’m not asking for the industry to roll back 20 years. What I really want to do is play all those great old games once more — something that is sadly impossible, unless I can find a way to get my old IBM 286 machine to boot up again.

What games are those? Old school dungeon-crawls, like Wizardry, Pool of Radiance, Dungeon Master, and Dragon Wars. Science Fiction RPGs like Starflight and BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk’s Inception. Adventure games like The Lurking Horror and The Secret of Monkey Island. And tactical wargames like MechCommander.

And especially the brilliant blend of wargaming, role playing, and adventure gaming that is the underrated classic Sword of Aragon, one of the finest fantasy games ever made.

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First Teaser Trailer Released for Thor: The Dark World

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Apparently, now that Marvel Comics has hit on a fabulously successful formula for its film properties, future movies are being released according to an ambitious Plan. The Plan ties together all the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in a way that should be very familiar to anyone who has ever read Marvel comics.

The first picture in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is now considered to be 2008’s Iron Man (presumably ignoring all Marvel films that came before, like all three Spider-Man and X-Men pictures, Ghost Rider, Daredevil, Elektra, Fantastic Four, Wolverine, The Punisher, Blade, X-Men: First Class, etc.) Iron Man was the beginning of Phase One, a sequence which included The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers.

Phase Two kicks off next month with Iron Man 3, followed by Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy and culminating in The Avengers 2, scheduled to arrive in May of 2015. Like Phase One, the films in this second set will share sub-plots and secondary characters, and dovetail into the plot for Avengers 2, details of which are a closely guarded secret (but will almost certainly involve Thanos and the Cosmic Cube — excuse me, The Tesseract.)

Whatevs. Today all we care about is that the first teaser trailer for Thor: The Dark World has been released, and it contains a satisfying quantity of ‘splosions and cosmic violence. The trailer also confirms the return of all the major stars from the first film, including Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Jaimie Alexander, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins — and Tom Hiddleston as Loki (yay!).

Thor: The Dark World is directed by Alan Taylor, and is scheduled for release on November 8th. You can see the complete teaser trailer for yourself below. And if you figure out what that giant floating hood ornament is, let us know.

An Interview With Mystery Writer Todd Robinson

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 | Posted by Patty Templeton

Todd Robinson author photoTodd Robinson, also known as Big Daddy Thug, is similar to Pat Benatar in one essential way – he hits you with his best shot. His debut novel, The Hard Bounce, is a fast-paced, heart-pounder of a gritty mystery. Unlike Benatar, who shoulder shimmied her way out of knife fights, Robinson looks like he could punch a knife out of your hand, catch it mid-air, and fling it past your ear as a warning without breaking a sweat. He’s broad, bearded, often in black – and thank the literary gods – a peaceable author, too busy writing to get in many fights.

Robinson is the Chief Editor of ThugLit, a crime journal dedicated to “writing about wrongs.” His novel, The Hard Bounce, came out in January. It focuses on Boo and Junior, two regular guys who are bouncers at a Boston punk rock bar. Their security company, 4DC (Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap), is hired to find a missing girl. What begins as an easy job quickly spirals out of control.

Robinson kindly took time out of his editing and writing to speak a piece to Black Gate.

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