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Month: May 2013

The Top 15 Black Gate Fiction Posts in April

The Top 15 Black Gate Fiction Posts in April

Nina Kiriki Hoffman-smallNina Kiriki Hoffman’s tale of a rest stop gone horribly wrong, “Truck Stop Luck,” was our top fiction post last month.

Coming in a close second was Ryan Harvey’s sword & sorcery tale of intrigue and dinosaurs, “The Sorrowless Thief,” followed by Aaron Bradford Starr’s 35,000-word epic fantasy mystery “The Sealord’s Successor,” in which Gallery Hunters Gloren Avericci and Yr Neh find themselves battling a deadly conspiracy centered around a very peculiar painting. Also making the list were terrific stories by Emily Mah, Steven H Silver, Jason E. Thummel, E.E. Knight, Joe Bonadonna, Harry Connolly, David Evan Harris, and many others.

If you haven’t sampled the adventure fantasy stories offered through our new Black Gate Online Fiction line, you’re missing out. Every week, we present an original short story or novella from the best writers in the industry, all completely free.

Here are the Top Fifteen most read stories in April, for your enjoyment:

  1. Truck Stop Luck,” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
  2. The Sorrowless Thief,” by Ryan Harvey
  3. The Sealord’s Successor,” by Aaron Bradford Starr
  4. Disciple,” by Emily Mah
  5. The Cremators Tale,” by Steven H Silver
  6. An excerpt from The Bones of the Old Ones, by Howard Andrew Jones
  7. The Poison Well,” by Judith Berman
  8. Assault and Battery,” by Jason E. Thummel
  9. An excerpt from The Waters of Darkness, by David C. Smith and Joe Bonadonna
  10. The Terror in the Vale,” by E.E. Knight
  11. The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum,” by Joe Bonadonna
  12. The Whoremaster of Pald,” by Harry Connolly
  13. Seeker of Fortune,” by David Evan Harris
  14. A Princess of Jadh,” by Gregory Bierly
  15. The Pit Slave,” by Vaughn Heppner

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by Mary Catelli, Michael Penkas, Vera Nazarian, Robert Rhodes, Ryan Harvey, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, E.E. Knight, C.S.E. Cooney, Howard Andrew Jones, Harry Connolly, and many others, is here. The Top fiction from March is here.

We’ve got plenty more in the coming months — including a big surprise this Sunday — so stay tuned!

Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1951: A Retro-Review

Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1951: A Retro-Review

Galaxy February 1951The February, 1951 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction is groundbreaking. The first story is a novella by Ray Bradbury titled “The Fireman.”

My heart skipped a beat when I saw this, and I quickly discovered that Bradbury later expanded this tale into the classic novel Fahrenheit 451.

In “The Fireman,” Mr. Montag works as a fireman – not one who douses flames, but one who starts them in order to destroy books. Books, after all, are upsetting and challenge the brain-numbing entertainment of the day. People who are well-read might unbalance a society of non-thinkers.

I read Fahrenheit 451 in school, and I didn’t understand all of the warnings Bradbury issues throughout the novel. When I read “The Fireman,” there were parts that really concerned me as I considered our own society. Replace references to “television” with “Internet” or “Facebook,” and suddenly Bradbury’s dystopia doesn’t seem so distant anymore. This is a story I wish everyone would read – and think about while reading it. It really is quite chilling.

“…And it comes out here” by Lester del Rey – A man travels back in time to prepare his younger self for an expedition. The mission is to retrieve a device from the future and claim it as his own invention.

I love the second-person narrative of this tale, and I equally enjoyed the way that everything circuitously ties together. It was interesting how del Rey used the protagonist both as a character and as a narrator, and because time travel was involved, these were essentially two different people.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering — yes, this is the same man who started Del Rey Books.

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New Treasures: The Bookman Histories by Lavie Tidhar

New Treasures: The Bookman Histories by Lavie Tidhar

The Bookman HistoriesI’m a big fan of these Angry Robot omnibus volumes. Talk about reading feasts… I can settle into my big green chair with a bag of chips and one of these babies, and I’m set until August.

They’re surprisingly diverse, too. There’s Tim Waggoner’s zombie detective saga The Nekropolis Archives, Aliette de Bodard’s Aztec mystery series Obsidian & Blood, Andy Remic’s blood-drenched sword-and-steampunk epic The Clockwork Vampire… and now we have Lavie Tidhar’s steampunk serial-killer trilogy The Bookman Histories to add to the list.

The trilogy opened with 2010’s The Bookman (cover here), described as “a steam-powered take on V for Vendetta.” Set in an alternate Victorian London on the verge of the first (cannon-powered, naturally) expedition to Mars, the book follows the exploits of the young poet Orphan, who witnesses a stunning attack by a masked terrorist that paralyzes the city. Filled with mysterious automatons, airships, exploding books, pirates, giant lizards, pirates, and more airships, The Bookman was the first novel from the short fiction author whom Locus called “an emerging master.”

Camera Obscura (2011) introduced us to the mysterious and glamorous Lady De Winter, agent of the Quiet Council. Tasked with solving a locked-room murder on Rue Morgue in Paris, De Winter soon finds herself drawn into a far more sinister mystery.

The series wraps up with The Great Game (2012), which begins with Mycroft Holmes’ murder in London. It falls to Holmes’ protégé Lucy Westerna to solve the case — but before she does she crosses paths with a young Harry Houdini and a retired shadow executive named Smith (team up!). Together they find the trail leads inexorably to a foreboding castle in Transylvania… and to get there they’re need to cope with with airship battles, Frankenstein monsters, alien tripods, and more.

The Bookman Histories contains all three novels in one fat 1,022-page package. It was published by Angry Robot in December, 2012; the paperback is $15.99, and the digital version is $9.99. Lavie Tidhar won the 2013 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel for Osama; this is a guy who is clearly going places. Ignore him at your peril.

You can see all of our recent New Treasures articles here.

Further Tarzan-on-Demand: Tarzan the Magnificent

Further Tarzan-on-Demand: Tarzan the Magnificent

Tarzan the Magnificent Warner Archive DVD coverThe Warner Bros. Archive Collection has taken good care of Tarzan fans. This manufacture-on-demand division of Warner Home Video offers all the films from the lesser-known Tarzan actors who followed Johnny Weissmuller in swinging from the jungle ceiling: Lex Barker, Gordon Scott, Jock Mahoney, Mike Henry, and the two seasons of the Ron Ely television story. The best of the lot for a more casual viewer is Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (1959), but Tarzan the Magnificent from 1960 comes a close second to it. It’s not as lean and stripped-down as its predecessor, and director Robert Day lacks the same skill at pacing an action picture as John Guillermin, but the movie ranks among the top live-action Tarzan films ever made. And it’s just a darn good adventure film in general, with some surprising levels of violence and mature subtexts.

(Tarzan disambiguation notice: The movie has no connection to the Burroughs book of the same title published in 1939 that combines two separate novellas.)

Tarzan the Magnificent is the second movie of the series from producer Sy Weintraub, who created the “New Look” Tarzan that took the character back to his more adult and violent Edgar Rice Burroughs roots. Best of all, Tarzan got his full vocabulary returned to him, breaking over two decades of film tradition that ruled the Lord of the Jungle had to horribly misuse pronouns and exterminate helping verbs.

Weintraub’s “New Look” favored crime stories set in the African rainforest, which gave them a harsh and naturalistic feel. They also borrowed elements from the Western, and Tarzan the Magnificent is the most explicit example. The movie opens with a band of outlaws, an archetypal blood clan of murderous brothers under an obsessed patriarch, committing a hold-up in broad daylight. The criminals rob the pay office of a mining company in a small town, passing “Wanted” posters of themselves on the way in. Except for the African locals walking the dusty street, this might be any frontier town in a Western of the day. With veteran John Ford stock-company actor John Carradine in the role of the clan head, Abel Banton, it’s hardly much of a leap to see this taking place in a lawless American frontier town. Even the name “Banton” has a Western ring to it, echoing the Clantons from the story of the Gunfight at the OK Corral.

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Vintage Treasures: The World Invisible by Shulamith Oppenheim

Vintage Treasures: The World Invisible by Shulamith Oppenheim

The World InvisibleI just found a dusty plastic bag stuffed full of paperbacks tucked in a corner of my living room. Hidden behind another pile of books, of course. Near as I can figure, I bought them at Capricon back in February (possibly at the same time as Peter Haining’s Vampire anthology.) Man, I need a better filing system.

There’s some good stuff in it, though. If I did indeed buy them, and the bag didn’t just spontaneously materialize from the ether, then I clearly have great taste. Or maybe I just patronize fabulous booksellers. Whatever the case, the bag was filled with vintage paperbacks by Norman Spinrad, Robert Silverberg, Jerry Sohl, and Lloyd Arthur Eshbach. The most intriguing item, however, was a slender Ace paperback from 1984, The World Invisible by Shulamith Oppenheim.

Beware the world invisible.

It lies in forest shadows beneath the hills, and below the waves that pound so fiercely on Scotland’s shores.

It is a world of beauty and magic, of fey creatures wondrous beyond imagination.

But beware.

Do not cross its boundaries or consort with its denizens. Or you will never be content with the human world again…

Okay, I have no idea who Shulamith Oppenheim is. According to some hasty research at her website, she’s a children’s writer with 14 books to her credit, including one about Albert Einstein, who was best man at her wedding (!). The World Invisible appears to be her only adult fantasy. It was reprinted in 2007 by White River Press, with the world’s most boring cover (what is that? An island? A fog machine? It’s like a travel book for blind people). Seriously, if you want to read it, the Ace version with the Don Maitz cover is the one to get (click on the image at right for a full-sized version).

The World Invisible was published by Ace Books in 1984. It is 198 pages in paperback, with an original price of $2.75. I figure I paid around two bucks for my copy. It is currently in print in both paperback and digital formats from White River Press.

See all of our recent Vintage Treasures articles here.

Adventure on Film: Flesh and Blood

Adventure on Film: Flesh and Blood

2206Se_ores_del_AceroFlesh and Blood (1985) is neither high art nor Paul Verhoeven’s best film, but it does contain flashes of genuine magic and an exceptional eye for the grime and grit of Medieval Italy. It also carries its fair share of star power thanks to the presence of Rutger Hauer, Verhoeven’s frequent co-conspirator, as mercenary soldier Martin.

The plot in a nutshell: Martin and his band of trouble-making friends are part of Hawkwood’s Army (though which of Hawkwood’s many armies is allowably unclear), but soon enough Hawkwood turns on his scruffy, ill-mannered war-hounds, stripping them of their pay and their pickings. Demoralized but determined, Martin and company make a break for the countryside, where they kidnap Princess Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh), then hole themselves up in a rural castle in which Agnes teaches her captors, as best she can, the fine arts of civilized behavior. But of course Hawkwood comes calling, paid now to recapture the princess. The clash that follows pits swords against fumbling attempts at science, with bubonic plague waiting in the wings.

Flesh and Blood proves to be a trifle cartoonish at times, a la Robocop, but one thing Verhoeven never lacks is energy. He’s a naughty schoolboy, yes, and at times his fondness for splatter, gore, and, well, flesh, threatens to undermine the film’s highbrow, philosophical script, but he’s also a craftsman with the heart of an animator –– both the camera and its subjects are in almost constant motion –– and provided you’ve got a strong stomach, Flesh and Blood provides ample period entertainment and many a fine battle.

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Weird of Oz on the Art of Rating 3 (of 3)

Weird of Oz on the Art of Rating 3 (of 3)

bill and ted

“Excellent, Dude! This movie was totally triumphant!… Not since the McKenzie Brothers or the Frog Brothers has a group come along as wild as these Wyld Stallyns…”

So I wrote 24 years ago in my review of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Dude, I totally didn’t talk like that — for those who never saw the movie, I was riffing on the way the characters speak.

Looking back over the review now, I notice that I list the then-unknown actor who played Ted as “Keavy Reeves.” We didn’t have the Internet Movie Database — or the Internet — back then; my guess is I misread the notes I jotted down in the theater.

I also notice it was a decent review that gave readers of the high school newspaper a good grasp of what the film was all about, albeit a bit adverb-heavy: “As one can probably tell this movie had great potential to be utterly stupid. It is on that fine line between being fantastically dumb and riotously hilarious, but it succeeds in being the latter. . . . It is an incredibly funny movie and I declare it excellent.”

2001-A-Space-OdysseySo the review holds up okay. Question is, does the movie? I confess I haven’t watched it in years, but I have seen it several times, and my memories of it are fond ones (it was filmed in the places where I hung out in high school, so it is a trip down memory lane in more ways than one).

When I declared Bill and Ted’s to be “excellent,” was I (aside from playing on the characters’ vernacular) putting it in the same category as 2001: A Space Odyssey? Bill and Ted’s is nominally a science-fiction (time travel) film. Of course, it is primarily a comedy, so was I elevating it to the ranks of Some Like It Hot, Duck Soup, and Dr. Strangelove? (If you haven’t guessed, the answer is Hell no.) This leaves one big question, which brings us to the final topic I wish to consider in this series on the art of rating: When we rate a film (or a book or a television show etc.), what are we rating it against?

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Black Gate Online Fiction: “The Turtle in the Sea of Sand” by Mary Catelli

Black Gate Online Fiction: “The Turtle in the Sea of Sand” by Mary Catelli

stone turtleIt was just a turtle made of stone. But why were so many people willing to kill for it?

“Leave.” The man’s voice was low but intense. “You should not have come. These wizards are beyond you.”

What did this man know of the docks? Thinking that hiring Kyre meant that Kyre could let him be robbed and do nothing?

“No one robs me,” said Kyre, drawing his knife. The man looked taken aback. “Don’t you know how much my name means to me? Did you think I’d let these knaves drop it in the dust? I took your coin.”

The man’s tongue touched his lips. After a moment, he said, “You’ll not stop them with only that knife.”

Kyre shrugged. He could not let this man know that he had never killed before. “I’ll help you.”

Mary Catelli started writing in her teens, when deprived of books to read. After a while, she started finishing the stories. Since then, her short stories have appeared in various Sword and Sorceress anthologies and Weird Tales. She is working on a novel. She lives in Connecticut, where she works as a computer programmer.

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by Michael Penkas, Vera Nazarian, Robert Rhodes, Ryan Harvey, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, E.E. Knight, C.S.E. Cooney, Howard Andrew Jones, Harry Connolly, and many others, is here.

“The Turtle in the Sea of Sand” is a complete 4,800-word tale of adventure fantasy offered at no cost.

Read the complete story here.

Paul Di Filippo on “A” is for Android and Other Tales: Masters of Science Fiction Vol. #8

Paul Di Filippo on “A” is for Android and Other Tales: Masters of Science Fiction Vol. #8

Milton Lesser A is for AndroidOver at Locus Online, Paul Di Filippo has a look at the latest Masters of Science Fiction reprint from Armchair Fiction, this one focused on Milton Lesser, author of Slaves to the Metal Horde and The Thing from Underneath.

If you do not know the enchantingly retro line of SF/F/H books published by Armchair Fiction… then I offer you now an eye-popping introduction. Visit his site and marvel at the vast range of vintage fiction, long out of print, lovingly repackaged with period artwork. Names as seminal as those of Fritz Leiber, Clifford Simak and Edmond Hamilton consort with the bylines of lesser craftsmen… The Armchair Fiction catalogue opens an essential window onto a vital and overlooked and still enjoyable portion of our history.

The latest entry in their “Masters of Science Fiction” series is awarded to Milton Lesser, who bears a name the majority of modern fans will probably be unfamiliar with. Lesser was one of those working-stiff writers back in the day who turned out intelligent, yet perhaps sometimes over facile, goods to suit whatever market was looking for material and paying a decent word rate… Truly the work of a Master? Did it exhibit a genuine affinity for the mode, a sense of wonder, some unique ideation? Does it seem hokey and clunky today, or do its narrative virtues still engage and reward?

We last looked at Armchair Fiction — via Paul W. Fairman’s The Girl Who Loved Death and Murray Leinster’s Planet of Dreadlast January.

Curiously, this book is listed under the variant title “A” as in Android at and other places. I haven’t seen a copy myself, so I can’t confirm which title is correct.

“A” is for Android (or maybe “A” as in Android) was published January 30 by Armchair Fiction. It is 320 pages in trade paperback, priced at $16.95. There is no digital edition. See more details at the Armchair Fiction site here, and you can read Paul’s complete review here.

New Treasures: The Warlord of the Air by Michael Moorcock

New Treasures: The Warlord of the Air by Michael Moorcock

The Warlord of the AirWe covered several high quality reprints from Titan Books last year, including Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula: The Bloody Red Baron; Sax Rohmer’s The Hand of Fu Manchu; and books by James P. Blaylock, Guy Adams, and others.

But their accomplishments don’t end there. Starting in January of this year, Titan began reprinting Michael Moorcock’s early steampunk trilogy Nomad of the Time Streams, beginning with The Warlord of the Air, originally published way back in 1971:

It is 1973, and the stately airships of the Great Powers hold benign sway over a peaceful world. The balance of power is maintained by the British Empire – a most equitable and just Empire, ruled by the beloved King Edward VIII. A new world order, with peace and prosperity for all under the law. Yet, moved by the politics of envy and perverse utopianism, not all of the Empire’s citizens support the marvelous equilibrium.

Flung from the North East Frontier of 1902 into this world of the future, Captain Oswald Bastable is forced to question his most cherished ideals, discovering to his horror that he has become a nomad of the time streams, eternally doomed to travel the wayward currents of a chaotic multiverse.

The first in the Nomad of the Time Streams trilogy, The Warlord of the Air sees Bastable fall in with the anarchists of this imperial society and set in train a course of events more devastating than he could ever have imagined.

These classic novels have been out of print for some fifteen years. Titan has already released the second, The Land Leviathan, on April 16; that volume finds Bastable in an alternate 1904 devastated by a terrible war waged with futuristic weapons and deadly biological attacks. The third and final volume, The Steel Tsar, follows Bastable’s adventures in an alternate 1941 where both World Wars were averted and Russia is still ruled by Tsars, and Bastable finds himself imprisoned by the rebel ‘Steel Tsar,’ Joseph Stalin. It will be released on August 13.

The Warlord of the Air was published by Titan Books on January 15. It is 215 pages in trade paperback, priced at $9.95 ($9.95 for the digital edition).