Goth Chick News: New Music from Our Orchestral Crushes

Thursday, June 27th, 2013 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image001Did you really think a Goth Chick would have a thing for One Direction or NKOTB? Okay, forget I even know who they are in the first place; there are some things you just cannot escape when you spend all your free time studying pop culture.

Nope, instead it is imperative that as purveyors of the dark and disturbing we crush on the equally dark and disturbing musicians who write and play tunes that worry people older than us and align with our own personal, parent-scaring idioms.

Which is precisely why I am Midnight Syndicate’s devoted Chicago-area groupie.

Whether they like it or not.

For almost two decades, composers Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka have been known as Midnight Syndicate, creating symphonic soundtracks for the secret dimensions of our minds’ eye (cue lightning and thunder clap).

To many of their fans, they are Gothic music pioneers, brewing a signature blend of orchestral horror music and movie-style sound effects. To others, they remain the first “haunted house band” that forever changed the Halloween music genre and became a staple of the October holiday season.

And still others know them as the duo that teamed up with Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast to produce the first official soundtrack to the legendary Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, or the lucky devils who created the ear candy for Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mansion Halloween bashes.

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An Interview with John Joseph Adams

Thursday, June 27th, 2013 | Posted by Patty Templeton

John Joseph Adams

John Joseph Adams

Nearly every fabulous anthology you’ve read in the past ten years was edited by John Joseph Adams.*

OK, OK, that might be a little much. I’ll restate. Nearly every fabulous anthology you’ve read in the past ten years was either edited by John Joseph Adams or Ellen Datlow. Cross my black heart and bet you a Tardis, that statement’s got sturdy stems.**

Today we focus on Mr. Adams – king taste-maker of spec fic. He’s been a six-time finalist for the Hugo Award and a four-time nominee for the World Fantasy Award. When he isn’t busy creating anthologies and being lauded for them, the man publishes Lightspeed and Nightmare magazines. Don’t forget about that podcast he does for Wired, The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy. Dude’s busy.

Black Gate honey-badgered our way into a talk with John Joseph Adams about his process and his anthology, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination. If you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for? Mad scientist stories by the likes of Austin Grossman, Seanan McGuire, David D. Levine, Carrie Vaughn, Naomi Novik, and Theodora Goss? YES, PLEASE! Seriously, the table of contents is next level, ninja. And have you eyed that COVER? It guts you with glass-tubed-screaming-creature awesome. Go buy it. We can wait.

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Vintage Treasures: The Color Out Of Time by Michael Shea

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 | Posted by Douglas Draa

The Color out of TimeI had a hard time deciding whether a book from 1984 qualified as vintage or not.

Then I realized that back in 1984, Ronald Reagan was still in his first term as president. A little checking also showed that the Nr. 1 song in September 1984 was “Missing You” by John Waite and the top film was Ghostbusters.

The final proof that 1984 can be considered vintage is that I was 23 years old back then. So, yeah, I figure that a book from 1984 qualifies as vintage.

So back in 1984, I stumbled across The Color Out of Time at one of our two bookstores in Newark, Ohio. (As added trivia, Newark is the real world counterpart of Gary Braunbeck’s haunted town of Cedar Hill, the fictitious setting for many of his stories). Anyway, this book was especially special back then, as Cthulhu Mythos-themed fiction was scarce. It wasn’t the thriving sub-genre that it is today. So when you found some you grabbed it, paid for it, and then ran like hell to get home and start reading.

Color is one of my favorite Mythos-related books, and it won’t be leaving my collection any time soon. Its rarity on the collectors market shows that those who have it aren’t in any rush to get rid of it. To me, that says a lot about the quality and re-readability of a book.

Michael Shea is one of those rare writers who don’t have a high output, but everything they do produce is of extremely high quality. I’ve been a fan since the 1970s, when I first read A Quest for Simbilis way back in junior high school.

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The Top 20 Black Gate Fiction Posts in May

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

The Sealord's Successor Part OneAaron Bradford Starr’s latest tale of Gallery Hunters Gloren Avericci and Yr Neh — the 35,000-word epic fantasy mystery “The Sealord’s Successor,” which Louis West at Tangent Online called “A gripping tale of fantasy, mystery, murder and intrigue. A must read!” — was our top fiction post last month.

Coming in a close second was Robert Rhodes’s story of a time-traveling swordsman, “Devotion,” followed by Vera Nazarian’s tale of armies, gods and a city on the brink of collapse, “Niola’s Last Stand.” Also making the list were terrific stories by Michael Penkas, Howard Andrew Jones, Mary Catelli, Judith Berman, Joe Bonadonna, Jason E. Thummel, 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 Twenty most read stories in May:

  1. The Sealord’s Successor,” by Aaron Bradford Starr
  2. Devotion,” by Robert Rhodes
  3. Niola’s Last Stand,” by Vera Nazarian
  4. The Worst Was Yet to Come,” by Michael Penkas
  5. An excerpt from The Bones of the Old Ones, by Howard Andrew Jones
  6. The Turtle in the Sea of Sand,” by Mary Catelli
  7. The Poison Well,” by Judith Berman
  8. The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum,” by Joe Bonadonna
  9. Assault and Battery,” by Jason E. Thummel
  10. An excerpt from The Waters of Darkness, by David C. Smith and Joe Bonadonna


  11. Read More »

Barnes and Noble to Stop Manufacturing Nook Tablets

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Nook-ColorToday wasn’t a very good day for Barnes & Noble and its Nook e-reader business.

Yesterday, the nation’s top brick and mortar bookseller announced earnings for fiscal 2013 and they weren’t pretty. Sales plummeted in the last quarter, and the company’s net loss for the year more than doubled to $475 million.

Nook sales, which were tooted as the company’s salvation as recently as last year, fell to just 1 million units in the fourth quarter, down from 1.4 million in the same period last year. At the same time, sales of Kindle e-readers have kept growing at a robust clip. As part of its earnings statement, B&N announced it would discontinue tablet manufacturing in an effort to stop the red ink.

The headlines have been ugly. AllThingsD reported “Barnes & Noble Gets the Nook Ready for Its Dirt Nap,” BusinessWeek said “Barnes & Noble’s Nook Business Sees Fifty Shades of Red,” The Wall Street Journal announced “Barnes & Noble Throws in the Towel on Tablets,” and Motley Fool‘s read simply “Barnes & Noble Finally Gives Up.” Today the stock took it on the chin, dropping 17 percent to $15.61.

I finally bought my Nook HD tablet a few weeks ago. I know, I know. The very moment everyone else is fleeing the Nook, I figure it’s a good time to get around to that new tablet purchase. Maybe not the best timing. But hey, the price was great, and I wanted to support a quality digital reader while I still could. Reminds me of all those dumb hardware purchases I made in the late 90s, trying to single-handedly keep the Amiga alive.

B&N is not exiting the hardware business entirely. It will continue to produce the black-and-white versions of the Nook and look for a partner to take on the production of the high-end color tablets. Speculation is swirling around Microsoft as a possible white knight, but it’s all simply rumors at this point.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying my new $149 tablet. It really is a great little Internet appliance and a handy way to watch movies and read books. I have no idea how long they’ll be available at that price, so if you’re interested you might want to move quickly.

Richard Matheson, February 20, 1926 – June 23, 2013

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

richard mathesonRichard Matheson, the legendary author of some of the most famous science fiction and horror novels of the 20th Century, died Sunday at the age of 87.

Matheson wrote over 25 novels and nearly 100 short stories, but is probably best known for his many works adapted into popular movies — including I Am Legend, The Shrinking Man, Hell House, Trilogy of Terror (based on three of his short stories), What Dreams May Come, Somewhere in Time (based on his novel Bid Time Return), A Stir of Echoes, and Real Steel (based on The Twilight Zone episode “Steel.”)

He also wrote one of the most famous episodes of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” which starred a young William Shatner. He adapted his 1971 short story “Duel” into the TV movie of the same name, launching the career of its young director, Steven Spielberg. Matheson later noted the story’s inspiration came from a trip he took with Star Trek author Jerry Sohl (“The Corbomite Maneuver”), when they were dangerously tailgated by a large truck.

Matheson was scheduled to be the Guest of Honor at the upcoming World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, England. The convention committee has announced that the convention will now be “dedicated to his memory and stand as a tribute to one of our genre’s greatest storytellers.”

As Matthew Wuertz wrote on the occasion of his 87th birthday in February:

Even if you haven’t read his stories, Matheson’s writing has undoubtedly influenced something you’ve read or watched. His work will leave a noticeable impact for many years to come. Perhaps he should reuse his novel’s title I Am Legend for an autobiography.

Matheson received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1984, and the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1991. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2010. He won the World Fantasy Award twice, for novel Bid Time Return (1975) and his collection Richard Matheson: Collected Stories (1989). Read his Entertainment Weekly obituary here.

New Treasures: Philippa Ballantine’s The Order of Deacons

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

The Order of DeaconsI can’t be the only one who really enjoys these low-cost omnibus editions produced by the Science Fiction Book Club.

Omnibus editions have been a tradition for the SFBC for as long as I’ve been a member (don’t ask how long that is). One of the first books I purchased from them — and still one of my favorite SF books, period — was H. Beam Piper’s The Fuzzy Papers in the mid -1970s, containing Little Fuzzy and Fuzzy Sapiens. The most recent was probably E.E. Knight’s Enter the Wolf, containing the first three novels of his terrific Vampire Earth saga: Way of the Wolf, Choice of the Cat, and Tale of the Thunderbolt.

At the same time as I purchased Enter the Wolf, I also acquired The Order of the Deacons, which collects the first three volumes of Philippa Ballantine’s A Book of the Order series. I’ve been intrigued by these books for a long time, and was impressed by the snippets I read from Geist, the opening book. Here’s the description for Geist:

Between the living and the dead is the Order of the Deacons, protectors of the Empire, guardians against possession, sentinels enlisted to ward off the malevolent haunting of the geists…

Among the most powerful of the Order is Sorcha, now thrust into partnership with the novice Deacon, Merrick Chambers. They have been dispatched to the isolated village of Ulrich to aide the Priory with a surge of violent geist activity. With them is Raed Rossin, Pretender to the throne that Sorcha is sworn to protect, and bearer of a terrible curse.

But what greets them in the strange settlement is something far more predatory and more horrifying than any mere haunting. And as she uncovers a tradition of twisted rituals passed down through the dark reaches of history, Sorcha will be forced to reconsider everything she thinks she knows.

And if she makes it out of Ulrich alive, what in Hell is she returning to?

The omnibus also includes Spectyr and the most recent volume, Wrayth. Philippa Ballantine is also the co-author, with Tee Morris, of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels (as “Pip Ballantine”) and the Shifted World fantasy series, which began with Hunter and Fox. With luck, those will get a SFBC omnibus treatment too.

The Order of Deacons was published by SFBC in January 2013. It is 787 pages in hardcover, priced at $17.99. There is no digital edition. It is available exclusively to Science Fiction Book Club members; learn more at the SFBC website. Cover art by Karla Ortiz.

ARAK Issue 1: The Sword and the Serpent!

Monday, June 24th, 2013 | Posted by Nick Ozment

araksonofthunder1In the summer of 1981, DC Comics proudly presented “the coming of a great new hero who stalks the fear-haunted shadows of an age of darkness” — Arak, Son of Thunder!

Arak was brought to life by Roy Thomas, who’d cut his sword-and-sorcery eyeteeth launching the most successful S&S comic-book franchise ever over at Marvel (the line of Conan titles), and penciler Ernie Colon. It had all the earmarks of such titles — swashbuckling action, magic, monsters, and mayhem — but Arak was not just another generic brute barbarian among the sundry pale imitations of Robert E. Howard’s iconic character. No, Thomas seems to have had bigger ambitions for this epic tale, both in its historical moorings and its complexity.

Thomas uses the back page, the one later reserved for a letters column, to explain what he was up to, in an editorial entitled “A SHORT HISTORY OF THE WORLD, DC-STYLE!”

The editorial begins with the observation “They called them the DARK AGES — but we hope to make them blaze with the light of adventure and heroism.”

What follows that intriguing lead line is a brief history lesson of the “latter half of the first millennium A.D.,” during which this series is set. Of course, Howard himself used a quasi-historical background for his famous barbarian, but the “Hyborian Age” was set so far in the shadowy past that he had a good deal of leeway. By conceiving his story as historical fantasy set in a more recent era, Thomas does create more work for himself, although, granted, there probably weren’t too many medieval historians who would be reading the comic and calling him out (I certainly wouldn’t know if he got some minor detail wrong about the court of the king of the Franks).

Where his leeway lies — and where he really gets to have fun and play — is in the fact that he clearly defines this as alternate history, predicated on this premise: “Ah, but what if there were another earth somewhere — a parallel planet, existing but a heartbeat away from our world yet forever separated from it — an earth on which events and names and geography were much like our own, but with one all-important difference: What if, on that world…MAGIC WORKED?”

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Pathfinder RPG: Fey Revisited

Monday, June 24th, 2013 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

FeyRevisitedMagic permeates fantasy settings, but even in these realms, there is a type of creature that typically embodies these magical forces in a more fundamental way than anything else. I am speaking of the ubiquitous fey, creatures who are often depicted as being born of magic .

Now many of the major fey races have been collected together into the Pathfinder Campaign Setting supplement Fey Revisited (Paizo, Amazon). The fey creatures in Pathfinder are natives to the First World, which was the gods’ first draft of reality, and as such they have only a tenuous grasp on mortality … and, often, on morality, for that matter.

The timing on this supplement is extremely good for me personally, since I’m running a campaign that is set in the Pathfinder world of Golarion, in Nirmathas. The forest in Nirmathas, the Southern Fangwood, currently has a situation going on where there’s a fungal disease that infects only fey. So having a sourcebook that outlines various different types of fey is extremely useful.

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Adventure on Film: Merlin

Monday, June 24th, 2013 | Posted by markrigney

shot08Bad films reek, and at a distance, too.

Bad Arthurian films have a special odor all their own. John Boorman’s Excalibur (1981)  may be a mess, but it’s a glorious mess, chaos of the highest and noblest order; in retrospect, it smells remarkably sweet.

Sadly, where Excalibur rises above both its Wagnerian grand guignol and its elaborate and intentional eccentricities, the mini-series Merlin (1998) sinks beneath a morass of imitative, careless, and flashy choices. It’s like a pretty stone chucked into dark and thankless waters: for an instant, on its way down, it glimmers. And then, blessedly, three hours later, it’s gone.

The star-studded cast is jaw-dropping. A film that boasts John Gielgud, Miranda Richardson, James Earl Jones (voice only), Isabella Rossellini, Rutger Hauer, Billie Whitelaw, and Helena Bonham Carter shouldn’t be a failure –– such an outcome shouldn’t be possible –– but as with so many popular music albums featuring a glittering luminati of “guest stars” and “collaborators,” star power proves to be yet another form of lead weight. Without the grace of good storytelling and with far too many overwrought effects, even the best actors on the planet prove to be nothing more than celluloid cannon fodder.

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