Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Drums of Fu Manchu, Part Two

Friday, September 27th, 2013 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

drums2dofm-cover-front-300Sax Rohmer’s The Drums of Fu Manchu was first serialized in Collier’s from April 1 to June 3, 1939. It was published in book form later that year by Cassel in the UK and Doubleday in the US. The second quarter of the book picks up with a weary Sir Denis Nayland Smith contemplating whether he is too old to continue warring with Dr. Fu Manchu and the Si-Fan. Their conflict has stretched for nearly thirty years and the Si-Fan is growing in strength, while Nayland Smith is growing old.

Chief Inspector Gallaho of Scotland Yard brings news that galvanizes Smith back into action. Dr. Martin Jasper, research director of Caxton armament factory, has received his final notice from the Si-Fan. Smith, Bart Kerrigan, and Gallaho immediately depart for Jasper’s Suffolk estate, Great Oaks. Naturally, they arrive too late. The staff of the great house is in an uproar as their master has barricaded himself in his laboratory and is believed to be dead.

Breaking through the barricade, they discover the latest victim of the Green Death is not Dr. Jasper, but his Japanese employer, Mr. Osaki. While interviewing the staff, Smith learns Dr. Jasper had a frequent Eurasian visitor – a woman whose description does not match Ardatha, to Kerrigan’s relief, but rather Fah lo Suee, the now deceased daughter of Fu Manchu.

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New Treasures: The Doomsday Vault by Steven Harper

Thursday, September 26th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

The Doomsday Vault Steven Harper-smallThere’s no shortage of intriguing new SF and fantasy series out there and more arriving every month. So how is a busy reader supposed to choose?

Easy! Based on cover art, of course. Duh. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to apply what I like to call The O’Neill Rule — always wait until at least the fourth installment in a series arrives before you commit to the first one, so you’re less likely to get caught in a George R.R. Martin-like wait between volumes.

The Havoc Machine, the fourth novel in Steven Harper’s Victorian steampunk-zombie Clockwork Empire series, was published earlier this year. And that means I can finally crack open the first, The Doomsday Vault. Good thing too, because it has a killer cover and the wait was killing me.

The Honorable Alice B. Michaels is in a life or death struggle for survival — socially speaking, that is. At twenty-one, her age, her unladylike interest in automatons, and the unfortunate deaths of most of her family from the clockwork plague have sealed her fate as a less than desirable marriage prospect.

But a series of strange occurrences are about to lead Alice in a direction quite beyond the pale. High above the earth on the American airship USS Juniper, Gavin Ennock lives for the wind and the sky and his fiddle. After privateers attack the Juniper, he is stranded on the dank, dirty, and merciless streets of London. When Alice’s estranged aunt leaves her a peculiar inheritance, she encounters Gavin under most unusual — even shocking — circumstances.

Then Alice’s inheritance attracts the attention of the Third Ward, a clandestine organization that seizes the inventions of mad geniuses the plague leaves behind — all for the good of the Empire. But even the Third Ward has secrets. And when Alice and Gavin discover them, a choice must be made between the world and the Empire, no matter the risk to all they hold dear.

Steven Harper also writes SF and movie novelizations under the name Steven Piziks, and romantic suspense under the name Penny Drake. The Doomsday Vault was published by Roc Books in November 2011. It is 382 pages, priced at $7.99 for both the digital and paperback version. It was followed by The Impossible Cube (May 2012), The Dragon Men (November 2012), and The Havoc Machine (May 2013).

Goth Chick News: A Naked Haunted House – Or One More Thing We Don’t Need to See

Thursday, September 26th, 2013 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image002“You can do that one without me. No way.”

“Come on, it’s all just theater. You’re not really going to die.”

“Nope, not happening.”

“Think of what a great write up it will make.”

“Write it up then. I can’t bring my camera in there anyway.”

Black Gate photographer Chris Z and I are debating whether or not he will accompany me to the traveling version of the extreme haunted attraction, Blackout Elements when it rolls through Chicago later this year.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this experience, the annual version of Blackout that pops up in a different LA or NYC location every October has been compared to a voluntary prison assault that you actually pay fifty, non-refundable, dollars to have inflicted on you.

Let’s face it. An experience that requires you to sign a six-page disclaimer and memorize a safety word is not your neighborhood Jaycee’s “haunted house.” And for someone who has been through about a bazillion October attractions, this one sounded like something I really needed to do.

But apparently I was doing it without Chris Z.

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The Top 20 Black Gate Fiction Posts in August

Thursday, September 26th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

The Black Fire Concerto-smallThere’s a few new faces on the Top Fiction list this month.

Mark Rigney’s “The Keystone,” third and final chapter of his epic fantasy series The Tales of Gemen, broke into the Top Five. Tangent Online called it “Masterfully told… The tension never stops, starting with nightmares, followed by chases across half the world… Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop.” Both of the previous chapters made the list as well, including the opener “The Trade,” which Tangent Online called “Marvelous!” and “The Find,” which it described as “Reminiscent of the old sword & sorcery classics… A must read.”

Also making the Top Five for the first time was our excerpt from Mike Allen’s new dark fantasy The Black Fire Concerto, which Tanith Lee called “A prize for the multitude of fans who relish strong Grand Guignol with their sword and sorcery.” And Vaughn Heppner had two of his Tales of Lod in the Top 10:  “The Serpent of Thep” and “The Pit Slave.”

Also making the list were exciting stories by Howard Andrew Jones, Joe Bonadonna, E.E. Knight, Paul Abbamondi, Martha Wells, Aaron Bradford Starr,  David C. Smith and Joe Bonadonna, Ryan Harvey, Judith Berman, Robert Rhodes, Emily Mah, John R. Fultz, and Jamie McEwan.

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 August:

  1. An excerpt from The Bones of the Old Ones, by Howard Andrew Jones
  2. The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum,” by Joe Bonadonna
  3. The Terror in the Vale,” by E.E. Knight
  4. The Keystone,” Part III of The Tales of Gemen, by Mark Rigney
  5. An excerpt from The Black Fire Concerto, by Mike Allen
  6. The Serpent of Thep,” by Vaughn Heppner
  7. So Go the Seasons,” by Paul Abbamondi
  8. The Pit Slave,” by Vaughn Heppner
  9. The Death of the Necromancer, a complete novel by Martha Wells
  10. The Find,” Part II of The Tales of Gemen, by Mark Rigney


  11. Read More »

Black Gate Speaks with G. Winston Hyatt of Primeval: A Journal of the Uncanny

Thursday, September 26th, 2013 | Posted by Patty Templeton

Primeval A Journal of the Uncanny, Issue 1G. Winston Hyatt is a busy man. He agreed to talk to Black Gate only if we could come to one of his many work places. We nodded vigorously at the black carrier pigeon that had brought the message and asked it when and where. It returned ten minutes thereafter with directions from the good man Hyatt, saying to meet him outside of a certain window outside of a certain brownstone on a lonely street at 12:12 in the a.m. We were to have a lantern – candle or gas, it did not matter – just not a flashlight. Any fool with a smart phone could accidentally mimic a flashlight signal, and yes, dear readers, we had to learn a long high sign that included a mighty number of flourishes, turns and flashes. As all Black Gate staff members are well versed in flourishing, turning, and flashing windows at night, this was not a problem.

When G. Winston Hyatt was satisfied that we were who we were, a rope ladder was dropped from the ledge of the thick-curtained window and Black Gate was afforded entry into a certain museum. This museum is unknown to the general public, as it contains nefarious, occult objects with high opinions of themselves that would not do well being constantly selfied in front of by tweens and stickied up by jam-fingered toddlers.

It was amongst this collection of the unnatural and fantastic that G. Winston Hyatt led Black Gate to two chairs, a small table, and two coffee mugs to talk about his latest project, Primeval: A Journal of the Uncanny.

Primeval being a semiannual journal of the eerie and exceptional, searching to examine “…the convergence of contemporary anxiety and ancient impulse. Each issue feature[ing] fiction and essays exploring horror, the macabre, and that which should not be – yet is.” Issue #1 features work by Harlan Ellison and Laird Baron, plus an interview with Jack Ketchum.*

That’s right, comrades, we have found for you a new horror publication in both print and digital formats.

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Gateway Drug: Excalibur

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 | Posted by Alex Bledsoe

Excalibur poster-smallFirst, I should say how delighted I am to be blogging here at Black Gate. Not only are the companions first-rate, but I’m thrilled to be able to talk about some of my favorite things: heroic fantasy, sword and sorcery, and mythology.

I came into fantasy the way a lot of people did: via Star Wars. Prior to that, I read almost exclusively hard science fiction, where the aliens and the spaceships were the point of the story, not window-dressing. But among the many other things Star Wars did for me in 1977 was nudging me into those realms of magic where not everything was concrete (or metal or plastic).

Once inspired, I read The Lord of the Rings like everyone did, although I confess that the microscopic font in the paperbacks almost scared me off, as well as the textbook-like appendices. Marvel’s Savage Sword of Conan comic led me to the original Howard stories, which I loved. But the thing that finally turned me into a bona fide, full-bore fantasy fan was Excalibur.

It came out the Summer after I graduated from high school. Much like music before Elvis, unless you know what fantasy movies were like before this, you can’t appreciate what an eye-opener this film was. Up until then, the only fantasy films around were family-friendly knock-offs of Star Wars, all aiming for that same market and all telling essentially the same story of a simple young man who sets off on a great, mostly chaste and bloodless, adventure.

Excalibur didn’t just boast sexy girls, it featured real sex. The battles were were filled with impaled knights and severed, blood-spurting limbs. The mysticism had the dark, heavy quality of church liturgy, nothing like the breezy simplicity of the Force. And in place of the serene Obi-Wan Kenobi or Gandalf, you had a Merlin who was half sage, half clown, and never as smart as he thought he was.

But the visual depiction of King Arthur was probably the single thing that changed my whole idea of fantasy.

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Get The Temple of Elemental Evil for Free at DriveThruRPG

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

The Temple of Elemental EvilThis week, through Saturday 9/28, the classic The Temple of Elemental Evil supermodule is free at DriveThruRPG.

The Temple of Elemental Evil may be Gary Gygax’s crowning achievement as a dungeon designer. It was the last major adventure he designed for TSR and — at 128 pages — was by far the largest and most ambitious. It was written by Gygax and Frank Metzner, and originally published in 1985. It has been out of print for over a quarter century, and is one of the most collectible of all TSR adventure modules.

Interest in The Temple of Elemental Evil remains very high, even after all these years. Matthew David Surridge wrote a fascinating analysis for us in his article The Art of Storytelling and The Temple of Elemental Evil. The module has been converted to a popular computer game and the opening chapter, The Village of Hommlet, was recently revised for 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons.

In fact, the major impediment to playing the Temple today is that it’s very difficult to find. Used copies start at $40 – $50 at Amazon and eBay.

DriveThruRPG, through their site, has eliminated that problem. They’re selling a high-quality PDF of the original module for $9.99 — complete with all the original art and maps. And if you download it before the end of the day Saturday, it’s completely free. Get it here.

DnDClassics also has a huge assortment of early TSR adventures and rulebooks — including Castle Greyhawk, Deities & Demigods, Descent into the Depths of the Earth, and numerous Planescape, Ravenloft, and Forgotten Realms titles — in PDF, at excellent prices. Check out their store for more details.

Understanding Howard’s “The Tower of the Elephant”

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 | Posted by M Harold Page

The Tower of the Elephant-smal

“This is just like Dungeons and Dragons, Daddy.”

It’s New Year’s Eve, 2012. Gamer Dad and I are having a fine old time, drinking beer and wallowing in geek culture, while our families are hanging out to see in 2013 together. We’ve played Red Box D&D in the afternoon with our boys – 7 & 9. Now, its storytime for the boys and, going with the theme, he and I are taking it in turns to read Robert E. Howard’s The Tower of the Elephant.

Both Dads jump in.

“No –” I begin. “Dungeons and Dragons –”

“– is like Conan!” completes Gamer Dad.

But the lad has a point. Here’s one of the more iconic Conan yarns and yet, on the face of it, it’s an episodic heist story; pretty much what you’d get if you wrote up a D&D session…

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War – What is it Good For? Violence in Fantasy Literature

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 | Posted by Jon Sprunk

Swords and Ice Magic-smallI grew up on pulp fantasy, enthralled by the adventures of Conan, John Carter, Elric of Melnibone, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and others of that ilk.

They didn’t shirk from danger, whether it be breaking into a wizard’s lair to purloin a rare jewel, battling hordes of evil minions, or challenging the gods themselves. Violence — the bloody conflict between brawny people with big, pointy weapons — was their meat and mead.

And when it came time to unleash my inner voices and craft my own tales, I drew most heavily upon the works of those old masters. At first, I didn’t delve much into my own motivations for doing so. It was enough that I was writing stories that I enjoyed and that (eventually) others seemed to like as well.

But what was I doing? All this fictional bloodshed and the mountains of imaginary bodies piled up before the altar of reading entertainment — what was it good for? Is it wrong for me to perpetuate a style of literature where problems are so often solved with swords and arrows?

(Okay, I want to pause here and tell you that when I read back that last line, my initial reaction is, “Hell no! I’m doing a public service!” Back to the article.)

When I was planning Shadow’s Son, the first book in my Shadow Saga, the main character Caim was originally going to be a thief by profession. I even played with the idea of portraying him as a pacifist, a sort of anti-Conan. Yet, I eventually came to the conclusion that the story would be more satisfying to… well, to me, for starters… if I changed him to an assassin. Still roguish and anti-establishment, but with a much higher THAC0.

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Monster Island

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Monster Island Runequest-smallI’ve been spending a lot of time on Monster Island for the last few weeks, wandering its haunted beaches, exploring its lovely hidden grottoes, and fleeing from its carnivorous apes.

This is hands down one of the finest sandbox gaming products I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. From what writer Pete Nash tells me, there may be other sandbox products coming from Design Mechanism and I will definitely be at the front of the line when they’re released.

But what, you ask, is a sandbox gaming product? Well, a lot of adventures are site-based. Take the most famous (and one of my least favorite) dungeons of all time, Tomb of Horrors. It doesn’t matter where you put Tomb of Horrors, really, because the entire product is about the dungeon and its contents.

Monster Island is a very different animal. First, it isn’t out to arbitrarily kill the players. Second, it isn’t just one adventure, it’s a campaign book – but not one that’s a linked set of adventures or dungeons. Instead, it describes an entire setting. It provides a host of adventure sites, setting specific monsters, random encounter charts, thumbnail adventures, background details, and the like.

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