Goth Chick News Wishes You a Frighteningly Wonderful Halloween

Thursday, October 31st, 2013 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image002From all of us in the underground offices of Black Gate, wishing you a wonderful “holiday” season and thank you for continuing to follow us into the dark.

And now for your reading enjoyment, what would Halloween be without a little Edgar…?

Thy soul shall find itself alone
‘Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone;
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.

Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness — for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.

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An Inkling of the Internal Life: The Novels of Charles Williams

Thursday, October 31st, 2013 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

All Hallows' EveI observed the other day that the end of October’s a good time for reading classic weird fiction. This morning, as young ghosts and goblins of all sorts are preparing their evening’s depredations, I’m writing about a subject I’ve wanted to deal with for a while: the novels of Charles Williams. Williams was born in 1886, and died in 1945; a scholar, poet, editor, and theologian as well as a novelist, he’s probably the third-best-known of the informal group of Oxford Christians called the Inklings, behind C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. A Christian fascinated with the occult, his novels are tales of the supernatural and the numinous at play in the ‘real’ world. He wrote of ghosts, magi, and the Holy Grail, among other things, and his stories, laboured and profound, are some of the strangest fantasies I know.

I’ll start with some biographical detail (much of which I found in Humphrey Carpenter’s book The Inklings). Williams was hired by the Oxford University Press in 1908, and soon rose to become an editor. His first book of poems was published in 1912. In 1917 Williams was married, and in the same year was initiated into the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, a successor organisation to the faction-ridden occult group called the Order of the Golden Dawn. He continued to write poetry through the 1920s, and in 1927 wrote two masques, a kind of ceremonial drama. He’d begun lecturing at local institutes, and soon after the masques wrote his first novel, Shadows of Ecstasy. He couldn’t find a publisher for it at first, but his second book, War in Heaven, made it to print in 1930. Three more novels followed: Many Dimensions in 1931, then The Place of the Lion and The Greater Trumps in 1932. Shadows of Ecstasy was finally published in 1933.

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Abbotsford: The House We’d All Like to Have

Thursday, October 31st, 2013 | Posted by M Harold Page

The study at Sir Walter Scott's Abbotsford House in Scotland. Postcard by James Valentine & Co published 1878. Photograph probably by James Valentine, who died in 1879. From the online collection of the University of St Andrews

…it takes a while to realize that it reminds me of my study.

(This week, I’m at World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, England. If you see me, please say hello – it’s my first convention in years!)

I feel so at home in this place, it takes a while to realize that it reminds me of my study.

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…is like my study, except it’s an entire house…

Weapons and armor roost on the walls, occult tomes jostle with classics and history books for shelf space, and History’s shrapnel — locks of hair, an ancient book, or a scrap of stone or pottery — remind us of a real and concrete past.

Yes, it’s like my study, except it’s an entire house…

Abbotsford House on the Tweed near Melrose, is the absolute archetype of a Fantasy writer’s perfect mansion, except that it was built by the grandfather of historical novelists, Sir Walter Scott, way back in the 19th century.

Sir Walter Scott is Scotland’s Robert E Howard. His Targe and Tartan yarns put Scotland on the 19th-century tourist map. If his text is past its sell-by date, his stories live on on the screen, big and small.

He was so famous in his day that both Blucher and Wellington were glad to meet up when he visited the field of Waterloo. When he fell ill, the government lent him a Royal Navy frigate so he could tour the Mediterranean. (Oh, and, Hail to the Chief? Guess who wrote the original verses?)

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Mind Meld: Worthy Media Tie-ins

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Splinter of the Mind's Eye-smallI was honored to be invited to participate in a Mind Meld article at SF Signal earlier this month. The topic was “Worthy Media Tie-ins,” so of course I took the chance to expand on my love of James Blish’s Star Trek books — particularly Star Trek 2, one of the very first books I ever owned, which I first mentioned a few weeks back in my review of The Best of James Blish.

What made James Blish’s Star Trek tie-in books so great? They were fun, fast-paced, and most of all, familiar. Before I plucked Star Trek 2 off the rack, the adult section of the bookstores was a strange and unfriendly place, filled with covers of stiff, formally attired men and much less stiff, partially-attired women. In short, Blish’s books were a gateway drug to a much wider world. With phasers.

But the book I was really dying to talk about was Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, the very first Star Wars tie-in novel and the book that launched an entire publishing empire:

Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye isn’t just a media tie-in novel. It’s sort of an alternate-world, parallel-universe media tie in novel. A tie-in novel for a Star Wars universe in some time-stream that has nothing at all to do with our universe.

This is because Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye was written well before the release of The Empire Strikes Back. Before we knew that Vader was Luke’s father, before Han and Leia started making goo-goo eyes at each other, and before Leia traded in her princess gowns for a blaster with a full clip.

So Luke and Leia get a little more frisky in this book than you would reasonably expect from long-lost siblings, and Leia is a bit more of a helpless princess than you would anticipate after seeing Empire. Also, Darth Vader is a total dick, and has no compunctions at all about carving Luke up with his glowy red light sabre. Clearly, the paternity results had not arrived yet.

It’s not all about me, of course. There are some excellent discussions of other classic media tie-ins. John Mierau — who also has fond memories of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye — talks about Eric Nylund’s much-loved Halo novel The Fall of Reach; Aaron Rosenberg highlights Max Allan Collins’s Dark Angel trilogy, which tied up the dangling storylines after the TV series was canceled; James L. Sutter explores Richard A. Knaak’s classic DragonLance series The Legend of Huma; and Chadwick Ginther celebrates David Annandale’s entry in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Death of Antagonis — among many others.

Enjoy the entire article here. Thanks to Andrea Johnson at SF Signal for the invite — I had a blast doing this one.


New Treasures: Man Made Boy

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

9780670786206_ManMadeBoy_JK.inddParanormal romance has been the biggest trend in modern fantasy in the last decade. As Eddie so succinctly put it in Knight of the Dinner Table: The Java Joint, “Publishing today is all about getting hot and heavy with the unholy.”

But while it certainly may seem that modern publishing has jettisoned all the old taboos and explored every conceivable relationship and forbidden love triangle with the monsters that once terrified us — sexy vampires, sultry demons, brooding werewolves, enigmatic fae, horny spirits, shy zombies, and on and on — one classic creature has been sorely neglected. One of the great cinematic monsters, who has unfairly been overlooked in this modern pageant of passion.

You know where I’m going with this.

Sure, maybe Frankenstein’s monster isn’t really leading man material. But let’s face it — he’s gotta be a cut above zombies and ghosts (and, depending on the quality of parts we’re talking, possibly well above werewolves and demons too). Thus, I was well pleased to see Man Made Boy cross my desk earlier this month, a major fantasy release that looks to rectify this cruel oversight.

Love can be a real monster.

Sixteen-year-old Boy’s never left home. When you’re the son of Frankenstein’s monster and the Bride, it’s tough to go out in public, unless you want to draw the attention of a torch-wielding mob. And since Boy and his family live in a secret enclave of monsters hidden under Times Square, it’s important they maintain a low profile.

Boy’s only interactions with the world are through the Internet, where he’s a hacker extraordinaire who can hide his hulking body and stitched-together face behind a layer of code. When conflict erupts at home, Boy runs away and embarks on a cross-country road trip with the granddaughters of Jekyll and Hyde, who introduce him to malls and diners, love and heartbreak. But no matter how far Boy runs, he can’t escape his demons—both literal and figurative — until he faces his family once more.

This hilarious, romantic, and wildly imaginative tale redefines what it means to be a monster — and a man.

Man Made Boy was written by Jon Skovron, published on October 3 by Viking. It is 368 pages, priced at $17.99 in hardcover and $10.99 in digital format.


The Art of Magic

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013 | Posted by Jon Sprunk

Growing up, Halloween was my favorite holiday. Christmas is great for the presents and Thanksgiving for the feast, but Halloween has a connection with the supernatural that always enthralled me. Ghosts, demons, undead, witches — these were (and are) my meat and mead.

When it comes to fantasy stories, magic is what calls to me. In some stories, the magic is subtle. In others, it’s loud and proud. Here are some of my favorite uses of magic in fantasy.

The Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan: Jordan created one of the most detailed magical systems that I’ve ever read. The powers of the Aes Sedai are rich and varied, and they all originate from an elemental structure that feels both familiar and innovative. Especially in the early books, where the younger characters are learning how to access their power, the unfolding of this magic coincides very well with the physical exploration of Mr. Jordan’s story world. Also, it must be said that Jordan is adept at describing magical battles between wielders of massive power, something that trips up many other authors.

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Ancient Worlds: Remembering the Dead

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

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An ancient funeral. Weird thing #1: they would hire professional mourners, in case any of the deceased’s family members weren’t sufficiently upset for the required moaning, wailing, tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth.

Maybe it’s just where I live, but this seems like the perfect time of year to celebrate a holiday dedicated to spooky things. The days are short and cold, the trees are almost bare, and the nights are long and dark. And cold.

Did I mention I live in Wisconsin?

From here, it’s a slide into six months of winter and we all turn into Starks, wandering around looking darkly at the sky and muttering, “Winter is Coming.” So to us, it seems like this is the almost inevitable time to celebrate the memory of the dead. The popularity of Halloween has led many of us to see this as a natural and widespread association.

It may strike us as surprising then that this association is nowhere near universal. The origins of our Halloween are murky at best and probably syncretic, tying together British Isles traditions with Catholic veneration of the saints.

So when did the Greeks and Romans celebrate their dead?

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Tales of the Wold Newton Universe, Part 2 of 4

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 | Posted by christopher paul carey

Tales of the Wold Newton Universe-smallThis month marks the release of Tales of the Wold Newton Universe, a new anthology from Titan Books that collects, for the first time ever in one volume, Philip José Farmer’s Wold Newton short fiction, as well as tales set in the mythos by other Farmerian authors.

The Wold Newton Family is a group of heroic and villainous literary figures that science fiction author Philip José Farmer postulated belonged to the same genetic family. Some of these characters are adventurers, some are detectives, some explorers and scientists, some espionage agents, and some are evil geniuses. According to Mr. Farmer, the Wold Newton Family originated when a radioactive meteor landed in Wold Newton, England, in the year 1795. The radiation caused a genetic mutation in those present, which endowed many of their descendants with extremely high intelligence and strength, as well as an exceptional capacity and drive to perform good, or, as the case may be, evil deeds. The Wold Newton Universe is the larger world in which the Wold Newton Family exists and interacts with other characters from popular literature.

To celebrate the release of the new anthology, we’ve asked the contributors to discuss their interest in Philip José Farmer’s work and to tell us something about how their stories in the book specifically fit into the Wold Newton mythos.

For today’s installment, please join us in welcoming authors Octavio Aragão and Carlos Orsi.

Win Scott Eckert and Christopher Paul Carey,
Editors, Tales of the Wold Newton Universe

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Five Vampires

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 | Posted by James Maliszewski

janosI suspect it’s not uncommon for a person to look back on the era of his earliest days and deem it the “perfect” time to have been a child; I certainly do. I regularly tell my own children how grateful I am to have been a kid in the 1970s. I say this not out of any particular love of plaid, shag carpet, or disco, but for two rather different reasons.

Firstly, ’70s were obsessed with the weird, the occult, and the apocalyptic. From The Exorcist to Soylent Green to In Search Of, there was clearly something in the air during that decade, something that had a profound effect on my youthful psyche and planted the seeds for many of my lifelong preoccupations. Secondly, the 1970s (at least as I experienced them in suburban Baltimore) was a time when contemporary television programming couldn’t keep up with demand, resulting in lots of reruns of older shows and movies being shown to plug holes in the schedule. The happy consequence of this for me was that I got to see tons of stuff made before I was born – including lots of great horror movies.

My imagination was thus founded on an unholy combination of old school horror films and Me Generation shlock – and I mean that in the best possible way. As a bookish kid with macabre sensibilities (owing perhaps to my being born two days before Halloween), the 1970s provided me with the raw materials needed to fuel my dreams and nightmares for many years to come. This is nowhere more apparent than when I look back on the various vampires I first encountered in those heady days.

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The Great Captains by Henry Treece

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

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They were great men, yet to see them only as men, stripped of their doom-driven greatness, is to represent them on too trivial a scale. To draw them as massive heroes only would be to recreate them as inhuman cyphers.

from the preface to The Great Captains

The Great Captains (1956) is Henry Treece’s brutal and gripping version of the King Arthur story. Treece has pruned away the romantic embellishments that have obscured the old legend and returned it to the historic time and place in which it might really have happened. Excalibur isn’t buried in an anvil, but a tree stump, and Camelot isn’t a fairy tale castle, but a restored Roman town. Instead of an anachronistic quasi-medieval setting, the story unfolds during the bloody chaos of the waning days of Roman Britain decades after the last legionaries sailed for Gaul.

Britain’s darkest hours came in the Fifth Century AD, when waves of Germanic invaders swept across the English Channel. Stripped of all Roman soldiers in 407 AD, the people of Britain were forced to fend for themselves. In the end, they failed. None of the 1,000 or more prosperous Roman-style villas survived the Saxon onslaught. London, once rich and home to 60,000 people, was abandoned. Starvation and violence covered the land. Yet there were moments of hope.

In the middle of the Fifth Century AD, Ambrosius Aurelianus, a soldier of noble Roman ancestry, rallied the people and raised an army. For years, he fought off the invaders. His success spurred on the British and a generation after his death, the Saxons were routed at the Battle of Badon, securing another generation of peace for the land. According to the Historia Brittonum, written around 828 AD,

The twelfth battle was on Mount Badon in which there fell in one day 960 men from one charge by Arthur; and no one struck them down except Arthur himself.

This is the first historical mention of Arthur. The Historia goes on to document twelve great battles waged by Arthur, dux bellorum (war leader), against the Saxons and their allies. From this, all the great legends of Arthur Pendragon, Once and Future King, arise. And though many historians today have come to doubt he existed, Arthur lives on as the chivalric hero who leads the righteous against a seemingly overwhelming enemy.

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