Art of the Genre: Behind the Curtain at Black Gate L.A.

Art of the Genre: Behind the Curtain at Black Gate L.A.

Sue somehow still looks pale even in the SoCal sun...
Sue somehow still looks pale even in the SoCal sun…

First off, thanks to all the readers who read and posted about last week’s Art of the Genre article ‘The Top 10 RPG Artists of the Past 40 Years’ and if you haven’t taken a look, I hope you do right here! Oh, and remember, it isn’t who is the ‘best,’ but who was the most impactful.

Second, and putting into practice a bit of the Wizard’s First Rule, I thought I’d dip into the email ‘bag’ and pull back the curtain on a part of my life here in L.A. You see, there are often questions sent to me concerning Black Gate L.A. offices, like possible internships with us, and many times just inquiries as to ‘who are you?’ My current favorite of these is artist Jeff Easley’s request to ‘Post pictures of Kandi!’ which I got last week. Well, since I had a moment today between a lunch at the Red Lobster with John Scalzi [hey, he’s from Ohio and I’m from Indiana, so to us that is still an awesome and upscale establishment, so sue us!] and my two hour commute into downtown for floor seats at a Lakers game with Bill Simmons, I decided I’d introduce all my readers, and those of Black Gate in general, to our working version of ‘The Office’ here in LaLa Land.

For the purposes of keeping readers’ interest, I’m starting with our resident part-timer, ‘Goth Chick’ Sue Granquist. She spends half her time here in L.A. working with the horror genre movie industry and the other half in Chicago around the Midwest convention circuit — and bringing our editor John O’Neill coffee. She and I have a strange relationship, and I swear if she wasn’t so damn Goth and I wasn’t so damn married, there would have been an illicit office affair years ago, but as it is we just have fun insulting each other as much as possible.

I took this picture about a month ago, while we were having lunch on the veranda outside the office on the ‘beach side’. Chick, as I affectionately call her, although hating the sun most days, had decided to join me for lunch and afterward sat on the railing with her back to the Pacific. I had a nice vantage point and told her, ‘Chick, I bet I could take a photo of you from here and then Photoshop the railing out of it to make you look like you were suspended in the clear blue SoCal sky.’ ‘Art,’ she said using her nickname for me, ‘I bet you a bag of black licorice jelly beans you can’t.

Well, as you can see, I got those damnable jelly beans and they sit on my desk to feed to gulls swirling in the sea breeze out my window when I’m felling particularly peevish.

Me, in my fine chapeau and scarf
Me, in my fine chapeau and scarf

So now you might be asking, but what about you? Well, I’m me, Scott Taylor, sometimes R. Scott Taylor, the intrepid Black Gate ‘art guy’ as I freelance outside jobs in the creative direction field, while also working as a fantasy art broker and agent (hey, it’s expensive to live out here even with a salary!)

Kandi took this photo of me in December when the temp dropped to a frigid 57 degrees in Redondo, and although she still sported her usual mini-skirt, I was bundled up like a Minnesota farmer. She spent the next week adding ‘dontcha know’ to every communication she had with me, which is funny, considering Kandi’s backstory.

Kandi, yes Jeff Easley I’m getting to her, is from Iowa, and was brought up in a God fearing town where Presbyterians ruled like Mad Max inspired post-apocalyptic overlords. Her parents ‘raised her right,’ but when she turned eighteen she fled the cornfields for the bright lights of L.A. to become all famous and stuff.

Kandi, looking as lovely as always...
Kandi, looking as lovely as always…

That was seven years ago, or so she says [and her IMDB also indicates] but I’m honestly not sure of anyone’s true age in this town! Unfortunately for Kandi, she was disowned by her parents after her first year in the big city when a tabloid indicated she was dating… a Canadian. I know, I couldn’t believe it either.

As you can well imagine, her parents went completely nuts upon seeing here with then B-lister, and Star Wars second generation fall-guy, Hayden Christenson. I happily pointed out that his last name at least has ‘Christ’ in it, but that only fueled the fire, and then John O’Neill stepped in on her behalf only to further exacerbate the matter when they found out he too was Canadian!

It got ugly from there, but thankfully Kandi has moved on, both from Hayden, and from the loss of her mid-western roots to be a relatively happy and certainly lovely young actress still pursuing her dreams in Hollywood.

As for her picture, I took it on my iPhone last Tuesday, Kandi doing her best to impress the aforementioned Mr. Easley and hoping he’d immortalize her in a bikini next to a red dragon (you know, like an image all SFWA members hate but secretly love!).

Honestly, it is a rather fetching shot, although as you can see the miser that is John O’Neill really, really needs to update our current hardware. Although getting memos from Kandi on that old machine are always a trip as I feel like I’m in the movie Citizen Kane!

Ryan Harvey greets the day with great enthusiasm!
Ryan Harvey greets the day with great enthusiasm!

And speaking of boring old movies, as well as the fact that I’m afraid I’ve now used up all my eye candy (or Kandi as the case may be) and you’ll stop reading, what about our movie reviewer Ryan Harvey? If his work and image, along with that of newcomer James Malizwhiski, still intrigue you enough to move on, I’ll keep up this rather odd screening of Biography.

Ryan has been in this office since we opened in 2007 and we actually lugged the boxes, and that heavy-ass typewriter, up to the third floor together. It was a tough couple of years, both as unknowns here trying to make a name for ourselves in our perspective fields. We both dreamed of being fiction writers and I guess in some ways that dream came true, just not the money that we’d hoped would come with it.

Still, as much as I complain about John’s penny-pinching, he has always given us a fine salary here that at least keeps a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs, and in Ryan’s case, zoot suits in his closet.

Ryan, always photo-shy, wouldn’t pose for a current shot of him so I had to find this one I took last August. I think we were out at the arboretum in front of the building. Anyway, it is grainy, as I’d yet to upgrade my iPhone from the 3 at the time, but it will have to do, and please try not to swoon, ladies!

James is never happy at 4 AM in Long Beach, but then again, who is?
James is never happy at 4 AM in Long Beach, but then again, who is?

After Ryan, there is out true newcomer to this insanity, Mr. James ‘Grognardia’ Maliszewski, who I’m not particularly a fan of because I think his topics, RPGS, too often overlap with my fantasy art posts, but I’m not the boss so I guess I should just get over it.

James, like John, is ANOTHER CANADIAN, so that doesn’t help things much, AND he also hates having his picture taken, but you know, that just makes it more fun for me! Last fall, Mr. O’Neill sent James and me a travel packet that shipped us both to DragonCon in Atlanta for a weekend of costumes, late nights, and other stuff I can’t mention.

Like I said above, however, O’Neill doesn’t like to waste good money, so he flew both James and I out of Long Beach instead of LAX on a flight (Alaska Airlines, if you can believe it! Someone explain that one to me) that left at 4 AM!

James was so grumpy about the flight that I couldn’t help but take this shot of him exiting the cab, and you can even see one of the boom cranes from the Port of Long Beach in the background! Sometimes my photography even impresses, well, me.

So there you have it, the often maligned, always comical, and certainly well informed (and endowed) workers of Black Gate L.A. I hope you’ve enjoyed this as much as Jeff Easley surely has, and I’ll be sure to see you all next week with more from Art of the Genre!

If you like what you read in Art of the Genre, you can listen to me talk about publishing and my current venture with great artists of the fantasy field or even come say hello on Facebook here. And my current RPG Art Blog can be found here.

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John ONeill

Say what you like, but that zoot suit wardrobe allowance for Harvey was some of the best money I ever spent.

Matthew Wuertz

John, do we have the budget to send everyone for a visit to the L.A. offices? Things seem quite exciting out there. The views here in the Midwest are filled with mounds of dirty snow; might be good to get away for a bit.

Jeff Stehman

Scott, speaking as a Minnesotan, you’re bundled up nothing like a Minnesota farmer, don’tcha know.

Joe H.

I can state with absolute confidence that no Minnesota farmer ever used the word “chapeau”.

Sue Granquist

Oh Art,

You and those black jelly beans – your needs are just so adorably…”uncomplicated” is the word I’m looking for.

As much as I enjoy our little beach-side tete a tets, I must insist we wait until later in the afternoon from now on or else you’ll be Photoshopping those crazy fish-net tan lines off my legs.

Speaking of Photoshop, you are a complete genius and earned every one of those little black nuggets of joy – I can’t see the railing even a smidge. However, I do have to call you out on one thing: the day I bring John coffee will be the day he comes down to my basement office in Chicago and makes it in my blender…himself.

Off to the airport to catch my flight home as all this vitamin D is making me woozy. Please tell James and Ryan I left them little tokens of my affection on their desks, but to be safe, they should probably put on gloves first.

And Art dear, don’t let them give you crap about your chapeau; it’s very Che Guevara.

Your (Goth) Chick


Maybe he was mentioned in a post I missed, so I don’t get the inside joke; but why the picture of Dave Trampier?

And with those two pictures (no, I’m not referring to Taylor and Harvey), I predict this will be the most viewed post of the month.


I am so glad to get the scoop on the L.A. office, which hadn’t yet been built when I lived and toiled in La-La Land. Speaking as part of the Indiana Campus of the Black Gate Empire, I can only say: keep up the good work! And if you have any tips for how to keep the office running smoothly, let me know, since Sr. O’Neill has recently entrusted me with designing, building, and staffing the U.K. branch — adjacent, of course, to MI-6.


I hate to be a wet blanket, but we’ve all been having our consciousnesses raised about the SFWA Bulletin.

Cooler heads should have prevailed, I think… Well endowed? Fetching? Mini-skirts and bikinis? Fantasies about illicit office affairs? Sexy pictures?

All in good fun, of course, but really. I’m glad Sue and Kandi seem unoffended. I would have been pissed.

Sue Granquist

Dear Tulk,

Though I understand and appreciate your point, we ladies can normally distinguish between harmless humor and serious douche-bagery. I think I speak for both Kandi and I when I say our beloved Art cannot be grouped in with the mouth-breathing turds involved in the SFWA incident.

However, your chivalry is not wasted here and you are always welcome in the underground bunker of Goth Chick News. Just call ahead as you would not want to be mistaken for an overzealous fan…


Sue Granquist

PS: If it helps level the playing field at all, Kandi and I frequently tell Scott he has a nice ass – commentary he nobly endures without complaint.



Well. Somebody else is going to have to pick up the cudgels on this one, because I am completely disarmed…..

How many book have we all read where the frail damsel takes out a sword and kills her attackers? Sue does it with affectionate condescension.

Good on you.

Nick Ozment

Scott, don’t you dare run that pic you got of me wearing fishnet stockings.

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