Maleficent Fails in an Unexpected Way

Saturday, May 31st, 2014 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

maleficent posterMaleficent (2014)
Directed by Robert Stromberg. Starring Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Ella Purnell.

Sometimes, we need the fictional villains in our life to just stay evil. Forget sympathy for the Devil: I don’t want sympathy for the Red Skull, the T-1000, Michael Myers, the Joker, Auric Goldfinger, the Dark Lord Sauron, or King Ghidorah.

I especially don’t want sympathy for the Mistress of All Evil, Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent. So few movie characters so relish evil for evil’s sake like she does. And Maleficent executes this vileness with such stylish vigor!

Maleficent is the unofficial ruler of Disney’s dark parallel to their Princess line, the Disney Villains. And hoo-boy, does Maleficent do a great job at the top of the wicked food chain. This is a creature so evil that getting a birthday party snub hurls her into a generational revenge plot that consumes a kingdom and all her free time. Her design (courtesy of legendary Disney artist Marc Davis) and voice (Eleanor Audley) emphasize the beautiful allure of evil to make the Middle Ages proud. As bonuses, she has a crafty raven sidekick and can transform through a mushroom cloud explosion into a black and purple dragon that blasts green flames. Give the dark lady a hand!

So what worse way to foul up Maleficent than to try to explain in a feature length film how she got so evil?

Amazingly, Disney found a worse way.

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The Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series: The Silver Stallion by James Branch Cabell

Saturday, May 31st, 2014 | Posted by westkeith

The Silver StallionThe Silver Stallion
James Branch Cabell
Ballantine, 1969, $0.95
Cover art by Bob Pepper
Internal illustrations by Frank C. Pape

So now we come to one of the better known (some would say infamous) authors in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line. James Branch Cabell is, to the best of my knowledge, the only author in the lineup who had a book (Jurgen) as the centerpiece of an obscenity trial.

James Branch Cabell was born in Virginia on April 14, 1879. His family was wealthy enough that he could devote his time with genealogical research and writing a complex series of fantasy novels.

These novels are called the Biography of Manuel. They concern Dom Manuel, who rose from being a pig farmer to ruler of the fictional French province of Poictesme. A total scoundrel, after his death, Manuel’s widow Niafer and the saint Horvendile engage in a PR campaign of impressive proportions, recasting him as a faultless savior who will come back to restore Poictesme to holy glory.

But the series doesn’t stop there. Some books deal with Manuel’s descendants. There are 25 books total, written over a period of 23 years. They weren’t written in order of internal chronology and contain a number of references to other works in the series, some subtle and some fairly prominent.

The Silver Stallion opens following the alleged death of Manuel. Jurgen, the son of Coth of the Rocks, claims he saw Manuel taken up into the heavens while riding with Father Death. The Fellowship of the Silver Stallion is the group of Manuel’s closest companions and advisers. They react to news of Manuel’s death in a variety of ways.

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On the Deck of a Sinking Ship: An Interview with Robin Riopelle

Saturday, May 31st, 2014 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Deadroads 9781597805131Robin Riopelle is the debut fantasy author of the novel Deadroads, released by Skyhorse Publishing’s newest imprint, Night Shade, in April of 2014.

The publication of her first novel was a bit more stressful than it normally would be, because her original publisher, Night Shade Books (NSB), teetered on the edge of bankruptcy a year ago, just as the novel was about to be released.

So, just to start with the basics of the story, when did you write Deadroads, what is it about, and what was the process to sell it to Night Shade?

Deadroads was written fairly quickly about 3 years ago. I was inspired, I guess you could say, really intrigued by the connection between Acadian and Cajun cultures.

I’ve always liked darker fiction and I have always written stories with an element of magic, but not capital M magic. Supernatural elements in my stories need to feel organic and slight. Deadroads is about a fractured family with roots in both Louisiana and New Brunswick, and about how they come together while trying to find out what killed their father. Of course, a larger and more ominous mystery about their parents’ past is revealed.

And there’s ghosts. A lot of ghosts.

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The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in April

Saturday, May 31st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

lolani 3We published 107 blog posts in April. And they were all fantastic.

But, as they say, some were more fantastic than others. And you sure liked some more than the rest. For example, if it concerned Star Trek, you were all over it: Howard Andrew Jones’s enthusiastic review of the latest episode of Star Trek Continues was our top article for the month, and by a tidy margin.

Bob Byrne’s new column The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes continues to win over new readers; his post on Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective, was the second most read article last month.

Rounding out the Top Three was Sean McLachlan’s engrossing photo-essay on The Waterloo Panorama. (You skimmed the article and just looked at the gorgeous pics, didn’t you? It’s okay, I won’t tell anyone.)

The complete Top 50 Black Gate posts in April were:

  1. Star Trek Continues with “Lolani” and Soars to Warp Eight
  2. The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective
  3. The Waterloo Panorama: An Epic Example of Military Art
  4. Descend Into the Depths of the Earth in Forgotten Realms: Underdark
  5. Kirkus Looks at The Meteoric Rise and Fall of Gnome Press
  6. Read More »

The Top 20 Black Gate Fiction Posts in April

Friday, May 30th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

tea-makers-task2There’s a new sheriff in town. And he has a cat.

Gallery Hunters Gloren Avericci and Yr Neh, last seen in “The Daughter’s Dowry” (published here October 2012) and “The Sealord’s Successor” (March 2013), accept a dangerous commission to investigate a deadly island in Aaron Bradford Starr’s compelling fantasy mystery, “The Tea-Maker’s Task,” which vaulted to the very top of our fiction charts last month. Louis West at Tangent Online called it:

An entertaining, tongue-in-cheek fantasy… Their adventures take them from the rancid food of Burrow Deep Lane in the city of Ravanon to the workshop of a Tea-Making master then through the forests of Candelon, wherein lurks the Walker of the Woods, until they finally reach the ruined city of Vandelon. All the while, Gloren and the cat engage in constant, silent banter, much like two brothers or war buddies… I wanted more.

Steven H Silver’s tale of the strange astral adventures of Hoggar the Cremator, “The Cremator’s Tale,” extended its run at the top of the charts, taking second place this month.

Next was Mark Rigney’s adventure fantasy, “The Find,” the second part of the tale of Gemen the Antiques Dealer.

Also making the list were exciting stories by Janet Morris and Chris Morris, Joe Bonadonna, Martha Wells, Peter Cakebread, E.E. Knight, Gregory Bierly, Dave Gross, Ryan Harvey, Jason E. Thummel, C.S.E. Cooney, Jon Sprunk, Michael Shea, Harry Connolly, John C. Hocking, Tara Cardinal and Alex Bledsoe, and John R. Fultz.

If you haven’t sampled the free adventure fantasy stories offered through our Black Gate Online Fiction line, you’re missing out. Here are the Top Twenty most-read stories in April.

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Ghostbusters With More Swearing and Fewer Crappy Sequels: A Review of David Wong’s John Dies at The End

Friday, May 30th, 2014 | Posted by Connor Gormley

John Dies at the End-smallThis book is the strangest thing I’ve ever read.

Within the first hundred pages, you’re treated to a seven foot man made of meat, wig monsters from another dimension, a man with the ability to communicate through a bratwurst, a dude taken over by small glowing alien things with a penchant for punching people in the balls, a hamburger that screams as you eat it, and a weirdo with a pseudo-Jamaican accent who can tell everything about you at just a glance.

And it never lets up from there; Wong somehow manages to produce a steady stream of balls-to-the-wall crazy throughout. It’s delirious, insane, and stark raving mad. If this book were a person, he would charge into the street and head-butt the first person he sees, before flying away with David Bowie and a dragon. This book is John Dies at the End by David Wong.

John Dies at the End follows the somewhat delirious exploits of David and his best friend, John, who’s never given a last name. This is where anyone else would talk about the plot, but it’s the kind of thing you need to actually read yourself to really appreciate. But I’m going to try anyway, just for you.

Dave and John are kind of like Ghostbusters, except with more swearing and fewer crappy sequels. They deal with paranormal occurrences in their town and its surrounding area, and in doing so have attracted something of a cult following, which arouses the interest of a reporter, Arnie, who interviews Dave about his experiences and the events leading up to him becoming a kind of paranormal detective guy. The story Dave tells Arnie is the story he tells us.

In short, he and John stumble across a drug called “soy sauce,” which heightens the user’s senses to an extreme level and gives them a window into another plane of existence. From here, the two embark on an adventure of Moorcockian proportions: uncovering a dark conspiracy, going to other planes, alternate dimensions, fighting aliens with a flamethrower made from a squirt gun, and meeting a supreme being called Korrok.

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Come Into Callahan’s, Said the Spider

Friday, May 30th, 2014 | Posted by Violette Malan

CallahansI first met Jake (the narrator), Fast Eddie (the piano player), Doc Webster, Long Drink McGonnigle, and Mike Callahan himself in the pages of Analog. All of Spider Robinson’s stories were eventually collected in three anthologies: Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon, Time Travelers Strictly Cash, and Callahan’s Secret.

Callahan’s is a place where the day after Monday is Punday, Wednesday is Tall Tales Night, there’s a Fireside Fillmore night, and a Riddles Night. And in the grand tradition of the bar story, we get told these tall tales, we’re given the lyrics of the songs, and we can even participate in the guessing of the riddles.

But unlike the traditional bar story, these are just window-dressing, Robinson’s homage to the conventions. The real stories are what happens around, during and after all this traditional bar story action. And these are anything but traditional – they are, after all, science fiction stories, and the characters who come into Callahan’s for help are time-travelers, aliens, humans suffering from strange mutations . . . and a talking dog.

Though the prefaces, intros, and afterwords establish the pretense that Callahan’s actually exists, it’s clearly in either an alternate universe or an alternate timeline. The second story in CCS, for example, “The Time Traveler,” was written, or at least appeared, in 1973 or ’74. Not too long after that, in “The Law of Conservation of Pain,” a time traveler appears from the year 1995, using the first time machine.

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Blogging Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond, Part One

Friday, May 30th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

170px-Bulldog_Drummond_Poster2566515-bulldogdrummond2Bulldog Drummond is a peculiar case. The reputation of the original novels is more maligned than even Sax Rohmer’s Yellow Peril thrillers. To be sure, “Sapper” (the pseudonym of author H. C. McNeile) expressed views that stand out as offensive even among the common colonial prejudices of Edwardian England. The reason for this is easily understood. The author’s nationalistic fervor was predicated on the belief that the only good nation was Britain and every other nationality was inferior to varying degrees.

McNeile was a “True Blue” Brit in every way. A decorated veteran of the Great War, Sapper and his characters adore England and are intolerant of everyone else. Americans are castigated for their crudeness, the French are pompous, and Germans are a vile and irredeemable people. More bigoted views will follow, but that is the extent in the first quarter of the first book in the series.

Having covered the bad, what is it that makes the books still worth reading nearly a century later? Are they simply a document of more repressive times or do they offer value that makes one willing to overlook the reliance upon stereotypes and casual slurs? I would argue that anyone interested in the development of the thriller and pulp fiction should be exposed to at least the first four books in the long-running series. There is much that is light and entertaining in Sapper’s fiction, to the extent that they often read like drawing room comedies until thriller aspects interrupt the humor.

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Goth Chick News: Jurassic World: Hold On To Your Butts…

Thursday, May 29th, 2014 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Jurassic World-smallWith Godzilla now in theaters and our appetites all juiced up for giant reptilian destruction, it seems like the perfect time to let loose with the latest rumors about the upcoming fourth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise: Jurassic World.

What we know up to this point is that Jurassic World is due to hit theaters June 12, 2015 and that relative new-comer Colin Trevorrow is at the directorial helm.  We also know it stars Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation), Bryce Dallas Howard (The Help) and Vincent D’Onofrio (Law and Order), as well as Omar Sy, Ty Simpkins, Irrfan Khan, Ty Simpkins, Judy Greer, and Nick Robinson.  And last, we know the plot centers around a fully functional JP theme park.

What we did not know is the direction Colin Trevorrow, who is also one of the writers, would be taking the story.

Much of what I’m about to tell you is rampant Internet rumor, substantiated by more than one source, so if you’re spoiler-averse when it comes to JP4, you may want leave now.

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A Hero Must Strive: My Favorite Fantasy Heroes

Thursday, May 29th, 2014 | Posted by Jon Sprunk

The Hour of the Dragon Robert E. Howard-smallFantasy and sci-fi literature are festooned with great heroes that inspire (and sometimes intimidate) us. Today I’d like to share some of my personal favorites with you.

Conan from Robert E. Howard’s series

I started reading the Conan books when I was in elementary school, and the subject matter felt so adult. I read the series several more times as I grew up and I find that I still love the principle character. Conan is often uncouth and, well, barbaric. But he’s a noble beast. In a world that has grown increasingly complex and ambiguous, getting inside the head of a character for whom all of life’s choices are balanced on the edge of a broadsword (or between the sheets) can be cathartic. On top of that, Conan is a paragon of freedom. The world is his oyster, the way we often wish it was for us.

Croaker from Glen Cook’s The Black Company

At turns both wry and insightful, Croaker is the perfect narrator for a story of fantasy warfare and dark sorcery. While he plays a central role as both a physician and a soldier, he is also able to get out of the story’s way when necessary, while still remaining poignant. Through his eyes we glimpse a world torn by strife, rivalries, and the domination of the weak, and yet Croaker never gives up all hope. He’s a friend, a brother, a comrade, and a hopeless romantic.

Sturm Brightblade from The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

These books have a host of great characters, but my favorite hero of the bunch has to be Sturm. Honorable to a fault, he lives — and eventually dies — for his code. But Sturm never loses his humanity. He remains our good and stalwart friend through the dark times, and someone we miss dearly.

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