Gonji: Fortress of Lost Worlds by T. C. Rypel

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_2924853GW8NECCJBack in January, I reviewed the first three books of T. C. Rypel’s Gonji series. Though thirty-odd years old, the books are exemplars of what heroic fantasy should be: exciting, wildly inventive, well-written, and — above all — starring a heroic protagonist. Exiled half-caste samurai Gonji Sabatake, try as he might, is unable to avoid fighting evil or behaving courageously. This stuff is why I still read S&S.

While the first three books (actually, one big book chopped into three parts by the original publisher, Zebra) are a complete story, they are also the introduction to a much wider and wilder tale. Gonji’s adventures start anew in Fortress of Lost Worlds (1985), republished this past May by Wildside Press. The fifth book, A Hungering of Wolves, should be rereleased pretty soon by Wildside as well.

At the end of the previous book, Deathwind of Vedun, Gonji left his surviving companions in order to pursue the werewolf, Simon Sardonis. He had been told years before by a Shinto priest that his destiny lay with something or someone called the Deathwind, which he discovered to be Simon. But driven by his own fears and burdens, Simon wants little to do with the Easterner and cares even less for their supposed entwined fate, so he keeps moving to prevent Gonji from finding him.

Fortress of Lost Worlds’ main story picks up two years into Gonji’s trek to find Simon. He and his party of soldiers have been savaged and chased to the feet of the Pyrenees by an unknown band he calls the Dark Company. As his last companion is lost in the frigid night, the samurai makes his escape into caverns in the mountainside. While the caves possess magical properties that both warm the nearly frozen warrior and his horse and fill their bellies, they turn out also to have occupants: ogres.

That sets the stage for Gonji’s monster-filled journey from the mountains to the town of Barbaso. He’d been warned that evil was loose in the valley, but having decided to travel to Toledo to settle an old debt, the straightest route lay through the valley, and Barbaso.

Read More »


Why Must Han Solo Die?

Monday, July 28th, 2014 | Posted by Nick Ozment

han soloLast week, I made the prediction that Han Solo will die in the new Star Wars film. I have no evidence; it’s just a theory based on a confluence of random speculations and gut instinct. Here I’ll lay out, in no particular order, some of the thoughts that led me to posit this guess.

My premise begins with the knowledge that Han apparently plays a fairly major role in the plot, given that Harrison Ford’s recent injury shut down the entire production schedule for two weeks (an indication that his is much more than just a “cameo,” which easily could have been filmed around, with some scenes rescheduled for later in the shoot).

Observation #1

Some critics decried the rescue of Han from Jabba in the first act of Return of the Jedi as a cop-out, contending that his death would have provided a dramatic catalyst for the other characters. Of course, Lucas wasn’t going to go there (he’s George Lucas, not Joss Whedon); even Han’s blindness following his release from carbonite was temporary. Such characters in traditional heroes’ tales often suffer a permanent physical loss, such as blindness, that is compensated for by new wisdom or insight. Han’s blindness wore off pretty fast, and by the end of the movie he was back to being good ol’ Han Solo, the wise-cracking pirate with a heart of gold. So maybe J.J. Abrams and company will want to make a big end for the character this time out.

Observation #2

For all we know, Harrison Ford — who just turned 72 this month — stipulated that while he’d gladly reprise the role that made him famous, it would be just this once, and that he didn’t want to be running around playing a space pirate at 75. Even if he made no such stipulation, the age of the actor is a big factor. Which leads me to…

Read More »


New Treasures: The Great Glass Sea by Josh Weil

Monday, July 28th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Great Glass Sea Josh Weil-smallIn his first novel, acclaimed short story writer Josh Weil draws on tales of Slavic folklore to tell the story of two brothers in a near-future dystopian Russia. Lauren Groff, author of The Monsters of Templeton, said “The Great Glass Sea is our world made uncanny; the Russian countryside of folktale and literature turned darkly luminous, menacing, and brittle.” Sounds promising to me.

Twins Yarik and Dima have been inseparable since childhood. Living on their uncle’s farm after the death of their father, the boys once spent their days helping farmers in fields, their nights spellbound by their uncle’s tales. Years later, they labor together at the Oranzheria, a sea of glass erected over acres of cropland and lit by space mirrors that ensnare the denizens of Petroplavilsk in perpetual daylight. Now the twins have only work in common — stalwart Yarik married with children, oppressed by the burden of responsibility; dreamer Dima living alone with his mother, wistfully planning the brothers’ return to their uncle’s land.

But an encounter with the Oranzerhia’s billionaire owner changes their lives forever and soon both men find themselves poster boys for opposing ideologies that threaten to destroy not only the lives of those they love but the love that has bonded them since birth.

Josh Weil is the author of the the novella collection The New Valley, which won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction and a “5 Under 35” Award from the National Book Foundation. His fiction has appeared in Granta, Esquire, Agni and One Story. He lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas.

The Great Glass Sea was published by Grove Press on July 1, 2014. It is 474 pages, priced at $27 in hardcover and $14.99 for the digital edition.


Lawrence Santoro (1942-2014)

Monday, July 28th, 2014 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

Larry and his wife, Tycelia

Larry and his wife, Tycelia

Lawrence Santoro passed away this past Friday. He was a two-time Bram Stoker nominee: once for his novella, “God Screamed and Screamed, Then I Ate Him,” in 2001; again for his audio play adaptation of Gene Wolfe’s “The Tree Is My Hat” in 2008. Two collections of his short fiction, Just North of Nowhere and Drink for the Thirst to Come, provide a great overview of his fantastic work. For the last two years, he’s hosted the horror fiction podcast series, Tales to Terrify.

Those are the highlights, the reasons why a casual reader of Black Gate might recognize Larry’s name. But I’ve been living and writing in Chicago for the last ten years and so I knew him for other reasons. Larry often read at local open mic events and was a fixture at some of them. Larry had a background in theater and he brought all his skill and that amazing voice to every performance. No microphones were ever needed when it was his turn to read and his larger-than-life performances were perfectly suited to the nightmarish tall tales; imagine if Lake Woebegone had a dark side and you’d get an idea of his fictional town of Bluffton. Tony C. Smith at Tales to Terrify provides a nice tribute to Larry, including a previously-unreleased performance by him.

There’s a brief overview of the amazing life Larry led before he ever wrote so much as a poem. At reading events, he was always encouraging other writers to keep writing, as well as offering advice on where to get their stories published. While Tales to Terrify has featured a number of big-name authors, Larry also made certain that it featured at least as many fledgling writers.

Larry leaves behind not just an impressive body of work, but a writing community made stronger by his presence and saddened by his passing.


The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Sherlock Is Coming Back – Good or Bad?

Monday, July 28th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Sherlock_LegoAs a screen presence, Sherlock Holmes was essentially a dormant property from the nineties until 2009. Sherlock Holmes and the Vengeance of Dracula  was a hot script in 1999, with Christopher Columbus set to direct. But screenwriter Michael Valle died unexpectedly and Columbus went on to make some movies with a bunch of kid wizards in a pig school or something like that.

In 2009, Robert Downey Jr. breathed new life into the great detective in the global smash, Sherlock Holmes (worldwide gross: over a half a billion dollars! The sequel did even better).

Mark Gattis and Steven Moffat, writers on the successful Doctor Who series, decided to bring Holmes back to television, but with a twist: the setting would be modern day London. It was a HUGE success, artistically and commercially.

With references to the original stories by Doyle all over the place, including updatings of the original tales (the pilot, A Study in Pink, was a retelling of the first story, A Study in Scarlet), it was a fresh take on an old subject. And with Benedict Cumberbatch playing an obnoxious, young Holmes and likeable everyman Martin Freeman as his trusty sidekick, Watson, the three-episode series was a hit in the UK, America, and all over the world.

Season two was just as good, updating The Hound of the Baskervilles and turning The Woman, Irene Adler, into a dominatrix. Personally, after season two ended, Sherlock was one of my top five all-time favorite shows and even in a battle with Justified for the top spot.

Read More »


The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in June

Monday, July 28th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Dave Truesdale 1997The most popular article on the Black Gate blog last month was “An Open Letter to Dave Truesdale,” which was visited roughly 8,000 times and generated 100+ comments. It’s the first article to beat out New Treasures in overall monthly traffic in nearly a year — which just goes to show you, controversy trumps tradition, every time.

Next was my brief article “Star Trek 3 Confirmed,” which was read over 5,500 times. Glad to see interest in classic Trek remains strong among BG readers!

Third was Elizabeth Eckhart bit of Games of Thrones scholarship, “The HBO Season 4 Finale of Game of Thrones: How Different Was it from George R.R. Martin’s Version?”, read over 4,600 times.

Rounding out the Top Five were M Harold Page’s review of Ancient Germanic Warriors: Warrior Styles from Trajan’s Column to Icelandic Sagas, and our report on Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson’s return to comics for the first time in nearly two decades.

The complete Top 50 Black Gate posts in June were:

  1. An Open Letter to Dave Truesdale
  2. Star Trek 3 Confirmed
  3. The HBO Season 4 Finale of Game of Thrones: How Different Was it from George R.R. Martin’s Version?
  4. Review: Ancient Germanic Warriors: Warrior Styles from Trajan’s Column to Icelandic Sagas
  5. Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson Draws Pearls Before Swine
  6. Read More »


A Dark Fantasy and Horror Giveaway on Goodreads and Kindle

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 | Posted by Mike Allen

Hello, Black Gate readers. You folks showed a lot of love for my dark, dark, dark fantasy novel The Black Fire Concerto when it was excerpted here last year, and so I thought you might want to know about my debut collection of horror stories, Unseaming, due out this October.

Luckily for me, I don’t have to struggle for words to describe Unseaming. Instead, I can pluck excerpts from the introduction to my book by horror master Laird Barron:

There are images within these pages that once glimpsed will imprint themselves upon your consciousness, etch themselves into your soft brain matter. … His darkest fascinations rival anything committed to paper by the likes of contemporary masters such as Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, or Caitlín Kiernan. This is raw, visceral, and sometimes bloody stuff. Primal stuff.

Laird said it, not me! But boy am I honored. To whet folks’ appetite, I’m holding a Goodreads giveaway of Unseaming: twenty paperback advance reading copies are up for grabs. And to promote that giveaway, I thought I would expand it with a few more.

Through July 31, to coincide with the end of the Unseaming giveaway, five of my titles will be free on Kindle: my new poetry collection, Hungry Constellations; my sf novelette Stolen Souls; my dark fantasy tales She Who Runs and Sleepless, Burning Life; and, courtesy of the generosity of John O’Neill and of Haunted Stars Publishing, The Black Fire Concerto.

Unseaming_MD_web black_fire_concerto_front_cover Hungry Cover Mockup 0
cover She_Who_Runs Steamexp

That’s a whole lot of literary darkness for you to savor. Click on the covers to scarf them up!


The Top 20 Black Gate Fiction Posts in June

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Oron David C Smith-smallThe most popular piece of fiction on the Black Gate blog last month was David C. Smith’s “The Shadow of Dia-Sust,” the first new Oron story in 30 years, taken from his brand new short story collection The Man Who Would Be King and Other Stories.

Second on the list was our excerpt from The Sacred Band, the new novel in the popular Sacred Band of Stepsons series by Janet Morris and Chris Morris.

Third was perennial favorite “The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum,” by Joe Bonadonna, published here nearly three years ago in December 2011 — and in the Top 10 virtually every month since.

Next was Aaron Bradford Starr’s epic novella “The Sealord’s Successor,” the third adventure fantasy featuring Gallery Hunters Gloren Avericci and Yr Neh, the most popular adventuring duo we’ve ever published.

Rounding out the Top Five was “The Find,” Part II of The Tales of Gemen, by Mark Rigney.

Also making the list were exciting stories by C.S.E. Cooney, E.E. Knight, Dave Gross, Michael Shea, John C. Hocking, Steven H Silver, John R. Fultz, Harry Connolly, Gregory Bierly, Jon Sprunk, David Evan Harris, Judith Berman, Peter Cakebread, and Ryan Harvey.

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 June.

Read More »


Vintage Treasures: Runyon First and Last by Damon Runyon

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Runyon First and Last-smallIt was Chicago writer Steven Silver who introduced me to Damon Runyon, with his hilarious Cthulhu-Runyon mash-up “In the Shadows of Broadway,” published as a podcast in StarShipSofa #236 in May, 2012. Since then, I’ve been acquainting myself with Runyon’s comedic short stories, several of which were the basis for the famous Broadway musical Guys and Dolls.

Runyon First and Last is a fine sampling of his earliest and later stories, including his last, “Blonde Mink,” published in Collier’s Magazine in August, 1945, the tale of a ghost who cannot rest until his fiancé buys the headstone she promised with the $23,000 he left her… and the strange fate of the blonde mink coat she bought with the money instead. Hilarious and sad, it’s unlike any other fantasy you’ve ever read.

Here’s the blurb from the back of the book.

This is a collection of 25 short stories by one of the truly great writers of American fiction. Six of the stories presented here were written during Runyon’s earliest phase. They are technically expert and have a non-Broadway background.

Among his later stories, his last, titled “Blonde Mink,” sets a new high in the art of short story writing. It displays the full flower of that Runyonese which perfectly conveys the flavor of Manhattan’s high-flying guys and dolls.

“The Informal Execution of Soupbone Pew” is the story of the revenge wreaked upon a vile vicious character who killed a kid who had been popular with a gang of tramps and hobos.

The kind of writing included in this collection clearly shows the reasons for Damon Runyon’s world-wide reputation.

Runyon First and Last was published in paperback by Graphic Publications in 1951. It contains 27 stories of the 39 stories included in the 1949 hardcover edition. It is 189 pages; there is no cover price. The cover is uncredited. I bought my copy on eBay last month as part of a collection for just under one dollar.


Confessions Of a Cormanite

Saturday, July 26th, 2014 | Posted by Thomas Parker

Corman - Academy Award-smallGraham Greene once said that the books that influence us the most are not the ones that we “seriously” or systematically read in adulthood, but are rather those first books we seek out in our youth and that we read for the simple love of reading.

He wrote, “In later life, we admire, we are entertained, we may modify some views we already hold, but we are more likely to find in books merely a confirmation of what is in our minds already.” But when we are children, “all books are books of divination, telling us about the future, and like the fortune-teller who sees a long journey in the cards or death by water they influence the future.” This has been true of my own reading, and I would also assert that for those who love film, it equally applies to the movies that they watched early in their lives.

Movie buffs come in countless varieties; there’s a great variation in their degrees of passion and in the objects of their devotion. Some bring offerings of ice to the shrine of a Kubrick or an Antionioni, and others make blood sacrifices on the altar of a Scorsese or a Peckinpah. Some soar with Hawks while others go to Welles for their refreshment. One group bows silently before Buster Keaton and the next sings songs of praise to Judy Garland.

Now, I am a movie buff and I have been given tremendous pleasure by the artists I just mentioned and by many others. I love Lubistch, would stay up late for Sturges, have been beguiled by Bunel, am wild for Wilder… but none of these immortals occupy the place closest to my heart.

Get me away from the art house, put away the beautifully illustrated coffee table book on the Masterpieces of Swedish Cinema, send home the educated — but dull — guest whose favorite Woody Allen film is Interiors (please!) or who saw The English Patient three times, and leave me alone in my sanctuary — my darkened living room at 2:00 am, lit only by the restless images that pass across the television screen, images selected for no one’s pleasure but my own, and the truth will at last emerge. I am a Cormanite.

Read More »


« Later Entries   Earlier Entries »

This site © 2018 by New Epoch Press. All rights reserved.