Harper Voyager has announced a special Halloween sale: a dozen urban fantasy, science fiction, and horror ebooks are on sale for $1.99 or less.
Titles on the list include novels from Vicki Pettersson, Nick Cole’s Soda Pop Soldier, The Stolen by Bishop O’Connell, Katherine Harbor’s Thorn Jack, Jack Heckel’s Once Upon a Rhyme, and additional suitable Halloween fare.
Also included is the excellent anthology Ghosts By Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense, edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers, containing seventeen all-new stories from Peter Beagle, James Morrow, Sean Williams, Gene Wolfe, Garth Nix, Jeffery Ford, Robert Silverberg, and others. This one’s well worth your attention, and at $1.99 you can’t go wrong.
The sale is for a limited time only — presumably until at least Halloween — so be sure to move quickly.
It’s true, in a sense. You see, I work as the Art Director for Gygax Magazine, and as such I’m tasked with trying to recreate the artistic feel of Dragon Magazine circa 1984. So, I spend my days not only going over old art, but also trying my best to discover new talent that somehow reflects some of the best aspects of the OSR.
Certainly, there have been others that have tried this type of nostalgia-based marketing. Goodman Games comes to mind with their initial line of Dungeon Crawl Classics, and the same could be said for Rob Kuntz and his Pied Piper Press in the mid-2000s.
Still, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You can’t simply plug in old artists and make everything perfect. Talents evolve, and in some cases erode, and working with established artists who have trademark styles sometimes limits your ability to direct them inside a product. Egos must be taken into account, as well as their vision versus yours, and finally how a price point that satisfies everyone can be achieved.
It can be a position of highs and lows, and I’ve had some great successes as well as failures along the way, but never once did I say ‘this just isn’t worth it.’
Why? Because I love the art. I love the artists, and having gone so deep into their world, I understand all too well the struggles they face on a daily basis. Each time I get the opportunity to pick up a phone, call an artist, and offer them work is what gives my job meaning.
Gygax provides this incredible vehicle to do just that, and when you finally get to hold the magazine in your hands, feel it just like you did that Dragon Magazine when you were in your teens, you understand just how special it really is.
In my Sunday article on The Art ofThe Original Science Fiction Stories magazine, I called out the bizarrely goofy February 1959 cover (right), illustrating “Delivery Guaranteed” by Calvin M. Knox (Robert Silverberg). It’s the kind of gonzo image that only could have fit on a 1950s science fiction digest; but I was dying to know if Bob’s story actually had an intrepid couple piloting a cannon-powered wooden raft in space, and how the cover came about. Bob was gracious enough to answer; here’s what he said:
I often worked with Ed Emsh to produce cover/cover story combos for [editor Robert] Lowndes. Ed would come into the office with an idea, I would wrap a plot around it, Ed would go home and paint a picture, and I would write the story. It was Ed who thought a cannon might be sufficiently Newtonian to provide reaction mass in space; I agreed in delight, and that was how “Delivery Guaranteed” happened. (Randall Garrett sometimes wrote cover stories too, and one time Ed turned in a painting showing the drive room of a spaceship, with his signature, EMSH, on the base of the biggest gizmo. Randy promptly dubbed the gizmo “the Remshaw Drive” and made it clear that the four visible letters were part of the manufacturer’s label.)
I also asked about the cover of the November 1955 issue, illustrating Clifford D. Simak’s “Full Cycle,” which was re-used on the March 1959 issue of Double-Action Detective and Mystery Stories. (See the full article for details.)
In the case of the Simak/Silverberg story, Bob Lowndes was just being thrifty toward the end of the life of his magazine group, and recycled that Simak painting to use with my story in his crime mag a couple of years later.
Read the complete article here. And thanks to Robert Silverberg for being gracious enough to solve those mysteries for us!
Ray Guns and Savage Planets: The Amazing Adventures of Flash Gordon
I know this is going to seem strange to some of you, but not that long ago, newspapers used to run adventure serials on the comics page. Like Calvin and Hobbes and Dilbert, but with a plot (and not funny). See, I told you it would sound strange.
It was a uniquely American art form, and it was popular through most of the last century. Dick Tracy, Spider-Man, Prince Valiant, Brenda Starr… you shared their fabulous adventures over breakfast every morning, parceled out in compact three panel segments. The most popular strips were collected in paperback, and these were treasures indeed — they included complete adventures (sometimes two). If it sounds strange to read comic strips in a paperback book… well, you’re right, it is. Fantasy is a strange genre; best you come to grips with it.
Flash Gordon, which ran from January 7, 1934 until March 16, 2003, was one of the most popular adventure strips on the market. It was collected in six paperback volumes from Tempo Books as The Amazing Adventures of Flash Gordon, written by Dan Barry and drawn by the incredible Bob Fujitani. All six were published in 1979-1980, and they collected storylines from the mid-70s. They’re still fun today — the dialog (and characters) are simplistic, sure, but the artwork is a marvel, and the stories move at a rocket’s pace. I bought the books above for less than four dollars each on eBay; copies are generally available for $5-10 each when purchased individually.
Loot The Tomb of Horrors in Style in Conquest of Nerath
When I lived in the dorms at the University of Illinois in the early 90s, it wasn’t unusual to see students clustered around tables in the lobby, playing Axis & Allies. The game took up an entire table and there were always a few spectators. Axis & Allies was a massive game, with a truly epic feel, and in the decades since its release, it has seen many versions — 19 last time I counted.
I’ve often wondered why there was no fantasy equivalent to Axis & Allies: a fast-playing game on a massive scale, pitting nations against each other across an imposing map. Sure, there have been a few ambitious attempts from small companies, but most fell down on the production side of things. Axis and Allies wasn’t just huge in scope — the whole game was huge, with hundreds of sturdy components, a beautifully detailed 40-inch folding map, and simple yet elegant rules. Even the box was humongous.
In 2011, Wizards of the Coast released Conquest of Nerath, a Dungeons & Dragons board game that pits four nations against each other in a desperate struggle for total supremacy. I probably would have overlooked it, if it hadn’t been for this rave review by Scott Taylor in July of that year:
In all my years of gaming, and all the games I’ve played, I’d yet to find something in the same realm of awesome as [Axis & Allies] until I sat down to play Conquest. Simply put, this game is an instant classic, a pure gamers paradise that mixes the very best of thirty years of game development into a single cohesive unit. What A&A was as a Risk upgrade, so too is Conquest to everything before it.
I was very excited by Scott’s review, and promised myself I’d buy a copy as soon I could. I finally acted on that promise earlier this month and, after spending some time with the game, I’m very pleased to be able to say that Scott was not off in his assessment.
For people of a certain age (the pushing-fifty crowd) John Jakes is probably best known for The Kent Family Chronicles, his massive series of massive books about American history and the mini-series made from the first one, The Bastard. Hearing that title said out loud on TV was a pretty shocking thing for us kids back in 1978.
It wasn’t until I was a little older that I discovered John Jakes had started his career as a real journeyman pulp writer. While working in advertising, he wrote science fiction, westerns, mystery, and horror stories for all the major genre magazines. His name appears on the contents page of Fantastic Adventures andAmazing Stories, as well as Tales of the Frightened (easily one of my favorite titles for anything ever).
While Robert E. Howard had created the basic template for swords & sorcery back in the 1930s, it wasn’t until several decades later that the genre really exploded. Fritz Leiber and Sprague de Camp labored throughout the 50s, but it’s in the early 60s that S&S really takes off. Suddenly, Lin Carter’s writing his Howard/Edgar Rice Burroughs mashups, Michael Moorcock’s inverting and mocking many of the field’s cliches while still writing exciting tales, and Andre Norton is expanding S&S’s vison beyond the too-common male thud and blunder.
In 1963, with “Devils in the Walls” published in Fantastic, Jakes introduced his own barbarian hero, Brak. In a 1980 preface to a new editon of the first collection of stories, Brak the Barbarian (1968), he wrote:
It was in the role of dedicated Conan fan that I wrote the first Brak tale, Devils in the Walls. In spirit, anyway, the story was a Howard pastiche, and I have acknowledged the fact more than once.
“Before there was Amityville, there was Harrisville.”
Whatever you think of the Warrens as real people, they do make mighty fine fictional characters.
Ed and Lorraine Warren — dark-forces-battling demonologists associated with such notoriously famous cases as the Amityville Horror — provide us with supernatural sleuths who fit comfortably in the tradition of such occult detectives as Doctor Abraham Van Helsing, Carnacki the Ghost Finder, and John Thunstone. That the Warrens are real people and the cases they have investigated are allegedly true does add another compelling dimension to the whole enterprise.
But I’m not here to debate whether the Warrens’ adventures were bona fide excursions into paranormal realms or just elaborately staged (and profitable) hoaxes. I’m here to review The Conjuring — the 2013 horror film purportedly based on the Warrens’ 1971 investigation into the Perron family’s troubled Rhode Island farmhouse. I am meeting it on its own terms, not as a docudrama, but as a fright flick.
Still, I’ll make a few observations about the “based on a true story” conceit, which is wrung for full effect in opening and closing montages. Judging from interviews, the scriptwriters — twin brothers Chad and Carey W. Hayes — certainly give the impression that they buy in to the Warrens’ whole shtick, or are at least pretty open-minded to it. However, that clearly did not constrain them only to crafting a straight-ahead historical re-enactment. To the contrary, their prime focus is to use the original case as a springboard for launching wall-to-wall scares at an audience hungry for terror of the supernatural kind. They start out eerie, sprinkling in events that may well be straight out of the case file, and then liberally follow those up with any tried-and-true horror effect that will “get” the audience. It is a film full of “gotchas.”
Writer C.S.E. Cooney has published two stories in the mighty trove of Black Gate‘s online fiction catalog, “Life On the Sun,” and its prequel, “Godmother Lizard.” For the following interview, she and I met in the cavernous vaults of Black Gate‘s Indiana compound, where we lounged on Ottoman divans surrounded by steampunk tapestries and several thousand of John O’Neill’s second favorite sci-fi paperbacks. The results, transcribed by a Silicon Valley drone powered entirely by herbal tea, are as follows:
What do you write? Or, if it’s easier, what do you not write?
Well, I’ve never written a tech manual for aeronautics and robotics. Man, but if I did, then I could write all sorts of cool sci fi with my awesome SCIENCE KNOW-HOW!
I generally say I write Fantasy when people ask. With the understanding that I think “Fantasy” is a great umbrella term that tucks, um, ALL OF FICTION under its shadowy wings. But mostly I mean I write Secondary World Fantasy. With a bit of urbanish fantasy thrown in. And maybe a wee slice of sci fi when I’m feeling daring. And an even weesomer slice of horror, usually in the autumn. Oh, and a dollop of the Weird, when I’m in my Gabriel Garcia Marquez mood. Oh, and that one time I tried to write a Steampunk story but I’m still not entirely sure of the outcome…
Every story I write seems to require a whole different set of tools than the last story. One is constantly reinventing one’s toolbox. Thankfully, the good old standbys like “assonance” and “simile” don’t really change. Only get better. Or subtler. If subtle is better. I don’t do subtle very well, so I naturally think it IS better, mostly because it’s this mysterious thing.
Erin Lindsey’s debut novel is a tale of magic and court intrigue, the first in what looks like a promising new series. She also writes fantasy mysteries under the name E.L. Tettensor (including Darkwater, which we covered here last December).
Lindsey lives in Bujumbura, Burundi. I didn’t even know where Burundi is. I had to look it up (it’s in Western Africa). Already she knows things about the world I don’t; I like that in an author.
Of all those in the King of Alden’s retinue, the bloodbinders are the most prized. The magic they wield can forge invaluable weapons, ones that make soldiers like Lady Alix Black unerringly lethal. However, the bloodbinders’ powers can do so much more—and so much worse…
A cunning and impetuous scout, Alix only wishes to serve quietly on the edges of the action. But when the king is betrayed by his own brother and left to die at the hands of attacking Oridian forces, she winds up single-handedly saving her sovereign.
Suddenly, she is head of the king’s personal guard, an honor made all the more dubious by the king’s exile from his own court. Surrounded by enemies, Alix must help him reclaim his crown, all the while attempting to repel the relentless tide of invaders led by the Priest, most feared of Oridia’s lords.
But while Alix’s king commands her duty, both he and a fellow scout lay claim to her heart. And when the time comes, she may need to choose between the two men who need her most…
The Bloodbound was published by Ace Books on September 30, 2014. It is 359 pages, priced at $7.99 in both paperback and digital formats. The cover art is by Lindsey Look.
The Best One-Sentence Reviews of H.P. Lovecraft: Announcing the Winners of The Madness of Cthulhu
Earlier this month month, we invitedBlack Gate readers to send us a one-sentence review of their favorite H.P. Lovecraft tale.
In return, we offered to give out two copies of S.T. Joshi’s major new horror anthology, The Madness of Cthulhu, Volume One, on sale this month from Titan Books. The winners were randomly drawn from a list of all qualified entries.
And what entries they were! This was the most popular contest we’ve run in some time — by a wide margin. Before we announce the winners, let’s have a look at some of the best entries. We can’t reprint them all, but we can share the Top 20 or so with you. (But fret not — all qualifying entries received before October 21 were included in the drawing.)
We left the choice of what story to review up to you, and we weren’t too surprised to find most of Lovecraft’s most famous stories represented — starting with one of the most famous horror stories in the English language. A reader who went simply by “Bob” kicked off the contest with his brilliantly concise entry:
What could possibly be better then rats…..in the walls?
The Rats in the Walls
Rich Miller beautifully sums up the appeal of this classic tale with his entry:
For fans of large rodents, ruined estates, underground caverns, degenerate humanity, and dark family secrets better left undiscovered, you can’t go wrong with this classic Lovecraft tale from 1924.