Six Post-Holiday Doldrums-Destroying Fat-Exterminating Sword and Sorcery Activities!

Friday, December 26th, 2014 | Posted by mariebilodeau

Siege of my neighbor's house-smallWelcome to Boxing Day. For many of us, this brings about the post-holiday dinner blues and bloating. As you chew on your cold leftover turkey leg and your congealed gravy, I offer you a list of fantasy land-approved activities to consider for warding off the blues, enjoying the winter scenery (should you have it) and working off some holiday pounds. To help you select an activity, I’ve even included a list of pros and cons!

Disclaimer: Neither the writer of this blog nor Black Gate can be held responsible for any legal, moral, personal or logistical penalties resulting from following any of the suggestions below. Should you find yourself seriously considering following any of these, we strongly suggest throwing on a Hitchcock marathon, re-reading all of Moorcock’s works, or picking up a hobby, like making papier-mâché squirrels wearing tiny armor.

Lay Siege to Your Neighbor’s Home

Difficult to do in a townhouse/apartment situation, but not impossible. Remember, the trick is to cut off their supply line. Consider first going for the water line (no toilets post-holiday meal will flush them out faster), and don’t forget to bring pots to bang outside their home while they consider the direness of their situation.

PRO: You don’t have to clean the banging pots, so you save some dish time!

CON: Everyone has cell phones, so cutting off their phone lines won’t really work. That, and this is pretty annoying and illegal.

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Vintage Treasures: Dancer’s Rise by Jo Clayton

Friday, December 26th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Dancer's Rise Jo Clayton-smallJo Clayton was an amazingly prolific American fantasy writer. Her first novel, Diadem from the Stars, was published by DAW in 1977. Over the next 20 years, she published no less than 35 fantasy novels, and nearly as many short stories.

In 1996, at the age of 57, she was diagnosed with cancer of the bone marrow; while in the hospital she completed the second novel in the Drums of Chaos trilogy, and most of the final book, Drum Into Silence. It was eventually completed by Kevin Andrew Murphy and published in 2002 by Tor. Jo Clayton passed away on February 13, 1998.

Sixteen years after her death, every single one of her 35 books is out of print — fairly typical for a midlist fantasy author, sad to say — and none are currently available in a digital edition. I found a copy of Dancer’s Rise, the sequel to the Duel of Sorcery trilogy and the first book in the Dancer series, in a collection I acquired a few months ago.

I’ve never read a Jo Clayton novel, and in fact we’ve never covered any of her books here at Black Gate, a pretty serious oversight on both counts. I decided it was time to correct that deficiency.

There’s some confusion surrounding the cover of Dancer’s Rise. It is credited to Jody A. Lee in the book and the ISFDB lists Lee at the verified artist. But that sure looks to me like Richard Hescox’s signature in the bottom right (click the image at right for a bigger version), and Hescox currently has the painting for sale for $6,000.

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New Treasures: Night Shift by Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Milla Vane and Lisa Shearin

Thursday, December 25th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Night Shift-smallYou know why I enjoy anthologies so much? Because they allow you to sample so many great new writers. Of course, that asset can be mitigated somewhat by the length of short stories — just as you discover a terrific new writer, the story is over. That’s why I enjoy these Berkley novella collections. They invite some of the best urban fantasy writers working today to contribute an original novella. Here’s your chance to sample four brand new tales of dark fantasy by Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Milla Vane, and Lisa Shearin, all under one cover.

Four masters of urban fantasy and paranormal romance plunge readers into the dangerous, captivating world unearthed beyond the dark… 

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh delivers a smoldering story with Secrets at Midnightas the scent of Bastien Smith’s elusive lover ignites a possessiveness in him that’s as feral as it is ecstatic. And now that he’s found his mate, he’ll do anything to keep her.

In #1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews novella, Magic Steals, when people start going missing, shapeshifting tigress Dali Harimau and jaguar shifter Jim Shrapshire must uncover the truth about the mysterious creatures responsible.

From Milla Vane — a warrior princess must tame The Beast of Blackmoor to earn a place among her people. But she quickly discovers that the beast isn’t a monster, but a barbarian warrior who intends to do some taming himself.

It’s seer Makenna Frazier’s first day on the job at Supernatural Protection and Investigations, and her first assignment is more than she bargained for when bodyguard duty for a leprechaun prince’s bachelor party goes every which way but right in national bestselling author Lisa Shearin’s Lucky Charms.

Night Shift was published by Berkley on November 25, 2014. It is 378 pages, priced at $7.99 in paperback and $6.99 for the digital version.


Merry Christmas From All of Us at Black Gate

Thursday, December 25th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Black Gate Christmas Tree-smallThe Black Gate offices are empty, the lights are off, and the only illumination is from the tiny tree the interns put on top of the filing cabinets during the Christmas party. Another year gone. Another 780 books discussed, 112 games reviewed, 84 comics examined, and numerous issues of critical importance to the genre fiercely debated. The staff are all at home with their loved ones, sleeping the sleep of the just (and the exhausted), and the office is strangely quiet.

It’s during the few times the office is like this — and not filled with raucous debate, and the never-ending tension of the nearly-blown deadline — that I can really remember what Black Gate is all about. Sometimes, when we’re busiest, it seems that we’re just a website, just another stop on the Internet where people promote their opinions.

But if that were true, Black Gate would still just be Howard Andrew Jones and me, working away in near-total obscurity. Instead, Black Gate has become a thriving and growing collective of writers and artists who care about fantasy. We work together to promote forgotten classics and celebrate overlooked modern writers. And to help each other.

We have some of the finest writers in the industry and they work tirelessly week after week to keep you informed on a genre with hidden depths and constant surprises. It’s been an incredible year and traffic to the site has nearly doubled in just the last 12 months. The real engine of that growth has been you, the fans, who have helped spread the word, telling others about us.

So thank you once again, from the bottom of our hearts. On behalf of the vast and unruly collective that is Black Gate, I would like to wish you all Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Continue being excellent — it’s what you’re good at.


Tormented Spectres, Ghoulies and Ghosties: Scottish Ghost Stories, Selected by Rosemary Gray

Thursday, December 25th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Tales of Mystery and the Supernatural Scottish Ghost Stories-smallWell, I’ve finally found the perfect book to curl up with on Christmas Eve  — and of course, it’s another volume in Wordsworth’s Tales of Mystery And The Supernatural.

Scottish Ghost Stories, selected by Rosemary Gray, is a generous collection of 34 classic tales by John Buchan, George MacDonald, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and many others. Explore the haunted highlands of Scotland by candlelight, while waiting for Santa to arrive. And if it turns out you haven’t been good, well… all that coal will be useful, to help ward off the chills.

Scotland has a notoriously rich and diverse cultural tradition when it comes to the supernatural. Many of her greatest writers from Sir Walter Scott and James Hogg to Robert Louis Stevenson and John Buchan have explored the country’s unique folkloric heritage to spine-chilling effect. From Highlands to Lowlands, from blasted heath or remote glen to wretched hovel or austere castle, the very topography lends itself somehow to the strange and unexplainable.

Leading off Edinburgh’s colorful Royal Mile, which runs from the Palace of Holyrood to the gaunt castle on the rock, there are many narrow ‘wynds’ — passages ancient and mysterious. As soon as you leave the sunshine and enter these dark and reeking ways you know that you are in a city full of ghosts and spirits — unhappy souls condemned for ever to roam this antique city.

Tormented spectres like them throng the pages of this disquieting collection. Lock your door, turn up the lights, put extra logs on the fire and as you start to read utter a fervent prayer. From ghoulies and ghosties And long-leggety beasties And things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!

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Future Treasures: Near Enemy by Adam Sternbergh

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Near Enemy-smallAdam Sternbergh’s debut novel Shovel Ready (which I just covered below a few minutes ago) is now being marketed as part of a series (Shovel Ready: A Spademan Novel). Usually that means more than one book is involved and a little digging last night turned up a sequel: Near Enemy, coming next month.

This one features a job gone wrong, terrorists, Egyptian radicals, and underhanded New York politics. Looks like I’ll have to add this one to the pile.

New York is toxic — decimated by a dirty bomb years ago. The limnosphere is a virtual safe haven — if you’re rich enough to buy in. Spademan is a hit man — box-cutter at the ready.

His latest job is to snuff out Lesser, a lowlife lurking around other people’s fantasies. As Spademan is about to close the deal, Lesser comes back from the limn with a wild claim: terrorists are planning to attack New York. Again. This time from the inside out.

The warning sends Spademan down a dark path full of unsavory characters and startling revelations. A shadowy political fixer tells him of a long-running power struggle that goes all the way to City Hall. A brilliant Egyptian radical brings Spademan to the mysterious far-reaches of the limn. And a beautiful nurse holds the secret to what, and who, is behind these attacks — and she seems to want to help Spademan stop them. But he works best alone. Or so he thinks.

Spademan has always had his share of enemies, but now they’re coming at him from all sides and it’s impossible to know whom to trust. To stay sharp, his only option might be the one thing he swore he’d never do again.

Near Enemy will be published by Crown on January 13, 2015. It is 320 pages, priced at $24 in hardcover.


Explore a Haunted Cyberpunk City in Punktown from Miskatonic River Press

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Punktown-smallI was at the Chronicle City website today, looking for updates on one of my favorite new science fiction RPGs, Cold & Dark, when I stumbled on an interesting update for an upcoming product.

Punktown is a setting book for the Call of Cthulhu and Basic Roleplaying systems. It explores a dark, haunting, cyberpunk city full of aliens, robots and mutants all set in the world of Jeffrey Thomas’ novel series.

With Punktown being the last project by Miskatonic River Press before they wind down operations MRP’s President, Tom Lynch, approached Chronicle City’s founder, Angus Abranson, about looking after the project… The partnership also means that Punktown will live on beyond the core book as Chronicle City and author Jeffrey Thomas will be collaborating on developing future products to support, explore and grow the game.

This is definitely a good-news, bad-news scenario. First, I’m a huge fan of Miskatonic River Press, and it’s great to hear they have something new in the works. They’ve produced some really terrific Call of Cthulhu products, including New Tales of the Miskatonic Valley, Our Ladies of Sorrow, and their Roman-era adventure The Legacy Of Arrius Lurco.

The bad news of course, is that they’re closing. I noticed they hadn’t published anything for a while, but to hear they were folding up shop is distressing, to say the least. Still, I’ve heard great things about Jeffrey Thomas’s Punktown books, and if Miskatonic River has to end their illustrious publishing career with one book, I’m pleased it’s this one.

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Fantasy Adventure on a Tablet: Talisman: Digital Edition

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Talisman_BoardTalisman is a fantasy board game that first came out about twenty years ago. There have been a couple editions and multiple expansions. In December of 2008, Fantasy Flight Games released a revised fourth edition, for which expansions are still being produced.

In 2012, Thumbstar Games released Talisman: Prologue, a sort of ‘Talisman Light’ ipad app. It was a one-player game and was a decent translation of the board game, though not very absorbing.

In 2014, however, Nomad Games released Talisman: Digital Edition, which is a full-blown, 1-4 player game. It’s a fine adaptation of the original.

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New Treasures: Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Shovel Ready-smallI’ve had my eye on Adam Sternbergh’s debut novel since it came out in hardcover in January. A thriller about a garbageman-turned-hitman in near-future dystopian New York City, Shovel Ready reminds me of Daniel Polansky’s Low Town and Jonathan Lethem’s hardboiled debut fantasy Gun, With Occasional Music… all three are original and daring. Now it’s finally out in trade paperback, just in time for Christmas vacation. If I can find a few hours uninterupted on the couch, I may just get the chance to read it.

Spademan used to be a garbage man. That was before the dirty bomb hit Times Square, before his wife was killed, and before the city became a blown-out shell of its former self.

Now he’s a hitman.

In a near-future New York City split between those who are wealthy enough to “tap in” to a sophisticated virtual reality, and those who are left to fend for themselves in the ravaged streets, Spademan chose the streets. When his latest client hires him to kill the daughter of a powerful evangelist, he must navigate between these two worlds — the wasteland reality and the slick fantasy — to finish his job, clear his conscience, and make sure he’s not the one who winds up in the ground.

Adam Sternbergh was the editor-at-large at New York Magazine and is currently the culture editor for The New York Times Magazine.

Shovel Ready was published in hardcover by Crown on January 14, 2014 and in trade paperback by Broadway Books on October 14, 2014. It is 272 pages, priced at $14 for the paperback.


He Sought Adventure

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014 | Posted by James Maliszewski

fritz-leiberOver the past six years, I’ve spent a great deal of time exploring the literary antecedents of Dungeons & Dragons (and, by extension, many other early roleplaying games). It’s been a (mostly) fun journey, not least of which because it gave me the opportunity to re-acquaint myself with writers and stories I hadn’t read for years and that exercised powerful influence over my youthful imagination. Sometimes, it’s also afforded me the opportunity to take a look at authors to whom I didn’t pay much attention in the past, but who were important figures in fantasy and science fiction in their own right and not simply because of their contributions to the goulash of ideas and concepts Gygax and Arneson drew upon in creating those little brown books that changed the world.

One of the fruits of the last six years is my growing sense that, if I were to pick a single author whose stories, characters, ideas, and – above all – ethos summed up D&D for me (and perhaps for Gygax as well, though I wouldn’t dare claim to speak on his behalf), it would not be Robert E. Howard or Michael Moorcock or Poul Anderson, or even J.R.R. Tolkien, all of whose fingerprints can clearly be found on the pages of the game. No, it would be Fritz Reuter Leiber, Jr., born 104 years ago tomorrow (December 24).

I’m not ashamed to admit that, for the most part, I encountered most of the literary progenitors of Dungeons & Dragons only after I’d started playing the game. I was already familiar with certain works of fantasy, all of which played a role in preparing me for the hobby of roleplaying. However, writers like Howard, Lovecraft, and even Tolkien weren’t ones I came across “in the wild,” so to speak. Rather, they were all recommended to me by the older guys who haunted the hobby shops and game stores my friends and I visited regularly. They kept saying, “If you like D&D, you’ve got to read this!” And so we did, because we were simply ravenous for more fantasy goodness.

Fritz Leiber was different. I’d, of course, seen his name, both in Gygax’s Appendix N and in the very text of the hallowed J. Eric Holmes-edited D&D rulebook, but – strangely, in retrospect – I can’t recall anyone’s ever recommending him to me the way they had with other seminal fantasy authors. Instead, I had to find him for myself.

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