Vintage Treasures: The Ghatti Tales of Gayle Greeno

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Sunderlies Seeking-small The Farthest Seeking

When I was running SF Site in the late 90s, I got hundreds of review books every year. Many appealed to me, though I had time to read almost none, and instead assigned them to our freelance reviewers. (Isn’t that always the way? You can have plenty of books, or you can have plenty of time, but you can never have both.)

Anyway, in the intervening 15+ years, I’ve long since forgotten most of the delightful volumes that passed through my hands. Yesterday I was in my basement — excuse me, the Cave of Wonders — making room for recent arrivals, packing up nearly a thousand old review copies to store in the attic, when I came across my dust-covered copy of Sunderlies Seeking, the first novel in Ghatten’s Gambit, a two-volume fantasy series published by DAW in 1998 and 2000.

I did remember Sunderlies Seeking. Even after 17 years, I recalled Mark Hess’s great cover and the evocative description on the back, promising a tale of adventure in a land of “convicts, rebels, and the unwanted refuse of society.” Not to mention a pair of friendly cats on the cover, helping sail a ship into the harbor. I’d never heard of author Gayle Greeno before Sunderlies Seeking crossed my desk in 1998, but after it did I sought out her other novels with great interest.

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The Dark Net, Encryption Keys, and Lethal Secrets: The Silence of Six by E. C. Myers

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 | Posted by Kelly Swails

The Silence of Six-smallThe Silence of Six
E. C. Myers
Adaptive Books (368 pages, November 5, 2014, $17.99 in hardcover)

When we meet Max Stein, he and his friends are attending a presidential debate hosted at their high school. This isn’t just any debate — the candidates are there to discuss education and internet regulations, both of which are topics of great concern to the youth of America. To highlight this, the moderator fields questions posted through Panjea, a popular social network. As the debate is about to begin, Max gets a text from an anonymous number: a passcode several digits long from a person who identifies himself as STOP.

Max instantly knows STOP’s identity: Evan Baxter, his best friend and fellow hacker. Moments later, Evan — wearing a hood and masking his voice — hacks into the debate’s live feed and posts a live video question: “What is the silence of six, and what are you going to do about it?” Then, horribly, Evan kills himself with a gun on camera.

Max is devastated. While he and Evan had grown apart over the past several months — Max had left the hacking world behind to pursue soccer and girls and popularity — he still considers Evan his best friend. He knows Evan wouldn’t have committed such a heinous, irreversible act without a good reason; he also knows the passcode that Evan gave him is the key that will unlock everything.

With no one to trust and the Feds on his tail, Max goes on the run in search of what Evan knew. His discovery will change how the world views social media forever. That is, if he can make it public before he becomes the seventh person silenced…

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New Realm March 2015 Now on Sale

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

New Realm magazine March 2015-smallI discovered New Realm last week, as I was preparing my update on magazine coverage here at Black Gate. It’s one of seven new monthly digital magazines launched at over the past few years; the others are eFiction (literary fiction), FIVE Poetry, Heater (mystery/thriller), Nebula Rift (science fiction), Romance Magazine (romance/adult), and Under the Bed (horror).

eFiction was the first; it was started by Doug Lance in his college apartment, and published its first issue April 1st, 2010. The others were added in 2012. The magazines rely on a community to produce each issue; volunteers read and vote on story submissions, and those with the most votes end up in each issue. It’s a daring and unusual approach to short fiction publishing.

Each issue of New Realm contains five stories; there’s no non-fiction mentioned, although the guidelines talk about book reviews and interviews. Looking over the 23 monthly issues published so far, I notice two things. First, the covers, by Doug Lance and a team of artists, are excellent, easily a notch or two above most other small press fantasy magazines. Second, I don’t recognize any of the contributors, which tells me the mag is looking far afield of the usual sources to bring new voices into the genre.

The March 2015 issue contains the usual five stories. Here’s the complete table of contents.

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Metal on Metal: Swords of Steel edited by D.M. Ritzlin

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_3111058UFfTOs2zWhen John O’Neill posted a few weeks ago about Swords of Steel, edited by D.M. Ritzlin, I knew I had to read it. The hook was simple: swords & sorcery stories written by members of metal bands. Tons of heavy bands — Uriah Heep, Iron Maiden, Manowar, Metallica, Megadeth, to name several — have drawn on the themes of heroism, monster-fighting, and sorcery for lyrics and look. Sometimes they lift stuff directly from favorite authors, like the UK band called Conan, or Texas band The Sword with the song “Beyond the Black River.”

When I read Tolkien I hear folk music in my head; when I read Karl Edward Wagner I hear Black Sabbath. So although I recognized the name of only one band represented in the collection, I was stoked to dive in. With an amazingly cool cover by Martin Hanford and its back cover claim that it’s “NOT FOR WIMPS!,” I was expecting great things from Swords of Steel. It came tantalizingly close.

Set in England during the reign of Elizabeth I,”Into the Dawn of Storms” by Byron A. Roberts (vocalist, Bal-Sagoth) gets the book off to a solid start. Captain Blackthorne is plagued with dreams of death and magic and seeks help from the legend-shrouded scholar, John Dee. It’s billed as the first chapter in an ongoing saga and I’ll be keeping my eyes open for Chapter Two.

From the author bio (and there’s a nice one included for everybody), I learned that Roberts has developed a mulitverse that forms the foundation of his band’s music. This story, with references to past exploits and multiple worlds, is set there as well.

“The Riddle Master” by Ernest Cunningham Hellwell (bassist, Hellwell) is one of the best stories in the collection but, sadly, not S&S at all. A nameless writer narrates his run-in and bet with a demon, made to ensure eternal fame.

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Art of the Genre: The Top 10 Campaign Adventure Module Series of All Time

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Did Bloodstone make the list?

Did Bloodstone make the list?

I’m not really sure when I played my first adventure module, although I think it was at my first D&D Club meeting in 8th Grade. My only clear memory of actual adventure, while I sat in that library on Wednesday evenings after school, was trying, and failing, to enter the Steading of the Hill Giant Chief. So, I assume that G1,2,3 [well, at least G1] was my first ever module, and I think that is interesting because it means my induction into gaming came from the adventures that define what campaign modules should be.

Having recently begun my own quest to create a campaign series of modules, I’ve decided to put my epic game of Risk with Ryan Harvey on hold, tell Kandi to hold all my calls, and pray that Goth Chick doesn’t show up unexpectedly wearing a corset and stockings that would most assuredly derail my Black Gate L.A. productivity for the day.

Why would I do this? Well, to create another Top 10 list of course! This time around, I’m not looking at the best modules of all time, but instead looking at the best/greatest campaign series of modules of all time. Yes, so without running my deadline further into the red, let me get started.

First and foremost, I’d like to say that this is my list, and therefore shouldn’t be judged as some kind of ‘true’ entity. My views are certainly colored by the experiences I’ve had with most of what you see below, and at one time in my life I’ve owned them all.

As for Bloodstone, I’ve played it as recently as 2007, but that said, I can neither confirm of deny the fact that it did or did not make the list. I do, however, hope you enjoy what I’ve created below and that it does bring back a few good memories to you all!

So, let’s get started, shall we?

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Adventures In Italy: Calvino’s Italian Folktales

Monday, March 30th, 2015 | Posted by markrigney

Blue FolktalesI grew up on Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm, and the myriad anthologies of Andrew Lang: The Blue Book Of Fairy Tales, The Brown Book Of Fairy Tales, The Red Book Of Fairy Tales, etc. Most of these were read aloud by my father, so I received them as part of humanity’s long oral tradition, a fact for which I am now very grateful. Aesop, too, arrived in my life as something overheard rather than read.

All of the above work shared a common heritage. In fact, prior to high school at least, they led me to believe that fairy tales were specific to Europe, something vaguely Nordic, and familiar to the degree that the characters within the stories were uniformly white and spoke English. Who knows when it finally occurred to me that these stories were translated, and that many had international sources that transcended culture, race, and geography.

By 1980, when Italo Calvino’s Italian Folktales finally arrived in an English-language edition (translated by George Martin), I was moving into different myths: Tolkien, certainly, but also the grittier, street-savvy story-telling of S.E. Hinton, Robert Cormier, and early Bruce Springsteen. The publication of Italian Folktales made not a ripple in my life. Indeed, I eventually read several other Calvino classics (If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler…, The Baron In the Trees, and The Non-Existent Knight) before realizing his omnibus folktales even existed.

It took me another ten years to order a copy and crack the covers, and ten more still to really delve into this enormous, 760 page trade paperback (Harcourt). What finally tipped me over the edge was the need for a new book to read to my adventure-obsessed youngest son.

At the outset, I admit to being worried that Calvino might not be a hit.

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Tell Me Why

Monday, March 30th, 2015 | Posted by Thomas Parker

The Dark Tower The Gunslinger-smallSomeone please tell me. Why? Why do we do this to ourselves, we devotees of science fiction, horror, and (especially) fantasy? What did we do to deserve this? What crime did we commit in some previous existence that we now have to expiate with such bitter tears? Judge, I deserve to know! I demand answers!

But… I see that you too have questions, like, “What the hell are you talking about?”

Let me explain. I just finished The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King. Seduced by the very cool Michael Whelan cover, I bought this damn thing in 1988 when it first came out and this week I figured it was finally time to read it.

There can be no rational explanation for my behavior, as the book is only the first of seven volumes that King wrote to tell this story (not counting a standalone book that he added after the main sequence was finished), and of course (of course!) they get longer and longer. This one was not much over 200 pages, but apparently King soon shook off his delirium and said “What am I doing? I’m STEPHEN FLIPPING KING!!!” and the succeeding volumes rapidly ballooned to 600 pages, 700… until the final book, 2004’s The Dark Tower, tipped the scales at almost 1,100 pages.

Considering that I’m still waiting on George Martin to put up or shut up before death (his or mine) intervenes, and finish A Song of Ice and Fire, vindicating all of us who’ve already hacked our way through over 4,000 pages of that cursed tale, starting another ambitious, multivolume phonebook series is sheer, unadulterated insanity.

Why? WHY?! Why do we do this to ourselves? People who read westerns or mysteries know no such madness. Oh, they have series all right, but not like we do. Manacling ourselves to extended epics that take up half their writers’ and readers’ lives, built out of mile-high stacks of ever-expanding, elephantine tomes – this seems to be the particular curse of fantastic fiction readers. (I won’t even go into the fact that the 1988 edition I read has been rendered obsolete by a revised edition that King published in 2003; it took him so long to write the sequence that he felt the style of the first book didn’t fit with the rest any more. Thanks Steve, but by God, this is the one I paid my $10.95 for twenty seven years ago, and this is the one I’m reading!)

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Goth Chick News Crypt Notes: It’s a Chia-Pocalypse

Monday, March 30th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Chia Zombies-smallYou may truly be unaware of this little tid bit, and no one would blame you if you were, but the Chia Pet has been around for almost 40 years.

Marketed by Joe Pedott’s California-based company Joseph Enterprises Inc., Pedott first learned about Chia Pets when he attended a housewares show in Chicago in 1977. But it wasn’t until that mind-worm of a catchphrase (“Ch-ch-ch-chia!”) and the release of the ram Chia Pet in 1982 that they became little terrracotta icons.

Chia Pets have managed to survive in exactly the same way that Pet Rocks and Beenie Babies have not. Maybe part of the reason for their longevity is that Chia Pets have kept pace with pop culture, with Chias hitting the market depicting everything from Disney characters to Looney-Tunes, The Simpsons to SpongeBob and recently, Duck Dynasty and President Obama.

So I considered it complete validation of my assertion that zombies are the current “it” monster — successfully unseating angsty, flannel-wearing vampires — when a Chia Zombie arrived at my door, direct from none other than Joseph Enterprises themselves.

You won’t see Chia Zombies around until fall, since Chias are traditionally only on store shelves for the holiday buying season, but I did find them on Amazon.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Terry Pratchett’s ‘City Watch’

Monday, March 30th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

CityWatch_GuardsCoverAs readers of this column are certainly aware, I’m quite the fan of detective and private eye novels. Beyond just the guy that the whole thing is name after. As I mentioned in last week’s post on Isaac Asimov’s Caves of Steel, I’ve made several posts about the genre.

Related yet distinct is the police procedural (though some stories, like the aforementioned Caves, fit in both genres). As you can guess from the name, these focus on police officers, rather than private operatives. They are all over television, such as Castle, CSI (insert name here), Hill Street Blues, and brand new shows like Battle Creek. From Dragnet and The Streets of San Francisco to Hawaii Five O (which lasted 12 seasons before coming back in its current incarnation).

The literary police procedural, while popular, has a lower profile than its television version and is definitely overshadowed by the private eye story.

Evan Hunter (better known as Ed McBain), who I consider THE master of the mystery short story, wrote more tales of New York’s 87th Precinct than I can count: and I can count to one, two, three, many (that’s a Terry Pratchett joke). Probably my favorite straight police procedurals are Tony Hillerman’s novels about The Navajo Tribal Police. The subject of a future post, they are superb police mysteries, set in the Indian reservation lands of the Four Corners.

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New Treasures: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie and Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Sunday, March 29th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl-smallThe Haunting of Sunshine Girl is a popular YouTube web series starring Paige McKenzie, created by Nick Hagen and Mercedes Rose. The series focuses of 16-year old Sunshine following her move to Washington state from Texas with her mother, as she enters a new school, meets new friends (and boys)… and discovers her hew house is haunted by a host of malevolent spirits.

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl is the first book based on the web serial, and it has received a lot of attention all on its own. Written by star Paige McKenzie and author Alyssa B. Sheinmel (Second Star, The Beautiful Between), it is the opening book in a promising horror series aimed at young adults.

Shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Sunshine Griffith and her mother Kat move from sunny Austin, Texas, to the rain-drenched town of Ridgemont, Washington. Though Sunshine is adopted, she and her mother have always been close, sharing a special bond filled with laughter and inside jokes. But from the moment they arrive, Sunshine feels her world darken with an eeriness she cannot place. And even if Kat doesn’t recognize it, Sunshine knows that something about their new house is just … creepy.

In the days that follow, things only get stranger. Sunshine is followed around the house by an icy breeze, phantom wind slams her bedroom door shut, and eventually, the laughter Sunshine hears on her first night evolves into sobs. She can hardly believe it, but as the spirits haunting her house become more frightening — and it becomes clear that Kat is in danger — Sunshine must accept what she is, pass the test before her, and save her mother from a fate worse than death.

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl was published by Weinstein Books on March 24, 2015. It is 304 pages, priced at $16 in hardcover and $9.99 for the digital edition. Check out the YouTube series here.

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