Book Clubs. No, I Said BOOK Clubs. Not The Other Kind

Friday, March 27th, 2015 | Posted by Violette Malan

Station ElevenAre there many of you out there who are members of books clubs? I have other questions, but my first is: Why?

I know why I joined one, and, frankly, I’m trying to compare my own experiences to those of others, see if I can find some common ground. Answer some questions that have popped up over the last few months. Like, do men join book clubs? Do all clubs read the same kinds of books?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start with why I joined a book club in the first place. In a way, it’s because I both read too much, and not enough. As a fantasy writer, my percentages probably break down something like this: 40% fantasy; 20% SF; 20% crime and mystery; 20% research and related materials (such as posts in Black Gate magazine).

That’s probably not entirely accurate, but it’s close enough to have made me feel that my reading was getting narrower than it has been in the past; maybe I was getting a little too comfortable and stuck in my ways, maybe I needed to shake things up. I think I was looking for the type of experience that’s often found in university and college, where there’s so much required reading, and so much that’s possibly outside of the student’s comfort zone.

Keeping in mind that outside of one’s comfort zone is a place writers often need to be.

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Goth Chick News: A Horror Convention Starring Bud Bundy? Read On…

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Norman Reedus at Wizard World’s Fan Fest

Norman Reedus at Wizard World’s Fan Fest

If you’re the kind of person who gets misty-eyed with nostalgia when you hear sitcom titles like Growing Pains, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Married With Children, then Wizard World’s Fan Fest which took place March 7-8 in Chicago would have been just the place for you.

And if you’re considering possible explanations for how the heck I ended up there (dragging BG photog Chris Z along for fun), the answer is no – I did not have a fever or a head injury.

There is a darn good explanation actually.

Fan Fest came to be when Bruce Campbell, the cult-favorite TV and movie actor, had to cancel his appearance at the Bruce Campbell Horror Fest because of a television commitment. The horror fest was scheduled to take place that weekend and Goth Chick News had been invited to attend.

“We knew we couldn’t continue to hold the Bruce Campbell Horror Fest without Bruce Campbell!” said Jerry Milani of Wizard Entertainment. “But it also seemed a shame to let the weekend go to waste, since we already had the date and the venue.”

And so, the idea of Fan Fest was born. Organizers quickly secured a lineup of actors along with celebrities from the comic-book and pro-wrestling worlds. (The Bruce Campbell event has been rescheduled to take place in August with Wizard World’s Chicago Comic Con.)

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Apex Magazine #70 Now on Sale

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Apex Magazine 70 March 2015-smallWe’ve covered Apex Magazine in the past, but not with any real thoroughness. But as I promised in my recent article on Expanding Our Magazine Coverage, I hope to be a bit more diligent reporting on the top fantasy magazines from now on.

Apex Magazine is a monthly science fiction, fantasy, and horror publication featuring original short stories, poetry and non-fiction. It is edited by Jason Sizemore and released the first Tuesday of every month. It has been publishing since 2005, and for a while was known as Apex Digest. In 2008 it shifted to an online format, publishing content for free on its website. Previous editors include Catherynne M. Valente (issues 15-29) and Lynne M. Thomas (30 – 55). In 2012, it was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine.

This issue features fiction from Nina Kiriki Hoffman and Thoraiya Dyer, poetry from Jennifer Ironside and Beth Cato, interviews with Damien Angelica Walters and cover artist Lucas de Alcântara, short fiction reviews, a podcast (“Houdini’s Heart” by Thoraiya Dyer), and much more.


“Houdini’s Heart” by Thoraiya Dyer
“Charaid Dreams” by Rati Mehrotra
“A Beautiful Memory” by Shannon Peavey
“Where I’m Bound” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
“Sing Me Your Scars” by Damien Angelica Walters
“Seed” by Shanna Germain (eBook/subscriber exclusive)

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Launching in June: The Year’s Best Military SF and Space Opera edited by David Afsharirad

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Year's Best Military SF and Space Opera-smallI count no less than nine Best New SF, Fantasy and Horror volumes on the market today. We’ve already covered four of the more interesting titles coming later this year:

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Nine, edited by Jonathan Strahan (May 12)
The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2015, edited by Paula Guran (June 24)
The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015, edited by John Joseph Adams and Joe Hill (October 6)
Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume Two, edited by Kathe Koja (October)

and I’ll be reporting on some of the others in the coming weeks.

Still, I was intrigued to see Baen is launching a brand new volume with a very specific focus early this summer. The Year’s Best Military SF and Space Opera will be edited by David Afsharirad, and promises to be the first of its kind — a Best of the Year volume exclusively devoted to military and adventure SF tales. I enjoy adventure SF, and I especially enjoy Space Opera with pulp sensibilities. And that seems to be exactly what this volume has in mind, going by the blurb.

With an introduction by best-selling military science fiction author David Drake and selected by editor David Afsharirad from the top short story markets in the field, here are the most thrilling, pulse-pounding, and thought-provoking stories of the past year. Stories of future military men and women, space opera on a grand scale, and edge-of-your-seat adventure tales in the pulp tradition, from giants of the genre to brilliant up-and-comers.

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Gen Con Threatens to Leave Indiana Over Religious Freedom Bill

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Gen Con logo-smallGen Con has threatened to move out of Indiana if Republican Governor Mike Pence signs a controversial anti-gay law into effect.

Gen Con, the largest gaming convention in North America, began in Gary Gygax’s home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, in 1967; from 1985 to 2002 it was held in Milwaukee, and in 2003 it moved to its current home in Indianapolis, Indiana. Attendance last year was more than 56,000, making it the largest convention of any kind in the state.

The bill in question, Senate Bill 101 (SB101), has already passed the state legislature and is expected to be signed by Pence soon. It allows business owners to refuse to serve same-sex couples if they have religious objections, in the same manner that white business owners once were legally permitted to refuse to serve black customers in many southern states.

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Saying Goodbye to Those We Never Quite Knew

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

weefreeThe death of Sir Terry Pratchett hit me hard.

It’s a strange thing, to mourn a man you’ve never met in person, but in truth he’s had more impact on my life than many people I’ve spent a lot more time with.

My first encounter with him was in 1995. I went to a small high school called the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics and the Humanities (along with fellow Black Gate blogger Andrew Zimmerman Jones), and my group of friends were all obsessed with Sandman. This was the final year of its regular publication, and we had weekly pilgrimages down to the comic shop to see if the latest issue was in. Someone showed up in the lounge one day with a copy of Good Omens and said “The guy who writes Sandman wrote this too! With some other guy.”

Later, when I was a practicing witch (I’ve led an interesting life. Sometimes I wonder what I’ll tell the children.) the coven I was a member of owed more to Terry Pratchett than to, say, Starhawk. Granny Weatherwax was our patron saint, and the kind of magic I learned had more to do with her than any other twentieth century influence.

In short, since I was sixteen, Pratchett has been one of the languages I spoke. In the way of all literate societies, quotes and reference makes up a large portion of our patois. Pratchett was as much a part of our cant as Latin derived terminology, and there is no way on earth you can convince me that scientists won’t eventually find a way to quantify Narrativium.

Of course, he wasn’t the only author or creator to fill that space in my life.

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What Are the Best Star Trek Original Series Episodes for Kids?

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


When I’m not writing for all you fine folks, I’m generally hanging out with my nine-year-old son, a budding engineer and scientist. If you have an intellectually curious child it’s best to feed their head, so we give him a steady diet of Lego Tech sets, electronics kits, and educational shows.

(Thank you, National Geographic, for getting my kid to actually ask to see documentaries on Saturday mornings.)

As we all know, there’s nothing better for a young mind than some good science fiction, so we’ve been watching Original Series Star Trek. The blend of action, humor, science, sociology, and good old silliness is what makes the program a classic. It’s hard to pick which episodes are the most fun for kids, so I gathered a panel of experts (i.e., my Facebook friends) and asked them. It turns out many parents agree on the best episodes.

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Future Treasures: The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Grace of Kings-smallSaga Press is the brand new fantasy and science fiction imprint of Simon & Schuster. I met Navah Wolfe, the editor for Saga Press, at the World Fantasy convention last November, and she really impressed me with her enthusiasm and knowledge of the field.

Their first book, Ken Liu’s debut novel The Grace of Kings, hits the stands in two weeks, and it looks like a major new heroic fantasy. In his short career Liu has won the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards for his short fiction, and — based on the pre-release buzz — it seems apparent his first novel will make a major splash.

As the Empire Falls, A War Will Consume All in the Name of Justice.

The archipelago of Dara was once divided into seven kingdoms, with shifting alliances and constant battles — a tempest of diverse dialects and cultures. When a relentless king united the seven lands into one empire, some thought it would bring peace, an end to the turmoil. Instead, it brought stagnation and suffering, the anger of the gods, and, finally, a rebellion.

Kuni Garu is a wily bandit who is more concerned with finding his next drink and being well-liked than with the affairs of the empire, until he meets his match: Jia. This free-spirited daughter of a well-regarded family has a prophetic vision about Kuni that transcends his slovenly beginnings: He has greatness within him and may be the key to freeing Dara from a cruel despot. Driven by Jia’s love and touched by the grace of the common people, Kuni sets out on an unlikely path to heroism — and perhaps a daring wager against the gods.

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Two Great Books by Poul Anderson: The High Crusade and The Golden Slave

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 | Posted by Gabe Dybing

The High Crusade Poul Anderson-smallIf Three Hearts and Three Lions owes something to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, then so does The High Crusade. But The High Crusade inverts Mark Twain’s concept. This book isn’t written by a modern who time traveled to Arthur’s court, but rather is written by a medieval scribe who witnessed Sir Roger Baron de Tourneville and his knights and court invade an alien spaceship and end up using it to conquer a major portion of interstellar Space. The bookends are provided by a space captain of Earth’s future space age, who hardly can believe, by reading the contained epistle, that humans from the Middle Ages have been in space for some time now and even have established a Holy Galactic Empire. Add to this, at the plot’s center, a courtly betrayal through a love triangle much like that of Arthur’s, Guinevere’s and Lancelot’s.

This book is really good. It’s a fast, enjoyable read. It was serialized originally in Astounding magazine as that publication was changing its name to Analog. When the book was published as a novel, it lost out on a 1961 Hugo to Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz. I find it interesting that Miller’s work, along with Anderson’s The High Crusade, limned medieval perspectives on futuristic landscapes. Perhaps this was the zeitgeist of the time. I read Baen’s edition of The High Crusade, which begins with a number of appreciations. This edition also contains a coda in the form of a short story called “Quest”, which takes place in the universe of The High Crusade. If the novel is a take on the Arthurian love triangle, then this story is a take on Galahad’s quest for the holy grail.

Also really good is what Wikipedia calls a historical novel and what Zebra, one publisher, calls heroic fantasy, though I certainly see no reason to quibble about terms of genre, and I’m guessing that terms were not so rigid in 1960 (or even in 1980, which is the date of the revised Zebra edition). I am talking about Poul Anderson’s The Golden Slave.

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Gygax Magazine #5 Now Available

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Gygax Magazine 5-smallThe last time I visited a local gaming shop (the excellent Games Plus in Mount Prospect, IL), I noticed that the latest issue of Gygax magazine had hit the stands. Apparently it had been out for several weeks… obviously, I need to get to the game store more often.

Well, better late than never. As usual, this issue comes packed with lots of great articles, including Leomund’s Secure Shelter by Lenard Lakofka, Munchkin Tips & Tricks by Andrew Hackard, Bottom of the Pile by Tim Kask, and Zen and the Art of Game Mastery by Michael E. Shea. There’s also a One Page Dungeon by Will Doyle, with commentary by Gygax editor Jayson Elliot.

Every issue of Gygax has a fold-out adventure, and this time it’s Fox Hunt, an adventure for the Godlike RPG by Shane Ivey. Comics this issue include Full Frontal Nerdity by Aaron Williams, and Order of the Stick by Rich Burlew.

We last covered Gygax magazine with issue #4, released last summer. It’s officially a quarterly, but realistically TSR produces roughly two issues/year, and this one reportedly shipped last month.

Gygax #5 is edited by Jayson Elliot and published by TSR. It is 68 pages, priced at $8.95 for the print edition, or $4.99 for a watermarked PDF available through DriveThruRPG. Cover art by Walter Velez. A one year subscription (4 issues) is $35. Order copies directly from the website.

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