See the BBC Trailer for Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Susanna Clarke’s debut novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004) won both the Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award, and became a New York Times bestseller. The BBC announced they were adapting the book as a seven-part series staring Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan, Filth) as Mr Norrell, and Bertie Carvel (Restless, Matilda) as Jonathan Strange late last year.

The series is set at the beginning of the 19th-century, in an England where public belief in magic has begun to die off. The reclusive Mr Norrell stuns the city of York when he causes the statues of York Cathedral to speak and move. With a little persuasion and help from his man of business Childermass (Enzo Cilenti), he goes to London to help the government in the war against Napoleon. It is there Norrell summons a fairy (Marc Warren) to bring Lady Pole (Alice Englert) back from the dead, a decision that has dark consequences…

The series begins broadcasting on BBC One on May 1st. It will air in Canada on Space, and in the United States on BBC America.


New Treasures: Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries. and Rogues, edited by J.M. Martin

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Blackguards Tales of Assassins Mercenaries and Rogues-smallI first heard about the massive Blackguards anthology, which showcases tales of thieves, rogues and assassins, when Laura Resnick wrote a guest post for us last year, “Living Outside Society’s Rules,” talking about her short story “Friendship,” set in the world of her Silerian trilogy and taking place a few years before the first book, In Legend Born.

I was intrigued… but since then I’ve learned that Blackguards contains stories set in over two dozen fantasy worlds, from writers like Mark Lawrence, Carol Berg, Mark Smylie, Django Wexler, Peter Orullian, and many, many more. This is an unprecedented opportunity to sample some of the most popular and innovative fantasy series on the market today, all in one place. Blackguards was edited by J.M. Martin and published this week by Ragnarok Publications. If you’re at all interested in modern fantasy, this volume is an incredible bargain.

Whether by coin or by blood… YOU WILL PAY.

A fantasy anthology featuring the deadly, the worldly, and the sneaky. Blackguards consists mainly of stories in established series, and the authors range from wildly successful indie authors to New York Times bestsellers. Featuring tales set in the worlds of Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria, David Dalglish’s Dezrel, Mark Lawrence’s The Broken Empire, Lian Hearn’s Tales of the Otori, Mark Smylie’s Sword and Barrow, Anthony Ryan’s Raven’s Shadow, Shawn Speakman’s Chronicles of Annwn, Carol Berg’s Sanctuary, James A. Moore’s Seven Forges, Django Wexler’s Shadow Campaigns, Laura Resnick’s Silerian Trilogy, Peter Orullian’s Vault of Heaven, Kenny Soward’s GnomeSaga, Paul S. Kemp’s Egil and Nix, and more! If you enjoy roguish tales of scoundrels and ne’er-do-wells, many of them set in established worlds, Blackguards is for you!

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March Short Story Roundup

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_2831152onP2pF5uThere are a whole lot of new-to-me goings on out there in the world of magazines and short fiction (see John O’Neill’s recent posts). So much so that I’m a little behind this month trying to catch up. I haven’t gotten to any of Beneath Ceaseless Skies most recent issues yet.

From a swords & sorcery perspective, the biggest — and potentially most interesting — new publication out there is Grimdark Magazine. The first issue, completely unbeknownst to me, appeared last fall. The third issue hit the virtual newsstand on March 25. Like the title says, it’s filled with grim and dark stuff.

The term grimdark, lifted from Warhammer 40K, was originally one of opprobrium for a certain type of fantasy, and was later taken up as a badge of honor by its creators. For those who managed to miss all the talk about the subject a few years back, here’s a quick definition: grimdark fantasy is nihlistic/realistic storytelling that moves the genre forward/destroys the genre, and features characters with realistic motives/who are utterly vile. Whether you like or hate the fiction coming out under the rubric, Grimdark Magazine, by its very nature, is going to feature S&S.

Each issue is packed with original stories, interviews with some of grimdark’s leading lights, and reviews. The magazine has a definite point of view as stated by editor Adrian Collins in the first issue:

Grimdark Magazine started out as the identification of a gap in the niche ezine market coupled with an obsession with grim stories told in a dark world by morally ambiguous protagonists.

As far as I’m concerned, grimdark is just another marketing term, like splatterpunk was for supposedly extra-bloody horror back in the mid-1980s. As much as some writers and fans have claimed that grimdark is both about introducing more realism as well as being a revolt against black-and-white morality that they say saturates much fantasy, I don’t think it’s all that different from lots of what’s gone before (just check out any of Karl Edward Wagner or Michael Moorcock’s fantasies).

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Adventures In Near-Future Sci-Fi: Black Mirror

Monday, April 27th, 2015 | Posted by markrigney

Black Mirror White BearI don’t watch television. Or not, let’s say, broadcast television. Since the first X-Files video tape showed up, I have, instead, binge-watched episodic TV in irregular, spasmodic doses via VHS, DVD, and Netflix. I watch with my wife, and we’re not (to the shows) faithful: if a particular series bores us, we move on. Even Breaking Bad, after three seasons, felt like a joke gone on too long.

But Black Mirror. Holy cats!

It’s the best sci-fi you’ve never heard of.

A British show made for Channel Four, Black Mirror is the brainchild of one Charlie Brooker — whom you haven’t heard of, either. The series aired in the UK from 2011 through 2013. Based on that time span, you’d think it was a fabulous success spanning dozens of episodes. Only half true. Black Mirror consists of six shows total (plus a 2014 “Christmas Special,” which I have yet to see), and each is self-contained, a hermetic “What If?” often compared to Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone. The reference is not especially apt, but like Velcro and old chewing gum, it’s a label that seems to have stuck.

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Fantasy Scroll Magazine 6 Now Available

Monday, April 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Fantasy Scroll Magazine 6-smallThe sixth issue of the online-only Fantasy Scroll Magazine is now available.

Fantasy Scroll was launched with a Kickstarter campaign on April 23, 2014. It raised enough to fund a full year (four issues); all four issues were released last year, as promised. Since then it’s been continuing nicely under its own steam. It has supported itself by selling merchandise, launching a mobile app, soliciting donations — and through a Starlight Patrol of enthusiastic backers and supporters at Patreon who help keep the magazine going.

The previous issue was cover-dated February 2015; this one is April 2015. It seems to have switched to bi-monthly publication, which is great news.

Fantasy Scroll has published original short fiction by Sarah Avery, Ken Liu, Mike Resnick, Piers Anthony, Cat Rambo, Rachel Pollack, and many others. The magazine is edited by Iulian Ionescu, Frederick Doot, and Michelle Muller. It contains all kinds of fantastic literature, including science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal short-fiction.

Issue #6 includes nine short stories from Robert Reed, Ian Creasy, Beth Cato, and others, plus interviews and a handful of book and film reviews.

In his editorial, Iulian Ionescu reports that the magazine is experimenting with publishing longer stories (novelettes) for the first time.

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How I Discovered David Drake by Accident: Confusion, Redliners, and Why I’m Glad I Made a Mistake

Monday, April 27th, 2015 | Posted by Nick Ozment

david-drake

David Drake

Back in 2007, when I was getting ready to attend my first World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, New York, I was trying to remember a book.

I’d read it years earlier: a science-fiction thriller about colonists who unwisely set down on an alien planet with an environment so hostile that their top high-tech special forces are about as equipped to handle it as the Kardashian sisters if they were dropped onto the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. The planet is lush, tropical: at first blush very inviting, having all the necessary elements for survival. Only one problem: evolution on this planet has followed a very lethal trajectory, developing predators that would make our own Earthly alpha predators – tigers, sharks – seem like domesticated pets in comparison. The bottom of the food chain on this planet would eat the top of our food chain for a quick snack. A seemingly innocuous, pretty flower is likely concealing fly-trap jaws full of acid. If you get ten yards in this jungle environment still in possession of most of your limbs, you count your lucky stars that you’re still alive.

So. What was that book? Obviously, I turned to Google. And engaged in a pursuit most of us have at one time or another: search for a book without knowing the title or the author, hoping that I could locate the elusive text with the right combination of key words.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Richard Diamond, Private Eye

Monday, April 27th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Diamond_PowellA topic that I’ve long intended to visit is that of old time radio shows. Of course, it’s no surprise that Sherlock Holmes has been a popular subject for radio dramas. Arthur Wontner (who I’m sure you read about here) and William Gillette (again, here…) reprised their film roles for radio.

Richard Gordon, John Stanley and Richard Hobbs had long runs as Holmes. And of course, the most popular film Holmes, Basil Rathbone, had a long-running serial with his Watson, Nigel Bruce.

More recently, Clive Merrison starred in the entire Canon (and more) for BBC Radio. Also, Jim French’s Imagination Theater features new Holmes radio dramas (along with several other characters). I’ll certainly be writing about those two.

In the forties and fifties, detectives, newspaper reporters and even insurance investigators were popular heroes for radio dramas. Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, The Fat Man (ostensibly created by Dashiell Hammett) and Johnny Dollar were some of the radio stars of the day. One of the most fun was Richard Diamond, Private Detective.

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A Shout-out Over Innsmouth

Sunday, April 26th, 2015 | Posted by Jackson Kuhl

Innsmouth Olde AleNarragansett Beer has released the second offering in their Lovecraft Series of craft beers, Innsmouth Olde Ale.

When I first read it, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” was not among my favorite H.P. Lovecraft stories; I was drawn to more cosmic works like “The Whisperer in Darkness” and “The Shadow Out of Time.” But “Innsmouth” has grown on me over the years, in part because I can better appreciate its sophistication and in part because technology has evolved to the point where the story is as much prescience as fantasy horror. Ken Hite’s discussion of Robert M. Price’s essay prefacing The Innsmouth Cycle made me realize the story is more than just a guy being chased by a bunch of inbred townies:

Among other things, Price makes the point that Obed Marsh is the prophet of a Cargo Cult, one which implicitly casts Lovecraft’s New England as a primitive backwater. … Lovecraft’s story brilliantly inverts the colonialist understanding of the Cargo Cult by demonstrating that the Other (the non-white, the “Kanak,” the foreign) is the far more sophisticated myth, one with a better claim both on the past and the future than white Massachusetts Protestant Christianity.

If you haven’t read the story, then spoilers crawlin’ an’ bleatin’ an’ barkin’ an’ hoppin’ after the jump!

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Future Treasures: When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner

Sunday, April 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

When the Heavens Fall-smallThere are times when you want something light and quick to read… and then there are times when you want to sink your teeth into an epic packed with heroes, meddling gods, necromancers, empires, and darkest intrigue. If the latter appeals to you, Marc Turner’s debut fantasy When the Heavens Fall, which goes on sale in three weeks, might be just what you’re looking for.

If you pick a fight with Shroud, Lord of the Dead, you had better ensure your victory, else death will mark only the beginning of your suffering.

A book giving its wielder power over the dead has been stolen from a fellowship of mages that has kept the powerful relic dormant for centuries. The thief, a crafty, power-hungry necromancer, intends to use the Book of Lost Souls to resurrect an ancient race and challenge Shroud for dominion of the underworld. Shroud counters by sending his most formidable servants to seize the artifact at all cost.

However, the god is not the only one interested in the Book, and a host of other forces converge, drawn by the powerful magic that has been unleashed. Among them is a reluctant Guardian who is commissioned by the Emperor to find the stolen Book, a troubled prince who battles enemies both personal and political, and a young girl of great power, whose past uniquely prepares her for an encounter with Shroud. The greatest threat to each of their quests lies not in the horror of an undead army but in the risk of betrayal from those closest to them. Each of their decisions comes at a personal cost and will not only affect them, but also determine the fate of their entire empire.

The first of an epic swords & sorcery fantasy series, Marc Turner’s When the Heavens Fall features gritty characters, deadly magic, and meddlesome gods.

When the Heavens Fall is Book One of The Chronicles of the Exile, and will be published by Tor Books on May 19, 2015. It is 544 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover, and $14.99 for the digital edition. No word on the cover artist.


Collecting Lovecraft, Part III: The Arkham Hardcovers

Sunday, April 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Dunwich Horror and Others Lee Brown Coye 1963-small At the Mountains of Madness Arkham House Lee Brown Coye 1964-small Dagon and Other Macabre Tales Lee Brown Coye 1965-small The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions 1970-small

[Click any of the images for bigger versions.]

In Part I of this series, I looked at the Ballantine paperbacks edited by August Derleth and published by arrangement with Arkham House in the early 70s. In Part II, we examined the Lancer and Ballantine paperbacks of the late 60s and early 70s. In Part III, I want to showcase the volumes that most serious Lovecraft collectors start with — the Arkham House collected works, published in three volumes: The Dunwich Horror and Others, At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels, and Dagon and Other Macabre Tales, plus a collection of Lovecraft’s revisions, those tales he re-wrote for various clients to make them acceptable for Weird Tales, The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions.

Now I want to start off by saying that, while these four books are some of the most important in 20th Century Horror — and, indeed, they form the cornerstone of any serious horror collection — they still represent a pretty hinky way to gather Lovecraft’s fiction. Why? The Dunwich Horror is subtitled “The Best of H.P. Lovecraft.” At the Mountains of Madness collects his longer tales (At the Mountains of Madness, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, as well as the rest of the Randolph Carter stories.) Which leaves Dagon with the unofficial subtitle, All the Stuff That’s Not Lovecraft’s Best. Seems a strange way to assemble a third volume, that’s all I’m saying.

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