Vintage Treasures: The Torin Trilogy by Cherry Wilder

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Cherry Wilder The Luck of Brin's Five-small Cherry Wilder The Nearest Fire-small Cherry Wilder The Tapestry Warriors-small

Cherry Wilder had a relatively short career as fantasy writers go. Her first novel was The Luck of Brin’s Five (1977), which won the 1978 Ditmar Award for Best Australian Science Fiction Novel, and was the first novel in The Torin Trilogy. She produced two other series, The Rulers of Hylor (four novels, published between 1984 and 2004) and two novels in the Rhomary Land series (in 1986 and 1996), several short stores, and that was it. She died in 2002.

Still, she is very fondly remembered as one of the shining lights of 80s fantasy. Although The Torin Trilogy has all the trappings of fantasy — including sorcerers, far-flung kingdoms, and mystical powers — at heart it’s actually science fiction. It’s the tale of Scott Gale, a space traveler from Earth who finds himself shipwrecked on the world of Torin, where he’s accepted as a family member by Brin’s Five. Before long he finds himself embroiled in a desperate battle against the feared man who rules much of the land, Strangler Tiath Pentroy.

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The Genre Game

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Newton

Dostoyevsky comicsLike many people, I have mixed feelings about genres – those pesky labels we use to sift and sort writing into neat little silos, isolated and bubbling away in incestuous fermentation. Both as a reader and a writer, I’ve never seen the world that way.

In some ways, thinking about genre reminds me of the “Honk if Pluto is a planet” campaign. For some, it’s a major, emotive issue if Pluto is categorized as a “planet”, or a “dwarf planet”, or a “Kuiper Belt object”, or something else entirely. But, ultimately, the designation affects nothing outside the minds of men: Pluto continues in its long, elliptical orbit, completely oblivious to the impassioned squirmings of one subgroup of carbon-based lifeforms on the third planet; it’s still beautiful, cold, distant, mysterious, regardless of the “planetary genre” we decide, in our assumed omnipotence, to place it in. It ain’t gonna vanish if we all look the other way.

So, genre. Is it hard science-fiction? Is it cyberpunk? Is it space opera? Dystopian? Maybe it’s all four? Or more? It’s a truism, but every written work stands on its own merits. You can sell it at Borders, Barnes and Noble, or Walmart; you can call it dark fantasy, low fantasy, heroic fantasy, swords and sorcery: it’s still the same book, even if the observers and surroundings differ. Genre is something which shelf-stackers and catalogue creators love – it neatly segments the literary world into easy-to-digest packets, with no ambiguity, a black-and-white demarcation of the soul. Like people trying to get their five pieces of fruit a day, it seems to make sense – until people start fighting over what a “piece of fruit” really is. Oranges – whole or segmented? Melons? How big’s a slice?

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Fantasia Diary 2015, Day 5: Teana: 10000 Years Later, Crimson Whale, and The Shamer’s Daughter

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Teana: 10000 Years LaterOne of the things people don’t tell you about getting older is that the more books you read and movies you see, the more likely you are to see those stories echoed in other stories. The new books and movies you come across remind to you of the older books and movies you already know. Sometimes there’s good reason for that, as artists try to engage in a dialogue with their forebears. Sometimes you’re just seeing things.

Saturday, July 25, was an interesting series of riddles for me at the Fantasia Festival. I saw three movies that day. Teana: 10000 Years Later is a high science-fantasy 3D CGI animated film from China. Crimson Whale is a traditionally-animated post-apocalypse fable from South Korea. And Denmark’s The Shamer’s Daughter is a live-action adaptation of the first volume of a Danish YA high fantasy. I enjoyed all of them, and saw what seemed to be nods to familiar works within each — though in some cases that might be my imagination running away with me.

Let’s start with Teana (AKA 10000 Years Later, originally Yi wan nian yi hou), which screened at the large Hall Theatre. It’s one of the most visually spectacular movies I’ve seen at Fantasia. Bursting with colour and invention, it moves quickly, introduces a ton of characters, creates a world, and tells an epic story with some very pointed social commentary. I’ve seen some mention online that it’s based on a Tibetan fable, but can find no more specific information than that. Personally, I found myself strongly reminded of The Lord of the Rings, as the film seemed to refer to Tolkien while also inverting certain aspects of his story.

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New Treasures: No One Gets Out Alive by Adam Nevill

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

No One Gets Out Alive-smallBritish horror writer Adam Nevill has been winning over fans here in the US, with books like Last Days and The House of Small Shadows (which Goth Chick reviewed for us here). His latest novel, No One Gets Out Alive, looks like it will continue that trend nicely. It was recently released in hardcover by St. Martin’s Press, and has just been nominated for a 2015 British Fantasy Award.

When Stephanie moves to the notoriously cheap Perry Bar neighborhood of Birmingham, she’s just happy to find an affordable room for rent that’s large enough not to deserve her previous room’s nickname, “the cell.” The eccentric — albeit slightly overly-friendly — landlord seems nice and welcoming enough, the ceilings are high, and all of the other tenants are also girls. Things aren’t great, but they’re stable. Or at least that’s what she tells herself when she impulsively hands over enough money to cover the first month’s rent and decides to give it a go.

But soon after she becomes uneasy about her rash decision. She hears things in the night. Feels them. Things… or people… who aren’t there in the light. Who couldn’t be there, because after-all, her door is locked every night, and the key is still in place in the morning. Concern soon turns to terror when the voices she hears and presence she feels each night become hostile. It’s clear that something very bad has happened in this house. And something even worse is happening now. Stephanie has to find a way out, before whatever’s going on in the house finds her first.

No One Gets Out Alive was published by St. Martin’s Press on April 28. It is 640 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover and $14.99 for the digital edition.

See all of our recent New Treasures here.


NK Jemisin Profiled at The Guardian

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

NK JemisinNK Jemisin is one of the finest new writers to arrive on the fantasy scene in the last decade. Her new novel The Fifth Season will be published by Orbit next month, and yesterday the UK newspaper The Guardian posted an intriguing profile and interview with the author, in which she addresses, among other things, the ongoing Sad Puppy debate.

Jemisin is on the phone from her not-very-epic day job as a university administrator in New York. When she gets off the phone, she says, she’s going to bike to a coffee shop to write her thousand words for the day, a pace that allows her to finish about a novel a year…

“As a black woman,” Jemisin tells me, “I have no particular interest in maintaining the status quo. Why would I? The status quo is harmful, the status quo is significantly racist and sexist and a whole bunch of other things that I think need to change. With epic fantasy there is a tendency for it to be quintessentially conservative, in that its job is to restore what is perceived to be out of whack…”

Earlier this year, a number of writers and sci-fi industry insiders began to organise and protest against the fact that nominees for the Hugo awards have become substantially less white and less male… Jemisin is obviously no fan of the Puppies, but she sees a positive side effect from their crusade. “What I find heartening,” she said, “is the sheer amount of laughter the Puppies are engendering as they demand that what they call ‘affirmative action’ works no longer be considered, but really at the same time, they’re putting only their own friends on the ballot. So they’re actually asking for their form of affirmative action to replace what they think of as affirmative action. And everyone is realising it. People are looking at these authors [like Vox Day and Puppies leader Brad Torgerson], who they once took seriously, and now just pointing and laughing.”

Read the complete article here.


Black Static #47 Now on Sale

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

Black Static 47-smallI’m going to have to find a more reliable source for my newsstand copies of Black Static. It takes a little effort to find a copy on the shelves here in Chicago — but that effort is definitely worth it.

Issue #47 is cover-dated July/August, and contains six stories:

“On the Road with the American Dead” by James Van Pelt
“All the Day You’ll Have Good Luck” by Kate Jonez
“Razorshins” by John Connolly
“The Devil’s Hands” by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
“When the Devil’s Driving” by Ray Cluley
“A Case Study in Natural Selection and How it Applies to Love” by Eric J. Guignard

The magazine’s regular columns include Coffinmaker’s Blues by Stephen Volk and Notes From the Borderland by Lynda E. Rucker.

The magazine also offers two terrific review columns: Blood Spectrum by Tony Lee (DVD/Blu-ray reviews); and Case Notes by Peter Tennant (book reviews). I’m not sure why so many other magazines have a hard time doing highly visual review columns, with book covers, movie stills, and behind-the-scenes pics. Just open up a single issue of Black Static (or its sister magazine, Interzone), and you’ll see how it’s done.

Issue 47 is nearly 100 pages and comes packed with new dark fantasy and horror, and top-notch art. The front and back cover art is by Richard Wagner.

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The Stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and RiffTrax Mark a Milestone

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

mst3kHuluWhen you watch a film synched up to RiffTrax, do you still picture the silhouettes of wisecracking ‘bots Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot in the little Satellite-of-Love screening room of your mind?

And if not a smidgen of that question made sense to you, this post probably is one you can skip (unless you’re a completist, and have thus far read every Black Gate post to date. In which case, we should probably know who you are. Has anyone read every single BG blog all the way back to day one?).

This report goes out to fellow Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) fans out there in the blogosphere. On July 9 of this year, on special assignment from BG’s Midwestern outpost in Minnesota, I attended a live screening of the RiffTrax presentation of Sharknado 2: The Next One. Two fan-buddies who share my adoration of Michael J. Nelson and his crew accompanied me on this outing (readers here will be familiar with one of those friends: none other than sometime BG scribe Gabe Dybing). In a bona fide movie theater we would share with other diehard fans an experience usually relegated to our laptops and living room televisions.

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The Future of Fantasy: The Best New Releases in July

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

Bone-Swans-CSE-Cooney-small Last First Snow-small The-Great-Bazaar-and-Brayans-Gold-small

We’re more than three quarters of the way through July, and I’ve barely scratched the surface on the 30 new books we covered in The Best New Releases in June. If I want to get caught up, I’ll have to cut back on late-night superhero movie marathons with my kids (and probably sleeping, and eating.)

July’s crop of new fantasy releases includes some terrific work from C.S.E. Cooney. Peter V. Brett, Max Gladstone, Wesley Chu, Lou Anders, Melinda Snodgrass, Victor Milan, Chris Willrich, Elizabeth Bear, Nnedi Okorafor, D.B. Jackson, and many others. There are 33 in the list this month, so let’s get started.

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The Worst AD&D Spell Of All Time

Monday, July 27th, 2015 | Posted by markrigney

Arcana UnearthedSo there we stood, surrounded. Demons in all directions, converging fast – and we’re not talking garden variety patsies. Even for our major league party, the future looked bleak, bloody, and painful. On the plus side, we had our pizza in place, our dice at the ready. Beers and sodas hovered with popped caps and bated breath, anticipating action.

“Initiative!” cried the DM.

We each rolled. One of the demons, which just happened to moonlight as a spell-caster, moved first — and what did that pipsqueak no-good blackguard cheat of a demon cast our way?

Chain Lightning.

At fifteenth level.

Two hours later, with the pizza cold and stiff, the beers stale and the sodas flat, we finally finished adjudicating the effects of that single spell. We were in shock, and grumbling to beat the band. The DM, equally weary and perplexed, said, “Okay. Still first round. Who gets to take the next action?”

That I no longer recall, but this I know: we won the battle, and the demons lost. So did Chain Lightning. We made a solemn pledge that very day to never again allow that spell to eclipse the glory of our triumphant campaigning. Banned it was, all but ripped from the pages of the rulebook. And good riddance, too.

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Future Treasures: Chasing the Phoenix by Michael Swanwick

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

Chasing the Phoenix Michael Swanwick-smallMichael Swanwick’s Darger and Surplus stories, featuring a con-man and a genetically engineering talking dog, began with the Hugo-award winning short story “The Dog Said Bow-Wow” in 2002. Since then there have been many additional tales of adventure featuring the two, including the 2002 Hugo nominee “The Little Cat Laughed to See Such Sport,” and the 2011 novel Dancing with Bears (which finished sixth in the 2012 Locus Poll for Best SF Novel).

Swanwick’s latest novel, Chasing the Phoenix, finds our two con-men/heroes in post-collapse China, in the middle of a brand new con… one that quickly spirals beyond their control, and soon attracts the kind of attention they’d much rather avoid.

In the distant future, Surplus arrives in China dressed as a Mongolian shaman, leading a yak which carries the corpse of his friend, Darger. The old high-tech world has long since collapsed, and the artificial intelligences that ran it are outlawed and destroyed. Or so it seems.

Darger and Surplus, a human and a genetically engineered dog with human intelligence who walks upright, are a pair of con men and the heroes of a series of prior Swanwick stories. They travel to what was was once China and invent a scam to become rich and powerful. Pretending to have limited super-powers, they aid an ambitious local warlord who dreams of conquest and once again reuniting China under one ruler. And, against all odds, it begins to work, but it seems as if there are other forces at work behind the scenes…

Chasing the Phoenix will be published by Tor Books on August 11, 2015. It is 320 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover, and $12.99 for the digital version.


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