Enter the Grimdark Magazine Battle-off Competition

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

Grimdark Magazine Battle-off Competition

Grimdark Magazine is getting some great notices among fans of heroic fantasy — including from our own Fletcher Vredenburgh, who said in his review of the first three issues, “From a swords & sorcery perspective, the biggest — and potentially most interesting — new publication out there is Grimdark Magazine.” Grimdark editor-in-chief Adrian Collins contacted us this morning to let us know of a new contest sponsored by the magazine, open to heroic fantasy writers of all kinds. Here’s the deets:

We’re running a competition over at Grimdark Magazine that may interest some of Black Gate‘s followers — both readers and writers. It’s a battle-off, where self and small published authors enter a 1K word excerpt featuring a battle scene, the readers then vote on a top 7 and a panel of judges then decide on the top 3 to win awards.

It will run for a couple of months between mid August and the end of October… There are some pretty awesome prizes up for grabs, including a Kindle HD, signed hardcovers, plenty of paperbacks and ebooks, editing services and cover art services.

This is one of the most unusual writing contests I’ve heard of, and I highly approve. So sharpen your pens, all you aspiring adventure fantasy writers. This is your chance to show that you have the chops to deserve wider attention — and maybe win something that could help your new novel really stand out. Get the complete details here.


The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: By Crom – Are Conan Pastiches Official?

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

ConaPas_Ace2Today’s post is actually about Robert E. Howard’s Conan, but (in a stunning surprise) it’s got some Sherlock Holmes at the foundation. No, Conan never met the great detective…

Hopefully you’ve been checking in on our summer series, Discovering Robert E. Howard. There are plenty more posts coming, so stay tuned. While I very much like Howard and his works, I came late to his stories and I’m certainly no expert.

There is one area I’ve found…curious, which relates to the “official” status that seems to be accorded to the authorized pastiches written since Howard’s death. It’s quite different in the Holmes world.

There are sixty official Sherlock Holmes tales. Period. Fifty-six short stories and four novels (more novellas, really), all penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and published during his lifetime. There are two Holmes short-shorts, “How Watson Learned the Trick” and “The Field Bazaar” and there is no disputing that they were written by Doyle. But they are not included (by anyone, I believe) in the official count.

You, oh enlightened one, know that the Doyle Estate tried to include a sixty-first story, found among ACD’s papers by a researcher, but it turned out to have been written by Arthur Whitaker.

To quote myself, from my first Solar Pons post here at Black Gate:

Parodies are stories that poke fun at Holmes. But the more serious Holmes tales, those that attempt to portray Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective to varying levels, are called pastiches. Just about the earliest ‘serious’ attempt at a Holmes copy was by Vincent Starrett, who wrote “The Adventure of the Unique Hamlet” in 1920.

Doyle’s son Adrian, sitting at his father’s very desk, produced The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes (half of the stories were co-written with John Dickson Carr, who would quit mid-project).

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New Treasures: Black Gods Kiss by Lavie Tidhar

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

Black Gods Kiss Lavie Tidhar-smallLavie Tidhar has made a heck of a big name for himself in a very short period of time. His novel Osama won the World Fantasy Award, and his “Guns & Sorcery” novella Gorel & The Pot Bellied God won the British Fantasy Award. His novel The Violent Century was called “A masterpiece” by both the Independent and Library Journal. And his second short story collection, Black Gods Kiss, has just been nominated for the British Fantasy Award.

Black Gods Kiss is set in the same world as Gorel & The Pot-Bellied God. Theaker’s Quarterly called it “Classic heroic fantasy,” and Locus called it “One of the most flamboyantly entertaining collections of the year… almost the pure essence of pulp – violent, action-packed, paced like a runaway freight train, politically incorrect and socially unredeemable.” Originally published as a limited edition hardcover in the UK, it is now available in digital format.

His name was Gorel of Goliris and he was a gunslinger and an addict, touched by the Black Kiss. Gorel wanted nothing more than to return to his home, the greatest empire the World had ever known, from which he was banished by sorcery as a child. But wherever he went, trouble doggedly followed, and death preceded his steps.. . In Black Gods Kiss Lavie Tidhar returns to the vivid world of his 2012 British Fantasy Award winning novella, Gorel & The Pot-Bellied God. It collects 5 long adventures set before and after the events of Pot-Bellied God, and includes a brand-new novella, “Kur-a-Len.” In these pages you will find thrilling tales of guns and sorcery, filled with ghosts, mercenaries, necromancers and gods – not to mention sex, and death!

Black Gods Kiss was published in a limited edition hardcover by PS Publishing in October 2014. It was released in digital format by the Jabberwocky Literary Agency on April 30, 2015. It is 174 pages, priced at $35 in hardcover and $6.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Pedro Marques.


Things Your Writing Teacher Never Told You: Pro Tip From Lawrence Watt-Evans

Sunday, July 26th, 2015 | Posted by Tina Jens

Lawrence Watt-Evans-smallAffectionately known as LWE (pronounced Louie) by many of his friends and fans, Lawrence Watt-Evans is the second author in our series of Pro Tips — wit and wisdom from professionals across the Spec Fic field. (You can find our first one, from Laura Anne Gilman, here.)

LWE is the author of more than four dozen novels and short story collections and more than a hundred short stories, in addition to comic books, poems, and more than 150 non-fiction articles. He works mostly in the fantasy genre, but has numerous science fiction and horror publications, too. He sold his first novel at the age of twenty-four, and has been a full-time writer ever since.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started writing/ publishing?

I wish I had known that the publishing business is always changing. Always. Publishers come and go, genres rise and fall, formats change. When I broke in, mass-market paperbacks sold on newsstands were where the money was, fantasy was a poor stepchild of science fiction, and there were a dozen or so major fiction publishers and no one else mattered.

Then national chain bookstores blossomed, the old paperback distribution system collapsed, fantasy surpassed SF in sales, horror boomed and then busted… and that was before the internet, Amazon, ebooks, print-on-demand, self-publishing, etc. I learned more about publishing history and discovered that the system I had thought had dominated forever only came into its own in the 1950s.

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Fantasy Literature: The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth edited by S. M. Stirling

Sunday, July 26th, 2015 | Posted by Edward Carmien

The Change Tales of Downfall and Rebirth-smallIn The Change, the author of the Emberverse novels opens the doors to his post-apocalyptic universe wide. A substantial text at more than 600 pages, it contains 16 stories and an introduction by S.M. Stirling, who also contributes “Hot Night at the Hopping Toad,” featuring the most contemporary protagonist of the Emberverse series, Orlaith.

Sterling’s series has seen extensive attention here in the Fantasy Literature column at Black Gate. Those entries were less reviews than low brow scholarly chatter about the many interesting features, issues, and aspects of the Emberverse. This, however, is a review. But what is this Emberverse?

In short, the Emberverse begins with something commonly called the Change (some tales here call it other things, of course). In 1997 all high-energy technologies cease to function — something tweaked the rules of physics. Guns won’t fire. Electricity doesn’t electricit. Even steam engines won’t steam — at least not usefully. While the sun burns on, here on Earth, the technological culture we take for granted grinds to a halt. Billions die by violence, through hunger, and from disease.

Some small number survive; Stirling’s early novels in the series describe the events of the Change and the first ten or so years; 2014’s novel, The Golden Princess, features the granddaughter of various key players of the recovery from the Change in the Pacific northwest: Orlaith Mackenzie. A lot of war and politics lies behind the cutting edge of the series, but these stories take place at various points in the chronology of the Emberverse.

The first question: can a reader new to the Emberverse read and enjoy this anthology? Yes.

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Interzone #259 Now on Sale

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

Interzone 259-smallThe July – August issue of Britain’s longest running science fiction and fantasy magazine is now on sale. The cover, by Martin Hanford, is titled “Green Tea.” (Click the image at right for a bigger version.)

This issue has an intriguing installment in an ongoing series by Chris Butler. Here’s Lois Tilton at Locus Online on “The Deep of Winter”:

A prequel to this author’s series in which people emit spores that signal their emotions to others. Because some persons’ spores are more powerful, a coercive aristocracy has been built on them. Here, our protagonist is Sebastián, trusted servant of the Winter Duke, a member of his Guard. People have been reported missing, and the Duke has ordered the Guard to search the buried old city, where trespass has long been forbidden. Sebastián’s narrative alternates with that of Aluna, a mad scientist from an alternate world, ambitious to experiment with other realities, regardless of the consequences to the inhabitants of those worlds. When they meet in the buried city, questions are answered at last.

Read Lois’ complete comments on the issue here.

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Vintage Treasures: The Best of Frank Herbert

Saturday, July 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best of Frank Herbert 1952-1964-small The Best of Frank Herbert 1965-1970-small

Sidgwick & Jackson released The Best of Frank Herbert in hardcover in the UK in 1975. The book was edited by Anugs Wells, with a fairly drab cover by an unknown artist (see below). It was 302 pages.

For the paperback edition the following year, Sphere split the book into two volumes, both around 160 pages. The cover artist was uncredited in both cases, but it sure looks to me like Bruce Pennington. (Click the images above for bigger versions.)

The book was never released in the US, and the UK paperbacks have now been out of print for almost 40 years. The UK editions can be a little tricky to track down in the US, but they’re fairly common in the UK. As of this writing, half dozen copies are listed on eBay, priced at $10 and up per volume.

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Shin Megami Tensei and a Different Take on JRPGs (Part 1)

Saturday, July 25th, 2015 | Posted by Josh Bycer

This may surprise some of you after my love letter to Etrian Odyssey, but for the longest time I didn’t like the RPG genre. During the mid 90s to early 00s, I was stuck between the grind-heavy traditional Japanese RPG (JRPG) design, and the number-crunching computer RPGs of the day. There were exceptions of course, such as Earthbound and Knights of the Old Republic. But it wasn’t until I found the Shin Megami Tensei series that I fell back in love with the genre.

ShinMegamiTenseiChange is Coming

Shin Megami Tensei has been a Atlus staple since the early 90s; the brand has gotten so big that I have to split this examination into two parts, with this one covering the main branch titles.

The Shin Megami Tensei series has several staples that exist between all the games, with “change” being the principle theme. In every title, the protagonist is either a part of a cataclysmic event, or will be the one that changes the world forever by causing one. Aiding him are a changing stock of demons that the player can recruit through different means; usually by talking to them.

Demons belong to different families and have varying stats and powers. What’s important about the series’ design is that your party is never the same for long due to two things. First is that exploiting enemy weaknesses is vital to having any chance of beating a SMT game. (Later titles, such as Nocturne and Shin Megami Tensei 4, actively punished or rewarded the player for keeping track of element resists, but more on that in a minute.)

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Future Treasures: Carter & Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard

Saturday, July 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Carter & Lovecraft-smallOne of the most popular authors in the later issues of the print version of Black Gate was Jonathan L. Howard. His first story for us, about a young thief named Kyth hired to penetrate a deadly tomb, was filled with surprises — not least of which was the amiable lich who congratulated Kyth when she reached the heart of his lair. It was titled “The Beautiful Corridor,” and its sequel, “The Shuttered Temple,” appeared in BG 15. Jonathan has had a very successful career as a fantasy novelist since those early days, and his latest novel, about a private detective who teams with the last descendant of H.P. Lovecraft to investigate some very bizarre crimes indeed, arrives in October. It’s one of the most anticipated titles of fall for me.

Daniel Carter used to be a homicide detective, but his last case — the hunt for a serial killer — went wrong in strange ways and soured the job for him. Now he’s a private investigator trying to live a quiet life. Strangeness, however, has not finished with him. First he inherits a bookstore in Providence from someone he’s never heard of, along with an indignant bookseller who doesn’t want a new boss. She’s Emily Lovecraft, the last known descendant of H.P. Lovecraft, the writer from Providence who told tales of the Great Old Ones and the Elder Gods, creatures and entities beyond the understanding of man. Then people start dying in impossible ways, and while Carter doesn’t want to be involved, but he’s beginning to suspect that someone else wants him to be. As he reluctantly investigates, he discovers that Lovecraft’s tales were more than just fiction, and he must accept another unexpected, and far more unwanted inheritance.

Jonathan L. Howard’s previous novels include the four volumes in the Johannes Cabal series (Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, Johannes Cabal the Detective, The Fear Institute, and The Brothers Cabal), and The Russalka Chronicles, including Katya’s World. Our previous coverage includes Jonathan’s article on writing the Johannes Cabel series, and his interview with John Joseph Adams. Carter & Lovecraft will be published by Thomas Dunne Books on October 20, 2015. It is 320 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition. See more details at Jonathan’s website.


Fantasia Diary 2015, Day 4: Therapy for a Vampire, Bridgend, Assassination Classroom, Ludo, and Who Killed Captain Alex?: Uganda’s First Action Movie

Friday, July 24th, 2015 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Therapy for a VampireLate last Friday night, the 17th of July (or early the next morning, to be precise), I was unable to keep from smiling as my city was cheerfully demolished by a crew of Ugandans, cheered on by a Fantasia Festival crowd. It was a wonderful end to an already very surreal day.

After having gotten not quite enough sleep the night before, I was at my fifth movie of the day. Even more than usual, each film had been wildly at odds with the one before it. I’d started at 12:45 with the Austrian period comedy Therapy for a Vampire, in which one of the undead seeks psychological help from Sigmund Freud. I followed that with Bridgend, a dark teen drama with some horror overtones, based on true events. Both of those had been at the small De Sève Theatre, and after a bite to eat, I went to the big Hall Theatre at 7:40 to watch the Japanese comedy Assassination Classroom, in which prep school students try to kill their alien professor before he blows up the Earth. After that, I ran back across the street to catch the world première of the transgressive Indian horror film Ludo. And then stuck around to watch the presentation of Who Killed Captain Alex?: Uganda’s First Action Movie. Which also involved the destruction of Montréal.

But let me go through these things in full, starting with Therapy for a Vampire. In fact, I’ll start a bit before that, with a short film that was screened before the main feature: The Mill at Calder’s End. Directed by Kevin McTurk from his own story, with a script by Ryan Murphy, it’s a gothic horror film set in the late Victorian or Edwardian era. And it’s done with puppets. They’re highly detailed — the IMDB tells me “36 inch tall bunraku rod puppets” — and convey the atmosphere wonderfully. The story follows a young man who’s inherited the family lands, along with the curse accompanying said lands. He investigates, and faces the same horror his ancestors faced before him.

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