Packed Full of Fantasy Goodness: The Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls RPG

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Newton

Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls-smallBack in 1980, on my last day of my first year at secondary school in the UK, an 11-year old me saw a kid with a copy of the paperback Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook. I’d discovered Tolkien a year or two earlier, and, leafing through the book, the pictures of dragons and swords and — most particularly — the dungeon map and diagram of the Planes of Existence at the back both enchanted and fascinated me. But as an 11-year-old I hadn’t much pocket money, and on the first day of my summer holidays and clutching a single sheet pricelist catalog from Games of Liverpool, I spent £1.75 on the only thing I could afford which looked even remotely similar — a slim booklet called Buffalo Castle.

I had no idea what I was doing. When the booklet turned up at my house a few days later I realized it wasn’t even a complete game, but part of another game called Tunnels & Trolls — something called a “solo adventure.” Undaunted, I made up my own rules, played the hell out of Buffalo Castle, and made up several solo adventures of my own — and saved my pocket money for the rule book for Tunnels & Trolls.

Completely accidentally, I’d stumbled onto a path which would shape my whole life.

Fast forward 35 years (and try to say “35” quickly so you don’t feel it…). A couple of months ago I bought the newest and greatest ever edition of the Tunnels & Trolls roleplaying game, funded by Kickstarter over the past couple of years and only now hitting games stores and general release. Designed and written by Ken St. Andre, Liz Danforth, and James “Bear” Peters, and dubbed Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls, it’s effectively the 8th edition of the rules — but unlike many other RPGs, even this 8th edition isn’t too far removed from earlier editions, and if (like me) you grew up on the 5th edition rules, you won’t find yourself in too foreign territory. It’s very much the same game — just better.

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The Late December Fantasy Magazine Rack

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Ares-Magazine-2-rack Asimovs-Science-Fiction-January-2016-rack Beneath-Ceaseless-Skies-188-rack Clarkesworld-111-rack
Locus-December-2015-rack Interzone-261-rack giganotosaurus-logo-rack Lightspeed-December-2015-rack

Want to read the best up-and-coming fantasy writers? The holidays are a great time to try out some new magazines, and discover them for yourself. This month we start our coverage of the splendid online magazine GigaNotoSaurus, which publishes one long novelette or novella each issue, and Fletcher Vredenburgh reviews the excellent Best Of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Volume 1. Doug Ellis did some impressive detective work to bring to light the 70-year old correspondence between Robert A. Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp, and Astounding cover artist Hubert Rogers, and Fletcher found much to like in the newest issues of Swords and Sorcery Magazine and Fantasy Scroll in his November Short Story Roundup. For vintage fiction fans, Matthew Wuertz continued his Galaxy re-read with the February 1953 issue, with top-notch stories by Damon Knight, Algis Budrys, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Sheckley, and Clifford D. Simak.

Check out all the details on the magazines above by clicking on the each of the images. Our early December Fantasy Magazine Rack is here.

As we’ve mentioned before, all of these magazines are completely dependent on fans and readers to keep them alive. Many are marginal operations for whom a handful of subscriptions may mean the difference between life and death. Why not check one or two out, and try a sample issue? There are magazines here for every budget, from completely free to $12.95/issue. If you find something intriguing, I hope you’ll consider taking a chance on a subscription. I think you’ll find it’s money very well spent.

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The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly: Volume 1, 2009-2011 Compiled by the Editors of HFQ

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_28203924eCuQXbPYRegular readers of my monthly short story roundup know how great I think Heroic Fantasy Quarterly is, ranking it the most consistent forum for the best in contemporary swords & sorcery. Some may think I’m laying it on a little thick, but The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly: Volume 1, 2009-2011, a distillation of the mag’s first three years, should prove that I’m not.

While we are living in a time when some magnificent S&S short stories are being written, most are confined to the ephemeral pages of the web. So I consider it important that Adrian Simmons, David Farney, and the rest of the HFQ crew have endeavored to preserve some of their very best in book form.

Before diving into the stories (and poems — never let it be forgotten that HFQ is one of the few places publishing heroic poetry), let me start with the cover. By the very existence of that “Volume 1” in the title you know to expect more. It implies that the editors know there’s an audience hungering for S&S right now, and that they have faith it will still be there in the future, waiting for “Volume 2.”

Then there’s the art by Justin Sweet. Eschewing either the violent moment of battle or the smoldering embers of its aftermath, we see the warrior and his companions as their adventure is about to begin. From a mountainous vantage they can survey the tower below ready to be plundered, or the prisoner within its walls rescued. Maybe it’s the squadron of ships in which they’re interested. Of course, the fact that all three seem to be looking at something just out of the frame to the left could mean the bounty hunters looking for them, or a pack of ghouls, has just broken from the forest. Whatever the specifics of the painting, for me it’s a picture from just before the events of the story. It promises there’s something coming that will get my blood pumping and transport me, if only for a dozen pages, out of the humdrum and into the extraordinary.

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In the Wake Of Sister Blue: Chapter Seven

Monday, December 28th, 2015 | Posted by markrigney

In The Wake of Sister Blue Mark Rigney-medium

Linked below, you’ll find the seventh installment of a brand-new serialized novel, In the Wake Of Sister Blue. A preview: following the bombing in Chapter Six, Mother Sand goes into hiding, while Karai and Vashear set sail for Vagen. Desperate times and choppy seas ahead, with Chapter Eight to follow in two weeks.

A number of you will already be familiar with my Tales Of Gemen (“The Trade,” “The Find,” and “The Keystone“), and if you enjoyed those titles, I think you’ll also find much to like in this latest venture.

As I’ve said before, this is a true serial, and it’s still unspooling, story-line by story-line. My one rule is to recall what my (then) five-year-old once said when asked to explain fiction: “It goes on and the bad decisions just keep coming.” That’s Sister Blue in a nutshell! Oh, and if you’re only now discovering this portal, may I suggest you begin at the beginning? The Spur awaits…

Read the first installment of In the Wake Of Sister Blue here.

Read the seventh and latest installment of In the Wake Of Sister Blue here.

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December 2015 Lightspeed Magazine Now on Sale

Monday, December 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Lightspeed December 2015-smallLots of great stuff in the December Lightspeed. First off, editor John Joseph Adams shares some big news in his editorial.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, publishers of my Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy (and the rest of the Best American series), have offered me the opportunity to edit a science fiction/fantasy (and horror) novel line for them — and naturally I agreed!

The line will be called John Joseph Adams Books (their idea, not mine!), and will be a tightly-curated list of 7-10 titles per year. We’ll be pre-launching the line in early 2016 with new editions of three Hugh Howey novels: Beacon 23, Shift, and Dust — making them available via traditional publishing for the first time, and then the line will kick things off in earnest in early 2017 with our first batch of never-before-published works.

This is fabulous news for John, and for the industry as a whole. Expectations are high for the new line, and I’m sure he will deliver.

Also, Black Gate readers will be delighted to find a story by BG blogger Mark Rigney, author of the eternally popular Tales of Gemen, “The Trade,” “The Find,” and “The Keystone,” three of the most widely read stories in the Black Gate Online Fiction library. “Portfolio” is a tale of strange reincarnation, and a set of very unnerving paintings.

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Entertainment Weekly Gives Us Our First Look at Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr Strange

Monday, December 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Entertainment Weekly Dr Strange-smallThe new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on sale tomorrow, offers us our first peek at Benedict Cumberbatch as sorcerer supreme Dr. Strange — and they’ve really nailed the look. As James Whitbrook at io9 puts it:

I am genuinely shocked at how close this adheres to Strange’s classic costume from the comics — it’s all there, the color scheme, the cloak, the eye of Agamotto dangling from his neck, It’s all there — right down to Strange’s greying hair. It really has leapt off the page of a Doctor Strange comic into real life, and it looks great.

Click the image at right for a bigger version.

Doctor Strange is one of two films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe scheduled to be released next year; the other is Captain America: Civil War (May 6). Principal photography on Dr Strange began last month, and it is scheduled to be released November 4. It also stars Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Mads Mikkelsen, and is directed by Scott Derrickson (The Messengers, Sinister).

The article reportedly will reveal the roles played by Cumberbatch’s co-stars for the first time. Read more details at the EW website, or read the complete article in the print issue. We last covered Entertainment Weekly with the February 2013 issue, which coincidentally featured Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness.


The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Solar Pons & the Dead Fishmonger

Monday, December 28th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Notebook_DossierAugust Derleth created Solar Pons as a successor to Sherlock Holmes. You know that, of course, because I’ve written about Pons several times and I mention him at the bottom of every post. A Praed Street Dossier was a collection of Pons odds and ends written by Derleth, related to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street.’

Included were some “Notebook” entries, attributed to Dr. Parker. Derleth would write two more “Notebook” installments for The Pontine Dossier, the newsletter of the Praed Street Irregulars.

The “Notebooks” are among my favorite Pons writings by Derleth. They provide additional insights into Pons and even add a case or two to the Pontine Canon. In fact, I like them so much I have continued on with the series, including ‘Notebook’ entries in several issues of my Solar Pons Gazette. I plan on adding more.

Tongue a bit in cheek with the names, here is a case from one of my ‘Notebooks’ entries in the Gazette. While Dr. Parker included this case, he never saw fit to fully write it up and publish it, so you are likely not familiar with it.

 

20 April, 1921

“Did you see this letter in the Herald, Pons?” I asked, handing him the item of discussion. He briefly glanced at it and then tossed it aside without a word. “You don’t think much of the suggestion, then?”

Solar Pons looked at me with the trace of a smile. “I believe that you are intentionally baiting me, Parker. So be it. No, I do not believe that ‘optograms’ will aid in finding the killer of Andrew Treacher.”

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Star Trek Movie Rewatch: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Monday, December 28th, 2015 | Posted by William I. Lengeman III

Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan-small

You could say many things about William Shatner but you probably wouldn’t say he’s a subtle actor. Unless you compare his acting style to the delicate and restrained thespian stylings of Ricardo Montalban, who appears here as genetically enhanced super-overactor, Khan Noonien Singh. Two heavy hitters of the overacting community square off and naturally Kirk triumphs, but his win comes at a price.

The consensus regarding Star Trek films is that The Motion Picture was a lackluster effort and The Wrath of Khan was among the best — if not the best — of all of them. I’d agree that The Motion Picture had its fair share of issues but it also had a decent science fictional concept at its heart, and did a passable job at creating the sense of wonder that good science fiction often manages.

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New Treasures: Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen

Sunday, December 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Barsk The Elephants Graveyard-smallI’ve been looking forward to Lawrence M. Schoen’s Barsk since I first glimpsed the cover over the summer. It will be released this week, and the pre-release buzz has been impressive. Nancy Hightower at The Washington Post ranked it as one of the Best SF and Fantasy titles of December, saying:

Barsk is set 62,000 years into a human-less future, where anthropomorphic animals rule the galaxy. There is no record of human existence, and while the different species get along relatively well, the Fant, an elephant-like hybrid, are completely shunned and exiled to live on a rainy planet called Barsk. While labeled less intelligent and “dirty,” the Fant nonetheless are the only species to produce a drug that allows clairvoyants known as Speakers to commune with the dead. When the planet is threatened with invasion and annihilation by the galaxy Senate, Jorl, a Fant Speaker, must race to save it by communing with ancient beings who hold even darker truths. Suspenseful and emotionally engaging, Barsk brings readers into a fascinating speculative world.

Lawrence has been nominated for the Nebula Award three times, and the Hugo Award once. The early reviews for Barsk have been glowing, with Karl Schroeder calling it “A compulsive page-turner and immensely enjoyable,” and James L. Cambias proclaiming it “Captivating… [a] heartwarming story in a unique and fantastic world… as rich and mysterious as Dune.” We first covered the book last month.

Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard will be published by Tor Books on December 29, 2015. It is 384 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition. The marvelous cover is by Victo Ngai.


Hypnojewels, Smugglers, and Ancient Alien Races: Rich Horton on The Plot Against Earth/Recruit for Andromeda

Sunday, December 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Plot Against Earth-small Recruit for Andromeda-small

“Calvin M. Knox” is one of Robert Silverberg’s most well-known pseudonyms. He used it extensively to write reviews, over two dozen short stories (frequently in magazines where he also had a story under his own name), and three novels: Lest We Forget Thee, Earth (1958), The Plot Against Earth (1959), and One of Our Asteroids is Missing (1964), all Ace Doubles.

Milton Lesser was born in Brooklyn in 1928, and changed his name to Stephen Marlowe in 1956. Under that name he wrote 40 crime novels and fictional autobiographies. He began publishing SF under his original name while still a teenager, and he continued to to do so through the 50s and 60s, producing seven novels and nearly 100 short stories between 1950 and 1965.

Silverberg and Lesser were published back-to-back in Ace Double D-358 in 1959, with the novels The Plot Against Earth and Recruit for Andromeda. The latter has never been reprinted, and has now been out of print for over 55 years.

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