Non-Compliant and Self-Aware: Bitch Planet

Sunday, January 31st, 2016 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Bitch PlanetI can understand scepticism of consciously political art. But I feel it’s often misplaced. If an artist is choosing to create art about politics, it probably means that those politics have a deep power for them. Which in turn is probably because the politics are connected to their emotions, worldview, beliefs — all the things that give art power. A political theme doesn’t elevate a work of art, but good art can illuminate the political. An artist may create consciously political art because politics are their passion. A storyteller may find their politics are the lens through which to present human truth and artistic power.

Which brings me to Bitch Planet, the creation of writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Valentine De Landro. Some basic information on the book: it’s an ongoing comic published by Image projected to run at least thirty issues. The first five issues have been collected into a trade paperback, while the sixth came out earlier this month. Individual issues have bonus features including essays, letters pages, and selections of tweets and instagrammed pictures from readers. Cris Peter does the colours and Clayton Cowles the lettering; art for the third issue came from Robert Wilson IV, while Taki Soma handled the sixth. The series has built a devoted fan following and been very well reviewed — and it’s easy to see why.

Bitch Planet is set in a future with interplanetary (presumably interstellar) travel and 3-D holograms and an even greater media saturation than we have today. Patriarchy’s more blatant, an MRA extremist’s idea of utopia (naturally, therefore, everybody else’s dystopia). Women can be arrested for various kinds of “non-compliance” — things like “disrespect” and “emotional manipulation” and being a bad mother and, generally, not acceding to society’s expectations. One character’s crimes include “repeated citations for aesthetic offences, capillary disfigurement and wanton obesity.” The non-compliant criminals are exiled to an off-Earth prison, the eponymous “Bitch Planet.”

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Things Your Writing Teacher Never Told You: Pro-Tip From Carlos Hernandez

Sunday, January 31st, 2016 | Posted by Tina Jens

Carlos Hernandez-smallOur Pro-Tip author this week is Carlos Hernandez. Full disclosure: I got an uncorrected proof reading copy of his short story collection, The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria, (which has been described as 12 stories of fantasy, science fiction, interstitial weirdness, and a few boldface lies), this past summer at the Nebula Awards weekend.

I gobbled that book down, and promptly made one of the stories, “More Than Pigs and Rosaries Can Give” part of the reading curriculum for the Advanced Fantasy Writing course I teach at Columbia College – Chicago. The story, synopsized by Carlos thusly: “A Cuban expatriate travels to Cuba and hires a local historian to suck the ghost of his mother out of the bullet hole where she was shot at the dawn of the Revolution,” is part history, part magical realism, and in equal parts an admonishment to be brave and dare to step off into that adventure, no matter how scary that first step may be.

Columbia College is very diverse economically, socially, ethnically, and in gender/sexuality identities. I encourage /p/u/s/h/ my students to explore stories, settings, characters, and themes beyond white knight in a generic Medieval European land rescues princess from dragon. We’ve all read that, wrote our own fan-fic, bought the “knights are crunchy and good with ketchup” T-shirt and wore it out. It’s past time for new kinds of fantasy stories.

And that is exactly what Carlos gives us in his first collection. That marvelous title, once again, is The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria, and it’s due out at the end of January 2016 from Rosarium.

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Frankenstein and R. J. Myers’ Domination Fantasies

Sunday, January 31st, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

NOTE: The following article was first published on May 30, 2010. Thank you to John O’Neill for agreeing to reprint these early articles, so they are archived at Black Gate which has been my home for over 5 years and 250 articles now. Thank you to Deuce Richardson without whom I never would have found my way. Minor editorial changes have been made in some cases to the original text.

Myers Slave 2Myers Slave 1A couple weeks ago I reviewed R. J. Myers’ The Cross of Frankenstein. It was the respected political commentator’s first foray into fiction. He followed it with a sequel, 1976’s The Slave of Frankenstein and despite the promise of a third book, his only other genre efforts were a late seventies soft-core vampire title and a privately-published guide to blood-drinking as an alternative lifestyle.

I always feel a pang of guilt when I come down hard on a fellow pastiche writer. I’ve been on the receiving end of disappointed Sax Rohmer and Conan Doyle fans who felt I had no business continuing the adventures of characters they love. At the same time, I believe I have been fair and honest in my assessments when reviewing pastiches. I have the utmost respect for Joe Gores, Michael Hardwick, Cay Van Ash, and Freda Warrington as writers who tried hard to stay true to the original author in terms of style and spirit. I can still enjoy Peter Tremayne and Basil Copper who, despite falling short of the mark, can still spin an entertaining yarn. Consequently, I feel justified when I confine Myers to the lowest pit of literary Hell alongside Ian Holt and Richard Jaccoma for The Slave of Frankenstein, while a very different beast than Myers’ first effort, is equally contemptible.

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Star Trek Movie Rewatch: Star Trek Into Darkness

Sunday, January 31st, 2016 | Posted by William I. Lengeman III

Star Trek Into Darkness crash-small

I don’t remember if I groaned aloud when I realized that the second Star Trek “reboot” was going to be a Khan movie. It’s entirely possible. One might reasonably wonder why the production team chose to do a reboot of a reboot, if you’ll pardon the expression, when they could have taken so many directions with the story. I suspect that sheer commerce ruled the day and the notion, common in moviemaking and publishing, that whatever worked before must surely work again.

So did Star Trek Into Darkness work? Not so much for me. I’ll admit that I wasn’t disposed to be too charitable to either of the reboots in the first place. But I made a valiant attempt to be open-minded.

But, anyway. In my review of The Wrath of Khan I noted that it was something of a war of the overactors, with William Shatner going toe to toe with Ricardo Montalban. While Shatner’s character won the day in the movie, I awarded Montalban an honorary retro-Oscar for Best Overacting Performance in a Star Trek Movie.

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The Late January Fantasy Magazine Rack

Sunday, January 31st, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Beneath-Ceaseless-Skies-190-rack Beneath-Ceaseless-Skies-191-rack Fantasy-and-Science-Fiction-January-February-2016-rack Lightspeed-January-2016-rack
giganotosaurus-logo-rack2 GrimDark-Magazine-6-rack Fantasy-Scroll-Magazine-Issue-10-rack Nightmare-Magazine-January-2016-rack

Plenty of great new fiction this month, including two issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, a big double issue of F&SF, the sixth issue of Grimdark, the tenth issue of Fantasy Scroll Magazine, and lots more. In magazine news the last two weeks, we learned that the tireless Neil Clarke has taken the editorial reins at SFWA Bulletin, and that is offering their new novellas in some attractive bargain bundles. And for retro-fiction fans, Rich Horton took a look at the March 1960 issue of Amazing Science Fiction Stories, with stories by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Robert Silverberg, and Robert Bloch.

Check out all the details on the magazines above by clicking on the each of the images. Our January 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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Mark Sumner Serializes His First New Novel in Seven Years at Daily Kos

Saturday, January 30th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

On Whetsday Denny-smallMark Sumner is one of Black Gate‘s most popular writers. When his short story “Leather Doll” appeared in Black Gate 7, The Internet Review of Science Fiction called it “absolutely riveting… [a] masterpiece of contemporary science fiction,” and his serialized novel The Naturalist became one of the most acclaimed tales in our long history. (All three BG installments of The Naturalist were collected under one cover in 2014.)

Now Mark has kicked off an ambitious new project, publishing a brand new serial novel at the political blog Daily Kos, where he has been a writer for several years. The first installment went live today:

This is the first installment of a new novel, On Whetsday. The book was inspired by recent events, old attitudes, and the long-held conviction that science fiction’s ability to create a fresh angle on society is more than just a parlor trick. On Whetsday is my first new work in several years. It will be available from my friends at Word Posse both as an ebook and in genuine wood pulp. The book is also available as a podcast, with voices provided by Raymond Shinn and Rett Macpherson.

The artwork today [at right] comes from Amy Jones, our own Ashes of Roses. I think it’s fantastic.

This is, in fact, the first new novel from Mark since the last installment of The Naturalist appeared in Black Gate in 2009, and I’m thrilled to see it. A new Mark Sumner novel is a major publishing event.

Check out the first installment of On Whetsday here.

Undying Compassion and Fearless Ecoterrorism: Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind

Saturday, January 30th, 2016 | Posted by Damien Moore

Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind box-smallNausicaa of the Valley of Wind will exceed your expectations. You must have many, what with the comics having been written by Hayao Miyazaki.

Prepare to ask yourself what lengths you would go to save your world from destroying itself, and prepare to detest characters who at first seem like antagonists but then prove that no one is wholly good or bad. More than anything, prepare to fall in love with Nausicaa, one of the most compassionate heroines ever to exist on paper.

The love within an individual who possesses as much compassion as she does can overcome any struggle born from hate. She does so without ceasing. Her story is told within the span of four graphic novels, and they do indeed read like novels.

The people of the Valley of Wind cherish their princess. She lives for them as much as she lives for her world. When the Ohmu, a group of insects inhabiting her world, begin a perilous journey, her compassion compels her to follow.

She then embarks on an endless journey through myriad wars, all the while attempting to bring them all to an end. Along the way, we meet memorable characters such as Kushana, an invincible warlord with a past worthy of a comic of its own and her sidekick, Kurotowa, who could do without Nausicaa. Not everyone shares his sentiments, least of all Lord Yupa, her uncle who adores her and remains by her side through much of the story.

The same can be said for Asbel, a young pilot who devotes much of his time to locating Nausicaa. His superior, an elderly pilot named Mito, guides him through life and acts as the father figure he needs.

This brings me to the relationship between Ketcha, Asbel’s younger sister, and Lord Yupa, whom she encounters with her brother. He remains devoted to her throughout the story, and their friendship mirrors that of his connection to Nausicaa.

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January 2016 Nightmare Magazine Now on Sale

Saturday, January 30th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Nightmare Magazine January 2016-smallThe January issue of the online magazine Nightmare contains original short stories from Sam J. Miller and Nisi Shawl, and reprints from Richard Bowes and Tia V. Travis.

Original Stories

Angel, Monster, Man” by Sam J. Miller
Tom wasn’t fiction. He was not a lie. He was a higher truth, something we invented to encapsulate a reality too horrific to communicate to anyone outside our plague-devastated circle. Maybe myth, but definitely not fiction. Myth helps us make sense of facts too messy to comprehend, and that’s what Tom Minniq was supposed to be. A fable to ponder, and then forget. We birthed Tom at one of Derrick’s Sunday coffee kvetches.

Vulcanization” by Nisi Shawl
Another black. A mere illusion, Leopold knew, but he flinched out of the half-naked nigger’s path anyway. Of course Marie Henriette noticed when he did so. The quick little taps of the queen’s high-heeled slippers echoed faster off the polished floor as she hastened to draw even with him. “My dearest—Sire—” Leopold stopped, forcing his entire retinue to stop with him. “What do you wish, my wife?”

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Space Gods: From Tin Foil Hats to Marvel’s Eternals

Saturday, January 30th, 2016 | Posted by Derek Kunsken


Kirby’s ever-energetic and inventive art.

In 1968, around the time that 2001: A Space Odyssey was in theaters, booksellers had Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past, by Erich Von Daniken. It was such a big seller that I had no trouble acquiring a second-hand copy for 25 cents in the mid-1980s, and even as a thirteen-year old, I couldn’t make it more than a few pages into its soft-headed nonsense.

Von Daniken’s thesis of course was that the pyramids, Stonehenge, the Nazca Lines, and so on were beyond the abilities of previous civilizations, and required visiting space visitors to explain their existence.

Part of Von Daniken’s “evidence” is that the artistic styles we see in previous civilizations are better explained as ancient peoples depicting the space suits of their alien visitors. Big toke time.

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New Treasures: The Society of Blood by Mark Morris

Saturday, January 30th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Wolves of London-small The Society of Blood-small The Wraiths of War-small

I first heard of Mark Morris in 1989 with the publication of his first novel Toady (called The Horror Club in its heavily abridged US edition). I tried to scare up a copy through mail-order bookseller Mark V. Ziesing (because that’s the way you ordered books in the late 80s), but it had already become a hot property, and Mark wasn’t able to get one for me. Sudden scarcity and rapid price appreciation was the way of things in genre collecting in the late 80s; it kept things interesting. I never did track down a copy of Toady, but ever since I’ve kept an eye on Mark Morris.

Morris has written over a dozen novels since, including Stitch (1991), The Immaculate (1993), Longbarrow (1997), It Sustains (2013) and Horror Hospital (2014), in addition to nine Doctor Who novels and audio plays (see his complete back catalog on his website). His latest is the Obsidian Heart trilogy from Titan Books, the tale of reformed ex-con Alex Locke, whose attempt to steal a strange artifact from an old man ends with him on the run from the Wolves of London, a team of unearthly assassins. Sarah Pinborough says, “Mark Morris not only crosses genre boundaries, but creates an entirely new territory in the landscape of dark fiction. Part crime novel, part fantasy, part science fiction – entirely engrossing.” The complete series is:

The Wolves of London (400 pages, $14.95, October 7, 2014)
The Society of Blood (297 pages, $14.95, October 13, 2015)
The Wraiths of War (400 pages, $14.95, October 11, 2016)

Each volume in the series has been released in October; the second, The Society of Blood, three months ago. The last is due later this year.

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