Early on I was inclined to be charitable about Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and I wasn’t really sure what all the fuss was about. As you may be aware, the consensus seems to be that it was one of the worst of all of the Star Trek movies.
But up until about the halfway mark I didn’t quite get it. Not that the first half of this movie is a masterpiece, mind you. But as the second half began to unfold I started to catch on.
The plot can be dispensed with in a few words. Spock’s half-brother — one of those free-spirited emotional Vulcan types — commandeers the Enterprise and sets off to the center of the galaxy to find God. Which doesn’t seem to be all that far removed from the premise of the first Star Trek movie. Which also featured an abundance of scenes of people trying to look awed but mostly looking dopey. Since there’s little drama or interest to be found in this premise there’s also some standard stuff about Klingons with bad intentions lurking about.
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Last week I stumbled on a copy of Yangsze Choo’s debut fantasy novel The Ghost Bride in a remainder bin at Barnes & Noble, and snatched it up. I first heard about it in Matthew David Surridge’s review here at Black Gate last year — and more recently, I saw it included in A.J. O’Connell’s entertaining article at BookRiot, 7 Standalone Novels for Fantasy Lovers, published back in March. It’s good to have a highly functional network that alerts you to the best new stuff.
The first thing I did after getting it home was to check the rest of A.J’s list though, to see what else I’ve missed. What’s so great about standalone novels? Here’s A.J. to explain it.
Stand-alone fantasy novels are beautiful things. You read one book, and get one complete story, with all the resolution you need. You can close the book with a satisfying thunk at the end, knowing that the characters have completed their journeys, and that all the ends are more or less tucked in neatly…
For this list, I stuck to two rules. The books had to be published more or less recently (the oldest book here is from 2008), and they had to be true stand-alones, not part of an author’s pre-existing fictional universe; just one perfect bubble of fiction, floating on its own.
Here’s what she said about The Ghost Bride:
Choo’s first novel is about the Chinese tradition of ghost marriage, a tradition in which one (or both) participants are dead. In this novel, the bride in question is Li Lan, a young woman whose family has fallen on hard times. Because her parents’ financial troubles have made it hard for her to find a husband, she is married off to the spirit of a wealthy young man who has recently died, and finds herself suddenly pulled into the world of the afterlife.
A.J. also discusses The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle, The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson, and several other intriguing titles. Check out the complete list here.
The July 2016 issue of Locus is numbered #666… so naturally it’s the horror issue, with lengthy interviews with Peter Straub and Joe Hill, and a photo story on “Stephen King and George R.R. Martin in Conversation.” The magazine is also packed with the usual reviews, news and features — including a photo spread on the Nebula Awards weekend, held here in Chicago.
But the big news for me was the detailed results of the annual Locus Awards. Amongst all the vote counts for Best Novel, Best Collection, and Best Editor, were the surprising results for Best Magazine. Surprising to me, anyway. 27 magazines were ranked by the readers of Locus; here’s the Top Ten.
- Asimov’s SF
- Fantasy & Science Fiction
- File 770
- Black Gate
- Strange Horizons
I was surprised and pleased to see Black Gate ranked above such excellent magazines as Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Interzone, Nightmare, Shimmer, and Weird Tales. I want to thank everyone for their support — believe me, it means a lot.
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M. Harold Page is Black Gate‘s Thursday afternoon blogger, and one of our most consistently popular contributors. He’s also a noted fantasy novelist in his own right, author of The Sword is Mightier, Blood in the Streets, Marshal Versus the Assassins, and his popular book on writing, Storyteller Tools. But his magnum opus is his five-volume series Swords vs Tanks. I’ve made a couple of efforts at writing a synopsis, and ultimately I think it’s best to let the author explain it himself. Here’s Mr Page:
What did I care about? What did I like? Swords, apparently, and tanks.
It was more than that. I’m fascinated by the medieval mentality, and by — at the other end of history — the emergence of modernity in the 1900s-1930s. Why not, I thought, bang the rocks together? Great idea!
Well it was a great idea. I set out to pen a Baen-style military yarn with time travelling communists clashing with magic-enabled knights… The end result was too short and the story had grown in the telling — shifting from Military to Heroic Fantasy (or was it, Heroic Steampunk?) while exploring themes about Medievalism versus Modernism… I realized that the editors were right: it was too fast paced by modern standards. What I’d written was not really a modern 100 thousand word Fantasy novel. Instead, it was three or four 1970s-style short novels making up a series like the old Michael Morcock yarns I grew up on.
Now, I could have taken each novella and expanded it into a Big Fat Fantasy. However, it worked rather well as an old school series. Doorstop tomes were an artefact of the practicalities of publishing back in the 1980s anyway. There was no literary reason to expand. Why the hell not just chop it up and release it in its natural form? And that, dear reader, is what I did.
Read the complete article, ‘Swords Versus Tanks — What “10 Years in the Making” Means,’ here. Swords Versus Tanks was published by Warrior Metal Tales; all five volumes are now available in digital format for $2.99 each. Click the images above for bigger versions.
When my life is super-busy, I tend to reread books that won’t invite my brain to start analyzing to see what I could learn. I reread Edgar Rice Burroughs’ biography, and recently, I thought I’d reread Piers Anthony’s Xanth series.
I first read the first novel, A Spell for Chameleon, in grade six and reread it maybe later in my teens. I remember it being charming and punny, but my memories were pretty dim. I was also wondering if I could recommend it to my 11-year old son after he finished with the Percy Jackson opus.
A Spell for Chameleon is about Bink, a person who lives in the North Village of the land of Xanth, where every plant and animal is magical and every person has a single magical talent, everyone except for Bink. If he doesn’t find out his magical talent, he’ll get kicked out of Xanth upon turning 25.
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Michael Kelly and his team at Undertow Publications have been getting some long overdue attention recently. Two of their books, V.H. Leslie’s collection Skein and Bone, and Simon Strantzas’s anthology Aickman’s Heir’s, were nominated for the World Fantasy Award this year, and their exemplary anthologies Year’s Best Weird Fantasy, Volumes One and Two, have been heaped with praise.
They continue to produce beautiful and intriguing books. One of their latest is D P Watt’s collection Almost Insentient, Almost Divine. Watt’s previous collections include An Emporium of Automata (2013) and The Phantasmagorical Imperative: and Other Fabrications (2015). I’m not familiar with Watt, but that’s what Undertow is great at — introducing me to overlooked horror and dark fantasy writers who deserve my attention.
The stunning new collection of weird fiction from visionary writer D.P. Watt. The foolish wisdom of forlorn puppets. A diabolical chorus in many voices. Shadowy shapes emerging from the strange blueness. Dreamers of other truths. The delicate craft of filial love. You – and some other you. Creatures in the hedgerows. Cold rime creeping across darkened windows. The numinous night pool. A hive of pain. These and other nightmares await. “DP Watt has real talent. It touches on and reflects the world we know, but as in a glass darkly.” – Reggie Oliver
Almost Insentient, Almost Divine was published by Undertow Publications on May 17, 2016. It is 244 pages, priced at $17.99 in trade paperback and $5.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Tran Nguyen.
The June, 1953 issue of Galaxy didn’t include any serial fiction. If you’re looking for a good issue to read just to get a flavor of Galaxy without any commitment, I’d suggest this one.
“Tangle Hold” by F. L. Wallace — Jadiver’s autobath malfunctions, burning him with steam to the point that he nearly dies. A doctor replaces his skin with a synthetic version, and he’s eventually released from care to continue with his life.
Jadiver used to be a robot designer on Earth, but Earth was too crowded. He moved to Venus two years ago, but his skills aren’t as useful to society — except criminal society. He can design body costumes to change people’s appearances to help them go wherever they want without restriction.
When Jadiver becomes aware that his entire body has been redesigned as a type of surveillance unit for the police, he tries to understand its limitations and how he might be able to escape from the planet.
Wallace’s story has great pacing. There are enough questions to keep readers interested and engaged, and the answers come at the right moments, without being obvious.
“The Water Eater” by Win Marks — The narrator fixes his oil stove and dumps the excess oil into a roaster. To clean the roaster, he combines multiple cleaners together with hot water.
After dinner, he finds that the combination of oil and cleaners has become gelatinous. And it expands when water is added. Not only does it expand, but it tries to reach out toward the source of water to consume more.
The narration of the story works really well. He had a strong voice.
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We did a cover reveal for Brian Lee Durfee’s upcoming epic fantasy back in December. But now that the book is on the verge of being published, I wanted to take another peek.
The Forgetting Moon is a debut novel, part of the stellar line from Saga Press, and the opening book in The Five Warrior Angels series. Brian shared his thoughts on the cover with us back in December; click the image above left to check it out. And read the book description by clicking on the image at right.
The Forgetting Moon will be published by Saga Press on August 30, 2016. It is 576 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $7.99 for the digital edition.
See Saga Press’ complete catalog here, and our coverage of all the best in upcoming fantasy here.
Last time I was talking about the idea of there being a time to railroad. In other words, that there’s a time when the supporting technology, or maybe just the zeitgeist, allows for a concept or invention to finally flourish. The railroad itself is the ultimate example of this idea technologically, and you can look at my last post for examples of TV or movie concepts whose time to railroad popped up in the last ten years or so.
But I also wanted to take a look at a couple of TV shows that got derailed because – maybe – they were ahead of their time.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least touch on two related works, The Princess Bride, and Firefly, both of which “failed” at the time of their production, and both of which have become cult classics since. To be honest, I don’t think either of these was before their time. Above, around, beyond, maybe, but not before. Princess Bride was marketed badly – like trying to find only one shelf for a cross-genre book. The studio just didn’t know what to do with it. Firefly suffered more, I think, from lack of backbone – I mean to say, patience – on the part of its network. Either that or the audience which seems so huge to us in the Fantasy and SF community is actually quite small when compared to the population at large. Maybe Firefly would have flourished if it had been on another network, where the numbers would have looked better.
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In spite of the fact John O will not allow us to borrow the Black Gate dirigible for a road trip (air trip?) out to the San Diego ComicCon, we followed all the many developments of last week from afar, with maniacal interest. After all, this is where we see what we have to look forward to on the entertainment front as we slog through another Midwest winter.
From world-class cosplay to the many celebrity appearances it was difficult to decide where to look first – unless of course you’re obsessed with a good horror movie, in which case the place to look was the many trailers which made their debut during the week.
We had glimpses of Justice League, Kong: Skull Island, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman and a television-series version of The Exorcist starring Gina Davis, which actually looks pretty interesting if you don’t mind priests fighting demons with guns instead of holy water.
But an unexpected treat came in the form of the screening of an upcoming found-footage horror film called The Woods.
From what we are told, during the screening the posters for The Woods in the theater lobby were swapped out for ones simply titled Blair Witch, and audiences were informed that they were about to watch a direct sequel to the 1999 horror blockbuster that started the craze: The Blair Witch Project.
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