Tachyon Publications released The Best of Michael Moorcock, edited by John Davey and Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, back in 2009, and I finally bought a copy last month. I don’t know what took me so long.
Moorcock has an enormous back catalog of fantasy; so vast I’ll never be able to read even a fraction of it. But this book finally gives me the opportunity I’ve wanted for years: to sample the full range of Moorcock’s storytelling craft in one compact volume, with some of his most famous stories — including his famous 1968 Nebula Award winning novella “Behold the Man,” the Elric tale “A Portrait in Ivory,” and the Jerry Cornelius story “The Visible Men.”
The book received rave notices when it first appeared. Bookgasm says it “Serves as a superb introduction to the boundless imagination of this unique and fascinating author,” and The Guardian calls it “A long-overdue retrospective.” And Booklist says it’s “A wild, fascinating batch of stories fairly balancing the fantastic and the nearly ordinary, and showcasing Moorcock’s talent very well.”
It’s the end of the month, and you know what that means. The complete contents of Lightspeed have now been posted online, awaiting your pleasure. Here’s Charles Payseur’s summary from Quick Sip Reviews.
The September issue of Lightspeed Magazine is all about crime and punishment. About people running from their pasts, running from authority, running from justice or injustice alike. In each of the stories there is a looming threat of some sanction. Police officers trying to maintain a status quo or a corrupt government trying to quash transparency or some nebulous force urging surrender or an actual crocodile waiting for the right moment to… These are stories that complicate crime and resistance, activism and revolution. And though they are unified by their focus on characters running from pursuit, from punishment, they show very different motivations and outcomes…
“Unauthorized Access” by An Owomoyela (10,700 words). This is a rather fun story about activism and bureaucracy and corruption, all wrapped in a warm cyberpunk blanket… The world is a vibrant and rather different New York, filled with solar collectors and data and big government but also a grittier side, an Undercity that Aedo fears to tread and a whole lot in between. And I love Aedo as a character, trying to do the right thing while continually finding herself in the right place at the right time to do something… a tense and rather thrilling ride at times, and I would be excited to see if there’s more to come from this world and these character. A great story!
Read Charles’ complete review of the September issue here.
This month editor John Joseph Adams offers us original fantasy by Maria Dahvana Headley and Jaymee Goh, and fantasy reprints by Tim Pratt and Christopher Barzak, plus original science fiction by An Owomoyela and Sean Williams, along with SF reprints by Alec Nevala-Lee and Charlie Jane Anders.
In September, Word on the Street takes place in major cities all over Canada, though not necessarily on the same day. In fact, if you live in Ontario, as I do, you could conceivably participate in both Ottawa’s and Toronto’s events.
I’m sure this kind of festival happens elsewhere, but the only other place I’ve experienced it is in Spain, for the Dia National del Libro
The purpose of the festival is to celebrate the written word. All kinds of businesses and associations attend to sell and give away books, magazines, comics, etc. At first glance, however, it might look as though all this is being done without much celebration of writers. If you have a look at the map, you’ll see that there were only two sections devoted directly to writers, the “Writers’ Block” and the “Genre Zone.”
Though when we last encountered John Carpenter at the 2015 Wizard World Comic Con in Chicago, Black Gate photog Chris Z and I quietly wondered if the legendary horror master might be on his proverbial last legs. He didn’t look at all well when he finally appeared an hour late for his press call and after all, he is approaching his 70th birthday, which in Hollywood years is approximately 150.
However, recent events seem to indicate Carpenter may have been the temporary victim of an overindulgence of Chicago nightlife – on that day at least. Because though he may no longer be making feature-length films, his music career is giving fans quite a lot to enjoy.
As you well know, Carpenter scored most of his iconic movies. But earlier this year he released a second stand-alone, studio album entitled Lost Themes 2, a follow up to the 2015 Lost Themes, and this week we got to feast our eyeballs on the music video associated with the track “Utopian Façade.”
Arguably, the video which runs just over three minutes could be a Carpenter short which takes you into a virtual reality world populated by gnarly monsters and one very peculiar heroine who is sporting the contact lens I want for Christmas. Plus the man himself makes a cameo.
Nathan Long, lead writer on inXile’s upcoming Bard’s Tale IV, posted a major update on the game’s Kickstarter page last night, alongside the above gameplay clip.
This clip is meant to illustrate the tone that we are looking to capture for our environments and creatures in The Bard’s Tale IV – a captivating and expansive landscape for you to explore, and a menagerie of creatures inspired by myth and Celtic folklore. We’ve also been feverishly working on the combat system and have made some amazing progress, but we don’t want to show our hand on it quite yet…
Right from the beginning, we made the decision that BTIV would be a game of free exploration. You’d be able to go in any direction you chose, ignore the main story to do side quests if that’s what tickled your fancy, or just noodle around and find cool stuff. We therefore made Skara Brae and the land it resides in, Caith, big places with lots of space and lots of story, scenery and secrets to get lost in. Skara Brae is a city now, with multiple levels of sewers, catacombs, and crypts below it, while the lands that surround it are vast and varied, with broad fields, haunted villages, deep forests, treacherous fens, and looming mountains, all riddled with caves, ruins, dungeons, and hidden places, all ripe for exploration.
inXile’s Torment: Tides of Numenera team is scheduled for release early next year; The Bard’s Tale IV will arrive sometime after that. They’ve recently announced their next game Wasteland 3, follow-on to the acclaimed Wasteland 2, will be launching a crowdfunding campaign on Fig on October 5th, 2016. Nathan Long is the author of Jane Carver of Waar, and has written extensively in the Warhammer universe, most notably his Black Hearts, Ulrika the Vampire, and Gotrek & Felixnovels. Read Bill Ward’s two-part Black Gate interview with him here and here, and enjoy Nathan’s complete update here.
Series Architecture: The Same But Different in EC Tubb’s Dumarest
EC Tubb’s Dumarest serial is oddly compelling… so oddly compelling that, if you like the first book, you end up slowly chugging through the series.
For those who’ve just tuned in, this is an incredibly long mid-20th century low Space Opera serial that influenced the roleplaying game Traveller. Note, series not serial: though there is forward momentum, each book is standalone — it’s more Deep Space Nine than Babylon 5. Also note the low. This isn’t exactly Conan in Space, but the Cimmerian would not be out of place.
So, Dumarest wanders a Grapes of Wrath galaxy — think how we met Rey in The Force Awakens — in search of Earth while pursued by the fanatical Cyclan, cyborg monks with no emotions other than the hunger for power and pride in their intellect.
It’s very much The Fugitive does Space Western. There are exceptions, and Tubb often kicks off with a short story before settling down the real meat. However, in almost every episode, Dumarest is the archetypal Drifter who becomes involved in gothic goings on in one of the local great houses, usually because that house faces some external threat.
(The houses are usually Gormenghast-style piles crammed with extended family and fuelled by dwindling fortunes. However, from time to time he swaps in military unit, spaceship, expedition, clan or band, with similar effect.)
This happens so consistently, that the books should be too formulaic to keep coming back to.
Following on our record 1.26 million page views in July, Black Gate had an even more incredible August. There were lots of small triumphs, but the big one was receiving an Alfie Award from George R.R. Martin at Worldcon (at right). In his blog post explaining this year’s awards, George wrote:
One of my special ‘committee awards’ went to Black Gate, which had 461 nominations in the Fanzine category, second among all nominees and good for a place on the ballot. But Black Gate turned down the nomination, just as they did last year, to disassociate themselves from the slates. Turning down one Hugo nomination is hard, turning down two must be agony. Integrity like that deserves recognition, as does Black Gate itself. Editor John O’Neill was on hand to accept the Alfie.
Our top article last month was my report on the Alfie Awards, with pics from the associated Hugo Losers party. Second was M Harold Page’s study on how to capture the magic of a great dungeon crawl in fiction. And third was our look at Michael McDowell’s classic horror novel Cold Moon Over Babylon.
Rounding out the Top Five were William Patrick Maynard’s review of The Midnight Guardian (“a hardboiled pulp yarn that is so good, it immediately makes you set the author to one side with a handful of other standouts”), and Neil Baker’s gaming piece, “How No Man’s Sky Has Reinvigorated a Gaming Generation (No, Not That One).”
Also in the Top Ten were our report on the 2016 Hugo Award Winners, Parts One and Two of Fletcher Vredenburgh’s Summer Short Story Roundup, our summary of the Top 50 Black GatePosts in July, and Bob Byrne’s detailed history of the TSR classic Dungeon!
Propaganda photo of the Volkssturm. This civilian militia appears to be well armed, but in fact borrowed their weapons from a regular army unit and had to give them back after the parade. The Volkssturm received castoff uniforms or no uniforms at all. The most appropriate uniform would have been a big bulls-eye on their chest
I’m in the process of researching one of my upcoming novels, Volkssturm, about the German civilian militia formed in October 1944. The Volkssturm called up all able-bodied men aged 16 to 60 who weren’t already in uniform. It also brought in some women. Most of these people weren’t particularly fit, or had been working in essential jobs such as armament factories and had been made redundant due to chronic shortage of material and Allied bombing. Even those who remained in essential jobs often served in local Volkssturm units charged with protecting their home area. The idea was to launch “total war” against the Allied invaders and save the homeland from devastation. We all know how well that worked out.
It’s been a month or two since I’ve been able to make time for some classic pulp SF. But over at his website Strange at Ecbatan, Rich Horton has piqued my interest in a 1957 Ace Double, pairing A.E. van Vogt’s Empire of the Atom and Space Station #1 by Frank Belknap Long. Here’s Rich:
I approached Empire of the Atom with some caution. It is another “fix-up”, though a fairly coherent one, comprising five novelettes first published in Astounding in 1946 and 1947. It was published in hardcover by Shasta in 1957, followed the same year by this abridged Ace Double edition…. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised…
It is set some 10,000 years in the future, after humans have colonized the planets of the Solar System, and then been reduced to barbarism on each of these worlds. A city-state, Linn, arose, and in the recent past it conquered the world and began to try to annex the barbarians on Venus, Mars, and even outer satellites such as Europa. The ruler, or Lord Leader, is a vigorous man but getting older. A new child is born to his scheming second wife, Lydia. (These are, of course, analogues to Augustus and Livia.) The new baby, named Clane, turns out to be a mutant — Lydia was accidentally exposed to radiation — this society uses radioactive metals (and worships the “Atom Gods”) but has no idea how they work. As a mutant Clane should be killed. However, a leading Temple Scientist wants to raise him and show that mutants, if treated properly, have the same potential as anyone. So Clane is raised, somewhat isolated, and becomes an unusual but very intelligent young man… There is a sequel, The Wizard of Linn, serialized in Astounding in 1950.
Empire of the Atom was one of Van Vogt’s most popular novels, with over a dozen editions from multiple publishers over the next four decades.
Gather round, kiddies, and I’ll tell you a story. Hey — are you listening? Turn off the TV (oh, excuse me, put away your device) and stop watching Agents of Shield, Supergirl, Daredevil, Gotham, Arrow, or The Flash, for just one minute! Hold on a second — don’t run out the door! This won’t take long, and I promise you won’t be late for the start of X-Men: Apocalypse, Deadpool, or Suicide Squad. Pay attention, and put away the deluxe slipcased fifty dollar hardcover editions of The Sandman or V for Vendetta or The Dark Knight Returns. I know, but you can finish your doctoral dissertation on Mimesis and Mutation: Gender Fluidity in the X-Men some other time! Please — close the browser; you can read later about how the two Avengers movies alone have taken in three billion dollars at the box office (not counting home video or merchandising money).
Three billion dollars. That’s two movies. Just Marvel movies. Out of over forty Marvel movies. Add in the take from the less aesthetically pleasing but still insanely profitable DC side of the street and the figure simply stops making sense. The number is more incomprehensibly mind boggling than Galactus showing up to eat the world, more wildly absurd than Bruce Banner being mutated into a huge green monster by gamma rays, more utterly improbable than a blue-blanketed baby escaping an exploding Krypton in a homemade rocket, and more sheerly ridiculous than a smoking-jacket wearing millionaire dilettante somehow getting the notion that bats strike fear and terror into the hearts of criminals. It’s just un-flippin’-believable.