New Treasures: The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch by Daniel Kraus

Monday, December 26th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

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Daniel Kraus co-wrote Trollhunters with Guillermo del Toro, the basis for the Netflix animated series of the same name. He’s also the author of the horror novels Rotters and Scowler.

His latest project is a two-volume epic about an undead seventeen year old on a secret mission to assassinate Hitler. It began with The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch: At the Edge of Empire (October 2015), and concludes with The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch: Empire Decayed (October 2016).

Entertainment Weekly named the first volume one of the Top Ten Books of 2015, saying “Kraus’s globe-trotting dead kid is by turns cavalier, playful, and thoughtful, and his singular voice — a debonair turn-of-the-century murderer-turned-victim — is utterly riveting,” and Booklist called it “a giant-size epic [that] skillfully blends historical fiction, dark humor, and horror to push readers right to the brink.” There’s a definite YA feel to these books, although there’s also a macabre horror angle, so proceed with caution if you’re a little on the squeamish side.

Here’s the description for the first volume.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Cthulhu Casebooks & Nightmares

Monday, December 26th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

lovegrove_shadwellIn the early 1900’s, Maurice Leblanc had his French detective, Arsene Lupin, face off with Herlock Sholmes. I think you know who he’s battling – spelling disregarded. 1965’s A Study in Terror sent Holmes after Jack the Ripper on movie screens and in 1988, and Sax Rohmer biographer Clay Van Ash brought Holmes and Fu Manchu together in Ten Years Beyond Baker Street. Crossovers have become more and more popular over the years. James Lovegrove currently has Holmes interacting with the Cthulhu mythos.

I don’t do a lot of book reviews here at The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes because I generally don’t like to reveal spoilers. And it can be tough to talk about the strong points of a book without giving away key elements. But sometimes, especially with older books, that’s part of the price of the post. So, I’ll try to limit revelations in this one, but be warned: There be spoilers here!

Lovegrove, who has written several non-Holmes books, is part of Titan’s stable of new Holmes authors. Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows is the first of a trilogy, with Sherlock Holmes & The Miskatonic Monstrosities due out in Fall of 2017 and Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex Sea Devils to wrap things up in November of 2018.

The basic premise of the book (yea, the trilogy) is that Watson made up the sixty stories in the Canon. He did so to cover up the real truth behind Holmes’ work. And that’s because the truth is too horrible to reveal. In a nutshell, Watson has written three journals, each covering events fifteen years apart, to try and get some of the darkness out of his soul.

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How Long Does it Take For Treasure to Become Vintage? The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay

Sunday, December 25th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

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There aren’t a lot of fantasy books that remind me of Christmas, but Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry, the trilogy that launched his fiction-writing career, is definitely one example.

I think it’s because the opening novel, The Summer Tree, was published by McClelland & Stewart in late October 1984, and by Christmas it seemed everyone I knew was talking about it. In 1984 I turned 20 years old, and started my last year of undergrad studies at the University of Ottawa. The bookstore I hung out in every Saturday was The House of Speculative Fiction, run by Pat Caven and Rodger Turner, and by December Pat — with whom I had long chats about books every week — was enthusiastically sharing the buzz about the book. “I’m told it starts slow,” she said, “but once they cross over into the fantasy world, it really picks up.”

There was a lot of attention paid to Guy Gavriel Kay’s first fantasy novel in Ottawa. He was something of a local celebrity. He was Christopher Tolkien’s co-editor on The Silmarillion, which was published to worldwide acclaim when Kay was just 23 years old. Although he lived in Toronto, where he returned to law school in 1975, and certainly didn’t hang out in any circles we knew (“He writes in a salon,” Pat told me, shaking her head), he was still Canadian. And in those days, a Canadian fantasy writer was a genuine novelty… especially a very good one, which it quickly became obvious Kay was.

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Merry Christmas From Black Gate

Sunday, December 25th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

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Christmas morning. It’s always hectic, no matter how carefully you prep for it.

I awoke this morning to the usual excited screams from my teenage kids, just before they dashed downstairs. After our traditional breakfast of Alice’s homemade Christmas quiche (onions, ham, red and green peppers, mixed with 4 eggs, an entire block of swiss cheese, and two cups of cream — yum!), the kids vanished into the basement to begin an 18-hour movie and video game binge session, Alice happily retired to her chair by the window with her new copy of The Girl on a Train, and I headed into the Black Gate office to grab the mail.

It’s strange, but I love the BG offices when they’re quiet. For most of they year they’re full of pre-deadline panic, the resigned hum of the coffee machine, and whatever strange sounds escape the screening room (where Matthew David Surridge was locked away for five months, tirelessly scribbling 85,000 words of Fantasia coverage… when that poor guy finally got out of there, his eyes were like saucers. I swear). But for now the lights are off… except for the mantelpiece, where the interns have strung colored lights all around our brand new Alfie and World Fantasy Awards.

As I picked up the mail, I did notice a few folks have snuck back into the office. The lights are on in Ryan Harvey’s office, where he’s probably putting the finishing touches on his next John Carpenter piece. It’s good to have Ryan back, and he’s certainly been making up for lost time. It looks like Rich Horton and Derek Kunskun have been by to pick up their mail… and unless I’m very much mistaken, that’s William Lengemen in the film archives, researching his next Dark House Double Feature.

The end of the year is always a time for reflection, and 2016 is certainly no exception. In July of 2014 Black Gate surpassed a million pages views in a single month for the first time, and we’ve never looked back. Two Hugo nominations later, our audience continues to grow by leaps and bounds. And the engine for that incredible growth has been you, our loyal readers. You’ve never been more supportive than you have in 2016 — with your comments, letters, and your continued interest in all our endeavors, large and small.

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts. On behalf of the vast and unruly collective that is Black Gate, I would like to wish you all Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Continue being excellent — it’s what you’re good at.


The First Blade Runner 2 Trailer is Out!

Sunday, December 25th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Blade Runner is my favorite science fiction movie and it’s probably in my Top 10 Movies of All Time as well. It’s scifi, hard boiled noir with great cinematography. I have the 4-disc Director’s Cut DVD set and a couple soundtrack CDs. I played the PC game through twice and I even have D.K. Jeter’s two not-so-great sequel novels (thank goodness they didn’t turn to those for the sequel!).

I am optimistic that Blade Runner 2049, the sequel out next year, over two decades after the original, will be a good movie. Hampton Fancher, who co-wrote the original Blade Runner script, co-wrote this one as well. And Harrison Ford is back as Rick Deckard. Now, I think that Ridley Scott played a pivotal role in the look and feel of Blade Runner. He is listed as an Executive Producer on the new film, but he is not directing. So, I’m a bit concerned.

In the new film, Ryan Gosling plays Agent K, a young blade runner who discovers a secret which could destroy society. So, he seeks out former blade runner Rick Deckard (Ford), who seems to have been missing for thirty years, for help. Visually, this has the Blade Runner feel. And I can’t stress enough how important that’s going to be. If watching this new film doesn’t take you back to the original, it’s going to be a failure.

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Hammers, Chemo and Disapproving Dads: Marvel’s Thor

Saturday, December 24th, 2016 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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Working on novels and such took me away from some of the main Marvel storylines just before Secret Wars until just after Civil War II (so I just missed a lot). I’m in the process of catching up on some Marvel real estate.

Lately I’ve been reading The Mighty Thor (they’re up to issue #13) and The Unworthy Thor (they’re up to issue #2).

For you completists, Thor goes way back to Journey Into Mystery #83, when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby made up the Asgardian god and made him fight aliens. Thor has been a popular character in Marvel who, along with Hercules, brought the divine to the Marvel Universe.

Asgard and Tales of Asgard brought in a ton of new characters into Thor’s orbit in the 1970s. The 1980s gave Thor a huge boost under creator Walt Simonson who defined the character for many modern readers.

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December 2016 Nightmare Magazine Now on Sale

Saturday, December 24th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

nightmare-magazine-51-smallThe last 2016 issue of Nightmare is now available. And it looks like a good one, with original fiction from Dale Bailey and Livia Llewellyn, and reprints by Brian Evenson and Priya Sridhar. Here’s Charles Payseur’s assessment at Quick Sip Reviews:

The two stories in the December Nightmare magazine certainly show what makes speculative horror so captivating — revealing the uncomfortable truths and darkness that exists all around us, giving it physical form, and then making us face it. These are both stories that lean more fantasy than science fiction, pulling on some older traditions, of werewolves and Lovecraftian horror. While both are in some ways monster stories, though, they are also both stories that deal with youth, that feature main characters on the verge of adulthood, and reveal how quickly roles can be reversed when adults try to control the next generation. These are viscerally dark and violent stories but also deep insights into people and fears.

Read his complete review here. The complete contests of the issue are listed below.

Original Stories

I Was a Teenage Werewolf” by Dale Bailey
Before Miss Ferguson found Maude Lewis’ body in the school gym, none of us believed in the teenage werewolf. There had been rumors, of course. There always are. But many of us viewed Miss Ferguson’s discovery as confirmation of our worst fears. Not everyone shared our certainty. There had been only a fingernail paring of moon that late February night, and a small but vocal minority of us argued that this precluded the possibility that Maude’s killer had been a lycanthrope.

The Low, Dark Edge of Life” by Livia Llewellyn
Translator’s note: these are the only extant, unburned, and legible (for the most part) pages retrieved from what was apparently the diary of one Lilianett van Hamal, an American girl who apparently lodged at the Grand Béguinage shortly before the Great Summoning of 1878 that left much of the city of Leuven in ruins. No other items from before that event have been recovered from what is now the Leuven Exclusion Zone, which as of this date remains permanently off-limits to the outside world.

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Future Treasures: The Skill of Our Hands, Book 2 of The Incrementalists, by Steven Brust and Skyler White

Saturday, December 24th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

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I missed The Incrementalists, the new novel from Steven Brust (the Vlad Taltos series) and Skyler White (In Dreams Begin) when it came out in hardcover from Tor in 2013. But folks who were more on the ball than I did not — such as John Scalzi (“Secret societies, immortality, murder mysteries and Las Vegas all in one book? Shut up and take my money”) and David Pitt at Booklist, who wrote:

A secret society has existed for millennia, operating under the surface of society. The Incrementalists are improving the world by making slight adjustments that make human existence a bit better than it might have been… But now they have a major problem on their hands. One of their own, who recently died, might have been murdered, and the woman who was given her memories paradoxically doesn’t seem to be able to remember her. Even worse, it looks like the dead woman has somehow manipulated the Incrementalists (or, to be more precise, Phil, who has loved her for centuries) into putting her memories into a very specific young woman for a very specific and quite troubling, possibly catastrophic, reason… cleverly constructed, populated with characters readers will enjoy hanging out with, and packed with twists and nifty surprises. If you have to call it something, call it genius at work.

The second volume, The Skill of Our Hands, arrives in hardcover from Tor on January 24th.

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Hammer Films for Your Holiday Joy: Rasputin the Mad Monk

Saturday, December 24th, 2016 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

happy-holidays-christopher-lee-rasputinWhen October disappears over the horizon, horror movie DVDs and Blu-rays go into hiding, and streaming services store their terror title watchlists away for another day. But a certain type of off-kilter movie survives through the end of the year. The winter holidays usher in bizarre “ironic” seasonal favorites. You’ll probably watch Die Hard. Me, I’m a fan of Batman Returns when it comes to dark festive cheer. And Gremlins. We can add The Krampus to the list of holiday-themed horror flicks. Your family may insist on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, although if you’re of my mind you’d prefer your cartoony Christmas violence via Home Alone. Or In Bruges. The Lord of the Rings films have a certain holiday vibe, and the same goes for the Harry Potter saga. If you want to take in a Bond movie for the Yuletide, there’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service … although you may wish to shut it off two minutes before the end.

But is there a place for Britain’s legendary Hammer Film Productions during Winter Solstice? After the 31st of October, do the Hammer DVDs and Blu-rays need to stay put by the Demon Elf on the Shelf?

No, I say! Hammer has a seasonal holiday treat, Rasputin the Mad Monk (1966). Okay, maybe only I consider it a holiday watch, but I’d like to share it with you.

Rasputin the Mad Monk is not a horror film. I have to make this clear upfront. Although released in many territories on a double bill with The Reptile and later paired with The Devil Rides Out on its first DVD release, Rasputin the Mad Monk is a historical melodrama with violent flourishes. Because the Hammer name is so synonymous today with “horror,” we forget that Hammer Film Productions was a busy studio that also put out comedies, science fiction, crime dramas, psychological thrillers, historical costume pictures, and adventure movies. Their reputation for horror ended up affecting the marketing of some non-horror fare: The Hounds of the Baskervilles (1959), a straight Sherlock Holmes adaptation, was sold with a drooling spectral wolfshead on the posters. Captain Clegg (1962), a swashbuckler about smugglers, was rechristened Night Creatures in the U.S. for no reason except that the distributor had that title lying around and wanted an excuse to use it.

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Unearthly Desires in an Unruly World: Cornelia Funke’s Living Shadows

Friday, December 23rd, 2016 | Posted by Zeta Moore

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In Living Shadows, the second book in Cornelia Funke’s wondrous Mirrorworld trilogy (currently being repackaged and reissued in the US as the Reckless trilogy), death haunts every page. We follow Jacob Reckless, our protagonist, as he attempts to rid himself of the moth devouring his heart. Given to him by the Red Fairy whom he carelessly betrayed, it begins to fill his body with excruciating pain. He must find an ancient crossbow belonging to an infamous witch slayer and a willing volunteer to shoot him in the heart. An equally ancient spell cast on it enables a third shot to resurrect its victim. Unfortunately, someone else intends to keep it for himself, and when Jacob encounters his dauntless rival, the world as he knows it threatens to crush his bones.

Funke bakes a layer cake of darkness and unconditional love with a haunting fairy tale icing that keeps you embedded in the story. You fall in love with the characters and feel their deepest emotions. In particular, Jacob’s simmering romance with his eternal companion, Fox (whose real name you learn once again in this volume) ensnares you. The moments where it comes close to a boiling point make you remember why fairy tale romance has captivated readers since the first storytellers entertained their audiences.

Theirs being the central romance in the story differentiates the series from so many others in the YA genre. Love triangles enchant their biggest fans and ensure the longevity of a series, but there comes a time when devoted YA readers roll their eyes. Focusing on one relationship betwen two compelling characters who fear each other’s deaths more than their own allows your imagination the freedom to savor their journey. When villains get in the way of their love, it’s just as fun of a ride, if not more.

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