The Poison Apple: The Paintbrush is as Mighty as the Sword — An Interview With Lissanne Lake

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017 | Posted by Elizabeth Crowens

Lissanne Lake-small

Cover for Hammer of the Gods, photo by E. Crowens

Lissanne Lake is a Sword and Sorcery fantasy illustrator with an artistic career spanning over thirty years. A New Jersey resident, she’s designed everything from book jacket and magazine covers to tarot cards, games and wall murals for public art projects and has also worked with famous authors such as Sir Terry Pratchett. On the side, she’s a fencing instructor, a re-enactor, and is learning to speak Japanese.

Crowens: Were there any particular artists from whom you drew your inspiration?

LL: Western art paintings and illustrations by contemporaries Charlie Russell and Frederic Remington. Comic book art most likely had its genesis from Russell, and certainly he was (Hall of Fame action-style Sword and Sorcery and comic book illustrator) Frank Frazetta’s hero.  Russell’s work always captured motion — the horses are charging, the bears attacking, and hats are flying off cowboys’ heads.

Were these strictly fine art paintings?

They were illustrations for newspapers. I believe he wrote the articles, as well.

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Visiting the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


The apse dome of the Basilica of San Vitale shows Christ
enthroned, and looking very much like a Byzantine emperor

I’ve been posting a lot lately about my recent trip to Italy. The high point of the trip for me, indeed the travel high point of the year, was visiting Ravenna.

Ravenna has the best collection of Late Antique church art in the world. As the Western Roman Empire crumbled, Ravenna became the refuge for the last emperors and acted as the capital from 402 to 476 AD. Unlike the more exposed city of Rome, Ravenna was protected on all sides by swamps and was also a base for the Roman navy, making it easy to defend. It eventually fell into Germanic hands but became Roman once again when it served as the Exarchate for the Byzantine Empire from 540 to 751 AD. The Exarch was the representative of the Byzantine emperor in Constantinople and ruled over portions of Italy. Ravenna has a rich collection of religious buildings constructed by the Romans, Christian Ostrogoths, and Byzantines.

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io9 on January’s Must-Read Science Fiction and Fantasy

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Last Sacrifice-small Windwitch by Susan Dennard-small The Hanging Tree Ben Aaronovitch-small

After we completed our round up of the most interesting Best of 2016 lists, I kinda got a little list happy. I started investigating all these other lists. Best Books of January! Best of 2017! Turns out there’s a lot of interesting books coming your way in the next 12 months. Like, a lot.

I can’t be expected to keep all this knowledge to myself. So here we are with another book list, in this case io9′s nicely comprehensive summary of January’s Must-Read Sci-Fi and Fantasy, written by Cheryl Eddy. It covers no less than 25 dynamite new releases, including new books from Terry Pratchett, L.E. Modesitt, Seanan McGuire, Adam Nevill, Charles Stross, Kim Newman, Ellen Klages, David Brin and Stephen W. Potts, and many others. Here’s Eddy’s take on The Last Sacrifice by James A. Moore (Angry Robot, January 3, 2017).

The prolific fantasy author’s latest is about a warrior who becomes a hunted man when he challenges the gods who have targeted his family as their next human sacrifice.

The Last Sacrifice is the opening volume in a new epic fantasy series, Tides of War.

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Take a Crash Course in the History of Computer Role Playing in The Ultimate RPG Handbook

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Ultimate RPG Handbook-smallI’ve been a subscriber to PC Gamer magazine for over 22 years, since it launched as a British “Euro mag” in November 1993 (back in the days when computer hobby shops here in the US would carry British gaming magazines for the Amiga and the PC, and the magazines had disks taped to the cover. And there was such a thing as computer hobby shops.) The magazine has long had a terrific stable of writers — including Editor-in-Chief Gary Whitta, who famously left the magazine to become a screen writer. And he did, too, writing The Book of Eli and Rogue One, among others.

The artifact at right is PC Gamer Presents: The Ultimate RPG Handbook; I found it in the magazine section at Barnes & Noble on Saturday. It sorta looks like a regular issue of PC Gamer, except it has no ads, and is totally devoted to my favorite video game genre. Sweet!

Much of it is composed of reprints from the magazine, but there’s new stuff too — like Richard Cobbett’s massive 28-page full-color history of computer RPGs, starting with Temple of Apshai and Beneath Apple Manor, through Wizardry, Bard’s Tale, the SSI Gold Box Games, Star Control 2, Deus ExWitcher 3, and half a zillion titles in between. Cobbett lingers on several of the major series, like Ultima, and particularly influential games like Elder Scrolls:Arena, Baldur’s Gate, and Fallout 3. He doesn’t cover everything, of course, but his breezy style makes the whole thing entertaining and highly readable.

There’s plenty more crammed into the issue, including a feature on the future of RPGs, a long article on Witcher 3, and reviews of major new RPG releases like Fallout 4, Dark Souls III, and Tyranny (maybe they didn’t fit in the regular magazine?) There’s also a few production glitches, like the invitation on the cover to “Flip For More,” and an arrow pointing to the inside cover… which is totally blank. Nonetheless, whether you’re new to the genre or an obsessive collector who (like me) has every single game they mention, this is a terrific way to spend a few hours. Recommended.

The Ultimate RPG Handbook was published by Future Publishing in December 2016. It is 98 pages, priced at $9.99 (US edition), and 148 pages for £9.99 (UK edition). There is no digital edition, though one is promised. Get more details at the website.

Future Treasures: With Blood Upon the Sand, Volume II of The Song of the Shattered Sands, by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Twelve-Kings-in-Sharakhai-small With Blood Upon the Sand-small

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, the opening novel in Bradley P. Beaulieu’s epic fantasy series The Song of the Shattered Sands, was picked as one of the Best Books of the Year by Amazon, BuzzFeed, and the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi Blog.. And in her BG review, Kelly Swails called it “epic… a complex novel with crisp prose that is a joy to read.” Of Sand and Malice Made, a volume of linked novellas set in the same world, was released in September. And now the long anticipated second novel in the series, With Blood Upon the Sand, arrives in hardcover from DAW next month.

Çeda, now a Blade Maiden in service to the kings of Sharakhai, trains as one of their elite warriors, gleaning secrets even as they send her on covert missions to further their rule. She knows the dark history of the asirim — that hundreds of years ago they were enslaved to the kings against their will — but when she bonds with them as a Maiden, chaining them to her, she feels their pain as if her own. They hunger for release, they demand it, but with the power of the gods compelling them, they find their chains unbreakable.

Çeda could become the champion they’ve been waiting for, but the need to tread carefully has never been greater. After their recent defeat at the hands of the rebel Moonless Host, the kings are hungry for blood, scouring the city in their ruthless quest for revenge. Çeda’s friend Emre and his new allies in the Moonless Host hope to take advantage of the unrest in Sharakhai, despite the danger of opposing the kings and their god-given powers, and the Maidens and their deadly ebon blades.

When Çeda and Emre are drawn into a plot of the blood mage Hamzakiir, they learn a devastating secret that may very well shatter the power of the hated kings. But it may all be undone if Çeda cannot learn to navigate the shifting tides of power in Sharakhai and control the growing anger of the asirim that threatens to overwhelm her…

With Blood Upon the Sand will be published by DAW on February 7, 2017. It is 672 pages, priced at $26 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Donato Giancola, who painted the cover of Black Gate 15. Read more in the exclusive cover reveal at the B&N Sci-Fi Blog.

Mad Shadows II: Dorgo the Dowser and The Order of the Serpent by Joe Bonadonna

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_2452510XuzP2C1Joe Bonadonna’s a friend of Black Gate and, I’m proud to say, a friend of mine. He’s also a heck of a teller of hardboiled action and adventure tales. After too many years out of the toilsome fields of swords & sorcery, he returned in 2010 with a top-flight collection of short stories about one Dorgo Mikawber, dowser of magic and handy with a saber. I discovered Joe and that book, Mad Shadows (2010) here on the virtual pages of Black Gate, and reviewed it over on my site about four years ago.

After another significant hiatus he’s returned with a second collection of Dorgo’s adventures: Mad Shadows II: Dorgo the Dowser and The Order of the Serpent (2017). That’s a lot of title for a book that just crosses the two-hundred page mark, but it gives a nice sense of the pulpy goodness that lies betwixt its covers.

Dorgo Mikawber was raised in an orphanage, served in the army, and now makes his living as a magical investigator and finder of lost people. Last time out Dorgo’s adventures took him all over the continent of Aerlothia on the world of Tanyime. This time around his wanderings are more limited, starting in the countryside just beyond his home city, Valdar.

MS II is a fix-up. It’s made up of three separate tales, each linked to the other, weaving a larger story of Dorgo’s fight against the mysterious Order of the Serpent and its leader, Ophidious Garloo.

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Coming Soon: The Jurassic Chronicles

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 | Posted by Emily Mah

The Jurassic Chronicles-smallThe next installment of Samuel Peralta’s Chronicles series is set to launch on January 29th — the theme of this one is dinosaurs.

Edited by Crystal Watanabe and featuring stories from: Piers Beckley, Zen DiPietro, Ed Gosney, Laxmi Hariharan, Phillip Harris, M.J. Kelley, Stant Litore, Terry Maggert, Emily Mah (yes, that’s me), Harry Manners, Anthony J Melchiorri, Seanan McGuire, and Dinosaur Knights author Victor Milan, it offers a broad range of stories from both established veterans and new up-and-comers.

If you haven’t taken note of these anthologies, you are missing out. They feature an impressive mix of indie, hybrid, and trad pubbed authors who write science fiction and fantasy.

And this one has dinosaurs. Need I say more???

Emily Mah is a writer and the owner of E.M. Tippetts Book Designs, a company that provides formatting, cover design, and editing services for independent authors and publishers. Her last post for Black Gate was an interview with German author Emily Bold.

Black Static #56 Now on Sale

Monday, January 23rd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Black Static 56-smallBritish horror magazine Black Static #56, cover-dated January-February 2017, is now available. Kevin P Hallett at Tangent Online has particular praise for “What We Are Moulded After” by Eugenia M. Triantafyllou:

Eleni’s harsh husband, Andreas, is dead and she has used her witch powers to recreate him from clay in this short fantasy…. However, Eleni’s cousin sees him. The cousin thinks her secret lover is still alive.

Eleni is furious that her dead husband’s mistress has seen the clay copy. Now she must destroy her creation. But as she does, she holds back from the final killing cut and leaves the clay Andreas with no legs or arms, but still with its mind. She hides the clay lump in the shed.

Days later, the real Andreas returns, alive and just as cruel as before. Can the remains of the clay version somehow protect Eleni? …an interesting and nicely written fantasy.

And “Stanislav in Foxtown” by Ian Steadman.

Stan works for mean Mr. Sharples, in this short horror/mystery. In a dying town, Mr. Sharples runs the fried chicken shop, treating Stan contemptuously. Just as long as he has money to send back to his family, Stan continues to tolerate the abusive treatment.

When he spies a fox near his home, lonely Stan decides to befriend it, giving it leftover chicken bones. Soon, there are tens of foxes coming to his old house. The leader of the foxes seems to offer a pact with Stan. Could they help him with Mr. Sharples? …a nicely written story. The mystery pulled the reader through to the end.

Read the complete review here.

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Vintage and New Treasures: Oz’s Bag of Holding: John Sandford’s Prey Series; Stephen King’s Bill Hodges Trilogy

Monday, January 23rd, 2017 | Posted by Nick Ozment

rules of prey king-audio-small

I have here a bag of holding. I am now going to pull some things out of it…

This past fall, since I do a lot of commuting to work and had become too depressed to follow my daily routine of news radio, I began listening to books on CD.

I’ve now digested 5 books in John Sandford’s popular Prey series (following detective Lucas Davenport), read by Richard Ferrone, and the first two of Stephen King’s Bill Hodges trilogy (following retired detective Bill Hodges and his friends Jerome Robinson and Holly Gibney), read by Will Patton.

Sandford, a retired Minneapolis journalist, began writing the Prey books back in the ‘80s. The series now has 27 installments, with an additional 13 spin-off books! Looks like I’ll be spending time with Lucas Davenport in my minivan for a long time to come.

Having brought these out of the bag, I’d like to discuss two specific areas of appeal of a series like Prey. First is place. Second is chronological progression (following characters as they age). Then I have an afterthought about genre “classification.” I’ll also  address “audio” vs. “printed page.” And I’ll have a few things to say about King’s foray into hardboiled detective fiction along the way.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes – A New Solar Pons Omnibus

Monday, January 23rd, 2017 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Copper_OmnibusIf you want to read my thoughts on the season four (and hopefully series) finale of BBC’s Sherlock, click on over and read it at my blog. Because today The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes is going to talk about Solar Pons.

August Derleth, the creator of Solar Pons, passed away in 1971. Derleth’s final collection, The Chronicles of Solar Pons, a mix of previously released stories and ones never published, came out in 1973. Surprisingly, Pons would be back within a decade! In 1979, Basil Copper would release three collections of tales: The Dossier of Solar Pons, The Further Adventures of Solar Pons and The Secret Files of Solar Pons. There would be three more collections, as well as a novella. Copper had written horror books for Derleth’s Arkham House imprint and he seemed like a good choice for continuing the stories.

Unfortunately, Copper’s Pons connection did not have a happy ending. He helped Arkham House editor Don Turner compile an omnibus edition of all of Derleth’s released Pons stories. However, Copper chose to do some ‘corrective editing’ of the originals, which caused a furor among the Pontine faithful. You can read Jon Lellenberg’s essay on this topic in The Solar Pons Gazette (page 45). Peter Ruber also wrote an excellent account, but I don’t have permission to reprint that.

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