Dead Ahead: Diablo 3: Rise Of The Necromancer

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017 | Posted by Matt Drought

Diablo 3 Necro

The Priests of Rathma — or necromancers, as outsiders call them — have long remained shrouded in mystery. Deep within the jungles of Kehjistan, they train to preserve the delicate balance between the forces of life and death. Now Sanctuary has need of their unique power, and the Priests of Rathma will answer. (src)

Diablo is one of the most beloved and revered game series. The hack and slash Role Playing Game has defined the roguelike genre of video games for over 20 years. Rise of the Necromancer is the second expansion for Diablo 3, resurrecting a popular hero last seen in Diablo 2.

Traveling from the eastern jungles of Sanctuary, the Necromancer, as a member of the Cult of Rathma,  has sworn to preserve the cycle of life and death. Since the arrival of the falling star, the dead have risen in great numbers and threaten to destroy all life. The Necromancer, with powers thought to be horrific by most mortals, understands the true threat to life, the overwhelming numbers of the dead. Due to this imbalance, the Necromancer is sent by his master to join the fight against the Lords of Hell.

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Thick As Thieves by Ken Lizzi

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

CaptureSwords & sorcery and hard-boiled crime stories share significant crossover in themes, characterization, and worldview. Both tend to have solitary heroes possessed of highly personal codes of behavior, flourish on the margins of civilization (be it the steppes of Turan or Poisonville), and over all, equal parts world-weariness and cynicism is de rigueur. Ken Lizzi’s newest novel, Thick As Thieves, amps up the comparison by being a hard-boiled swords & sorcery heist story.

Thick As Thieves’ opening echoes one of roleplaying’s hoariest tropes, by introducing all its primary characters during a fight, if not in a tavern, just outside one in the frontier city of Kalapo. Brick is a giant slab of a man, a veteran of the Merchant’s War, and given to bouts of berserk fury in battle. In dire need of work, he took up the post of bouncer at The Chipped Mug, a less-than-reputable tavern noted for its vinegary wine and its owner, Shib. Shib is Haptha, a non-human race derisively called Sharks for the dorsal ridge that runs atop their skulls. The Haptha are a race of capitalist empiricists who launched and won the war against the human Clackmat Confederacy and Leyvan Hierocracy to force them to give up their mercantilist ways. Glum Arent, an ever-present fixture in the bar, is by trade a poet, but makes most of his living writing letters for the illiterate, penning panegyrics for priests and politicians, and acting as general informant for those same clients.

A wagon wheel on one of Haptha Trader Vawn’s wagons breaks outside The Chipped Mug. While repairs commence, Vawn and one of his bodyguards, Dahlia, a relatively rare Leyvan swordswoman, enter the tavern. Outside, members of Kalapo’s Cartage and Drayage Guild take offense at the trader’s team fixing the wagon themselves. A fight ensues. When the guildsmen attempt to attack Vawn inside the tavern, Brick makes it clear he will brook no trouble, then proves it when his warning is rejected.

“Get the f–k out of the way, freak.” The leading red tunic reached out and prodded Brick — rather scornfully, Brick thought — in the midsection with the tip of his cudgel.

“Don’t,” said Brick. He felt the advance hints of the Fury, a faint haze of red specks at the edge of his vision. The jab with the club was insulting. And the tavern, and the safety of the people within was his responsibility. His job. He tried to keep the anger at bay, though not in great earnest. He recognized the dangers of surrendering to rage, but he liked the Fury. It was what made him a good soldier. It was what had allowed him to ignore fear — not dismiss it, not conquer it, but ignore it. It was what let him tear gaps in enemy positions, be the tip of a human wedge driving into a shield wall. He recognized the disadvantages in civilian life. Slipping the leash from impulse control could be a problem outside a war zone. So, he kept the Fury tightly reined in. But he missed it. And if this punk ass guildsman jabbed him again…

The punk ass guildsman jabbed him again.

The Fury descended like a curtain of crimson sparks. Pent up frustration spewed from Brick like wine from a punctured goatskin bag. He batted aside the cudgel and grabbed the wrist, yanking the man towards him. Brick squeezed and twisted, hearing tendons pop and little bones grind together. At the same time, his other hand shot forward and gripped the guildsman below the armpit of his red tunic. Brick lifted the man, continuing to twist and pull on the wrist. The guildsman screamed as first elbow then shoulder dislocated.

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Future Treasures: The Wrong Stars by Tim Pratt

Monday, October 30th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Wrong Stars Tim Pratt-smallI’ve been reading a bit more space opera recently, and I welcome the recent resurgence of the sub-genre. Alien races, hardened crews, derelict spacecraft, ancient mysteries in space… how can you go wrong with a mix like that? Tim Pratt kicks off a new series next month with The Wrong Stars; it sounds like it has all the right ingredients.

A ragtag crew of humans and posthumans discover alien technology that could change the fate of humanity… or awaken an ancient evil and destroy all life in the galaxy.

The shady crew of the White Raven run freight and salvage at the fringes of our solar system. They discover the wreck of a centuries-old exploration vessel floating light years away from its intended destination and revive its sole occupant, who wakes with news of First Alien Contact. When the crew break it to her that humanity has alien allies already, she reveals that these are very different extra-terrestrials… and the gifts they bestowed on her could kill all humanity, or take it out to the most distant stars.

Tim Pratt has been nominated for the Nebula, World Fantasy, Sturgeon, Stoker, and Mythopoeic Awards, and won the Hugo Award for his short story “Impossible Dreams” (Asimov’s SF, July 2006). His novels include The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl, and the Pathfinder Tales novels Liar’s Island and Liar’s Bargain. Several of his short stories have been adapted at Podcastle; C.S.E. Cooney reviewed two of them for us here (“HECK YEAH TIM PRATT!”). As T. A. Pratt, he’s also the author of the 10-volume Marla Mason fantasy series (Blood Engines, Poison Sleep, etc.), the first four of which were published by Bantam Spectra; the remainder were self-published.

Of his new series, Angry Robot says:

We’ve signed Tim up for books two and three in the Axiom series! He’ll never get away from us now; the chips are implanted too deeply in his cerebral cortex.

The Wrong Stars, Book One of the Axiom series, will be published by Angry Robot on November 7, 2017. It is 400 pages, priced at $7.99 in mass market paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Paul Scott Canavan. Read the first chapter at SFF World.

Black Gate Online Fiction: Tempus Unbound, by Janet Morris and Chris Morris

Monday, October 30th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Tempus Unbound-smallBlack Gate is very pleased to offer our readers an exclusive excerpt from Tempus Unbound, the newest Sacred Band novel from Janet & Chris Morris. In this excerpt, Tempus is seeking his sister, Cime, and his quest leads him to the future, where he finds allies — volunteers to fight sorcery from different epochs as the storm god allows. Tempus has already recruited Mano, an ally from the 22nd century, and he and Mano find a most unlikely new adherent when the god deposits them in yet another time and place…

Here’s the description.

Is this the Lemuria of antiquity, or of times to come? Once you’ve ridden the storm clouds of heaven from the edge of time, anything is possible.

Demonic hordes threaten to destroy the very fabric of time itself.

The fate of all humanity rests on the shoulders of Tempus the Black, Favorite of the Storm God. But even this hero of legend will encounter a challenge he has never faced before… present-day New York City.

Joe Bonadonna reviewed the book for Black Gate earlier this month, calling it “Epic in scope and concept… This is a fun novel to read, a great story that departs from the Sacred Band tales… It’s one of my favorites.”

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by Mark Rigney, John Fultz, Jon Sprunk, Tara Cardinal and Alex Bledsoe, E.E. Knight, Vaughn Heppner,  Howard Andrew Jones, David Evan Harris, John C. Hocking, Michael Shea, Aaron Bradford Starr, Martha Wells, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, C.S.E. Cooney, and many others, is here.

Tempus Unbound was published by Perseid Press on June 11, 2017. It is 346 pages, priced at $26 in trade paperback and $8.99 for the digital edition.

Read an exclusive excerpt from Tempus Unbound here.

The Late October Fantasy Magazine Rack

Sunday, October 29th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Analog Science Fiction November December 2017-rack Knights of the Dinner Table 247-small Lightspeed October 207-small Locus magazine October 2017-small
Luna Station Quarterly 31-small The Dark October 2017-small Weirbook Annual 1 Witches-small Meeple Monthly October 2017-small

There’s a new face in the crowd this week — Luna Station Quarterly, a speculative fiction journal that showcases emerging women authors. I’ve included issue #31 in the mix above; the magazine is now in its 8th year, so it’s high time we paid attention. Here’s the complete list of magazines that won my attention in late October (links will bring you to magazine websites).

Analog Science Fiction & Fact — fiction by BG writer Bill Johnson (“Mama Told Me Not to Come,” BG4), plus Catherine Wells, Scott Edelman, Robert Reed, Sean McMullen, and many others
Knights of the Dinner Table — Issue #247 has 20 pages of strips, plus “Getting the Band Back Together, and Other Campaign Starters” by James Davenport
Lightspeed — issue #89 has an original Dungeonspace novella from BG writer Jeremiah Tolbert (“Groob’s Stupid Grubs,” BG15), plus Sofia Samatar, Rachel Swirksy, Adam-Troy Castro, A. Merc Rustad, and Aliette de Bodard
Locus — issue 681 has interviews with James Patrick Kelly and Annalee Newitz, a column by Kameron Hurley, an obituary of Jerry Pournelle, reports from Worldcon 75, and plenty of reviews
Luna Station Quarterly — fresh fiction from Jennifer Lyn Parsons, Maria Haskins, Sandy Parsons, Anna Novitzky, Charity West, and many others
The Dark — new fiction from Darcie Little Badger and Davide Camparsi, plus reprints by Angela Slatter and Maria Dahvana Headley
Weirdbook Annual #1: Witches — new stories by BG writers John R. Fultz and Josh Reynolds, plus John Linwood Grant, Adrian Cole, Paul Dale Anderson, Scott Hutchison, Andre E. Harewood, and others
Meeple Monthly — all the news on the latest SF and fantasy board games, with a Starfinder Miniatures cover story, plus Mountains of Madness, The Mystery of Bluebeard’s Bride, 13th Age Bestiary 2, and tons more

Click any of the thumbnail images above for bigger images. Our early October Fantasy Magazine Rack is here.

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A Tale of Two Covers: More Human Than Human by Neil Clarke

Sunday, October 29th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

More Human Than Human Donato-small More Human Than Human Neil Clarke

Neil Clarke has produced some standout anthologies in the last few years, including Galactic Empires, two volumes of The Best Science Fiction of the Year, and of course his annual Clarkesworld collections. His upcoming book More Human Than Human: Stories of Androids, Robots, and Manufactured Humanity, with original tales from Rachel Swirsky, Robert Reed, Ian McDonald, Lavie Tidhar, Alastair Reynolds, Ken Liu, Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, Catherynne M. Valente, Genevieve Valentine, Jeff VanderMeer, and many others, looks like one of his best.

I’m rather taken with the cover, as well. It’s by Donato Giancola, one of my favorite artists, who did the cover of Black Gate 15 for us. You can see the original artwork at left above, and how it appears on the cover of More Human Than Human, above right. Donato is a master of small details, and is marvelously skilled at integrating those details into a visually striking whole. His covers frequently tell a story, as this one does, although the key to the story is often hidden in the details… just as it is here.

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1970s Horror Comics, Old and New: Eerie and Bloke’s Terrible Tomb of Terror

Saturday, October 28th, 2017 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Eerie 52-small

In time for coincidence with Hallowe’en, a friend recently pointed me at Bloke’s Terrible Tomb of Terror, a magazine walking in the path of such 1970s Warren horror magazines as Creepy and Eerie. I picked up a pdf copy just before the etsy store went on a bit of a break while The Bloke (Jason Crawley) moves house and shop. (30 October, 2017: The Bloke’s site is back up and I just bought two more issues at the online shop.)

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I was really only a superhero guy and a light Marvel horror/monster guy (Son-of-Satan (blogged about here), It, Strange Tales) when I was 10-15 years old, so the Warren style wasn’t really my bag back then.

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Avalon Hill Tries a D&D Boardgame: Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate

Saturday, October 28th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Betrayal At Baldur's Gate-small

I’ve been fascinated by the D&D Adventure System cooperative play games, which include Temple of Elemental Evil, Castle Ravenloft, Legend of Drizzt, and Wrath of Ashardalon, because apparently they can all be used together in one giant uber map of fun. (I don’t know for sure, of course, because my copies are all still in shrinkwrap and buried in the basement, but I think that’s the general idea.)

There’s been a pretty consistent drumbeat of releases in the series, including two others just this year, Assault of the Giants (February 15, 2017) and Tomb of Annihilation (October 18, 2017) — so much so that it sometimes seems that Wizards of the Coast has wholeheartedly embraced the industry’s shift away from tabletop RPGs towards board games by gradually turning D&D into a top line board game brand. I don’t think their board game releases outnumber their RPG supplements for 2017, but it’s probably getting close.

I heard plenty about Assault of the Giants, and ordered a copy over the summer, and I’ve seen a lot of recent chatter about Tomb of Annihilation. But October’s other D&D board game release, Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate (October 6, 2017), took me completely by surprise. In fact, I’d probably still be blissfully ignorant if I hadn’t seen an Oct. 3 Facebook post from Games Plus  (hat tip to Arin Komins for the link).

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October Is Hammer Country: The Gorgon (1964)

Saturday, October 28th, 2017 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

gorgon-1964-posterI love October, but it brings with it a major annoyance from popular movie websites: a deluge of click-bait lists with titles such as “10 Best Horror Films for Halloween,” “10 Best Underrated Horror Films,” and “10 Best Horror Films We Market Researched from Other 10 Best Horror Films Lists.” They’re tedious, show no deep thought about the genre or the season, and feature the same set of obvious picks. Plus, I have never seen one of these Top Halloween Movie lists include The Gorgon. Therefore, they all bear false witness.

The Gorgon is Halloween movie perfection, and ranks with the 1958 Dracula as the Hammer film most fit for the ghoul season. It’s Gothic, has a classic — albeit unusual — monster, features a small European village beneath a beetling haunted castle, and stars both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Plenty of Hammer films contain these elements. But what makes The Gorgon stand out for October is how much the dry, crisp, windy sensation of autumn blows through it. You can feel the arid wind each time it slams open a window or door. Dead leaves are strewn everywhere. The moon hides behind ever-scudding clouds. And there’s a sough on the breeze that sounds like a woman in the distance singing eerily (with electric organ accompaniment). It’s one of the studio’s most sumptuously beautiful productions and fulfills director Terence Fisher’s aim to craft his horror films in the model of dark fairy tales.

It’s also simply a fantastic movie with complex characters and psychology to make its designs mean something. Director Terence Fisher, the production team, and the insanely talented cast all outdid themselves on this one. The Gorgon doesn’t have the name recognition of a Dracula or a Frankenstein film, but it deserves to be better known — because I for one can’t imagine October going by without watching it.

Hammer moved rapidly through the classic movie monster catalog once they settled into Gothic horror, and by 1964 they were interested in finding new monsters. J. Llewellyn Devine came up with the idea of using a Greek mythological creature, the snake-headed Gorgon. He invented a new one called Megaera, the only survivor of the original three Gorgon sisters. (In the Perseus myth, the Gorgons are named Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale.) John Gilling, one of Hammer’s prolific directors, turned Devine’s treatment into a script, with uncredited rewrites from Anthony Hinds. Gilling wanted to direct the script himself, and was contemptuous of Hinds’s change and the final results. I understand his anger — but I disagree with his assessment of the movie.

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New Treasures: Necessary Monsters by Richard A. Kirk

Friday, October 27th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Necessary Monsters Richard A. Kirk-smallRichard A. Kirk (not to be confused with Richard Kirk, which was the pseudonym Robert Holdstock used to write sword & sorcery novels in the Raven series) is an artist with a number of covers to his credit. His short novel The Lost Machine, a tale of “deadly plagues, witches, and artificial intelligence in a dark fantastical setting,” was serialized at Weird Fiction Review (check out their interview with him here).

In his first latest book, Necessary Monsters, he delivers a caper novel set in a dark and wondrous world. It’s available now in trade paperback from Arche Press.

Lumsden Moss is an escaped thief and an unrepentant bibliophile with a long-suffering desire to foist some karmic retribution on those who have wronged him. But when the opportunity to steal a rare book from the man who sentenced him to prison puts him on the wrong side of the wrong people, Moss finds himself on the run. And it’s not just the book he stole that these people want, it’s also the secrets of a long-forgotten location on Nightjar Island, a place cursed and abandoned since the Purge.

When Moss falls in with Imogen, a nimble-fingered thief who has taken a traveling bookcase filled with many secrets, he starts to realize how much of his unsavory past is indelibly tied to a frightening witch-child and her nightmarish pet monster.

In a fantastic world, still recovering from a war where magic and technology were fused together, Moss and Imogen must decipher the mystery of their mutual pasts in order to illuminate the dark heart that still lurks on Nightjar Island.

Necessary Monsters was published by Arche Press on June 6, 2017. It is 384 pages, priced at $18 in trade paperback and $7.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Richard A. Kirk. Buy copies right from the website.

See all of our recent New Treasures here.

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