Nothing To Be Afraid Of

Friday, October 27th, 2017 | Posted by Violette Malan

Bradburyillustrated_manI often find that the idea of something is more frightening than the thing itself – unless you have a phobia, of course, in which case the reality is much, much worse than you imagined.

There’s a difference between fear and horror, but only because horror is, I think, a bit more existential. You can be afraid of something specific and not lose your grasp on the world, but horror is a feeling that sweeps over you like a wave, that’s bigger than you are, that momentarily stops your existence. In a manner of speaking, horror is a form of the sublime – the feeling you get when you come face-to-face with something that’s too big for your finite mind to grasp.

So for me, all the slashing, blood-spurting, bug-crawling, chain-saw wielding, limb-chopping stuff is just icky. Startling, sure, if it’s well done. It might make me recoil, it might frighten me, but it doesn’t stop my breath. It’s not horror.

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Goth Chick News: Twisted Christmas Cards Are My New Everything…

Thursday, October 26th, 2017 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Chas for Christmas

As you know if you come here often, the more off-beat and strange something is, the better I like it. I mean, anyone can do poser-weird: just walk into your local Spirit Halloween store any day in October and you’ll see a plethora of merchandise meant to temporarily convert an average suburbanite into a rampant Samhain-alian, if only for one night.

But it takes a special sort of twisted talent to create the truly and perpetually unusual, and those are people we are always on the lookout for here at Goth Chick News. Therefore, it is no surprise that we’ve decided to permanently cyber-stalk artist Charles M. Kline and forever affectionately refer to him as “Chas” – whether he likes it or not.

I first became acquainted with Kline’s art back in 2014 when I received his most recent work, Edgar Allan Paws and the Tell-Tale Tail Adapted From “The Tell-Tale Heart” By Edgar Allan Poe packaged in a coffin (yes, you read that right). You can learn more about that seminal incident here, but suffice to say I’ve been a rabid fan ever since.

Most recently Kline has brought his special brand of weird to bear on the holidays in the form of his first hardcover book, The 12 Frights of Christmas, which covers everything from “Mistletoe Mishaps” to “Egregious Eggnog.” Kline combines his unique drawing skills with an offbeat sense of humor that, while being rated PG, still has an undertone of commentary that I find hysterical. Especially in light of his latest holiday offering.

Christmas cards.

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Literary Wonder & Adventure Podcast: Halloween Special 2017

Thursday, October 26th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Literary Wonder and Adventure Show Halloween Special

If you’re even an irregular Black Gate reader, you’ve probably seen our previous coverage of Robert Zoltan’s excellent Literary Wonder & Adventure podcast. As we’ve mentioned, calling it a podcast doesn’t do it justice, as it’s really a professionally-produced radio show set in the dimension-hopping Dream Tower (with a talking raven). It doesn’t hurt that the host has a habit of interviewing talent associated with Black Gate, including bloggers Ryan Harvey and Rich Horton, and our Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones. My favorite previous episodes include:

Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Conversation with Ryan Harvey
J.R.R. Tolkien, Master of Modern Mythology: A Conversation with Author Scott Oden
Robert E. Howard, Master of Sword & Sorcery: A Conversation with Author Howard Andrew Jones
The Golden Age of Science Fiction, Part II: A Conversation with Rich Horton

Of course, if your sidekick is a raven, it seems natural that your Halloween special should be an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, one of the most famous poems in the English language, and that’s exactly what they get up to in the latest episode. The 2017 Halloween Special of the Literary Wonder & Adventure Podcast features top notch performances from Zoltan and Edgar the Raven… as well as a few surprise trick-or-treaters. Listen to the complete radio show here.

Modular: Tabletop Terror in the Tomb of Annihilation

Thursday, October 26th, 2017 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Tomb of Annihilation-smallAs the season of ghosts and ghouls is upon us, it’s a good time to have a terror-filled gaming experience. The most recent Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition adventure book, Tomb of Annihilation (Amazon), provides a good framework for a unleashing undead horrors upon a group of innocent fantasy adventurers.

Tomb of Annihilation is set in the land of Chult, an Africa-inspired continent setting in the Forgotten Realms. The players begin in a thriving metropolis, Port Nyanzaru, in which adventurers can race dinosaurs for fun and profit. As they move deeper into the jungles of Chult, investigating a powerful death curse that affects resurrected people throughout the world, they eventually come upon an ancient temple that is under the sway of a powerful archlich. Along the way, the players will interact with tribal shamans, zombie dinosaurs, and flying monkeys.

This isn’t the first 5th edition adventure that fits well thematically with a horror-based mood. Curse of Strahd (Amazon) re-invents the gothic horror of the Ravenloft setting, while Out of the Abyss (Amazon) explores demonic enemies spreading throughout the Underdark. The collection of deadly dungeons Tales of the Yawning Portal (Amazon) contains the chapters Dead in Thay and Tomb of Horrors.

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Black Gate Online Fiction: In Creepy Hollow, It’s Halloween All Year Long! An Excerpt from The Power of the Sapphire Wand by Erika M Szabo and Joe Bonadonna

Thursday, October 26th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Power of the Sapphire Wand-small The Power of the Sapphire Wand-back-small

Black Gate is pleased to present an exclusive excerpt from The Power of the Sapphire Wand (Creepy Hollow Adventures #2), the sequel to Three Ghosts in a Black Pumpkin, by Erika M Szabo and Joe Bonadonna.

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.

The Power of the Sapphire Wand (Creepy Hollow Adventures #2) is a spooky Halloween story for children, ages 6 to 14. It is written by Erika M Szabo and Joe Bonadonna, and illustrated by Erika M Szabo. Published by Golden Box Books Publishing, New York on October 1, 2017. Available in paperback ($11.95), and Kindle and Nook editions ($2.99).

Read the complete excerpt here.

Future Treasures: Valiant Dust by Richard Baker

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

Valiant Dust-smallRichard Baker began his career at TSR where, with Colin McComb, he designed the Birthright campaign setting in 1994, the first D&D campaign setting to support PCs as rulers, creating a hybrid game based on “diplomacy, politics, trade, construction and (of course) war” (Pyramid magazine). His next major release was the fondly remembered Alternity SF RPG in 1998, with Bill Slavicsek.

His first novel was Forgotten Realms: The Adventures: The Shadow Stone (1997); it was followed quickly by nearly a dozen others for TSR, including two novels in the Star*Drive setting (1999), the New York Times bestselling War of the Spider Queen: Condemnation (2003), and the Blades of the Moonsea trilogy (2008-2010).

Valiant Dust marks his first non-licensed project, and I’m glad to see it. It’s the opening volume of the military science fiction series Breaker of Empires, set in an era of great interstellar colonial powers. It arrives in hardcover from Tor in two weeks.

Sikander Singh North has always had it easy ― until he joined the crew of the Aquilan Commonwealth starship CSS Hector. As the ship’s new gunnery officer and only Kashmiri, he must constantly prove himself better than his Aquilan crewmates, even if he has to use his fists. When the Hector is called to help with a planetary uprising, he’ll have to earn his unit’s respect, find who’s arming the rebels, and deal with the headstrong daughter of the colonial ruler―all while dodging bullets.

Sikander’s military career is off to an explosive start ― but only if he and CSS Hector can survive his first mission.

Our previous coverage of Richard Baker’s game books includes:

Lost Empires of Faerûn
Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave
Shadowdale: The Scouring of the Land

Valiant Dust will be published by Tor Books on November 7, 2017. It is 349 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Larry Rostant. Read the complete first chapter here. Read all of our recent coverage of the best upcoming SF and fantasy here.

In Search of a new Weird Tales: An Interview with Joseph Goodman, Howard Andrew Jones, and the Talking Skull!

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

Tales from the Magician's Skull-small

Recently Goodman Games announced a Kickstarter campaign to fund the launch of Tales From the Magician’s Skull, a magazine of all-new swords & sorcery fiction in the classic pulp style. The first issue is a delight for Black Gate readers, with tales from popular BG contributors James Enge, John C. Hocking, Howard Andrew Jones, Chris Willrich, Bill Ward, and others. And best of all, Goodman has invited Howard Andrew Jones on board as editor, guaranteeing a top-notch product. The spectacular success of the Kickstarter campaign — more than quintuple its goal, with more than a week to go — demonstrates just how well the creators have read the market demand for a true sword & sorcery publication. I sat down with Joseph Goodman, founder and publisher of Goodman Games, and Howard — along with their undead master, the mighty Magician’s Skull — to find out more about one of the most exciting magazine launches in a decade.

My first question is for Joseph… why a magazine? How does that fit in with your laser-like focus on classic gaming?

Joseph: Thanks for the interview, John! To answer your question, I have to start with Appendix N. In the 1982 edition of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide, the creator included an obscure bibliography. It was Appendix N, the 14th appendix in the book, where he listed the works of fiction that inspired him to create D&D. That list has since become notorious. It is now a de facto “required reading list” for diehard fans of the game.

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October 2017 Nightmare Magazine Now on Sale

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

Nightmare Magazine October 2017-smallIf you’ve never tried Nightmare magazine… well, let’s face it, what better time than October? The latest issue has a nice assortment of creepy tales, including Joanna Parypinski’s “We Are Turning on a Spindle,” a short fable about a traveler who tirelessly searches the universe for a very particular castle, with a legendary resident. The universe, it turns out, is downright lousy with castles.

After years of searching, he found the castle on a remote forgotten world in an abandoned corner of the unknown universe. Castles littered the cosmos like dead stars, relics of the ancients…

What is our hero doing way the heck out here?

There was no beauty left in the known cosmos, as far as he could see, and so he had ventured to the unknown cosmos… These are strange worlds that lie on the fringes, so old they may have existed before physics settled down with its proper rules.

Parypinski has a real gift for turning a phrase (“The interior of the castle was likewise ruined and decrepit, its diseased antediluvian stone like a scabbed wound”), and the tale is short, about 2,400 words. While the prose is sparking and new, the tale is a very old one indeed, and the ending isn’t hard to predict. That’s sort of the point, I think, and the horror of the climax isn’t diminished by our ability to see it coming. Check it out here.

The October issue of Nightmare also contains original fiction from Cassandra Khaw, and reprints by Brian Evenson and Robert Shearman.

There’s also an editorial from John Joseph Adams, with all the latest news on upcoming titles from John Joseph Adams Books, including the Hugh Howey collection Machine Learning, and Molly Tanzer’s second novel Creatures of Will and Temper, plus the latest installment of “The H Word,” in which Kristi DeMeester shares her thoughts on horror. There’s also author spotlights, and a feature interview with Josh Malerman.

The complete contests of the issue are listed below.

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New Treasures: Swords Against Darkness edited by Paula Guran

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

Swords Against Darkness Guran-small Swords Against Darkness Guran-back-small

I’ve been anticipating Paula Guran’s monumental Swords Against Darkness anthology for over a year, ever since word started to leak out about the massive amount of research she was doing to make her selections (including reading every issue of Black Gate). The book was finally released this summer, but it wasn’t until last weekend that I was able to settle in with it.

And so far, it’s been a delight. It’s divided into three sections: Forging and Shaping, covering the canonical works that first defined the genre in the pulps (Howard, Vance, Leiber, Moorcock, and others); Normalizing and Annealing, those writers who followed in their footsteps (Tanith Lee, C. J. Cherryh, Karl Edward Wagner, James Enge, etc.); and Tempering and Sharpening, the modern writers who’ve brought something brand new (Joanna Russ, Samuel R. Delany, Saladin Ahmed, Scott Lynch). Paula offers a paragraph or two to introduce the authors and put each story in context.

As you’d expect, the pages contain tales of Conan, Jirel of Joiry, Eric John Stark, the Dying Earth, Zothique, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Elric, Kane, and Nifft the Lean. But there’s also stories of Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni, Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar, Samuel R. Delany’s Nevèrÿon, Elizabeth Moon’s Paksenarrion, James Enge’s Morlock, and Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky. There’s even one original tale, by John Balestra, a name I’m unfamiliar with.

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October Short Story Roundup

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

GdM13_500x375Things were a little thin on the ground for swords & sorcery this past month. Only  Grimdark Magazine crossed my radar this month with new tales of adventure, and three out of three in the latter publication weren’t S&S.

Grimdark Magazine #13 is packed with three stories and the usual spate of interviews, reviews, and commentaries on the subject of grimdark. If anyone will ever convince me that grimdark is a real, definable sub-genre and not just a marketing ploy, it will be the magazine’s editor, Adrian Collins. His choice of stories and non-fiction is solid and consistently presents grimdark as something far more than just gory rape and murder. In his magazine, there’s room for much subtlety and nuance.

The non-fiction is the usual magazine mix of good and poor. Though I disagreed with much of what he said, I enjoyed the interview with Nicholas Eames, author of Kings of the Wyld. Deborah A. Wolf has a fun article titled “How to Land a Rockstar Agent in Ten Excruciating Steps.”

Normally, I don’t write much about magazine’s non-fiction, but article in particular needs to be pointed out. In “Barbarians or Philosophers?,” Matthew Cropley and Victoria Bridgland make an argument that grimdark readers are a more discerning group than those who prefer more traditional fantasy. It’s more complex than that, drawing on things said by authors, as well as psychological studies, but that’s its general conclusion.

In the debate between those who love grimdark, and those who hate it, there is, I’ll concede, some evidence for either side. For those who claim that grimdark fans read because they enjoy the thrill that comes with depictions of violence, there’s some research, as noted above, to back this up. However, there seems to be much more recent evidence that supports grimdark fans gaining a deep fulfillment and enhanced personal well-being by engaging with grimdark fantasy. The dark and violent aspects of grimdark help it reflect the human condition in all its complex glory, whereas heroic fantasy is limited to an idealized portrayal of good and evil. Lack of material rewards and the unfairness and violence of grimdark worlds mirror our own, and help us see that the true rewards in life are increased wisdom and understanding of the nature of reality. Grimdark fans like the sub-genre because its anti-heroes share their high regard for justice and righteous vengeance, and that disposition means that the violence common to grimdark doesn’t detract from deep engagement with exploration of humanity, in all its glorious shades of grey.

I could spend an entire post unpacking the various claims made in that statement, but I’ll skip it that today. Suffice it to say, I disagree with most of what they say. Much of what passes for “increased wisdom and understanding of the nature of reality” is no more than easy cynicism and affected world-weariness. The only time I find humanity reduced to “shades of grey” is when I deliberately choose to filter out all the other colors of the spectrum.

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