Mage: The Hero Denied #3

Monday, October 23rd, 2017 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

Mage 3And so the story starts moving, just as the reviews and Internet buzz for this series begins to die down. Seriously, I’ve noticed how promotion for comic books tends to really ramp up with issue 1, but fades almost immediately afterward, as if no one might be tempted to pick up issue 3 if they hadn’t already read issues 1 and 2. Generally, by the time the last issue of a series shows up, the attitude among a lot of comic fans is “Oh, are they still publishing that thing?”

So you probably didn’t hear that issue #3 of The Hero Denied came out on Wednesday, but it did and it was good. Of course, some readers have probably been put off by the slow pacing of this story. For example, the first four pages are just Kevin talking to his son, Hugo, about the nature of magic while they walk around a car and then get inside it. And it turns out that my earlier theory was correct and these attacks are taking place in a parallel world just beside the “real world.” And while Kevin insists that his abilities aren’t hereditary, the fact that Hugo is able to slip into this parallel world would suggest otherwise.

The next six pages concern two Gracklethorn sisters, Aleksi and Sasha, visiting a mission in search of the Fisher King. As established in the very first Mage series, the Fisher King can assume any shape, but that shape will always appear crippled. I get that this is supposed to show how ruthlessly they’re pursuing their quarry, but it still seemed a bit implausible that these creatures were able to murder two people in a mission in the noisiest, sloppiest manner possible without anyone else noticing. On the other hand, Matt Wagner does a nice understated job of demonstrating Sasha’s powers of persuasion.

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Keep Up With the Latest Releases from Black Gate Authors — October Edition

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

The Harbors of the Sun-small After the End of the World Jonathan L. Howard-small The Robots of Gotham-small

As we head into fall, the list of upcoming novels, stories and features from Black Gate‘s authors and bloggers continues to expand — and grow more and more impressive. Here’s a partial list of the current and upcoming releases from some of your favorite BG writers.

The Harbors of the Sun by Martha Wells, the last in the Books of the Raksura series, came out in July from Night Shade Books
After the End of the World by Jonathan L. Howard, Volume 2 in the Carter & Lovecraft series, will be published in hardcover by Thomas Dunne on November 14
Todd McAulty’s debut novel The Robots of Gotham arrives in hardcover from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on June 19
Howard Andrew Jones’ For the Killing of Kings, the opening novel in a brand new epic fantasy series, arrives in hardcover from Thomas Dunne in July 2018
Derek Kunsken’s debut novel The Quantum Magician will be published by Solaris in 2018, and serialized in Analog starting with the January/February issue

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A Tale of Three Covers: The Mammoth Book of Dracula / In the Footsteps of Dracula, edited by Stephen Jones

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

The Mammoth Book of Dracula 1977-small The Mamoth Book of Dracula-small In the Footsteps of Dracula-small

One of the most interesting books I received in the mail the last few months was In the Footsteps of Dracula: Tales of the Un-dead Count, edited by Stephen Jones, a fat 679-page hardcover from Pegasus Books that contains 33 stories and a poem, all building on the legend of Dracula, whom Stephen King calls “still literature’s greatest villain.” It’s a true feast for vampire lovers of all kinds, with stories by Thomas Ligotti, Manly Wade Wellman, Ramsey Campbell, Paul J. McAuley, Charlaine Harris, Brian Stableford, Michael Marshall Smith, R. Chetwynd-Hayes, Basil Copper, Nancy Kilpatrick, and many others.

As I was researching the book for this article, I discovered a brief Facebook post from Stephen Jones that noted that it was a “revised and updated edition of [an] older Mammoth book,” The Mammoth Book of Dracula, originally published in the UK by Robinson in 1997 with a cover by Paul Aston (above left). The book appeared in a revised edition in 2011 with a more modern cover (above middle, uncredited) and containing one additional story, the Sookie Stackhouse tale “Dracula Night.” The new hardcover edition (above right, cover by Derek Thornton) adds a new title, an “About the Editor” page, and Acknowledgement and Credits, but otherwise looks identical to the 2011 edition. It arrived in bookstores on October 3.

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RBE returns with a WWE-style SmackDown: Challenge! Discovery

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017 | Posted by Jason M 'RBE' Waltz

Challenge Discovery Rogue Blades Entertainment-small

Ahem. It’s been a tad longer than realized: almost exactly 4 years later, RBE reignites. What better way to light the conflagration then with Battle Royale?

Once upon a time…

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The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in September

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The God in the Bowl-small

The top articles at Black Gate in July and August were both features on Conan, and last month Bob Byrne managed to nab the top slot with his look at a strange mash-up of police procedural and sword & sorcery, the Conan tale “The God in the Bowl.” Conan was created by Robert E. Howard in the pages of Weird Tales in 1932; 85 years later, he’s still the most popular character among our readers. That’s durability.

The second most popular article at Back Gate in September wasn’t about Conan, but it did feature a sinister cosmic entity also created in Weird Tales, this time in H.P. Lovecraft 1928 story “The Call of Cthulhu” — our report on the latest Call of Cthulhu solo module, Alone Against the Flames. At #3 was Elizabeth Crowen’s interview with popular cosplay photographer Bruce Heinsius. Fletcher Vredenburgh placed two articles in the Top Ten last month; the first was his review of Roger Zelazny’s 1983 novel Dilvish, the Damned, which placed at #4. Rounding out the Top Five was an article on famous book hoarders, “What do George Lucas, Michael Jackson, and Harry Houdini Have in Common?”

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Weird Sea Adventures: A Review of the Archipelago Kickstarter Reward Magazine

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017 | Posted by Tony Den

ArchipelagoReward_small

Click image to enlarge

First there was the Weird Tale, which hit the mark. Then there was the Weird Western, which hit the mark for many, but not all. Now there is the Weird Sea…

The advent of Archipelago came to my attention on Black Gate via Brandon Crilly’s post post earlier this year, which included some cool art and a teaser story – “The Ur-Ring” by Charlotte Ashley.

As a longstanding fan of maritime literature, specifically the Richard Bolitho stories by Alexander Kent (pseudonym of Douglas Reeman) and C.S. Forrester’s Hornblower stories, my ears figuratively pricked up when I saw Brandon’s article. Maritime adventure combined with fantasy… what more could one ask? Hmm, a Cylon Base Star perhaps, but we won’t go there…

For those who haven’t read Brandon’s original post, the basic premise of Archipelago is that of a Shared World, where people from earth’s 17th century have come across various ocean based portals to another world. To quote the Kickstarter:

Four hundred years ago, when control of the world came to depend on naval power as never before, a courageous few set off on journeys of discovery and conquest that would alter the fates of nations in ways no-one could imagine.

But once they’d sailed the seven seas, what if they found another?

ARCHIPELAGO is a historical fantasy serial with multiple new episodes appearing every month. Imagine a blend of Moby Dick, Pirates of the Caribbean, Master & Commander and Game of Thrones — with Lovecraftian monsters lurking beneath the surface!

Looking at the Archipelago Kickstarter it became evident that they did not require a massive contribution, more just seed funding to get their project going. The rewards were interesting, insofar as one could — as was a common practice way back in the British military establishment — purchase a commission. The difference being that instead of buying a rank in the navy, one could purchase a custom mention in a future story, which I thought was pretty cool. As they state it:

Archipelago isn’t just about storytelling, though. Readers will have the opportunity to influence events as the adventure develops, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes devastating.

I was hooked and proceeded to participate in the Kickstarter.

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Ghosts, Strange Science, and Trains That Vanish: The Tales of Arthur Conan Doyle

Saturday, October 21st, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Tales of Twilight and the Unseen Arthur Conan Doyle-small Tales of Terror and Mystery Arthur Conan Doyle-small Tales of Long Ago Arthur Conan Doyle-small Tales of Adventures and Medical Life Arthur Conan Doyle-small

We bow to no one in our appreciation of Arthur Conan Doyle here at Black Gate. Bob Byrne’s long-running Monday column The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes explored all facets of the career of his most famous creation, and over the years William Patrick Maynard, Mark Rigney, Ryan Harvey and other folks have written here about Doyle’s work and its many adaptations.

But Doyle made many contributions to the fantasy, detective and horror genres during his long career, and over the decades his work has been reprinted in numerous anthologies like Horrors in Hiding (1973), Famous Fantastic Mysteries (1991), Ancient Egyptian Supernatural Tales (2016), and many others. From 2014-2015 British publisher Alma Classics gathered dozens of his tales into four collections, all of which are still available, and all of which are worth tracking down.

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Julian May, July 10, 1931 — October 17, 2017

Saturday, October 21st, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Julian MayJulian May, fan and bestselling science fiction writer, died this week at her home in Bellevue, Washington.

Julian May was active in US fandom in the 40s and early 50. She published her first story, “Dune Roller,” in the December 1951 Astounding; it was filmed as The Cremators in 1972. She was the first woman to chair a Worldcon, with the Tenth World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago in 1952. The next year she married T.E. Dikty, co-editor (with Everett F. Bleiler) of The Best Science Fiction Stories, the first Year’s Best SF anthology. Over the next few decades she wrote 250 books, chiefly non-fiction books for young readers and adults, including A Gazeteer of the Hyborian World of Conan (1977, under the name Lee N Falconer).

In 1976 May began attending SF conventions again, starting with Westercon 29 in Los Angeles. She wore an elaborate diamond-encrusted space suit to the costume party, and started sketching ideas for who might actually wear such a suit. In 1978 she began writing what became the Saga of Pliocene Exile, the tale of a group of refugees from the twenty-second century who flee six million years into Earth’s past, only to discover two alien species in deadly conflict with humans who’ve already arrived.

May demonstrated an immediate talent for ambitious SF series, and turned that 4-volume saga into essentially into an extensive prelude for Galactic Milieu sequence: Intervention (1987) Jack the Bodiless (1992), Diamond Mask (1994) and Magnificat (1996). Her other work includes three trilogies: Trillium (written with Andre Norton and Marion Zimmer Bradley, published 1990-97), The Rampart Worlds (1998-2001), and Boreal Moon (2003-06). The Science Fiction Encyclopedia calls her work “at times reminiscent of the Planetary-Romance Baroque of Roger Zelazny.”

May was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame at the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention in 2015. She died on October 17, 2017. She was 86 years old.


October Is Hammer Country: Twins of Evil (1971)

Saturday, October 21st, 2017 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

twins_of_evil_posterI loitered in the early ‘60s for my first two Hammer movies of October. Now it’s time to shift to a different era in the fortunes of the British studio that redefined Gothic cinema: the sexy, violent, and financially troubled early 1970s. Hammer Film Productions didn’t make it out of the decade, releasing their last film in 1978, but this period of independent producers and escalating R-rated material left behind some enjoyable decadence. Twins of Evil is late-period Hammer sexploitation with a basic high concept: sexy twin vampire girls! But the film ends up far better than the exploitation lure would lead you to expect. A good portion of this success has to do with Peter Cushing delivering a top-tier career performance as basically an aging, less tolerant Solomon Kane.

By 1970, the close-knit Hammer family was scattering. The in-house producers had left, so chairman James Carreras turned to outside producers. A small company called Fantale Films, consisting of producers Michael Fine and Harry Styles and writer Tudor Gates, brought Hammer a proposal to film Sheridan Le Fanu’s vampire novella “Carmilla.” This led to a loose trilogy of films about the Karnstein clan: The Vampire Lovers and Lust for a Vampire (both 1970) and Twins of Evil. Filled with nudity and overt lesbianism — at least in the first movie — the Karnstein series was a hit for Hammer at a time when the studio struggled to keep up with changing tastes in horror.

Twins of Evil is nebulously a prequel to the first two Karnstein films, showing how Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas) became one of the undead when he raised the vampire of sixteenth-century Countess Mircalla (Katya Wyeth) from her tomb. The heart of the story, however, is the Brotherhood: a band of puritan crusaders under the leadership of the fanatic Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing). The Brotherhood executes suspected witches and devil worshippers across Karnstein’s domains, although they cannot touch the count himself.

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In 500 Words or Less: An Advance Review of the The Nine by Tracy Townsend

Friday, October 20th, 2017 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

The Nine Tracy Townsend-smallThe Nine (Thieves of Fate #1)
By Tracy Townsend
Pyr (400 pages, $17.99 paperback, $9.99 eBook, November 2017)

As an emerging author, I know that even once I land that coveted debut book deal, that’ll be the point when the real work begins. Completing a novel is one thing; afterward there’s the terrifying and unpredictable world of promoting the book and hoping that it does well enough that you can write a few more.

If my first novel is even half as good as Tracy Townsend’s The Nine, I will be well on my way.

Imagine a world where science and theology have been woven together, so that people believe not just in God, but in God the Experimenter, a rational entity controlling a world of Reason. Sort of like what the Enlightenment philosophes wanted – not to disprove God through science, but to show just how brilliant His world is by discovering more of its intricacies. Then imagine that God isn’t just observing His creation, but specifically testing nine individuals and recording everything they do, as a measure about whether His experimental world is a success. I’m not a religious person, but I’d be lying if I said that thought didn’t terrify me.

That’s the crux of The Nine, which explores a sort of steampunk world with just a hint of the magical, where people have electricity and gunpowder but tree- and ogre-like creatures coexist with humans (sort of) and people worry that magic might actually be real (until Reason proves otherwise!)

It’s an intricate and beautiful world that comes together slowly, but what really drew me in was the characters. For example, you have Anselm, the borderline cat burglar turned businessman and crime lord, who calls his lover Rare “kitten” in a way that’s almost a cliché – until he nicknames the young street urchin Rowena “cricket.” At first I thought he was following the same pattern of, well, lechery … but over time I realized Anselm was more honorable than I thought.

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