Looting is Better With Friends: Dungeon Dwellers

Sunday, November 26th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Dungeon Dwellers-small

I’m still unpacking the boxes I brought home from the Fall 2017 Games Plus auction. There’s so many SF and fantasy board games being published these days that it’s impossible to keep up. But you know, I do my best.

A week after the auction, I dropped by Games Plus in Mount Prospect to grab a handful of new releases I had my eye on. There in the sale bin was Dungeon Dwellers, a “cooperative card game for 2 or more players” released in 2014. Now, I still have a stack of unopened auction games in my living room, slowly collecting dust and making my wife cranky. But I love dungeon games, and I especially love cooperative dungeon games. And the thing that especially makes me weak in the knees is a deep discount. Ten minutes later I left the store with Dungeon Dwellers, wrapped in a paper bag so I could stealthily sneak it into the house.

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Giving up the Ghost: All Hallows 43

Sunday, November 26th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

ALL HALLOWS 43-smallWhen I was at the 2016 World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio last year, I accomplished something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: buy the current issue of All Hallows, the acclaimed Canadian journal of spooky fiction. It’s been published since the mid-90s, and was nominated for the International Horror Guild Award in 2003, and the World Fantasy Award in 2004. Back issues are still available at their website, but I wanted to hold a copy in my hot little hands before handing over my shekels for international shipping.

Issue #43 was well worth the wait. Weighing in at 304 pages, it contains new fiction from Frances Hardinge, Rhys Hughes, J.J. Travis, Terry Grimwood, John Alfred Taylor, and many others. There’s also plenty of great articles and reviews. The editors are also the folks behind the highly regarded Ash Tree Press, and much of the material originally published in All Hallows has ended up reprinted in one of their attractive collections. The Ghost Story Society website has a fine description of their magazine:

All Hallows is the twice-yearly journal of The Ghost Story Society. This substantial publication, which is now 300 pages per issue, is edited by Barbara and Christopher Roden.

Each issue of the journal offers a mixture of items dealing with all aspects of the ghost story world. In addition to articles dealing with authors such as M. R. James, E. F. Benson, Amyas Northcote, Eleanor Scott, Elizabeth Jane Howard, H. G. Wells, August Derleth, Robert Aickman, Walter de la Mare, and other practitioners of the genre, there is a substantial review section dealing with new publications in the field; a News and Notes section covering new developments in the genre; a Film News and Notes section; articles about obscure and/or overlooked authors; Haunted Cinema, a regular feature looking at classic supernatural films; ‘Ramsey Campbell, Probably’; and letters and queries from our members.

All Hallows is also the Society’s major forum for new supernatural fiction, with an average of seven stories appearing in each issue. These are all new stories — not reprints of previously used material — by authors such as Simon Clark, A. F. Kidd, Terry Lams… Ellen Datlow, in her Introduction to The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 10, wrote that All Hallows ‘is a must for aficionados of the classic ghost story.’

All Hallows 43 is the Summer 2007 issue, which appears to be the most recent. So while it’s good to get so many questions answered, obtaining this issue opens up a deeper mystery. Namely, is the magazine still being published?

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The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in October

Saturday, November 25th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Tales from the Magician's Skull-small

Sword and Sorcery dominated the stage at Black Gate last month. The most popular topic in October was the new S&S magazine from industry pioneers Joseph Goodman and Howard Andrew Jones, Tales From the Magician’s Skull, which showed up twice in the Top Ten, first with a far-ranging interview with Joseph and Howard (and their undead overlord, the Talking Skull), followed by a report on the blockbuster Kickstarter that funded the first two issues.

Gaming and game news were definitely popular as well. The #1 article for the month was M. Harold Page’s review of Starfinder Alien Archive, followed by our look at the top-sellers at the semi-annual Games Plus auction in Mount Prospect. Goth Chick came in third with her trip report on the Cedar Point HalloWeekends event, featuring Midnight Syndicate’s 20th anniversary concert. Rounding out the Top Five were Elizabeth Crowens’ interview with horror master Nancy Kilpatrick, and M. Harold Page’s advance peek at the Elite Dangerous Role Playing Game.

Coming in at #7 for the month was Fletcher Vredenburgh’s touching reminiscence of his long-time gaming circle, “The Past Remembered.” Ninth was our feature on the very first piece of Greyhawk fiction, Gygax’s 1974 article “The Expedition Into the Black Reservoir: A Dungeon Adventure at Greyhawk Castle.” And closing out the Top Ten was our look at the popular Corpse-Rat King novels by Lee Battersby

The complete list of Top Articles for October follows. Below that, I’ve also broken out the most popular overall articles, online fiction, and blog categories for the month.

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The 4th International Science Fiction Conference, Chengdu, China, November 2017

Saturday, November 25th, 2017 | Posted by Derek Kunsken


I’ve been cataloguing some of my Paddington-the-Bear adventures in 2017. This year was the first time I went to New York (see A Babe in the Woods: Derek’s Literary Adventures, and Questing in New York! NYCC 2017). I had some other secret adventures this fall that I haven’t blogged about, but recently I had a bigger adventure!

For the first time ever, I was invited to a literary conference to be an Author Guest of Honor. It was the 4th International Science Fiction Conference in Chengdu, Sichuan, China. It was sponsored by SFWorld, a Chinese magazine and book publisher, with media and tech giant Tencent as one of the sponsors. I was one of about a dozen foreign authors and editors in attendance. Here’s a shot of some of the billboards outside the event.

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Future Treasures: The Big Book of the Continental Op by Dashiell Hammett

Saturday, November 25th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Big Book of the Continental Op-smallYesterday, as I was preparing a New Treasures piece on Otto Penzler’s newest Vintage anthology, The Big Book of Rogues and Villains, I stumbled on a listing for one I’d never seen before: The Big Book of the Continental Op, a massive omnibus of classic fiction by Dashiell Hammett, perhaps the greatest crime writer of the 20th Century.

Edited by Richard Layman and Julie M. Rivett, The Big Book of the Continental Op gathers all 28 of Hammett’s Continental Op stories into one place for the first time, including the novels Red Harvest and The Dain Curse. It arrives in trade paperback on Tuesday.

Now for the first time ever in one volume, all twenty-eight stories and two serialized novels starring the Continental Op — one of the greatest characters in storied history of detective fiction.

Dashiell Hammett is the father of modern hard-boiled detective stories. His legendary works have been lauded for almost one hundred years by fans, and his novel The Maltese Falcon was adapted into a classic film starring Humphrey Bogart. One of Dashiell Hammett’s most memorable characters, the Continental Op made his debut in Black Mask magazine on October 1, 1923, narrating the first of twenty-eight stories and two novels that would change forever the face of detective fiction. The Op is a tough, wry, unglamorous gumshoe who has inspired a following that is both global and enduring. He has been published in periodicals, paperback digests, and short story collections, but until now, he has never, in all his ninety-two years, had the whole of his exploits contained in one book. The book features all twenty-eight of the original standalone Continental Op stories, the original serialized versions of Red Harvest and The Dain Curse, and previously unpublished material. This anthology of Continental Op stories is the only complete, one-volume work of its kind.

Vintage’s Big Book series is a gift to genre fiction lovers of all stripes. Many of my favorites — including The Big Book of Ghost Stories, The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries and The Vampire Archives — were edited by Penzler, but they also include the monumental Big Book of Science Fiction, edited by Jeff VanderMeer and Ann Vandermeer, which may be the largest single SF anthology ever published. There are nearly a dozen Big Books at this point, and they’re well worth tracking down. And they make great Christmas gifts!

The Big Book of the Continental Op will be published by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard on November 28, 2017. It is 752 pages, priced at $25 in trade paperback.

Elric and Me

Friday, November 24th, 2017 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Elric of Melnibone-small The Sailor on the Seas of Fate-small

My introduction to Michael Moorcock’s Elric came from a single line in the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master Guide. Gary Gygax included a note in Appendix N that Michael Moorcock’s Stormbringer and Stealer of Souls, as well as the first three books of the Hawkmoon series, influenced the game. I sought out the Elric cycle (as well as the Hawkmoon, Corum, Erekosë, etc.) in the DAW editions with cover art by Michael Whelan.

It was a great time to discover the books, since they were all in print and relatively easy to obtain. I worked my way through as many of Moorcock’s books as I could find, including his Dancers at the End of Time series, Michael Kane/Warrior of Mars series, and even books like The Black Corridor, The Wrecks of Time, and The Shores of Limbo. I remember my elation upon finding a used copy of The Ice Schooner in a used bookstore in New Haven, CT after searching for it through several states in those pre-internet days.

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New Treasures: The Big Book of Rogues and Villains edited by Otto Penzler

Friday, November 24th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Big Book of Rogues and Villains-smallOtto Penzler’s Big Books series include some of the most substantial anthologies I’ve ever held in two hands. Big oversized volumes that clock in at nearly a thousand pages each, they’re virtually a graduate level course in American 20th Century genre fiction. His latest, The Big Book of Rogues and Villains, weighs in “at a svelte 928 pages… [and] is equally impossible to pick up and put down” (Kirkus Reviews).

Edgar Award-winning editor Otto Penzler’s new anthology brings together the most cunning, ruthless, and brilliant criminals in mystery fiction, for the biggest compendium of bad guys (and girls) ever assembled.

The best mysteries — whether detective, historical, police procedural, cozy, or comedy — have one thing in common: a memorable perpetrator. For every Sherlock Holmes or Sam Spade in noble pursuit, there’s a Count Dracula, a Lester Leith, or a Jimmy Valentine. These are the rogues and villains who haunt our imaginations — and who often have more in common with their heroic counterparts than we might expect. Now, for the first time ever, Otto Penzler gathers the iconic traitors, thieves, con men, sociopaths, and killers who have crept through the mystery canon over the past 150 years, captivating and horrifying readers in equal measure. The 72 handpicked stories in this collection introduce us to the most depraved of psyches, from iconic antiheroes like Maurice Leblanc’s Arsène Lupin and Sax Rohmer’s Dr. Fu Manchu to contemporary delinquents like Lawrence Block’s Ehrengraf and Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder, and include unforgettable tales by Robert Louis Stevenson, Bram Stoker, Washington Irving, Jack London, H.G. Wells, Sinclair Lewis, O. Henry, Edgar Wallace, Leslie Charteris, Erle Stanley Gardner, Edward D. Hoch, Max Allan Collins, Loren D. Estleman, and many more.

I’m looking for a complete TOC, and will post it here when I find one. In the meantime, check out our previous coverage of Penzler’s massive anthologies.

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Party Of The First Part

Friday, November 24th, 2017 | Posted by Violette Malan

3 musketeers ballEveryone likes a party. Many of us even like to plan parties, especially writers (who, if they didn’t like process, wouldn’t be writers.) But do we like to write about them? Maybe not so much

Of course there are some memorable parties to be found in Fantasy and SF literature. The two that immediately come to mind are the birthday party that opens LOTR, and the high tea that opens The Hobbit. Is it significant that both of these involve not only the same author, but the same character?  I think so. I also think it’s significant that Bilbo doesn’t plan the party in The Hobbit (it’s Gandalf’s do), but he does plan the one in LOTR. Seems like it might take a little age and experience to organize a big affair.

MatrixFor the most part parties in literature seem to be limited to pre-WWII novels where omniscient narrators can give us interesting overviews, occasionally zooming in to present important detail. Look at Jane Austen: with or without zombies these people spend a lot of time at balls, dances, tea parties, supper parties and the like. Otherwise, how would the characters, particularly the women, meet one another? Even Cinderella meets the prince at a ball.

A party is also a great way to allow your characters to interact in public, and reveal all kinds of details about themselves that you might otherwise have to take chapters to show. Still, unless you are using an omniscient narrator, a party scene can be deadly both to read and to write. Think of the last big party you attended. If the narrative of the story was told from your point of view only, the reader would get a very limited understanding of what happened.

Do parties have any other narrative use? Do they forward the plot? I’d say they do, but only by what we’ve seen already: introducing characters to the reader and allowing characters to meet each other. By the way, however planned they might be, I don’t think we can include ceremonies in our definition of parties. Maybe the reception, for example, but not the wedding itself.

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Vintage Treasures: The Folk of the Air by Peter S. Beagle

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Folk of the Air-small The Folk of the Air-back-small

Peter S. Beagle burst on the scene in 1960 with A Fine and Private Place, the tale of a man quietly living in a cemetery for decades. Written while he was still a teenager, the novel established Beagle immediately as a major American fantasist. He followed it with The Last Unicorn (1968), which placed fifth in the 1987 Locus Poll for All-Time Best Fantasy Novel, sold more than five million copies, and was made into a popular animated film by Rankin/Bass in 1982.

In 1969 Beagle wrote one of his most popular short stories, “Lila the Werewolf” (first published in Guabi #1, and in Terry Carr’s New Worlds of Fantasy #3), featuring the character Sam Farrell. Two decades later Farrell returned in Beagle’s third novel The Folk of the Air, which won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and was called “Peter Beagle’s Silmarillion” in the Mythopoeic Society review.

The publication of The Folk of the Air is an Event, no doubt about it… it is easily the best new fantasy novel I read last year… The main character is Joe Farrell, who first appeared as the hero of a short story called “Lila the Werewolf” (which may be found in the omnibus volume The Fantasy Worlds of Peter S. Beagle). It’s several years after “Lila”, and Farrell is making his first visit in a long time to his old stomping grounds in Avicenna, California…

If The Folk of the Air had been published five years ago, it would by now be seen as a foundation stone in the currently flourishing subgenre of contemporary urban fantasy — books like Moonheart by Charles de Lint, Tea with the Black Dragon by R.A. MacAvoy, and Brisingamen by Diana Paxson… Beagle has captured the style of the subgenre perfectly. From the beginning, where the sense of something magical and uncanny is in the air nearly from the start, long before the supernatural actually rears its head, to the end, which features a bang-up magical battle between two of the principal characters while the others look on in dazed wonder, this book has everything to capture the interest of fantasy readers who like a magical tale in the here and now.

The book has held up very well over the decades (SF Reviews recently called it “top-drawer, comparable to the best of Tim Powers”), although Beagle has reportedly been working on a revised edition, to be called Avicenna, for some time. Whatever the case, the book has been out of print in the US since the 1988 Del Rey paperback, pictured above. I found this copy at the Windy City Pulp and Paper show here in Chicago earlier this year, where I paid $2 for it. It is 375 pages, with a cover price of $4.50. The cover is by Romas. There is no digital edition. See our previous coverage of Peter Beagle here.

Nothing Gets Belly Laughs Like Cthulhu: The Cackle of Cthulhu, edited by Alex Shvartsman

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Cackle of Cthulhu-smallAlex Shvartsman is best known for his Unidentified Funny Objects annual anthology series from UFO Publishing, and his recent humorous anthologies Funny Horror, Funny Fantasy and Funny Science Fiction. He’s also a noted short story writer, and his first collection, Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories, was released in 2015.

It seems inevitable that he would combine his love of Lovecraftian horror with his passion for humorous short fiction. His first book for Baen, The Cackle of Cthulhu, is an anthology of Lovecraftian humor coming in January 2018.

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Cthul who?
Exactly! I’ve come to tickle your funnybone.
Oh, and also to eat your soul.

In 1928, Weird Tales debuted “The Call of Cthulhu” by H.P. Lovecraft, and the Cthulhu Mythos was born. In the 90 years since, dozens of writers have dared play within HPL’s mind-blowing creation — but never with such terrifyingly funny results. Now top authors lampoon, parody, and subvert Lovecraft’s Mythos. See Cthulhu cut short his nap at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean to invade North Korea! Watch the Unspeakable Eater of Souls solve crimes on the pulpy streets of Innsmouth! And speaking of largish Elder Gods, listen to a plastic Elvis doll dispense folksy advice straight from the heart of the Emperor of Dread! Again Ol’ Tentacle-Face is confronted by frail humans who dare defy the Incarnation of Ultimate Evil — but this time not by brave monster hunters and terrified villagers, but by fan fiction writers, clueless college students, and corporate lawyers (okay, we realize it’s hard to know who to root for in that confrontation).

Twenty-three mirthful manifestations within the Cthulhu Mythos from best-selling and award-winning authors Neil Gaiman, Mike Resnick, Esther Friesner, Ken Liu, Jody Lynn Nye, Laura Resnick, Nick Mamatas, and many more!

Guaranteed to leave you howling. Because if you look at it just right, there’s nothing funnier than a soul writhing in cosmic horror before a tentacled maw of malevolence. As HPL himself saith: “From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent.”

The Cackle of Cthulhu is a mix of original fiction and reprints, it includes some of the best known examples of Lovecraftian mirth, including “The Shunned Trailer” by Esther Friesner (from Asimov’s SF, February 2000, and adapted as a podcast at Escape Pod here), and Neil Gaiman’s “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar,” originally published in Mike Ashley’s The Mammoth Book of Comic Fantasy in 1998 (and discussed at Tor.com here, and read by Neil Gaiman here.)

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