Fantasia 2018, Special Screenings: Buffalo Boys, Luz, and Crisis Jung

Friday, August 31st, 2018 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Buffalo BoysBefore writing about the movies I saw during the last weekdays of the Fantasia festival, I’m going to skip back to the beginning to write about some films I watched before attending my first screening this year with a general audience. At a festival with 130 movies, most of which are shown in a theatre once or maybe twice, one has to make some hard choices about which to see. Fortunately, Fantasia’s screening room gives harried film critics the chance to catch some of the movies they have to miss in theatres due to one scheduling exigency or another. I passed by on the first day of the festival, and found that this year the screening room offered curtained cubicles and a healthy selection of films. Among them was an Indonesian western named Buffalo Boys, an experimental German horror film called Luz, and a transgressive French animated webseries titled Crisis Jung.

The festival hosted the world premiere of Mike Wiluan’s Buffalo Boys, but, knowing I’d miss its theatrical showing, it became the first film I saw in the screening room. Directed by Wiluan from a script by Raymond Lee, Rayya Makarim, and Wiluan, it’s an Indonesian take on the Western genre. In the 19th century, the Dutch attempt to consolidate control of Indonesia; a Dutch agent murders a rebellious sultan, but the sultan’s brother and infant sons escape. Decades later, as they travel the American west, the sultan’s brother, Arana (Tio Pakusadewo), decides it’s time for them to return to Java so that his brother’s sons can seek justice for their father. The elder son, Jamar (Ario Bayu), has grown into a strong man, skilled in hand-to-hand fighting; his brother, Suwo (Yoshi Sudarso), is less confrontational but more charismatic — and good with a knife. The three of them make their way to the territory now ruled by the tyrannical Dutchman Van Trach (Reinout Bussemaker), where they stop an attempted robbery and become involved with the daughters of a local chief, all of whom are threatened by Van Trach’s machinations.

The movie opens by noting that “this is one story where fact and fiction collide,” and ends with a character observing that “when legends are born they never die.” This is a film conscious not only of its genre, but of the mythic underpinnings that give the genre strength. The paraphernalia of the western film’s used well: twanging guitars on the soundtrack, lens flares, gunfights, conversations around a campfire at night. But it’s fused with the martial-arts action movie: fights are a whirl of punches, kicks, knife strikes — and then, where logical and necessary, gunplay. One scene in the middle of the film, in a saloon, brings home the way the movie at its best fuses different cinematic traditions of action and stylised violence.

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Future Treasures: Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction, edited by Irene Gallo

Friday, August 31st, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Worlds Seen in Passing Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction-smallTor.com is one of the finest genre websites on the planet. Originally created to promote Tor Books, it has taken on a very substantial life of its own, with news, art, commentary, thoughtful re-reads of many of my favorite novels (and more than a few that I’ve overlooked)… and especially fiction. It’s become widely renowned for its top-notch fiction, from many of the biggest names in the genre.

How did it all start? Tor.com publisher Irene Gallo tells all in the Preface to Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction, a feast of a book collecting 40 of the best stories published at the site over the years.

Tor.com celebrated its tenth anniversary on July 20, 2018 — the forty-ninth anniversary of the first manned moon landing. It started out innocently enough. In 2006, our publisher, Fritz Foy, while attending the Tor Books holiday party, pulled Patrick and Theresa Nielsen Hayden and me aside and said he wanted to create “a river of conversation, art, and fiction” within the SF/F community — an online magazine that crossed the borders between publishers and media.

It took us a couple years to get off the ground. During that time, whenever we felt lost in the process, we’d come back to the word “genuine.” We wanted to build a place that treated science fiction and fantasy (and related subjects) with gravitas and humor, a place to have fun without shying away from weightier, more thoughtful subjects. In short, we wanted to build a place where we wanted to hang out…

We knew from the start that fiction was always going to be at the heart of Tor.com. As publishers it made sense, but also… the entire site is dedicated to storytelling. Of course we wanted fiction to be our focal point. We have since published hundreds of original stories, along with art, reprints, comics, and poems — all of which are a source of pride for us, as well as bringing enjoyment to our readers.

This is a very substantial volume — 567 pages! — and it’s packed with fiction from the best writers in the industry, including Kathleen Ann Goonan, Jeff VanderMeer, Leigh Bardugo, Lavie Tidhar, A.M. Dellamonica, Dale Bailey, Tina Connolly, Max Gladstone, Alyssa Wong, Genevieve Valentine, Kij Johnson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Rachel Swirsky, Ken Liu, Ruthanna Emrys, Isabel Yap, Helen Marshall, Pat Murphy, Kameron Hurley, Yoon Ha Lee, N. K. Jemisin, Carrie Vaughn, Charlie Jane Anders, and many, many others.

Here’s the publisher’s description.

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Birthday Reviews: Steve Perry’s “A Few Minutes in the Plantation Bar and Grill Outside Woodville, Mississippi”

Friday, August 31st, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Kiosea39-Dreamstine

Cover by Kiosea39-Dreamstine

Steve Perry was born on August 31, 1947.

He has written novels in his Matador series and several stand-alone novels as well as the novelizations of Titan A.E. and Men in Black. He has also written books set in the Star Wars and Aliens universes and has collaborated with J. Michael Reaves, Gary A. Braunbeck, Dal Perry, Larry Segriff, and S.D. Perry, his daughter. Steve Perry is not the same Steve Perry who wrote for Thundercats.

Perry’s “A Few Minutes in the Plantation Bar and Grill Outside Woodville” was published in January 2018 in the first issue of the revamped Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, edited by Dean Wesley Smith. Only published earlier this year, the story has not, of course, been reprinted elsewhere.

Deals with the Devil stories are common in science fiction and fantasy to the extent that in 1994, Mike Resnick, Loren D. Estleman, and Martin H. Greenberg edited an anthology entitled Deals with the Devil. One of the things they all seem to have in common is an urbane Lucifer who is trying to trick someone into selling their soul, often without knowing it, in return for dreams coming true. Sometimes people accept the offer, other times, they don’t. Perry’s “A Few Minutes in the Plantation Bar and Grill Outside Woodville” follows the standard offer model.

This is Perry’s fourth story in his “A Few Minutes” series of stories, three of which appeared in Pulphouse (The off-one out appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction). This story has the Devil approach an aging blues guitarist who is playing in small rooms around the south. He makes his standard offers, but each are rejected. The musician is old and points out that George Harrison left money behind when he died, his career is successful enough for him and at more than seventy he doesn’t have a lot of time left. The Devil becomes more and more insistent in his offers, but is ultimately rejected when Perry provides an interesting twist to the standard story.

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Goth Chick News: Everyone Needs an Exorsister

Thursday, August 30th, 2018 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Exorsisters 1-small

When we were little, my cousin and I used to discuss our future career aspirations. Connie, who was a few years older, had what seemed like an unusual obsession with becoming a truck driver — unless you knew she was binge-watching BJ and the Bear courtesy of the cable channel Nick at Night, and was teen-aged crushing on Gregg Evigan. So, the whole truck-driver thing actually made sense.

Meanwhile, I was sneaking into the family room in the wee hours to watch old Universal Studios monster movies on the public access channel. While Connie dreamed hunky guys calling her some cute name over their rig’s CB radio, I either wanted to look for mummies in the desert or be a gypsy fortune-teller.

Connie thought I was strange.

Years later, she went on to be Miss Illinois before moving to NYC for a soap opera stint followed by a lucrative career on Broadway. I’m writing a weekly horror column under the bi-line “Goth Chick.” All this also makes sense when you think about it.

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Fantasia 2018 Special Report: My First Fantasia

Thursday, August 30th, 2018 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

My First FantasiaBy Eva and Matthew Surridge

Every year the Fantasia International Film Festival has several free screenings of short films for children at Montreal’s McCord Museum of Canadian History. These showings are titled My First Fantasia. On Thursday, July 26, Black Gate‘s regular Fantasia correspondent, Matthew David Surridge, was joined by his niece Eva May Surridge, age 8, to watch a block of shorts titled Daydreams. This special article presents Eva’s thoughts on the movies.


I’ll begin by asking you about each of the movies in turn. First was Anna Gentilini’s “The Amazing Little Worm,” a hand-drawn story about a worm who wants to be other animals.

I think it’s for any ages because it’s very colourful and funny.

Next was Katerina Karhankova’s “Plody mraku” (“Fruits of Clouds”), a story about a small furry creature in a dark forest who dares to explore the shadows and finds a great treasure.

I think it’s not for little little kids because it’s a little scary.

Then was “The Green Bird,” directed by Pierre Perveyrie, Maximilien Bougeois, Marine Goalard, Irina Nguyen-Duc, and Quentin Dubois, a CG film about a bird that’s laid an egg it’s determined to see hatch.

It’s really, really funny. I want to watch it again.

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New Treasures: Apart in the Dark by Ania Ahlborn

Thursday, August 30th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Apart in the Dark-small Apart in the Dark-back-small

It was Goth Chick who introduced me to the novels of Ania Ahlborn, with her advance review of The Neighbors (which she said “lies somewhere near the intersection of Blue Velvet and Basic Instinct due to its psychological suspense and ever-mounting terror”). Goth Chick interviewed Ania just a few months later, and teased a tale of childhood horror out of her involving a Ouija board and a couple of porcelain dolls (“These things, I swear… they’d change position in the night.”) When The Neighbors was released in November 2012, Ahlborn confided to us that “My fingers are crossed that I get at least a few dozen marriage proposals.” The bio on the back of her latest book says she’s married, so I hope that worked out for her.

It was Goth Chick who introduced me to Ania, but it was Andrew Liptak at The Verge who tipped me off to her new novella collection Apart in the Dark, in his report on the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy in January of this year. Here’s Andrew:

If you’re looking for a pair of shorter reads, Ania Ahlborn’s new book is a pair of supernatural novellas, “The Pretty Ones” and “I Call Upon Thee.” In the first, New York City is gripped with fear in the midst of the Son of Sam murders, and when her best friend is murdered, Nell Sullivan knows that there’s something else responsible. In the other, Maggie Olsen spent her childhood stalked by a shadow, and years later, she’s forced to return home to confront her past.

Both stories were previously published as digital novellas; this is their first appearance in print. Both are very nearly novel length — “The Pretty Ones” is 142 pages, and “I Call Upon Thee” is 210. I bought a copy a few weeks ago, and so far I’m enjoying it. Any book that opens with a Robert Bloch quote (“The man who smiles when things go wrong has thought of someone to blame it on”) is okay in my book.

Apart in the Dark was published by Gallery Books on January 16, 2018. It is 365 pages, priced at $16 in trade paperback. There is no digital edition. The cover was designed by Anna Dorfman.


Birthday Reviews: Judith Moffett’s “Chickasaw Slave”

Thursday, August 30th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Broeck Steadman

Cover by Broeck Steadman

Judith Moffett was born on August 30, 1942.

Moffett’s story “Surviving” won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award in 1987. The following year, she won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best New Writer. She has been nominated for the James Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award and the Hugo Award one time each and has been nominated for the Nebula Award three times. In addition to writing science fiction, Moffett has also published poetry.

Although written for the anthology Alternate Presidents, “Chickasaw Slave” was first published in the September 1991 issue of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, edited by Gardner Dozois. The story appeared in Alternate Presidents, edited by Mike Resnick, the following February. It has not been reprinted since.

“Chickasaw Slave” is set in a world in which Andrew Jackson was not nominated to run for President in 1928. The nomination and Presidency instead went to then-first term Congressman Davy Crockett. In this timeline, the Civil War erupted more than a decade earlier and in 1852, on the eve of the final battle of the war that led to Confederate independence, Levi Colbert, wrote a letter to his fiancée in case he died in which he told a story of his own interaction with President Crockett years earlier.

Because Crockett is sharing information about his own family with his fiancée, it gives Moffett the perfect chance to provide the reader with some of the information needed about this alternative timeline. Unfortunately, a lot of the information given by Levi to Rachel concerns issues that she would have known about, making the first half of the story a datadump, although at the same time, nowhere does Moffett explain how Crockett’s election caused an earlier Civil War, information that is not particularly relevant to her story.

Her story does detail how a thirteen year old Levi helped a similarly aged slave, Watty, escape. Watty, who, like Levi, was part Chicaksaw, was treated as a member of the family and there was absolutely no thought of him as a slave until Levi’s father accidentally lost Watty in a card game to another citizen. Given permission to go fishing on their last day together, Levi decides the two should plead Watty’s case to President Crockett, who is visiting his Tennessee home nearby.

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Fantasia 2018, Day 18, Part 2: One Cut of the Dead

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

One Cut of the DeadI settled in at the Hall Theatre on the evening of Sunday, July 29, to watch a movie about which I knew little. I knew it was Japanese, I knew it was titled One Cut of the Dead (Kamera o tomeru na!, カメラを止めるな!), and I knew it was written and directed by Shinichiro Ueda. The movie ended up being excellent and even uplifting. But writing about it presents a challenge.

(Before the feature there was a short called “Crying Bitch.” Written and directed by Reiki Tsuno, it follows a man who tries to break up with his mistress while his wife is becoming a literal monster. Things don’t go as planned for him all down the line. It has some effective physical comedy and unexpected moments.)

One Cut of the Dead is a movie that starts out one way, and then a bit past the half-hour mark reveals that it’s something other than the one-cut zombie comedy-thriller we thought we were watching. In an ideal world, viewers would go into the film blind, I suppose. In this world, I’d like to actually write about what I saw; and in any event I didn’t go in blind, exactly, and that didn’t hurt my experience of the film. So I’ll say that if you want to have a real surprise, don’t read further in this review. But do see the film if you want to watch a comedy with a few horror elements. I think it is worth pointing out that this isn’t a zombie movie, as such, for all its initial appearances.

Let’s start with that first half-hour take. We’re watching a zombie movie being made, with a manic director (Takayuki Hamatsu), a couple young fresh-faced stars, and assorted crew including a makeup lady (Harumi Shuhama). What we’re watching is being filmed in one take, the camera roaming around as various people drift by in the old abandoned warehouse where the movie’s set. And then there’s a zombie attack for real, and the director loves it.

But there’s something weird about this movie. Sure, we see a cameraman, but who’s filming the cameraman? Dialogue’s random, setting things up that never seem to get paid off. Everything moves very well, and it’s a fun film to watch, but one might think it all feels a little ramshackle. And then the twist comes that explains what we’ve just seen.

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Wargaming with my Twelve-Year-Old

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

Outpost Gamma-small Outpost Gamma-back-small

It may be turning into an annual tradition here at the McLachlan-Alonso household–beating the Madrid heat by playing tabletop wargames. I first introduced my son to the concept of wargames with Soldiers 1918, an old Strategy & Tactics game.

This summer it was Outpost Gamma, an old Dwarfstar Games science fiction wargame available free online. Just download it, take it to your local printshop to get the board and chits on suitable card stock, and bingo! Old school fun.

This is a simple game, perfect for a kid who hasn’t done many wargames. The rules are clear and straightforward, and the game is pretty fast moving. Game time took about an hour.

Earthers have placed mining colonies on a distant planet ravaged by electrical storms. The native species isn’t too happy about it and decides to kick the miners and the space marines out. What results is basically a colonial warfare game, with a few heavily armed soldiers trying to beat off a superior force of poorly armed natives.

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A Robot to Keep the English Language From Dying Out

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018 | Posted by Steve Carper

T. K. Peters' Robot English teacher

The International Time Capsule Society (ITCS) is an organization established in 1990 to promote the careful study of time capsules. It strives to document all types of time capsules throughout the world. When founded, the group was headquartered at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Hey, that’s not crazier than studying robots. And, like robots, information about time capsules – like time capsules themselves – easily gets hidden or obscure. Somebody needs to dig around, often literally, to get their stories on paper. And sometimes a robot is involved.

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