Goth Chick News: Welcome to Fantasy/Horror Island…

Thursday, November 14th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Fantasy Island-small

If you’re not familiar with the fairly cheesy but no less iconic television series Fantasy Island (1977-1984), you immediately need to find it on your favorite streaming service and watch a few episodes. I found at least a few of the 286 installments for free on YouTube and those should be enough to hook you as well as give you the context for the most awesome news since Elsa got drunk and crapped up Chicago with 4 inches of snow.

The storyline was fairly simple. The incredibly wealthy and mysterious Mr. Roarke, played perfectly by the exotically-accented Ricardo Montalban, has a tropical island. In each episode he hosts several guests who have come there to live out their most secret fantasies. Mr. Roarke and his rather adorable but equally creepy sidekick “Tattoo” played by Hervé Villechaize, magically transport each guest into their fantasy where they routinely learn a hard lesson / get their comeuppance / get their heart’s desire, etc, etc.

Now, even my grade-school self who was obsessed with this show, wondered why these fantasies were always so G-rated, even if they sometimes bordered on scary. Like most kids I had stumbled across and snuck looks at verboten material and understood in a small way that the dark recesses of the human imagination were far murkier than finally showing up the high school cheerleader who was always more popular than you, by become a millionaire business woman. In college, Fantasy Island occasionally cropped up in discussion as we mulled over what would actually go on if a place like this really existed. And having run across the show on late night reruns, my adult self immediately wondered why some enterprising film maker had never explored that exact question. I figured there had to be some legal hang up somewhere.

And now this.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: “Mackintosh Willy,” by Ramsey Campbell

Thursday, November 14th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Mark Berghash

Cover by Mark Berghash

The World Fantasy Awards are presented during the World Fantasy Convention and are selected by a mix of nominations from members of the convention and a panel of judges. The awards were established in 1975 and presented at the 1st World Fantasy Convention in Providence, Rhode Island. Traditionally, the awards took the form of a bust of H.P. Lovecraft sculpted by Gahan Wilson, however in recent years the trophy became controversial in light of Lovecraft’s more problematic beliefs and has been replaced with a sculpture of a tree. The Short Fiction Award (sometimes called short story award) has been part of the award since its founding, when it was won by Robert Aickman for “Pages from a Young Girl’s Journal.” In 1980, the year Campbell received the award for the story “Mackintosh Willy,” the convention was held in Baltimore, Maryland. Campbell tied for the award with Elizabeth A. Lynn for the story “The Woman Who Loved the Moon.”

Ramsey Campbell’s story “Mackintosh Willy” was initially published in the Charles L. Grant anthology Shadows 2. It is the story of a young boy who is finding his way in the world and even the familiar can have a sinister feel to it.  In this case, the homeless man who appears to live in one of the shelters in the park near where he lives causes caution in all the children in the area, although it is not clear that the man is doing anything to gain the reputation he has.

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Stories That Work: “It Never Snows in Snowtown” by Rebecca Zahabi, and “Dust” by Edward Ashton

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019 | Posted by James Van Pelt

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction November December 2019-small Curious Fictions Dust-small

F&SF cover art by Bob Eggleton

Ray Bradbury caused the ruckus first with The Martian Chronicles, but I also blame Eric Frank Russell’s Men, Martians and Machines, and Anthony Boucher’s A Treasury of Great Science Fiction. Before those three books, I only read novels — short ones to be sure — like Tom Swift and Tom Corbett and anything that the Weekly Reader Book Club featured in their regular catalogs. After reading Bradbury, Russell and Boucher, short stories hooked me. They drew me so powerfully that when I grew older I believed that maybe I could write some, and for the last thirty-five years, that’s what I’ve been doing.

Here’s the thing, though, the mood, energy and time to write exactly overlaps reading time, so I found that I read much less as an adult than I did when I was younger. Also, my tastes have narrowed. Where I used to read indiscriminately, uncritically, I now am a picky reader. Time seems short, and I hate to waste it on middle-of-the-road writing.

So when I find an outstanding short stories, I point them out. Reading time is precious!

F&SF offered a truly disturbing piece by Rebecca Zahabi in the Nov/Dec 2019 issue. “It Never Snows in Snowtown” starts like a Christmas card as the unnamed narrator decides to find out more of her city’s cultural heritage. Zahabi’s artful language creates a compelling portrait. Snowflakes catch in a child’s clothes “like sugar icing sprinkled on this human cupcake,” and on the city’s lake, “couples danced together, twirling around each other like birds trying to tell their love in flight.”

Read More » on Six-Guns and Strange Shooters

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Territory Emma Bull-small Dust Devil Blu Ray-small Jonah Hex Face Ful of Violence-small

It’s been a very good year for science fiction, horror, and dark fantasy, and overall I am content. But, you know, I’m never totally content, because really, what’s the point of that? This year my crankiness originates from a near total lack of Weird Westerns. It’s like the genre dried up and blew away in the wind in 2019.

At least there are a few Weird West books, movies and comics to fall back on. Earlier this year at Theresa DeLucci shared her picks of some of the best in Six-Guns and Strange Shooters: A Weird West Primer, and she managed to point out more than a few I haven’t tried yet, including Emma Bull’s fantasy retelling of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Territory, and the 1990 film Dust Devil. And she reminded me I need to read more Jonah Hex. Here’s what she said about everyone’s favorite creepy gunslinger.

Forget the terrible movie. (You know Josh Brolin wishes he could.) The original 1977 DC comic is considered one of the first popular representations of the Weird West. The bounty hunter marked by a demon’s brand seeks out the West’s worst and also, sometimes, less earthly quarry. He also sometimes time travels and gets into a gun-fight with a T-Rex. Jonah Hex‘s best and creepiest run was written by east Texan horror master Joe R. Lansdale and come highly recommended.

Theresa also showcases The Etched City by K.J. Bishop, the Golgotha novels by R. S. Belcher, the great Deadlands: Reloaded RPG, and much more. Check out her article here.

See all our coverage of the best of the Weird West here.

New Treasures: The New Voices of Science Fiction edited by Hannu Rajaniemi & Jacob Weisman

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The New Voices of Fantasy-small The New Voices of Science Fiction-small

Covers by Camille André and Matt Dixon

Two years ago Tachyon published the groundbreaking anthology The New Voices of Fantasy, edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman. It contained fiction by Sofia Samatar, Sarah Pinsker, Amal El-Mohtar, Hannu Rajaniemi, Carmen Maria Machado, and many others, and won the 2018 World Fantasy Award, beating out some very stiff competition. (See the complete TOC here.)

Since then I’ve been wondering when the companion volume would appear, and it has finally arrived. The New Voices of Science Fiction, edited by Hannu Rajaniemi & Jacob Weisman, contains 20 stories published in the past five years by the rising stars of SF, including the Hugo award winner “The Secret Life of Bots” by Suzanne Palmer, Nebula winner “Our Lady of the Open Road” by Sarah Pinsker, and Hugo and Nebula winner “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™” by Rebecca Roanhorse, plus stories by Kelly Robson, Amal El-Mohtar, Rich Larson, Sam J. Miller, Lettie Prell, E. Lily Yu, and many others.

This looks like one of the major anthologies of the fall, and it has vaulted near the top of my TBR pile. It has already received starred reviews from Booklist, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. Here’s a quick look at some of that early praise.

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A Grim Take on the Holy Grail: Upon the Flight of the Queen by Howard Andrew Jones

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019 | Posted by SELindberg

flight-of-the-queen-larger-BG When comes my numbered day, I will meet it smiling. For I’ll have kept this oath.

I shall use my arms to shield the weak.

I shall use my lips to speak the truth, and my eyes to seek it.

I shall use my hands to mete justice to high and low, and I will weigh all things with heart and mind.

Where I walk the laws will follow, for I am the sword of my people and the shepherd of their lands.

When I fall, I will rise through my brothers and sisters, for I am eternal.

Pledge of the Altenerai

The Ring-Sworn Trilogy

Howard Andrew Jones’s For the Killing of Kings jumpstarted the epic fantasy Ring Sworn trilogy this February 2019, and the sequel Upon the Flight of the Queen hits shelves next week (November 19th). MacMillan’s St. Martin’s Press pitches the series as “The Three Musketeers presented via the style of Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber.” The pacing is reminiscent of Zelazny since Howard Andrew Jones (HAJ) doles out action and backstory with precision. Yet there are many more than three heroes, and the milieu has more medieval flare than musketry, so it is more “King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table” than Musketeers.

For the Killing of Kings is actually a grim take on the consequences of seeking, and finding, a figurative Holy Grail (hearthstones). The Altenerai guard had been spread out over the Five Realms searching for many hearthstones that fuel magic — the enigmatic Queen Leonara deems them holy. Twice I was completely floored by plot twists, and the last third kept me from going to sleep. I haven’t had that much fun reading a book in a long time. Black Gate’s Fletcher Vredenburgh’s review should likewise entice new readers.

#2 Upon the Flight of the Queen

Summarizing a sequel can be tough without spoiling its predecessor, but the following overview will try as it showcases why you should commit to Ring-Sworn. Upon the Flight of the Queen starts off exactly where For the Killing of Kings ends. The adventure begins in high-gear with Alten Rylin assuming his action-thriller role (~James Bond) penetrating the Naor camp disguised in magic, dragging the reader into mayhem.

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Plot Hooks, Apocrypha, and WTF: Degenesis by Six More Vodka

Monday, November 11th, 2019 | Posted by eeknight


I’ve been meaning to write a review of Degenesis, the doorstop of a post-apocalyptic RPG from the “there has to be a story behind that name for your company” SIXMOREVODKA creative team for a while now. The main problem holding me back is that I haven’t played it yet with people, just dinked around testing things. Luckily, John’s editorial standards enjoy a certain amount of flexibility when it comes to old friends, and let ye who have not passed judgement on a game without playing it cast the first stone.

There’s another reason I feel safe recommending this beast. The art alone is worth the purchase of the slipcased two-volume edition of rules Katharsis and worldbook Primal Punk (Retailing at USD “If you have to ask you can’t afford it”). I’ve never seen a game with this level art throughout. Page after page of imagery usually reserved for a couple of splash pages in most game books.

What is this world? Refreshingly, it’s set in Europe and North Africa five hundred years after a 2073 meteor storm changed the face of the world (called the “Eshaton” but I think they meant “Eschaton”). Maybe the year is a hat tip to Fallout, I dunno, but Earth went through hundreds of years of cloudy hell and now there are a few hints of a Renaissance for a radically altered world. To make matters worse, the meteors brought with them a spore-like form of life called “Primer” that is radically altering flora, fauna, and us. Humans who have been taken over by the Primer (the process is generally called Sepsis) eventually become Psychonauts or Abberants, two names for the same deadly syndrome. Some of the spores carrying the primer have been deactivated or neutralized for use in drugs called Burn, because if thousands of years of human history have proved anything, it’s that people will try to get high by any means necessary. A final existential confrontation of homo sapiens vs homo degenesis is building.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Will Murray on The Spider

Monday, November 11th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Murray_SpiderdoomLegionEDITED“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

You know, of course, that Will Murray carried on the adventure tales of the Doc Savage – because you read about it here!  Will is also carrying on the adventures of another legendary pulp figure – The Shadow.  So, he’s making another guest post here in the series. Read on for: Secret Origins of the Spider.

I have to confess that writing The Spider is a completely different experience for me than writing the Wild Adventures of Doc Savage, Tarzan, John Carter, or any of the other classic pulp heroes I’ve been privileged to bring back to life in new novels.

With these other pulp heroes, it’s largely a matter of concocting a logical plot and having the heroes go through their customary pieces, although I seem to have quickly become an accidental king of crossovers since I’ve managed to convince the various license holders to permit me to have a few of them collide, such as Doc Savage and The Shadow, Tarzan of the Apes and King Kong. Most recently, the Spider encountered both Jimmy Christopher of Operator #5 magazine fame and G-8, but without his Battle Aces in my first Spider novel, The Doom Legion. So some of their customary paces are not so customary.

When I acquired a license to the Spider a few years ago, I asked the late Joel Frieman of Argosy Communications about a mystery that had vexed me for a long time. Namely, why did Canadian novelist R.T.M. Scott write only the first two Spider novels, and then give way to Norvell W. Page, who worked under the house name of Grant Stockbridge?

Joel knew Popular Publications founder Harry Steeger and got the answer from him.

Watching the phenomenal sales growth of Street & Smith’s Shadow Magazine, he naturally itched to produce something in that emerging category. But Steeger didn’t want to get sued. So he conferred with his attorney and asked, essentially, how do we do something like The Shadow and not risk an expensive lawsuit?

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Ancient Gods and Trees That House an Entire City: The Titan’s Forest Trilogy by Thoraiya Dyer

Sunday, November 10th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Crossroads-of-Canopy-small Echoes-of-Understorey-by-Thoraiya-Dyer-small Tides of the Titans-small

Cover art by Marc Simonetti

In her 2017 guest post at ,”Walk Beneath the Canopy of These 8 Fictional Forests,” Thoraiya Dyer wrote:

Give me your Fangorns and your Lothloriens, your Green Hearts and your Elvandars. Evoke your Haunted Forest Beyond the Wall complete with creepy weirwoods, your Steddings and your Avendesoras. Send me pleasant dreams about Totoro’s Japanese Camphor and the Forest Spirit’s kodama-filled canopy. Or, y’know, tree cities full of Wookiees instead of elves. I will take them all!

Forests in speculative fiction novels have a special place in my heart. Especially tree-cities.

Now there’s a woman who talks my language. Tree cities! Haunted forests! Creepy weirwoods! Kodama-filled canopies!(Uh, what?) Whatever, just tell me Dyer has a more than casual interest in tree cities. Like a book trilogy or something?

Yeah, it’s a rhetorical question. I write a book blog; everybody I talk about has a book trilogy. Dyer’s is titled Titan’s Forest, in which trees loom large as skyscrapers, mortals can be reborn as gods, and a young man sets out on an epic woodland journey to unlock the great Forest’s hidden secrets. It opened with Crossroads of Canopy (Tor Books, 2017), her debut novel; Echoes of Understorey was published last year, and the third book Tides of the Titans arrived earlier this year.

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Mindhunter: A Bloodless Noir about Serial Killers

Sunday, November 10th, 2019 | Posted by Mick Gall


All genres have their tropes that get returned to again and again. Historians write about the Civil War and World War II and the Civil War; singers write about breakups. For crime shows, serial killers represent the genre’s bottomless well. Netflix’s Mindhunter seeks to explore that vein as deeply as possible, and in the process creates television’s quietest noir.

FBI Special Agents Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) are the founders of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, which gave birth to the idea of “profiling” serial killers. Tench and Ford crisscross the country, interviewing serial killers with the intent of developing tools that will allow for the developing of psychological fingerprints of these compulsive killers, as an aid to capturing them. Fascinating and thoughtful, the series is significantly quieter than other cop shows. Mindhunter jettisons the foot chases and gunfights, and focuses on the agents interviewing serial killers

Mindhunter is based on the book of the same name by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker. Again, lesser cop shows pay lip service to the idea of “getting into the sick bastard’s head,” usually followed by some leap of logic that leads to the cops catching the killer. In Mindhunter, the interviews are the big centerpieces of most episodes. They’re great exercises in text and subtext, with the agents asking about thoughts and processes of the killers. The challenge of the show, and the reward for the patient viewer, is the agents discussing the interviews afterwards. They debate if the answers given were sincere, if the killer was being truthful, or misinterpreting things, or just outright lying. While fascinating, the interviews carry their own frustrating ambiguity.

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