The Chinese WorldCon Bid for 2023 and the Chengdu Conference of 2019

Saturday, November 30th, 2019 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

The 5th International SF Conference in Chengdu 2019-small

I’ve blogged about some of my authorly visits to China, like my first trip to the 4th International SF Conference in Chengdu in 2017, a trip to study a high-tech company for a commissioned story, and the 2nd Asia-Pacific SF Conference in Beijing in 2019. Both government and private sector are investing in the creative side of the scifi industry, especially writers and editors, in a strategic way to develop the kind of home-grown creative talent that will feed China’s growing movie, TV and game industries. One of the ways they’re doing this is to send their own people to WorldCons, and another is to bring foreign writers and editors to China. A third is that Chengdu, a major SF city, is bidding for the 2023 WorldCon.

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Why We Write: Rogue Blades Foundation and the Future of Heroic Literature

Saturday, November 30th, 2019 | Posted by Ty Johnston

Return of the Sword-small Writing Fantasy Heroes-small Crossbones-Crosses-small

Covers: Johnney Perkins, Dleoblack, Didier Normand

Fantasy readers, like those who dwell together here at Black Gate, are long familiar with notions of heroes and the heroic. Each of us might have our own ideas about what makes a hero, but we would likely find common ground in a discussion of the matter.

That being said, is there any doubt our world today is in need of heroes? Heroes do continue to exist in our entertainment, but often enough they are flawed or irrelevant or humorous to the point of being more pastiche than worthy of admiration. Obviously there are examples of the upstanding hero, yet they seem few and far between compared to our increasing occupation with the deranged or the out-and-out vile. It seems we are more often rooting for the fellow behind the hockey mask or clown makeup than we are for the character who boldly steps forward to set things right in a dark world. Too often our heroes seem to stand alone, if they stand at all.

Rogue Blades Foundation is here to stand with those heroes, real and fictional, and to stand for all things heroic. Rogue Blades Foundation (RBF) is a non-profit publisher of heroic fiction and heroic-related non-fiction.

Fans of Sword & Sorcery literature might find the name of RBF sounds somewhat familiar. The reason for this is RBF is the not-for-profit sister to Rogue Blades Entertainment (RBE), a for-profit publisher of S&S material for more than a decade now. The goals of RBF and RBE are slightly different, thus it made sense to separate the two. RBF will focus upon larger impact projects that would generally be beyond the scope of RBE’s capabilities and intent.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Harry Warner, Jr.

Saturday, November 30th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Harry Warner, Jr.

Harry Warner, Jr.

The Fan Activity Achievement Awards, or FAAN Awards were founded in 1976 by Moshe Feder and Arnie Katz. Created to highlight writing in fandom, they differed from the Fan Hugos in that they were voted on specifically by fanzine fans. The original awards were presented at various convention. Following the 1980 awards, the awards were on hiatus until 1994 and have been presented each year since, with the exception of 1996. Harry Warner, Jr. won the last of the original run of FAAN Awards for Best LoC Writer. He won the first award and also won the award in 1979. The category wasn’t revived until 1998, when it was called Best Letterhack and Warner won the first two. Following his death in 2003, the category was renamed the Harry Warner, Jr. Memorial Award.

Harry Warner, Jr. was known as “The Hermit of Hagerstown,” for his dislike of attending fannish events. He rarely attending science fiction conventions, only agreeing to be the guest of honor at Noreascon I in 1971 when he was promised tickets to attend a Boston Red Sox game. When the first FanHistoriCon was run by Peggy Rae Pavlat (later Sapienza), Joe Siclari, and Bruce Pelz and Hagerstown was selected as the location for its proximity to Warner, Warner refused to attend.  Richard Lynch worked with Warner to arrange to bring small groups of attendees over to Warner’s home to allow them to meet him.

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Check Out Angry Robot’s 2020 Catalog

Friday, November 29th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Angry Robot 2020 catalog

I miss the days when publishers mailed out catalogs. Yes, it was, like, a hundred years ago. And yes, it means I’m old. But paging through through slick color brochures and discovering a favorite writer had a new title coming out in three months? That was cool. Old school, maybe. But still cool.

Those days are over, of course. Nobody mails physical catalogs any more. But catalogs haven’t actually vanished. Like everything else, they’ve just migrated online. And they’re still fun to page through, and they can still surprise you.

Have a look at the Angry Robot January-June 2020 catalog, for example. Angry Robot is one of the most exciting and innovative publishers active today — and one of the few still publishing mass mass market paperbacks. We’ve covered a whole lot of exciting releases from them recently, including Starship Alchemon by Christopher Hinz, The Axiom series by Tim Pratt, and The Traitor God and its sequel by Cameron Johnston, among others.

Their 2020 catalog showcases upcoming books by Myke Cole, Jeff Noon, Kameron Hurley, Rod Duncan, Asaf Ashery, and lots more. It’s well worth a look, especially if you’re not familiar with their back catalog, which is top notch. Check out out here, and support one of the most exciting publishers in the industry.

Gahan Wilson, February 18, 1930 — November 21, 2019

Friday, November 29th, 2019 | Posted by Andy Duncan

Gahan-Wilson-I-think-its-his-beeper cartoon

The cartoonist Gahan Wilson, who died last Thursday, was a Guest of Honor at the first International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts that I ever attended, in 1995, and that is the scene of this story.

I arrived at the con hotel a day early, knowing no one, and mostly roamed the halls, hoping someone might talk to me. Seeing a propped-open door, I walked through it, and found myself in a big room set up for an art show, a maze of temporary walls. Hanging on them were dozens of original Gahan Wilson drawings. So much larger than the published versions, several feet to a side, these were museum-quality works, in pen and ink and pastel, their captions handwritten across the bottom.

I slowly roamed the exhibit, taking my sweet time in front of each piece. I examined them up close and from a distance. I savored every moment of that private viewing, that wholly unauthorized VIP preview experience.

And repeatedly, my path kept crossing that of the only other person in the room: a balding man in a safari jacket, holding a clipboard, who stopped in front of each piece and jotted a note. I assumed he was a conference official, some sort of curator, and I expected him to ask me, politely, to leave, and to come back when the exhibit was open.

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Goth Chick News: It’s Not Over Yet! Days of the Dead Lurches into Chicago

Thursday, November 28th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Days of the Dead 2019

I will start this week’s article with a shout out to Black Gate reader R.K. Robinson who posted “It’s only March!” on my coverage of the Haunted Association and Attractions show. Apparently, he is genuinely unaware that “the season” begins with the HAA which often happens in February (it was late this year) and generally goes all the way into November, ending with Days of the Dead. However, in honor of R.K., Black Gate photog Chris Z and I have accepted an invitation to cover the Holiday Horror Con taking place this weekend outside of Chicago, officially extending “the season” into December.

Next week our Holiday Horror Con coverage will be dedicated to R.K.

But this week we’re talking Days of the Dead (or DotD for you cool kids) and the fabulous event that it was last weekend.

DotD is a horror and pop culture convention with annual stops in Atlanta, Las Vegas, Indianapolis, Charlotte, wrapping up its tour in Chicago. Due to its increasing popularity, the 2019 event here was moved to a bigger hotel venue then in the past, and from the looks of it, probably needs to upsize again next year. As always, DotD attracted an impressive list of celebrity guests including Richard Dreyfuss (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jaws), Steve Guttenberg (Cocoon, Police Academy) and Michael Biehn (Aliens, Terminator) among many others. Additionally, there were over 100, horror-themed vendors selling everything from jewelry to movie memorabilia. What is especially wonderful about DotD in Chicago is the amount of material we always get from meeting indie filmmakers, new artists and aspiring writers.

That, and the opportunity to do a bit of holiday shopping…

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New Treasures: Starship Alchemon by Christopher Hinz

Thursday, November 28th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Anachronisms Christopher Hinz-small Starship Alchemon-small

Covers: unknown (left) , and Francesca Corsini

Christopher Hinz’s 1987 SF classic Liege-Killer won the Compton Crook Award, and came in fourth for the Locus Award for Best First Novel. It’s part of the Paratwa Saga, which also includes Ash Ock (1989), The Paratwa (1991), and Binary Storm (2016). I picked up his latest novel Starship Alchemon on Saturday, only to discover it’s a rewrite of his second novel, Anachronisms, from 1988. Here’s an excerpt from the Strange Alliances review by Elaine Aldred, who is clearly better informed than I am.

The nine members of the crew of the Starship Alchemon are sent to investigate a mysterious anomaly on a distant planet. But the mission is far from straightforward and the crew are soon battling for their lives.

Starship Alchemon started life as Christopher Hinz’s 1980’s novel Anachronisms, but this version is not a simple rehash. It has an up-to-date feel and explores the characters in more depth, as well as tightening the whole worldbuilding experience. Each of the crew has their own particular skill set, with some possessing extraordinary abilities, like the character LeaMarsa de Host’s powerful psionic qualities. But there is careful attention paid to giving each of the characters a significant role in the story. The first half of the novel is slow, but the moment strange and ominous events begin to kick off, there is an Alien narrative in the sense of the crew just fighting to survive the escalating events.

Anachronisms could probably be thought of as being “of its time” however, put in the context of 1980’s science fiction, it still makes for an interesting read. Despite having been exposed to the novel in its first incarnation, I enjoyed this second outing, which can be thought of as having its own personality…

Despite being a rewrite of an older book, there’s a lot that appeals to me about Starship Alchemon — not the least of which is Aldred’s comparison to Alien. She’s not the only one to make that connection; keikii Eats Books on Reddit has the same idea.

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Rich Horton on Poul Anderson, Frederik Pohl, and L. Sprague de Camp

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Worlds of If May 1963-small Turn Left at Thursday-small The Continent Makers-small

Cover art by John Pederson, Jr., Richard Powers, and Bob Pepper

I know a lot of writers, and one of the reasons I hang out on Facebook is to find out what the heck they’re all up to. For example, this morning Rich Horton left this brief but intriguing update:

For the third day in a row, I have posted a Birthday Review compendium of reviews of older short fiction from an SFWA Grand Master. In this case, it’s for L. Sprague de Camp.

I checked out his blog Strange at Ecbatan, and sure enough, Rich has had a busy week. It started Monday:

Here’s my first Birthday Review is a while. (I’ve used up most of the birthdays!) This is a pretty significant one — Poul Anderson. He’d have been 96 today. This is a collection of reviews of magazine fiction (with one very late anthology story), including two serializations of a couple of his lesser known novels. And most of the stories here are not that well known either.

In a lengthy post, Rich reviewed 16 Anderson pieces from Super Science Stories, Worlds Beyond, Planet Stories, Space Science Fiction, Science Fiction Adventures, Cosmos, Galaxy, and many more. Here’s his thoughts on Anderson’s cover story for the May 1963 issue of Worlds of If (above left).

“Turning Point” is a neat little story. Kind of Cargo Cult in reverse. Humans come to an isolated alien planet, where the people apparently live primitive lives. But it turns out they are incredible geniuses, who simply never had the spur to develop technology. Once they see human tech, all bets are off.

Read Rich’s complete tribute to Poul Anderson here. Next up was the centenary of Frederik Pohl’s birth, which Rich celebrated with another lengthy review survey yesterday.

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A Tale of Two Covers: Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Gunslinger Girl 1-small Gunslinger Girl-small

Covers by Mark Owen/Trevillion Images (left) and uncredited

While I was at Windycon here in Chicago last week, I stopped by Larry Smith’s booth in the Dealer’s Room and ended up buying a small pile of books from Sally Kobee. Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely was an impulse buy, but a good one, I think. It’s part of the James Patterson Presents line, and was an Amazon and B&N Best Book of the Month, and an Indie Next pick. It’s also the tale of a female sharpshooter in a dystopian near-future West, and I like the sound of that. Here’s the description.

Seventeen-year-old Serendipity “Pity” Jones inherited two things from her mother: a pair of six shooters and perfect aim. She’s been offered a life of fame and fortune in Cessation, a glittering city where lawlessness is a way of life. But the price she pays for her freedom may be too great….

In this extraordinary debut from Lyndsay Ely, the West is once again wild after a Second Civil War fractures the U.S. into a broken, dangerous land. Pity’s struggle against the dark and twisted underbelly of a corrupt city will haunt you long after the final bullet is shot.

My problem with the book is that I bought the trade paperback on the left, and when I was checking out the details online I discovered the mass market paperback edition on the right, with the gorgeously colorful cover. It was vividly different and inexpensive enough ($5.49) that I decided to get a copy of that one as well, this time as a gift for my daughter. I ordered it from Amazon… and promptly received a second copy of the book at left. Every edition Amazon lists online has the cover at right (including the audio, paperback and hardcover editions), but I don’t see any way to actually get one.

Well, I love a book challenge, and I’m not ready to give up yet. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Here’s the back cover of the trade edition.

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Happy Book Birthday to Starlight, Book 2 of Skyward, by Brandon Sanderson

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Skyward Sanderson-small Starsight Sanderson-small

Covers by Charlie Bowater

Brandon Sanderson is one of the most ambitious fantasy authors at work today. (To give you some idea what I mean, he’s already 3,424 pages into his projected 10-volume Stormlight Archive series — and that just the first three books.) He has multiple series on the go at the moment, including Skyward, projected to reach four books.

Skyward is being marketed as Young Adult (unless you’re in the UK, where it’s being marketing as adult fiction — go figure.) Deana Whitney and Darci Cole at call it a “girl and her starship” story, and that seems to be right on the money.  Here’s an excerpt from the Kirkus review of the first novel, Skyward.

Eager to prove herself, the daughter of a flier disgraced for cowardice hurls herself into fighter pilot training to join a losing war against aliens.

Plainly modeled as a cross between Katniss Everdeen and Conan the Barbarian (“I bathed in fires of destruction and reveled in the screams of the defeated. I didn’t get afraid”), Spensa “Spin” Nightshade leaves her previous occupation — spearing rats in the caverns of the colony planet Detritus for her widowed mother’s food stand — to wangle a coveted spot in the Defiant Defense Force’s flight school. Opportunities to exercise wild recklessness and growing skill begin at once, as the class is soon in the air, battling the mysterious Krell raiders who have driven people underground… Meanwhile, hints that all is not as it seems, either with the official story about her father or the whole Krell war in general, lead to startling revelations and stakes-raising implications by the end… Sanderson plainly had a ball with this nonstop, highflying opener, and readers will too.

The second volume Starlight was released today by Tor. It is 461 pages, priced at $19.99 in hardcover and $10.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Charlie Bowater. Read a huge excerpt from Skyward (the first 15 chapters) at Underlined and another one at i09.

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