Made For TV Movie-of-the-Week Flashback: Birds of Prey

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019 | Posted by eeknight

Birds of Prey_1

Little did I know, when I was a pre-tween, that I was growing up in the Golden Age of TV movies. I was there for original showings of Trilogy of Terror, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, The Night Stalker and even Duel. Lucky me.

One that really made an impression on me at eight was 1973’s Birds of Prey. Like Duel it looked like it had a much bigger budget than it actually had. Story involves David Janssen playing a WW2 vet from the AVG in China who is now flying a civilian version of the Hughes OH-6 Cayuse “Loach” for a Salt Lake City radio station doing traffic. After a minimal amount of establishing his character and that of his fellow veteran police officer friend, he witnesses an armored car robbery and a hostage being taken.

The excitement is non-stop from then out, an elaborate chase, as he follows the murderous crooks and cleverly improvises ways to refuel and arm himself. There are hunter/hunted reversals, rescues, and even some dignified bonding with the hostage. Eight year old me was driven wild by the impressive flying and stunt work, including trips under highway overpasses and through factories and hangars by his handy little Loach. I think the pilots had fun making this movie, it seemed pretty clear they were doing crap they weren’t normally allowed to do for obvious safety reasons.

Even though I’d only seen it once, it stuck with me.

Imagine my surprise when I saw it flipping through Amazon Prime. I thought everyone had forgotten about this one, even though every time I came across David Janssen I remembered it.

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New Treasures: Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight by Aliette de Bodard

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Of Wars and Memories and Starlight-small Of Wars and Memories and Starlight-back-small

Cover by Maurizio Manzieri

I met Aliette de Bodard at the Nebulas weekend in 2015, on the way to a party in the Palmer House hotel, and we ended up chatting for about 20 minutes. She was charming, articulate, humble, and a very stylish dresser. And you know, that’s just not a combo you see very often, especially at a science fiction convention.

Anyway, she’s also won, like, ALL THE AWARDS. Her Universe of Xuya series may be the most honored SF story cycle of the last decade, with numerous Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and BSFA nominations and wins. John Clute’s entry for Aliette in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction reads in part:

Mostly comprising shorter works, the Universe of Xuya sequence – beginning with “The Lost Xuyan Bride” (December 2007 Interzone) and including On a Red Station, Drifting (2012), a short novel – is an Alternate History series in which China settles North America from the west, with complex consequences for earlier settlers like the Aztecs; some stories are set in space…

The Tea Master and the Detective… in the loose Xuya Universe sequence, is a Space Opera whose protagonists – Holmes and her shipmind Watson – are both female; it won a Nebula as best novelette.

Subterranean Press issued her first major collection on September 30 of this year. Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight contains 14 tales, including many award winners: 11 Xuya stories, a novelette in her acclaimed Dominion of the Fallen fantasy series, and an original novella, “Of Birthdays, and Fungus, and Kindness.”

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Play Host to Newborn Ghoulish Creatures in Alien: The Roleplaying Game by Free League Publishing

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Alien RPG-small

An official Alien role playing game is arriving in game stores next week, courtesy of Free League Publishing, the geniuses behind the brilliant Coriolis science fiction game, Mutant: Year Zero, and Forbidden Lands.

Any RPG that does justice to Ridley Scott’s science fiction horror masterpiece will have to have a dark and chilling aesthetic, and a cinematic play style. And for accuracy, probably a short (very short!) character life expectancy. Fortunately Alien: The Role Playing Game looks like it’s captured the look and feel of the franchise with real surety. Here’s Rachel Watts from her preview at PC Gamer last month.

Free League Publishing and 20th Century Fox have joined forces to create a tabletop RPG set in the harsh universe of the Alien films. It will drop players into the dark, merciless void of space, but this adaptation sounds far from empty.

Alien: The Roleplaying Game has two playable modes, cinematic and campaign. The cinematic option lets you play through a scenario similar to the events of the films in one session, and emphasises “high stakes and fast and brutal gameplay”, which doesn’t sound ominous at all. The campaign mode takes more of a Gloomhaven structure and lets players explore the Alien universe more freely over multiple game sessions.

The RPG comes in a chunky 392-page core rule book, which I think definitely leaves the definition of rulebook behind and goes straight into short novel territory. Free League Publishing have printed these rules in a hardback book and thrown in some cool illustrations… Alongside the core rule book, you’ll get a set of custom dice, a set of maps, and a GM Screen.

Can Free League Publishing get the all important feel of Alien right in an RPG? The rules follow their acclaimed Year Zero Engine, used in Tales from the Loop and Mutant: Year Zero, and they warn that “it’s unlikely your character will survive.” Sounds like they got the basics right to me.

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A Sci Fi / Fantasy Hybrid with a Middle Eastern Ambiance: Mirage by Somaiya Daud

Monday, December 9th, 2019 | Posted by Elizabeth Galewski

Mirage Somaiya Daud-smallThe nameless young Andalaan boy has yet to reach his majority, so he doesn’t have his face tattoos yet. But that’s what makes him a perfect assassin. The evil Vath invaders won’t be able to trace him back to his family and tribe.

For his whole young life, the boy has known the cruelty of the Vath. If he kills their crown princess, he’ll win a cottage for his family and a husband for his sister. He knows it’s a suicide mission, but he accepts. He readies his weapon and goes to the event where the Vath heir appears.

She looks so much like his own people. Her blood is only half Vathek – her mother was a native of this planet. But she’s rumored to be even more vicious than her iron-fisted father.

He raises his blaster and fires twice.

Amina is an Andalaan girl on the verge of becoming a woman. On the night that she gains her majority, she goes to the festival with her family to have her face tattooed. This is one of the few Andalaan traditions that persist. And since the Vath have burnt the farmers’ fields, leaving no provisions for the upcoming winter, the whole tribe needs an excuse to come together and enjoy an evening of ritual, however brief.

But the ink on Amani’s face hasn’t even dried before a squadron of Vath droids burst into the gathering. They separate Amani and the other teenage girls from the rest of the tribe and make them stand in a line.

One by one, the robots move down the row, scanning the girls’ faces. One by one, the scanners flash a green light, clearing them with a beep.

Amina hasn’t done anything wrong. She hasn’t aided the rebels or raised a hand against the Vath. Still, when a droid scans her face, an alarm erupts and the robots seize her. They drag her away and load her onto a Vath spaceship even while the droids set fire to the building that holds her family and friends.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Norbert Davis goes West(ern)

Monday, December 9th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Davis_DeadMansBrandEDITEDWasn’t sure what to write about this morning. I went on a mini Sword and Sandals kick and recently finished Scott Oden’s Men of Bronze, and Howard Andrew Jones’ Desert of Souls (reviews coming, time willing). I’ve played a lot of Conan Exiles the past few months (when I could) and I definitely want to do a post on that. It’s Minecraft on Steroids (now THERE’S a post title!). My Game Night group dug into Shadows of Brimstone earlier this year and that was a lot of fun (not as brutal as Descent). And my son and I are revisiting Star Wars Destiny (a neat card/dice game).

I’ve continued to work on what I hope will be the definitive Max Latin (Norbert Davis) essay. Though, to be honest, there isn’t really much competition for that honorific. His Latin stories are even more woefully neglected than Davis himself is. Being in a Davis mood, I decided to get Black Dog Books’ Dead Man’s Brand. Davis is best known for his screwball hardboiled comedies (a style that didn’t get him many sales to Cap Shaw, famed editor of Black Mask).

But he wrote for several pulp genres, as well as for the higher-paying slicks. This collection includes eight solid westerns from the pulps, including Dime Western Magazine and Star Western. There’s a good introduction by Bill Pronzini, and in the afterword, Ed Hulse talks about the lone movie adapted from a Davis story (there’s further proof of the under-valuing of Davis’ work).

Maybe I can talk James Reasoner or Duane Spurlock into doing a much better essay on Davis’ westerns than I could possibly ever hope to write, but I’m just going to talk about the first story: “A Gunsmoke Case for Major Cain,” which appeared in Dime Western in October, 1940.

We don’t learn all the details right away, but the story opens with a young girl named Missy trying to crawl under a covered wagon while her drunken uncle (Pops Reese) whips her with a quirt (a short-handled riding whip with a braided leather lash). The coffee she gave him was too hot and burned his tongue. That’s the kind of guy he is. Well, that, and he’s taking her to the town of Cranston to sell her to the local boss – presumably to become a whore in his saloon.

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Rejoice, Mortals, for Tales from the Magician’s Skull #3 is Here!

Sunday, December 8th, 2019 | Posted by SELindberg

Tales From the Magician’s Skull 3-small

“Rejoice, mortals! I have heard your pleas and returned to grant your greatest desire: More sword-and-sorcery!

Once again I will bring you tales of thrilling adventures in time-lost lands. There are swords, and there is sorcery. There are dark deeds and daring rescues…” —The Magician’s Skull 

Should You Trust a Talking Skull?

Well, no sane person would, but I attest this particular skull does not lie. Tales from the Magician’s Skull (installments #1 and #2) spawned from a successful 2017 Kickstarter campaign in which Howard Andrew Jones (Sword & Sorcery guru, author, and RPGer) teamed up with Joseph Goodman (of Goodman Games, publisher of Dungeon Crawl Classics). The resulting magazine reflects this partnership, marrying great stories with corresponding RPG elements. Interested in the origins of the magazine? Then check out John O’Neill’s Black Gate coverage of the initial run: In Search of a new Weird Tales: An Interview with Joseph Goodman, Howard Andrew Jones, and the Talking Skull!

This July 2019, the Skull resurfaced with issue #3 and promises of issues #4-6. As a backer and enthusiast of fantasy fiction, I couldn’t be more pleased. If you missed the Kickstarters, have no worries you “mortal dogs” (another Skull saying), since both Goodman Games and Amazon offer them. Future plans are as follows: “Issue #4 will release in March 2020, and others will follow bi-annually thereafter. Upon reaching issue #666, the Skull will travel to a higher plane and the magazine will end.”

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The Most Daring Burglary of Your Career: Age of Thieves

Sunday, December 8th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Age of Thieves Game-small

I attended Gen Con back in August, took comprehensive notes and hundred of photos of games I wanted, and then came home and gave up. I mean, seriously. So many games.

I’m starting to emerge from this cocoon of total capitulation, and making feeble efforts to sample recent board games again. A few weeks ago publisher Galakta had an online sale, and I bought a copy of Age of Thieves on Amazon for $28. After that I began to timidly look though some of my Gen Con photos, and pretty soon I was buying a Traveller card game and then the off-the-wall Degenesis RPG. I’m not looking for a medal or anything, but hey, it’s a start.

As for Age of Thieves, I’m pretty pleased with it. It’s a competitive game of thieves attempting a daring heist, and then an even more daring escape from a port city as the guards close in. It’s a unique premise, and the map and the art design are gorgeous. Here’s the description.

Age of Thieves is a fantasy board game of strategy and adventure set in Hadria, a port metropolis located on the northern fringes of a mighty Empire. Each player becomes a master thief about to commit the most daring burglary of his career. During the game players may use unique abilities of their thieves as well as various action cards, which represent maneuvers, alchemical potions or complicated devices inspired by visionary ideas of Renaissance inventors… The thief who will manage to escape through one of four city gates taking with him the Emperors’ Jewel or other valuable loot worth the most Victory Points (VP) will be the winner of the game. Anyone who will stay inside Hadria after the event deck is depleted will be caught and mercilessly thrown inside the city dungeon, their names erased from the annals of the omnipotent Guild.

Age of Thieves is a fairly simple 2-4 player game that lasts 1-2 hours, and is especially suitable for folks who prize imaginative settings. It was published by the Polish development house Galakta, who describe it as “a clockpunk game of strategy and adventure,” and that’s pretty much spot on.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Amazons!, edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson

Sunday, December 8th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Michael Whelan

Cover by Michael Whelan

The World Fantasy Award was established in 1975 as part of the World Fantasy Convention. Seen as a fantasy version of the Hugo and the Nebula Awards (neither of which are strictly for science fiction), the nominees and winners are selected by a panel of judges, although currently, two positions on the ballot are opened up to nominations from members of the World Fantasy Convention. The Anthology/Collection Award was presented from 1977, when it was won by Kirby McCauley for Frights, through 1987 when James Tiptree, Jr. won it for Tales of the Quintana Roo.  For two years prior to the award’s establishment, a Best Collection Award was presented. In 1988, Best Collection and Best Anthology were each split out into their own categories and remain so until this day. Originally, the trophy was a Gahan Wilson created grotesque bust of H.P. Lovecraft. In recent years as more and more authors, fans, and winners of the award spoke out against Lovecraft’s misogyny and racism, the trophy was replaced by a sculpture of a tree created by Vincent Villafranca. In 1980, the award was won by Jessica Amanda Salmons for the anthology Amazons!

Salmonson’s introductions to each of the stories are lengthy and provide insight not only into the stories that follow, but also her process in creating the anthology. She discusses her motives for putting the book together, her reasons for selecting the specific stories, related anecdotes about how the stories came to her and, in the case of Charles Saunders’ story, addresses the fact that only one story by a male writer appears in the anthology.

Following the general introduction by Salmonson, in which she discusses both historical and mythological warrior women, the book presents the short story “The Dreamstone,” by C.J. Cherryh, which the author would eventually combine with her novella “Ealdwood” and publish as the novel The Dreamstone in 1983.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 Forry Award: C. L. Moore

Saturday, December 7th, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton

Astounding Science Fiction Judgment Night August 1943-small

Astounding Science Fiction August 1943,
containing “Judgment Night” by C.L. Moore

The Los Angeles Science Fiction Society (LASFS) began presenting the Forry Award in 1966 for Lifetime Achievement in Science Fiction. The first award went to Ray Bradbury, who, besides his towering achievements in SF, was a prominent member of LASFS. Over the years, the list of Forry Award winners is a curious mix of the obvious (Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Fritz Leiber, Larry Niven, Arthur C. Clarke, A. E. Van Vogt, Ursula K. Le Guin, Lois McMaster Bujold, etc.), with those whose accomplishments are not as writers but still seem significant (Mike Glyer, Chuck Jones, Fred Patten, Ray Harryhausen), and with those whose importance I have probably unforgivably missed (Charles Lee Jackson II, Len Moffat, John de Chancie.)

The 2002 award went to the award’s namesake, Forrest J. Ackerman. Here I will confess a personal bias… If awards like the Campbell and the Tiptree are going to have their names changed, can the Forry Award retain its name for long? Some of my bias is undoubtedly unfair: I think Ackerman’s taste in science fiction was appalling. But that’s just “taste”, and surely he can be forgiven that, and his enthusiasm for the type of SF he loved was no doubt real. But his ethics as an agent, for one, were distressing. But much more seriously, there are credible accusations of sexual harassment and abuse of women fans, and indeed very young women, at least as young as 13. I can’t but feel icky about the worship some express towards him, and while I’m opposed to changing the name of the Tiptree Award, and ambivalent about changing the names of the Campbell Awards, it seems to me that the Forry Award (justified as it may be by Ackerman’s strong association with LASFS) is right out.

But that doesn’t mean the Forry Award winners (Ackerman himself excepted) should be thrown out with the bathwater. And the 1973 winner, C. L. Moore, qualifies as one of the “obviously worthy” winners.

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Explorers, Mathematicians, and Airwalkers: November/December Print SF Magazines

Friday, December 6th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Analog Science Ficion and Fact November December 2019-small Asimov's Science Ficion November December 2019-small The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction November December 2019-small

Covers by Tuomas Korpi, Donato Giancola, and Bob Eggleton

The end-of-year crop of print magazines contains some very promising fiction from Michael Swanwick, James Morrow, James Patrick Kelly, Benjamin Rosenbaum, M. Rickert, Jerry Oltion, Mark W. Tiedemann, Jay O’Connell, Allen M. Steele, R. Garcia y Robertson, Harry Turtledove, James Gunn, and many others — including Black Gate‘s new short fiction reviewer, James Van Pelt. But I think my favorite piece this month was Sheila Williams’ editorial, “A Sadder and Wiser Woman,” in which she addresses the loss of two women, Janet Jeppson Asimov and Carol Emshwiller, who had long been associated with Asimov’s Science Fiction. Here she reminisces about her friendship with Emshwiller.

I was a high-school student when I first encountered Carol Emshwiller’s fiction in the pages of Dangerous Visions. I had to reread “Sex and/or Mr. Morrison” a couple of times before I had the slightest idea of what was going one. I became friends with Carol after I moved to New York City, and in 1991 she convinced my husband and I to accompany her on a walking tour of England’s Lake District….

Carol was bemused to “break in” to Asimov’s in January 2006. Her first story for us was “World of No Return.” Over the next seven years we published twelve of her inventive and often disturbing tales. One short story, “The Lovely Ugly” (August 2010), tied for first place in our annual Readers’ Award Poll. The last tale, “Riding Red Ted and Breathing Fire,” appeared in our April/May 2012 issue. Some of my other favorites included “Master of the Road to Nowhere” (March 2008) and “The Bird Painter in Time of War” (February 2009). I was sorry that she stopped writing, because I would love to have published a dozen more. Carol was born on April 12, 1921, and died on February 2.

Here’s the editorial issue summaries for Analog, and Asimov’s, and the complete Tables of Contents for all three.

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