Disgust and Desire: An Interview with Anna Smith Spark

Saturday, May 18th, 2019 | Posted by SELindberg


It is not intuitive to seek beauty in art deemed grotesque/weird, but most authors who produce horror/fantasy actually are usually (a) serious about their craft, and (b) driven my strange muses.  This interview series engages contemporary authors & artists on the theme of “Art & Beauty in Weird/Fantasy Fiction.”  Previously we cornered weird fantasy authors like John FultzJaneen WebbAliya WhiteleyRichard Lee ByersSebastian Jones, Charles Gramlich, and Darrell Schweitzer. This one features the “Queen of Grimdark,” Anna Smith Spark.

Anna Smith Spark is the author of the critically acclaimed Queen of Grimdark. The David Gemmell Awards shortlisted The Court of Broken Knives and The Tower of Living and Dying continued the Empires of Dust trilogy (Harper Voyager US/ Orbit US/Can). The finale, The House of Sacrifice, will be published August 2019. Anna lives in London, UK. She loves grimdark and epic fantasy and historical military fiction. Anna has a BA in Classics, an MA in history and a Ph.D. in English Literature. She has previously been published in the Fortean Times and the poetry website greatworks.org. Previous jobs include petty bureaucrat, English teacher and fetish model. Anna’s favorite authors and key influences are R. Scott Bakker, Steve Erikson, M. John Harrison, Ursula Le Guin, Mary Stewart and Mary Renault. She spent several years as an obsessive D&D player. She can often be spotted at sff conventions wearing very unusual shoes.

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Wordsmiths: Talking Horror and White Noise with Geoff Gander and Tito Ferradans

Friday, December 14th, 2018 | Posted by Brandon Crilly


There’s been something about this past year – tons of creators I know are doing awesome things, particularly in my Ottawa backyard, nearby in Toronto and elsewhere across Canada. It sounds cliché, but watching these projects come to fruition is one of the highlights of being a creator myself, and I’ve been lucky to chat with a few people and put together interviews to share with all of you – starting today!

Recently I had the pleasure of chatting with Ottawa horror author and games writer Geoff Gander about some exciting news: the purchase of film rights to his 2014 short story “White Noise” (published in AE Sci Fi). The short film of the same name is being written and co-directed by Vancouver-based screenwriter Tito Ferradans, who joined us to discuss the process of converting from short story to film, and the horror genre in general. He also shared some screenshots from the film to give you a glimpse of what “White Noise” will look like.

Hope you all enjoy! And make sure to check out links to the White Noise Indigegogo campaign below!

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Birthday Reviews: Joanna Russ’s “Nobody’s Home”

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

New Dimensions 2-small New Dimensions 2-back-small

Cover by Ron Walotsky

Joanna Russ was born on February 22, 1937 and died on April 29, 2011. From her first publications, she became a voice for feminist science fiction in a world which was dominated, but not exclusively, by men.

As important as her science fiction, if not moreso, is her monograph How to Suppress Women’s Writing. Among her notable science fiction are the stories that make of the Alyx cycle, including Picnic on Paradise, and the novels And Chaos Died and The Female Man.

She won the Nebula Award for her short story “When It Changed” and a Hugo for the novella “Souls.” In 1996, she received two retrospective James Tiptree, Jr. Awards for “When It Changed” and for The Female Man. The Female Man was inducted into the Gaylactic Spectrum Hall of Fame. Russ received a Pilgrim Award for Lifetime Achievement for her contributions to science fiction and fantasy scholarship from the SFRA in 1988 and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2013. In 2015, Russ received the Solstice Award from the SFWA.

“Nobody’s Home” was originally printed in New Dimensions II, edited by Robert Silverberg in 1972. It was picked up the next year by Terry Carr for The Best Science Fiction of the Year #2. Pamela Sargent included it in Women of Wonder. Silverberg has reprinted it in several of his anthologies over the years, including Alpha 9, The Best of New Dimensions, Great Tales of Science Fiction, and The Arbor House Treasury of Science Fiction. Russ included it in her collection The Zanzibar Cat in 1983. David G. Hartwell reprinted it in The World Treasury of Science Fiction and Gardner Dozois reprinted it in Modern Classics of Science Fiction and Supermen. “Nobody’s Home” was translated into Spanish in 1977 and into Dutch in 1980.

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OF SECRET WORLDS INCREDIBLE: A Psychedelic Journey into Clark Ashton Smith’s Poetic Masterpiece

Friday, March 11th, 2011 | Posted by John R. Fultz

smith2What a TRIP…

In the world of epic fantasy, poetry often gets a bad rap. In the world of legendary fantasists, one name that continues to be revered is Clark Ashton Smith. As one of the “big three” WEIRD TALES writers from the 1920s and 30s, Smith gained a reputation that rivaled that of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard for fantastic fiction. His superbly dark fantasies set in realms such as Zothique, Hyperborea, Atlantis, and Averoigne set a new bar for weird fantasy. With his lush language, poetic sensibilities, and lyrical style, he was a word-wizard of the highest caliber. Any scholar of classic fantasy is sure to sing Smith’s praises. He is certainly one of this author’s favorite writers (especially his Tales of Zothique, my favorite of all his story cycles).

However, Smith thought of himself first and foremost as a poet. He wrote weird fiction because it paid well (yes, there was a time when short stories paid well). The key to his dark genius is probably to be found in his thousands of stanzas of verse…his poetry seeped into his weird fiction and made his tales baroque and lyrical. Smith denied the archetype of the conquering hero…his main characters were more likely to meet hideous doom than to defeat the eldritch monsters they encountered. His wizards were diabolical megalomaniacs or hermetic iconoclasts who explored forbidden mysteries and unlocked terrible powers.

Smith’s greatest piece of verse is (arguably) the epic poem entitled THE HASHISH-EATER or THE APOCALYPSE OF EVIL. It is a phantasmagoric tour de force through jeweled realms of fantasy laced with cosmic horror. It is a masterwork of fantasy, but is usually overlooked in favor of his short stories. It is also probably my very favorite poem. Ever.

Rather than attempt to explain why the poem is so magnificent, I thought I’d simply present it here at BLACK GATE, one stanza at a time, with a paragraph of analysis/commentary between each stanza. For those who prefer to read the poem without annotations first, I recommend a visit to my favorite CAS tribute site The Eldritch Dark, where the entire poem is posted without comments or analysis: http://www.eldritchdark.com/writings/poetry/572/the-hashish-eater–or–the-apocalypse-of-evil

You may want to light some candles and put on a stick of incense…I suggest the heady aroma of jasmine…maybe some old Black Sabbath in the background. Now…let us begin our celestial excursion into the depths of darkest fantasy…let us delve without fear into the eerie depths of a gorgeous nightmare…let us travel stanza by stanza through Clark Ashton Smith’s greatest poem….

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Accessible Dark Fantasy: An Interview with Carol Berg

Sunday, October 13th, 2019 | Posted by SELindberg

BergCate_IllusionOfThieves BergCate_2

Let us welcome Carol Berg (and Cate Glass)

Carol Berg majored in mathematics at Rice University, in part so she wouldn’t have to write papers. But while earning her mathematics degree, she took every English course that listed novels on the syllabus, just so she would have time to keep reading. Somewhere in the midst of teaching math for a couple of years, raising three sons, earning a second degree in computer science at the University of Colorado, and a software engineering career, a friend teased her into exchanging letters written “in character.” Once Carol started writing fiction, she couldn’t stop. Carol’s fifteen epic fantasy novels have earned national and international acclaim, including the Geffen Award, the Prism Award, multiple Colorado Book Awards, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. She has been twice voted the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Writer of the Year.

Carol’s newest work, written as her alter ego Cate Glass, is a fantasy adventure series called Chimera about a rag-tag quartet of sorcerers who take on missions of deception and intrigue in a world where magic earns the death penalty. The first book, An Illusion of Thieves, was released in May 2019 by Tor Books (A Conjuring of Assassins is due out Feb 2020). Carol lives in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains with her Exceptional Spouse. She routinely attends conventions and was recently a special guest at the 2019 GenCon Writer’s Symposium.

Carol Berg makes dark fantasy fun and accessible, a perfect candidate for our interviews on “Art & Beauty in Weird Fantasy” (see previous interviews listed below). Most authors who produce horror/fantasy are (a) serious about their craft, and (b) driven by strange muses. Let’s tap the mind(s) of Carol Berg and Cate Glass.

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Lost in the Halls at Gen Con 2019

Saturday, August 3rd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Gen Con 2019-small

I’m here on site at Gen Con for the first time in…. wow, I don’t even remember. Fifteen years, at least. Last time I visited Gen Con it was in Milwaukee, if that’s any clue. It now fills (and substantially overfills) the spacious halls of the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis, where tens of thousands of gamers meet friends, play games, try out new games, play the legendary NASCRAG tournament, and wander through the jaw-dropping Exhibit Hall.

I’m here for the first time in over a decade because I was invited to speak at the Writers Symposium, on topics like Submitting Short Fiction, What Happens to a Story After You Submit it, and Does Advertising Work? I’ve been very impressed at how well organized the Symposium is — it’s run like an excellent mini-convention just for writers, inside a much larger enterprise. And it’s attracted some top-notch speakers, including Howard Andrew Jones, Bradley P. Beaulieu — whose talk on Tension on Every Page was really terrific — the charming Anna Smith Spark, Black Gate blogger Clarence Young, writer and interviewer Seth Lindberg, Tor.com editor Diana Pho, and many, many others.

Of course, we’re here in the name of games, and games new and old were everywhere. The enormous Exhibit Hall (pictured above) was filled with hundreds and hundreds (and hundreds) of game companies showing off their wares. I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time in the Hall as I wanted — and you could spend weeks in there, believe me — but I did find countless treasures, many in the generously stocked Goodman Games booth at the far end. Over the next few weeks I’ll share the details here. But in the meantime, I have to run to my next panel, Reviews and Reviewers: How to Find Them, How to Keep Them. Wish me luck!

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The January Fantasy Magazine Rack

Saturday, January 13th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 241 January 4 2018-rack Clarkesworld 136-small Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine January February 2018-rack Nightmare magazine January 2018-rack
Grimdark magazine 14-rack The Dark January 2018-rack High Adventure 157-rack Uncanny magazine January February 2018-small

Only two print magazines in the first half of the month, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and pulp reprint mag High Adventure. Online zines definitely seem to be where the action is. The first magazines of 2018 feature fiction from Tobias S. Buckell, Elizabeth Bear, S.B. Divya, Tamara Vardomskaya, Sunny Moraine, Terence Faherty, Osahon Ize-iyamu, Erin Roberts, Bo Balder, Bao Shu, Arkady Martine, Marissa Lingen, Sunny Moraine, Vivian Shaw, R.K. Kalaw, and many others. Here’s the complete list of magazines that won my attention in early January (links will bring you to magazine websites).

Beneath Ceaseless Skies — the January 4 issue — #242! — has fiction from Tamara Vardomskaya and Hannah Strom-Martin, plus a reprint by A.B. Treadwell
Clarkesworld — new stories from Tobias S. Buckell, Osahon Ize-iyamu, Erin Roberts, Bo Balder, and Bao Shu, plus reprints from James Tiptree Jr. and Michael Swanwick
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine — the January/February double issue follows their winter tradition of seasonal suspense and Sherlockian detection, with a new entry in Terence Faherty’s series from the lost manuscripts of Dr. John Watson, “The Noble Bachelor”
Nightmare — original fiction from Lori Selke and Vincent Michael Zito, plus reprints by Halli Villegas and Lynda E. Rucker
GrimDark Magazine — Alex Marshall is back with his second Crimson Empire novella *Beasts of the Burnished Chain,* plus a story from Anna Smith-Spark, and interviews with Steven Erikson and Erik Scott de Bie
The Dark — brand new dark fantasy and horror from Lindiwe Rooney and Bill Kte’pi, plus reprints from Eric Schaller and Carrie Laben
High Adventure — three classic tales of air adventure: “War Game” by George Bruce, “O’leary’s Last Supper” by Arthur Guy Empey, and “The Kansas Comet” by William E. Barrett
Uncanny — issue #20 contains all-new short fiction by Elizabeth Bear, S.B. Divya, Arkady Martine, Marissa Lingen, Sunny Moraine, Vivian Shaw, and R.K. Kalaw, plus a reprint by Vandana Singh

Click any of the thumbnail images above for bigger images. Our Late December Fantasy Magazine Rack is here.

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The Verge on 14 SF, Fantasy, and Horror Books for August

Thursday, August 31st, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Clockwork Dynasty Daniel H Wilson-small The Court of Broken Knives Anna Smith Spark-small A Song for Quiet Cassandra Khaw-small

Here at the end of the month, I’ve been amusing myself by comparing the books selected by each of the major genre sites for their monthly lists:

August’s Must-Read Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror (John DeNardo, Kirkus Reviews) — 19 books
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of August (Jeff Somers, the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog) — 25 books
The Best Comics & Graphic Novels of August (Ross Johnson, the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog) — 29 comics and graphic novels
14 SF, Fantasy, and Horror Books for August (Andrew Liptak, The Verge) — 14 books

Andrew Liptak at The Verge, for example, seems to really dig white covers.

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July Short Story Roundup

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

CaptureAs the dog days begin, my mind has been prodded back to swords & sorcery by a few things. The most important one was the the return to the fray of Charles R. Saunders, creator of the heroes Imaro and Doussouye. Just the other day, he announced the start of a new blog, Different Drumming. If you are not familiar with Saunders and his superb body of work, go at once and check out his site.

The next thing, while not exactly S&S, was that I learned the final volume of R. Scott Bakker’s Aspect Emperor series, The Unholy Consult, is about to be published. For all my issues with it, it is one of the few contemporary series that has held my interest past the first book or two.

There have also been some fun discussions among various wags over on Facebook about what a list of good introductory books to the genre would look like. I suspect it won’t be long before I’m lifted entirely from my S&S doldrums and return to reading and reviewing the stuff on a regular basis. Until then, there will still be short story roundups. Like this one.

Swords and Sorcery Magazine #65 provides the publication’s usual two new stories. I like both well enough, but neither qualifies as actual S&S. The definition of “what is swords & sorcery?” has been done to death by divers hands and on numerous stages, but suffice to say there should be action and at least a touch of the dark and macabre. This issue’s two stories contain neither of those things.

Then Will Die Your Pain,” by Tom Crowley, consists of the reflections of Konsler, an aged soldier now serving as the attendant to a knight of unclear pedigree.

Sir Garner isn’t a proper knight, just as I’m not a proper squire. There are no knights where Garner comes from, but everyone in the company calls him Sir. And of course I’m too old to be a squire. The other mercenaries say to me, “You’re gonna die out here, grandpa.” They’re probably right. I just need to finish my job first, and I’m writing this in case I don’t.

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Jetpacks and Bazookas: Jonny Quest

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020 | Posted by Thomas Parker

(1) Jonny Quest

Who was the most influential person in the history of the American fantastic imagination? Was it a founding father like Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, or Nathaniel Hawthorne? Or could it be a golden-age great like Robert A. Heinlein or Isaac Asimov or the editor who shaped their early careers, John W. Campbell? Certainly, the big three of Weird Tales, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith, have set the pattern for countless imitators down to the present day. Perhaps it was a pure pulpster like Edgar Rice Burroughs or a more literary type like Ray Bradbury, or someone who came to the fore later, like Frank Herbert or Poul Anderson. Maybe it was someone less traditional, like Philip K. Dick, Ursula Le Guin, Harlan Ellison, Joanna Russ, or Samuel R. Delaney.

It’s a fun question to contemplate and a tricky and enjoyable argument to make, whoever your choice is. For myself, I don’t think any of the worthies I’ve mentioned had the widespread, long-term influence of my nominee(s): William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. (But then, if asked to name the single greatest work of American fantasy, I’m likely to blurt out that it’s the 1964 Rankin-Bass TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.)

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