Changa: Before the Safari by Milton Davis

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_14244n24u2oHPRemember swords & sorcery? You know, the wild, adventurous storytelling that brought most of us here together at Black Gate. I’ve put it on the back burner for the last couple of months, choosing instead to delve into epic high fantasy. But a few weeks ago I got a message from sword & soul impresario/writer/publisher Milton Davis, who wanted to know if I’d be interested in reading the new Changa collection, Before the Safari, pre-publication. Is Conan’s hair square-cut? Does Ningauble have seven eyes? Is Elric bad luck for his friends? Yes. There are a few perks to reviewing at Black Gate and this is one of them. (The hard copy won’t be hitting the shelves until July, but you can get the e-book right now).

Changa Diop, for those not familiar with him (and every self-respecting S&S fan should be by now), was once a prince of the Bakongo people, but his father was overthrown and killed by the sorcerer Usenge. In the original collections, Changa’s Safari 1, 2, and 3 (reviewed by me and Joe Bonandonna), we learned that Changa eventually ended up enslaved and forced to fight in gladiatorial combat. He was rescued from his bloody life by the Swahili Belay. A merchant, Belay taught Changa his trade and eventually made him heir in preference to his own sons.

The three Safari books tell of Changa’s great adventure as he takes his merchant fleet from 14th century Sofala, in present day Mozambique, across the Indian Ocean to China and back again. If you have the slightest interest in old school S&S, these are right up your alley. Changa Diop is an adventurer of heroic proportions and deeds, worthy of standing alongside any of the S&S greats. Constantly pushed to his limits, he faces off against demons, pirates, evil sorcerers, and monsters — lots and lots of monsters.

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Getting Closer to Home: A Review of Milton J. Davis’ Saga Changa’s Safari

Monday, August 24th, 2015 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Changa's Safari-small Changa's Safari 2-small Changa's Safari 3-small

I have been a fan of Milton J. Davis’ saga of Changa Diop ever since I read the first volume, Changa’s Safari, back in 2010. All three volumes are published by MVmedia, LLC. They are:

Changa’s Safari: A Sword and Soul Epic (2010)
Changa’s Safari, Volume Two (2012)
Changa’s Safari, Volume Three (2014)

[Click on any of the images in this article for bigger versions.]

It’s no secret that Davis has been influenced by the father of the Sword and Soul brand of Heroic Fantasy, introduced to the world in the 1970s by the eminent author, Charles R. Saunders, creator of the Imaro novels, the first black, Sword and Sorcery hero and star of his own series.

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Changa’s Safari: Volume 2 by Milton Davis

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_122213ZGX0sjXjI read fantasy — and swords & sorcery in particular — because it’s fun. Like most middle-class Americans I lead a very safe life, which I’m very happy about, but from which I sometimes like to take a break. Occasionally I need to hear the whoosh of a sword just missing Conan’s head, to peer down into the dark alleys of Tai-tastigon from the rooftops of strange gods’ temples, to smell the fires of Granbretan’s vile sorceries. Sometimes I need to get out of my content, comfortable place and journey to places unknown and fantastic.

Milton Davis, sword & soul maven, delivers exactly that kind of trip in Changa’s Safari: Volume 2 (2012). The story of swashbuckling merchant Changa Diop traveling the 14th century Indian Ocean, it continues the adventures of Changa’s Safari: Volume 1 (2010), which was reviewed by Charles “Imaro” Saunders on Black Gate several years ago.

Once a prince of the Bakongo, Changa was sold into slavery when his father was killed by the sorceror Usenge. He was rescued from the slave-fighting pits of Mogadishu by a kindly merchant. His rescuer, Belay, taught him how to be a trader and eventually made him his heir.

Vol. 1 tells of the arrival of a great Chinese fleet off the East Africa coast and Changa’s journey alongside it back to China with his own fleet. There he confronts — boldly and with plenty of sword flourishing and magic — all manner of things you’d hope to meet in this kind of story: evil demigoddesses, pirates, conniving courtiers, and a Mongol horde. You know, the good stuff.

Volume 2 picks up a short time after Changa and his ships have left China for home. Home is Sofala, once a prosperous port in present-day Mozambique. It’s a long way from the Straits of Malacca (where the book opens with a tremendous multi-ship battle against Sangir pirates) to Sofala, which leaves a lot of room for adventure.

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Shout-Out to Changa’s Safari

Monday, May 2nd, 2011 | Posted by Charles Saunders

Following up on the success of his two Meji novels, Milton J. Davis has changa-book-cover1published a new Sword-and-Soul adventure titled Changa’s Safari. Always innovative, Milton breaks new ground with this novel, with the action and intrigue unfolding within the context of the fourteenth-century mercantile network that included East Africa, Arabia, India and China. As in the tales of Sinbad the Sailor, magic works in the Eastern world of the black merchant-warrior Changa Diop.

Full disclosure before I go on … in only a few years’ time, Milton and I have become very good friends — Sword-and-Soul brothers, in fact. I read Changa’s Safari and the two Meji novels in manuscript, well before the books were published. I was impressed to the point where I volunteered to write introductions to Changa’s Safari and Meji Book I (Linda Addison wrote the introduction to Meji Book II.  Also, Milton and I have co-edited Griots, a Sword-and Soul anthology that will be published later this year.

So yes, this is more of a shout-out than a review. I give shout-outs when I feel they are deserved, which is assuredly the case here — not only for Milton’s prose, but also for the excellent cover and interior art by Winston Blakely.

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Dracula in Espanol? Si!

Sunday, March 29th, 2020 | Posted by John Miller

MV5BMmM2YmZlZDQtZjRmYS00MWNjLWIwZGMtNDI4MDAwM2RmOWEyL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzA4ODc3ODU@._V1_

Hello. Since this is my first blog post for Black Gate, I feel that an introduction is in order. My name is John Miller and I am a writer. My name is a both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it is short and simple and easy to remember, a curse because it’s common and as easy to forget as it is to remember. I have written under the name of J. J. Miller (only when I was young, and somewhat under the influence of E. E. Smith), as John J. Miller, and, finally, as John Jos. Miller, when I had to differentiate myself from the other John J. Millers of the world. (Also, as simply John Miller, but only for my technical archeological reports and papers. You can try to track down “Resource Allocation Strategies on the Navajo Reservation in the Early Twentieth Century,” but good luck in finding it.) I’ve been told that I probably should use a pseudonym (I did write one novel under a pseudonym, but that was not my choice.), but I am stubborn and bad at self promotion and John Miller is my name (along with tens of thousands of other Americans) and I’m sticking with it.

I read a lot of stuff and watch a lot of stuff and like to share my opinion of what I like and don’t like. Who doesn’t? I have my prejudices, which I will admit up front. I don’t like torture porn or most slasher movies. I don’t like most modern Rom Coms. I don’t like movies where the whole point is that the characters are stupid. Dumb and Dumber? I don’t think so. (Once I actually paid money to see an Adam Sandler movie and I’ve regretted that ever since.) I really don’t like movies where they shoot the dog. (The exception that proves this point is John Wick. I’ve seen it three or four times, but not the scene where they kill the dog. Sometime I’ll have to tell you about the discussion I had with George R.R. Martin as to why Old Yeller is a terrible children’s movie.)

Rating movies under a five star system is insufficient, even if you cheat by halving the stars. I use a modified IMBD 10-1 system, but to add a soupcon of nuance, I use a “plus,” so my scale actually runs from 10+ to 1.

I almost always finish everything, book, novel, or movie, that I start. Thing is, I’m willing to take the bullet so you don’t have to. That’s what I’m here for, but mainly I like to share things I like, so let’s get down to it already.

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The Illustrated Safari

Sunday, January 26th, 2020 | Posted by Milton Davis

Changa and the Jade Obelisk cover-small

Cover for Changa and the Jade Obelisk #1

Changa’s Safari began in 1986 as a concept inspired by Robert E. Howard’s Conan. I wanted to create a heroic character with all the power and action of the brooding Cimmerian but based on African history, culture and tradition. Although the idea came early, the actual execution didn’t begin until 2005, when I decided to take the plunge into writing and publishing. During its creation I had the great fortune to meet and become friends with Charles R. Saunders, whose similar inspiration by Howard led to the creation of the iconic Imaro. What was planned to be a short story became a five-volume collection of tales that ended a few years ago with Son of Mfumu.

I had always seen Changa’s story as a visual experience. When I began writing the first story I imagined Michael Clarke Duncan as Changa, the Indian Ocean with his crew from adventure to adventure. After Duncan passed away; I settled on Michael Jai White as a worthy replacement for my hero. Having Changa travel the world for his various adventures was also part of the visual experience. It was my hope to one day see it all take place on the silver screen.

A few years ago I embarked a project to make Changa’s Safari an animated series, a project that is still in development. But recently I imagined Changa as a comic book series. I still had a strong desire to see Changa visually, and I felt that the comic book medium would be the fastest way to do so. The comic book would also serve as storyboards for a possible movie, if the opportunity ever came up.

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A Homecoming: Son of Mfumu by Milton J. Davis

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

DIhhmcBUQAAjNxv“…keep it old school. Don’t make it boring, pack it with action, don’t invert it, converge it, or subvert it. Have a hero even if he is a rascal. Have some gothic atmosphere and a touch of cosmicism. Give it technicolor and dream dust instead of shades of gray. Have the ending mean something.”  -Morgan Holmes, on writing a classic S&S story.

Milton Davis’ five volume series about the mighty and wily Changa Diop is swords & sorcery cast from a classic mold, the dimensions of which were first set down ninety years ago by Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and C.L. Moore. Changa is a hero through and through. Even when he’s got one eye focused on making a profit, the other is on his own honor and courage. There are wonderful descriptions of a vibrant, exciting world designed perfectly as a stage for mighty adventures, but done so well it never impedes the action. Of action, there’s more than enough for any S&S fan, ranging from duels with pirates to epic battles with demonic conjurations. Heroes are bold and villains deadly. This is the root stuff of which good S&S is made.

Whenever you get bummed out about the current state of S&S, rest assured that there are authors hewing to something like Holmes’ cri-de-coeur. And they aren’t making copies of the tried and true, but crafting their own myths and legends, adding their rousing additions to this genre we love.

Starting with Changa’s Safari (2011), and continuing for four more books, Milton Davis has sent our titular hero to the ends of the earth in search of the means to avenge his father’s murder, and claim the throne of Kongo from the usurper and sorcerer, Usenge. Each comrade with whom he surrounds himself is skilled and memorable in his own way. Foremost, there is the blue-robed and silent swordsman known only as the Tuareg. Zakee is a young Yemeni prince rescued from a disastrous marriage, the irascible navigator Mikaili is an Ethiopian with plans to become an priest someday…just never today, and finally there is Panya, Yoruban sorceress and beloved of Changa.

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The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in March

Sunday, April 17th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The palace of Fasiladas-smallThe number one post at the Black Gate blog last month was Sean McLachlan’s report on the historically fascinating castles of Gondar, Ethiopia. Sean’s adventures in Ethiopia certainly captured the attention of our readers — he also had the #3 post, with his photo-essay on the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela.

Coming in at #2 was the fifth chapter in William I. Lengeman III’s ongoing Star Trek re-watch, on Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. I’ve been re-watching the early Star Trek films myself the past few months, and been enjoying this series very much.

Rounding out the Top Five are our Vintage Treasures report on The Silistra Quartet — by one of the most popular writers among Black Gate’s readership, Janet Morris — and our look at Gardner’s Dozois recent controversial comments on the New Sword and Sorcery.

Classic writers captured the next three slots, including Bob Byrne’s report on the new Conan RPG, Rich Horton on Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Thomas Parker’s look at one of the most hotly debated writers of pulp SF: “Classically Awful or Awfully Classic: A.E. Van Vogt’s The World of Null-A.”

Howard Andrew Jones had the #9 slot with his review of the Second Edition of Victory Point Games’ popular Empires in America, and Drake author Peter McLean closed out the Top Ten with his thoughtful article on “Why We Shouldn’t Hunt The Trope To Extinction.”

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The Lost Level by Brian Keene

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_62316zU0eMAQ8Lost worlds, pocket universes, dimensional traveling: these are things that warm my heart. Barsoom, the World of Tiers, and the Land of the Lost are places I want to see. A sword-swinging hero and warrior princess, well that’s pretty great by me. If your reactions are like mine then you are Brian Keene’s target audience for The Lost Level (2015), his love song to a certain kind of glorious pulp adventure that there aren’t enough of anymore. On the acknowledgements page he spells out explicitly the artists whose works helped inspire The Lost Level: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Sid and Marty Krofft, Roy Thomas, Joe R. Lansdale, Mike Grell, John Eric Holmes, Karl Edward Wagner, Otis Adelbert Kline, Carlton Mellick III, and H.G. Wells. A tantalizing roll call of pulp genius. I am definitely this book’s target.

See that cover to the left? Even before I read a glowing review from Charles Rutledge, someone whose opinion I trust, that cover (by Kirsi Salonen) bellowed “BUY ME!” so loud and clear I knew I couldn’t hold out for long. Briefly, The Lost Level is the tale of a man from Earth lost in a different dimension, and his adventures alongside a warrior princess and a furry, blue alien. Now that I’ve read it… well, I really love the cover.

Brian Keene is best known as a prolific writer of gonzo horror (38 novels and 10 story collections over 13 years). His first novel, The Rising is credited with helping spark the current zombie craze, but I think it’s too good to merit the blame. I’ve only dipped a toe into his vast body of work but it’s been fun, if a little bloody. His established talent, coupled with that eye-popping cover, led me to have high hopes for the book.

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The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in August

Saturday, September 19th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

2011 Hugo Award-smallIf there was a predominate topic last month at Black Gate, it was unquestionably the Hugo Awards.

Black Gate was nominated for a Hugo Award for the first time this year — an honor we declined on April 19. The Awards were presented at the World Science Fiction Convention on August 22, and our coverage of the awards and its immediate aftermath, written by me and Jay Maynard, produced the top three BG articles in August. In fact, those three posts were read more than the next 30 articles on the list combined.

The most popular non-Hugo article this month was Elizabeth Cady’s look at Aristophanes’ The Birds, “Ancient Worlds: The First Fantasy World.” Next was our report on a controversial analysis of NPR’s Top 100 Books list, “New Statesmen on the “Shockingly Offensive” 100 Best Fantasy and SF Novels.”

Sixth was David B. Coe’s second essay on the 2015 Hugo Kerfuffle, “Enough, Part II,” followed by the 8th entry in our very popular Discovering Robert E. Howard series, “Jeffrey Shanks on The Worldbuilding of REH.” Coming in at number 8, and sticking with the Robert E. Howard theme, was Bob Byrne’s “The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Ramblings on REH.”

Number 9 last month was M. Harold Page on “Chivalry: Not Really About Opening Doors (and Still Quite a Useful Coping Strategy).” And rounding out the Top 10 was another in our Discovering Robert E. Howard series, Don Herron’s “Pigeons From Hell From Lovecraft.”

The complete list of Top Articles for August follows. Below that, I’ve also broken out the most popular blog categories for the month.

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