Discovering Robert E Howard: Paul Bishop on The Fists of R.E.H.

Saturday, June 27th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Fists of Iron Robert E Howard-smallNaturally, the works of Robert E. Howard are popular post fodder here at Black Gate. While Conan is far and away his best known character, REH created many other memorable heroes, including Solomon Kane, El Borak and Kull. Earlier this year, I wrote about Howard’s largely forgotten private eye, Steve Harrison.

At the time, I thought that a post on Howard’s boxing stories would be good reading. Also realizing I was completely unqualified to write it, I contacted the current czar of boxing fiction, Paul Bishop of Fight Card Books.

Fight Card is a pulp style series of boxing tales. They’ve included two Holmes boxing novellas in the series, so you know I’m on board! See what Paul has to say about Howard’s boxing works.


The minute I stepped ashore from the Sea Girl, merchantman, I had a hunch that there would be trouble. This hunch was caused by seeing some of the crew of the Dauntless. The men on the Dauntless have disliked the Sea Girl’s crew ever since our skipper took their captain to a cleaning on the wharfs of Zanzibar – them being narrow-minded that way. They claimed that the old man had a knuckle-duster on his right, which is ridiculous and a dirty lie. He had it on his left.
~ Robert E. Howard, “The Pit of the Serpent

Although best known as the creator of Conan the Barbarian, Solomon Kane, and other sword and sorcery characters, Robert E. Howard had a lifelong interest in boxing, attending fights and avidly following the careers of his favorite fighters. Even though as a child he was bookish and intellectual, in his teen years he took up bodybuilding and eventually entered the ring as an amateur boxer.

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J. K. Rowling Confirms Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Play

Saturday, June 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Harry Potter charactersIn a series of tweets yesterday, J.K. Rowling announced that her creation Harry Potter would return in a spin-off play, which will open in London’s West End in summer 2016.

I’m also very excited to confirm today that a new play called Harry Potter and the CursedChild will be opening in London next year. It will tell a new story, which is the result of a collaboration between writer Jack Thorne, director John Tiffany and myself.

To answer one inevitable (and reasonable!) question — why isn’t #CursedChild a new novel? — I am confident that when audiences see the play, they will agree that it was the only proper medium for the story. I’ve had countless offers to extend Harry’s story over the years, but Jack, John and Sonia Friedman are a dream team! I don’t want to say too much more, because I don’t want to spoil what I know will be a real treat for fans. However, I can say that it is not a prequel!

Rowling is already hard at work on the script for another Potter spin-off, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a Warner Bros. film based on her 2001 book of the same name, featuring monster wrangler Newt Scamander. But this is the first major post-Potter work that will feature her original characters.

Speculation is rampant about exactly where the story will fit in the time line, with some folks theorizing it could tell the tale of one of the summers only glossed over in the novels, or perhaps one of Harry Potter’s cases as an auror. Rowling’s co-writer Jack Thorne also wrote the highly regarded 2013 production of Let the Right One In for the National Theatre of Scotland (also directed by John Tiffany), so expectations are high. For now though, the creators are remaining mum.


Some Writing Advice That’s Mostly Useless (And Why)

Friday, June 26th, 2015 | Posted by M Harold Page

The Sword is Mightier-small

“Brilliant, an excuse to play online warrior all day!” — NOT

I’ve been spending time on writing forums — a substitute for actual work while convalescing from an operation  – and… well, I’ve noticed embedded in the culture are several pieces of advice that aren’t very useful for novice writers.

Rather than stringing them out into a series, I’m going to blast through them here:

“Work on Your Motivation” — Mostly Useless

Listen. I had a gig writing novels tieing into video games.

Great games. Great gig. But rather than going, “Brilliant, an excuse to play online warrior all day!“, I had a go at them, then handed each off to my son for a thorough exploration (a chore he greatly enjoyed, though being something of a sniper, he got regularly kicked from servers).

I like video games — I’m playing through Mass Effect at the moment — but I like writing better.

See where I’m going with this?

Nobody ever posts online, “How do I motivate myself to complete Halo 3?”

Video games are automatically fun out-of-the-box, because the challenge is the game itself, not the business of getting around inside the virtual world; most games even have similar key bindings (e.g. awsd). So if writing is not as much fun as gaming, then it’s probably because you’re still struggling with the basics of writing rather than wrestling with storytelling.

Therefore  if motivation is a problem for you, work on your craft. Success breeds success.

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Alien Invasions, Transporters, and Restarting the Sun: A Review of Beyond Belief

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 | Posted by William I. Lengeman III

Beyond Belief Richard J Hurley-smallBeyond Belief
Edited by Richard J. Hurley
Scholastic Book Services (188 pages, $0.45, April 1966)

Given that Scholastic was the publisher of this anthology, it’s probably fair to assume that it was aimed at what was once called the juvenile demographic. I was in that demographic when the 1973 paperback edition was published.

However, as the publishing credits reveal, most of the stories are drawn from SF magazines of prior decades. None of which were geared to juveniles, as far as I’m aware. It’s a mixed bag, as anthologies often are, but for me the ups outweighed the downs by a bit.

Thumbs Up

“Phoenix,” by Clark Ashton Smith

When you’re listing writers who have a truly distinctive voice, Clark Ashton Smith should probably be near the top. I wasn’t aware that he wrote much science fiction, but this story of humans living on a cold Earth and striving to restart the sun fits the bill. The best story in the book, for me, and one of the best I’ve read for a long time.

“It’s Such a Beautiful Day,” by Isaac Asimov

An interesting effort from Asimov, set far enough in the future that no one goes outside anymore, instead getting from point A to B by using Doors. Any resemblance to transporters is coincidental, since Star Trek came along more than a decade after this story was published. The hook is that one day a young boy decides that he’d rather get around by using old-fashioned doors to go outside and walk from place to place. Naturally, his well-bred, high-toned mother is aghast over this turn of events.

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Review of Pathfinder Tales: Plague of Shadows by Howard Andrew Jones

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 | Posted by Nick Ozment

Pathfinder Tales Plague of Shadows-smallI just read my second Howard Andrew Jones novel: Plague of Shadows (2011), which was the first of his two Pathfinder novels (I read them out of order). In my review of Stalking the Beast (2013) for Black Gate, I raved that it delivered everything I crave from such a tale. It did so with skill and panache, introducing me to characters who have stayed with me. So I was pleased to go back and read the true introduction to Elyana, the Forlorn elven ranger raised by humans, and Drelm, the half-orc who values honor and loyalty more than most humans (let alone most orcs) do.

Knowing that it was a first outing, I went in expecting it to be not quite as good — not as polished or assured, maybe — as its follow-up (indeed, I gave Stalking the Beast a perfect 5-star rating, arguing that sword-and-sorcery RPG tie-in novels just don’t get any better than that).

But then I finished the book: And I felt that peculiar sense that only certain works of art engender, as the last sentence echoes away or the curtain falls or the credits roll. It has impressed itself upon you, and you feel enriched but tinged with a bittersweet sadness — the characters have left, and you miss them. The characters have, in some sense, become more real; they have joined your own personal pantheon. With this second visit, Elyana and Drelm grew from being fun, engaging characters in a standalone book into characters about whom I want to read many books!

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The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in May

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Marshall Versus the Assassins-smallM. Harold Page had a good month in May, with two of the Top Three articles. His detailed breakdown on choreographing dramatic combat, and mastering the conflicting demands of narrative and blow-by-blow description, “How To Write a Good Fight Scene,” was our #1 article. And just to show how easy it is, he also nabbed the #3 slot, with a look at the similarities between Edmond Hamilton’s pulp classic Return to the Stars and Ridley’s Scott SF masterpiece, in “Blade Runner: Edmond Hamilton’s Tears in the Rain?”

Bob Byrne prevented Martin from stealing all the glory by taking the #2 slot, with “The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Adventures With Jeremy Brett,” just one of two Jeremy Brett article to make this list last month. I guess good things come in pairs.

Thomas Parker claimed fifth place with his look at Alice Sheldon and James Tiptree Jr, “The Woman Who Was a Man Who Was a Woman.” And Mark Rigney took #7 with a piece on adventures in role playing, “Long Arc or Short Arc?” (Mark’s complete epic adventure The Temple Of the Sea Gods also made the Top 50 list.)

Rich Horton was next, with “A Modest Proposal to Improve the Hugos,” a follow-up to his detailed article on the Rabid Puppy/Sad Puppy debacle, “The 2015 Hugo Nominations,” one of our most widely-read articles last month.

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The mid-June Fantasy Magazine Rack

Monday, June 15th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Beneath-Ceaseles-Skies-174-rack Beneath-Ceaseles-Skies-175-rack Clarkesworld-105-rack Fantasy-and-Science-Fiction-May-June-2015-rack
Swords-and-Sorcery-Magazine-May-2015-rack Tin-House-Magazine-64-rack Shimmer-25-May-2015-rack Interzone-258-rack

The big news this week is that Clarkesworld has started considering novelettes. They’ve also raised their rates to 10¢/word for the first 5,000 words, and 8¢ for each word over 5,000. For the pulp fans in our audience, Matthew Wuertz had a look at the September 1939 issue of John W. Campbell’s famous fantasy magazine Unknown, and Rich Horton posted a Retro Review of the July 1957 issue of Venture, with stories by James E. Gunn, Theodore R. Cogswell, H. Beam Piper, C. M. Kornbluth, Lester Del Rey, and Tom Godwin.

In his May Short Story Roundup, Fletcher Vredenburgh reviews the latest issue of Swords and Sorcery Magazine #40 and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #24, calling the latter “maybe their best yet,” with equal praise for Cullen Groves’ “The Madness of the Mansa,” Dennis Mombauer’s ”Melting Gold and Ashes,” and “The Reeds of Torin’s Fields by Andrea G. Stewart.

Check out all the details on each of the magazines above by clicking on the each of the images. Our early June Fantasy Magazine Rack is here.

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“Help! I Want to Write a Novel But Don’t Have Any Ideas!!!”

Thursday, June 11th, 2015 | Posted by M Harold Page

Pulp-O-Mizer_Cover_Image

Their problem, then, is how to Be Creative.

“How do I come up with an Idea for writing a novel?” comes up sooooo very often on the writing forums that… well, that I am writing this.

On the face of it, the question sounds silly; how can you aspire to write if you don’t have any ideas?

Actually, the questioner usually does have ideas. However, they are (1) expecting a Novel Idea to stand out because it has a choir of angels flying around it singing Vode An or (2) sense that their ideas are too vague to lend themselves to story building.

However, let’s assume the rare case #3, that the wannabe writer’s mind is actually blank. They love the idea of telling a story, think they would enjoy the process, but can’t think of what to write about.

Their problem, then, is how to Be Creative.

There are, of courses, lots of workshops on freeing your creativity. You can also buy all sorts of self help books. Most of them come down to, Stop Self Editing/ Switch off your internal editor.

There is truth in this. The book The Midnight Disease shows that there really is both an Internal Editor and an Internal Mad-as-a-Hatter-Creative. The idea is that you tell the Editor to shut up and just let the Creative splurge out whatever falls out of your brain. Only once you have a whiteboard/notebook/screen full of jottings do you unmuzzle the Editor and pick the ideas that have legs.

In this model of creativity, only this filtering process is what distinguishes professional creatives from people… well, in need of a different sort of professional help.

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Future Treasures: The Captive Condition by Kevin P. Keating

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Captive Condition-smallPantheon isn’t known for publishing horror or fantasy… so when they do, it’s worth sitting up and taking notice. Their latest release, by the author of The Natural Order of Things, is a deliciously dark novel about an idyllic Midwestern college town that turns out to be a nexus of horror.

For years Normandy Falls has been haunted by its strange history and the aggrieved spirits said to roam its graveyards. Despite warnings, Edmund Campion is determined to go there and pursue an advanced degree in literature. At first things proceed wonderfully, but Edmund soon learns he isn’t immune to the impersonal trappings of fate: his girlfriend Morgan Fey smashes his heart, his advisor Professor Martin Kingsley crushes him with frivolous assignments, and his dead end job begins to take a toll on his physical and mental health.

One night he stumbles upon the body of Emily Ryan, a proud and unapologetic “townie,” drowned in her family pool. Was it suicide, Edmund wonders, or murder? In the days following the tragedy, Emily’s husband Charlie, crippled by self-loathing and ultimately frozen with fear, attempts to flee his disastrous life and sends their twin daughters to stay with the Kingsleys. Possessed with an unnamed, preternatural power, the twins know the professor seduced their mother and may have had a hand in her death. With their piercing stares, the girls fill Martin with the remorse and dread he so desperately tries to hide from his wife.

Elsewhere, a low-level criminal named The Gonk takes over a remote cottage, complete with a burial ground and moonshine still, and devises plans for both; Xavier D’Avignon, the eccentric chef of a failing French restaurant, supplies customers with a hallucinogenic cocktail he makes in his kitchen; and Colette Collins, an elderly local artist of the surreal and psychedelic, attends a New Year’s Eve retrospective that is destined to set the whole town on fire.

The Captive Condition will be published by Pantheon on July 7, 2015. It is 265 pages, priced at $24 in hardcover and $9.99 for the digital edition.


The Camera Can Lie: FairyTale: A True Story

Monday, June 8th, 2015 | Posted by markrigney

Cottingley FairiesNews flash: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, having created literature’s greatest rationalist in the form of Sherlock Holmes, spent his later years heavily invested in the occult, the supernatural, and the possible existence of (yes) fairies.

Of course, people have always evinced a desire to believe — sometimes in this, sometimes in that — and so it is perhaps not so surprising that Conan Doyle played a large role in one of history’s great photographic deceptions, that of the so-called Cottingley Fairies.

In fact, he was one of those most willing to champion the trumped-up, cheap-looking fakes (black and white stills of young girls posing in shrubbery with paper cut-outs of highly Romanticized winged fairies) His role in this debacle (the girls only recanted decades later) is the subject of a FairyTale: A True Story (1997), a film well worth revisiting given our drone-happy, GPS-driven, target-rich world.

You see where I’m going with this, yes? Given our present era of photo manipulation and computer generated graphics, our collective ability to dupe the unwary has never been greater, and just like statistics, images lie.

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