Howard Andrew Jones and Bill Ward Re-Read The Coming of Conan

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian-smallBill Ward and Howard Andrew Jones have wrapped up their detailed and highly entertaining look at Fritz Leiber’s famous Lankhmar stories over at Howard Andrew Jones’ website. But without pausing for breath, they’ve leaped into a re-read of Robert E. Howard’s classic tales of Conan, starting with the Del Rey edition of The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, and Howard’s essay on the world Conan adventured in, “The Hyborian Age.” Here’s Bill:

“The Hyborian Age” isn’t the place to start if you are new to Conan, in fact I’d say it’s really only interesting if you are already familiar with Conan’s world, as well as the enthusiasms of Conan’s creator. REH himself didn’t start with “The Hyborian Age,” either, he started with the character of Conan, only settling down to iron out his “world bible” once he had three Conan stories under his belt and realized he wanted to write many more… It’s the history of a lost age before the rise of the civilizations we are familiar with, but it’s also a way of getting around history. REH wrote fast and he wrote for publication and, though he loved history and writing historical fiction, he felt it took too much time to get the research just right. Enter the secondary world of his own slice of pre-history, a way of not only having a world he didn’t have to exhaustively research, but also a vehicle for bringing together the character and flavor of many different cultures and eras that would allow Conan to adventure in the equivalent of everything from the Ancient Near East to Medieval France. That may not be completely clear just from reading “The Hyborian Age,” but it is clear from the stories themselves, as well as by glancing at the two maps REH used when planning his world — his Hyborian Kingdoms superimposed over a map of Europe, North Africa, and the Near East is probably even more eloquent than his essay…

Join the discussion here.

New Treasures: Quaternity by Kenneth Mark Hoover

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Quaternity-smallU.S. Marshal John T. Marwood is a soldier in an eternal war, and he’s been traveling a long, long time. Some of the epic battles he’s seen include Thermopylae. Masada. and Agincourt. And when he came to New Mexico Territory, circa 1874, and a small town called Haxan, it became one of the most epic showdowns of his long career.

But before he was a Marshall, Marwood followed a darker path. In this prequel novel, Kenneth Mark Hoover explores some of Marwood’s mysterious past, telling the tale of his search for the fabled golden city of Cibola… and a battle against something very dark inside himself.

I bought the first John Marwood weird western novel, Haxan, at the World Fantasy Convention last year, and I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Quaternity at this year’s Nebulas here in Chicago. This look like one of the better dark fantasy series currently on the market. If you’re a fan of weird westerns, check it out.

Hell is Truth Seen Too Late! Before he became a U.S. federal marshal in Haxan, John Marwood rode with a band of killers up and down the Texas/Mexico border. Led by Abram Botis, an apostate from the Old Country, this gang of thirteen killers search for the fabled golden city of Cibola, even riding unto the barren, blood-soaked plains of Comancheria. And in this violent crucible of blood, dust, and wind, Marwood discovers a nightmarish truth about himself, and conquers the silent, wintry thing coiled inside him.

Quaternity was published by ChiZine Publications on May 21, 2015. It is 299 pages, priced at $16.99 in trade paperback, and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Erik Mohr.

The Mystery of Peter S. Beagle’s I’m Afraid You’ve Got Dragons

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

I'm Afraid You've Got Dragons-smallPeter Beagle is one of the finest living fantasy writers. His 1968 novel The Last Unicorn has long been considered a classic, and The Innkeeper’s Song (1993) and Tamsin (1999) were both nominated for the World Fantasy Award. His 2007 novel I’m Afraid You’ve Got Dragons isn’t as well known as some of his others, but it has its fans. It’s currently ranked at 3.88 (out of 5) at Goodreads, and it has five stars at Beagle has drummed up a lot of interest in it over the years by reading chapters at various conventions (you can watch him do a public reading of the first chapter here).

I’ve been dying to get my hands on a copy myself. But that’s proven to be fairly tricky because, as it turns out, the book doesn’t exist.

I’m sure this has frustrated more than a few Beagle collectors, because it can take a while to figure this out. Even the Internet Speculative Fiction Database thinks this book exists. And, as far as I know, Amazon and Goodreads aren’t generally in the habit of listing books that don’t exist. But trust me. This ain’t a book.

The closest I’ve come to finding an explanation is this brief note at the bottom of an excerpt from the novel at Green Man Review, quoting a defunct section of Beagle’s website:

The story was originally supposed to be a 40,000 word novella, no longer. But it grew. The first draft came in at more than twice that: nearly 90,000 words… I’m Afraid You’ve Got Dragons was originally contracted to Firebird Books, and announced for a Summer 2007 release — but completion of the final draft was delayed as the manuscript insisted on growing, and because of time lost to unavoidable family issues, so the book was rescheduled for Summer 2008. Before it could be turned in, however, a serious business conflict came up between Peter and Penguin USA over the 40th Anniversary Edition of The Last Unicorn. This ultimately led Peter to conclude that after many years of association with Penguin imprints it was time to move on. Since Firebird was a Penguin imprint, that meant pulling I’m Afraid You’ve Got Dragons.

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Knights of the Dinner Table 220 Now on Sale

Saturday, August 1st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Knights of the Dinner Table 220-smallActually, issue #220 of Knights of the Dinner Table has been on sale for a couple months now, and I missed it. I just found out it was the 25th Anniversary issue, and now I’m doubly embarrassed.

Twenty-five years ago, Jolly Blackburn created the Knights of the Dinner Table comic to fill an unexpected one-page hole at the back of his gaming magazine Shadis. Today, the Knights of the Dinner Table headline one of the longest-running independent comics in history, and they also feature in board games, card games, t-shirts, and even an independently produce live-action series.

But the heart of the KoDT publishing empire remains the monthly comic, dedicated to the misadventures of a group of misfit gamers from Muncie, Indiana. It is written and drawn by my friend Jolly R. Blackburn, with editorial assistance by his talented wife Barbara. Black Gate readers may remember the KoDT spin-off The Java Joint, which appeared in the back of every issue of BG (and was eventually collected in a single volume in 2012).

In addition to Jolly’s hilarious comic strips, Knights of the Dinner Table Magazine is packed with gaming columns of all kinds, keeping you informed on the latest and greatest in the industry. KoDT 220 has no less than 11 full-length strips, plus some short “One-Two Punches.”

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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Magneto, the Comic Series

Saturday, August 1st, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Magneto002COV-102bd-ab93eFor my my interview with Marvel Comics Assistant Editor Xander Jarowey, one of the covers I enjoyed including in the post was Magneto #1. Magneto is one of Marvel’s most iconic super-villains, having influenced the Marvel Universe in various ways since his appearance in X-Men #1 in 1963.

He started off as an older villain who, from the beginning, served as moral foil to Charles Xavier in the debate about the place of mutants. His arguments in the early days were never deep, and his power faded with various defeats, until by the excellent Savage Land story arc of X-Men #59-63, he was using mechanical devices to simulate his powers, and then in Defenders #16, he was reduced to infancy by one of his creations.

Then, Chris Claremont got a hold of him. In X-Men #104, the new X-Men faced a young, rejuvenated and more powerful Magneto, and he’s downright terrifying in Uncanny #112 (one of my favorites). Claremont revealed Magneto’s full literary power in Uncanny X-Men #150, when he put Magneto’s past squarely in the Nazi concentration camps of World War II as a victim of racism and persecution.

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Vintage Treasures: The Books of Outremer by Chaz Brenchley

Saturday, August 1st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Outremer 1 - The Devil in the Dust-small Outremer 2 - The Tower of the King's Daughter-small Outremer 3 - A Dark Way to Glory-small

Back in 2002, Ace Books tried an unusual experiment with Paul Kearney’s The Monarchies of God novels. They were originally published in the UK starting in 1995, but when Ace brought them to the US, they released the books just one month apart.

As I noted in my April article, the experiment wasn’t a success, and the books went out of print fairly quickly. At the time, however, I said that Ace never repeated the experiment, and that’s not actually true. They attempted the same thing at least one more time, with Chaz Brenchley Books of Outremer, originally published in three fat volumes in the UK in 1998-2002, and reprinted as six paperbacks in the US, one every month, between June and November 2003, with covers by John Howe and Barbara Lofthouse.

Near as I can figure out, this experiment wasn’t any more successful. The books were never reprinted, and are now long out of print.

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Belated Movie Reviews: Mad Max: Fury Road

Friday, July 31st, 2015 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

Mad-Max-Fury-Road-smallI’ve been reading Black Gate over the last month waiting for a Mad Max Fury: Road review… I guess that, if you’re anything like me, after watching the movie all you can manage is to light up a cigarette and take some time to recover.

So! It looks like I need to fire up my modified combat wagon (a ’78 Gremlin with a 79 Fiat Bertone welded on top) and GO TO VALHALLA VIA THE FURY ROAD!

It has taken me a while to come up with a review of Mad Max: Fury Road (MMFR) that isn’t simply “its f-ing awesome!” or “Hell yeah! That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” or even “Oh what a love-eh-lee daay!”

It is a two+ hour fever dream! Modified dragsters and their support motorcycles tearing across a hellscape, bent on destruction! Ah, what the hell, throw in the pack from Gas Town, the Bullet Farmer, the Hedgehogs, and multiple biker gangs while we’re at it!

You know how the original Mad Max was mostly bad things happening and then like a 10-minute chase? Then Road Warrior (Belated Review #4) was bad things happening with like a 30 minute chase? And Beyond Thunderdome (Belated Review #5) threw a curveball by having weird things happen and then a 15 minute chase? Well Fury Road has like 10 minutes of bad things happening, and then IT IS ALL CHASE.

Sometimes they have to find excuses to actually stop chasing for a bit. Mostly so bad things can happen. Sometimes they manage to shout over the screaming engines and groaning metal long enough to engage in the absolute bare minimum of character development. It is so refreshing!

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Future Treasures: The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Friday, July 31st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Traitor Baru Cormorant-smallThere’s nothing quite like an exciting debut fantasy novel. Fantasy is a genre of limitless potential, and every new writer takes us in a direction never before explored. Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant, to be published in hardcover by Tor in September, tells the tale of a young woman from a conquered people who tries to transform a vast empire from within.

Baru Cormorant believes any price is worth paying to liberate her people — even her soul.

When the Empire of Masks conquers her island home, overwrites her culture, criminalizes her customs, and murders one of her fathers, Baru vows to swallow her hate, join the Empire’s civil service, and claw her way high enough to set her people free.

Sent as an Imperial agent to distant Aurdwynn, another conquered country, Baru discovers it’s on the brink of rebellion. Drawn by the intriguing duchess Tain Hu into a circle of seditious dukes, Baru may be able to use her position to help. As she pursues a precarious balance between the rebels and a shadowy cabal within the Empire, she orchestrates a do-or-die gambit with freedom as the prize.

But the cost of winning the long game of saving her people may be far greater than Baru imagines.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant will be published by Tor Books on September 15, 2015. It is 400 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover, and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Sam Weber. Read an excerpt at

Limestone Genre Expo, Kingston Ontario

Friday, July 31st, 2015 | Posted by Violette Malan

Limestone1Last weekend I took part in the first ever Limestone Genre Expo in Kingston, Ontario (which is known as the Limestone City, hence the name). I had a wonderful time, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. There’s nothing like an event like this to remind you how many people among your friends and acquaintance are people you’ve never actually met face-to-face.

As I said, this was the first year for this event, and Liz Strange, Barry King and their minions did an excellent job of organization. For one, the event lived up to its billing, in that it was a genre expo. Most of the time there were three tracks, with full panels on Fantasy, SF, Mystery, Horror and Romance, along with readings and workshops

I’ve run small conferences myself, and people always find it strange when I tell them that often the most popular individual events are the workshops. Yes, they are primarily attended by people at one stage or another of a writing career, but a small percentage of attendees are people who are curious about some of the nuts and bolts of writing, and who are looking for insights into literary analysis. There was a wide variety in subject matter from “First Page Critiques” where people came prepared to share their first 250 words with editor and author Caro Soles, to “Building Tension” with Matt Moore, to “How to Market and Sell Short Fiction” with Douglas Smith, a man who knows. Author and editor Nancy Kilpatrick’s workshop was titled “Novel Idea Pitch” in the program, but she herself describes it as “a workshop on brain storming.” I like her version better.

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I Voted For the Hugos

Friday, July 31st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

2011 Hugo Award-smallYesterday, I cast my vote for the 2015 Hugo awards.

It was my first time voting for the Hugos (yay!). But I’ve never been nominated for a Hugo Award before either, so this is pretty much the year for milestones all around. For the record, here’s what I ranked in first place in each category:

Best NovelThe Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Tor Books)
Best Novella - No Award
Best Novelette – “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Lightspeed, April 2014)
Best Short Story – No Award
Best Related Work – No Award
Best Graphic StoryMs. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal (Marvel Comics)
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) - Edge of Tomorrow
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”
Best Professional Editor (Short Form) – No Award
Best Professional Editor (Long Form) – No Award
Best Professional Artist – Julie Dillon
Best SemiprozineBeneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews
Best FanzineTangent Online, edited by Dave Truesdale
Best FancastGalactic Suburbia Podcast
Best Fan Writer – Laura J. Mixon
Best Fan Artist – No vote cast
The John W. Campbell Award – Wesley Chu

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