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Author: Joe Bonadonna

I write mostly sword and sorcery stories with a film noir sensibility, set in a world I call Tanyime. I've published a few stories in the past, and have written 3 novels and 5 screenplays--none of which were published or produced. I am a former board member of the Chicago Screenwriters Network, where I lectured on writing screenplays. I played rock guitar and wrote songs during a 20-year span. I recently published my first collection of sword and sorcery tales, MAD SHADOWS: THE WEIRD TALES OF DORGO THE DOWSER, through iUniverse. Dorgo is the "Sam Spade/Dashiell Hammett" of my alternate world of Tanyime, and he solves crimes using a dowsing rod that can detect the ectoplasmic residue of any supernatural presence or demonic entity, and sense the vestiges of vile sorcery used in the commission of crimes. It's available online from iuniverse.com, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and other online retailers. It's also available as an eBook for Nook and Kindle. I recently sold a new Dorgo the Dowser tale to Weird Tales magazine: "The Order of the Serpent." It should be published sometime in 2012. You can find me on Facebook, under Joe Bonadonna Author.
Panic at the Inferno: MYSTICS IN HELL, published by Perseid Press.

Panic at the Inferno: MYSTICS IN HELL, published by Perseid Press.

 

Mystics in Hell, published by Perseid Press. Copyright © 2021, Janet Morris  
Book design, A.L. Butcher. Cover design, A.L. Butcher and Roy Mauritsen. Edited by, Janet Morris and A.L. Butcher. Cover painting: Portrait of Sir Francis Dashwood, 11th Baron le Despenser, by William Hogarth, 1764. Oil on canvas. Mystics in Hell cover image, copyright © Perseid Press, 2021

“It’s just because I have picked a little about mystics that I have no use for mystagogues. Real mystics don’t hide mysteries, they reveal them. They set a thing up in broad daylight, and when you’ve seen it it’s still a mystery. But the mystagogues hide a thing in darkness and secrecy, and when you find it, it’s a platitude.” ― G. K. Chesterton

After a few unforeseen delays, Mystics in Hell has finally arrived. This is the latest edition in the long-running, shared-universe series, Heroes in Hell. The gathering of real people from across our historical timeline, and the casting of fictional characters born of myth and legend, folklore and literature, is what makes this such a unique and fun series. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the series or for those readers who may wish to be brought up to date, once again I’ll do my best to recap what’s been happening in our favorite Afterlife. 

Mystics in Hell follows on the hot hooves of Lovers in Hell and the two volumes preceding it. The plagues which first manifested themselves in Doctors in Hell are evolving and mutating. In Pirates in Hell, disastrous floods swept through Hell, leaving behind wrack and ruin, and new islands and coastlines. The damned sought the help of pirates and other seafarers, seeking refuge and passage, hoping to escape to dry land and whatever safe harbor they could find. But there is no such thing as a safe harbor in Hell, and there is no escape. 

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Three Things That Scared Me When I Was A Kid

Three Things That Scared Me When I Was A Kid

Frame from Tim Burton’s 1996 Mars Attacks!

I’ve written a few articles for Black Gate about the films and novels of my childhood that inspired me to write fiction, and today I’m once again taking a walk down Memory Lane to visit the old Nostalgia Nook.

First, let me say it’s a safe bet that we all grew up with dinosaurs, aliens, mythological creatures, and certainly the film genres of horror, fantasy science fiction, and monster films. I think it’s safe to say that most of us identified with the monsters when we were kids. Who didn’t relate and empathize with Frankenstein and the Wolfman? Who didn’t feel sorry for King Kong? These monsters didn’t scare me. No, they were my friends. I was rarely scared or creeped out by monster and horror flicks when I was a kid, and I was in kindergarten when I first came into contact with Frankenstein, King Kong, the Wolfman, Dracula, the Mummy, and so many others. However, there were three instances where I was frightened by things I had seen and read, things which gave me nightmares and made me wary of things that lurked in the shadows. What’s weird about this, what sticks in my mind is that these three instances all occurred at roughly the same time.

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Hercules: Hero and Victim, Part 2

Hercules: Hero and Victim, Part 2

Interior Illustration of Hercules, 1885 ed of Bulfinch's Age of Fable p199
Interior Illustration of Hercules from the 1885 edition of Bulfinch’s Age of Fable, p199 (archive.org)

Today I’m going to finish up my 2-part article on Hercules (Part 1 covered his origin, his “twelve labors”, and his growing wisdom). Once again, I will quote from Bulfinch’s Mythology (a series including The Age of Fable, or Stories of Gods and Heroes), by Thomas Bulfinch; God, Heroes and Men of Ancient Greece, by W.H.D. Rouse; and Mythology, by Edith Hamilton. For this second part, I’ve also sourced Sophocles’ Trachiniae and Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book IX.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I had the good fortune as a kid of seeing, in their first theatrical showings, Hercules (1958) and Hercules Unchained (1959), both starring former body-builder and Mr. America, Steve Reeves; as well as Ray Harryhausen’s classic, Jason and the Argonauts (1963), where an older Hercules was wonderfully portrayed by Nigel Green. These led me to my grade school library, where I borrowed and devoured every book on Greek and Roman mythology I could find. In high school and afterward, I discovered such books by such scholars as Edith Hamilton, Thomas Bulfinch, W.H.D. Rouse, Norma Lorre Goodrich, Michael Grant, Carl Fischer, and Sir Richard Burton. Thus, Hercules was my introduction to Greek Mythology, helped along by what my Dad knew and told me. Later, I became interested in Norse, Celtic, and other mythologies, which eventually led the way to Sword and Sorcery, and Heroic Fantasy.

This post will cover Hercules’ temper, tragedy, and passing.

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Hercules: Hero and Victim, Part 1

Hercules: Hero and Victim, Part 1

Hercules 1958-small

One of the greatest and probably the most famous hero in Greek mythology is Heracles, whom the Romans called Hercules, the name I first heard, thanks to certain films, when I was a kid. Some scholars call him by his original Greek name, others by the Roman version. Forgive me if I bounce back and forth between the two.

A while back, I decided to revisit three films which had a great impact on me when I was a kid, especially since I had the good fortune of seeing all three at the theater, during their first run: Hercules (1958) and Hercules Unchained (1959), both starring former body-builder and Mr. America, Steve Reeves; and Ray Harryhausen’s classic, Jason and the Argonauts (1963), where Hercules was played by Nigel Green. These led me to my grade school library, where I borrowed and devoured every book on Greek and Roman mythology I could find. In high school and afterwards, I discovered such books as Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, Bulfinch’s Mythology, by Thomas Bulfinch, God, Heroes and Men of Ancient Greece, by W.H.D. Rouse, as well as those by Norma Lorre Goodrich, Michael Grant, Carl Fischer, and Sir Richard Burton — not to forget Homer, Euripides, Ovid, and so many others too numerous to name.

Those books and those films, including the pepla films of the 1960s, had quite an effect on me. And lest I forgot, three other films also played a major part in my life: Harryhausen’s The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960), and Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah (1949); incidentally, Steve Reeves was originally cast to play Samson, but then, as things in Hollywood often go, Victor Mature eventually secured the role.

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Who is Daemon Grim? Hell Gate by Andrew P. Weston

Who is Daemon Grim? Hell Gate by Andrew P. Weston

Hell Gate Andrew Weston-small Hell Gate Andrew Weston-back-small

Cover by Roy Mauritsen

Back in the Underworld with Andrew P. Weston’s Hell Gate. Published by Perseid Press. Copyright © 2019 by Janet Morris and Andrew P. Weston. 523 pages. Cover art and design by Roy Mauritsen

Hell Gate is Weston’s third novel set in Janet Morris’ Heroes in Hell ™ universe, the first two being Hell Bound (2015) and Hell Hounds (2017) — both of which I previously reviewed for Black Gate. The trilogy is all about the exploits of Daemon Grim. So, who is Daemon Grim? He’s Satan’s Enforcer. The Devil’s Hitman. The Prince of Darkness’ Henchman. He’s like the James Bond of Perdition, armed with a nasty array of infernal weapons and gadgets. Add to the mix his Satanic-gifted powers, and he’s either Hell’s superhero or supervillain, depending on your point of view.

In short, Daemon Grim is one bad-ass, damned soul.

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IMHO: Giving Voices to Your Characters

IMHO: Giving Voices to Your Characters

JamesDoohan_scotty

James Doohan (as Scotty): “I’m giving her all she’s got, Capt’n!”

I owe a great debt of gratitude to my two good friends, who were of immense help to me in the creation and shaping of my two (so far) volumes of Mad Shadows. Neither are strangers to Black Gate, for I interviewed both of them for this e-zine: Ted Rypel (author of the Saga of Gonji Sabatake: The Deathwind Trilogy, Fortress of Lost Worlds, A Hungering of Wolves, and Dark Ventures); and David C. Smith (author of the Oron series, The Fall of the First World Trilogy, the original Red Sonja novels (with Richard L. Tierney), Dark Muse, the recently-released Bright Star; Robert E. Howard: A Literary Biography, for which he won the 2018 Atlantean Award from the Robert E. Howard Foundation, and many other novels, including Waters of Darkness, on which we collaborated.) Both gentlemen write wonderful dialogue, and taught me how to make my characters “talk like real folks.”

Now, I don’t claim to be a great writer nor do I think I’m a “know-it-all” when it comes to plotting, creating characters, telling a story and writing crisp, entertaining and enlightening dialogue. I am far from being a literary genius. I’m not a college professor or a grammar Nazi. I’m not here to tell you what to do and how to do it. We each have our own styles and methods. I’m here to just pass on my own way of doing things, hoping what I have to say will help a writer or two. As far as creating compelling dialogue is concerned — and we’ve all heard this one — my personal rule is:

Give Each of Your Characters Their Own Unique Voice.

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Of Swords & Scrolls: An Interview with Author David C. Smith

Of Swords & Scrolls: An Interview with Author David C. Smith

GuestOfHonor2
David C. Smith, June 2019 delivering the Guest of Honor presentation at Howard Days 2019

Joe Bonadonna introduces David C. Smith

In 1978, before emails and the Internet, I was working on a novella and reading Dave’s excellent first novel, Oron, when I came across a plot device/character trait in his novel that bore a striking similarity to something I had already incorporated into my story. Already a fan of Dave’s, and knowing he knew Charles Saunders, to whom I had sold several short stories for his and Charles de Lint’s excellent Dragonfields, I asked Saunders for Dave’s address; he was still living in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio at the time. I wrote Dave a letter and he responded almost immediately. From 1978 until early 1996, when he and his wife Janine — who has a graphic design degree and is a very talented illustrator who did the maps for the brand-new, Wildside Press edition of Dave’s Fall of the First World trilogy — moved to Palatine, IL we kept up a steady correspondence that rivaled if not exceeded the lengthy correspondence between Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft. Their move occurred during a time when Dave and I had taken vacations from writing. But during the summer of 1996, I finally persuaded him to work with me on a zombie apocalypse screenplay called Twilight of the Dead (later retitled Children of the Grave), and then we collaborated on what we consider to be a solid screenplay called Magicians, which was based on his two David Trevisan novels: The Fair Rules of Evil and The Eyes of Night. That script did exceedingly well in screenplay competitions and we still have hope that one day it will be optioned by some wise, far-sighted and talented producer or director. (By the way, it was at the late and lamented Top Shelf Books in Palatine, at the monthly author’s live-reading night in 2010, where Dave and I met John O’Neill, the Great Eye of Black Gate.)

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9 Seasons of Hell on Earth: Some Thoughts About The Walking Dead, Part Two

9 Seasons of Hell on Earth: Some Thoughts About The Walking Dead, Part Two

NightOfTheLivingDead 1968
Night of the Living Dead (1968)

dawn of the dead 1978
Dawn of the Dead (1978)

DayOfThedead-1985
Day of the Dead (1985)

“Yeah, they’re dead. They’re all messed up.”  — George A. Romero, Night of the Living Dead (original 1968)

Oh, How Those Zombies Have Evolved, Devolved and Decayed!

This ends a two-post series (Part One here) on The Walking Dead. The first post concluded with the observation that TWD has a mysterious lack of “zombie” vocabulary.

To my knowledge, George A Romero invented the flesh-eating zombie genre. Before him there were films like White Zombie, I Walked with a Zombie, and The Zombies of Mora Tau — films I saw as a kid in the 1950s and 1960s, and all of them deal with more traditional, Haitian-voodoo zombies. After the original Night of the Living Dead, filmmakers such as Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci jumped into the zombie arena. Then came a host of spin-offs, take-offs, remakes, reboots and rip-offs.

I always thought George Romero never used the word zombie in his Living Dead films. But after binge-watching all six of his living dead films, I learned a few things. In Night of the Living Dead, the Dead are referred to as cannibals and ghouls. In Dawn of the Dead, the character of Peter (Ken Foree) calls them zombies; the end credits list four actors under the heading, LEAD ZOMBIES. The characters in Day of the Dead call the Dead everything but zombies. By the time Romero got around to filming Land of the Dead, the zombie genre had exploded like a Walker’s head after being hit by a shotgun blast. In this film, the Dead are called Stenches, although one character refers to them as Walkers. Dennis Hopper calls them zombies in one scene. In Diary of the Dead, which I consider Romero’s best, and was basically a reboot of the series, no one knows what’s going on, and the Living Dead are referred to as “the Dead.” In his final film, Survival of the Dead, the word zombie is used a couple of times. Tom Savini’s fairly decent 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead, with a new screenplay by George Romero, went back to the basics and did not use zombie as a term for the Living Dead.

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9 Seasons of Hell on Earth: Some Thoughts About The Walking Dead, Part One

9 Seasons of Hell on Earth: Some Thoughts About The Walking Dead, Part One

twd-2

I chose to finally write about The Walking Dead after nine seasons because of the departure of a major character, which changed the whole dynamic of the series, turning it into a different direction (Season 10 broadcasts Oct 6, 2019). For fans of the show, much of what is in this article is me stating the obvious. I know many people who have stopped watching the show after various seasons, for one reason or another. I also know people who have never watched TWD and never will, and some who have just started watching. There may be some hints and clues about certain things, but there are no real spoilers here. This article is about how the show affects me, personally.

Someone on Facebook commented that they stopped watching simply because the show is so sad, even depressing. True. This is not a comedy. There’s a lot of sorrow and sadness in almost every episode, a veritable trail of tears. Sometimes the grief on an actor’s face is enough to get to me. There are powerful emotions here: both love and hate, as well as fear and horror in the eyes of the characters; there’s also plenty of heart and soul poured into these scenes, which the cast so effectively conveys. As a relative told me when we were discussing the series over the Labor Day weekend, “My heart has been ripped out over and over again by what happens to these characters. I feel their pain, I feel their grief and I mourn with them.” I agree with her. I’ve gotten caught up in the lives and deaths of these characters. So please, bear with me.

Although I’ve read only a handful of Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels, I’ve been a fan of the television series since episode one, and still remain a fan. I’m not a mad puppy because the show’s producers and writers made some changes which aren’t part of Kirkman’s mythos. Certain characters that had been killed in the graphic novels became so popular on the TV show that the producers decided to keep them around. Other popular characters were killed off on the show and, as most writers know, characters and plot twists often demand to be heard and made.

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IMHO: A Personal Look at Dystopian Fiction — Part Two: J.G. Ballard

IMHO: A Personal Look at Dystopian Fiction — Part Two: J.G. Ballard

Empire of the Sun-small Crash Ballard-small The Wind from Nowhere Ballard-small

For the sake of this article, and not wanting to rely on memory alone, I’ve used a brief synopsis of each novel mentioned here, courtesy of Wikipedia.

If you read Part 1 of this article you’ll know about some of the older novels of dystopian fiction upon which I grew up, novels that surely inspired many other writers… novels I’d hate to see get tossed in a pile or in a corner to collect dust with all the other forgotten novels. Today I’m going to talk about one writer in particular: J. G. Ballard.

Ballard’s memoirs of being a kid during WWII were made into a fairly good film by Steven Spielberg, starring Christian Bale when he was just a kid: Empire of the Sun. Film director David Cronenberg turned Ballard’s strange, erotic and haunting novel Crash into a strange, erotic and haunting film. I’ve read most of Ballard’s short stories, and a number of his other novels, but my personal favorites are his Quartet of Elemental Apocalypse, as one critic dubbed the series. To me, they truly depict dystopian futures. Ballard had a great talent for creating interesting, believable characters, making his stories more character-driven than plot- or action-driven. He excelled at pitting ordinary people against extraordinary odds, and his plots contained many an unexpected twist and turn.

The Wind from Nowhere is Ballard’s debut novel published in 1961; he had previously published only short stories, which I also highly recommend. This is the novel that launched his apocalyptic quartet — his “series” dealing with scenarios of natural disasters. In this novel, civilization is reduced to ruins by prolonged worldwide hurricane force winds. As an added dimension, Ballard explores how disaster and tragedy can bond people together in ways that no normal experiences ever could.

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