Browsed by
Author: Nick Ozment

Oz loves Godzilla, middle-school G.I. Joe (not old-school, not new-school; middle-school, spooky stories, trees, and really too many other things to list here.
The Assured Place of Superheroes in American Popular Culture

The Assured Place of Superheroes in American Popular Culture

avengers assemble!Some people, 24 (or 25?) movies in, are expressing MCU superhero movie fatigue. (Certainly not me or most of my friends — the films continue to be some of the more fun, thrilling entertainments to be had at the cineplex two or three times a year. Is the quality dropping off? Hell no — try to rank ‘em; I’ll bet several of the ones at the top of the list came out just in the last couple years.) I’m talking about a few critics (some of whom were saying the genre was getting “tired” and “played out” 15 films ago), and a few newcomers who didn’t grow up on four-color comics but jumped on the bandwagon when the culture went crazy for costumed crime-fighters.

I can imagine how it must look to them: Now they turn on their TV and it seems like a dozen streaming and broadcast tv shows are about caped crusaders; they check the movie listings and half the films filling up theater screens are about super-powered beings.

They suggest it will eventually play out. They think audiences will finally be sated, the fad will pass. Everyone will grow tired of beautiful people in spandex.

I’ve got news for them.

Read More Read More

Slugs, Slime Trails, and the Muse: Can You Separate the Art from the Artist?

Slugs, Slime Trails, and the Muse: Can You Separate the Art from the Artist?

BG John CarterMost of our participation in the Great Conversation these days is taking place, not in the halls of academia or in fireside clubrooms, but on social media virtual spaces like Facebook. One conversation that many people have been engaging in lately is prompted by the question “Can you separate the art from the artist?”

Another fact of our present moment is that the most sordid and intimate details of public figures are dragged into the light, subjected to intense scrutiny and immediate judgment. Some of our most beloved actors, our most cherished writers, our most celebrated musicians are suddenly being exposed as pariahs, shameful corrupted beings who must be exiled from the spotlight – and, possibly, from our bookshelves and our stereos and our movie streams.

It is not just entertainers currently in the spotlight who are subjected to this new scrutiny. We hear about how certain renowned science fiction writers of the past might have behaved like some of the characters on the TV show Mad Men. Do we jettison the touchstones they left us in disgusted protest? Reaching further back, can we still curl up for some chills with H.P. Lovecraft when we know he was a racist? Can we unabashedly thrill to the adventures of John Carter and Tarzan when we know Edgar Rice Burroughs reinforced some colonialist “great White savior” views?

Read More Read More

Tiny Epic Defenders and the Table-top gaming Renaissance

Tiny Epic Defenders and the Table-top gaming Renaissance

Tiny Epic Heroes

Funny how some of us predicted video games would virtually wipe out RPGs and board games, and yet here we are. We have entered a golden age of tabletop gaming. So many new games, with great graphics, great playing pieces, and game mechanics that expand on systems that have been tried, tested, and improved on for decades.

I’m certainly not the first to make this observation, but much of this game renaissance must be thanks to funding platforms like Kickstarter. No longer limited to what a few big corporations deemed were mass-marketable enough to release to retail outlets, we could now team up with a few hundred or a few thousand other people who wanted what we did and JUST PAY TO MAKE IT HAPPEN OURSELVES.

Also, tabletop games, for families, have become a welcome alternative to everyone having their heads planted on a screen in their own little world-shells. A way to gather the family collectively around a table again to interact face to face. But for online-game-savvy kids, old chestnuts like Sorry aren’t necessarily going to cut it (no knock on Sorry; I played the heck out of that game when I was about 6).

Just consider: We live at a time when the original TSR game Dungeon! has made a big comeback – a perfect starting point to introduce young players to the wonders that await with a flat surface, a few dice, and a little bit of imagination. And beyond Dungeon!there are now dozens of games that have picked up where that 1970s oldie-but-goody left off.

Read More Read More

Why Godzilla is King of the Monsters

Why Godzilla is King of the Monsters

godzilla_aftershock_lacc_posterThe makers of the forthcoming Godzilla film get it.

None of us have seen Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) yet, of course. But based on the recent trailer — and on the precedent of Godzilla (2014) and Kong: Skull Island (2017), the previous two films in the Legendary MonsterVerse franchise — I can tell you, they get Godzilla. They understand why he is the King of the Monsters, and why he has held that title for six decades. They get why he is both terrifying and inspiring, our worst nightmare and our greatest hope.

Let’s start with a glaring example of what Godzilla is not. Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, the makers behind the misbegotten 1998 American adaptation Godzilla, clearly did not get it. That film would have been okay — or, at least, received a bit more warmly — if only they had not called the monster in it Godzilla. Because, ultimately, it was just another generic big monster in a movie with a huge budget. The single best moment was not actually in the film, but in the teaser trailer. A group of kids are on a field trip to the science museum. The guide is showing them the dinosaur skeleton exhibit. Suddenly there is a distant rumbling. The whole building begins to shake; the tremors build; is it an earthquake? Then something monstrously huge crashes through the ceiling. Impossibly, a giant, clawed foot stomps on the comparatively puny T-rex skeleton, pulverizing it. Then the tagline appears: “Size does matter.”

Read More Read More

Incendiary Conspiracy Theory Suggests Possible Collusion Between She-Ra: Princess of Power and Hordak

Incendiary Conspiracy Theory Suggests Possible Collusion Between She-Ra: Princess of Power and Hordak

she-ra-chicks-rule-small

The 1985 cartoon She-Ra: Princess of Power was a spin-off of He Man and the Masters of the Universe aimed at young girls. It ran for 2 seasons, 93 episodes, and was canceled in 1986. Both series were produced by Filmation in conjunction with toymaker Mattel.

WHAT FOLLOWS IS AN OFFSCREEN CONVERSATION FROM A SECRET RECORDING OF SOME OF THE SUPPORTING CAST. 

This is a partial transcript of video obtained from the memory files of one of Hordak’s captured Hover Robot spies. It has never been declassified or released on Etheria or Eternia, and we are publishing the audio transcript here at Black Gate at great personal risk, like the brave souls in the movie The Post. You’re welcome, people of planet Earth!

FLUTTERINA: “Well, since we’re dishing gossip, lemme tell you guys — totally off the record — lemme tell you what bothers me about this whole She-Ra charade. I saw her lift a whole lake once.”

LOO-KEE: “Huh?”

FLUTTERINA: “A whole lake. With the bedrock beneath it — like a bowl, ‘cuz you can’t just lift a body of water — and toss it like a mile through the air. A lake. That puts her at what power level? Like a hundred He-Mans? So why doesn’t she just stamp out The Horde?”

KOWL: [flaps his ear-wings and hovers excitedly] “Yeah! Every time she ‘defeats’ Hordak, she just lets him slip away. Sometimes she sees him off with a shake of her finger and a ‘Don’t you ever get up to this sort of mischief again’!”

FLUTTERINA: “It is kind of demented, isn’t it? Like she just likes toying with him, dragging out a cruel game for her own perverse pleasure.”

Read More Read More

GOING BIG! Super Sized Marvel Treasury Editions

GOING BIG! Super Sized Marvel Treasury Editions

Super Sized Marvel Treasury Editions-small

Ex-size-ior! Few things give me an exhilarating rush of childhood more than a Marvel Treasury Edition.

I see one and suddenly I’m five years old again, sprawled on the shag carpet by the bedroom door when I’m supposed to be asleep, that ginormous comic book spread out in front of me like a Life Magazine, surreptitiously turning the newsprint pages and delving into the four-color wonders of Spider-Man fighting a guy with a stegosaurus head or the Avengers flying across the sky to do battle with various nemeses or Conan hewing villains to rescue a curvaceous damsel.

Popular in the 1970s, Treasury Editions were mostly just reprints on Super Growth Hormone. They were, in a way, precursors to graphic novels: Each edition collected three or four comics from a series, sometimes with some new material thrown in.

Measuring 10” by 13”, they were striking. Part of the appeal to a younger reader would be the pictures are all bigger and more easily digested. I remember “reading” them before I could really read.

Read More Read More

Winter Reading: The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson with an Assist from James Stoddard

Winter Reading: The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson with an Assist from James Stoddard

night land

If you’ve at any point heard some rumors, some whispers, some strange buzz about this book by William Hope Hodgson called The Night Land… maybe you’ve heard it is one of the greatest works of horror or dystopian dark fantasy…but you’ve also heard that it’s practically unreadable because of Hodgson’s choice to write it in a very weird prose style…”Penned in 1912, The Night Land is considered by many to be a work of genius, but one written in a difficult, archaic style that readers often find impenetrable.”

In 2010, James Stoddard (a fantastic fantasy author in his own right) wrote a “translation” into a more modern, readable vernacular. If you’re thinking of maybe reading Stoddard’s version, I must tell you this:

DO IT. Sooner rather than later. The fact is, one of the all-time great masterworks of sustained horror and imaginative vision, was, unfortunately, self-hampered by its author with his choice of writing it in a clunky, pseudo-archaic language. Stoddard did a supreme service to all of us by simply adapting the work into accessible modern English. I read Stoddard’s version, and via that gateway discovered what all the fuss was about. Yes, it really is that great an achievement: If Hodgson had written it in more accessible language, it would be as well known and celebrated today as any of the other seminal works of horror, fantasy, and science fiction.

Read More Read More

Oz Goes Thrift Shopping: “This is [bleeping] Awesome!”

Oz Goes Thrift Shopping: “This is [bleeping] Awesome!”

Nick Ozment's loot-small

On Wednesday, January 17, 2018, after I clocked out from work, I decided to do a 5 for 5: Hit all five of Med City’s thrift stores (at least that I know of) — 2 Goodwills, 2 Salvation Armys, and a Savers. I also dropped in at Nerdin’ Out, a store that specializes in collectible comic books and action figures.

It was a challenge, as I had just sprained my ankle that morning, and the walks down the aisles started to feel longer and longer as the day wore on. By the time the sun was setting, I had adopted the limping, shambling gait of the recently undead. But the increasingly incredible finds that I kept stumbling upon at one store after the other released enough adrenalin to keep me going — all the way until I got home, pulled off my snow boot, and found my ankle swollen to double its size.

Here (sharing only the finds that would be of particular interest to readers of this site) is my haul. Not all pickin’ days are this fruitful, I assure you. If they always turned out like today, hell, this is all I’d ever do.

From schlocky VHS horror flicks and classic sci-fi paperbacks to giant rubber snakes and other rare collectibles, today’s pick turned up treasures from across the entire spectrum of what I hunt for.

Read More Read More

When Fantasy and Theology Collide: Some Thoughts on Satan

When Fantasy and Theology Collide: Some Thoughts on Satan

Lord_of_DarknessI recently met a woman whose father-in-law had been a federal prison guard at a medical prison that held the “Blind Sheikh” back around the time of the 9/11 terrorist attack. The Blind Sheikh (Omar Abdel-Rahman) was an associate of Osama bin Laden and the planner behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing — one of the early “masterminds” of Al Qaeda. In other words, a real life counterpart to the nastiest, most nefarious villains in our fictional thriller novels and cinema fare.

She told me that her dad-in-law spoke to the Sheikh a couple times, as could be expected: casual banter will occasionally happen between guards and the imprisoned criminals they are guarding. She said the Sheikh seemed friendly enough to her father-in-law, but she added, “The Sheikh told him that we worship three gods. That was a big issue he had with us, that we worship three gods. So much of it was cultural misunderstanding.”

Read More Read More

Fantasy Warriors and Plastic Toy Soldiers on Memorial Day

Fantasy Warriors and Plastic Toy Soldiers on Memorial Day

gijoe-treasury-edition-special-page-01Black Gate is a site devoted to fantasy and science fiction, and an inordinate amount of fantasy and science fiction is devoted to soldiers, warriors, barbarians, slaughter and destruction. Which I’m all for in my fiction.

Today, though, here in the United States, we observe Memorial Day and remember real soldiers and fallen warriors. So, if you don’t mind, for the blog today I am posting the transcript of the speech I delivered this morning at the Memorial Day service in Elgin, Minnesota. It is short (I kept it to one page). And if you came here looking for your daily dose of fantasy, don’t worry — the speech contains at least one reference to ghosts and alternate realities (How could it not? It is a speech by Oz)…

I brought a plastic army man with me today because I want to talk about the grim knowledge we gain as we grow up, the understanding that comes along with putting aside childish things. When I was a boy — my son’s age, and he loves to play with army men — we’d set them up and knock them over. Make our gun and explosion noises, like we’d learned from the movies. It was all right; they’re just pieces of plastic.

Read More Read More