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Diving Deep (again) into the Wonder that is Terry Pratchett

Diving Deep (again) into the Wonder that is Terry Pratchett

I am working on a post about my trip to the Greenbrier Resort, with the Wolfe Pack. It was a neat time, and I’ve got a ton of pictures. What I do not have is a completed essay yet. So, I should have that next week.

Today I’m gonna talk a little more about Terry Pratchett.

A few months ago, I decided to start re-reading – and listening to – some Discworld books. I’ve been a Pratchett fan for decades, and I occasionally grab something off the shelf for a mental breather. I’m usually reading for purposes of a Black Gate post. Or an actual work product, like a new intro for Steeger Books. Discworld is always a fun break.

The book I most often ‘randomly grab’ is The Last Hero. It’s such an exquisite work of art. It is probably the most thoughtful, beautiful, book which I own. The story, of course, is classic Pratchett. But the only reason this book is such a wonderful item, is because the people behind it, wanted it to create something of beauty. It’s more than just a book. It’s something to be cherished.

 

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A to Z Reviews: “The Haunted House on Rocketworks Street,” by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

A to Z Reviews: “The Haunted House on Rocketworks Street,” by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

A to Z Reviews

Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen captures the nostalgic, carefree summer days of childhood in “The Haunted House on Rocketworks Street,” which also demonstrates the universality of human experience.  The story does have a frame which becomes important, but the meat of the story follows for kids on a summer day, who have the freedom of movement on Rocketworks Street, free from responsibility or parental controls.

The four kids, leader Albin, Max, Henry, and Henry’s sister Henrietta, spend their summer running up and down the street, staying out of sight of their parents, and working up tests of their courage. The fact that all of the parents who live on Rocketworks Street have been pulled into the fireworks factory from which the street took its name, just makes their freedom easy to maintain and enjoy.

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A Paean to the Outsider: A Review of Neither Beg Nor Yield, edited by Jason M. Waltz

A Paean to the Outsider: A Review of Neither Beg Nor Yield, edited by Jason M. Waltz

Neither Beg Nor Yield (Rogue Blades Entertainment, April 2024)

I can’t say if Jason M. Waltz and his Rogue Blades Entertainment’s swansong is the largest collection of Sword & Sorcery ever published, but it’s damn close.

It’s also the most metal. From this over-the-top, blood-splash cover featuring an axe headed toward the reader’s face to the powerful black & white line art that runs throughout. there’s a Savage Sword of Conan-meets-Heavy Metal vibe to the layout that tells you exactly the feel of the prose within.

With all respect to my friend Dave Ritzlin at DMR Books (and the most metal *publisher* of S&S), who literally launched his press by bringing S&S-loving metalhead musicians together to create anthologies of tales, I don’t mean erudite, I can tell you the difference between symphonic metal, thrash metal, Viking metal, dark metal, and the White Christ help us, Troll Metal (which I just learned a few months ago is actually a thing): I mean working out with your buddies in your dad’s garage gym with the Judas Priest-cranked between rewatches on VHS of Conan (the Barbarian, we don’t talk about the sequel), and Beastmaster, or cackling to yourself while working on your killer dungeon to spring on your friends at Friday night’s game with Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden wailing metal.

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GEN CON WRITERS’ SYMPOSIUM AUG 1-4, 2024: SPECIAL GUESTS AND PROGRAM RELEASE

GEN CON WRITERS’ SYMPOSIUM AUG 1-4, 2024: SPECIAL GUESTS AND PROGRAM RELEASE

Gen Con Writers’ Symposium

This post announces our 2024 Special Guests and reveals the Program. May 19th is the official registration day, but attendees can wishlist their events now!

Gen Con is the largest tabletop gaming convention in North America. In 2023, they welcomed over 70,000 unique visitors and offered over 19,000 events. By its nature, Gen Con attracts a large number of attendees who enjoy speculative fiction across formats. Gen Con 2024 will be held August 1-4 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Gen Con Writers’ Symposium is a semi-independent event hosted by Gen Con. It’s focused on writers of games and speculative fiction of all experience levels, but with as much fun and interest for gamers, readers, and fans. All registration is handled through the Gen Con website.  In the past 28 years, the Writers’ Symposium has grown from a small set of panels over a day or two of the convention to one of the largest convention-hosted writing tracks in North America, offering hundreds of hours of programming from 70+ authors, editors, agents, and publishers to nearly 3000 unique visitors per year on average.  We’ll be on the second floor of the Indianapolis Downtown Marriott (i.e., not the adjacent JW Marriott ). Head to our event at 350 W Maryland St, Indianapolis, IN 46225. The Black Gate Convention report for last year’s symposium gives a good flavor of what to expect, and the planning committee’s website at genconwriters.org has all the details.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Haining)

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Haining)

Peter Haining was a notable Sherlockian who compiled/edited several useful Sherlock Holmes books.

Back around 2005 or so, an article in the Wall Street Journal was about Barnes & Noble’s in-house publishing imprint. They have been reproducing classic works for years and selling them at affordable prices. But they range father afield than that, and my Sherlockian bookshelf includes several of their titles, such as The Sherlock Holmes Companion, The Lost Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

The latter was the main source for the Doyle on Holmes series. The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of stories, plays, and essays about Holmes that are not part of the Canon but certainly make nice supplementary reading. An excellent addition to any Holmes library.

It is somewhat similar to the out-of-print and often difficult to find Sherlock Holmes: The Published Apocrypha by Jack Tracy. Both books include the “almost Sherlock Holmes” stories and plays that don’t fit in the Canon, but are certainly in the neighborhood. I wrote about that one, here.

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A to Z Reviews: “Tank,” by Francis E. Izzo

A to Z Reviews: “Tank,” by Francis E. Izzo

A to Z Reviews

One of the interesting things in this random selection of stories is how often the selected items share some unexpected and unintentional trait. The two stories that showed up for the letter I, Jack Iams’s “The Hat in the Hall” and Francis E. Izzo’s “Tank,” both reflect the only entry each author has in the Internet Science Fiction Database (although not, necessarily their only published story).

“Tank” was originally published in the March 1979 issue of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and has since been printed in three anthologies of stories from that magazine, the reprint anthology Supertanks, and On Writing Science Fiction.

Izzo tells the story of Davis, a pinball wizard. While Davis loves pinball and trying to set the high scores on the machines in the arcade, he has also played the various video games that were making inroads into the arcades in the 1970s and found them wanting.  From Pong on up, he would play them, beat them easily, and return to his beloved pinball, sure that no video game could ever give him the thrill of playing pinball.

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Courage Does Not Always Roar

Courage Does Not Always Roar

This is one of mine

Good afterevenmorn!

As I’m prepping for the release of the first part of my free serial story on my person blog (11 days!), I’m thinking a great deal about the characters I tend to find most interesting and therefore tend to write the most about — those poor traumatized souls. It’s not just that they’re imperfect (perfection is horrendously dull, I find), or even just that they’re deeply flawed. They’re hurting and more often than not, they’re acting from that place of hurt. These are the characters I find more fascinating than others both to read and write about. You see, there are two ways they could go. They could either be a hero or a villain, and the smallest slip would begin the plunge into villainy, while achieving heroic heights is always an intense struggle. Reading characters that are teetering on that knife edge is always a good time for me.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Doyle’s Favorite SH Adventure (Doyle on Holmes)

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Doyle’s Favorite SH Adventure (Doyle on Holmes)

And it’s another essay by Arthur Conan Doyle about his famous detective. This was also the last one he wrote, appearing in The Strand in March of 1927.

The fifth and final short story collection, The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, was due out shortly.

He wrote a piece to announce a contest for readers of The Strand to name their twelve favorite Holmes stories. He would make his own list and see how they compared. The response with the closest list to his would win a $100 check and an autographed copy of his autobiography, Memories and Adventures. One hundred more people would win autographed copies of the autobiography (no check).

There are actually four components to this. The announcement, written by someone at The Strand, was A Sherlock Holmes Competition.

Doyle’s accompanying essay was Mr. Sherlock Holmes to His Readers.

In June, someone at The Strand wrote The Sherlock Holmes Prize Competition: The Result.

Which was accompanied by Doyle’s essay, How I Made My List.

So Doyle wrote an essay to announce the contest, and another a few months later, to name his favorite stories. Each of those two essays was accompanied by some in-house text, with its own title.

Clear as mud? Okay, let’s go!

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Back Among the Kencyrath: “The Gates of Tagmeth” by PC Hodgell

Back Among the Kencyrath: “The Gates of Tagmeth” by PC Hodgell

One of the earliest reviews I wrote for Blackgate was of P.C. Hodgell’s 1982 sword & sorcery classic, God Stalk. It’s the story of Jame, a relative innocent at large in the very Lankhmarian city Tai-Tastigon on the world of Rathilien. She’s a High Born, the ruling race of a tripartite race called the Kencyrath (the other two are the Kendar — warriors and artisans — and the Arrin-ken — the lion-like judges of the three races).  She’s also a Shanir, a subset of her people gifted — or cursed as most have come to believe — with strange abilities. In her case, it’s retractable claws on her fingers.

The Kencyrath have been consecrated by their Three-Faced God to battle Perimal Darkness, a great evil that’s been devouring one world after another in a chain of parallel worlds for millennia. Every time, they’ve failed at their duty, having to retreat to one world or another. As of God Stalk, they’ve been on Rathilien for three thousand years. They escaped there following the Fall, a moment when the High Lord betrayed the Kencyrath and two-thirds were killed, their souls offered up to Perimal Darkness.

After a year in Tai-Tastigon Jame set off into the West in search of her twin brother Torisen and the Kencyrath homeland — well, at least the homeland they took possession of three thousand years ago. Over the following six books, Jame, forever a square peg in a round hole, emerges as a wild card in the political games between the various Kencyrath houses. Unwilling to adopt the cloistered and regulated life of most High Born women, Jame eventually finds herself a candidate in the Kencyrath military officer’s school. Along the way, she learns she is more than likely the prophesied incarnation of the destructive aspect of the Three-Faced God. She also discovers more of the supernatural underpinnings of Rathilien, how the Kencyrath’s arrival disrupted it, and that the final reckoning with Perimal Darkness is near.

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A to Z Reviews: “The Hat in the Hall,” by Jack Iams

A to Z Reviews: “The Hat in the Hall,” by Jack Iams

A to Z Reviews

Jack Iams published “The Hat in the Hall” in the August 1950 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and it is an example of a story that has dated poorly. Set in the aftermath of a cocktail party in which Charles and Jane Mattson are cleaning up the mess left behind, Iams describes the couple emptying ashtrays, finding hats left behind by their guests, and, most egregious, commenting that one of their friends, Jim, is “a pretty careful driver, even when he’s stewed.”

Although the party is a success, it was also loud, which is why Charles stopped by their next door neighbor, Mrs. Oliver, to apologize the next morning. Oliver had called to complain about the noise a couple of times during the party, but it was only during his visit that Charles realizes that they were holding the party on the anniversary of her husband’s death. What surprised Charles was Mrs. Oliver’s explanation that her husband’s ghost always visited her on the anniversary of his death, but the noise from the party seemed to have kept him away.

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