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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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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The Genre Game

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Newton

Dostoyevsky comicsLike many people, I have mixed feelings about genres – those pesky labels we use to sift and sort writing into neat little silos, isolated and bubbling away in incestuous fermentation. Both as a reader and a writer, I’ve never seen the world that way.

In some ways, thinking about genre reminds me of the “Honk if Pluto is a planet” campaign. For some, it’s a major, emotive issue if Pluto is categorized as a “planet”, or a “dwarf planet”, or a “Kuiper Belt object”, or something else entirely. But, ultimately, the designation affects nothing outside the minds of men: Pluto continues in its long, elliptical orbit, completely oblivious to the impassioned squirmings of one subgroup of carbon-based lifeforms on the third planet; it’s still beautiful, cold, distant, mysterious, regardless of the “planetary genre” we decide, in our assumed omnipotence, to place it in. It ain’t gonna vanish if we all look the other way.

So, genre. Is it hard science-fiction? Is it cyberpunk? Is it space opera? Dystopian? Maybe it’s all four? Or more? It’s a truism, but every written work stands on its own merits. You can sell it at Borders, Barnes and Noble, or Walmart; you can call it dark fantasy, low fantasy, heroic fantasy, swords and sorcery: it’s still the same book, even if the observers and surroundings differ. Genre is something which shelf-stackers and catalogue creators love – it neatly segments the literary world into easy-to-digest packets, with no ambiguity, a black-and-white demarcation of the soul. Like people trying to get their five pieces of fruit a day, it seems to make sense – until people start fighting over what a “piece of fruit” really is. Oranges – whole or segmented? Melons? How big’s a slice?

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NK Jemisin Profiled at The Guardian

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

NK JemisinNK Jemisin is one of the finest new writers to arrive on the fantasy scene in the last decade. Her new novel The Fifth Season will be published by Orbit next month, and yesterday the UK newspaper The Guardian posted an intriguing profile and interview with the author, in which she addresses, among other things, the ongoing Sad Puppy debate.

Jemisin is on the phone from her not-very-epic day job as a university administrator in New York. When she gets off the phone, she says, she’s going to bike to a coffee shop to write her thousand words for the day, a pace that allows her to finish about a novel a year…

“As a black woman,” Jemisin tells me, “I have no particular interest in maintaining the status quo. Why would I? The status quo is harmful, the status quo is significantly racist and sexist and a whole bunch of other things that I think need to change. With epic fantasy there is a tendency for it to be quintessentially conservative, in that its job is to restore what is perceived to be out of whack…”

Earlier this year, a number of writers and sci-fi industry insiders began to organise and protest against the fact that nominees for the Hugo awards have become substantially less white and less male… Jemisin is obviously no fan of the Puppies, but she sees a positive side effect from their crusade. “What I find heartening,” she said, “is the sheer amount of laughter the Puppies are engendering as they demand that what they call ‘affirmative action’ works no longer be considered, but really at the same time, they’re putting only their own friends on the ballot. So they’re actually asking for their form of affirmative action to replace what they think of as affirmative action. And everyone is realising it. People are looking at these authors [like Vox Day and Puppies leader Brad Torgerson], who they once took seriously, and now just pointing and laughing.”

Read the complete article here.

The Stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and RiffTrax Mark a Milestone

Monday, July 27th, 2015 | Posted by Nick Ozment

mst3kHuluWhen you watch a film synched up to RiffTrax, do you still picture the silhouettes of wisecracking ‘bots Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot in the little Satellite-of-Love screening room of your mind?

And if not a smidgen of that question made sense to you, this post probably is one you can skip (unless you’re a completist, and have thus far read every Black Gate post to date. In which case, we should probably know who you are. Has anyone read every single BG blog all the way back to day one?).

This report goes out to fellow Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) fans out there in the blogosphere. On July 9 of this year, on special assignment from BG’s Midwestern outpost in Minnesota, I attended a live screening of the RiffTrax presentation of Sharknado 2: The Next One. Two fan-buddies who share my adoration of Michael J. Nelson and his crew accompanied me on this outing (readers here will be familiar with one of those friends: none other than sometime BG scribe Gabe Dybing). In a bona fide movie theater we would share with other diehard fans an experience usually relegated to our laptops and living room televisions.

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The Worst AD&D Spell Of All Time

Monday, July 27th, 2015 | Posted by markrigney

Arcana UnearthedSo there we stood, surrounded. Demons in all directions, converging fast – and we’re not talking garden variety patsies. Even for our major league party, the future looked bleak, bloody, and painful. On the plus side, we had our pizza in place, our dice at the ready. Beers and sodas hovered with popped caps and bated breath, anticipating action.

“Initiative!” cried the DM.

We each rolled. One of the demons, which just happened to moonlight as a spell-caster, moved first — and what did that pipsqueak no-good blackguard cheat of a demon cast our way?

Chain Lightning.

At fifteenth level.

Two hours later, with the pizza cold and stiff, the beers stale and the sodas flat, we finally finished adjudicating the effects of that single spell. We were in shock, and grumbling to beat the band. The DM, equally weary and perplexed, said, “Okay. Still first round. Who gets to take the next action?”

That I no longer recall, but this I know: we won the battle, and the demons lost. So did Chain Lightning. We made a solemn pledge that very day to never again allow that spell to eclipse the glory of our triumphant campaigning. Banned it was, all but ripped from the pages of the rulebook. And good riddance, too.

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Enter the Grimdark Magazine Battle-off Competition

Monday, July 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Grimdark Magazine Battle-off Competition

Grimdark Magazine is getting some great notices among fans of heroic fantasy — including from our own Fletcher Vredenburgh, who said in his review of the first three issues, “From a swords & sorcery perspective, the biggest — and potentially most interesting — new publication out there is Grimdark Magazine.” Grimdark editor-in-chief Adrian Collins contacted us this morning to let us know of a new contest sponsored by the magazine, open to heroic fantasy writers of all kinds. Here’s the deets:

We’re running a competition over at Grimdark Magazine that may interest some of Black Gate‘s followers — both readers and writers. It’s a battle-off, where self and small published authors enter a 1K word excerpt featuring a battle scene, the readers then vote on a top 7 and a panel of judges then decide on the top 3 to win awards.

It will run for a couple of months between mid August and the end of October… There are some pretty awesome prizes up for grabs, including a Kindle HD, signed hardcovers, plenty of paperbacks and ebooks, editing services and cover art services.

This is one of the most unusual writing contests I’ve heard of, and I highly approve. So sharpen your pens, all you aspiring adventure fantasy writers. This is your chance to show that you have the chops to deserve wider attention — and maybe win something that could help your new novel really stand out. Get the complete details here.

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: By Crom – Are Conan Pastiches Official?

Monday, July 27th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

ConaPas_Ace2Today’s post is actually about Robert E. Howard’s Conan, but (in a stunning surprise) it’s got some Sherlock Holmes at the foundation. No, Conan never met the great detective…

Hopefully you’ve been checking in on our summer series, Discovering Robert E. Howard. There are plenty more posts coming, so stay tuned. While I very much like Howard and his works, I came late to his stories and I’m certainly no expert.

There is one area I’ve found…curious, which relates to the “official” status that seems to be accorded to the authorized pastiches written since Howard’s death. It’s quite different in the Holmes world.

There are sixty official Sherlock Holmes tales. Period. Fifty-six short stories and four novels (more novellas, really), all penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and published during his lifetime. There are two Holmes short-shorts, “How Watson Learned the Trick” and “The Field Bazaar” and there is no disputing that they were written by Doyle. But they are not included (by anyone, I believe) in the official count.

You, oh enlightened one, know that the Doyle Estate tried to include a sixty-first story, found among ACD’s papers by a researcher, but it turned out to have been written by Arthur Whitaker.

To quote myself, from my first Solar Pons post here at Black Gate:

Parodies are stories that poke fun at Holmes. But the more serious Holmes tales, those that attempt to portray Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective to varying levels, are called pastiches. Just about the earliest ‘serious’ attempt at a Holmes copy was by Vincent Starrett, who wrote “The Adventure of the Unique Hamlet” in 1920.

Doyle’s son Adrian, sitting at his father’s very desk, produced The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes (half of the stories were co-written with John Dickson Carr, who would quit mid-project).

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Things Your Writing Teacher Never Told You: Pro Tip From Lawrence Watt-Evans

Sunday, July 26th, 2015 | Posted by Tina Jens

Lawrence Watt-Evans-smallAffectionately known as LWE (pronounced Louie) by many of his friends and fans, Lawrence Watt-Evans is the second author in our series of Pro Tips — wit and wisdom from professionals across the Spec Fic field. (You can find our first one, from Laura Anne Gilman, here.)

LWE is the author of more than four dozen novels and short story collections and more than a hundred short stories, in addition to comic books, poems, and more than 150 non-fiction articles. He works mostly in the fantasy genre, but has numerous science fiction and horror publications, too. He sold his first novel at the age of twenty-four, and has been a full-time writer ever since.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started writing/ publishing?

I wish I had known that the publishing business is always changing. Always. Publishers come and go, genres rise and fall, formats change. When I broke in, mass-market paperbacks sold on newsstands were where the money was, fantasy was a poor stepchild of science fiction, and there were a dozen or so major fiction publishers and no one else mattered.

Then national chain bookstores blossomed, the old paperback distribution system collapsed, fantasy surpassed SF in sales, horror boomed and then busted… and that was before the internet, Amazon, ebooks, print-on-demand, self-publishing, etc. I learned more about publishing history and discovered that the system I had thought had dominated forever only came into its own in the 1950s.

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Weirdbook Returns in October…

Friday, July 24th, 2015 | Posted by John R. Fultz


Front Cover of Weirdbook #31

Back Cover

Back Cover of Weirdbook #31

“It’s alive! Alive!!!!!”

Weirdbook is coming back to life. New editor Doug Draa has done an immense job of resurrecting Paul Ganley’s classic weird fantasy mag.

Weirdbook #31 will be the first issue since 1997, and it’s slated for an October release from its new publisher Wildside Press.

On the left is a look at the front cover by Dusan Kostic. Click for a bigger version.

The back cover (right) will be a piece by the great Stephen E. Fabian, who did all the covers for the original WB run.

This issue is sort of a bridge between the magazine’s past and its future.

Here’s a look at the Table of Contents for Weirdbook #31.

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