Hey! Let’s Not Get TOO Cozy

Friday, October 9th, 2015 | Posted by Violette Malan

Tooth and Claw Jo Walton-smallLast time I wrote about cozy mysteries and whether we might have the equivalent subgenre in Fantasy or SF, and I got a couple of suggestions among the comments that intrigued me more than a little. Now obviously, our version of such a thing wouldn’t have the same conventions and elements as the cozy mystery – there likely wouldn’t be a murder, for one thing – and fellow BG blogger Sarah Avery reminded me of a cozy convention I’d forgotten, that the protagonist is never in any real danger. That doesn’t hold true for any subgenre of either Fantasy or SF, where every character is playing for keeps. As readers, we might feel sure that the main character(s) won’t die, but we often find that living has cost them a great deal.

So, are there Fantasy and SF equivalents to the cozy mystery?

One suggestion we batted around a little was the idea of the “intimate” Fantasy novel. This would be one in which the personal stakes might be very high, but in which the global stakes are minor, or don’t exist at all. This is less unusual for our genres then it used to be.

Just by chance the novel that reached the top of my to-be-read pile most recently was Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get to this one, but I’m now recommending it to anyone who holds still long enough – including you. Right from the start, as you can see from the cover art I’ve included, the novel has been compared to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and in that manner, it’s certainly “intimate” in the sense that we’re talking about.

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Peter Tremayne’s Dracula Lives Trilogy Revisited

Thursday, October 8th, 2015 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

NOTE: The following article was first published on February 14, 2010. Thank you to John O’Neill for agreeing to reprint these early articles, so they are archived at Black Gate which has been my home for over 5 years and 250 articles now. Thank you to Deuce Richardson without whom I never would have found my way. Minor editorial changes have been made in some cases to the original text.

Dracyla UnbrnNurceaIt has long been my contention that pulp fiction not discovered by age thirteen was beyond my ability to appreciate later in life. A certain amount of nostalgia seemed essential to enjoying such escapism once age and responsibility have got the better of you. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule in the rare instances where genuine literary talent is in evidence as is the case with the Holy Trinity of hardboiled detective fiction: Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross Macdonald. Given that I recently covered Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I decided to revisit Peter Tremayne’s three Dracula novels and one short story that I enjoyed so much as a teenager to see how they held up three decades on.

Peter Tremayne is best known today for his long-running Sister Fidelma mysteries. His medieval detective series is sort of a lightweight version of an Umberto Eco doorstop. Although Tremayne’s real world credentials are quite impressive as both an academic and scholar, his fiction is strictly populist in its appeal. Turn back the clock 40 years and one would find Peter Tremayne as a dedicated pulp pastiche writer trying his hand at extending the lifespan of H. Rider Haggard’s She, deliriously combining Shelley’s Frankenstein with Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles, and delving deep into Stoker’s Dracula for a trilogy of loosely connected titles published by Bailey Brothers in the UK.

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Fifth EditionThe newest edition of Dungeons & Dragons, 5th edition, recently passed its one-year anniversary. Though I reviewed the books when they first came out, my gaming group didn’t want to give up their current systems to switch over. They’ve been playing edition 3.5 for years, are comfortable with the rule structure, and like leveling up into prestige classes.

One thing that is notable about this edition of Dungeons & Dragons is that players have not been swarmed by supplemental books or a variety of rule options. After a year, it’s rather refreshing that Dungeons & Dragons continues to have retained an emphasis on their core three books:

But this does mean that hardcore gamers like me, who are used to geeking out over systems where you’re really allowed to customize many aspects of your character, may feel like Dungeons & Dragons doesn’t cater to us. This is a bit unfair, and may be a sign that we’ve just gotten too spoiled with abundant choices in other games system.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer… In the Beginning, Part Six

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Dover RomanceTarcher RomanceWhen Arthur Henry Ward adopted the nom de plume of Sax Rohmer, he found a match for the bohemian occultist persona he was working to cultivate. The very name sounded exotic and foreign. It was less of a name than it was a statement of intent. As part of his new identity, Rohmer claimed to be a Rosicrucian as well as a member of The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. It appears that both claims were false, although the Ward family doctor, R. Watson Councell was active in occult circles.

It was Dr. Councell who provided much of the information for Rohmer’s 1914 study of the occult, The Romance of Sorcery. It is possible Dr. Councell actually wrote sections of the work considering his own later publication, Apologia Alchymiae (1923) which featured a preface by Rohmer. In the 1970s, Rohmer scholar Dr. Robert E. Briney came across four privately printed titles published by The Theosophical Publishing Society of London credited to one Arthur H. Ward: The Song of the Flaming Heart (1908), The Seven Rays of Development (1910), The Threefold Way (1912), and Masonic Symbolism and the Mystic Way (1913).

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Black Gate Online Fiction: In the Wake Of Sister Blue

Monday, October 5th, 2015 | Posted by markrigney

In The Wake of Sister Blue Mark Rigney-smallHaving contributed blog posts here at Black Gate since 2006 (where does the time go?), it’s time for a change. Time at last to give up on non-fiction, essays, and opinionated screeds. Time to dive headlong into an experiment I’ve long been itching to try, a serialized novel.

According to Black Gate‘s traffic stats, which of course I study daily from the basement of BG‘s vast Indiana compound, my Tales Of Gemen (“The Trade,” “The Find,” and “The Keystone“) remain perennially popular. That’s flattering – reassuring, even – and I’m grateful for your readership. Indeed, I feel sufficiently encouraged that I’m ready to offer a brand-new fantasy world in hopes that at least some of you will follow me down what promises to be a truly long and winding road.

Think of this as an experiment in tight-rope walking. I haven’t written to the end. I’m not offering you something that’s already complete. Instead, I’ll be doling out the breadcrumbs of story just as fast as I can tear them from the fictive loaf, and when we reach the end, we’ll get there simultaneously.

So the journey begins, in what I expect will be bi-weekly installments. Remember, this is dangerous territory; there’s no safety net. There’s only the story, the one unfolding in my head, the one I promise to set down as best I know how, for you.

That adventure, In the Wake Of Sister Blue, begins today.

Tell your friends. Off we go.

Read the first chapter of In the Wake Of Sister Blue here.

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SeptOberFright 4: Gene Luen Yang on His First Night Terror: The Headless Bride

Monday, October 5th, 2015 | Posted by Nick Ozment

Illustration is from the vintage book of horror stories Short and Shivery. This one accompanies a retelling of Irving's "Adventure of the German Student."

Illustration of a retelling of Irving’s “The Adventure of the German Student” in the vintage book of horror stories Short and Shivery

An ongoing theme that arises when I write about horror entertainment is that of tackling the perennial question: Why do we like it so much? And then there is the related question of what possible benefits horror stories might impart.

For this week’s SeptOberFright installment, I’d like to share another voice addressing that idea of horror as healthy. Gene Luen Yang writes Avatar: The Last Airbender — Smoke and Shadow for Dark Horse comics, and he contributed the June 2015 installment of “Horsepower,” the editorial that runs in Dark Horse comic books each month. I came across it in the back of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 issue 16.

Like many others who have given the question “Why horror?” any thought, Yang suggests that horror stories help prepare us for the truly scary things in life. What makes his take particularly fun is his anecdote about his own first encounter with a horror story. To read Yang’s anecdote, which comprises the first five paragraphs of the editorial, click on “Read More” below. For the complete column (in which he goes on to discuss his work with artist Gurihiru on Avatar), hunt down any June 2015 Dark Horse comic book (I’m not sure if these are archived online somewhere, but a quick Google hunt yielded no results).




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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: After the King

Monday, October 5th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

AfterKing_CoverBack in January, I wrote a post on Terry Pratchett’s Cohen the Barbarian. It was primarily based on the short story “The Troll’s Bridge,” which was included in the anthology, After the King. That anthology was subtitled, ‘Stories in Honor of J.R.R. Tolkien.’

It included tales by nineteen fantasy and sci-fi authors, ostensibly all told in the style of Tolkien. The more cynical among us might view this as a cheap way to cash in on the Tolkien name (back in 1992, pre Game of Thrones, et al, Tokien still had a bigger grasp on fantasy publishing).

But not so much. The stories in this collection don’t bring to mind Michael Moorcock, Steven Erickson, Fritz Lieber or Robert E. Howard. My idea of a dragon hunt looks a lot more like a Dungeons and Dragons game than Patricia A. McKillip’s “The Fellowship of the Dragon.” Elizabeth Scarborough, Andre Norton and Jane Yolen don’t bring to mind Glen Cook. The stories in this collection do have more of a Tolkien, mythic, “pastoral” feel.

With the possible exception of Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shanarra (which is the subject of an upcoming post by Fletcher Vrendenburgh), Dennis L. McKiernan’s Mithgar stories are as close to Tolkien pastiches as we’re likely to get this side of a novel commissioned by the Estate. He’s present with “The Halfling House.” I recently re-read his first Mithgar work, The Silver Call (written as one novel but issued as two books) and it’s as Tolkien as it gets (more on that in an upcoming Mithgar post).

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Galaxy Science Fiction, December 1952: A Retro-Review

Sunday, October 4th, 2015 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy December 1952-smallThe cover of the December, 1952 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction was creating using a technique called “Camerage.” Editor H. L. Gold describes it as

A three-dimensional montage effect — but it’s not a montage… All the objects in the picture are assembled at one time, illuminated by projected colored lights… and are shot by a number of cameras placed on different planes.

To me, it looks a little odd — or at least this particular use of the technique looks a little odd. (Click the image at right for a bigger version.) Seeing an image online doesn’t quite match up with what you see on an actual copy of the magazine; I can’t quite explain the difference. But however you view it, the cover still doesn’t connect with me.

Ring Around the Sun (Part 1) by Clifford D. Simak — It started with a few inventions — a cigarette lighter, a razor blade, and a light bulb. These items would last forever, the manufacturers claimed. Additionally, another group supplied synthetic carbohydrates for consumption, helping humanity’s food supply. Each had its own effect on the economy, in both subtle and obvious ways.

Jay Vickers learns of the newest arrivals — the forever car and the forever house — with indifference. He doesn’t need a new car and doesn’t like the idea of a new house, no matter how reasonable the financing may be, even if it seems like they’re being given away.

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Talking Over the Drowning City: An Interview with Christopher Golden, Co-Author of Joe Golem, Occult Detective

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Joe Golem Occult Detective-smallI’ve been e-interviewing different comics creators (indie comics guys Mirror Comics and graphic novelist-turned-TV producer Jay Odjick) as well as comic book editors (Xander Jarowey, Heather Antos, Jake Thomas, and Daniel Ketchum, all from Marvel Comics).

This time out, I wanted to chat with Christopher Golden, a best-selling author and one half of the writing team (along with Mike Mignola) on the 5-issue series Joe Golem: Occult Detective, from Dark Horse. Issue #1 comes out in November, but Dark Horse was kind enough to share an advanced view with Black Gate for this interview :)

Click on any of the artwork in this article for bigger versions.

Hey Christopher. Thanks for the chance to chat. I read a review copy of Joe Golem, Occult Detective, and really enjoyed it. I hadn’t seen the world of the Drowning City before, but it was compelling.

Glad you dug it. Mike and I spent a lot of time crafting this world, making sure all the weird pieces fit, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what readers think.

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Destroying Your Garden of Victory

Friday, October 2nd, 2015 | Posted by mariebilodeau

Even princes make the time to destroy their gardens.

Even princes make the time to destroy their gardens.

Winter is coming. Not in an unspecified amount of time, either. It’s coming, like, soon (ish). The days grow shorter, the winds howly-er, and the nights demand duvets. There’s not denying it, people. It’s time to Destroy your Garden of Victory.

… why destroy it? BECAUSE OTHERWISE WINTER WINS! If you do not burn your own house, and your neighbor burns it for you instead, does that neighbor then not win? But if you burn it first, and you stand beside it like a badass warrior, then you, my friend, win. You built the garden! Now you must destroy it!

So don’t wuss out – destroy your garden now!*

1. Have a Final Outdoor Battle

Nobody likes winter battles, let’s face it. They’re cold, blood gets all frozen, swords don’t wobble as effectively and the dangers of pneumonia are real. Plus, winter armor is heavy and uncomfortable. So, invite your neighbors for that final battle now! Be imaginative in how you taunt them to battle – remember, this is your last battle for probably half a year. Steal their sheep and sheer your flag into their side. Paint their fences an ugly color. Raise flags bearing insulting taunts. Just make it clear that the battle must take place in your garden and the winner gets the Victory Goat for the next six months. (Bonus: blood is great fertilizer for when you prepare next year’s Garden of Victory!)

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