Post-Modern Pulp: Speaking With Indie Action Writer Jack Badelaire

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

COA_SmallToday we’re talking to Jack Badelaire, author of numerous action books in the tradition of the 70s “Men’s Adventure” genre. His best known work is his Commando series of WWII action novels. Jack reflects on indie publishing and the state of the genre.

Full Disclosure: Jack is a critique partner of mine. He’s also a fellow member of the secret commando group Sicko Slaughterers (“SS,” we really need a new acronym), which goes after terrorists and human traffickers. So far I’ve killed 1,487 sickos, while wimpy little Jack has only killed 1,059. He gets props for killing that ISIS commander in Raqqa with a blender, though.

Anyway, on with the interview.

The Men’s Adventure fiction of the 60s and 70s is obviously a huge influence on your work. You’ve mentioned that you think there’s a lot more going on in these books than many people think. Could you expand on that?

This genre of fiction was brewed up during an especially turbulent period of history. The Cold War, Vietnam, rejuvenated organized crime syndicates, the rise of international terrorist organizations, the War on Drugs… and those are just the chart-toppers.  These post-modern pulps of the period were a direct reflection of, if we want to get Freudian for a moment, society’s collective Id. The Executioner went out and slaughtered Mafiosi because we wished someone would, and Phoenix Force obliterated terrorists because we wished someone would. Even today, the modern successors to these stories feature ex-SEALs and former Delta Force operators hunting terrorists and organized crime syndicates, stories little different than those written thirty or forty years ago.

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Despair All The Way Down: The Illearth War by Stephen R. Donaldson

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

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“You’re determined to make this hard, aren’t you? You’re determined to make it hard for everyone.”

                                                                  Hile Troy to Thomas Covenant

If Lord Foul’s Bane (go here for my review) with its rapist leper hero is a trip into the Black Hole of Calcutta, its sequel, The Illearth War (1978) is an unremitting journey into the blackest space over the event horizon. Where the first book offered hope to its characters with the successful completion of their quest, this one holds out no hope even in victory. At the best of times there is only a stay of certain execution. Mostly, though, there is loss, deep and devastating loss.

It’s also a book that almost defeated me. For three weeks it defied my efforts to put into words what I thought was going on in it and what I thought of it. It’s not that it’s super complicated, but it’s a shadowy thing that required more work than I’m used to to understand its guts.

The Illearth War is a story steeped in existential dread. Both inaction and action in the face of soul-crushing evil seem to lead to disastrous ends. To believe or not to believe? To fight or not to fight? To kill or to be killed? Does it make any difference? This is heady stuff for fantasy and bound to put off more casual readers, but Donaldson takes on the debate with conviction and seriousness.

The dilemma is addressed primarily by contrasting Thomas Covenant’s attitude toward the Land with that of a new character from our world, Hile Troy. Covenant refuses to accept the magical Land, its healing properties, or to lift a finger to save it, while Troy fully embraces it and is completely dedicated to its survival. Each man is convinced of the rightness of his path, and both suffer calamitous losses for their convictions. Covenant scoffs at Troy for thinking he can thwart Lord Foul while Troy berates Covenant for refusing to fight. Donaldson plays these titans, inaction versus action, against each other like musical counterpoints. Each reflects off the other, exposing its opponent’s dangers and rewards. This is the heart of The Illearth War.

It’s not an argument made lightly or with straw men. Donaldson digs deeply into each man’s mind and character, exploring the complex motives and reasoning behinds their choices.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Dr Watson, Doormat

Monday, February 1st, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

WatsonDoormat_IntellectSherlock Holmes was rather a jerk. His people skills needed some serious work. It’s blatantly obvious in Benedict Cumberbatch’s over-the-top obnoxiousness in BBC’s Sherlock, but it’s all over the Canon as well. I wrote about his unwarranted negative attitude towards Dr. Watson’s detective work in a previous post. And the Canon is replete with snide comments and remarks at Watson’s expense: to say nothing of the official police force’s!

“Come at once if convenient – if inconvenient come all the same.”

Thus does Sherlock Holmes summon Watson in “The Adventure of the Creeping Man.” And Watson obeys. We get a sample of Holmes’ imperious attitude from this quote. But Watson’s response is also rather telling.

When Grimesby Roylott of Stoke Moran confronted Holmes, he referred to the detective as a “meddler, a busybody and a Scotland Yard jack-in-office.” One has to wonder if some villain or policeman in the Canon didn’t refer to Watson as Holmes’ lapdog, lackey or errand boy?

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Frankenstein and R. J. Myers’ Domination Fantasies

Sunday, January 31st, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

NOTE: The following article was first published on May 30, 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.

Myers Slave 2Myers Slave 1A couple weeks ago I reviewed R. J. Myers’ The Cross of Frankenstein. It was the respected political commentator’s first foray into fiction. He followed it with a sequel, 1976’s The Slave of Frankenstein and despite the promise of a third book, his only other genre efforts were a late seventies soft-core vampire title and a privately-published guide to blood-drinking as an alternative lifestyle.

I always feel a pang of guilt when I come down hard on a fellow pastiche writer. I’ve been on the receiving end of disappointed Sax Rohmer and Conan Doyle fans who felt I had no business continuing the adventures of characters they love. At the same time, I believe I have been fair and honest in my assessments when reviewing pastiches. I have the utmost respect for Joe Gores, Michael Hardwick, Cay Van Ash, and Freda Warrington as writers who tried hard to stay true to the original author in terms of style and spirit. I can still enjoy Peter Tremayne and Basil Copper who, despite falling short of the mark, can still spin an entertaining yarn. Consequently, I feel justified when I confine Myers to the lowest pit of literary Hell alongside Ian Holt and Richard Jaccoma for The Slave of Frankenstein, while a very different beast than Myers’ first effort, is equally contemptible.

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Space Gods: From Tin Foil Hats to Marvel’s Eternals

Saturday, January 30th, 2016 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Eternals_Vol_1_1

Kirby’s ever-energetic and inventive art.

In 1968, around the time that 2001: A Space Odyssey was in theaters, booksellers had Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past, by Erich Von Daniken. It was such a big seller that I had no trouble acquiring a second-hand copy for 25 cents in the mid-1980s, and even as a thirteen-year old, I couldn’t make it more than a few pages into its soft-headed nonsense.

Von Daniken’s thesis of course was that the pyramids, Stonehenge, the Nazca Lines, and so on were beyond the abilities of previous civilizations, and required visiting space visitors to explain their existence.

Part of Von Daniken’s “evidence” is that the artistic styles we see in previous civilizations are better explained as ancient peoples depicting the space suits of their alien visitors. Big toke time.

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A Crossover Too Far

Friday, January 29th, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Combined-ForcesBulldog_Drummond_1st_edition_cover,_1920A. J. Smithers is a respected author of fiction and non-fiction titles with a special dedication to the Clubland fiction of Dornford Yates, John Buchan, and H. C. “Sapper” McNeile. His 1983 novel, Combined Forces was subtitled Being the Latter-Day Adventures of Richard Hannay, “Bulldog” Drummond, and Berry and Co. Clubland literary scholar Richard Usborne praised the book and Smithers’ willingness to expose the dark sides of its characters’ lives. Wold Newtonians sometimes seek out this rare work because of the literary crossover within its pages. I approached the book first as a Bulldog Drummond completist and secondly as a fan of Richard Hannay.

While most people know of The Thirty-Nine Steps thanks to Alfred Hitchcock’s celebrated film version, they are unaware of how different the character of Richard Hannay is in John Buchan’s fiction. Most are unaware that Hannay appeared in a total of seven spy thriller novels by Buchan published between 1915 and 1940. Unlike many long-running series, Buchan chose to have Hannay age in real time and grow as a person as he marries and settles down and even retires. Buchan’s approach appears to have influenced some of Gerald Fairlie’s modifications to Hugh Drummond’s character and life as he continued the series after Sapper’s death.

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You May Be A Writer

Friday, January 29th, 2016 | Posted by Violette Malan

MeredithDo you enjoy planning? When you want to give a party, do you start making lists? Thinking about the menu? Who to invite? When there’s a trip coming up, are there lists? Are you usually the first one packed? Or have you at least given considerable thought to your packing?

Is organizing an event almost more fun than the event itself? Then you may be a writer.

Do you think planning’s for squares? Do you decide at 6:00 pm to have a party and let people know via Twitter? Are you rushing through the airport at the last minute with your passport in one hand and a pair of (mismatched) socks in the other?

Are you all about the spontaneity? Seizing the moment? Then you may be a writer.

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Book Pairings: Sorcerer to the Crown and My Beautiful Enemy

Friday, January 29th, 2016 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney

BGsorcerer-to-the-crownYou know, way back when, I had such MASTERFUL IDEAS for this ongoing Book Pairings blog. I had A List. It was great.

Unfortunately, I texted it to John O’Neill Once Upon a Hallowed Age, and then promptly forgot all about it. Sneaking back up to the idea now, I realize that I read all those books Oh So Very Long Ago, and I’d have to read them all over again in order to do the pairings properly.

Not that it would be a bad thing…

BGQueenVictoriaI’d gotten off to a pretty good start with my first book pairing, which compared Ancillary Justice and Cordelia’s Honor, and my second, when I stood an anthology called Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells side by side with Sharon Shinn’s Royal Airs.

They were BRILLIANT! And long. And then I sort of… pooped out.

I dunno. I got busy. New job. Crowdfunded for/put together a couple of EPs. Short story collection came out. Where did 2015 GO anyway?

But recently, I read this BEAUTIFUL book– and it reminded me of this OTHER great book, and I just had to write about them.

You know they’re good when you HAVE to write about ’em, right?

Okay! Okay! Since all y’all at Black Gate love your Sword and Sorcery, OH HEAVENS TO MURGATROID, have I got a pairing for you!

One of each. One Sword. One Sorcery. Full of WOMEN! And WIT! And SUBVERSIVE WORLD VIEWS! And, oh, yes — LE ROMANCE, MES PETITES!!!

Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho. And My Beautiful Enemy, by Sherry Thomas.

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The Series Series: Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston

Thursday, January 28th, 2016 | Posted by Sarah Avery

The Shards of Heaven-small[This review may contain trace amounts of David Bowie.]

The jacket copy for Michael Livingtson’s Shards of Heaven sounded promising. I asked for the ARC immediately, and bounced with joy when I found it in my mailbox. Alas, the press release tucked into the book described it as Dan Brown meets Indiana Jones.

Who am I to say Dan Brown is unreadable? Clearly millions of people find him otherwise. To me, though, Brown’s sentences and paragraphs are so relentlessly clunky, ugly, and boring, I am unable to care what happens to any of Brown’s characters. My one attempt to read The Da Vinci Code found me fighting the urge to throw the book across the room, several times on every page.

So the press release made me fear for the well-being of Michael Livingston’s novel. I also feared for my own domestic tranquility: Now that I have children, my household’s penalty for throwing books is a five-minute time-out.

Which was I to believe? The blockbuster-bluster elevator pitch, or the cover copy?

[A]s civil war rages from Rome to Alexandria, and vast armies and navies battle for supremacy, a secret conflict may truly shape the course of history: two sons of Caesar have set out on a ruthless quest to find and control the Shards of Heaven, legendary artifacts said to possess the very power of the gods — or of the one God. Caught up in these cataclysmic events, and the hunt for the Shards, are a pair of exiled Roman legionnaires, a Greek librarian of uncertain loyalties, assassins, spies, slaves . . . and the ten-year-old daughter of Cleopatra herself.

Shards of Heaven has so many of the things Black Gate readers love — epic sweep, battle and brawl, ancient secrets, women one underestimates at one’s peril, and world-shaking magic. Michael Livingston has some nice writing chops. The secret history clearly has a mountain of real historical research to give it depth. How can such a book go wrong?

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Art of the Genre: AotG releases The Folio: The Roslof Keep Campaign

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Folio 1-6 once again available in print!

Folio 1-6 once again available in print!

Today marks several large releases for Art of the Genre. The small press has recently restocked its The Folio: Roslof Keep Campaign books and now has them all available at their online store both individually, and in a package containing all 6 issues from 2015.

In a homage to TSR‘s Dungeon Magazine, The Folio combines incredible masterwork covers (featuring the likes of Jeff Dee, Jeff Laubenstein, Daniel Horne, Jim Holloway, Todd Lockwood, and David Martin thus far) that can be fully removed like the classic TSR modules of the 1970s & 1980s, along with detailed 3D maps, ‘Blue’ OSR maps, a fully formed campaign Gazetteer booklet and Dungeon booklet. Named for former TSR artist and art director Jim Roslof contribution to the cover of B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, this first campaign set takes characters from 1st thru 12th level in both 1E AD&D and 5E mechanics. If you’ve ever enjoyed campaigns the likes of Against the Giants, Bloodstone, or The Temple of Elemental Evil, then this is for you!

This series has been run exclusively on Kickstarter to this point so it is with great excitement that AotG now has the ability to offer these to all those who missed it. Copies can be purchased as a single unit or issue by issue, and remember all are in shrink wrap to keep them in mint condition. Interior adventures include: ROS1 Beneath Roslof Keep, ROS2 Tremors in the Machine, ROS3 Curse of the Violet Corruption, ROS4 Glade of the Burning Dead, ROS5 Deep Dive into Flooded Halls, and ROS6 Realms of Madness and Despair. The AotG website also includes digital bonus supplements for the campaign to help flesh out world and parties as they explore Mithelvarn’s Labyrinth and match wits against the Infernal Machine that drives it.

Coupled with the announcement of this release, AotG has also provided an incredible preview of two module trilogies for 2016 that can be pre-ordered with a Folio Subscription. Press releases for these promise the following.

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