The Silver Eggheads by Fritz Leiber

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018 | Posted by Steve Carper

The Silver Eggheads, Ballantine F561, 1962, cover by Richard Powers

Fritz Leiber is one of the grand names of f&sf, winner of six Hugo Awards, three Nebula Awards, and two World Fantasy Awards. He is a member of the SF Hall of Fame, a SFWA Grandmaster, and a lifetime achievement recipient from the World Fantasy, Bram Stoker, and Forry Awards. You wouldn’t think any novel of his from the epicenter of his career could be obscure, neglected, or forgotten. And yet, there’s the case of The Silver Eggheads.

As a novelet, “The Silver Eggheads” graced the cover of the January 1959 F&SF, normally as prestigious a slot available at the time. Yet the story has never been anthologized nor ever included in one of his three dozen collections. Possibly that’s because Leiber expanded it to novel length, published as an original paperback by Ballantine in 1962. (Yes, that is a Richard Powers cover, one of the few representational ones he did.) Ballantine reprinted it twice, but no other American publisher has touched it. This novel has been out of print in English for almost 40 years. A few foreign editions slipped in, for multilinguists and obsessive collectors.

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A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

WZRDFRTHST1968As I wrote last time, this excursion through the bookshelves of my younger days was inspired by the recent death of Ursula K. Le Guin. I haven’t read much Le Guin outside the Earthsea books; most of her work hasn’t appealed to me. But the Earthsea books, especially the initial trilogy — A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1970), and The Farthest Shore (1972) — did and, I was glad to find out, still do.

In my article, “Why I’m Here: Part Two,” I described the Elric books as being like samizdat passed around between my friends and me. With so few books actually out there, we fellow fantasy fans read anything we could find, and in turn got it all into everyone else’s hands and read everything they passed along to us. After The Lord of the Rings, I’m sure there were no books as read, and read as often, as Le Guin’s three slender volumes.

There are several whys. The easiest is they are way cool, at least the first and the third. The second is more of a Gothic, and lacks the dragon-battling and dark magic of the others, like this:

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The Poison Apple: Remember Buffy? An Interview with Tie-in Author Nancy Holder

Monday, February 19th, 2018 | Posted by Elizabeth Crowens

Buffy Encyclopedia

Buffy Encyclopedia

Let’s talk about Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

When I was doing the episode guidebooks for Buffy, I was taping Joss Whedon… Remember when Spike moves into the crypt? It was pitch-black dark in there and we were sitting on the crypt for our interview. It had been hard to get him, because he was been busy. I had sat waiting and waiting with these old-fashioned tape recorders that looked like movie cameras, and for both of them the batteries had run down and the tape was spooling out. When we got outside in the bright sunlight, I saw what had happened. I had been going for days without much sleep and there was my interview with Joss… not. The first thing I did was say the f-bomb and then, “Why you? Why you?”

He fixed the tape and said, “It’s okay.” I put more batteries in and asked, “Can you say everything you said over again? And he said, “I’ll try.” I was so embarrassed. But we got it done, and he was great. So articulate and smart.

How often did you get over to the set?

If you add all the days together, I was probably on the Buffy set for the total of a month. I was over on Angel, maybe a week or two.

Buffy had been set up in some empty warehouses in Santa Monica in this place called Bergamot Station. Mutant Enemy was there, and they had all the Buffy stuff there plus the writers offices and post production for Angel. When you went to Angel, it was very Hollywoody, because it was on the Paramount lot. You had the golf cart guys, the scrolly gates at the front…

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The Top Black Gate Posts in January

Sunday, February 18th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

godzilla-planet-of-monsters-radioactive-blast

Ryan Harvey was the man to beat at Black Gate in January. He claimed three of the Top Ten articles — including our overall most popular post last month, a review of the new animated film Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters.

Bob Byrne came in at #2 with his Conan pastiche review round-up, “By Crom: Some Conans are More Equal Than Others…” Fletcher Vredenburgh took third with a look at J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Children of Húrin. Derek Kunsken’s review of Frank Herbert’s classic Dune was the fourth most popular post in January, and Fletcher rounded out the Top Five with “Why I’m Here – Part Two: Some Thoughts on Old Books and Appendix N.”

Our obituary for the great Ursula K. Le Guin was #6, followed by John DeNardo’s Definitive List of the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of last year. Eighth was my article on vintage paperbacks, “Christmas for the Paperback Collector,” followed by Ryan’s review of Beyond the Farthest Star by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Ryan closed out the Top Ten with a piece on that Saturday morning classic, Warlords of Atlantis.

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The Black Panther’s Magical World of Wakanda

Saturday, February 17th, 2018 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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I watched Black Panther yesterday with my 13-year-old son and enjoyed it more than most superhero movies. Ant-Man and the first Iron Man movie usually top my charts for fun superhero movies. Wonder Woman (which I reviewed here) and then Captain America top the charts for me as superhero war movies. The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy and Justice League are too busy and quippy to have much emotional resonance after the popcorn is done. But Black Panther felt very different.

A big part of it was that Black Panther doesn’t spend a whole lot of time in places we know. Sure, there’s a great sequence in Busan, South Korea, but most of it takes place in Wakanda, and Wakanda itself is a powerful experience.  It seems like so much of the visuals in superhero movies are the same, so the surprising and beautiful aesthetic of Afro-futurism hits the eyeballs hard, like tasting a great new food. But with our eyes.

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Modular: Trouble in the ’80’s with Tales from the Loop

Saturday, February 17th, 2018 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

TalesFromTheLoopAs a child of the ’80’s, I grew up with the understanding that a group of kids might stumble upon a series of mysterious events and have to band together to deal with the challenges from it. Parents, law enforcement, and other authorities would be of no help, so there was no point in telling them what was going on. They either wouldn’t believe it or, worse, would stop the kids from fixing things. The kids, through determination and luck, were the only hope to set things right … whether it was finding a way to keep their families from being evicted, returning a strange visitor to another planet, or stopping rampaging monsters. Or, heck, even just making it through a day of detention.

E.T., The Goonies, Stand By Me, The Breakfast Club, Flight of the Navigator, The Last Starfighter, Lost Boys, SpaceCampGremlins. These are the types of films, along with more recent period pieces like The Iron Giant and Stranger Things, and maybe a touch of the SyFy Channel’s television series Eureka thrown in, that inspire the science fiction role-playing game Tales from the Loop from Modiphius Entertainment.

Tales from the Loop centers around a community in the 1980’s that is home to a research center and particle accelerator, called “The Loop.” There are actually two settings outlined in the book: the Swedish island of Svartsjolandet or the American town Boulder City. Whichever community your characters live in, you play a group of Kids who come into contact with a Mystery related to the particle accelerator, and join together to resolve the Mystery. The game can be extremely episodic, great for a standalone one-shot game, or played in a more “sandbox” format where the players are able to explore the setting in more depth, allowing for a more long-term campaign.

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I Need A Vacation – Or Is It A Holiday?

Friday, February 16th, 2018 | Posted by Violette Malan

National LampoonI wonder if there’s still a distinction to be made between holidays and vacations?* Back before “holy day” became “holiday” was there even such a thing as a vacation? Or were holy days really enforced vacations, in the sense that for some of them at least no work was allowed? Would that make the Sabbath a vacation as well as a holy day? Hmmm.

I’m fairly certain that while the two words are now considered synonyms (at least in English) the concept of a vacation as a time of recreational activities is a relatively new one. That is, not just a cessation of work on the part of one’s self, one’s servants and even on occasion one’s animals, but the active pursuing of another activity altogether. Did the Romans go on vacation? Did travelling for a holiday start with the “grand tours” of the 18th century? Or with seaside bathing in the 19th?

Since seaside bathing was considered healthy, as was “taking the waters” in resorts like Bath in England, Lanjeron in Spain, and Baden-Baden in Germany was travel to these places a vacation?

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The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

The Book of Three-smallBear with me for a bit. With the death of Ursula K. Le Guin a few weeks ago, I began thinking about her Earthsea books. They were among the earliest non-Tolkien fantasy books I read. I loved them as a kid, I’ve read them three or four times since, and have fond memories of them. I’ll be looking at the first, A Wizard of Earthsea, next time. Thinking about those books got me thinking about a series I actually read even more times and have even fonder memories of: Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain.

Beginning with The Book of Three (1964), Lloyd Alexander created what has to be one of the first genre-fantasy uses of Celtic mythology (yes, Alan Garner had turned to Celtic themes in his Alderly Edge books, but those books are set in contemporary Britain, not a secondary world). Specifically, he drew on that complex and complicated compendium of Welsh tales, the Mabinogion, for inspiration and names. In this book, the four that follow, and a later collection of short stories, Alexander reworked the idiosyncratic legends into something any modern reader of fantasy would recognize immediately. Gone are the stories of women made from flowers, a human prince trading places with the god of the afterlife, and a king who is gigantic enough to wade to Ireland, and instead, a much more straightforward of a boy learning about the perils and responsibilities of heroism. Considering his intended audience was elementary school readers, it makes perfect sense to simplify, and to introduce a greater degree of coherence. I also imagine many young readers, like I was, were intrigued enough by Alexander’s books to track down the real legends.

In addition to being one of the earliest glosses on Celtic themes, The Book of Three is one of the first times Tolkien’s dark lord trope seeped into the genre. Instead of being a fairly benign lord of the afterlife as he is in the Mabinogion, Arawn is reconfigured as a mostly standard issue dark lord. The original’s mythic paradise, Annwn, is reconstructed here as a dread realm. Rereading The Book of Three for the first time in at least ten years, I was quite happy that I still enjoyed it, but seeing it with older eyes exposed gears and wires I hadn’t paid a mind to before.

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Tell Me A Story: Levar Burton Reads

Monday, February 12th, 2018 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

Reading Rainbow

Admit it. You are singing this song in your head right now. And possibly craving fruit loops.

I’m a child of the 80s. And 90s. I’m technically a member of a little sliver generation in between Gen X and the Millennials, and even that depends on who wrote the chart you’re looking at. But the point is, Levar Burton was a pivotal figure in my childhood. First through “Reading Rainbow”, the long running and highly acclaimed literacy program for children on PBS, and then via “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. I still remember the first season of Reading Rainbow: it premiered in 1983, and I was an avid watcher. When “The Next Generation” premiered four years later, I was just at an age to appreciate it. So when I heard that Burton was launching a new podcast series for adults via Stitcher, I was quick to subscribe.

It has been an outstanding addition to my podcast feed.

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Modular: First Time Out With I Love the Corps

Thursday, February 8th, 2018 | Posted by M Harold Page

256 ILTC Teens Playing

A house full of teens playing I Love the Corps!

“Cover the back of your necks! It’s going for your necks!”

“Use the black hole gun!”

“I’m out of Hero Points!”

“Kill them! Kill them!”

“Argh!”

Yes the house is full of teens playing a review copy of indy game I Love the Corps, a self-consciously SciFi game which hits the notes of 90s Military SF, with a dose of Aliens, plus video games like Call of Duty and Mass Effect (the referee’s book has a handy appendix of inspirations, including music). The lads range from 12 through to 16, with my son Kurtzhau, 14, in the middle and in the thick of it refereeing an ambitious one-shot he’s crafted involving rebel humans and sinister uploading aliens, epic scale space dreadnoughts, and more twists than a sack-full of broken micro USB cables.

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