Evolution of the Iron Kingdoms

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

The Iron Kingdoms-small

For twenty years, the folks at Privateer Press have been creating games, primarily set in their Iron Kingdoms steampunk fantasy setting. They began with a series of RPG volumes, including an award-winning trilogy of adventures from 2001. These adventures, later collected into The Witchfire Trilogy, was built on the D20 System from Dungeons and Dragons 3E.

Then Privateer Press really came into their own with the introduction of the Warmachine miniature wargame, focusing on armies that control massive metallic warjacks, one of the iconic creatures from their Iron Kingdoms setting.

It was Warmachine that got me into their world, in about 2005. I like heroes, so I went with Cygnar, the faction that is most stereotypically the classical honorable kingdom of knights and warriors. For those who aren’t inclined toward heroism, there was the religious fanatic Protectorate of Menoth and the undead Cryx. And for those in the middle, there was Khador, thematically based on Russia and known for having the most massive, hulking warjacks in the game. And missiles. Lots of missiles. This miniature line expanded, through Hordes, into battles with savage monstrous warbeasts, fully compatible with Warmachine. The Hordes included the blighted Legion, the druidic Circle of Orboros and their werecreatures, the Trollbloods and their giant troll cousins, and the sadistic Skorne.

It was actually my reviews of Privateer Press – both their wargame line and the RPG supplements – that first landed me in the pages of Black Gate, back in Spring of 2007 in Black Gate 10, when Black Gate actually had physical pages.

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone – 3 Good Reasons: Immune to Murder

Monday, February 24th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

ImmuneMurder_IllustrationWelcome to the third installment of 3 Good Reasons. With a goal of eventually tackling every tale of the Corpus, I’ll give three reasons why the particular story at hand is the best Nero Wolfe of them all. Since I’m writing over seventy ‘Best Story’ essays, the point isn’t actually to pick one – just to point out some of what is good in every adventure featuring Wolfe and Archie. And I’ll toss in one reason it’s not the best story. Now – These essays will contain SPOILERS. You have been warned!

The Story

“Immune to Murder” can be found in Three for the Chair. Wolfe and Archie travel to a hunting lodge in the Adirondacks, owned by oil baron O.V. Bragan. Theodore Kelefy, an ambassador to the US from a third-world, oil-rich country, has requested that Wolfe cook some freshly caught trout. Archie goes fishing while a cranky Wolfe begins cooking lunch – and finds the body of Assistant Secretary of State David Leeson; murdered while out fishing. As has happened in other stories involving important persons as potential suspects, the local authorities aim their suspicions at Wolfe and Archie.  Wolfe is forced to solve the case so he can get back home. And also because the killer offends his pride.

3 GOOD REASONS

Classic Curmudgeon

I have read a few criticisms of Maury Chaykin, in the Nero Wolfe Mysteries television show, for yelling far more than Wolfe did. I think that’s a fair assessment. Though, Wolfe certainly could express his anger somewhat loudly, when he wanted. But over the course of the entire Corpus, it didn’t happen as frequently as the tv series would lead you to believe. However: it is still quite believable for Wolfe, and I don’t think it detracts at all from the performance.

Chaykin (who, sadly, passed away in 2010), through his speech, facial movements and body language, absolutely did convey Wolfe’s demeanor as a cranky curmudgeon. Rex Stout, through Archie, gives examples of Wolfe time after time over the forty-ish years of tales. And “Immune to Murder” absolutely opens up with just such an incident.

After a 328 mile drive from the Manhattan brownstone, to River Bend, a sixteen-room mountain lodge in the Adirondacks, Wolfe’s back hurts. Since he always sits totally stiff and erect when traveling in a motor vehicle, “even with me at the wheel,” as Archie says, that’s not a big surprise. But Wolfe, even more cranky than when he’s at home, says he has lumbago and refuses to leave his room and join the dinner group.

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Call for Backers! Mary Shelley Presents Four Horror Stories by Victorian Women

Sunday, February 23rd, 2020 | Posted by Emily Mah

Trade PBGaskellEveryone’s heard of Frankenstein, and most people also know its author, Mary Shelley, but on the 200th anniversary of that novel’s publication, Kymera Press is doing something very, very cool. Mary Shelley Presents is a graphic novel series about other Victorian women horror writers. These women were famous in their own day, but their legacies have faded over time. Now, with the help of Kickstarter, Kymera press seeks to assemble the multiple stories of this series into one trade paperback that they will then bring to life — okay, okay… I’ll hold off on any other Frankenstein metaphors…

Instead, let me introduce Debbie Daughetee, owner of Kymera Press, and have her tell the story of this book in her own words. Then head on over to Kickstarter to support the trade paperback edition!

Emily Mah: Mary Shelly is a beloved matriarch of horror and this book looks so gorgeous. Can you give us some background on how it came to be?

Debbie Daughetee: Nancy Holder and I have been wanting to work together for a long time. So when the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein loomed, I talked to Nancy about doing something to celebrate it. Neither of us wanted to revisit Frankenstein as it’s been done to death in comics. Finally, we had the thought to have Mary Shelley and her creature introduce horror stories written by Victorian Women.

Mary Shelley and her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, did much for women’s rights and for women writers. It was a natural fit with Kymera Press’ mission statement of supporting women in comics. These Victorian women were as famous in their time as Charles Dickens and Bram Stoker, and yet most people haven’t heard of them. Resurrecting their voices is a fun and interesting adventure for us.

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SFWA Announces the 2019 Nebula Award Nominations

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Ten Thousand Doors of January-small Gods of Jade and Shadow-small Gideon the Ninth-small

It’s nearly the end of February. And that means that the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) has finally put an end to all that suspense, and announced the nominees for the 2019 Nebula Awards, one of the most prestigious awards our industry has to offer.

This year’s nominees are:

Novel

Marque of Caine, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix E. Harrow (Redhook; Orbit UK)
A Memory Called Empire, Arkady Martine (Tor)
Gods of Jade and Shadow, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey; Jo Fletcher)
Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com Publishing)
A Song for a New Day, Sarah Pinsker (Berkley)

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: The Careworn Cuff – Part Three (The Greenstreet Chronicles)

Monday, February 17th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

And it’s the final installment in our three-part adaptation of “The Careworn Cuff,” from the old Nero Wolfe radio show staring Sidney Greenstreet. It’s not going to make much sense of you don’t read Part One, and Part Two, first.

The Careworn Cuff – Part Three (of Three)

Chapter Five 

Nero Wolfe TrainI was back at my desk as Wolfe related what I had missed. It seemed that the brownstone had been pretty busy while I was taking Miss Spencer to her temporary lodgings. Wolfe was nearly as good as me at reporting, though, not surprisingly, he tended towards lazy. I had told him to give it all to me.

“So, I awoke to a noise. It was not the front door.”

Wolfe – “Archie?”

Intruder – “No, not Archie.”

“A man moved to the office doorway. I cannot say that I was surprised at who it was.”

Wolfe – “Ah, our impatient and nonmusical friend. I did not hear the bell. You must have come in through a window. I hope you didn’t break anything.”

Wolfe – “How are you Mister…not Porter, of course.”

Intruder – Where’s the girl?”

Wolfe – “That question is beginning to bore me. I don’t know.”

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Call for Backers! DreamForge Magazine Publishes Standout Stories Like John Jos. Miller’s Ghost of a Smile

Sunday, February 16th, 2020 | Posted by Emily Mah

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DreamForge started with a bang last year, publishing fifty short stories, twelve of which made Tangent Online’s Recommended Reading List. Now they’re planning year two, and need your support on Kickstarter!

FB_IMG_1576012174342One of my favorite stories from last year was “Ghost of a Smile” by John Jos. Miller, with this gorgeous illustration by Elizabeth Leggett. John  was kind enough to answer a few questions. Those of you who are unfamiliar with John may, in fact, have read his books. He’s worked in genre fiction for decades, writing everything from media tie-in to Wild Cards, the shared world series edited by George RR Martin and Melinda Snodgrass. Read on to learn more about his work.

Emily Mah: You’ve been in the business a long time and written a lot of excellent books, from media tie-in to the Wild Cards shared universe. Can you give a rough overview of your work to date?

John Jos. Miller: Yeah, it’s been awhile. Somewhat longer than I’d like to admit, though I did get an early start. I don’t remember exactly when I started writing stories, but I was collecting my first rejection slips when I was about fourteen. I made my first sale to a pro publication when I was sixteen (anyone else remember Witchcraft and Sorcery, which started out as Coven-13?), but the magazine folded before it could print the story, or more importantly, pay me for it. That started an unfortunate trend that lasted for three or four other stories, but finally I sold to one that lasted long enough to both print the story and pay me (it was, in fact, the last story of the last issue of the original run of Fantastic Stories, so perhaps I deserve at least partial blame for killing that one). I had actually written and sold three novellas to Space & Time in the interim, but given the vicissitudes of small press publishing, those didn’t appear until after the story in Fantastic, and Space & Time was such a good ‘zine that even I couldn’t kill it – in fact, it’s still being published today.

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: The Careworn Cuff – Part Two (The Greenstreet Chronicles)

Monday, February 10th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Nero WolfeWe’re back this week with the second installment in our three-part adaptation of The Careworn Cuff, from the old Nero Wolfe radio show staring Sidney Greenstreet. If you missed Part One, you really need to read it first. It might not make Part Two any better, but at least it will make sense!

The Careworn Cuff – Part Two (of Three)

Chapter Three

I found four Dorothy Spencers listed in the phone book; any of which might be our non-client. Wednesday morning, while Wolfe was upstairs for his morning session with the orchids, I eliminated three of them. I couldn’t get a hold of the fourth, so she was still a possibility. I had just made another unsuccessful attempt when I heard the elevator, struggling under Wolfe’s seventh of a ton. If I worked as hard as that elevator, I would definitely demand a raise.

“Good morning Archie. Did you sleep well?”

It’s the same greeting, every day, even if we had already talked that morning. He went to his desk, carrying the day’s orchid. I had already changed the water in the vase on his desk. That’s one of my daily duties. He must have finished the Van Doren book in his room this morning. He had a new one tucked under his arm as he entered.

Sitting at my desk, I had watched him cross the room, returning his greeting as he reached his own oversized one. I was silent until he was settled in his chair, the book placed on the desk. I now saw that it was The Age of Reason, by Thomas Paine. I had a pretty good idea that the discussion at lunch was going to involve Colonial America. History was not one of my favorite subjects as a boy, so I would mostly be listening.

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: The Careworn Cuff – Part One (The Greenstreet Chronicles)

Monday, February 3rd, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

WolfeRadio_GreenstreetI’ve previously mentioned the radio show, The Adventures of Nero Wolfe, starring Sidney Greenstreet. And back in 2017, to middling results, I had written up one of those episodes, Stamped for Murder, as a novella. I tried to stay too true to the dialogue, and to Greenstreet’s rather un-Wolfean portrayal. But, you only have to kick me in the head three or four times before I catch on, so I decided to try again. Below is the first installment of a three-part adaptation of another episode, The Case of the Careworn Cuff. This time, I think I did a much better job of emulating Stout, rather than Greenstreet. Read on, and enjoy!

The Careworn Cuff – Part One

Chapter One

Nero Wolfe was the most brilliant, and also the laziest, detective in the world. He rarely left his brownstone on West 35th Street, and never on business. I lived there, eating the amazing grub prepared by Fritz Brenner, a wonderful chef (do NOT call him a ‘cook’) and a gentle soul. But also a good man in a pinch. His war experiences had hardened him more than appearances might indicate, and he had the scars to prove it. The fourth and final occupant was Theodore Horstmann: more on him in a moment.

Wolfe used his brain, which was only slightly smaller than his prodigious waistline, and his even more massive ego, to pay for the upkeep. Which was considerable. I doubt too many other citizens of New York City ate as well as Wolfe did. And he probably could have bought his own brewery with his beer bill. And of course, there were the orchids.

No matter what some detective stories might lead you to believe, crimes can’t be solved solely from an armchair. Another surprise: crimes don’t only take place while you’re a guest at a country estate. Although, there was that affair of the missing rubies while I was staying at Lily Rowan’s Westchester digs. But that’s another story for another session at the typewriter.

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IMHO: Giving Voices to Your Characters

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

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James Doohan (as Scotty): “I’m giving her all she’s got, Capt’n!”

I owe a great debt of gratitude to my two good friends, who were of immense help to me in the creation and shaping of my two (so far) volumes of Mad Shadows. Neither are strangers to Black Gate, for I interviewed both of them for this e-zine: Ted Rypel (author of the Saga of Gonji Sabatake: The Deathwind Trilogy, Fortress of Lost Worlds, A Hungering of Wolves, and Dark Ventures); and David C. Smith (author of the Oron series, The Fall of the First World Trilogy, the original Red Sonja novels (with Richard L. Tierney), Dark Muse, the recently-released Bright Star; Robert E. Howard: A Literary Biography, for which he won the 2018 Atlantean Award from the Robert E. Howard Foundation, and many other novels, including Waters of Darkness, on which we collaborated.) Both gentlemen write wonderful dialogue, and taught me how to make my characters “talk like real folks.”

Now, I don’t claim to be a great writer nor do I think I’m a “know-it-all” when it comes to plotting, creating characters, telling a story and writing crisp, entertaining and enlightening dialogue. I am far from being a literary genius. I’m not a college professor or a grammar Nazi. I’m not here to tell you what to do and how to do it. We each have our own styles and methods. I’m here to just pass on my own way of doing things, hoping what I have to say will help a writer or two. As far as creating compelling dialogue is concerned — and we’ve all heard this one — my personal rule is:

Give Each of Your Characters Their Own Unique Voice.

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The Changed Face of Geekdom

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

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A party of travelers arrive in a city…

Good afternoon, Readers!

I had a thought – literally just this moment – about geekdom and how much it has changed. Some people’s perception of it appears to be slow in catching up, but that is to be expected, really.

When I was a young girl, growing up in small town Australia, geeks were a bad thing. They were variously sun-deprived, pimply walking skeletons, or sun-deprived, pimply fat blokes. Either way, they were unhygienic outsiders with zero social skills, or, indeed, any redeeming qualities whatsoever.

Rarely now, except for a certain talkshow host who shall remain nameless, do people conjure such an image when speaking of geeks and geekdom any more.

This isn’t, of course, to say that geekdom is without its bad actors. Misogyny and racism (and other foolish ideologies) are still a huge problem in the geek community (though that is thankfully changing, despite the best attempts of a dedicated bunch of morons), but that is a discussion for another day.

Today’s prominent geeks, however, are happily blasting away this stereotype just by being themselves, and it’s wonderful to see. Let’s have a look at some of my favorites geeks in popular culture.

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