On Writing Advice

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

Black Gate clouds-small

This isn’t my view, but it’s pretty darn close

Good afternoon, Readers!

It’s a beautiful summer’s day here in Ottawa, Canada as of the writing of this. A lovely cool breeze is coming in the window, mitigating the heat of the sun, while cotton-puff clouds float through an impossibly blue sky.

I’m sitting by the window while my dad cooks a spectacular fry- up brunch, letting my thoughts drift with the clouds. I have nothing with me but his old iPad and a cup of delicious locally roasted coffee from my friends at JenEric Coffee.

This is all a poetic way of saying that I’ve been thinking a lot about writing advice of late, and I figured I would share my thoughts with you.

(You want clumsy segues? I’m your gal!)

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Alien

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Alien poster

Alien poster

Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Jones

Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Jones

The Best Dramatic Presentation category was not one of the original Hugo categories in 1953, but was introduced in 1958, when it was won by The Incredible Shrinking Man. No Award won in 1959 followed by three years of The Twilight Zone and another No Award. The Award, called variously Best Dramatic Presentation and Best SF or Fantasy Movie, was given out annually from 1958 through 2002 when it was split into two categories, one for Short Form and one for Long Form. In 1980, the Hugo Award was presented at Noreascon Two in Boston, Massachusetts on August 31.

In 1972, the British Fantasy Society began giving out the August Derleth Fantasy Awards for best novel as voted on by their members. In 1976 the name was changed to the British Fantasy Award, although the August Derleth name was still the name for the Best Novel Award. A category for Best Film was created in 1973 and ran years until 1990 and has not been replaced. In 1980, the awards were presented at Fantasycon VI in Birmingham.

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was released in 1968.  Eleven years later, Ridley Scott released Alien. Although one is generally thought of as a spiritual science fiction film and the other is a science fiction horror film, there are similarities between the two.

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A Whole World of Metal Men?

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

1937-10-17 San Francisco Examiner [American Weekly 3] A Whole World of Metal Men, The Last Robot

“Creaking painfully, its joints rusty, the last robot to survive the civilization which man is making to replace the dwindling crop of babies, would crawl along to a heap of scrap-iron, the cemetery for defunct robots.

“Rain, ceaseless torrents of rain, would bring the germs of the only disease which could possibly affect a mechanical man: Rust.”

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Night Shift, by Stephen King

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Fred Marcellino

Cover by Fred Marcellino

Outer cover by Don Brautigam

Outer cover by Don Brautigam

Inner cover by Don Brautigam

Inner cover by Don Brautigam

The Balrog Award, often referred to as the coveted Balrog Award, was created by Jonathan Bacon and first conceived in issue 10/11 of his Fantasy Crossroads fanzine in 1977 and actually announced in the final issue, where he also proposed the Smitty Awards for fantasy poetry. The awards were presented for the first time at Fool-Con II at the Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas on April 1, 1979. The awards were never taken particularly seriously, even by those who won the award. The final awards were presented in 1985. The Balrog Award for Collection/Anthology was presented each year that the awards were active.

The stories in Night Shift cover a period from the late 1960s through 1976, a time when King was maturing as an author and finding his own voice as well as becoming a best selling author. Many of the stones in Night Shift would form the basis of novels and films, notably “Jerusalem’s Lot,” “Lawnmower Man,” “children of the corn,” and “Graveyard Shift.”

King opens The collection with “Jerusalem’s Lot,” which was a previously unpublished version of his novel Salem’s Lot. Although King comments that the story has a basis in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it’s even more obvious antecedents are the works of H. P. Lovecraft. Even as King tries to emulate Lovecraft’s style, he never quite captures it, making the story of The Boone family in  Maine feel overwritten rather than chilling. By the time King gets to “The Man Who Loves Flowers,” he has discovered that a more naturalistic world provides the opportunity for much more chilling horror. The fantastic creatures of “Jerusalem’s Lot” could only happen in fiction or dreams, but the sociopathic horror of kings’ protagonist in he later story could be anyone the reader meets on the street.

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Reflecting The World

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

Diverse Rome

Yes, there were black people in Europe, dating as far back as the Bronze Age. Kindly get over it.

Good morning, Readers!

It’s pride month, so I’m going to talk about representation.

As much as speculative fiction can be an escape from the world, it is also a reflection of the world in which we live. It reflects to us our failings, fears and hopes in fantastical settings. Often times, these are set in worlds which are supposed to closely reflect our own world, or its history. But there’s a problem.

They don’t. Not really. Or rather, not often.

In fact, so pervasive is this psuedo-representation that now there is outrage when something closer to reality is portrayed in speculative fiction, be it book or film.

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Derek and his Niece Binge Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur

Saturday, June 15th, 2019 | Posted by Derek Kunsken


My son and I are travelling with my brother and his family. I have taken the opportunity to read with my 8-year old niece, who has virtually no experience with super heroics, although a few years ago, I did read several trades of Tiny Titans to her.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand Returns!

Monday, June 10th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Gat_HardboiledPronziniEDITEDWith only three stories remaining, Hither Came Conan is taking a Monday off. We began trodding jeweled thrones beneath our feet back on January 7th. The series started the week after A (Black) Gat in the Hand, a hardboiled/pulp column, wrapped up its 34-week run on December 3st, 2018.

Well, after we talk about our last Conan story next month, A (Black) Gat in the Hand is making another summer appearance! With an attempt to cover a broader pulp range this time around, I’ve lined up another excellent bunch of guest posters. Of course, we’ll still be talking hardboiled, but there was a lot of good reading in other genres back in the pulp heyday.

“Sure, Bob. Who are these ‘guest posters’ you allegedly have lined up?” I’m glad you asked. Actually, I’m not, but I’ll answer anyways.

William Patrick Murray is going to tell us about my favorite pulp hero, Doc Savage. James Reasoner, who has forgotten more western pulp stuff than I’ve ever learned about, has a couple of contributions. Author Duane Spurlock will also be talking about westerns. It was a more popular genre than even hardboiled, you know!

Steve Scott, who knows more about John D. MacDonald than I do (and I can hold my own regarding John MacD!) has an essay on one of JDM’s few attempts at a series character, pre-Travis McGee.

I’ve long soaked up pulp knowledge from the writings of Evan Lewis and Stephen Mertz. Evan is going to be a guest poster, and Stephen agreed to let me use his excellent essay on the hardboiled pioneer, Carroll John Daly. And I got permission to reprint an essay from one of my favorite people, the late Bill Crider!!!

Paul Bishop, my go-to guy for Robert E. Howard boxing info, will be writing about a cool South African post-pulp series. And my new Windy City Pulp And Paper buddy, Joshua Dinges, will be writing on a very unique pulp topic.

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Man of Steel vs. Man of Metal

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

World’s Finest Comics #6, Summer 1942, p11 Metalo

Back in 1870, the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser newspaper bannered on its front page the arrival in New York of a troupe of French champion strongmen, including Monsieur D’Atelie: the “Man of Steel.” The article described him as:

33 years of age, and rather slightly built. He has a prepossessing, benevolant expression of countenance. His specialty is lifting objects with his teeth, including a live horse by means of a band round its body. D’Atalie weighs 150 pounds.

D’Atalie is the first person I’ve found to bear the sobriquet “man of steel,” although its metaphorical uses go much farther back. He certainly wouldn’t be the last. A certain Russian communist adopted the name Stalin in 1912, which can be translated as “man of steel,” and who was fairly well known by the 1930s.

Another “man of steel” made his first appearance in 1938, on the cover of Action Comics #1. Assiduous readers of Action Comics #6, later in 1938, could have caught a newspaper headline from the Daily Star (the Daily Planet wouldn’t get mentioned until 1940) describing this mystery figure as a “man of steel”. Superman and “Man of Steel” have been inextricably interlinked for 81 years.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: “The Way of Cross and Dragon,” by George R. R. Martin

Monday, June 3rd, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Peter Caras

Cover by Peter Caras

The Hugo Award was first presented at the 11th World Science Fiction Convention (sometimes called Philcon II), held in Philadelphia from September 5-7, 1953. No short fiction awards were presented the first year. In 1955, the first award for Best Short Fiction, not yet known as a Hugo Award, was given to Eric Frank Russell’s “Allamagoosa.” The Short Story award has been presented annually since its introduction in 1955 with the exception of 1957. The Hugo Awards are nominated and voted on by the members of the World Science Fiction Convention. Martin won two Hugo Awards in 1980, for “The Way of Cross and Dragon” in the Short Story Category and “Sandkings” in the Novelette category. He had previously won a Hugo for his novella “A Song for Lya” in 1975 and would win a second novella award for “Blood of the Dragon” as well as a Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form Hugo for season 1 of Game of Thrones. The only fiction category in which he has not yet won a Hugo is the Best Novel category. In 1980, the Hugo Award was presented at Noreascon Two in Boston, Massachusetts on August 31.

The Locus Awards were established in 1972 and presented by Locus Magazine based on a poll of its readers. In more recent years, the poll has been opened up to on-line readers, although subscribers’ votes have been given extra weight. At various times the award has been presented at Westercon and, more recently, at a weekend sponsored by Locus at the Science Fiction Museum (now MoPop) in Seattle. The Best Short Story/Short Fiction Award was one of the inaugural awards, when it was won by Harlan Ellison for “The Region Between.” Ellison won the award 6 times in its first 9 years. In 1980, George R. R. Martin won the tenth annual award for “The Way of Cross and Dragon,” which appeared in Omni magazine. In 1980. The Locus Poll received 854 responses.

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And the Bright Star Falls Behind: On Gene Wolfe

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney


Gene Wolfe at Top Shelf Books in Palatine, IL

When John asked me to write an article for Black Gate about Gene Wolfe, I agreed immediately. I had written a blog about his passing, and a poem, and then a remembrance for the latest issue of Locus — the print magazine, not the online zine, although they have a wonderful remembrance of him here.

I wanted to keep writing about him, as if writing were an act of resurrection. I wanted to write everything.

But instead of getting easier, it’s been getting harder. I’ve been wracking my brains about this blog. So many amazing articles have been coming out about Gene, beautiful interviews and retrospectives. What more can I say? My memory is panicky, faulty. I don’t know what to add.

I’m not an expert on Gene’s work. I’ve read a good deal of it, but not everything. I knew him more as a mentor and a person than as a writer. I was looking forward to having my whole life to read his work.

But I’ve gathered up here, for you, some of my favorite articles about Gene by people who are much more critically familiar with his writing than I am.

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