Goth Chick News: Before the Turkey There Was Days of the Dead

Thursday, November 29th, 2018 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Days of the Dead 2018-small

For the last six years, Goth Chick News has concluded the haunt season with a final show which rolls through Chicago each November. Days of the Dead (DotD for you cool kids) has always been an interesting experience and the 2018 show which occurred last weekend was no exception.

In past years DotD has resulted in memorable encounters with the likes of Vampire Santa, Carrie Henn who played “Newt” in the movie Aliens, and my spiritual hubby, Brad Miska aka “Mr. Disgusting” owner of the premier horror website Bloody Disgusting. It has also been the source of quite a lot of under-the-breath commentary from Black Gate photog Chris Z such as his whispered “What the f***?” when Sleepy Hollow actress and former Tim Burton muse finally showed up to her press call (click here for why) and his speculation on the cause of Tara Reid’s extreme tardiness which likely wasn’t the “late lunch” her handler offered.

The 2018 event was a little thin on “celebrity” front with the biggest names being Clive Barker, who was quite a score since getting someone out of LA to Chicago in November is no small accomplishment, and the rapper Coolio who I guess was there for his appearance in the 2004 movie Dracula 3000 and not his web foodie show Cooking With Coolio. Nonetheless, there was still a lot of fun stuff to share.

So let’s dive in shall we?

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Vintage Treasures: The Dreamhaven Box

Monday, November 26th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Windycon box-small

49 beautiful vintage paperbacks for $36, courtesy of Dreamhaven Books

On years I attend the World Fantasy Convention I don’t usually do Windycon, the local convention here in Chicago, the very next week. I don’t typically have the stamina for two back-to-back cons. But this year Richard Chwedyk, who runs the Saturday Writer’s Workshop at Windycon, asked me to fill in as a judge, and I learned that my friend Rich Horton and his wife Mary Anne were making the long drive from Missouri. So I decided to register for the con.

I made it to the Dealer’s Room only a few minutes before they closed Friday night. And who did I find in the back but the tireless Greg Ketter and his wife Lisa Freitag, manning the well-stocked Dreamhaven Books table. I’d seen both of them at World Fantasy, where they’d also had a table. They’d packed that up, driven from Baltimore to Minneapolis, and then here to Chicago — with brand new stock! Talk about stamina.

While we were chatting in front of their booth I discovered eight boxes at my feet, tightly crammed with paperbacks. “They’re all a dollar,” Lisa said, noticing my distracted gaze. “Less than that if you buy a bunch.”

Gentle reader, I bought a bunch.

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Conan and the Philosopher of Swords: Damon Young at the Edinburgh Book Festival and in Island Magazine

Thursday, November 22nd, 2018 | Posted by M Harold Page

Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion.

Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion.

Art by Brom for "Queen of the Black Coast"

Conan the Id-barian…

A dozen of us sit in the round, beards bushing, long hair flowing over metalesque T-shirts. An energetic 40-something bloke hands out sheets and clipboards. Each bears a picture of Conan the Barbarian.

We’re at the super highbrow Edinburgh International Book Festival, but it feels like an over-stuffed old-school D&D group.

It’s a mostly male ensemble. My teen-aged son is the the youngest, I’m probably the least cool, and there are faces I recognise from the monthly Event Horizon SciFi gig.

However, we’re not actually here to roll dice. Rather, it’s one of the Book Festival’s Reading Workshops: intimate symposiums on reading a particular author or book. In this case — you guessed it — Damon Young, academic philosopher and Australian progressive public intellectual, is about lead a discussion on the Conan stories by the very late, but — by Crom he was too young when he died! — still lamented Robert E Howard:

Damon Young is an award-winning writer and philosopher. Join him for today’s workshop exploring Robert E Howard’s lovingly crafted sword and sorcery hero. Howard created Conan the Barbarian for a magazine in the 1930s and it has since spawned countless books, comics, video games and films. Expect an open discussion from the start; you can read the stories ahead of the event or be inspired to pick them up afterwards.

Take a moment to savour that.

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Conquerors, Betrayers, and Lovers: Not One of Us: Stories of Aliens on Earth, edited by Neil Clarke

Tuesday, November 20th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Not One of Us Neil Clarke-small Not One of Us Neil Clarke-back-small

I ran into Neil Clarke at the World Fantasy Convention two weeks ago and had the chance to catch up, however briefly, as we chatted in the Dealer’s Room. Since retiring from his day job Neil has become something of an editing dynamo. In addition to editing and publishing Clarkesworld every month, one of the most acclaimed magazines in the field, he’s also produced some of my favorite anthologies of the past two years, including Galactic Empires, The Final Frontier, and of course his annual Best Science Fiction of the Year books, the most recent of which was Volume Three.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to pick up his latest, the generously-sized reprint anthology Not One of Us: Stories of Aliens on Earth, which contains work by Nancy Kress, Steve Rasnic Tem, Robert Reed, Liu Cixin, Rich Larson, Kelly Robson, James Patrick Kelly, Molly Tanzer, Caroline M. Yoachim, Judith Berman, Ian McDonald, Paul McAuley, Ken Liu, Ted Chiang, and others. Publishers Weekly gave it a rave review; have a look.

Collecting 21 stories from the last two decades, this hefty and fascinating theme anthology focuses on one of SF’s major issues: If aliens aren’t just bug-eyed monsters with no more than rape and plunder on their minds, what else — who else — could they be?… The short stories frequently make good use of their length to shift perspectives abruptly, putting readers not just in the presence but inside the skins of aliens who might be conquerors, teachers, betrayers, or lovers — or some all-too-human combination. They also aren’t afraid to tackle contemporary political hot topics such as immigration, citizenship, and belonging. Outstanding works by Nancy Kress (“Laws of Survival”), Judith Berman (“The Fear Gun”), and Ted Chiang (“Story of Your Life”) are highlights, but there are no inferior pieces here. This is a fine, thoughtful book.

Read the complete review here. Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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Goth Chick News: Visiting Great America’s Fright Fest, I Mean Hell Fest… Well Neither Actually

Thursday, September 27th, 2018 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Six Flags Fright Fest

It was in my second year of writing for Black Gate, that I was invited to my very first Halloween press event, which was to cover our local Six Flags Amusement Park’s Fright Fest. Launched in 1993, the Gurnee, IL attraction, Six Flags Great America, is hosting its 25th Fright Fest this year, and the Friday prior to its opening Saturday night has traditionally been used as a “dress rehearsal” for the staff while also hosting corporate outings and press. Attendance is held to 2000 people which is awesome for a park that reportedly has a capacity of 30K. This means lines are short and its actually possible to hit up all the rides as well as the special “haunted attractions” in the five hours the park is open that evening.

Over the years Fright Fest has had its ups and downs which seems to have loosely followed the mood of America itself. In 1999, Six Flags licensed and opened Alice Cooper’s Brutal Planet “haunted house,” featuring music from the album and using leather-clad go-go dancers as entertainment while you waited in line – assuming, I can only suppose, that something called “Fright Fest” was meant to be more of an “adult” event. Six Flags also licensed other intellectual properties for mazes and scare zones over the years, including the Saw films. Décor in the park back then pulled no punches, with elaborate and sometimes very gory scenes set up in the grassy areas, and impressive, movie-quality makeup on the actors.

Following the real-life horror of 2001, Great America pulled way back. That year and for several years after, Fright Fest became family friendly in the extreme with almost no decorations and the scares confined to a corn maze and lots of creepy clowns. I didn’t mind. We’d seen enough stuff on the news to last us awhile.

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Goth Chick News: Wizard World’s 2018 Chicago Comic Con

Thursday, September 6th, 2018 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Wizardworld Comic Con Chicago 2018

Nothing says summer in Chicago like the annual August bacchanalia that is Wizard World’s Chicago Comic Con. Granted, the title Granddaddy of All Comic Cons still belongs to San Diego, which paces our attendance at 167K fans annually, but the local Midwest version is still a sight to behold.

Though exact attendance figures haven’t been made public since 2009, estimates place the August, 2018 event at the Donald A. Stephens Convention Center at over 100K. With more than 300 exhibitors, many of which attend a number of Wizard World shows across the country every year, all (and I do mean all) of the 840K square feet of exhibition space is consumed. Black Gate photog Chris Z and I have covered this event since 2010 and its been amazing to watch the show nearly double in size, both in the number of exhibitors as well as attendees, during the past eight years. It is equally amazing to consider the guy who works on your car during the day may be dressed like Superman for four days every summer.

Because though it is billed as a “comic” convention, Wizard World draws in a large number of cosplayers from all over the region, and they are what make this event one we never miss. The costumes are simply incredible, but just as entertaining are those which are not; created from cardboard and fabric scraps and held together by the sheer love of a particular character.

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The Games of Gen Con 2018

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

PathfinderPlaytest

As you walk through the convention hall at Gen Con, moving from demo to demo and panel to panel, you can’t help but be overwhelmed by the advertisements everywhere, trying to catch your attention for the latest big game. Usually, there are one or two big new games that just seem to overwhelm the convention, often tied into big properties.

This year, the big new game at Gen Con wasn’t new. Not really. Pathfinder has long had a strong, even overwhelming, presence at Gen Con, so the promotion of the release of the Pathfinder Playtest this year felt pretty natural. Next year, we can anticipate the big release to be the Pathfinder Second Edition RPG, but for now the playtesting has begun.

I’ll cover the details of the Pathfinder Playtest in more depth in the upcoming weeks and months. I played two Pathfinder Society sessions of the playtest, at levels 1 and 5, so got a fair idea of how the bones of the new system operates. Fortunately, you don’t have to, because the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook along with all other materials needed for play are available for free download at the Paizo website.

These downloads include the Doomsday Dawn campaign, a series of 7 adventures ranging from levels 1 to 17. These adventures aren’t all played with the same group of characters, although the core group of characters created for the level 1 adventure are re-used every couple of adventures at higher levels, so they’re really the “heroes” of the campaign. There are also three Pathfinder Society scenarios built for the playtest, to teach and test various elements of the game. And, of course, the Rulebook contains everything that a Gamemaster needs to create an original homebrew adventure or campaign for their group, to test out the rules in ways of their own devising.

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E3 2018: Xbox Press Conference

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018 | Posted by Matt Drought

E3-2018-Xbox-E3-Briefing-E3-1-small

Every year, in early summer, the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) showcases the industry’s upcoming games, gaming tech, and gaming culture. Studios from around the world vie to create a buzz for their brands by announcing new games, new content for existing games, and upcoming new hardware.

The largest Studios, such as Xbox, Bethesda, Playstation, etc. hold live, large press conferences that can be viewed in person, streamed live, or be watched later on the internet. These press conferences are fairly long events, often lasting over an hour. Typical content for these events are live game demos, prerecorded demos, and short video teasers for games not far in development. These presentations sometimes include celebrities and often include developer commentary.

This year, the first press conference was held by Xbox.

As I have mentioned in the past, Xbox has been losing the “console war” to Playstation. With the Playstation 4 outselling the Xbox, the Microsoft brand had a lot riding on this years E3 conference.

In order to convince consumers that their consoles are the place to play the best games, Xbox needed to double down on compelling exclusive games, timed released games, and DLC. They would need to create games and content that they can get nowhere else.

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Origins Game Fair: Games Galore

Thursday, June 28th, 2018 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

moonshaestormsTwo weekends ago, I trekked out to Columbus, OH, from my home gaming grounds of central Indiana, in order to experience my first Origins Game Fair. I’ve covered it in a couple of previous posts, the Origins Awards and my talk with the folks at Paizo about their upcoming Pathfinder Playtest and organized play options. But, of course, when you’re at a convention like this, one of the nice things is to walk around the exhibit hall and get exposed to new games.

Origins is different from GenCon, in that many companies build their entire annual release schedule around having big GenCon releases and announcements of upcoming releases. Origins, on the other hand, is more about playing games, and there seemed far less of an emphasis on having the early release of brand new, never-before-seen games. Still, there were some new treasures there … either ones that were completely new, or ones that I was exposed to for the first time, at least.

One of the big new releases being shown off at Origins was Catalyst Game Labs’ new expansion for the Dungeons & Dragons deck-building game Dragonfire. The new “campaign box” expansion, Moonshae Storms (Amazon), was available. Moonshae Storms adds new adventure cards and continues the “An Ancient Evil Arises” campaign storyline from the Dragonfire base game, and also expands the options with a Mountain setting, various new monsters to fight (including lycanthropes and fomorians) and market cards and magic items for players to acquire as part of their decks, as well as 8 new character cards. Dragonfire has had a couple of smaller Adventure Packs released over the last year, and a couple more on the horizon, but Moonshae Storms is a much more substantial increase in the game options than presented by those smaller adventures.

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DMR Books Brings Pulp Sword & Sorcery Back Into Print

Saturday, May 5th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Sapphire Goddess The Fantasies of Nictzin Dyalhis-small The Thief of Forthe and Other Stories by Clifford Ball-small

Last month I rented a booth at the Windy City Pulp and Paper show here in Chicago — my favorite local convention — and piled it high with brand new hardcovers and trade paperbacks I was giving away. I had 31 boxes of leftover review copies, duplicates from my collection, and hundreds of rare advance proofs to get out of my basement, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Bob Byrne and Steven Silver made long drives to the con to help staff the booth, and we were looking forward to handing out books to grateful attendees.

Reality was a little bit different. Most folks passed by our booth with barely a glance. If Bob and Steve and I hadn’t been tirelessly peddling books, handing out free copies as people passed by, and carting books by the dozens to the freebie pile at registration every few hours, we’d probably still be there. This was an audience more interested in pulps and vintage paperbacks than brand new science fiction and fantasy, apparently.

It’s not true that there was no interest in our booth. After eight long hours unsuccessfully giving away books on Friday, Dave Ritzlin from DMR Books joined us on Saturday, and we gladly made space for him in the booth. Once we did interest picked up immediately, as folks zeroed in on his attractive selection — and especially his new releases, The Sapphire Goddess: The Fantasies of Nictzin Dyalhis and The Thief of Forthe and Other Stories by Clifford Ball.

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