Goth Chick News: C2E2 and a Goth Chick Wannabe… The Sequel

Saturday, March 7th, 2020 | Posted by Chris Zemko

Goth Chick C2E2 2020

A couple weeks ago I was startled by a knock on my window. As curiosity got the best of me, I discovered a raven pecking at the glass with a note tied around its leg. My first thought was, “Winter is Coming.” My second thought was, “Evil Hogwarts?” Turns out the second was a lot closer, it was from Goth Chick. I unwrapped the little scroll and read the following….

The Summons

Apparently to maintain her standing in the Goth community, she’s required to attend a “Get Back to Goth” retreat every time a darker shade of black is discovered. Who Knew? If it’s anything like her “Book Club” it’s just a lot of drinking, incense burning, soul devouring and complaining about pastels. But that’s a story for another article.

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Captured at Capricon: The Best of Greg Egan

Sunday, March 1st, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best of Greg Egan-small

Cover by David Ho

I attended Capricon, a friendly science fiction convention here in Chicago, last month. And as usual I spent much of my time wandering the Dealer’s Room, looking for bargains. As I often do I ended up at Greg Ketter’s Dreamhaven booth, where he had a bunch of discount paperbacks. (Yes, I needed a box to get back to my car.) But the most interesting purchase I made wasn’t a vintage Robert Silverberg or A.E. Van Vogt paperback, but a copy of The Best of Greg Egan, the new (and monstrously huge) retrospective collection from Subterranean Press.

I’ve read Egan almost exclusively at short length, and I’ve been very impressed (especially tales like “Reasons to be Cheerful,” the story of a man who slowly learns to reprogram his own personality after a near-fatal brain injury, which I read in Interzone), so this was a very easy decision to make. The collection has been well reviewed at Publishers Weekly (“Egan’s talent for creating well-drawn characters shines”), and Library Journal (“The author’s brand of hard sf is captivating, approachable, and not overly technical”), but the best review I’ve found is Russell Letson’s lengthy feature at Locus Online.

‘Unstable Orbits in the Space of Lies’’ lies somewhere between a Borgesian fable and an old Galaxy-style comic inferno: a literalized metaphor worked out with science-fictional rigor, as an epistemological hobo tries to maintain some independence of mind as he navigates an urban landscape that has been fractured by ‘‘attractors’’ into competing ideological precincts. The physical environment of ‘‘Into Darkness’’ is one of Egan’s topological puzzles, an intruding wormhole through which the narrator moves to rescue people trapped by its alien geometry and physical laws. The story framework is a tense and effective physical adventure, while at the same time the narrator recognizes the metaphorical properties of the space he is traversing.

As massive as this book is (it weighs in at 731 pages), it’s a relative bargain, priced at $45 in hardcover.

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Captured at Capricon: The Lucky Devil Series by Megan Mackie

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Finder of the Lucky Devil-small The Saint of Liars-small

I spent last weekend at Capricon 40, a long-running and very friendly science fiction convention here in Chicago with interesting panels, delightful readings, and a great Dealers Room. One of the highlights of the Dealers Room (besides the jewelry vendors, where I spent a small fortune on gifts for Alice to make up for missing Valentine’s Day) was the Bad Grammar Theater booth manned by Chicago authors Brendan Detzner, K.M. Herkes, R.J. Howell, and Megan Mackie. Bad Grammar is a reading series featuring local authors, and the books they had on display looked darn enticing. I ended up buying a whopping 8 titles  at that booth alone.

Truthfully, I bought a lot of books at the convention — including an overflowing box from Greg Ketter of Dreamhaven Books — and I hope to cover the most interesting titles here over the next few weeks. But the one that leaped into my hands when I finally settled in my big green chair was The Finder of the Lucky Devil, the self-published novel by Megan Mackie, and the opening novel in her Lucky Devil series. It’s got an intriguing premise, and that beautiful cover doesn’t hurt any.

The Finder of the Lucky Devil is an urban fantasy… of sorts. Yes, it’s a fantasy. But it’s also set in a dystopian future Chicago ruled by corporations. I did my homework before digging in, and found it’s been well reviewed at Windy City Reviews and Good Reads, where it enjoys a rating of 4.08 and comments like “a fun read with some heart stopping moments… a fresh urban detective-style fantasy with wizards, fairies, corporate spies, shapeshifters, and even a mermaid dog stylist” (from Rebekah). Here’s a look at the back cover of Lucky Devil and its sequel The Saint of Liars, plus a snippet from one of my favorite reviews.

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Rely on Your Friends to Escape the Dark Castle

Sunday, February 2nd, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Escape from the Dark Castle Gen Con-small

Even kids love board games at Gen Con

I’ve been slowly tracking down the board games that caught my eye at Gen Con last summer. (And to do that, they really had to be something. I wandered a gigantic Exhibit Hall filled with hundreds and hundreds of booths, thousands of new games, and tens of thousands of attendees, and it took three full days to do a complete circuit.) There was no time to investigate anything in real detail, so if it looked good I snapped a quick pic and moved on.

For the past few months I’ve been sifting through those photos, and three weeks ago I came across the one above, of one of the glass cases scattered around the exhibit floor. The first thing that caught my eye was the cute kid — he sure looks like he was having fun. But the second thing was the game in the case: Escape the Dark Castle. The custom dice and oversized cards looked interesting, but most intriguing of all was the cover art, reminiscent of the British Fighting Fantasy game books of the early 80s.

It didn’t take long to find out that Escape the Dark Castle was the debut release from Themeborne in the UK. It was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign in June 2017, and shipped more or less on time in 2018. Themeborne followed up with a second campaign to fund three expansion packs a year later. A little research uncovered some great reviews (at sites like Coop Board Games and Brawlin’ Brothers), but by then I’d already ordered a copy.

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Goth Chick News: The Fireball Makes Our Feet Hurt Less, or 2020 Show Coverage

Thursday, January 16th, 2020 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Goth Chick Press Pass

As the winter doldrums settle over the offices of Black Gate, exacerbating the fug which permanently hangs over the men’s WC, the only remedy is to start thinking about all our upcoming events.

Black Gate photog Chris Z and I will once again be crisscrossing the Midwest seeking out new authors, indie filmmakers and the purveyors of the strange and unusual; partially for our own amusement, but mostly for yours. I mean, let’s be honest, once we’ve downed our customary pre-show Fireball shots, pretty much everything is funny. But I am always careful to get a good night’s sleep before telling you about all we saw, to ensure what I share is interesting, if not hilarious, once we’ve sobered up.

So, without further ado, here is the 2020 lineup. Most of these shows are open to the public and many do a wider national tour, so if you’re interested, be sure to click the link to see if a similar event is coming to a city near you.

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Desperate Heroes in the Oldest City in the World: The City of Kings by Frank West

Thursday, January 9th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The City of Kings at Gen Con 2019 2-small

The City of Kings at Gen Con 2019

My trip to Gen Con this year was a little overwhelming, to be honest. I’d been invited as a guest to the Writer’s Symposium, and I had a fairly packed schedule of panels and presentations. But I did find the time to wander the enormous — and I do mean enormous — Exhibit Hall, jammed end to end with hundreds (maybe thousands?) of booths, all packed with vendors selling games. It was too much to take in all at once, so I learned to snap a photo or two every time I saw something interesting. I brought home plenty of treasures, but there was no way I could afford (or carry!) even a fraction of the items that caught my eye. So in the five months since I’ve returned from Indianapolis I’ve slowly been sifting through hundreds and hundreds of photos, trying to make sense of it all, and occasionally ordering a game or two that I find irresistible.

This has been a fun process of discovery, actually. Just this week, based on my photos and a small amount of internet research, I took a chance on The City of Kings, an ambitious Kickstarter-funded game designed by Frank West, and I’m enormously glad I did. The display at Gen Con was one of the more impressive sights in the hall — the massive game box comes absolutely packed with content, weighing in at nearly 8 pounds — but I didn’t get the chance to spend much more than 60 seconds in the booth. But of the hundreds of titles I saw, it was one of a handful that really stuck in my mind, and when I had a few extra dollars after Christmas I splurged on the core set.

The City of Kings is a fully cooperative fantasy adventure board game, meaning you and up to three friends must work together. You play the surviving leaders in the oldest city in the world, faced with the nearly-impossible task of overcoming the armies of Vesh over a series of seven stories and twelve scenarios. Each story offers different challenges and objectives. The game is playable with 1-4 players (yes, it has a solitaire option); story games run from 90-180 minutes, and the simpler scenarios 45-90 minutes.

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Goth Chick News: Finishing Out “The Season” at the Holiday Horror Con

Thursday, December 5th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Holiday Horror Con 2019-small

Last week I told you about how BG reader R.K. Robinson gave me a bit of grief for writing about Halloween in March. The fact this column is entitled Goth Chick News aside, I couldn’t help but drag him into the coverage of what is normally the last show of “the season.” Days of the Dead used to be where our road-tripping to various horror-related events ended for the year, and we settled into a long winter of Netflicking and reading before picking it all up again at the Halloween Attractions Association show in March; which is where RK came in.

However, this year BG photog Chris Z and I got an offer we could not refuse; not the least of which because it provided a perfect opportunity to offer RK a further extension of the Halloween season. That and because covering a show of this type the weekend after Thanksgiving when the Christmas décor is dripping from everywhere was just too appealing.

Enter the Holiday Horror Con.

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Jim Baen, Warren C. Norwood, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019 | Posted by Pierce Watters

Pierce Watters, Anne McCaffrey, Warren Norwood, and Linda Sanders 1978-small

Pierce Watters, Anne McCaffrey, Warren Norwood, and Linda Sanders (1978)

I got an Advance Review Copy of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at Worldcon ’81 (in Denver).

Jim Baen was handing them out at the Simon & Schuster suite. I was working for Ace, sharing my room with Warren C. Norwood, budding author, and one hell of a good friend. A great drinking buddy, too. The night before, Warren and I spent too much time in the SFWA suite and its free beer.

We saw William F. Wu and James Patrick Kelly. Kelly, Wu, and I, all three of us 1974 Clarion East graduates, were there.

I don’t quite remember how we acquired the copies of the book, but I remember Baen’s grinning face in there somewhere.

I like to call that the night Warren and Pierce almost fell out of a hotel window. Don’t try this if your hotel is higher than the first story. If the curtains in your room somehow come loose and now reside on the hotel room floor, leave them there.

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The Chinese WorldCon Bid for 2023 and the Chengdu Conference of 2019

Saturday, November 30th, 2019 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

The 5th International SF Conference in Chengdu 2019-small

I’ve blogged about some of my authorly visits to China, like my first trip to the 4th International SF Conference in Chengdu in 2017, a trip to study a high-tech company for a commissioned story, and the 2nd Asia-Pacific SF Conference in Beijing in 2019. Both government and private sector are investing in the creative side of the scifi industry, especially writers and editors, in a strategic way to develop the kind of home-grown creative talent that will feed China’s growing movie, TV and game industries. One of the ways they’re doing this is to send their own people to WorldCons, and another is to bring foreign writers and editors to China. A third is that Chengdu, a major SF city, is bidding for the 2023 WorldCon.

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Goth Chick News: It’s Not Over Yet! Days of the Dead Lurches into Chicago

Thursday, November 28th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Days of the Dead 2019

I will start this week’s article with a shout out to Black Gate reader R.K. Robinson who posted “It’s only March!” on my coverage of the Haunted Association and Attractions show. Apparently, he is genuinely unaware that “the season” begins with the HAA which often happens in February (it was late this year) and generally goes all the way into November, ending with Days of the Dead. However, in honor of R.K., Black Gate photog Chris Z and I have accepted an invitation to cover the Holiday Horror Con taking place this weekend outside of Chicago, officially extending “the season” into December.

Next week our Holiday Horror Con coverage will be dedicated to R.K.

But this week we’re talking Days of the Dead (or DotD for you cool kids) and the fabulous event that it was last weekend.

DotD is a horror and pop culture convention with annual stops in Atlanta, Las Vegas, Indianapolis, Charlotte, wrapping up its tour in Chicago. Due to its increasing popularity, the 2019 event here was moved to a bigger hotel venue then in the past, and from the looks of it, probably needs to upsize again next year. As always, DotD attracted an impressive list of celebrity guests including Richard Dreyfuss (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jaws), Steve Guttenberg (Cocoon, Police Academy) and Michael Biehn (Aliens, Terminator) among many others. Additionally, there were over 100, horror-themed vendors selling everything from jewelry to movie memorabilia. What is especially wonderful about DotD in Chicago is the amount of material we always get from meeting indie filmmakers, new artists and aspiring writers.

That, and the opportunity to do a bit of holiday shopping…

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