The 4th International Science Fiction Conference, Chengdu, China, November 2017

Saturday, November 25th, 2017 | Posted by Derek Kunsken


I’ve been cataloguing some of my Paddington-the-Bear adventures in 2017. This year was the first time I went to New York (see A Babe in the Woods: Derek’s Literary Adventures, and Questing in New York! NYCC 2017). I had some other secret adventures this fall that I haven’t blogged about, but recently I had a bigger adventure!

For the first time ever, I was invited to a literary conference to be an Author Guest of Honor. It was the 4th International Science Fiction Conference in Chengdu, Sichuan, China. It was sponsored by SFWorld, a Chinese magazine and book publisher, with media and tech giant Tencent as one of the sponsors. I was one of about a dozen foreign authors and editors in attendance. Here’s a shot of some of the billboards outside the event.

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Wordsmiths: Black Gate Interviews Steven Erikson at Can*Con 2017

Friday, November 17th, 2017 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

As I’ve mentioned periodically here, I’m part of the planning committee for Can*Con, Ottawa’s annual conference on science fiction, fantasy and horror writing, and specifically help to develop each year’s program. This year I had the amazing opportunity to sit down for a live interview with Canadian fantasy writer Steven Erikson, author of the Malazan Book of the Fallen and Willful Child series and one of our 2017 Guests of Honor. And we even recorded it!

Above is the entirety of my interview with Steven, discussing his previous work, his writing process, the fantasy genre in general, and what’s coming next from this prolific author. The chance to chat with him was a huge privilege and an absolute blast, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

You can check out Steven’s work at or his new Facebook author page, and see our previous coverage of his work here at Black Gate.

Also check out Can*Con at (@CanConSF on Twitter) and keep an eye out for dates and guests for 2018!

Many thanks to Silver Stag Studios for filming this interview. Scope them out here (@SilverStagStdio on Twitter).

Scintillation Coming To Montréal In 2018

Friday, November 10th, 2017 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Montreal science fiction

Yesterday, multiple-award-winning writer Jo Walton took a Kickstarter campaign live to fund a new science fiction convention in the city of Montréal. The convention, to be called Scintillation, will focus on literary (written) science fiction and run from October 5 to 7, 2018. The campaign was funded after less than nine hours, and is currently looking to reach its stretch goals, which include a reading and workshop track and an extra night of programming.

Jo Walton’s written over a dozen novels, as well as poetry, essays, and role-playing game manuals, and among her many honours are the John W. Campbell Award, the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature, the Tiptree Award, the Locus Non Fiction Award, the World Fantasy Award (for her novel Tooth and Claw), the Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the Hugo Award for Best Novel (both for her 2011 book Among Others). She’s also experienced at running a convention, having organised a single-track con, Farthing Party, from 2006 to 2014.

She’s already lined up a strong array of guests for Scintillation, including Ada Palmer, Greer Gilman, and Sherwood Smith — about whom Black Gate editor-overlord John O’Neill said in 2012: “If you’re not reading Sherwood Smith, you’re missing out on one of the most gifted and versatile fantasy authors at work today.” There’ll also be a concert by singing group Sassafrass. Having attended Farthing Party in the past, I can personally attest to Jo’s ability to organise and run a fun-filled and thoughtful convention that boasts deep discussion about fantasy, science fiction, and the history of both. I’m already looking forward to Scintillation. Check it out!

Questing in New York! New York ComicCon 2017

Saturday, October 14th, 2017 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

New York ComicCon-logo-2

You may recall that my first trip to New York *ever* was in April, and I blogged about it in A Babe in the Woods: Derek’s Literary Adventures in New York! Well, the training wheels are off and I went on a full grail quest this time around, at New York Comic Con!

I had two major reasons to go to NYCC. First, I enjoy blogging about comics, and interviewing comic creators. So, as a blogger for Black Gate, there were a lot of people I wanted to meet. Second, my prose writing career (short stories and novels) has been going well, but I’ve also wanted to write comic books since I was 10 years old. I’m working on a comic story for a small press anthology right now, but also I went to see what other opportunities there might be.

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GenCon 2017 Pt. 4 – Catch Up Edition

Thursday, September 14th, 2017 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Company of Iron_TOPI’ve covered a number of new games that I saw at Gen Con, including fantasy deck-building games, science fiction games, and youth games. Some games, though, are hard to classify under a large thematic umbrella, defying the tight boxes of genre. Here I’d like to touch on some of those games.

Privateer Press

One of my favorite miniature war games is Warmachine, created by Privateer Press. In fact, my first article with Black Gate was an essay on their Iron Kingdoms RPG line. At that time, the Iron Kingdoms RPG was built on the D20 system, and it’s now a standalone RPG line … but Privateer Press is really known for their miniature line.

In Warmachine, you create an army commanded by a unique warcaster, and comprised of their large, magical, steaming metal constructs called warjacks, supported by units of troops, solo soldiers, and officers. Their companion game, Hordes, is fully compatible, but the warlocks in Hordes use a slightly different magical mechanic to command their feral, rampaging warbeasts. You assemble an army by picking one of the available factions, and then buying, assembling, and (hopefully) painting your miniatures to represent your completed army. The folks over at Penny Arcade have recently begun broadcasting full games of Warmachine for your viewing pleasure, if you want to see what it’s all about. But Privateer Press has major expansions on the horizon for their game lines.

This summer, Privateer Press released Grymkin: The Wicked Harvest, a dark fey-themed faction for Hordes. These are some truly great miniatures, from the child warlock known just as The Child (complete with her companion and protector, Dolly) to the warlock The Dreamer (along with three solos representing fragments of her dream power) to the grotesque porcine Piggybacks and the darkly amusing Neigh Slayers. Words really can’t do these miniatures justice, so check them out on the website.

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Goth Chick News: Holy Cosplayer Batman! Wizard World Comic Con Lands in Chicago

Thursday, September 7th, 2017 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Wizard World Comic Con Chicago 2017-small

There are enough pop culture fanatics and spandex in the city of Chicago to necessitate multiple comic book conventions along with all the celebrity guests, panels and mountains of merchandise that comes with them. While C2E2 dominates the spring season, the end of the summer is the domain of Wizard World Comic Con, where a dizzying array of cosplayers mingle with thousands of guests at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL.

Founded in 1972 as Nostalgia ’72 by local comic dealer / school teach Nancy Warner and housed in a local Chicago hotel banquet room, this year’s con boasted an estimated 110K attendees over the four-day event at the end of August. Wizard World Chicago is now the third largest such event in overall attendance in the US, behind only the New York Comic Con, and Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Originally showcasing comic books and related popular arts, the convention has expanded over the years to include a larger range of pop culture elements, such as professional wrestling, science fiction/fantasy, film/television, horror, animation, anime, manga, toys, collectible card games, video games, webcomics, and fantasy novels.

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GenCon 2017 Pt. 3, Youth Edition

Friday, September 1st, 2017 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

StuffedFablesDemoI’ve been making my through the games that I saw at this year’s GenCon, first of fantasy deck-building games and then some science fiction games, but I’d like to focus now on games with a particular audience focus: games for kids.

Stuffed Fables

Over the years, I’ve become a huge fan of RPG-in-a-box style games. While I love my old school Dungeons & Dragons, the fact of the matter is that I don’t always have the time to create an ongoing, engaging storyline, create NPCs, and so on. Games that can generate  the storytelling experience that I love from role-playing games, but eliminate much of the up front work, are definitely things that catch my eye. One of the knockout games of this type is Plaid Hat Games’ Mice & Mystics (Amazon, Plaid Hat), which I first learned about and discussed at GenCon in 2012. My youngest son was a mere 2 years old at the time, so too young for the game, but now it’s one of his favorite games, and one of the more epic games that are enjoyed equally by myself, both my kids, and my wife. The game has two expansions, Heart of Glorm and Downwood Tales, as well as a spin-off Tail Feathers (Amazon, Plaid Hat), which is more of a tactical wargame in a box, as you play mice and rats who wage war on each other by riding on the back of sparrows and ravens. There are also infantry troops, and the heroes and villains from Mice & Mystics can be incorporated as solo units in Tail Feathers.

Jerry Hawthorne, creator of these games, has a new release coming up from Plaid Hat Games, which seems like it will be equally endearing. The game, Stuffed Fables, tells the story of a group of stuffed animals who, upon the first night that their child owner is in her big girl bed, learn that there are evil forces that seek to draw her into a world of nightmares. The first in Plaid Hat Games’ AdventureBook series, Stuffed Fables is an adventures that takes place by proceeding through pages in a book. The book contains both the map for the scene that is unfolding, as well as the storyline you follow as you play, giving you directions of what encounters take place on the given map, what happens when villains are defeated (or not), whether any new information is provided about the storyline, and so on. (This is one advantage over Mice & Mystics, which includes an expansive tile-based game board but then has you flipping through a separate story book to figure out what happens on a particular tile.)

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GenCon 2017, Pt. 2: Science Fiction Edition

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

starfinderScience fiction themes were front and center at GenCon this year, in a way that surpasses what I have seen in previous years. Usually the science fiction games are almost entirely tied into existing property lines, like the various Star Wars miniature battle lines produced by Fantasy Flight Games. These were certainly present, but they were matched by new science fiction games that had an appeal independent of being tied to well-established and beloved properties.

I’ll dig into several of these games more deeply in future full reviews, but for now here are some high-level looks at some of the new science fiction-themed games and expansions from GenCon.


The release of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game was one of the central events of the convention, the science fiction/space fantasy game set in the distant future of Paizo’s Pathfinder universe. We’ve spoken about Starfinder previously (see here, here, and here). I’ve been enthusiastic about the prospect of this game since the day it was announced, so it’s a pleasure to see that its release was an astounding success. As Erik Mona of Paizo explained to me, the company had looked at their past records and brought more copies of the Starfinder Core Rulebook than the number of any previous book they’ve ever released at GenCon … and it sold out in less than 7 hours. (The PDF, however, is available through for only $9.99!)

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GenCon 2017, Pt. 1: Fantasy Deck-Building Games

Saturday, August 19th, 2017 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Cardhalla at GenCon is a fundraiser. Over the four day event, donated cards are used to build elaborate towers and other structures. On Sunday, convention goers hurl coins at the structures to topple them ... and the collected funds are donated,

Cardhalla at GenCon is a fundraiser. Over the four day event, donated cards are used to build elaborate towers and other structures. On Sunday, convention goers hurl coins at the structures to topple them … and the collected funds are donated,

This is the 50th year of GenCon, “The Best Four Days in Gaming” convention, since its humble beginnings as a small convention of gamers in Lake Geneva. In what I believe is a first ever in Indianapolis, the convention is completely sold out, without offering any at-the-door purchase of badges. Fortunately, mine was waiting for me in the press room.

Over the years, GenCon has expanded to fill every available space in downtown Indianapolis. In addition to using the entire Indianapolis Convention Center, Lucas Oil Stadium (where the Indiana Pacers play baketball) now house the True Dungeon living dungeon crawl, the game library, and the Mayfair Games play areas, while tendrils of GenCon spread out into the ballrooms and meeting rooms of several hotels on adjacent blocks.

And with the rise of Kickstarter, there are more small, independent game companies than ever vying for attention, promoting not only their existing lines of products but also their upcoming Kickstarter campaigns. Trying to make sense of all of the different games is easiest if I try to tackle them by theme and play style, and one type of game that seemed prevalent on the first day of the convention were deck-building games with a fantasy theme.

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Goth Chick News: Comics (and Potentially You) Get Dragged…

Thursday, July 27th, 2017 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Black Gate Goth Chick News ComicCon 2017

Sometimes, horror-related or not, a story is just too good not to share.

With the Chicago Comic Con still a few weeks off, the GCN staff has been glued to our screens watching all the going’s on at the mother-of-all cons, the San Diego Comic Con (SDCC for you cool kids) which wrapped up last Sunday.

Like any comic con, when you get this many people with this much…uh…passion together in one place, there are bound to be shenanigans. However the big surprise this year didn’t come to us courtesy of an over-enthusiastic cosplayer after too many adult beverages mixed with Red Bull, but instead from what has become a consistent player on the stage of WTF…the airline industry.

After gaining infamy from their “aggressive” removal of a passenger from a flight earlier this year, United Airlines prevented passengers leaving the SDCC via San Diego International, from carrying comic books in their checked baggage.

No, I’m not kidding.

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