Backstory Cards: for Roleplayers, Writers, and Game-Runners

Friday, April 20th, 2018 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney

Tim

So, our friend Tim Rodriguez came by our home a few weeks back when we were hosting a game-night. We’d thrown the doors open to a bunch of game-lovers of our acquaintance for a night of food and play, and they flocked in with their favorite games (Wari, or Oware, being the game that got the most giggles) and some very fine (I was told) single malt whiskey. (Or maybe it was double-barreled? Something. I don’t know; I was too busy making lasagna.)

Anyway, Tim brought some new Backstory Cards to playtest. Most of us (including me) who volunteered to playtest with him hadn’t role-played in, well, ever. Or at least for years, the fog of memory obscuring most of the details.

. . . But since we were just testing the cards for story-potential and not playing an actual game, it seemed to work out well enough, and pretty soon we were all, like, a gaggle of giant fungal glow-in-the-dark monster crabs running around ravaged urban landscapes bringing down mobsters. You know. Like you do.

And sometime in all the chaos, Tim may have mentioned something about a new Kickstarter project.

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Fire Dance: An Interview with Ilana C. Myer

Thursday, April 12th, 2018 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Last-Song-Before-Night-small Fire Dance Ilana C Myer-small

At GenCon in 2017 I met the brilliant and engaging writer Ilana C. Myer. I soon discovered that her first book, Last Song Before Night, was as brilliant and engaging as its creator; it was one  of the finest modern fantasy novels I’ve read in years. I’ve eagerly been awaiting its sequel, Fire Dance. It was just released this week, but it’s already receiving accolades. Kirkus gave it a starred review, and it was chosen by the Washington Post, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble as one of the best SFF releases of the month.

More people need to know about Myer and her work, so I invited her to Black Gate to answer a few questions and convince you to start reading her. You can find our conversation below.

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Nazis and Superheroes Warring in the Shadows: An Interview with Kay Kenyon

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

At the Table of Wolves Kay Kenyon-small Serpent in the Heather-small

The Dark Talents novels by Kay Kenyon

I was lucky enough to hear Kay Kenyon read from her novel At the Table of Wolves in 2016, and I was immediately captivated. Her tale of a young English woman with superhuman abilities in the late 1930s who is drawn into the world of intelligence services warring in the shadows — and who stumbles on a chilling Nazi plan to invade England, utilizing their own superhuman agents — was one of my favorite novels last year. I jumped at the chance to interview Kay for Black Gate last week; the transcript of our conversation is below.

The next book in the series, Serpent in the Heather, arrives in hardcover on April 10th, and Saga Press is offering a Goodreads Giveaway which runs until March 27. Check it out here!

Kay, thanks so much for joining us! I first became acquainted with your work through your marvelous standalone SF novels from Bantam Spectra beginning in the late 90s, like The Seeds of Time, Rift, and Maximum Ice, which was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award. More recently you’ve embraced series fiction, starting with The Entire and The Rose from Pyr, and now the Dark Talents books from Saga. Why the switch?

Do you want the deep artistic reason or the crass marketing one? I mean, I’m tempted to go all artistic on you with the vision thing and growth as a writer, but I know you too well to lie that brazenly.

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The Latchkey Revelation: An Interview with Nicole Kornher-Stace

Monday, March 19th, 2018 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney

Latchkey Nicole Kornher-Stace-small Latchkey Nicole Kornher-Stace-back-small

O long, long have I anti…cipated (yes, just like that) the sequel to Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Archivist Wasp. A book about ghosts and girls, ferocity and friendship, catastrophe and cataclysm and katabasis and a whole badass bunch of other alliterative nouns, Archivist Wasp published in 2015 by Big Mouth House, an imprint of Small Beer Press.

So you see, that was ALMOST THREE WHOLE YEARS AGO! I’ve been WAITING and WAITING and WAAAAIIIITIIINNNGGG!

But fear not. That time of endlessly unfulfilled appetite has not been wasted. I have not waited in vain. For now — at last! — the day I have yearned for is AT HAND!

(*cues Phantom of the Opera synthesizers and a falling chandelier*)

Nicole Kornher-Stace has done her job, and done it well. And Mythic Delirium has abetted her by publishing it. Soon! In July! This year! And you can PRE-ORDER IT HERE!

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Wordsmiths: Black Gate Interviews Jim Butcher at ConFusion 2018

Friday, February 23rd, 2018 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

If you talk to Jim Butcher, he might tell you that he’s a “crazy hermit shut-in” and scoff at being referred to as the Jim Butcher — showing that even one of the greatest fantasy writers around might be as uncomfortable with accolades as the rest of us mere mortals. How do I know this? Because I got the chance to sit down with Jim at ConFusion last month, for an hour-long chat about his published work, his craft, and what makes him tick.

I’ve been a huge fan of Jim’s ever since a friend shoved Storm Front at me and insisted I read it, and I sincerely hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed taking part in it. There is a lot that can be learned from Jim Butcher, and I’m really happy with what we were able to get into here.

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Plants as Protagonists: An Interview with Semiosis author Sue Burke

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

Semiosis Sue Burke-smallThe science fiction world has been abuzz with the release of the novel Semiosis by Sue Burke. Known for her short stories in publications such as Interzone and Asimov’s, this Clarion alumnus is now making waves with her debut novel, out from Tor this month. James Patrick Kelly said it’s “a first contact novel like none you’ve ever read… The kind of story for which science fiction was invented.” David Brin wrote, “In Semiosis, Sue Burke blends science with adventure and fascinating characters, as a human colony desperately seeks to join the ecosystem of an alien world.”

Those recommendations would be enough for me to buy a copy if I hadn’t already read it several years ago. Sue and I used to be in the Madrid Writer’s Critique Group here in Spain before she moved back to Chicago. The early draft I read fascinated me with its tale of human colonists settling on a planet only to find that is already inhabited by intelligent life… plant life. I caught up with Sue to talk with her about her new publication.

What was the seed of an idea that grew into a giant, sentient plant?

Seed… I see what you did there.

It started back in the mid-1990s when a couple of my houseplants attacked other houseplants. One vine wrapped around a neighbor, and another vine tried to sink roots into another plant. I began researching botany and discovered that plants are active, aggressive, and fight to the death for sunlight. They have weapons and cunning strategies, both offensive and defensive.

For example, strangler figs (several varieties of Ficus) start as seedlings germinating up on tree branches and trunks in jungles, and as they grow, their roots wrap around the host tree and eventually strangle and kill it. The fig starts halfway up to sunshine, which is an advantage. But how do the seeds get up there? Birds eat fig fruit, and the seeds have a gluey covering that sticks to a bird’s feathers when it defecates. The bird wipes off its vent on tree branches and trunks, where the seeds adhere and germinate.

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The Poison Apple: Remember Buffy? An Interview with Tie-in Author Nancy Holder

Monday, February 19th, 2018 | Posted by Elizabeth Crowens

Buffy Encyclopedia

Buffy Encyclopedia

Let’s talk about Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

When I was doing the episode guidebooks for Buffy, I was taping Joss Whedon… Remember when Spike moves into the crypt? It was pitch-black dark in there and we were sitting on the crypt for our interview. It had been hard to get him, because he was been busy. I had sat waiting and waiting with these old-fashioned tape recorders that looked like movie cameras, and for both of them the batteries had run down and the tape was spooling out. When we got outside in the bright sunlight, I saw what had happened. I had been going for days without much sleep and there was my interview with Joss… not. The first thing I did was say the f-bomb and then, “Why you? Why you?”

He fixed the tape and said, “It’s okay.” I put more batteries in and asked, “Can you say everything you said over again? And he said, “I’ll try.” I was so embarrassed. But we got it done, and he was great. So articulate and smart.

How often did you get over to the set?

If you add all the days together, I was probably on the Buffy set for the total of a month. I was over on Angel, maybe a week or two.

Buffy had been set up in some empty warehouses in Santa Monica in this place called Bergamot Station. Mutant Enemy was there, and they had all the Buffy stuff there plus the writers offices and post production for Angel. When you went to Angel, it was very Hollywoody, because it was on the Paramount lot. You had the golf cart guys, the scrolly gates at the front…

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Goth Chick News Anniversary Interview: Aliens Carrie Henn

Thursday, February 15th, 2018 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Goth Chick Aliens Newt

One of my favorite horror/sci fi movies of all time is the second in the original Alien franchise, Aliens (1986) directed by James Cameron, which I’ve watched more times than I can count. The film is a classic, from the story to the acting to the special effects, not to mention being one of the most quotable movies ever made (“Game over, man” and “Get away from her, you bitch!”). Even though the movies that came after paled in comparison, fans have continued to follow the crew of the Nostromo in games such as Alien: Isolation and kept hope alive for a real sequel to the storyline.

So, it is with great pleasure that I celebrate my 18th year and 400th article for Black Gate by scoring an interview with the youngest star of Aliens, Carrie Henn who played Rebecca “Newt” Jorden alongside Sigourney Weaver. As I mentioned in the post about Days of the Dead, she agreed to an interview in spite of my telling her how I cyberstalked her, while Black Gate photog Chris Z died of embarrassment behind me.

So without further delay – everyone, meet Carrie. Carrie, meet everyone.

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Asphodel by Jane Lindskold, Out Now!

Monday, January 29th, 2018 | Posted by Emily Mah

Asphodel Jane Lindskold-smallI had the privilege of reading Asphodel by Jane Lindskold soon after it was written and cannot recommend it highly enough.

It’s surreal, but in a very grounded way, if that makes any sense. Lindskold weaves together deep myth and literary allegory with fabulist escapism, and manages to take the reader on a very real journey into human love, loss, and redemption.

The book is available as a trade paperback, and as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, i-Tunes , GooglePlay, and Kobo.

Here’s the jacket copy.

Prison or Refuge?

Nameless in a doorless tower graced with seven windows, she is imprisoned. Who is her jailer? What is her crime?

After she discovers the secret of the seven windows, the nameless one, accompanied by two impossible companions, sets forth on fantastical journeys of exploration. But, for the nameless one, learning her name may not be a welcome revelation, and the identity of her jailer will rock the foundations of a tower that has come to be as much refuge as prison.

Read on for Lindskold’s post on how this book came to be.

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January 2018 Locus Now on Sale

Monday, January 8th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Locus January 2018-smallThere’s a great quote in JY Yang’s interview in the January 2018 Locus that I want to share with you. Here it is.

I don’t know how to write poetry. I was on the Writing Excuses cruise recently, and one of the instructors was Jeffrey Ford, and he gave a lecture that was about the last five percent — how you can get your prose to pop. You can write perfectly decent prose, but he was talking about ways you can get your mind to come up with interesting prose…. He gave some examples — one of them was a joke off the internet about how if you’re standing behind someone at the ATM at night, to show them you’re not a threat, you can give them a gentle kiss on the neck. He asked what part of that makes the text sparkle? It’s the word ‘gentle,’ because [it] exaggerates the entire sentiment of the joke. He suggests doing wordplay on a daily basis, and coming up with new terms. That’s something I do. I don’t say I bathe the dog, I say I wash her. I say we prune her instead of cutting her hair and things like that. I try to say or do things in interesting ways, and that comes up in my fiction. I like fiction that has interesting but effective imagery. I don’t like things that are overdone, tortured metaphors or similes, purple prose. A lot of the writers whose prose I admire, like William Gibson and David Mitchell, they express things in interesting ways, but it’s very simple. One interesting adjective in the sentence makes it sparkle. That’s what I try to achieve in my writing.

I think that’s neat. And, speaking as an editor who read through countless thousand submissions in the decade plus we were buying fiction for Black Gate, I think it also contains an essential truth. Before you put that tortured sentence to paper to prove the poetic power of your prose, remember that the core of really effective writing is simplicity. Yang is the author of The Tensorate Series from Tor.com; we covered the first two volumes here. The third, The Red Threads of Fortune, is due in July.

There’s lots of other great stuff in the January Locus, including a feature interview with John Crowley, a column by Cory Doctorow, Best of 2017 lists from Amazon, Audible, Goodreads, and Publishers Weekly, and reviews of short fiction and books by Rich Horton, Gardner Dozois, Gary K. Wolfe, Russell Letson, John Langan, Stefan Dziemianowicz, Paula Guran, Liz Bourke, and lots more.

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