Bold Venture Press: The Unsung Hero of Pulp Publishing

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

51WvS1lFaXL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_PulpNoir_1280__06197.1518283264Black Gate: Bold Venture Press is, in many ways, the unsung hero of the pulp world of the 21st Century. You’ve an impressive catalog of new titles and classic reprints, but let’s start at the beginning and tell readers about Bold Venture Press’ history and accomplishments.

Bold Venture Press: Rich Harvey was working in the newspaper field, and founded Pulp Adventures Press in 1992, which eventually became Bold Venture Press. The Bold Venture imprint published The Spider and Pulp Adventures magazine, went on hiatus for a few years, then returned in 2014, reviving Pulp Adventures.

Audrey Parente was an investigative reporter and pulp historian who put her pulp connections on hiatus as her reporting career went into high gear. She rejoined the pulp fold after taking early retirement by attending Rich’s Pulp AdventureCon in New Jersey in 2012. Meeting at other pulp conventions, Rich and Audrey became reacquainted.

A fictionalized version of their romance, Pulp Noir was published by Bold Venture Press. They joined forces in Florida in 2014. Bold Venture has been cranking out several books every month, first focusing on pulp reprints and then adding new pulp and mainstream authors. Rich’s connections with Zorro Productions has led to the biggest and most exciting projects they have tackled.

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Between the Years When the Oceans Drank (Henry Kuttner’s) Atlantis, and the Rise of COVID-19 — Elak Lives Again!

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020 | Posted by Greg Mele

Elak lives again! Just released by Pulp Hero Press, Adrian Cole continues a saga Kuttner abandoned 80 years ago.

Elak lives again! Just released by Pulp Hero Press, Adrian Cole continues a saga Kuttner abandoned 80 years ago.

Adrian Cole is hardly a stranger to fantasy fiction.

Born in Plymouth, Devonshire in 1949, Adrian first read The Lord of the Rings in the late 1960s while working in a public library in Birmingham, and was inspired by the book to write an epic entitled “The Barbarians,” which was eventually revised into The Dream Lords trilogy, published by Zebra Books in the early 1970s. He has been writing various ghost, horror, and fantasy tales, in both short-story and novel-length, ever since. His career is well-established and diverse, from psychological, alien-horror, to superheroes, fantasy trilogies to young-adult novels.

So it is particularly interesting that Adrian’s newest work is an anthology of stories about the adventurer Elak of Atlantis: Elak, King of Atlantis, which was just released earlier this month by Pulp Hero Press.

Atlantis? A vogue setting in early to mid-20th century fantasy fiction, we don’t really see novels or short stories in Atlantis anymore. Ah, but you see, Elak is himself a piece of history…

After Robert E. Howard’s unfortunate suicide in 1936, a number of authors stepped up to fill the void. Most wrote reasonable, working tales, that were largely forgettable, and they themselves were forgotten. One, however, was the masterful Henry Kuttner, who danced easily between fantasy, horror and science fiction, and had a stellar career, made the more so by his collaborations with his wife, C. L. Moore. Kuttner wrote four Elak of Atlantis stories, which appeared in Weird Tales between 1938 and 1940.  They are an abridged version of REH’s Conan stories, and follow the exploits of Elak as he passes from sword-for-hire to king. But Elak is not a “Clonan”: he’s a civilized man, a noble cast-off, who wields a rapier. Whereas Conan is destined to seize a crown, Elak is trying to avoid his destiny.  Unlike Conan, he is not a loner with “guest star” companions, and is accompanied by the perpetually drunk thief Lycon, and the druid Dalan, who is trying to get Elak to accept his destiny to rule the kingdom of Cyrena.

We first meet Elak returning from an encounter with the wife of Atlantean nobility and that strikes a note in the tales: there is a light-heartedness to them, although the world is a dark one.  If you can imagine an Errol Flynn swashbuckler with wizards and Deep Ones, you have the vibe.

Of course, that doesn’t tell us why, 80 years after Kuttner abandoned the doomed island, Cole is bringing it back up from its watery depths.

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Low-stakes Fiction in a High-stakes World: A Quiet Afternoon, edited by Liane Tsui and Grace Seybold

Monday, July 13th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

GV Quiet Afternoon image 1-smallIn their recently released anthology A Quiet Afternoon, Canadian micropress Grace&Victory offer calm and gentle SFF tales for the reader who would rather curl up with a mug of tea and an afghan (or a slushie and a hammock, depending on the weather) than dart about the cosmos with lasers blasting.

Grace&Victory team members Victoria Feistner (co-founder and graphic designer), Laura DeHaan (slush reader and morale officer), Liane Tsui (chief editor), and Grace Seybold (co-founder, second editor and legalities wrangler) get together today to share their thoughts on low-stakes fiction in a high-stakes world.

You’ve talked about low-stakes fiction, which you call “Low-Fi.” What does that mean to you?

LD: Stories that are comfortable to read, that don’t excite feelings stronger than warm fuzzies or faint melancholy. Which might not sound terribly flattering, I know. I imagine most authors want their stories to sear a flaming brand across the brains of the readers and leave them shaken and awed by the majesty of the prose, but really what I’m looking for is instant nostalgia. I want to think back on the story fondly, I want to revisit it in the way you enjoy pulling on an old sweater or a tatty pair of shoes.

VF: When I am stressed out, sometimes relaxing with a good book – if the book is full of action, violence, tension – only serves to stress me out more. In such times I often turn to different genres – literary, travel memoir, biography, and the like – for escape into gentler adventures. And yet, when I do, a part of me misses my spec elements. Low-Fi is about bringing the mundane and slice-of-life stories prevalent in other genres into the SF fold. SF has long been about larger-than-life heroes and do-or-die plots, but here and there are stories where the stakes are much lower. Ursula LeGuin’s Changing Planes comes to mind, as does Natasha Pulley’s The Watchmaker of Filigree Street.

So how is Low-Fi different from existing subgenres? Should it be considered its own sub-genre or merely a “tag”?

LD: I think it’s more about tone than anything else. A queen is near death in “An Inconvenient Quest,” there’s deadly traps and adventure in “Hollow,” “Of Buckwheat and Garlic Braids” has a potentially murderous strigoi, but because of the tone we never feel like anyone’s really in danger. I think as well there’s a definite refusal of violence as a solution and an emphasis on conversation as the way to problem-solve. Again, “Hollow” is an adventure story where the characters cast spells and shoot arrows, but in the end it’s a conversation that resolves the situation.

It’s not something we actively set out to enforce, but it seems fitting that Low-Fi also avoids salty language. And while we have a couple smooches, anything beyond that probably wouldn’t be appropriate for Low-Fi.

So I’d say sure, make it a new sub-genre!

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Neverwhens, Where History and Fantasy Collide: Of Lambs and Lizardmen

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020 | Posted by Greg Mele

For the Killing of Kings-small Upon the Flight of the Queen-small When the Goddess Wakes-small

The Ring-Sworn Trilogy by Howard Andrew Jones: For the Killing of Kings (Feb 2019), Upon the Flight of the Queen
(November 2019) and the forthcoming When the Goddess Wakes (April 2021)

A bit of prologue and some full disclosure to the Gentle Reader

The purpose of this column has been looking at the challenges of historicity vs. fantasy in the process of world-building; well at least when the fantasy in question is trying to be either realistic or set in our world or a near-neighbor. From contrasting the visual departure of Jackson’s LotR films as a more effective means of showing the vast sweep of Middle Earth’s history, to critiquing the swordplay of the Witcher TV show, to interviewing authors who play in both the worlds of Historical Fiction and Fantasy,  I’ve come to realize we have a pretty clear continuum:

  1. Historical Fiction – just what it says. Whether it’s set in the Paleolithic or WWII, it’s a story set in our own past, with the ostensible goal of painting a portrait of that time and place.
  2. Historical Fiction with Elements of “Magical Realism” – really more of a technique of “literature” but the story is more or less as above but there may be hints or some unexplained and unexplainable element.
  3. Historical Fantasy – this is a specialty for folks like last month’s interviewee Scott Oden. Our historical past, only elements of magic, monsters, etc., exist, something like a “secret history.” A lot of traditional sword & sorcery exists here, but so does the fantastical work of writers like Judith Tarr or G. Willow Wilson.
  4. Low Fantasy in a Secondary World – the world I NOT ours, and may not even be based on any clear cognate of our civilizations, but it’s “realistic” in the sense that it’s technology and structure follows our historical models. Magic and monsters exist, but farming gets done with an iron plow and three-field rotation, people ride horses and camels (or something like them), etc. A lot, if not most, of fantasy fits this model and fantasy.
  5. High Fantasy – Magic is powerful and sweeping, there are non-human races who can do magical things, the gods may be capable of manifesting themselves or their will, etc. A lot of epic fantasy fits into this mode.

We can quibble on where those lines are (Tolkien is High Fantasy, but is Martin?), and maybe there are further subdivisions (for example, Urban Fantasy overlays the last two), but the definitions work for this column because the further you go from #1 on the continuum, the less important “historicity” becomes. 

Which brings me to my guest….

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Neverwhens, Where History and Fantasy Collide: Of Orks and Orkney

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020 | Posted by Greg Mele

Scott Oden Scott Odin

One of these men is an author, the other is Odin…there’s more commonality than you might think.

Scott Oden  is an American writer best known for his historical novels set in Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece, and historical fantasy. Oden’s breakthrough novel was 2005’s Men of Bronze, set in late Pharonic Egypt; it was followed in 2006 by Memnon and in 2010 with The Lion of Cairo, which mixed pulp-style action and sorcery with Crusader politics in Fatimid Egypt. His most recent novels are the opening volumes of the saga of Grimnir, the last orc, following a quest for revenge across the centuries, from Brian Boru’s Ireland in the 11th century to 14th century Messina in the forthcoming third and final volume. Considering how much his areas of interest and writing overlap with Christian Cameron, whom I interviewed last month, it was fascinating to see how much the two authors methods of world building do, and don’t, overlap.

GM: So you’ve written both historical fiction and fantasy. Which genre was your first love?

SO: Definitely fantasy. The Hobbit was my gateway text, back when I was 8 or 9 years old, and I quickly followed that with The Lord of the Rings, Robert E. Howard’s Conan (the Ace editions), and eventually Moorcock’s Elric and Karl Wagner’s Kane. I liked some historical fiction as a kid, mainly the fictionalized biographies of Harold Lamb — especially Alexander of Macedon… what kid wouldn’t marvel to the feats of Alexander, as described by Lamb? I was — and remain — a huge aficionado of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Norse myth. I had this little pocket-sized encyclopedia from Scholastic called Gods, Demigods, and Demons by Bernard Evslin. I still have that battered old copy . . . [GM: So do I!!!]

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Neverwhens: Where History and Fantasy (Careers) Collide — an Interview with Christian (and Miles) Cameron

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020 | Posted by Greg Mele

C Cameron as Hoplite -- Alternate-small

Christian Cameron as a Hoplite

Christian Cameron, a well-known historical fiction author who writes espionage novels under the pen name Gordon Kent and fantasy under Miles Cameron, is a Canadian novelist who was educated and trained as both an historian and a former career officer in the US Navy. His best-known work is the ongoing historical fiction series Tyrant, set in Classical Greece, which by 2009 had sold over 100,000 copies. But in recent years he’s not only chronicled ancient Greece, but 14th-century European history — military, chivalric, and literary — in England, France, Italy, and Greece and roughly in parallel with the career of Chaucer’s knight (the Chivalry series). And, as Miles Cameron, he also writes fantasy with the Traitor Son tetralogy and Masters & Mages trilogy.

Cameron is a passionate reenactor, and uses the experiences of reenacting, including knowledge of the material culture and the skill sets required to recreate any portion of life in the past as essential tools in writing his novels. Cameron helps organize and direct military and non-military reenactments in the United States, Canada, and Europe. In addition to recreating the life of an early 5th-century BCE Plataean Hoplite, Cameron also runs a group dedicated to the role of rangers and Native Americans in the American Revolution, and participates in tournaments as a knight of the late 14th century. One such tournament is the Deed of Alms, an annual HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) charity tournament hosted in Toronto to combat homelessness.

GDM: So you’ve had a long and very successful run as an historical fiction writer before adding fantasy to your repertoire. Which genre was your first love?

CC: Fantasy all the way.  Except Dumas’ Three Musketeers, which is to me the greatest adventure novel ever written. I had a friend who was seriously in to ‘Old School’ fantasy; Lord Dunsany, Tolkien, E.R. Eddison, Robert E Howard… etc.  Amazing stuff.

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Wordsmiths: Interview with Charlie Jane Anders, Recorded Live at Can*Con 2019

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

2019 feels like a long time ago, doesn’t it? One of my other roles is Programming Lead for Can*Con, Ottawa’s annual conference on science fiction, fantasy and horror literature. I’ve had the great fortune to sit down for one-on-one interviews with a few Guests of Honor, most recently a fabulous conversation with Charlie Jane Anders at Can*Con 2019.

Charlie Jane is the author of The City in the Middle of the Night (Tor, 2019), co-host of the Hugo-winning podcast Our Opinions Are Correct, and has contributed work to a variety of anthologies and collections. We get into her short fiction, her work with io9, her thoughts on genre and community, and more.

This was a blast, and I hope you enjoy it, too!

An Ottawa teacher by day, Brandon has been published in On SpecPulp Literature, Electric Athenaeum, and elsewhere. His latest publications include his first comic, “True Balance,” available on Comixology and DriveThruComics, and a reprint of his short story “Rainclouds,” in A Dying Planet from Flame Tree Press. You can follow Brandon at or on Twitter: @B_Crilly.

When We Catch It, Let’s Chase It Again: An Interview with Tales of the Mongoose and Meerkat Author Jim Breyfogle

Saturday, March 28th, 2020 | Posted by P. Alexander

Tales of the Mongoose and Meerkat-small

Cover Art by Anton Oxenuk

Cirsova Publishing has been putting out its flagship magazine focusing on action, adventure, and romance in science fiction and fantasy since 2016. Last year Cirsova began branching out, with the two-author anthology, Duel Visions by Misha Burnett and Louise Sorensen, their fully illustrated 70th Anniversary Edition of Leigh Brackett’s Eric John Stark Planet Stories [which we covered at Black Gate last year], and the 35th Anniversary Edition of Michael Tierney’s Wild Stars.

Cirsova’s newest upcoming release is an anthology of Jim Breyfogle’s Mongoose & Meerkat adventures, lavishly illustrated by up-and-coming artist DarkFilly. Tales of the Mongoose and Meerkat Volume 1: Pursuit Without Asking collects all of the stories published in the pages of Cirsova Magazine through 2019.

Mangos is a bit of a bravo, ready to knock a few heads for some coin. Kat is a mysterious wanderer with more than her share of street-smarts and a head for ancient history. Together, the Mongoose and the Meerkat are a pair of rogues looking to keep their bellies and wine skins filled. Fitting in a comfy mid-point somewhere between Slayers and Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser, this duo is sure to appeal to fans of classic Sword & Sorcery.

We had a chance to talk with Mongoose & Meerkat author Jim Breyfogle about this thrilling new project.

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Call for Backers! Mary Shelley Presents Four Horror Stories by Victorian Women

Sunday, February 23rd, 2020 | Posted by Emily Mah

Trade PBGaskellEveryone’s heard of Frankenstein, and most people also know its author, Mary Shelley, but on the 200th anniversary of that novel’s publication, Kymera Press is doing something very, very cool. Mary Shelley Presents is a graphic novel series about other Victorian women horror writers. These women were famous in their own day, but their legacies have faded over time. Now, with the help of Kickstarter, Kymera press seeks to assemble the multiple stories of this series into one trade paperback that they will then bring to life — okay, okay… I’ll hold off on any other Frankenstein metaphors…

Instead, let me introduce Debbie Daughetee, owner of Kymera Press, and have her tell the story of this book in her own words. Then head on over to Kickstarter to support the trade paperback edition!

Emily Mah: Mary Shelly is a beloved matriarch of horror and this book looks so gorgeous. Can you give us some background on how it came to be?

Debbie Daughetee: Nancy Holder and I have been wanting to work together for a long time. So when the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein loomed, I talked to Nancy about doing something to celebrate it. Neither of us wanted to revisit Frankenstein as it’s been done to death in comics. Finally, we had the thought to have Mary Shelley and her creature introduce horror stories written by Victorian Women.

Mary Shelley and her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, did much for women’s rights and for women writers. It was a natural fit with Kymera Press’ mission statement of supporting women in comics. These Victorian women were as famous in their time as Charles Dickens and Bram Stoker, and yet most people haven’t heard of them. Resurrecting their voices is a fun and interesting adventure for us.

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Call for Backers! Artist Elizabeth Leggett Discusses Her Illustrations for DreamForge Magazine, and More!

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020 | Posted by Emily Mah

BethFP-PPD-16-2002In the second of two interviews supporting DreamForge’s Year Two Kickstarter Campaign I had the privilege of interviewing Hugo Award winning artist, Elizabeth Leggett, who has provided several illustrations for DreamForge.

She has also illustrated for magazines such as Lightspeedand art directed, Women Destroy Fantasy and Queers Destroy Science Fiction. But I’ll let Elizabeth and her gorgeous art speak for themselves.

Emily Mah: You’ve illustrated several stories for DreamForge, that I’m aware of. How many have you done for them and what were the stories?

Elizabeth Leggett: I have been profoundly lucky. DreamForge has found some of the most talented writers and they have let me play in their sandbox through illustration.  The first two pieces I did for them was for Lauren Teffeau’s short story, “Sing! And Remember.”  The first was the cover image and the second was a black and white design.

My next contract was for David Weber’s story, “A Certain Talent.”  This one is close to my heart because I was not only allowed to illustrate the main character, but also conceptualize Jim Moore (Jane Lindskold’s husband) as the power player!  Next, I needed to leave my comfort zone and illustrate Jennifer Donohue’s story, “The Fundamentals of Search and Rescue.”  Good heavens. wreckage sites are a challenge to draw!

My last illustration for last year was for John Jos Miller, “The Ghost of a Smile.”

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