As someone who loves indie film makers, I’ve sat through a lot of independent films. And though I admire the tenacious, passionate and fearless way all of these artists approach their craft, the outcomes, as you would expect, display varying degrees of talent. The films which stood out in some way, at least to me, I have shared with you here. But honestly, most of the time because I can’t honestly say something nice, I just don’t say anything.
So, when a friend excitedly told me her nephew had starred in an indie horror film and that it would be a perfect topic for GCN, I received the news with some trepidation. I mean, if the movie was good, no issues; but if it wasn’t…?
When I was presented with Killer Piñata, the name alone seemed promising. Clearly this was going to be humorous horror that didn’t take itself seriously. What I discovered was an absurdly funny, low-tech story that put me in the mind of Second City TV’s Monster Chiller Horror Theater; totally entertaining in an “omg I can’t believe they actually did that,” kind of way. When I then discovered a sequel, Bride of Killer Piñata, was in the works, it was time to track down the person from whose mind this all came.
Enter writer, director and producer Stephen Tramontana. As I have so many questions, let’s jump right in…
JB: Who in the Nine Circles of Hell do you think I am? Quasimodo? Doctor Frankenstein? You mean you don’t know who I am? Have you never heard of me? Why, I’m famous the world over! Joe Bonadonna, I am. (I could never settle on a pen name, so I stuck with the name I was given at birth.)
[Aside by SE: To clarify, he often writes about Quasimodo and Dr. Frankenstein for Janet E. Morris’s Heroes in Hell series (Perseid Press). Here’s Joe Bonadona’s official Bio.]
The Tarot Sequence: The Last Sun, The Hanged Man, and The Hourglass Throne
(Pyr, 2018, 2019, and 2022). Covers by Micah Epstein
The last two years were pretty lousy for the world, but fairly good for reading! It was time to read some newer authors, and KD Edwards’ Tarot Sequence had been on my list for quite some time. Urban fantasy with a male protagonist, Tarot, and LGBTQ+ friendly? Published through Pyr — one of the more interesting mainstream publishers? Definitely a must-read for me. Plus, have you seen those gorgeous evocative covers?
I started reading book 1, The Last Sun, in mid-2020. Did I say reading? A more accurate statement would be devouring. Book 2, The Hanged Man swiftly followed, and then I felt bereft. The story clearly wasn’t over, but there wasn’t another book?
I reached out to KD on Twitter to inquire, and he let me know that not only was there a third book on the way — The Hourglass Throne, due out May 17th, 2022 from Pyr — but that there was free extra content (novellas!) available on his website.
I caught up with KD at Worldcon 2021 in DC, and he graciously agreed to answer a few questions.
What pushed you to get Wyldblood up and running? And for the uninitiated, what exactly is Wyldblood?
It all started in lockdown, as many things do. I’ve published magazines before, but nothing like Wyldblood, and it just felt like the right time. More importantly, I had the time, though for some reason that’s been quickly sucked away in a nasty combination of too much reading to do and the real world returning with full force.
Wyldblood is a small press and we specialize in science fiction and fantasy – speculative fiction, basically, though we’re not big fans of horror and stories that drip too much blood. We publish a regular magazine (we’re up to issue 8), occasional anthologies (we’ve got werewolves in Call of the Wyld and steampunk in Runs Like Clockwork), reprints of classic authors and, when we get all our reading done, we’ll be publishing original novels and novellas. We’re based in the U.K., but we’re everywhere, really. We lurk on the internet: wyldblood.com and @WyldbloodPress.
We have an ongoing series on Black Gatediscussing “Beauty in Weird Fiction.” We corner authors to tap their minds about their muses and ways to make ‘repulsive’ things ‘attractive to readers.’ Recent guests on Black Gate have included Darrell Schweitzer,Anna Smith Spark, & Carol Berg, Stephen Leigh, Jason Ray Carney, and John C. Hocking. See the full list of interviews at the end of this post. This one covers emerging author M. Stern who writes weird/horror fiction and sci-fi. He has had stories appear in Weird Book #44, Startling Stories#34, and Doug Draa’s clown anthology Funny As a Heart Attack. There’s some strange and complicated beauty to be found in all of those. He also has published in several other markets including Lovecraftiana: The Magazine of Eldritch Horror and flash fiction that deals with aesthetics and transgression in Cosmic Horror Monthly #19.
Today we corner John C. Hocking whose Conan pastiche we reviewed a few months ago.
John C. Hocking is an American fantasy writer who is the author of two well-acclaimed Conan novels and has also won the 2009 Harper’s Pen Award for Sword and Sorcery fiction for his story, “The Face In The Sea”. He lives in Michigan with his wife, son, and an alarming quantity of books. He is a nigh-obsessed reader and writer of lurid pulp fiction, the author of Conan and the Emerald Lotus, the “Black Starlight” Conan serial, and their time-lost companion, Conan and the Living Plague, and an obedient thrall of Tales From the Magician’s Skull.
For clarity, we’ll actually corner him twice. Firstly, here on Black Gate, we’ll cover his weird, pulpy muses & Conan pastiche; secondly, in a companion interview, we’ll cover his King’s Blade and Archivist series on the Tale from the Magician’s Skull Blog.
Stephen Leigh is a Cincinnati-based, award-winning writer of science fiction and fantasy, with thirty novels and nearly sixty short stories published. He has also published fantasy under the pseudonym S.L. Farrell. He has been a frequent contributor to the Hugo-nominated shared-world series Wild Cards, edited by George R.R. Martin. Stephen taught creative writing for twenty years at Northern Kentucky University, and has recently retired (but not from writing). His most recent novels have been Amid The Crowd Of Stars, the SunPath duology of A Fading Sun and A Rising Moon, The Crow of Connemara, and Immortal Muse. His latest novel, Bound To A Single Sun, will be published by DAW Books next year. Stephen is married to Denise Parsley Leigh; they are the parents of a daughter and a son; he is a musician and vocalist too, active in several Cincinnati bands.
This post wraps up (1) a review of Immortal Muse, (2) the interview with the author on Leigh’s muses, and (3) teases readers within an announcement. Okay, we’ll cover that last one first. There is a missing/deleted chapter from Immortal Muse that Stephen Leigh will be posting on Black Gate soon, over 11K words with annotations on (a) why it was left out of the final book and (b) how facts were woven into this fantastical alternative-history. It serves as both a stand-alone short story and an engaging behind-the-scenes look at writing. The article with the missing chapter is posted (look here).
Let this review and interview stoke your creative fires. …
It is not intuitive to seek beauty in art deemed grotesque/weird, but most authors who produce horror/fantasy actually are usually (a) serious about their craft, and (b) driven by strange muses. To help reveal divine mysteries passed through artists, this interview series engages contemporary authors on the theme of “Art & Beauty in Weird/Fantasy Fiction.” Recent guests on Black Gate have included Darrell Schweitzer, Sebastian Jones, Charles Gramlich, Anna Smith Spark, & Carol Berg. See the full list of interviews at the end of this post.
J. Barton Mitchell is the author of the YA novels The Conquered Earth Trilogy, and the prison planet novel, The Razor. Pre-pandemic, he was also in the process of producing his dramatic science fiction podcast, Derelict. For that project he hired professional actors, flying them out to Santa Fe, where he lives, and having them perform together, playing off one another in his recording studio.
Then the pandemic hit, and that shut down production of the podcast, but not Mitchell’s drive to create more adventures in that world (which is set in the same universe as The Razor). So he got to work on a prequel series, Fathom. While Derelict took place on a derelict spaceship, Fathom takes place deep under the sea. I interviewed my friend about this latest project (Episode 4 of which goes live today). We discuss how he changed his production process to be able to continue recording and producing through the pandemic.
Paula Guran is one of the most accomplished editors in the business. She began with Dark Echo, one of the first email newsletters, which she created in 1994; her 49th anthology, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: Volume Two, will be published by Pyr Books on October 19th.
I sat down with Paula this morning to talk about her new book, and discovered she had a lot to say — lively anecdotes from a two-decade career, what it is about horror that keeps her coming back, how the pandemic has affected modern horror, the best new novels of the past few years, and the amazing writers we should all be paying more attention to.
It was a lively and enormously entertaining discussion with one of the most wildly read and keen-eyed observers of the industry, a woman who’s demonstrated an uncanny talent for spotting and showcasing some of the most talented new writers working today. Check out the entire 35-minute interview here.