Cheat Endings As Bad As Deus Ex Machina

Thursday, November 29th, 2018 | Posted by M Harold Page

Deus... Ex Machina...!

We still make like confused crusaders and cry “Deus Ex!” because it’s a cheat ending

Deus Ex Machina endings are so despised that people still use the Roman term from thousands of years ago, itself a translation from the older Greek, “God Out of the Machine”.

For those who’ve just tuned in to plot geekery and tropes: Imagine a Greek play, everybody in masks under a Mediterranean blue sky. The Furies are rejoicing, the hero is trapped by his enemies, the dilemmas are unsolvable and — WHOOSH! — a crane or a trapdoor-elevator — yes, a machine — literally plonks Apollo onto the stage and He — boringly — fixes everything.

These days, the Deus Ex Machin need not be a god — it can be the king, an airstrike, friendly aliens, whatever. We still make like confused crusaders and cry “Deus Ex!” because it’s a cheat ending: unearned victory or salvation is boring, and dodges the questions raised by the story.

However, Deus Ex Machina is not the only cheat ending. It has mutant cousins that often get a free pass because they ramp up the drama. Even so, they suck the life from stories by making them less rich.

Let’s call the first, “Boss out of the Box” and take Wonder Woman as an example (not because it’s a bad movie, but because we’ve all watched it). Spoilers after the cut.

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DMR Books is Open to Submissions

Thursday, November 1st, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

DMR Books

I had lunch with the hard-working Dave Ritzlin yesterday, the mastermind behind DMR Books, and he casually mentioned that they are now open to submissions. This is great news for any aspiring writers out there who produce fantasy, horror, and adventure fiction in the tradition of Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, and other classic writers of the pulp era. Instead of trying to summarize exactly what Dave’s looking for, here he is in his own words.

Heroic fantasy adventure fiction of the sword-and-sorcery subgenre. Rather than give a detailed explanation of what that means, I’ll just say that if you’re familiar with the books we’ve published, as well as the titles on the following list, you’ll have a good idea of what we want.

What are you waiting for? Start your writing adventure here.

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Pie and a Slice of Sky: An Interview with Brooklyn Writer Rob Cameron

Friday, October 26th, 2018 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney


Writer Cameron Roberson (Cam Rob)
of Brooklyn SF Writers group & Kaleidocast

Greetings, Black Gaters! I’m here today with an interview for you with Rob Cameron, or “Cam” as I like to call him, a New York speculative fiction writer, among — as you will see — other things.

Cam was one of the first friends I made in New York City. Wait, let me take that back a few steps. It all started with Readercon, as so many things (including my marriage) do! It was probably Readercon, circa 2015. I was attending a panel to hear Ellen Kushner talk about something very interesting that I cannot now recall. I do recall that she opened the panel up to questions very early — which is one of her neat tricks: she’s there to serve the audience, and wants to talk about what interests them most. One of the first questions from the audience — and I remember thinking it was very keen and interesting — came from a bright-eyed young man who was sitting on the edge of his seat, leaning forward, as if he wanted to be the first to hear everything. He obviously knew Ellen, and she him, but I didn’t know him, and I thought, “Well! He must be a friend I haven’t met yet!” and determined at that moment to fulfill my own prophecy and get to know him better.

It turns out that this gentleman was none other than Rob Cameron, writer, gamer, teacher, as well as one of the main movers and shakers of the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers and Kaleiodocast, the podcast they produce, which features fiction by and interviews with speculative fiction writers, and also stories that occur in a shared world.

The more I got to know him, the more I realized Cam was at the heart of New York’s electric, eclectic, thunderous spec fic scene, deeply involved in a community of writers all rising together, reading and critiquing each other’s work, attending events and conventions, and learning the business of being a writer. I thought he’d be a fantastic person to interview for Black Gate, so that we could all share in some of his knowledge, wisdom, and love of pie. After all — ’tis the season for pie. But then, when isn’t it?

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Books and Craft: Parables for the Modern Reader

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018 | Posted by David B. Coe

WizardofEarthsea-small The Tombs of Atuan-small The Farthest Shore-small

The Earthsea Trilogy (Bantam, 1975). Covers by Pauline Ellison

Early last year, I began a column here at Black Gate that I call “Books and Craft.” The idea was to shine a light on the writing elements that contribute to the greatness of classic works in our genre. (You might care to read my previous pieces on Nicola Griffith’s Slow River, and Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana .) I intended to write these on a regular basis, but life and work intervened. Today I’m happy to be back with a new “Books and Craft” post about books that have long been deeply special to me.

Ursula K. Le Guin died earlier this year after a stellar career of nearly sixty years. She was a master of speculative fiction, one of the most decorated writers ever to grace our genre. She was perhaps best known for her science fiction novels set in the Hainish Universe, but personally, I am most fond of her fantasy, specifically the first three of her Earthsea novels: A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, and The Farthest Shore. (In fact, my newest series, The Islevale Cycle, is set in a world of islands and seas that I meant as an homage to Earthsea and Le Guin.)

These three early Earthsea novels, often referred to as The Earthsea Trilogy, were published as children’s books. They were written, though, with a spare sophistication and elegance that appealed to a broad audience and brought them critical and commercial success. Earthsea is a world of myth, rich culture, and social complexity. By creating a network of islands and archipelagos, Le Guin ensured that her land would be home to a variety of traditions, customs, and people. And in making Ged, the hero of the series, dark-skinned, she brought a non-traditional protagonist to a genre that had, until that time, been overwhelmingly white.

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The Origins of Zombies Need Brains

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018 | Posted by Joshua Palmatier

Zombes Need Brains Portal

There’s one particular question that I get asked a lot once people find out I created a small press called Zombies Need Brains. Mainly, where the name Zombies Need Brains comes from.

It began in 2007, when the World Fantasy Convention was held in Saratoga Springs, NY. That’s basically a few hours drive from where I live. At the time, Patricia Bray was also living in Binghamton and I had just been published by DAW Books. (The Skewed Throne came out in hardcover in January 2006 and The Cracked Throne followed in November 2006.) I was, of course, looking for ways to promote the books and so with WFC so close, Patricia and I came up with a plan to throw a party on Thursday night at the con. We invited S.C. Butler, Barbara Campbell, C.E. Murphy, and Jennifer Dunne to join us (mostly so we could split the costs and make it affordable for all of the authors involved). We planned out the alcohol, the snacks, getting a room at the convention, getting invites printed up to hand out at the con, etc., etc., etc.

But we needed a name for the party.

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One Story Is Worth 1000 Ideas; Or, How Dhulyn and Parno Could Come Through A Portal Near You

Friday, September 14th, 2018 | Posted by Violette Malan

Portals BGThose crazies over at Zombies Need Brains have launched another Kickstarter to fund their next set of anthologies. As many of you already know, ZNB has published 2 or 3 anthologies a year for the past several years, using Kickstarters as a way to encourage readers to pre-order the books – and, not incidentally, to receive some pretty nifty special bonus gifts. This year’s project includes Temporally Deactivated, Alternate Peace, and Portals, to which I’ve been asked to  contribute a story. There’s the artwork over on the right. Check out the descriptions and incentives here.

I’m particularly happy about this opportunity, because I’ve had an idea for a story that would fit the theme of portals for quite some time. I just haven’t had a compelling reason (like a deadline) to write it.

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Caffeine, Snacks, and a Thousand Notecards: How the Story Summit was the Key to Tremontaine‘s Success

Thursday, September 6th, 2018 | Posted by Tessa Gratton

Tremontaine Season 1-small Tremontaine Season 2-small Tremontaine Season 3-small

For my whole life I’ve considered myself, in my heart-of-hearts, to be not a writer, but a novelist. Despite writing dozens of short stories, a handful of novellas, and even having serialized my own long-form story on my (defunct) blog in 2008, the novel has always had my devotion as a writer and reader. I’m both comforted and challenged by the boundaries of a novel’s of length and depth, the pacing and potential of the form. Not to mention the simple pleasure of a mass market paperback in my hands.

This is all to say that writing with a team for Serial Box’s Tremontaine is not my natural state. But it’s been a wild, fulfilling ride, and that seems accurate to describing the experience our readers have had.

Before joining Serial Box, I knew nothing about TV writing except that I loved watching the results. When Ellen Kushner invited me to write for Season Two of Tremontaine, I dove in head first with barely an understanding of the form from which we would be stealing.

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A Small Gang of Authors: An Effective Promo Group for Writers

Monday, August 27th, 2018 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Join Our Author Gang

Whether you’re an indie author or one with a publishing contract, you know that authors should band together. We should support each other, help each other, encourage, inspire and motivate one another. Unless you have a major publishing house behind you, a great publicity machine to help market and sell your books (and even then, many authors have to do self-promotion), we’re all out there working hard to promote ourselves and our books. We’re all in this together and no one should have to go it alone. That’s why a number of associates and I have joined together to create something new and different to help promote ourselves and other authors. Our gang offers a forum for writers to showcase their work to an ever-growing audience of viewers.

A Small Gang of Authors is the brain-child of my friend and children’s book collaborator, author Erika M. Szabo. She created our group and blogsite a little over a year ago with the purpose of helping authors everywhere, and to help our founding members, too. Currently there are ten members, and each day one of us writes a blog about writing, publishing, marketing and promoting our books, among dozens of other subjects. We share our thoughts about writing and how we write, and we offer tips, advice, suggestions and so much more. Our blogs aren’t limited to just those topics, however: they run the gamut from writing to music, from films to television shows, and everything in between: we cover a wide variety of subjects that we hope are not only informative but entertaining, as well. We’re a good example of what writers can accomplish when they band together to create a blog- or website, or even a Facebook page. We post on all forms of social media: Facebook, Google +, Instagram, Twitter, and even Pinterest. If you “Google” Our Author Gang or A Small Gang of Authors, you’ll see us pop up right at the top, with links to our blogsite and our individual blogs.

Our Author Gang is working, too, and our audience keeps growing. As of August 2018 we have posted nearly 450 blogs and the blogsite is closing in on 160-K total page views. So people are watching, people are reading and “listening” to what we have to say.

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The Mercutio Effect

Friday, August 17th, 2018 | Posted by Violette Malan

MercutioI’m sure most of you know this, but just in case: There’s a character in the play Romeo and Juliet that Shakespeare kills off. He’s a friend of Romeo’s named Mercutio. It’s his murder that leads to Romeo’s killing Juliet’s cousin, and everything goes down hill from there. So you can see how important Mercutio is from a plot/narrative point of view.

There’s something special about this particular character, though. He’s very witty, very quick, has some great lines/scenes. Actors of my acquaintance say they love to play him. He’s so popular, in fact, that the story is Shakespeare killed him off (instead of one of Romeo’s other friends) because he was a more interesting character than Romeo himself. After all, the play’s not called “Mercutio and Juliet” – though now that I think about it, that would have made a great play too, but probably not a tragedy.

Are secondary (or even tertiary) characters always doomed to die when they are more interesting than the lead? In fact, isn’t it necessary that the audience likes and cares about characters before you kill them? Certainly it happens that way in a movie, or in a novel for that matter. We’re always being told (and we tell others) that you have to make the audience/reader invest emotionally in characters that you plan to kill.

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Sharpen Those Writing Pens: Rogue Blades Entertainment Open to Submissions for Three New Anthologies

Monday, July 9th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Writing-Fantasy-Heroes-small Challenge-Discovery-Rogue-Blades-Entertainment-small

Rogue Blades Entertainment’s Jason M. Waltz is one of the best editors in the adventure fantasy business. His books include the groundbreaking Writing Fantasy Heroes, Challenge! Discovery, Rage of the Behemoth, and Return of the Sword, one of the most important Sword & Sorcery anthologies of the 21st Century. But as exciting as those tomes are, what I want to talk about today are Jason’s future books — which promise to be as groundbreaking as his epic back catalog.

One of the great things about Jason is that, unlike many other editors at established publishing houses, he has open submission. That’s right — anyone can submit to one of his anthologies. And right now he has not one, not two, but three books open. The first is a swashbuckling pirates & crusaders volume, Crossbones & Crosses, and it sounds terrific. Here’s a snippet from the Submission Guidelines.

Pirates & Crusaders, ahoy! Hoist your banners, unsheathe your blades, kiss your crosses, and let’s search for booty on the seas and the sands! More of the age of steel than shot, though some rudimentary gunpowder is acceptable. NO fantastical elements! Write us your strongest swashbuckling adventures! Gritty, dangerous, and bloody, but nothing of this grimdark nihilism…

Stories should be 4k-9k words in length. Nothing either too much shorter or too much longer. Wow us with heroic storytelling!

Submissions will be open through the fall, so you have plenty of time to craft a story that will get our blood pumping. One of Jason’s other great strengths as an editor is his lightning response times — he usually gets back to you on the first 500 words of your story in the first week.

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