Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin video game for the Intellivision console

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin video game for the Intellivision console

Box art for the Intellivision video game Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin.

Some months ago I wrote about Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Cloudy Mountain, the 1982 video game by Mattel for the Intellivision home gaming console, so it only seemed right I also come up with an article about the followup game, 1983’s Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin.

Right off the bat, Treasure of Tarmin is graphically a massively different game than Cloudy Mountain. For one thing, most of the action is in a three-dimensional, first-person view of the various mazes the player’s character must traverse; while this wasn’t the first video game to offer first-person action (that game would be 1972’s Maze War), this viewpoint was rare at the time for video games and, looking back, seems almost an impossibility for the limits of a home console during that era. So, visually, Treasure of Tarmin offered something not quite unique but almost so to the kids sitting at home tapping away on their Intellivision controllers.

More than just graphics, however, Treasure of Tarmin offered a depth and complexity of gameplay that was not common at the time, and again was something not generally thought of as possible for a home console of that period.

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Goth Chick News: Sharpen Your Pencils, Here Comes Your Summer Reading List

Goth Chick News: Sharpen Your Pencils, Here Comes Your Summer Reading List

The Bram Stoker Awards have been presented annually since 1987, and the winners are selected by ballot from the active members of the Horror Writers Association (HWA). Several members of the HWA were originally reluctant to endorse such writing awards, fearing it would incite competitiveness rather than friendly admiration. The HWA has therefore gone to great lengths to avoid mean-spirited competition by specifically seeking out new or overlooked writers and works, and officially issuing awards not based on “best of the year” criteria but for “superior achievement,” which allows for ties.

Any work of horror first published in the English language may be considered for an award during the year of its publication. The categories for which a Bram Stoker Award may be presented have varied over the years, reflecting the state of the publishing industry and the horror genre and the twelve current award categories are: Novel, First Novel, Short Fiction, Long Fiction, Young Adult, Fiction Collection, Poetry Collection, Anthology, Screenplay, Graphic Novel, Nonfiction, and Short Nonfiction.

On May 24th the HWA announced the winners for the 2020 Bram Stoker Awards.

Black Gate and Goth Chick News would like to congratulate the following authors and editors for their superior achievements and suggest you start loading up your Amazon wish list immediately.

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Some Words That Must Be Said

Some Words That Must Be Said

There will soon be more going on here than meets the eye… or the ear.

100:

Well, hidey-ho there, friend! Let me ask you something. Have you or a loved one ever been writing something – say, a novel, or a short story, or heck, even a sonnet– and found yourself apprehensive about the dialogue to come? Or have you ever felt the reverse, an all-encompassing need to document the details of every character’s chit-chat? If so, you might be on the Dialogue Malappropriation Spectrum, or DMS for short.
Golly, I’m not sure. Can you tell me more? Continue from 180.
I most certainly do not! Continue from 320.
I do. I really do! Continue from 440.
You again? Listen, I thought I made it clear I’m just here for the stories and gaming stuff. Continue from 230.

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Ellsworth’s Cinema of Swords: The Year of Camelot and Scarecrows

Ellsworth’s Cinema of Swords: The Year of Camelot and Scarecrows

The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh (USA, 1963)

1963: Lerner and Loewe’s Broadway musical Camelot finally closed after almost 900 performances, Disney’s The Sword and the Stone was preparing for release at the end of the year, and President John F. Kennedy’s administration was being compared to King Arthur’s. This didn’t go unnoticed in Arthur’s Great Britain, and the British movie industry obliged with two Camelot movies, one of them quite ambitious, that have now been largely forgotten. Indeed, Olde England was still the favorite screen setting for historical adventure, as Walt Disney, looking for a follow-up to Zorro, was well aware. And so Disney’s last great swashbuckler, The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, was shot on location on England’s south coast, one classic that hasn’t been forgotten.

Sword of Lancelot (or Lancelot and Guinevere)

Rating: ****
Origin: UK, 1963
Director: Cornel Wilde
Source: Alpha Video DVD

This is a worthy attempt to film the tragedy of the doomed love triangle of Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot, and if it falls short of greatness, it isn’t because writer, director, and star Cornel Wilde didn’t give it his all, it’s just that he wasn’t David Lean or Sergei Eisenstein.

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First Impressions: Tim Kirk’s 1975 Tolkien Calendar

First Impressions: Tim Kirk’s 1975 Tolkien Calendar

Gandalf and Bilbo

How does the old saying go? “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” It’s often true that the first encounter has an ineradicable effect, whether the meeting is with a person, a work of art, or a world. It’s certainly true in my case; I had my first and, in some ways, most decisive encounter with Middle-earth before I ever read a word of The Lord of the Rings. My first view of that magical place came through the paintings of Tim Kirk, in the 1975 J.R.R. Tolkien Calendar, and that gorgeous, pastel-colored vision of the Shire and its environs is the one that has stayed with me. Almost half a century later, Kirk’s interpretation still lies at the bottom of all my imaginings of Tolkien’s world.

There had been two Tolkien calendars before Kirk’s. The 1973 and 1974 editions used Tolkien’s own illustrations, some of the same ones that Ballantine (which also published the calendars) used on the covers of the “authorized” paperback editions of the novels, the ones that were carried around like books of Holy Writ in high schools and colleges during those years when fantasy felt like a secret and the news of what it was and what it could do had yet to spread very far.

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Disaster Adventure in Space: Coriolis’ The Last Voyage of the Ghazali

Disaster Adventure in Space: Coriolis’ The Last Voyage of the Ghazali

How does one present a science fiction roleplaying game to a group to introduce both the setting, the basic mechanics, and give a good flavor of how it will run yet extend beyond the typical rulebook starter adventure? Free League Publishing’s Coriolis is called “Arabian Nights in space,” and its tone and setting are evocative and fresh. Set far in the future in an area of space called the Third Horizon, humankind lives and thrives on a variety of planets and space stations. While many factions exist, one major divide is omnipresent: the Firstcomers and the Zenithians. The Firstcomers fled the Second Horizon, and after a decades-long war called the Portal Wars, were eventually cut off from that area of space. Meanwhile, centuries before the portals that allow travel among the stars were found, a generation ship called Zenith left Earth for the star called Kua. Once there, they found the Firstcomers.

With its Middle Eastern aesthetic, its religious undertones (a number of icons are revered — or not — among the population), and the Emissaries — mysterious entities who recently appeared and seem to be associated with the Icons — the game has more than the traditional Western culture-based science fiction setting many RPGs call home. Introducing a playing group to the game can be a challenge, and that’s where The Last Voyage of the Ghazali comes in.

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Tucker and Dale vs. EVIL

Tucker and Dale vs. EVIL

Today I’m trying to fit in with the cool kids. I usually have to sit by myself at the Mystery table. But this week, I pull my booster seat up to the Horror table. I love a good homage movie that is also funny. Something that’s more pastiche, than lowbrow parody. The best example I can think of is Galaxy Quest. It pokes fun at the science fiction mores and tropes, largely established by the original Star Trek television series. And it does it by delving deeply into the cult fandom which that show inspired. It has a tremendous cast and is lovingly hilarious. It’s clever funny; The British Office. Not dumb funny; Dumb and Dumber (which I find utterly stupid and unwatchable).

In the mystery field, it’s Without a Clue, which turns the Holmes story on its head. Ben Kingsley is the genius, crime-solving Doctor Watson, who hires the unemployed, drunkard actor, Reginald Kincaid, to play Holmes for public consumption. Watson feeds Holmes clues, solutions, lines, the works; and Michael Caine is utterly fantastic as the front man, the great Sherlock Holmes. It’s brilliant and hilarious. One of my five favorite Holmes movies.

Some would point to Army of Darkness as this type of movie in the horror field. It’s Bruce Campbell’s Evil Dead Light. I get it (and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. is my all time second-favorite TV show). For me, Tucker and Dale vs. EVIL is right there with Galaxy Quest, and Without a Clue.

This movie has all the pieces; a road  encounter with hillbillies; college kids in the woods; chainsaws and wood chippers; skinny-dipping coeds; a massacre at the same place twenty years before; bodies piling up one at a time: it’s all there. But it’s all turned upside down!

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What Makes Us Human, the Challenges of Writing Cultures in Deep Time, and Important Skills Learned as a Party Clown: An Interview with Benjamin Rosenbaum

What Makes Us Human, the Challenges of Writing Cultures in Deep Time, and Important Skills Learned as a Party Clown: An Interview with Benjamin Rosenbaum

Benjamin Rosenbaum has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, Sturgeon, and World Fantasy Awards and is the author of the short story collection The Ant King and Other Stories. (The Ant King was the first story of his I ever read.) He also created the Ennie-nominated Jewish historical fantasy tabletop roleplaying game Dream Apart and is the co-host of the podcast Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans. His stories have been translated into 25 languages.

He and I were in the Clarion West class hailed as the future of science fiction. Three Black women, three Asian women (including me), three Jewish men (including Ben), people from five different countries altogether: nowadays that may seem quaint, and that’s part of what we talk about in this interview. The world has changed a lot and as an author always exploring the limits of what it is to be human, Ben has gotten a front row seat to the challenge of asking questions that are relevant not just now, but ten years from now. Edgy questions about gender in one decade can become absurdly sexist by the next. Gender is one of the many concepts he explores in his upcoming novel, The Unraveling.

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Vintage Treasures: The Empire of Kaz by Leslie Gadallah

Vintage Treasures: The Empire of Kaz by Leslie Gadallah

Cat’s Pawn and Cat’s Gambit (Del Rey, 1987 and 1990). Covers by Barclay Shaw

Canadian writer Leslie Gadallah isn’t well known today. She produced a handful of novels in the late 80s for Del Rey, including two books in a highly regarded space opera, Cat’s Pawn and its sequel Cat’s Gambit, the first volumes in what’s now called the Empire of Kaz trilogy. Here’s an excerpt from Delia Sherman’s enthusiastic coverage in the May 1987 issue of Fantasy Review.

Cat’s Pawn is a first novel in the aliens-befriends-human mode. The plotting is masterful. The novel is made up of three complexly interrelated stories, and Gadallah moves easily among them, revealing what we need to know just when we need to know it. Bill Anderson, a linguist. suffers a heart-attack after the starship he is on is captured by pirates. Taran, a cat-like Orian diplomat, keeps him alive, rescues him, heals him, and generally takes a disconcerting interest in his health and welfare. When Bill moves to the port city of Space Central, he is taken up by its villainous boss Steven Black, who blackmails him into agreeing to assassinate Taran. Woven into all this is a plot to take over the galaxy by a race of murderous bugs…

Cat’s Pawn is always exciting. It is smoothly written and deals forthrightly with the question of how basic xenophobia is to human nature. And toward the end there are a coupe of scenes in the deserts of Orion which are truly strange and wonderful

Gadallah, now in her 80s, is — according to recent interviews at least — still writing.

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A Calm Book for a Mad Time: Inherit The Stars by James P. Hogan

A Calm Book for a Mad Time: Inherit The Stars by James P. Hogan

Inherit the Stars (Del Rey, 1990 reprint). Cover art by Darrell K. Sweet

James P. Hogan’s Giant’s Trilogy has been a presence at my parents’ house since the late 70s. Sometimes on the shelf, sometimes on the coffee table, sometimes on the end table. I had to move my mom into assisted living last year and in sorting the books (oh, the books!) into ‘take with her,’ ‘move on,’ and ‘keep for myself,’ I gently slipped them into the ‘keep for myself’ pile, and now, two years later, I have started to read them.

Inherit the Stars is very much a book of its time, and its time is 1976. My views are split: the ideas that make up the book are very good, but the actual story? Dull. There is no real tension, no villain (more on this later), no real action. Nobody’s spacesuit ruptures, nobody’s virgin-launch spaceship has a glitch. This is a book about ideas and that’s it. I sometimes got an image in my mind of Isaac Asimov reading Inherit the Stars and having to light up a post-idea cigarette.

As frequent readers of my reviews will know, I have very little desire to write spoiler-free reviews of 44-year-old books. New readers, be warned.

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