Category Archives: Black Gate

In the Deep and Dark December

[cue Simon and Garfunkle]

I’m not a huge Simon and Grafunkle fan, but I couldn’t help but steal the title of this post from “I am a Rock”.  Here are my reading/writing/blogging plans for the last month of the year.

Leigh Brackett

Leigh Brackett

The big thing is that Leigh Brackett’s birthday is next Monday, December 7.  It’s her centennial, and I’ll be focusing a lot on her work this month.  I’m not the only one.  Howard Andrew Jones and Bill Ward will be discussing “The Moon the Vanished”, one of her novellas set on a swampy Venus next Monday on Howard’s blog.  Click here for details and join the discussion.  I’m not going to be discussing that particular story here, but I will take some detailed looks at some others.  I’m probably going to start with “Lorelei of the Red Mist”, which she began and Ray Bradbury finished when Howard Hawks offered her a job writing the screenplay to Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep with William Faulkner.  You can get electronic copies of both stories in Swamps of Venus from Baen ($4), or get the Solar System bundle for $20. Continue reading

New BAF Post on The Young Magicians

Young MagiciansI’ve got a new BAF post up at Black Gate.

This one is on The Young Magicians, the second anthology of the series that Lin Carter edited.  It’s a companion to Dragons, Elves, and Heroes.  This one starts at William Morris and continues up to what was then the present day (1969).  Included are selections by Lovecraft, Smith, Howard, Kuttner, Merritt. and de Camp, as well as Lin Carter himself.

Too Many Irons in the Fire

too-many-irons-in-the-fireJust a quick update.  This past week has been Spring Break, and I’m still waiting for the break part to begin.  This week has involved several days of unexpected travel.  (No, I didn’t go to the beach.  Or the mountains, either.)

I’m less than 75 pages from finishing several books, including the next title in the BAF series I’m doing for Black Gate.  I’m about halfway through Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning, and I’m making progress on a book for a major post that I’m not ready to talk about.

So, no, I haven’t dropped off the face of the Earth.  I’ve just got too many things going on.

Two Posts at Black Gate That Might Interest You

I’ve had a couple of posts at Black Gate recently that might be of interest to some of you.

What Rough BeastFirst, I’ve reviewed the weird western What Rough Beast, but James A. Moore and Charles R. Rutledge.  This chapbook has both a solid story as well as some superb production values.  And some monsters with a surprisingly understandable motivation.

The other post is the latest in my series covering the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series.  The topic in this one is James Branch Cabell’s Figures of Earth.

Check them out if they’re something you might be interested in.

Clark Ashton Smith Turns 122

ClarkAshtonSmithToday marks the 122nd anniversary of Clark Ashton Smith’s birth.  He was one of the Big Three of Weird Tales, the other two being H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard (but then I probably don’t need to tell you that).

Like Howard, Smith was also a poet as well as a fiction writer.  (Yes, Robert E. Howard wrote poetry, some of the best I’ve ever read.)  Unlike Howard, Smith’s fiction has a complexity to it Howard’s lacked, especially in word choice.  Isaac Asimov went on record complaining that he didn’t like reading Smith because he had to keep looking words up in the dictionary.  (You see, kids, in the dark days before computers we had these things called dictionaries and when you didn’t know a word, you went to the dictionary and…ah, never mind.)  And if Asimov had to look it up, then you know it probably wasn’t on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

smithPortrait01In spite of the work involved at times, Smith is still very much a writer worth reading.  I’ll be tackling at least one of his collections later this year for the posts I’m doing at Black Gate on the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series.  There were four now highly collectible volumes of Smith’s work published as part of the BAF series.  In fact the very first BAF book I ever owned was Smith’s Hyperborea.  I’ve only dipped into Smith’s works a little, but he was a writer of wild imagination.  We could use more like him today.

I Review Lud-in-the-Mist and The Book of Feasts and Seasons

Lud in the Mist front coverPart of the reason I’ve not posted much in the past week other than a few things Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is that I’ve been working on my other blogging gigs. (The rest of the reason is that Holiday Madness has totally disrupted my schedule.)

Over at Black Gate, the latest in my series on the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series is up.  The book in question is the wonderful Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees.  I really liked this one.  It was written before the tropes of modern fantasy had really been established.  As such, it had a freshness to it that many novels published these days don’t have.

Book of Feasts and SeasonsAlso, for Amazing Stories, I looked at John C. Wright’s The Book of Feasts and Seasons.  This is a short story collection that is centered around a number of holidays and feasts throughout the year.  Wright is an author I’ve begun reading in the last six months, although I had seen his books around for years.  I find him to be a writer of great heart and depth.  I’ll be reviewing more of his work over the course of the next year.

I Look at The Spawn of Cthulhu

Lovecraft Spawn Cthulhu frontMy latest post on the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series at Black Gate is up.  It’s over The Spawn of Chthulu, edited by Lin Carter.  Here’s the link to it.

This a collection of stories centered around Lovecraft’s “The Whisperer in Darkness”.  All of the stories that follow have some connection to Lovecraft’s tale.  I take a look at all of them.  If you’re into Lovecraft, check it out.

My Halloween Posts Creep into Other Blogs

Blind ShadowsNot all of the things I’ve been reading for Halloween are getting reviewed here.  There have been two other posts that might be of interest to some of you.

The first post that went live was at Amazing Stories yesterday.  I had intended to have it ready to go a week earlier but an out of town wedding derailed my plans.

Anyway, if you’re a fan of pulp fantasy and horror, this is one you need to put on your radar.  There are a number of nice treats (and no tricks) in this novel.  It’s about a pair of former police partners.  One is now the sheriff and the other is a private investigator.  The book opens with the discovery of the body a former classmate of theirs.  He’s been ritually murdered.  Blind Shadows is a great combination of pulp, horror, and hard boiled adventure.

Lovecraft Sarnath frontI’ve been doing a series of posts at Black Gate for about a year now on the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series.  My goal was to have one completed about once a month, but that isn’t quite what has happened.  Things have been a little more irregular than that.

This afternoon, my latest went live.  It’s over H. P. Lovecraft’s The Doom that Came to Sarnath.  This is a collection of stories written as Lovecraft was transitioning from fantasy in the vein of Lord Dunsany to his better known work in the Mythos.  Many of these stories are quite short, but overall they’re an interesting read as they show a writer moving from imitation to his own unique voice.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to at other venues for Halloween.

Two (Count ’em, Two) New BAF Posts at Black Gate

I’ve not posted here much in the last few weeks, but I’ve still been busy.  I’ve had two Ballantine Adult Fantasy posts over at Black Gate.  The first, which went live a few weeks ago, was over Hannes Bok’s The Sorcerer’s Ship.  The one that went live today was over Deryni Rising by Katherine Kurtz.Deryni Rising

I’ve also posted some reviews at Amazing Stories.  This week it was the poetry collection They Say the Sirens Left the Seas by James Hutchings.  Before that it was Lee Martindale’s collected fiction, Bard’s Road.  And at the beginning of July, I reviewed the final volume in Joshua P. Simon’s Blood and Tears Trilogy.

I’ll be posting more here and at my other blogs over the next few weeks.  Stay tuned.

Being Nibbled to Death by Ducks

It’s been one of those weeks.  You know the kind.  Nothing really bad happens, but some many little things pop up that by the end of the day on Saturday you’re wondering why you didn’t accomplish what you thought you had sufficient time to complete.  It’s kind of like being nibbled to death by ducks.

WD-40Most of my disruptions were either work related or involved my son.  (I thought I had made it clear there was to be nothing further involving fire while I was at work.)  A wire in his braces popped loose, and instead of simply fixing it, the orthodontist went ahead and tightened everything.  This will save time later this month, but it cost most of an afternoon.  I finally figured out why one of the dogs was suddenly traumatized to the point of refusing to go outside. (Experiments to determine the flammability of WD-40 are expressly forbidden.  Which should have been obvious.)

Anyway, work was supposed to be quite slow this week.  As result I had intended to finish and post reviews of the latest issue of Weird Tales and the first installment of a new series by Joshua P. Simon, as well as finish a detective novel on my phone, Deryni Rising by Katherine Kurtz for for Black Gate, and a review for Amazing Stories.  Plus I had planned on commenting on Amazon’s announcement about pricing the other day.

The piece for Amazing Stories is done, uploaded, and should go live tomorrow.  I”ll start the BAF post for Black Gate either tonight or (more likely) tomorrow along with the review of the detective novel.  I’ll also try to the Simon novel and WT finished in the next couple of days.