Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Blown Away by the Winds of Khalakovo

The Winds of Khalakovo
Bradley P. Beaulieu
Nightshade Books

If there is any justice in this world whatsoever, this book will be short-listed on next year's Hugo ballot.

This one has it all:  flying ships, magic, mystery, dark secrets, buckets of intrigue (both familial and political), honor, revenge, sea serpents, selfless sacrifice, a wedding dance that's just short of combat, assassinations, ship eating squids, and after a fashion, unrequited love. Lifelong friends will become bitter enemies; bitter enemies will become staunch allies.  And for all involved, everything will change.

So what's the book really about, you say?  I'm glad you asked that.

Here's the situation and the principle players:

A Look Back: Black Gate 3

This is the first of an occasional series, in which I'll look back at an issue of a magazine from some years ago.  I'm not sure how far back these looks will extend.  I'd like to restrict myself to things that most of you can find without too much difficulty or expense.  For that reason, I don't know if I'll include pulps.  What I won't focus on in this series is anything that is currently available for free online.  While Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly are venues I enjoy and will from time to time take a look at, they won't be part of this series.

I decided to start this series with Black Gate 3, Winter 2002 because I like this publication.  It's published some great fiction over the years by people who have gone on to have successful careers.  I can't think of a single issue that hasn't been a winner.  By the third issue, BG was beginning to hit its stride and had developed a clear editorial style.

Let's take a look at what this issue holds.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Home of Heroics and Rogue Blades Entertainment are Back...

...and I have a post there!  Jason M. Waltz just sent out an email saying that Rogue Blades Entertainment is back online as is Home of Heroics, both virus free.  That's great news, made even sweeter for me by the fact that I have a post there.  It's a review of a book entitled The Roads to Baldairn Motte.  Check it out!  Then buy and read the  book.  There are still a few details Jason is working on as far as the look of the site, but it's great to have RBE and HoH back.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Quick Update

It's been hectic this week.  I've not posted any new reviews (although I've started one on The Winds of Khalakovo) because classes started a couple of days ago.  I'm visiting family out of town today; they've just returned from Scotland.  We'll head home in the morning, then I'll catch a plane in the afternoon for a job interview on Monday.  I'll finish the Khalakovo review, then focus on some short fiction I'll read while in the airport.  I should be back up to speed by the middle of next week, including some more Conan posts.  Then I've got four or five novels I'll be reviewing.  So things will be quiet here at the blog for a couple of days.  But that doesn't mean you can't browse the archives...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rogue Blades Entertainment, Home of Heroics Websites Temporarily On Hiatus

I got an email earlier today from Jason M. Waltz.  The RBE website has been infected with some sort of virus.  Jason is working to fix it, but at the moment he is swamped with some additional training for his day job and doesn't have much time (or energy) at the end of the day.  As soon as he can, he's going to get things back up and running.  In the meantime, the RBE site is in construction mode and new Home of Heroics posts are on hold.  They'll return once things are fixed, and on a daily basis until HOH is back on schedule. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Marvin Kaye Buys Weird Tales, Replaces Ann Vandermeer as Editor

This was announced earlier today, so many, if not most, of you have probably seen it, but I wanted to post it anyway.  (It's been one of those days.  Power was out over most of the campus for most of the day and classes start tomorrow.)  Marvin Kaye has bought Weird Tales from publisher John Betancourt.  He is replacing the entire editorial staff, including editor Ann Vandermeer.  Vandermeer's final issue will be #359, which will be published next February.  (The current issue, #358 is shown at right.)  Kaye, who has edited anthologies related to Weird Tales and the now defunct H. P. Lovecraft's Magazine of Horror, intends to edit the magazine himself.  His first issue, #360, will be a special Cthulhu themed issue.  Stories bought by Vandermeer that aren't included in #359 will be published in future issues.  Further details can be found in Ann Vandermeer's farewell postBlack Gate editor John O'Neill has written a commentary here.

What I Think of Conan the Momoan

photo courtesy of mattrailer.com
I said in my post last Friday that I thought Conan the Barbarian was a semi-decent movie.  Now that things seem to be slowing down a little and I have time to write, I need to define that term.  Simply put, "decent" means not good but not particularly bad, either.  "Semi" means not even that good.

The problem, as more people than I'm going to try to link to have said, is that the movie simply doesn't deliver in terms of story.  There are just too many holes in the internal logic.  I'll discuss the things that stuck out to me, but first I'll discuss why this character isn't Conan as written by Robert E. Howard.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stan Lee Media Suing for Rights to Conan

Picture Courtesy of Movie Picture DB
The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that Stan Lee Media is suing for the proceeds from Conan the Barbarian, assuming the film makes any money.  The basis of the suit is that rights to the character were sold illegally in 2002.  Looks like Conan's battles aren't over yet.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Congratulations to the Hugo Award Winners

The Hugos were given out last night at Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention, in Reno, Nevada.

The winners are:

Best Novel:                      Blackout/All Clear                             Connie Willis

Best Novella:                   The Lifecycle of Software Objects      Ted Chiang

Best Novellette:                "The Emperor of Mars"                        Allen M. Steele

Best Short Story:              "For Want of a Nail"               Mary Robinette Kowal

Best Related Work            Chicks Dig Time Lords                  Lynne M. Thomas
                                                                                          and Tara O'Shea, eds.

Best Graphic Story           Girl Genius Volume 10:                        Phil and Kaja
                                                                                          Folio, art by Phil Folio

Best Dramatic Presentation , Long Form:                Inception

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form:               
                                     Doctor Who:  "The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang"

Best Professional Editor, Long Form:                      Lou Anders

Best Professional Editor, Short Form:                     Sheila Williams

Best Professional Artist:                                         Shaun Tan

Best Semiprozine:                                                  Clarkesworld

Best Fanzine:                                                         The Drink Tank

Best Fan Artist:                                                      Brad W. Foster

Also, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, which is not a Hugo, went to Lev Grossman

Adventures Fantastic/Futures Past and Present would like to congratulate all the nominees and especially the winners.  A list of winners and all nominees can be found here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Conan the Movie

I just came from seeing this movie called Conan the Barbarian.  It's a semi-decent sword and sorcery flick about this guy who has these adventures.  He just happens to be named Conan.

Interestingly enough, one of my favorite writers, Robert E. Howard, also created a sword and sorcery character named Conan who goes around having all these adventures.

Other than some place names, there's not much more in common than that.

I've got to pack up the van for one last short summer jaunt before school starts for my son on Monday.  I'll write a more detailed review sometime in the next few days.  I doubt anything I have to say will have any impact on how well the film does, but I do want my thoughts to be coherent.  I will say that the movie wasn't as bad as I feared (an advantage to setting your expectations really low) but not as good as I'd hoped.  I'll elaborate on the semi-decent remark in the full blown review.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

RIP, Colin Harvey

It is with great sadness that Adventures Fantastic/Futures Past and Present learned today of the death of Colin Harvey.  He passed away of a stroke at the age of 50.  He was far too young.  Angry Robot Books has posted this remembrance.  I've only read one of his novels, Winter Song.  It was one of the first books I reviewed.  I loved it and was hoping he would return to that universe.

He will be missed.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Kate.

Blogging Conan: The God in the Bowl

This is one of the shorter Conan pieces.  It was probably the third Conan story Howard wrote and one of the few rejected by Farnsworth Wright when he submitted it to Weird Tales.  It wouldn't see publication until years after Howard's death.

This story has always been one of my favorite Conan tales.  It's unique in that it's at heart a police procedural, and a rather good one, even if it does have some stereotypical good cop-bad cop interplay. It's also something of a locked room mystery.

Conan has broken into a museum of sorts, having been commissioned to steal a particular artifact.  Instead he finds the night watchman bending over the corpse of the building's owner.  Conan thinks the man is another thief.  He realizes his mistake when the watchman pulls a cord, which rings a bell summoning the city watch.

Conan Trailer at The Blog That Time Forgot

Al Harron has posted an idea for the trailer of a hypothetical Conan movie or at The Blog That Time Forgot.  If you haven't seen it already, go check it out.  It's a perfect example of what is possible with Howard's material, but will probably never happen given how inept Hollywood is.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

More Stupidity Involving Amazon

It's late, and frankly I'm tired and don't feel like writing a long rant tonight.  It would probably be incoherent anyway.  Besides, I'm planning a long rant next week and don't want to vent my spleen prematurely.

I did want to point out something to you, though.  Earlier today, Passive Guy posted a notice about a group of different nonprofits in California urging a boycott of Amazon.  They're upset about taxes.  Seems Amazon, which is not based in California, refuses to pay California's state sales tax.  Good for Amazon I say.  Anyway, these people say we should boycott Amazon until they do.  And did I mention that this is a group of nonprofits, who don't pay taxes in the first place?

Yeah, like the title says, stupid.  Passive Guy, who is a lawyer by training, gives a good breakdown as to why this is a dumb argument from a legal perspective.  There are a number of insightful comments about how this strategy, if it were to succeed, would hurt they people it's supposed to help. 

It's an interesting post, to say the least.   Go read it.   In the meantime, I'm compiling a list of  things I'm going to buy from Amazon.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Blogging Conan: The Tower of the Elephant

Of all the Conan stories, this one, "The Tower of the Elephant", is arguably the best.  It's one of the shortest, but it contains some of the strongest writing Howard ever did.  For example, from the opening paragraph, in which Howard describes the the Maul, the part of town smart people don't go into after dark:  "Along the crooked, unpaved streets with their heaps of refuse and sloppy puddles, drunken roisterers staggered, roaring.  Steel glinted in the shadows where wolf preyed on wolf, and from the darkness rose the shrill laughter of women, and the sounds of scufflings and strugglings.  Torchlight licked luridly from broken windows and wide-thrown doors, and out of those doors, stale smells of wine and rank sweaty bodies, clamor of drinking-jacks and fists hammered on rough tables, snatches of obscene songs, rushed like a blow in the face." 

That's only three sentences.  Yet Howard managed to pack more description in those three sentences, more atmosphere and sense of place, than most writers do in three paragraphs.  He does more than paint a word picture.  He places the reader in the middle of the scene.

It's into this scene that a young man named Conan comes. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Finally, a Voice of Reason

Lee Martindale has weighed in on the ratio of male/female writers in Year's Best lists and anthologies.  I tried to post a reply, but wasn't able to.  I don't have a Livejournal account, and I couldn't figure out how to log in from Google, so I'm replying here.  Finally, someone with credentials who speaks with a voice of reason.  If you read my interview with Lee, this shouldn't surprise you.

Blogging Conan: The People of the Black Circle

"The People of the Black Circle" is one of Robert E. Howard's best Conan tales, a masterpiece of action, adventure, and all around creepiness.  It was one of only four Conan tales included in the two volume The Best of Robert E. Howard published a few years ago by Del Rey.  It appears in The Best of Robert E. Howard Volume 1: Crimson Shadows along with "Beyond the Black River".  The other two stories, "The Tower of the Elephant" and "Red Nails" are in The Best of Robert E. Howard Volume 2: Grim Lands.  We'll look at all of them before this series is over.

It's one of the longer Conan tales.  The story opens, as do many of the best of Howard's work featuring Conan, with characters other than the Cimmerian, something we've discussed in other posts in this series.  In this case it's the king of Vendhya, who is dying from some sort of supernatural afflication.  At his side are various slave girls (who seem to serve no other function than to cringe), a priest, and his sister Yasmina.  Waiting in another part of the city for the king to die are the nobleman Kerim Shah, who is working for the king of Turan to destablize the country, and a man name Khemsa.  He's an acolyte the Black Seers of Yimsha, who are behind the supernatural assault on the king.  Before he dies, the king manages to tell Yasmina who is responsible for his death.

Conan appears later, when Yasmina has assumed the throne and vowed vengeance on the Black Seers.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's Easier to Take a Crown Than Keep it

The Crown of the Conqueror
Gav Thorpe
Angry Robot Books
432 pp., $7.99 paper, $5.99 ebook

If you haven't read the first volume in this series, The Crown of the Blood, I'm giving you fair warning that I'm going to have at least one major spoiler in this review.

When I reviewed The Crown of the Blood, I really enjoyed it but had a few quibbles about a couple of things.  Overall, though, I thought it was a good book.  The Crown of the Conqueror, on the other hand is a very good book.  The  gripes I had about the first book, which I considered to be relatively minor, aren't present in this one.  The pace moves at what feels like a breakneck speed, which is an impressive trick for Mr. Thorpe to pull off, considering 3 1/2 years pass from the first page to the last.

Scott Oden Sails the Wine-Dark Seas

Author Scott Oden has a new blog that might be of interest to readers of this one.  It's called The Wine-Dark Seas, and Scott has several posts up already.  Check it out.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Review of the Warrior Women in Black Gate

New Epoch Press, $18.95

I wrote a post about Bud Webster's column on Tom Reamy a couple of days after receiving the magazine in the mail, but since then I've been busy with other projects to read much of the fiction in the current issue of Black Gate.  On the flights home from my meeting last week, I made sure to rectify that omission.  Since it looks as though Black Gate will be an annual publication now, I've decided rather than read it all at once, I'm going to ration it.  That way the wait for the next issue won't be so interminable.

This issue has as its theme Warrior Women.  The stunning cover by Donato Giancola kinda makes the point.  Eight of the twenty-one stories (not counting the excerpt from The Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones) are part of this theme and have their own separate table of contents.  They're scattered throughout the volume rather than having their own section.  I'm not sure what I make of that editorial decision, considering most issues with special themes I've seen tend to group the themed stories together, although I have no problem with Mr. O'Neill arranging them this way.  He's also taken a pretty broad definition of warrior woman, including stories with characters that don't fit the image of the woman on the cover.  Let's take a quick look at them, shall we?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Blogging Conan: A Witch Shall be Born

It's been hectic the last few weeks.  I just finished two back to back conferences at which I made presentations and will fly home tomorrow.  As a result, I've not posted much other than a review at Futures Past and Present of a Jack Vance novel I read on the plane.  Things should start to pick back up.

"A Witch Shall be Born", although not without flaws,  inspired the Margaret Brundage cover seen on the left.  This is one of my favorite Conan stories, even with the flaws.  Some of the strongest imagery in the whole series can be found in this story.  Also some of the most unbelievable protrayals of women.

The story opens as Taramis, the queen of the small city state Khauran, is awakened during the night.  She had a twin sister at birth, Salome, who was left to die in the desert.  A curse lies on the royal family of Khauran, so that every century a child is born with a cresecent shaped birthmark on her chest.  The child will become a witch and do much damage to the kingdom.  When Taramis and Salome were born, Salome had the mirthmark and was left in the desert to die.  Found by an eastern sorcerer returning home from a visit to Stygia, she was raised to become a powerful sorceress.  Now she's come back to take what she claims is her birthright.