Belated Movie Reviews: Mad Max: Fury Road

Friday, July 31st, 2015 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

Mad-Max-Fury-Road-smallI’ve been reading Black Gate over the last month waiting for a Mad Max Fury: Road review… I guess that, if you’re anything like me, after watching the movie all you can manage is to light up a cigarette and take some time to recover.

So! It looks like I need to fire up my modified combat wagon (a ’78 Gremlin with a 79 Fiat Bertone welded on top) and GO TO VALHALLA VIA THE FURY ROAD!

It has taken me a while to come up with a review of Mad Max: Fury Road (MMFR) that isn’t simply “its f-ing awesome!” or “Hell yeah! That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” or even “Oh what a love-eh-lee daay!”

It is a two+ hour fever dream! Modified dragsters and their support motorcycles tearing across a hellscape, bent on destruction! Ah, what the hell, throw in the pack from Gas Town, the Bullet Farmer, the Hedgehogs, and multiple biker gangs while we’re at it!

You know how the original Mad Max was mostly bad things happening and then like a 10-minute chase? Then Road Warrior (Belated Review #4) was bad things happening with like a 30 minute chase? And Beyond Thunderdome (Belated Review #5) threw a curveball by having weird things happen and then a 15 minute chase? Well Fury Road has like 10 minutes of bad things happening, and then IT IS ALL CHASE.

Sometimes they have to find excuses to actually stop chasing for a bit. Mostly so bad things can happen. Sometimes they manage to shout over the screaming engines and groaning metal long enough to engage in the absolute bare minimum of character development. It is so refreshing!

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Future Treasures: The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Friday, July 31st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Traitor Baru Cormorant-smallThere’s nothing quite like an exciting debut fantasy novel. Fantasy is a genre of limitless potential, and every new writer takes us in a direction never before explored. Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant, to be published in hardcover by Tor in September, tells the tale of a young woman from a conquered people who tries to transform a vast empire from within.

Baru Cormorant believes any price is worth paying to liberate her people — even her soul.

When the Empire of Masks conquers her island home, overwrites her culture, criminalizes her customs, and murders one of her fathers, Baru vows to swallow her hate, join the Empire’s civil service, and claw her way high enough to set her people free.

Sent as an Imperial agent to distant Aurdwynn, another conquered country, Baru discovers it’s on the brink of rebellion. Drawn by the intriguing duchess Tain Hu into a circle of seditious dukes, Baru may be able to use her position to help. As she pursues a precarious balance between the rebels and a shadowy cabal within the Empire, she orchestrates a do-or-die gambit with freedom as the prize.

But the cost of winning the long game of saving her people may be far greater than Baru imagines.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant will be published by Tor Books on September 15, 2015. It is 400 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover, and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Sam Weber. Read an excerpt at

Limestone Genre Expo, Kingston Ontario

Friday, July 31st, 2015 | Posted by Violette Malan

Limestone1Last weekend I took part in the first ever Limestone Genre Expo in Kingston, Ontario (which is known as the Limestone City, hence the name). I had a wonderful time, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. There’s nothing like an event like this to remind you how many people among your friends and acquaintance are people you’ve never actually met face-to-face.

As I said, this was the first year for this event, and Liz Strange, Barry King and their minions did an excellent job of organization. For one, the event lived up to its billing, in that it was a genre expo. Most of the time there were three tracks, with full panels on Fantasy, SF, Mystery, Horror and Romance, along with readings and workshops

I’ve run small conferences myself, and people always find it strange when I tell them that often the most popular individual events are the workshops. Yes, they are primarily attended by people at one stage or another of a writing career, but a small percentage of attendees are people who are curious about some of the nuts and bolts of writing, and who are looking for insights into literary analysis. There was a wide variety in subject matter from “First Page Critiques” where people came prepared to share their first 250 words with editor and author Caro Soles, to “Building Tension” with Matt Moore, to “How to Market and Sell Short Fiction” with Douglas Smith, a man who knows. Author and editor Nancy Kilpatrick’s workshop was titled “Novel Idea Pitch” in the program, but she herself describes it as “a workshop on brain storming.” I like her version better.

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I Voted For the Hugos

Friday, July 31st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

2011 Hugo Award-smallYesterday, I cast my vote for the 2015 Hugo awards.

It was my first time voting for the Hugos (yay!). But I’ve never been nominated for a Hugo Award before either, so this is pretty much the year for milestones all around. For the record, here’s what I ranked in first place in each category:

Best NovelThe Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Tor Books)
Best Novella – No Award
Best Novelette – “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Lightspeed, April 2014)
Best Short Story – No Award
Best Related Work – No Award
Best Graphic StoryMs. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal (Marvel Comics)
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) Edge of Tomorrow
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”
Best Professional Editor (Short Form) – No Award
Best Professional Editor (Long Form) – No Award
Best Professional Artist – Julie Dillon
Best SemiprozineBeneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews
Best FanzineTangent Online, edited by Dave Truesdale
Best FancastGalactic Suburbia Podcast
Best Fan Writer – Laura J. Mixon
Best Fan Artist – No vote cast
The John W. Campbell Award – Wesley Chu

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New Treasures: The Recoletta Novels by Carrie Patel

Thursday, July 30th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Buried Life-small Cities and Thrones-small

I’m a sucker for a great fantasy setting. Plot, character, sparkling prose… these all appeal to me as much as the next guy. But give me a fresh, innovative setting, and you’ve got my attention from page one.

One of the most intriguing and innovative settings I’ve come across recently is the fantastical, gaslit underground city of Recoletta, where mankind huddles after a mysterious apocalypse, and whose true origins are shrouded in mystery. It is the setting for two novels (so far) from debut author Carrie Patel: The Buried Life and Cities and Thrones, both published this year by Angry Robot. Here’s a brief bit of enticing description from the starred review at Publishers Weekly:

With Regency-era sensibilities and Agatha Christie’s flair for the subtle conundrum, Patel’s debut novel introduces readers to a subterranean city of the future, centuries after what is dubbed ‘The Catastrophe’, and beautifully manages the delicate balance between entertainment and social commentary. The subtly fantastical story is resplendent with surprisingly deep villains, political corruption, and a gripping whodunit feel.

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The History of the Other Necronomicon

Thursday, July 30th, 2015 | Posted by William I. Lengeman III

Necronomicon-small(With sincerest apologies to H. P. Lovecraft)

Original title, Watdiz Rafaflafla — Rafaflafla being the word used by residents of the greater Pittsburgh area to designate that harrowing sound (made by insects and tiny flying horses) suppos’d to resemble the flatulence of daemons who have been tuned to the key of B flat.

Composed by Haminah Haminah H. Haminah, Esq., a sad clown and learned scholar of the Peoria, in the American caliphate of the Illinois, who is said to have flourished during the early period of the Flock of Seagulls and the A-ha, circa 1983 A.D. He visited the ruins of the Cleveland and he explored subterranean secrets of the Memphis and spent ten years alone in the great southern desert of the Phoenix — the Hoolenah Whooleenah or “Artificially Irrigated Space” of the ancients, which is held to be inhabited by evil blue-haired spirits and sundry other monsters of the retirement catacombs. Of this desert many tedious and mediocre marvels are told by those who have much time on their hands and are usually about two and a half sheets to the wind.

In his last years H. Haminah dwelt in Topeka, where the Necronomicon II was written, and of his final death or disappearance (c. 1989 A.D.) many random and pointless things are told. He is said by Reebeeh Bopaloola (his biographer) to have been seized by an unspeakably vile monster with breath that would stop a tank in broad daylight in the produce aisle of the Safeway and devoured horribly before a smattering of bored witnesses. Who just wanted some arugula and really didn’t want to get mixed up in yet another one of those supermarket devouring incidents.

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Shimmer 26 Now on Sale

Thursday, July 30th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Shimmer 26 July 2015-smallShimmer #26, cover-dated July 2015, offers four new stories. Two are currently available on the website; the last two will be available in August.

The Star Maiden,” Roshani Chokshi
A star maiden is not an actual star. If you split her open, you will find neither crumbled moons nor milky pearls. A star maiden is a sliver of heaven made flesh. She is an orphaned moonbeam clinging to one possession only: A dress.

The Last Dinosaur,” Lavie Tidhar
As Mina drove, a hush fell over the city, gradually, in tiers, and the white fluffy clouds in the sky above London parted gently to open up a riverful of blue. It was a beautiful day for a ride. She hummed to herself, an old song, and her fingers tapped rhythm on the steering wheel.

“Serein,” Cat Hellisen (available 8/4)
I’ve imagined it endlessly: what Claire must have thought as she packed her bag. How leaving is easy, even if you lie and say oh god it’s hard it’s hard it’s hard. Make a clean break, leave everything, let loose your claim to possession: this is my house, this is my bed, these are my albums not shelved alphabetically because I tried and never could keep the world orderly, this is my little library built out of gifts and second-hand forgotten paperbacks.

“States of Emergency,” Erica L. Satifka (available 8/18)
In a no-tell motel just outside Billings, the psychotic cattle rancher known as Paranoid Jack freezes when he sees the baby-blue eyeball glowering at him from the mouthpiece of the Bakelite phone.

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See the Table of Contents for Clockwork Canada: Steampunk Fiction, edited by Dominik Parisien

Thursday, July 30th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Dead North Canadian Zombie Fiction-smallEditor Dominik Parisien has just announced the Table of Contents for his upcoming anthology Clockwork Canada, to be published by Exile Editions, a Canadian small press, next year.

Exile began publishing Canadian genre anthologies in 2013; so far they’ve published Dead North: Canadian Zombie Fiction (edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia), Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse (edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia), and New Canadian Noir (edited by Claude Lalumière and David Nickle). They are currently reading submissions for a fifth anthology: Those Who Make Us: Canadian Creature, Myth, and Monster Stories, edited by Kelsi Morris and Kaitlin Tremblay.

Here’s the description:

Clockwork Canada runs the gamut of steampunk, showcasing a wide variety of genre elements, from purely technological contraptions to combinations of the mechanical and magical. The stories in the anthology reimagine important Canadian historical events, provide us with alternate Canadas, and gather inspiration from the Canadian landscape to make us wonder: what if history had gone a different way?

Clockwork Canada will contain fifteen stories; all are steampunk, and all are set in Canada. Here’s the complete table of contents.

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The Altarpiece of the Virgin of the Milk, the Breast of Spanish Renaissance Art

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


Photo copyright Sean McLachlan.

In a previous post about Salamanca, Spain, I talked about Salamanca cathedral’s rich collection of Medieval and Renaissance art, inlcuding a splended retablo and some rare wall paintings. Like many cathedrals in this country, it also houses a small museum of some of its treasures. One of the most unusual items is the Altarpiece of the Virgin of the Milk.

It dates to the second half of the 16th century and was produced by an unknown artist. At its center is a breastfeeding Virgin, “La Virgen de la Leche,” part of a tradition of such depictions dating back to at least the 12th century. She is surrounded by other images detailing her Bible story and also related religious figures. Above is her Coronation. On the upper left is the Annunciation, and to the upper right the Archangel Gabriel.  To the left is the Assumption of Mary, to the right the Birth and Adoration of Jesus.

It gets weirder in the lower register, with Saint Agatha on the lower left offering a plate of breasts to Saints Cosmas and Damien. On the lower right Saint Margaret rounds out the picture.


Photo copyright Sean McLachlan.

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Wickedness of Old: Tales of Cthulhu Invictus, edited by Brian M. Sammons

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Tales of Cthulhu Invictus-smallCthulhu Invictus, the popular 2009 Call of Cthulhu sourcebook from Chaosium, allows players to partake in mythos adventures in the hills and streets of ancient Rome. It was at least partially inspired by one of Lovecraft’s most famous dreams, described in a letter to Donald Wandrei dated Thursday, November 3, 1927. The letter survives (and the relevant fragment, now titled “The Very Old Folk,” is posted online here), and it relates an exceptionally vivid nightmare in which Lovecraft dreamt  he was an ancient Roman named Lucius Caelius Rufus, investigating a terrible Iberian hill tribe.

He had killed himself when the horses screamed… He, who had been born and lived all his life in that region, and knew what men whispered about the hills. All the torches now began to dim, and the cries of frightened legionaries mingled with the unceasing screams of the tethered horses. The air grew perceptibly colder, more suddenly so than is usual at November’s brink, and seemed stirred by terrible undulations which I could not help connecting with the beating of huge wings…

Above the nighted screaming of men and horses that dæmonic drumming rose to louder pitch, whilst an ice-cold wind of shocking sentience and deliberateness swept down from those forbidden heights and coiled about each man separately, till all the cohort was struggling and screaming in the dark… Only old Scribonius Libo seemed resigned. He uttered words amidst the screaming, and they echo still in my ears… “Wickedness of old… it is wickedness of old…”

Tales of Cthulhu Invictus is an original anthology of Cthulhu Mythos fiction set in Ancient Rome, the setting of Cthulhu Invictus. It was funded as a stretch goal as part of a successful Kickstarter for De Horrore Cosmico. It is due to be published any day now by Golden Goblin Press.

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