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May. 16th, 2007

Black Gate 4

Pulps and Submissions

Windy City Pulp and Paperback Con


Two weekends ago I headed up to the Windy City Pulp and Paperback convention and spent some time with John O’Neill, John Hocking, Eric Knight, and Morgan Holmes. It was a pleasure to see them again, and to meet in person a number of folks I’d only ever corresponded with, not to mention chat with David Smith and Steve Haffner and a number of people I only bump into at the con.


The chief draw of the con for me is the companionship among like-minded people; the ancient magazines and paperbacks (hardbacks too, although I’ve never purchased any) are really just an excuse. That said, I did walk away with a number of minor treasures, amongst them some Ki-Gor tales from Jungle Stories. I was introduced to the glories of Jungle Stories just a few years back courtesy of first Andy Beau and then some enthusiastic further recommendations from Hocking and Morgan. Ki-Gor was written by a house author, meaning that his exploits were written by any number of authors but all credited to the imaginary John Peter Drummond. As a result you can probably anticipate, correctly, that the Ki-Gor stories are a mixed bag. The worst of them are the most vile pulp writing you can imagine. But the best of them are written in a frenzy of glorious purple prose. Hocking has described these good ones as sounding a lot like they are Tarzan stories as written by Robert E. Howard or Mickey Spillane, and I’ve found that description apt. Of the thirty or so I’ve read now a little over a dozen are pulp gems. By gems I mean they’re outrageous adventure romps turned up to 11, with great action scenes, monsters, menaces, voodoo queens, dinosaurs, walking zombies – all the stuff you expect to find when you first hear of pulps and rarely encounter… for in reality the majority of pulps are pretty banal and not nearly as exciting as their covers.


After we dug through the stacks of treasures, many of those I mention above retreated to the Black Gate inner sanctum high above downtown Chicago. There we relaxed in leather chairs, surrounded by wall-to-wall bookcases stuffed with rare volumes, collections of Planet Stories, Astounding, Weird Tales, If, and other legendary magazines, naturally interspersed with busts of Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Leigh Brackett, and other legends (Steven Silver and Eric Knight had to bow out, alas, as they had tickets for the opening night of Damn Spot! the new Shakespeare musical.)


Submission Updates


The last two weeks involved two long trips up north, and I’ve fallen behind with reading subs as a result. I resumed reading a few days ago and am into middle-to-late 2006. John and I are both working through the accumulated subs for the next few weeks before we turn all attention to getting issue 11 out the door.


The first review of Black Gate 10 came in, courtesy of Sherwood Smith at Tangent.

And in case you haven't yet noticed, the updates at the Black Gate web site are now going up one a week, courtesy of the talented and efficient Leo Grin. This last week we uploaded a review of Imaro and The Children of Hurin. Stay tuned for many more articles and interviews.



Mar. 23rd, 2007

Black Gate 4

Updates and Stage Setting

Black Gate Update

Black Gate 10 should be back from the printer in the next week.

E-submissions -- I accidentally ended up with most of the week off from day job writing, and so threw myself into reading e-submissions for Black Gate. I've now read up through the middle of August 2006. There were some great finds in there. There are a lot of responses to write, but I hope to get them out in the next two weeks prior to another big push through submissions. 

John is sifting through the e-subs I've forwarded to him as well as diving into some more real-world subs, prior to returning to work getting Black Gate 11 out the door.

Stage Setting

I don't know how other writers go about it, but I like to keep my weaknesses in mind as I sit down to write a scene. For instance, I used to have a big problem with having the plot dictate what my characters did, so I started reminding myself to always know what the characters WANT before the scene starts. I still do that. Something I've been striving for lately is to make the place itself a character -- to bring it to life and present it as an interesting place to be. I mean, really, why set a scene in just one more generic tavern? It's not as though when you're writing fantasy prose you're on a budget. My friend Eric Knight -- someone who excels at giving his landscapes character -- wrote a nice article about Solomon Kane for the www.swordandsorcery.org site that sums up this point nicely.

"'Wings of the Night' features a marathon running fight through ruin, countryside, and even air that only a team of computer animators with a sixty-million dollar budget and the latest rendering technology (or a single Texan from Cross Plains hammering the story out with worn typewriter ribbon) could bring properly to life. "

We don't even have to worry about paying for typewriter ribbons now. We shouldn't constrain our imaginations -- we should give our characters, and our readers, interesting places to visit. I wish it didn't have to go without saying that landscape should make sense in the world the writer's creating and be woven through the events rather than be thrown in as a gee whiz moment. It all has to work together.

So that's what I've been thinking lately about stage setting.

Does anyone else keep lists in mind of things they watch for as they write? I'd be interested in hearing about them.

Warm Regards,

Mar. 20th, 2007

Black Gate 4

Black Gate 10 and 11

Time for a quick update.

Black Gate 10 is now being printed.

Black Gate 11 is ready for layout. It should follow 10 in short order.

Slush is currently about 8 months out. Right now I'm focusing on e-slush and hope to have it down to about 5-6 months in the next few weeks. If I can continue at that pace, I'll be happy. So too, I think, will those awaiting responses. 

Lastly, I hope everyone knows that the Black Gate site itself has been a lot more active. New articles, essays, and interviews have been going up at the rate of one or two a month. A new one just went live very early this morning. I hope you'll check it out.