Thursday, October 27, 2016

World Fantasy Convention 2016 Panels and Moderating

World Fantasy Convention 2016 Columbus OH Oct 27-30

S.E. Lindberg - Panels and Moderating

Getting ready to head north to Columbus for the 2016 World Fantasy Convention. Looking forward to buying used books, talking to experienced authors, editors, and illustrators.  Should be fun. This will be the first time I join a panel... and I have the honor of moderating one too!  

The Fantasy Writer-Artist : THURSDAY 9PM   DELAWARE CD

We can think of numerous examples of fantasy writers (novelists or short story writers) who were also accomplished painters or illustrators – from Mervyn Peake to Janny Wurts. How does working in one medium affect work in the other? We hope to hear from active contemporary writer-artists on this panel, not just talk about them.
Brenda Carre, Sally Grotta (m), Seth Lindberg, Jerome Stueart, Charles Vess

The Eternally Difficult (but Fascinating) Writers : SATURDAY : 10 AM UNION AB

The writers who will never be popular but who will never fade away. It has been suggested that at least one person a year will read David Lindsay’s A Voyage to Arcturus with great fascination from now until the end of time. But he will never be popular. Clark Ashton Smith’s prose style repels some and enchants others, but we know he will never sell millions of copies. We don’t mean just neglected writers. What about the “difficult” writers? Does James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (a dream fantasy of sorts) fall into this category? What is the place for difficult prose styles or ideas which can only reach the few and never the many?

Robert Knowlton, Seth E. Lindberg (m), Gary K. Wolfe, Janeen Webb, Kathleen Ann Goonan

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Gonji: Deathwind of Vedun - Review by SE

Gonji: Deathwind of Vedun: The Deathwind Triology, Book ThreeGonji: Deathwind of Vedun: The Deathwind Triology, Book Three by T.C. Rypel
S.E> rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Gonji Deathwind trilogy was really one book cut into three parts. Take home message: if you decide to follow Gonji, just plan on reading the whole trilogy. This review combines my first two reviews with additional commentary.

Gongi Is A Unique, Entertaining Mashup: Gongi is a wandering, displaced warrior--a Ronin (master-less samurai) roaming 16th century Europe. This is not historical fiction, however. This is Sword & Sorcery in vein of R.E. Howard’s Conan…but it is a solidly unique take on the genre. Firstly, Gonji is a cross-breed of a Japanese warlord and Viking sword-maiden; rather than the Hyperborean continent of REH, Gonji explores a realistic version of Europe’s geography (Ottoman–Habsburg times). Plenty of creatures and magic infuse compelling fight scenes. I half expected Godzilla to emerge on multiple occasions!

Gonji is a mysterious, intelligent character. familiar with many languages (Japanese, Spanish, Italian, German, English, more?) sufficiently to converse with anyone. He is a bit moody too, which is ostensibly related to his mixed heritage (disciplined father, wild mother). His allegiances are difficult to predict, sometimes joining mercenary bands, sometimes rescuing weak townspeople. Generally, the blend of cultures and Gonji’s mysterious motivations are engaging.

By the end of this first installment, we know only that he is seeking the “Deathwind,” and we know he gets closer to this goal when he reached the city of Vedun, but otherwise the core of his quest is unclear. There is parallel conflict with some apparently evil occupiers of Vedun; but their motives are not clear by the end either, at times brutally dominating folk and at times letting them live in peace. I would have enjoyed a bit more clarification; the demarcation between the first and second book may just be due to the publication history.

I enjoyed Part-1 (Red Blade From the East) but was left wondering about character motivations; also my mind struggled to contain a geographic scope that seemed to only grow. The second installment pleasantly explored all the characters and mysteries posited in the first; geographically, it focused on one location essentially (Vedun city and the adjacent Castle Lenska). It delivered on every aspect I hoped, and the conflict/story leapt forward every chapter; it unveiled truths behind several key secrets & motivations behind the characters, and ramped up the adventure (which was at a high level anyway). Great adventure fantasy that is more dark & pulpy than it is historical. I like the content in #1 more after reading #2, and I can’t see how any reader could not stop without tackling #3.

Gonji: Deathwind of Vedun: The Deathwind Triology, Book Three concludes the original trilogy. The first half focuses on Vedun city’s plight (which has lots of battle but is less interesting since it deals with secondary characters; select vignettes like Hildegarde's story amplify Gonji's character); the latter half focuses on the primary characters battling in Castle Lenska--which was exhilarating. The milieu allows for subtle steampunk warfare (i.e., with Paille’s coffin-cupolas, and a measured level of gunpowder mayhem); it also allows for demons, giants, and werewolves. I would like to have learned more about Akryllon's history and Gonji's motivation for seeking the "Deathwind"; enough was revealed to tell a good story while luring me into the future installments (see below list). Rypel excels with his description of demons and monsters like the Hell-Hounds and the unveiling of the mysterious multi-personality disorder of King Klann (that's not a spoiler as much as a teaser comment); here is an example:
"It looked like a gaping hole in the space above the ward, yet shaped like something reptilian. And its eyes—that horrible yellowish glare that suggested eyes—seemed to see everywhere at once, to burn into the soul of the watcher with ghastly promise of lost eternity. In its wake it carried...dancing things, whirling and lashing about in tormented rhythm. Lost souls, grasping for a new purchase in the world of men that always seemed close, yet ever out of their reach."

Series: The initial Zebra books of the 1980’s essential split one long novel into a trilogy (I suspect the split was arbitrary). T.C. Rypel’s 1980 series has been released in a more complete forms (more books, eBooks, audiobooks). The newer releases from Borgo Press seem to have maintained this split. I’ll need to read the second and third books to confirm that, and I plan to do that. Actually, Rypel has a lot more Gonji in mind, and has books 4 and 5 available now. Books 1-3 are the original trilogy:
1) Gonji: Red Blade from the East: The Deathwind Trilogy, Book One
2) Gonji: The Soul Within the Steel
3) Gonji: Deathwind of Vedun: The Deathwind Triology, Book Three
4) Gonji: Fortress of Lost Worlds
5) Gonji: A Hungering of Wolves
6)... (7) ....(8)
2016 and beyond UPDATE: DARK VENTURES, from Wildside Press due out late 2016, and according to the author, "It comprises two new novellas, my essay on the series' creation/production history, and a generous excerpt from the coming Gonji origin novel, BORN OF FLAME AND STEEL." And [Rypel] just agreed to a commission to write a NEW Gonji short story for an anthology scheduled for next summer (2017).

Gonji Red Blade from the East The Deathwind Trilogy, Book One by T.C. Rypel Gonji The Soul Within the Steel by T.C. Rypel Gonji Deathwind of Vedun The Deathwind Triology, Book Three by T.C. Rypel Gonji Fortress of Lost Worlds by T.C. Rypel Gonji A Hungering of Wolves by T.C. Rypel

Social Media, Cover Art, and Maps: T.C. Rypel is very accessible via Facebook(Gonji Page) and the Goodreads Sword and Sorcery Group. If you check those websites you can (a) communicate with him and (b) just read/learn fascinating tidbits. For instance, from these I learned the artwork of Serbian illustrator Dusan Kostic graces most of the new releases, which seem more appropriate than the 1980’s covers that seem to mirror the James Clavell books (contemporary for 1980’s works, but of different genre). Also, The Kindle editions of the Deathwind Trilogy books do not include artist Joseph Rutt's Maps that appear in the front of the print editions.

Ohio Rocks: Incidentally, T.C. Rypel has Ohio roots, as do many Sword and Sorcery authors; in fact, 20% of the original Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America (SAGA, 1960-80s) came from my home state OH. The unassuming state of OH has ties to many relevant authors including including: David C. Smith, Andre Norton, Stephen Donaldson, John Jakes, Richard Lee Byers, Roger Zelazny, Dennis L. McKiernan, Steve Goble, and more.

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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Rhiannon and Conan Pastiche - Groupreads for Nov-Dec 2016

Nov Dec 2016 Groupreads (Links to Discussions)
(a) Brackett's Sword of Rhiannon (aka Sea Kings of Mars) 
(b) CONAN Pastiche 

Masthead Banner Credits

Leigh Brackett's sword & planet adventure is a short novel but a favorite among aficionado's. Let's read: The Sword of Rhiannon...first published as Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories in "Thrilling Wonder" Magazine in 1949 (banner image from cover artist Earle Bergey).

Conan Pastiche, from 100% pastiche to posthumously finished tales, lets read how non-Robert E. Howard authors continued the barbarian's adventures! Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp's 1967 Conan (banner image and cover art by Frazetta)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Tales of Kamose - Review by S.E.

Servant of the Jackal God: The Tales of Kamose, Archpriest of AnubisServant of the Jackal God: The Tales of Kamose, Archpriest of Anubis by Keith Taylor
S.E. rating: 5 of 5 stars

Servant of the Jackal God: The Tales of Kamose, Archpriest of Anubis by Keith Taylor is highly recommended for the Weird Fiction / Sword & Sorcery reader.

Skelos is a magazine of Weird Fiction (launched via Kickstarter Summer 2016); inside is great Viking-horror Novelette by Keith Taylor called The Drowned Dead Shape. It is great to know that he is still active! I hope he revisits Kamose. Taylor is also known for Cormac Mac Art (Pastiche of REH) with Andrew Offutt. A Sword & Sorcery Group Read made me aware that Taylor wrote nine tales of Kamose, sorcerer priest of Anubis, for Weird Tales in the 1990’s. Interesting is that editor of Weird Tales at the time was Darrell Schweitzer who likewise had an interest in sorcerers in Egypt with his The Mask of the Sorcerer and Sekenre: The Book of the Sorcerer—which are great books appealing to the same readership.

The Servant of the Jackal God: The Tales of Kamose, Archpriest of Anubis by Keith Taylor is a compilation of 11 weird tales (2 short stories made for the anthology, the others published in Weird Tales; contents detailed below). Kamose functions like a mix between Sherlock Holmes and the Grim Reaper, solving cases and judging supernatural crimes in ancient Eypt. He employs minions who serve him under stressful pretenses; these include the human thief “Si-hotep”, the serpent-human hybrid”Lamia, and demons (“Bone Breaker” and “Green Flame”). He also disguises himself to go undercover. All the while, he is plagued by rival sects, especially from Thoth who unwillingly sourced Kamose’s power (backstory revealed in the book in Chapter 3 “Haunted Shadows”). In a later story, Taylor recaps Kamose’s power:
"Kamose could enchant the sea, the sky, and the earth if desired. He understood the speech of beasts and birds, so far as they had language, and could command them also. He knew the secrets of various potions that gave one the power to walk through walls, breathe beneath water or move with a celerity beyond nature—though the first had its dangers and the last exacted a price from the body. He could even change his own face and body if he chose, though the feat called for careful preparation, and required time both to effect and to reverse.”

Kamose (and his minions) encounter all sorts of nightmarish magic and creatures; my favorites include (a) an antagonist from “Corpse’s Wrath” that proves the persistence of the undead and (b) a potion that enables people to walk thru walls…but also allows imbibers to see Cthulhu-esque creatures and see through human skin . Expect lots of tomb raiding, thaumaturgy, betrayals, and awesome magic. The milieu is infused with Egyptian (Khem) mythology and history, from animated shabti dolls, ghostly ka bodies, and alchemy, and haunts/deities from Kush and Libya. Chapter one sets the stage by introducing us to a real Pharaoh Setekh-Nekht, whose future is fictionalized as is the transition to Ramses III’s reign.

Although published in serial form, Taylor clearly had a novel-like vision with entwined story arcs spanning across and through all the chapters. The adventure is great stuff, but this set doesn’t close all the story arcs completely; you’ll be left desiring more adventures of Kamose. In fact, there are several obscure points (not really spoilers) that are presented as if there will be a sequel: (1) Ramses III relationship with Kamose is just beginning to brew by the end of this and reeks of untapped potential; (2) the mysterious injury Kamose gets in the opening chapter remains pleasantly obscure; the healing process consumes the remaining ~10 chapters (few years) but there is more to that epic battle yet unexplained; (3) lastly, the opening of the last chapter indicates that the Kush-magician/murder in Chapter 1 may have encountered a different fate than Kamose expected.

Daggers and a Serpent - 1999 Weird Tales
Emissaries of Doom - 1999 Weird Tales
Haunted Shadows - 2000 Weird Tales
The Emerald Scarab - 2001 Weird Tales
Lamia - 2001 Weird Tales
What Are You When the Moon Shall Rise? - 2002 Weird Tales
The Company of the Gods -2003 Weird Tales
The Archpriest's Potion - 2003 Weird Tales
Corpse's Wrath - 2006 Weird Tales
Return of Ganesh - 2012 – new material for this book
The Shabti Assassin - 2012 – new material for this book

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