Dueling Rakes, Mysterious Women, and the Goblin Aristocracy: The Queen’s Necklace by Teresa Edgerton

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_1605134EiRbubaPThe Queen’s Necklace (2001) by Teresa Edgerton (with its title borrowed from Alexandre Dumas) is a perfectly splendid swashbuckling adventure in an Age of Reason-like world as it teeters on the precipice of collapse.

For five thousand years Goblins using powerful magical gems ruled the world, keeping Humans enslaved and uneducated. Fifteeen hundred years ago Humanity rose up and slaughtered most — but not all — of the Goblins. Now a millennium of plotting by the Goblin aristocracy is about to culminate in their return to power in a wave of chaos and destruction.

The Queen’s Necklace (TQN) is one of the many (too many!) books that’s sat unread for years on my shelf. Ocassionally the thought would occur to me to pull it down and finally give it a go but I never followed through. When I reread and reviewed Edgerton’s earlier novel Goblin Moon this summer, she suggested I give The Queen’s Necklace a try, mentioning that it was possibly going to be reprinted in the autumn. So I figured, what the heck, I had bought it with every intention of reading it at some point so why not now? And I’m glad I did.

While not connected to Goblin Moon and its sequel, The Gnome’s Engine, TQN occurs in a similar Enlightenment setting. There are perfumed fops, dueling rakes, mysterious women, and equal parts quackery, science, and magic.

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Fantasy Out Loud V: Steeleye Span Meets Terry Pratchett

Monday, September 15th, 2014 | Posted by markrigney

815A5CiM4DL._SL1200_In late 2013, a strange event occurred: Steeleye Span, a British band that has outlived just about all other contenders except the Rolling Stones, released a CD entitled Wintersmith.

Coincidence? After all, there’s a Discworld spin-off by that name, too, a Terry Pratchett novel aimed at the young adult market and starring the infinitely resourceful tween witch, Tiffany Aching. Could there be a connection?

Indeed. It turns out that Pratchett has been a fan of Steeleye since the early seventies (“Boys Of Bedlam” was a particular favorite), and Steeleye’s lead vocalist, the incomparable Maddy Prior, has been, in turn, an unabashed fan of Pratchett’s. They got to talking, and next thing you know, the world was gifted with a terrific fantasy-driven album of folk, rock, and traditional Morris dances, all tied together by the Great A’Tuin and a nasty case of winter.

Pratchett’s Wintersmith is the third installment in the irregular Tiffany Aching series, a sort of sideline to the “official” Discworld novels (The Color Magic, et al). The story centers on Tiffany’s impulsive decision to “dance the Dark Morris,” a rite that shifts summer to winter – except that when Tiffany includes herself, both summer and winter, elemental godlings, take note of her and seek, in their own ways, to possess her. Tiffany now faces the possibility of endless winter, in the demi-human form of a smitten teenage boy.

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Hearing the Voices of Dead Authors in the Present Tense

Monday, September 15th, 2014 | Posted by Nick Ozment

tolkien lighting pipeThere are a number of citation styles for a variety of fields, but the two biggies are MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association). The latter is used in the natural sciences and research fields. The former is used in the humanities — literature, philosophy, visual and performing arts — so it’s the one I grew intimately familiar with while earning my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English Literature and Language.

MLA is also the one I primarily taught my first-year composition students during my nine years as an English instructor (which, in retrospect, was a bit of a disservice to all the kids who were going on to pursue non-humanities degrees). In my defense, it is the style primarily used in high school, so it is the one that most students entering college have some degree of familiarity with — which is strange when you think about it: it’s as if our secondary-school system assumes most students will go on to pursue degrees in theater or English. The way I couched my presentation of MLA went something like this: “Whatever field you go into, you will have to write papers that follow a particular formatting and style guide. It may not be this one — it may be APA or Chicago — but using this one will get you accustomed to using one.”

In recent years, I’ve had to get more familiar with APA because I do a fair amount of copy-editing on the side for education, sociology, and psychology professors who write their chapters and academic papers in APA style. The differences between the styles are myriad — each one, after all, has its own labyrinthine manual of hundreds of rules in small type (with sometimes counter-intuitive indexing — as anyone who has spent wasted minutes vainly searching for the guideline pertaining to this one particular set of circumstances knows). Whatever the differences in details, though, their main purpose is to provide a consistent way for other scholars to easily locate the sources one has cited.

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New Treasures: House Immortal by Devon Monk

Monday, September 15th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

House Immortal Devon Monk-smallThe first story I ever bought for Black Gate was by Devon Monk.

I was probably more excited than she was. “Stitchery,” the tale of a young woman struggling desperately to hold her farm together, and drawing on her unique ability to create new creatures from the flesh of dead ones, eventually appeared in Black Gate 2, and was selected for David Hartwell’s Year’s Best Fantasy 2.

I’ve been following Devon’s career ever since — and an impressive career it’s been, too. Since her appearance in BG 2 she’s published over a dozen novels in three different series: Allie Beckstrom, Broken Magic, and the steampunk Age of Steam books.

Now she kicks off a brand new fantasy series, House Immortal, an intriguing take on the legend of Frankenstein, featuring a main character who’s been stitched together into an immortal body… it reminds me of that excellent story I bought from a promising new writer, all those years ago.

One hundred years ago, eleven powerful ruling Houses consolidated all of the world’s resources and authority into their own grasping hands. Only one power wasn’t placed under the command of a single House: the control over the immortal galvanized….

Matilda Case isn’t like most folk. In fact, she’s unique in the world, the crowning achievement of her father’s experiments, a girl pieced together from bits. Or so she believes, until Abraham Seventh shows up at her door, stitched with life thread just like her and insisting that enemies are coming to kill them all.

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Remembering The Tragic Fate of Moonbase Alpha, Fifteen Years Later

Monday, September 15th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Space 1999 moon breakaway-smallOver at SF Signal, Jeff Patterson recalls the tragic accident that hurled the brave men and women of Moonbase Alpha out of our solar system and into the cold reaches of space fifteen years ago.

On September 13, 1999, our dear Moon experienced a catastrophic nuclear explosion which hurled it out of orbit into deep space. It took with it the brave men and women of Moonbase Alpha. In the years that followed the Alphans encountered Joan Collins, Christoper Lee, Brian Blessed, and whip-wielding women in red catsuits.

Space: 1999 still gets a lot of flak for being cheesy SF TV, but one cannot understate the profound impact the show had on fans in the 1970s. It was the only new effects-heavy space-based show at the time, and a syndicated show at that. It had a fairly diverse cast, at least by 70s TV standards. It featured the distinct Gerry Anderson vibe that had made Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet such eye candy, mostly due to the astounding effects work of Brian Johnson and Martin Bower.

As a child of the 70s, I remember racing home after school to catch the show in re-runs. The rockin’ theme music in the opening credits still gets me.

Read the complete article at SF Signal.


The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Doyle in The Resident Patient?

Monday, September 15th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Resident_Richardson Bell

One of my favorite Holmes’ also played Joseph Bell

Apologies for this post running a bit long. While I’m a devoted Sherlockian, I’m not particularly a great fan of Conan Doyle himself. However, I find this tidbit from his life to be pretty interesting. So…

Biographers and devotees of Sherlock Holmes have written much regarding who the detective was modeled after. Joseph Bell is widely regarded as the primary inspiration, a belief bolstered by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s own words more than once.

In his autobiography, Memories and Adventures, Doyle said, “I thought of my old teacher Joe Bell, of his eagle face, of his curious ways, of his eerie trick of spotting details. If he were a detective he would surely reduce this fascinating but unorganized business to something nearer to an exact science.”

Add another comment, “Sherlock Holmes is the literary embodiment… of my memory of a professor of medicine at Edinburgh University.”

Now, it has been asserted that one can find bits of Doyle himself in the great detective. His second wife said that her husband had the Sherlock Holmes brain, solving mysteries that puzzled the police.

Son Adrian Conan Doyle vehemently (even militantly) argued that his father was Holmes. Seemingly more likely is that the stolid, patriotic Doctor Watson drew in great part from his creator.

But can we examine one of the sixty Holmes tales and discover biographical pieces of Conan Doyle? As a matter of fact, we need look no further than “The Adventure of the Resident Patient” and Dr. Percy Trevelyan.

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These Robots Are Revolting: Magnus, Robot Fighter 4000 A.D.

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 | Posted by Thomas Parker

Magnus the Robot Fighter Volume 1-smallI had thousands of comic books when I was a kid (heck, I’ve got thousands of them now), but I never had a single Gold Key book — I avoided them like the plague. I didn’t like their painted covers; I didn’t like their series based on flop Irwin Allen TV shows like Land of the Giants and Time Tunnel; I didn’t like that Superman or Green Lantern were nowhere to be found in their stories.

I wheedled hard to get that twelve or fifteen cents (that’s what comic books cost in my day, Sonny), and was determined to be discriminating with it. Yes, even as a kid, I was a snob — a trash snob, but a snob.

Recently, however, in a spirit of scientific investigation, I picked up the first two Dark Horse paperback collections of Magnus Robot Fighter 4000 A.D. The books collect the first fourteen issues of Magnus that Gold Key published between 1963 and 1966. Dark Horse has done a superior job with these beautifully-produced volumes;  in addition to the original stories, they feature appreciative introductions by Mike Royer and Steve Rude, samples of original concept art, and the covers that I so disliked as a kid.

Most importantly, the reproduction of the comic pages themselves is first-rate. The coloring is especially good; it’s clean and sharp without being overpoweringly bright, as some of DC’s Archive books have been. (The non-glossy paper used is a big plus in this regard.)

So the wrapping is nice — what about the present? Who the heck is this Magnus guy, anyway?

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Future Treasures: Check-Out Time by Mark Rigney

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Check Out Time Mark Rigney-smallMark Rigney’s Tales of Gemen — a three-part adventure tale featuring a deadly tomb, a ruined gateway, and the mysterious trader Gemen, who risks everything to plumb their secrets —  have consistently hovered near the top of our Fiction charts since we first published them in 2012. Tangent Online called the tales “Reminiscent of the old sword & sorcery classics,” high praise in our book.

More recently, Mark has turned his attention to a series of thrillers starring the occult investigators Reverend Renner and Dale Quist. Bill Maynard raved about the first, The Skates, in his review for us last year.

I envy Rigney for his talents… Rigney can write circles around most of us as he seamlessly blurs the lines between genres and switches voice from one first person narrator to the other…

Rigney’s odd couple (in more ways than one) comprises a stuffy Unitarian minister and a rather crude, sometimes boorish, ex-linebacker. Together they solve occult mysteries… Make no mistake, this book is grand entertainment.

Simply put, I love this book.

The second in the series, “Sleeping Bear,” appeared in February, and anticipation has been building for their first novel-length adventure. Check-Out Time finally arrives next month.

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Arthur C. Clarke: Sci-Fi Psychic

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 | Posted by Brandon Engel

Arthur C Clarke The Sentinel-smallKnown as a member of science-fiction’s “big three” alongside Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein, Clarke had a penchant, not only for writing superb science-fiction stories, but also for anticipating what sort of role technology would play in future societies.

His work as a science fiction writer (particularly his screenplay and novel 2001: A Space Odyssey) has stimulated endless conversation about the role technology plays in our day-to-day lives and the degree to which it reflects our propensity to transcend our genetic inadequacies as a species.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke was born on December 16, 1917 in Minehead, Somerset, England, UK. At a very early age, he was exposed to (what were at the time) cutting edge communications technologies by his mother, who was a radio operator in England. He was also blessed with an amazing imagination that allowed him to see things more as they could be, instead of how they were.

But although he had demonstrated a high capacity for abstract thinking, Clarke also showed a propensity for natural sciences, and he was adept at navigating technological interfaces. During World War II, he served as a radar specialist with the elite Royal Air Force of Great Britain. After the war, he took up studies in mathematics and physics and earned a degree from King’s College London. Most of his writings during this time were non-fiction science books about the possible future of rocket technology and space flight. The influence of his time in the Air Force became very evident.

In the late 1930s, Clarke began writing science-fiction pieces about space travel and futuristic technology for fanzines. In the “The Sentinel” (1948), he suggests that alien life forms could be vastly superior to humans. This theme would be central in many of his future novels.

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Vintage Treasures: Night Fear by Frank Belknap Long

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Night Fear-smallFrank Belknap Long isn’t well remembered today. He wrote nearly 30 novels, including Space Station 1 (1957), Mars is My Destination (1962), The Horror from the Hills (1963), and Survival World (1971), most of which have been out of print for over 40 years.

But his short fiction has fared a little better. Long was part of the Lovecraft Circle, and indeed was a close friend of Lovecraft’s for many years (James McGlothlin has a great pic of the two, accompanying his article on The Lovecraft Circle at the First World Fantasy Convention.) His contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos, including “The Hounds of Tindalos” and “The Space Eaters,” are still highly regarded today.

Long’s short fiction was gathered in four paperback collections: Odd Science Fiction (1964), The Rim of the Unknown (1972), The Hounds of Tindalos (1978) and Night Fear (1979). They are long out of print, but most of his finest short fiction was collected in Masters of the Weird Tale: Frank Belknap Long (2010), a gorgeous limited edition hardcover from Centipede Press.

Night Fear collects fiction spanning nearly three decades from 1925 to 1953, originally published in the pulp magazines Weird Tales, Astounding Science Fiction, Startling Stories, Unknown, Super Science Stories, and Dynamic Science Fiction. It includes the famous Cthulhu Mythos novella ”The Horror from the Hills,” first serialized in Weird Tales in 1931 and built on a dream H. P. Lovecraft had which Long incorporated in the tale nearly verbatim, and ”It’s a Tough Life,” a 1942 essay from Astounding Science-Fiction in which Long discusses L. Sprague de Camp’s 1940 article on bizarre terrestrial life.

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