New Treasures: Sword & Mythos, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles

Monday, September 1st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Sword and Mythos-smallInnsmouth Free Press has done some really terrific work recently, including the groundbreaking anthologies Future Lovecraft (2011) and Historical Lovecraft (2011), and the splendid Innsmouth Magazine (which we discussed here).

The Editor-in-Chief of Innsmouth Free Press, Paula R. Stiles, may be familiar to Black Gate readers as the author of the dark fantasy featuring the Queen of Hell, “Roundelay,” in Black Gate 15. With her latest anthology, Sword & Mythos, Stiles and her co-editor Silvia Moreno-Garcia have assembled another dynamite collection of stories, this one featuring sword & sorcery heroes and heroines coming face-to-face with monstrosities out of the Cthulhu Mythos.

The Blades of Heroes Clash Against the Darkest Sorcery

Aztec warriors ready for battle, intent on conquering a neighboring tribe, but different gods protect the Matlazinca. For Arthur Pendragon, the dream of Camelot has ended. What remains is a nightmarish battle against his own son, who is not quite human.

Master Yue, the great swordsman, sets off to discover what happened to a hamlet that was mysteriously abandoned. He finds evil. Sunsorrow, the ancient dreaming sword, pried from the heart of the glass god, yearns for Carcosa.

Fifteen writers, drawing inspiration from the pulp sub-genres of sword and sorcery and the Cthulhu Mythos, seed stories of adventure, of darkness, of magic and monstrosities. From Africa to realms of neverwhere, here is heroic fantasy with a twist.

Sword & Mythos was published by Innsmouth Free Press on May 1, 2014. It is 315 pages, priced at $15 in trade paperback and $5 for the digital edition. The cover is by Nacho Molina Parra. Order a copy or get more details at the Innsmouth Free Press website.


The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The “Lost” Holmes Story

Monday, September 1st, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Wanted_CosmoThere are 60 original Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: 56 short stories and 4 novels (novellas, really). He also wrote two very short Holmes “bits” that are not included in the official Canon, though all acknowledge they are his works.

In August of 1948, the Doyle Estate added a 61st story to the official list when Cosmopolitan proclaimed  “FOUND! The Last Adventure of SHERLOCK HOMES, a hitherto unpublished story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”

Included in that issue was “The Man Who Was Wanted,” a long lost Holmes tale from the pen of Doyle himself. Five months later, London’s Sunday Dispatch serialized it in three installments during January of 1949.

Rumors of the story’s discovery had started in 1942 and Hesketh Pearson, the man who found it while working on an authorized biography of Conan Doyle, had printed the beginning of the story and commented on it in Conan Doyle: His Life and Art.

Notable Baker Street Irregulars such as Edgar Smith, Vincent Starrett and Anthony Boucher raised a hue and cry for the story to be published. For Sherlockians this was on a par with the discovery of a Homeric account of the first nine years of the Trojan War!

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Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook 5th Edition: Character Options & Rules Overview

Sunday, August 31st, 2014 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

5E Players Handbook CAs previously announced, Dungeons & Dragons has released their new 5th edition D&D Player’s Handbook (Amazon). This is the flagship product of their revamped new edition of Dungeons & Dragons. At a time when every aspect of the gaming industry seems to be going gangbusters, it’s a perfect time for Dungeons & Dragons to relaunch a new version of their rules system. Now that I’ve had the book for a while, I’m ready to give some initial thoughts on the system.

When I earlier reviewed the Starter Set, I mentioned that I wasn’t too fond of 4th edition. Let me clarify that statement a bit in context, because my major problem with 4th edition has a direct bearing on how I view 5th edition. It’s not that I disliked 4th edition, per se, it’s just that I didn’t feel that 4th edition felt like the Dungeons & Dragons game system anymore. If someone had shown up and said, “Hey, I just stumbled upon this brand new RPG system,” and shown me a book with the mechanics of 4th edition but without the Dungeons & Dragons branding, I might have been quite impressed. But as a transition from edition 3.5, I saw no reason to give up 3.5 and dive into an entirely new system just to play in the same setting. By contrast, the rules in 3rd edition seemed enough of an improvement over 2nd edition to easily justify the transition.

More importantly, though, I didn’t feel that 4th edition was a good entry-level rules system any longer. A year ago, my aunt approached me about my younger cousin (age 12) wanting to begin playing Dungeons & Dragons. I immediately suggested that I could send him my 3.5 edition manuals. I specifically suggested against trying to learn 4th edition rules, unless the kids he was wanting to play with were already using it.

So allow me to begin my review of the 5th edition Player’s Handbook by being absolutely clear:

If I were to introduce a brand new player to a fantasy roleplaying game today, the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons would be my top choice.

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Discover the Prototype for Lord of the Rings: The Zimiamvia Trilogy by E. R. Eddison

Sunday, August 31st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Mezentian Gate-small The Worm Ouroboros-small
A Fish Dinner in Memison-small Mistress of Mistresses-small

Many decades ago I discovered four volumes of fantasy by the British author E. R. Eddison: The Worm Ouroboros, and its sequel, The Zimiamvia Trilogy (Mistress of Mistresses, A Fish Dinner in Memison, and the uncompleted The Mezentian Gate.) They were a handsome set of Ballantine paperback from 1967, all with gorgeous covers by Barbara Remington.

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When Words Are More Powerful Than Weapons: The Reader of Acheron, by Walter Rhein

Sunday, August 31st, 2014 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

The Reader of Acheron-small“Beneath the rule of tyrants, monsters may become heroes.”

Walter Rhein gives us something different in the way of heroic fantasy – a story set in a future world where it is forbidden to learn to read, forbidden to teach people to read. In the hierarchy of Erafor, reading and writing has been outlawed for decades, though basic iconography is allowed for the sake of keeping records.

The mysterious and powerful Seneschals are charged with eliminating all texts and “readers” in this brave new world, a world I hope to never myself living in. For this is also a world where slaves are kept as animals, and are doped up on a brain-rotting drug called Bliss that keeps them docile, so they won’t rise up and pose a threat to their masters. But one slave, named Kikkan, manages to murder his master and mistress, and eventually escape to explore his world, in search of freedom and knowledge and understanding.

But he chooses not to kill the slave owners’ children, and thus they vow revenge. This is not only the story of Kikkan’s murderous revolt; it is also the story of his education and his growth as a character, and as a human being.

And then there’s Quillion, a rebellious soldier patrolling the border just north of the lands of Acheron, who also commits murder when he kills his buffoon of a commanding officer, a man who risks everyone else’s life but his own. Quillion has a rudimentary knowledge of reading, and wants to learn more because there are things he desires to know, and he believes that knowledge is his right to own. When he and Cole, his friend, companion and fellow soldier are conscripted to help in the hunt for the Reader of Acheron – someone who is teaching people to read, in violation of all the laws of the land – they find themselves caught up in politics and social ideals, and ideas… which are dangerous, and what the hierarchy is dedicated to stamping out.

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Take A Walk Among the Tombstones

Saturday, August 30th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

WalkTombstonesOn September 19, Liam Neeson’s latest blockbuster, A Walk Among the Tombstones, opens in theaters nationwide. Neeson plays Matthew Scudder, an ex-cop who is an off-the-book private investigator and a recovering alcoholic.

Scudder has starred in seventeen novels dating back to 1976 and a bunch of short stories; all written by Lawrence Block. Tombstones is actually the tenth book in the series, so they’re starting well into things.

Jeff Bridges had played Scudder in Eight Million Ways to Die (the fifth book), moving the story to California(!) and making him a sheriff’s deputy (Hollywood!)

Block, who I mentioned in this post, is a fantastic writer. Along with Scudder, he has written series’ starring an adventurer who can’t sleep (Tanner), a bookstore owning burglar (Bernie Rhodenbarr), a lawyer who will do anything to win a case (Martin Ehrengraf), a likeable hit man (Keller) and a humorous Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin-esque pair (Leo Haig and Chip Harrison). And he’s one of the finest short story writers I’ve run across. Enough Rope is a superb collection of his short fiction.

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Future Treasures: The Cobbler of Ridingham by Jeffrey E. Barlough

Saturday, August 30th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Cobbler of Ridingham-smallJeffrey E. Barlough is one of the most gifted and ambitious fantasists at work today, and his seven volume Western Lights series is unlike anything else on the shelves. In his review of the fifth volume, Anchorwick, Jackson Kuhl sums up events as follows:

Eugene Stanley has come to the university at Salthead (a parallel Seattle? Vancouver?) to assist his professor uncle in preparing a book manuscript. One night, while working in a deserted turret room at the college…  Stanley is accosted by a phantasmal form. This ignites a definitive search for the missing don as Stanley and friends uncover lost civilizations, ancestral curses, whole companies of ghosts, monsters from Greek myth, and a few red herrings, all told in rich, dryly humorous style. It’s P.G. Wodehouse with woolly mammoths.

Those who complain that there’s nothing new in fantasy today aren’t looking hard enough. And they’re definitely not reading Jeffrey E. Barlough.

The eighth volume in the Western Lights series, The Cobbler of Ridingham, will be released in November, and it features Richard Hathaway who previously appeared in Bertram of Butter Cross and the short story “Ebenezer Crackernut” (from A Tangle in Slops).

A creeping shadow, a bump in the night, a thing in the trees — these are but a few of the surprises lurking in the pages of The Cobbler of Ridingham… The new work relates a curious adventure that befell Richard Hathaway while visiting at Haigh Hall, the home of a family acquaintance, Lady Martindale, on the marshes outside the picturesque old country town of Ridingham.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Shadow of Fu Manchu, Part Two

Saturday, August 30th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Shadow of Fu ManchuShadow ZebraThe Shadow of Fu Manchu was serialized in Collier’s from May 8 to June 12, 1948. Hardcover editions followed later that year from Doubleday in the U.S. and Herbert Jenkins in the U.K. Sax Rohmer’s eleventh Fu Manchu thriller gets underway with Sir Denis Nayland Smith in New York on special assignment with the FBI. He is partnered with FBI Agent Raymond Harkness to investigate why agents from various nations are converging on Manhattan. Sir Denis suspects the object of international attention is the special project being handled by The Huston Research Laboratory under the supervision of Dr. Morris Craig. However, Smith initially chooses to keep the FBI in the dark on this matter until he is certain.

The Si-Fan has succeeded in closing in on The Huston Research Laboratory by drawing a net around parent corporation Huston Electric’s director, millionaire Michael Frobisher and his wife, Stella. The Frobisher marriage is not a happy one. Michael lives in fear that his flirtatious wife is unfaithful to him and Stella is likewise tormented by a series of neuroses. The family physician, Dr. Pardoe recommends an eminent European psychiatrist and Nazi concentration camp survivor, Professor Hoffmeyer to treat Stella Frobisher. Both Mr. and Mrs. Frobisher are concerned that Asians have been spying on them, going so far as to break into their home and infiltrate their country club. As their marriage is not a healthy one, neither husband nor wife confide in the other, but rather let their paranoia grow until their nerves have frayed. What neither suspects is that Carl Hoffmeyer is really Dr. Fu Manchu in disguise.

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Last Chance to Win a Copy of Peter Watts’ Echopraxia

Friday, August 29th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Echopraxia-smallLast week, I told you that you had a chance to win a copy of Peter Watts’s brand new novel Echopraxia, on sale this week from Tor Books.

How do you win? Just send an e-mail to john@blackgate.com with the title “Echopraxia” and a one-sentence review of your favorite Tor science fiction novel. One winner will be drawn at random from all qualifying entries and we’ll publish the best reviews here on the Black Gate blog.

What could possibly be easier? But time is running out — the contest closes August 31.

All entries become the property of New Epoch Press. No purchase necessary. Must be 12 or older. Decisions of the judges (capricious as they may be) are final. Not valid where prohibited by law. Eat your vegetables. Thanks to the great folks at Tor for providing the prize.

This Peter Watts fellow is one of the most acclalimed young science fiction writers working today. The first novel in the Echopraxia series, Blindsight, was nominated for the Hugo Award, and in starred review Publishers Weekly called it “a terrifying and original spin on the familiar alien contact story.” Watts has been called “a hard science fiction writer through and through, and one of the very best alive” by The Globe and Mail.

Read an excerpt from Echopraxia, and see the book trailer, here.

Echopraxia was published on August 26 by Tor Books. It is 384 pages, priced at $24.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition.


Goth Chick News: Chicago Comic Con 2014 — Hold Onto Your Spandex… (Part 1)

Friday, August 29th, 2014 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image002It is hard to believe, but we once again find ourselves in that very special time of year here in Chicago. It’s August, temperatures push well past the 90 degree mark, Labor Day looms just around the corner, and Midwesterners from a 150 mile radius (or more in some cases) descend on the city in unforgiving, unbreathable, highly form-fitting, man-made fabrics.

Yes dear Black Gate readers – its once again time for Chicago’s Wizard World Comic Con.

Though Wizard World never officially discloses attendance numbers, local media reports that the 2014 event has drawn nearly 100,000 visitors to the Rosemont Convention Center during its four day run. And like we have done for the last six years, Black Gate photog Chris Z and I are wading into the fray that has literally backed up traffic almost to O’Hare airport.

With weathermen ominously reporting daytime temperatures would “feel like” 115 or more, Chris shows up dressed for battle in his Black Gate polo shirt and a kilt, commenting about how on this day above all others, a breeze is necessary.

This isn’t the first time Chris’s Utilikilt has made an appearance and it won’t be the last. At least I am happy to report most Hollywood starlets could take a lesson from Chris on entering and exiting a low-riding vehicle without acquainting the free world with what lies beneath – if you get my meaning.

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