New Treasures: Between Worlds: The Collected Ile-Rien and Cineth Stories by Martha Wells

Sunday, April 12th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Between Worlds Martha Wells-smallMartha Wells was one of the most popular writers ever published in Black Gate. In fact, her three Cineth stories featuring Giliead and Ilias helped bring us a host of new readers.

Those three stories have never been collected — until now. Between Worlds: The Collected Ile-Rien and Cineth Stories, one of six anthologies to be funded by the successful Six by Six Kickstarter in December, is now available. It contains “Holy Places,” “Houses of the Dead,” and “Reflections,” which first appeared in Black Gate 10, 11, and 12, as well as “Night at the Opera,” a brand new Nicholas and Reynard story set before The Death of the Necromancer, and two other stories.

We serialized Martha’s complete novel The Death of the Necromancer here.

The Six by Six project brought together six popular fantasy and SF authors — Martha Wells, Will McIntosh, Tina Connolly, Stephen Gaskell, Brenda Cooper, and Bradley P. Beaulieu — to create six new collections featuring each author. Two have shipped so far, Martha’s Between Worlds, and Futures Near and Far, featuring six stories by Will McIntosh.

In addition to the Black Gates stories and the new Nicholas and Reynard tale, Between Worlds also features “The Potter’s Daughter,” a prequel to Martha’s novel The Element of Fire, and the Giliead and Ilias story “Rites of Passage.”

Here’s the complete table of contents.

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James Maliszewski Launches The Excellent Travelling Volume

Sunday, March 29th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Excellent Travelling Volume-smallJames Maliszewski, Black Gate blogger and creator of the long-running hobby gaming site Grognardia, has launched a new magazine, The Excellent Travelling Volume.

The Excellent Travelling Volume is a 28-page, digest-sized print-only fanzine dedicated to Empire of the Petal Throne (EPT), the first roleplaying game set on M.A.R. Barker’s world of Tékumel. EPT was first released in 1975 by TSR, making it one of the first RPGs ever published.

Tékumel is one of the most popular and enduring settings in fantasy gaming. No less than four RPGs have used it since it first appeared, including Swords & Glory (Gamescience, 1983/84), the excellent Gardasiyal: Adventures in Tekumel (Theater of the Mind, 1994), and Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne (Guardians of Order, 2005). It was also the setting for several novels by Barker, including The Man of Gold (DAW, 1984) and Flamesong (DAW, 1985).

While Tékumel has remained popular, the original game which launched it, Empire of the Petal Throne, is now 40 years ago and an extremely rare TSR collectible. It was reprinted only once, by Different Worlds Publications in 1987. However, RPGNow sells a PDF version of the original rules for just $11. The game has a strong group of core fans who have kept it alive for four decades.

The Excellent Travelling Volume is produced under license from the Tékumel Foundation. The first issue (cover at left; art by Jason Sholtis — click for bigger version) was released in December 2014 and is already sold out. Issue #2 is now available. Issues have a very limited print run (200 copies) and go out of print fairly quickly; if you’re interested, I would suggest you act quickly.

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Fantasy Scroll Magazine 5 Now Available

Sunday, March 29th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Fantasy Scroll Magazine 5-smallThe fifth issue of the Kickstarter-funded online-only Fantasy Scroll Magazine is now available.

Fantasy Scroll was launched with an Introductory Issue #0 in January 2014, which was used as a proof-of-concept for a Kickstarter campaign. The campaign ended on April 23, 2014, raising $2,956 against a $2,500 goal, enough to fund a full year (four issues).

Fantasy Scroll has become a poster child for the right way to fund and launch a new fantasy magazine. All four issues were released last year, as promised, and the mag has been successful enough to self-fund issue #5. It’s accomplished that by selling merchandise, launching a mobile app, soliciting donations — and additional funding drives, creating a Starlight Patrol of enthusiastic backers and supporters at Patreon who help keep the magazine going.

Fantasy Scroll has published original short fiction by Ken Liu, Mike Resnick, Piers Anthony, Cat Rambo, Rachel Pollack, Seth Chambers, and many others. The magazine is edited by Iulian Ionescu, Frederick Doot, and Michelle Muller. It’s published quarterly, and the contents include all kinds of fantastic literature — science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal short-fiction — and run the gamut from short stories to flash fiction to micro-fiction.

Issue #5 is cover-dated February 2015, and includes 10 short stories from Emily Cataneo, Laurie Tom, Jarod Anderson and others — including “How the Grail Came to the Fisher King,” a new story by Black Gate author and blogger Sarah Avery.

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Join Howard Andrew Jones and Bill Ward in a Swords Against Death Re-Read

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Swords Against Death-smallI’ve been enjoying the re-read of Fritz Leiber’s famous Lankhmar stories over at Howard Andrew Jones’ website. Howard and Bill Ward have taken a break from their entertaining examination of Lord Dunsany, and have turned their keen eye towards one of the most famous sword and sorcery series of all time, Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser books. They open the series with an overview of the second volume, Swords Against Death, a collection of short stories. Here’s Howard.

Once I got past the short, storyless opening (“The Circle Curse”) I was engrossed. Every short story was approximately the same length, and a few were tangentially connected. It was a little like episodic television.

More importantly, it was exciting, fast-paced, brimming with magic and sword-play and horror and mystery — and beautiful women, a subject that was becoming increasingly interesting to teenaged Howard. I loved Swords Against Death so much that I read it at least six times in the next few years (oh, to have so much spare time and energy).

Swords Against Death was not only one of the first fantasy books I read, it was my introduction to true sword-and-sorcery. These days the line between sword-and-sorcery is a lot more blurred than it was in the mid ’70s. Back then you pretty much had high fantasy, or sword-and-sorcery, and I definitely preferred the latter for the grit and the kind of protagonists, not to mention the pacing.

Swords Against Death was published in July 1970 by Ace Books. It is 251 pages, originally priced at $0.75. The gorgeous cover is by the one-and-only Jeff Jones.

Read the complete overview here, and part one (a look at “The Circle Curse”) here.

Building Up Fantasy Readers

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

micemysticsIn a recent post, M. Harold Page gave some thoughts for gamer parents which I found very helpful. Particularly that instead of focusing on our old games, we should look to new games as perfectly acceptable entries into tabletop.

I spend a lot of time gaming with my kids, and it’s very easy for me to want to rush them. For example, at my wife’s urging, when my 9-year-old grew enamored with one of my NPCs, I decided to try to bring him into our adult Pathfinder RPG gaming group by letting him take over the character. He was constantly impatient, wanting to jump his turn in the cycle, asking questions constantly. Enthusiastic … but in a way that clearly drove the other players nuts.

However, instead of going full-on RPG, we can play games such as Mice & Mystics (Plaid Hat Games, Amazon) or the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (Paizo, Amazon), games which have a lot of moving parts and tell a story, but are also more structurally well-defined than a traditional tabletop RPG.

It’s very easy for me to want to share with the kids the games that I most want to play, instead of taking a step back to find the ones that are more appropriate for them. I have to meet them halfway.

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Witch Hunts and True Heroes: Reading Violette Malan’s The Sleeping God

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 | Posted by Gabe Dybing

The Sleeping God Violette Malan-smallThe Odin’s Day Poul Anderson work scheduled for discussion this week is The High Crusade. But, since I find that I have very little to say about it, I’ll focus instead on Violette Malan’s The Sleeping God.

Last week Elizabeth Cady asked Black Gate readers what she should read next. I would never deign to give her an answer. As a reader and a scholar, in general I find that book recommendations more often curse than bless. Here is my simple reasoning for this: There simply is too much to read already. I don’t even want to think about accommodating every well-meaning aunt, mother-in-law (notice the gender bias here? I’ll let it stand: I infrequently receive recommendations from men in the family), neighbor or co-worker who says, “Oh, I see you like to read. Well, you absolutely must read FILL IN THE BLANK.” These recommendations are all the worse (I’m sure many Black Gate readers can testify) when the recommenders are pushing a book on you for no other reason than that they have noticed that you read at all in a culture wherein so many don’t. As such, they often don’t recognize the fine distinctions of what genres or periods in which one might prefer to read.

On many occasions I have thought about and discussed reading through food metaphors. The title of the lengthiest work from food thinker Michael Pollan frames this discussion perfectly. The title is The Omnivore’s Dilemma. In that work, Pollan argues that a modern Homo sapien in what are considered “developed” countries is confronted in the supermarket with a similar complexity of choice that his or her distant ancestor experienced. In a state of nature, the human must choose amongst a variety of foods that grow in the wild. What is nutritious? What will make you sick? What should be sampled in moderation? Now, Pollan argues, the food system has processed these foods into – in some cases – potentially lethal formulations. In the supermarket, Homo sapiens face similar challenges that their ancestors did: What is good for me? What will make me sick? What might cause cancer?

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Helpless in the Face of Your Enemy: Writers and Attack Novels

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 | Posted by Harry Connolly

Great-Way-Final-Cover-eBook-3-copySome writers plan their careers.

They scan the top of the best seller lists, think Hmm… here’s a police procedural, this one’s steampunk, these two are zombie novels, and this one’s about angels. Great! I’ve been wanting to try steampunk. I’ll write a steampunk murder mystery about a pair of mismatched cops. One will be a zombie and the other will be an angel. No, a fallen angel who has lost his celestial whatsit.

Which is a silly example, obviously, but authors manage the non-silly version to great success. As I recall, John Scalzi has said that he wrote Old Man’s War because MilSF seemed to be selling well. There are others, too, but I hesitate to name them because writing to the market has a bit of a stigma attached to it, although it shouldn’t. More power to them, I say.*

Me, I can’t do it. Not that I haven’t tried, but I can’t make it work. I don’t read fast enough to sample the sales lists widely, I can’t make myself write a book without screwing around with the tropes of the genre, and I suffer from attack novels.

Attack novel: ( əˈtak ˈnävəl) n: a story idea that a writer can’t stop thinking about, even (especially) when they’re supposed to be working on something else.

The first book I ever sold was an attack novel. So was the first book I ever started and abandoned. They haven’t all been, but when they come on me, all I can do is put them off until I finish whatever’s on deadline.

At the beginning of March, I released an attack novel that I started five years ago, and in every way that matters, it was a book I shouldn’t have written.

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New Treasures: Aetheria by S. Hutson Blount

Saturday, March 14th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Aetheria-smallS. Hutson Blount’s short story “The Laws of Chaos Left Us All in Disarray” appeared in the last print issue of Black Gate. A fast-paced adventure tale of a mercenary’s desperate attempts to protect a secretive group of pilgrims, it was one of the most popular pieces in the issue.

We met up with Stephen at the 2012 World Science Fiction Convention here in Chicago, and he turned out to be as entertaining in person as he is on the page. So I was delighted to discover that his first novel, Aetheria, had arrived this week. The story of an extremely resourceful con artist in a galaxy filled with competing empires, pirates, ice miners and more dangerous things, Aetheria has already shot to the top of my to-be-read pile.

Aetheria Peregrine set out for a career as a merchant spacer — a career cut short in a whirlwind of events. Caught up in the tumult of planetary empires set against each other, she must by turns become a pirate, doctor, ice miner, drug dealer, vagabond, mystic, spy, secret policewoman, pilgrim, fugitive, heiress, scholar, and diplomat.

She faces the opportunities and dangers of a hostile galaxy armed with the only things she can depend on: her wits, her unquenchable drive for love and success, and the flexible ethics of a practiced conwoman.

Befriended, betrayed, recruited, exiled, and more in the course of her travels, Aetheria can be anything except stopped.

Aetheria was published on March 12, 2015. It is 298 pages, priced at just $2.99 in digital format. Buy it today at

See all the latest publications from Black Gate‘s writers and staff here.

Lawrence Schick Expands on the Origins of TSR’s The Known World

Sunday, March 8th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Gods Demi-Gods & Heroes-smallThe “Known World” D&D Setting: A Secret History,” Lawrence Schick’s fascinating look behind the scenes at the home-grown adventure world that eventually became TSR’s famed Known World campaign setting, one of the earliest published settings for Dungeons and Dragons, was our most popular article last month, read by thousands of old school gamers.

Interest in the piece continues to be high and last week James Mishler, who painstakingly produced color versions of Lawrence’s original hand-drawn maps, conducted a detailed Q&A with Lawrence on his blog, Adventures in Gaming V2. The questions range from how much inspiration Tom Moldvay and Lawrence drew from the original D&D supplement Gods, Demigods & Heroes for their pantheon, to the influence of Lin Carter and Michael Moorcock. Here’s a snippet.

You mentioned an “ancient, pre-human civilization.” Do you recall any details about this? Related, do you recall if Tom Moldvay’s creation, the Carnifex of M3: Twilight Calling, were based on the Dragon Kings from Lin Carter’s Thongor series?

The pre-human civilizations were misty, with contradictory legends about them. Tom’s Carnifex were not based on Carter’s Dragon Kings, IIRC. (Neither of us thought very highly of the Thongor novels, though we admired Carter’s work as an editor.)

The influences from Howard, Lovecraft, and Smith are fairly obvious. But what, if any influence of Moorcock can be found in the Original Known World? Were the alignments of the OKW strongly in the Moorcock tradition?

We weren’t all that big on alignment, actually — it seemed to us, even then, to be an oversimplification that was more restrictive than it was useful. Moorcock’s real influence on us was the example of his anti-heroes, which freed us up to put moral choices in the hands of the players, rather than hard-wiring the world into good vs. evil.

Read the complete Q&A here.

Uncanny Magazine Issue 3 Now on Sale

Saturday, March 7th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Uncanny Magazine 3-smallThe third issue of Uncanny Magazine is now on sale, with a cover that caused me to do a bit of a double take. I’m not entirely sure if it depicts a plucky adventuress assisting a monster in distress, a strange sexual romp in a pastoral field, or something else entirely. The artist is Carrie Ann Baade, and the title of the work (Unspeakable #2) doesn’t help. Click on the image at left for a bigger version, and make up your own mind.

Whatever the case, the new issue has a stellar line up, with all-new short fiction by Sofia Samatar, Rosamund Hodge, Emily Devenport, a classic reprint by Ellen Klages, and more. Here’s the complete fiction contents:

“The Lamps Thereof Are Fire and Flames,” by Rosamund Hodge
“Translatio Corporis,” by Kat Howard
‘Ivory Darts, Golden Arrows,” by Maria Dahvana Headley
“Those,” by Sofia Samatar
“When the Circus Lights Down,” by Sarah Pinsker
“Dr. Polingyouma’s Machine,” by Emily Devenport
“In the House of the Seven Librarians,” by Ellen Klages
“You Are Two Point Three Meters from Your Destination,” by Fran Wilde

Nonfiction this issues is by Ytasha L. Womack, Stephanie Zvan, Amal El–Mohtar, and L.M. Myles. There are also poems by Jennifer Crow, M Sereno, and our very own C.S.E. Cooney, and interviews with Sofia Samatar, C.S.E. Cooney, and Ellen Klages.

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