New Treasures: Steampunk Soldiers: Uniforms and Weapons from the Age of Steam by Philip Smith and Joseph McCullough

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Steampunk Soldiers-smallI’m a sucker for the Steampunk aesthetic — and especially the really creative fashion and fiction it’s helped create. It’s not often that a literary movement simultaneously spawns a fashion and cosplay movement, and I think that’s neat. The two have helped fuel each other, and how could they not? It’s easier to be creative when there are hundreds of artists, jewelers, seamstresses, and cosplayers out there coming up with ideas.

There’s been some terrific Steampunk-related releases in the past few months, including Sean Wallace’s Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures (containing a story by our very own C.S.E. Cooney), Chris Wooding’s Ketty Jay novels, Peter Cakebread’s The Alchemist’s Revenge, and Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century series, just to name a few. But I think my favorite may be the just-released Steampunk Soldiers, a handsome illustrated hardcover that purports to be a serious historical study of the of steam-powered weaponry and equipment that abounded in the days before the Great War of the Worlds.

Steampunk Soldiers is a unique pictorial guide to the last great era of bright and colorful uniforms, as well as an important historical study of the variety of steam-powered weaponry and equipment that abounded in the days before the Great War of the Worlds.

Between 1887 and 1895, the British art student Miles Vandercroft traveled around the world, sketching and painting the soldiers of the countries through which he passed. In this age of dramatic technological advancement, Vandercroft was fascinated by how the rise of steam technology at the start of the American Civil War had transformed warfare and the role of the fighting man. This volume collects all of Vandercroft’s surviving paintings, along with his associated commentary on the specific military units he encountered.

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Notes On Writing Spec Fic, Late 2014

Monday, November 24th, 2014 | Posted by markrigney

A Book CoverIt’s such a predictable trap. In or near an elevator, I tell some newly met, well-intentioned stranger that I’m a writer, and they immediately ask, as if they’ve waited all their lives for this very opportunity to arise, “What sort of books do you write?”

And that’s the end, you see, or at least the end of any potential new friendship, because if I answer “I write fantasy,” which is true, they start sniggering and feel superior, or if I answer, “I write horror,” they run off, laughing hysterically at my bad taste –– and of course then they feel even more superior.

Worst answer of all: “I write literary fiction.” Then they assume I’m a genius and their eyes glaze over, because they feel they absolutely must pay attention to every single word I say, in hopes of gleaning a pearl. I become the social equivalent of bubonic CliffsNotes.

Thus Renner & Quist, and Check-Out Time, because I want to craft stories that employ elements of multiple genres and literary currents. The danger, I suppose, is that I wind up with tossed salad, but I don’t believe that’s been the result. What reviews there’ve been suggest that I’m correct to think I’ve avoided the splatter-punk of, say, Jackson Pollock.

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Discover an Historical Action-Adventure Travel Story with Predatory Ant-Riders: Mark Sumner’s The Naturalist

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Naturalist-smallMark Sumner is one of the most popular writers we’ve ever published. When his short story “Leather Doll” appeared in Black Gate 7, The Internet Review of Science Fiction called it “an absolutely riveting story, certainly a Best-Of caliber work, and I am retroactively adding it to my Best-Of 2004 list… I do not usually open Black Gate expecting to find masterpieces of contemporary science fiction, but I think this gem may be exactly that!”

But it was his next contribution to the magazine that really made an impact: a complete novel published in three standalone installments in BG 10, BG 11, and BG 13. The tale of a botanist/scientist who discovers a highly advanced and aggressive colony of predatory ant-riding insects in Central America, and his desperate struggles to survive and warn the nearly human communities, was widely acclaimed when it first appeared. In his 2010 short fiction summary Rich Horton summarized the final installment as follows:

My favorite story this year was the third and last in Mark Sumner’s series The Naturalist, this episode called “St. George and the Antriders.” In an alternate 19th Century Central America, naturalist Mr. Brown and the resourceful landowner Miss Marlowe lead a band of refugees back to the capital city where they find the corrupt governorship of the territory as menacing as the antriders. The series as a whole is novel length, and while each individual story stands well enough alone they make a sufficiently unified whole that I could see The Naturalist as a book…

I wasn’t at all surprised to find that Mark has in fact assembled the pieces into a complete novel, published this month by Word Posse. I’m delighted to see three of the strongest and most popular stories we published in Black Gate finally made available in one volume. If you remember the original stories, you’re sure to want a permanent edition. And if you don’t, then you definitely want to check out the one-volume edition of The Naturalist.

Here’s the book description.

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Meet a Dominatrix Who Solves Murders in Mistress Bunny and the Cancelled Client by Michael Penkas

Monday, November 17th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Mistress Bunny and the Cancelled Client-smallWhen I discussed his short story collection Dead Boys last year, I said the following about Michael Penkas:

Michael has an uncanny ability to pry open your heart with sparkling prose, humor, and warm and genuine characters… and then drive a cold spike through it with relentless and diabolical twists. All with some of the most compact and economical prose I have ever encountered.

Now that I’ve read his first novel, Mistress Bunny and the Cancelled Client, I can confirm that he is just as impressive at longer lengths. Mistress Bunny, a cozy mystery featuring a Chicago dominatrix who’s very good at her job, is, in the words of C.S.E. Cooney, ”Too weird to dismiss as quirky, too warm and funny to keep you at a distance, but so kinky and clear-sighted and compassionate.” I predict that it will launch Michael on a very successful career.

Life’s hard enough for a working class dominatrix without the occasional murder.

After getting dumped by her boyfriend, Mistress Bunny cancels her six o’clock session so that she can cry and drink herself to sleep. When she learns the next day that her client was found dead in his office, shot in the head at the same time she should have been tying him up, she can’t help but feel a little responsible.

But when she attends his funeral, Bunny begins to suspect that the gunshot wound wasn’t nearly as self-inflicted as the police believe. Her investigation uncovers a string of “suicides” that don’t begin (or end) with her client … a string where the next mysterious death might be her own. Hounded by a drunk ex-boyfriend, a pissed-off widow, and an office assistant with a hidden agenda, Mistress Bunny finds herself at the center of a mystery and discovers that there are some secrets a man won’t even share with his dominatrix.

If you’d like a taste of the twisted sense of humor on display in his novel, try Michael’s chilling and hilarious biblical fantasy ”The Worst Was Yet to Come,” published right here at Black GateMistress Bunny and the Cancelled Client was published on November 6, 2014. It is 208 pages, priced at $15 in trade paperback and $5 for the digital edition. The cover is by Viola Estrella.


World Fantasy Convention: Friday Autograph Sessions

Saturday, November 8th, 2014 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Friday was the first day when I felt like I had enough sleep to actually function properly. So I decided to stay up until the wee hours of the morning.

The day began with panels: Language and Linguistics in Fantasy, Everybody Was There, and Guns, Gears, and Wheels: Medieval Technology in Fantasy (photo below).

Panel Discussion 2

Pictured above: Michelle Markey Butler, Scott H. Andrews, and Elaine Isaak

Another panel was Beyond Rebellion in Young Adult Fantasy.

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Amal El-Mohtar reviews “Witch, Beast, Saint” by C.S.E. Cooney

Saturday, November 1st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

C.S.E. Cooney

C.S.E. Cooney

Erotic fiction makes me blush. You know how some people have to cover their eyes when watching horror movies? I’m like that with erotic fiction. When C.S.E. Cooney submitted short stories to Black Gate, I had to peek between my fingers to read them. We published two, “Godmother Lizard” and “Life on the Sun,” (which Tangent Online called “bold and powerful… on a scale of 1 to 10, I rank this one as a twelve”), and I had to look the other way while editing them.

Fortuantely, there are readers braver than I. Over at Tor.com, Amal El-Mohtar has reviewed C.S.E’s new story, “Witch, Beast, Saint: an Erotic Fairy Tale,” saying in part:

Absolutely no one writes fairy tales like Cooney…what Cooney does is make you feel as if you’re a citizen of fairy tale space, inhabiting the lands and experiencing the stories adjacent to those better-known: Cinderella might be a few towns over, but she doesn’t matter here. Cooney writes new fairy tales with a vigour and velocity that make me remember how I felt on first discovering The Snow Queen in a book too big for my lap…

A witch discovers a beast dying in a forest, and takes him home to keep. She can tell right away that he was once a man; she washes and revives him, feeds him, takes care of him, and they become companionable. Soon they become rather more than that; not long afterwards, the arrival of an itinerant saint troubles their romance…

It was shockingly delightful to me to see such a beautiful depiction of enthusiastic consent, kink, and polyamory in a fairy tale setting — no technical terms, no rhetoric, just the cheerful twining of compatible desires in a magical world.

C.S.E. Cooney is a past website editor of Black Gate, and the author of How to Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes and Jack o’ the Hills. “Witch, Beast, Saint” was published at Strange Horizons; read the complete story here. And read Mark’s recent interview with C.S.E. Cooney here.


Nab the Trafficking in Magic, Magicking in Traffic Anthology for Just $4.35 at Amazon.com

Thursday, October 30th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Trafficking in Magic Magicking in Traffic-smallBlack Gate author, blogger, and roving correspondent Sarah Avery reports in with some unexpected news: Amazon.com has discounted her acclaimed new anthology Trafficking in Magic, Magicking in Traffic to just $4.35, a steep 73% savings off the $15 cover price.

Sarah and her publisher are not sure how long the sale will last, however, so act fast. Of special interest to Black Gate fans, it contains a brand new story from James Enge — as well as fiction from Elizabeth Bear, Darrell Schweitzer, Pauline J. Alama, and many others. Here’s the complete description.

What do you seek at the end of this road? What have you brought to pay your way? The road is full of hazards, and the marketplace can cost more than you expect.

In Trafficking in Magic, Magicking in Traffic, editors David Sklar and Sarah Avery bring you 18 magical tales of travel and transactions, ranging from busking in a train station to walking between the worlds, from doppelgangers for hire to capturing the remnants of the dead.

Ideal to read on your vacation, commute, or flight from vengeful ghosts, this collection features classic stories by Elizabeth Bear, Daniel Braum, George R. Galuschak and Darrell Schweitzer, as well as new work by Pauline J. Alama, Megan Arkenberg, D.W. Carlson, Joyce Chng, M.C. DeMarco, E. Grace Diehl, James Enge, Manny Frishberg, Sara M. Harvey, Scott Hungerford, Deborah Grabien, Deirdre M. Murphy, Rhonda Parrish, Richard Rider, and Heather Stearns.

Trafficking in Magic, Magicking in Traffic was edited by David Sklar and Sarah Avery, and published by Fantastic Books on May 23, 2014. It is 264 pages, regularly priced at $15.99 in paperback. There is no digital edition. Order online from Amazon.com.


Black Gate Interviews C.S.E. Cooney: From Metaphor To Manticore

Monday, October 27th, 2014 | Posted by markrigney

C.S.E. CooneyWriter C.S.E. Cooney has published two stories in the mighty trove of Black Gate‘s online fiction catalog, “Life On the Sun,” and its prequel, “Godmother Lizard.” For the following interview, she and I met in the cavernous vaults of Black Gate‘s Indiana compound, where we lounged on Ottoman divans surrounded by steampunk tapestries and several thousand of John O’Neill’s second favorite sci-fi paperbacks. The results, transcribed by a Silicon Valley drone powered entirely by herbal tea, are as follows:

What do you write? Or, if it’s easier, what do you not write?

Well, I’ve never written a tech manual for aeronautics and robotics. Man, but if I did, then I could write all sorts of cool sci fi with my awesome SCIENCE KNOW-HOW!

I generally say I write Fantasy when people ask. With the understanding that I think “Fantasy” is a great umbrella term that tucks, um, ALL OF FICTION under its shadowy wings. But mostly I mean I write Secondary World Fantasy. With a bit of urbanish fantasy thrown in. And maybe a wee slice of sci fi when I’m feeling daring. And an even weesomer slice of horror, usually in the autumn. Oh, and a dollop of the Weird, when I’m in my Gabriel Garcia Marquez mood. Oh, and that one time I tried to write a Steampunk story but I’m still not entirely sure of the outcome…

Every story I write seems to require a whole different set of tools than the last story. One is constantly reinventing one’s toolbox. Thankfully, the good old standbys like “assonance” and “simile” don’t really change. Only get better. Or subtler. If subtle is better. I don’t do subtle very well, so I naturally think it IS better, mostly because it’s this mysterious thing.

Subtlety. I’m a big fan of it.

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Backing my First Kickstarter: Scott Taylor’s The Folio

Sunday, October 26th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Scott Taylor The Folio-smallOkay, technically Scott Taylor’s The Folio isn’t the first Kickstarter campaign I’ve ever backed. I think that was probably Grim Dawn, the computer RPG from the creators of Titan’s Quest. Plus the Veronica Mars movie. But I only did those because my kids begged me.

So, yeah, I think Scott’s The Folio may be the first campaign I’ve backed on my own. It hasn’t been hard to stay away from Kickstarter so far… there’s been plenty of intriguing projects that have tempted me but, between eBay and Amazon, I already have enough high tech platforms draining my finances, thank you very much. As a collector with poor impulse control, it’s been safest just to stay away entirely.

What’s so magical about The Folio that’s undermined years of careful self-control? Well, first, there’s its creator, Scott Taylor. Scott’s been blogging at Black Gate for many years, and he was a contributor to the print magazine before that. Scott is enormously talented, with five published novels to his credit, not to mention the highly acclaimed shared-world anthologies Tales of the Emerald Serpent and A Knight in the Silk Purse, which he published and edited.

I’ve wondered for years what Scott could do if he focused his considerable talents on the gaming industry, but with The Folio, he has surpassed even my high expectations. The Folio is an ongoing adventure module series using 5th Edition mechanics, adapted to multiple genres.

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Future Treasures: Apocalypse Girl Dreaming by Jennifer Brozek

Monday, October 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Apocalypse Girl Dreaming-smallYou know what’s marvelously satisfying? Watching writers who got their start in Black Gate going on to accomplish great things.

Jennifer Brozek began her professional writing career producing game reviews for Black Gate magazine a decade ago. I wish I could take credit for discovering her, but it was our games editor at the time, Don Bassingthwaite (who’s gone on to a stellar career of his own, with more than a dozen fantasy novels under his belt), who found and recruited her. Since then, Jennifer has written or co-written over half a dozen game titles, including the Fifth Edition Shadowrun rules, the Big Damn Heroes Handbook for the Serenity Role Playing Game, and the BattleTech novel The Nellus Academy Incident.

She’s also made a name for herself as an accomplished editor — with ten titles to her name, including the DAW anthology Human for a Day (co-edited with Martin H. Greenberg) and Grants Pass (with Amanda Pillar) — and author, of In a Gilded Light, The Lady of Seeking in the City of Waiting, and the Karen Wilson Chronicles, among others. Most recently, we reported here on her upcoming heroic fantasy anthology from Baen, Shattered Shields, co-edited with Bryan Thomas Schmidt.

As if that weren’t enough to keep her busy, Jennifer is also the author of some 50 short stories, and early next year sees the publication of her very first collection: Apocalypse Girl Dreaming, from Evil Girlfriend Media. Here’s the book description:

Evil Girlfriend Media is pleased to release the cover of Apocalypse Girl Dreaming, a short story collection, by Jennifer Brozek. This collection features dark speculative fiction ranging from tie-in stories in the Valdemar and Elemental Masters worlds, weird west horror to satirical science fiction to urban fantasy with a horrific bent.

A first collection is a pretty big milestone for an author and we think congratulations are in order. And maybe a cake.

Apocalypse Girl Dreaming will be published on January 16, 2015 in e-book and paperback format. No word yet on price or page count. The cover art is by Fernando Cortes, with graphic design by Matt Youngmark. Learn more at the Evil Girlfriend website.


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