Lawrence Schick on “Dash and Daring Never Go Out of Style”

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Outlaw Angus Donald-smallLawrence Schick has posted an intriguing article on modern swashbucklers over at The Huffington Post.

I am a connoisseur of old swashbuckling stories, the kind of historical adventure tales that were arguably the western world’s most popular form of fiction in the hundred years from the publication of Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe in 1820 to Johnston McCulley’s first Zorro novel in 1919… and I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to go back to the 19th century to find a thrilling swashbuckler. A strong story boldly told never truly goes out of fashion, and there are some excellent novelists working today whose stories hearken back to the old swashbucklers, but whose writing is thoroughly modern.

He points to several recent titles, including William Dietrich’s Ethan Gage books, and a sparkling new translation of Dumas’s The Three Musketeers. He also enthusiastically recommends the Outlaw Chronicles by British author Angus Donald:

The titular outlaw in the series is none other than Robin Hood, the original swashbuckler himself… The books in this series are fast-paced, the characters are memorable and well-drawn, and the dialogue is crisp and modern. But Donald’s Robin Hood isn’t Scott’s merry and chivalrous rogue, he’s a much more dangerous man: he’s a charismatic but ruthless renegade knight with a grudge against the aristocracy, and the author’s portrayal of the hard life of a band of medieval outlaws rings true…

The author has done his homework, and his depiction of the bloody work of combat in the 12th century is in equal parts thrilling and horrific. This is solid historical adventure that doesn’t shy away from the nasty realities of life in the Late Middle Ages: Donald tells it as it was.

Lawrence Schick’s most recent post for us was Compiling The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure. Read the complete article at The Huffington Post.


C. S. E. Cooney Joins Uncanny Magazine as a Podcast Reader

Friday, December 12th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

C. S. E. Cooney has hair like Medusa seriously it's amazing-smallThe brand new fantasy magazine Uncanny — which we discussed excitedly last month when its first issue went on sale — has shown uncanny good sense by hiring our very own C.S.E. Cooney as a podcast reader. Here’s a bit cribbed from the press release:

Uncanny Magazine is thrilled to announce that the marvelous C.S.E. Cooney has agreed to join us as the second reader on the Uncanny Magazine Podcast! Ms. Cooney is a Rhode Island writer and actor… She loves to read aloud to anyone who will sit still long enough to listen. Some of her narration work can be found on Podcastle and Tales to Terrify. With her fellow artists in the Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours, C. S. E. Cooney appears at conventions and other venues, singing from their growing collection of Distant Star Ballads, dramatizing fiction, and performing such story-poems as “The Sea King’s Second Bride,” for which she won the Rhysling Award in 2011.

Ms. Cooney will make her debut as an Uncanny Magazine Podcast reader in Episode 3 this January.

So much exciting C.S.E. Cooney news! Just last month, we reported on Amal El-Mohtar’s review of her short story “Witch, Beast, Saint,” and our roving reporter Mark Rigney interviewed her in late October. The two C.S.E. Cooney short stories we published here at Black Gate, “Godmother Lizard” and “Life on the Sun,” consistently rank among the most popular pieces we’ve ever published. Her most recent blog post for us was Book Pairings: Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells and Royal Airs, published last Sunday. She 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.

In other C.S.E. Cooney news, today is her birthday. Happy Birthday, Claire!!


Support the Six by Six Kickstarter, Containing the Complete Cineth Stories by Martha Wells

Sunday, December 7th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Six by Six-smallLong time readers will remember Martha Wells’s Cineth stories, “Holy Places,” “Houses of the Dead,” and “Reflections,” which first appeared in Black Gate 10, 11, and 12. They were some of the most popular stories we every published, and they helped put Black Gate on the map.

All three stories feature her characters Giliead and Ilias. “Holy Places” was reprinted in Lightspeed magazine, but the others have never been reprinted — although I’m often asked when they might be available in a more permanent edition. So I was very pleased to hear the following news from Martha this week:

I’m involved in a kickstarter this month… It’s short story collections by six different authors (me, Tina Connolly, Brenda Cooper, Stephen Gaskell, Bradley P. Beaulieu, and Will McIntosh) with reprints and some stories original to the collection. The new short story I’ll have in it is a Nicholas and Reynard story set before The Death of the Necromancer, called “Night at the Opera,” so I thought some Black Gate readers might be interested.

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

We frequently hear about publishing Kickstarter projects, but this one looks very special indeed. Six by Six brings together six terrific fantasy and SF authors, each of whom contributes six stories, for 36 stories in all — including all three Giliead and Ilias tales from Black Gate magazine.

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Fantasy Keeps You Young

Saturday, December 6th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

John O'Neill at Capricon 2014 (photo by Patty Templeton)

John O’Neill at Capricon 2014 (photo by Patty Templeton)

Some years before I started Black Gate magazine, I was editing a science fiction fan site called SF Site. It’s still going strong today, managed by my old partners Rodger Turner and Neil Walsh in Ottawa. It was nominated for a Hugo award in 2002, and a World Fantasy Award in 2006; in 2002, it won the Locus Award for best webzine.

Anyway, before all that fame and glory, I was still struggling to get the damn site off the ground. That meant a lot of hard work, writing and posting articles that nobody read, late into the night. Around 1997 or so, I hit on an idea to give my site a higher profile: offering free hosting to the major SF and fantasy magazines, none of which had websites at the time. This worked splendidly, and over the next few years, Rodger and I launched sites for Analog, F&SF, SF Chronicle, and many others (meaning that I made a lot of phone calls, and Rodger did all the actual work.)

In 1998, shortly after we launched the Asimov’s SF site, I wrote A Brief History of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, to celebrate the magazine coming on board. I wrote about finding the second issue in 1977, the summer I discovered SF magazines. In my first draft, I said something about Asimov looking elderly and distinguished on the cover.

I ran the draft past Sheila Williams, then Executive Editor of Asimov’s, and received a very cranky note in return. She strongly objected to my wording, saying “Isaac was barely fifty when that photo was taken — hardly elderly!” I puzzled over that for a long, long time. What did she mean, exactly? It didn’t make any sense. Finally, I had an epiphany. Sheila was probably really old, too. She might even be approaching 50 herself! And as everyone knew, old people shouted at everybody, and didn’t make much sense. I tweaked my wording enough to pacify her and we published the article.

I’ve thought about that exchange a few times since I turned 50, just a few months ago.

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The Top 20 Black Gate Fiction Posts in October

Sunday, November 30th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Black Fire Concerto-smallMike Allen continues to dominate the top of our charts for a second month, with the exclusive excerpt from his first novel The Black Fire Concerto. Mike’s breakout collection Unseaming was released on October 1st from Antimatter Press. Check it out here.

Surging back into second place are Janet Morris and Chris Morris, with an excerpt from their heroic fantasy novel The Sacred Band. They also claimed the #3 slot with “Seven Against Hell,” an exclusive sample from their new anthology, Poets in Hell.

Knocked out of the #2 slot was “The Find,” Part II of The Tales of Gemen by Mark Rigney, which settled at #4 this month. “The Keystone,” Part III of the series, also made the list. Check out Mark’s first novel, the popular Check-Out Time, released on October 7 from Samhain Publishing.

Rounding out the Top Five was Ryan Harvey’s sword & sorcery story “The Sorrowless Thief,” a tale of intrigue and dinosaur beasts, part of his popular science-fantasy set series on the continent of Ahn-Tarqa.

Also making the list were exciting stories by Joe Bonadonna, John C. Hocking, David C. Smith and Joe Bonadonna, Judith Berman, Michael Shea, C.S.E. Cooney, Aaron Bradford Starr, Jason E. Thummel, Steven H Silver, Martha Wells, Sean McLachlan, Harry Connolly, Howard Andrew Jones, and John R. Fultz.

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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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