With all the recent discussion we’ve had on collecting H.P. Lovecraft, I thought S.T. Joshi’s latest Mythos-inspired anthology The Madness of Cthulhu, due to be released next month, might be of interest. It’s certainly got my attention.
The Madness of Cthulhu collects fourteen new tales — and two reprints — inspired by Lovecraft’s masterpiece At the Mountains of Madness. Authors include Arthur C. Clarke , Robert Silverberg , Caitlin R. Kiernan , John Shirley, and Harry Turtledove.
According to Joshi’s blog, this is the first two volumes, with the second to be released Summer 2015. This volume is introduced by Jonathan Marberry. Here’s the book description:
Sixteen stories inspired by the 20th century’s great master of horror, H.P. Lovecraft, and his acknowledged masterpiece, At the Mountains of Madness, in which an expedition to the desolation of Antarctica discovers evidence of an ancient ruin built by horrific creatures at first thought long-dead, until death strikes the group. All but two of the stories are original to this edition, and those reprints are long-lost works by science fiction masters Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Silverberg.
The Madness of Cthulhu, Volume One will be published Titan Books on October 7, 2014. It is 304 pages, priced at $15.95 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital version. I can’t find a cover credit, but it sure looks like John Jude Palencar (click for bigger version).
See all of our recent New Treasures here.
I’ve just finished the largest book I’ve ever read: The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer.
This massive tome comes in at a whopping 1126 double-columned pages. The weight, length, and scope of this massive paperback give you the sense that you’re reading some old Bible! This being the case, I think The Weird should probably be referenced in the coming years as the Bible of twentieth (and early twenty first) century weird stories.
But what exactly is the weird? What sort of stories fit in this genre? As the foreweird contributor Michael Moorcock and the afterweird contributor China Miéville seem to agree, it’s a bit hard to categorize. Surprise, surprise.
For myself, I’ve often associated the genre term “weird” with a certain kind of horror, a horror of the highest kind that leaves you with a feeling of unease. (This is actually fairly close to what Moorcock and Miéville both seem to gesture at.)
The VanderMeers’ anthology seeks to make a case that the weird is more than just one slice of horror: it covers a vast array of examples, from the typical horror and ghost stories all the way to the absurd and dark fantasy. Thus the spread of stories within The Weird are quite sundry.
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I’ve creaked into reading again, dipping hesitant toes into the fathomless waters of What’s Out There.
One of the hardest things is trying to balance the books I discover for myself–for love of discovery–with the books I should read because everyone should read them, and has already read them, and I’m the only one in the world who hasn’t.
I come to the latter kind of reading quite reluctantly, and am rewarded by not only the virtue of what I felt to be a tricky chore completed, but also by becoming (in my own estimation) a shave more professional and an ingot less ignorant. “Yes, now I have read this book. I too can geek out about it on the Interwebs!”
Lately, after finishing a book I’ve determinedly set out to read, I’ve been struck with a keen sensation of, “Ah! Now, this would be a good book to read near or about the same time as this book.”
I don’t think of it as the whole Amazon/Kindle/Library E-Zone suggestion thing of, “If you like X book, you’ll probably like Y book too! Because it’s pretty much exactly the same book formulaically, only the names are different, and instead of a werewolf and a vampire, it’s an ANDROID and ALIEN, but the protagonist is plucky and first person present tense and a real CIPHER, with no distinguishing personality traits to distract you, you’ll get right in her head right away, and come away thinking you were she the whole time!”
No, I think of it more like a perfect wine pairing with a certain sort of dinner.
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Sapper’s The Female of the Species (1928) is quite likely the best book in the long-running Bulldog Drummond thriller series. It’s one failing comes late in the narrative and spoils it as assuredly as Mickey Rooney’s bucktoothed yellow-face performance as Mr. Yunioshi sours Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) for modern audiences. As a devoted fan of both Blake Edwards and Sapper, I do my best to make exceptions for both artists’ failings, particularly when they were acceptable in the times they lived in.
In the case of the former, the suggestion of pornographic photos in Truman Capote’s novella could never have been transferred to the screen with an Asian actor in the role of Audrey Hepburn’s frustrated landlord. Edwards soft-pedaled the material and defused a scene that never would have slipped by the Production Code if handled dramatically by offering Mickey Rooney in a broad caricature of an Asian. It was a star cameo in a comic stereotype still common in television sitcoms of the 1960s and Jerry Lewis films. Audiences at the time laughed at the fact that it was Mickey Rooney making a fool of himself and nothing more. Today, the classic status of the film makes the sequence stick out as an unfortunate example of racial insensitivity in a fashion that does not taint comedies of the day which are now viewed as an example of what then passed for juvenile humor.
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I’ve been watching this Mark Rigney fellow with a lot of interest.
He first came to my attention through the submissions queue at Black Gate, where he wowed me with his three-part Tales of Gemen, an old-school sword and sorcery story with a very modern spin — and some delightful twists. Readers responded well, too. The tales have consistently hovered near the top of our Fiction charts since we first published them in 2012. Tangent Online called them “Reminiscent of the old sword & sorcery classics,” which I found very gratifying.
Mark has had even more success with a new 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, saying “Rigney can write circles around most of us… Simply put, I love this book.” The second, “Sleeping Bear,” arrived in February, and anticipation has been building for their first novel-length adventure, Check-Out Time, due October 7th.
But there’s no reason for Black Gate readers to have to wait that long to get their hands on a copy. We know people who know people. To celebrate Mark’s recent success – and because we can’t stop bragging about it — we’re giving away two copies of Check-Out Time, compliments of Mark Rigney and Samhain Publishing.
How do you enter? Just send an e-mail to email@example.com with the subject “Check-Out Time” and your return address. Two winners will be drawn at random from all qualifying entries. 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. Or anywhere postage for a hefty trade paperback is more than, like, 10 bucks.
Check-Out Time will be published by Samhain Publishing on October 7, 2014. It is 250 pages, priced at $15 in trade paperback and $5.50 for the digital edition. Be sure to read Mark’s article on the series, The Adventure Continues: the Return of Renner and Quist, published right here in February.
Robert Aickman was an English ghost story writer who died in 1981. I bought his famous collection The Wine-Dark Sea over 10 years ago, and was very impressed.
But it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a contemporary printing of his most famous books — especially in an affordable paperback format. So I was thrilled to see Faber & Faber recently reprint three collections in both digital editions and handsome trade paperbacks: The Unsettled Dust (September 4), The Wine-Dark Sea (August 7), and his very first collection, Dark Entries. All are well worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of British horror.
‘Reading Robert Aickman is like watching a magician work, and very often I’m not even sure what the trick was. All I know is that he did it beautifully.’ — Neil Gaiman
Aickman’s ‘strange stories’ (his preferred term) are constructed immaculately, the neuroses of his characters painted in subtle shades. He builds dread by the steady accrual of realistic detail, until the reader realises that the protagonist is heading towards their doom as if in a dream.
Dark Entries was first published in 1964 and contains six curious and macabre stories of love, death and the supernatural, including the classic story ‘Ringing the Changes.’
‘Robert Aickman was the best, the subtlest, and creepiest author of ghost stories of his time… still enormously readable, offering mysteries which get deeper and scarier with each return.’ — Kim Newman
Dark Entries was published June 5, 2014 by Faber & Faber. It is 256 pages, priced at £7.99 in trade paperback and $5.82 for the digital edition. The gorgeous cover is by Tim McDonagh; click for a bigger version.
We met author Chad Bednar at this year’s Chicago Comic Con when he lured us into his booth with his stories promising vampires, evil artifacts and the Vatican.
What can I say? Not all girls like chocolates and flowers.
After reading the first installment in his Keeper of the Sins series, it was obvious that you all needed to meet Chad as well. With Black Gate being an oasis for emerging authors where they can always be assured of a cushy chair, an adult beverage and a warm welcome – everyone, meet Chad Bednar.
Chad, meet everyone.
GC: How did you first get into writing? Was it to meet girls?
CB: No, nothing that weird. Besides, I met the girl of my dreams in a cadaver lab (GC: Really? You’re always welcome in the Goth Chick News office in that case). I started writing because I had more to say, but only thought of the perfect way to say it later. My brain is irritating that way.
What was your inspiration for Keeper of Sins?
It’s a dovetailing of a number of my interests. I am constantly distracted by all things fantastical. If the SyFy channel had been around when I was younger, I would have starved to death in front of it. The question of faith is a journey I’ve wrestled with, and this is my lifelong research.
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Regular readers of Black Gate will no doubt have noticed the return of infrequent interviewer Patty Templeton. For those who were wondering why Ms. Templeton wasn’t conducting more of her fantastic interviews with an eclectic rogues gallery of writers, the reason was, quite simply, that she was too busy writing a novel of her own. There Is No Lovely End was published back in July and has been garnering universally positive reviews. Here’s another one.
The book starts in pre-Civil War America and follows the lives of several seemingly unrelated characters whose lives will all eventually come crashing together in one disastrous night. Not all of these characters will survive to the end. In fact, one of them dies very early in the story, but continues to move events forward as a ghost. These early chapters can be a bit disorienting as the reader jumps from one subplot to another, each with its own main character and supporting cast. But once you get a feel for each character, the jumping about is much easier to follow and gives the story a frantic pace (which would otherwise be difficult, considering that it takes place over a 32-year period).
Hennet Daniels has undertaken a decades-long hunt for the medicine man who inadvertently poisoned his brother. Sarah Pardee is coping as best she can with a loveless marriage to a man who cares more about his dead daughter than his living wife. Graham Johnson is a suicidal newsman who falls hopelessly in love with a remorseless psychopath. Hester Garlan is a remorseless psychopath, searching for the lost son whom she believes has stolen her psychic abilities. Nathan Garlan is a young man trying to cope with his ability to speak with the dead.
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Clifford D. Simak practically introduced me to science fiction.
This was, as you may have guessed, a while back. A cold spring day in 1976, if I recall correctly. I was too sick to go to school, and my friend John MacMaster brought me two novels to read while I recuperated. I was already an avid reader, a huge fan of Scholastic books like The Case of the Marble Monster, and Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators. But the books John brought me weren’t like those. They were adult novels and they were unlike anything I’d ever read before. Most of the details of that long ago school semester have long since faded, but I remember those two books vividly: they were Ox by Piers Anthony and Shakespeare’s Planet by Clifford D. Simak.
Piers Anthony, of course, was a fine choice to introduce an eleven-year old to science fiction. But Simak was inspired. If I had the opportunity to introduce young readers to SF and fantasy today, I think I might still choose the novels and stories of Clifford D. Simak. His deceptively simple adventure tales were wrapped up in some of the most imaginative settings — and featured some of the most delightfully quirky characters — of any SF writer of the era.
In the years since, I’ve gotten much more acquainted with the work of Clifford D. Simak. I believe his Hugo Award-winning novelette “The Big Front Yard” may well be the finest science fiction story of the 20th Century — it’s certainly in the running, anyway. His classic City (1952) is probably his most acclaimed work, but Way Station, which won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1964, is perhaps best remembered today.
Simak produced a total of 29 novels and 19 short story collections, and even after all these years I’ve read only a fraction of them. He’s the writer I return to when I find myself frustrated, or when other authors disappoint. I returned to him this week, and while my hand hovered over several other enticing choices, including The Werewolf Principle and The Goblin Reservation, ultimately it was Cemetery World that proved irresistible.
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Half a King
By Joe Abercrombie
Del Rey (352 pages, July 15, 2014, $26 in hardcover/ $10.99 digital)
Cover by Mike Bryan
Yarvi was never meant to be King. For one thing, he’s second in line behind his older brother. For another his left hand is deformed, and because of this deformity, Yarvi has been told his entire life (mostly by his father, the current king) that he will never truly be a man. He certainly could never be King, which is fine by him. He has trained for several years to be a Minister — a skilled confidant to Kings and others in power — and will soon qualify to take the vows that will break his ties to his family and make him Brother Yarvi.
That is, until his father and older brother are killed in a battle with a neighboring King. During their funeral, Yarvi swears an oath to kill those who killed his family. During the subsequent battle, he learns his uncle murdered his father and brother. After this revelation, Yarvi is thrown from a tower window and into the sea. He is presumed dead, sold into slavery, and becomes an oarsman on a pirate ship. He must use his skills and gather allies if he hopes to fulfill his oath to avenge his father and brother.
Half a King is marketed as a YA novel. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Abercrombie and I was curious to see how an epic fantasist would do YA. Most epic fantasy readers I know love Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy, so I thought I would give this book a shot. I found it enjoyable enough to consider reading his other work, but didn’t like it enough to continue reading this series.
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