New Treasures: Clarkesworld: Year Six edited by Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace

Sunday, December 21st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld Year Six-smallClarkesworld Magazine is one of the finest online outlets for science fiction and fantasy. Edited by Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace, it has been published monthly since October 2006. Fiction from the magazine has been nominated for countless awards — including the Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson, WSFA Small Press, World Fantasy, Hugo, and Nebula — and the magazine has been nominated for the Chesley, Hugo, World Fantasy, Locus, and Nebula awards. It won the 2010, 2011, and 2013 Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine, the 2014 British Fantasy Award for Best Magazine, and the 2014 World Fantasy Special Award in the Non-Professional category.

Every year the editors gather all the online fiction from the previous year into a single generous volume, and this year is the biggest yet: 427 pages, collecting all 34 stories published in 2013, from authors like Aliette de Bodard, Robert Reed, Mari Ness, Erik Amundsen, Catherynne M. Valente, Carrie Vaughn, Suzanne Church, Kij Johnson, Sofia Samatar, Lavie Tidhar, Ken Liu, and many others.

The book also serves as a fund-raiser for the magazine (which is available free), and every purchase helps support one of the finest magazines out there. In his introduction to this year’s volume, Neil says:

In July of 2012, I had a “widow-maker” heart attack that nearly killed me. Afterwards, I took a long, hard look at my life and started pruning away the unnecessary…

Since then Clarkesworld has slowly, but steadily, grown. I can’t quit the day job just yet, but thanks to people like you, I’m even more confident it will happen. By purchasing this book, subscribing to Clarkesworld, writing a review, or supporting us at Patreon, you are helping me realize that dream. Thank you! It means a lot.

Clarkesworld: Year Six was edited by Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace and published by Wyrm Publishing on May 24, 2014. It is 427 pages, priced at $16.95 in trade paperback, and $6.99 for the digital version. I bought my copy in the Dealers Room at the World Fantasy Convention. Visit the Clarkesworld website here, or subscribe for just $2.99/month.

Celebrate the Holidays with A Cosmic Christmas, edited by Hank Davis

Sunday, December 21st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

A Cosmic Christmas-smallI admit it — I love Christmas stories. Some of the finest fantasies ever told — including Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, and Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life — have been Christmas stories. It’s a great time of year to curl up in my big green chair with a cup of hot chocolate, a cat in my lap, and a Christmas fantasy in hand.

One of the better Christmas anthologies I’ve stumbled on recently is Hank Davis’ 2012 A Cosmic Christmas, which celebrates twelve cosmic days of Christmas with a dozen tales of vampires, robots, A.I’s, alien invasions, and stranger things, from the hills of Appalachia to a high orbit space station. It includes a novella by Catherine Asaro, a Jon & Lobo story by Mark L. Van Name, a John the Balladeer tale from Manly Wade Wellman, a Venus Equilateral story by George O. Smith, a Grimnoir Chronicles novelette by Larry Correia, a Technic History story by Poul Anderson — and a brand new novelette by Sarah A. Hoyt.

Joy to the world… or, joy to the worlds! Let heaven and nature — and also the supernatural — sing. A Cosmic Christmas presents twelve stories of Christmas in very unusual circumstances, ranging from vampires to robots, from the hills of Appalachia to a high orbit space station, all celebrating the holiday in their own, off-beat ways.

New York Times best-selling author Larry Correia sends his popular tough guy detective and magicwielder, Jake Sullivan, on a special case, while visions of tommy guns dance in the heads of the thugs he’s up against. Mark L. Van Name’s Lobo, an A.I. housed in a pocket battle starship, drops his usual cynical pose when challenged by a troubled family at Christmas time. Nebula Award-winner Catherine Asaro tells of a romantic weekend that turns into a mystery in a futuristic high-tech house — all that and Christmas, too. Mercedes Lackey delivers a ghost story with a not-so-friendly visitation from the beyond, and George O. Smith, a star of the Golden Age of science fiction, is on hand with an episode from his classic Venus Equilateral series, in which a Christmas celebration on a gigantic space station is interrupted by the arrival of a ruthless interplanetary criminal, who didn’t drop by to hand out presents. And much more, in a holiday package that any fan of science fiction and fantasy would be delighted to find under their tree, on any planet.

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Embrace the Odd: The Fantasy Catalog of ChiZine Publications

Sunday, December 21st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

They Do the Same Things Different There-small We Will All Go Down Together-small Year's Best Weird Fiction-small

Last month I attended the World Fantasy Convention in Washington D.C. (my first trip to the city), and had a marvelous time. I attended readings by over a dozen writers, sat in on terrific panels, and reconnected with close friends I haven’t seen in far too long.

But I probably spent the most time in the Dealers Room, where publishers and collectors laid out their wares on closely packed tables. We talk about a lot of new books here at Black Gate, and I’m proud of our coverage of the industry, but let me tell you — there’s nothing like wandering past stacks of newly-published fantasy titles from dozens of publishers to make you realize how woefully you’ve underrepresented the cavalcade of new books that have arrived in just the last few months.

I vowed that when I returned to our rooftop headquarters here in Chicago I’d showcase those publishers that most impressed me — and not just with a book or two, but by trying to show you what it was like to stand in front of their tables in that room, with the full range of their current books on display. I’ve done that once already, with Valancourt Books; today I’d like to focus on one of the most innovative small press publishers in the field, the brilliant ChiZine Publications.

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Future Treasures: Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

Sunday, December 21st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Foxglove Summer-smallBen Aaronovitch began his writing career with two Doctor Who serials, Remembrance of the Daleks (broadcast 1988) and Battlefield (1989), which means he’s already living the dream life millions of aspiring American fantasy writers. He was a regular writer on the Galaxy Channel’s science fiction series Jupiter Moon.

He became a novelist in 1990 with his first Doctor Who book, a novelization of Remembrance of the Daleks. He produced three more (and one featuring the adventures of companion Benny Summerfield), before launching the best selling series Rivers of London in 2011. The fifth volume, Foxglove Summer, will be published in paperback on January 6th.

When two young girls go missing in rural Herefordshire, police constable and wizard-in-training Peter Grant is sent out of London to check that nothing supernatural is involved. It’s purely routine — Nightingale, Peter’s superior, thinks he’ll be done in less than a day.

But Peter’s never been one to walk away from someone in trouble, so when nothing overtly magical turns up he volunteers his services to the local police, who need all the help they can get. But because the universe likes a joke as much as the next sadistic megalomaniac, Peter soon comes to realize that dark secrets underlie the picturesque fields and villages of the countryside and there might just be work for Britain’s most junior wizard after all.

Soon Peter’s in a vicious race against time, in a world where the boundaries between reality and fairy have never been less clear….

I’m a big fan of this series. We covered the first novel, Rivers of London (published as Midnight Riot in the US), which Diana Gabaldon describes as “What would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the Fuzz,” in March 2011, and the fourth, Broken Homes, back in February. Foxglove Summer will be published by DAW Books on January 6, 2015. It is 326 pages, priced at $7.99 in paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition.

After Forty Years: The War of the Worlds Revisited

Saturday, December 20th, 2014 | Posted by Thomas Parker

Tripod-smallIt’s that time of year, friends, the time when we look back in sorrow on the New Year’s resolutions that drooped and faded before the first bloom of spring, and when we start to formulate the resolutions that we know we’re really going to keep this time, dammit. I generally don’t make new year’s resolutions myself, for the reasons implied above, but last year I did — I decided that 2014 would be the year of rereading.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered that even as I’m reading more than ever, I almost never do any re-reading. There are just so many books, both enticing new ones and old ones that I’ve always meant to get around to and never have (you know, all those great books, old and new, that you find out about whenever you visit a certain website which shall remain nameless).

When I finish one book and reach for another, the pressure exerted by both the never-ceasing pile up of the present and the still-unexplored past seems to weigh overwhelmingly in favor of the as yet unread. Rereading falls by the wayside.

This is in sharp contrast to my adolescent days, when I would regularly reread my favorite books, some of them many times. (I’ve probably read Robert Heinlein’s Have Space Suit, Will Travel and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Gods of Mars eight or ten times each, for instance.)

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The German Indiana Jones: Out of the Rat Trap: Desert Adventures with Rommel by Max Reisch

Friday, December 19th, 2014 | Posted by M Harold Page

Out of the Rat Trap

What should we see in the middle of the desert but a bedside cabinet! Yes, really…no human brain could be capable of inventing something so idiotic

Why, you ask, am I reviewing a book by a former Africa Korps officer?

Partly, this:

What should we see in the middle of the desert but a bedside cabinet! Yes, really… the picture is pointless because all it shows is a single piece of furniture. There’s nothing to prove that it is standing in the middle of the Libyan desert. But you can take my word for it… because no human brain could be capable of inventing something so idiotic.

Reisch, Max. Out of the Rat Trap: Desert Adventures with Rommel.

But also because it reads like something Edgar Rice Burroughs might have written.

In a classic ERBish foreword, Reisch describes how he wrote the manuscript high in the Italian mountains. The Nazis were in retreat, and this seemed like a good place to wait out the mayhem and surrender on his own terms. To pass the time, he purchased writing materials from a local farmer and recounted his escape from another military disaster — the collapse of the Africa Korps.

As we read, we discover that he’s the German motorised Indiana Jones, with pre-war capers including biking from Vienna to Bombay.

Come World War II he found himself in the desert  helping run transport for Rommel’s army. This meant scavenging abandoned British equipment picked up during long missions into the desert flank.

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New Treasures: Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

Friday, December 19th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Lagoon Nnedi Okorafor-smallWhen Nnedi Okorafor’s first novel for adults, Who Fears Death, won the 2011 World Fantasy Award, a lot of people sat up and took notice.

It was also a 2011 Tiptree Honor Book, and a Nebula nominee. She followed it up the same year with her third YA title, Akata Witch, a Junior Library Guild Selection and an Andre Norton Award nominee. Her first collection, Kabu Kabu, appeared from Prime Books in 2013 — with a foreword by Whoopi Goldberg.

But it’s her second novel for adults that looks like it will really put her on the map. A tale of a strange alien invasion just offshore of the Nigerian city of Lagos, Lagoon has been getting a lot of the right kind of attention. It’s not yet for sale in the US, but it’s worth the effort to track drown a copy of the British edition.

Three strangers, each isolated by his or her own problems: Adaora, the marine biologist. Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa. Agu, the troubled soldier. Wandering Bar Beach in Lagos, Nigeria’s legendary mega-city, they’re more alone than they’ve ever been before.

But when something like a meteorite plunges into the ocean and a tidal wave overcomes them, these three people will find themselves bound together in ways they could never imagine. Together with Ayodele, a visitor from beyond the stars, they must race through Lagos and against time itself in order to save the city, the world… and themselves.

Lagoon was published in the UK by Hodder Paperbacks on Sept 25, 2014. It is 301 pages, priced at £8.99 in trade paperback, and £3.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Joey Hi-fi.

Vintage Treasures: The Alien Upstairs by Pamela Sargeant

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Alien Upstairs-smallI don’t know a lot about Pamela Sargeant. But I knew one thing when I saw The Alien Upstairs on eBay: I didn’t have a copy. And I wanted one.

Who wouldn’t? Big spooky house, spunky heroine in the foreground wearing a sun hat, vast stretches of blasted heath… erm, I mean unmowed lawn. Anyway, it sure looks like a modern gothic novel. Except for the honkin’ big spaceship hovering stealthily in the clouds, where it thinks no one can see it.

And the marvelous What the hell is going on? look our heroine is sporting. You just know she’s going to get to the bottom of things, like a good gothic romance heroine should. You go, spunky lady with strange fashion sense.

Sarah and Gerard were dreamers — two young lovers fighting to make something of their lives in an America battered by depression and despair.

Then a mysterious stranger came to stay in their small, rural town, a handsome, enigmatic being from another world who promised to lead them to a realm beyond their wildest imaginings. But was he an angel, come to rescue them from the harsh reality of their lives, or a darker being, bent on a strange and terrible purpose?

The Alien Upstairs. An awe-inspiring tale of worlds beyond our own by the author of Watchstar and The Golden Space.

The Alien Upstairs was published in February 1985 by Bantam Books. It is 165 pages, priced at $2.75 in paperback. The too-cool cover is by Wayne Barlowe. I bought an unread copy on eBay for $1 (plus shipping.) Don’t be jealous, there are plenty more copies available.

Sample the Best of the Pulps with Wildside Pulp Classics

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Black Amazon of Mars-small Far Below and Other Horrors-small Hellhounds of the Cosmos-small

Back in September, I wrote a Vintage Treasures article about Clifford D. Simak’s Cemetery World. Simak is one of my favorite authors and much of his work — especially his early pulp fiction from the 30s and 40s — is tragically long out of print.

While I was researching the article, I discovered to my delight that Wildside Press had produced several slender volumes reprinting some of Simak’s pulp short stories, as part of the Wildside Pulp Classics line. I mentioned two: Hellhounds of the Cosmos and Other Tales From the Fourth Dimension and Impossible Things: 4 Classic Tales. As soon as I was done with the article, I ordered a copy of the former. The paperback edition was just $6.99 and it was hard to resist. It’s hardly the comprehensive Complete Short Stories I might wish for, but it did include the title story, a novelette from the June 1932 Astounding Stories that had been uncollected and out of print for nearly 80 years. And that was pretty cool.

When the book arrived, I was very pleased with it. It’s an oversized trade paperback with a glossy cover and quality paper. As I expected, it’s quite short — 142 pages — but it includes four complete tales, and the price is right.  It also includes an (uncredited) introduction, as well as a nice review of Simak’s career and the themes common in his work.

Naturally, I went back on the hunt to see what else Wildside had produced in a similar vein. It wasn’t long before I found collections for Leigh Brackett (Black Amazon of Mars and Other Tales from the Pulps), Fredric Brown (Daymare and Other Tales from the Pulps), E. Hoffmann Price (Satan’s Daughter and Other Tales from the Pulps), H. Bedford-Jones (The House of Skulls and Other Tales from the Pulps), Ray Cummings (The Fire People: Classic Science Fiction from the Pulps), Murray Leinster (The Runaway Skyscraper and Other Tales from the Pulps), and many others. Most were priced from $10-$15 or less (much less, for the digital editions).

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Future Treasures: When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

When the Heavens Fall-smallI just received Tor’s Spring 2015 catalog and it’s crammed full of great-looking titles. I’ve only perused about a third, and I’ve already flagged some promising titles. Right at the top of the list is the opening volume in a new epic fantasy series featuring dark gods,  necromancy, and a very dangerous book….

If you pick a fight with Shroud, Lord of the Dead, you had better ensure your victory, else death will mark only the beginning of your suffering.

A book giving its wielder power over the dead has been stolen from a fellowship of mages that has kept the powerful relic dormant for centuries. The thief, a crafty, power-hungry necromancer, intends to use the Book of Lost Souls to resurrect an ancient race and challenge Shroud for dominion of the underworld. Shroud counters by sending his most formidable servants to seize the artifact at all cost.

However, the god is not the only one interested in the Book, and a host of other forces converge, drawn by the powerful magic that has been unleashed. Among them is a reluctant Guardian who is commissioned by the Emperor to find the stolen Book, a troubled prince who battles enemies both personal and political, and a young girl of great power, whose past uniquely prepares her for an encounter with Shroud. The greatest threat to each of their quests lies not in the horror of an undead army but in the risk of betrayal from those closest to them. Each of their decisions comes at a personal cost and will not only affect them, but also determine the fate of their entire empire.

The first of an epic swords & sorcery fantasy trilogy for fans of Patrick Rothfuss, Marc Turner’s When the Heavens Fall features gritty characters, deadly magic, and meddlesome gods.

When the Heavens Fall will be published by Tor Books on May 19, 2015. It is 544 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover and $14.99 for the digital edition.

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