How I Discovered David Drake by Accident: Confusion, Redliners, and Why I’m Glad I Made a Mistake

Monday, April 27th, 2015 | Posted by Nick Ozment

david-drake

David Drake

Back in 2007, when I was getting ready to attend my first World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, New York, I was trying to remember a book.

I’d read it years earlier: a science-fiction thriller about colonists who unwisely set down on an alien planet with an environment so hostile that their top high-tech special forces are about as equipped to handle it as the Kardashian sisters if they were dropped onto the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. The planet is lush, tropical: at first blush very inviting, having all the necessary elements for survival. Only one problem: evolution on this planet has followed a very lethal trajectory, developing predators that would make our own Earthly alpha predators – tigers, sharks – seem like domesticated pets in comparison. The bottom of the food chain on this planet would eat the top of our food chain for a quick snack. A seemingly innocuous, pretty flower is likely concealing fly-trap jaws full of acid. If you get ten yards in this jungle environment still in possession of most of your limbs, you count your lucky stars that you’re still alive.

So. What was that book? Obviously, I turned to Google. And engaged in a pursuit most of us have at one time or another: search for a book without knowing the title or the author, hoping that I could locate the illusive text with the right combination of key words.

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Future Treasures: When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner

Sunday, April 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

When the Heavens Fall-smallThere are times when you want something light and quick to read… and then there are times when you want to sink your teeth into an epic packed with heroes, meddling gods, necromancers, empires, and darkest intrigue. If the latter appeals to you, Marc Turner’s debut fantasy When the Heavens Fall, which goes on sale in three weeks, might be just what you’re looking for.

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 series, Marc Turner’s When the Heavens Fall features gritty characters, deadly magic, and meddlesome gods.

When the Heavens Fall is Book One of The Chronicles of the Exile, and 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. No word on the cover artist.


Collecting Lovecraft, Part III: The Arkham Hardcovers

Sunday, April 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Dunwich Horror and Others Lee Brown Coye 1963-small At the Mountains of Madness Arkham House Lee Brown Coye 1964-small Dagon and Other Macabre Tales Lee Brown Coye 1965-small The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions 1970-small

[Click any of the images for bigger versions.]

In Part I of this series, I looked at the Ballantine paperbacks edited by August Derleth and published by arrangement with Arkham House in the early 70s. In Part II, we examined the Lancer and Ballantine paperbacks of the late 60s and early 70s. In Part III, I want to showcase the volumes that most serious Lovecraft collectors start with — the Arkham House collected works, published in three volumes: The Dunwich Horror and Others, At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels, and Dagon and Other Macabre Tales, plus a collection of Lovecraft’s revisions, those tales he re-wrote for various clients to make them acceptable for Weird Tales, The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions.

Now I want to start off by saying that, while these four books are some of the most important in 20th Century Horror — and, indeed, they form the cornerstone of any serious horror collection — they still represent a pretty hinky way to gather Lovecraft’s fiction. Why? The Dunwich Horror is subtitled “The Best of H.P. Lovecraft.” At the Mountains of Madness collects his longer tales (At the Mountains of Madness, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, as well as the rest of the Randolph Carter stories.) Which leaves Dagon with the unofficial subtitle, All the Stuff That’s Not Lovecraft’s Best. Seems a strange way to assemble a third volume, that’s all I’m saying.

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Vintage Treasures: Madouc by Jack Vance

Saturday, April 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Madouc Jack Vance Ace Books-small

I’ve spent some time recently talking about some of Jack Vance’s most popular series, including The Dying Earth and Planet of Adventure. But the book that introduced me to Vance was the third volume of his high fantasy Lyonesse trilogy, Madouc, originally published in hardcover by Underwood Miller in 1989, and reprinted in trade paperback by Ace Books with a gorgeous Sanjulian cover in 1990 (above).

It’s usually tough to come to a fantasy trilogy with the third volume, but Vance made it easy. In fact, I was only dimly aware that it was part of a series as I read it. What I most remember about Madouc was that it was funny, gripping, vivid, and unlike anything else I’d ever read. Vance took subject matter wholly familiar to every modern fantasy reader — the Land of Faerie — and made it fresh and new.

Madouc won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1990, beating out some pretty stiff competition, including Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons, Soldier of Arete by Gene Wolfe, and The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers. My friend Rodger Turner, with whom I founded SF Site a few years later, was a Judge that year, and I remember asking him about it shortly after I finished reading Carrion Comfort, which I was convinced would be the hands-down winner. “The process took… compromises,” Rodger deadpanned.

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Retro Review: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Edmond Hamilton’s Galaxy

Saturday, April 25th, 2015 | Posted by M Harold Page

SFBC edition (1977)

… square jawed heroes… solutions worked out through — mostly — superior guts backed up by awesome Harrington-grade firepower

He remembered his father, the Valkar of years ago, teaching him from a great star-chart on the wall of the ruined palace.

“The yellow sun that neighbors the triple-star just beyond the last rim of the Darkness only to be approached from zenith or the drift will riddle you –”

THE SUN SMASHER: A PULP MAGAZINE SPACE OPERA CLASSIC (sic)

Yes, as an escape from the current sadness-of-the-canines, I’ve been reading Edmond Hamilton. Ironic really, since Hamilton’s an author with rockets on the cover, square jawed heroes within, and solutions worked out through — mostly — superior guts backed up by awesome Harrington-grade firepower.

Actually, Hamilton’s politics evolved with the century.

His early books are all about paternalistic bureaucracies and mighty empires. His later books are more questioning, with bureaucrats as antagonists, and Imperialism something one might sensibly turn one’s back on.

(I’m torn here, because I want to say more, cite examples, but I don’t want to spoiler the books for you. If you like vintage SF, and haven’t read Hamilton, then you’re in for a treat. Imagine if EE Doc Smith could actually write. )

All that said, reading Hamilton for politics is like listening to Hendrix for theme and variation — it’s there if you insist on looking for it, but the visceral impact is much greater.

I think of Edmond Hamilton as Hubble Telescope fanfiction.

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Future Treasures: The Watcher at the Door: The Early Kuttner, Volume Two, edited by Stephen Haffner

Friday, April 24th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Watcher at the Door-smallWe’ve given a lot of space over to Stephen Haffner’s books here at Black Gate, and it’s for a very simple reason: no one else is doing the kind of superb work he is, bringing pulp authors back into print in gorgeous archival-quality hardcovers that are also within reach of the average collector.

Terror in the House, the first volume in The Early Kuttner, focusing on his weird-menace stories, was released in 2010. I dropped by Stephen’s booth at the Windy City Pulp and Paper show here in Chicago last week, hoping to find early copies of the highly anticipated second volume, The Watcher at the Door. No luck — but Stephen assures me it’s coming soon.

Henry Kuttner, alone and in collaboration with his wife, C.L. Moore, was one of the most talented and prolific writers of pulp SF and fantasy. The Early Kuttner gathers many of Kuttner’s earliest stories, most of which have never been reprinted. The series will run to three volumes.

The Watcher at the Door collects thirty stories published in a three year period between April 1937 and August 1940, in pulps such as Weird Tales, Thrilling Mystery, Strange Stories, Unknown, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and many others. The cover art is by Jon Arfstrom.

It was during this period that Kuttner married C.L. Moore, on June 7, 1940. They met in 1936, when Kuttner wrote her a fan letter. After their wedding, they wrote almost everything in collaboration, under their own names and under the joint pseudonyms C. H. Liddell, Lawrence O’Donnell, and (especially) Lewis Padgett, a combination of their mothers’ maiden names.

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One Picture = One Thousand Words . . .?

Friday, April 24th, 2015 | Posted by Violette Malan

Huff price 1About a month ago Gabe Dybing wrote an excellent post in which he, among other things, praised my Dhulyn and Parno Novels (thanks again, Gabe). I obviously don’t quarrel with anything he had to say, but there was one observation that made me raise my eyebrows, and that was his take on the cover art. The whole post is worth reading (not just the part about my books) but what Dying has to say about my covers is important not just for me, but for any of us involved in the writing and reading of books. Looking at the art from the sales perspective, what it is about the cover that encourages a reader to buy a book, Dybing has two caveats. First, he feels the characters are too “posed,” in that they’re “battle-ready” when nothing is in fact happening. Second, he objects to the photo-realism, since it could restrain the readers in imagining the characters for themselves. As it happens, he feels the artist, Steve Stone, did capture Dhulyn pretty well, except for her skin colour, and her “wolf smile.”

Huff PriceInteresting bit about that. The artist chose his models from modeling/acting agency photos to match the physical descriptions I’d provided to my editor/publisher, Sheila Gilbert at DAW. It wasn’t until the models arrived for the session that Stone realized the woman was black. I know, it does make you wonder what the photos were like, but that’s not a question I can answer. The situation was explained to her, and apparently the model/actress didn’t mind being depicted as a woman from a race noted for the pallor of their skin and the redness of their hair.

As for the wolf’s smile, you don’t really want to see that. Ever. Trust me.

On the whole, I think I’ve been very lucky with my cover art, but before I go on I have to confess a couple of things. First, I have almost no visual memory (except for faces), and don’t really respond to visual cues. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t describe to you the cover of any book, not even the ones I’ve read over and over. Okay, I can recognize the Tenniel drawings from Alice in Wonderland, the original art from the Chronicles of Narnia, and the Dali illustrations from a recent edition of Don Quijote, but there I’m thinking about the artists, not the books. And even there I’m pretty sure I couldn’t tell you what was on the covers.

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Goth Chick News: Goth Chicks in Literature Rock Utterly…

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image010It’s been three years – count them because I sure have – since I crushed on author Steven Roman over his first novel Blood Feud.

Back then I was all enamored due to the fact that Roman’s main character, Pandora (Pan) Zwieback, was a zombie-shooting, werewolf booting, leather clad heroine of a goth chick.

Finally, a book I could relate to.

Never mind that Blood Feud landed in the “young adult fiction” category either. Roman doesn’t insult readers of any age, with lip-nibbling, flannel-wearing whiners. These characters were a dark fantasy cross-over all the way, with nary a “romantic” slipped in there anywhere.

If Roman’s name sounds familiar it may be because before Blood Feud he was responsible for highly successful, but mainly fan-boy facing fare such as X-Men: The Chaos Engine Trilogy and Final Destination: Dead Man’s Hand, as well as appearing in anthologies such as Untold Tales of Spider-Man and Dr. Who: Short Trips.

I’m not knocking Roman’s horror chops – no way, not now.

But when you’re a guy taking on the persona of a sixteen-year-old goth girl and aiming your story at a young adult audience, you’re taking on a whole new level of imagination.

And Roman delivered in spades.

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The Best Pulp Horror and Weird Tales: The Fantasy Catalog of Hippocampus Press

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Burnt Black Suns-small Ghouljaw and Other Stories-small The Wide Carnivorous Sky-small

When I returned from the World Fantasy Convention in Washington last November, the first thing I did was write about all the great discoveries I made in the Dealer’s Room.

I’m not just talking about rare and wonderful old books (although those were pretty damn cool, too.) I mean the smorgasbord of small press publishers who’d come from far and wide to display an incredible bevy of treasures, piled high on table after table after table. Seriously, it was like walking through Aladdin’s Cave of Wonders, except air conditioned and with decent carpeting.

One of the great discoveries I made was Hippocampus Press, a small publisher founded by Derrick Hussey in New York City in 1999. Their table was groaning under the weight of dozens of fabulous collections, horror anthologies, entertaining and informative journals, and stranger and more marvelous things. They specialize in classic horror and science fiction, with an “emphasis on the works of H. P. Lovecraft and other pulp writers of the 1920s and 1930s,” as well as critical studies of folks like Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and William Hope Hodgson.

I brought home a copy of their 2014 Simon Strantzas collection, Burnt Black Suns, and told you about it here. Today I’d like to take a few moments to re-create what it was like to stand in front of the Hippocampus table and take in their extraordinary output, the product of over a decade of tireless dedication to classic weird tales (and great cover design.)

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New Treasures: The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Supernatural Enhancements-smallI stumbled on Edgar Cantero’s debut novel on Amazon as a bargain book, and I ordered it based on the captivating plot description (and, I must admit, because of the giant eyeball on the cover… I think it looked into my very soul.)

The Supernatural Enhancements begins as a gothic ghost story, and soon evolves into a twisted treasure hunt and modern-day adventure. Author Justin Taylor (Flings) calls it “Eerie… Cantero pays homage to Bram Stoker and H.P. Lovecraft and The Shining, but he’s no less enamored of The X-Files, fax machines, and punk girls with dreads.” Definitely worth a look, I think.

When twentysomething A., the European relative of the Wells family, inherits a beautiful, yet eerie, estate set deep in the woods of Point Bless, Virginia, it comes as a surprise to everyone — including A. himself. After all, he never knew he had a “second cousin, twice removed” in America, much less that his eccentric relative had recently committed suicide by jumping out of the third floor bedroom window — at the same age and in the same way as his father had before him . . .

Together with A.’s companion, Niamh, a mute teenage punk girl from Ireland, they arrive in Virginia and quickly come to feel as if they have inherited much more than just a rambling home and an opulent lifestyle. Axton House is haunted… they know it… but the presence of a ghost is just the first of a series of disturbing secrets they slowly uncover. What led to the suicides? What became of the Axton House butler who fled shortly after his master died? What lurks in the garden maze – and what does the basement vault keep? Even more troubling, what of the rumors in town about a mysterious yearly gathering at Axton House on the night of the winter solstice?

Told vividly through a series of journal entries, cryptic ciphers, recovered security footage, and letters to a distant Aunt Liza, Edgar Cantero has written an absorbing, kinetic and highly original supernatural adventure with classic horror elements that introduces readers to a deviously sly and powerful new voice.

The Supernatural Enhancements was published by Doubleday on August 12, 2014. It is 353 pages, priced at $26.95 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Michael J. Windsor. A trade paperback edition is scheduled for release on July 21; I bought the hardcover new at a bargain price on Amazon.com.


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