Living Outside Society’s Rules: Blackguards

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Blackguards_front-coverI’m pleased today to feature a guest post from writer Laura Resnick, all about an upcoming anthology, one that’s already received a lot of funding from Kickstarter. Take it away, Laura:

Back before I ever started writing or had any intention of becoming a writer, I read an interview with an author who, when asked if her dark, challenging characters were also the sort of people she was drawn to in her real life, said of course not — who could actually live with someone like that? She said she preferred stable, even-tempered, good-natured people in her real life (as I do, too). But fiction is about conflict; it’s about things breaking down, imploding, exploding, escalating, and reaching a crisis point — not about things humming along smoothly and contentedly (which tends to be what most of us want from real life most of the time).

We read fantasy novels about Good and Evil doing battle with each other, not about Good and Evil agreeing to sit down together and work out a reasonable compromise as calmly as possible.

Similarly, there is a longtime and widespread fascination in fiction with living outside the rules of society. Many people fantasize at various points about the satisfaction, excitement, or pleasure of simply doing whatever they want — stealing a boat, robbing a bank, killing their boss, seducing total strangers, breaking into the Vatican, etc. But few people are so committed to those fantasies that they want to risk losing their homes, their livelihoods, their families, their future, and their freedom in order to fulfill them. There’s also the problem of conscience; most of us would feel cripplingly terrible about murdering someone or taking possessions we have no right to take.

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10 Acclaimed Historical Fantasy Novels You Need to Read

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club Genevieve Valentine-smallIf there’s something we’re consistently good at here at Black Gate, it’s jumping on a trend late. What can I tell you? We’re too busy reading to be hip. On laundry day, I still wear bell bottoms.

But there are some trends so obvious that even we notice. Social media? It’s starting to catch on — take our word for it. Superhero movies? They’re going to be popular. Believe it.

Most recently, I’ve noticed that the emerging trend in fantasy — the one attracting the hottest writers in the field — seems to be historical fantasy. Mary Robinette Kowal, Genevieve Valentine, Patty Templeton, Catherynne Valente and many others have penned some really terrific historical fantasies recently… and more are arriving every week.

Not convinced? Have a look at the following list of 10 recent, and highly acclaimed, historical fantasy novels, written by a Who’s Who of emerging fantasy writers.

If you’re like most readers, you’ll find more than a few you haven’t read. Do yourself a favor and check out one or two that sound interesting.

Trust us; you’ll be glad you did.

1. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine

The fairytale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses , set in Jazz Age Manhattan.

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New Treasures: Sword & Mythos, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles

Monday, September 1st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Sword and Mythos-smallInnsmouth Free Press has done some really terrific work recently, including the groundbreaking anthologies Future Lovecraft (2011) and Historical Lovecraft (2011), and the splendid Innsmouth Magazine (which we discussed here).

The Editor-in-Chief of Innsmouth Free Press, Paula R. Stiles, may be familiar to Black Gate readers as the author of the dark fantasy featuring the Queen of Hell, “Roundelay,” in Black Gate 15. With her latest anthology, Sword & Mythos, Stiles and her co-editor Silvia Moreno-Garcia have assembled another dynamite collection of stories, this one featuring sword & sorcery heroes and heroines coming face-to-face with monstrosities out of the Cthulhu Mythos.

The Blades of Heroes Clash Against the Darkest Sorcery

Aztec warriors ready for battle, intent on conquering a neighboring tribe, but different gods protect the Matlazinca. For Arthur Pendragon, the dream of Camelot has ended. What remains is a nightmarish battle against his own son, who is not quite human.

Master Yue, the great swordsman, sets off to discover what happened to a hamlet that was mysteriously abandoned. He finds evil. Sunsorrow, the ancient dreaming sword, pried from the heart of the glass god, yearns for Carcosa.

Fifteen writers, drawing inspiration from the pulp sub-genres of sword and sorcery and the Cthulhu Mythos, seed stories of adventure, of darkness, of magic and monstrosities. From Africa to realms of neverwhere, here is heroic fantasy with a twist.

Sword & Mythos was published by Innsmouth Free Press on May 1, 2014. It is 315 pages, priced at $15 in trade paperback and $5 for the digital edition. The cover is by Nacho Molina Parra. Order a copy or get more details at the Innsmouth Free Press website.

Discover the Prototype for Lord of the Rings: The Zimiamvia Trilogy by E. R. Eddison

Sunday, August 31st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Mezentian Gate-small The Worm Ouroboros-small
A Fish Dinner in Memison-small Mistress of Mistresses-small

Many decades ago I discovered four volumes of fantasy by the British author E. R. Eddison: The Worm Ouroboros, and its sequel, The Zimiamvia Trilogy (Mistress of Mistresses, A Fish Dinner in Memison, and the uncompleted The Mezentian Gate.) They were a handsome set of Ballantine paperback from 1967, all with gorgeous covers by Barbara Remington.

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When Words Are More Powerful Than Weapons: The Reader of Acheron, by Walter Rhein

Sunday, August 31st, 2014 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

The Reader of Acheron-small“Beneath the rule of tyrants, monsters may become heroes.”

Walter Rhein gives us something different in the way of heroic fantasy – a story set in a future world where it is forbidden to learn to read, forbidden to teach people to read. In the hierarchy of Erafor, reading and writing has been outlawed for decades, though basic iconography is allowed for the sake of keeping records.

The mysterious and powerful Seneschals are charged with eliminating all texts and “readers” in this brave new world, a world I hope to never myself living in. For this is also a world where slaves are kept as animals, and are doped up on a brain-rotting drug called Bliss that keeps them docile, so they won’t rise up and pose a threat to their masters. But one slave, named Kikkan, manages to murder his master and mistress, and eventually escape to explore his world, in search of freedom and knowledge and understanding.

But he chooses not to kill the slave owners’ children, and thus they vow revenge. This is not only the story of Kikkan’s murderous revolt; it is also the story of his education and his growth as a character, and as a human being.

And then there’s Quillion, a rebellious soldier patrolling the border just north of the lands of Acheron, who also commits murder when he kills his buffoon of a commanding officer, a man who risks everyone else’s life but his own. Quillion has a rudimentary knowledge of reading, and wants to learn more because there are things he desires to know, and he believes that knowledge is his right to own. When he and Cole, his friend, companion and fellow soldier are conscripted to help in the hunt for the Reader of Acheron – someone who is teaching people to read, in violation of all the laws of the land – they find themselves caught up in politics and social ideals, and ideas… which are dangerous, and what the hierarchy is dedicated to stamping out.

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Take A Walk Among the Tombstones

Saturday, August 30th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

WalkTombstonesOn September 19, Liam Neeson’s latest blockbuster, A Walk Among the Tombstones, opens in theaters nationwide. Neeson plays Matthew Scudder, an ex-cop who is an off-the-book private investigator and a recovering alcoholic.

Scudder has starred in seventeen novels dating back to 1976 and a bunch of short stories, all written by Lawrence Block. Tombstones is actually the tenth book in the series, so they’re starting well into things.

Jeff Bridges had played Scudder in Eight Million Ways to Die (the fifth book), moving the story to California(!) and making him a sheriff’s deputy (Hollywood!)

Block, who I mentioned in this post, is a fantastic writer. Along with Scudder, he has written series starring an adventurer who can’t sleep (Tanner), a bookstore owning burglar (Bernie Rhodenbarr), a lawyer who will do anything to win a case (Martin Ehrengraf), a likeable hit man (Keller), and a humorous Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin-esque pair (Leo Haig and Chip Harrison). And he’s one of the finest short story writers I’ve run across. Enough Rope is a superb collection of his short fiction.

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Future Treasures: The Cobbler of Ridingham by Jeffrey E. Barlough

Saturday, August 30th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Cobbler of Ridingham-smallJeffrey E. Barlough is one of the most gifted and ambitious fantasists at work today and his seven volume Western Lights series is unlike anything else on the shelves. In his review of the fifth volume, Anchorwick, Jackson Kuhl sums up events as follows:

Eugene Stanley has come to the university at Salthead (a parallel Seattle? Vancouver?) to assist his professor uncle in preparing a book manuscript. One night, while working in a deserted turret room at the college…  Stanley is accosted by a phantasmal form. This ignites a definitive search for the missing don as Stanley and friends uncover lost civilizations, ancestral curses, whole companies of ghosts, monsters from Greek myth, and a few red herrings, all told in rich, dryly humorous style. It’s P.G. Wodehouse with woolly mammoths.

Those who complain that there’s nothing new in fantasy today aren’t looking hard enough. And they’re definitely not reading Jeffrey E. Barlough.

The eighth volume in the Western Lights series, The Cobbler of Ridingham, will be released in November and it features Richard Hathaway, who previously appeared in Bertram of Butter Cross and the short story “Ebenezer Crackernut” (from A Tangle in Slops).

A creeping shadow, a bump in the night, a thing in the trees — these are but a few of the surprises lurking in the pages of The Cobbler of Ridingham… The new work relates a curious adventure that befell Richard Hathaway while visiting at Haigh Hall, the home of a family acquaintance, Lady Martindale, on the marshes outside the picturesque old country town of Ridingham.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Shadow of Fu Manchu, Part Two

Saturday, August 30th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Shadow of Fu ManchuShadow ZebraThe Shadow of Fu Manchu was serialized in Collier’s from May 8 to June 12, 1948. Hardcover editions followed later that year from Doubleday in the U.S. and Herbert Jenkins in the U.K. Sax Rohmer’s eleventh Fu Manchu thriller gets underway with Sir Denis Nayland Smith in New York on special assignment with the FBI. He is partnered with FBI Agent Raymond Harkness to investigate why agents from various nations are converging on Manhattan. Sir Denis suspects the object of international attention is the special project being handled by The Huston Research Laboratory under the supervision of Dr. Morris Craig. However, Smith initially chooses to keep the FBI in the dark on this matter until he is certain.

The Si-Fan has succeeded in closing in on The Huston Research Laboratory by drawing a net around parent corporation Huston Electric’s director, millionaire Michael Frobisher and his wife, Stella. The Frobisher marriage is not a happy one. Michael lives in fear that his flirtatious wife is unfaithful to him and Stella is likewise tormented by a series of neuroses. The family physician, Dr. Pardoe, recommends an eminent European psychiatrist and Nazi concentration camp survivor, Professor Hoffmeyer, to treat Stella Frobisher. Both Mr. and Mrs. Frobisher are concerned that Asians have been spying on them, going so far as to break into their home and infiltrate their country club. As their marriage is not a healthy one, neither husband nor wife confide in the other, but rather let their paranoia grow until their nerves have frayed. What neither suspects is that Carl Hoffmeyer is really Dr. Fu Manchu in disguise.

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Last Chance to Win a Copy of Peter Watts’ Echopraxia

Friday, August 29th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Echopraxia-smallLast week, I told you that you had a chance to win a copy of Peter Watts’s brand new novel Echopraxia, on sale this week from Tor Books.

How do you win? Just send an e-mail to with the title “Echopraxia” and a one-sentence review of your favorite Tor science fiction novel. One winner will be drawn at random from all qualifying entries and we’ll publish the best reviews here on the Black Gate blog.

What could possibly be easier? But time is running out — the contest closes August 31.

All entries become the property of New Epoch Press. 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. Eat your vegetables. Thanks to the great folks at Tor for providing the prize.

This Peter Watts fellow is one of the most acclalimed young science fiction writers working today. The first novel in the Echopraxia series, Blindsight, was nominated for the Hugo Award, and in starred review Publishers Weekly called it “a terrifying and original spin on the familiar alien contact story.” Watts has been called “a hard science fiction writer through and through, and one of the very best alive” by The Globe and Mail.

Read an excerpt from Echopraxia, and see the book trailer, here.

Echopraxia was published on August 26 by Tor Books. It is 384 pages, priced at $24.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition.

Vintage Treasures: Horrors Unknown, edited by Sam Moskowitz

Thursday, August 28th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Sam Moskowitz Horrors Unknown-smallI think of Sam Moskowitz primarily as an SF historian, perhaps the greatest the field has ever known.

His book The Immortal Storm, a history of early fannish feuds, is still read and discussed today, and his numerous biographical articles on 20th Century SF writers — published in an assortment of SF digests in the 50s and 60s — were eventually collected into two popular books, Explorers of the Infinite and Seekers of Tomorrow. He was a tireless advocate for SF, and was famously the chairman of the first World Science Fiction Convention in New York City in 1939 at just nineteen years of age. He was so strongly associated with early pulp SF, primarily as a collector and genre evangelist, that Isaac Asimov dedicated Before the Golden Age to him.

But Moskowitz was also an editor of no little note, with some two dozen titles to his name. I recently stumbled on one of his first horror anthologies, Horrors Unknown (1971), which collects early 20th Century short fiction from Edison Marshall, Fitz-James O’Brien, Ray Bradbury, and many others — including a Jules de Grandin novelette by Seabury Quinn, a Northwest Smith novelette from C. L. Moore, and an incredible round-robin Cthulhu Mythos tales by none other than H. P. Lovecraft, C. L. Moore, A. Merritt, Robert E. Howard, and Frank Belknap Long.

Two more horror anthologies followed this one: Horrors in Hiding (1973; edited with Alden H. Norton) and Horrors Unseen (1974). The latter was his final anthology. Sam Moskowitz died in 1997, at the age of 76.

Sam wrote fascinating and detailed introductions — author appreciations, really — for each story, and his love and knowledge of the field shine through in every one.

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