The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes – Ellery Queen’s Misadventures of SH

Monday, October 20th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Misadventures_CoverYou’ve probably heard the name ‘Ellery Queen,’ but you may not know that it’s actually the name for joint efforts by cousins Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee. They were important players in the mystery field for decades, with Dannay being a notable Sherlockian.

In 1943, Dannay planned The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes, an anthology of parodies and pastiches. Unlike today, Holmes anthologies were unheard of back then. Due in large part, as we’ll see, to the management of the Doyle Estate by Sir Arthur Conan’s sons, Adrian and Dennis.

The book, by Ellery Queen, was unveiled at a Baker Street Irregulars gathering in 1944. I gave a taste what dealing with Doyle’s two sons could be like my post on “The Man Who Was Wanted.” There’s more of the same in this tale.

Adrian heard about the collection and went off in his usual rage, telegramming his brother Denis (also a wastrel) in Spain. Denis cabled the Estate’s law firm and instructed them to demand that Queen and the publishers, Little, Brown and Company, stop publication and withdraw all copies. They were also to be sued for damages.

To quote Denis’ cable to the lawyers: “It is obviously a flagrant example of that very sort of piracy, striking at the very roots of the literary value of the property which my father left to his family, against which we have fought together in the past…books which will completely devaluate and ruin the whole value of the Holmes property, including films, radio and stage.”

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Last Chance to Win a Copy of The Madness of Cthulhu, edited by S.T. Joshi

Sunday, October 19th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Madness of Cthulhu-smallLast week, we told you that you had a chance to win one of two copies of S.T. Joshi’s major new horror anthology The Madness of Cthulhu, Volume One, on sale this month from Titan Books.

How do you win? Just send an e-mail to john@blackgate.com with the subject “The Madness of Cthulhu,” and a one-sentence review of your favorite H.P. Lovecraft story (don’t forget to identify the story). That’s it; that’s all that stands between you and a copy of one of the most exciting anthologies of the year. Two winners will be drawn at random from all qualifying entries and we’ll announce the winners here on the Black Gate blog. What could possibly be easier? But time is running out — the contest closes October 21st.

The Madness of Cthulhu collects fourteen original tales, and two reprints, inspired by Lovecraft’s horror masterpiece At the Mountains of Madness. This is the first of two volumes, with the second to be released Summer 2015. 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.

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.

The Madness of Cthulhu, Volume One was published on October 7 by Titan Books. It is 304 pages, priced at $15.95 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital version.


New Treasures: Short Sharp Shocks 1: Amok! edited by Neil Baker

Sunday, October 19th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Short Sharp Shocks Amok!-smallThe fine folks at April Moon Press have really hit the ground running. Their first anthology, The Dark Rites of Cthulhu, appeared in March and was a major success — so much so that they’ve now launched an ambitious line of dark fantasy and horror books.

The first to arrive is Amok!, a collection of intense short fiction from multiple genres — mystery, thriller, dark fantasy, and outright horror — focusing on the modern boogeyman: the spree killer. Amok! is the first release in April Moon’s Short Sharp Shocks anthology series; the next, Stomping Grounds!, features monsters causing mayhem and misery. They will be followed by Ill-Considered Expeditions (“Pith helmets at the ready for some unfriendly welcomes!”), Spawn of the Ripper, a tribute to Hammer horror films, and The Stars at my Door, a collection of optimistic science fiction.

An unnerving anthology featuring tales of psychological decline and murderous frenzy!

Office workers snap and vengeful ghosts go on a murderous rampage; a giant, blood-crazed pig rubs shoulders with a monstrous alligator while kids experiment with runes and drugs and suffer the consequences.

Ghouls of every foul persuasion tear through the streets and would-be serial killers stalk every alley way in search of hapless victims. Dark magicks destroy cities and brings warriors back from the grave, and madness eats away at the minds of explorers both past and future. Criminals enjoy violent crime sprees while our uniformed protectors themselves fall under the spell of murderous intent.

Here then, are 26 stories spanning a multitude of genres and themes to both alarm and amuse you as events spiral rapidly out of control, and mankind, monsters and minds run terribly, catastrophically, AMOK!

Short Sharp Shocks 1: Amok! was edited by Neil Baker and published by April Moon Books on September 27, 2014. It is 244 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $3.99 for the digital edition. The cover and interior illustrations are by Neil Baker. Order directly at the April Moon website.


Re-reading Michael Moorcock’s The History of The Runestaff: What I Missed the First Time Around

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 | Posted by Connor Gormley

The History of The Runestaff UK omnibus-smallI don’t do re-reads, not often anyway. I’m usually too busy fighting neo-Nazis in the far future and wrestling dinosaurs on mars. [You know, normal, everyday sort of stuff. ] I decided to make an exception for The History of the Runestaff, however, mostly because I realized I had been recommending the thing to friends for years, but hadn’t touched it since I was twelve, when one of my friends dug out the omnibus edition out of some weird corner in our schools library, plopped it into my hands and mumbled something about multiple universes.

I remember staring, wide-eyed, at the thing, fascinated; the Conan covers might have been brutal and bloody and prominently featured big burly men, but this was strange, this was something different entirely; its pulsing yellows and light greens were alien, steeped in the psychedelia of the sixties (which, as the inside of the book told me, was when the books were written), it completely dashed away my expectations, crushed them under an iron clad boot, made my little eyes wide. It contrasted, brilliantly with the pulsing purples and browns and blacks of the Conan covers, its swirling surrealism was as far away from Frazetta as I had been.

Despite all that I didn’t get around to actually reading it until a few months later, when my friend convinced the librarian to delete the book from the school files and I, somehow, managed to get him to trade me it for a copy of some other book. So it wasn’t until a few months later that I discovered that it wasn’t actually that different from Conan, anyway.

The History of The Runestaff was what introduced me to sword and sorcery, what truly opened the gate to Fritz Leiber, Edgar Rice Burroughs, David Gemmel, Jack Vance, Karl Edward Wagner, and so many others, it was, ultimately, what led me here. If there’s anything I’m going to re-read, I thought, it should be this.

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Vintage Treasures: The Book of Paradox by Louise Cooper

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Book of Paradox Louise Cooper-smallWell, this is a surprise.

A few weeks back I purchased a collection of vintage paperbacks on eBay for around 50 cents each (the same collection I found Orbit 3 in, which I wrote about on Wednesday.) You never know what you’re going to find in these things, and buried near the bottom of the box was a 1973 sword & sorcery paperback titled The Book of Paradox, with a typically alluring Frazetta cover. I was setting it aside when I caught the author’s name, in tiny print under the title: Louise Cooper.

Wait a minute. Louise Cooper, author of the 12-volume Time Master novels, and the Indigo series? I had no idea she wrote sword & sorcery.

Turns out The Book of Paradox was her first novel. Originally published in hardcover in 1973, when she was just 20 years old, it launched her career. She became a full-time writer in 1977, and in her 30-year career published more than eighty fantasy novels. Looks to me like Dell just had no idea how to categorize her in 1973, so they just threw her in with their S&S line. The book has a fairly typical cover blurb: “An occult odyssey through the Tarot to an inner world beyond the portals of death.” Here’s the back cover text:

A hypnotically fascinating Tarot adventure to a psychedelic nether realm of mysterious fantasy where lies are truths and truths have no meaning… where terror is real and reality is always questionable…and where a valiant hero must become The Fool to succeed on a perilous quest for love through changing worlds of eternal night.

Myth, mystery and magic abound in a mesmerizing novel of considerable imaginative talent.

Louise Cooper died of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 57 in 2009, leaving behind a rich legacy of much-loved fantasy. The Book of Paradox was published in paperback in February 1975 by Dell. It is 236 pages, with a cover price of $1.25. The cover is by Frank Frazetta. It has never been reprinted, and there is no digital edition.


Putting the Epic into the Modern Day Fantasy

Friday, October 17th, 2014 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Tom DoyleToday I’m turning over the Black Gate rostrum to the talented Tom Doyle. Take it away, Tom!

When my first novel, American Craftsmen, went to Tor’s production department, I received an odd request from my editor: could I put together genealogical notes and a family tree for an appendix?

An appendix? That sounded like Lord of the Rings territory, with its line of the Kings of Númenor. My book was set primarily in modern America, with a style that probably owed as much to the techno-thriller as fantasy. How did I end up with a story that required an extra, often mocked feature commonly associated with door-stopper epics?

Perhaps my subconscious was partly to blame: I enjoy all sorts of speculative fiction, but I was raised on the big epics of high fantasy, and those still give me a special kick.

But mostly, I had made deliberate choices to include certain story and style elements based on their own merits, and only after the appendix request did I realize that those elements are particularly highlighted in the epic genre.

So what elements of epic did I put in a contemporary fantasy setting, and for what purposes? First, and my use of this element is the main reason my publisher probably thought I needed an appendix: epic characters don’t just have background detail; they have histories.

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Devon Monk’s House Immortal is Based on her Black Gate Short Story “Stitchery”

Friday, October 17th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

House Immortal Devon Monk-smallLast month I reported on Devon Monk’s newest novel House Immortal, the tale of Tilly Case, one of thirteen unfathomably strong creatures stitched together nearly a century ago, who finds herself tangled up in a deadly struggle between powerful Houses for dominion over death itself. One of the things I commented on in my article was the intriguing resemblance between House Immortal and the excellent short story I bought from Devon nearly 15 years ago, “Stitchery.” On her blog this week, Devon confirmed the connection.

[House Immortal] isn’t a “standard” urban fantasy, but more like a science-fiction-y urban fantasy. But even though it’s set in the future a bit, it still (I hope) reads like urban fantasy, with a strong female lead character, some butt kicking, some humor, some trouble that could spell out the end of a world or two, and a host of interesting people and places.

Publisher and Editor John O’Neill at Black Gate noted here, that it reminded him of ”Stitchery” the first short story he bought from me for Black Gate. I’m so happy he noticed! The series is based off of that short story, (albeit loosely) and Matilda, Neds, and Grandma were all first introduced in that short.

Now, the novel went quite a different way than the short story, so I think of the short story as an alternate timeline Matilda may have lived, but not the timeline she is living in the trilogy.

If you want to check it out (“Stitchery” also was chosen for David Hartwell’s Year’s Best Fantasy #2) you can find it in Black Gate #2, or in my short story collection: A Cup of Normal.

I’m very proud to see Devon nurture the terrific story idea she had for “Stitchery” into something far more ambitious. Check out her complete comments on her blog here. House Immortal was published on September 2 by Roc Books. It is 351 pages, priced at $7.99 for both the paperback and digital versions. The cover artist is not credited. The second volume, Infinity Bell, is scheduled to be published on March 3, 2015.


New Treasures: Hawk by Steven Brust

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Hawk Steven Brust-smallI was surprised and delighted to receive a new book in the Vlad Taltos series from Steven Brust in the mail last week.

Hawk is the 14th novel in the adventure fantasy series that began with Jhereg (reviewed by Fletcher Vredenburgh here) way back in 1983. A total of 19 are planned; the last one was Tiassa (2011), and the next is Vallista. If you’re a newcomer to the series, I highly recommend The Book of Jhereg, a paperback omnibus collection of the first three novels (Jhereg, Yendi, and Teckla), which has been in print from Ace for over 15 years.

Vlad Taltos was an oppressed and underprivileged Easterner — that is, a human — living in Adrilankha, capital of the Dragaeran Empire. Life was hard. Worse, it was irritating. Then Vlad made a great discovery: Dragaerans would pay him to kill other Draegarans. Win-win!

The years of Vlad’s career as a crime boss and top assassin were cut short by a revolution, a divorce, and an attack of conscience (not necessarily in that order). In the midst of all that, he broke with the Jhereg, the Dragaeran house of organized crime. He’s been a marked man ever since. The Jhereg want to kill him. The Jhereg would love to kill him.

So Vlad’s been avoiding Adrilankha as much as possible. That hasn’t worked out too well. His life is there: his ex-wife Cawti, his son, and all his friends. One of those friends is his former assistant Kragar, who’s taken over Vlad’s old territory and criminal operations. Vlad will need Kragar’s help if he’s going to return to Adrilankha and deal with this mess.

It won’t be easy, and it certainly won’t be simple. Because there are no messes like the ones you make yourself.

Hawk was published by Tor Books on October 7. It is 320 pages, priced at $24.99 in hardcover ($11.99 for the digital edition). The cover is by Stephen Hickman. Read an excerpt at Tor.com.


Crossing the Threshhold: Making Ultra-Long Fiction Work For You

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

Erin M Avans Author-smallToday I’m turning over the Black Gate rostrum to the talented Erin Evans. Take it away, Erin!

I have a confession to make: I have a word count problem. I always have. Short fiction is a struggle. My short stories are secretly novelettes, the few true short stories I’ve written begun as flash. I struggle mightily to keep my novels leashed, but, readers, I mostly fail.

There are those that say a novel has no business being over 100,000 words, and from an editor’s perspective, I agree. More than that and there’s certainly fat to be cut, scenes you don’t need and characters cluttering up the page. More than that and you’re asking a lot from a reader — a narrative that stretches that long risks becoming meandering and slow. It risks losing your reader’s attention. It risks being put down.

But for all I know “the rules,” I love a big, fat tome of a book. Epic fantasy is my jam — and I know I’m not alone. So it’s not surprising my latest book, Fire in the Blood, eventually broke free of the leash and came in twice as big as it was supposed to be. I turned in the final manuscript, waiting to hear back that I needed to cut a whole novel’s worth of words (or more).

But my editor couldn’t cut it by much. This story was meant to be big. “I think you found your stride,” she said. “Congratulations: you’re meant for epic fantasy.”

Words every long-writing author wants to hear. Here’s how I got them.

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Vintage Treasures: Orbit 3, edited by Damon Knight

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Orbit 3 Damon Knight-smallI enjoy reading vintage anthologies for pretty much the same reason I enjoy reading modern anthologies: they’re a great way to discover terrific new writers. Or in this case, terrific old writers.

Plus, they’re cheap. In any decent used bookstore, you can usually find at least one or two old SF anthologies priced less than a buck. (If you’re not sure what a “used book store” is, exactly, never mind. It’s even easier to find cheap anthologies on eBay, if that helps you.)

I admit I haven’t tried very many of Damon Knight’s Orbit volumes. But after making my way through most of the major SF anthologies of last century — The Hugo Winners, the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Before the Golden Age, Dangerous Visions, the Carr and Wolheim’s Year’s Best volumes — I think I’m ready to branch out a bit.

While Orbit routinely showcased some of the finest science fiction and fantasy writers of the 20th Century — including folks like Gene Wolfe, R. A. Lafferty, Philip Jose Farmer, and Knight’s wife, Kate Wilhelm — it also had something of a reputation for being on the cutting edge of the controversial New Wave. It wasn’t at all unusual to find readers loudly deriding the sometimes plotless, experimental fiction within, or criticizing fiction they disliked in letters columns around the industry as “too much like that Orbit stuff.”

Nonetheless, the series was quite popular. It ran for 21 volumes (not including a huge Best of Orbit collection) from 1966 to 1976, and helped cement’s Knight’s reputation as one of the best editors in the field. He took a lot of chances with Orbit, both in the fiction he chose and the authors he championed, but over and over again it seemed to pay off. While most editors worked hard to attract big names, Knight seemed to think nothing of having three quarters (or more) of his table of contents staffed entirely with newcomers. It must have made it difficult to attract buyers, but it certainly kept the series constantly fresh.

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