A Mining Colony, a Blind Date, and a Ghostly Alien Hand: A Review of Outpassage by Janet Morris & Chris Morris

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Outpassage-smallOutpassage
By Janet Morris & Chris Morris
Perseid Press (430 pages, February 10, 2014, $24.95 trade paperback/$6.99 digital)
Cover by Vincent Di Fate

You only live once.

That is not only the theme of this excellent science fiction novel — it is also at the very heart of the novel’s story premise. Once again, I continue with my reviews of my favorite novels by Janet Morris and Chris Morris. But how I ever missed Outpassage when it was first published in 1988 I cannot say, because this is exactly the type of science fiction story I grew up reading in the pages of Amazing Stories and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. So this is the first time I’ve had the pleasure to read this great science fiction adventure.

Outpassage is action-packed, character-driven, and thought-provoking. The science is grounded in reality, but isn’t integral to the plot, and the tech never gets in the way of story and character: there is no garbage science or techno babble to muddle the plot. While this story has the feel of an old-fashioned, traditional science fiction novel from back in the day, it has a hip and modern sensibility to it. The characters are vivid and memorable, and the lean prose style is perfectly suited to the story. The dialogue is perfectly matched to each character — crisp and sharp, and very smart, with a fine balance of humor and gravitas.

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Future Treasures: Old Venus, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Old Venus-smallA while back, I was lamenting the disappearance of the modern SF anthology, and commenting that very few editors (or publishers, for that matter) have been successful at individual anthologies — let alone the anthology series, like the old Orbit and New Dimensions.

In so saying, I was overlooking the team of George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, who have produced a loose series of top-selling SF and fantasy anthologies over the last few years – including the massive heroic fantasy volume Warriors (2010), the star-crossed love story collection Songs of Love and Death (2010), the massive Jack Vance tribute Songs of the Dying Earth (2010), the urban fantasy-focused Down These Strange Streets (2011), the even massive-er 800-page Dangerous Women (2013), and the just-released Rogues (2014).

My personal favorite was Old Mars, a tribute to “the Golden Age of Science Fiction, an era filled with tales of interplanetary colonization and derring-do” — which, if you’ve read even a handful of posts here at Black Gate, you’ll understand is the kind of thing that makes me very happy. When I blogged about it in January, Gardner sent me this intriguing message:

Glad you enjoyed it… If you liked this one, keep an eye out for Old Venus from the same publisher; same kind of thing, although I think it’s even stronger than Old Mars. Pub date is sometime in 2015.

I was delighted to hear it. Now Bantam has released the cover, and it looks gorgeous — and makes a terrific companion piece to the Old Mars cover. These will look very handsome indeed, back-to-back on my bookshelf.

Old Venus will be published by Bantam Books on March 3, 2015. It is 608 pages, priced at $30 in hardcover and $11.99 for the digital version. No news on who the contributors are — when we learn more, so will you.


Dueling Rakes, Mysterious Women, and the Goblin Aristocracy: The Queen’s Necklace by Teresa Edgerton

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_1605134EiRbubaPThe Queen’s Necklace (2001) by Teresa Edgerton (with its title borrowed from Alexandre Dumas) is a perfectly splendid swashbuckling adventure in an Age of Reason-like world as it teeters on the precipice of collapse.

For five thousand, years Goblins using powerful magical gems ruled the world, keeping Humans enslaved and uneducated. Fifteeen hundred years ago, Humanity rose up and slaughtered most — but not all — of the Goblins. Now a millennium of plotting by the Goblin aristocracy is about to culminate in their return to power in a wave of chaos and destruction.

The Queen’s Necklace (TQN) is one of the many (too many!) books that’s sat unread for years on my shelf. Ocassionally the thought would occur to me to pull it down and finally give it a go, but I never followed through. When I reread and reviewed Edgerton’s earlier novel Goblin Moon this summer, she suggested I give The Queen’s Necklace a try, mentioning that it was possibly going to be reprinted in the autumn. So I figured, what the heck, I had bought it with every intention of reading it at some point, so why not now? And I’m glad I did.

While not connected to Goblin Moon and its sequel, The Gnome’s Engine, TQN occurs in a similar Enlightenment setting. There are perfumed fops, dueling rakes, mysterious women, and equal parts quackery, science, and magic.

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Fantasy Out Loud V: Steeleye Span Meets Terry Pratchett

Monday, September 15th, 2014 | Posted by markrigney

815A5CiM4DL._SL1200_In late 2013, a strange event occurred: Steeleye Span, a British band that has outlived just about all other contenders except the Rolling Stones, released a CD entitled Wintersmith.

Coincidence? After all, there’s a Discworld spin-off by that name, too, a Terry Pratchett novel aimed at the young adult market and starring the infinitely resourceful tween witch, Tiffany Aching. Could there be a connection?

Indeed. It turns out that Pratchett has been a fan of Steeleye since the early seventies (“Boys Of Bedlam” was a particular favorite), and Steeleye’s lead vocalist, the incomparable Maddy Prior, has been, in turn, an unabashed fan of Pratchett’s. They got to talking, and next thing you know, the world was gifted with a terrific fantasy-driven album of folk, rock, and traditional Morris dances, all tied together by the Great A’Tuin and a nasty case of winter.

Pratchett’s Wintersmith is the third installment in the irregular Tiffany Aching series, a sort of sideline to the “official” Discworld novels (The Color Magic, et al). The story centers on Tiffany’s impulsive decision to “dance the Dark Morris,” a rite that shifts summer to winter – except that when Tiffany includes herself, both summer and winter, elemental godlings, take note of her and seek, in their own ways, to possess her. Tiffany now faces the possibility of endless winter, in the demi-human form of a smitten teenage boy.

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New Treasures: House Immortal by Devon Monk

Monday, September 15th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

House Immortal Devon Monk-smallThe first story I ever bought for Black Gate was by Devon Monk.

I was probably more excited than she was. “Stitchery,” the tale of a young woman struggling desperately to hold her farm together, and drawing on her unique ability to create new creatures from the flesh of dead ones, eventually appeared in Black Gate 2, and was selected for David Hartwell’s Year’s Best Fantasy 2.

I’ve been following Devon’s career ever since — and an impressive career it’s been, too. Since her appearance in BG 2 she’s published over a dozen novels in three different series: Allie Beckstrom, Broken Magic, and the steampunk Age of Steam books.

Now she kicks off a brand new fantasy series, House Immortal, an intriguing take on the legend of Frankenstein, featuring a main character who’s been stitched together into an immortal body… it reminds me of that excellent story I bought from a promising new writer, all those years ago.

One hundred years ago, eleven powerful ruling Houses consolidated all of the world’s resources and authority into their own grasping hands. Only one power wasn’t placed under the command of a single House: the control over the immortal galvanized….

Matilda Case isn’t like most folk. In fact, she’s unique in the world, the crowning achievement of her father’s experiments, a girl pieced together from bits. Or so she believes, until Abraham Seventh shows up at her door, stitched with life thread just like her and insisting that enemies are coming to kill them all.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Doyle in The Resident Patient?

Monday, September 15th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Resident_Richardson Bell

One of my favorite Holmes’ also played Joseph Bell

Apologies for this post running a bit long. While I’m a devoted Sherlockian, I’m not particularly a great fan of Conan Doyle himself. However, I find this tidbit from his life to be pretty interesting. So…

Biographers and devotees of Sherlock Holmes have written much regarding who the detective was modeled after. Joseph Bell is widely regarded as the primary inspiration, a belief bolstered by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s own words more than once.

In his autobiography, Memories and Adventures, Doyle said, “I thought of my old teacher Joe Bell, of his eagle face, of his curious ways, of his eerie trick of spotting details. If he were a detective he would surely reduce this fascinating but unorganized business to something nearer to an exact science.”

Add another comment, “Sherlock Holmes is the literary embodiment… of my memory of a professor of medicine at Edinburgh University.”

Now, it has been asserted that one can find bits of Doyle himself in the great detective. His second wife said that her husband had the Sherlock Holmes brain, solving mysteries that puzzled the police.

Son Adrian Conan Doyle vehemently (even militantly) argued that his father was Holmes. Seemingly more likely is that the stolid, patriotic Doctor Watson drew in great part from his creator.

But can we examine one of the sixty Holmes tales and discover biographical pieces of Conan Doyle? As a matter of fact, we need look no further than “The Adventure of the Resident Patient” and Dr. Percy Trevelyan.

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Future Treasures: Check-Out Time by Mark Rigney

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Check Out Time Mark Rigney-smallMark Rigney’s Tales of Gemen — a three-part adventure tale featuring a deadly tomb, a ruined gateway, and the mysterious trader Gemen, who risks everything to plumb their secrets —  have consistently hovered near the top of our Fiction charts since we first published them in 2012. Tangent Online called the tales “Reminiscent of the old sword & sorcery classics,” high praise in our book.

More recently, Mark has turned his attention to a 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.

I envy Rigney for his talents… Rigney can write circles around most of us as he seamlessly blurs the lines between genres and switches voice from one first person narrator to the other…

Rigney’s odd couple (in more ways than one) comprises a stuffy Unitarian minister and a rather crude, sometimes boorish, ex-linebacker. Together they solve occult mysteries… Make no mistake, this book is grand entertainment.

Simply put, I love this book.

The second in the series, “Sleeping Bear,” appeared in February, and anticipation has been building for their first novel-length adventure. Check-Out Time finally arrives next month.

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Vintage Treasures: Night Fear by Frank Belknap Long

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Night Fear-smallFrank Belknap Long isn’t well remembered today. He wrote nearly 30 novels, including Space Station 1 (1957), Mars is My Destination (1962), The Horror from the Hills (1963), and Survival World (1971), most of which have been out of print for over 40 years.

But his short fiction has fared a little better. Long was part of the Lovecraft Circle, and indeed was a close friend of Lovecraft’s for many years (James McGlothlin has a great pic of the two, accompanying his article on The Lovecraft Circle at the First World Fantasy Convention.) His contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos, including “The Hounds of Tindalos” and “The Space Eaters,” are still highly regarded today.

Long’s short fiction was gathered in four paperback collections: Odd Science Fiction (1964), The Rim of the Unknown (1972), The Hounds of Tindalos (1978) and Night Fear (1979). They are long out of print, but most of his finest short fiction was collected in Masters of the Weird Tale: Frank Belknap Long (2010), a gorgeous limited edition hardcover from Centipede Press.

Night Fear collects fiction spanning nearly three decades from 1925 to 1953, originally published in the pulp magazines Weird Tales, Astounding Science Fiction, Startling Stories, Unknown, Super Science Stories, and Dynamic Science Fiction. It includes the famous Cthulhu Mythos novella ”The Horror from the Hills,” first serialized in Weird Tales in 1931 and built on a dream H. P. Lovecraft had which Long incorporated in the tale nearly verbatim, and ”It’s a Tough Life,” a 1942 essay from Astounding Science-Fiction in which Long discusses L. Sprague de Camp’s 1940 article on bizarre terrestrial life.

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Alan Moore Completes 1 Million+ Word Historical Fantasy Novel, Jerusalem

Saturday, September 13th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Alan-Moore-smallAlan Moore’s daughter Leah has posted a report on Facebook that her father has completed the first draft of his second novel, Jerusalem, and that the draft clocks in at more than one million words.

To give you a sense of perspective, that’s more than five times the length of Dune (186,000 words), and twice the length of all three novels of The Lord of the Rings (473,000 words). As The A.V. Club puts it, “Alan Moore wrote a novel so heavy even he can’t lift it.”

Jerusalem reportedly examines history of a small section of Moore’s native Northhampton, with chapters written in dramatically different styles. Here’s Moore’s description:

I’ve done a chapter that’s like a mid-sixties New Wave, New Worlds Michael Moorcock-era science fiction story. There’s one that’s like a piece of noir fiction. It’s all these different styles…

In some ways, the book sounds similar to his first novel, The Voice of the Fire, which portrayed 6,000 years of English history by following twelve different characters in the same region of central England. As Comics Beat points out, it’s also similar in some respects to his unfinished comic opus Big Numbers.

Alan Moore is the writer of some of the most famous comics of the 20th Century, including Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing, From Hell, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Moore does not yet have a publisher for the mammoth tome.


New Treasures: The Ghost Pirates and Others: The Best of William Hope Hodgson by William Hope Hodgson

Friday, September 12th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Ghost Pirates and Others-smallNearly ten years ago, I bought The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson, a five volume set from Night Shade Books. It’s a terrific group of hardcovers, with eye-catching cover art by Jason Van Hollander, and there’s no reason anyone who possesses that handsome collection would ever need to spend another penny on William Hope Hodgson.

And yet here I am, shelling out for The Ghost Pirates and Others, a beautiful trade paperback collection of the best short fiction of William Hope Hodgson, selected and edited by Jeremy Lassen. Maybe it’s the marvelously spooky cover. Maybe it’s the thought of having Hodgson’s best, including his finest Carnacki tales and the famous title story, under one cover, where I can curl up with it in my big green chair. Or maybe, as my wife Alice suggests, it’s a compulsion and I need psychiatric help. You decide — I’m busy with my latest treasure and will be unreachable for the next few hours.

“With its command of maritime knowledge, and its clever selection of hints and incidents suggestive of latent horrors in nature, [The Ghost Pirates] reaches enviable peaks of power.” — H.P. Lovecraft.

William Hope Hodgson was a contemporary of H. P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith, and was one of the most important and influential fantasists of the 20th century. His novel The Ghost Pirates is a take-no-prisoners supernatural adventure story that is just as powerful today as it was 100 years ago.

In addition to his landmark novel, this volume contains some of his most influential short fiction; from his supernatural detective Thomas Carnacki to tales of the mysterious Sargasso Sea. The Ghost Pirates and Others is the perfect introduction to the magic, mystery and adventure of William Hope Hodgson.

The Ghost Pirates and Others: The Best of William Hope Hodgson was edited by Jeremy Lassen and published by Night Shade Classics on December 4, 2012. It is 264 pages, priced at $16.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. The gorgeously spooky cover art is by Matt Jaffe.


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