New Treasures: Gifts for the One Who Comes After by Helen Marshall

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

Gifts for the One Who Comes After-smallRecently I’ve talked at length (or “droned on and on,” as a few friendly readers have commented) about wandering through the Dealer’s Room at the World Fantasy Convention and discovering the splendid books produced by many of the most dynamic and exciting small press publishers in the industry, including  ValancourtHippocampus Press, Chizine, Prime Books, Taychon Press, and many more.

Of course, the Dealer’s Room isn’t the only way to discover fabulous new titles. Another is to talk to your fellow attendees and see what they recommend. Or you can attend the marvelous reading series put on by the convention. Or if you’re very lucky — as I was with Helen Marshall — you can do both. After hearing multiple rave review of her second collection, Gifts for the One Who Comes After, from panelists, authors, and fellow attendees, I was able to change my schedule at the last minute and slip into Helen’s reading — where I was thoroughly delighted. I dashed down to the Dealer’s Room and bought her book immediately. She is a major new talent, and you should investigate her work as soon as possible. I know I am.

Ghost thumbs. Microscopic dogs. One very sad can of tomato soup.

Helen Marshall’s second fiction collection offers a series of twisted surrealities that explore the legacies we pass on to our children. A son seeks to reconnect with his father through a telescope that sees into the past. A young girl discovers what lies on the other side of her mother’s bellybutton. Death’s wife prepares herself for a very special funeral.

In Gifts for the One Who Comes After, Marshall delivers seventeen tales of love and loss shot through with a profound sense of wonder. Dazzling, disturbing, and deeply moving.

Gifts for the One Who Comes After was published by ChiZine Publications on September 16, 2014. It is 268 pages, priced at $16.99 in trade paperback, and $9.99 for the digital version. The cover art is by Erik Mohr.


Keep Your Blaster Close: The Many Horrors of Outbreak: Deep Space

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

Outbreak Deep Space-smallBeing at the Games Plus Fall Auction can be an exhilarating experience. Take my discovery of Outbreak: Deep Space, just as an example.

There I am, sitting in the second row of the auction on October 4th, ninety minutes into the auction, wondering if I’ve blown my budget already. I’ve just made the decision to add up my purchases when the auctioneer holds up a brand new copy of Outbreak: Deep Space and starts the bidding at $5.

What the heck is that?, I think. And then, I have no idea, but it looks fantastic.

I immediately hold up my bidding card. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one to be intrigued by this strange gaming artifact. About a dozen bidders have their cards in the air, and the auctioneer quickly runs the price up to ten bucks. This is how you get in trouble, I remind myself. Bidding like mad on a book when you have absolutely no idea what it is. 

But my card stays in the air. The bidding hits 15 bucks, then blows past it. The cards around me are starting to waver and drop.

This thing could be on sale at Amazon for $10. Just because you’ve never seen a copy doesn’t mean it’s hard to find.

But I keep my card in the air. It’s a sharp-looking and professional bound hardcover — my instincts tell me it’s going to cost a lot more than 10 bucks to track down a copy if I miss out on this one. And besides… there’s more going on now than just bargain hunting. It looks like a science fiction horror RPG, and a very professional one. I’m deeply curious and willing to pay more than $15 for the opportunity to find out what it is.

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Creeping Menace and Midnight Apparitions: The Crimson Blind and Other Stories by H.D. Everett

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

The Crimson Blind H D Everett-smallI haven’t had the opportunity to read much to my kids around the fireplace this holiday season, as suggested by Thomas Parker in his BG article Ghost Stories for Christmas.

But I have been sneaking a peek at my collection of Wordsworth’s Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural (or TOMAToS, for short) myself. As I’ve observed before, it’s the perfect line of books if you’re looking for great Victorian horror tales — and Thomas is right that cold wintry nights are the perfect time to be settling down under a blanket with a book of ghost stories.

One thing I appreciate about the Wordsworth TOMAToS books is that they’ve introduced me to several authors I likely would never have discovered on my own. M.R James, William Hope Hodgson, Wilkie Collins, Edith Nesbit… I was certainly familiar with their work. But Henry S. Whitehead? William Fryer Harvey? May Sinclair? I would not have discovered them if Wordsworth hadn’t made collections of their work available in an inexpensive and attractive format as part of the Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural. H.D. Everett is another fine example. Here’s the back cover blurb from her collection The Crimson Blind and Other Stories.

Mrs H.D. Everett was the last in a long line of gifted Victorian novelists who knew how to grip the reader through the invasion of everyday life by the abnormal and dramatic, leaving the facts to produce their special thrills without piling on the agony. “I always know,” says one of her characters, “how to distinguish a true ghost story from a faked one. The true ghost story never has any point and the faked one dare not leave it out.” From the chilling horror of “The Death Mask” to the shocking violence of “The Crimson Blind,” from the creeping menace of “Parson Clench” to the mounting suspense of “The Pipers of Mallory,” these thrilling stories were enthusiastically received by readers and critics when they first appeared, and are sure to delight and terrify the modern reader in equal measure. With their haunting influences, their permeating scents, their midnight apparitions and unexplained sounds, they plunge us, along with the hero or heroine, into a state of increasing nervous excitement.

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Dwarves, Dragons, Wizards and Elves: Thinking About the Standard Fantasy Setting

Sunday, December 14th, 2014 | Posted by Connor Gormley

Warhammer Elves-smallYou know, for a genre that should be based entirely around the thing, Fantasy really is lacking in that lovely little commodity everyone calls imagination.

I’m serious; there are three-book series kicking around called Elves, Dwarves, and Orcs respectively. That’s pretty much the holy trinity of fantasy clichés right there. And all the book covers I’ve seen lately feature these grizzled, Batman-ish, waylander types, which is fine, because Batman kicks butt, when he starts cropping up everywhere he just gets annoying, with all his gritty, gravelly-voiced sadness.

Despite the fact that fantasy is a genre in which the writer can do literally anything, put their characters in whatever situation they damn well please, everyone seems way too content with dwarves, dragons, wizards, and elves. We could have quadruple amputees with tentacles for eyes who fight off the slavering hordes of hell by playing rock guitar solos with their earlobes, but nope, we’re happy with elves.

My point is that fantasy, and all the genres like it, give writers a medium through which they can explore every facet of the human imagination, test the very limits of what we, as human beings, can envision and relate to, what’s within our power to articulate. Fantasy challenges writers to make social commentary and philosophical statements within the most fantastic and diverse circumstances possible. Fantasy has the potential to take its readers to places they could never conceive of, on adventures that transcend comprehension; with this tool, fantasy could become the most beautiful, poetic, and diverse form of escapism we have.

It could be, if we didn’t focus so much on the elves, the dwarves, and the dragons, but we do, because we’re idiots.

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Vintage Treasures: The White Bird of Kinship Trilogy by Richard Cowper

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

The Road to Corlay-small A Dream of Kinship-small A Tapestry of Time-small

A lot of people were talking about Richard Cowper’s The Road to Corlay just as I was discovering fantasy in the late 70s. It appeared in the UK in 1978, and was published in paperback in the US by Pocket Books in 1979, with a striking cover by Don Maitz (above left). It was nominated for the British Fantasy Award in 1979, and both the Nebula and Balrog awards in the US a year later. It also placed 7th on Locus’s annual lists for Best SF novel.

I wasn’t even aware it was a series until many years later, as I gradually stumbled on the sequels. Volume two, A Dream of Kinship, was published in 1981, and A Tapestry of Time followed in 1982. The cover artist of the second volume is unknown, but Don Maitz returned for the third book (above right). Click on any of the images for bigger versions.

Richard Cowper was a pen name for John Middleton Murry, Jr, a UK author who died in 2002 — of a broken heart, according to his friend Christopher Priest, following the death of his wife Ruth four weeks earlier. He wrote several other SF and fantasy novels, the most famous of which was probably The Twilight of Briareus (1974); his other titles included Clone (1972), Time Out of Mind (1973), Worlds Apart (1974), and Profundis (1979). I found the complete trilogy in the estate of my sister-in-law Mary, who passed away in May, and brought it home with me to read for the first time. We shared an interest in SF and fantasy, and these books remind me of her.


Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Best New Horror

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

25th-anniversay-edition-best-new-horror-1-small 25th-anniversay-edition-best-new-horror-2-small

Stephen Jones has been editing an annual Best New Horror collection since 1990. The first five volumes were co-edited with Ramsey Campbell; since 1995 Jones has edited them solo. The 25th volume, now retitled The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 25, was published by Robinson back in October.

Now PS Publishing is celebrating 25 years of Best New Horror by re-releasing the first two volumes in this groundbreaking series, with brand new comic-inspired covers by Lee Elias and Ken Bald. The first volume won both the 1991 British Fantasy Award and the 1991 World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology. They contain short fiction by Robert R. McCammon, Ramsey Campbell, Thomas Ligotti, Karl Edward Wagner, Peter Straub, K.W. Jetter, Jonathan Carroll, Ian R. MacLeod, Kim Newman, Gene Wolfe, and dozens of others.

The 25th Anniversary Edition of Best New Horror volumes 1 and 2 were edited by Stephen Jones and Ramsey Campbell and published in trade paperback in September and October of this year. They are priced at £11.99 and £12.99 respectively. Get more information, including the complete table of contents and snaps of the gorgeous wraparound covers, at the PS Publishing website here and here.


New Treasures: The Shotgun Arcana by R. S. Belcher

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

The Shotgun Arcana-smallWe covered R.S. Belcher’s first Golgotha novel, The Six-Gun Tarot, in April, as part of my review of the current crop of Weird Westerns. Now Belcher returns to the bustling frontier town of Golgotha, Nevada, a place that hides more than its fair share of unnatural secrets, in The Shotgun Arcana.

Don’t know much about this R. S. Belcher fellow. He doesn’t have a website, and his only other publications are two short stories that appeared in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 9 and Deep Cuts.  A background check on the Black Gate supercomputer reveals that he runs Cosmic Castle, a comic book shop in Roanoke, Virginia, and that Tor.com interviewed him in October. That’s enough to make him alright in our book.

1870. A haven for the blessed and the damned, including a fallen angel, a mad scientist, a pirate queen, and a deputy who is kin to coyotes, Golgotha has come through many nightmarish trials, but now an army of thirty-two outlaws, lunatics, serial killers, and cannibals are converging on the town, drawn by a grisly relic that dates back to the Donner Party… and the dawn of humanity.

Sheriff Jon Highfather and his deputies already have their hands full dealing with train robbers, a mysterious series of brutal murders, and the usual outbreaks of weirdness. But with thirty-two of the most vicious killers on Earth riding into Golgotha in just a few day’s time, the town and its people will be tested as never before — and some of them will never be the same.

The Shotgun Arcana was published by Tor Books on October 7, 2014. It is 400 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital version. The deliciously creepy cover is by Raymond Swanland.


Amazon Announces its Top-Selling Books of 2014

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

The Blood of Olympus-smallAmazon.com has announced its top-selling books of 2014, and the list includes half a dozen fantasy novels.

This isn’t a truly definitive breakdown of top sellers for the year, since it’s just from one bookseller (as powerful as Amazon may be). Also, 2014 isn’t even over yet, fer cryin’ out loud.

Still, it’s an interesting list, with plenty on it for fantasy fans — including several popular series (The Heroes of Olympus, The Mortal Instruments, and two Outlander books, just to name a few), and a standalone novel from Stephen King. The most surprising thing about the list, however, is that Amazon claims that Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid is the only title on the list to sell more copies in print than for the Kindle.

Here’s the complete list.

  1. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
  2. Gray Mountain by John Grisham
  3. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  4. Twenty Seconds Ago by Lee Child (Jack Reacher No. 19)
  5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  6. The Target by David Baldacci (Will Robie series)
  7. The Fixed Trilogy by Laurelin Paige
  8. The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan (The Heroes of Olympus, Book Five)

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Goth Chick News: 13 Questions for Exorcist… er, Depossessionist Marcus Wynne

Thursday, December 11th, 2014 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Marcus Wynne

Marcus Wynne

Back at the end of October, we here at Goth Chick News wrapped up “the season” by reviewing a new release The Sword of Michael, written by a truly unique author, Marcus Wynne. You see, apart from being ex-military and the current CEO of a military consulting firm, Wynne is a “depossessionist” (not to be confused with an exorcist, so my bad in the original write up).

Now before I start getting jokes about working with the government and casting out demons, know that Wynne is dead serious. Since beginning his spiritual career, Wynne has dealt with (offed? banished? eradicated?) over 1,000 entities all over the US. When coupled with his job in the US Air Marshals, that pretty much constitutes covering our backsides on multiple fronts.

It’s probably pretty obvious why we all needed to know more about Mr. Marcus Wynne, so allow me to introduce him:

Everyone, this is Marcus – Marcus, meet everyone.

With the pleasantries out of the way, let’s get down to the serious questions…

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The Series Series: Clariel by Garth Nix

Thursday, December 11th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Avery

Clariel Garth Nix-smallClariel is a surprise, not quite like anything we’ve seen from the Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series. For a longtime fan of the Old Kingdom, Clariel stands alone well — its plot arc is complete and satisfying in one volume — but for a newcomer to the Old Kingdom, it’s still best to start at the beginning. Fortunately for any of you who are newcomers, the beginning is awesome and absolutely worth backtracking for.

Like its predecessors, Clariel offers exceptionally disturbing monsters, the tragic undead, gorgeous worldbuilding, and coming-of-age anxiety that uses its powers for good. Well, in Clariel, the good is more complicated than ever before, because the title character has no talent for the Charter Magic that could connect her to the natural laws and relationships that make her world possible. Clariel’s knack is for Free Magic. While the Free part sounds good at first, Free Magic tends to corrode all relationships based on compassion, protection, and kinship, instead dragging its human practitioners into the thrall of monstrous beings older than the world. How can a girl with such a knack come into her power without destroying everything she holds dear?

Garth Nix’s novels of the Old Kingdom are among my favorite YA books. The first volume, Sabriel, is a consistent favorite of my students, too. A family of benevolent necromancers keep the dead down in a nation that barely holds together against a deviously masterminded invasion from the afterworld. Sabriel comes of age as she struggles to save what’s left of a basically failed state. The title character in Lirael discovers her connection with the Abhorsen family a generation later, when the Old Kingdom’s fragile new peace is threatened by an even more ancient foe, and in Abhorsen the whole family gathers for some very deep magic that opens new questions about the underpinnings of their whole world.

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