Future Treasures: The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015, edited by John Joseph Adams and Joe Hill

Sunday, January 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015-smallThe Mariner Books Best American series is one of the more successful anthology series on the market. Their titles include Best American Short Stories, Best American Mystery Stories, Best American Essays, Best American Science and Nature Writing, and Best American Sports Writing.

This year for the first time they’re adding an SF and fantasy volume, with John Joseph Adams as series editor. The editors are still selecting for the inaugural volume; the submission guidelines are here.

The Best American series is the premier annual showcase for the country’s finest short fiction and nonfiction. Each volume’s series editor selects notable works from hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites. A special guest editor — a leading writer in the field — then chooses the best twenty or so pieces to publish. This unique system has made the Best American series the most respected — and most popular — of its kind.

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Vintage Treasures: Strange Cargo by Jeffrey E. Barlough

Saturday, January 24th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Strange Cargo Jeffrey E. Barlough-smallI didn’t know quite what to make of Strange Cargo when I received a review copy over a decade ago. The cover grabbed my attention immediately, as did the synopsis, but I didn’t immediately realize it was part of Jeffrey E. Barlough’s ongoing Western Lights series, set in a world where the Ice Age never ended and only a narrow sliver of civilization survives along the Pacific American coastline.

The vast majority of review copies I received a decade ago are already long forgotten. But Barlough’s fame has steadily grown as Western Lights, a delightful series in which Victorian society exists alongside saber-toothed cats and woolly mammoths, continues to attract new readers. Strange Cargo was the third volume, following Dark Sleeper and The House in the High Wood; the most recent are What I Found at Hoole and The Cobbler of Ridingham.

Something wicked this way comes…

Nantle is the destination for the wealthy Cargo family. A mysterious heir has been named in their grandfather’s will — and they have traveled a long way by sea to find him.

Mr. Tim Christmas journeys as part of his apprenticeship, seeking the mechanism behind a strange set of seemingly magical stones. On her twenty-first birthday, Miss Wastefield is given an odd gift, which she keeps locked up in a giant chest at all times — a keeping place from which she receives dire threats. In Nantle, she hopes to find the one man who can rid her of this evil.

It is in this old cathedral city that their paths will converge. And where they will find themselves at the mercy of a mighty and vengeful power.

Strange Cargo was published by Ace Books on August 3, 2004. It is 481 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback. It has never been reprinted and it currently out of print; there is no digital edition. The cover is by Gregory Bridges.

New Treasures: Vacant by Alex Hughes

Saturday, January 24th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Vacant Alex Hughes-smallAlex C. Hughes’s Mindspace Investigations series has now reached Book 4, and I think it’s time I checked them out. The Parkersburg, WV News and Sentinel calls her novels “Science fiction mixed into an almost pulp-noir setting… a great series,” and that’s enough to catch my attention. The books are futuristic murder mysteries set 60 years after devastating Tech Wars nearly destroyed the planet. Adam, an ex-addict kicked out of the Telepath’s Guild, is now working for the police, gradually re-building his shattered reputation with a series of adventures that James Knapp calls “A fun blend of Chinatown and Blade Runner.”

Nothing ruins a romantic evening like a brawl with lowlifes — especially when one of them later turns up dead and my date, Detective Isabella Cherabino, is the #1 suspect. My history with the Atlanta PD on both sides of the law makes me an unreliable witness, so while Cherabino is suspended, I’m paying my bills by taking an FBI gig.

I’ve been hired to play telepathic bodyguard for Tommy, the ten-year-old son of a superior court judge in Savannah presiding over the murder trial of a mob-connected mogul. After an attempt on the kid’s life, the Feds believe he’s been targeted by the businessman’s “associates.”

Turns out, Tommy’s a nascent telepath, so I’m trying to help him get a handle on his Ability. But it doesn’t take a mind reader to see that there’s something going on with this kid’s parents that’s stressing him out more than a death threat…

Vacant was published by Roc Books on December 2, 2014. It is 337 pages, priced at $7.99 in paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition.

Check Out The Goon in For Want of Whiskey and Blood

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Goon For Want of Whiskey and Blood-smallEric Powell’s The Goon is one of the most original — not to mention funniest — comics on the market.

When I was still visiting comic shops regularly it was always on my pull list, right alongside Courtney Crumrin and Atomic Robo. The Goon is the story of a none-too-swift hired muscle man (named only “the Goon”) who’s left high and dry when the gangster he works for dies suddenly. With nothing left to lose, the Goon simply continues the racket set up by his boss, collecting protection money from local businesses in a small American city.

When a zombie invasion threatens the inhabitants, the Goon does what he does best… provide protection. Soon most of the city falls into chaos, with the exception of those few square blocks under the Goon’s protection. The constant scheming of the Zombie Priest and his various minions to get rid of the Goon and seize total control of the town provides most of the drama (and the comedy). The art is top-notch, and Powell has shown a real talent for surprisingly touching storylines.

Truth to tell, I had stopped buying The Goon trade paperbacks, because I had heard the issues were being collected in deluxe hardcover Library Editions. Not sure what happened to those plans, so now I’m back to catching up with the regularly issued trade collections. For Want of Whiskey and Blood is the 13th volume, and it collects issues #42 — #45 of the ongoing comic.

The return of the Zombie Priest, a Latin-tongued Godzilla, drunk sailors, and a Halloween visit from Billy the Kid are just a few of the special tricks and treats for Goon and company in this new collection from Eric Powell, which Comic Book Resources calls, “the product of a contentedly demented mind.”

The Goon Volume 13: For Want of Whiskey and Blood was written and drawn by Eric Powell and published by Dark Horse Books on October 21, 2014. It is 128 pages in full color, priced at $16.99. Check it out.

See the Complete Table of Contents for Dozois and Martin’s Old Venus

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Old Venus-smallOne of my favorite anthologies of last year was Old Mars, a pulp-inspired tribute to “the Golden Age of Science Fiction, an era filled with tales of interplanetary colonization and derring-do,” edited by Gardner Dozois and George R.R. Martin. When I blogged about it last January, Gardner sent me this tantalizing message about their next project:

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.

Well, that sounded promising. A year later, a lot more detail has emerged about Old Venus, including the complete table of contents and the following book description:

From pulp adventures such as Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Carson of Venus to classic short stories such as Ray Bradbury’s “The Long Rain” to visionary novels such as C. S. Lewis’s Perelandra, the planet Venus has loomed almost as large in the imaginations of science fiction writers as Earth’s next-nearest neighbor, Mars. But while the Red Planet conjured up in Golden Age science fiction stories was a place of vast deserts and ruined cities, bright blue Venus was its polar opposite: a steamy, swampy jungle world with strange creatures lurking amidst the dripping vegetation. Alas, just as the last century’s space probes exploded our dreams of Mars, so, too, did they shatter our romantic visions of Venus, revealing, instead of a lush paradise, a hellish world inimical to all life.

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Vintage Treasures: Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Fevre Dream hardcover-small Fevre Dream Fantasy Masterworks-small Fevre Dream-small

George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is the biggest series in fantasy right now — indeed, the biggest literary series of any kind — but I’ve never read it. I prefer not diving into a series until it’s complete (or at least very close to complete), and based on the news that it probably won’t wrap up until after 2020, I’m likely years away from working up enough motivation to pick up the first volume in the series, A Game of Thrones.

But there are other Martin books I’m very interested in. For instance, I just bought a copy of his steamboat vampire novel Fevre Dream, originally released in 1982. It’s one of the most acclaimed horror novels of the last 30 years and, even better, it’s a standalone novel. I don’t have to wait for the sequel, which is kind of refreshing.

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New Treasures: Ahriman: Exile by John French

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Ahriman Exile-smallI’ve been listening to Horus Heresy audiobooks during my daily commute recently. They’re a heck of a lot of fun, and Black Library does an absolutely stellar job with them — not just by choosing top-notch readers (which they do), but also with excellent music and sound effects. They’re more like audio plays than books-on-tape… battles ring with bolter fire and explosions, and tense chases are punctuated by heavy footsteps, distant echoes, and static-laden vox transmissions. Twice I’ve almost missed the freeway exit on the way into work, and that’s usually a sign that the book I’m listening to has complete command of my attention.

One of the better audiobooks I listened to over the summer was Graham McNeill’s A Thousand Sons, read by the talented Martyn Ellis. It has a huge cast, but one of the more interesting characters was Ahzek Ahriman, the faithful Chief Librarian of the Thousand Sons Legion. Ahriman is noble and self-sacrificing almost to a fault, and the destruction of his legion at the end of that book is a great tragedy. When I finished A Thousand Sons I looked around for similar books, and I was surprised to find that Ahriman featured prominently in several other Warhammer 40K novels. I was even more surprised to find that, in almost every case — such as Atlas Infernal by Rob Sanders, or C.S. Goto’s Dawn of War trilogy — Ahriman is the villain, a relentless and feared Chaos Sorcerer. How did that happen?

John French, who has written for the Rogue Trader and Dark Heresy role playing games, sets out to answer that question with a trilogy of books that follows the history of Ahriman after the events of A Thousand Sons, and Ahriman’s exile into the Eye of Terror. The first volume, Ahriman: Exile, was released in 2013; the second, Ahriman: Sorcerer, was published this week.

A Chaos Space Marine Sorcerer seeks the power of the gods.

All is dust… Spurned by his former brothers and his father Magnus the Red, Ahriman is a wanderer, a sorcerer of Tzeentch whose actions condemned an entire Legion to an eternity of damnation. Once a vaunted servant of the Thousand Sons, he is now an outcast, a renegade who resides in the Eye of Terror. Ever scheming, he plots his return to power and the destruction of his enemies, an architect of fate and master of the warp.

Ahriman: Exile was published by Games Workshop on July 2, 2013. It is 416 pages, priced at $14 in trade paperback. There is no digital edition.

Murray Leinster and the Moon

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 | Posted by Tony Den

I first encountered Murray Leinster’s work when Black Gate published his classic pulp story “The Fifth-Dimension Catapult” in BG 9.

While the story was enjoyable, it didn’t resonate much with me at the time. The key I suppose was that his name stuck in my mind, and as time went by, and as I followed the Black Gate blog, I began to appreciate the many treasures I had been missing out on — purely through consuming mostly contemporary fiction.

Resolving to remedy this oversight, I decided to pay more attention when scanning flea market stands and the shelves of book exchanges. My Ace Double collection (something else I owe to Black Gate) started to grow exponentially, and eventually I came across a Murray Leinster novel: Four from Planet 5.

Four from Planet 5Amazing Murray Leinster

It’s a thin volume, which seems to have been par for the course back in the days before the fat-fantasy trend. It was published by Fawcett in 1959 under their Gold Medal imprint and runs to 160 pages, with cover art by the prolific Paul Lehr. Some research indicates that the story was published a few months earlier in Amazing Science Fiction Stories, September 1959, under the title “Long Ago, Far Away.”

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Future Treasures: Gemini Cell by Myke Cole

Monday, January 19th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Gemini Cell-smallMyle Cole carved out a unique niche with his popular Shadow Ops novels, ultra-realistic military SF crossed with superheroes. Along the way he picked up a reputation for telling intricate, fast-action stories with rich characters.

So I was very intrigued to receive a copy of his newest novel today. The first in a Shadow Ops prequel series, Gemini Cell is set in the early days of the Great Reawakening, when magic first returns to the world and order begins to unravel. Featuring a Navy SEAL forcibly returned to duty from beyond the grave, Gemini Cell looks like another epic adventure as only Myke Cole can tell.

US Navy SEAL Jim Schweitzer is a consummate professional, a fierce warrior, and a hard man to kill. But when he sees something he was never meant to see on a covert mission gone bad, he finds himself — and his family — in the crosshairs. Nothing means more to Jim than protecting his loved ones, but when the enemy brings the battle to his front door, he is overwhelmed and taken down.

That should be the end of the story. But Jim is raised from the dead by a sorcerer and recruited by a top secret unit dabbling in the occult, known only as the Gemini Cell. With powers he doesn’t understand, Jim is called back to duty — as the ultimate warrior. As he wrestles with a literal inner demon, Jim realizes his new superiors are determined to use him for their own ends and keep him in the dark — especially about the fates of his wife and son…

Myke Cole’s short story “Naktong Flow” appeared in Black Gate 13. His first novel was Shadow Ops: Control Point; our roving reporter Patty Templeton interviewed him shortly after it was published. He looked at the hard facts of selling a fantasy series in his Black Gate essay “Selling Shadow Point.” We last covered Myke’s work with Shadow Ops: Breach Zone.

Gemini Cell will be published on January 27 by Ace Books. It is 366 pages, priced at $7.99 in paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Larry Rostant.

Whispers Around Every Corner: Try Marie Bilodeau’s Nigh, the First Great Serialized Novel of 2015

Monday, January 19th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Nigh Marie Bilodeau-smallMarie Bilodeau’s first post for Black Gate, “Nine (mostly) Distinct (almost) Positive Traits of Chainmail Bikinis,” was the top article on the blog for the month of December. Her sparkling sense of humor, and her considerable prose gifts, instantly made Marie one of our most popular writers.

Marie has far too much energy to be content with just blogging, however, and I was not at all surprised to see her first fiction release in 2015 is in ambitious project that’s already getting a lot of buzz. Nigh is a serialized novel that will be released over the course of 2015; Book 1 is due in just 10 days. You can pre-order it now on Amazon for just 99 cents.

A disappearing watch. A thief in the night. Whispers around every corner…

Then a mist rolls into town and refuses to dissipate.

Alva Viola Taverner has lived in her small town all of her life, working as a car tech while saving for her little sister to go to university. But everything is about to change as the veil between our world and the world of the faeries weakens and falls.

Suddenly, even the smallest bump in the night can prove the deadliest.

Marie is the author of the Heirs of a Broken Land trilogy, published in 2009-2010. Her space fantasy Destiny’s Blood was nominated for the Aurora Award. Her short stories have appeared in When the Hero Comes Home, Masked Mosaic, Ride the Moon, and other places.

Book 1 of Nigh will be released by S&G Publishing on January 29, 2015. It is 59 pages, priced at 99 cents.

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