Twenty Years of Smart Science Fiction and Fantasy: The Tachyon Publications Catalog

Saturday, February 21st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

THE TREASURY OF THE FANTASTIC-small The Uncertain Places-small The Best of Michael Moorcock-small

While I was at the World Fantasy Convention last November, I kept being irresistibly sucked into the Dealers Room. Seriously, the place was like a giant supermarket for fantasy fans. There were thousands of new and used books on display from dozens of vendors — books piled high on tables, books crammed into bookshelves, books being pressed into your hands by enthusiastic sellers.

When I came home I moped around for a few days, and then mocked up some HTML pages with dozens of thumbnail jpegs of books so I could pretend I was still at the convention. I waved a crisp twenty dollar bill in front of my computer screen and said things like, “I’ll take the new Moorcock collection, my good man.” I even haggled over the price of The Treasury of the Fantastic. Truly, it felt like I was there.

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New Treasures: Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder

Saturday, February 21st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Shadow Study Jacket-small

Maria V. Snyder’s first short story, “The Wizard’s Daily Horoscope,” appeared in Black Gate 11 in 2007. We published ”Cursing the Weather” in Black Gate 15, and it quickly became one of the most acclaimed stories in what was to be the final issue of the magazine. Here’s what Keith West said about it on his blog Adventures Fantastic:

Nysa… is probably as far from the sterotypical warrior woman as you can get. She’s a young girl working in a tavern, trying to earn enough money to buy the medicine needed to keep her dying mother alive. Then a weather wizard moves in across the street…  I wouldn’t have considered this one to really fit the theme of warrior woman. In spite of that, I think I enjoyed it the most. I’m going to be checking out more of Ms. Snyder’s work.

Keith wasn’t the only one to seek out Maria’s work. Her first novel, Poison Study, won the Compton Crook Award in 2006, and the third in the series, Fire Study, hit The New York Times bestseller list in 2008.

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Fantasy Literature: The Scourge of God & “I… see… you”

Friday, February 20th, 2015 | Posted by Edward Carmien

The Scourge of GodFantasy Literature — this blog right here — continues looking at work by S. M. Stirling. I began with a look at this author’s Nantucket trilogy, moved on to the first three books of the Emberverse, and last time The Sunrise Lands came into view. The Scourge of God carries the series forward. These are not reviews, spoilers exist, set the table for some Fantasy Literature and dig in.

A cliffhanger is a useful device. No better hook exists for engaging a reader’s devout and ongoing attention, across the months and years between books. Emberverse novels appear on a regular annual basis, but not every author is so regular — yes, Martin, we’re all thinking of you.

The Sunrise Lands ends with Rudi’s rescue from certain capture or death by the fortuitous arrival of Boise’s pedal-powered airship. The “Sword of the Lady” is free, but three of his companions remain captive of the CUT. The Scourge of God must begin, therefore, with their rescue.

Rudi McKenzie calls on what mystical powers he possesses to fight like Conan himself; this seems to go beyond any ordinary beserker rage. “Fast, hard, and accurate: pick any two” is the way melee combat works for an individual, but Rudi manages all three.

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SFWA Announces the 2014 Nebula Award Nominations

Friday, February 20th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Goblin Emperor-smallWow, it’s almost the end of February. And that means that the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) finally put an end to all that suspense, and announced the nominees for the 2014 Nebula Awards, one of the most prestigious awards our industry has to offer.

Last year there were no less than eight nominees for best novel; this year that number has dropped back to six. Does this mean there will be less infighting and disagreement over who should win?

You’re kidding, right? (In truth, the debate is half the fun — and it generates a lot of interest in a lot of deserving books.)

This year’s nominees are:

Novel

The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)
Trial by Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit)
The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor)
Coming Home, Jack McDevitt (Ace)
Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals)

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The Omnibus Volumes of Jack Vance, Part I: Planet of Adventure

Thursday, February 19th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Vance Planet of Adventure-smallI’ve been exploring the work of Jack Vance recently, inspired by the beautiful volumes from Subterranean Press collecting his earliest short stories, The Early Jack Vance. Four have been released so far, and we covered the upcoming fifth volume, Grand Crusade, here.

I don’t think I really understood just how prolific Jack Vance was until I set out to collect his paperbacks. I began that undertaking decades ago, and it’s still underway. At last count, I had well over 50. He published over 20 through DAW alone (Amazon has listed many of them here).

Still, one of the great things about Vance is that you don’t have to work hard to find his most popular fiction. Over the years much of it — including his Dying Earth, Demon Princes, Durdane, Alastor, and Ports of Call books — has been collected in handsome and affordable omnibus editions from Orb/Tor, Gollancz, and the Science Fiction Book Club. And most of them are still in print.

Earlier this week I published the third and final installment of my survey of The Omnibus Volumes of C.J. Cherryh. That started out as a modest attempt to catalog the omnibus editions of Cherryh’s early paperback SF and fantasy from DAW Books, and eventually became an excuse to showcase the covers of all 22 of her original novels. It was a lot of fun, especially if you have an obsessive interest in vintage paperbacks like I do.

Coincidentally, I ordered a set of Jack Vance omnibus editions earlier this month, and when they arrived I realized I could do the same thing with Vance. I’ve never really explored Vance’s back catalog with any thoroughness here at Black Gate, and it seemed like the right time.

So here we are. We’re kicking things off today with Planet of Adventure, an omnibus collection of four linked space opera novels: City of the Chasch (1968), Servants of the Wankh (1969), The Dirdir (1969), and The Pnume (1970). Next to The Dying Earth this is perhaps Vance’s most popular series, so it’s as  good a place to start as any.

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New Treasures: California Bones and Pacific Fire by Greg van Eekhout

Thursday, February 19th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

California Bones-small Pacific Fire-small

What we have here is a pair of novels in an intriguing new dark fantasy series which were both released last month — California Bones in paperback, and Pacific Fire in hardcover.

California Bones is the first; it was published in hardcover by Tor last year. It’s an epic adventure set in a world similar to our own, in the Kingdom of Southern California, in a city of canals and secrets and casual brutality.

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Unbound: Flipping the Pages of Reality

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

UnboundFor those of us who love books, they are often like windows into their own vibrant, living worlds. The idea that these stories contain a magical power to transport the reader to a new world, not merely figuratively but also literally, has shown up before, perhaps most prominently in The Neverending Story. In recent years, the idea of storybook worlds being tied to our own have become the driving force behind the popular television series Once Upon a Time. And, of course, many magical systems throughout fantasy literature have involved words of power.

Jim C. Hines has contributed one of the most intriguing interpretations on this theme in his Magic Ex Libris series. The first two books, Libriomancer and Codex Born, have been previously reviewed by our very own Alana Joli Abbott, but here’s the quick recap:

Isaac Vainio is a libriomancer, a magician with the ability to tap into the magic of books, drawing objects from them into the real world. His particular interest is science fiction and fantasy, allowing him to manifest anything from a lightsaber to a laser assault rifle to healing potions.

Magic has its limits, though. Isaac, with more skill and tenacity than common sense, has pushed beyond those limits more than most other libriomancers. So much so that he has come directly into contact with a dark presence that exists within books, a consciousness called the devourers, which has existed on the periphery of magic for centuries.

The third book, Unbound (Amazon), brings this conflict between the libriomancers and the devourers to a head. Isaac begins the book at about the lowest point imaginable. Not to give away too many spoilers from the end of Codex Born, but Isaac has no access to his magic and has been ostracized from the Porters, the magical society founded and led by the near-immortal sorcerer Johannes Gutenberg. (Yes, that Johannes Gutenberg. Like John O’Neill, reading keeps him young.) But this doesn’t prevent him from trying to hunt down more information about the devourers.

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Future Treasures: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Nine, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume Nine-smallJonathan Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year has been at new publisher Solaris for two years now, and things seem to be tickety boo. Which is great, since I really look forward to this volume every year, and I don’t need any additional stress and uncertainty in my life. I get enough of that worrying about whether Community is going to get canceled again.

Strahan has crammed 28 stories into his latest anthology, which may be a record, I dunno. How am I gonna find time to read them all? Man, I desperately need a day planner. And a couple of personal assistants who don’t complain when I send them for coffee.

In any case, authors this year include Garth Nix, Kelly Link, Ellen Klages (twice!), James Patrick Kelly, Joe Abercrombie, Paolo Bacigalupi, Eleanor Arnason, Genevieve Valentine, Michael Swanwick, Ken Liu, Amal El-Mohtar, Greg Egan, and over a dozen others. Strahan released the complete table of contents on his blog last month, and it looks fantastic:

1. “Tough Times All Over” Joe Abercrombie
2. “The Scrivener” Eleanor Arnason
3. “Moriabe’s Children” Paolo Bacigalupi
4. “Covenant” Elizabeth Bear
5. “Slipping” Lauren Beukes
6. “Ten Rules for Being an Intergalactic Smuggler (The Successful Kind)” Holly Black
7. “Shadow Flock” Greg Egan
8. “The Truth About Owls” Amal El-Mohtar

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From Poul Anderson’s Vault of the Ages to the End of All Things

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 | Posted by Gabe Dybing

VaultoftheAgesEven though this survey seeks to showcase, specifically, Anderson’s fantasy works, I want to begin with what may be argued to be his first novel: Vault of the Ages.  It moreover wouldn’t be all that hard to argue that this work is fantasy, anyway. Perhaps it’s historical fantasy – a kind that anachronistically depicts a medieval northern tribal culture in the future. It’s undeniably post-apocalyptic, and many of these works are not only fantasy but escapist fantasy at that. Who hasn’t been locked into a frustrating, mind-numbing job – a stereotypical office job, for instance – and thought, “If only I had some real problems with which to deal with right now, like zombies, or road warriors, or radioactive mutants”? Who hasn’t secretly yearned for the chance to see what they truly are capable of, to pit their meager store of talents against all that the dangerous world might offer, and who hasn’t secretly concluded that they would do just fine – they would just have to get a gun, of course, and stockpile some food – and take out that weirdo next door, first thing!

Not only would I classify Anderson’s first novel as belonging to the species of post-apocalyptic literature, but I’d also call it mundane science fiction, because none of the science in here is extrapolative. In fact, it can be argued that there is no “science” here at all, because the gist of the science is the salvage of iron, to be hammered into common swords and shields, out of radioactive cities. And gunpowder which is hidden in the – you guessed it – Vault of the Ages.

I also might classify this as a boy’s novel, because it begins with an overly informational account of actual time capsules in Atlanta, Georgia and in New York City. It’s hard to see what purpose this introduction might serve other than didacticism, and this consequently suggests an audience that often is perceived to be in need of didacticism. Moreover, the main characters are routinely called “boys,” which, intentionally or not, because of the way in which these characters gleefully and energetically hurl themselves into very scary, very potentially fatal situations, lends this work the character of an adventure novel aimed at Boy Scouts. In other words, for me, this book is short in emotional realism. We shall have to talk about Viking age perspectives in time, but even taking this into account, the boys’ worldviews and actions seem wantonly cavalier.

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A Neglected Classic from the Golden Age of Sword & Sorcery: H. Warner Munn’s Merlin Cycle

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 | Posted by Tony Den

Merlins Godson H Warner Munn-smallI first encountered H. Warner Munn by chance. Or maybe he encountered me, and it was more than pure chance.

I started reading fantasy and science fiction in high school, when a friend recommended Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight books. I dutifully took the first one out of the public library and soldiered through it. I was impressed enough to decide to start broadening my narrow literary horizons. The problem was that, in South Africa in the 1980′s, the big book sellers stocked a pretty limited selection of genre titles, and the more specialized sellers were few and far between.

The solution was for my friend Graham and I to take a bus to the city center after school, and explore some of the independent and more specialized shops. One in particular has a vast array of genre books, and to this day I lament its eventual closure.

I encountered a myriad of unknown authors and works on that shop’s shelves. One that particularly intrigued me – although not enough to part with my pitifully small amount of cash – was The Misplaced Legion, by Harry Turtledove. I never saw that book on the shelves again.

Fast forward a decade and a bit and, lo and behold, the internet was here and much exploring was done. I dredged my memory — while whittling away at my employer’s internet bandwidth — looking for bits and pieces to fill out my book and RPG collections. Memory failed me somewhat, however, and when I attempted to recall that vague, impressive book from the ‘80s, I remembered it as… The Lost Legion. I no longer had a clue to the author’s name, either.

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