Tim Akers on How His First Novel Nearly Ended His Career

Friday, April 17th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Heart of Veridon-smallTim Akers has produced some noteworthy fantasy in the past six years, including The Horns of Ruin, The Kingdom of Doors and Rooms, and The Burn Cycle (Heart of Veridon, Dead of Veridon, and the collection Bones of Veridon).

But his writing career very nearly ended after the release of his first novel, Heart of Veridon, by Solaris in 2009. Tim’s tale is one I’ve heard all too often behind the scenes and in whispered conversations at conventions. But on his blog yesterday, Tim publicly laid bare the details in a revealing and honest post — one I urge all aspiring fantasy novelists to read, and pay close attention to.

We were six months from the release of the novel… I received a call from my agent, informing me that Solaris was putting itself up for sale. The imprint was profitable, but GW had decided to put all of their eggs in the Black Library basket. I was standing in my office, at the job I hated more than I’ve ever hated anything, listening to Joshua Bilmes explain why my career may be over.

We tried to negotiate away the contract. Other authors had better luck with this, but as a debut writer, I didn’t have a lot of pull. Let me just summarize the next six months: bad things happened. Solaris didn’t do anything in terms of marketing. They didn’t send out review copies. Their sellers had no motivation to push the book. Buyers at the various bookstores were leery of picking up a debut novel from an imprint that might not exist in a few months.

The book, Heart of Veridon, got to shelves. But it arrived out of the blue, it hit the shelves at terminal velocity, and it cratered. Sales were bad. Reviews were good. The book disappeared.

See the complete post at Tim’s website.


Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet Withdraw From the Hugo Ballot

Thursday, April 16th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Lines of Departure Marko Kloos-smallThe drama over the 2015 Hugo nominations continues.

Earlier today 11-time Hugo Award winner Connie Willis refused to present the Campbell Award at this year’s ceremonies, saying “If I did, I’d be collaborating with [Vox Day and his followers] in their scheme.”

And later today, two authors whose works were included in Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies slate both declined their Hugo nominations. Annie Bellet, whose “Goodnight Stars” was nominated for Best Short Story, wrote:

I don’t want to stand in a battlefield anymore. I don’t want to have to think over every tweet and retweet, every blog post, every word I say. I don’t want to cringe when I open my email. I don’t want to have to ask friends to google me and read things so that I can at least be aware of the stuff people might be saying in my name or against my name. This is not why I write. This is not the kind of community I want to be a part of, nor the kind of award I want to win…

Maybe someday I will get to sit in a pretty dress next to my mother and know that if I lose the rocket, it will be because someone wrote a story that resonated more than mine. To know that I will lose to a person and not a political fight. To sit there and know if I lose, no one will cheer. And if I win, no one will boo. Perhaps someday I can win this award for the right reasons and without all the pain.

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Connie Willis Declines to Be a 2015 Hugo Award Presenter

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Connie Willis with HugoConnie Willis has a long tradition as an MC and presenter at the Hugo Awards. She was asked by Hugo Award MC David Gerrold to present the Campbell Award at this year’s ceremonies, and she publicly declined the invitation on her blog:

You may or may not have heard of the Hugo crisis currently facing the science-fiction community… Basically, what’s happened is that a small group of people led by Vox Day/Theodore Beale and Brad Torgerson took advantage of the fact that only a small percentage of Hugo voters nominate works to hijack the ballot… When I heard about this, I was sick at the thought of what they’d done and at all the damage they’d caused… But I didn’t want to speak out and refuse to be a presenter if there was still a chance to salvage the Hugo Awards ceremony…

But then Vox Day and his followers made it impossible for me to remain silent, keep calm, and carry on. Not content with just using dirty tricks to get on the ballot, they’re now demanding they win, too, or they’ll destroy the Hugos altogether. When a commenter on File 770 suggested people fight back by voting for “No Award,” Vox Day wrote: “If No Award takes a fiction category, you will likely never see another award given in that category again. The sword cuts both ways, Lois. We are prepared for all eventualities.”

I assume that means they intend to use the same bloc-voting technique to block anyone but their nominees from winning in future years. Or, in other words, “If you ever want to see your precious award again, do exactly as I say.” It’s a threat, pure and simple… In my own particular case, I feel I’ve also been ordered to go along with them and act as if this were an ordinary Hugo Awards ceremony. I’ve essentially been told to engage in some light-hearted banter with the nominees, give one of them the award, and by my presence – and my silence – lend cover and credibility to winners who got the award through bullying and extortion.

Well, I won’t do it. I can’t do it. If I did, I’d be collaborating with them in their scheme.

Read our summary of this year’s Hugo mess here, and Connie’s complete statement on the matter here.


2015 Philip K. Dick Award Winners Announced

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife-small Elysium Jennifer Marie Brissett-small

I’ve always liked the Philip K. Dick Award. Unlike the Hugos and the Nebulas, which frequently go to blockbuster hardcovers with big advertising budgets, the Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually for distinguished science fiction published as a paperback original in the United States. It’s named after Philip K. Dick, who published virtually every one of his most important and groundbreaking SF novels as a midlist paperback.

The 2015 Philip K. Dick Award winner is The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison (Sybaritic). Special citation was given to Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett (Aqueduct). The awards were announced on Friday, April 3, at Norwescon 38, in SeaTac, Washington.

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The April Fantasy Magazine Rack

Monday, April 13th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Adventure-Tales-7-rack Apex Magazine 70 March 2015-rack Asimov's Science Fiction April May 2015-rack Beneath Ceaseless Skies 170-rack
Black Static 45-rack Clarkesworld Issue 102-rack The Dark Issue 7-rack Fantasy Scroll Magazine 5-small
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction Marh April 2015-rack Futures Past Issue 1-rack Gygax Magazine 5-small heroic-fantasy-quarterly-rack
Interzone 257-small Lightspeed Magazine March 2013-rack New Realm magazine March 2015-rack Nightmare Magazine March 2015-rack
Shimmer 24-rack Swords and Sorcery Magazine March 2015-rack Uncanny Issue 3-rack Weird Fiction Review 5-rack

The April magazine rack is crammed with the 20 most recent issues of the top English-language fantasy magazines on the planet. (And I didn’t even have room for the second issue of James Maliszewski’s The Excellent Travelling Volume — you can find it here.) Click on any of the images above to see our detailed report on each issue.

As we’ve mentioned before, all of these magazines are completely dependent on fans and readers to keep them alive. Many are marginal operations for whom a handful of subscriptions may mean the difference between life and death. Why not check one or two out, and try a sample issue? There are magazines on the rack for every budget, from completely free to $35/issue. If you find something intriguing, why not try an issue next time you find yourself browsing the magazine rack…. or take a chance on a subscription? I think you’ll find it’s money very well spent.

Check out our complete magazine coverage here.


2014 James Tiptree, Jr. Award Winners Announced

Saturday, April 11th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Girl in the Road-small My Real Children-small

With all the drama and controversy over this year’s Hugo Awards, we have neglected to inform you of the other major award new this week. Shame on us.

The 2014 James Tiptree, Jr. Awards were given out this week. The Tiptrees, named after one of the finest SF writers of the 20th Century, are awarded annually to works of science fiction or fantasy that explore and expand gender roles. This year the winners are Monica Byrne’s The Girl in the Road (Crown) and Jo Walton’s My Real Children (Tor).

As usual, the jury released a statement about each of the winners; here’s what they said this year.

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Sad Puppies and Super Puppies: The 2015 Hugo Train Wreck

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Tony C. Smith and his 2010 Hugo for StarShipSofa

Tony C. Smith and his 2010 Hugo for StarShipSofa

As both Matthew David Surridge and I wrote about earlier this week, there’s been considerable controversy swirling around the just-announced ballot for the 2015 Hugo Awards, the most prestigious fan-based award in science fiction and fantasy. Matthew and I are involved in this controversy because we were both included, without our knowledge or consent, in a slate of bloc votes (the “Sad Puppies 3″ and “Rabid Puppies”) that resulted in us being put on the ballot.

Matthew declined his nomination. Since Black Gate‘s nomination was for the entire site, a fan-based effort that involves over 40 participants, I decided not to decline on behalf of those individuals. But (no surprise) I had plenty to say about it, in my article “Black Gate Nominated for a Hugo Award in a Terrible Ballot.”

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say this topic has riveted the entire industry. The two BG articles I link to above have been read over 32,000 times in less than three days… and Matthew and Black Gate were nominated for fan awards, the part of the ballot that, to be blunt, most people really don’t give a damn about.

There are just shy of 200 comments on those two posts, so the conversation is already getting a little unwieldy (and I find I have to keep repeating myself, because let’s face it, who can be bothered to read 200 comments before asking a simple question?) So I figured it made sense to do a quick re-cap, especially for those readers who surfed over here on their lunch hour, and have roughly the time it takes to eat a tuna fish sandwich to get caught up.

The crux of the matter is this.

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The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in March

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Great-Way-Final-Cover-eBook-3-copyI keep hunting for themes when I tabulate the most popular articles on this website every month. But you Black Gate readers, you’re inscrutable. One month you want all the secrets of writing fantasy trilogies, the next it’s all about the origins of Dungeons and Dragons. Seriously, I’d love to know what articles I should be planning for this blog… but after seven years like this, I give up.

Well, I suppose it’s good that you have diverse interests, anyway. And you sure have great taste in writers and books.

Take last month for example. The number one article for the month was a guest post from author Harry Connolly, author of “The Whoremaster of Pald” and Game of Cages, examining Attack Novels — those story ideas that a writer can’t stop thinking about.

Number two on the list was M Harold Page’s review of Campaign Cartographer 3 Plus, a terrific new fantasy cartography tool for creating your own magical kingdom.

And the number three article at BG last month was M Harold Page’s look at history as the bedrock of fantasy: “The History Manifesto and Sweeping Histories.”

Fourth on the list was our report on a recent attempt to reboot SSI’s famed Gold Box games using Kickstarter, followed by Thomas Parker’s heartfelt remembrance of a great American actor, “Leonard Nimoy Saved My Life.” And sixth was Elizabeth Cady’s detailed look at the new film Jupiter Ascending, “Capitalism Ascending.”

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David Drake on E. Hoffmann Price

Monday, April 6th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Far Lands Other Days-smallDavid Drake, author of The Tank Lords, The Sea Without a Shore, and dozens of other fantasy and SF novels, was also the man behind Carcosa, a small press he co-founded with Karl Edward Wagner in 1973. Carcosa published only four volumes — including Far Lands Other Days, a 590-page illustrated collection of the classic pulp fantasy of E. Hoffmann Price — but ah, what volumes they were!

Andy Duncan has started a new blog, Past and Present Futures, and he invited David to share his memories of Price. Yesterday he shared the results. Here’s a slice.

In fact [Price] spent only 30 days in the Philippines before the 15th Cav was recalled to the Mexican Border where Pancho Villa was raiding. Shortly after that they were shipped to France where they acted as mule skinners unloading freighters in Bayonne, France. He had stories about the prostitutes in all three continents.

When WW I was over, Ed was on garrison duty on the German border. The army created a service-wide scheme by which enlisted men could take an entrance exam for admission to West Point. Ed was one of the extremely few who gained admission through that test. He graduated in 1922 and was briefly a 2nd Lieutenant assigned to a Coast Artillery unit in NJ. He resigned ahead of a court martial because he had gotten to know the battalion commander’s wife rather better than the major was pleased to learn.

I’ve told the story this way to make it clear that though Ed was very smart, he was also an iconoclast who was not even slightly interested in polite society or its norms. He was acting out in the introduction [to Far Lands Other Days], but I don’t doubt he meant what he said.

Read David’s complete comments here, and visit Andy’s excellent new blog here.


Black Gate Nominated for a Hugo Award in a Terrible Ballot

Sunday, April 5th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Goblin Emperor-smallThe nominees for the 2015 Hugo Awards have been announced by Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, and let’s be blunt: it’s a terrible ballot.

Here’s a brief recap: over the last few years a number of writers (primarily conservative Americans) have become increasingly convinced that the growing number of women and non-white authors winning Hugo Awards is somehow evidence that the awards have been ‘hijacked’ by a minority group of voters and social justice warriors (SJWs). Their concerns are succinctly summarized at the right-wing new site Breitbart.com.

To make a point about how the awards are influenced by what they perceive as a small group of liberal elites, a handful of authors created a slate of nominees heavily dominated by conservative writers, and asked their followers to support those slates in their entirety. The primary slates were Brad Torgersen’s Sad Puppies 3 and Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies list.

Under cover of this semi-political movement, which added roughly 200 additional nominating ballots to last year’s total (and nearly 800 to the 2013 total), at least one of the organizers heavily seeded his slate with his own works. Vox Day’s Rapid Puppies ballot included no less than ten nominees for his Castalia House publishing company, and listed himself for both Best Editor (Short Form) and Best Editor (Long Form).

The results? As tabulated by Mike Glyer over at File 770, a total of 61 final ballot nominees from Sad Puppies 3 and Rabid Puppies made the final list of nominees. Only 24 nominees did not come from either list.

In short, the Hugo ballot this year was essentially dictated by two individuals who asked their followers to vote for their suggested candidates, regardless of what they actually thought was deserving.

Read More »


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