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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Elemental Evil Attacks Dungeons & Dragons

Saturday, January 24th, 2015 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

D&D Elemental EvilDungeons & Dragons has transformed itself lately, and that trend continues with the upcoming Elemental Evil storyline set to hit the Forgotten Realms in pen-and-paper, board, and digital formats starting in March and continuing through the summer. In the words of the press release:

Heroes are needed in the Forgotten Realms to discover and defeat secret cults that threaten to annihilate the Sword Coast by harnessing the powers of the elements of fire, water, air, and earth.

Certainly sounds impressive, but before diving into Elemental Evil, let’s quickly review the status of the world’s most iconic fantasy gaming line.

The Road to Now

Back in 2012, Dungeons & Dragons hosted the keynote event at GenCon.  Everyone knew that Dungeons & Dragons was in the process of releasing D&D Next (they were avoiding “5th edition” at that time). Among a lot of experienced gamers, their 4th edition was viewed as a step in the wrong direction. This 2012 keynote was the event where they were going to lay out their strategy for the gaming public. And, I am proud to say, I was there. Since then, I’ve been closely watching the evolution of this process and have been incredibly impressed with what I’ve seen coming out from Wizards of the Coast.

In addition to the fact that they were releasing a new core rule set (which we all knew already), they also announced at this time that Dungeons & Dragons was focusing their entire attention on the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, rather than splitting their attention among a myriad array of different worlds. As the start of this, they released a series of 6 novels from August 2013 through June 2014, each by a different author and depicting how the world-shaking event “The Sundering” (also the name of the book series) was impacting the Forgotten Realms world. The 2013 GenCon keynote coincided with Drizzt Do’Urden’s 25th birthday, and also with the release of the first The Sundering book.

Throughout fall of 2014, after the final Sundering book, Dungeons & Dragons finally began releasing their new set of 5th edition core books. These have been covered fairly extensively at Black Gate. Here are some of the highlights for those interested:

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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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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.

Historical Cthulhu: That Is Not Dead, edited by Darrell Schweitzer

Friday, January 16th, 2015 | Posted by John R. Fultz

That Is  Not Dead-smallAccording to H.P. Lovecraft’s legendary canon of cosmic horror tales, the Great Old Ones such as Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, Yog Sothoth, and all-mighty Azathoth have lurked in the dim places of the cosmos since the beginning of time.

“That is not dead,” wrote the mad poet Abdul Alhazred, “which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.” One of Lovecraft’s most famous lines is the inspiration for a new hardcover volume of historical Cthulhu Mythos fiction from PS Publishing.

That is Not Dead features all-new tales of cosmic horror set in various periods of history. Here’s what editor/contributor Darrell Schweitzer had to say about the book:

That is Not Dead is a collection of Mythos stories, based on the premise that if the Old Ones have been around since elder aeons, someone should have noticed before Lovecraft’s characters did about 1900. The theme then is lurking presences. Inasmuch as the stories deal with history, it is secret history, i.e. “what really happened…”

Here’s the complete Table of Contents (by historical era).

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George R.R. Martin’s The Winds of Winter Will Not Appear in 2015

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Martin The Winds of Winter-smallHopes that the sixth book in George R.R. Martin’s epic Song of Ice and Fire would arrive this year were dashed earlier this month, when Martin’s UK publisher Jane Johnson tweeted that the book was not on the 2015 schedule.

There was a flurry of speculation about the imminent release of The Winds of Winter late last year, triggered by a Twitter countdown from his publisher, but Martin put the rumors to rest on his blog, saying:

I don’t play games with news about the books. I know how many people are waiting, how long they have been waiting, how anxious they are. I am still working on Winds. When it’s done, I will announce it here.

It’s been almost four years since the release of the fifth volume, A Dance With Dragons; that book appeared six years after A Feast for Crows.

Given that two volumes remain in the series, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, and that Martin has said that he expects both to be big (1,500 manuscript pages each), fans are understandably nervous that the series may never be completed. More than a few recall the unexpected death of Robert Jordan, who left his 14-volume Wheel of Time series incomplete at the time of his death in 2007.

Altogether, it took Martin 11 years to produce the two most recent books. Martin is currently 66 years old; if he stays true to form, we can reasonably expect him to complete the series in 2022, at the age of 73. Jordan died at age 58.

For those who can’t wait, Martin offered an excerpt from The Winds of Winter on his blog two years ago; check it out here.

Future Treasures: Courtney Crumrin Volume 7: Tales of a Warlock by Ted Naifeh

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Courtney Crumrin Volume 7 Tales of a Warlock-smallNearly three years ago, I reviewed the first volume of the new hardcover editions of Courtney Crumrin, concluding that “Courtney Crumrin is one of the finest comics produced in the 21st Century.”

In his Black Gate blog post on Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things, renamed Courtney Crumrin Volume One: The Night Things in its expanded hardcover edition, Michael Penkas did a far better job than I of describing the appeal of this brilliant comic:

Be honest. If you had magical powers when you were a teenager, what would you have done? How long would you have walked the path of righteousness before cursing the school bullies? Before casting a spell to make yourself popular? Before just flat-out killing bad people? Would you have made friends with elves… or goblins?

Ted Naifeh’s series of fantasy comics… introduces us to Courtney Crumrin on the day her vapid parents move in with her grand-uncle, Aloysius… Going through his collection of grimoires, she begins her own self-guided education in the magical arts. In the first volume, she traps a child-eating goblin, enchants herself to become the most popular girl in school, travels to the faerie kingdom to swap out a changeling for a human infant, and gets replaced by a doppelganger who turns out to be nicer than her.

Like Michael, I was thrilled to find the early black & white issues of Courtney Crumrin gradually being collected in handsome and affordable hardcover editions — and in color! I was purchasing them steadily, until I kinda lost track of them. (Cut me some slack… I collect a lot of stuff.) Shortly after Christmas, when I noticed that it was now 2015, I did a quick check to see how many volumes were out. I was startled to see that no less than six had already been released, and a seventh, Tales of a Warlock, was on its way.

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Future Treasures: The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Scott McCloud The Sculptor-smallScott McCloud is one of my all-time favorite comic creators.

I’ve been reading comics for 45 years, so it’s not easy to pick favorites. When pressed, I say Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, Spider-man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Dave Sim’s Cerebus, Love and Rockets by Los Bros Hernandez… and Scott McCloud’s masterpiece, Zot!

Zot! is a pretty simple story. It’s about a boy with a rocket pack and a blaster, living in a futuristic version of the 1960s, who accidentally stumbles into our dark, gritty, and sometimes bleak world. It’s a kid’s comic, for sure, and a superb one, filled with a lot of action, great characters, fabulous villains, and laugh-out-loud humor. I’ve read thousands of comics since I set down the last issue of Zot! in 1990, many of them excellent, but I can’t recall a single one with the same joyous sense of fun and madcap love of the medium. Just ask everyone who sent in letters (pre-Internet!) to vote on which character should get a pie in the face in issue #27.

McCloud had substantial success with his groundbreaking books on the comic medium, Understanding Comics (1994) and Reinventing Comics (2000). But his fans have been waiting over a decade for him to return to comics as a storyteller, and the long wait is finally over. His first work of adult fiction, The Sculptor is a complete, self-contained graphic novel of love, loss… and a deal with Death.

David Smith is giving his life for his art — literally. Thanks to a deal with Death, the young sculptor gets his childhood wish: to sculpt anything he can imagine with his bare hands. But now that he only has 200 days to live, deciding what to create is harder than he thought, and discovering the love of his life at the 11th hour isn’t making it any easier!

The Sculptor will be published by First Second on February 3, 2015. It is 490 pages, priced at $29.99 in hardcover. No digital edition has been announced.

Bird People, Evil Clowns, and the Crooked One: Bone Swans by C.S.E. Cooney

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Bone Swans CSE Cooney-smallC.S.E. Cooney reports that she has signed a contract with Mythic Delirium Press for her newest collection Bone Swans, coming this summer.

Bone Swans will contain several of her most popular novellas, including The Big Bah-Ha, which Gene Wolfe called “Deep and wise and fabulous… [it] will leave you shuddering and strangely at peace. You could found a religion on it — or it may found a religion without you.” It also includes “The Bone Swans of Amandale,” the first installment of Silver and Bone: The Pied Piper Tales, and “Life on the Sun,” originally published here at Black Gate. Here’s the complete table of contents, with links to online versions where available:

Life on the Sun
The Bone Swans of Amandale
Martyr’s Gem
How the Milkmaid Struck a Bargain with the Crooked One
The Big Bah-Ha

C.S.E. Cooney is a podcast reader for Uncanny Magazine; Amal El-Mohtar recently reviewed her short story “Witch, Beast, Saint” at Tor.com, and Mark Rigney interviewed her in late October. The two C.S.E. Cooney short stories we presented here, “Godmother Lizard” and “Life on the Sun,” consistently rank among the most popular pieces we’ve ever published. She is a past website editor of Black Gate, and the author of How to Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes and Jack o’ the Hills.

Bone Swans will be published by Mythic Delirium Press on July 7th, 2015. Get more details on their website.

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