Black Static is a British magazine of dark fantasy and horror, edited by Andy Cox. It used to be called The 3rd Alternative, until it was acquired by TTA Press, the publishers of Interzone and Crimewave, and was relaunched as Black Static in 2007.
I reported on the first issues of Black Static I purchased, issues 40 and 41, back in October. I enjoyed both, and thought the magazine was deserving of regular coverage here at Black Gate. (Besides, we Black publications need to stick together.)
The November–December issue contains short stories by Ralph Robert Moore, Usman T. Malik, Simon Bestwick, Annie Neugebauer, Andrew Hook, and Aliya Whiteley. The cover, for Ralph Robert Moore’s ‘Drown Town,’ is by Ben Baldwin; interior illustrations are by Ben Baldwin, Tara Bush and Dave Senecal.
The magazine’s regular columns include Coffinmaker’s Blues by Stephen Volk and Blood Pudding by Lynda E. Rucker (comment); Blood Spectrum by Tony Lee (DVD/Blu-ray reviews); and Case Notes by Peter Tennant (book reviews). This month Tennant’s column includes a lengthy interview with James Cooper.
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I’m someone who believes that the core of the fantasy genre is still its short fiction magazines.
This used to be a lot more true, of course. When fantasy and science fiction were still fresh and new as distinct literary genres in the early 20th Century, the only place they regularly appeared was pulp magazines. For fantasy, that meant Weird Tales, the shot-lived Unknown, and later Famous Fantastic Mysteries and the like. Mass market paperback fantasy didn’t take shape until the 1950s, and didn’t really become popular until The Lord of the Rings appeared in paperback in the 60s. Nowadays when people think of fantasy, they tend to think of paperback bestsellers like George R.R. Martin, Stephen King, and Brandon Sanderson.
Where did all three of those writers get their start? In magazines, of course.
Magazines are where the next generation of breakout fantasy writers are already at work today. And if you’re interested in trying a magazine that has a fabulous rep for discovering and promoting stellar writers long before they’re well know — authors like Amal El-Mohtar, Genevieve Valentine, Lou Anders, Chris Roberson, Aliette de Bodard, and many others — then I highly recommend Shimmer.
Shimmer is published bi-monthly, and edited by E. Catherine Tobler. It’s available in both print and your choice of DRM-free electronic formats (indeed, a wide range of formats, not just PDF and Kindle.) It has shown a talent for rooting out great fiction across a wide range of fantasy and SF, and takes pride in publishing “Speculative fiction for a miscreant world.”
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Few things are more exciting than finding an unheralded new author or reading an impressive new book fresh off the press. It is exhilarating to be present at the advent of a significant new work, to witness the beginning of an important writer’s career, or to feel yourself at the cutting edge of a genre. That sense of exploration and discovery is at the very heart of science fiction and fantasy.
These genres we love have roots that reach deep into the past, though, some of those roots extending into the cheap pulp magazines of the 20′s and 30′s, venues that at the time — and for long after — were utterly disreputable; anything that had even a whiff of such seamy origins was utterly damned in the eyes of critics.
Today’s top writers have moved far beyond those simple beginnings, and their finest works exhibit a thematic sophistication and literary polish that their progenitors can’t match, even as the best of those pioneers have finally achieved a hard-won respectability (penny-a-word pulpsters like Leigh Brackett and H.P. Lovecraft escaping the lurid confines of Planet Stories and Weird Tales to appear between the staid covers of the Library of America?! It’s about time.)
Writers like Neil Gaiman, China Meiville, and Susanna Clarke are expanding the boundaries of what can be accomplished with what is decreasingly called genre fiction, and for that we should all be grateful. Sometimes though, I must confess that I am compelled to put aside the careful work of the current generation for a while, because I just need a jolt of unadulterated pulp, and nothing else will do. (I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t around for the pulps, much as I wish I had been, so I have to rely on paperbacks, most of which are themselves now as old as I am, or older.)
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C.C. Finlay has been named the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. He replaces Gordon van Gelder, who has been editor since 1997. C.C. Finlay was the guest editor of the July/August 2014 issue, which was well received, and had been expected to edit two additional issues in 2015. Several reviewers noted that he brought a high percentage of new names to the magazine.
He is the author of the Traitor to the Crown fantasy trilogy, published by Del Rey in 2009. Under the name Charles Coleman Finlay he has published some highly regarded short fiction, including the Hugo and Nebula Award nominees “The Political Prisoner” and “The Political Officer.” We published his story “The Nursemaid’s Suitor” in Black Gate 8. In 2003 he was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. He addresses the announcement on his blog:
As some of you may have guessed, my guest editing gigs at F&SF were a job audition. I guess I did okay…. Officially, I take over with the March/April issue this year… March/April is at the printers so that means I’m already working on May/June. I started reading submissions for the magazine on January 1. Originally, it was going to be just for a guest editor spot in September/October, but now it is for all future issues of the magazine. So that worked out well…
Current editor Gordon Van Gelder has an inventory of stories for the magazine. After the March/April issue, these will be mixed in with the stories that I select. It will probably take a few issues to make the transition, but it won’t be sudden. Readers will still see many of the familiar writers they love. And I expect there to be new voices as well.
Gordon Van Gelder will remain publisher. We covered the January/February issue of F&SF here.
Not every month brings me a great big stack of stories to review. Which is fine. I mean, it’s not like we all don’t have a ton of things to do during December. Still, I did find three stories to tell you about, one them quite good.
Let’s start with the highlight of the December stories, “Prisoner of Pandarius,” by Matthew Hughes in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (January/February 2015). It’s a tale of revenge, thievery, and guild politics starring Raffalon, a thief with a ready wit, an overriding sense of self-preservation, and a name more than a little reminiscent of E A Hornung’s famous gentleman thief, Raffles.
Hughes makes no bones about being a fan of, and inspired by, Jack Vance’s Dying Earth. On his site he refers to Raffalon as “my archetypal Dying-Earthish thief.” There’s certainly a Vancian sensibility to the story’s trappings, e.g. a spell with the name “Izzizitz’s Matchless Latch” and the thieves’ organization’s official name of “The Ancient and Honorable Guild of Purloiners and Purveyors.” I’m a sucker for Jack Vance-inspired stories, provided they’re done well. I’m quite happy to write that “Prisoner of Pandarius” is one of those.
My first encounter with Hughes’s fiction was just this past September, also on the pages of F&SF (Sept/Oct 2014). “Avianca’s Bezel,” which I like very much, also features Raffalon. Therein, he learns the hard way the problems attendant with working for wizards.
In the new story, his decision to never again work for a wizard is put to the test when he is defrauded by the Purveyors — i.e. fences — of his guild. An old associate, the sorcerer Cascor, approaches him with a job offer and he reconsiders the hard line he’d previously taken.
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The January 2015 issue of Nightmare Magazine is now available.
Nightmare is the sister publication to the highly-regarded science fiction and fantasy magazine Lightspeed. It’s an online magazine of horror and dark fantasy, with a broad focus — editor John Joseph Adams promises you’ll find all kinds of horror within, from zombie stories and haunted house tales to visceral psychological horror. Fiction contents this month are:
“Returned” by Kat Howard
“The Trampling” by Christopher Barzak
“The Hollow Man” by Norman Partridge
“Blessed Be the Bound” by Lucy Taylor
There’s also an editorial with news on the follow-up to the groundbreaking Women Destroy Science Fiction! anniversary issue of Lightspeed, the upcoming Queers Destroy Science Fiction! project, as well as new subscription pricing through Amazon. Read the complete editorial online here,
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Here we are fairly late in Cele Lalli’s tenure, an issue with an impressive set of names on the TOC, but mildly disappointing overall content. The cover is by Ed Emshwiller, illustrating Lester Del Rey’s “Boiling Point”. The interiors are by George Schelling and Virgil Finlay.
The editorial, from Norman Lobsenz as usual, discusses with some concern the possibility of manipulation of people’s genetic material… then adds two silly Benedict Breadfruitian puns on the subject of the proper pronunciation of Lobsenz (Lobe-sense, it seems).
Ben Bova contributes a science article called “Planetary Engineering”, about prospects for building a base on the Moon. (Future articles in the series will cover more extensive “planetary engineering”, including terraforming other planets in the Solar System.)
Robert Silverberg’s book review column, The Spectroscope, covers Philip K. Dick’s The Game Players of Titan (which he judges as decent, but a disappointment relative to the best of Dick’s work), Doc Smith’s Skylark 3 (regarded by Silverberg as rather bad, though Doc is praised on personal grounds), and John Campbell’s anthology Analog 2 (he considers it very uneven, with one excellent story, a couple decent ones, and some weaker stuff). I will add that I agree with Mr. Silverberg on all points.
The stories, then.
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Santa was good to me this year. Lots of great paperbacks, some Warhammer 40K audio dramas, two graphic novels… and a copy of Strange Tales #6, cover dated October 1932 (the Wildside reprint edition, of course.)
Nothing like getting a famous pulp magazine for Christmas. This one contains a novella by Victor Rousseau and short stories by Clark Ashton Smith, Frank Belknap Long, Hugh B. Cave, Sewell Peaslee Wright, and Henry S. Whitehead, among others. I even know who Henry S. Whitehead is, thanks to my recent post on the Wordsworth edition of Voodoo Tales: The Ghost Stories of Henry S. Whitehead (and yes, I felt smug when I spotted him on the TOC). There’s even an essay on True Tales of the Weird by Robert W. Sneddon. The reprint includes all of the interior artwork by Amos Sewell and Rafael Desoto. Here’s the complete table of contents:
“The Hunters from Beyond” by Clark Ashton Smith
“The Curse of Amen-Ra” by Victor Rousseau
“Sea-Tiger” by Henry S. Whitehead
“The Dead Walk Softly” by Sewell Peaslee Wright
“Bal Macabre” by Gustav Meyrink
“Strange Tales and True,” essay by Robert W. Sneddon
“The Infernal Shadow” by Hugh B. Cave
“The Artist of Tao” by Arthur Styron
“In the Lair of the Space Monsters” by Frank Belknap Long
The Cauldron (Letters)
We covered several of Wildside’s pulp reprints in December. Strange Tales #6 is about 148 pages, priced at $14.95. Wildside’s has replicas of issues 4, 6, and 7 for sale as pulp reprints here.
Black Gate blogger Bud Webster gets the cover of the January/February issue of The Magazine of Fantasy of Science Fiction with his novelette “Farewell Blues,” a ghost story set in the swamps of Louisiana in 1937. In her review of the issue, Colleen Chen at Tangent Online had this to say:
The narrator, trumpet player Juney Walker, talks about a cornet player named Jake, who was so good he could play to wake the dead. Turns out this is literally true. One hot summer, he and Jake were playing music nights in a small swamp town in Louisiana, and strange dead things start emerging from the swamp in response to the music. It turns out that Jake isn’t quite from this realm, and the music he plays is bridging the place where he is to the place he’s from. Something is calling him home, and if he doesn’t go, the uncontrolled pieces from that beyond place will seep into here and wreak their eerie havoc… This is an atmospheric and Cajun-flavored ghost story.
Good to see Bud get the spotlight. He’s a terrific writer and was a regular columnist and poetry editor for the print version of Black Gate.
He’s also written a dozen blog posts for us, most recently “Selling Your Books Ain’t as Easy as it Looks,” and “Talk to Any Squids Lately? In Space, I Mean?” His most recent books are his guide to SF & fantasy bookselling, The Joy of Booking, and his collection of columns on genre writers, Past Masters: and Other Bookish Natterings.
There are other enticing stories in the issue, from Eleanor Arnason, Matthew Hughes, Dale Bailey, Naomi Kritzer, Albert E. Cowdrey, and others. Here’s the complete Table of Contents.
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The award-winning Clarkesworld magazine published its 100th issue this month — a landmark by any measure. Very few SF and fantasy magazines have made it to 100 issues, and this is something that deserves to be celebrated.
This bigger-than-average issue contains fiction from Naomi Kritzer, Kij Johnson, Catherynne M. Valente, Jay Lake, Damien Broderick, Karl Schroeder, and others. The four non-fiction pieces are “Song for a City-Universe: Lucius Shepard’s Abandoned Vermillion,” by Jason Heller, “Exploring the Frontier: A Conversation with Xia Jia,” by Ken Liu, “#PurpleSF” by Cat Rambo, and an editorial by Neil Clarke: “On the Road to One Hundred.”
This issue’s podcast is “Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight” by Aliette fde Bodard, read by Kate Baker.
Kate Baker, Neil Clarke, & Sean Wallace won the World Fantasy Award in the Special Award Non-Professional category for Clarkesworld in November (see our complete report here).
We last covered Clarkesworld with Issue 97 and the anthology Clarkesworld: Year Six edited by Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace. The anthologies are inexpensive and a great way to introduce yourself to Clarkesworld. Every purchase helps support the magazine… definitely worth considering if you’re at all a fan of short fiction.
Clarkesworld 100 was published by Wyrm Publishing. Individual issues are $1.99; a 12-issue subscription is $23.88. Learn more and order individual issues at the magazine’s website. This issue’s cover is by Julie Dillon.