New Treasures: Sword & Mythos, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles

Monday, September 1st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Sword and Mythos-smallInnsmouth Free Press has done some really terrific work recently, including the groundbreaking anthologies Future Lovecraft (2011) and Historical Lovecraft (2011), and the splendid Innsmouth Magazine (which we discussed here).

The Editor-in-Chief of Innsmouth Free Press, Paula R. Stiles, may be familiar to Black Gate readers as the author of the dark fantasy featuring the Queen of Hell, “Roundelay,” in Black Gate 15. With her latest anthology, Sword & Mythos, Stiles and her co-editor Silvia Moreno-Garcia have assembled another dynamite collection of stories, this one featuring sword & sorcery heroes and heroines coming face-to-face with monstrosities out of the Cthulhu Mythos.

The Blades of Heroes Clash Against the Darkest Sorcery

Aztec warriors ready for battle, intent on conquering a neighboring tribe, but different gods protect the Matlazinca. For Arthur Pendragon, the dream of Camelot has ended. What remains is a nightmarish battle against his own son, who is not quite human.

Master Yue, the great swordsman, sets off to discover what happened to a hamlet that was mysteriously abandoned. He finds evil. Sunsorrow, the ancient dreaming sword, pried from the heart of the glass god, yearns for Carcosa.

Fifteen writers, drawing inspiration from the pulp sub-genres of sword and sorcery and the Cthulhu Mythos, seed stories of adventure, of darkness, of magic and monstrosities. From Africa to realms of neverwhere, here is heroic fantasy with a twist.

Sword & Mythos was published by Innsmouth Free Press on May 1, 2014. It is 315 pages, priced at $15 in trade paperback and $5 for the digital edition. The cover is by Nacho Molina Parra. Order a copy or get more details at the Innsmouth Free Press website.


New Treasures: Reach For Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Reach For Infinity Solaris-smallReach For Infinity makes me very happy.

A while back, I wrote a blog post titled “Is the Original SF and Fantasy Paperback Anthology Series Dead?“, in which I lamented the death of the great genre anthologies like Orbit, New Dimensions, and Universe, and noted that no modern publisher had the courage to launch one these days. None except Solaris that is, which recently started several excellent new anthology series — including Jonathan Strahan’s terrific Infinity line, beginning with Engineering Infinity (2010) and Edge of Infinity (2012).

I’m thrilled to see at least one publisher willing to take the risk… and more importantly, to pull it off. Kudos to Jonathan Strahan and his editors at Solaris for making the impossible look easy. These books deserve your support and they’re a fantastic and inexpensive way to introduce yourself to some great writers. Check them out — and start with Reach For Infinity, the third in the series, now on sale.

Humanity Among the Stars

What happens when we reach out into the vastness of space? What hope for us amongst the stars?

Multi-award winning editor Jonathan Strahan brings us fourteen new tales of the future, from some of the finest science fiction writers in the field.

The fourteen startling stories in this anthology feature the work of Greg Egan, Aliette de Bodard, Ian McDonald, Karl Schroeder, Pat Cadigan, Karen Lord, Ellen Klages, Adam Roberts, Linda Nagata, Hannu Rajaniemi, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Ken MacLeod, Alastair Reynolds and Peter Watts.

Reach For Infinity was published by Solaris on May 27, 2014. It is 346 pages, priced at $9.99 in trade paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition.


New Treasures: Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

Sunday, August 24th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Full Fathom Five Max Gladstone Tor-smallBack in June, I reported on the second novel in Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence. And just in time, too… the third, Full Fathom Five, arrived barely a month later, and I don’t wanna appear behind the times (any more than usual, anyway.)

The best description of this series I’ve found so far is from Elizabeth Bear (no surprise), who says at her blog:

The Craft Sequence books are all about ancient necromancers in charge of corporations; liches running litigation; court battles fought by means of sorcerous contests; deities dueling by means of legal proxies and stock trading souls.

I have several narrative hot buttons when shopping for fantasy and that description punches every one of them. If John Grisham wrote zombie novels, we might have plots as cool as Max Gladstone’s. Maybe.

I wrote about the first book in the sequence, Three Parts Dead, in 2012, and Two Serpents Rise in June. The fourth, Last First Snow, is not yet scheduled. Max describes it as follows:

Last First Snow, as the (working) title suggests, is set a bit earlier along the series timeline, and shows the older generation’s history. Dresediel Lex teeters on the edge of a knife, riven by protest over controversial zoning legislation, while a younger Elayne Kevarian confronts a tangle of conspiracies, revolutionaries, personal demons, and dead gods.

I can see I’m going to have to set some time aside for that one, too.

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Experience the Second Era of Space with Mindjammer

Sunday, August 24th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Mindjammer-smallTrying out a new role playing game takes a pretty serious investment of time and energy, and I don’t do it often. I think the last time was probably Pelgrane Press’s excellent SF game Ashen Stars, which turned out to be worth the investment.

A few months ago, the talented Sarah Newton sent me a copy of her ambitious new RPG Mindjammer, and I found myself intrigued. Early this year, it beat out 13th Age, Hillfolk, and other great games to win the Griffie Award for Best Roleplaying Game, which only sharpened my interest.

So over the last few weeks and months, I’ve been digging into it. And I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a really terrific SF role playing game, with a flavor all its own.

Mindjammer describes itself as a game of “Transhumanism Adventure,” which in practical terms means it’s a mix of science fiction and superhero gaming. Hyperadvanced technology, synthetic intelligence, cybernetics, and ancient lost tech have changed what it means to be human, opening up a wide range of fabulous and inventive skills for your players — things like Xeno-empathy, Starship therapy, logic shields, and many others. It makes character generation a lot of fun, and really gets players thinking about the type of universe they’re about to step into.

And what kind of universe is that, exactly? One where humans mingle with divergent hominids, uplifted animals, synthetic beings, and stranger things. Players can even play a sentient starship — which may give you some idea of the scale and ambition of this fine game.

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Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook Now on Sale

Friday, August 22nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Fifth Edition-smallIn June of 2008, Wizards of the Coast launched the 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons with considerable fanfare. While there was a lot of initial interest — and solid early sales — it never truly caught on.

Personally, I enjoyed lot of the supplemental material, like the updated Dark Sun setting and the excellent Shadowfell boxed set, but by 2011 I noticed new releases had slowed to a trickle. Eventually, they stopped entirely.

This was bad news for RPG fans. When sales of the world’s most popular role playing game collapse scarcely three years after the launch of a new edition, the entire industry suffers. Was this the end of the most famous game franchise in the adventure game hobby?

Fortunately, it was not. Wizards of the Coast made a major commitment to re-launch D&D, and in January 2012 it announced what was then known as D&D Next. The game had a few name changes over the next two years (it was Fifth Edition for a while, until WotC eventually settled on just Dungeons & Dragons), but for much of that time WotC maintained an open beta on the rules and kept players involved and informed.

It paid off. The buzz surrounding the game has been building nicely. On Tuesday of this week, the first of the three core volumes, the highly anticipated Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook, finally shipped (click on the image at left to see it in its high-res glory). And according to io9, it was the number one selling book — of any kind — at Amazon on the day of its release.

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Win a Copy of Peter Watts’ Echopraxia

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Echopraxia-smallPeter Watts is a fellow Canadian and that makes him cool.

Well, that and the fact that he writes intensely cool SF novels, like the Hugo-nominated Blindsight, which Charles Stross described as “a first contact with aliens story from the point of view of a zombie posthuman crewman aboard a starship captained by a vampire.” Any time you can get Charles Stross on record saying “zombie posthuman crewman,” you know you’re cool. Plus, Ken Levine, the Creative Director for the hit video game BioShock, credits Watts as a significant influence on his game. That’s coolness right there.

Watts’s latest novel Echopraxia, described as a “sidequel” relating events on Earth during Blindsight, arrives at the end of the month, and Tor Books has been kind enough to offer us a copy to use as a giveaway (Thanks, Tor! You guys are super-cool.)

How do you enter? Just send an e-mail to john@blackgate.com with the title “Echopraxia” and a one-sentence review of your favorite Tor science fiction novel. One winner will be drawn at random at the end of the month from all qualifying entries and we’ll publish the best reviews here on the Black Gate blog.

All entries become the property of New Epoch Press. No purchase necessary. Must be 12 or older. Decisions of the judges (capricious as they may be) are final. Not valid where prohibited by law, or outside the US and Canada.

Here’s the book description.

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New Treasures: Downfall by Rob Thurman

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Downfall Rob Thurman-smallI first met Rob (Robyn) Thurman at Dragon*Con back in 2010, when she had a booth right next to the chaotic and busy Black Gate booth in the Dealer’s Room. As Howard put it in his con report, hanging out with Rob was one of the highlights of the con for us — she was charming and funny, and told hilarious tales of cosplay misadventures in a knockout Deadpool costume.

Turns out Rob is also a terrific writer, as I discovered when I finally had a chance to pick up one of her popular Cal Leandros dark urban fantasy novels. The series began with Nightlife in 2006; since then she’s published one per year. The ninth and most recent, Downfall, arrived earlier this month. It’s not too late to discover this New York Times bestselling series — if you haven’t already.

I let it go — all of it. Everything I’d been saving up all my life, building and growing inside me, too much to hold in one half-human body. It pushed and fought to be free with a force that turned me into a bomb with a timer vibrating on zero. I was free.

But so was everything I’d fought so hard not to be….

Brothers Cal and Niko Leandros know trouble when they see it — and then proceed to wipe the floor with it. But now it seems their whole world is falling to pieces. Cal’s nightmarish monster side is growing ever stronger, changing Cal physically as well as mentally. Which is exactly what Grimm — Cal’s savage doppelgänger — wants. And when a covert supernatural organization decides that it’s time to put Cal down before he threatens pretty much everything else in existence, the brothers find themselves in a fight they actually might lose. But the dark temptations Cal has denied all his life may prove to be exactly what can save them.

Even if he must fall forever…

Downfall was published on August 5, 2014 by Roc Books. It is 338 pages, priced at $7.99 in paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Chris McGrath.


Win a Copy of Patrick Swenson’s The Ultra Thin Man

Sunday, August 17th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Ultra Thin Man-smallPatrick Swenson may be the coolest guy in the genre.

He started doing what all the cool people do, of course: editing a magazine. Patrick founded Talebones in 1995, a small press magazine of SF and dark fantasy, and he produced 39 issues over the next 14 years, discovering writers like Patrick O’Leary, Ken Scholes, Carrie Vaughn, and many others in the process. I called the magazine “a thoroughly impressive piece of work” when I reviewed issue #17 in 1999 for SF Site. Patrick then turned to small press publishing with Fairwood Press, where he’s published over 50 books from folks like James Van Pelt, Mary Rosenblum, Ken Rand, Jay Lake, Michael Bishop, Devon Monk, Alexei Panshin, William F. Nolan, and dozens of others. Most recently he has turned his hand to writing, producing short stories for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine and other outlets.

Last year, Patrick announced that he’d sold his first novel, The Ultra Thin Man, to Tor, cementing his creative conquest of the entire genre. Not content with merely conquering science fiction, Patrick has also sent stories out to other genres, especially noir and detective fiction. Here’s a snippet from his recent interview with Forces of Geek on the inspiration behind The Ultra Thin Man.

It probably goes without saying that Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Thin Man was an influence, as was the 1934 film. Not so much for that particular plot, but the detective story in general. The witty dialogue. The one-liners. The back and forth repartee between the lead and other characters. Besides Hammett, I’d single out some of my favorite mystery writers, all of whom are masterful writing dialogue: Robert B. Parker, Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, John D. Macdonald, and James W. Hall, to name a few.

To celebrate Patrick’s deep contributions to fantasy over the decades — and the fact that one human being can attain this level of coolness — we’re giving away a copy of The Ultra Thin Man, compliments of Tor Books.

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New Treasures: Dust and Light by Carol Berg

Sunday, August 17th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Dust and Light-smallCarol Berg’s first novel was Transformation, a Roc midlist paperback, in August 2000. It was a success and it became the first novel of the Rai-Kirah trilogy.

Some fourteen epic fantasy novels followed, including four in The Bridge of D’Arnath series and the Collegia Magica trilogy. There were a couple standalone titles in there as well, including Song of the Beast (2003), and the story “Unmasking,” in the 2007 Elemental Magic collection.

The two novels in The Lighthouse Duet, Flesh and Spirit (2007) and Breath and Bone (2008), were set in the world of Sanctuary. Now Berg returns to Sanctuary with her latest novel, the first installment of a new duology.

How much must one pay for an hour of youthful folly? The Pureblood Registry accused Lucian de Remeni-Masson of “unseemly involvement with ordinaries,” which meant only that he spoke with a young woman not of his own kind, allowed her to see his face unmasked, worked a bit of magic for her… After that one mistake, Lucian’s grandsire excised half his magic and savage Harrowers massacred his family. Now the Registry has contracted his art to a common coroner. His extraordinary gift for portraiture is restricted to dead ordinaries — beggars or starvelings hauled from the streets.

But sketching the truth of dead men’s souls brings unforeseen consequences. Sensations not his own. Truths he cannot possibly know and dares not believe. The coroner calls him a cheat and says he is trying to weasel out of a humiliating contract. The Registry will call him mad — and mad sorcerers are very dangerous…

Dust and Light was published by Roc Books on August 5. It is 445 pages, priced at $16 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Gene Mollica.


New Treasures: Assail by Ian C. Esslemont

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Assail Ian C Esslemont-smallSteven Erikson made a name for himself with his 10-volume Malazan Book of the Fallen series, acclaimed by many as the finest heroic fantasy series of the last few decades. He co-created the world of Malaz with a member of his gaming group, Manitoba author Ian C. Esslemont, who for the past four years has been writing his own novels in the same setting, starting with Night of Knives (2010).

Esslemont has built his own fan base over the years, and the sixth and final novel in his Malazan series, Assail, arrived in hardcover and trade paperback last week.

Tens of thousands of years of ice is melting, and the land of Assail, long a byword for menace and inaccessibility, is at last yielding its secrets. Tales of gold discovered in the region’s north circulate in every waterfront dive and sailor’s tavern, and now countless adventurers and fortune-seekers have set sail in search of riches. All these adventurers have to guide them are legends and garbled tales of the dangers that lie in wait — hostile coasts, fields of ice, impassable barriers and strange, terrifying creatures. But all accounts concur that the people of the north meet all trespassers with the sword. And beyond are rumoured to lurk Elder monsters out of history’s very beginnings.

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