Black Static #41 now on Sale

Monday, October 20th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Black Static 41-smallLast month, I reported on the first issue of Black Static magazine I ever purchased, issue 40. I was very impressed.

Good thing, too, because I took a chance and bought issue #41 at the same time. I have no idea why two issues of the same magazine were simultaneously on the stands, but I’m glad they were.

On the magazine’s website is this friendly but blunt request:

Magazines like Black Static cannot survive without subscriptions and always needs more support than it gets. If you enjoy it please blog about it, review it, tell your friends, and encourage other people to subscribe. Thank you!

Truer words were never spoken. Magazines like Black Static are completely dependent on fans and readers to keep them alive. I hope this magazine survives for a good long time — but it won’t without reader support. In that spirit, I am very happy to shine a spotlight on Black Static here on the blog. If it sounds intriguing, I hope you’ll consider buying an issue next time you find yourself browsing the magazine rack.

Black Static is a British magazine of dark fantasy and horror, edited by Andy Cox. It used to be called The 3rd Alternative, until that magazine went on hiatus in 2005. It was acquired by TTA Press, the publishers of Interzone and Crimewave, and in 2007 it was relaunched as Black Static.

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New Treasures: Short Sharp Shocks 1: Amok! edited by Neil Baker

Sunday, October 19th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Short Sharp Shocks Amok!-smallThe fine folks at April Moon Press have really hit the ground running. Their first anthology, The Dark Rites of Cthulhu, appeared in March and was a major success — so much so that they’ve now launched an ambitious line of dark fantasy and horror books.

The first to arrive is Amok!, a collection of intense short fiction from multiple genres — mystery, thriller, dark fantasy, and outright horror — focusing on the modern boogeyman: the spree killer. Amok! is the first release in April Moon’s Short Sharp Shocks anthology series; the next, Stomping Grounds!, features monsters causing mayhem and misery. They will be followed by Ill-Considered Expeditions (“Pith helmets at the ready for some unfriendly welcomes!”), Spawn of the Ripper, a tribute to Hammer horror films, and The Stars at my Door, a collection of optimistic science fiction.

An unnerving anthology featuring tales of psychological decline and murderous frenzy!

Office workers snap and vengeful ghosts go on a murderous rampage; a giant, blood-crazed pig rubs shoulders with a monstrous alligator while kids experiment with runes and drugs and suffer the consequences.

Ghouls of every foul persuasion tear through the streets and would-be serial killers stalk every alley way in search of hapless victims. Dark magicks destroy cities and brings warriors back from the grave, and madness eats away at the minds of explorers both past and future. Criminals enjoy violent crime sprees while our uniformed protectors themselves fall under the spell of murderous intent.

Here then, are 26 stories spanning a multitude of genres and themes to both alarm and amuse you as events spiral rapidly out of control, and mankind, monsters and minds run terribly, catastrophically, AMOK!

Short Sharp Shocks 1: Amok! was edited by Neil Baker and published by April Moon Books on September 27, 2014. It is 244 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $3.99 for the digital edition. The cover and interior illustrations are by Neil Baker. Order directly at the April Moon website.


Join the Struggle Against the Minions of Cthulhu in 17th Century England in Clockwork and Cthulhu

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

clockwork-cthulhu-smallTwo years ago, I wrote a brief New Treasures post about Clockwork and Cthulhu, an H.P. Lovecraft-inspired supplement for the 17th century alternate history fantasy setting Clockwork & Chivalry. A role playing game where giant clockwork war machines lumber across the land, witches whisper of the old gods and terrorize entire villages, and the Great Old Ones seek entry into our world while their corrupted servants covertly follow their eldritch agendas, was simply too much to resist.

I was enormously impressed with Cakebread and Walton’s creative backdrop for their game, an alternate 17th Century England where Royalists, led by Prince Rupert, attempt to restore an absolute monarch to the throne, and Parliamentarians, led by the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, defy the kingship and support the rights of parliament. Imagine my surprise when I discovered there actually was an English Civil War from 1642–1651. Apparently, history is not my strong suit.

A few weeks after the first article appeared, co-author Peter Cakebread graciously accepted my invitation and wrote a fascinating follow-up piece for us, “The English Civil War with Clockwork War Machines: an Introduction to Clockwork & Chivalry,” in which he filled in the details on his fascinating setting:

Clockwork & Chivalry is a RPG set in the time of the English Civil War. The English Civil War was fought between the Royalists (the Cavaliers) and Parliament (the Roundheads). We haven’t veered away from most of the real history, it’s simply too interesting, but we have added a couple of rather big twists – in our setting the Royalists use magick, and the Parliamentarians have giant clockwork war machines.

Who says role playing can’t be educational? Over the last few years, I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment (and rewarding history lessons) out of Clockwork and Cthulhu, and in that time Cakebread and Walton have continued to produce top-notch supplements and games. Here’s a quick look at some of their related products.

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New Treasures: Hawk by Steven Brust

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Hawk Steven Brust-smallI was surprised and delighted to receive a new book in the Vlad Taltos series from Steven Brust in the mail last week.

Hawk is the 14th novel in the adventure fantasy series that began with Jhereg (reviewed by Fletcher Vredenburgh here) way back in 1983. A total of 19 are planned; the last one was Tiassa (2011), and the next is Vallista. If you’re a newcomer to the series, I highly recommend The Book of Jhereg, a paperback omnibus collection of the first three novels (Jhereg, Yendi, and Teckla), which has been in print from Ace for over 15 years.

Vlad Taltos was an oppressed and underprivileged Easterner — that is, a human — living in Adrilankha, capital of the Dragaeran Empire. Life was hard. Worse, it was irritating. Then Vlad made a great discovery: Dragaerans would pay him to kill other Draegarans. Win-win!

The years of Vlad’s career as a crime boss and top assassin were cut short by a revolution, a divorce, and an attack of conscience (not necessarily in that order). In the midst of all that, he broke with the Jhereg, the Dragaeran house of organized crime. He’s been a marked man ever since. The Jhereg want to kill him. The Jhereg would love to kill him.

So Vlad’s been avoiding Adrilankha as much as possible. That hasn’t worked out too well. His life is there: his ex-wife Cawti, his son, and all his friends. One of those friends is his former assistant Kragar, who’s taken over Vlad’s old territory and criminal operations. Vlad will need Kragar’s help if he’s going to return to Adrilankha and deal with this mess.

It won’t be easy, and it certainly won’t be simple. Because there are no messes like the ones you make yourself.

Hawk was published by Tor Books on October 7. It is 320 pages, priced at $24.99 in hardcover ($11.99 for the digital edition). The cover is by Stephen Hickman. Read an excerpt at Tor.com.


Collect the Complete Faber & Faber Editions of Robert Aickman’s Classic Ghost Stories

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Unsettled Dust Robert Aickman-small The Wine Dark Sea Robert Aickman-small Cold Hand in Mine Robert Aickman-small

About a month ago, I reported (with some delight) on my acquisition of Robert Aickman’s Dark Entries, a reprint collection of the author’s ghost stories from British publisher Faber and Faber.

I was so pleased to get it — and the book was just so damn gorgeous — that it wasn’t long before I started hunting down Faber and Faber’s other Aickman reprints: The Unsettled Dust, The Wine Dark Sea, and Cold Hand in Mine. All three are collections, gathering the author’s short stories and novellas.

Aickman has long been recognized as one of the finest horror writers in the field. He received the World Fantasy Award in 1975 for his short story, “Pages from a Young Girl’s Journal,” originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and reprinted in Cold Hand in Mine. In 1981, the same year he died, he was awarded the British Fantasy Award for “The Stains,” which originally appeared in New Terrors, and was eventually reprinted in The Unsettled Dust.

The covers of the new Faber and Faber editions are by Tim McDonagh, and they are absolutely stellar (click the images above for bigger versions). I love them all, but perhaps my favorite is The Unsettled Dust, with its subtle portrayal of two children taking a late-night shortcut across a spooky English landscape. McDonagh’s hyper-detailed, almost comic book style fits the subject matter beautifully; he captures the brooding menace of Aickman’s “strange stories” better than any artist I’ve ever seen.

All four books are currently in print in trade paperback, priced at £7.99 - £8.99, or around 8 bucks each for the digital editions. The print editions are not directly available in the US; I ordered them from an overseas book vendor through Amazon for between $8 – $9 each, plus shipping.


Clarkesworld 97 now on Sale

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld 97-smallYou know, we don’t pay enough attention to Clarkesworld.

Clarkesworld, founded by Neil Clarke and edited by Sean Wallace, is one of the genre’s pioneering online magazines — and also one of its most successful. It has been published monthly for over eight years, since October 2006. Each issue is packed with fiction, interviews, and articles, and the cover art — like this month’s gorgeously gonzo piece from Sandeep Karunakaran — is consistently excellent. (Click the image at right for the full-size version.)

Clarkesworld is a three-time winner of the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine, and stories from the magazine have been nominated (and won) countless awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Sturgeon, Locus, Shirley Jackson, and Stoker Awards. In 2013, for example, Clarkesworld received more Hugo nominations for short fiction than all the leading print magazines (Asimov’s, Analog, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction) combined.

If you’re not fond of reading online magazines, Clarkesworld also makes its fiction available in ebook editions, audio podcasts, print issues, and in an annual print and ebook anthology. How convenient can you get?

Issue 97 contains four new stories from E. Catherine Tobler, Maria Dahvana Headley, Helena Bell, and Rahul Kanakia, as well as reprints from K. J. Parker and Alexander C. Irvine. Non-Fiction this issues comes from Brian Francis Slattery and Daniel Abraham, plus an editorial by Neil Clarke and an interview with Robert Reed by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro.

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New Treasures: Unseaming by Mike Allen

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Unseaming Mike Allen-smallMike Allen has made a name for himself with his unique blend of dark fantasy and horror. John R. Fultz called his debut novel, The Black Fire Concerto (which we published an exclusive excerpt from last August), “a post-apocalyptic melody played on strings of Terror and Sorcery. “ This month, Mike releases his long-anticipated debut short story collection, Unseaming, collecting fiction from Weird Tales, Cthulhu’s Reign, and other places. Mike’s short fiction has been nominated for the Nebula Award, and in a starred review, Publishers Weekly said the stories within “deliver solid shivering terror tinged with melancholy sorrow over the fragility of humankind.”

Everyone in the world awakens covered in blood-and no one knows where the blood came from. A childhood doll arrives to tear its owner’s reality limb from limb. A portal to the spirit realm stretches wide on the Appalachian Trail, and something more than human crawls through on eight legs. Words of comfort change to terrifying sounds as a force from outside time speaks through them. The buttons in the bin will unseam your flesh to bare your nastiest secrets.

Opening with “The Button Bin,” a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story, and culminating with its sequel, “The Quiltmaker,” which Bram Stoker Award and Shirley Jackson Award winner Laird Barron has hailed as Mike Allen’s masterpiece, this debut collection gathers fourteen horror tales that, in the words of Barron’s introduction, “rival anything committed to paper by the likes of contemporary masters such as Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, or Caitlín Kiernan. This is raw, visceral, and sometimes bloody stuff. Primal stuff.”

Unseaming was released on October 1, 2014 by Antimatter Press. It is 222 pages, priced at $15.95 in trade paperback and $5.99 for the digital edition. The introduction is by Laird Barron. Get more details or order a copy directly from the Antimatter website.


Discover the Best Short Fiction of the Year with Paula Guran’s The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2014

Sunday, October 12th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Year's Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2014-smallOver the last decade or so, I’ve watched the emergence of a new generation of leading anthology editors. Folks like Jonathan Strahan, John Joseph Adams, Rich Horton, Ian Whates, and Jonathan Oliver. These are the editors who are successfully defining the best in the genre, and whose books I order immediately.

And now, I’m very pleased to add Paula Guran to that short list. I sampled the fourth volume of her Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror back in February, and was very impressed. The fifth volume arrived this summer, with an absolutely stellar line up of authors, and I nabbed it the first chance I could.

Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror is the companion volume to The Year’s Best Science Ficiton and Fantasy, edited by Rich Horton and also published by Prime. We covered the 2014 edition of Rich’s series back in July. Together, these two volumes give you a comprehensive catalog of the best genre short fiction of the year.

This year, the book contains fiction from Dale Bailey, Nathan Ballingrud, Laird Barron, Elizabeth Bear, Neil Gaiman, Glen Hirshberg, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Tanith Lee, Joe R. Lansdale, Ken Liu, Brandon Sanderson, Steve Rasnic Tem, Lisa Tuttle, Carrie Vaughn, and over a dozen others.

It draws from the finest magazines in the field, including Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Lightspeed, Subterranean Online, Interzone, Apex Magazine, Asimov’s SF, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com, and top-notch anthologies like Fearsome JourneysShadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe, Clockwork Phoenix 4Dangerous WomenQueen Victoria’s Book of Spells, and many others.

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Fantasy Scroll Magazine 3 Now Available

Saturday, October 11th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Fantasy Scroll Magazine 3-smallThe third issue of the new Fantasy Scroll Magazine is now available, and I’m very happy to see it.

Fantasy Scroll is edited by Iulian Ionescu, Frederick Doot, and Alexandra Zamorski. It’s a quality publication and issues appear online every three months. The contents include all kinds of fantastic literature — science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal short-fiction — and run the gamut from short stories to flash fiction to micro-fiction.

This issue looks very solid, with original fiction from Piers Anthony, Alex Shvartsman, and many others. The cover art is by Suebsin Pulsiri.

Here’s the complete fiction Table of Contents:

“Descant” by Piers Anthony
“The Peacemaker” by Rachel A. Brune
“My Favorite Photos of Anne” by Aaron Polson
“Verisimilitude” by Alan Murdock
“Orc Legal” by James Beamon
“Kindle My Heart” by Rebecca Birch
“Burn in Me” by Carrie Martin

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New Treasures: Jani and the Greater Game by Eric Brown

Friday, October 10th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Jani and the Greater Game-smallThis Eric Brown fellow is one of the most prolific of the new generation of SF and fantasy authors. He’s published a dozen novels in just the last five years, almost all of them with Solaris Books, including the Bengal Station trilogy, The Kings of Eternity (2011), Weird Space: The Devil’s Nebula (2012), Serene Invasion (2013), and Weird Space: Satan’s Reach (2013).

His latest is the opening book in a new steampunk action adventure series set in India in 1910, where the British rule with an iron fist thanks to a strange technology fueled by a mysterious power source… and their enemies covertly maneuver to discover its secrets in a political dance known as the Greater Game.

Eighteen-year-old Janisha Chatterjee, the Cambridge-educated daughter of an Indian government minister, is coming home to visit her father on his death-bed, when her airship is attacked and wrecked. Amid the debris, a stranger — monstrous but kind — saves her life and entrusts her with a mysterious device, which pitches her head-first into the “Greater Game,” the ongoing stand-off between British, Chinese and Russian powers in the Indian subcontinent.

Dodging British officers, Russian spies, and the dangerous priest Durga Das, Jani must bring the device to the foothills of the Himalayas; to the home of Annapurnite, the secret power source on which British domination was built. There she will learn the truth about Annapurnite — a truth that will change the world forever…

Jani and the Greater Game was published on July 29, 2014 by Solaris Books. It is 384 pages, priced at $7.99 in paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition. The cover art is by Dominic Harman.


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