C. S. E. Cooney Joins Uncanny Magazine as a Podcast Reader

Friday, December 12th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

C. S. E. Cooney has hair like Medusa seriously it's amazing-smallThe brand new fantasy magazine Uncanny — which we discussed excitedly last month when its first issue went on sale — has shown uncanny good sense by hiring our very own C.S.E. Cooney as a podcast reader. Here’s a bit cribbed from the press release:

Uncanny Magazine is thrilled to announce that the marvelous C.S.E. Cooney has agreed to join us as the second reader on the Uncanny Magazine Podcast! Ms. Cooney is a Rhode Island writer and actor… She loves to read aloud to anyone who will sit still long enough to listen. Some of her narration work can be found on Podcastle and Tales to Terrify. With her fellow artists in the Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours, C. S. E. Cooney appears at conventions and other venues, singing from their growing collection of Distant Star Ballads, dramatizing fiction, and performing such story-poems as “The Sea King’s Second Bride,” for which she won the Rhysling Award in 2011.

Ms. Cooney will make her debut as an Uncanny Magazine Podcast reader in Episode 3 this January.

So much exciting C.S.E. Cooney news! Just last month, we reported on Amal El-Mohtar’s review of her short story “Witch, Beast, Saint,” and our roving reporter Mark Rigney interviewed her in late October. The two C.S.E. Cooney short stories we published here at Black Gate, “Godmother Lizard” and “Life on the Sun,” consistently rank among the most popular pieces we’ve ever published. Her most recent blog post for us was Book Pairings: Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells and Royal Airs, published last Sunday. 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.

In other C.S.E. Cooney news, today is her birthday. Happy Birthday, Claire!!

Amazon Announces its Top-Selling Books of 2014

Friday, December 12th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Blood of Olympus-smallAmazon.com has announced its top-selling books of 2014, and the list includes half a dozen fantasy novels.

This isn’t a truly definitive breakdown of top sellers for the year, since it’s just from one bookseller (as powerful as Amazon may be). Also, 2014 isn’t even over yet, fer cryin’ out loud.

Still, it’s an interesting list, with plenty on it for fantasy fans — including several popular series (The Heroes of Olympus, The Mortal Instruments, and two Outlander books, just to name a few), and a standalone novel from Stephen King. The most surprising thing about the list, however, is that Amazon claims that Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid is the only title on the list to sell more copies in print than for the Kindle.

Here’s the complete list.

  1. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
  2. Gray Mountain by John Grisham
  3. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  4. Twenty Seconds Ago by Lee Child (Jack Reacher No. 19)
  5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  6. The Target by David Baldacci (Will Robie series)
  7. The Fixed Trilogy by Laurelin Paige
  8. The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan (The Heroes of Olympus, Book Five)

    Read More »

Watch the Selkie-riffic Trailer for Song of the Sea

Friday, December 12th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

I’m a fan of the gorgeous animated film The Secret of Kells, released in 2009 by Cartoon Saloon and directed by Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey. So I was very pleased to hear that Cartoon Saloon’s next feature, Song of the Sea, premiered at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, back in September, and will go into wider release later this month.

Song of the Sea is the tale of Ben and Saoirse, who live in a lighthouse with their father, and the strange shell flute Saoirse discovers that unlocks a magical secret from their mother’s past. The voice cast includes Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter‘s Mad Eye Moody), David Rawle as Ben, and Lisa Hannigan.

Song of the Sea was directed Tomm Moore. Check out the strikingly beautiful animation in the trailer below. It will have a limited release here in the US starting on December 19, and I’ll be certainly keeping an eye out for it.

Benedict Cumberbatch Confirmed as Doctor Strange

Saturday, December 6th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Benedict CumberbatchA few weeks ago, Marvel Studios leaked that it was in discussions with Benedict Cumberbatch to take the lead role role in its upcoming superhero film Doctor Strange. Several outlets picked it up as a news story, but I thought it was strange. Who announces they’re “in talks?” Don’t you keep that quiet until terms are concluded? Cumberbatch is about as hot as a young actor can get, what with the title role in Sherlock, and his roles in Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Hobbit, and The Imitation Game. Making a big noise in the press about your top choice before you even start negotiating seems like a sure way to drive up the price for the talent — or to end up disappointing fans.

Well, either Marvel knew the outcome in advance, or they just really know what they’re doing, as this week they announced they’d reached terms with Cumberbatch. He will appear in the film version of Doctor Strange, to be released in 2016 as part of Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Producer Kevin Feige said:

Stephen Strange’s story requires an actor capable of great depth and sincerity. In 2016, Benedict will show audiences what makes Doctor Strange such a unique and compelling character.

Doctor Strange was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1963 (not long after they co-created Spider-man). As I said when we first discussed it here, I hope the film draws inspiration from Ditko’s fantastic art, and especially the way he portrayed the dimension-hopping adventures of his sorcerer-hero. Marvel announced the director would be Scott Derrickson (who directed the fabulously creepy Sinister, and Deliver Us from Evil), back in June.

Doctor Strange is scheduled to be released in November 4, 2016. It will be directed by Scott Derrickson, from a screenplay by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus).

Asmodee Acquires Fantasy Flight Games

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Fantasy Flight logoFrom time to time, we’ve talked about Fantasy Flight Games, a company at the very forefront of the resurgence of fantasy board games in the United States. Their catalog includes some of the most popular and acclaimed genre board games and RPGs of the last decade, including Deathwatch, Descent: Journeys in the Dark, Dust Tactics, Merchant of Venus, Middle-Earth Quest, Relic, Runebound, StarCraft, Talisman, Tide of Iron, Twilight Imperium, A Game of Thrones, Age of Conan, Arkham Horror, BattleLore, Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures, and many, many others.

France-based board game publisher Asmodee may not be as familiar to many of you, but we’ve mentioned them a few times — most recently with our coverage of their fantasy exploration game Cyclades and the massive space epic Eclipse.

On Monday, Asmodee announced that it had acquired Fantasy Flight Games. Leaders of both companies are trumpeting the strategic benefits of a merger, as it will give Asmodee access to Fantasy Flight’s North American operations and marketing infrastructure, and in return Flight Games will benefit from Asmodee’s distribution and marketing prowess in Europe. No plans to move Fantasy Flight’s headquarters from St. Paul, Minnesota were announced.

This is the second major acquisition for Asmodee this year. Back in August, they announced the acquisition of Days of Wonder, publishers of Ticket to Ride, Shadows Over Camelot, Small World, Pirate’s Cove, Memoir ’44, and many other board games.

No immediate changes to Fantasy Flight are anticipated, which will be a relief to most fans. Read the complete details, including an FAQ on the merger, here.

Sofia Samatar Confronts the Elephant in the Room

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Sofia Samatar with the World Fantasy Award. Photo by Nathan Ballingrud.

Sofia Samatar with the World Fantasy Award. Photo by Nathan Ballingrud

As I was pleased to report last week, Sofia Samatar won the 2014 World Fantasy Award for her acclaimed first novel A Stranger in Olondria. And as I also mentioned, Sofia addressed “the elephant in the room” in her remarks to the audience, saying a few words about the fact that she was being honored with a bust of Lovecraft, a man who expressed profoundly racist views in his fiction and poetry. Nonetheless, she was articulate and extremely gracious, and accepted the award with humility and gratitude.

In the days since, she has expanded slightly on her remarks, saying on her blog:

I said it was awkward to accept the award as a writer of color. (See this post by Nnedi Okorafor, the 2011 winner, if you are confused about why.) I also thanked the board for taking the issue seriously…

I am not telling anybody not to read Lovecraft. I teach Lovecraft! I actually insist that people read him and write about him! For grades! This is not about reading an author but about using that person’s image to represent an international award honoring the work of the imagination.

While the issue of replacing Lovecraft’s image on the award continues to be hotly debated, I was pleased to see that Sofia’s remarks in large part have not been. She is a class act, and if there’s anyone who can gently nudge the calcified old guard of fantasy into accepting that the field’s highest honor remains (at best) a dubious honor for people of color as long as it bears Lovecraft’s image, it’s Sofia Samatar. In the meantime, she reminds us that, if she can maintain a sense of humor in all this, so can the rest of us. On her Facebook page she posted the image at right, captured moments after accepting the award (snapped at her table by fellow Small Beer author Nathan Ballingrud), along with this comment:

And also, to be real, we’re practically identical. Race is a construct! TWINSIES!

This is how you win arguments. By being simultaneously more articulate and dignified — and funnier — than everyone else in the room. I know who gets my vote to replace Lovecraft’s visage on the statue. Perhaps they won’t even have to modify it all that much. But trust me, when they’re done, it’ll be a lot more beautiful.

2014 World Fantasy Convention: Sunday — World Fantasy Award Winners Announced

Monday, November 10th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

World Fantasy Award Lovecraft-smallI was able to attend the World Fantasy Convention this year, for the first time since 2011, and I really had a terrific time. It was fabulous to attend all the panels, readings, parties, and events — and especially to re-connect with so many old friends, and make so many new ones. Years ago, Mark Kelly at Locus Online called World Fantasy “a reunion,” and I think that’s really the best description.

The highlight of the convention is the Sunday banquet, where the World Fantasy Awards were presented. The toastmaster for the event was the delightful Mary Robinette Kowal, who gave a highly entertaining speech about rejection, and the awards themselves were presented by Gordon van Gelder and David Hartwell. I sat at Table 25 with my new friends Amanda C. Davis and Matt O’Dowd, where we had a great view of the proceedings.

The World Fantasy Award itself is a cartoonish bust of H.P. Lovecraft sculpted by the brilliant Gahan Wilson (seen at left). It’s an extremely distinct award that honors the contributions of perhaps the finest American horror writer of the 20th Century. But using Lovecraft as the poster child for the awards has also caused some recent controversy (that surfaced twice during the proceedings.) I’ll get to that in a minute.

But first, the Awards themselves. This year’s winners of the World Fantasy Awards are:


  • A Stranger in Olondria, Sofia Samatar (Small Beer)

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Uncanny Magazine Issue 1 Now on Sale

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Uncanny Magazine Issue 1-smallWith all the bad news swirling around genre magazines over the past few years, I can’t tell you how uplifting it is to celebrate the arrival of a brand new magazine — especially one as promising as this.

Uncanny is a bimonthly magazine of science fiction and fantasy, showcasing original fiction from some of the brightest stars in the genre, as well as reprints, poetry, articles, and interviews. The first issue, cover-dated November/December 2014, is on sale today. It contains new fiction by Maria Dahvana Headley, Kat Howard, Max Gladstone, Amelia Beamer, Ken Liu, and Christopher Barzak, plus a reprint from Jay Lake. There’s also articles by Sarah Kuhn, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Christopher J Garcia, and a special Worldcon Roundtable featuring Emma England, Michael Lee, Helen Montgomery, Steven H Silver, and Pablo Vazquez. The issue also contains poetry by Neil Gaiman, Amal El-Mohtar, and Sonya Taaffe, and interviews with Maria Dahvana Headley, Deborah Stanish, Beth Meacham on Jay Lake, and Christopher Barzak.

If that’s not enough, the magazine’s staff has also produced two stellar podcasts. Episode 1, released today, features the Editors’ Introduction, Maria Dahvana Headley’s “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White” and Amal El-Mohtar’s poem “The New Ways” (both read by Amal), as well as an interview with Maria conducted by Deborah Stanish. Episode 2 (coming December 2) will contain an Editors’ Introduction, Amelia Beamer reading her story “Celia and the Conservation of Entropy,” Sonya Taaffe’s poem “The Whalemaid, Singing” (as read by Amal El-Mohtar), and an interview with Amelia conducted by Deborah Stanish.

Uncanny was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign that had over 1,000 backers and raised over $36,000 (surpassing its goal by over $10,000.) The magazine is available for purchase as an eBook in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI formats. If you’re the type of buyer who needs to sample things first, the website features free content that will be released in two stages — half on November 4 and half on December 2.

Uncanny is published and edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas. The first issue is priced at $3.99; order directly from the website. The cover is by Galen Dara.

Michael Bishop on Tom Hanks’ Story in The New Yorker

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Tom Hanks in The New Yorker-smallMichael Bishop, Nebula Award-winning author of No Enemy But Time, Ancient of Days, and Philip K Dick Is Dead, Alas, has posted a brief review of Tom Hanks science fiction story in The New Yorker magazine.

Yes, Tom Hanks has a story in The New Yorker. And yes, it’s science fiction. It’s titled “Alan Bean Plus Four.” Yes, the Tom Hanks who played Forrest Gump and Captain Phillips. Look, just read what Michael said.

I read it with some initial skepticism. Sure, Hanks is an Academy Award-winning actor, but can he write?

Well, yes, he can. This tale works at the level that Hanks shoots for, and the prose, pointedly colloquial and science-savvy, shows him to have a fine command of 21st-century English as well as of current cultural, social, and technological innovations. I really like it.

You can read the complete story online here. There’s even an audio version on the same page (read by Tom Hanks. How cool is that?).

Read Michael Bishop’s complete comments on his Facebook page.

Get a Dozen E-books for Just $1.99 Each from Harper Voyager

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Ghosts By Gaslight-smallHarper Voyager has announced a special Halloween sale: a dozen urban fantasy, science fiction, and horror ebooks are on sale for $1.99 or less.

Titles on the list include novels from Vicki Pettersson, Nick Cole’s Soda Pop Soldier, The Stolen by Bishop O’Connell, Katherine Harbor’s Thorn Jack, Jack Heckel’s Once Upon a Rhyme, and additional suitable Halloween fare.

Also included is the excellent anthology Ghosts By Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense, edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers, containing seventeen all-new stories from Peter Beagle, James Morrow, Sean Williams, Gene Wolfe, Garth Nix, Jeffery Ford, Robert Silverberg, and others. This one’s well worth your attention, and at $1.99 you can’t go wrong.

The sale is for a limited time only — presumably until at least Halloween – so be sure to move quickly.

See the complete list of available titles here.

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