I’ve been very intrigued by the novels of Tim Lebbon, especially in the last few years as he’s turned to more overt dark fantasies. Echo City was an ambitious post-apocalyptic fantasy set in a sprawling, ruined city, and his Noreela novels (Dusk, Fallen, The Island) are epic adventures set in a land of magic and terror.
His latest, hitting the shelves next month, is a zombie novel with echoes of Stephen King’s The Mist and Valve’s classic Half-Life. A secret government lab hidden in the Appalachian Mountains achieves an incredible breakthrough to another dimension… and you know what that means. Grab the flamethrower, Ethel. It’s the end of the world again.
The facility lay deep in the Appalachian Mountains, a secret laboratory called Coldbrook. Its scientists had achieved the impossible: a gateway to a new world. Theirs was to be the greatest discovery in the history of mankind, but they had no idea what they were unleashing.
With their breakthrough comes disease and now it is out and ravaging the human population. The only hope is a cure and the only cure is genetic resistance: an uninfected person amongst the billions dead. In the chaos of destruction there is only one person that can save the human race. But will they find her in time?
Tim Lebbon won the Bram Stoker Award in 2001, for his short story “Reconstructing Amy,” and Dusk won the British Fantasy Society’s August Derleth Award for best novel of the year in 2007. He had a bestseller in 2007 for his novelization of 30 Days of Night. Coldbrook has already received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly and looks like it could be a breakout book for him.
Coldbrook will be published by Titan Books on April 8. It is 512 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital version.
Oh yes! We’re reaching the midway point of the first, and only, season of Firefly. I covered the pilot in Part 1, episodes two and three (“Train Job” and “Bushwhacked “) in Part 2, and four and five (“Shindig” and “Safe “) in Part 3.
If you’ve been reading this far, you know my feelings about the series. Some have postulated that perhaps we hold it in such high esteem because it was taken from us too soon. Well, in re-watching these episodes again, I was even more enthralled and entertained than the first (or second, or third…) time I saw them.
Today, we’re going to dive into two more episodes. Rev up the engine, Kaylee. It’s time to be a leaf on the wind.
Our Mrs. Reynolds (Episode 6)
A man and his wife driving a covered wagon are ambushed by bandits. The couple turn out to be Jayne and Mal (in drag), posing as settlers. When the bandit leader demands some personal time with the missus, Jayne replies that he married “a powerful ugly woman.” Mal and Jayne pull guns on the desperados.
A firefight ensues and Zoe pops out of the back of the wagon, gun blazing.
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Several years ago, I published my first ever roleplaying game supplement, a 200-page softback for the Starblazer Adventures RPG, using the Fate 3rd edition rules. Black Gate‘s very own Howard Andrew Jones reviewed it here, and a few short months later we were delighted when it won a Judges Spotlight Award at the ENnies in GenCon. We decided to produce a second edition…
… And here it is! A lot has happened in the meantime, not least the release of a brand new edition of Fate, the Fate Core System, from Evil Hat Productions, which won Best RPG in the Golden Geek Awards only last week. The publication of an elegant and sophisticated new edition of Fate meant that I had a golden opportunity to update Mindjammer and publish it as a full roleplaying game, taking full advantages of the Fate Core System‘s cutting edge innovations. Last month, we launched Mindjammer – The Roleplaying Game for pre-orders, providing customers with an immediate download of a “Thoughtcast Edition” pre-release PDF of the game, and this week we’re going to print and updating the PDF to the final production version.
So what’s Mindjammer? Put simply, it’s a game and a setting. As a game, it’s been called the “lovechild of Traveller and Eclipse Phase” – a full-featured science-fiction roleplaying game for the 21st century, featuring all the elements of “modern” science-fiction: transhumanism, hyperadvanced technologies, culture conflicts, rules for organisations, worlds, star systems, ecosystems, and alien life forms all drawing on the latest discoveries in xenoscience and astrophysics, wrapped up in an expansive and action-packed game which lets you play in any modern science-fiction genre.
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We lost prolific game designer and author Aaron Allston last week and, as often happens after we lose someone of importance in the industry, I find myself dwelling on their contributions. By the time of his death, Allston was renowned chiefly for his popular Star Wars books. But the first of his novels I ever purchased — and indeed, the one I still think of first — was his homage to Doc Savage, the 2001 novel Doc Sidhe. Doc Sidhe is an unabashed salute to thirties pulp fiction. Here’s the book description:
Olympic kickboxer Harris Greene’s career has just self-destructed, and both his manager and his fiance, Gaby, have dumped him. While looking for Gaby, he interrupts a bizarre trio as they are kidnapping her, and he is hurled into another, very weird, universe. His only hope is Doc Sidhe, this Art Deco universe’s greatest champion of justice.
And here’s Blue Tyson’s spot-on review:
Imagine if there was a counter earth, stuck in the 30s, where, basically, elves and trolls are real. The coolest thing, however, is that Doc Savage is real, too. Except for the fact he is a Daoine Sidhe sorcerer, and has a higher mortality rate for his crew.
A down on his luck kickboxer and his girlfriend end up there, via a conjurer’s circle, and a plot to change the magical rules of relations between the two worlds. Oh, and the evil villain is Doc’s son. This is an excellent homage, a good urban fantasy, and a bit of The Untouchables, to boot…
Doc Sidhe had one sequel: Sidhe-Devil, published by Baen in 2001. It was published by Baen Books in May 2001. It is 352 pages, originally priced at $5.99. It is currently out of print; there is no digital edition. See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.
We’ve reported here on a handful of Kickstarter failures, including Erik Chevalier, whose Doom That Came To Atlantic City campaign raised an astounding $122,874 on a $35,000 goal, and who managed to spend virtually all the money without producing a single copy of the game. But I don’t think I’ve ever read an example as egregious as John Campbell’s Sad Pictures for Children.
Campbell is the author of the web comic Pictures for Sad Children. He self-published his first book, collecting the first 200 comics, in 2011 and launched a Kickstarter campaign in April 2012 to fund a second volume. He set a goal of $8,000 and raised over $51,000.
Unlike Chevalier, Campbell managed to print the books and began distributing them to backers, but he quickly became disillusioned with the level of effort and cost involved. As complaints from his backers mounted, an apparently furious Campbell posted a video showing him burning 127 copies of the book, one for every e-mail he received requesting an update.
In a rambling and nonsensical Update 32, Campbell vents his wrath at his backers, saying no more books will be mailed, that he’ll burn one copy of the book for every attempt to contact him, and asking for more money — this time with no promises attached.
I shipped about 75% of kickstarter rewards to backers. I will not be shipping any more. I will not be issuing any refunds. For every message I receive about this book through e-mail, social media or any other means, I will burn another book… If you would like a refund, please contact a fan of my work directly for your money. This is where the money would come from anyway. I am cutting out the middle man…
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On the first day of the Year of the Unicorn, twelve and one young women are to be delivered to the Wastelands beyond High Hallack and into the hands of sorcerous shape-changers known as the Were Riders. In battle, they change their forms into those of fierce animals, instilling terror in their opponents, then ripping them apart with tooth and claw.
The lords of High Hallack turned to the Riders in their desperate search for any defense against the unstoppable invaders from Alizon across the sea. The Riders agreed, but demanded payment of those brides-to-be, due on the first day of the new year following the war’s end.
Andre Norton’s novel, Year of the Unicorn, introduces Gillan, an orphan relegated to a dreary future in the abbey of Norstead, who instead exchanges herself in secret for one of the appointed brides. In disguise, she rides into the Wastes in search of any life beyond the one she seems fated to. There she finds her beastly groom and discovers her magical powers.
Since discovering how good Andre Norton’s Witch World series is, I’ve been slowly making my way through its sixteen books. (There are later books by other writers, but it’s Norton’s original writing that has hooked me.) The four novels and dozen or so stories I’ve read so far have ranged in style from wild science-fantasy to swords & sorcery to Gothic mystery. Some have even read like fairy tales from a world catty-corner to our own. Year of the Unicorn, first novel in the High Hallack sequence, is one of those.
As a child, Gillan was rescued at sea from Alizon raiders by a High Hallack nobleman. She was too young to know where she was from or how she came to be captured, but her dark hair leads him to believe she’s from the East. Deciding that if she was worth the Alizoners’ trouble she might have some future value, the nobleman raises her in his own household.
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I don’t know about you, but when I first bought my Kindle, I dreamed of having a vast portable library of great new fantasy books, patiently acquired through diligent bargain hunting. Also, I dreamed about Jennifer Lawrence in a Carmen Miranda banana hat, but that’s a different topic.
The Kindle turned out to be pretty great. Huge avalanche of great new digital books over the last few years — also great. But who has time to constantly hunt for the latest discounts?
John DeNardo at SF Signal, that’s who. John regularly keeps up-to-date on digital special offers at Amazon.com and reports on them in fabulous detail. But this morning, he outdid himself, posting a list of 300 Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Kindle eBook deals for $3.99 or less — including some of the most intriguing books we’ve covered in the last few months:
The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley Beaulieu — $0.99
The Straits of Galahesh by Bradley Beaulieu — $0.99
Legends: Stories in Honor of David Gemmell edited by Ian Whates — $3.99
The Woodcutter by Kate Danley — $0.99
The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells — $2.99
Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone — $2.99
Necropolis by Michael Dempsey — $1.99
Clockwork Phoenix edited by Mike Allen — $3.99
The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty — $1.99
Stories, edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio — $3.79
Chrysanthe by Yves Meynard — $1.99
The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu — $3.79
And many, many others. See John’s detailed list of discount digital delights at SF Signal. And remember to thank him, next time you see him.
We celebrate the start of many a fantasy series here on Black Gate; I think we should pay just as much attention when an author brings one to a close. Especially when it involves Nazi supermen, the warlocks of Britain, and world-destroying Cthulhu-like monsters, like Ian Tregillis’s Milkweed alternate history trilogy.
We covered the first volume, Bitter Seeds, when it was released in paperback in 2012. Volume two, The Coldest War, was published in paperback in July of last year, and the closing volume, Necessary Evil, arrives in paperback today.
12 May 1940. Westminster, London, England: the early days of World War II.
Raybould Marsh, one of “our” Britain’s best spies, has traveled to another Earth in a desperate attempt to save at least one timeline from the Cthulhu-like monsters who have been observing our species from space and have already destroyed Marsh’s timeline. In order to accomplish this, he must remove all traces of the supermen that were created by the Nazi war machine and caused the specters from outer space to notice our planet in the first place.
His biggest challenge is the mad seer Gretel, one of the most powerful of the Nazi creations, who has sent a version of herself to this timeline to thwart Marsh. Why would she stand in his way? Because she has seen that in all the timelines she dies and she is determined to stop that from happening, even if it means destroying most of humanity in the process. And Marsh is the only man who can stop her.
Ian Tregillis’s latest novel, Something More Than Night, a murder mystery set in Heaven, was published in hardcover in December. Emily Mah interviewed him for Black Gate early last year, and our roving reporter Howard Andrew Jones reported on Ian’s appearance (and his uncanny resemblance to our Managing Editor) at ConFusion in Detroit just last month.
Necessary Evil was published today by Tor Books. It is 384 pages, priced at $14.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. See all of our recent New Treasures here.
William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918) was an English author and poet who died in Flanders Fields (how poetic) at the age of 40, his career cut short by an artillery shell. Perhaps you’ve heard of him?
Maybe not. Though the recognition will be significantly higher among readers of this site, for the general public his is a pretty obscure name (at least until a major HBO series drops references to his work, a la True Detective and Robert W. Chambers).
If you have heard of him, it’s likely because H.P. Lovecraft considered Hodgson’s novels to have been among the most brilliant works of weird horror, and more recent writers like Gene Wolfe and China Mièvelle concur.
Ironically, Lovecraft himself was once nearly forgotten — like Hodgson, he was well served by literary executors who worked tirelessly to keep his work alive until he could be more widely recognized and take his rightful place in the canon. Hodgson’s widow and his sister-in-law both managed to keep his works in print so that the likes of Lovecraft could discover him. Unlike Lovecraft, much wider recognition has not been — and likely will not be — forthcoming, and that is largely Hodgson’s own fault.
Most new readers of Hodgson come to him through recommendations by influential popular writers; two of the most influential cheerleaders have been Lovecraft and C.S. Lewis. Although there could hardly be two more different authors than Lovecraft and Lewis, and though their fan base probably does not much overlap, both were struck by the power of Hodgson’s weird, startling imagination and had the highest praise for two novels in particular: The House on the Borderland (1908) and The Night Land (1912).
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For all of the many obituaries I’ve written, I’ve been fortunate enough to have to write only two for Black Gate contributors: prolific short story writer Larry Tritten, and Euan Harvey, taken from us too young. So it is with a heavy heart that I report the death of Michael Shea, BG contributor and one of the most acclaimed sword & sorcery and horror writers of the last four decades.
In the early 70s, Michael picked up a battered copy of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth novel The Eyes of the Overworld in a hotel lobby in Juneau, Alaska. Four years later, he tried his hand at fan fiction, writing a novel-length sequel to Vance’s classic titled A Quest for Simbilis. Not knowing what else to do with it, Shea submitted it to Donald Wolheim at DAW Books. Jack Vance graciously granted permission for it to be published (and declined any share in the advance), and Wolheim released it in paperback in 1974. It was a finalist for the British Fantasy Award and launched Michael’s career — a career that produced some of the most acclaimed fantasy of the past four decades.
Eight years later, Michael published one of the most important works of modern sword and sorcery: Nifft the Lean, a collection of four linked novellas published in paperback by DAW in 1982. It won the World Fantasy Award and was followed by two sequels: The Mines of Behemoth (Baen, 1997) and the novel The A’rak (Baen, 2000). His other novels include The Color Out Of Time, the sequel to Lovecraft’s 1927 story “The Colour Out of Space;” In Yana, the Touch of Undying (1985); and The Extra (2010) and its recent sequel Assault on Sunrise (2013). His highly acclaimed collections include Polyphemus (1987), The Autopsy and Other Tales (2008), and Copping Squid and Other Mythos Tales (2010).
I had the good fortune to meet Michael at the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, New York, in 2007. We hit it off and a few months later, I found an original novelette of Lovecraftian horror by Michael in my inbox. I was proud to publish “Tsathoggua” as part of the Black Gate Online Fiction line.
I was shocked and dismayed to find that Locus Online reported today that Michael Shea died unexpectedly on February 16, 2014. He was 67 years old. He will be sorely missed.