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A Dark Fantasy and Horror Giveaway on Goodreads and Kindle

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 | Posted by Mike Allen

Hello, Black Gate readers. You folks showed a lot of love for my dark, dark, dark fantasy novel The Black Fire Concerto when it was excerpted here last year, and so I thought you might want to know about my debut collection of horror stories, Unseaming, due out this October.

Luckily for me, I don’t have to struggle for words to describe Unseaming. Instead, I can pluck excerpts from the introduction to my book by horror master Laird Barron:

There are images within these pages that once glimpsed will imprint themselves upon your consciousness, etch themselves into your soft brain matter. … His darkest fascinations 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.

Laird said it, not me! But boy am I honored. To whet folks’ appetite, I’m holding a Goodreads giveaway of Unseaming: twenty paperback advance reading copies are up for grabs. And to promote that giveaway, I thought I would expand it with a few more.

Through July 31, to coincide with the end of the Unseaming giveaway, five of my titles will be free on Kindle: my new poetry collection, Hungry Constellations; my sf novelette Stolen Souls; my dark fantasy tales She Who Runs and Sleepless, Burning Life; and, courtesy of the generosity of John O’Neill and of Haunted Stars Publishing, The Black Fire Concerto.

Unseaming_MD_web black_fire_concerto_front_cover Hungry Cover Mockup 0
cover She_Who_Runs Steamexp

That’s a whole lot of literary darkness for you to savor. Click on the covers to scarf them up!


The Top 20 Black Gate Fiction Posts in June

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Oron David C Smith-smallThe most popular piece of fiction on the Black Gate blog last month was David C. Smith’s “The Shadow of Dia-Sust,” the first new Oron story in 30 years, taken from his brand new short story collection The Man Who Would Be King and Other Stories.

Second on the list was our excerpt from The Sacred Band, the new novel in the popular Sacred Band of Stepsons series by Janet Morris and Chris Morris.

Third was perennial favorite “The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum,” by Joe Bonadonna, published here nearly three years ago in December 2011 — and in the Top 10 virtually every month since.

Next was Aaron Bradford Starr’s epic novella “The Sealord’s Successor,” the third adventure fantasy featuring Gallery Hunters Gloren Avericci and Yr Neh, the most popular adventuring duo we’ve ever published.

Rounding out the Top Five was ”The Find,” Part II of The Tales of Gemen, by Mark Rigney.

Also making the list were exciting stories by C.S.E. Cooney, E.E. Knight, Dave Gross, Michael Shea, John C. Hocking, Steven H Silver, John R. Fultz, Harry Connolly, Gregory Bierly, Jon Sprunk, David Evan Harris, Judith Berman, Peter Cakebread, and Ryan Harvey.

If you haven’t sampled the free adventure fantasy stories offered through our Black Gate Online Fiction line, you’re missing out. Here are the Top Twenty most-read stories in June.

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Vintage Treasures: Runyon First and Last by Damon Runyon

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Runyon First and Last-smallIt was Chicago writer Steven Silver who introduced me to Damon Runyon, with his hilarious Cthulhu-Runyon mash-up “In the Shadows of Broadway,” published as a podcast in StarShipSofa #236 in May, 2012. Since then, I’ve been acquainting myself with Runyon’s comedic short stories, several of which were the basis for the famous Broadway musical Guys and Dolls.

Runyon First and Last is a fine sampling of his earliest and later stories, including his last, “Blonde Mink,” published in Collier’s Magazine in August, 1945, the tale of a ghost who cannot rest until his fiancé buys the headstone she promised with the $23,000 he left her… and the strange fate of the blonde mink coat she bought with the money instead. Hilarious and sad, it’s unlike any other fantasy you’ve ever read.

Here’s the blurb from the back of the book.

This is a collection of 25 short stories by one of the truly great writers of American fiction. Six of the stories presented here were written during Runyon’s earliest phase. They are technically expert and have a non-Broadway background.

Among his later stories, his last, titled “Blonde Mink,” sets a new high in the art of short story writing. It displays the full flower of that Runyonese which perfectly conveys the flavor of Manhattan’s high-flying guys and dolls.

“The Informal Execution of Soupbone Pew” is the story of the revenge wreaked upon a vile vicious character who killed a kid who had been popular with a gang of tramps and hobos.

The kind of writing included in this collection clearly shows the reasons for Damon Runyon’s world-wide reputation.

Runyon First and Last was published in paperback by Graphic Publications in 1951. It contains 27 stories of the 39 stories included in the 1949 hardcover edition. It is 189 pages; there is no cover price. The cover is uncredited. I bought my copy on eBay last month as part of a collection for just under one dollar.


Confessions Of a Cormanite

Saturday, July 26th, 2014 | Posted by Thomas Parker

Corman - Academy Award-smallGraham Greene once said that the books that influence us the most are not the ones that we “seriously” or systematically read in adulthood, but are rather those first books we seek out in our youth and that we read for the simple love of reading.

He wrote, “In later life, we admire, we are entertained, we may modify some views we already hold, but we are more likely to find in books merely a confirmation of what is in our minds already.” But when we are children, “all books are books of divination, telling us about the future, and like the fortune-teller who sees a long journey in the cards or death by water they influence the future.” This has been true of my own reading, and I would also assert that for those who love film, it equally applies to the movies that they watched early in their lives.

Movie buffs come in countless varieties; there’s a great variation in their degrees of passion and in the objects of their devotion. Some bring offerings of ice to the shrine of a Kubrick or an Antionioni, and others make blood sacrifices on the altar of a Scorsese or a Peckinpah. Some soar with Hawks while others go to Welles for their refreshment. One group bows silently before Buster Keaton and the next sings songs of praise to Judy Garland.

Now, I am a movie buff and I have been given tremendous pleasure by the artists I just mentioned and by many others. I love Lubistch, would stay up late for Sturges, have been beguiled by Bunel, am wild for Wilder… but none of these immortals occupy the place closest to my heart.

Get me away from the art house, put away the beautifully illustrated coffee table book on the Masterpieces of Swedish Cinema, send home the educated — but dull — guest whose favorite Woody Allen film is Interiors (please!) or who saw The English Patient three times, and leave me alone in my sanctuary — my darkened living room at 2:00 am, lit only by the restless images that pass across the television screen, images selected for no one’s pleasure but my own, and the truth will at last emerge. I am a Cormanite.

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Amazing Stories Turns 88 and Celebrates with a Special Issue

Saturday, July 26th, 2014 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

amazing-2014Amazing Stories is one of those legendary magazines of the first fandom age. Launched in 1926 by Hugo Gernsback (ie: the guy the Hugo Awards are named after), it was the first magazine devoted to science fiction stories.

This forerunner status didn’t assure it success and the magazine suffered bankruptcy, changes in ownership, editorial style, legal troubles, and so it has had many incarnations.

In recent years, Steve Davidson and a small army have been making efforts to resurrect Amazing Stories as an e-magazine, at first as a magazine focusing on fandom, and now, more consciously approaching the role of a magazine that will be offering new fiction and a new editorial voice. But, as Davidson notes, baby steps is the key.

The 88th Anniversary issue features articles of science fact, articles about fandom and reprinted short fiction. It is a visually-powerful magazine, with some great interior and cover art, so it was beautiful to toggle through on my Kindle.

On the content side, I have strong feelings about the sf field and this magazine pulled those feelings in a couple of directions.

I’ll admit I floundered a bit trying to discern the editorial taste, until I looked at the first fandom context of Amazing Stories and the aura of nostalgia around the age and history of science fiction as a genre.

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New Treasures: The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014, edited by Rich Horton

Saturday, July 26th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014-smallIt’s been so busy around here for the past few months that I haven’t had time to read my favorite Year’s Best book — Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014.

This is the sixth volume and it collects a whopping 35 stories, including C. S. E. Cooney’s “Martyr’s Gem” (originally published in Giganotosaurus) and fiction from Alex Dally MacFarlane, Howard Waldrop, James Patrick Kelly, Ken Liu, Robert Reed, Lavie Tidhar, Carrie Vaughn, and many others. Rich has collected stories from a wide range of top-notch publications, including Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, F&SF, Lightspeed, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and anthologies like Fearsome Journeys and Old Mars.

Here’s the complete table of contents.

“Social Services” by Madeline Ash (An Aura of Familiarity)
“Out in the Dark” by Linda Nagata (Analog)
“The End of the World as We Know It, and We Feel Fine” by Harry Turtledove (Analog)
“The Oracle” by Lavie Tidhar (Analog)
“Call Girl” by Tang Fei (Apex)
“Ilse, Who Saw Clearly” by E. Lily Yu (Apex)
“They Shall Salt the Earth With Seeds of Glass” by Alaya Dawn Johnson (Asimov’s)
“The Wildfires of Antarctica” by Alan De Niro (Asimov’s)
“The Discovered Country” by Ian R. MacLeod (Asimov’s)
“A Stranger from a Foreign Ship” by Tom Purdom (Asimov’s)

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Alex Bledsoe Writes a Love Letter to Carl Kolchak

Friday, July 25th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Kolchak The Night Stalker-smallOver at Tor.com, occasional Black Gate blogger Alex Bledsoe has written a Love Letter to Carl Kolchak. As brilliantly portrayed by Darren McGavin in a single season of Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-75), Carl Kolchak was one of the greatest supernatural sleuths of all time — and a personal hero of mine when I was 10 years old. (And for much of my 30s and 40s, now that think about it.)

So get your eyes off him, Alex. He’s all mine.

I already had vague notions of writing my own stories, but as a lonely geek in small-town Tennessee, being a writer seemed about as likely as getting a date.

But when I saw Kolchak, everything changed. So what if girls ignored me? I could ignore them just like Carl did. What did it matter if there was nothing in my small town to make me look forward to the future? The Truth, long before the X-Files, was out there somewhere, in a big city like Chicago where monsters could lurk with impunity. All I needed were a few pieces of gear, like a portable cassette recorder (these were cutting edge at the time), a 110 camera … and that most glorious of inventions, the typewriter, featured in the show’s credits.

Alex Bledsoe is the author of five Eddie LaCrosse novels (including The Sword-Edged Blonde, and the latest, He Drank, and Saw the Spider), Blood Groove, The Girls with Games of Blood, and the Tufa novels, The Hum and the Shiver and Wisp of a Thing. His last article for us was Pacific Rim and the Culture of Rip-Off Vs. Homage.

Read the complete article here.


Fantasia Focus: The Zero Theorem, by Terry Gilliam

Friday, July 25th, 2014 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

The Zero TheoremBefore continuing my Fantasia diary with a look at the movies I saw last Sunday, I want to focus in on one specific film that struck me as an utterly brilliant piece of science-fiction satire. I think it divided the audience; I’ve heard and seen reactions from people who were left cold by it as well as from people who loved it as much as I did. Perhaps that’s not surprising. The movie is The Zero Theorem, directed by Terry Gilliam from a script by Pat Rushin, and it is as idiosyncratic and persistently individual as you’d expect from Gilliam.

Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) is an eccentric solitary in a hyperconnected future. He works for a corporation, Mancom, plugging numbers together — which he does by manipulating blocks on a screen with a joystick, effectively playing video games. A chance encounter with Management (Matt Damon) allows him to work from home, a deserted church, trying to put together the zero theorem, a mathematical proof of the pointlessness of life — which Management believes can be leveraged to make money. Qohen’s pleased, since what he wants more than anything else in life is a phone call he believes will come out of the blue and grant him enlightenment, and now he can sit at home and wait for the phone to ring. But his solitude’s plagued by outsiders, including the seductive Bainsley (Mélanie Thierry), and Management’s son Bob (Lucas Hedges), an even sharper computer whiz than Qohen.

The Zero Theorem is visually startling, steampunk gone day-glo. It’s a perceptive, idiosyncratic take on the Wired World Of Today, here depicted as Brave New World gone berserk. In fact, Gilliam considers this movie part of his ‘Orwellian trilogy,’ along with Brazil and Twelve Monkeys, but it certainly feels more like Huxley. It depicts a world commercialised and infantilised, where ads for the Church of Batman the Redeemer float above the street. It’s a sharp criticism of easy escapism, but seems to question as well where contrasting meaning is to be found, whether religious transcendence is valid or whether belief is just another form of escape. The movie’s more interested in questions than answers, even questioning itself and its own metaphors on occasion. Days later, I’m still thinking about it, arguing with it, astounded by it.

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Not A Visit From The Suck Fairy

Friday, July 25th, 2014 | Posted by Violette Malan

My Real Children Jo Walton-smallA while ago, I was reminded of Jo Walton’s post on the “Suck Fairy.”

You should look at the whole post yourself, here, but let me give you a quick recap: when you reread something you once loved, that had a significant impact on you, you sometimes find that it has deteriorated considerably from what you recall.

Don’t worry, says Walton, it’s not you, it’s just that the book has been visited by the Suck Fairy, who has endowed it with… well, you get the idea.

This is an experience we’ve all had, I’m sure, but being reminded of it started me thinking about why we reread books in the first place, and, if we do, what books do we re-read?

Of course, the Suck Fairy can only affect beloved books which haven’t been revisited in some time, though they may have been read and reread often in the past. For example, I read LOTR at least fourteen times between the ages of eleven and twenty-one, but I haven’t reread it in its entirety since. I’m not afraid of the Suck Fairy – I’ve written papers on LOTR, and if that doesn’t bring on the Suck Fairy, nothing will – I’ve just been a bit busy.

No, I’m talking about books you might reread or re-visit maybe only once, maybe twice, as well as those you might regularly reread. I reread the novels of Jane Austen every year or so, for example, and the Sherlock Holmes Canon every two or three years.

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Blogging Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond, Part Five – “The Final Count”

Friday, July 25th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

1189621421509Sapper’s The Final Count (1926) saw the Bulldog Drummond formula being shaken and stirred yet again. The first four books in the series are the most popular because they chronicle Drummond’s ongoing battle with criminal mastermind Carl Peterson. The interesting factor is how different the four books are from one another. Sapper seemed determined to cast aside the idea of the series following a template and the result kept the long-running series fresh, as well as atypical.

The most striking feature this time is the decision to opt for a first person narrator in the form of John Stockton, the newest member of Drummond’s gang. While Drummond’s wife, Phyllis, played a crucial role in the first book, she barely registers in the early sequels. One would have expected Sapper to have continued the damsel in distress formula with Phyllis in peril, but he really only exploits this angle in the second book in the series, The Black Gang (1922).

The Black Gang reappear here, if only briefly, and are quickly dispatched by the more competent and deadly foe they face. This befits the more serious tone of this book, which has very few humorous passages. The reason for the somber tone is the focus is on a scientific discovery of devastating consequence that threatens to either revolutionize war or end its threat forever. Robin Gaunt is the tragic genius whose invention of a deadly poison that could wipe out a city the size of London by being released into the air proves eerily prescient.

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