Self-Published Book Review: Carnifex by D. P. Prior

Sunday, February 7th, 2016 | Posted by Donald Crankshaw

CarnifexThe self-published book review is back! As you may remember, I went on a hiatus while I worked on a new project. Now that the open reading period for Mysterion is over, I can focus my reading time on other matters. Among them, self-published books I’m reviewing. If you have a book you’d like me to review, please see this post for instructions to submit.

A while back, I reviewed D.P. Prior’s The Nameless Dwarf. At the time I complained about not being able to find the earlier books in the series. It may be, however, that the earlier books didn’t exist, as Carnifex has only been recently published, and it is very much one of the prequels that The Nameless Dwarf was missing. In fact, the title gives away the biggest secret of the original, Nameless’s original name. It is a name which is also a prophecy, as Carnifex means butcher.

The soon-to-be-nameless dwarf lives with his brother and father in Arx Gravis, the city of dwarves hidden in a ravine. No one is allowed to come or go from the city without the express permission of the council, and they never allow any dwarf to leave. The only person who can come and go at will is the human philosopher, Aristodeus.

Carnifex Thane is a member of the Ravine Guard, a police force as well as a border patrol, and given how peaceful and isolated the city is, the guard seldom has much to do. That changes quickly when a homunculus sneaks into the Scriptorium, where he may have tampered with the Archives of the dwarves’ history. This is followed by a golem invading the mines, and suddenly the city is in an uproar with the fear that there may be more coming. Lucius, Carnifex’s brother, has a solution: the Pax Nanorum. The Axe of the Dwarf Lords was lost ages ago, but may be the key to fighting the golems. But the records of its location are contradictory: is it lost in the pits of Gehenna beneath Arx Gravis, or forgotten in sunken Arnoch, city of the Dwarf Lords? Which is the true history, and which is but myth, or worse, the result of the homunculus’s tampering? The answer may be the difference between the salvation and destruction of the dwarves. Whichever is true, leaving Arx Gravis without the express permission of the council is a death sentence at the hands of the Black Cloaks, the city’s secret police, spies, and assassins. One of whom has a personal grudge against Carn.

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Congratulations to the Dell Award Winners, including Courtney Gilmore of Columbia College

Sunday, February 7th, 2016 | Posted by Tina Jens

Dell Award Winners-small

I am proud to announce that my student Courtney Gilmore received an Honorable Mention ranking in the prestigious 2016 Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing, for her story, “The Numbers Queen of Harlem,” which she wrote in the Columbia College-Chicago Advanced Fantasy Writing Workshop (which I taught) last semester.

The judges are pleased to announce the winner, runners-up and honorable mentions for the 2016 Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing.

Dell Award Winner, Runners-up and Honorable Mentions for 2016

Winner: “Lullabies in Arabic,” by Rani Banjarian of Vanderbilt University
First Runner-up: “Nostos,” by Eleanor Griggs of Grinnell College
Second Runner-up: “Get Out of Here,” by Laura Davia of Vanderbilt University
Third Runner-up: “Wags,” by Eleanor Griggs of Grinnell College

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Future Treasures: Cthulhu Lies Dreaming edited by Salomé Jones

Sunday, February 7th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Cthulhu Lies Dreaming-smallIn her article for us last February, The Making of a Dark Fantasy Anthology, Salomé Jones talked about the creation of her first fantasy anthology, the Lovecraftian volume Cthulhu Lives! Her second, Cthulhu Lies Dreaming: Twenty-Three Tales of the Weird and Cosmic, is due later this month from Ghostwoods Books.

I asked Salomé about the challenges of putting together a follow-up to a successful anthology, and she gave us a peak behind the curtain at what it took to create the eye-catching cover at right.

We had a massive amount of trouble with this cover. It’s like it was cursed. For the first book, Cthulhu Lives!, we used a photo of a special edition amulet by Jason McKittrick, Lovecraftian sculptor. We wanted to create something that would be recognizable to readers of that book, so we went back to Jason to look for a sculpture to photograph.

Because we needed a very high res image for print, I had the sculpture sent to a photographer in London. But through various contortions of fate, he wasn’t able to get a photo of it that worked. After eight months of waiting, I ordered a new copy of the sculpture, this time sent to a photographer in California. To my great surprise, months passed and still no photo. In the meantime, I started getting cold feet about the whole idea.

Gábor, our designer, contacted me and said he’d found a possibility — a sculpture by Hollywood prosthetics designer and sculptor Lee Joyner. I very nervously contacted him. He turned out to be extremely nice and we came to an agreement. And this is the result.

Pay attention, all you aspiring cover designers. This is how patience and determination — not to mention a little risk-taking — can pay off.

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John DeNardo’s February Speculative Fiction Books You Can’t Miss

Sunday, February 7th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Guns of Ivrea-smallJohn DeNardo gets it. It’s not a lack of choice that keeps us from choosing what to read… it’s that there are too many great books to choose from!

As the February lineup of science-fiction, fantasy, and horror books will prove, it’s not a lack of books that make it difficult to find something to read. If anything, there are too many books to read. Here’s a list of books to help you narrow down your selection. I’d say “choose wisely”… but all of these are sure bets. Titles this month include a serial killer, merfolk, human trafficking, illegal magic, a Lovecraftian demon, and more.

The Guns of Ivrea by Clifford Beal

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: The fates of a former thief, a pirate mercenary, and the daughter of the chief of the merfolk converge on a series of events that could mean war.

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This is the first installment of what promises to be a swashbuckling seafaring fantasy series.

Graft by Matt Hill

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: In near-future Manchester, a local mechanic named Sol who steals car parts stumbles onto a trans-dimensional human trafficking conspiracy.DreamingDeath

WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: The chase is on as Sol and a three-armed woman named Y run from their pursuers.

Read the complete article, with 16 selections of top-notch February fantasy and SF, here.

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Vintage Treasures: Worldmakers and Supermen, edited by Gardner Dozois

Saturday, February 6th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Worldmakers SF Adventures in Terraforming Supermen Tales of the Posthuman Future-small

Back in December I talked about a few of my favorite anthologies, The Good Old Stuff (1998) and The Good New Stuff (1999), which collected some of the best adventure SF from the last century, alongside Gardner Dozois’ detailed and affectionate commentary. Dozois followed up with another fine pair of anthologies focused on deep space exploration and the far future, Explorers: SF Adventures to Far Horizons and The Furthest Horizon: SF Adventures to the Far Future, both published in 2000. All four were released in trade paperback from St. Martin’s/Griffin, and the set is the equivalent of a Master’s level course in SF of the 20th Century.

In 2001/02, Dozois produced a final two anthologies in this format, exploring two more common themes in 20th Century SF, terraforming and advanced human evolution:

Worldmakers: SF Adventures in Terraforming (459 pages, December 2001, $17.95) — cover by Chesley Bonestell
Supermen: Tales of the Posthuman Future (463 pages, January 2002, $17.95) — cover by Nick Stathopoulos

Like the first volumes, they include Dozois’ lengthy and highly informative intros to each story. Together with the first four, these books form the basis of a very solid library of 20th Century science fiction.

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The Galaxy Science Fiction $6,500 Novel-Writing Sham

Saturday, February 6th, 2016 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy Science Fiction March 1953-smallIn the March, 1953 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, H. L. Gold announed a novel contest. Simon and Schuster and Galaxy partnered together to offer a $6,500 prize, “guaranteed to the author of the best original science fiction novel submitted.”

The $6,500 was only a minimum for the first world serial and TV rights. It was the largest cash prize offered to date for a science fiction novel. Other details were that the contest closed October 15, 1953, and the novel had to be between 60,000 and 75,000 words. Anyone could enter, with the following caveats:

…except employees of the Galaxy Publishing Corp. and of Simon and Shuster, Inc., and their families; AND authors who are ineligible because of contractual obligations to their present publishers… which means, in effect, that contestants will NOT be competing with most of the established ‘big names’ of science fiction.

When you consider that cars could be purchased for about $2,000 in 1953, this was an enormous prize. And let’s face it: how many of us would still be happy to sell a novel in today’s market for $6,500?

Given that the contest ended long ago, I had to find out who won. The winner was Edson McCann, whose novel Preferred Risk was serialized in Galaxy in 1955 and later published by Simon and Schuster that same year. Congratulations, Edson!

Oh… except there never was an Edson McCann.

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Support the Return of NorthGuard, Canada’s Greatest Superhero!

Saturday, February 6th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

NorthGuard title Image-smallWhen I was a young comic collector living in Ottawa, one of my favorite titles was NorthGuard, the Canadian superhero created in 1984 by Mark Shainblum and Gabriel Morrissette and published by Matrix Comics in Montreal. When I started Black Gate 15 years later, I hired two of my heroes, Matrix artists Morrissette and the brilliant Bernie Mireault, creator of The Jam and Mackenzie Queen, as interior illustrators. So I was thrilled to hear from Bernie earlier this month that there’s an effort to return Northguard to print in a deluxe format for the first time:

I’m currently engaged in coloring the original Northguard series. Mark, Gabriel and I hope to run a Kickstarter campaign in late spring and if successful, get some 200-page color collections made… As the colorist I’m going over every nut and bolt of the material and appreciating it fully for the first time. This is a great story about a Canadian superhero that I’m proud of. Phillip might not be much at the physical combat stuff but he has lots and lots of heart. Which is the way I think about Canada.

And so in an effort to reintroduce Northguard to the public at large and create awareness of our pending attempt to solicit funding for the collection through Kickstarter or Indie gogo, etc. I’ve created a dedicated Northguard Facebook page that is designed to bring people who are unfamiliar with the work up to speed on the story and historical/political context.

Matthew David Surridge profiled Bernie’s The Jam in Part II of his series My City’s Heroes, and columnist Timothy Callahan called him an artist who combined “the high Romanticism of the fantastic with the mundane life on the street” in Comic Book Resources.

If you’re at all interested in Canadian comics, or just want to keep tabs on the ongoing effort to return one of the best Canadian superheroes to print, check out Bernie’s Facebook page here. Vive Le Protecteur!

Uncanny Magazine Issue 8 Now on Sale

Saturday, February 6th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Uncanny Magazine Issue 8-smallUncanny editors Lynn and Michael Thomas return from the Chicago TARDIS convention with an impassioned plea for increased accessibility, in their editorial in the January/February issue.

One of the reasons this convention is such a joy for us is Chicago TARDIS and its staff are very attentive to accessibility… We go to a ton of conventions for work, and, sadly, this isn’t always the case. Many excellent conventions are addressing accessibility at their events, and improving every year, which we absolutely applaud and appreciate. Others have resisted, even though it’s both the right thing to do and a US federal law thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act. After some recent conventions had some major failures with their accessibility again, we and Mary Robinette Kowal — with help from many others — felt it was necessary to create an SF/F Convention Accessibility Pledge, similar to the John Scalzi pledge about not attending conventions without harassment policies. Hundreds have signed the pledge, and it has also been covered by io9 Most importantly, we’re seeing many convention staff members joining together to share information and work to make their conventions more accessible. That’s awesome, and frankly, the point of the whole thing. Fandom is for everyone, including people with disabilities.

The January/February issue contains all–new short fiction by Maria Dahvana Headley, Nghi Vo, Christopher Barzak, Brit Mandelo, and Rose Lemberg, classic fiction by Sarah Rees Brennan, nonfiction by Chris Kluwe, Max Gladstone, Isabel Schechter and L.M. Myles, poems by Kayla Whaley, Leslie J. Anderson, and Bryan Thao Worra, interviews with Maria Dahvana Headley and Christopher Barzak, and a cover by Priscilla H. Kim. All that plus two podcasts!

All of the content became available for purchase as an eBook (PDF, EPUB, MOBI) on January 1, 2016.

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New Treasures: The Passenger by F.R. Tallis

Friday, February 5th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Passenger F R Tallis-smallF. R. Tallis is the author of The Sleep Room (2013), The Forbidden (2014), and The Voices (2014). He’s been nominated for the Edgar award, the New London Writer’s Award, and the Crime Writers’ Association Historical Dagger Award. His latest supernatural thriller takes readers under the wartime seas of the stormy North Atlantic in 1942, to a German U-boat with an unnatural passenger… what’s better than the creepy mixture of Nazis and ghosts? I know what I’ll be curling up with this weekend.

1941. A German submarine, U-471, patrols the stormy inhospitable waters of the North Atlantic. It is commanded by Siegfried Lorenz, a maverick SS officer who does not believe in the war he is bound by duty and honor to fight in.

U-471 receives a triple-encoded message with instructions to collect two prisoners from a vessel located off the Icelandic coast and transport them to the base at Brest ― and a British submarine commander, Sutherland, and a Norwegian academic, Professor Bjornar Grimstad, are taken on board. Contact between the prisoners and Lorenz has been forbidden, and it transpires that this special mission has been ordered by an unknown source, high up in the SS. It is rumored that Grimstad is working on a secret weapon that could change the course of the war…

Then, Sutherland goes rogue, and a series of shocking, brutal events occur. In the aftermath, disturbing things start happening on the boat. It seems that a lethal, supernatural force is stalking the crew, wrestling with Lorenz for control. A thousand feet under the dark, icy waves, it doesn’t matter how loud you scream…

The Passenger was published by Pegasus on February 1, 2016. It is 371 pages, priced at $25.95 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital version.

Marooned Spacemen, Forgotten Planets, and Alien Dragons: Rich Horton on Rocannon’s World/The Kar-Chee Reign

Friday, February 5th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Rocannon's World-small The Kar-Chee Reign-small

The Ace Doubles were a fairly low-paying market by most measures, and they didn’t always attract top authors. But they did publish early books by many writers who would go on to become top authors. Such is the case with the pairing of Rocannon’s World, the first novel by the great Ursula K. LeGuin, and The Kar-Chee Reign, an early novel by SF master Avram Davidson.

Rich Horton examined both novels as part of his ongoing series of Ace Double reviews at his blog Strange at Ecbatan. Here’s what he said, in part:

Seeing that Ursula K. Le Guin’s first novel was an Ace Double came as a mild surprise to me, some time back when I encountered this pairing. Since then I’ve realized that that wasn’t really that rare, for example, Samuel R. Delany also had early novels published as Ace Doubles, as did many other great writers…

Rocannon’s World is a curious novel. It is a “Hainish” novel, thus fitting into Le Guin’s main “future history,” but it doesn’t seem wholly consistent with novels like The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed. What it mainly is is a fantasy novel with SF trappings. Except for the prose, which is excellent as one might expect from Le Guin, it feels strikingly pulpish. The plot and feel would not have been out of place in an early 50s issue of Planet Stories

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