Mage: The Hero Denied #6

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

Mage 6So I picked up issue 7 of Mage this week and realized that I’d never gotten around to reviewing issue 6, so expect another review to follow this one very soon.

So, issue 5 ended with Kevin and Joe spotting the Questing Beast. Upon seeing the pair, the Beast takes off. Kevin tells Joe that he’s got to follow it. Kevin thinks that the Questing Beast could show him the way to the Fisher King. Joe’s response is that he’s out of this whole hero/quest thing and then leaving.

When Kevin gets home, he finds Magda waiting up for him. What follows is an argument that touches on some things that I’ve been going on about in earlier reviews. We learn that Kevin hasn’t had a regular job since he was twenty-two years old and that he’s been relying on that magic debit card for most of his adulthood. No idea how that sort of thing generates enough money for them to afford houses without anyone asking where the money comes from … unless everyone just assumes that Kevin is a drug dealer. The fact that Kevin hasn’t really used his powers to help anyone in this volume of the series, only fending off monsters that have come looking for him, makes Magda seem less like a killjoy and more like a wise friend offering good advice. On top of that, we’ve seen that Joe’s given up adventuring with no ill effects, while Kirby’s dedication to adventuring eventually got him killed.

Meanwhile, the Umbra Sprite is testing the city’s resident handicapped population to see if any of them are the Fisher King in disguise. Of course, the “test” involves opening a handbag full of flying piranhas on them. Anyone whom the flying piranhas (OK, she calls them Sluagh Sidhe) DON’T eat is the Fisher King. Needless to say, this ends with a lot of bone piles and no Fisher King. While the plan of setting up shelters in order to look for the Fisher King makes sense, we understand as readers that he likely won’t be found in such a conventional, undramatic fashion, so these interludes are mostly excuses to show the various grisly acts that the Umbra Sprite and her Gracklethorns are willing to commit.

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Nazis and Superheroes Warring in the Shadows: An Interview with Kay Kenyon

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

At the Table of Wolves Kay Kenyon-small Serpent in the Heather-small

The Dark Talents novels by Kay Kenyon

I was lucky enough to hear Kay Kenyon read from her novel At the Table of Wolves in 2016, and I was immediately captivated. Her tale of a young English woman with superhuman abilities in the late 1930s who is drawn into the world of intelligence services warring in the shadows — and who stumbles on a chilling Nazi plan to invade England, utilizing their own superhuman agents — was one of my favorite novels last year. I jumped at the chance to interview Kay for Black Gate last week; the transcript of our conversation is below.

The next book in the series, Serpent in the Heather, arrives in hardcover on April 10th, and Saga Press is offering a Goodreads Giveaway which runs until March 27. Check it out here!

Kay, thanks so much for joining us! I first became acquainted with your work through your marvelous standalone SF novels from Bantam Spectra beginning in the late 90s, like The Seeds of Time, Rift, and Maximum Ice, which was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award. More recently you’ve embraced series fiction, starting with The Entire and The Rose from Pyr, and now the Dark Talents books from Saga. Why the switch?

Do you want the deep artistic reason or the crass marketing one? I mean, I’m tempted to go all artistic on you with the vision thing and growth as a writer, but I know you too well to lie that brazenly.

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Tales of the Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

Tales-of-the-Thieftaker-smallerIf I needed any more proof that there is a TON of fantasy being published these days, I need look no further than the case of D.B. Jackson, aka David B. Coe. He’s written nearly twenty novels, and the first time I heard of him was John O’Neill’s post about the book I’m reviewing today: Tales of the Thieftaker (2017). As Coe he’s written several epic fantasy series.

As Jackson, he’s written four novels about Ethan Kaille, a thieftaker and conjuror in pre-Revolutionary-era Boston. Historically, in a time before police forces, thieftakers were individuals who recovered stolen goods. By summoning up a spirit, conjurors have the ability to cast magic spells by drawing on “the power that dwelt between the living world and the realm of the dead.”

After his service in the Royal Navy Ethan went to sea as second mate on the Ruby Blade, a privateer out of Boston. His participation in a failed mutiny led to a sentence of 14 years penal servitude on Barbados. Upon release he made his way back to Boston. He has lost the woman he loved, lost his reputation, and as we learn in this collection, struggled to find a new purpose to his life.

Tales of the Thieftaker collects eight stories, two not-quite stories, and a novella. Except for the last, all the pieces were previously published. Most star Ethan and the rest focus on other important series characters. Despite one drawback, it serves as a fine introduction to Jackson’s character and his world.

The opening story stars Sephira Pryce, Ethan’s ongoing series antagonist. “The Cully” introduces Sephira as the twelve-year-old scout of a pickpocket. There are none of the supernatural elements that typify the later stories; here is a study of Boston as a city of significant divisions between rich and poor.

“The Tavern Fire” takes place before Ethan has returned to Boston and tells the “true history” of the Great Fire of 1760. It stars another series regular, Janna Windcatcher, proprietor of the Fat Spider tavern.

While the first two stories are well done, my unfamiliarity with the series’ characters meant they didn’t carry as much weight as I imagine they do for veteran readers. That was not the case with Ethan’s origin story, “A Memory of Freedom.” Ethan has only recently come back to Boston and is a bit of a broken man. He’s taken employment with an ill-tempered and unpleasant tavern-keeper. Fourteen years of enslavement have turned him into a subservient and extremely cautious man.

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Birthday Reviews: Pamela Sargent’s “Broken Hoop”

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine June 1982-small Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine June 1982-back-small

Cover by Malcolm MacNeill

Pamela Sargent was born on March 20, 1948. Sargent edited the Women of Wonder anthologies, which explore the work of women science fiction authors. She has also edited three Nebula award anthologies. Her own fiction includes the Venus trilogy, the Seed trilogy, and the Watchstar trilogy. Stand alone novels include Climb the Wind, Ruler of the Sky, and The Shore of Women. She has co-written Star Trek novels with her husband, George Zebrowski.

Pamela Sargent’s story “Danny Goes to Mars” received the Nebula Award for Best Novelette and was also nominated for the Hugo Award and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. Her novel Climb the Wind was nominated for the Sidewise Award and she was long listed for the James Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award twice. In 2000, she and Zebrowski received the Service to SFWA Award and in 2012, she received a lifetime Pilgrim Award from the Science Fiction Research Association.

“The Broken Hoop” first appeared in Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine in its June 1982 issue, edited by T.E.D. Klein. Josh Pachter selected it for his 1985 British anthology Top Fantasy and Pamela Sargent included the story in two of her collections, The Best of Pamela Sargent and Eye of Flame.

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The Latchkey Revelation: An Interview with Nicole Kornher-Stace

Monday, March 19th, 2018 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney

Latchkey Nicole Kornher-Stace-small Latchkey Nicole Kornher-Stace-back-small

O long, long have I anti…cipated (yes, just like that) the sequel to Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Archivist Wasp. A book about ghosts and girls, ferocity and friendship, catastrophe and cataclysm and katabasis and a whole badass bunch of other alliterative nouns, Archivist Wasp published in 2015 by Big Mouth House, an imprint of Small Beer Press.


But fear not. That time of endlessly unfulfilled appetite has not been wasted. I have not waited in vain. For now — at last! — the day I have yearned for is AT HAND!

(*cues Phantom of the Opera synthesizers and a falling chandelier*)

Nicole Kornher-Stace has done her job, and done it well. And Mythic Delirium has abetted her by publishing it. Soon! In July! This year! And you can PRE-ORDER IT HERE!

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Future Treasures: The Sisters Mederos by Patrice Sarath

Monday, March 19th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Sisters Mederos-smallPatrice Sarath’s story “A Prayer for Captain LaHire” appeared in Black Gate 4 and was reprinted in Year’s Best Fantasy 3 (2003). She published the Gordath Wood trilogy (Gordath Wood, Red Gold Bridge, and The Crow God’s Girl) between 2008 – 2012. Her latest is something brand new, the tale of a once-great family that has fallen on hard times, and the two sisters — one who becomes a masked bandit, and another with secret supernatural powers — who set out to reverse their family’s downfall. Publishers Weekly praised it saying,

The young women, newly returned from boarding school to a fantasy version of a preindustrial European port city, are determined to restore their family’s fortune and revenge themselves on the corrupt Merchant’s Guild, whose machinations lie behind House Mederos’s downfall. Yvienne, “the smartest girl in Port Saint Frey,” provokes through newspaper editorials, takes a governess job as an entrée into the houses of the powerful, and eventually discovers the excitement of committing armed robbery. Tesara, who conceals supernatural powers that she blames for the shipwreck that ruined her family, ingratiates herself with the upper classes at gambling tables… [The] heroines are entertaining company, and the dynamic between the two sisters — occasionally contentious, often secretive, always loving — is the most enjoyable part of this effervescent tale.

Here’s the official description.

Two sisters fight with manners, magic, and mayhem to reclaim their family’s name, in this captivating historical fantasy adventure.

House Mederos was once the wealthiest merchant family in Port Saint Frey. Now the family is disgraced, impoverished, and humbled by the powerful Merchants Guild. Daughters Yvienne and Tesara Mederos are determined to uncover who was behind their family’s downfall and get revenge. But Tesara has a secret – could it have been her wild magic that caused the storm that destroyed the family’s merchant fleet? The sisters’ schemes quickly get out of hand – gambling is one thing, but robbing people is another…

Together the sisters must trust each another to keep their secrets and save their family.

The Sisters Mederos will be published by Angry Robot on April 3, 2018. It is 368 pages, priced at $12.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Paul Young. Read an excerpt at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, and a brief discussion at Patrice’s website.

Sublimity, Decadence, and Pulp: Venera Dreams, by Claude Lalumière

Monday, March 19th, 2018 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Venera Dreams-smallThere’s magic in the linked short-story form. A series of interrelated short fictions can examine a setting from many angles, build a character through a range of perspectives, establish a set of overlapping histories, and create a whole world with multiple centres: many heroes, many protagonists, together making a world bigger than can live in any one of their stories. Claude Lalumière’s Venera Dreams is the most recent example of the form I’ve seen, an exploration of the past (and future) of a mysterious island in the Mediterranean not far from Italy that’s home to a range of powerful and subversive artists — as well as the mysterious sacred spice vermilion, and a variety of myths and goddesses including the fabled Scheherazade.

I know Lalumière well (so well I’d never normally refer to him by his last name, but such is the nature of a book review), and interviewed him for Black Gate seven years ago; as he was already engaged on the Venera Dreams project back then, the interview’s surprisingly relevant. He’s edited or co-edited seven anthologies, and had two collections of his own short fiction published (Objects of Worship in 2009 and Nocturnes and Other Nocturnes in 2013). In 2011 his book The Door to Lost Pages came out, a set of linked stories revolving around a magical bookshop. That store tuns up in Venera Dreams, notably in the opening story, but the first book is in no way necessary reading for this one.

The subtitle of Venera Dreams proclaims the collection “A Weird Entertainment,” and that’s accurate in just about every sense. It is strange and it is entertaining. But it’s weird in a more profound way; weird in the way of the pulps, in the way of Weird Tales. And it is an entertainment in the way the first English version of the One Thousand And One Nights called itself The Arabian Nights’ Entertainment. It’s a series of reveries about storytelling and art, about ecstasy and myth, about cities and history and yearning. About Venera the venerable: about venery and veneration.

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The March Fantasy Magazine Rack

Monday, March 19th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Analog Science Fiction March April 2018-rack Black Static 62 March April 2018-small Kaleidotrope Winter 2008-rack Tin House Candy March 2018-rack
Weirdbook 38-rack Interzone 274 March April 2018-small Meeple Monthly March 2018-rack The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction March April 2018-rack

It’s a bonanza of print this month… all the titles above are print magazines, with the exception of Kaleidotrope (top row, second from right), which is new to the list. Kaleidotrope was a recommendation from Rich Horton; I’d never heard of it, but it featured prominently in Rich’s 2018 Hugo Recs list, so I thought I would check it out this month. Rich is right — it’s a very impressive magazine, with brand new fiction by Mari Ness, Octavia Cade, and others.

But they don’t seem very web-savvy, especially for a web magazine. The site loads extremely slowly, and the culprit seems to be the beautiful but massive 1.26 megabyte (!!) PNG cover image. I was able to convert it to a visually identical 90 Kb jpeg file less than 8% the size in about 15 seconds on my machine. Doing that at their end would greatly speed up loading times, and cut their monthly bandwidth costs by about 90%. I hope someone helps them get that sorted.

Here’s the complete list of magazines that won my attention in February (links will bring you to magazine websites).

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Birthday Review: John Gribbon’s “Something to Beef About”

Monday, March 19th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Interzone 49-small Interzone 49-contents-small

Cover by Tim White

John Gribbin was born on March 19, 1946. Gribbin has published both fiction and non-fiction, including non-fiction titles The Jupiter Effect with Stephen Plagemann, In Search of the Big Bang, and The Science of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials with Mary Gribbin. His own novels include The Sixth Winter with Douglas Orgill, Ragnarok with D.G. Compton, and solo works Timeswitch and Father to the Man.

“Something to Beef About” was first published in Interzone 49 in July 1991, edited by David Pringle and Lee Montgomerie. In 2016, a revised version of the story was reprinted in the anthology Existence is Elsewhen, published by Elsewhen Press.

Gribbin opens “Something to Beef About” by falling into the trap described by Mark Rosenfelder in his satirical “If All Stories Were Written Like Science Fiction.” He describes the mundane aspects of David Jenkins’s life in an attempt to set up a future society in which Jenkins lives, but for the most part it comes across as telling the readers something they should already know. Instead of setting the scene, it makes the reader very aware that the story is a construct.

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Vintage Treasures: A Midsummer Tempest by Poul Anderson

Sunday, March 18th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

A Midsummer Tempest Poul Anderson-small A Midsummer Tempest Poul Anderson-back-small

Cover by Luis Bermejo

Poul Anderson formed a pretty consistent part of my paperback SF diet in the late 70s and early 80s. Novels like Mirkheim (1977) and classic tales like the Hugo Award-winning “No Truce with Kings” (1963) made me an early fan. But I always thought of Anderson as an SF writer, and as a result I never paid much attention to his fantasy. It wasn’t until my fellow writers here at Black Gate educated me that I learned what I was missing:

Ryan Harvey on The Broken Sword
Fletcher Vredenburgh on The Whole Northern Thing: Hrolf Kraki’s Saga by Poul Anderson
Gabe Dybing on Poul Anderson and the Northern Mythic Tradition: An Introduction
Gabe Dybing on Chaotic and Lawful Alignments in Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions
Gabe Dybing on Northern Matter in Poul Anderson’s “Middle Ages” of The Broken Sword and in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth
Gabe Dybing on Sex and Violence in Poul Anderson’s Rogue Sword

I’ve recently started exploring more of Anderson’s fantasy back catalog, and last month I purchased a copy of A Midsummer Tempest, an alternate world fantasy in which William Shakespeare was an historian, rather than playwright, and the events he recorded were all factual. While the plot draws from multiple Shakespearean plays, as the name implies it is chiefly based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest. It was nominated for both the World Fantasy Award and a Nebula, and won the 1975 Mythopoeic Award for Best Novel.

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