New Treasures: The Reign of the Departed by Greg Keyes

Monday, July 16th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Reign of the Departed-small The Reign of the Departed-back-small

Greg Keyes is no stranger to epic fantasy. He’s the author of the Age of Unreason series, The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, and the Children of the Changeling novels. For much of the past two decades he’s made his living primarily through media tie-in novels, including Star Wars, Elder Scrolls, XCOM, Babylon 5, Independence Day, Pacific Rim, Planet of the Apes, and others.

So I was pleased to see a major new release from him on the shelf at Barnes & Noble last month. The Reign of the Departed is the opening novel in a new dark fantasy series, The High and Faraway, which features a golem, a giant, a ghost and a wizard, on the run from a Sheriff and his shapeshifting posse. Carolyn Cushman at Locus says:

Errol Greyson says he didn’t intend to commit suicide – but he wakes in a body carved of wood and joined by wire and bolts, and his classmate Aster tells him his real body’s in a coma. She’s originally from another world, and needs to re­turn there for the magic water of health to save her father, and maybe help Errol. For her quest, she needs three companions: one mostly dead (Errol), one completely dead, and a giant – so off they go to find a local ghost, Veronica, a girl who’s been dead for 30 years. Errol goes along, stumbling through a series of strange adventures in a world of nightmarish creatures, curses, and transformations, where twisted fairy tale elements mix with Weird Western bits, and some references to Pinocchio. At times the story reads like YA fiction, with its messed-up young protagonists and recurring theme of bad parents, but it’s a dark tale; not horror, exactly, but seriously twisted and dramatic…

The Reign of the Departed was published by Night Shade on June 19, 2018. It is 348 pages, priced at $14.99 for both the trade paperback and digital versions. The cover is by Micah Epstein. Read more at the Night Shade website.

A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #1

Monday, July 16th, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne


“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandlers’ The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

Of course, we’re all friends here at Black Gate. But if you’re my friend on Facebook, you have probably seen at least one of my Back Deck Pulp posts (I mean; how could you miss them?). I am reading a TON of pulp stories and also reading info on pulpsters for A (Black) Gat in the Hand. And when the weather permits, I’ve been sitting on my very nice back deck and taking a picture with the story of the moment. I include a bit of info on the picture’s story or author or magazine issue. Thus, ‘Back Deck Pulp.’

I think they’re neat, myself. And most of the topics I cover will end up being A (Black) Gat in the Hand posts. Friend me on FB and see what I’ve been writing about.

Well, I started collecting all those posts and discovered that I’ve already done enough for at least two Black Gate essays. So, here’s the first. It’s very informal, and it doesn’t read like a normal post: think of it like an anthology of short stories. There’s no continual narrative – But there’s some good pulp info! I made very minimal changes and most read exactly as the original FB post did.


Today’s Back Deck Pulp is Norbert Davis’ “Red Goose,” the first of his two Black Mask stories featuring PI Ben Shaley.

When Raymond Chandler began writing for the pulps, he said that “Red Goose” impressed him more than any other tale he had read. Years later, he said he had not forgotten it.

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Birthday Reviews: Esther M. Friesner’s “Miranda’s Muse”

Monday, July 16th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Treachery and Treason

Treachery and Treason

Esther M. Friesner was born on July 16, 1951.

Friesner has won the Nebula Award for her short stories “Death and the Librarian” and “A Birthday,” the latter of which was also nominated for the Hugo Award. She has also received nominations for the Gaylactic Spectrum Award and the James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award. In 1994, she was the recipient of the Skylark Award, presented by NESFA.

“Miranda’s Muse” was written for Laura Anne Gilman and Jennifer Heddle’s anthology Treachery and Treason. The story has not been reprinted.

Miranda Ford is a highly successful romance author who seemed to lead a perfect life with her husband, Alan. After Alan’s death, however, Miranda finds herself suffering from writer’s block and, more importantly, is confronted by her new agent, Billy Samson, about the extremely overdue manuscript her publisher is clamoring for. Billy quickly learns that Alan was very definitely Miranda’s muse. His poor and boorish behavior provided her with all the villains in her novels, with barely any modifications. Billy offers Miranda a solution that she can’t believe. He explains that he is a necromancer and can bring Alan back from the dead.

Although Miranda doesn’t believe Billy will be successful, she accompanies him to the graveyard and watches as he brings her husband back to life, or at least unlife, using an incantation analogous to a high school football cheer. While Alan’s partial resurrection is potentially good for her career, Miranda didn’t question Billy too closely about the specifics, and Billy didn’t offer the information, so everything that happens next –Billy’s binding of Alan and Miranda, the rules that govern their new relationship, and the fact that Alan is no longer jealous of Miranda’s success — all come as a surprise.

Feeling betrayed by Billy, Miranda’s vengeance on him also backfires, but in the end, she and Billy are able to work out a new, amicable working relationship and, perhaps, even a level of mutual respect. Although Alan was a horrific human, and likely to remain that way as a revenant, Miranda isn’t a whole lot better herself, but she is also Billy’s meal ticket if he wants to be a successful agent.

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A Relative Journey: Starflight 3000 by R.W. Mackelworth

Sunday, July 15th, 2018 | Posted by Tony Den

Starflight 3000-Balllentine

Cover by Chris Foss

While perusing the shelves of Bookdealers of Rosebank, in Johannesburg, an excellent shop that sadly closed its doors a while back, I came across a nondescript book with an unbent spine. Finding a used paperback of any age with a good-as-new spine is a rarity, and I was drawn to it.

I slipped it from its recess and took a closer look. It was a Ballantine paperback with an intriguing space ship on a wrap around cover. The title was Starflight 3000 by R.W. Mackelworth.

I had never heard of Mackelworth, but then again I am not the best informed on science fiction authors. While I was impressed with its pristine condition, it also set off some warning bells. Why was it unread? Was the story that bad? But hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained. And besides, it was a very reasonable price. I bundled it with some other selections and headed to the cashier.

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Barry Malzberg on the Pocket Best of…. Volumes

Sunday, July 15th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Barry MalzbergOn Friday I wrote here about the Best of collections from Pocket Books published in the late 70s, which featured Robert Silverberg, Poul Anderson, Walter M. Miller, and many others. Most had introductions by Barry Malzberg, the respected editor who’d helmed Amazing and Fantastic (and future editor of the SFWA Bulletin), and I wondered aloud if the books had been edited (or ghost-edited) by Malzberg.

Reader Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, author of Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg, leaped into action. “I asked Barry if he did the editing & teaser texts, per your speculation,” he told me. “Here’s his answer, which he said was fine to share.” Based on the comments on that post, I thought you lot might be as interested as I was, so here’s Barry’s reply.

The eight Best of collections were conceived by Robt. Gleason, the sf editor at the time [my novel] Beyond Apollo was acquired for sublicense from Random House and he remained there from 1972-1976. Those collections were acquired by him; he was fired in 1974 (went over to Playboy Press) and succeeded by his young assistant (b. 1952) Adele Leone Hull.

It was her idea to commission me for the eight Introductions (at $75 apiece!) and she wrote the cover copy; I had nothing to do with the collections beyond the Introductions. Hull was the sf editor at Pocket Books until 1978, went over very briefly to Pyramid and when Pyramid in 1979 was fully absorbed (under the Jove imprint) into Harcourt she became an agent.

That’s the first confirmation I have that there were eight volumes in the series with a Malzberg intro (I count at least 10 overall), so I’m doubly grateful to Alvaro for passing that along. Our previous coverage of Barry includes my thoughts on his collections Astounding Science Fiction in the 1950s and Bug-Eyed Monsters (both co-edited by Bill Pronzini), and his novel Underlay.

Birthday Reviews: T.E.D. Klein’s “The Events at Poroth Farm”

Sunday, July 15th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Oscar Grand

Cover by Oscar Grand

T.E.D. (Theodore Eibon Donald) Klein was born on July 15, 1947.

In 1986, Klein won the World Fantasy Award for his Novella “Nadelman’s God” and also won the August Derleth Fantasy Award for his novel The Ceremonies. In 2012, World Horror Con named Klein a Grand Master. He was a two-time nominee for the coveted Balrog Award and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award seven times.

Klein’s first story was “The Events at Poroth Farm,” originally published in the fanzine From Beyond the Dark, edited by Edward P. Berglund in December 1972. Despite its fannish origins, the story was picked up by Richard Davis for The Year’s Best Horror Stories No. 3 and was translated into German for publication in that anthology. The story was also nominated for the World Fantasy Award and Gahan Wilson included it in First World Fantasy Awards. In 1984, Klein expanded the story to novel length and published it as The Ceremonies. The novella was published as a chap book in 1990. David Drake and Martin H. Greenberg reprinted it in A Century of Horror: 1970-1979 and Scott David Aniolowski included it in Return to Lovecraft Country. The story was also included in Eternal Lovecraft : The Persistence of H. P. Lovecraft in Popular Culture, edited by Jim Turner. Klein used it in his collection Reassuring Tales and S.T. Joshi used it in the anthology American Supernatural Tales. Peter Straub used it in American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from the 1940s to Now. Klein revised the story in 2012 for inclusion in the e-book The Cthulhu Mythos Megapack.

“The Events at Poroth Farm” is a Lovecraftian tale told as a series of diary entries bookended by a prologue and epilogue by the diary’s author, who has managed to survive the horror on the isolated farm where he rented a room for three months.

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Future Treasures: Annex by Rich Larson

Saturday, July 14th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Annex Rich Larson-smallIf you’ve been paying attention at all to short fiction recently you’ve likely come across Ottawa author Rich Larson. He burst onto the scene in late 2012, and over the past six years he’s sold over 100 stories — that’s more than one per month. He’s appeared virtually everywhere, including Interzone, Asimov’s SF, Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction,, Apex, Analog, F&SF, Lightspeed, OMNI, and anthologies like Infinity Wars, Upgraded, The Book of Swords, and Clockwork Phoenix 5.

In 2016 Jonathan Strahan proclaimed “this year seems to belong to Rich Larson and Dominica Phetteplace, both of whom have had fine stories in a range of publications,” and Gardner Dozois called him “one of the best new writers to enter science fiction in more than a decade.” His work has appeared in numerous Year’s Best anthologies, including five different 2018 volumes from Rich Horton, Neil Clarke, Jonathan Strahan, David Afsharirad, and Gardner Dozois. Anticipation for his debut novel Annex has been extremely high, and it arrives this month from Orbit.

In Rich Larson’s astonishing debut Annex, only outsiders can fight off the true aliens.

At first it is a nightmare. When the invaders arrive, the world as they know it is destroyed. Their friends are kidnapped. Their families are changed.

Then it is a dream. With no adults left to run things, Violet and the others who have escaped capture are truly free for the first time. They can do whatever they want to do. They can be whoever they want to be.

But the invaders won’t leave them alone for long…

This thrilling debut by one of the most acclaimed short form writers in science fiction tells the story of two young outsiders who must find a way to fight back against the aliens who have taken over her city.

Rich’s first collection, Tomorrow Factory, will also be released in October from Talos Press. Get more details here.

Annex, the opening book in The Violet Wars, will be published by Orbit Books. It is 368 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $4.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Greg Manchess. Check out the intriguing cover reveal at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

The King Lear of the Euro Western: The Icy Death of The Great Silence (1968) Arrives in North America

Saturday, July 14th, 2018 | Posted by Ryan Harvey


I don’t normally put up spoiler warnings for a movie of this vintage, but The Great Silence hasn’t been widely available in North America until recently, so few viewers outside of Europe and Japan have had the chance to experience it. Since it’s almost impossible to discuss the movie in any depth without talking about its ending, this is your spoiler warning from here onward. If you’d rather experience the film first, it’s now available on streaming platforms (Amazon, iTunes, Vudu) and a stunning new Blu-ray from a 2K remaster.

The term “Spaghetti Western” or “Italian Western” conjures images roasted under a relentless sun. A cyclorama of the barren lands of Southwestern U.S. and Northern Mexico, as played by Spanish locations. A thinly populated dryland of cracked mud and twisted cacti, dying towns clustered about decaying Catholic churches, and vultures on hanging trees. Heat suffuses and twists everything. Sweat and grime stain every character’s face.

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Birthday Reviews: Edo van Belkom’s “The October Crisis”

Saturday, July 14th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Barclay Shaw

Cover by Barclay Shaw

Edo van Belkom was born on July 14, 1962.

Van Belkom won the Bram Stoker Award for his short story “Rat Food,” co-written with David Nickle. He has won the Aurora Award three times, for the short story “Hockey’s Night in Canada,” for editing Be VERY Afraid!, and for his novel Wolf Pack. He has written erotica under the pseudonym Evan Hollander and has written at least two Deathlands novels using the James Axler house name.

In the 1990s Mike Resnick published several alternate history anthologies, including Alternate Tyrants, which took various world leaders and put them in a situation which allowed them to exercise their dictatorial desires. Edo van Belkom’s submission was “The October Crisis,” a Canadian alternate history which has never been reprinted.

“The October Crisis” of the title of Edo van Belkom’s alternate history was a period that lasted for most of October in 1970 when members of the Front de libération du Québec took hostages in Quebec in an attempt to forward their separatist movement. While Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau implemented the War Measures Act, permitting himself a wide range of powers, the measures expired in November in our own timeline. In the world of van Belkom’s story, Trudeau continued to use the powers to suppress any dissent, political or journalistic.

The story follows our own timeline pretty closely until Trudeau decides to use the acts powers against the kidnappers directly, and also orders the secretive murder of the released kidnapping victim in order to drum up further support for his policies. At this point in the story, van Belkom switches point of view to have the leader of the opposition, Robert Stanfield, describing Trudeau’s excessive actions to Richard Nixon to attempt to get the US to intervene in the growing tyranny in Canada. Van Belkom introduces some ambiguity at this point, leaving the question open as to whether Nixon will respond to Stanfield’s pleas to help, or give into his own tyrannical tendencies to model his own manner of leading the US after the policies instituted by Trudeau.

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The Pocket Best

Friday, July 13th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Pocket Best Science Fiction-small

We’ve spent a lot of time here at Black Gate celebrating Del Rey’s Classics of Science Fiction line from 1974-88 (The Best of Eric Frank Russell, The Best of Fritz Leiber, etc.); nearly two dozen paperback originals reprinting early short stores by C.L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, Edmond Hamilton, Henry Kuttner, John W. Campbell, Philip K. Dick, Fredric Brown, Murray Leinster, Robert Bloch, Jack Williamson, and many others. The series was the equivalent of a Masters-level course in science fiction and, taken as a whole, formed an essential library of 20th Century SF. The entire series, including all the reprints, is cataloged at IMDB. None of the volumes have been reprinted since 1988, and there are no digital versions, but the series was popular enough that copies are easy to find and not particularly expensive. (See below for a handsome set I bought last month for $40).

Lester del Dey wasn’t the only publisher to see the value of a line of Best of collections, of course. Donald Wolheim more or less pioneered the idea with The Book of  A.E. van Vogt (DAW Books No. 4, 1972) and The Book of Brian Aldiss (No. 29, 1972), and followed with nine more from Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick, Gordon R. Dickson, Philip Jose Farmer, Fritz Leiber, Fred Saberhagen, Poul Anderson, John Brunner, and Andre Norton. Like most early DAW efforts though, these were slender volumes; they’re also not as numerous, and the packaging isn’t nearly as attractive as the Del Rey books, so they aren’t as collectible.

There was another publisher who gave del Rey a run for his money, however. Between 1976 and 1980 Pocket Books produced nearly a dozen substantial collections showing off the science fiction authors in their catalog, including Jack Vance, Robert Silverberg, Harry Harrison, John Sladek, Keith Laumer, Damon Knight, Poul Anderson, Barry N. Malzberg, Mack Reynolds, and Walter M. Miller.

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