Vintage Treasures: The Early Fantasy Novels of Nancy Kress

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Prince of Morning Bells-small The Golden Grove-small The White Pipes-small

Nancy Kress is one of the finest science fiction writers we have. She’s won the Nebula Award six times, the Hugo twice, and the John W. Campbell Award. Her novels include the acclaimed Sleepless series (Beggars in Spain, Beggars and Choosers, Beggars Ride), An Alien Light (1988), and Steal Across the Sky (2009).

But before all of that, she began her career with three fantasy novels that are still fondly remembered today.

The Prince of Morning Bells (Timescape/Pocket, 224 pages, $2.75, October 1981) — cover by Carl Lundgren
The Golden Grove (Berkley, 246 pages, $2.95, January 1986) – cover artist unknown
The White Pipes (Berkley, 218 pages, $2.95, August 1986) — cover artist unknown

The books are not connected, but their publication did signal the arrival of a major new voice in fantasy.

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The Power That Preserves by Stephen R. Donaldson

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_82298T7OJJLQ9And so we come to the end of the First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever (follow the links to read my reviews of the previous two books, Lord Foul’s Bane and The Illearth War). While not an upbeat book by any degree The Power That Preserves (1977) provides a satisfying and hope-filled conclusion to a series heretofore characterized mostly by loss and despair. Those elements still figure heavily in this story, but this time around they more clearly serve to prepare Covenant for the confrontation with Lord Foul.

The events of the crushing, sorrow-filled The Illearth War have left Thomas Covenant a broken man. He is pulled back and forth by the weight of what he did and his continued disbelief in the Land’s reality. Compelled by his reawakening need for human contact, he falls into a sort of madness and takes to haunting the woods and backstreets of his town, a place from which he’s been exiled because of people’s fear of his disease. When he stops taking the meds that suppress it, his leprosy is triggered.

While trying to save a little girl being menaced by a timber snake Covenant is summoned to the Land by the new High Lord, Mhoram. Under command of the Raver-possessed Giant, Satansfist, a vast army has destroyed Revelwood and laid siege to Revelstone. For weeks Lord Foul has called down perpetual winter on the Land and sent packs of marauders to kill any who defy his will.

Covenant insists he will help the Land, but must be allowed to return home and save the girl first. He does, but is poisoned himself. Once he’s satisfied she is safe, he says, “Come and get me. It’s over now.,” and is brought back to the Land. But he doesn’t arrive back in front of the Lords and inside the besieged Revelstone. Instead, he is called back to Kevin’s Watch where he first arrived in the Land in Lord Foul’s Bane. This time he has been summoned by Triock, one-time suitor of Lena (the woman he raped), and the Giant Saltheart Foamfollower. After he helps them fight off a vicious attack on Mithil Stonedown, Covenant decides the time has finally come to take a stand.

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In the Wake Of Sister Blue: Chapter Ten

Monday, February 8th, 2016 | Posted by markrigney

In The Wake of Sister Blue Mark Rigney-medium

Linked below, you’ll find the tenth installment of a brand-new serialized novel, In the Wake Of Sister Blue. The struggle for control over Vagen continues under the cover of darkness, with plenty of scheming and plotting. Chapter Eleven will follow in two weeks’ time, so stay tuned –– and for those who fear I’m writing a doorstop, be reassured. I expect to draw the curtain somewhere in the neighborhood of Chapter Fifteen.

A number of you will already be familiar with my Tales Of Gemen (“The Trade,” “The Find,” and “The Keystone“), and if you enjoyed those titles (or perhaps my unexpectedly popular D&D-related post, “Youth In a Box,”) I think you’ll also find much to like in this latest venture. Oh, and if you’re only now discovering this portal, may I suggest you begin at the beginning? The Spur awaits…

Read the first installment of In the Wake Of Sister Blue here.

Read the tenth and latest installment of In the Wake Of Sister Blue here.

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February 2016 Asimov’s Science Fiction Now on Sale

Monday, February 8th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Asimov's Science Fiction February 2016-smallIn her editorial in the latest issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction, Sheila Williams explains why SF often gets a bad rap for predicting the future.

As I write this, I am awash in the flood of published reminisces about Back to the Future Part II’s journey into the future…. Most of these ruminations seem to be rather disappointed with the real 2015… They claim that these special effects from a late eighties flight of fantasy were somehow promised to all of us, but the future didn’t deliver.

I’ve seen these sort of complaints levied at science fiction on numerous occasions. Robots don’t have positronic brains, dilithium crystals are not a thing, and settlements on the Moon and Mars remain a distant dream. Yet anyone who’s at all conversant with SF soon realizes that most science fiction is descriptive rather than predictive…

For all his forward thinking, Isaac was as much a product of his time as any writer. Although he eventually became an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, his early fiction described a society that wasn’t very different from his own… While I’d love to have an FTL drive that would take me to Terminus and Trantor, I don’t want the future to look like the world of 1951, and I don’t expect it to look like 2016. I don’t fault the young man who created that society unaware of the actual changes in mores and social structure that lay ahead anymore than I’d fault today’s writers for not getting their future facts straight.

I’m glad that our prospects are still unknown. I wouldn’t mind a jetpack, but I’m happy that so far we aren’t standing on Nevil Shute’s beach waiting for death from nuclear fallout or from Racoona Sheldon’s screwfly solution.

The first interview I ever did, as a young internet blogger for SF Site in 1997, was a phone interview with the late writer and editor Algis Budrys. He argued the exact same thing. “Why should SF predict anything?… SF is for speculating, not predicting,” he told me. I debated the point at the time, but over the years I’ve come to see that he — and Sheila — are right.

Read Sheila’s complete editorial here.

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New Treasures: Front Lines by Michael Grant

Monday, February 8th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Front Lines Michael Grant-smallMichael Grant is the author of over 150 books, many co-written with his wife Katherine. He’s the New York Times bestselling author of Gone and Messenger of Fear. His latest novel, Front Lines, is a daring alternate history that imagines World War II with female soldiers fighting on the front lines. Publishers Weekly calls it “A gripping and heart-wrenching tale,” and bestselling author Elizabeth Wein says it’s “a magnificent alternate history that feels so real and right and true it seems impossible that it wasn’t.”

World War II, 1942. A court decision makes women subject to the draft and eligible for service. The unproven American army is going up against the greatest fighting force ever assembled, the armed forces of Nazi Germany.

Three girls sign up to fight. Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman are average girls, girls with dreams and aspirations, at the start of their lives, at the start of their loves. Each has her own reasons for volunteering: Rio fights to honor her sister; Frangie needs money for her family; Rainy wants to kill Germans. For the first time they leave behind their homes and families—to go to war.

These three daring young women will play their parts in the war to defeat evil and save the human race. As the fate of the world hangs in the balance, they will discover the roles that define them on the front lines. They will fight the greatest war the world has ever known.

Front Lines was published by Katherine Tegen Books on January 26, 2016. It is 576 pages, priced at $18.99 in hardcover and $11.99 for the digital version. It is the first installment of a new series.


The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Stuff That Dreams are Made of

Monday, February 8th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Much of my hard boiled knowledge came from Black Lizard's editions of the classics.Last week marked the 86th anniversary of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon in book form. It had been serialized the year before in the pages of Black Mask Magazine. Hammett gets my vote for best writer of the hard-boiled genre. And I am quite the fan of Red Harvest (the uncredited source for Bruce Willis’ under-appreciated gangster film, Last Man Standing) and of the Continental Op stories (well worth reading). But I happen to think that The Maltese Falcon is the best private eye novel yet to be written. Period.

Sam Spade (who looked like a blonde Satan) also appeared in three short stories, which I wrote about in a prior post here at Black Gate. Sadly, they aren’t particularly memorable and definitely aren’t in the upper half of Hammett’s works. In 2009, Joe Gores wrote Spade and Archer, an authorized prequel. I love Gores’ Daniel Kearney Associates series of books, but I’m still saving this Sam Spade gem for a future read.

A great deal has been written about Hammett’s novel and about Spade himself, including William Maynard’s post here. It’s certainly worthy of a post all by itself. But I’m going to focus on the media Falcon: specifically the third of three filmed versions. It’s far and away the best known and I’m guessing that many people who haven’t actually read the book have seen the movie.

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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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