Fantasy shelves in the 80s groaned under the weight of Tolkien pastiches, Celtic fantasies, Thieves World anthologies, and a whole lot of Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms books. Books with more original settings, however, or which tapped into non-Western mythic traditions, were a lot harder to come by.
That’s part of what made Michaela Roessner’s debut novel Walkabout Woman so special. Set in the modern Australian outback, the novel offered fascinating glimpses of Aboriginal culture, paired with an intriguing story of a young Aboriginal girl pulled away from her home by a well-meaning missionary. The novel was a nominee for the Mythopoeic Award, and won the Crawford Award. Based almost solely on the strength of this novel, Roessner won the 1989 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.
Michaela Roessner was not a prolific writer, and she produced only three other books in her brief career: the SF novel Vanishing Point (1993), and two historical novels, The Stars Dispose (1997) and The Stars Compel (1999). Since 1999 she has concentrated mostly on short fiction. She’s produced roughly a dozen short stories in the last two decades; her most recent, “The Klepsydra: A Chapter from A Faunary of Recondite Beings,” appeared in the November 2011 issue of F&SF. Walkabout Woman was published in September 1988 by Bantam Spectra; it is 276 pages, priced at $3.95 in paperback. The wraparound cover is by Mark Harrison. It has never been reprinted, but Roessner did self-publish a digital version in July, 2011.
Matthew David Surridge became a blogger here in June 2010, after his acclaimed story “The Word of Azrael” appeared in Black Gate 14. His very first post was “The Art of Storytelling and The Temple of Elemental Evil,” a look at how unpredictable stories spontaneously arise out of D&D sessions, using his own experience with Gary Gygax’s classic adventure as an example.
Since then he’s published 259 articles with us, and become one of our most respected and cherished writers. He was nominated for a Hugo Award this year (and his post declining the nomination, “A Detailed Explanation,” became the most-read article in Black Gate‘s history.)
Matthew’s blog posts are very different from what we normally do here. We cover a lot of ground at the site — keeping you up-to-date on the newest fantasy releases, reminding you of overlooked vintage paperbacks, informing you when magazines go on sale, and the like. By their nature, most of those articles are short and to-the-point. In contrast, Matthew’s pieces dive deep into carefully-selected subjects, exploring some of the best (and most overlooked) novels and writers in the field, and engaging them with depth and passion.
“I think I do good work,” one of his fellow bloggers confided in me years ago, “but Matthew raises blogging to a fine art.”
So I was delighted to see the release this week of the first collection of Matthew’s Black Gate columns, Reading Strange Matters: Collected Reviews, Vol I, from Grace & Victory Publications. It collects 23 of his best book reviews, plus one brand new piece, on Nalo Hopkinson’s Skin Folk.
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Matthew Kressel has had an impressive career over the past decade. He started publishing fiction in his own magazine, Sybil’s Garage, and quickly branched out to Electric Velocipede, Interzone, Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. He received his first Nebula Nomination for “The Sounds of Old Earth” in 2013, and his second for “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” earlier this year. He has also been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, for editing Sybil’s Garage.
King of Shards is his debut novel. It will be published by Arche Press, a quality small press who this year have also produced Marguerite Reed’s Archangel, and The End of the End of Everything by Dale Bailey. It is the first novel in The Worldmender Trilogy, and N.K. Jemisin called it “A surreal and exotic adventure in a unique mythological setting. Scary, exhilarating fun!” It follows Daniel Fisher, abducted on his wedding day by the demon king, Ashmedai, who been supplanted by the demon Mashit. Daniel and Ashmedai must work together to stop Mashit, before she destroys all of existence.
King of Shards will be published by Arche Press on October 13, 2015. It is 320 pages, priced at $17 in trade paperback. The striking cover is by Leon Tukker (click the image above for a bigger version). Read more at Matthew’s website.
NOTE: The following article was first published on February 14, 2010. Thank you to John O’Neill for agreeing to reprint these early articles, so they are archived at Black Gate which has been my home for over 5 years and 250 articles now. Thank you to Deuce Richardson without whom I never would have found my way. Minor editorial changes have been made in some cases to the original text.
It has long been my contention that pulp fiction not discovered by age thirteen was beyond my ability to appreciate later in life. A certain amount of nostalgia seemed essential to enjoying such escapism once age and responsibility have got the better of you. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule in the rare instances where genuine literary talent is in evidence as is the case with the Holy Trinity of hardboiled detective fiction: Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross Macdonald. Given that I recently covered Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I decided to revisit Peter Tremayne’s three Dracula novels and one short story that I enjoyed so much as a teenager to see how they held up three decades on.
Peter Tremayne is best known today for his long-running Sister Fidelma mysteries. His medieval detective series is sort of a lightweight version of an Umberto Eco doorstop. Although Tremayne’s real world credentials are quite impressive as both an academic and scholar, his fiction is strictly populist in its appeal. Turn back the clock 40 years and one would find Peter Tremayne as a dedicated pulp pastiche writer trying his hand at extending the lifespan of H. Rider Haggard’s She, deliriously combining Shelley’s Frankenstein with Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles, and delving deep into Stoker’s Dracula for a trilogy of loosely connected titles published by Bailey Brothers in the UK.
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Back when I was a teenager in the 1970’s, I was a big fan of the Perry Rhodan series.
The English edition was published by Ace Books, and edited by Forry Ackerman. Forry offered subscriptions to the series, and I started subscribing as soon as I found out about the series.
The primary cover artist for the first 100+ issues was Gray Morrow. Morrow’s cover for #50, “Attack From the Unseen,” showed Perry posing heroically.
In 1976, Ace ran a survey in the back of issue #s 86-91, offering a free poster of the cover for #50 if you cut out the survey and returned it to Ace. I filled out my survey the day I got #86 in the mail, and sent it back immediately.
And then I waited. And waited. And waited. And no poster ever showed up. I’ve never seen one of these posters, have never heard of anyone who actually got one, and don’t think they were ever printed. My disappointment with Ace over this was deep.
Fast forward 28 years to the 62nd Worldcon, Noreascon 4, held in Boston. Prior to the convention, Deb and I visited our friend, Jerry Weist, and his wife Dana, who lived in the area. While going through stacks of art in Jerry’s flat files, I was astounded to find the original Gray Morrow painting for Perry Rhodan 50!
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The October issue of the Newsmagazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Field features an long interview with author Elizabeth Hand, reports on Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention — including the complete Hugo voting results, a new column by Kameron Hurley, short fiction reviews from Gardner Dozois and Rich Horton, and reviews of new books from Gene Wolfe, Christopher Moore, Ian McDonald, Michael Swanwick, Mercedes Lackey, Paul Tremblay, and many others.
There’s also detailed reporting on Stephen King’s National Medal of Arts, the 2015 Chesley Awards Winners, the National Book Awards Longlists, and the Ness Fundraiser.
In addition to all the news, features, and regular columns, there’s also the indispensable Listings of Magazines Received, Books Received, British Books Received, and Bestsellers. Plus obituaries for Wes Craven and Ned Brooks, and Letters from John Helfers and Michael Bishop. See the complete contents here.
We last covered Locus with the May 2015 issue. Locus is edited by Liza Groen Trombi, and published monthly by Locus Publications. The issue is 62 pages, priced at $7.50. Subscriptions are $63 for 12 issues in the US. Subscribe online here. The magazine’s website, run as a separate publication by Mark R. Kelly, is a superb online resource. It is here.
Our mid-September Fantasy Magazine Rack is here. See all of our recent fantasy magazine coverage here.
The newest edition of Dungeons & Dragons, 5th edition, recently passed its one-year anniversary. Though I reviewed the books when they first came out, my gaming group didn’t want to give up their current systems to switch over. They’ve been playing edition 3.5 for years, are comfortable with the rule structure, and like leveling up into prestige classes.
One thing that is notable about this edition of Dungeons & Dragons is that players have not been swarmed by supplemental books or a variety of rule options. After a year, it’s rather refreshing that Dungeons & Dragons continues to have retained an emphasis on their core three books:
But this does mean that hardcore gamers like me, who are used to geeking out over systems where you’re really allowed to customize many aspects of your character, may feel like Dungeons & Dragons doesn’t cater to us. This is a bit unfair, and may be a sign that we’ve just gotten too spoiled with abundant choices in other games system.
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It’s always a delight to see a debut fantasy writer make a profound splash on the industry. Ilana C. Myer’s first fantasy novel, Last Song Before Night, hit shelves on September 29, and it’s already collected a hat-full of rave reviews. BG blogger Alex Bledsoe said:
I was totally drawn in to Last Song Before Night… the story is as grand as a Wagner opera.
David Mack said:
It’s one of the most impressive debut novels I’ve ever read; I am in awe.
And in a feature review, NPR said:
Myers’ depiction of Tamryllin and the land it inhabits is shadowy and lush, a tapestry of gossamer wonders as well as theocratic oppression and brutality. But the core of Last Song‘s strength is its characters. Bound by enmities, rivalries, lust, sacrifices, and ancient tragedies, the novel’s sizeable cast forms a dizzying chemistry… Last Song Before Night is about music, but it’s also a work of music itself: Lyrical, dynamic, and winningly melodic.
See our previous article about the book here.
Last Song Before Night was published by Tor Books on September 29, 2015. It is 416 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover, and $12.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Stephan Martiniere. Read more at Myer’s website here.
When Arthur Henry Ward adopted the nom de plume of Sax Rohmer, he found a match for the bohemian occultist persona he was working to cultivate. The very name sounded exotic and foreign. It was less of a name than it was a statement of intent. As part of his new identity, Rohmer claimed to be a Rosicrucian as well as a member of The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. It appears that both claims were false, although the Ward family doctor, R. Watson Councell was active in occult circles.
It was Dr. Councell who provided much of the information for Rohmer’s 1914 study of the occult, The Romance of Sorcery. It is possible Dr. Councell actually wrote sections of the work considering his own later publication, Apologia Alchymiae (1923) which featured a preface by Rohmer. In the 1970s, Rohmer scholar Dr. Robert E. Briney came across four privately printed titles published by The Theosophical Publishing Society of London credited to one Arthur H. Ward: The Song of the Flaming Heart (1908), The Seven Rays of Development (1910), The Threefold Way (1912), and Masonic Symbolism and the Mystic Way (1913).
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The Twilight Tenth Anniversary edition was released today, ten years after the original novel went on sale, and buyers were very surprised to find that copies came packaged with an entirely new novel by Stephenie Meyer: Life and Death, a gender-flipped version of Twilight. As reported by Entertainment Weekly:
In honor of the 10th anniversary of her best-selling vampire romance, Twilight author Stephenie Meyer has written a 442-page reimagining of the novel that made her a publishing sensation. This time around, she’s switched the genders of her protagonists. Yes, it’s true. In the new tale titled Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined, Bella Swan is now a boy named Beau (short for Beaufort) and the brooding Edward Cullen is now Edythe…
Meyer explains in her foreword to the anniversary edition of the novel that she decided to go with the gender bending to underscore her position that Bella isn’t a “damsel in distress” as certain critics have charged. Rather, the author insists, the character is a “human in distress,” or as Meyer calls her, “a normal human being surrounded on all sides by people who are basically superheroes and supervillains.” Meyer also takes issue with the criticism that Bella was “too consumed with her love interest, as if that’s somehow just a girl thing.” The author mentions, too, that Beau is “more OCD” than Bella was and that he’s “totally missing the chip Bella carries around on her shoulder all the time.”
Meyer says writing the piece was “fun, but also really fast and easy.” According to the foreword, the rewrite allowed her to correct some errors that always bothered her and to re-edit the piece for grammar and word choice issues. She also altered some elements of the mythology for consistency.
The Twilight Tenth Anniversary/Life and Death Dual Edition was published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on October 6, 2015. It is 752 pages, priced at $21.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition.