The Brownstone of Nero Wolfe: Death of a Doxy. And Koufax or Mays?

The Brownstone of Nero Wolfe: Death of a Doxy. And Koufax or Mays?

We haven’t been to the Brownstone since April of last year. Pfui! So here we have the forty-third Nero Wolfe post at Black Gate. The Wolfe stories are my favorite private eye series. Which, given my Solar Pons, and Sherlock Holmes, credentials, is saying something. I am pretty much always re-reading or listening yet again to Michael Prichard’s terrific audiobooks. I never tire of Wolfe’s World.

Rex Stout was a baseball fan, keeping score at Mets’ games (and possibly NY Giants’ ones as well). Archie uses some baseball terms, and even (briefly) watches a Mets game on TV, with actual players mentioned. And of course, there’s Ron Seaver. “Three Men Out” is set at game seven of a World Series game between Boston and the Giants, though all of the characters are entirely fictional in that one.

I’ve written some baseball snippets for inclusion in future stories, including Archie annoying Wolfe by talking about the Rocky Colavito – Harvey Kuenn trade; and Archie recounting attending Willie Mays’ last World Series, against the A’s. Archie and baseball go together.

Which leads us to talking about Death of A Doxy today. This may well be my favorite Wolfe novel. And I think that A&E did a terrific episode of it. It’s got a neat little baseball reference, which I’ll tease out for this essay. But first, let’s talk about something that should be banned by law – The Epithon!

THE EPITHON

In Death of a Doxy, Archie is at Lily Rowan’s penthouse, listening to a poet read a selfdubbed ‘Epithon.’ It is called such because it was epic, and took hours to read. Add in that the man wrote it himself, and you’ve got the idea. ‘Pfui’ isn’t strong enough.

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Vintage Treasures: The Bantam John Crowley

Vintage Treasures: The Bantam John Crowley


Four John Crowley paperbacks published in rapid succession by Bantam: Little, Big, Beasts,
Engine Summer, The Deep (October, November, December 1983, and January 1984). Covers by Yvonne Gilbert

In 1981 Bantam Books published John Crowley’s masterwork Little, Big, which Matthew David Surridge calls “the best post-Tolkien novel of the fantastic.” It was an unexpected hit, receiving nominations for every major fantasy prize, including the Hugo, Balrog, BSFA, Locus, and Nebula awards, and winning both the Mythopoeic Award and the World Fantasy Award. Six years later, when Locus surveyed its readers on the All-Time Best Fantasy Novel, it placed 10th. When Locus repeated the poll eleven years later, it moved up two slots into 8th place.

It’s fair to say the book’s popularity took its publisher by surprise. Bantam Books hadn’t bothered with a hardcover release — or cover art — for Little, Big; instead they published it in a nondescript trade paperback edition and snuck the book into stores under the cover of night in September 1981. They hadn’t even planned a mass market edition. It was rave reviews and word of mouth that did the rest.

Bantam made up for it two years later, after the thunderous accolades for the book made the magnitude of their mistake obvious. They released Little, Big in a handsome paperback edition in October 1983 (two years and one month after the the trade edition) with a fine cover by Yvonne Gilbert, and in rapid-fire sequence they re-released Crowley’s entire back catalog, one novel every month: Beasts, Engine Summer, and The Deep, all with covers by Gilbert. It was the first time Crowley had ever been given any real attention by a publisher, and it helped thousands of new readers discover him for the first time.

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New Treasures: Worlds Long Lost edited by Christopher Ruocchio and Sean CW Korsgaard

New Treasures: Worlds Long Lost edited by Christopher Ruocchio and Sean CW Korsgaard

Worlds Long Lost (Baen Books, December 6, 2022). Cover by Bob Eggleton

Baen Books has published some terrific anthologies recently.

Christopher Ruocchio (The Sun Eater series) has had a particularly fine run, with over half a dozen to his credit, most with Baen senior editor Hank Davis — including Space Pioneers, Cosmic Corsairs, and Time Troopers — or Tony Daniel (Star Destroyers and World Breakers). Which is why I was dismayed to learn that Worlds Long Lost, a collection of all-new stories of ancient alien artifacts, is his last. Here’s the announcement on his blog, SollanEmpire.com

Worlds Long Lost is my final short story anthology with Baen Books, co-edited with my successor, Sean C.W. Korsgaard. Featuring stories of ancient aliens and their ruins, it includes my short story “Mother of Monsters.” “Mother of Monsters” is set on the Cielcin worldship codenamed Echidna, the very moon captured by Lord Cassian Powers at the Second Battle of Cressgard. It is the tale of Tor Mencius, the scholiast in charge of excavating the tombs of the Aetane who ruled Echidna…and of what he discovered there.

Christopher’s story is a brand new tale set in his popular Sun Eater series. The book also contains original fiction from Orson Scott Card, Adam Oyebanji, M.A. Rothman and D.J. Butler, Les Johnson, and many more.

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NEW EDGE SWORD & SORCERY Magazine Launches!

NEW EDGE SWORD & SORCERY Magazine Launches!

Last October, Michael Harrington hosted an interview with Oliver Brackenbury on Black Gate; Brackenbury is the editor and champion of the New Edge Sword & Sorcery Magazine. That post coincided with the release of the teaser Issue #0 including short fiction & non-fiction (free in digital format, or priced at cost on Amazon Print-on-Demand, through the New Edge Website). And now we announce:

NEW EDGE SWORD & SORCERY launches

KICKSTARTER FOR ISSUES 1 & 2
Thirty-day crowdfunding campaign begins on Feb 2nd, with issues shipping in Fall 2023

    • The legendary Michael Moorcock will have a brand new, original story featured in issue #1.
    • He joins twenty other fiction & non-fiction authors, such as Canadian horror master Gemma Files, Margaret Killjoy, David C. Smith, Hugo Award-winner Cora Buhlert, Milton Davis, and more. There will also be a tale by Jesús Montalvo, an author from the burgeoning S&S scene south of the US border, translated from its original Spanish.
    • Nineteen artists are spread across the two issues, including Morgan King, who directed Lucy Lawless in his 2021 rotoscope-animated Sword & Sorcery film The Spine of Night (featured on Black Gate in 2021). Samples of the various artists’ work are available on the Kickstarter campaign page, while also being shared across the magazine’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.
    • Each issue will feature seven original stories and four works of non-fiction: one book review, one essay, one in-depth interview, and one historical literary profile of figures like Charles Saunders or Cele Goldsmith. All stories, essays, and the profiles will be paired with at least one original B&W illustration.

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Goth Chick News: “Crypt” Notes to Begin 2023

Goth Chick News: “Crypt” Notes to Begin 2023

Knock at the Cabin (Universal Pictures, February 3)

We are a month into the new year and yet here I am writing my first post of 2023. This is the longest hiatus I have ever taken from Black Gate since beginning my tenure quite some time ago, but I have a good excuse. I recently returned from nearly a month on safari in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa, and between some amazing animal encounters and quite a lot of fine South African wine, I collected some pretty cool tales of the supernatural. I mean sure, we have ghosts here in the US, but in Africa there are demons which cause people to build their houses a certain way just to avoid them. I’ll be sharing more on this topic in future articles.

I then came back with a very unwanted souvenir in the form of Covid, and here we are on February 2nd.

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Future Treasures: High Noon on Proxima B edited by David Boop

Future Treasures: High Noon on Proxima B edited by David Boop

High Noon on Proxima B (Baen, February 7, 2023). Cover by Dominic Harman

Nobody out there is doing anthologies like David Boop.

He started in 2017 with the Weird Western Straight Outta Tombstone (2017), which proved popular enough that he followed up with two more, Straight Outta Deadwood (2019) and Straight Outta Dodge City (2020). Last year he packed up his six-shooters and headed into outer space with Gunfight on Europa Station, the first…. uh… Weird Science Fiction Western anthology? I dunno, but I like it.

It’s a new year, and I’m delighted to see a new Boop anthology headed our way. High Noon on Proxima B contains brand new stories by Walter Jon Williams, Susan R. Matthews, Brenda Cooper, Milton Davis, and many others. It arrives in trade paperback from Baen next week.

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The Compelling Narratives of Video Games

The Compelling Narratives of Video Games

The poster for The Last of Us, the HBO adaptation (left), and one of the posters for the original game (right)

My love of gaming is well known amongst my friends and friendly acquaintances, and has since before I could afford my first console. In news that would surprise absolutely no one, my preference has always been for narrative games; where the story plays as much a role in the gaming experience as any tests of skill or intellect. The best games for me strike a delicate balance between challenging gameplay — combat and puzzles — and narrative. In short, I game for the same reason I read. I game to find myself immersed in another world, diving into a story that will delight and move me.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes – Shelfies (#2)

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes – Shelfies (#2)

If you saw this post, you know that I found a kinda cool group over on Reddit. And it wasn’t LotR_on_Prime – yeesh. R/bookshelf is a subreddit where people post their shelfies. With over 2,000 books on 90-ish shelves/cubes, that appealed to me!

I started with my Jack Higgins shelf, and then my Clive Cussler one. I’ve done a couple fantasy shelves, but mostly I’ve been sharing pics of my over-500 Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle books. And I’ve been adding a comment, talking about some of those pictured. Its’ been neat.

Here’s a second set of Holmes shelfies.

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Galactic Real Estate, Revolutions, and an Uplifted Moose: The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz

Galactic Real Estate, Revolutions, and an Uplifted Moose: The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz

The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz (Tor Books, January 31, 2023)

On the one hand, The Terraformers is full of great characters, solid science, and socio-political conflict, with enough action to move things along and keep you turning pages to the end. On the other, it’s not actually about terraforming and it’s told in 3 novellas set hundreds of years apart with only a few characters able to provide links between them.

The Terraformers opens when Environmental Rescue Team Ranger Destry is out in the terraformed forest with her faithful steed, the uplifted moose named Whistle. Destry and Whistle come across a human doing all sorts of disgusting paleolithic things, burning wood, killing small game, defecating on the land, and generally upsetting the ecological balance of Sask-E. It’s taken 10,000 years for Sask-E to be made habitable, and it’s Destry’s job to make sure it stays that way.

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Vintage Treasures: The New Hugo Winners, Volume III and IV, presented by Connie Willis and Gregory Benford

Vintage Treasures: The New Hugo Winners, Volume III and IV, presented by Connie Willis and Gregory Benford


The New Hugo Winners, Volume III and Volume IV (Baen, and May 1994 and November 1997). Covers by Bob Eggleton

The Hugo Winners, Volume I and Volume II, edited by Isaac Asimov and collected in one big omnibus by the Science Fiction Book Club in 1972, was one of the top-selling science fiction books of the 70s, and Volume III (1977) was gladly received by readers. But by the time Volume IV and V were released in the mid-80s, sales had fallen off so significantly that neither one was ever reprinted in paperback, and Doubleday ceased publishing them entirely after the fifth book.

It was Martin H. Greenberg who talked Asimov into picking up the tradition with The New Hugo Winners in 1989. The two of them brought the series to Baen, and produced two volumes before Asimov’s death in 1992. Although Asimov had openly championed having Greenberg pick up the baton after his death, that didn’t happen. Instead it was Connie Willis and Gregory Benford who edited (excuse me, “Presented”) The New Hugo Winners, Volume III and Volume IV, as paperback originals from Baen Books in 1994 and 1997.

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