Update; On Writing Different Genres

Monday, April 6th, 2009 | Posted by Judith Berman

Last week I had no figures at hand regarding children and teen reading rates. A 2007 National Endowment of the Humanities report on the topic is available here in pdf format (number 47). The short version is that the reading rate is not declining for children, but that as teenagers increasing numbers of kids stop reading. The 20-page executive summary does not define what they mean by “literary reading,” but in the summary for report 46, it’s given as “The reading of novels, short stories, poetry, or drama in any print format, including the Internet. Any type was admitted, from romance novels to classical poetry.

Also, I inadvertently posted an outdated bestseller list. Here is the most recent PW children’s fiction list online; the ABA’s indie children’s bestseller lists overlap but are not identical. Both are heavily weighted toward fantasy, and this is even more true of the series lists.


Yesterday (my yesterday; I’m 8 hours ahead of EST) Theo asked about subgenre preferences. I write in several different subgenres ranging from mythological fantasy to hard sf, and all writing is difficult, as far as I’m concerned. I do think there are differences, but first, a quibble, terminological or semantic as you prefer: all fiction is fantasy. Those of us of Indoeuropean linguistic and cultural affiliation participate in a set of related literary traditions who knows how many millennia deep, in which there are major narrative genres consisting of stories not considered true. This isn’t so in all other parts of the world. Read More »

PDF Versions of BLACK GATE now available!

Sunday, April 5th, 2009 | Posted by David Munger

Black Gate is now selling downloadable PDF versions of the magazine for just $4.95 each. The PDFs contain the complete magazine – all 224 pages, plus the color cover – and require a free PDF reader, such as Adobe Acrobat. PDF subscriptions are also available: any 4 issues for $19.95, and any 8 for $34.95.

Already have a subscription? We’ll sell you a PDF for $2.95 – or just $9.95 for all four issues.

Order your PDF using our regular subscription form, and we’ll send you a unique link to download the complete magazine at your leisure.

A PDF version of Black Gate 13 is already available, and our minions are hard at work converting all our back issues to bring you the entire Black Gate library.

The difficulty of SF vis-a-vis F

Sunday, April 5th, 2009 | Posted by Theo

It took writing and publishing a science fiction novel to learn that I am not really up to the task of writing what I consider to be genuine science fiction. Although Tolkein was my introduction to the SF/F genre – I began by reading the first ten pages of The Two Towers on an overnight trip – I quickly became a fan of Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, devouring pretty much everything they published. While my first attempt at a novel and my first attempt at a game design were both fantasy, my first successful attempt in both the novel and game markets turned out to be science fiction. I rapidly abandoned that setting, though, for one very simple reason. Genuine and scientifically consistent science fiction is really hard.

It was Pat Wrede who convinced me, most likely unintentionally, that if I didn’t want to spend nearly as much time researching and rewriting things in order to get the science right, I’d be better off playing around in fantasy worlds of my own creation. In fantasy, it’s merely a matter of keeping things consistent and getting the psychology right, which is a much easier proposition. Human nature doesn’t change quite as rapidly as science; what is a perfectly reasonable and educated scientific proposition upon which to base an SF novel can look absurd and hopelessly unscientific less than ten years later.

There are a number of theories as to why science fiction appears to have been replaced by fantasy, even as ye olde high fantasy appears to be in the process of being replaced by urban fantasy and horror. I think several of them may be correct, but one thing I haven’t seen often discussed is the possibility that it’s simply easier to write about angst-ridden vampires and arrogant elves than it is about actual science.

So, my question for the writers here is what drew you to one sub-genre rather than the other, and if you write in multiple genres, which do you find easier to write in?

Alternate Shakespeare

Saturday, April 4th, 2009 | Posted by Soyka

I live about a half hour from the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia, where the spring season opens with interrelated performances of Hamlet and Tom Stoppard’s Rosencratz and Guildenstern are Dead, which features two minor characters from Shakespeare in Godot-like circumstances. If you’ve never seen the Stoppard, there’s a movie version from 1990 featuring Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, and Richard Dreyfuss. (and if you’ve never seen Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, get thee hither to Netflix.) Shakespeare, of course, was a great fantasist, and is himself sometimes a character in  reimaginings of his historical period, if not outright fantasies involving a cast of faeries and ghosts.  Harry Turteldove, he of vast historical reimaginings, has a story up at Tor.com which imagines a future acting troupe that is somehow transported to Shakespeare’s time and puts on a performance of Rosencratz and Guildenstern are Dead. It’s an amusing tale that sets you up for a half-expected punchline, but anyone interested in Shakespeare or theater or absurdism will appreciate the jokes.  And, since it is a fantasy, I won’t even complain that Shakespeare would no more understand modern English than the players from the future would be able to converse with true Elizabethan accents.

No One Expects the Spanish Engequisition!

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009 | Posted by James Enge

First, something which might seem like a naked shameless plug, but which is in fact a plug modestly garbed in news that might be of interest to Black Gate readers. As part of the run-up to the release of Blood of Ambrose, Pyr has put the complete text of a couple of Morlock stories on their “Sample Chapters” blog: “A Book of Silences”, which originally appeared in Black Gate 10, and a new novelette-length sequel, “Fire and Sleet”. Read and enjoy; no salesman will call. Send before midnight.


After several weeks of reviewing Nebula nominees, I was somewhat at a loss in trying to figure out what I should write about this week. Mulling it over, I decided I should publicly commit heresy.

My heterodoxy (not as interesting as it sounds): I believe that adjectives and adverbs are good things. Not just good things, in fact, but essential.

More shocking confessions beyond the jump.

Read More »

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