Locus Online reviews Black Gate 14

Friday, April 30th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

wine_dark_sea1Following the excellent review at Grasping at the Wind, Lois Tilton at Locus Online has weighed in on Black Gate 14

Here’s what she said about Matthew David Surridge’s “The Word of Azrael”:

Enough adventures to fill many books. Here might well be the ultimate sword and sorcery, in that it both epitomizes and deconstructs the form with a subtle irony…The author is compressing all possible adventures into one, and eventually the threads begin to come together. The tale illustrates how much of what we recognize as S&S lies in certain tropes and themes, and in particular the tone of its prose. RECOMMENDED

She also had kind words for “The Wine-Dark Sea” by Isabel Pelech:

Very dark fantasy. Newyn was disfigured as a child by the local magic called lohan; now she is a masked assassin. She is hired by an old woman to rescue her son from a lohan-filled submerged city, fallen long ago to some malevolent magic. The lohan haunting the place makes it possible to breathe the water, but persons who venture there rarely return… There is nothing commonplace about the setting. The submerged city is filled with wondrous horrors. RECOMMENDED

She also gave a RECOMMENDED rating for “Devil on the Wind” by Michael Jasper and Jay Lake, calling it:

All fireworks, as the authors have pulled out their purpurean pyrotechnics in depiction of Lena and her sorcerous battles.

You can read the complete review here.

Art by Mark Evans for “The Wine-Dark Sea.”

Goth Chick News: A Long, Weird Journey

Thursday, April 29th, 2010 | Posted by Sue Granquist

weird-illinoisWeirdness surrounds you, trust me.

I know that’s a bold statement considering the only thing I know about you is that you’re a Black Gate fan, but then again, one might argue that information alone is enough.

But I can go one step further; I can actually prove it.

Just head over to and click on “stories by state.” OK, you won’t find anything there yet, as this part of the website isn’t completely finished. But if you click on “stories by category” you’ll find the categories broken up by state and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

What you have just discovered is that no matter where you live in the good old US of A, there are stories about your hometown that will likely curl your hair. If you’re very lucky, enough stories have been gathered by the research team of Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman to create an entire book. So far there are thirty in all with new ones being released every six months or so.

Weird Illinois hit the book stores in 2005, and when I picked up my copy I hunkered down on a Sunday afternoon and didn’t get up until I had turned the last page. The stories ran the gambit from urban legend to documented hauntings, to real events grotesque enough to barely be believable. The local editor Troy Taylor (each book has someone from that state doing the heavy lifting) says the stories are all chosen for being a little “left of center.”

That’s an understatement.

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Thursday, April 29th, 2010 | Posted by John R. Fultz

The first five issues under one's Orc-tastic!

The first five issues under one's Orc-tastic!

ORC STAIN Volume 1 collection coming in July…

art & cover JAMES STOKOE
168 PAGES / FC
For a million millennia the world has cracked and convulsed under the indomitable mob of the orc. Savage, bloodthirsty creatures, they are without number, staining nearly every corner of the globe. The mighty Orc Tzar, newest leader of the mob, marches ever north to find the lost organ of a forgotten god. Only a lone one-eyed orc with a mysterious gift can find the key to breaking the cycle forever.
Collects ORC STAIN #1-5

Tanith Lee’s LIONWOLF Trilogy

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010 | Posted by John R. Fultz

A Masterwork of Transcendent High Fantasylionwolf16

“Is she Weird? Is she White? Is she promised to the Night?”
 — The Pixies, Bossanova 1990

“When I was nine, about a year after I learned how to read, I started to write.”
 — Tanith Lee, LOCUS, April 1998


Introducing Tanith Lee is seldom necessary.

The majority of fantasy fans already know her name. After 77 novels and 300 short stories, among them such seminal fantasy classics as the Birthgrave trilogy, the Wars of Vis trilogy, the Tales From the Flat Earth quintology, the Secret Books of Paradys quadrology, and the Secret Books of Venus quadrology, her storytelling powers are still in full effect.

In a publishing world that does not always honor its Great Ones, it is often possible to miss out on the latest and greatest works of the field’s most gifted writers. Even a writer as established and lauded as Lee can get lost in the desperate shuffle to market and promote “hot-sellers.” Quality often takes a back seat to what the marketing department thinks will sell…and some amazing works of fantasy get less than the attention they deserve.

Case in Point: Tanith Lee’s latest masterpiece The LIONWOLF Trilogy. The series consists of three books that chronicle the birth, life, death, rebirth, and redemption of a rampaging man-god who strides red-handed across a world of endless winter and primordial savagery. The books are: Cast a Bright Shadow, Here in Cold Hell, and No Flame But Mine. Chances are you’ve missed seeing these books on your local bookstore’s shelves…which is a tragedy in and of itself. Like much of Lee’s previous work, this is a trilogy that no self-respecting fantasy fan can afford to miss. In today’s world of online booksellers — led by the grandaddy of them all, — you no longer have to settle for what shows up on your local bookstore’s shelves. Thank the Gods for that…

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Because One Frederick Faust Post Isn’t Enough: The Sacking of El Dorado

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

frederick-faust-in-brentwood“So it will be when we are dead that perhaps our lives will stand for something.”

“A typewriter is almost like a human being to me.”

“Have recently sent thirty-eight poems to our leading magazines and received thirty-eight poems back from our leading magazines.”

“All that can save fiction is enormous verve, a real sweep, plus richness of character, blood that can be seen shining through.”

“Why is my verse so difficult, so dead, so dull to other people?”

—Frederick Faust, from various letters

I was surprised but pleased to see the positive reaction that my post about Frederick Faust, a.k.a. Max Brand, received last week. It was enough for me to want to spend an extra week on the author, specifically to take a closer look at an individual volume of his work. Faust has rarely received this sort of attention, as John C. Hocking pointed out in the comments last week, and so I’ll spend another Tuesday of your time talking about a man who was not only the most prolific of the pulpsters, but one of the most skilled and literary.

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Black Gate 14 Sneak Peek: “On a Pale Horse” by Sylvia Volk

Monday, April 26th, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

on-a-pale-horse-277Once a Bedouin girl tamed a crooked stallion — and the Arabian breed was born. A tale of legend and desert war.

     Behind her, Salsabil heard the drumming of hooves. At the awning of the family tent, with her pursuer thundering after her, she whirled. Sand sprayed under her heels. She stood tall, flinging up her arms.
      The mare came charging downhill at full speed, head tucked close against her chest and hooves crashing through the loose scree. Straight at her. Salsabil stood like a rock. Her sight grew dim. Her outstretched fingers trembled. But she did not move.
     At the last instant, with her nose barely an inch from the girl’s breast, the war-mare stopped. She flung her elegant head high, danced before Salsabil upon hooves smaller than the feet of a girl-child. And Salsabil gazed up and up at the rider on the mare’s back.
      She looked into his bearded face, and fear struck her in the heart — for it was the face of a skeleton. But she could not allow him to pass.

Sylvia Volk was born in western Canada. This is her first published story.

 “On a Pale Horse” appears in Black Gate 14. You can read a more complete excerpt here. The complete Black Gate 14 Sneak Peek is available here.

Art by Aaron Starr.

Interview with Marc Miller, Part I

Sunday, April 25th, 2010 | Posted by Theo

Theodore Beale interviewed Marc Miller, the co-founder of Game Designer’s Workshop and designer of the Traveller science fiction role-playing game, for Black Gate on April 21st, 2010.

TB: You designed a number of wargames as well as the RPG for which you’re most known, Traveller. What kind of game did you design first and what inspired you to develop Traveller?

MM: A long time ago, I sat down with a friend of mine. I think I was a freshman in high school. We had bought D-Day from Avalon Hill and we were very excited. I don’t think we knew anything more than soldiers carried rifles, but nevertheless, we thought it would be a great game. We sat down to play it and we could not make hide nor hair of that game. I remember that vividly. I remember not having any idea what was going on.  Fast forward to when I was a junior in college taking a political science course from Professor Lou Gold at the University of Illinois. This would have been in the late Sixties. And part of his process was a role-playing exercise of political figures. I remember that vividly too, because I understood what he was trying to do too, but what he wanted us to do was not very easy. He told us to take on the role of the figures involved and research their positions, to go to it and play these roles. So then, after I got out of college, after I got out of the military, after I went back to college I was involved with the Illinois State University game club, a very innovative game club. They basically took me, who didn’t know how to play wargames and paired me with someone who knew how to play. This fellow was a geography professor, he liked games and knew how to play them, and he let me control everything, let me pick the game, the time, and the place. We met at his office in an evening, about 7:30, and I wanted to play France 1940. He sat down, he talked me through the rules, and we played one turn. And then I knew how to play a wargame. It’s just amazing how much easier it is if someone knows how to play and tells you what the rules mean as opposed to what you think they mean.

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On Reviewing

Saturday, April 24th, 2010 | Posted by Soyka

sh_headJustina Robson’s review of Greer Gilman’s Cloud & Ashes in Strange Horizons struck a number of resonating chords for me. For one, her ambiguous feelings about reviewing echo my own. It’s not only wondering if you’re getting it right, it’s how one offhand sentence can be taken to mean something entirely more than what you intended. I, too, had my problems with Bold as Love (which you can read about here and here and here).

I also share with Robson that Gilman is undoubtedly an interesting and possibly profound writer, but it’s much too much work to appreciate it (“This brings us to the real doorstop of the collection, both in terms of page count and prose density. “A Crowd of Bone” by Greer Gillman invokes Celtic myth concerning…this is the longest story here; it is also the hardest to read… English majors who’ve ploughed through Beowulf in the original Old English may find the language fascinating. This English major found it tedious, and at one point just stopped reading it and went on to the next story. I did eventually go back to finish it, but still considered it rough going”).

Finally, I too struggle with balancing mixed feelings about books I actually like, or should like more, at certain levels, as, for instance, my review of Robson’s latest novel.

Adventures in Pulp Awesomeness: The Clayton Astounding

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010 | Posted by John ONeill

claytonOver at Dark Worlds, editor G.W. Thomas has completed the first of three planned reprints of the Clayton Astounding, the first incarnation of the grand old lady of science fiction.

Astounding changed its name to Analog in 1960 and continues to publish today, 80 years after its first issue hit the stands in January, 1930. In an era when most genre magazines last only a handfull of issues, that’s an incredible run.

During most of that time it’s been the single most important magazine in the field, discovering such names as Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, A. E. van Vogt, and literally hundreds of others.

The first volume of this new series, The Clayton Astounding: Vagabonds of Space is 212 pages in paperback, and is now available at Lulu for $13.99.

This volume collects the best Space Opera from the Clayton years. According to Thomas, future volumes will include Out of the Dreadful Depths (undersea tales), Planetoids of Peril (stories set on moons, planets, and asteroids) and possibily “a book of space invaders, robots and mechanical enemies.” Yeah baby.

Here’s the description from Lulu:

Before John W. Campbell’s “Golden Age” (beginning in 1938) editor Harry Bates created an SF Pulp that was meant to entertain with stories of adventure and action in outer space and on far planets. This magazine has become known as “The Clayton Astounding” to delineate it from later incarnations. The first volume, VAGABONDS OF SPACE, represents the best Space Opera from the magazine’s first run of 1930-1933. Features stories by Harl Vincent, Edmond Hamilton, Anthony Gilmore, Sewell Peaslee Wright, Nat Schachner, Edwin K. Sloat and Jack Williamson. Each author is introduced with commentary by G. W. Thomas.

Fiction from an era when “space opera” meant sword fights in space with weird metal sticks.  All I need to know. You had me at “adventure and action in outer space and on far planets.”

Looking forward to the next volumes.

The Evil Genius of ORC STAIN

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010 | Posted by John R. Fultz

The Newest Must-Read Fantasy Comic…


os1“And the Orcs took the fortress on the west slopes of Mount Rerir, and ravaged all Thargelion, the land of Caranthir; and they defiled Lake Helevorn.”
 –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion

“Violator! Desecrator! Turn around and meet the hater!”
 –Rob Zombie, “Demonoid Phenomenon”


Orcs seem to be popping up everywhere these days. I’ve done my share of complaining about this. I’ve raved about how Orcs should be kept in Tolkien books…after all, he invented the beasties as a counterpart to his magnificent Elves. (Nevermind that that actual word “orc” existed before in reference to a water-monster.) Today there are even entire novels dedicated to Orcs.

And, to my great delight, at least one spectacular comic book.

ORC STAIN is the creation of writer/artist James Stokoe, and is published by Image Comics. This series “For Mature Readers” is a brand-new offering, with only two issues on the stands so far. However, it grabbed my attention on both a story and art level (a seemless blend) and quickly rose to the top of my must-read list. In fact, any fan of fantasy adventure fiction, sword-and-sorcery, dark fantasy, monster comics, or simply Those Who Dig Orcs owes it to himself to read this amazing experiment in non-corporate comics.

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