New Treasures: Col Buchanan’s Farlander

Monday, February 28th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

farlanderAfter weeks of late nights working on Black Gate 15 layout, I’m ready to relax in my big green chair with something substantial.  The latest big-budget fantasy from Tor looks like it might just fit the bill.

For fifty years the Holy Empire of Mann, an empire and religion born from a nihilistic urban cult, has been conquering nation after nation. Their leader, Holy Matriarch Sasheen, ruthlessly maintains control through her Diplomats, priests trained as subtle predators. The Mercian Free Ports are the only confederacy yet to fall… For ten years now, the city has been besieged by the Imperial Fourth Army. It is only a matter of time before it falls.

Ash is a member of a sect known as Rōshun, assassins who offer protection through the threat of vendetta… Forced by his ailing health to take on an apprentice, he chooses Nico, a young man living in the besieged city of Bar-Khos, whose own father is long gone, a deserter of his family. At the time, Nico is hungry, desperate, and alone in a city that finds itself teetering on the brink.

When the Holy Matriarch’s son murders a woman under the protection of the Rōshun, he forces the sect to seek his life in retribution. As Ash and his young apprentice set out to fulfill the vendetta, their journey takes them into the heart of the conflict between the Empire and the Free Ports — into bloodshed and death.

I don’t usually go for books with assassins as main characters.  Maybe I’m just in a dark mood. Maybe the unusual cover intrigues me, with an African American assassin posed before a decaying urban setting (“African American” really doesn’t apply in a setting that includes neither Africa nor America, and which was created by an Irishman.  But “black assassin” signifies the wrong thing altogether.) And the airship doesn’t hurt.

Farlander is the first novel in The Heart of the World.  It is available in hardcover from Tor for $24.99.


A Review of Neptune Crossing by Jeffrey A. Carver

Monday, February 28th, 2011 | Posted by Isabel Pelech

neptuneNeptune Crossing (The Chaos Chronicles, Volume 1), by Jeffrey A. Carver
Tor (383 pages, hardcover, April 1994)

Neptune Crossing, by Jeffrey A. Carver, is the first of a series. As with some other books I’ve reviewed, it feels unfinished and awkward without its sequels. That’s not to say that it’s a bad book, or that you shouldn’t read this series, but you might want to pick up Strange Attractors at the same time and treat them as a set.

John Bandicut is a man with problems. He works for a mining company on Triton, the same mining company that caused him to lose his cybernetic implants, and he’s going insane from that loss. Also, an alien called a quarx has moved into his brain, declaring that he has to help it save the Earth — possibly doing quite a bit of the work himself, as the quarxx might die before the job gets done.

And it’s probably a suicide mission. And he can’t tell anyone. And he’s met a woman he likes.

Quite a lot of this book is about Bandicut struggling to cope with his situation, and sometimes failing. There’s sometimes a palpable sense of isolation and depression, which fits the subject matter; first and foremost, Bandicut has to wrestle cooperation out of his own mind.

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Hadestown: A Review

Monday, February 28th, 2011 | Posted by Amal El-Mohtar

bgalbumcover

Peter Nevin’s album artwork

On November 20th, 2010, at 1:46 PM, I received an e-mail from C.S.E. Cooney titled, “I got walls to build, I got riots to quell, and they’re giving me Hell back in Hades.”

If you know Claire at all, you’ll understand why I received this intelligence with equanimity. Of course she does; of course they are. Poor fools. They’ll soon learn better, and be begging our Claire for one cool disdainful look cast from beneath her mighty lashes.

If you don’t know Claire at all, I highly recommend the acquaintance.

I confess, however, to being somewhat surprised by the body of the message, which went as follows:

bghadescerberus

Hades and Cerberus

You don’t even KNOW!

Unless you did — and you didn’t TELL ME!

Aaaauuggggghhhh!!!

Hadestown — a folk rock opera with GREG BROWN!

Why? Why not until THIS MORNING???

Francesca Forrest sent me this. Now I must own the rest.

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Supernatural Spotlight – Episode 6.15 “The French Mistake”

Monday, February 28th, 2011 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

SUPERNATURALThe episode starts with the Angel turned scam artist Balthazar showing up, hastily explaining that the Angel Raphael is winning the civil war in Heaven and has put a hit out on the Angel Castiel and everyone else who opposed him, including Balthazar, Sam, and Dean. In order to protect his stash of stolen weapons from Heaven, Balthazar gives Sam and Dean a key and casts a spell. They are thrown through a window … only to land on a stunt pad.

Turns out that they’re in the real world, where they are the actors Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, stars of the television series Supernatural.

This isn’t a terribly original premise. Among other things, I recall a similar gimmick being played in Hercules and/or Xena (it’s all a blur). Even on Supernatural, this angle has been explored before.

In the season 4 episode “The Monster at the End of This Book” (a title inspired by one of my favorite children’s books), Sam and Dean discovered that a series of trashy horror novels were based on their exploits, written by novelist turned prophet of the Lord (who was exploiting visions of their lives).

Last season, they even ended up drawn into a Supernatural fan convention.


Epic Fantasy: Notes Toward a Definition

Sunday, February 27th, 2011 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

The Hundred Thousand KingdomsWhile one controversy about morality and fantasy was being thrashed out around these parts last week, another, quieter, discussion seemed about to get underway in the fantasy blogosphere. N.K. Jemisin began a discussion about “feminization” (her quote marks), sexual explicitness, and the male gaze in epic fantasy, which also involved considering the ways in which female-authored texts were presented to readers. The conversation was continued in a number of places around the web.

This is a potentially massively interesting topic about which I actually don’t have that much to say — because, in what looks like an example of a feedback loop at work, I haven’t read most of the writers Jemisin and others have mentioned. In fact, though I try to maintain a basic familiarity with contemporary fantasy fiction, many of the names they mention are completely unfamiliar to me. So this certainly goes some distance toward increasing my interest in examining the way certain writers are marketed and reviewed, and I’d like to see this discussion developed further.

What I’d like to contribute here is a bit of possibly-meaningless pedantry about definitions. To ask why certain books, specifically books by women, are not described, categorised, or marketed as epic fantasy means having a solid idea of what epic fantasy is. Jemisin noted that she herself was unsure whether some of the books she thought of as ‘epic’ would actually count for most people as epic fantasy. So what is an epic fantasy?

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TANGENT’s Best of 2010

Sunday, February 27th, 2011 | Posted by John R. Fultz

It’s nice to be noticed…

cthulhus-reignOne of my very own stories has just been included in the TANGENT ONLINE RECOMMENDED READING LIST for 2010. The tale is “This Is How the World Ends,” from the CTHULHU’S REIGN anthology (DAW).

Here’s the complete list.

Every year TANGENT creates such a list, with the goal of “working for you, finding the gold buried in the dross, the diamonds in the dungheap, and bringing these gems to your attention.” This year there are 190 short stories, novellas and novelettes recommended. The site indicates that “for every story you see on this list, there are at least four others that didn’t make the cut.” I am thrilled and honored to be included in the final list. Thanks, guys!

I have to note that there are four other stories from CTHULHU’S REIGN that also made the TANGENT list…for a total of five humdingers. A real indication of just how good this Cthulhoid anthology truly is.

(I would only add that Laird Barron’s “Vastation” really should be on the list as well…the mad genius of Laird’s story was one of the book’s most mind-blowing moments for me.)

stAlso on the list is a terrific story by an amazing writer, “In the Dreaming House” by Darrell Schweitzer, which ran in SPACE & TIME #110. Nobody writes a dark fantasy tale like Darrell…he is a true Master. BTW, you can still order this issue from the SPACE & TIME website. I’ve also got a new story, “The Gnomes of Carrick County,” coming up in S&T later this year. http://spaceandtimemagazine.com/wp/

Finally, there are several stories from BLACK GATE on the list…continuing to show how BG is one of the most important and vital fantasy mags in existence today. Carry on, Gents!

Peace,

John


Goth Chick Crypt Notes: Hell Rises Again

Sunday, February 27th, 2011 | Posted by Sue Granquist

drive-angryWith March just around the corner there’s a tiny whiff of spring in the air and here at the Black Gate offices this means attention spans are running even shorter than normal.

With the boys busy sniffing last year’s Hawaiian shirts for potential (and highly unlikely) freshness, and polishing off the last of the Amber Ale to make room in the communal fridge for the MGD 64, all thoughts have turned to flip-flop and cargo shorts weather, leaving room for additional content at Blackgate.com.

Therefore, to save myself having to listen to one more chorus of “Marguerita-ville,” I’m shutting myself up with the espresso machine in the underground offices of Goth Chick News.

My plan is to pass the time down here until May by bringing you one additional helping of extra gooey, pop-culture goodness each week.

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Howard Andrew Jones and Scott Oden Surround the Sword Woman

Sunday, February 27th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

sword_womanAs Howard Andrew Jones month heads into the final stretch, we still have several exciting developments to tell you about.

First is the release this month of Robert E. Howard’s latest thick collection, Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures, featuring a generous selection of classic pulp adventure tales from the creator of Conan, including “The Sowers of the Thunder,” “Lord of Samarcand,” “Hawks of Outremer,” and “The Road of Azrael.” This is the 11th volume in the handsome Del Rey editions of collected Howard fiction, following The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, the two-volume The Best of Robert E. Howard, and El Borak and Other Desert Adventures.

Howard Andrew Jones teamed up with fellow Black Gate blogger and historical fiction author Scott Oden to bookend the collection: Scott wrote the introduction, and Howard the lengthy 22-page afterword, “Howard’s Journey,” which puts REH’s historical fiction in proper context with the great pulp writers who preceded him.  From his afterword:

Pound for pound Robert E. Howard’s historical fiction more than holds its weight against Howard’s other genre and series work. Over just a few years Howard fashioned a grander helping of these stories than many historical writers craft over a lifetime… It should not be assumed, though, that he wrote any of his stories in a vacuum… Professional author though he was, Howard still had to find his comfort level with the genre. He did so in part by being familiar with both history and the writers who brought it to life before him…

Scholars have noted the influence of Jack London and Rudyard Kipling in his work, as well as Howard’s familiarity with myth and legend, likely via Thomas Bulfinch. The shadow cast by adventure and historical adventure writer Harold Lamb has been noted but never discussed at length. Robert E. Howard seems to have found a kind of kindred spirit in Lamb, and progressed from modeling off his fiction until, student growing to master, Howard matched and even sometimes surpassed his skill.

Sword Woman is fully illustrated by John Watkiss. It includes 18 complete stories, over a half-dozen fragments, and detailed notes on the texts. It is available in trade paperback for $18, and clocks in at over 570 pages. The series is edited by Rusty Burke.


Surviving the test of time

Sunday, February 27th, 2011 | Posted by Theo

Bestselling American Novels
# Title Author
1. The Broad Highway Jeffrey Farnol
2. The Prodigal Judge Vaughan Kester
3. The Winning of Barbara Worth Harold Bell Wright
4. Queed Henry Sydnor Harrison
5. The Harvester Gene Stratton Porter
6. The Iron Woman Margaret Deland
7. The Long Roll Mary Johnston
8. Molly Make-Believe Eleanor Abbott
9. The Rosary Florence L. Barclay
10. The Common Law Robert W. Chambers

How many of these writers or novels do you recognize? They are the 10 best-selling authors of exactly 100 years ago.  I am a reasonably well-read individual, and I have to admit that I have never heard of any of these books or any of these authors except for Robert W. Chambers, who also wrote the ur-Lovecraftian collection of short stories entitled The King in Yellow.  One of the things that became clear in last week’s discussion about the literary decline of the fantasy genre, (or, as I would argue, the literary decline of the SF/F genre), is that very few of those involved in the discussion appeared to fully realize just how unusual it is for literary works to survive 70 years, as the works of Robert E. Howard and J.R.R. Tolkien have, let alone 100.  Nor, as should be readily apparent from the names and titles on this bestseller’s list from 1911, should one be inclined to confuse book sales with literary longevity, let alone immortality.

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John Klima Ends Print Version of Electric Velocipede

Saturday, February 26th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

ev21-224John Klima, the editor of the Hugo-Award winning magazine Electric Velocipede, has announced that issue #21/22 will be the final print issue:

After much discussion, I’ve decided to dissolve my partnership with Night Shade Books. Our final issue together is issue #21/22, which went to the printer in November. It should be arriving at the Night Shade offices soon and be shipping out any time now. Please watch here for more details.

While Night Shade has done a good job in supporting the magazine from a production standpoint, they are not in the business of periodicals and as such our subscription numbers and individual sales have suffered to the point that it made no sense to continue with our current model. Night Shade wants to focus its energies on its core business of publishing and selling books….

Night Shade has graciously offered to pay the contributors whose work I had accepted for publication in the coming year as Electric Velocipede issues #23 – 25. After some discussion with the contributors, we are going to post the content of these issues online for the readers and fans of Electric Velocipede. We’re still working out the logistics on our side for how that will happen, so you’ll have to watch here for the final details. If this works as planned, the magazine will be completely online in 2012, opening for submissions towards the end of 2011.

Electric Velocipede is one of the finest small press genre magazines on the market.  It has published work by Jay Lake, Jeff VanderMeer, Neal Barrett, Jr, Paul DiFilippo, Liz Williams, Charles Coleman Finlay, Hal Duncan, Jeffrey Ford, Tobias Buckell, Catherynne M. Valente, Marie Brennan, and many others.  It won the Hugo Award for best fanzine in 2009, and has been a four-time World Fantasy Award nominee.

Issue 21/22, a big double issue, contains fiction from William Shunn, Shannon Page and Jay Lake, Shira Lipkin, Jenna Waterford, Michaela Roessner, and many others. It is available for $12 directly on the website.

The complete announcement is here.


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