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C.S.E. Cooney

Now I’m all curious. What literary surprises DOES Mr. O’Neill hate?

John ONeill

The one where I wake up, and the magazine was all a dream.

Thanks for the great interview, Theo! It’s very rare that I get asked such incisive questions. Or asked to choose my favorite blogger! 🙂


I’ve followed Black Gate since Day One (okay, maybe Day 1B or so, but pretty darn early) and this is a great capsule of a lot of its history.

I only wish you had time to address the artwork.

Oh, and to name your _least_ favorite story you ever published! (just kidding!)

Vaughn Heppner

That was a lot of fun. No Canadian stamps needed. Loved the different stories.

John ONeill


Thanks for the great comments. Glad you enjoyed the podcast – all thanks are due to Theo for making it happen.

As for my least favorite story… well, every editor has their “What the hell was I thinking when I bought this?” moments. Fortunately, virtually all of mine have been alleviated by time.

For example, when I was looking over the page proofs for BLACK GATE 5, I suddenly became convinced I’d been crazy for reprinting “Tumithak of the Corridors”
by Charles R. Tanner. The story was 70 years old, the prose was wooden, and the author had been completely forgotten. Just because I’d loved it when I was 14 was NOT a good reason to put it in my magazine.

Fortunately, the response to the story was (mostly) quite kind, and by the time we reprinted the 4th Tumithak tale in Black Gate 12, they were among the most popular tales we’d ever printed in the magazine.

So even those stories I have second thoughts about, those second thoughts rarely last for long. 🙂

John ONeill

Thanks Vaughn! That means a lot, coming from you.

And I still have that splendid rejection letter from George Scithers, sent to me in 1977 (when I was 12 years old), gently admonishing me for using Canadian stamps on my SASE. George was editor of ASIMOV’s at the time, and a more encouraging editor I couldn’t imagine.

I hope that I’ve followed in his footsteps in some small way at Black Gate. He was an incredible man, and a great fan of the genre.


Great interview. Makes me wish I was still doing my old Geekerati podcast. My last few episodes were lame as anything, but for the first year and a half I think it was strong.

It’s a lot of work to do a good podcast, and it takes great interviewees like you.


It was a great interview. Have to admit it was more interesting to hear about work at a software company. 🙂

Vaughn Heppner

John, you’ve followed in his foot steps. Black Gate is very writer friendly. You know, I remmeber now what I wanted to ask you. You spoke about Lord of Light changing your life–at least, I think that’s what I heard. I loved Roger’s work. Creatures of Light and Darkness and Jack of Shadows were just great. But if you don’t mind me asking, how did Lord of Light change your life?


Tumithak was the clincher for me, the one that finally convinced me to commit. I had been buying BG at the bookstand, but got the subscription after the first Tumithak appeared.

John ONeill

Hi Christian,

Thanks for the compliment! Tell me more about your Geekerati podcasts… are they still available?

John ONeill


I know what you mean. More than once I’ve been asked when I’m going to quit my day job to devote myself to publishing and editing full time. But my software career has been extremely exciting and varied… and I’m certainly in no hurry to give it up.

John ONeill

> if you don’t mind me asking, how did Lord of Light change your life?

Hi Vaughn,

Not at all. I read LORD OF LIGHT when I was 14. I was a pretty typical for a teen SF reader… I got top marks in math and science, was socially insecure, yet secretly convinced that my aptitude for math and science somehow prepared me for sucess far better than my peers.

LORD OF LIGHT really showed me what that kind of thinking lead to. The protagonist, Sam, struggles mightily against an elitest cabal that has seized power on a far planet, keeping scientific advancement from the masses and ruling as gods.

I had read countless SF novels which essentially portrayed individuals just like those as heroes: brilliant, individualistic, and serving science against all odds. LORD OF LIGHT was the first to successfully show the flip side – that the true virtues worth pursuing were compassion and a love of people.

After that I found I couldn’t really enjoy SF novels which portrayed the hero as smarter and more smug than everyone else, especially about science. Those weren’t virtues for me any more. It was just a type of elitism, in the same way those popular high school cliques were elitist. In my own secret smugness, I had been just as bad as everyone else.

Other books held more sophisticated epiphanies for me, of course. But that was later. LORD OF LIGHT came at exactly the right age for me, and it was also a rolicking good story. I’ve loved it ever since.

John ONeill

> Tumithak was the clincher for me, the one that finally convinced me to commit.
> I had been buying BG at the bookstand, but got the subscription after the first
> Tumithak appeared.

Glad to hear that, xdpaul. 🙂

One of my favorite letters came from a long time BG reader who complained about the first Tumithak installment, saying it was the weakest story in the issue.

He also said he read the second installment before reading anything else in the next issue, because he was dying to know what happened.

That was the letter that truly convinced me that serial fiction was the way to sell a magazine. 🙂

Vaughn Heppner


Thanks for sharing that. I found it interesting. 14 seems like such a critical age. Well, 13 to 15. A guy forgets that sometimes.

Sam was a great character. I loved him best for going double or nothing with the demons, and for finding the real Buddha in Rild. The bridge right was fantastic.

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