Hilary Mantel and Beyond Black

Saturday, August 31st, 2013 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Beyond BlackHilary Mantel’s two novels of Tudor-era statesman Thomas Cromwell, 2009’s Wolf Hall and 2012’s Bring Up the Bodies, have both won the Man Booker prize; a third, The Mirror and the Light, will complete the trilogy, but has not yet been scheduled for publication. I want to write here not about those books, but about 2005’s Beyond Black, the last book Mantel published before embarking on the Cromwell trilogy. Her ninth novel, it was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Orange Prize. It’s a novel of the fantastic, in the broadest sense, and can be approached as fantasy, as horror, even as noir; but may be best understood simply as a thing in itself.

It’s the story of a medium, Alison Hart (born Cheetham, who changed her name for obvious PR reasons), and the business manager she hires, Colette. It follows their relationship, as well as Alison’s half-hearted attempt to recover memories of her abusive childhood. It’s also the story of their relationship with the ghosts who follow Alison, but remain invisible and imperceptible to Colette. One of these is Alison’s principal spirit guide, Morris, and you will find few characters living or dead nastier than he and his friends. Morris is one of a group of thugs from Alison’s past and understanding their background — what Alison did as a girl and what was done to her — becomes the key to the novel.

Or, at least, a key. The book’s notably plotless, in the sense of being defined by actions in sequence that necessitate one another. Things happen, characters change and are revealed, but there’s no tight narrative. The book’s held together by character, by imagery, by tone, and by the fantastic conceit at its heart: the validity of ghosts and psychic experience. To me, that makes it not just a fantasy, but one that’s worth looking at because the fantasy does something unusual — it’s part of the structure of the book in an interesting way.

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Celebrate the Sword & Sorcery Tradition of David Gemmell with Legends

Saturday, August 31st, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Legends Stories in Honour of David Gemmell-smallWe’ve been reporting on the David Gemmell Legend Award for the past four summers. It’s usually awarded in July and last year it went to The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss.

There have been some changes this year, however. The big one is that the award has been moved to be part of the World Fantasy Convention, which happens every Halloween.

More interesting to heroic fantasy fans, however, is the impending release of Legends: Stories in Honour of David Gemmell, a new tribute anthology to be be launched October 31st, during the Gemmell Awards Ceremony at WFC.

Legends is being produced partly as a fund-raiser for the awards and is an anthology of original stories written in the tradition of David Gemmell. It is edited by Ian Whates, who proved his editorial acumen with the fine SF anthologies, Solaris Rising and Solaris Rising 2, and will be published by NewCon Press in the UK.

Determined warriors, hideous creatures, wicked sorceries, tricksy villains and cunning lovers abound as fantasy’s finest imaginations do their best… and their worst. James Barclay reveals the origins of The Raven, Adrian Tchaikovsky unveils new aspects of the realm of the Apt, Tanith Lee, Joe Abercrombie, Storm Constantine, Stan Nicholls, Juliet E McKenna and more weave their magic as only they can.

Steel yourself, throw caution to the wind, and dare to enter the realm of Legends.

Here’s the complete contents.

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The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in July

Friday, August 30th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

James FrenkelYou folks certainly have diverse interests.

The top article on the Black Gate blog last month was on the departure of senior editor James Frenkel from Tor, which I think reveals a healthy interest in publishing and the state of the industry. Good for you. Our second most popular post was Howard Andrew Jones’s enthusiastic report on the fan-made show Star Trek Continues, which demonstrates your excellent taste in television programming, followed by a detailed report on using a 40-year old board game to enhance your enjoyment of a 39-year old role playing game. I’m not sure exactly what that reveals about you, but I want you to know, it makes me very proud.

Foz Meadow’s essay on approaching fantasy by avoiding the classics was also in our Top Five articles, followed by Joe Bonnadonna’s review of the new anthology Dreamers in Hell.

The complete Top 50 Black Gate posts in July were:

  1. James Frenkel Leaves Tor
  2. Star Trek Lives
  3. The Secret Supplement: Greyhawk, Gygax, and Outdoor Survival
  4. Challenging the Classics: Questioning the Immutable Hallmarks of Genre
  5. Giving the Devil his Due: A Review of Dreamers in Hell
  6. A Great Place to let Your Imagination Run Wild”: Joe Bonadonna Reviews Rogues in Hell
  7. The Doom that came to Kickstarter
  8. Hi yo Silver Awayzzzzzz: The Lone Ranger Defeats Insomnia
  9. Readercon 24: A Most Readerconnish Miscellany
  10. Vintage Treasures: The Best of Robert Bloch


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GenCon Writer’s Symposium 2013

Friday, August 30th, 2013 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

gencon writerA few short weeks ago, I was in Indianapolis for GenCon, which is almost certainly the pre-eminent gaming convention in North America and probably the world. It’s obviously the place to be if you love table-top gaming, but if you enjoy board games or related interests, it’s also a fine stopping point. What you may not know is that tucked away in one corner of the convention is an exceptional resource for writers.

Let’s face it: there’s so much interesting gaming stuff going on — chances to try out various new games, or to visit with friends from far lands — that you might not think the Symposium is worth your time. But you can take in as much of it, or as little of it, as you desire. Panels start as early as 8:00, which is two hours before the doors to the Great Exhbition Hall open. And these aren’t just dull panels where those behind the podium wander in and ask “now what was this panel about again?” You’ll find pros and semi-pros who are willing to discuss the subject with care and at length.

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Blogging Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon, Part Six

Friday, August 30th, 2013 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

FlashGordon1_original55_d__0_FlashGordon1950sTVStarringStev“The Lost Continent” by Dan Barry was serialized by King Features Syndicate from October 26, 1953 to March 20, 1954. This is the story where Dan Barry finally realized his potential and would serve as the model for his best work on the strip over the next four decades. His art and plotting are reminiscent of the classic original work by Alex Raymond and rank alongside Al Williamson’s later work as the most faithful interpretations of Raymond’s unique style.

The story gets underway with Flash, Dale, and Zarkov enjoying a deep sea fishing trip in the West Indies when they are caught in a hurricane. Their yacht strikes a bathysphere in the storm and is washed ashore with it on the island of Bimini. A panel on the bathysphere opens and Flash, Dale, and Zarkov enter to find a pair of Neanderthals who quickly suffocate in the open air. The dying Neanderthals manage to speak a few words in their strange language and Zarkov makes out “Poseidon” and concludes they hail from the legendary capitol of the lost continent of Atlantis.

Dale discovers a cache of gold coins in the flooring while Zarkov discovers a recording machine that translates thoughts. The device translates the Atlan language into several different languages including English through which they learn the Neanderthals were on a mission to flood the markets of the surface world with the cache of gold in order to destroy the world economy to pave the way for an invasion. The trio resolves to pilot the bathysphere down to Atlantis to sabotage their plan after giving the Neanderthals a proper burial on Bimini.

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Goth Chick News: New Indy Horror 36 Saints and Interview with Star Frank Gonzalez — Plus Free Swag

Thursday, August 29th, 2013 | Posted by Sue Granquist

image002As always, this year’s Chicago Comic Con had no shortage of material and believe me, it was difficult to know where to look first. But the best discovery is when I meet up with the creators of indy films – twice as nice when the films are in my favorite genre.

Indy film folks are hungry and passionate without all the Hollywood jadedness that eventually comes with one or two big box office hits. They put love into every detail of their creations and their enthusiasm is infectious, so I was particularly excited to meet Joey Dedio; actor and producer of the soon-to-be-released horror thriller 36 Saints.

As he explains the premise, you can tell Dedio is psyched about every aspect of this film and his excitement is palpable.

According to the kabbalah teaching, at any given time there are at least 36 holy persons in the world. These holy people are hidden; nobody knows who they are and they themselves are not aware of their role. For the sake of these 36 hidden saints, God preserves the world even if the rest of humanity has degenerated to the level of total barbarism.

36 Saints is like if the movie Seven met The Da Vinci Code. New York’s Police Headquarters is confronted with the horror of a serial murderer whose targets appear to be group of students. Weaving myth, legend and Biblical stories together, this film is filled with suspense while officials try to find the killer before it is too late and more people are killed.

As enthusiastic as Dedio is about the film, he’s clearly thrilled with one of the film’s stars, Frank Gonzales (aka “Franky G”). So when it came time to find out more about 36 Saints, Dedio deferred to Gonzales, which was fine with me considering Gonzales’s horror cred was pretty substantial.

So everyone, meet Franky G – Franky G, this is everyone.

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New Treasures: The Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen

Thursday, August 29th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

The Black Fire Concerto-smallMike Allen is scary talented.

After ten years of editing Black Gate magazine, I respect anyone who grapples with the logistical nightmare of producing a nationally-distributed print journal, and does it on a semi-regular schedule. Mike edits two and he makes it look easy: the acclaimed fantasy anthology series Clockwork Phoenix (four volumes so far) and the fabulous poetry journal Mythic Delirium.

Mike is also a very talented writer in his own right, with a Nebula nomination under his belt for his 2009 short story “The Button Bin” and his first collection of short fiction, The Button Bin And Other Horrors, forthcoming from Dagan Books. Long time BG readers will also remember his massive three-part Monstrous Post on Monsters, one of the most popular blog series we’ve run in the past few years.

See what I mean about talent? If Mike admitted he also plays bass for The Civil Wars on weekends, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

Which is why we were so intrigued when we heard that Mike was working on his first dark fantasy novel. The book was edited by our own C.S.E. Cooney, who demonstrated an unerring ability to spot talent as Website Editor for Black Gate from 2010 to 2012 — and whose own rare writing gifts are on display in her recent books, How to Flirt in Faerieland & Other Wild Rhymes and Jack o’ the Hills.

I read Mike’s book in draft last year and was wowed. He has created a singular feat of the imagination, a world of shape-shifters, ghouls, and worse things, where two young women with a very unique form of magic may be the only hope against a sorceress of untold power.

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Gallowglas, Hester, Wagner & Coe: Four Authors Sound Off on the Writing Life of a Midlister

Thursday, August 29th, 2013 | Posted by Garrett Calcaterra

Children of Amarid-smallJuly 2013 was a month of firsts for me. A book of mine went out of print. A Kickstarter project I launched to fund an interactive e-book died a miserable, unnoticed death. I received my first ever fan art. And on the practical side, the sales numbers for my fantasy novel Dreamwielder got a great boost thanks to its selection as a Barnes & Noble Nook First Look pick, leading to my first ever proper royalty check — not a huge chunk of change, but enough to turn down freelance work and focus solely on my own writing for a few weeks. (Although I still ended up paying my health insurance bill late!)

It’s not exactly the glamorous lifestyle most people think of when they think of a published writer, even an “emerging” author like myself; but it’s one I’ve worked hard for, and one I’m proud of because I know I’ve finally joined the ranks of the SFF author community.

While authors like George R.R. Martin and Neil Gaiman dominate the fantasy bestsellers list and rake in the riches of TV and movie adaptations, the truth is most fantasy authors live a life closer to mine, a life of small successes, financial uncertainty, and near anonymity.

“One of the biggest misconceptions is that writers — all successful, published writers — are rich,” says David B. Coe, a fantasy author who has published over a dozen novels, including two new historical urban fantasy novels under the pseudonym D. B. Jackson. “For most of us, success in today’s market means continuing to be published by a reputable house.”

Coe broke into the fantasy world with his first novel, Children of Amarid, back in 1997, right when the publishing world was about to be turned on its head. “When I started out, I would get oohs and ahhs from people when I mentioned that I had a webpage,” Coe recalls. “Now there are domestic cats with better webpages than mine.”

Since then, the Internet and new technology like e-readers and print-on-demand have irreversibly changed the publishing landscape. Ebook sales skyrocketed. Self-publishing became an accepted alternative for authors to reach a mass audience. In order to adapt and stay competitive, big publishing houses merged with one another and tightened their belts. The days of big advances and promotional budgets for midlister authors is long gone.

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The Top 20 Black Gate Fiction Posts in July

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

bones-of-the-old-onesA bit of a shake-up at the top of the fiction charts this month, as our exclusive excerpt from Howard Andrew Jones’ second Dabir and Asim novel, The Bones of the Old Ones, reclaimed the top spot from Martha Wells’ Nebula nominee The Death of the Necromancer. Coming up close behind were Joe Bonadonna’s perennially popular sword & sorcery tale “The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum,” and E.E. Knight’s thrilling Blue Pilgrim story, “The Terror in the Vale.”

Three of Aaron Bradford Starr’s Gallery Hunter tales made the list this month, including the epic 35,000-word novella “The Sealord’s Successor,” which Tangent Online called “The real deal…  It put me in mind of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser.”

Also making the list were exciting stories by Jamie McEwan, Judith Berman, Ryan Harvey, David C. Smith and Joe Bonadonna, Vera Nazarian, Jason E. Thummel, Gregory Bierly, Robert Rhodes, Emily Mah, Michael Penkas, Mary Catelli, and Vaughn Heppner.

If you haven’t sampled the adventure fantasy stories offered through our new Black Gate Online Fiction line, you’re missing out. Every week, we present an original short story or novella from the best writers in the industry, all completely free. Here are the Top Twenty most-read stories in July:

  1. An excerpt from The Bones of the Old Ones, by Howard Andrew Jones
  2. The Death of the Necromancer, a complete novel by Martha Wells
  3. The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum,” by Joe Bonadonna
  4. The Terror in the Vale,” by E.E. Knight
  5. The Sealord’s Successor,” by Aaron Bradford Starr
  6. The Highwater Harbor,” by Aaron Bradford Starr
  7. Falling Castles,” by Jamie McEwan
  8. The Poison Well,” by Judith Berman
  9. The Sorrowless Thief,” by Ryan Harvey
  10. An excerpt from The Waters of Darkness, by David C. Smith and Joe Bonadonna


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Alana Joli Abbott Reviews Codex Born

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013 | Posted by Bill Ward

codex born coverCodex Born
Jim C. Hines
Daw (320 pgs, $24.95, hardcover August 2013)

There aren’t many writers who can start with the concept of a literal fantasy woman, pulled from the pages of her book to fulfill her lover’s dreams, and turn her from a slave into a complex hero, struggling to understand her own identity and to create herself as a real person. Jim Hines is one of them.

Codex Born, the sequel to Libriomancer, is narrated by fantasy book lover and magician Isaac Vaino, but in many ways the book belongs to Lena Greenwood, a dryad drawn from a pulp SF novel and Isaac’s girlfriend. Libriomancer concluded with Isaac and Lena and Lena’s girlfriend (Isaac’s former therapist) Nidhi Shah agreeing that they’d embark on a shared relationship — both Isaac and Nidhi would be Lena’s lovers, which would allow Lena, product of her book, and thus destined to conform to her lovers’ desires, a chance to become her own person by existing in the conflicting space between Isaac and Nidhi. In Codex Born, that relationship starts to play out — both Nidhi and Isaac struggle with the dynamic, but keep on trying for Lena’s sake — and Lena continues to hope that she can find a way to preserve who she is, even if something happened to Isaac or Nidhi.

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