New Treasures: Copperhead by Tina Connolly

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Copperhead-smallI first met Tina Connolly at the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego in 2011. She was charming, witty, and very entertaining — precisely the kind of person you want to follow around to all the good parties. I tried this enthusiastically for a while, until someone from the con committee patiently explained to me that this was called “stalking” and was, like, illegal.

Fortunately, Tina Connolly is also a very talented writer. And reading her novels (I’ve discovered) is exactly like hanging out with the author at a great party. The same sparkling wit, the same penetrating intelligence. Except, unlike at parties, I can pause the conversation to look up words without looking stupid.

Tina’s first novel Ironskin was an historical fantasy set in an alternate version of early 1900s England, and was nominated for a Nebula Award last year. The sequel Copperhead has finally arrived, and it looks just as delightful as the first volume.

Helen Huntingdon is beautiful — so beautiful she has to wear an iron mask.

Six months ago her sister Jane uncovered a fey plot to take over the city. Too late for Helen, who opted for fey beauty in her face — and now has to cover her face with iron so she won’t be taken over, her personality erased by the bodiless fey.

Not that Helen would mind that some days. Stuck in a marriage with the wealthy and controlling Alistair, she lives at the edges of her life, secretly helping Jane remove the dangerous fey beauty from the wealthy society women who paid for it. But when the chancy procedure turns deadly, Jane goes missing — and is implicated in a murder.

Meanwhile, Alistair’s influential clique Copperhead — whose emblem is the poisonous copperhead hydra — is out to restore humans to their “rightful” place, even to the point of destroying the dwarvven who have always been allies.

Helen is determined to find her missing sister, as well as continue the good fight against the fey. But when that pits her against her own husband — and when she meets an enigmatic young revolutionary — she’s pushed to discover how far she’ll bend society’s rules to do what’s right. It may be more than her beauty at stake. It may be her honor… and her heart.

Copperhead was published by Tor Books on October 15th. It is 318 pages, priced at $24.99 in hardcover, and $11.99 for the digital edition.

The Powerful Geek

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 | Posted by Jon Sprunk

Darth Vader in a suit-smallWhen I was ten years old, my father enrolled my brother and me into martial arts classes given at the local YMCA. It was a two-class session, starting with tae kwon do and then switching to judo for the second hour. It was my first real experience with physical training outside of school gym class. I was hooked right away.

At first, I really preferred the tae kwon do with its blocks and punches and kicks that somewhat resembled what my brother and I watched on Black Belt Theater on Saturday afternoons. The judo, on the other hand, was a lot more work. The instructor spent half the class running us through fairly rigorous calisthenics, followed by grappling and throws.

Now, by the time we began these lessons, I was already a fantasy- and scifi-loving geek. I was into Star Wars, Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings, Conan, and superheroes. For me, martial arts were a real-life connection to the heroic feats that permeated those works. Bruce Lee was one of my earliest personal icons. As I got older and went college, I added bodybuilding to my repertoire. After graduating, I worked for fourteen years as a guard at a maximum-security juvenile detention center, where my training was put to practical use.

It doesn’t require a Ph.D. in psychology to realize I was undergoing a transformation in all this. Studying these arts and working out allowed me to model the attributes of my childhood heroes. Yet, in aping these heroic qualities, I was also feeding my inner fantasy life. It helped me to make the decision to pursue fantasy writing as a career, as if it were a natural step on my personal journey.

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The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in October

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs-smallThe top article on the Black Gate blog last month was our look at Mike Resnick and Robert Garcia’s new anthology Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs. (A few weeks later Robert Garcia wrote his first Saturday blog post for us, a fond look back at The Pulp Art of Virgil Finlay. Do we bring the heavy hitters, or what?)

Second on the list was E.E. Knight’s open letter to Amy Farrah Fowler, a character on The Big Bang Theory, on her controversial theory that Indiana Jones had no impact on the ending of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Fight the good fight, Eric.

Third was Jon Sprunk’s look at his favorite fantasy films, followed by his article on the use of elves in fantasy lit. Way to hog the list, Jon. Rounding out the Top Five was James Maliszewski’s “Appendix T,” an attempt to craft a hypothetical Appendix N for the great Traveller RPG, listing roughly 20 works of classic science fiction that clearly influenced the game’s creators.

The complete Top 50 Black Gate posts in October were:

  1. New Treasures: Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs
  2. An Open Letter to Amy Farrah Fowler, Ph.D
  3. My Favorite Fantasy Movies
  4. To Elf or not to Elf: Races in Fantasy Lit
  5. Appendix T
  6. Richard Kadrey Talks with Black Gate about Dead Set
  7. In Defense of Fantasy Heroes
  8. Campbell’s Reheated Mythopoetic Soup
  9. Remembering Dave
  10. How Many Psychiatrists Does it Take to Change a Genre?


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Ancient Worlds: Between a Rock and a Rabid Sea She-Monster

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

The Ship of UlyssesAfter Odysseus makes his way past the Sirens, he has to thread his way through twin threats on his way home: Scylla and Charybdis. Like many of the threats the Ithacan king faces, these have become proverbial: to be caught between Scylla and Charybdis is to be forced to choose between two terrible options.

And terrible they are. Scylla is a many-headed creature who snaps up sailors as they pass by. Charybdis is an unseen monster who lives under the sea, gulping down water and devouring ships like an aquatic Sarlacc. And if these weren’t individually terrifying enough, they are placed on opposites sides of a narrow strait, so that Odysseus must choose between them. Sailing far enough from Scylla to avoid getting chomped means getting sucked down into Charybdis’ maw, and vice versa.

(And does anyone at this point notice that an overwhelming number of Odysseus’ problems involve him being in terror of being sucked down, eaten, conquered or otherwise waylaid by women? UNLESS HE TERRIFIES THEM WITH HIS GIANT… UH… SWORD? I mean seriously. I really don’t give much weight to Freudian analysis the vast majority of the time but sometimes? You say one thing and you obviously mean your mother.)

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A Hero in the Service of Organized Crime: A Review of Jhereg by Steven Brust

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_250265755JIVFDZI’m always excited to find a new author, especially one with a long back catalogue for me to plunge into. With 26 novels to his name, Steven Brust is one of those finds.

When I first started blogging about swords & sorcery I spent some time looking around for newer books and series (newer for me meaning anything written after 1984). Again and again, people suggested Steven Brust’s Dragaeran Empire series. Without reading too much about it I learned the main protagonist, Vlad Taltos, had a little pet dragon. Right away my brain flashed some kind of warning and, fearing the books might be too cute by half, I rejected them.

Well, a few weeks ago Bill Ward wrote very highly of the adventures of Vlad Taltos. I figured why not? For a penny (plus $3.99 shipping) I ordered The Book of Jhereg (1999), an omnibus containing the series’ first three books: Jhereg, Yendi, and Teckla. Though still apprehensive of the little dragon, I started on Jhereg (1983) and blew through it in two days. Well I’m feeling a little foolish now for not having overcome my dracophobia much sooner.

The Dragaerans are nearly immortal, seven foot tall beings with slightly pointed ears and more finely featured than humans. Their society is divided into seventeen houses, each with its own traits and skills. Humans are a small and disfavored minority. The human Vlad Taltos is an assassin in House Jhereg, the Dragaeran equivalent of the mafia.

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New Treasures: The Edinburgh Dead by Brian Ruckley

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

The Edinburgh Dead-smallThe first time I encountered Brian Ruckley, he impressed me greatly. It was with his long story “Beyond the Reach of His Gods,” in Jason Waltz’s groundbreaking anthology Rage of the Behemoth. Since then, he’s proved that wasn’t a fluke with The Godless World trilogy (Winterbirth, Bloodheir, and Fall of Thanes), a satisfying rich heroic fantasy of an apocalyptic war in a godless winter landscape.

But it was his dark fantasy set in the Scottish capital that really grabbed my attention. A gothic tale of devilry and detective work, it looks like it could be a breakout success for this heroic fantasy writer.

Edinburgh: 1828. In the starkly-lit operating theaters of the city, grisly experiments are being carried out on corpses in the name of medical science. But elsewhere, there are those experimenting with more sinister forces.

Amongst the crowded, sprawling tenements of the labyrinthine Old Town, a body is found, its neck torn to pieces. Charged with investigating the murder is Adam Quire, Officer of the newly-formed Edinburgh Police. The trail will lead him into the deepest reaches of the city’s criminal underclass, and to the highest echelons of the filthy rich.

Soon Quire will discover that a darkness is crawling through this city of enlightenment — and no one is safe from its corruption.

The Edinburgh Dead is a powerful fusion of gothic horror, history, and the fantastical.

The Edinburgh Dead was published by Orbit on August 17, 2011. It is 354 pages, priced at $14.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition.

See all of our recent New Treasures here.

The Uses of Ghosts

Monday, November 25th, 2013 | Posted by markrigney

living-with-ghostsWhile Black Gate readers may (fairly) view me as a sword-and-sorcery writer, thanks to the Tales Of Gemen the Antiques Dealer, a good many of those who have stumbled across my fiction might (fairly) think of me as a horror writer. Since I never expected to fall into that particular category, I’ve been doing a good deal of soul-searching as to the value of what I’m up to – the value, as it were, of basing so much of my tale-spinning on the supernatural instead of, for example, “real life.”

Dare I take this moment to point out that an entirely different set of readers might quite reasonably think of me as a writer of literary fiction?  Yeah, I wear that hat, too.

This odd combination of multiple caps has led me to the following conclusion: ghosts are a tool in the writer’s toolbox, as specific as more established weaponry like setting, length, voice, and theme.

Without further ado, I offer my list of why Things That Go Bump In the Night have worth. I don’t expect this to be an exhaustive list, but I trust that I have made a good start. Perhaps you, gentle reader, will be inspired to add to the till?

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“This is the Real Thing for S&S Fans”: Charles R. Rutledge on “Vestments of Pestilence”

Monday, November 25th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

river-thru-dark-277Novelist and columnist Charles R. Rutledge weighed in on John C. Hocking’s newest Archivist tale last month, saying:

Do you like sword and sorcery? The real stuff, I mean, where sorcery is something dark and dangerous and people get hurt when they fight with sharp edged weapons? Something that’s a little exotic and makes you think of Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber, but still is very much its own thing? Then boy have I got a story for you.

“Vestments of Pestilence” is a short story by John C. Hocking… There are some mystery elements, some humor, a lot of action, and considerable sorcery, all told in a smooth first person voice that has echoes of hard boiled heroes like Marlowe and Spade, but not the overblown snark that seems to be so popular in current urban fantasy…

The feel of the story is nice and dark but the story telling itself is very modern. I was aware as I read that the pace and the suspense were slowly being ratcheted up until I was racing through the last couple of scenes to see how things turned out. There’s also some marvelous characterization in the tale, and trust me, in a story of this length, that’s a hard thing to do… This is the real thing for S&S fans.

“Vestments of Pestilence” is the second Archivist tale we’ve published, following “A River Through Darkness and Light,” in Black Gate 15, which SF Site called “a strong blend of the old sword and sorcery action and mood, but with modern attention to character development.”

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by David C. Smith, David Evan Harris, Janet Morris and Chris Morris, John C. Hocking, Michael Shea, Peadar Ó Guilín, Aaron Bradford Starr, Martha Wells, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, E.E. Knight, C.S.E. Cooney, Howard Andrew Jones, and many others, is here.

“Vestments of Pestilence” was published here September 29. It is a complete 10,000-word novelette of sword & sorcery. Read the complete story here.

Read Charles’s complete review on his blog Singular Points. Art for “A River Through Darkness and Light” by Storn Cook.

Arak Delivers a Turkey

Monday, November 25th, 2013 | Posted by Nick Ozment

Arak 12Happy Thanksgiving. All punning aside, issue 12 is a bit of a disappointment to this reader, especially coming on the heels of the most entertaining installment in the first year of the series.

The premise itself is plenty fun: it’s like Roy Thomas thought, hey, I’ve got Arak here on Mount Olympus; before he moves on, I should work in some run-ins with a couple more creatures of Greek myth. Cerberus. Charon, Ferryman of the Dead. And I’ve got the perfect way to tie them in!

Great. Sign me up. I’m on board. I’ve got some change in my pocket for ye olde skull-face ferryman, as long as it’s a two-way trip.

What seems to have been phoned in this issue is the writing. The dialogue and the narration read like someone filling in for Thomas, a poor imitation. Maybe he was on a tight deadline for this one; maybe the whole thing was rushed — Ernie Colón’s art and layouts also pale in comparison to his work on the previous issue. The exception is the back-up feature, which I’ll get to later.

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The Top 20 Black Gate Fiction Posts in October

Sunday, November 24th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

The Black Fire Concerto-smallOur exclusive excerpt from Mike Allen’s dark fantasy novel The Black Fire Concerto was our most popular work of fiction in October, its first month at the top of the charts. John R. Fultz called it “A post-apocalyptic melody played on strings of Terror and Sorcery,” and apparently word is getting around.

Joe Bonadonna’s “The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum,” in the number 2 slot, has been steadily creeping up the charts since we posted it last December. It is without a doubt the most consistently popular work of fiction we have ever published.

Last month’s chart topper, Dave Gross’ Pathfinder Tales: King of Chaos, came in third, an entirely respectable showing; and John C. Hocking’s new story “Vestments of Pestilence” broke into the Top Ten for the first time, coming in 4th. Rounding out the Top Five was E.E. Knight’s perennial favorite “The Terror in the Vale,” first published in January.

Also making the list were exciting stories by Janet Morris and Chris Morris, David Evan Harris, Martha Wells, Peadar Ó Guilín, David C. Smith and Joe Bonadonna, David C. Smith, Howard Andrew Jones, Michael Shea, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Mark Rigney, Jamie McEwan, Aaron Bradford Starr, Alex Kreis, and Ryan Harvey.

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

  1. An excerpt from The Black Fire Concerto, by Mike Allen
  2. The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum,” by Joe Bonadonna
  3. An excerpt from Pathfinder Tales: King of Chaos, by Dave Gross
  4. Vestments of Pestilence,” by John C. Hocking
  5. The Terror in the Vale,” by E.E. Knight
  6. The Sacred Band” by Janet Morris and Chris Morris
  7. The Gentle Sleeper” by David Evan Harris
  8. An excerpt from Pathfinder Tales: Queen of Thorns, by Dave Gross
  9. The Death of the Necromancer, a complete novel by Martha Wells
  10. The Dowry,” by Peadar Ó Guilín


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