The Top 20 Black Gate Fiction Posts in January

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

AppleMarkMark Rigney’s “The Find,” part of his perennially popular Tales of Gemen series, hit the top of the fiction charts this month. “The Find” is actually Part II of the series, which began with “The Trade,” which Tangent Online called a “Marvelous tale. Can’t wait for the next part.”

Next on the list was E.E. Knight’s sword & sorcery epic “The Terror of the Vale,” the second in the Blue Pilgrim sequence, following “That of the Pit.” Third was Martha Wells’ complete novel, the Nebula nominee The Death of the Necromancer. Making its debut on the list was Sword Sisters by Tara Cardinal and Alex Bledsoe, the exciting new sword & sorcery novel from our friends at Rogue Blades Entertainment. It’s great to see RBE publishing novels again — and you can check it out right here.

Rounding out the Top Five was Joe Bonadonna’s fast-paced adventure “The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum.” Also making the list were exciting stories by Dave Gross, Mike Allen, Vaughn Heppner, Jamie McEwan, Aaron Bradford Starr, Janet Morris and Chris Morris, Jason E. Thummel, David C. Smith, Ryan Harvey, Michael Shea, Harry Connolly, John C. Hocking, and Alex Kreis.

If you haven’t sampled the adventure fantasy stories offered through our new Black Gate Online Fiction line, you’re missing out. All last year we 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 January:

  1. The Find,” Part II of The Tales of Gemen, by Mark Rigney
  2. The Terror in the Vale,” by E.E. Knight
  3.  The Death of the Necromancer, a complete novel by Martha Wells
  4. An excerpt from Sword Sisters, by Tara Cardinal and Alex Bledsoe
  5. The Moonstones of Sor Lunarum,” by Joe Bonadonna
  6. An excerpt from Pathfinder Tales: King of Chaos, by Dave Gross
  7. An excerpt from The Black Fire Concerto, by Mike Allen
  8. Draugr Stonemaker,” by Vaughn Heppner
  9. Falling Castles,” by Jamie McEwan
  10. The Sealord’s Successor,” by Aaron Bradford Starr
  11. Read More »

Leigh Brackett, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Appendix N: Advanced Readings in D&D

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Galactic Breed-smallAnd so we come to the end of our extended journey through Gygax’s Appendix N, at the hands of our intrepid guides Tim Callahan and Mordicai Knode at

We haven’t always agreed with the opinions of Messieurs Callahan and Knode. But that’s okay. More than okay, really… what’s the point of following along with a literary survey if we don’t get to pound the table occasionally and shout “You lunkheads!” Really, the primary pleasure we old-timers get these days is disagreeing with self-proclaimed experts. Loudly, and at length.

But overall I think Callahan and Knode, the Lewis and Clark of Appendix N, have done a fine job. They’ve surveyed every entry in Gary Gygax’s original list of authors who influenced Dungeons and Dragons, just as they promised when they set out nine months ago. Along the way, they’ve shared their opinions — sometimes as informed experts, sometimes as newbies coming to the work of the masters for the first time.

And at every stop, they’ve been honest with us on whether or not the books spoke to them as modern readers. I don’t think we can ask for anything more than that.

I’m going to miss following along with Tim and Mordicai. Whether I agreed with them or not — nodding along with “Yup, yer darn tootin’,” or banging my head on the table and cursing every reader born after 1990 — they were always entertaining, enlightening, and frequently very funny.

But we still have two last articles to examine: Mordicai’s appreciation of the grand old lady of science fantasy, Leigh Brackett, and Mordicai and Tim’s wrap-up of the entire series, their salute to J.R.R. Tolkien. Let’s see if these last two pieces bring more nodding, or table-banging.

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Vintage Treasures: The Trouble With Tycho by Clifford D. Simak / Bring Back Yesterday by A. Bertram Chandler

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Trouble with Tycho-smallWhile we’re on the topic of my favorite Ace Doubles (trust me, we were), I should say a thing or two about Clifford D. Simak’s The Trouble With Tycho. Simak is not well remembered today. None of his 28 novels are in print (unless you count low-end Kindle or POD editions from specialty publishers), and he had something of a rep as a SF midlister for much of his career. But he remains one of my all-time favorite SF writers. He won three Hugos: for his 1963 novel Way Station, for the short story “Grotto of the Dancing Deer” (1980), and his 1959 masterpiece “The Big Front Yard,” perhaps the most perfect SF story ever written. He also won a Nebula (for “Grotto”).

Simak penned many fine SF adventure-mysteries. One of the first I came across was The Trouble With Tycho, the tale of a haunted crater on the moon and the desperate space miners who try to plumb its secrets. It was part of a 1961 Ace Double, with a cover by John Schoenherr and paired with A. Bertram Chandler’s Bring Back Yesterday. Here’s the blurb from the first page.

No Second Chance on the Moon

Prospecting on the Moon was pretty grim and un-rewarding. With no water, no oxygen, and almost no valuable ores, it was one helluva place to try and get rich quick. Only most of the would-be prospectors didn’t find this out until after they’d gotten there.

And Chris Jackson was no exception. He’d gotten the syndicate back home to put up the money for a moon rig and the passage out, and now he had to make good their faith in him. Had to make it on the Moon, even if it meant going into Tycho!

For Tycho was the one place on Luna where there were positive riches to be found — in salvage. The remains of three expeditions that had disappeared in Tycho would be perfectly preserved in that airless atmosphere, and the man who could get to them — and get out again alive — would have his fortune made.

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Basic Dungeons and Dragons is Still Kicking: An Interview with Module Writer Geoff Gander

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

To_End_the_Rising_Web_CoverGeoff Gander is a dark fantasy writer and D&D module-creator living in Ottawa, Canada. Geoff and I met over early morning coffee to talk gaming.

Derek: So, you write Basic D&D modules. You’ve had 2 modules printed by Expeditious Retreat Press. Even when I was a small town teenager, I could still get my hands on a variety of role playing games, especially AD&D, making Basic seem like yesterday’s news. Now, twenty-five years later, people are paying you money to write modules for Basic. Where’s that market coming from?

Geoff: We’re seeing the rise of old school gaming in classic pen-and-paper RPGs as well as computers. Many old schoolers who played D&D and similar games in the 80s are now introducing the games to their children, or they may have followed the general flow of gaming culture towards the latest products on the market, and have grown nostalgic for what got them into the hobby in the first place.

There are also people like me, who grew dissatisfied with the quality of mainstream gaming products and stayed with the systems they enjoyed, long after they went out of print.

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Sean P. Fodera Apologizes to Mary Robinette Kowal

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Macmillan Associate Director of contracts Sean P. Fodera

Sean P. Fodera (source: MidAmerican Fan Photo Archive)

Macmillan Associate Director of Contracts Sean P. Fodera, who attacked Mary Robinette Kowal in a series of public posts at SFF.Net, and recently threatened to sue individuals linking to a critical Daily Dot article by Aja Romano, has consulted with his attorney and been absent from the Internet for several days. Now, as noted by the folks at Reddit, Fodera has posted “a full and lengthy apology, beautifully written by his lawyer.”

First, I’d like to be clear that any statements I have made (or make hereafter) on this matter have been (or will be) my own opinions, and do not represent the opinions of my employer. I should have included a disclaimer to this effect in my regular posts on…

I fully accept and acknowledge that my statements about Mary Robinette Kowal were extreme and unnecessary… I want to apologize to Mary for doing that. Mary, if you are reading this, I really am very sorry for my inconsiderate and insensitive response to the question, and my later posts…

With regard to the articles and other posts that my comments inspired, I have spoken at length to legal counsel, who feel that I may have legitimate cause to bring suit against The Daily Dot and/or Aja Romano for defamation. However, this would be a costly and very lengthy endeavor… My attorney has also updated me on the legal status of linking to the Daily Dot article. I had not kept up on the recent rulings in this area, and was therefore referencing outdated information in stating that I believed linkers are also liable in defamation cases. This is why it was important to consult counsel, so that I could have reputable and up-to-date information about my options in this situation.

Mary, always a class act, responded immediately on SFF.Net.

Thank you. That is a deeply handsome apology. I accept without reservation.

You can read the complete text of Fodera’s apology here and Mary’s response here.

New Treasures: Reflected by Rhiannon Held

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Reflected Rhiannon Held-smallI’m not sure why, but everyone on the Internet seems to be showing the wrong cover for Reflected. The artwork — a beautifully spooky silhouette of a woman reclining by a mist-covered, moonlit lake — is correct, but the text is wrong, and the title is at the top, instead of the bottom. Amazon’s cover is wrong; so is Barnes & Noble. Even Goodreads is showing the pre-release version. The correct cover, scanned from the hot-of-the-presses copy in my hot little hands, is at right.

Well, at least they’re all talking about the book. Reflected is Rhiannon Held’s third novel, the second sequel to her very popular debut Silver, an urban fantasy which introduced the Roanoke were-pack and the deadly monsters which threaten them.

The Were have lived among humans for centuries, secretly, carefully. They came to America with the earliest European colonists, seeking a land where their packs could run free. Andrew Dare is a descendant of those colonists, and he and his mate, Silver, have become alphas of the Roanoke pack, the largest in North America.

But they have enemies, both within their territory and beyond the sea. Andrew is drawn away to deal with the problem of a half-human child in Alaska, leaving Silver to handle the pack and his rebellious daughter just as a troublemaker from Spain arrives on the scene.

Reflected is the third in the series, following Silver (2012) and Tarnished (2013). It was published by Tor Books on February 18, 2014. It is 336 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. Visit Rhiannon Held’s website here.

See all of our recent New Treasures here.

The Madness of True Detective

Friday, February 21st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

HBO True Detective-smallSo everyone in my office has been talking about the new HBO show True Detective, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.

They talk in hushed whispers. “Hey, did you watch last night?” Suddenly, the volume drops and all I hear is a low buzz over the cube wall. I hear enough to know they’re taking about McConaughey and that new HBO show — and they’re obviously riveted.

I haven’t seen it. Did see the cool ad and noticed how vastly different McConaughey looked, all gaunt in a suit. He’s really turned into an Actor’s Actor, what with terrific recent performances in Mud and Dallas Buyers Club. Although my favorite McConaughey film is probably Sahara. Man, my kids still spout quotes from that movie. Every day I hear, “Sit down… I’ll get the check.” (And, “Of course I brought the dynamite!”)

Anyway. I’ve been seeing a strange flurry of articles about Robert W. Chambers’s brilliant collection The King in Yellow crop up on Facebook recently, and I saw the headline of that io9 piece, “The One Literary Reference You Must Know to Appreciate True Detective.” But I didn’t really make the connection until I saw this article at The Daily Beast, “Read The King in Yellow, the True Detective Reference That’s the Key to the Show.”

The key to understanding HBO’s enthralling series True Detective might be the references to the Yellow King and Carcosa, which the killer Reggie Ledoux talks about and the show hints at to be figures and symbols of a satanic cult of some sort. But the Yellow King is an allusion to The King in Yellow, an 1895 book of horror and supernatural short stories by the writer Robert W. Chambers…

Holy cow… True Detective is based on The King in Yellow?

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Spaghetti Westerns Go Kaballah

Friday, February 21st, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

MerkabahRiderVol12merkabah-rider-mensch_erdelac__edited-5-small2I’ve known Ed Erdelac from New Pulp circles, but had never read any of his fiction before. Ed is a very talented author who has determined to carve out his own niche in the familiar sub-genre of spaghetti westerns.

If one is to be accurate, spaghetti westerns were westerns of the 1960s and 1970s made by Italian filmmakers in Spain with international casts and international funding. They offered an avant garde spin on westerns which were gritty, realistic, bloody, and notably laconic in contrast to the traditional Hollywood westerns which mythologized America’s past. Since the mid-1960s, Hollywood has occasionally offered up their own imitation spaghetti westerns, right up to Quentin Tarantino’s acclaimed Django Unchained.

Enter: Ed Erdelac. Ed wasn’t the first author to translate spaghetti westerns to the printed page. Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy inspired a Man with No Name literary series in the 1960s. However, he is, to my knowledge, the first author to put a Jewish spin on this very stylish sub-genre. While there was a tongue-in-cheek Jewish spy series in the 1960s, Erdelac isn’t interested in writing a kitsch genre spoof like Sol Weinstein’s Agent Oy-Oy Seven series. The Merkabah Rider series is as deadly serious as it is eccentric and the dramatic tone makes all the difference to the book’s success.

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Before and After

Friday, February 21st, 2014 | Posted by Violette Malan

The Door Into SummerOver the last few weeks, I’ve been talking about apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic Fantasy and SF, and something that’s come up a couple of times in the comments is the idea of a “precursor” civilization. On the one hand, we’ve more or less agreed that the existence of one doesn’t automatically mean that the present story is post-apocalyptic. On the other hand, unless we’re writing about Neanderthals, we’re pretty much always dealing with a pre-existing civilization, aren’t we?

In SF, the precursor society is easy to figure out. It’s us. SF is the fiction of change, and the social/scientific/technological world that it changes from is the one the writer/reader is living in. There seem to be two basic approaches to this concept, one in which the story is set in the near future, and one in which today’s society lies somewhere in the distant past.

With the exception of people like Isaac Asimov, and works like his Foundation Trilogy, most of the early SF writers were using the near future premise. Heinlein’s The Door into Summer, for example, written in the 1950’s, was set in the 1970’s. The movie Blade Runner is set in 2017.

I know. As SF fans have been saying for years, “Where’s my flying car?” This gives you a hint as to why the near future premise isn’t used much anymore. The future got here a lot faster, and in many ways differently, than anticipated. We might have microwave ovens, but we’re not colonizing the moons of Jupiter.

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Goth Chick News: Comics Collector as Movie Hero; Or A Valentine From My Favorite Indy Film Crew

Thursday, February 20th, 2014 | Posted by Sue Granquist

As you well know, we here at Goth Chick News are mad supporters of the independent film industry.  This is mainly because we’re obsessed with anyone who has the courage and determination to pursue their passion and are willing to let us watch.

That and I’m a sucker for brooding artistic boys…

And no one epitomizes these traits better than my friends at Pirate Pictures, who gave us a peek into the world of real movie magic by allowing us to ride along with their production of Shadowland.  Now, Shadowland star Jason Contini and director Wyatt Weed have teamed up on a new project that isn’t exactly a typical GCN subject matter, but does involve a topic that is near and dear to most Black Gate fans… comics.

Four Color Eulogy is a drama/comedy revolving around the world of comic books and self-publishing. But rather that tell you any more, take a gander at this clip that not only explains the movie, but some of the process of getting a concept from script to big screen.

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