Diversity in Fandom: Lessons from Worldcon

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

OMG!!! This fan is different than me! Panic!!!

OMG!!! This fan is different than me! Panic!!!

This post is for whites only.

If you aren’t white, go away. Even if you are white but aren’t straight, I don’t want you reading my post. White women probably don’t need to read it either. And if you’re Muslim, get out of here.

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Last Chance to Win a Copy of Patrick Swenson’s The Ultra Thin Man

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Ultra Thin Man-smallLast week, I told you that you had a chance to win a copy of Patrick Swenson’s new novel The Ultra Thin Man. Why? Because good things happen to good people.

How do you win, you lucky dog? Just send an e-mail to john@blackgate.com with the title “The Ultra Thin Man” and a one-sentence review of your favorite Tor fantasy novel. One winner will be drawn at random from all qualifying entries and we’ll publish the best reviews here on the Black Gate blog. But hurry, because the contest closes August 31.

All entries become the property of New Epoch Press. No purchase necessary. Must be 12 or older. Decisions of the judges (capricious as they may be) are final. Not valid where prohibited by law. Eat your vegetables. Thanks to Tor for providing the prize (and for footing for shipping). Here’s the description, because I think it sounds fantastic, and I wish Tor would let me enter my own contest. Bastards.

In the twenty-second century, a future in which mortaline wire controls the weather on the settled planets and entire refugee camps drowse in drug-induced slumber, no one — alive or dead, human or alien — is quite what they seem. When terrorists manage to crash Coral, the moon, into its home planet of Ribon, forcing evacuation, it’s up to Dave Crowell and Alan Brindos, contract detectives for the Network Intelligence Organization, to solve a case of interplanetary consequences. Crowell’ and Brindos’s investigation plunges them neck-deep into a conspiracy much more dangerous than anything they could have imagined.

The two detectives soon find themselves separated, chasing opposite leads: Brindos has to hunt down the massive Helkunn alien Terl Plenko, shadow leader of the terrorist Movement of Worlds. Crowell, meanwhile, runs into something far more sinister — an elaborate frame job that puts our heroes on the hook for treason.

In this novel from Patrick Swenson, Crowell and Brindos are forced to fight through the intrigue to discover the depths of an interstellar conspiracy. And to answer the all-important question: Who, and what, is the Ultra Thin Man?

The Ultra Thin Man was published by Tor Books on August 12, 2014. It is 334 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Victor Mosquera.


New Treasures: Reach For Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Reach For Infinity Solaris-smallReach For Infinity makes me very happy.

A while back, I wrote a blog post titled “Is the Original SF and Fantasy Paperback Anthology Series Dead?“, in which I lamented the death of the great genre anthologies like Orbit, New Dimensions, and Universe, and noted that no modern publisher had the courage to launch one these days. None except Solaris that is, which recently started several excellent new anthology series — including Jonathan Strahan’s terrific Infinity line, beginning with Engineering Infinity (2010) and Edge of Infinity (2012).

I’m thrilled to see at least one publisher willing to take the risk… and more importantly, to pull it off. Kudos to Jonathan Strahan and his editors at Solaris for making the impossible look easy. These books deserve your support and they’re a fantastic and inexpensive way to introduce yourself to some great writers. Check them out — and start with Reach For Infinity, the third in the series, now on sale.

Humanity Among the Stars

What happens when we reach out into the vastness of space? What hope for us amongst the stars?

Multi-award winning editor Jonathan Strahan brings us fourteen new tales of the future, from some of the finest science fiction writers in the field.

The fourteen startling stories in this anthology feature the work of Greg Egan, Aliette de Bodard, Ian McDonald, Karl Schroeder, Pat Cadigan, Karen Lord, Ellen Klages, Adam Roberts, Linda Nagata, Hannu Rajaniemi, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Ken MacLeod, Alastair Reynolds and Peter Watts.

Reach For Infinity was published by Solaris on May 27, 2014. It is 346 pages, priced at $9.99 in trade paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition.


Ancient Worlds: Everything You Learned About the Epic of Gilgamesh – and Promptly Forgot

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

4133583_orig

King of Uruk. With Kitten.

Vengeful goddesses. Rad bromances. Quests for eternal life. Sex, sex, and more sex…

Sounds like The CW, right? Instead, it’s what is likely the earliest surviving piece of literature we have: the Epic of Gilgamesh.

First written in the 18th century BCE, and composed in its present form probably sometime in the 13th century BCE, Gilgamesh was lost to us until 1853, when its tablets were discovered in Ninevah.

That’s right: tablets. Ancient Mesopotamian texts were inscribed by a wedge-shaped stylus onto wet clay tablets. (Bring that out the next time someone starts up the paper vs digital book argument.) And a good thing, too: had the epic been inscribed on parchment, it would be long gone.

But while the text itself was lost to us for millennia, the story left its traces behind. Once the Epic of Gilgamesh was discovered, we could see its fingerprints all over ancient myth and literature, from the Book of Genesis to the Illiad.

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Celebrating 1 Million Page Views: The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in July

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

startersetWe invited America into our home last month to sit down and talk about fantasy, and America showed up. It stuck around too, peeking under the couch cushions and rooting around in the back of the fridge. By the end of July, the Black Gate servers had racked up 1.1 million page views — a new record for us, and the first time we’ve ever crossed a million.

We’re celebrating a bit this month, but not too hard. Because America is still here, with an insatiable appetite for news and reviews on the latest in new and classic fantasy. And also for bean dip, which America eats in great quantity. Unfortunately, America ate all the chips and left the lid off the salsa, letting it dry overnight. We love you America, but come on. Don’t be a jerk.

The most popular article on the Black Gate blog last month was a forensic analysis of the brand new Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set by Andrew Zimmerman Jones. Interest in the re-launch of D&D — which officially kicked off this month with the release of the new Player’s Handbook — has been very strong.

Next on the list was Howard Andrew Jones’s conversation with author Mark Lawrence, on the occasion of the publication of his new novel Prince of Fools.

Third was “Reading the Entrails,” Matthew David Surridge’s lengthy analysis of 25 years of Locus magazine reader polls on the Best Fantasy Novels of All Time, and how the results have changed over the years — and surprisingly, how they’ve stayed the same.

Rounding out the Top Five were D.B. Jackson’s article, “The Life and Times of a Midlist Author,” and James Maliszewski’s nostalgic look back at previous editions of Dungeons and Dragons, “New Editions Past.”

The complete Top 50 Black Gate posts in July follow.

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Future Treasures: Clariel, The Lost Abhorsen, by Garth Nix

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Clariel Garth Nix-smallGarth Nix is one of my favorite young adult writers. I was tremendously impressed with his dark, gritty, and fast-paced Shade’s Children — talk about your dystopian settings! — and I’ve heard great things about his Seventh Tower series.

But it was his Abhorsen series — Sabriel (1997), Lirael (2002), and Abhorsen (2004) — that really made a splash in this house. My kids absolutely loved them, especially my oldest, Tim. So when the advance proof of Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen arrived last month, it was barely on my desk 24 hours before my kids ran off with it. It’s taken me this long to get it back so I can write about it.

Clariel is a prequel to the earlier volumes, returning to the Old Kingdom for a tale of dark magic, royalty, dangerous action, a strong heroine, and Nix’s usual superb world-building.

Clariel is the daughter of one of the most notable families in the Old Kingdom, with blood relations to the Abhorsen and, most important, to the King. She dreams of living a simple life but discovers this is hard to achieve when a dangerous Free Magic creature is loose in the city, her parents want to marry her off to a killer, and there is a plot brewing against the old and withdrawn King Orrikan. When Clariel is drawn into the efforts to find and capture the creature, she finds hidden sorcery within herself, yet it is magic that carries great dangers. Can she rise above the temptation of power, escape the unwanted marriage, and save the King?

Clariel will be published by HarperCollins on October 14, 2014. It is 400 pages, priced at $18.99 in hardcover and $10.99 for the digital edition.

See all of our upcoming book reports here.


Oz Revisits Under the Dome

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 | Posted by Nick Ozment

under the dome cdThe CBS TV series adaptation of Stephen King’s 2009 novel Under the Dome went into its second season this summer. I haven’t watched the show, but I always thought the premise would make good television. Since the show clearly has a following, I figured I’d revisit my initial impressions of the novel. Up first is what I posted on Goodreads immediately after I finished the book in the summer of 2010. Following that are some additional thoughts as I look back four years later.

June 2010: In a way, this is The Stand on a small scale: specifically, the scale of one rural Maine town. At over 1,000 pages, however, the book’s scale is anything but small. Typical King, though — all the things that fans enjoy about his writing are here: a broad cast of characters, lots of pop-culture references, and everyday people suddenly thrust into a strange situation of survival-of-the-fittest.

Basic premise, if you haven’t already heard, is that the town of Chester’s Mill, Maine — population 2,000 — finds itself cut off from the rest of the world by a sudden, inexplicable, invisible dome that rises far up into the stratosphere and goes deep into the earth. Things, as you can well imagine, go to hell. What may be surprising is how quickly it does: in a matter of days, not weeks or months.

I won’t say anything about the ending, except to say I found it somewhat unsatisfying — King sometimes seems to have trouble wrapping up his books. They start with a bang and keep you turning the pages until the end, but the endings are often lacking in finesse.

One other pitfall that King falls into too much here is the tendency to break people into two camps: the white-hats and the black-hats, with villains so villainously drawn they could be twirling their curly moustaches as a train heads for a damsel tied to the train track.

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The Top 20 Black Gate Fiction Posts in July

Monday, August 25th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Poets in Hell-smallThe most popular piece of fiction on the Black Gate blog last month was “Seven Against Hell” by Janet Morris and Chris Morris, an exclusive sample from their new anthology Poets in Hell.

Don’t step off the podium just yet, Janet and Chris. I’m happy to report that the #2 fiction post in July was also from fantasy’s power couple: an excerpt from heroic fantasy novel The Sacred Band by — who else? — Janet Morris and Chris Morris.

Third was perennial favorite “The Find,” by Mark Rigney, Part II of The Tales of Gemen, which has been near the top of the charts every month since it was first published here nearly three years ago.

Michael Shea’s tale of Lovecraftian horror, “Tsathoggua,” which first appeared here last September, came in fourth.

Next was Aaron Bradford Starr’s epic novella “The Sealord’s Successor,” the third adventure fantasy featuring Gallery Hunters Gloren Avericci and Yr Neh, the most popular adventuring duo we’ve ever published.

Also making the list were exciting stories by Joe Bonadonna, Mike Allen, John C. Hocking, C.S.E. Cooney, Sean McLachlan, Peter Cakebread, Vaughn Heppner, Jason E. Thummel, Harry Connolly, Steven H Silver, E.E. Knight, Judith Berman, Martha Wells, David C. Smith, and Dave Gross.

If you haven’t sampled the free adventure fantasy stories offered through our Black Gate Online Fiction line, you’re missing out. Here are the Top Twenty most-read stories in July.

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Action Comics #1 Sells For $3,207,852 on eBay

Monday, August 25th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Action Comics Issue 1-smallIf you’ve been on eBay at all in the last ten days, you’ve probably seen banner ads for an unusual auction: a copy of Action Comics #1, featuring the first appearance of Superman. Written and drawn by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Action #1 was published on April 18, 1938 (cover-dated June) by National Allied Publications, the company that eventually became DC Comics. Although it had a print run of over 200,000, only some 50-100 copies of Action #1 are still known to exist.

The seller, Darren Adams of Pristine Comics in Washington, had the comic professionally graded by CGC at a 9.0. Only one other copy has ever achieved a 9.0, and it sold for $2.16 million in 2011. Until yesterday, that was the highest price ever paid for a comic book. Adams didn’t restrain his enthusiasm in the auction description:

For sale here is the single most valuable comic book to ever be offered for sale, and is likely to be the only time ever offered for sale during many of our lifetimes… This is THE comic book that started it all. This comic features not only the first appearance of Superman, Clark Kent and Lois Lane, but this comic began the entire superhero genre that has followed during the 76 years since. It is referred to as the Holy Grail of comics and this is the finest graded copy to exist with perfect white pages. This is…. the Mona Lisa of comics and stands alone as the most valuable comic book ever printed.

This particular copy is the nicest that has ever been graded, with an ASTONISHING grade of CGC 9.0! To date, no copies have been graded higher and only one other copy has received the same grade. It is fair to say though that this copy blows the other 9.0 out of the water. Compared to the other 9.0 that sold for $2.1million several years ago it has significant superior eye appeal, extremely vibrant colors and PERFECT WHITE PAGES.

The auction ended at 6:00 pm Pacific time on Sunday. Bidders had to be pre-qualified and there were a total of 48 bids. The winning bid, placed 32 seconds before the end of the 10-day auction, was made by an unidentified eBay veteran with feedback from over 2,500 sellers. See the eBay auction listing here.


The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Speckled Band — He’s Done Better…

Monday, August 25th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Band_Roylott

“I will go when I have said my say. Don’t you dare to meddle with my affairs…”

“The Speckled Band,” the eighth of the short stories which make up The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, first appeared in the Strand Magazine in February, 1892. It is often cited as a favorite Holmes case by fans of the great detective. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself put it at number one on his own list in 1927. I’ve read it at least a dozen times.

However, it also appears to be one of the most poorly handled the world’s first private consulting detective. There are several questionable aspects that leave one to wonder at Holmes’ actions:

HERE BE SPOILERS

If you haven’t read this story yet, take fifteen minutes and do so. You can read it online here, with illustrations. Going on with my article before you’ve read the story will truly ruin one of the Canon’s best known tales.

Sending Helen Stoner Home – Helen Stoner is worried that her stepfather will be angry with her when they are both back home after their separate visits to Baker Street. Holmes tells her that Roylott must “guard himself” or he may find that someone is on his track.

Roylott already knows that Helen has been to visit Holmes: the cat is out of the bag. It is unclear why Holmes is not concerned for her safety. He even says that if Roylott gets violent with her, he will take her to her aunt’s home. That’s a bit reactive. Holmes does not seem to be properly safeguarding her welfare.

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