Ah, August. We miss you already. The nights were warmer, the kids hadn’t started school, and Alice still hadn’t discovered those new paperback collections I tried to hide in the garage. It was a simpler time, a happier time. A time when I didn’t have to sleep on the couch.
Black Gate bloggers were busy in August, too. We posted 105 new articles last month, and our faithful servers in the back room worked overtime delivering 1.28 million pages views… a new record. That’s a page every two seconds, 24 hours a day. Don’t you people ever sleep?
The most popular article last month was Nick Ozment’s review of the blockbuster film The Guardians of the Galaxy. No surprise — it’s well on its way to becoming the biggest film of the year. It’s a terrific science fantasy that could well become this generation’s Star Wars.
Second on the list was Robert J Howe’s reminiscence of his time in various writer’s groups, Writer’s Workshops: Under the Black Flag. Third was Lou Anders’ article on his breakout middle grade fantasy Thrones & Bones: Why I Write What I Write How I Write it.
Fourth on the list was Matthew David Surridge’s report from the fabulous Montreal film festival, My Fantasia Festival, Day 10: Once Upon a Time in Shanghai and Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart. Rounding out the Top Five was Connor Gormley’s feature review of Karl Edward Wagner’s sword & sorcery classic Dark Crusade.
For this month, I tried something a little different by also including the top Categories. The biggest surprise was that one of the top items on the list (at #4, higher than any of the categories except New Treasures and Books) was the RSS feed for our Tuesday blogger James Maliszewski. Way to bring in the crowds, James!
Author and editor Eugie Foster died of respiratory failure today at Emory University in Atlanta.
Eugie announced last October that she has been diagnosed with cancer, a “malignant, fast-growing tumor, around 6cm, in my sinuses and hard and soft palate regions.” She was undergoing aggressive treatments, including a stem cell transplant, which left her vulnerable to infections. In one of her last blog posts, on August 12, 2014, she wrote:
[One] opportunistic bacteria infection has taken up residence in my lower bowels and another one has set up shop in my stomach. Not only is food unpleasant to eat but it’s not doing anything enjoyable once it hits my GI Tract, including staying put. Waaaahhhh!!
They have me on lotso antibiotics and other meds to make this easier on me. I appreciate that but honestly, I just want to be unconscious. None of this is unexpected but it all sucks. Hurry up stem cells. Graft! Graft already!!
I first encountered Eugie when she took over Tangent Online after Dave Truesdale stepped down. Her own short stories were appearing in Interzone, Apex, Fantasy Magazine, Realms of Fantasy, and other places; her story “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” won the 2009 Nebula Award. Jason Waltz introduced me to Eugie at Dragon*Con in 2010, at her busy press station where she produced the onsite newsletter, the Daily Dragon. I found her charming and highly articulate, filled with drive and energy, and seemingly unstoppable.
Her death was announced in a brief blog post by her husband, Matthew M. Foster. She was 42 years old.
September/October Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction now on Sale
I like this era of Internet magazine reviews. When I was growing up, back when computers communicated only through punched cards (or with the voice of Majel Barrett), I would read fabulous short story reviews in fanzines and such, and breathlessly race down to my local news stand to buy the magazine in question, only to have the bookseller look at me funny and say, “That issue sold out six months ago, son.”
Not today. Today, booksellers don’t even know what a magazine is. They still look at me funny though, but now it’s because I forgot to change out of pajama pants before leaving the house.
Also, the wonders of the Internet include short story reviews that appear before the magazine even goes on sale, which means me and my pajama pants can wander out to Barnes & Noble on a Saturday morning to pick up a copy of the September/October issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, after reading this terrific Tangent Online review of “The Caravan To Nowhere,” a new Alaric story in the issue by my friend Phyllis Eisenstein:
Her stories have been nominated for Hugos and Nebulas and this reprint from Rogues, a recent anthology edited by Gardner Dozios and George R. R. Martin, shows why… Alaric, a wandering minstrel and recurring character in Eisenstein’s larger universe, joins a merchant on his journey to harvest a mysterious drug, Powder. The drug has made the merchant’s son an addict and part of Alaric’s job is looking out for the young man, who tends to wander and rant.
Last week, I told you that you had a chance to win a copy of Mark Rigney’s brand new Renner and Quist novel Check-Out Time, on sale next week from Samhain Publishing .
How do you win? Just send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Check-Out Time.” That’s it. That’s all that stands between you and a copy of one of the best horror novels of the year. Two winners will be drawn at random from all qualifying entries and we’ll announce the winners here on the Black Gate blog. What could possibly be easier? But time is running out — the contest closes October 1st.
Mark Rigney’s Tales of Gemen, which Tangent called “Reminiscent of the old sword & sorcery classics,” have dominated our Fiction charts since we published them in 2012. His thrillers starring occult investigators Reverend Renner and Dale Quist began with The Skates and “Sleeping Bear,” and anticipation has been building for their first novel-length adventure. Here’s the book description.
All things must pass — or so we’re told. When Reverend Renner responds to an invitation sent from a long-demolished hotel filled with ghsots of guests from times past, he soon discovers that checking out will be a lot harder than checking in. His sometime friend and investigative partner, Dale Quist, heads to the rescue, but it will take more than brawn and benedictions to put this particular hotel out of business.
All things must pass, indeed –– but that doesn’t mean they have to go quietly.
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. Check-Out Time will be published by Samhain Publishing on October 7, 2014. It is 250 pages, priced at $15 in trade paperback and $5.50 for the digital edition. Be sure to read Mark’s article on the series, The Adventure Continues: the Return of Renner and Quist, published right here in February.
What does YA urban fantasy need to breathe fresh life into its tropes? Prohibition! Not your first guess, either, was it? Yet it works beautifully.
Libba Bray set The Diviners and the series it opens in 1926, in a New York where all the superstitions have just become true, and all the forms of charlatanry have just started working. Most people don’t know it yet and the ones who find that they have powers they never believed in are still isolated and afraid.
The novel opens with two party tricks gone wrong. In Manhattan, a debutante desperate to liven up her birthday bash breaks out a Ouija board and releases something nasty. In Ohio, a girl with a world-class attitude shows off her talent for psychometry and the touch of the town golden boy’s class ring reveals his secrets to her.
She flaunts what she knows. The boy’s family is rich and powerful. Pretty soon, Evie O’Neill’s parents have to send her out of town to the farthest available relative on the soonest available train. A train to New York City, perhaps the only place on Earth big enough for Evie’s personality.
These two unquiet spirits, one living and one dead, circle around one another, both growing in power and community, through six hundred pages of suspense punctuated with bursts of laughter.
One of the things that impressed me most about The Diviners is that it’s a book about the Roaring Twenties written for a generation of readers who have, for the most part, never seen a black-and-white movie.
Where have all the excellent small press anthologies gone? Wait, here they are. Right in front of me.
Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction looks like a splendid example. It’s edited by Laura K. Anderson (The Chronicles of Baxarlian) and newcomer Ryan J. McDaniel, and is available in both print and digital editions. It includes enticing new fiction from a delightful assortment of new and established names, including Matt Forbeck (Blood Bowl), James Lowder (Prince of Lies, Knight of the Black Rose), Elizabeth Roper, Wayne Cole, Hans Cummings, Dan Repperger, and many others.
The moon’s rings illuminate the desert path before you. Up ahead a ridge rises, obscuring the horizon. You cannot go back. There is nothing to go back to. A hundred worlds lie behind you and a thousand more lie ahead. You smell smoke in the air and hear a hint of music somewhere far away. One foot after another, you head toward the horizon, beckoned by the mystery of what lies beyond.
The fifteen stories in this collection portray remarkable worlds for you to visit. These are worlds unlike our own — worlds where a pastor attends the 68th Periodic Interspecies Theologians’ Conference; worlds where a boy goes on a spiritual journey in the mists of prehistory; worlds where humans are enslaved and one freed woman will do whatever it takes to save her species; worlds where humans, zombies, and vampires rub elbows in the office. We invite you on your own journey in the pages of Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction, penned by the talented storytellers of the Fear the Boot podcast community. Some of these worlds will feel familiar, some will feel alien, and a few may entice you to sojourn just a bit longer.
Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction was published by Fear the Boot on February 15, 2014. It is 302 pages, priced at $14.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. Check it out.
Is Size Important? Or, The Short Story Anthology Examined
It’s well known in the publishing industry that anthologies don’t sell well. It may be a fact , but it’s one I don’t really understand. I’ve been buying and reading anthologies my whole life and I’m at a loss to explain why others don’t enjoy them as much as I do.
Anthologies come in different flavours, of course. There’s your original anthologies versus your reprint anthologies. Then there’s your single-author collections versus your multi-author. Original anthologies can come in either multi-author or single-author, and . . . well, I think you can do the math for yourselves.
Probably the most famous multi-author anthology of original stories is Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions (1967). A glance through the table of contents is like reading a Who’s Who of famous and celebrated SF writers – many of whom were novices at the time of publication. There’s Robert Bloch, Philip Jose Farmer, Philip K. Dick, Larry Niven, Fritz Leiber, as well as Theodore Sturgeon, RA Lafferty, Samuel R. Delany, Roger Zelazny . . . okay, you get the idea.
Dangerous Visions, and its follow-up, Again Dangerous Visions, are examples of a themed anthology. In this case, writers had to create not only a story of the future, but the story had to show a dangerous future. Physically dangerous, like Larry Niven’s “The Jigsaw Man” or spiritually dangerous, like Leiber’s “Gonna Roll the Bones” (my husband’s favourite story of all time). Sometimes, the danger lay in the author’s pushing the envelope of what contemporary mores were, like Farmer’s “Riders of the Purple Sage” or Delany’s “Aye, and Gomorrah.”
I was first introduced to Mike Vosburg’s work through my love of Sax Rohmer. His wonderful artwork graced Master of Villainy, the 1972 biography of Rohmer by the author’s widow and Cay Van Ash. Later, I would discover Mike’s artwork also appeared in The Rohmer Review fanzine.
Many more years later, I was fortunate enough to have Mike provide the back cover illustration to my second Fu Manchu book. He also gave my daughter a gift of autographed copies of some of his professional work, which made her feel like the luckiest nine year old girl on the planet. I don’t claim to know the man well, but I adore his work and know him as a genuinely kind and generous artist.
Just in time for the start of the Halloween season, we hear that Pride And Prejudice And Zombies has truly risen from the grave.
Based on the 2009 novel by Seth Grahame-Smith (and Jane Austin of course) P&P&Z tells the tale of “manners, morals and brain-eating mayhem” and has been sitting in movie development hell ever since before the book hit store shelves.
Back then, the British Sunday Times reported that Hollywood was all over Grahame-Smith, which he confirmed at a book-signing just after P&P&Z’s release, saying the novel had officially been purchased by an undisclosed major film company to be produced as a feature film.
Lionsgate turned out to be the film company and Natalie Portman was in to star as Elizabeth, but she later reconsidered and decided instead to serve as a producer. Shortly thereafter, director O. Russell left production due to scheduling conflicts (or Portman’s involvement if you believe gossip, which of course we never do…) and Mike White stepped in to direct the adaptation.
But nearly a year later, in January 2011, White also left the project due to “scheduling conflicts” as did his successor Craig Gillespie who signed on in April, 2011 but bailed in October.
I’m reading Jack Campbell’s Lost Stars series — good rip-roaring Military Space Opera with a brain — and suddenly a Marfisa is talking to a Bradamante about a love interest called Ruggerio, and I almost fall out of my armchair laughing.
It’s an Easter Egg and it feels like it’s just for me, the thirteen year-old me to be precise, in the Penguin Classics section of Edinburgh’s now-defunct James Thin bookshop.
I’d made the amazing discovery that I could actually buy translations of the medieval books I’d read about.
I’d already wandered in a fervour through Malory’s Le Morte D Arthur — untranslated, actually, and I think it had an odd effect on my speech patterns at the time — and a verse translation of Beowulf. I’d discovered the French Arthurian writers, some actually pretty awful — just ‘cos it’s old doesn’t make it good! — and now I was looking for another breath of medieval air.
And there’s a black-bound book with knights on the cover. Orlando Furioso, the adventures of Charlemagne’s paladins… oh it’s Renaissance. Yuk.
But despite the late period cooties, I find myself looking at the “Characters and Devices” at the front…