An Interview with Emmy Jackson, Author of Empty Cradle: The Untimely Death of Corey Sanderson

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 | Posted by Patty Templeton

the untimely death of corey sanderson coverOH MY GAWD. I loved The Untimely Death of Corey Sanderson. Seriously. It’s a dusty, road-dog, land-pirate adventure ride reminiscent of Mad Max. Comparing it to the Mad Max franchise may be unfair because The Untimely Death of Corey Sanderson has SO MUCH MORE. There are shapeshifters! And I actually got to see a plethora of women in the world – evil women, good women, women on the road, women in town, women who have guns, women who have families. It sounds silly to crow about women – but a lot of books only have like…eh, maybe two women characters and one is usually a girlfriend. The Untimely Death of Corey Sanderson is a fast-paced, post-apocalyptic road trip full of compelling characters of all ages, genders, and species. And, holy crap, the WORLDBUILDING! There are class issues. There are townies vs. road folk politics. There are gender and conception talks to be had. I want to see more of this world. I want to talk about this world with other people. I am so glad this is a SERIES.

Oh? You want to know more? What’s it about, you ask? I’ll tell you!

Ivy Anarim is scav. She drives the country delivering packages from one town to the next, scavenging for anything she can sell or trade along the way. She’s gotten used to being alone, though she’s searching for her twin sister, Holly. What Ivy doesn’t need is a bastard gleaner beating the crap out of her, trying to steal her rig.

The man who attacked Ivy did it near Hanson’s Home, a small town in the middle of nowhere. Hanson’s Home, they’ll aid her, but it isn’t outta kindness. Ivy is untouched by Empty Cradle – a disease that can hit a woman at any time in her life and leaves her barren. A woman untouched by Empty Cradle, that’s hard to find and Hanson’s Home wants a baby for their trouble.

Corey Sanderson wants to get the hell outta Hanson’s Home. He’s a kid who’s sick of living in the sticks. He wants to see the world and Ivy and her truck are the only ticket outta town.

Do Ivy and Corey make it out of Hanson’s Home? Where would they go if they did? Can a town kid like Corey Sanderson make it on the open road? Will Ivy ever find her twin? What the hell kinda weirdos are they gonna meet on their journey?

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Future Treasures: The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Skull Throne Peter V Brett-smallThe Warded Man, the first novel in Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle series, was released in March 2009. His second, The Desert Spear (March 2010), became an international bestseller, and the third, The Daylight War, followed in February 2013.

Now comes word that the fourth book in the series, The Skull Throne, will be released in March of 2015. Here’s the scoop from Peter’s website:

Ever since I posted a sample chapter from The Skull Throne last week, I’ve been getting a lot of people asking when it will be out. It’s wonderful and gratifying to see so many people interested in the series and excited about the new book…

It’s a BIG book, shaping up to be the biggest yet, and that is after the monster 268,000 word Daylight War.

The fifth (and final?) book in the series, The Core, does not yet have a release date. Read the first chapter of The Skull Throne here.

The Skull Throne will be published by Del Rey on March 24, 2015. It is 656 pages, priced at $28 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital version.

See all of our recent features on upcoming books here.

Pillboxes: England’s Unused Defenses Against Hitler

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

This pillbox is one of a set of four built to protect the munitions stored in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham. Photo courtesy user Paul via flickr

This pillbox is one of a set of four built to protect the munitions stored at Newton Aycliffe, County Durham. Photo courtesy user Paul via flickr

We talk about castles a fair amount here on Black Gate, which is hardly surprising. But the Middle Ages weren’t the only or even the most productive period for building fortifications. At the start of World War Two, countries all over Europe feverishly built defenses against possible invasion.

The United Kingdom was one of the leaders in this movement. Convinced that a German invasion was imminent, the government ordered the construction of a vast network of pillboxes. Many of these defended the beaches and ports. Others were set along important canals and roads. In all, more than 18,000 pillboxes were constructed during the war.

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Vintage Treasures: The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. van Vogt

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Voyage of the Space Beagle by van Vogt, A. E. Mission Interplanetary-small The Voyage of the Space Beagle 1963-small

And now we move to one of the great SF classics of the Golden Age: A. E. van Vogt’s The Voyage of the Space Beagle, the tale of an intrepid crew of space explorers and their adventures on distant and deadly worlds, frequently cited as an obvious influence on both Star Trek and Alien.

But first, a few words about A. E. van Vogt, one of the greatest and most prolific writers of SF’s Golden Age, whom we haven’t discussed much at Black Gate (probably because he didn’t write a lot of fantasy). I read his classic novel Slan (1946) at an early age, and it had a big impact on me, pulpy and simplistic as it was. Van Vogt wrote nearly 40 SF novels between 1946 and 1985 — including the classics The World of Null-A (1948), The Weapon Shops of Isher (1951), and The War against the Rull (1959) — and published two dozen short story collections. He received the 14th Grand Master Award by The Science Fiction Writers of America in 1995.

Van Vogt has taken something of a beating from modern critics for his pulpy style and rather sloppy plotting, but he had many ardent fans, including Philip K. Dick, who said:

There was in van Vogt’s writing a mysterious quality, and this was especially true in The World of Null A. All the parts of that book did not add up; all the ingredients did not make a coherency. Now some people are put off by that. They think that’s sloppy and wrong, but the thing that fascinated me so much was that this resembled reality more than anybody else’s writing inside or outside science fiction.

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The Top 20 Black Gate Fiction Posts in August

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Check Out Time Mark Rigney-smallMark Rigney is the King of All Media.

Well, all the media that count, anyway. Meaning mostly blog posts, novels, and online fiction.

The most popular piece of fiction on the Black Gate blog last month was “The Find,” Part II of The Tales of Gemen, by Mark Rigney (“The Keystone,” Part III in the series, clocked in at #12).

Could this have anything to do with the imminent arrival of Mark’s first novel Check-Out Time? Believe what you will, but I believe that in publishing there are no coincidences. (The same goes for crime in Gotham City, if you believe Batman.) Speaking of crime, you can make out like a bandit and score one of our two Check-Out Time giveaways — enter here.

The #2 fiction post in August was from fantasy’s power couple: an excerpt from heroic fantasy novel The Sacred Band by Janet Morris and Chris Morris. They also nabbed the #3 slot with “Seven Against Hell,” an exclusive sample from their new anthology Poets in Hell.

The Death of the Necromancer, the complete Nebula Award-nominated novel by Martha Wells presented exclusively here on Black Gate, came in fourth. Fifth was John C. Hocking’s exciting sword & sorcery tale “Vestments of Pestilence.”

Also making the list were exciting stories by E.E. Knight, Joe Bonadonna, Jason E. Thummel, Harry Connolly, Aaron Bradford Starr (twice!), Vaughn Heppner, Sean McLachlan, Dave Gross, Howard Andrew Jones, Ryan Harvey, John R. Fultz, Michael Shea, and David C. Smith.

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 August.

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Art of the Genre: How Paizo Continues on Where Others Have Failed, a Review of Skull & Shackles Base Set

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 | Posted by Scott Taylor

PZO6010_500One of the longest tenured game designers in RPG history has to be Steve Winter, as he started with TSR in the early 1980s and continued on with the company until roughly December 2012, when he was finally ‘let go’ by Wizards of the Coast.  If those 30 years translate to anything, I would think it is an in-depth knowledge of the business of RPGs.

Once Winter was on his own, he posted an incredibly candid blog article concerning how ‘broken’ a business model  any company building around an RPG actually is.  To sum it up, he basically indicated that after the three core books (Player’s Handbook, DMG, and Monster Manual), all other products are A: unnecessary to the system as a whole, and B: that continued supplements ‘break’ any game’s mechanic system eventually and require a ‘reset’ to both correct the system and also increase company profits which will have flagged since the initial release.

That said, it is easy to see why once powerful companies like TSR, FASA, Game Designers Workshop, and White Wolf eventually collapsed under the weight of an impossible business model.  It also helps us understand why self-replenishing profit systems like miniatures and cards actually do work as a business model in the hobby sector.  Look no further than Games Workshop to understand this, and later Wizards of the Coast with their Magic the Gathering bonanza, and finally Privateer Press with Warmachine & Hordes, that directly mimic Warhammer.

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Hellraising, Horror, and Whimsy: An Interview With Patty Templeton

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 | Posted by Frank Stascik

Patty Templeton

Patty Templeton

I first met Patty Templeton in a different life. I was a mouse with no tail, and she was a rat wearing an eyepatch. We were both in a dusty attic spying a sizable chunk of cheese that was placed in the middle of a large trap. She spun me a yarn about an adventure to meet the rodent god Capy Bara, and insisted that on her journey she learned a charm that would keep the trap from springing. But she had to concentrate. So while she focused her will, all I had to do was scamper over and snag the cheddar. Her tale was so convincing that I did… and then everything went dark. I trust she enjoyed the cheese.

I met her again in this life outside a Denny’s in a suburb somewhere going on 3am. I was leaning against a dumpster smoking, and she shuffled on by. She was dragging a rolled-up carpet towards a nearby drainage ditch. She paused for breath and told me that if I ignored the feet sticking out of the roll and helped her kick it into the ditch, she’d buy me breakfast and tell me a story. A kick and a roll later, I was fork-deep in chili mac and she was telling tales.

I’ve listened to her stories for the almost ten years since, and have found them thrilling, funny, witty, and completely unique. She went on to win the first Naked Girls Reading Literary Honors Award, which I discovered was a pointy award as she literally rubbed it in my face, as friends do. Now she’s gone and published her first novel, There Is No Lovely End, which contains outlaws, ghosts, curses, buildings that live, and a buckshot spray of other ghastly goings-on, all centered around the historical figure of Sarah Winchester. She let me ask her a few questions about it… 

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Beautiful Women, Alien Landscapes, and Santa Claus: An Ed Emshwiller Gallery

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Science Fiction Quarterly February 1957 Ed Emshwiller-smallEd Emshwiller was one of the greatest cover artists our genre has ever known. He painted hundreds of covers for many SF digests and paperbacks, primarily Galaxy, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and the Ace Double line, starting in 1951 and continuing through the late 70s. His covers were filled with beautifully detailed alien settings, sultry and mysterious women, strange technology, and eye-catching fashions — frequently all at once, as in the cover of the February 1957 issue of Science Fiction Quarterly at left (click for bigger version).

The Geeky Nefherder blog has posted a gorgeous gallery of 75 Emsh cover paintings, including some of his very best work. Many of the images are available in high-resolution (click each one to see the high-res pic).

Warning: You could easily waste a lot of time on this site (I know I did).

The gallery includes cover art from Space Stories, Galaxy, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Fantastic Story, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Startling Stories, Planet Stories, Astounding Science Fiction, Infinity, The Original Science Fiction Stories,  Future Science Fiction, Venture, Science Fiction Quarterly, Super-Science Fiction, IF, and Amazing Stories — as well as classic covers for Andre Norton’s Daybreak — 2250, Galactic Derelict, and Star Born, Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time, Frank Belknap Long’s Space Station #1, Murray Leinster’s The Black Galaxy, Poul Anderson’s Virgin Planet, John Brunner’s Threshold of Eternity, and many others.

Even if you’re already an Emsh fan, you’re sure to appreciate having so much great art by the master together in one place. And if you’re not, this site will make you one.

See the complete gallery here. (And thanks to Charlie Jane Anders at io9 for the tip!)

Three Men And A Dog: The Elfin Ship by James P. Blaylock

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_222310129FBVSmfjWhen word comes to the good people of Twombly Town that the traders of Willowwood Village have vanished and the whole town has been abandoned, they are worried there will be no honeycakes from the great dwarf baker, Ackroyd, or elfin toys for Christmas. When the mayor calls for an expedition down the Oriel River to the city of Seaside to procure the cakes and toys from their source, the only man deemed capable of the task is the cheeser, Jonathan Bing. Despite his own misgivings, but to the townspeople’s delight, Bing agrees.

Clearly inspired by Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, The Elfin Ship (1982) is James P. Blaylock’s first published novel. Like Grahame’s book, it is a paean to adventure, home comforts, food, and male camaraderie. For those who take note of these things, only one female character makes a brief, wordless appearance and a second is just mentioned. Nonetheless, it’s not set in a world labeled “NO GIRLS!”, but rather one where the men are more interested in a good bottle of ale, good pipe tobacco, and a raft trip down a meandering river than the whereabouts of the absent women.

I’ve loved this book for decades and have read it several times over the years, chuckling each time. I was inspired to pick it up after reading and contemplating M Harold Page’s piece “Why Humorous Fantasy Isn’t Popular” here at Black Gate a few weeks ago. Most of the comedy here is gentle and might even be deemed old-fashioned. If that doesn’t deter you — and I don’t think it should — give The Elfin Ship a read for some good-hearted goofiness.

Jonathan Bing is a stolid man with little experience beyond the warm and comforting confines of his home, but one who has always dreamed of adventure. Among his prized possessions are several well-read volumes by G. Smithers of Brompton Village, with titles like The Tale of the Goblin Wood and The Troll of Ilford Hollow. When Mayor Bastable suggests to Bing he is a “stout enough lad to sail downriver yourself, all the way to Seaside with your cheeses and back again with cakes and elfin gifts,” despite some trepidation, the cheeser decides he is indeed the man best suited for the job.

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New Treasures: The Casebook of Sexton Blake, edited by David Stuart Davies

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Casebook of Sexton Blake-smallI continue to accumulate these Wordsworth Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural whenever I can, as I find them consistently entertaining and well worth the price.

When I wrote about Mark Valentine’s anthology The Black Veil & Other Tales of Supernatural Sleuths, in the comments Paul R. McNamee remarked on an additional volume I wasn’t familiar with:

I just picked up their Casebook of Sexton Blake this week… it is surprisingly thick – 545 pages. 7 classic Blake stories by different writers between 1907 – 1923. A succinct introduction goes over Blake’s history – an evolution from Baker-Street-Residing-Pipe-Smoking-Holmes-ripoff to his own niche of catch-all pulp adventurer. I wanted to try these classic tales before delving into some James-Bond-mode stories from the early 1960s that a friend (Charles R. Rutledge) had sent me… When I ordered Blake Amazon was displaying the gray cover, but they sent me crimson – which has complete new artwork, I might add, not just a color scheme change.

I was intrigued enough to order a copy of The Casebook of Sexton Blake myself and it arrived last month. Paul is quite correct. There are seven pulp tales within, by six different authors. My copy had the crimson cover, with artwork by Nathan Clair, shown at right (click for bigger version), although there was a first edition paperback with more pulp-inspired artwork (see below).

It didn’t immediately help me understand who this Sexton Blake fellow was though, or why the seven stories within were written by six different authors. That was curious, to say the least. The Wikipedia entry for Blake cleared that up, however.

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