If You Think Kidney Stones are Painful, Try Passing a Blarney Stone: The Crock of Gold

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015 | Posted by Thomas Parker

The Crock of Gold Collier paperback-smallHave you ever owned a book for many years, a book that you have always intended to read when just the right moment came around, a book that you looked forward to, anticipating the great pleasure that you would experience once the time finally came to dig into it? Yes? Then you know how dangerous such prolonged anticipation can be.

I bought my oversized Collier paperback of James Stephens’ 1912 fantasy The Crock of Gold sometime in the mid-seventies (probably at the wonderful Change of Hobbit bookstore in Los Angeles) and it has been resting quietly on my shelf for most of my life, now and then whispering to me as I passed by, busy on long-forgotten errands, but I always put it off, promising that I would return when I was thoroughly ready to bestow my full attention on “a wise and beautiful fairy tale for grownups.” (Ah, the arcane art of blurb writing! Hmmm… sounds like a good Black Gate article. Let me finish this one first…)

Last week, I took the book down, flipped through it, looked at the striking woodcut illustrations by Thomas Mackenzie, and decided that the long-deferred day had at last arrived… alas.

James Stephens, who was born in 1880 and died in 1950 was, according to the back cover of my paperback, “one of the best-loved of modern Irish writers.”  I don’t know about that, but James Joyce had a high enough regard for Stephens’ talents as a poet and novelist to ask for his assistance in finishing Finnegan’s Wake, a scheme that never came to anything, probably to the relief of both men.

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The Novels of Tanith Lee: The Wars of Vis

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Storm Lord-small Anackire-small The White Serpent-small

I had planned to look at a Ray Bradbury anthology as my Vintage Treasures post for tonight, but I set that aside when I learned about the unexpected death of Tanith Lee today. As I was preparing a brief obituary, I was struck by just how many novels she completed in her lifetime, and how little of her considerable output I’ve sampled over the years. I thought, if it’s okay with all of you, I’d deviate from our flight plan slightly to take a look at some of the marvelous books she left us.

To start with, I’d like to showcase the pairing of Lee with one of my favorite cover artists. Sanjulian painted the covers for the 1988 DAW editions of all three novels of The Wars of Vis: The Storm Lord, Anackire, and The White Serpent, a series which the publisher labeled a “best-selling epic of war torn-empires, alien gods, and a Witch race with the power to reshape a world…” Over her long career Lee has been blessed with some of the best cover artists in the business — including Michael Whelan, Carl Lundgren, Paul Lehr, Don Maitz, and many others — but she rarely did better than these three.

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies 173 Now Available

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Beneath Ceaseles Skies 173-smallBeneath Ceaseless Skies 173 looks like another solid issue, with two short stories and a podcast.

Out of the Rose Hills” by Marissa Lingen
The shadow woman’s face was also made of shadows, so it was not visible as a face. But the shadows moved in a way that suggested an indulgent smile.

The Punctuality Machine, Or, A Steampunk Libretto” by Bill Powell
WHITLOCK: (aside) An identical response! Perhaps free will is a mere illusion. On the other hand, she’s an automaton.

Marissa Lingen’s short fiction has appeared in Analog, Asimov’s, Apex, Lightspeed, and many other places. Her previous stories for BCS include “A House of Gold and Steel” (issue 162) and “On the Weaponization of Flora and Fauna” (issue #129). Bill Powell is a graduate of the Odyssey Workshop who blogs at billpowell.org.

Issue 173 was published on May 14. Read it online completely free here.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is edited by Scott H. Andrews and published twice a month by Firkin Press. Issues are available completely free online; you can also get a free e-mail or RSS subscription.

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Tanith Lee, September 19, 1947 – May 24, 2015

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Tanith LeeTanith Lee’s website, tanith-lee.com, is reporting that she passed away on May 24th.

I read my first Tanith Lee novel, Kill the Dead, in 1987. It was her twenty-fifth novel. In her long career she wrote 90 novels and some 300 short stories, as well as two episodes of the BBC series Blake’s 7. Lee often mentioned that she was unable to read until she was 8, due to a mild form of dyslexia, and she began to write at the age of 9. Her first novel was the children’s book The Dragon Hoard (1971); her first book for adults, The Birthgrave, the first novel in The Birthgrave Trilogy, was published four years later. Lee wrote this small epitaph for her website, and it was posted this morning:

Though we come and go, and pass into the shadows, where we leave behind us stories told – on paper, on the wings of butterflies, on the wind, on the hearts of others – there we are remembered, there we work magic and great change – passing on the fire like a torch – forever and forever. Till the sky falls, and all things are flawless and need no words at all.
— Tanith Lee

Tanith Lee was nominated for the Nebula Award twice, and won the World Fantasy Award twice, for her short stories “The Gorgon” (1983) and “Elle Est Trois, (La Mort)” (1984). She received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 World Fantasy Award ceremonies. She was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award for best novel, for Death’s Master (1980). Her most popular works include Don’t Bite the Sun (1976), Tales From The Flat Earth (five books, 1978-1986), The Silver Metal Lover (1981), The Secret Books of Paradys (four novels, 1988-1993), The Secret Books of Venus (four novels, 1998-2003), and the Lionwolf Trilogy (2004-2007), which John R. Fultz reviewed for us in 2010. Tanith Lee passed away on Sunday, May 24, 2015. She was 67 years old.

Future Treasures: Pathfinder Tales: Lord of Runes by Dave Gross

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Pathfinder Tales Lord of Runes-smallI’ll admit, I was surprised to read the announcement from Tor and Paizo back in February, that Tor would become the publisher for the popular Pathfinder Tales line of novels. But it certainly makes business sense — Tor is the biggest publisher in the genre, and has unprecedented distribution and marketing muscle, and this allows Paizo to focus on the creative side of things.

The books have shifted to a new format (trade paperback), and will be available for the Kindle for the first time, but nothing else appears to have changed. The line remains in the capable hands of its longtime editor, James L. Sutter.

The first title under the new arrangement, Lord of Runes by Dave Gross, arrives next week. Here’s a snippet from the press release:

Since its launch in 2008, the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game has topped RPG sales charts for several years running, and has grown to become one of the most important and best-loved tabletop RPGs in the world. In 2010, the Pathfinder Tales novel line was launched by the game’s publisher, Paizo, and has included more than 20 exciting fantasy novels by Tim Pratt, Michael A. Stackpole, Ed Greenwood, James L. Sutter, Howard Andrew Jones, Liane Merciel, and others. Since then, Pathfinder has been translated into five languages, has released a widely popular card game, and has inspired computer games, comic books, audio drama, gaming figurines, and toys.

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Dragon’s Rook (The Lost Sword, Book 1) by Keanan Brand

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_26031584LVummnLet me start by stating that I am an inconsistent person with inconsistent tastes and opinions. I tend to get overly emphatic and dramatic when discussing things I like or dislike. In the light of what I’m about to write about Keanan Brand’s epic fantasy novel, Dragon’s Rook, I need to look back and see how many times I disparaged thick books and those set in European-styled worlds. Because that’s exactly what Brand’s book is and I really enjoyed it.

I actually like novels set in pseudo-European worlds. Tolkien, King Arthur, and much of the earliest fantasy reading I did was set in such places. The best included Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain and Poul Anderson’s various excursions in fantasy.

Brave farm boys, daring princesses, wise old women, and wicked kings (plus dragons!) are endemic to the fairy tales read to me by my dad. Mysterious huts in dark forests, dire castles towering over the countrysides, and dank, fetid caves were common locales for those characters’ exploits. This is good stuff that speaks deeply to me for nostalgic and cultural reasons (about 99% of my ethnic heritage originates north of the Rhine River) and it all makes its way into Brand’s novel.

It’s just that often I feel like it has been done to death. Prior to the late 1970s, fantasy was a pretty diverse field. While Tolkien loomed above the genre, he spawned few direct imitators. In the first part of the decade, fantasy writing was all over the place. Sure, there was plenty of swords & sorcery, but there was also Roger Zelazany’s wild romp, The Chronicles of Amber, Ursula K. LeGuin’s very non-European Earthsea trilogy, and Tanith Lee’s phatasmagorical Tales from the Flat Earth (books I need to reread and review).

And then came Terry Brook’s The Sword of Shannara. For the unitiated, many of Shannara‘s events parallel those of the Lord of the Rings closely, and it was a monster success. That was enough to convince publishers and authors that the key to sales lay in the same sort of mimicry. In the years that followed, dozens of quest stories set in very familiar Euro-style worlds appeared. The worst were slavish imitations of Tolkien’s masterpiece, while the best took advantage of the familiarity of quest and fantasy tropes and used them to explore original ideas. Either way, though, Dark Ages and Medieval Europe came to be the default setting for fantasy fiction.

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Station Eleven = The Stand + The Road – (Supernatural Occurrences + Cannibalism)

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 | Posted by Kelly Swails

Station Eleven-smallIt’s great when a book can be summed up by an equation as well as Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven.

Like King’s The Stand, the world is wiped out by a flu virus that kills ninety-nine percent of the population; like McCarthy’s The Road, survivors travel by horse or foot and encounter grim realities of a decimated world. What St. John Mandel brings to the table, however, is an unusual structure and omniscient POV that shouldn’t work but somehow does.

Arthur Leander is a famous actor that dies in Toronto during a performance of King Lear. All of the characters the reader follows are in some way related to Arthur. Miranda, his first wife; Elizabeth and Tyler, his second wife and son; Kirsten, a young girl and King Lear actress; Jeevan, a former paparazzo-turned-EMT; and Clark, Arthur’s best friend. Even Station Eleven — the graphic novel that Miranda creates — becomes a character of sorts. On the night Arthur dies, an extremely infectious and thorough strain of the swine flu — called the Georgia Flu since it originated in the country of Georgia — descends on Toronto. This flu has a short incubation period (four to five hours) and quick course from onset of illness to death (less than two days). It turns out that Arthur is the lucky one, because most of the world’s population is dead inside a month.

The novel jumps between all these characters but spends the majority of its time on Kirsten, the child actor who joins a Traveling Symphony. The Symphony is a theater troupe and orchestra that travels from town to town to perform Shakespeare plays and classical music concerts. The tagline for the Symphony is “because survival is insufficient,” which they borrowed from an episode of Star Trek.

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Adventures In Gaming: The Temple Of the Sea Gods

Monday, May 25th, 2015 | Posted by markrigney

DSC05298I first created this adventure back in 1986, as a discrete part of a longer cycle in which the characters involved were questing for several potent artifacts intended to aid them in defeating their world’s largest dragon. One of those items was hidden here, in this temple.

For purposes of exhuming this module, I’ve made a number of things generic (both for the sake of easy translation to your gaming world, and to avoid any possible AD&D copyright issues). Even the particular “sea gods” to whom this temple system is consecrated can be adapted to fit your specific mythos. In fact, you can adapt pretty much any part of this; it’s for you, after all. For you to enjoy and hopefully put to use.

Character Motivation

If the player characters aren’t in pursuit of some massive relic (see above), then one fine reason to explore these halls is the usual mix of adventure seeking and treasure hunting. The bear went over the mountain, after all, and that OCD chicken keeps right on crossing the road. As a backup incentive structure, there’s always altruism. As you’ll see from the setting, the locals are beset by dangerous winged beasties, and it could be up to your particular band of heroes to free them from this (truly lethal) scourge.


A windy, treacherous tidal river. Dark, choppy water. Deep. Cold. Steep bordering cliffs, with multiple ravines and gorges forking off the main channel. What steadings there are bar their doors at night and keep a watch around the clock. Out of one of those ravines, often at dusk but not always, predatory bat-like creatures fly, and while you can fend off one or two, if they catch you in your boat or on the road, alone, and they come in a flock…

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New Treasures: Long Black Curl by Alex Bledsoe

Monday, May 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Long Black Curl Alex Bledsoe-smallThe first volume in Alex Bledsoe’s Tufa series, The Hum and the Shiver, was named one of the Best Fiction Books of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews. The second, Wisp of a Thing, was called “A chilling mix of fantasy, realism, and a touch of horror” by Booklist. The long-anticipated third volume in the series finally arrives this week.

In all the time the Tufa have existed, only two have ever been exiled: Bo-Kate Wisby and her lover, Jefferson Powell. They were cast out, stripped of their ability to make music, and cursed to never be able to find their way back to Needsville. Their crime? A love that crossed the boundary of the two Tufa tribes, resulting in the death of several people.

Somehow, Bo-Kate has found her way back. She intends to take over both tribes, which means eliminating both Rockhouse Hicks and Mandalay Harris. Bo-Kate has a secret weapon: Byron Harley, a rockabilly singer known as the “Hillbilly Hercules” for his immense size and strength, and who has passed the last sixty years trapped in a bubble of faery time. He’s ready to take revenge on any Tufa he finds.

The only one who can stop Bo-Kate is Jefferson Powell. Released from the curse and summoned back to Cloud County, even he isn’t sure what will happen when they finally meet. Will he fall in love with her again? Will he join her in her quest to unite the Tufa under her rule? Or will he have to sacrifice himself to save the people who once banished him?

Alex Bledsoe is also the author of the Eddie LaCrosse novels (The Sword-Edged Blonde, Burn Me Deadly, Dark Jenny and Wake of the Bloody Angel), the novels of the Memphis vampires (Blood Groove and The Girls with Games of Blood), and Sword Sisters: A Red Reaper Novel, written with Tara Cardinal (read a sample chapter here.)

Long Black Curl will be published by Tor Books on May 26, 2015. It is 382 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover, and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover photo is by Elisabeth Ansley.

Uncanny Magazine Issue 4 Now on Sale

Monday, May 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Uncanny Magazine Issue 4-smallWith only four issues under its belt, Uncanny Magazine is already becoming a significant presence in the field. It has gorgeous production, great covers, some terrific contents — and it’s published four issues since October. The new issue keeps the success story going, with an eye-catching cover by Tran Nguyen, and original fiction from Catherynne M. Valente, Elizabeth Bear, Lisa Bolekaja, John Chu, and A.C. Wise, and a reprint from Delia Sherman.

Nonfiction this issue includes “It’s the Big One,” a nice historical recap of the Hugos by File 770‘s Mike Glyer, with an on-point summary of the 2015 Hugo drama:

Never before in its history has its future been in greater doubt… there is no precedent for the absolutely public and devastatingly successful effort of two slates to control the 2015 Hugos, Brad Torgersen’s “Sad Puppies 3” and Vox Day’s parallel “Rabid Puppies” campaigns which filled 59 of 85 slots on the final ballot with their choices (and would have had more, but five declined their nominations and the committee ruled two others ineligible.)…

Only by tapping into anger over the culture wars has someone succeeded in motivating the requisite number of fans to buy supporting memberships at $40 a pop and take control of the Hugo ballot.

Among fans who are critical of the outcome there has been widespread talk of voting “No Award” ahead of nominees from the slate (again). There is also a great deal of technical discussion of rules changes designed to limit the influence of voting slates without creating any barriers to new voters.

Read the entire article here.

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