Apex Magazine #78 Now on Sale

Thursday, November 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Apex Magazine Issue 78-smallIn his editorial this month, Jason Sizemore gives us the lowdown on the issue.

This month we offer three outstanding works of science fiction to our readers. “Blood on Beacon Hill” by Russell Nichols is that rarest of things — a vampire story in our publication…. completely by coincidence is the use of the word ‘beacon’ in Day Al-Mohamed’s “The Beacon and the Coward.” Finally, we have a story by one of the genre’s rising stars, Sam J. Miller. “To Die Dancing” has a tightly bound emotional core that I think you’ll enjoy.

Gemma Files is one of the best when it comes to writing unsettling fiction. To back my assertion, we’ve included her “Signal to Noise” as this month’s reprint feature.

Rounding out the issue are interviews with author Russell Nichols and artist James Lincke, a thought-provoking essay by Ed Grabianowski titled “Cthulhu Apocalypse and the Terrifying Tradition of Horror Role-Playing Games”, and poetry by Brittany Warman, Chloe Clark, Michael Sikkema, and Julia Kingston. We have three excerpts. The first is How to Pass as Human: A Guide to Assimilation for Future Androids by Android Ø by Nic Kelman. The second is The Flux by [Ferrett] Steinmetz. And, finally, The Weight of Chains by our esteemed managing editor Lesley Conner.

Here’s the complete TOC.

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British Museum Explores Celtic Identity

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

The Battersea Shield. Bronze, glass. Found in the River Thames at Battersea Bridge, London, England, 350-50 BC. © The Trustees of the British Museum

The Battersea Shield. Bronze, glass. Found in the River Thames at Battersea Bridge, London, England, 350-50 BC. © The Trustees of the British Museum


For many of us, the Celts are an enduring fascination. Their art, their mysterious culture, and the perception that so many of us are descended from them makes the Celts one of the most popular ancient societies. So it’s surprising that the British Museum hasn’t had a major Celtic exhibition for forty years.

That’s changed with Celts: Art and Identity, a huge collection of artifacts from across the Celtic world and many works of art from the modern Celtic Revival. The exhibition is at pains to make clear that the name ‘Celts’ doesn’t refer to a single people who can be traced through time, and it has been appropriated over the last 300 years to reflect modern identities in Britain, Ireland, and elsewhere. “Celtic” is an artistic and cultural term, not a racial one.

The first thing visitors see is a quote by some guy named J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote in 1963, “To many, perhaps most people. . .’Celtic’ of any sort is. . .a magic bag into which anything may be put, and out of which almost anything may come. . .anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight.”

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Check out the First Trailer for Captain America: Civil War

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Civil War was one of the biggest events in Marvel Comics roughly a decade ago, pitting Spider-Man, Iron Man and a host of other heroes against a tiny contingent led by Captain America. Marvel Studios has made a major effort to replicate the crossover impact of that event in the upcoming movie, which features a bevy of guest stars… see how many you can spot in the trailer above (hint: it’s a LOT.) Captain America: Civil War will be released on May 6, 2016.

Jeffrey Ford on Scott Nicolay’s After

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Scott Nicolay After-smallJeffrey Ford took a chance on an unknown magazine, and sold us a story for the very first issue of Black Gate. (And a terrific story, too — a gonzo mystery set on an alien world, “Exo-Skeleton Town.” You can read the entire thing at Infinity Plus.) We’ve been pals ever since. One of the things I like about Jeff is he treats his Facebook friends to great, punchy mini-reviews of some excellent (and often hard-to-find) titles. That was the case yesterday, when he wrote the following about Scott Nicolay’s creepy horror tale After. He gave me permission to post it here. Enjoy.

if you get a chance, check out Scott Nicolay’s stand alone novella, After. About a woman who returns to her home in Seaside Heights after super storm Sandy to check on the damages. FEMA says she’s not allowed to stay but she does only to find out that some strange creature has been brought in by the storm and is lurking beneath her house.

This one’s got everything I like in a horror story — the slow burn, deep characterization so I care about the character, and the rare instance of a metaphorical resonance between the fearsome aspect of the world (the monster) and the defining condition of the character (in this case an abusive relationship). All this in a neat little book, well made (from Dim Shore Press) with a great cover and nice illustrations by Michael Bukowski.

Scott Nicolay is also the author of Do You Like to Look at Monsters? and Ana Kai Tangata: Tales of the Outer the Other the Damned and the Doomed.

After was published by Dim Shores on August 4th 2015. It is 104 pages, priced at $10 in trade paperback. The cover is by Michael Bukowski. The Dim Shores website is here.

See all of our recent Reviews here.

The Great Savage Sword Re-Read: Vol. 2

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015 | Posted by John R. Fultz

In the first installment, I explored Volume 1 of the Savage Sword of Conan Dark Horse reprints of the classic Marvel Comics black-and-white magazine.

2577548-savage_sword_of_conan_015_01Volume 2 begins with Savage Sword of Conan #11 from 1976. A terrific issue written by Roy Thomas — who wrote most of the stories in the magazine its first few years — with art from John Buscema and Yong Montano. Buscema/Montano paring is an interesting one, and the results are every bit as lush and detailed as Alfredo Alcala’s inks in Volume One.

It’s too bad Montano only did this one issue of SS because he brought Buscema’s superb pencils to life as well as Alcala, yet with a decidedly different style that was no less immersive. This adaptation of Howard’s “The Abode of the Damned” isn’t your typical tale of the Cimmerian, as Conan is either off-screen or in disguise as “Shirkuh” for half the issue. It’s a brutal excursion into the violent lives of desert tribesmen, as seen through the eyes of the intrepid maiden Mellani. Seeking vengeance for her slain brother leads her right into captivity where Cimmerian-in-disguise is her only hope of surviving. Yong Montano didn’t turn into a regular Buscema inker like Alcala and later DeZuniga and Chan did, but on SS #11 he did a bang-up job creating that Buscema/Alcala level of artistic detail, while offering a fresh texture in his mastery of light and shadow.

In Savage Sword #12, reigning artistic champions John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala return to help Roy Thomas adapt Howard’s “The Slave Princess” into a Conan tale called “The Haunters of Castle Crimson.” The lush black ink work is the high standard of the magazine’s early years. Alcala’s hyper-detailed panels took Buscema’s masterful pencils to a whole new level of artistic integrity. Following their bravura performances in SS #2, 4, and 7, Buscema/Alcala bring more lighting-in-bottle greatness to these pages — and it’s their high-end work that highlights this entire second volume, beginning with SS #12.

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Mysterion: Rediscovering the Mysteries of Crowdfunding

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 | Posted by Donald Crankshaw


Mysterion’s Front cover

One of the risks of telling people you don’t need money is that they’ll take you at your word.

When my wife and I decided to do Mysterion: Rediscovering the Mysteries of the Christian Faith, an anthology of speculative fiction which engages with Christianity (which I introduced to Black Gate here), one of the first things we did was talk to other small press publishers, including Chizine’s Sandra Kasturi and Black Gate’s own John O’Neill.  Based on our talks with them, we figured out what it took to do an anthology, and how much it would cost, including cover art, interior layout, and the story budget. Then once we figured out the budget, we determined whether we could afford it without crowdfunding. If we were committing to this project, we wanted to make sure we could do it regardless of the results of any fundraising. The answer was that we could.

And then we decided to do some crowdfunding anyway. Not to make the anthology happen, but to make it better. We fully intend to do the anthology whether anyone gives us money or not.

“We don’t need it, but give us money anyway” turns out not to be such a great crowdfunding pitch.

So let me try a better one. Now I could go into what donors get as rewards (The ebook at half the retail price and a month early! Both ebook and paperback at less than the retail price! Free shipping almost anywhere in the world!) or what your money will do for us (More stories! Higher rates! We’ll do it again!), but what I really want to talk about is why I’m excited about this anthology, and you should be too.

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Transitioning from Short Story to Novel

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 | Posted by Michael Livingston

"The Hand that Binds" art by Matt Hughes

“The Hand that Binds” art by Matt Hughes

There’s a lot of writing advice in the world. A person trying to read it all, in fact, would likely never be able to get anything written: I suspect more is written about writing in a given day than any one person could feasibly read in that same timespan.

That doesn’t mean that writing advice isn’t useful, of course, because it can be absolutely essential to a writer’s development. In my case, for instance, one of the key bits of advice I ever received as a young novelist-to-be was to try to cut my teeth on writing short stories. Doing so, it turned out, allowed me to hone my craft in smaller, more manageable chunks. It also led me to my first fiction sale: to Black Gate, which published my story “The Hand That Binds.”

Publishing short stories was an amazing experience. In composing and selling short fiction I learned far more than I could have ever imagined, and each of those “little” victories of publication were a shot in the arm of the best drug available to a writer: the confidence to know you can do it. So for me (though admittedly not for everyone), starting with short stories was vital to the development of my career.

What I want to talk about today, though, is that next move: transitioning from short stories to novels. Because although I loved (and still love) writing short fiction, I knew I wanted more. I wanted to be a novelist. What follows are the five principles and one rule that helped me make that leap.

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New Treasures: Styx by Bavo Dhooge

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Styx Bavo Dhooge-back-small Styx Bavo Dhooge-small

This flourishing sub-genre of undead detective fiction? I like it. Recent examples include Tim Waggoner’s zombie detective saga The Nekropolis Archives, Stefan Petrucha’s Dead Mann series, Stephen Blackmoore’s Eric Carter books, Chris F. Holm’s Dead Harvest, Simon Kurt Unsworth’s The Devil’s Detective (a detective in hell), and Ian Tregillis’s Something More Than Night (a detective in heaven).

Bavo Dhooge’s Styx promises an intriguing spin on the zombie detective. Rafael Styx is a corrupt Belgian cop who is gunned down in pursuit of a diabolical serial murder. In death he meets the famous nude painter Paul Delvaux, who gives him his first real clue… and Styx finds his cop instincts won’t let him rest. Returning as a zombie (with an inconvenient taste for human flesh), Styx takes up the case again. Even death won’t stop him from capturing his murderer.

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The Late November Fantasy Magazine Rack

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Cemetery-Dance-73-rack Beneath-Ceaseless-Skies-185-rack Clarkesworld-110-rack Lightspeed-Magazine-November-2015-rack
Interfictions-Online-rack Beneath-Ceaseless-Skies-186-rack The-Dark-Issue-10-rack Nightmare-Magazine-November-rack

We’ve got lots of great magazine coverage to point you towards the best new short fiction this month. We started our coverage of Interfictions with issue #6, and reported on the arrival of the massive Best Of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Volume 1. In our reviews section, Learned Foote took a look at Nike Salway’s “The Karen Joy Fowler Book Club” in the October Lightspeed, and Fletcher Vredenburgh highlighted the best in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, and Swords and Sorcery Magazine in his October Round-Up. For vintage fiction fans, Matthew Wuertz journeys back over 60 years to look at a magazine from January 1953, with fiction by Philip K. Dick and Clifford D. Simak, in the latest installment of his issue-by-issue read of Galaxy.

Check out all the details on the magazines above by clicking on the each of the images. Our November Fantasy Magazine Rack is here.

As we’ve mentioned before, all of these magazines are completely dependent on fans and readers to keep them alive. Many are marginal operations for whom a handful of subscriptions may mean the difference between life and death. Why not check one or two out, and try a sample issue? There are magazines here for every budget, from completely free to $12.95/issue. If you find something intriguing, I hope you’ll consider taking a chance on a subscription. I think you’ll find it’s money very well spent.

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An Adventurer’s Guide to the Middle Ages: Town Watch? Where?

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 | Posted by M Harold Page


…an Ankh Morpork-style town watch

The first thing that Conan — or Locke Lamora, or Grey Mouser, or Vimes, or a D&D party  — would notice about a real medieval city would be the almost total absence of an Ankh Morpork-style town watch.

It’s a stock trope: here come a dozen Keystone Cops town watch in their funny armour, to arrest the drunken barbarian or catch the thief. Only it’s not like that in reality, or at least not quite like that in Later Medieval and Early Modern England, France, and Germany.

That’s not a criticism. Fantasy writers must write what they will. Dickensian thief takers are plausible, and raise themes to do with policing and justice. However, if, like me, you write Historical Adventure Fiction , then you need to know how policing worked because integrity, and because somebody else will know and will gleefully correct you in reviews. (It’s funny when your research is better than theirs though — and the one time I ever answered a review.)

It’s actually quite hard to drill down to D&D level details about the medieval past. Scholars are usually more interested in the development of legal systems and local authority than what happens when Conan gets into a brawl. However, there are a few useful sources: This PhD thesis on trial by battle; The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century (link); The Martial Ethic in Early Modern Germany: Civic Duty and the Right of Arms (link); plus various more antiquarian tomes on my research shelf.

And, there are some surprises beneath the crust of sometimes dry text. Let’s kick off with what every aspiring thief and rogue needs to know…

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