In his editorial this month, Jason Sizemore gives us the usual lowdown on the issue.
This month we bring you original fiction from old and new. We welcome Troy Tang to our pages with the evocative “Aishiteru Means I Love You.” The story, his first professional sale, explores the feedback loop of self-loathing and shame of a teen who is bullied online. Nick Mamatas makes a return to speculative fiction with “The Phylactery.” Jes Rausch’s “Memory Tree” uses an unconventional structure to examine life after death. Finally, Sam Fleming’s story “She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow” is a vivid character piece that, at 6,500 words, ends all too quickly.
We offer two poems this month: “Grotesque” by J.J. Hunter and “Myrrh, and the Sun” by Lara Ek. Jennie Goloboy provides insight into historical fiction with “Shiny Boots and Corinthians: Writing Historical Fiction without Clichés.” Andrea Johnson interviews Sam Fleming and Russell Dickerson interviews our cover artist Irek Konior.
Our reprint this month is a doozy: “Nemesis” by the great Laird Barron.
Saga Press’ 2016 line up promises to be stellar, with titles from Kat Howard, A. Lee Martinez, Genevieve Valentine, and many others. In the past few weeks we’ve given you peeks at upcoming books such as Mike Brooks’ “Firefly-like” space opera Dark Run, Joe Zieja’s military SF novel Mechanical Failure, and Black Gate author Frederic S. Durbin’s A Green and Ancient Light.
This week we take a look at Brian Lee Durfee’s debut fantasy novel The Forgetting Moon, the opening book in The Five Warrior Angels series, on sale from Saga Press July 5, 2016.
Barb and J.C. Hendee began The Noble Dead series with Dhampir way back in January 2003. Since then they’ve released a dozen additional books in the series, and the fourteenth and final volume, The Night Voice, is scheduled to arrive in hardcover on January 6th.
The same day, Roc will release the penultimate book, First and Last Sorcerer, in paperback for the first time. For those pragmatists who wait until an entire series is in print before they pick up the first volume, your day has finally come. Check out one of the most popular series on the market, which Publishers Weekly calls “A crowd-pleasing mix of intrigue, epic fantasy, and horror.”
Waylaid in their quest for the orb of the Air, Magiere, Leesil, Chap, and Wayfarer have all been wrongly imprisoned. But it is Magiere, the dhampir, who suffers the most at the hands of a cloaked interrogator employing telepathic torture.
Arriving at the Suman port city in search of Magiere, Wynn Hygeorht and her companions — including vampire Chane Andraso — seek out the Domin Ghassan il’Sänke for assistance, which proves no easy task. The domin is embroiled in a secret hunt for a spectral undead with the power to invade anyone living and take the body as its host.
Even if Wynn manages to free her friends from prison, battling this entirely new kind of hidden undead may be a challenge none of them can survive…
First and Last Sorcerer was published in hardcover by ROC on January 6, 2015, and will be reprinted in mass market paperback on January 5, 2016. It is 395 pages, priced at $7.99, or $12.99 for the digital version. The cover artist is uncredited.
John DeNardo’s The Best of the Best of 2015’s Science-Fiction and Fantasy Books
Ah, the end of the year. It comes with all those fascinating Best-of-the-Year lists, written by people who read waaaay more than I do. I always tell myself I’ll at least mention them all here at Black Gate, because damn it would be cool if I were that on top of things. But then there’s all those Christmas parties, and my kids want me to watch Big Hero 6 with them (again), and really, that’s such an awesome movie. So, uh, yeah. Didn’t get to it. Maybe next year.
Fortunately, the tireless John DeNardo works much harder than me. He doesn’t go to Christmas parties, or watch movies. Ever. Or sleep, apparently. No, he read every single one of those Best SF & Fantasy of the Year lists. The ones that matter anyway:
But then — because he has to show off — he did, like, math and stuff on those lists. (Well, addition, which counts as math.) He added up how many times each book appeared. And then he constructed a SUPER LIST, of the Best of the Best of 2015’s Science-Fiction and Fantasy Books. Just like those scientist guys who built Robocop.
NOTE: The following article was first published on May 16, 2010. Thank you to John O’Neill for agreeing to reprint these early articles, so they are archived at Black Gate which has been my home for over 5 years and 250 articles now. Thank you to Deuce Richardson without whom I never would have found my way. Minor editorial changes have been made in some cases to the original text.
Robert J. Myers is a study in contradictions. A veteran CIA operative, he became the publisher of The New Republic. In the mid-1970s, Myers authored two sequels to Mary Shelley’s classic, Frankenstein or: The Modern Prometheus (1818). Having a longstanding interest in literary pastiches, I tracked down these two long out-of-print titles and read the first, The Cross of Frankenstein (1975). The prolific nature of the Universal and Hammer Frankenstein movies was understandable, but the original novel has always seemed more challenging to extend – even more so than Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). Neither story demands literary sequels, nor did their authors choose to pursue them – a fact that makes the ambitions of prospective continuation authors all the more difficult to realize with any degree of success.
Mary Shelley’s original reads like a modern fable. The scientist who transgresses nature’s laws is destroyed by the abomination he brought into existence with his own hand. It is the same fable Michael Crichton fashioned nearly 200 years later into Jurassic Park. Shelley’s alternate title for the book, The Modern Prometheus is frequently forgotten, but it is critical to an understanding of how the novel differs from the 1931 Universal horror classic that imbued itself in the public consciousness. The monster of Shelley’s novel may be lacking a flat head and neck bolts, but he makes up for it in spades with his philosophical yearning for his own place in the universe and with the father/creator who abandoned him.
The December issue of the online magazine Nightmare contains original short stories from Damien Angelica Walters and Caspian Gray, and reprints from Tim Lebbon and Nancy Etchemendy.
“The Judas Child” by Damien Angelica Walters A kid in a baseball cap and a Ninja Turtles t-shirt is sitting on the park bench, swinging his legs. The boy stands off to the side until he’s sure there are no grown-ups nearby, and then he flops down on the bench, hiding his misshapen left hand while pretending to pick a scab from his knee with the other. Turtle leans forward, the hat’s brim turning his eyes to shadow. The boy guesses he’s eight, maybe, or close enough. Not too skinny either. The monster doesn’t like it when they’re skinny.
“The King of Ashland County” by Caspian Gray Uncle Reggie couldn’t afford to fly to Ireland to find a selkie wife, so instead he drove across the country to Carmel-by-the-Sea and came back with a selkie queer. I was fifteen then, and so ready to get out of Perrysville that California sounded like paradise.
I want to espouse the virtues of a story written by Robert Holmes for Tom Baker’s Doctor Who: The Talons of Weng-Chiang. This story has got to be counted as one of the high points of (original series) Doctor Who concept and scripting.
John Bennett’s portrayal of the stage magician Li H’sen Chang, sometimes criticized because Bennett was an English actor playing a Chinese character, takes on a new light when one supposes (this is my theory) that Robert Holmes was alluding to the real-life Chung Ling Soo, the stage name of American magician William Ellsworth Robinson.
Like many stories in that period of Doctor Who under the production hand of Philip Hinchcliffe, many of the stories were pastiches or developments from old horror story tropes. Hinchcliffe and Holmes shared an enthusiasm for those old story ideas, like Frankenstein(The Brain of Morbius), Egyptian occult stories (The Pyramids of Mars), King Kong (Robot), The Day of the Triffids(The Seeds of Doom), and locked room mysteries (The Robots of Death).
But it reaches a zenith in The Talons of Weng-Chiang: we not only have an allusion to real-life ‘fake’ stage-magicians, we have subtexts or suggestions of:
The Phantom of the Opera
Fu-Manchu (or any ‘Yellow Peril’ tales)
…along with much music hall colour, giant rats in the sewers, and maybe even a hint of the Elephant Man?
Pardon my enthusiasm, but I really do feel there are excellent old series stories, and Talons is one of them.
New Treasures: The Angel of Highgate by Vaughn Entwistle
Vaughn Entwistle is the author of two volumes in The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:The Revenant of Thraxton Hall and The Dead Assassin, atmospheric mysteries featuring the detecting duo of Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde.
The Angel of Highgate is a prequel to those books, but to reveal exactly how would be telling. It was published in trade paperback this month by Titan.
People die… but love endures immortal.
Lord Geoffrey Thraxton is notorious in Victorian society — a Byronesque rakehell with a reputation as the “wickedest man in London.” But on a fog-shrouded morning in Highgate Cemetery, Thraxton encounters a spectral wraith that stirs his morbid fascination with death and the supernatural. After surviving a pistol duel, Thraxton boasts his contempt for death and insults the attending physician. It is a mistake he will regret, for Silas Garrette is a deranged sociopath and chloroform-addict whose mind was broken on the battlefields of Crimea. When Thraxton falls in love with a mysterious woman who haunts Highgate Cemetery by night, he unwittingly provides the murderous doctor with the perfect means to punish a man with no fear of death.
The Angel of Highgate was published by Titan Books on December 1, 2015. It is 377 pages, priced at $12.95 in trade paperback and $7.99 for the digital edition. The cover was designed by Julia Lloyd.
The Moon is Red was first published in the UK in hardcover by Herbert Jenkins in February 1954. A paperback edition from Digit Books followed in 1964. The first US edition was published by Bookfinger as a limited edition hardcover in January 1977. It was the last non-series Rohmer novel. While far from his best work in my view (the author was already 70 years old at the time of its writing), it is certainly of interest as a curio to devotees.
The late Rohmer scholar, Dr. Robert E. Briney (editor and publisher of The Rohmer Review) considered it the best of Rohmer’s last dozen books. In my view it is far inferior to Virgin in Flames (1952) and even less successful an effort than Bianca in Black (1958) which was written by (or at least credited to) the author’s wife. The authorship of those late period works has always been a matter of contention by fans. While Rohmer certainly never employed professional ghost writers, both his wife and his protégé and secretary, Cay Van Ash were indispensable to him in later years. Their names appear with his on a number of radio and television scripts he authored during this period. When questioned on the matter in the 1970s, Van Ash maintained he only served as a typist and did minor editing of manuscripts while the author’s widow stated her input was limited to discussing plot points and occasionally suggesting story ideas (she claimed the first Sumuru story was her original concept). Regardless, Rohmer’s best fiction of the 1950s was largely confined to the short story market as his full-length novels more evidently display the frailties of age and the passage of time to their overall detriment.
The John Williams theme pounded out, the yellow opening crawl rolled up the screen and I wept a little.
I was eight when I saw theStar Wars in the cinema. Now my daughter was eight and beside me seeing the new one. Full circle. A real Country and Western moment.
The word was that this was not the debacle that the prequels were, but a proper SciFi movie where Stuff Happens and other Stuff Gets Blown Up.
And I wasn’t disappointed.
This was Star Wars as it should have always been, with The Empire Strikes Back as a benchmark, a grown-up family movie with few concessions to the younger audience… no jarring Jar Jar Binx… no slapstick farce, just comic moments arising from the plot. Even the stupid looking beach-ball droid makes a kind of sense.
So we can be proud of The Force Awakens. We can point to and say, “This is why we read books with lasers and rocket ships on the cover.”
It’s also playing our tune. The “we” of “our” being fans not just of Star Wars, but of Vintage and Pulp Science Fiction, and of Science Fiction in general.
Let me explain, but behind the Spoiler Shield (though the spoilers are oblique).