Vintage Treasures: The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham

Sunday, December 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Midwich Cuckoos Dean Ellis-smallJohn Wyndham’s first SF story, “Worlds to Barter,” was published in the May 1931 issue of Wonder Stories, one of the very first pulp magazines I ever bought (which still brings back fond memories every time I see the cover). It appeared under his pulp pseudonym, John Beynon Harris, and alongside “Through the Purple Cloud” by Jack Williamson, and stories by Fletcher Pratt, Ed Earl Repp, and an editorial by Hugo Gernsback. Wyndham was just 27 years old.

His real fame, of course, came with his novels. The first to appear under his own name was the international bestseller The Day of the Triffids (1951), followed by The Kraken Wakes (1953), The Chrysalids (1955), The Outward Urge (1959), Trouble with Lichen (1960), and Chocky (1968).

The Midwich Cuckoos was first published in hardcover in the UK by Michael Joseph in 1957, and made into the classic SF film Village of the Damned in 1960 (and remade by John Carpenter in 1995).

A nightmare tale of a quiet English village where nothing ever happened until late one September night, when every woman in town became inexplicably pregnant…

Nine months later, sixty beautiful children were born… sixty unbelievable threats to the human race!

Today The Midwich Cuckoos is something of a neglected classic. It has been out of print in the US since the Del Rey paperback edition shown at right was released in May 1980. It is 189 pages, priced at $1.50. The cover is by Dean Ellis. An ebook was published in July 2010 by RosettaBooks, and that’s probably your best bet if you’re trying to track down a copy.

Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1953: A Retro-Review

Saturday, December 26th, 2015 | Posted by Matthew Wuertz

Galaxy February 1953-smallGalaxy Science Fiction continued its momentum into the February, 1953 issue. Boldy asserting it only published original stories (no reprints), it drew the finest science fiction authors of the time.

“Four in One” by Damon Knight — George Meister and his team establish a base on an alien planet and begin to explore the surroundings. The four of them fall down a ridge and are consumed by a strange, slug-like organism. The only thing remaining of the humans are their brains, eyes, and spinal columns. Amazingly, they can each influence the organism as though it’s part of their own body, which is essentially the only body any of them have. Though George, as a scientist, wants to spend time analyzing the creature, the others are divided as to the next step to take. And they begin to take more aggressive actions, such as forming appendages that might be able to kill any opposing brains.

This is such a unique story that it’s a good read just for that reason alone. But the characters and tension also work well together. There’s a bit of a gross factor involved, I suppose, but I hope that doesn’t dissuade readers.

“Protective Mimicry” by Algis Budrys — Someone is counterfeiting galactic money, but the bills are perfect duplicates, down to the serial number. The treasury’s chief inspector sends a man named Baumholtzer to investigate where they turned up – a humid, heavily-forested planet named Deneb XI. Baumholtzer heads to the only city on the planet and finds a bar that knows how to make his drink. Unfortunately for Baumholtzer, the person behind the duplicate money knows he’s coming.

It’s a nice detective story with great descriptions. I wish it had been longer, but it moves at a good pace, so maybe expanding it wouldn’t be a great idea. I just liked the feel of the narration so much that I wanted to keep going.

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December 2015 Locus Now on Sale

Saturday, December 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Locus December 2015-smallThe December issue of the Newsmagazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Field features interviews with authors Chuck Wendig and Bet Cato, reports on the 2015 World Fantasy Awards and British Fantasy Awards, a convention report of the World Fantasy Convention, news on the massive Orbit expansion we reported on last month, the Nebula Nominations, author updates on George R.R. Martin, William Gibson, and Neil Gaiman, and many others, US and British Forthcoming Books lists, a column by Kameron Hurley, short fiction reviews from Gardner Dozois and Rich Horton, and reviews of new books from Charlie Jane Anders, Jonathan Strahan, Catherynne M. Valente, Linda Nagata, Cherie Priest, Matt Wallace, Kameron Hurley, Gemma Files, and many others.

In addition to all the news, features, and regular columns, there’s also the indispensable listings of Magazines Received, Books Received, British Books Received, and Bestsellers. Plus an obituary for T.M. Wright, Letters, and an editorial. See the complete contents here.

We last covered Locus with the October 2015 issue. Locus is edited by Liza Groen Trombi, and published monthly by Locus Publications. The issue is 62 pages, priced at $7.50. Subscriptions are $63 for 12 issues in the US. Subscribe online here. The magazine’s website, run as a separate publication by Mark R. Kelly, is a superb online resource. It is here.

See our December Fantasy Magazine Rack here, and all of our recent Magazine coverage here.

John DeNardo’s 2015 Science-Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Holiday Gift Guide

Saturday, December 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Spectrum 22-smallWell, Christmas is over, the gifts are (mostly) unwrapped and, barring that one uncle who always seems to be traveling on Christmas, all the presents have been exchanged. Which means it’s finally safe to look at gift-giving guides again (I don’t know about you, but all the best ones seem to pop up just as I finish my shopping.) After all, you need some suggestions on what to spend those gift certificates on, right?

Perhaps the best guide I found this year was John DeNardo’s 2015 Science-Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Holiday Gift Guide, published in two parts over at Kirkus Reviews. What makes it so cool? It’s packed with deluxe comics, Star Trek and Stars Wars books, cool merchandise, and lots more. Here’s his suggestions for how to spend on the art lover in your life.

The go-to gift for your visually oriented loved ones is an art book. Science fiction and fantasy fans would adore Spectrum 22: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art edited by John Fleskes. Its 300 pages are jam-packed with an amazingly diverse selection of art, especially considering that they are all spectacular. It’s is a book you’ll pick up again and again. Or maybe your giftee leans toward the creepy? The Art of Horror: An Illustrated History by Stephen Jones is a visual feast aimed at lovers of horror. It contains an endlessly impressive selection of horror art since the late 19th century. Every page deserves multiple visits.

John has so many ideas, he had to split his list into two parts.

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Future Treasures: Midnight Taxi Tango by Daniel José Older

Saturday, December 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Midnight Taxi Tango-smallDaniel José Older’s first Bone Street Rumba novel, Half-Resurrection Blues, was one of the most acclaimed novels of the year, selected as one of the Best Fantasy Books of 2015 by BuzzFeed, Barnes & Noble, and other fine establishments.

The second in the series, Midnight Taxi Tango, will be released in paperback next month. If you’re a regular reader at, you’ve probably already sampled it, as portions were originally published there as three original short stories: “Anyway: Angie,” “Kia and Gio,” and “Ginga.”

The streets of New York are hungry tonight…

Carlos Delacruz straddles the line between the living and the not-so alive. As an agent for the Council of the Dead, he eliminates New York’s ghostlier problems. This time it’s a string of gruesome paranormal accidents in Brooklyn’s Von King Park that has already taken the lives of several locals — and is bound to take more.

The incidents in the park have put Kia on edge. When she first met Carlos, he was the weird guy who came to Baba Eddie’s botánica, where she worked. But the closer they’ve gotten, the more she’s seeing the world from Carlos’s point of view. In fact, she’s starting to see ghosts. And the situation is far more sinister than that — because whatever is bringing out the dead, it’s only just getting started.

Midnight Taxi Tango will be published by Roc on January 5, 2016. It is 322 pages, priced at $7.99 for both the paperback and digital versions. Sadly, the gorgeous cover art is uncredited.

Read the first chapter at

The Cover and TOC for Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016

Friday, December 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Years Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016Ten years ago Rich Horton, who’d already published several highly detailed survey articles in the print edition of Black Gate (including “Building the Fantasy Canon: the Classic Anthologies of Genre Fantasy” and “The Big Little SF Magazines of the 1970s”) wrote the first installment of what was to become a highly ambitious series: Rich Horton’s Virtual Best of the Year.

Rich surveyed virtually every piece of short fiction published in the genre in 2005 (an astounding 9.5+ million words), and compiled a list of the best, and we published it here at Black Gate. He repeated that feat in 2006 and 2007, and his reports on the field became more in-depth and insightful each year.

In 2006, Rich also began publishing two anthologies with Prime Books: Fantasy: The Best of the Year and Science Fiction: The Best of the Year. In 2009 those books merged into one massive volume, The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, which quickly became one of the most respected and acclaimed anthology series in our industry. It has been published every year since.

Last week Prime Books released the cover of the 2016 edition (at right, click for bigger version), the eighth volume in the series, alongside the Table of Contents. This one contains fiction from C.S.E. Cooney, Kelly Link, Vonda M. McIntyre, Catherynne M. Valente, Naomi Kritzer, Seanan McGuire, Chaz Brenchley, Elizabeth Bear, Ian McDonald, Geoff Ryman, Genevieve Valentine, and many others.

Here’s the complete TOC.

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New Treasures: Time and Time Again by Ben Elton

Friday, December 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Time and Time Again Ben Elton-small Time and Time Again Ben Elton-back-small

Ben Elton has written fourteen international bestsellers, including Dead Famous and Two Brothers. His latest novel is a time-travel mystery which Sir Kenneth Branagh calls “An exceptional thriller. Darkly comic, richly humane, and seriously entertaining. The final twist is spine chilling.” It was released in hardcover on Tuesday.

It’s the first of June 1914 and Hugh Stanton, ex-soldier and celebrated adventurer is quite literally the loneliest man on earth. No one he has ever known or loved has been born yet. Perhaps now they never will be.

Stanton knows that a great and terrible war is coming. A collective suicidal madness that will destroy European civilization and bring misery to millions in the century to come. He knows this because, for him, that century is already history.

Somehow he must change that history. He must prevent the war. A war that will begin with a single bullet. But can a single bullet truly corrupt an entire century? And, if so, could another single bullet save it?

Time and Time Again was published by Thomas Dunne Books on December 22, 2015. It is 387 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $12.99 in digital format. The cover was designed by Mulcahey & Claire Ward/TW. Click on the images above for bigger versions.

Merry Christmas From All of Us at Black Gate

Friday, December 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Black Gate Christmas Tree 2015-smallI woke up this morning the same way I have on Christmas morning for the last 18 years: to the excited screams of children telling Alice and me to get out of bad, Santa has come. Ten years ago, I thought I had only a few more years of this. Turns out teenagers love to shout on Christmas morning even more than toddlers.

Well, at least it got me up early. After all the presents were unwrapped, and we’d all snacked on Alice’s delicious Christmas quiche, I dropped by the Black Gate offices to pick up some review titles. It’s when the office is virtually deserted like this — lit only by the glow from the tiny tree the interns put on top of the filing cabinets — that I’m reminded of the early days, when BG was launched with all the hope and optimism in the world back in 2000.

We’ve grown tremendously since then. The print version is gone, but our staff, and our readership, has grown tremendously. Fifteen years ago Black Gate was a humble magazine with a tiny circulation. Now we’re a sprawling international collective of writers and artists working together to promote forgotten classics, celebrate overlooked modern writers, and promote each other.

2015 was a momentous year for us. We received our first Hugo Award nomination, and surpassed a million page views/month for the first time in our history. Over the years Black Gate has helped launch the careers of a great many talented writers, and that hasn’t changed since we switched to an online venue. Drop by if you’re interested in discovering some of the very best new and classic fantasy. I guarantee you, we’ll point you towards something that will delight you.

The engine of our growth has been you, the fans, who’ve enthusiastically spread the word about us. So thank you once again, from the bottom of our hearts. On behalf of the vast and unruly collective that is Black Gate, I would like to wish you all Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Continue being excellent — it’s what you’re good at.

Hubert Rogers’ Astounding Covers — And His Fascinating Correspondence with Robert A. Heinlein and L. Sprague de Camp

Thursday, December 24th, 2015 | Posted by Doug Ellis

Astounding April 1941 Hubert Rogers-small

At IlluxCon this past October, one of our major purchases was a pulp painting by artist Hubert Rogers. Rogers was Astounding Science Fiction’s primary cover artist from late 1939 to early 1952, with a break from 1943 through 1946 due to World War II (which he spent in Canada painting war posters and other paintings related to the war). We’d made arrangements over the summer to buy it from a friend of ours, who had owned it for many years, and he drove it up to IlluxCon with him so we could complete the deal.

This one appeared on the cover for Astounding, April 1941, and illustrated “The Stolen Dormouse” by L. Sprague de Camp. Shortly after its publication, De Camp wrote to Rogers, asking if he could acquire the painting, which he did.

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Discovering Robert E. Howard: Howard Andrew Jones and Bill Ward Re-Read The Hour of the Dragon

Thursday, December 24th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Hour of the Dragon Berkley fold out-smallHoward Andrew Jones and Bill Ward continue their re-read of The Bloody Crown of Conan by Robert E. Howard, the second of three omnibus volumes collecting the complete tales of Conan, with the full-fledged novel The Hour of the Dragon. It was originally published in five parts in Weird Tales, from December 1935 to April 1936.

Howard: Robert E. Howard was at the top of his game when he wrote it. For decades there was nothing with which to compare this novel on an apple to apple basis because it was so far ahead of what anyone else had done…

Bill: The novel… was the result of a solicitation from a British publisher for a full-length pulp adventure from REH… After an abortive stab at the planetary romance novel Almuric, left unfinished by REH and possibly later completed by his agent, Otis Aldebert Kline, REH turned again to the Cimmerian and his Hyborian landscapes. And it is to King Conan, whom we have not seen since “The Scarlet Citadel,” that REH returns to for his epic… King Conan is betrayed and captured by conspirators aided by a powerful wizard, and his throne usurped by an Aquilonian nobleman… the quick set-up of Conan’s betrayal and capture on the battlefield in “Citadel” becomes the far more memorable and exciting chapter in Dragon that sees Conan, about to lead his forces in battle, paralyzed by sorcery and his place on the field taken by another…

Next up, Bill and Howard dive into the third Rel Rey Conan collection, The Conquering Sword of Conan. Stay tuned.

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