Discovering Robert E. Howard: Howard Andrew Jones and Bill Ward Wrap Up Their Epic Conan Re-Read

Monday, February 29th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Conan and the Emerald Lotus-small Conan and the Emerald Lotus-back

Howard Andrew Jones and Bill Ward have completed their epic re-read of every complete story of Conan the Cimmerian written by Robert E. Howard. They’ve been blogging about the project at, and we’ve been following along with the viewers at home. In their wrap-up, Howard and Bill look over the vast catalog of Conan pastiches.

Howard: Such a fantastic character practically begs to have more adventures told about him, which is probably why the regrettable Conan pastiche industry popped up. Well, maybe not entirely regrettable, because I’ve read some I’ve really enjoyed…

Bill:  I’m actually looking forward at this point to checking out the many pastiches I’ve never read — I’ve got a stack of Ace Conans that I’d started reading before we came up with the plans for this epic reread… I’ve never read the deCamp and Carter pastiches, or the other stories by REH that de Camp Frankensteined into Conan tales. It’ll be a while before I jump into that series, though, as [I’ll] be rereading all the REH tales again as well. As for other pastiches, I’ve only read a few — Wagner’s Road of Kings was good, and, of course, Hocking’s [Conan and the] Emerald Lotus is terrific.

Read the complete exchange here.

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February 2016 Nightmare Magazine Now on Sale

Monday, February 29th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Nightmare Magazine February 2016-smallThe February issue of online magazine Nightmare contains original short stories from Rose Hartley and Dennis Etchison, and reprints from Seanan McGuire and Adam L. G. Nevill.

Original Stories

No Other Men in Mitchell” by Rose Hartley
If I’m gonna tell this story, I’m gonna have to start with the men. In Queensland — right in the middle of it, bum-fuck-nowhere is the word — there’s a town called Mitchell. It has two pubs and a mechanic who services the road trains that pass through, and its only claim to fame is birthing Australia’s shortest-serving Prime Minister ever. I got to know Mitchell’s mechanic while I was driving road trains over the Warrego Highway between South Australia and Queensland.

Princess” by Dennis Etchison
When the woman flips the visor down, a weak glow flickers on around the mirror. She reaches above her head for the dome light. “Turn it off,” the driver tells her. “I have to check my makeup.” “Off.” He squints at the road and the taillights smearing past like wet blood cells in the fog. “Can’t see where I’m going with that thing on.” “Walter, please…” The driver lifts one fist from the steering wheel and finds the switch in the headliner. Behind him, tiny electronic voices chirp in the dark.

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Future Treasures: The Lyre Thief by Jennifer Fallon

Monday, February 29th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Lyre Thief Jennifer Fallon-smallJennifer Fallon’s popular Hythrun Chronicles began with The Demon Child trilogy (Medalon, Treason Keep, and Harshini); the Wolfblade trilogy (Wolfblade, Warrior, Warlord) followed soon after. All six were published in hardcover by Tor in the US.

After a decade, Fallon returns to the world of the Hythrun Chronicles with The Lyre Thief, the first novel in a new trilogy. It’s a tale of powerful magics, byzantine politics, sweeping adventure and romance, and it arrives in hardcover from Tor next month.

Her Serene Highness, Rakaia, Princess of Fardohnya, is off to Hythria, where her eldest sister is now the High Princess, to find herself a husband, and escape the inevitable bloodbath in the harem when her brother takes the throne.

Rakaia is not interested in marrying anyone, least of all some brute of a Hythrun Warlord she’s never met, but she has a plan to save herself from that, too. If she can just convince her baseborn sister, Charisee, to play along, she might actually get away with it.

But there is trouble brewing across the continent. High Prince of Hythria, Damin Wolfblade, must head north to save the peace negotiated a decade ago between the Harshini, Hythria, Fardohnya, Medalon and Karien. He must leave behind an even more dangerous conflict brewing between his wife and his powerful mother, Princess Marla.

…And in far off Medalon, someone has stolen the music.

Their quest for the tiny stolen lyre containing the essence of the God of Music will eventually touch all their lives, threaten everything they hold dear and prove to be far more personal than any of them can imagine.

The Lyre Thief will be published by Tor Books on March 8, 2016. It is 445 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover and $14.99 for the digital edition. Read “First Kill,” a short story set in the world of the Hythrun Chronicles, for free at

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Solar Pons & Cthulhu?

Monday, February 29th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

PonsCthulhu_CthulhuTo the extent that August Derleth’s name is famliar to most Black Gaters, it’s in relation to his major role in the Cthulhu Mythos. I’ve read a fair amount of H.P. Lovecraft, but frankly, his stuff creeps me out and I’m not too into those stories: nor the ones by other authors – for the same reason. Of course, I am a devotee of Derleth’s Sherlock Holmes-like Solar Pons tales. Within the Pontine Canon, one can find an emerald thread…

Luther Norris was, is and will certainly remain the foremost Ponsian of them all. In his introduction to The Memoirs of Solar Pons, he points out that Pons has a wider range of interests than Holmes, using the titles of their published monographs as his foundation. Now, we can certainly take issue with Norris’ statement that “Holmes..has little concern for topics not related to his ‘little problems.’”

I do not believe that the polyphonic motets of Lassus had anything to do with one of Holmes’ cases. And it’s quite likely that his monograph on the Chaldean roots in the ancient Cornish language was not work-related. However, the majority of his writings were on topics useful to his career as a consulting detective, so we will agree with Norris in principle.

Norris points to two monographs as examples of Pons’ more varied interests: “An Inquiry into the Nan-Natal Ruins of Ponapae” (1905) and “An Examination of the Cthulhu Cult and Others” (1931). The context of Norris’ discussion implies that these are non work-related topics. It is this point regarding the latter that we are addressing.

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Things Your Writing Teacher Never Told You: Pro-Tip From A.J. Aalto

Sunday, February 28th, 2016 | Posted by Tina Jens

AJ AaltoNicknamed “The Writerghoulie” in the early days of Twitter, A.J. Aalto is a Canadian urban fantasy writer, author of the paranormal comedy series The Marnie Baranuik Files, and an active member of the Horror Writers Association.

Butt-In-Seat: Discipline and the Muse

The Muse loves to strike when you’re in the drive thru or walking your llama and can’t immediately capture those perfect snippits of dialog or subtle plot twists.

There are many ways to get around this. First of all, don’t own a llama. Secondly, set up regular meetings with yourself, to get your creative mind into the habit of showing up for work on your schedule.

Any time I have trouble being disciplined, I return to the habit that seemed to work best for me. Pro tip: 4 A.M. is prime creative time. I set my alarm, snarl at the clock, slap it a few times, throw myself out of the sack, slog to my office to load my documents, and put on a pot of tea. While the kettle heats up, I curse my boss; since I am my boss, I know exactly which insults cut the deepest.

Then I start the music in my headphones: Dubstep, K-pop, whatever music my teenagers say I’m too old to listen to. Then I shake my booty in the dark kitchen, where no one but my cat has to witness my cool-ass dance moves. Once the tea is ready, I’m wide awake and ready to work; thanks to the habit, the Muse is, too. In the beginning, you may need to bribe yourself to show up at 4 A.M. (I find that desk-chocolates work and desk-kale does not), but once the habit is fixed, it’ll be much easier to get your butt where it needs to be.

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Blogging The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer, Part Three – “The Clue of the Pigtail”

Sunday, February 28th, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

NOTE: The following article was first published on March 28, 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 260 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.

The_Mystery_of_Dr._Fu-Manchu_cover_1913220px-Mysteriousfumanchu“The Clue of the Pigtail” was the second installment of Sax Rohmer’s serial, Fu-Manchu. It was first published in The Story-Teller in November 1912. It would later comprise Chapters 4-6 of the novel, The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu [US title: The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu] published the following year. Rohmer makes a drastic switch from the weird menace of “The Zayat Kiss” to a more traditional Yellow Peril storyline. The influence of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries is much less pronounced the second time around. This episode and the one that immediately follows it (“Redmoat” which we will examine in greater detail next time) see Rohmer instead delve deeper into the background of his Yellow Peril mystery. This transition is a necessary one to provide Dr. Fu-Manchu with a plausible motive for the weird deaths he was directing against his political enemies in the first story.

Most critics cite the Boxer Uprising of 1900 as the beginning of Yellow Peril fiction. While that inaugural international conflict of the 20th Century certainly did much to incite reader interest, Yellow Peril stories had existed prior to the series of massacres of Western missionaries that would ultimately spell the end of the Manchu Dynasty and be responsible for much of the ideological and socio-political transformation of the globe in the last century. A brief overview of the most prominent Yellow Peril stories prior to Sax Rohmer’s introduction of Dr. Fu-Manchu may prove beneficial.

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Reflections on a Five-Sided Brain

Sunday, February 28th, 2016 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

The Pentagon's BrainI sat down to read Annie Jacobsen’s 2015 book The Pentagon’s Brain — subtitled An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency — thinking I’d get a new perspective on the development of the American military-industrial complex. And a new angle on the history of science in the 1950s and 1960s and beyond. Also that I’d learn a bit about the development of the internet, and who the people were who came up with it, and why they did, and what they were thinking. I got all of that. But I also found a new angle on science fiction, and the way SF shapes the world for better or for worse.

Jacobsen’s book opens with the first test of the hydrogen bomb on Bikini Atoll in 1954, and describes the subsequent development of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (later the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). She follows DARPA through arguments over arms control treaties, through experiments during the Vietnam War, through the 80s and into the first Gulf War, then to projects it undertook for this century’s American wars. Of course she runs into some difficulty in these parts of the book; a lot of what DARPA does is classified. Still, Jacobsen puts together a lot of material that has previously been made public, and has information she’s gathered herself. Crucially, even where there are gaps in the record, she keeps the overall thrust of events clear.

I’d say that clarity is one of the book’s real strengths. Jacobsen’s dealing both with the labyrinthine world of intelligence and with the world of bleeding-edge science, but her book makes all this matter easily understandable. And it hints at more meaning; at what cannot yet be revealed. As well as contemplating the weird twilight between science and fiction, where one becomes another.

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Collecting James White

Sunday, February 28th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Collecting James White-small

I’ve been enjoying doing a little research on vintage paperback prices… mostly because it involves my favorite pastime, shopping online for science fiction paperbacks. Except now I get to do it, y’know, in the name of science.

What I’ve learned so far hasn’t been super surprising. Robert A. Heinlein is popular. Philip K. Dick is really popular. I guess the biggest surprise is that the #2 man on the list is Karl Edward Wagner, which I didn’t expect (but I probably should have). Here’s a snapshot of what you can expect to pay as you diligently build your SF library, based on a sample of top-condition paperback auctions over the last 2-3 months.

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The Quest of Frank Schildiner

Sunday, February 28th, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

7a0183d69395cea098c126a7581be8a7franktourbkJean-Claude Carriere is best remembered as the acclaimed screenwriter of Hotel Paradiso (1966), Belle de Jour (1967), The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie (1972), The Return Of Martin Guerre (1982), and The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988). Less well known is the fact that he also authored (under the house name of Benoit Becker) six very bloody sequels to Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) in 1957 and 1958 for a French horror-specialty imprint. Carriere’s  books chronicle the exploits of Gouroull, as he christened the Monster, as he moves across Europe from 1875 to 1939.

Gouroull is portrayed very much in the mold of Mary Shelley’s literary original. He is a terrifying amoral creation possessed of superhuman strength and cunning. Truly the only one of his kind, he is a creation who has outlived his creator and knows not love or restraint. Gouroull is the ultimate sociopath. This Frankenstein monster is quite foreign to our pop cultural mindset. Gouroull uses his razor sharp teeth to slash his victims’ throats. He does not breathe. His skin is naturally flame-resistant. Ichor runs in his veins in place of blood. He is a monster like no other.

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Apex Magazine #81 Now on Sale

Sunday, February 28th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Apex Magazine Issue 81-smallIn his editorial this month, Jason Sizemore gives us the scoop on the February issue.

Welcome to issue 81… it’s an issue rich with imagination and strange worlds.

What kid on the cusp of becoming an adult doesn’t look forward to the day when they’re able to travel past the bounds of childhood? Daniel Rosen takes that concept and, because this is Apex Magazine, adds a disconcerting and thought provoking twist. We welcome Betsy Phillips and Benjanun Sriduangkaew back to our pages. Betsy’s story feels particularly timely due to the recent 1.5 billion dollar Powerball Lottery drawing…. Wrapping up our fiction selections, we present a reprint of “On the Occasion of My Retirement,” a novelette by Nick Mamatas receiving its digital debut inside Apex Magazine.

Our poetry this month comes courtesy of Heather Morris, Mike Jewett, Crystal Lynn Hilbert, and Laurel Dixon. Russell Dickerson interviews cover artist David Demaret. Andrea Johnson interviews Benjanun Sriduangkaew regarding her avant-garde and poetic fiction output.

Our podcast fiction this month is “Four Gardens of Fate” by Betsy Phillips. Finally, enjoy an excerpt from Glitch Rain by Alex Livingston, the latest book from Apex Publications. Many of our regular readers will recognize Livingston for his story “Proximity” from issue 73. Glitch Rain is set in the same universe as “Proximity.”

Here’s the complete TOC.

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