Acquiring Michael Whelan’s Cover for The Bane of the Black Sword

Thursday, February 25th, 2016 | Posted by Doug Ellis

Michael Whelan The Bane of the Black Sword-small Michael Whelan The Bane of the Black Sword DAW-small

I thought I’d move a bit further ahead in time tonight than my usual pulp related posts, though it does have a bit of a pulp connection for me. I was discussing this piece with a friend of mine earlier today, so I figured I’d post it. By Michael Raymond Whelan, this is the cover for The Bane of the Black Sword by Michael Moorcock, featuring the one and only Elric of Melnibone (click the art for bigger versions). Both Deb and I loved the Elric books when we read them as teenagers, in the DAW editions featuring all those great Whelan covers, and when we had the chance to pick this up, we jumped at it.

We bought this in a hotel room many years ago, from our friend Randal Hawkins. He and his wife Donna drove up from the K.C. area with the painting, and we met them at a hotel about half way between there and Chicago to do the deal. It wasn’t the only time we did a deal like that in a hotel room with Randal — we bought other art from him that way as well, over the years, as well as many pulps. Hence the bit of a pulp connection for me. Those were good hotel rooms! Randal passed away much too young, but we have fond memories of visiting with him and Donna in K.C., looking at their great art collection, as well as their place in Las Vegas. And we often think of him when we look at this piece.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 193 Now Available

Thursday, February 25th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 193-smallThe February 18th issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies features original short fiction from Dean Wells and Andrew F. Sullivan, a podcast, and a reprint by Black Gate author Brian Dolton (author of “What Chains Bind Us,” from BG 15). The cover art, “Plains of Another World,” is by Leon Tukker.

And the Blessing of the Angels Came Upon Them” by Dean Wells
Peavey could not fault his grandson Moot’s skill nor the beauty of the boy’s sculpture. No, it was the subject matter that cut into his heart, even now. Moot cherished his beliefs so deeply; if his faith were ever shaken, it would surely devastate him. He was so very much like his grandmother in that regard.

Salt Circles” by Andrew F. Sullivan
From this window, we watched the man’s whip rise again and the back hoof of the mare collide with his thin throat in the same instant. The man crumpled down into the festering street as gouts of blood spouted from his neck. No one came to claim his body. Below us in the alley, rats and dogs or rat-sized dogs emerged slowly. They began to sip at the red puddles around him.

Audio Fiction Podcast
And the Blessing of the Angels Came Upon Them” by Dean Wells
Consuming the native crustaceans had given rise to bone cancers and rotting ulcers of the skin, from which death was a cruel relief.

From the Archives
The Sacrifice Pit” by Brian Dolton (from Beneath Ceaseless Skies #16, May 7, 2009)
She was beautiful. But it was forbidden, in the eyes of the Tetharan.

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Future Treasures: The Brotherhood of the Wheel by R. S. Belcher

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Brotherhood of the Wheel-smallR. S. Belcher’s previous novels include two acclaimed weird westerns set in the town of Golgotha, The Six-Gun Tarot and The Shotgun Arcana, and an urban fantasy that explores a gritty occult underworld, Nightwise.

His latest is the opening volume in a new urban fantasy about a mysterious society of truckers known only as The Brotherhood of The Wheel. It’s available in hardcover from Tor Books next week.

In 1119 A.D., a group of nine crusaders became known as the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon–a militant monastic order charged with protecting pilgrims and caravans traveling on the roads to and from the Holy Land. In time, the Knights Templar would grow in power and, ultimately, be laid low. But a small offshoot of the Templars endure and have returned to the order’s original mission: to defend the roads of the world and guard those who travel on them.

Theirs is a secret line of knights: truckers, bikers, taxi hacks, state troopers, bus drivers, RV gypsies — any of the folks who live and work on the asphalt arteries of America. They call themselves the Brotherhood of the Wheel.

Jimmy Aussapile is one such knight. He’s driving a big rig down South when a promise to a ghostly hitchhiker sets him on a quest to find out the terrible truth behind a string of children gone missing all across the country. The road leads him to Lovina Hewitt, a skeptical Louisiana State Police investigator working the same case and, eventually, to a forgotten town that’s not on any map — and to the secret behind the eerie Black-Eyed Kids said to prowl the highways.

The Brotherhood of the Wheel will be published by Tor Books on March 1, 2016. It is 384 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover and $14.99 for the digital edition. See all of our coverage of the best upcoming fantasy here.

An Old Dark House Double Feature: The Ghost and the Guest (1943) and The Monster Walks (1932)

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016 | Posted by William I. Lengeman III

The Ghost and the Guest Lobby Card-small

The Ghost and the Guest
PRC Pictures, 1943
Directed by William Nigh

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A decrepit old mansion that appears to be haunted. A pair of newlyweds move in and by the time it’s all said and done, we find out that the mansion is actually a hub for some nefarious criminal type dudes.

This was not a particularly fresh concept, even in 1943, and the execution leaves more than a bit to be desired. To call it a B-movie is probably elevating it to a much higher status than it deserves. I’m not sure if there’s such a thing a Z movie but this one’s no better than a V, at best.

The most notable factoid about this uninspired piece of work is that it was written by none other than Morey Amsterdam, best known for his role as one of the sidekicks on The Dick Van Dyke Show. His comic stylings, even at that time, were probably kind of old school, but he made it work with superior timing and delivery. None of which is on display from any of the alleged thespians in this particular cinematic exercise, where the comedy — and pretty much everything else — leaves a lot to be desired.

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Vintage Treasures: The Science Fiction Book Club Original Anthologies

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Between Worlds-small Down these Dark Spaceways-small One Million AD Gardner Dozois-small Forbidden Planets Marvin Kaye-small

Last month I had a look back at one of my favorite Best of the Year series, Jonathan Strahan’s Best Short Novels, a delightful four-volume set collecting the best novellas of 2004-07 and published exclusively through the Science Fiction Book Club. SFBC did many exclusives, but that was the one that got me to excitedly rejoin the club for the first time in over a decade.

It was a great time to be a member. In addition to the Strahan volumes, Andrew Wheeler at SFBC also commissioned some of the top editors in the field, including Gardner Dozois, Mike Resnick, Marvin Kaye and Strahan, to produce eight original themed anthologies, each containing 6-7 new novellas by writers like Robert Silverberg, Peter F. Hamilton, Robert Reed, Nancy Kress, Greg Egan, Jack McDevitt, Alan Dean Foster, Julie E. Czerneda, Charles Stross, Stephen Baxter, Cory Doctorow, Walter Jon Williams, and many others. Each anthology was offered exclusively through the club, which means many fans never even knew they existed.

Each anthology was themed, like Gardner’s collection of far-future tales One Million A.D. Marvin Kaye’s Forbidden Planets looked at visits to strange and hostile worlds, Mike Resnick’s Down these Dark Spaceways and Alien Crimes contained science fiction mysteries, and Strahan’s Godlike Machines gathered tales of future eras where machines ruled. They were a lot of fun, and I snapped each one up as it arrived.

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The Midnight Games and Why I Wrote Them

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016 | Posted by David Neil Lee

The MIdnight Games David Neil Lee-small“One might not think of our city as a muse,” began a recent review of my first YA horror novel The Midnight Games in a Hamilton magazine. But if you ask me, good horror novels, because they assume that monstrous secrets lurk behind the facades of everyday life, always convey a strong sense of place: I’m thinking of the New York City of Whitley Streiber’s The Wolfen, the Los Angeles of Robert McCammon’s They Thirst, or even the east coast gothic of Tim Wynne-Jones’ Odd’s End (which is an archetypical Canadian production — a horror novel about real estate).

In any case, Hamilton, Ontario, just southwest of Toronto, is a grimy little city that, like a lot of its relatives in the USA, dearly misses the great days of its industries (in this case, steel); days that have passed and that will not return again. One result of this is a working class culture, deeply depressed, that tends towards the nostalgic, and by nature I am a relentless optimist who regards nostalgia with a distaste approaching revulsion. For all that, I’ve lived in Hamilton since 2002 and the city has been good to me in many ways; let’s just say it’s enabled me to write a lot of books.

One day a local Hamilton publisher, Noelle Allen, put out a Facebook call for Hamilton-based books on behalf of her company, Wolsak & Wynn. I replied, “What we need is a horror novel, set in Hamilton, that people will read on the bus.” I volunteered to write such a novel.

Like it or not, for the past twelve years my family and I have lived a couple of blocks from Ivor Wynne, the local football stadium, and we hear all the noise from the Tiger Cats games. So I began a novel in which my protagonist hears a racket from the stadium at night, which he thinks of as “midnight games.” However, they are not games at all, but the cruel ceremonies of a local cult which is trying to summon to earth the Great Old Ones of the H.P. Lovecraft Cthulhu Mythos; trying with what turns out to be a fair degree of success.

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Review: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear — Actually Rather Wise

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016 | Posted by M Harold Page


I wanted — expected — to hate this book.

I wanted — expected — to hate this book.

I only know the work of Elizabeth Gilbert from the movie Eat, Love, Pray: Men Are Kind of Expendable (And Arranged Marriages Are Cute as Long as You Are a Bystander) which I believe may not quite have caught the depth of the original book.

So Big Magic… Creative Living…

OMG this is where those damned writer memes come from! (See my ranty guest post on Charles Stross’s blog.)

But actually, behind the willful whimsy Elizabeth Gilbert speaks wisdom that applies to we Black Gate folk, and SF&F fans in general. It also reminds me of a long lost essay by Ryan Harvey entitled something like, “What if the Fifteen-Year-Olds were right?”

It has six parts, with inspiring titles. However, the structure is more literary than… well structural, and really she’s taking us on a tour of her mental map of the creative life, so I’ll just tell you why I was impressed (or in one case, unimpressed).

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New Treasures: Graft by Matt Hill

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Graft Matt Hill-smallI don’t know much about British writer Matt Hill. He lives in London and has written one previous novel, The Folded Man (2013). But I like the sound of his second book, Graft. Author James Smythe says “Graft is exactly what science fiction should be right now: it’s brutally dark, twisted at its heart, with an incredible sense of foreboding… one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.” I’m putting this one near the top of my to-be-read pile.

Manchester, 2025. Local mechanic Sol steals old vehicles to meet the demand for spares. But when Sol’s partner impulsively jacks a luxury model, Sol finds himself caught up in a nightmarish trans-dimensional human trafficking conspiracy.

Hidden in the stolen car is a voiceless, three-armed woman called Y. She’s had her memory removed and undertaken a harrowing journey into a world she only vaguely recognises. And someone waiting in the UK expects her delivery at all costs.

Now Sol and Y are on the run from both Y’s traffickers and the organisation’s faithful products. With the help of a dangerous triggerman and Sol’s ex, they must uncover the true, terrifying extent of the trafficking operation, or it’s all over.

Not that there was much hope to start with.

A novel about the horror of exploitation and the weight of love, Graft imagines a country in which too many people are only worth what’s on their price tag.

Graft was published by Angry Robot on February 2, 2016. It is 444 pages, priced at $7.99 in paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by John Coulthart.

The Fionavar Tapestry Book 2: The Wandering Fire by Guy Gavriel Kay

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_2251331IZpxRuY1When I set out to delve into epic high fantasy late last year, I deliberately chose some stories I’d read already and remember liking. Rereading The Summer Tree, first volume of Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry, justified my fond memories of it. I ended my review stating: “This is how epic high fantasy can look if it doesn’t want to merely ape LotR or regurgitate the same bits and pieces over and over again.” Those words do not apply to the second book, The Wandering Fire (1986).

Upon finishing the second volume I remembered that, when I read it the first time, I didn’t rush to read the concluding book, The Darkest Road. In fact, it was several years before I picked it up. It won’t be so long this time, but I sure don’t feel like reading it tomorrow.

In The Summer Tree, five Canadian grad students were magically transported from Toronto to Fionavar, the primary universe. Over the course of the novel, they were transformed spiritually and, some of them, even physically. Dave Martyniuk became Davor, adopted member of the nomadic Dalrei, and keeper of the horn that unleashes the Wild Hunt. Kimberly Ford became the Seer, able to manipulate certain magics and see the future. More drastically, Paul Schaefer, distraught over the death of his girlfriend a year earlier, sacrificed himself on the Summer Tree to summon, and become a conduit for, the god Mornir. Jennifer Lowell was kidnapped and raped by Rakoth Maugrim, Fionavar’s dark lord. Only happy-go-lucky Kevin Laine seemed to escape unchanged, yet Fionavar was stimulating his natural mournful romantic tendencies to some unseen end.

While The Wandering Fire purports to move the group deeper into the heart of the growing fight against Maugrim, what was once exciting and focused now feels hurried and slapdash. Momentous events come and go in the space of a few paragraphs. In one case a major secret is discovered but so little time was invested in it beforehand, it seems tossed off and rather inconsequential instead of horrifying, as intended.

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January Issue of Swords and Sorcery Magazine Now Available

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Swords and Sorcery Magazine January 2016-smallIssue 48 of Curtis Ellett’s Swords and Sorcery Magazine, cover-dated January 2016, is now available. Each issue contains two short stories, and is available free online. Here’s the issue summary:

The Quarto Volume,” by Ken Lizzi, is the second story we’ve seen in Lizzi’s Cesar the Bravo series. In this story Cesar encounters forbidden knowledge while serving as a mercenary. Lizzi has also published a novel, Reunion, and has had stories published in several anthologies.

The Tower of Jadraign,” by Joshua Steely, is the story of an aging hero who takes up the cause and quest of a young woman he encounters on the road by chance. Steely’s work has previously been published in Niteblade.

Fletcher Vredenburgh reviewed this issue in his January Short Story Roundup, saying:

The issue kicks off with the impressive (and impressively titled) “The Quarto Volume, or Knowledge, Good & Evil” by Ken Lizzi. Cesar is a member of a mercenary company in a land similar to Renaissance Italy but with demons and wizards. Those who control those spirits control the world, and that’s a small number of people. Now, Cesar learns, there’s the possibility of power escaping into the hands of the many. Cesar is cut from the same cloth as any number of roguish heroes, but Lizzi’s prose lends him a clear voice and the setting has great potential…

The second story, “The Tower of Jadraign,” by Joshua Steely, opens with Eth, a grizzled soldier, rescuing a woman from the hands of a barbarian she has fallen in with. She promptly tries to get him to accompany her to the legendary Tower of Jadraign… I like this one. While not amazing or anything, I found the ending very satisfying.

Read the current issue here. We last covered Swords and Sorcery Magazine with Issue #47.

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

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