Vintage Treasures: Sorcerer’s Son by Phyllis Eisenstein

Monday, April 25th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Sorcerer's Son Phyllis Eisenstein-small Sorcerer's Son Phyllis Eisenstein-back-small

I ran into my friend Phyllis Eisenstein at the Windy City Pulp & Paper Show here in Chicago over the weekend, and the first thing she said to me was, “I’m retired!”

This is exciting news. Phyllis has been nurturing several writing projects for the past few years, and I’ve been impatiently waiting for them — and it’s great to hear that she’ll finally have more time to devote to them. Though I forgot to ask if it means we’ll finally get the long-promised third volume in her Book of Elementals fantasy series, which began with Sorcerer’s Son in 1979, and continued with The Crystal Palace (1988). The third volume, The City in Stone, was actually completed a decade ago, but was left without a publisher after the sudden collapse of Meisha Merlin in 2007. The first two volumes are now long out of print.

Phyllis’ other novels include Shadow of Earth (1979), In the Hands of Glory (1981), and the Tales of Alaric the Minstrel (two novels, Born to Exile (1978) and In the Red Lord’s Reach (1989), plus various short stories). Her work has been nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, but these days of course she’s most famous for being the person who convinced George R.R. Martin to put dragons in A Song of Ice and Fire.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Navajo Sherlock Holmes – Joe Leaphorn

Monday, April 25th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne


Wes Studi (Leaphorn) with Adam Beach (Chee)

Last week, we had something of an introduction to Tony Hillerman and his Navajo Tribal Police novels. A quick read before continuing on here might serve you well. Or, you can throw caution to the wind and keep going!

In July of 1945, Hillerman was was on a sixty day convalescent furlough from World War II, with a patch over a damaged eye and a cane to assist his gimpy leg. He had been wounded near the German village of Niefern. Carrying a stretcher under fire, he  had stepped on a mine. Now being carried himself on a stretcher, the man holding the front stepped on a mine and Hillerman was on the ground again. Someone picked him up in a fireman’s carry, dropped him in a creek, got him to a jeep and laid him across the hood. Hillerman made it out, alive (He would receive the Bronze Star, the Silver Star and the Purple Heart for his service).

Now temporarily back in the States, he had gotten a job driving pipe from Oklahoma City to an oil well drilling site on the Navajo checkerboard reservation. He stopped as a stick carrier’s camp crossed the road in front of him. They were making the ritual delivery of a scalp to the camp of a Navajo serviceman receiving an Enemy Way ceremonial. That’s a bit different than a deer crossing the road!

Hillerman’s first novel, some twenty years later, heavily involved an Enemy Way (that was his choice for the title. His publisher selected a completely unrelated ceremonial, The Blessing Way).

Tony Hillerman had been a reporter for many years and had also written nonfiction when he decided to write his first novel. As influences, he has cited Ross MacDonald, Raymond Chandler, George V. Higgins, Ernest Hemingway (“when he was still young enough to care about it”), Graham Greene and Eric Ambler (a master of suspense who has become unfairly forgotten over the years).

A less familiar name is that of Arthur Upfield, who wrote about the Australian Aborigine, Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte. Hillerman frequently cited Upfield’s ability to make the setting seem real. That same descriptive ability is at the core of the Leaphorn and Chee books.

And speaking of those books…

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Future Treasures: Wraith by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens

Sunday, April 24th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Wraith Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens-small Wraith Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens back-small

This looks like fun: a standalone supernatural thriller from The New York Times bestselling team of Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens. In Arlington, Virginia, a cop about to lose his career comforts a dying woman in the wreckage of her car. The next night, her ghost asks him for his help… a Russian general has infiltrated the US on a madman’s quest. His weapons are wraiths who cannot be killed. Ghosts have been weaponized.

In 1995, the CIA made a breakthrough that they hid from the world because it would change everything in modern science ― but some secrets can’t stay hidden. A rogue force has learned how to make disembodied minds capable of lethal action. Ghosts have been weaponized, and now a Russian general has infiltrated the U.S. with a squad of “berzerkers”―an army that can’t be killed because they’re already dead. Only one person knew the general’s plans, but she died in a car crash. The only person who can communicate with her is the cop who was at her side when she died ― and now he must race to stop a force that could end life as we know it.

Wraith will be published by Thomas Dunne Books on April 26, 2016. It is 320 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Micharl Komarck.

The Dungeon Master’s Guide to the Middle Ages? (Review: All Things Medieval: An Encyclopedia of the Medieval World)

Sunday, April 24th, 2016 | Posted by M Harold Page

All Things Medieval

This book will probably save you time and money because you won’t need all those funny little books on private life and seasons and agriculture and inns…

The horrible thing about being a historical novelist is that the specific information you need often exists, but not in an accessible form. You stand a good chance of being Embarrassingly Wrong on topics such as marriage customs for your particular setting and that — worse — you’ll discover this in your Amazon reviews: “I think you’ll find…

That’s what drew me to All Things Medieval: An Encyclopedia of the Medieval World, a big fat pricey double volume by medievalist blogger Ruth A Johnston, “an independent scholar with a research specialty in medieval literature and languages” and published by the uber-respectable academic press Greenhill.

In the age of Wikipedia, it’s rather brave to publish any sort of popular encyclopedia, which is perhaps why this one seems priced for the academic and library market. It was of course the price — hefty for a hard copy, and perhaps outrageous for the ebook ($154.44 or £108.48!) — that nudged me into asking for review access. I needed to know: Is it any good for my research?

It’s certainly inspiring and well written; a worthy successor to books like the old A History of Everyday Things in England. Just glancing at the entries for M we have well-illustrated and lively topics: “Machines, Magic, Maps, Masons (See Stone and Masons), Measurement (See Weights and Measures), Medicine, Menageries (See Zoos), Mills, Minstrels and Troubadours, Monasteries, Monsters, Music, Muslims.

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Ann and Jeff Vandermeer’s The Big Book of Science Fiction Will be One of the Largest Anthologies the Genre Has Seen

Sunday, April 24th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Big Book of Science Fiction-smallI’ve covered a handful of truly massive anthologies at Black Gate over the years — Otto Penzler’s The Vampire Archives and The Big Book of Adventure Stories spring to mind, as well as Ann and Jeff Vandermeer’s 1152-page The Weird — but I’m not sure I’ve ever come something as hugely ambitious as The Big Book of Science Fiction, edited by the Vandermeers, and scheduled to be released by Vintage this July.

Weighing in at 1,216 pages in oversized trade paperback, this could be one of the largest anthologies the genre has seen. Here’s the description.

Quite possibly the greatest science fiction collection of all time — past, present, and future!

What if life was neverending? What if you could change your body to adapt to an alien ecology? What if the pope were a robot? Spanning galaxies and millennia, this must-have anthology showcases classic contributions from H. G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, Octavia E. Butler, and Kurt Vonnegut, alongside a century of the eccentrics, rebels, and visionaries who have inspired generations of readers. Within its pages, you’ll find beloved worlds of space opera, hard SF, cyberpunk, the New Wave, and more. Learn about the secret history of science fiction, from titans of literature who also wrote SF to less well-known authors from more than twenty-five countries, some never before translated into English. In The Big Book of Science Fiction, literary power couple Ann and Jeff VanderMeer transport readers from Mars to Mechanopolis, planet Earth to parts unknown. Immerse yourself in the genre that predicted electric cars, space tourism, and smartphones. Sit back, buckle up, and dial in the coordinates, as this stellar anthology has got worlds within worlds.

And here’s the complete Table of Contents — including a rich assortment of world SF.

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Running with the Post-Apocalyptic Dogs: An Interview with Comic Creators Sam Sattin and Chris Koehler

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

LEGEND_issue 1 cover_koehlerIn May, Z2 Comics is going to be publishing Legend, a new series by writer Sam Sattin and artist Chris Koehler. I had previously interviewed Ian McGuity for his Z2 release Welcome to Showside and so when I saw the early news on Legend, I knew I wanted to have a chat with Sam and Chris.

Welcome to both of you and thanks for the chance to chat!

Sam and Chris: Thank you so much for having us. Black Gate magazine for life!

I read an advance copy of Legend. It’s strikingly different and I’m buying into the school that describes it as “Post-Apocalyptic Homeward Bound.” Can you give our readers a sense of what Legend is and what you were trying to do?

Sam: I love the idea of Legend being referred to as a “Post-Apocalyptic Homeward Bound.” But I also like describing Legend as a “Post-Apocalyptic Watership Down… meets The Walking Dead… and/or Game of Thrones?”

The thing that I love so much about Watership Down — along with other Richard Adams books, like The Plague Dogs — is how it employs myth. A much overlooked linchpin of Watership Down‘s success is its reliance on a religious text, one which turns a story of rabbits journeying from a home threatened by human development into a story of prophecy and redemption.

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New Treasures: The Orphan Fleet by Brendan Detzner

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Orphan Fleet-smallI’ve been following Brendan Detzner’s work with keen interest for the past few years. He’s published a number of tight, razor-sharp horror stories in places like Podcastle, ChiZine, Pseudopod, One Buck Horror, and other fine venues.

When I heard he was turning his hand to adventure fantasy, I jumped at the chance to be an early reader, and I’m glad I did. Here’s my enthusiastic blurb, which ended up on the finished novella, The Orphan Fleet.

The Orphan Fleet is terrific adventure fantasy — a non-stop tale of action and strange magic on a wind-swept mountain top where abandoned children have forged a free community, servicing far-traveling airships on sturdy wooden platforms. Here masked heroes with names like Golden Sam and The Sparrow are the ultimate celebrities — and the mysterious Count leaves shivers of terror wherever he treads. When that community is threatened by an admiral who demands the return of his prized daughter, it triggers a terrible war fought in the air, on the ground, and in the old abandoned scaffolding circling the mountain … a war where Golden Sam may prove himself a true hero after all, and the Count has a terrible role to play.

Michael Penkas reviewed two of Brendan’s previous collections for Black Gate: Scarce Resources and Beasts.

The Orphan Fleet was published by Attack Rabbit Books on April 15, 2016. It is 83 pages, priced at $2.99. Order copies directly at

See all of our recent New Treasures here.

Uncanny Magazine Issue 9 Now on Sale

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Uncanny magazine March April 2016-smallUncanny editors Lynn and Michael Thomas spill the beans on the March/April issue of Uncanny in their editorial.

Our cover is by the designer of the universally famous Space Unicorn logo, the fantastic Katy Shuttleworth, and is called “Strange Companions.” Our new fiction this month features a gorgeous and intricate examination of love and obsession by Rachel Swirsky, “Love Is Never Still,” a haunting and passionate story by Shveta Thakrar, “The Shadow Collector,” Max Gladstone’s fantastic and fun yarn “Big Thrull and the Askin’ Man,” Kelly Sandoval’s heart–wrenching and beautiful “The Wolf and the Tower Unwoven,” and finally Simon Guerrier’s cheeky and bittersweet “The Artificial Bees.” As we write this, David Bowie passed away only a few weeks ago. In memory of Bowie and how his work affected many of us, our reprint this month is Daryl Gregory’s surreal Bowie examination “Just Another Future Song,” originally published in Glitter & Mayhem, the SF/F nightlife/roller derby anthology we co–edited with John Klima.

Our essays this month feature Jim C. Hines poking holes in a tired defense of racism by historical figures, Kyell Gold introducing us to the fabulous world of furry fandom, an examination of the “Phildickian” existence of author George R. R. Martin by Javier Grillo–Marxuach, and finally a fascinating discussion about the increasingly blurred lines between “fan” and “pro” by Mark Oshiro.

All of the content became available for purchase as an eBook (PDF, EPUB, MOBI) on March 1, 2016.

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Blogging Sax Rohmer’s The Insidious Doctor Fu Manchu, Part Four – “Redmoat”

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

NOTE: The following article was first published on April 4, 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.

Romer_-_MysteryOrbanRedmoat“Redmoat” was the third installment of Sax Rohmer’s serial Fu-Manchu, first published in The Story-Teller in December 1912. The story would later comprise Chapters 7-9 of the novel, The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu (initially re-titled The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu for U.S. publication) in 1913. “Redmoat” is significant for delving into the aftermath of the Boxer Uprising. As we discussed in Part Three, this conflict leant credence to the Yellow Peril fiction that had been steadily gaining in popularity over the preceding fifty years. More importantly for our purpose, the Boxer Uprising provided a motive for Dr. Fu-Manchu’s actions.

There are two principal supporting players to the story who are worthy of greater consideration. The first is the Reverend J. D. Eltham. Reverend Eltham had earned a name for himself during his missionary days in China as “Parson Dan.” Nayland Smith tells Dr. Petrie that Eltham “held off two hundred Boxers at a hospital in Nan-Yang with only a garrison of a dozen cripples and a German doctor for support.” The heroic clergyman’s evangelical zeal had resulted, according to Smith, in the Boxer Uprising. While ascribing the blame for that conflict on a single missionary is more than a bit implausible, it is interesting that Rohmer, an Edwardian author, took a critical view of the British Empire and recognized that intolerance to Chinese culture not only hindered the goal of religious conversion, but sparked China’s decision to drive the foreigners out of their country by whatever means necessary. It is also interesting to note that as Fu-Manchu is the personification of the Yellow Peril, so Parson Dan is the personification of colonial intolerance at its worst.

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Storming (Err…. Escaping) the Temple of Elemental Evil

Friday, April 22nd, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Temple of Elemental Evil board game


1st Turn

I’m sure you read my look at the Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Board Game series. I mean, who hasn’t? Anywhoo, I decided to try and solo the first adventure in The Temple of Elemental Evil (ToEE). I’ve not played Castle Ravenloft, but so far, I’ve found Legend of Drizzt to definitely be the easiest of the series, with Wrath of Ashardalon much tougher. After a few plays of Temple, I determined it to be even harder to win.

ESCAPE – That’s the name of the adventure. This one begins with the Massacre Site tile, rather than the Start Tile. Somewhere between the eighth and thirteenth tiles is the Guard Room tile. Once you find that, you lay the Start Tile next to it and if you can end your Hero Phase on the Start tile, you win.

Knowing how brutal this game is, I chose to play Barrowin, the female Gold Dwarf Cleric. Her healing power would most definitely be needed. Her stat line is 16 AC, 8 HP, 5 Speed. And when she uses a Daily or Utility power, one hero (which can be her) on her tile regains 1 HP.

I also House Rule that the monsters do not attack on the turn that they are placed. This is a big change, but I think that ToEE and Wrath are extremely difficult to win without that change.

You can click on the pictures to enlarge them and get a better look at what’s going on.

How did I do? Well, Barrowin made it to the 14th turn, which is at least a moral victory. See how it all turned out below.

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