The Late June Fantasy Magazine Rack

Thursday, June 30th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Asimovs-SF-July-2016-big-rack Beneath-Ceaseless-Skies-200-rack Clarkesworld-117-rack Lightspeed-Magazine-June-2016-rack
Uncanny-Magazine-May-June-2016-rack Meeple-Monthly-May-2016-rack The-Digest-Enthusiast-4-rack Freedom-is-Space-for-the-Spirit-rack

The month of June ended with a flurry of new magazine arrivals, more than your humble editors could hope to cover. But we took our best shot.

We added one new title to our coverage: the delightful board game periodical Meeple Monthly (and there’s no truth to the rumor we waited until it did a cover feature on Star Trek first). Fletcher Vredenburgh reported on the latest issue of Swords and Sorcery in his May Short Story Roundup, and the distinguished editor Jonathan Strahan shared his assessment of 2016’s breakout short fiction stars. In other news, we reported that is shopping for novellas to feed their fast-growing label, and that the Summer issue of SFX magazine offers a terrific spread on galactic hero Perry Rhodan (including quotes from yours truly.)

We had plenty for vintage magazine fans this month, too — including a review of L. Sprague de Camp’s The Tritonian Ring, which originally appeared in Two Complete Science Adventure Books from 1951, Rich Horton’s Retro Review of the October 1962 Amazing Stories, and a look at Terry Carr’s The Best Science Fiction of the Year #4, from 1974.

Check out all the details on the magazines above by clicking on the each of the images. Our early June Fantasy Magazine Rack is here.

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Goth Chick News: A Series of Unfortunate Events, or This Is Where I Came In

Thursday, June 30th, 2016 | Posted by Sue Granquist

A Series of Unfortuante Events-smallWay back in 2000, I submitted a book review to Black Gate magazine on a dare.

I had recently fallen in love with the first three installments of the newly published Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (aka Dan Handler) and was going on about them at work to anyone who would listen. Finally, a coworker dared me to tell someone who might actually care and send my annoyingly enthusiastic review to his favorite publication, Black Gate – assuming, I am sure, that head honcho John O’ would effectively tell me to shut it, in writing.

But sixteen years later, thanks to that annoyed coworker and the high tolerant nature of our editor-in-chief, I continue to occupy a subterranean office at Black Gate where I perpetually maintain a small shrine to Handler beside the blender: not only because his work is where Goth Chick News began, but because he remains to this day, just that entertaining.

In 2004, five years after the first book in the Series of Unfortunate Events was published, Hollywood made what I deem a truly disastrous attempt to bring them to life on the big screen; “disastrous” because rather than focusing on the three, young protagonists, Violet, Klaus and Sunny, Paramount Pictures offered it up as a vehicle for Jim Carey. And pulling out every facial expression and delivery shtick from every one of his past characterizations all the way back to In Living Color, Carey dealt the potential franchise an agonizingly slow, 108-minute death.

At least that is what I say happened.

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Future Treasures: The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone

Thursday, June 30th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Hatching-small The Hatching-back-small

I pretty much rode out the zombie horror wave without too much trauma. Zombies don’t scare me. Ditto for the paranormal romance boom a decade ago. Vampire, werewolves, and ghouls never really scared me much, either.

You know what does scare me? Spiders. Big, hairy, creepy spiders. Gahhh, I get the creeps just typing that. And now comes the debut horror novel by Ezekiel Boone, the terrifying tale of the emergence of an ancient species, dormant for over a thousand years, on the march once more. Andrew Pyper (The Damned and The Demonologist) calls it “old school global plague horror of the freakiest sort. A deft and nasty thriller,” and that’s good enough for me. The Hatching will be available in hardcover next week.

Deep in the jungle of Peru, where so much remains unknown, a black, skittering mass devours an American tourist whole. Thousands of miles away, an FBI agent investigates a fatal plane crash in Minneapolis and makes a gruesome discovery. Unusual seismic patterns register in a Kanpur, India earthquake lab, confounding the scientists there. During the same week, the Chinese government “accidentally” drops a nuclear bomb in an isolated region of its own country. As these incidents begin to sweep the globe, a mysterious package from South America arrives at a Washington, D.C. laboratory. Something wants out.

The world is on the brink of an apocalyptic disaster. An ancient species, long dormant, is now very much awake.

The Hatching will be published by Emily Bestler Books on July 5, 2016. It is $26 in hardcover, and $9.99 for the digital edition.

Wolf’s Empire Genesis: Future Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

Thursday, June 30th, 2016 | Posted by Claudia Christian and Morgan Grant Buchanan

Wolf's Empire Gladiator-small

“Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too.”
– Emperor Marcus Aurelius

It all started with Marcus Aurelius — a warrior, philosopher and emperor whose Meditations are still pored over by readers who seek out ancient wisdom to help make sense of modern life.

Marcus’ idea, that by looking backwards we can see forwards, made us wonder. What if we could craft, not only a gripping and credible space opera about a Rome that never fell but instead expanded into space, but also a book that would speak about the nature of civilizations, how they’re driven forward on the shoulders of giants, why they collapse, and how, if a hero appears at the right time, she can make the difference between an empire’s survival or destruction.

We chose as our hero a young noblewoman turned gladiator. Accala Viridius breaks free of the constraints of tradition and enters the arena to take revenge upon the men who murdered her mother and brother. Accala is brilliant, trained in philosophy by her mother and martial arts by her father, but she’s also flawed — headstrong and determined to have justice at any price. She doesn’t start out a hero, she must first walk a dark path, willingly enslaving herself to her enemy’s gladiatorial team to earn her shot at revenge, only to find that her choices lead to addiction, madness and destruction. She even loses her head (but thanks to the intervention of mystical alien beings, not her life).

As Cicero says, “where there’s life, there’s hope”, so with her new alien allies assisting her, Accala — as a woman with a destiny and the aid of the gods — gets a second chance to set things right. Can Acccala work out how to be the hero the empire needs before her enemies win the gladiatorial games and seize the imperial throne for themselves?

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On SF Conventions and Brexit

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016 | Posted by peadarog

Brexit vote“Brilliant!” I thought — this was three and a half years ago, you understand. These days I’m more likely to use the word “awesome.” But I digress…

I had received an invite to a Science Fiction convention in Luxembourg. I was expecting a relaxing weekend, sitting in an empty room. You see, everybody knows Luxembourg is tiny, and since they never had a convention before this, the organisers were doomed to struggle for numbers. They might get twenty people, I thought. Thirty tops…

I’ve never been so wrong in my life. The place was swarming with people. In fact, it was the largest Con I had ever attended outside North America. But where the hell did they all come from?

Europe, of course.

My mistake was to think of Luxembourg as a country. Well, it is, but that’s not what’s important here. What’s important, is that it no longer possesses any borders. People arrived from Paris and Brussels by trains that never even slowed down when they passed from one state to another. They drove by car from Germany and only realised they had crossed over from their own country when they started spotting road signs in French.

Then, they reached the Con — thousands of them, overwhelmingly young, buying wonderful Belgian frites with the same currency they already had in their pockets.

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Deities and Demigods of the Word Count: or, How to Write 500 Novels and Still not be Considered Prolific

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

Nice book, but where are the 800 others you lazy git?

Nice book, but where are the 800 others you lazy git?

Last week, M Harold Page posted an interesting article here on Black Gate about achieving a steady word count as a writer, giving some insights into his own practice. He said,

I manage 1,000 words a day at the start and an average of 3,000 words a day once I’m underway. Sprinting – 5,000 to 7,000 words a day; that’s for the last half.

Many newbie writers would screech in horror and say no one can write that fast, while most MFA snobs would turn up their noses and say it’s impossible to write anything of worth at that rate, that writing must be an agonizing process of constant revision and polishing. They’re both wrong, as Page’s own writing attests.

The fact is, however, Page’s speed is rather modest. Mine is about the same, so I’m not knocking him. I know how hard it is to keep up a good momentum while maintaining your responsibilities to family, not to mention the distractions of the Internet and local pub. I’m fortunate enough that writing is my day job, so at least I don’t have a separate career getting in the way of my productivity.

Page and I may both have a bunch of books to our name, but we are mere henchmen, mere spear carriers to the great Deities and Demigods of publishing — the truly prolific. Dean Wesley Smith, who has written well over 100 novels and about 500 short stories and only seems to be picking up speed, recently shared a link to an interesting blog post titled 17 Most Prolific Writers in History. I have a lot of quibbles with this list, as I’m sure you will too, but while it isn’t authoritative or entirely accurate, it’s certainly inspiring and daunting in equal measure.

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New Treasures: New Pompeii by Daniel Godfrey

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

New Pompeii Daniel Godfrey-smallYou know what I didn’t know I wanted? A Roman-era adventure tale/modern thriller mash-up. At least, I didn’t know I wanted it until a copy of Daniel Godfrey’s debut novel New Pompeii showed up on my doorstep, courtesy of Titan Books. Now I can’t wait to read it.

Calling New Pompeii a delightful mix of genres is something of an understatement. Alan Smale (Clash of Eagles) says it’s “That rare science fiction novel that reads like a thriller… an astonishing debut.” Gareth L. Powell (The Recollection, Hive Monkey) concurs, calling the novel “A smart, intriguing thriller in the tradition of Michael Crichton and Philip K. Dick.” And Barnes & Noble calls it, “Deliciously Readable.” And yeah, it’s their job to sell books, but you gotta admit they don’t say that about everybody.

Whatever the case, New Pompeii has one of the most original and intriguing premises I’ve heard this year. Not bad at all for a debut novel. Here’s the description.

In the near future, energy giant Novus Particles develops the technology to transport objects and people from the deep past to the present. Their biggest secret: New Pompeii. A replica of the city hidden deep in central Asia, filled with Romans pulled through time a split second before the volcano erupted.

Historian Nick Houghton doesn’t know why he’s been chosen to be the company’s historical advisor. He’s just excited to be there. Until he starts to wonder what happened to his predecessor. Until he realizes that NovusPart have more secrets than even the conspiracy theorists suspect.

Until he realizes that NovusPart have underestimated their captives…

New Pompeii was published by Titan Books on June 21, 2016. It is 422 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback, and $7.99 for the digital edition.

The Series Series: The Ever-Expanding Universe by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016 | Posted by Sarah Avery

Mothership-small A Stranger Thing-small The World Forgot-small

Two publishers asked if we’d try something unusual. It was the same unusual thing — reviewing an entire trilogy in one go — for two different series and two different reasons.

One series, Brian Stavely’s The Emperor’s Blades, was about to conclude. The other, Martin Leicht and Isla Neal’s The Ever-Expanding Universe, had been published by one imprint as YA, and was being given a second chance as a series for adults by another imprint of the same house. Though I knew reviewing two trilogies in this way would reduce the number of posts I made to BG this year considerably, I was curious. So here we are.

The Ever-Expanding Universe follows the adventures of a daring young engineer whose dreams of interplanetary exploration and college, not necessarily in that order, seem at first to be dashed by a bout of teen pregnancy. Thanks to the cover copy, it’s no spoiler to tell you that the young engineer’s baby daddy and not-quite-boyfriend turns out to be of extraterrestrial ancestry, and the most contested commodities in a resource war between two alien species are the bodies of the girls at the near-earth-orbit boarding school for unwed mothers where Elvie Nara has gone to hide from her high school nemesis.

Is it worse when Cole Archer, the sort-of-boyfriend, turns out to be an alien commando, or when Cole’s definitely-girlfriend and Elvie’s aforementioned cheerleader nemesis Britta McVicker turns out to be one of Elvie’s classmates for prenatal yoga? The three of them, and an impressively varied passel of other gravid girls seriously irked at having been tricked by alien boyfriends, spend the first volume of the series, Mothership, dodging ruthless alien attackers and fleeing through a booby-trapped and sabotaged space cruise ship refitted as a high school.

It’s a delightful mix of suspense, fight scenes, engineering puzzles involving transitions from one gravity or atmospheric environment to another, slapstick comedy, social satire, secret history, and stuff blowing up real good, all delivered by a hilariously smart first-person-smartass narrator you want to see triumph. How could any SFF reader resist? How did we miss this series when it first came out? Why is it not already a classic of humorous science fiction?

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Vintage Treasures: The Best Science Fiction of the Year #4, edited by Terry Carr

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best Science Fiction of the Year 4 Terry Carr-small The Best Science Fiction of the Year 4 Terry Carr-back-small

With all the Best of the Year volumes arriving over the past few months — from Jonathan Strahan, Rich Horton, Neil Clarke, and David Afsharirad, and more due next month from Gardner Dozois, Paula Guran, and others — it’s hard to remember those dark years in the mid-20th Century when there were only two or three.

Hard, but not impossible. Don Wollheim, Lester del Rey, and the great Terry Carr all had Best of the Year anthologies back in the mid-70s. I know because I bought and cherished them as they showed up in bookstores, starting around 1977 or so. I think my favorite editor of the batch was Terry Carr, who was already famous for his exemplary work at Ace at the time.

How good was Carr at extracting the cream of the crop from the digest magazines in the 70s? Depends who you ask of course, but in general Carr’s reputation was stellar. I’d read plenty of anthologies from the era, but I didn’t remember the magazines I read at the time well enough to say for certain.

However, I recently had the opportunity to do a little primary research of my own. I bought a collection of vintage Analog magazines from the early 70s, back when Ben Bova was editor, and I’ve spent a week of warm evenings on the porch with them, pretending I was Rich Horton.

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May Short Story Roundup

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_2824427axWPyjIhWell, sad to say, there are just not that many swords & sorcery stories to round up this month. The big guns, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly and Grimdark Magazine, (the latter delayed while they run the Kickstarter for their anthology, Evil Is A Matter of Perspective) were silent. Beneath Ceaseless Skies’ two May issues didn’t have anything that fit the S&S bill. None of the other magazines yielded stories to review either. Only the stalwart Swords and Sorcery Magazine came through, just like it does every single month for over four years now.

According to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a skimmington is “a boisterous procession intended to ridicule an unfaithful spouse or a shrewish wife often with effigies and a mock serenade” and “The Skimmington” is the title of B.C. Nance’s story in this month’s issue of SSM. No one in town believes wealthy landowner Daegal’s claim that his wife, Esma, ran out on him. Alden, a man who once loved the missing woman, convinces his fellow citizens to conduct a skimmington parade out to Daegal’s estate. His hope is they can shame Daegal into revealing where Esma really is. While there’s a supernatural element to the tale, it could just as easily be set in any small pre-industrial town. In any setting, though, it would remain a well told story with a haunting ending.

“Rivenrock,” by Connor M. Perry (whose previous story in SSM, “Stragglers in the Cold,” I enjoyed very much), tells of Elegia, the reborn Shepherd of Night, and her lover, Darza. Together, they are searching for the Shepherd’s ancestral home, a place called Rivenrock. Their guide is a man named Averon Thorn whom neither fully trusts, even though he claims to be a supporter of their cause. The concluding spasm of violence is brutal and affecting, but it doesn’t really provide a satisfying conclusion to the story.

Behind the events of “Rivenrock” is an ongoing struggle between the Shepherd of Night and the Lord of Morning. Each appears to have been recently reborn after having been gone for sometime. The Lord seems to have come back earlier and wields more temporal and magical power at present. The Shepherd is still finding her way, thus her need to reach Rivenrock. It’s all very vague and makes following the story less than compelling.

So that’s all there is to review this month. As usual, you should go read them and let the authors and editor know what you think.

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