Future Treasures: Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal

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

Ghost Talkers Mary Robinette Kowal-smallMary Robinette Kowal won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2008, and she has won the Hugo award for her short fiction several times. Her latest novel is Ghost Talkers, a tale of the mysterious spirit corps, trained to glean crucial intelligence from dead soldiers in World War I.

Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Hartshorne, an intelligence officer. Ginger is a medium for the Spirit Corps, a special Spiritualist force.

Each soldier heading for the front is conditioned to report to the mediums of the Spirit Corps when they die so the Corps can pass instant information about troop movements to military intelligence.

Ginger and her fellow mediums contribute a great deal to the war efforts, so long as they pass the information through appropriate channels. While Ben is away at the front, Ginger discovers the presence of a traitor. Without the presence of her fiance to validate her findings, the top brass thinks she’s just imagining things. Even worse, it is clear that the Spirit Corps is now being directly targeted by the German war effort. Left to her own devices, Ginger has to find out how the Germans are targeting the Spirit Corps and stop them. This is a difficult and dangerous task for a woman of that era, but this time both the spirit and the flesh are willing…

Mary is best known for her popular Glamourist Histories fantasy series from Tor, the first two of which were nominated for a Nebula Award. We covered all five volumes in the series:

Shades of Milk and Honey (2010)
Glamour in Glass (2012)
Without a Summer (2013)
Valour and Vanity (2014)
Of Noble Family (2015)

Ghost Talkers will be published by Tor Books on August 16, 2016. It is 299 pages, priced at $24.99 in hardcover and $11.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Chris McGrath. Read the first chapter at the Tor/Forge blog.

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: A Century of John D. MacDonald

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

MacDonald_WSJIt’s no surprise, given the title of this column, that I’ve written more Sherlock Holmes-related posts than about any other topic. What is surprising to me, given that I know myself fairly well, is that I’ve only done one post about John D. MacDonald. You can read some stuff I’ve written about him over on my own blog, Almost Holmes, here and here and here. But perhaps because I haven’t been able to delve deeply enough into re-reading and analysis, I’ve not come back to him at Black Gate. Until today.

Yesterday marked the one hundredth anniversary of John MacD’s birth. When MacDonald died in December of 1986 of heart-related problems, he was one of the most influential and popular authors in America. Thirty years later, while he is still respected and cited by many writers, including John Jakes, Randy Wayne White and others, he’s somewhat forgotten. Which is both sad, and something that I would like to ponder on for a future post as well.

A quote from Stephen King:

“John D. MacDonald has written a novel called The End of the Night which I would argue is one of the greatest American novels of the twentieth century. It ranks with Death of a Salesman, it ranks with An American Tragedy,”

A quote from me, Bob Byrne (I admit, I don’t quite have the cachet of that King fellow):

“John D. MacDonald is one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century: In any genre. He was a skillful storyteller and a first-rate social commentator.”

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Weirdbook 32 Now Available

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

Weirdbook 32-small Weirdbook 32-back-small

I was delighted to receive a copy of the latest issue of Weirdbook in the mail. The last one, Weirdbook 31, the first new issue in nearly 20 years, was an unqualified success. This one seems to be packed largely with unknowns, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Best of all, it appears barely 9 months after the previous issue, which is a hopeful sign — and no easy task for a trade-paperback sized magazine that clocks in at 173 pages.

The issue contains no less than 25 tales of dark fantasy and the weird, as well as 9 poems. Here’s the complete table of contents.

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Hear John Goodman Give a Speech Straight Out of Lovecraft in Kong: Skull Island

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

Among the many fascinating trailers shown for the first time at Comic-Con this weekend (including those for Justice League and Wonder Woman, which we showcased here, and the first official trailer for Dr. Strange) was a special Comic-Con trailer for Kong: Skull Island. Produced by the Legendary team behind the latest film version of Godzilla (see Ryan Harvey’s rave review here), the film is also a set-up for the upcoming Godzilla Vs. Kong megapicture.

All very cool. But this most interesting part of the trailer for me (next to the peek at actress Brie Larson, who’s just been cast as Captain Marvel) was John Goodman’s brief speech, which is straight out of H.P. Lovecraft.

This planet doesn’t belong to us… ancient species owned this Earth long before mankind. I’ve spent 30 years trying to prove the truth. Monsters exist.

You tell ’em, Goodman! The world needs to know this stuff. Also, you should let everyone in on the giant insects of Monster Island.

Kong: Skull Island is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and stars Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins, Toby Kebbell, Tom Wilkinson, Terry Notary, John Goodman, and John C. Reilly. It is scheduled for release on March 10, 2017.

See the Comic-Con Teaser Trailers for Justice League and Wonder Woman

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

I quite enjoyed Zack Snyder’s Batman vs. Superman. One of the things I liked best about it was the care it took in setting up follow-up features in the DC Universe. Yesterday at San Diego Comic-Con, Warner Bros. unveiled some of the fruits of that careful planning, with the first teaser trailer for Justice League, and a full-length trailer for Wonder Woman.

Justice League features Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, and looks like a lot of fun. Clearly following in the successful footsteps of Marvel’s Avengers, the film gathers an ensemble cast (including Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, J. K. Simmons, Amber Heard and Willem Dafoe) and sets up an epic battle between Earth’s mightiest heroes and an extra-planetary menace.

Principal photography began on April 11, 2016, so this is obviously very early footage. Not a lot is known about the plot, but we do know that Batman assembles the team to take on the interdimensional threat of Steppenwolf and his army of Parademons, as hinted in the closing scenes (and this deleted scene) from Batman vs. Superman. Justice League is directed by Zack Snyder and scheduled for release November 17, 2017.

Be sure to check out the first full-length trailer for Wonder Woman, also released this weekend at Comic-Con. Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins, and staring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, and Robin Wright, is the fourth installment in what’s now being called the DC Extended Universe. The producers have whole-heartedly embraced Wonder Woman’s epic backstory, including her origin as Princess Diana of Themyscira, warrior princess of the Amazons of Greek mythology. Gadot surprised me in Batman vs. Superman, pretty much stealing all the scenes she was in, and she brings a marvelous gravity to the role. The film is scheduled to be released on June 2, 2017.

New Treasures: Slade House by David Mitchell

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

Slade House David Mitchell-small Slade House David MItchell back cover-small

A new novel by David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks) is a major event — and indeed, when Slade House appeared in hardcover last year, it was treated like a major event, listed as one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, Kirkus Reviews, the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, and many others.

I saw the trade paperback at my local bookstore last week and picked it up, curious. It’s a haunted house novel, of all things, and an intriguing one at that. BookPage calls it “The ultimate haunted house story… a work that almost demands to be read in a single sitting,” and The San Francisco Chronicle deems it “A ripping yarn… Like Shirley Jackson’s Hill House or the Overlook Hotel from Stephen King’s The Shining, [Slade House] is a thin sliver of hell designed to entrap the unwary.” And Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Doerr says it’s “Dracula for the new millennium, a Hansel and Gretel for grownups, a reminder of how much fun fiction can be.”

I ended up taking it home with me. Maybe I’m just a sucker for blurbs, but it’s hard for me to resist a really good haunted house story.

Slade House was published in hardcover by Random House in October of last year; the reprint edition appeared from Random House Trade Paperbacks on June 28, 2016. It is 255 pages, priced at $16, or $11.99 for the digital edition. The cover was designed by Nick Misani. Click on the images above for bigger versions. See all of our recent New Treasures here.

See the Table of Contents for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016, edited by Karen Joy Fowler and John Joseph Adams

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

The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016-smallThe Mariner Books Best American series is one of the more successful and highly regarded anthology series on the market. Their titles include Best American Short Stories, Best American Mystery Stories, Best American Essays, Best American Science and Nature Writing, and Best American Sports Writing.

Last year they added an inaugural SF and fantasy volume, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, with John Joseph Adams as series editor. The 2015 edition was edited by Joe Hill and was one of the stronger Best of the Year anthologies from last year; check out the compete TOC here.

This year’s volume is edited by Karen Joy Fowler. Earlier this month io9 presented the complete Table of Contents, including fantasy tales by Sofia Samatar, Rachel Swirsky, Salman Rushdie, Maria Dahvana Headley, Sam J. Miller, and others, and science fiction by Kelly Link, Catherynne M. Valente, Dale Bailey, Charlie Jane Anders, Ted Chiang, and many others.

It will be available in trade paperback in October, and will include a Foreword by John Joseph Adams, and an Introduction by Karen Joy Fowler. Here’s the complete TOC.

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Vintage Treasures: The Collections of Zenna Henderson: The Anything Box and Holding Wonder

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

The Anything Box Zenna Henderson-small Holding Wonder Zenna Henderson-small

I’m not intimately familiar with the work of Zenna Henderson…. but I know she is extremely highly regarded by those who are familiar with her, and that’s pretty telling.

She’s remembered today primarily for her stories of The People, an spacefaring alien race with strange metal powers that covertly settles in the American southwest after the destruction of their home planet. The stories appeared, like most of her short fiction, chiefly in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; they were collected Pilgrimage: The Book Of The People (1961), People: No Different Flesh (1966), and in two omnibus volumes, The People Collection (1991) and the NESFA Press book Ingathering: The Complete People Stories (1995).

Much of her other short fiction was gathered in two handsome paperback collections: The Anything Box (1965) and Holding Wonder (1971). Her first published story was “Come On, Wagon!” in the December 1951 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, dozens more appeared over the next 30 years, until her death in 1983. Henderson was an elementary school teacher in rural Arizona for much of her adult life, in places as diverse as a “semi-ghost mining town” in Fort Huachuca, and a Japanese internment camp in Sacaton, Arizona, and many of her stories are narrated by elementary teachers. She was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although later in life she described herself as Methodist. She never published a novel, which perhaps is why she’s virtually forgotten today.

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Demons, Fanatical Cultists, and Dark Magic: Jamie Schultz’s Arcane Underworld Trilogy

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

Premonitions-Jamie-Schultz-smaller Jamie Schultz Splintered-small Jamie Schultz Sacrifices-small

Two years ago I wrote a brief article about Premonitions, the debut novel by Jamie Schultz, and the opening volume in an intriguing urban fantasy series from Roc. Curious, I did a quick Amazon search last week, and discovered that there are two more novels in the Arcane Underworld series — including the latest, Sacrifices, released exclusively in digital format earlier this week.

The fact that there isn’t a print edition of the third novel isn’t a good sign, and it tells me Arcane Underworld will almost certainly wrap up as a trilogy. That’s a pity, as it garnered a lot of attention in its short life. Seanan McGuire called it “One half heist and one half damn good urban fantasy,” and Publishers Weekly labelled it “An outstanding urban fantasy/horror series.” But my favorite one-sentence review came from The BiblioSanctum, which said “The Arcane Underworld series has it all: Demons. Fanatical cultists. Dark magic… Schultz definitely knows how to bring it.”

All three books in the series were published by Roc, priced at $7.99 in both mass market paperback and digital editions. They are:

Premonitions (384 pages, July 1, 2014)
Splintered (352 pages, July 7, 2015)
Sacrifices (351 pages, July 19, 2016) — digital only

Anyone looking to try urban fantasy that doesn’t run into an endless series of volumes? I know you’re out there. Check out Arcane Underworld and let me know what you think.

Future Treasures: I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas

Friday, July 22nd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

I Am Providence-small I Am Providence-back-small

Nick Mamatas is the author of Move Under Ground, Under My Roof, and several other novels. But his latest, I Am Providence, looks like a breakout book.

Set at a horror convention, where a grisly murder leads to the discovery of an unspeakable horror in the pages of ancient book bound in human skin, it is narrated by a faceless corpse in a morgue. Lavie Tidhar says it is “Dark and hilarious… that murder-mystery-in-a-writers-convention you didn’t even know you wanted.” And Publishers Weekly calls it “A heartfelt homage to Lovecraft lore, [which] perfectly captures the antics of conventioneers.”

I Am Providence will be published by Night Shade Books on August 9, 2016. It is 243 pages, priced at $16.99 in trade paperback and $15.99 for the digital version. The cover art is by Magdalena Pagowksa. Click on the images above for bigger versions.

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