Go Ahead. Judge The Starlit Wood by its Cover

Monday, October 24th, 2016 | Posted by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe

starlit-without-border-small the-starlit-wood-small

We know not to judge a book by its cover, but sometimes it’s just so hard. You look at a book and think, Wow, I need to take a look at that. As a writer or an editor, you dream of that perfect match, of that gripping cover that perfectly conveys the story you’re eager to share, that makes people want to pick up your book. With The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, we feel we’ve been fortunate enough to get just that. We’re so thrilled with every element of the packaging of The Starlit Wood, so we wanted to share a bit about the process of creating such a lovely book.

The Starlit Wood is our love letter to fairy tales. The book is a cross-genre anthology of fairy tale retellings, featuring everything from science fiction, western, and post-apocalyptic, to traditional fantasy and contemporary horror. Retellings of lesser-known fairy tales takes place alongside traditional ones, which makes for a really unique experience where the familiar and the unfamiliar co-exist. The book features established authors like Naomi Novik, Garth Nix, Seanan McGuire, and Margo Lanagan, as well as rising stars like Charlie Jane Anders, Sofia Samatar, and Daryl Gregory. The full table of contents is here.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Poul Anderson’s “The Archetypal Holmes”

Monday, October 24th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Poul's wife Karen, also a sccifi author and Sherlockian, drew these for his essay.

Poul’s wife Karen, also a scifi author and Sherlockian, drew this for his essay.

As far as Sherlockians go, I have a rather large Joseph Campbell library. I’ve even written about Holmes and the Monomyth (“The Hero’s Thousand-and-First Face”). Through Campbell, I discovered Carl Jung’s The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. However, all attempts to read it were abandoned rather quickly. I found it tough going. I do have a decent handle on archetypes from Role Playing Games, though.

Anywhoo…The late Poul Anderson was one of the giants in the field of science fiction: he was racking up Hugo Awards when that meant something.  He was also a devotee of Sherlock Holmes and a member of The Baker Street Irregulars. For good measure, he was also a Solar Pona fan and a Praed Street Irregular. Anderson wrote some odd Holmes pastiches and some, insightful, erudite Sherlockiana about the great detective.

In September of 1968, The Baker Street Journal included “The Archetypical Holmes,” a fine essay by Anderson and the kind of excellent Sherlockiana that is sadly all too rare these days – made obsolete by pop-centric, culture-appeasing works. Take it away, Poul!

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New Treasures: The Apothecary’s Curse by Barbara Barnett

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

the-apothecarys-curse-smallDo you like the TV show House? So does Barbara Barnett. In 2010 she wrote Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., and in 2014 she released House, M.D.: The Unofficial Guide to Season Seven.

In 2016, she channeled her love for the show into her first novel The Apothecary’s Curse, which publisher Pyr describes as “Penny Dreadful meets House, M.D. in this genre-bending urban fantasy mixes alchemy and genetics as a doctor and an apothecary try to prevent a pharmaceutical company from exploiting the book that made them immortal centuries ago.” It’s an unusual take on urban fantasy to be sure, but an intriguing one. The Apothecary’s Curse is available now in trade paperback.

In Victorian London, the fates of physician Simon Bell and apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune entwine when Simon gives his wife an elixir created by Gaelan from an ancient manuscript. Meant to cure her cancer, it kills her. Suicidal, Simon swallows the remainder — only to find he cannot die. Five years later, hearing rumors of a Bedlam inmate with regenerative powers like his own, Simon is shocked to discover it’s Gaelan. The two men conceal their immortality, but the only hope of reversing their condition rests with Gaelan’s missing manuscript.

When modern-day pharmaceutical company Transdiff Genomics unearths diaries describing the torture of Bedlam inmates, the company’s scientists suspect a link between Gaelan and an unnamed inmate. Gaelan and Transdiff Genomics geneticist Anne Shawe are powerfully drawn to each other, and her family connection to his manuscript leads to a stunning revelation. Will it bring ruin or redemption?

The Apothecary’s Curse was published by Pyr on October 11, 2016. It is 345 pages, priced at $17 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital format. The cover was designed by Jacqueline Nasso Cooke.

See all of our recent New Treasures here.

Invaders of Pluto, and Brain Stealers of Mars: Rich Horton on The Ultimate Weapon and The Planeteers by John W. Campbell

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

the-ultimate-weapon-small the-planeteers-small

When I was twelve years old I read a book that changed my life. It was Before the Golden Age, a collection of Isaac Asimov’s favorite pulp tales from his own early teen years, and it inspired in me a love of the pulps that endures to this day.

One of the most captivating stories was John W. Campbell’s “The Brain Stealers of Mars,” from the December 1936 Thrilling Wonder Stories. The intrepid explorers Penton and Blake use an atomic-powered craft to visit Mars, where they find a sinister race of shapeshifters, eager to hitch a ride back to Earth. Sort of a prototype for “Who Goes There?”, the far more famous tale which Campbell published two years later in Astounding, “Brain Stealers” is more a science fiction puzzler than a true horror story, as our blaster-wielding heroes must find a way to outsmart an entire race of scheming telepathic shapeshifters with designs on conquest.

The Planeteers is a collection of five Penton & Blake tales published in Thrilling Wonder between 1936-38, following their adventures as they explore the solar system in their gleaming atomic spacecraft, discovering the double-minded aliens of Callisto, a benign race on Europa, and the super-intelligent energy eater out beyond Pluto. It appeared as half of an Ace Double in 1966, paired with The Ultimate Weapon, a standalone tale of the desperate race against time to create super-weapons on the Moon to thwart an alien invasion.

Rich Horton reviewed both books on his blog Strange at Ecbatan back in June. Here’s what he thought.

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Future Treasures: Bridging Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

bridging-infinity-smallJonathan Strahan’s Infinity books have gradually earned a reputation as the finest ongoing anthology series in the genre — and perhaps, one of the finest in the history of the genre. In my June article The Most Successful Anthology of 2015, I pointed out that over half of the contents of the fourth book in the series had been selected for Year’s Best volumes. If that’s not a record, it has to be close.  In just two weeks the fifth volume in the series, Bridging Infinity, arrives in trade paperback from Solaris, and I am very much looking forward to it.


Sense of wonder is the lifeblood of science fiction. When we encounter something on a truly staggering scale – metal spheres wrapped around stars, planets rebuilt and repurposed, landscapes re-engineered, starships bigger than worlds – the only response we have is reverence, admiration, and possibly fear at something that is grand, sublime, and extremely powerful.

Bridging Infinity puts humanity at the heart of that experience, as builder, as engineer, as adventurer, reimagining and rebuilding the world, the solar system, the galaxy and possibly the entire universe in some of the best science fiction stories you will experience.

Bridging Infinity continues the award-winning Infinity Project series of anthologies with new stories from Alastair Reynolds, Pat Cadigan, Stephen Baxter, Charlie Jane Anders, Tobias S.Buckell, Karen Lord, Karin Lowachee, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Gregory Benford, Larry Liven, Robert Reed, Pamela Sargent, Allen Steele, Pat Murphy, Paul Doherty, An Owomoyela, Thoraiya Dyer and Ken Liu.

The previous volumes in the series are:

Engineering Infinity (2010)
Edge of Infinity (2012)
Reach For Infinity (2014)
Meeting Infinity (2015)

And here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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The B&N Blog on Nine New Horror Books to Keep You Terrified Until Halloween

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

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Sam Reader at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog has assembled a delicious list of nine new horror books to keep you terrified until Halloween — including several we’ve already covered here at Black Gate, such as The Fisherman, by John Langan, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay, and Hex, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt.

But he’s also highlighted several intriguing selections we overlooked, like Brom’s new novel Lost Gods, Ellen Datlow’s collection Nightmares, and The Graveyard Apartment, by Mariko Koike.

The Graveyard Apartment tells something of a conventional story: a troubled couple, their adorable daughter, and their pets move into an apartment that seems too good to be true. Naturally, the apartment happens to be in a building surrounded on three sides by a graveyard and a crematorium. On the day they move in, their pet bird dies. Other tenants quickly move out of the building. It doesn’t take a horror aficionado to tell the place is haunted and that things will go downhill quickly, but Koike brings a sense of claustrophobia and progressive isolation to a story that keeps the dread ticking right along, as its stubborn protagonists refuse to follow the example of their neighbors and leave the creepy apartment.

See the complete list here.

Get Cozy with Tor.com Publishing’s Winter 2017 Titles

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

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Tor.com Publishing has given us a peek at their upcoming fall and winter titles, and it looks like another dynamite line-up, with novellas by Black Gate author Ellen Klages (“A Taste of Summer,” BG 3), Seanan McGuire, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Adam Christopher, Emma Newman, Paul Cornell, Maurice Broaddus, and many others — including the sequel to the Nebula Award-winning Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. Here’s the complete line-up:

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire (192 pages, $15.99, January 10, designed by Jamie Stafford-Hill)
The Fortress at the End of Time by Joe M. McDermott (268 pages, $19.99/$4.99 digital, January 17, cover by Jaime Jones)
Passing Strange by Ellen Klages (220 pages, $14.99, January 24, cover by Gregory Manchess)
Binti: Home (Binti #2) by Nnedi Okorafor (176 pages, $14.99, January 31, cover by David Palumbo)
Idle Ingredients (Sin du Jour #4) by Matt Wallace (192 pages, $15.99, February 7, designed by Peter Lutjen)
Cold Counsel by Chris Sharp (368 pages, $21.99/$4.99, February 21, cover by David Palumbo)
Agents of Dreamland by Caitlín R. Kiernan (128 pages, $11.99, February 28, designed by Christine Foltzer)
Standard Hollywood Depravity (L.A. Trilogy) by Adam Christopher (176 pages, $14.99, March 7, cover by Will Staehle)
Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman (160 pages, $14.99, March 14, cover by Cliff Neilsen)
Chalk by Paul Cornell (260 pages, 17.99/$4.99, March 21, designed by Peter Lutjen)
Buffalo Soldier by Maurice Broaddus (168 pages, $14.99. March 28, cover by Jon Foster)
Winter Tide (The Innsmouth Legacy, Book 1) by Ruthanna Emrys (368 pages, $25.99 in hardcover/$12.99 digital, April 4, cover by John Jude Palencar)
Proof of Concept by Gwyneth Jones (176 pages, $14.99, April 11, designed by Drive Communications)
Lightning in the Blood (Cold-Forged Flame #2)  by Marie Brennan (112 pages, $11.99, April 25, cover by Greg Ruth)

All are published in trade paperback. Unless otherwise noted, the digital prices for each is $2.99. See all the details here.

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In 500 Words or Less: Chasing the Dragon by Nicholas Kaufmann

Friday, October 21st, 2016 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

chasing-the-dragon-nicholas-kaufmann-smallChasing the Dragon
By Nicholas Kaufmann
ChiZine Publications (170 pages, $10.95 in trade paperback, $7.99 digital, March 15, 2010)

Chasing the Dragon is the sort of novel that you would probably never see from a big publishing house. It’s a tiny paperback at only 133 pages, an urban fantasy/mythology/horror blend with an added literary focus on the topic of addiction – the sort of combination that fits right in with the kind of excellent, outside-the-box work that ChiZine Publications produces. It also functions as a tight, focused narrative that could probably work just as well as a short story if some things were cut away. But I would never want that to happen.

The premise is straightforward: Young Georgia Quincey is the latest in a long line of warriors tasked with hunting and killing the Dragon, a task that each generation of her family has failed at. In tiny Buckshot Hill, she has another chance to fulfill her family’s destiny – if she can manage her heroin addiction. Kaufmann takes the idea of the flawed hero to a different level with Georgia, as her desperate hunt for both dragons (“chasing the dragon” is also a term for your first, perfect high) and her guilt and depression over losing her parents push her to the edge again and again. As the people around Georgia fall victim to her family’s curse and their undead bodies forced into serving the Dragon, I couldn’t decide what would be better for her: to succeed in her family’s quest or finally be given a measure of peace by dying at the hands of her enemy.

My one main criticism of Chasing the Dragon is that the novel’s ending is telegraphed pretty early in the novel, and I can’t quite decide whether the subtle reveal (and the fact that Georgia doesn’t realize her ace in the hole until the end) is meant to be noticed by the reader or not. I hope that Kaufmann intended for the reader to catch it; the information needed is, I think, pretty common knowledge. If it isn’t, that might say something about me (and I promise the last few sentences will make sense after you read the novel; I just don’t want to give anything away). At the end of the day, though, the way that Georgia ultimately faces the Dragon isn’t nearly as important as watching her deal with her demons and wondering whether she’ll make it to the end, both physically and mentally. There’s more than enough carnage and death around her, involving a series of really well-developed supporting characters, to make it hard to predict whether she will.

Cliched as it might sound, Chasing the Dragon is unlike any other novel I’ve read, and easily one of my favorite reads of 2016. It is definitely worth checking out if you like fantasy, horror, stories about the darker side of things (cuz heroin addiction is pretty dark) and deep, unique character work.

An Ottawa teacher by day, Brandon has published work in On Spec, Third Flatiron Anthologies, and elsewhere. Learn more at brandoncrilly.wordpress.com or on Twitter: @B_Crilly.

Uncanny Magazine Issue 12 Now on Sale

Friday, October 21st, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

uncanny-issue-12-september-october-smallCharles Payseur at Quick Sip Reviews has some high praise for the latest issue of Uncanny,

This month’s offerings from Uncanny Magazine bring a bit of everything. Two original fiction pieces, two poems, and two works of nonfiction covering fairy tales and AI insurrections and ghosts and desires and distorted realities and lineages of SFF. The fiction is gripping and challenging, difficult and unflinching. The poetry is moving and all about desire and nostalgia and looking back. And the nonfiction is about perception and how it can be changed, either in the brain or by those around you, and how that can effect the inroads to SFF. It’s a full month and a nice balance of the strange, the heartbreaking, and the affirming….

“The Witch of Orion Waste and the Boy Knight” by E. Lily Yu (5,868 words)

This story takes an interesting look at fairy tale tropes and humanizes them in interesting ways, casting a goose girl as a witch and a cursed boy as a knight and weaving a complex tale of hope and disappointment and longing. The story does an excellent job capturing the feel of the witch, who is blown across her own life, going where inclination leads. She is inquisitive and never truly satisfied and when given the opportunity to be a witch she jumps on it, only to find that not all things are what she expects. She ends up following a knight on his quest, hoping to keep him safe and also stay with him, but the way that power and curses work in this story is strange and interesting. It twists things. And that’s part of what I love about it.

Read his complete review here

The issue includes fiction by Sarah Pinsker, Carmen Maria Machado, Tim Pratt, E. Lily Yu, Ferrett Steinmetz, and a reprint by Sofia Samatar, and non-fiction by Una McCormack, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Dominik Parisien, and Aidan Moher, plus poetry, interview, and an editorial. All of the content became available for purchase as an eBook (PDF, EPUB, MOBI) on September 1, 2016.

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Get a Fresh Take on Dungeons & Dragons in Volo’s Guide to Monsters

Friday, October 21st, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill


There have been 18 different iterations of the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual since Gary Gygax authored the first one in 1977. Over at Polygon.com, Charlie Hall has authored a fascinating article about the upcoming 5th Edition resource book Volo’s Guide to Monsters, which takes a fresh angle to the D&D monster book — by adding a story. Hall talked to lead designer Mike Mearls to get the scoop.

This time around, [Mearls] and his team have decided to do something a little bit different. Their next take on the Monster Manual will be called Volo’s Guide to Monsters and, for the first time, it will have a lot more character to it.

“It’s risky,” Mearls said. “In the end, it’s still a giant book full of monsters. No one would argue with that. But I just think that if that’s all the Monster Manual is, then we’re selling ourselves short. So the idea was, the kind of genesis of it, was that want to do something that’s more story oriented.”

Volo’s Guide will have a narrator — two actually. One will be Volothamp Geddarm, an over-the-top, braggadocious explorer. The other will be Elminster, the wise Sage of Shadowdale. And the two will often be at odds with one another. Their differing accounts will be scattered throughout the book, and take the shape of comments scribbled in the margin.

Put simply, the goal is to create a book that high-level players and dungeon masters will enjoy reading. The goal, in the end, is to inspire new stories at the table, not simply reinforce the lore of the Forgotten Realms and ram storylines down player’s throats.

“I have this pet phrase I use,” Mearls said. “I like to say that we’re living in a post Game of Thrones world. Fantasy has changed.”

Read the complete article, “Dungeons & Dragons is changing how it makes books,” here. It includes several full-color sample pages from the upcoming book.

Volo’s Guide to Monsters will be published by Wizards of the Coast on November 15, 2016. It is 224 pages, priced at $49.95 in hardcover. There is no digital edition.

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