Star Pirates and Cyborg Games: Rich Horton on The Star Virus by Barrington J. Bayley and Mask of Chaos by John Jakes

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

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The famous Ace Double series is highly collectible in its early D-series, which included classic work by Isaac Asimov, Andre Norton, Philip K. Dick, H. Beam Piper, Eric Frank Russell, A.E. van Vogt, Poul Anderson, Robert E. Howard, Leigh Brackett, Clifford D. Simak, and many others.

Later series, however, published fewer big names (and had a reduced art budget), and aren’t nearly as in demand. But there are still a few curiosities in the bunch — and more than a few good reads, as Rich Horton notes in his ongoing series of Ace Double reviews at his website, Strange at Ecbatan.

Here he is on The Star Virus by Barrington J. Bayley, published as half of Ace Double #78400 in 1970 — the tale of a star pirate, a mysterious alien artifact, and a daring theft that leads to a galaxy-spanning pursuit.

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies 212 Now Available

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

beneath-ceaseless-skies-212-smallIssue #212 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies is now available, completely free on their website. It is dated November 10 and features fiction by Stephan Case and Evan Dicken, a podcast by Evan Dicken, and a reprint by Kenneth Schneyer.

Over at Tangent Online, Robert Turner seemed to especially enjoy the story by Stephan Case.

In “The Aeroliths” Stephan Case creates a world of floating stone, exiled nobles and political intrigue. The story is framed as a scroll read by the current wizard Theodulus. In it we learn the history of the wind spirit that is tied to the floating house. The world created is imaginative and the language rich and evocative. The pace is slow with a focus on world building, rather than action. Overall, this is an interesting read and suggested for those who prefer a slower paced, magical story.

Read Robert’s complete review here.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents for issue 212.

The Aeroliths” by Stephen Case
We walked through the empty, echoing corridors of my family’s manor. I watched the Is flow by the manicured gardens where my ancestors had walked and dined. Through the wide windows of the manor’s upper levels, I looked for the shape of mountains in the distance, beyond the ivory teeth of the Capital’s broken walls. I wanted to go home. me.

The Uncarved Heart” by Evan Dicken
I used to dream of the heart our masters would give me; spend my days sketching rough cordiform shapes in the corners of Father’s quota sheets and the backs of letters Mother sent from the front. I was sure all the other girls back at the Roost already had their hearts, that the Volant had carved each of them for a special purpose just as they’d carved my Mother, my Father, everyone but me.

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Into the Maelstrom: Berserker: Shadow of the Wolf by Chris Carlsen

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_2231022c1px60owRobert Holdstock is best known for his Ryhope Wood series that started with the 1981 novella “Mythago Wood,” later expanded into the 1985 World Fantasy Award-winning novel of the same name. He would go on to write another six books in the series before his untimely death in 2009. I have only read the novel Mythago Wood, but recommend it highly. It is a fascinating excursion into England’s myths, Jungian archetypes, and damaged familial bonds.

Many readers of the Ryhope books, a series lauded for its psychological depth and poetic style, don’t know that Holdstock wrote at least fifteen earlier novels under various pen names. As Richard Kirk, he contributed to the bloody Raven series (the first of which I reviewed here). His Night Hunter horror series, written as Robert Faulcon, ran to six books. Today, I’m going to look at Shadow of the Wolf (1977), the first of the Berserker trilogy of swords & sorcery novels set in historical Europe, and written under the name Chris Carlsen.

Harald Swiftaxe is a young Norse warrior raiding Ireland for the first time. Despite participating with nearly as much fury and relish as the rest of the warband he belongs to, he lets a monk live out of an odd sense of mercy he doesn’t understand. When he doesn’t rape a woman and kill her child, one of his companions nicknames him “the Innocent.”

Harald is a bit of an innocent, at least as innocent as a red-handed brigand can be. He may be a Viking at heart, primed and ready to kill and pillage, but he also longs to return to his father’s comfortable steading and Elena, the girl he plans to marry.

After leaving Ireland’s shores, Harald heads first for Elena’s town. Instead of a place of warm welcomes, he finds it destroyed and its people slaughtered. While he doesn’t discover his beloved’s body, when attacked by a wounded Berserker he does learn who annihilated the town. Even wounded near to death, Harald’s assailant almost proves too tough for him, but the young Viking survives and kills the raider.

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The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in October

Monday, November 21st, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

captive-of-gor-smallHere at Black Gate, we take great pride in our meticulous research, passionate reporting, and thoughtful analysis, especially on fantasy writers who are being criminally overlooked.

None of that stuff gets read, of course. What does get read? Articles like Nick Ozment’s “An Experiment in Gor: What Are John Norman’s Books About, Really?”, the runaway most popular post at Black Gate last month — by a wide margin. We love our readers, but boy, are you ever predictable. (Also: Ozment! Five more Gor articles, on my desk by Friday. Chop chop!)

Those of you who weren’t reading Nick’s Gor piece were enjoying Sean McLachlan’s ghost writing expose, “The New Pulp Era: Ghostwriting, Ebooks, and the Economics of Now,” and Fletcher Vredenburgh’s essay on “Horror and Swords & Sorcery.” Rounding out the Top Five were Violette Malan’s “My Top Ten Novel-to-Movie Adaptations,” and Bob Byrne’s gaming post “Modular: Eye of the Beholder – The Art of Dungeons & Dragons.”

Our report on winning our first World Fantasy Award came in at #6, followed by Bob’s Modular piece on the new Swords & Wizardry Kickstarter. Coming in at #8 was Harold Page’s review of Jason Thompson’s graphic novel The Dream-Quest of the Unknown Kadath & Other Stories.

Closing out the Top Ten were John DeNardo and his Savory Selection of Science Fiction and Fantasy for October, and an entry in Bob Byrne’s other popular column series, “The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Milton F. Perry’s ‘Harry S. Truman, Sherlockian’.”

The complete list of Top Articles for October follows. Below that, I’ve also broken out the most popular overall articles, online fiction, and blog categories for the month.

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Black Gate Online Fiction: An Exclusive Excerpt from The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu

Monday, November 21st, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill


Black Gate is very pleased to offer our readers an exclusive excerpt from Chapter One of Ken’s Liu’s The Wall of Storms, the second novel of The Dandelion Dynasty, published in hardcover and digital formats last month by Saga Press. Here’s the description.

In the much-anticipated sequel to the “magnificent fantasy epic” (NPR) Grace of Kings, Emperor Kuni Garu is faced with the invasion of an invincible army in his kingdom and must quickly find a way to defeat the intruders. Kuni Garu, now known as Emperor Ragin, runs the archipelago kingdom of Dara, but struggles to maintain progress while serving the demands of the people and his vision. Then an unexpected invading force from the Lyucu empire in the far distant west comes to the shores of Dara — and chaos results.

But Emperor Kuni cannot go and lead his kingdom against the threat himself with his recently healed empire fraying at the seams, so he sends the only people he trusts to be Dara’s savvy and cunning hopes against the invincible invaders: his children, now grown and ready to make their mark on history.

The Grace of Kings, Ken Liu’s debut novel and the opening novel of The Dandelion Dynasty, was nominated for the Nebula Award, and won the Locus Award for Best First Novel. His short story collection The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories was called “Profound enough to hurt” by Amal El-Mohtar of NPR, and his acclaimed translation of Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2015.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Scarlet Claw

Monday, November 21st, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

rathbone_clawposterWe’re back with more Basil Rathbone again this week. Of course, you read last week’s essay about Sherlock Holmes & the Secret Weapon. This week, it’s a look at The Scarlet Claw, which seems to be considered the best of the Universal films (though it’s not my favorite).

First, let me mention the restorations done for the Rathbone films. The UCLA Film and Television Archive has restored over 700 movies and television shows, including all 14 of the Rathbone/Bruce films. I had bad VHS copies of this series and UCLA did a phenomenal job in restoring them. They are a treat to watch.

They also include commentary tracks – some by Holmes author and expert (and my former editor) David Stuart Davies. These DVDs have become more affordable over the years and I highly recommend purchasing these over cheaper, much lower quality discs. Trust me. I used to run the website, you know!

Moving on: We can divide Basil Rathbone’s movie career as Holmes into three phases. The first encompasses the two films from Twentieth Century Fox: The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Both of these were set in Victorian England and Rathbone dons the deerstalker and Inverness cape.

Next are the first three Universal films. In Sherlock Holmes & the Voice of Terror, SH & the Secret Weapon and SH in Washington, the great detective is aiding the war effort. These three are more patriotic spy flicks than typical Holmes fare.

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At Long Last, the World Begins to Appreciate Claire Suzanne Elizabeth Cooney

Sunday, November 20th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill


Claire Cooney, who writes under the name CSE Cooney, was Black Gate‘s first website editor, and we published two of her short stories, “Godmother Lizard” and “Life on the Sun,” as part of our Black Gate Online Fiction library. I was sitting next to Claire three weeks ago when she won the World Fantasy Award for her groundbreaking debut collection Bone Swans, and I watched in pleasant surprise as the crowd around us exploded in cheers. It seems that, at long last, the world is starting to appreciate what those of us in the BG community have long known: CSE Cooney is one of the genre’s most gifted writers.

Today The Westerly Sun published a fine feature on Claire, titled “World award is no fantasy for Westerly author Claire Cooney.” Here’s a snippet.

“I had no expectation of winning so I didn’t prepare any comments,” said Cooney, whose stories take readers on fantastical journeys through reimagined fairy tales and myths. “I just sat there saying ‘No way’ … until my friends started screaming.”

Cooney describes her writing as secondary world fantasy, similar in genre to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Her writing features flying carpets, strange clowns and pied pipers, she said, with strong female characters and people who turn into things. “Swords and sorcery,” said the writer who has been influenced by such fairy tales as the The Pied Piper and Rumpelstilskin…

The World Fantasy Award is one of the three big awards given in her fantasy genre, and Cooney faced stiff competition in a category that included a Pulitzer Prize finalist and two career retrospectives from well-established international writers.

Read the complete article, written by Nancy Burns-Fusaro, here, and read the Nebula-nominated title story “The Bone Swans of Amandale” online here.

New Treasures: The Supernaturals by David L. Golemon

Sunday, November 20th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

the-supernaturals-david-golemon-smallI don’t know about you lot, but here in Chicago, a blustery wind just blew through the city and temperatures have plummeted 25 degrees. Dead leaves are blowing across the streets by the thousands, and the water in the bird feeder froze overnight. Fall is well and truly here, and the only way to manage it is to sit by the window, listen to the wind blow through the trees, and curl up under a blanket with a good creepy book.

David L. Golemon (author of the Event Group Thrillers) has a new haunted house novel out in hardcover from Thomas Dunne Books that fits the bill nicely.

Built at the turn of the twentieth century by one of the richest and most powerful men in the world tucked away in the pristine Pocono Mountains, Summer Place, a retreat for the rich and famous, seems the very essence of charm and beauty, “a scene borrowed from a wondrous fairytale of gingerbread houses, bright forests, and glowing, sunny meadows.”

But behind the yellow and white trimmed exterior lurks an evil, waiting to devour the unwary…

Seven years ago, Professor Gabriel Kennedy’s investigation into paranormal activity at Summer Place ended in tragedy, and destroyed his career. Now, Kelly Delaphoy, the ambitious producer of a top-rated ghost-hunting television series, is determined to make Summer Place the centerpiece of an epic live broadcast on Halloween night. To ensure success, she needs help from the one man who has come face-to-face with the evil that dwells in Summer Place, a man still haunted by the ghosts of his own failure. Disgraced and alienated from the academic community, Kennedy wants nothing to do with the event. But Summer Place has other plans…

As Summer Place grows stronger, Kennedy, along with the paranormal ghost hunting team, The Supernaturals, sets out to confront… and if possible, destroy… the evil presence dwelling there.

The Supernaturals was published by Thomas Dunne Books on October 18, 2016. It is 383 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover was designed by Jerry Todd.

John DeNardo on the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Reads for November

Sunday, November 20th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

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How does John DeNardo pick the best books every month? “Jedi Mind Tricks,” he tells me. Fine. Keep your secrets, DeNardo. We probably wouldn’t believe the answer, anyway.

John’s picks for November include new titles from Bruce Sterling, Anne Rice, Jean Johnson, Ken MacLeod, Rachel Neumeier, and many others. Here he is on Alien Morning by Rick Wilber

When seemingly-benevolent aliens arrive in our near-future and their true nature is revealed, the fate of two civilizations depends on the members of a family who have some serious issues to resolve… This near-future first contact story adds a personal element by placing a troubled family at the center of history-changing events.

And Remnants of Trust by Elizabeth Bonesteel, the sequel to The Cold Between.

Two central corps soldiers, patrolling an empty sector of space as punishment for trying to uncover a government conspiracy, receive a distress call from a ship embroiled in battle. When they arrive, they find nearly one hundred corpses. But are they dead because of attacking raiders or due to sabotage?… Remnants of Trust is an engaging blend of military science fiction, mystery, and thriller.

See John’s complete article at Kirkus Reviews.

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Future Treasures: Apes and Angels, the Newest Volume in the Star Quest Trilogy by Ben Bova

Saturday, November 19th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

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When I was a teenager in Ottawa I attended the local SF convention, Maplecon, a marvelous con that I still miss today, without fail every year. In 1984 I was a volunteer, and I was assigned as the liaison for our Guest of Honor, author and editor Ben Bova. I picked Ben and his wife up from the airport and drove them around town, and got to know them pretty well. Ben was gracious, kind, and a marvelous conversationalist, and we talked about everything — various ways to express the laws of thermodynamics, the re-election of Ronald Reagan, his time as editor of Analog, and lots more. In fact, Ben was one of the first industry professionals I got to know personally, and he made a big impression on me.

As a writer, he’s been amazingly prolific over the past few decades, releasing 22 books in his Grand Tour SF series, which explore the solar system, as well as his Voyager series, his Sam Gunn stories, six novels in the Orion sequence, and nearly two dozen standalone novels and collections. His current project is the Star Quest Trilogy (part of the Grand Tour), which takes the series outside the solar system for the first time. New Earth (2013) sets the stage for the trilogy, which began with Death Wave (2015), and continues with Apes and Angels, arriving in hardcover from Tor Books at the end of this month.

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