The Library of America Publishes Elmore Leonard — Again

Thursday, December 29th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Elmore Leonard Four Novels of the 1970s-small Elmore Leonard Four Novels of the 1980s-small elmore-leonard-four-later-novels

Back in January I dashed off a brief New Treasures article titled The Library of America Publishes Elmore Leonard, in which I highlighted the first two volumes of The Library of America’s omnibus editions of Leonard, Four Novels of the 1970s and Four Novels of he 1980s.

Despite the fact that Leonard never wrote a single SF or fantasy novel (and we’re very much a fantasy blog), it became one of the most popular New Treasures articles I’ve ever written — and in fact, it still outperforms half of the New Treasures articles I write every month. Elmore Leonard is a popular writer in any genre.

So I could hardly ignore the third and final volume in the set, Elmore Leonard: Four Later Novels. Like the others it contains four full novels (Get Shorty, Rum Punch, Out of Sight, and Tishomingo Blues, published between 1990-2002). Here’s the description, which does a find job of summarizing each of Leonard’s freewheeling plots in a single sentence.

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The Very Opposite of a First Contact Novel: On Whetsday by Mark Sumner

Thursday, December 29th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

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Mark Sumner produced some of the most acclaimed fiction ever published in Black Gate. The Internet Review of Science Fiction called his story “Leather Doll” (from BG 7) “Absolutely riveting…. A masterpiece of contemporary science fiction,” and Tangent Online called his serialized novel The Naturalist (in BG 10, 11, and 13) “Absorbing and thoroughly enjoyable… it recalls the “lost world” tales of H. Rider Haggard and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle… Fraught with danger and excitement, and full of the mystery and color of a grand adventure.”

His newest book is On Whetsday, a far-future tale of a planet where the last remaining humans live in peaceful co-existence with an enigmatic alien race. Sharon Shinn calls it “The very opposite of a first contact novel… but just as exciting.” It was originally serialized at Daily Kos, where Mark has been a writer for several years. Here’s the enticing first paragraph.

On Whetsday, Denny danced at the spaceport. It was a good place to dance, if you didn’t mind the heat that boiled off the acres of asphalt or the noise of the rising shuttles. You could meet a dozen races in single morning: lithe little skynx, scarlet klickiks, and sluggish chugs with their curtains of eyes brushing the ground. Most of the passing visitors had never seen a human, and fewer still understood what Denny was doing. Dancing was a rare thing among the races of the galaxy. But they understood enough to toss shiny credit chips or small bits of scrip into the box by his feet. They understood begging. Begging was universal.

You can read the complete first chapter at Daily Kos here.

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Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Selects the Best Novels of 2016

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

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It’s the end of the year, the time when companies, magazines, and bloggers flood the airwaves with Year’s Best lists. Why do they bother? Because we love them! Lists, lists, lists. They’re the best.

One of my favorite genre sites, the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, is out with their annual Editor’s Picks for the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2016, including Cixin Liu’s Death’s End, N.K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate, and a debut novel, Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer.

Palmer’s long-in-coming debut crafts a distinctly unique vision of a future world — a 25th century where technology has created abundance, where religion is outlawed but personal spirituality is encouraged, where criminals are sentenced to wander the world making themselves useful. It’s an imagined outcome rooted in threads visible all around us even today. The story involves an unlikely meeting between a convict serving a family named Mycroft Canner; a “sensayer,” or spiritual guide, named Carlyle Foster; and Bridger, a young boy who seems to possess the power to make his every wish come true — a power that could completely destabilize a world that is the very definition of stability. With lush prose that recreates the feel of a period novel, this is one of the year’s most striking debuts. Read our review..

The list also includes several novels we’ve recently covered at Black Gate. Here’s a partial list.

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A Tale of Two Covers: Alan Baxter’s Crow Shine and Sarah Remy’s The Bone Cave

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

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This week’s Tale of Two Covers looks at two very similar covers, released a month apart late this year. (Click the images above for bigger versions.)

The first is Crow Shine, published by the Australian independent publisher Ticonderoga Publications on November 11, 2016. Crow Shine is the debut horror collection from Australian dark fantasy writer Alan Baxter, and it gathers stories from F&SF, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Postscripts, and multiple anthologies. You can read more about it at the Ticonderoga website, but unfortunately it doesn’t identity the cover artist.

The second is The Bone Cave, published in paperback yesterday by Harper Voyager Impulse. It’s the third volume in Sarah Remy’s Bone Magic series, following Stonehill Downs (2014) and Across the Long Sea (2015). See all the details at the publisher’s website here. Like Crow Shine, the cover artist is uncredited.

While both books clearly make use of the same base image, there are also interesting design differences. Note the lamp affixed to the rock in the cover on the left (missing on the right), and the skull at the base of the rock on the right. They’ve also gone with different color schemes — Crow Shine is a pale white, almost green, and The Bone Cave has colored the entire background red.

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Belated Movie Review #8: A Correlation of Certain Musical Contents

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

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My last belated movie review “Towards a Unified Theory of Hudson Hawk” ruffled feathers and inspired what the political class calls ‘spirited debate.’ However! I made the following statement in that review :

Is there any movie genre so thoroughly degraded as the musical? Where once they roamed the Theater Landscape in thunderous, glittering fabulous herds, their numbers are now constrained to a few preserves in boutique dinner theaters, and I suppose, the breeding program that is Glee. Oh sure, a few attempts to re-introduce them to the wild have happened, ending tragically vis-à-vis Moulin Rouge.

It has come to my attention that I made a woeful error (some might even say a merciful deletion) of omission! My sin is compounded by the fact that there was a great and grand musical, that it had a plethora of 80s stars, and it was a sci-fi, and a re-make to boot! I refer, of course, to 1986’s Little Shop of Horrors, itself a remake of the 1960 Roger Corman film of the same name.

I’m not sure how I could have forgotten this. Rick Moranis, Bill Murray, Steve Martin, and with Martin Robinson spearheading ever increasingly complex puppetry/animatronics that would make Jim Henson blush!

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Adventures in Earth’s Prehistory: Jane Gaskell’s Atlan Saga, Part III

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016 | Posted by Tony Den

Paperback Library (Frank Frazetta)

Paperback Library (Frank Frazetta)

Tandem edition

Tandem edition

Hodder & Stoughton (Denvil)

Hodder & Stoughton (Denvil)

Paperback Library (second printing)

Paperback Library (second printing)

Book Three (or Two, depending on the publisher) of Jane Gaskell’s Atlan Saga bears the same title as the series: Atlan. The previous volume(s), reviewed here (The Dragon) and here (The Serpent), left off where our heroine Cija married the “Dragon” General Zerd. Having just received the throne of the fabled continent of Atlan in a bloodless conquest, Zerd was crowned emperor, effectively making Cija empress.

Atlan commences with a brief introduction by a deserter called Scar, recounting preceding events with his own first person narrative as he legs his way to the capital. Meeting up with a bird-riding officer in search of a disguise, they switch places. Now mounted, Scar (and the introduction) fast forward to the capital where we encounter the Empress Cija.

Being empress is not all it is cracked up to be. Cija is still very much a loner and even though she’s surrounded by courtiers and handmaidens, she is lonely. Zerd’s wandering eye soon has him distracted by other women, leaving Cija to her own devices. Unto this scene arrives her old lover Smahil, and a brief tryst follows.

This is probably the right time to reveal a spoiler I’ve avoided in my previous reviews: Smahil is Cija’s half-brother. This is something Cija did not know when they first became lovers, but by the time he arrives in the capital, she is well aware of their familial relationship, yet is so desperately lonely she still shares her bed with him.

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December 2016 Lightspeed Magazine Now Available

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

lightspeed-december-2016-smallMark Watson’s Best SF blog has been reviewing SF short stories since April 2000. The reviews are sometimes short, but that doesn’t mean they’re not on point. Here’s Mark on Rich Larson’s story “The Cyborg, the Tinman, the Merchant of Death” in the December 2016 issue of Lightspeed.

Military SF although with a more human bent. The titular character is a cyborgised marine, also known as ‘The Petty Officer’, very much in the Halo Master Chief mould. The protagonist is a private who is transferred to the Petty Officer’s squad, who is very much aware that whilst it is a recognition of his own skills, it is essentially a short term posting in his military career, and indeed, it will be his final posting – life expectancy of squad members is little more than a couple of missions.

And this is where the story gets interesting, as the private finds out more about The Petty Officer over a number of missions, and then it gets very queer….

This month’s Lightspeed offers up original science fiction by Rich Larson and Joseph Allen Hill, and SF reprints by Margo Lanagan and Christie Yant, plus original fantasy by Carlie St. George and fantasy reprints by William Alexander and Shweta Narayan.

I was also very pleased to see an original fantasy from Quick Sips reviewer Charles Payseur “The Death of Paul Bunyan.” Charles works tirelessly every month to promote dozens of stories from other writers on his blog; I’ll be curious to see how many return the favor.

This month’s Lightspeed includes an editorial from JJA, author spotlights, a review of Arrival by Carrie Vaughn, Book Reviews by Amal El-Mohtar, and an interview with Nancy Kress. The exclusive content in the ebook version this month is Michael Bishop’s novella “Twenty Lights to ‘The Land of Snow,’” and an excerpt from Seth Dickinson’s novel The Traitor Baru Cormorant.

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Richard Adams, May 9, 1920 – December 24, 2016

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

richard-adams-smallRichard Adams, one of the finest fantasy authors of the 20th Century, died on Christmas Eve.

In his review of Adams’ masterpiece Watership Down, published here at Black Gate yesterday, Mark Rigney wrote, “It was and is a fantasy with wide crossover appeal, a mythic adventure with rabbits… 1972 did indeed mark the appearance of a great story. Nor has it lost its power, not one whit.” According to the BBC, Adams created the story to keep his two daughters entertained on a long car ride.

The event that changed Richard Adams’ life occurred on a car journey with his family to see Twelfth Night at Stratford-upon-Avon.

His bored children asked for a story and he began telling them a tale about a group of rabbits attempting to escape from their threatened warren.

Adams was persuaded to write it all down, a process that took him more than two years, but he was, at first, unable to find a publisher. Many of his rejection letters complained that the book was too long and his characters did not fit the common perception of cuddly bunnies. Eventually, in 1972, after 14 rejections, the publisher Rex Collings saw the potential and agreed to take it on with an initial print run of 2,500 copies.

Watership Down was his first novel. It was published in 1972 — without an advance — when Adams was 52 years old. It won the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize, and has sold tens of millions of copies.

Adams became a full time writer in 1974, producing over a dozen fiction and non-fiction books, including several worldwide bestsellers such as Shardik (1974), The Plague Dogs (1977), The Girl in a Swing (1980), Maia (1984) and Tales from Watership Down (1996). He died on December 24, 2016, at age 96.


Future Treasures: The Mammoth Book of the Mummy, edited by Paula Guran

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

the-mammoth-book-of-the-mummy-smallPaula Guran does interesting anthologies. She tends to focus on modern (21st Century) writers, which means she’s plowing a different field than all those vintage anthologies I love — and introducing me to a host of new writers.

Her newest is The Mammoth Book of the Mummy, containing 25 new and reprint tales “that explore, subvert, and reinvent the mummy mythos” from Joe R. Lansdale, Kage Baker, Paul Cornell, Terry Dowling, Karen Joy Fowler, John Langan, Helen Marshall, Keith Taylor, and many others. It arrives from Prime Books in trade paperback next month.

Human mummies, preserved by both accident and intent, have been found on every continent except Antarctica. These enigmatic remains of humanity have fascinated people for centuries. Shrouded in history they have acquired meaning and symbolism quite separate from their value as a source of historic knowledge, inspiring tales of reanimation, reincarnation, loves that outlive death, and curses that bring vengeance from the past.

As a figure of the supernatural the mummy has attained iconic status in the popular imagination. The Mammoth Book of the Mummy presents a collection of tales written for the twenty-first century ― including four brand-new stories ― that explore, subvert, and reinvent the mummy mythos. Some delve into the past, others explore alternative histories, and some bring mummies into our own world. Within these covers lie stories of revenge, romance, monsters, and mayhem, ranging freely across time periods, genres, and styles sure to please both mummy-lovers and those less wrapped up in mummy lore.

I published one Mummy story in Black Gate, Dan Brodribb’s hilarious “The Girl Who Feared Lightning” in BG 14 (“Nobody really talks about what mummies can and can’t do. They never really caught on like some monsters did. Poor branding.”) Here’ hoping Paula’s latest anthology will help mummies with that branding problem.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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Vintage Treasures: Watership Down by Richard Adams

Monday, December 26th, 2016 | Posted by markrigney

watershipdown“I announce,” read the Times of London’s review in 1972, “with trembling pleasure, the appearance of a great story.”

This is not the typical language of a contemporary book review, but then the book in question, Watership Down, was not a typical book. It was and is a fantasy with wide crossover appeal, a mythic adventure with rabbits as the principal characters. That’s right, rabbits: those long-eared good-for-nothings whom we humans largely dismiss as being dumber than a box of rabbit-sized rocks.

Having read and adored the book in my early teens, I determined it was time to share it with my twelve-year-old son, who still craves his daily dose of bedtime story. And why not? I’d get to read a tale I had not revisited for more than thirty-five years, and I’d get to gauge my son’s reactions every step of the way.

To say he was impressed would be an understatement. As we approached the closing chapters, he wanted extra, before-bed reading time, but in the same breath kept exclaiming how he didn’t want to finish. “Are there more books about Hazel and Bigwig?” he asked. “Are there?”

Spoilers follow. If by some terrible chance you, gentle reader, have not read Watership Down for yourself, then please, close this page. Go do something else. Purchase a copy of Watership Down, for example. You can always return here once you’ve read to “The End.”

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