Heroic Fantasy Quarterly 31 Now Available

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly 31-small

From far-distant nether dimensions of imagination, editorial overlords have transmitted another fabulous issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly to our mundane plane of existence. Teams of blind scribes in the Himalayas, listening intently to the vibrations of the snow butterflies of Nepal, have transcribed the text with eager hands. And once again, the world owes them a great debt. (And maybe a case of beer. From a mico-brewery, not the cheap stuff.)

The latest issue includes stories by Dennis Mombauer, Aidan Doyle, Raphael Ordoñez, and HFQ editor James Rowe. Here’s the complete TOC, with fiction links.

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Modular: James Sutter Fields Some Starfinder RPG Questions

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

starfinderPaizo Publishing is a major force in the fantasy gaming industry, having taken the core mechanics of Dungeons & Dragons edition 3.5 and transforming it into the Pathfinder RPG, an impressive stand-alone game system in its own right. Beyond the core tabletop roleplaying game, Pathfinder has also diversified out into the Pathfinder Tales series of novels, the various versions of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (including a digital edition), audio dramas, comic books, and ever-expanding other platforms and formats.

But ultimately the Pathfinder game is set in a fantasy adventure world, and retains the feel of the Dungeons & Dragons adventures from which it was derived.

Last fall, Paizo announced a new game system that would take them into the distant future with their Starfinder RPG, and would set a far more distinctive course. This is a game that will take the basic Pathfinder mechanics, but translate them into a far future space opera style of setting.

Last fall at GenCon, I spoke with the Creative Director of Starfinder, long-time Black Gate friend James L. Sutter. In addition to being the author of a couple of great Pathfinder Tales novels, Death’s Heretic and The Redemption Engine, James is also the author of the recent Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The First World, Realm of the Fey (Amazon, Paizo), a supplement that explores a portion of the Pathfinder setting that I have long been hoping would get some additional attention.

Between our GenCon discussion and subsequent information, such as a great GameInformer interview, we got new information about the new classes and races, the backward compatibility with Pathfinder, and some hints about what to expect from starship combat. Everything about this game is looking and sounding great.

Toward the end of January, I ran into James again at the Detroit convention ConFusion, and asked him if I could buy him a beer and riddle him with some additional questions.

He said no.

Instead, he asked if I could e-mail him the questions, because he was heavily booked over the weekend. Below is our exchange, which I hope sheds some some new light on what to expect from the Starfinder RPG, due out from Paizo this August (and available for preorder now).

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New Treasures: Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Universal Harvester

It’s great to be plugged into the industry, so I can hear what editors and publicists think are going to be the big books each season. And it’s incredibly helpful to be involved with a network of bloggers and reviewers who give me their take on the same thing.

But nothing beats hearing from readers — and what I’m hearing from readers is that John Darnielle’s modern horror novel Universal Harvester is the book that’s currently keeping them up at night. It’s available now in hardcover Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Jeremy works at the Video Hut in Nevada, Iowa. It’s a small town in the center of the state ― the first a in Nevada pronounced ay. This is the late 1990s, and even if the Hollywood Video in Ames poses an existential threat to Video Hut, there are still regular customers, a rush in the late afternoon. It’s good enough for Jeremy: it’s a job, quiet and predictable, and it gets him out of the house, where he lives with his dad and where they both try to avoid missing Mom, who died six years ago in a car wreck.

But when a local schoolteacher comes in to return her copy of Targets ― an old movie, starring Boris Karloff, one Jeremy himself had ordered for the store ― she has an odd complaint: “There’s something on it,” she says, but doesn’t elaborate. Two days later, a different customer returns a different tape, a new release, and says it’s not defective, exactly, but altered: “There’s another movie on this tape.”

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SFWA Announces the 2016 Nebula Award Nominations

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The-Obelisk-Gate-smallerThe Nebulas are here! The Nebulas are here!

Ahem. Excuse me if I get a little giddy. The Nebula Award is one of the most prestigious awards in our field. I was asked to present the award for Best Novelette at the 2015 Nebulas in Chicago, and last year the Awards were even more exciting, as several Black Gate bloggers and authors — including Amal El-Mohtar, Lawrence M. Schoen, and our website editor C.S.E. Cooney — were nominated for major awards.

So it’s always exciting when the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) announces the nominees — and this year is no exception. This year’s nominees are (links will take you to our previous coverage):


All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor; Titan)
Borderline, Mishell Baker (Saga)
The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
Ninefox Gambit,Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
Everfair, Nisi Shawl (Tor)

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In Viriconium by M. John Harrison

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_213541TcmWZhNHAnd so we come to the end of M. John Harrison’s trilogy of novels set in the far, far future of our world. For In Viriconium (1982) Harrison drops almost all elements of heroic fantasy in presenting the story of the artist Ashlyme. Ashlyme’s effort to rescue another artist, the reclusive Audsley King, from a plague outbreak is set against the antics of two manic deities. Woven through the novel are characters and clues that tie it to the previous two, The Pastel City and A Storm of Wings (reviewed at the links). Some build on the earlier stories while others seem to deconstruct and reconfigure them.

The Low City, the poorer section of Viriconium and the one most given over to decay, has been struck by a strange malady:

The plague is difficult to describe. It had begun some months before. It was not a plague in the ordinary sense of the word. It was a kind of thinness, a transparency. Within it people aged quickly, or succumbed to debilitating illnesses — phthisis, influenza, galloping consumption. The very buildings fell apart and began to look unkempt, ill-kept. Businesses failed. All projects dragged out indefinitely and in the end came to nothing.

Day by day it is spreading, restricting travel in and out of a growing portion of the Low City. Hidden away in her rooms above the Rue Serpolet, Audsley King remains the most famous and sought after artist in Viriconium. Even as the plague pares away the substance and people of the city, her agent, Paulinus Spack, is hoping to produce a new play with sets designed by her. All across the High City, Viriconium’s wealthy district, patrons are itching to invest in something featuring King’s creations. She, for that to happen, must leave the Low City — but she does not wish to. In addition to her acceptance of eventual death from the plague, she is repulsed by her potential benefactors:

“Besides,” she said, “I would not go if they did. Why should I go? The High City is an elaborate catafalque. Art is dead up there, and Paulinus Rack is burying it. Nothing is safe from him — or from those old women who finance him — painting, theater, poetry, music. I no longer wish to go there.” Her voice rose. “I no longer wish them to buy my work. I belong here.”

Spurred by a desire to save one of Viriconium’s most important figures, Ashlyme agrees to convince King to flee to the High City. If she cannot be convinced he will, with the help of the astronomer Emmet Buffo, kidnap her and bring her out anyway.

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Black Gate Online Fiction: Mouth of the Dragon by Tom Barczak

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

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Black Gate is very pleased to offer our readers an exclusive excerpt from Mouth of the Dragon: Prophecy of the Evarun by Thomas Barczak, published in deluxe trade paperback and digital formats this month by Perseid Press. Thomas Barczak’s short fiction has appeared in the award-winning Heroes in Hell anthologies edited by Janet Morris and Chris Morris; his previous novels include the epic fantasy novel Veil of the Dragon, and the Kindle serial Awakening Evarun.

Chaelus watched them fall, one by one, like cordwood; five Servian knights brought down to the bristling snow.

Crimson feathers stuck out against the pallor. Even from a half a league away he could see them, like the blood they let. The red fletching of the Khaalish. But Chaelus didn’t need the whisper of the Giver to drift through him to know it was a ruse. It wasn’t the Khaalish. It was something far worse.

It was the Hunters.

Idyliss bowed her head without his command and flew across the snow-covered plain.

They were still too far away for him to save them.

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Things Your Writing Teacher Never Told You: Researching the Tropes

Monday, February 20th, 2017 | Posted by Tina Jens

Sun Wu-small

My Fantasy Writing Workshop (Columbia College Chicago) starts each semester by writing a shared private encyclopedia of genre tropes. Each week has an assigned category. The categories are: monsters or magical creatures; gods, demi-gods, or powerful spirits; magical artifacts or prophetic techniques/devices; and historical people. The students each write one entry per category, then the following week, all the entries in that category are part of their assigned reading.

For each category, I’ve compiled a list of at least fifty potential subjects with short descriptions taken from across the world cultures and mythologies to get them started. Many of the entries have alternate spellings, and some reference books contradict each other, so students are required to use more than one source in their research.

Here’s a list of a few of the monsters/creatures in the first unit.

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Future Treasures: The Vorrh Book II – The Erstwhile by Brian Catling

Monday, February 20th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Vorrh and The Erstwhile-small

Early last year, Matthew David Surridge reviewed the Vintage trade paperback edition of The Vorrh here at Black Gate, calling it:

A powerful, fascinating book that defied easy categorization; epic fantasy or epic horror, magic realism or magic surrealism, it seemed bigger and stranger than whatever one might think to call it. Set mostly in Africa and mostly in the years after World War I, it deals with a forest called the Vorrh, where reality and time and logic become confused. A hunter tries to cross the forest, another man tries to stop him, yet another man tries to stop the second. Meanwhile, in a colonial German city that exists inside the forest, a young cyclops is educated by peculiar automata…

Vintage has announced the impending arrival of the sequel, The Erstwhile, which will be released in trade paperback next month.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Mister Bean as Simeonon’s Maigret?

Monday, February 20th, 2017 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Maigret_AtkinsonGeorges Simenon wrote seventy-six novels and twenty-eight short stories about French police commissionaire Jules Maigret (May-gray) between 1932 and 1973. Maigret’s career paralleled that of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe, who appeared in thirty-three novels and thirty-three novellas/short stories from 1934 to 1975.

There have been many film and television adaptations of Maigret in various countries over the decades. Rupert Davies starred in a popular British television series in the sixties and Michael Gambon played the policeman in a Granada series in the eighties. Now, I’ve never read a Maigret story or seen any of the films or television shows, except for the two I’m going to talk about in this post. So, I don’t have a frame of reference for the two new films, other than the actual movies themselves. They may be nothing like the original character, in the vein of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes; or they could be spot on: though that seems unlikely.

A British company cast Rowan Atkinson as Maigret and filmed a pair of television movies that were aired in 2016: Maigret Sets a Trap and Maigret’s Dead Man.  Two more are on the way: Night at the Crossroads and Maigret in Montmarte.

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Get Reacquainted with the Gentlemen Bastards in Scotty Lynch’s The Bastards and the Knives

Sunday, February 19th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Lies of Locke Lamora-small Red Seas Under Red Skies-small The Republic of Thieves-small The Bastards and the Knives-small

I hear nothing but good things — really, nothing but great things — about Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards series. The opening novel, The Lies of Locke Lamora, was nominated for the World Fantasy Award and placed second in the Locus poll for First Novel, and became a bestseller in paperback. The Republic of Thieves placed third in the 2014 Locus poll for Best Fantasy Novel.

The series so far is composed of:

The Lies of Locke Lamora (June 2006)
Red Seas Under Red Skies (June 2007)
The Republic of Thieves (October 2013)

Next month Gollancz releases The Bastards and the Knives, an omnibus collection of two prequel novellas in the series, “The Mad Baron’s Mechanical Attic” and “The Choir of Knives.” Both are previously unpublished.

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