Uncover the Secret History of Lichport in The Undertaken Trilogy by Ari Berk

Thursday, April 27th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Death Watch Ari Berk-small Mistle Child-small Lich Way Ari Berk-small

I love it when a book I’m interested in turns into a trilogy when I’m not looking. (It happens waaay more often than you think.) Most recently it happened with Ari Berk’s Death Watch, which I wrote about back in 2013, and which morphed into The Undertaken Trilogy when I ducked into the kitchen to make a sandwich.

I know, books pop up all the time in this industry, and God knows it seems unusual when a popular book doesn’t turn into a trilogy. But still, I was only in the kitchen for ten minutes, I swear.

Anyway, there used to be one novel featuring the adventures of Silas Umber, teenage undertaker in the crumbling seaside town of Lichport, and now there are three. Not sure how it happened, but I’m glad it did.

Death Watch (560 pages, $17.99 hardcover/$9.99 paperback/$8.99 digital, November 15, 2011)
Mistle Child (368 pages, $17.99 hardcover/$9.99 paperback/$8.99 digital, February 12, 2013)
Lych Way (336 pages, $17.99 hardcover/$12.99 paperback/$9.99 digital, February 25, 2014)

Publishers Weekly calls the opening volume “A thought-provoking gothic fantasy [and] genuinely eerie tale… Berk’s setting is atmospheric and creepy.” And Holly Black says it “mines a rich vein of ghostly folklore with vivid prose, style and wit. A marvelous tapestry.” Here’s the description for Death Watch.

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Mastabas: Early Tombs of Ancient Egypt

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


Interior of the mastaba of Meresankh III. The row of
statues shows the queen and female members of her family

Not everyone gets a pyramid when they die.

As nice as it would be for everyone to get their own massive stone monument that lasts for all time, it’s really expensive and the one percenters want to have something of their own that makes them feel special.

So for those of us who don’t get to rule over Ancient Egypt with an iron fist, but aren’t so poor that we’re stuck in a shallow pit in the desert, there’s the mastaba, a home away home where we can spend the afterlife.

Mastabas were rectangular buildings made of mud brick or stone containing a few rooms and a burial chamber beneath it reached via a vertical shaft. They were wonderfully decorated on the inside and had a place for making offerings to the dead.

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March/April 2017 Uncanny Magazine Now on Sale

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Uncanny magazine March April 2017-smallOne thing I dislike about the current crop of digital magazines is their near-exclusive focus on shorter fiction. Are the print mags our only source of novellas these days? No wonder the Best Novella category for this year’s Hugo nominations is thoroughly dominated by Tor.com.

So it was great to see a long novella by Sarah Pinsker in the current issue of Uncanny. Here’s what Charles Payseur had to say about “And Then There Were (N-One)” at Quick Sip Reviews.

Okay wow, this is a rather strange novella that at first glance fills me with all sorts of hesitations. It’s a bit of a meta-piece, after all, casting the author as not just the character in the story, and not just the main character, but pretty much every character in the story, in a cross-dimensional convention of Sarah Pinskers.

For all this could be an adventure in navel-gazing, though, I find it instead to be a deep and complex look at possibility and the pull of diverging realities, the hurt of loss and the wondering what could make it better, wondering what if the loss had never happened to begin with. Oh, and it’s a murder mystery and [SPOILERS] the murder weapon is a Nebula Award. So it’s also a lot of fun…

Read Charles’ complete review here

The March/April issue of Uncanny includes all–new short fiction by JY Yang, by Stephen Graham Jones, Beth Cato, S. Qiouyi Lu, and Sarah Pinsker, and a reprint by Kameron Hurley, plus nonfiction by Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, Sam J. Miller, Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, Paul Booth, Dawn Xiana Moo, and Shveta Thakrar, plus poetry, interviews, and an editorial. All of the content became available for purchase as an eBook (PDF, EPUB, MOBI) on March 7, 2017.

Here’s the complete fiction contents

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Evil Wizards, Robot Guardians, and the Maze of the Minotaur: Rich Horton on The Reign of Wizardry by Jack Williamson

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Unknown March 1940-small The Reign of Wizardry Lancer The Reign of Wizardry Sphere-small

Jack Williamson’s novel The Reign of Wizardry was originally published in three installments in the grand old pulp magazine Unknown, beginning in the March 1940 issue (above left, cover by M. Isip). Its first complete appearance was as a 1964 Lancer paperback (middle), with a cover by none other than Frank Frazetta. It’s been reprinted nearly a dozen times since, including a 1981 paperback edition from Sphere in the UK (right, artist uncredited), and most recently in the 2008 Haffner Press collection Gateway to Paradise.

Jack Williamson was a SFWA Grand Master. His first story appeared in Amazing Stories in 1928 when he was 20 years old and, in a remarkable career than spanned nearly eight decades, he was still winning major awards in his 90s, including a Hugo and a Nebula for his novella “The Ultimate Earth” (Analog, December 2000). He died in 2006, at the age of 98.

The Reign of Wizardry enjoyed multiple editions over the decades, and last year it was nominated for a Retro Hugo for Best Novel of 1941 (it lost out to A.E. van Vogt’s Slan). Recently Rich Horton gave it a warts-and-all review at his website Strange at Ecbatan.

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A Tale of Two Covers: The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Loney UK-small The Loney-small

Andrew Michael Hurley self-published his first collection Cages and Other Stories (2006), and released his second, The Unusual Death of Julie Christie and Other Stories (2008) through tiny Lime Tree Press. However, those days are over. His debut novel Loney, released in the UK in trade paperback by John Murray last year (cover above left) won the Costa First Novel Award, was listed as a Best Book of the Year by the London Times and Daily Mail, ranked a Best Summer Book by Publishers Weekly, won Best Book of the Year in the British Book Industry Awards, and was a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller.

It was published in the US by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt last May with a new cover (above right), and the buzz on this side of the pond was just as stellar. The New York Times Book Review said “The terrors of this novel feel timeless… There are abominations here, and miracles.” Jeff VanderMeer called it “Stunning,” and Stephen King said, “It’s not just good, it’s great. An amazing piece of fiction.”

Here’s the description.

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New Treasures: Gilded Cage by Vic James

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Gilded Cage Vic James-smallIf you’re like me, you’re always on the lookout for an exciting new fantasy series with fresh ideas, and Vic James’ debut Gilded Cage looks like it will fit the bill nicely. It’s the opening volume in a new series set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule and commoners are forced to serve them. Kirkus Reviews says it “Conjures up the specters of Les Misérables and Downton Abbey… an intriguing new fantasy series,” and Aliette de Bodard calls it ““A dark and intriguing vision of an alternate, magic-drenched Britain… kept me up long into the night.”


Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty — but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate — or destroy?

Gilded Cage was published by Del Rey on February 14, 2017. It is 368 pages, priced at $20.00 in hardcover and $10.99 for the digital edition.

March Short Story Roundup

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_2535049EywGcOBUIt’s roundup time again, folks. This past March we were treated to two stories from Curtis Ellett’s Swords and Sorcery Magazine and a trio from Adrian Collins’ Grimdark Magazine. Some I liked, some not so much. Without further jib jab, I’ll start the reviews.

Swords and Sorcery #62 opens with “The Sword Over the River Thar” by Bryan Dyke. It’s a thoughtful and introspective tale of a reluctant soldier looking back over his childhood and his own wartime experiences. There are many fine moments in the story, some quite moving. Unfortunately, the story suffers from moments of weak prose, including an overreliance on the word portal. References to such disparate elements as hoplites, barons, elves, and the distinctly Anglo-Saxon-sounding placename Norwich, make the setting feel ramshackle. I hope to be of service by pointing these things out. This is Dyke’s first published story and there is far more than the germ of a good story on display here. I hope to read more by him in future.

In the past, most recently in December’s roundup, I have been harsh towards the stories of Jeffrey Scott Sims. I have found them to be in possession of solid plots wrapped in clunky, faux-archaic prose. So I was surprised when I found myself quite enjoying his new story, “A Sojurn in Crost.” Bereft of supplies, stranded in enemy territory, “Lord Morca, wizard and warrior of ancient Dyrezan” and his battle-tiger, Treenya, are making their way to the coast and safety when they come across the town of Crost. There’s little mystery to what’s going on in this quite familiar story, but Sims spins his yarn with enough conviction to overcome any staleness. Sims’ style remains similar to that of his previous tales of Dyrezan but is deployed with more control and concision.

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The Top 50 Black Gate Blog Posts in March

Monday, April 24th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Collapsing Empire-smallerThere were lots of new faces in the Top Ten last month, including the #1 slot, which featured a cover comparison between John Scalzi’s new Tor bestseller The Collapsing Empire, and a hurriedly-packaged cover rip-off, The Corroding Empire, by “Johan Kalsi.”

Coming in at #2 was our coverage of the third Literary Wonder and Adventure Podcast, a conversation with Scott Oden, followed by Sean McLachlan’s fascinating photo-essay on the items you don’t usually see from King Tut’s legendary treasure trove.

Rounding out the Top Five were Thomas Parker’s gargantuan undertaking, the Master List of Fantastic Literature, compiled from recommended reading lists from several notable sources, and our look at the first Fifth Edition D&D dungeon anthology, Tales From the Yawning Portal.

Coming in sixth was Ryan Harvey’s review of the Sword & Sandal classic Colossus of the Stone Age, followed by our celebration of the 10th Anniversary of Black Gate‘s very first blog post (Howard Andrew Jones’ musings on Sword & Sorcery — go figure). At number 8 was our a look back at the fiction and covers featured in Asimov’s Science Fiction in the 90s.

Wrapping up the Top Ten were our review of the marvelous new periodical for vintage magazine fans, The Digest Enthusiast, and Bob Byrne’s look at Nero Wolfe.

The complete list of Top Articles for March 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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Save the Unicorns!

Monday, April 24th, 2017 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

In CalabriaPeter S. Beagle is the author of The Last Unicorn. Honestly, that should be enough, but check out his full bibliography and you’ll see that this man’s been producing fantastic literature for over half a century. In recent times, Mr. Beagle’s fallen on hard economic times for reasons both heartbreaking and infuriating (check out a summarized explanation here). Fortunately, there’s a way to help him out… and get your hands on a lot of unicorn stories in the process.

Humble Bundle Inc. is currently offering a Save the Unicorns bundle of ebooks. Not only were these books selected by Peter S. Beagle for this collection, but several of them feature stories by Beagle and a couple of them are currently only available through this offer. Proceeds from this bundle will go to a charity of your choice, but if you choose to send the money to Tachyon Publications, Peter S. Beagle will receive royalties from it.

So what do you get for your money? That depends entirely on how much you want to donate. For one dollar (just ONE DOLLAR), you get Ariel by Steven R. Boyett, Unicorn Mountain by Michael Bishop, Homeward Bound by Bruce Coville, and Unicorn Triangle by Patricia A. McKillip. If you can spare eight dollars, you also get The Fantasy & Science Fiction Book of Unicorns edited by Gordon Van Gelder (available EXCLUSIVELY through this bundle), Dream a Little Dream by Piers Anthony and Julie Brady, The Transfigured Hart by Jane Yolen, Pandora Park by Piers Anthony, and The Unicorn Trade by Poul Anderson and Karen Anderson. And if you give just fifteen dollars, you also get In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle, The Unicorn Anthology edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman, The Fantasy & Science Fiction Book of Unicorns Volume II edited by Gordon Van Gelder (again, available EXCLUSIVELY through this bundle), My Son Heydari and the Karkadann by Peter S. Beagle, The Day of the Dissonance by Alan Dean Foster, and The Dragon and the Unicorn by A.A. Attanasio. You can choose to download these e-books in MOBI, PDF, or EPUB formats (or all three if you have multiple devices).

And for those of you who have been following Peter S. Beagle’s legal struggles, rest assured that this offer is legitimate. I actually contacted Tachyon Publications earlier today to confirm (because I am by nature a suspicious soul) and received a pair of confirmations that this is all on the up and up. Beyond that, I just bought this bundle and did in fact receive all fifteen of the e-books that I listed above.

If you want to learn more about Mr. Beagle’s financial struggles and other ways you can help, check out the Support Peter S. Beagle website. And remember, the Humble Bundle won’t be available indefinitely. In fact, as of this posting, you have only a week left to Save the Unicorns!

Future Treasures: A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

Monday, April 24th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

A Face Like Glass-smallJust last week I was complaining about the dearth of good subterranean fiction… and along comes Frances Hardinge’s A Face Like Glass, set in an underground world that Kirkus calls an “utterly original setting… [with] a cracking good story.”

Frances Hardinge is the author of Cuckoo Song, the 2015 winner of the British Fantasy Award, as well as Fly By Night, Verdigris Deep, and Twilight Robbery. She has twice been nominated for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, for Cuckoo Song and The Lie Tree. A Face Like Glass was published in the UK in 2012; the US version arrives from Amulet Books in early May.

In the underground city of Caverna, the world’s most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare — wines that remove memories, cheeses that make you hallucinate, and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer, even as they slit your throat. On the surface, the people of Caverna seem ordinary, except for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned, and only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to express (or fake) joy, despair, or fear — at a steep price.

Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. Neverfell’s expressions are as varied and dynamic as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, except hers are entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed…

A Face Like Glass will be published by Amulet Books on May 9, 2017. It is 496 pages, priced at $19.95 in hardcover and $9.99 for the digital edition.

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