Space Pirates, Ancient Ruins, and Supercarriers: A Look at Endless Space 2 Early Access

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


Aight. 14 hours in, 4 campaigns played/started, it’s the wee hours of the morning, going on afternoon. I think I’ll take a stab at writing a few words on the Early Access release of Endless Space 2.

First up, Bad Things! I Wish These Weren’t in the Game, But They Are

#1: Soft turn limits.

This is a bug. Every campaign that’s made it to turn 67-ish so far (Craver, Sophon, Voydani) suffers a fatal error. Suggested options include A) loading an autosave from a couple turns ago, and B) ignoring it. Autosaves did nothing. Same turn rolls around, yellow/red screen of death on my monitor. Ignoring it, amusingly enough, was more effective. I made it to turn 69 (thanks, game) before Terrible Things happened to my computer. I strongly suspect this bug exists due to issues in how the game covers faction deaths, because as the Cravers I had murdered the last Voydani Ark and was cleaning up stragglers.

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April 2017 Apex Magazine Now Available

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Apex Magazine April 2017-smallWalter Mosley is the author of the bestselling Easy Rawlins series, hard-boiled detective novels featuring a black private investigator in post WWII L.A. But he’s also dabbed successfuly in science fiction, with the novels Blue Light and The Wave, and the collection Futureland. So it wasn’t too much of a surprise to see a brand new Walter Mosley story in the latest issue of Apex. Here’s Stephanie Wexler’s take at Tangent Online.

Marilee Frith-DeGeorgio in “Cut, Cut, Cut” by Walter Mosley gets by creating social media advertising to pay rent, producing bad pottery and spending her days pursuing men on a date site called People for People. Pretty sure her ideal man is not her husband or her first date (body odor challenged) and then she meets Martin, man of mystery and plastic surgeon. It isn’t long before Marilee discovers Martin is too good to be true, when she is interviewed by a Detective Wade. The Detective claims he is still a subject of interest in their missing persons case. What is even stranger is Martin’s version sketches a love affair. Despite Martin’s omission, she continues to act as double agent for Detective Wade. The mystery deepens and her tryst with Martin becomes more than just a nightly romp between the sheets. She even confesses to her sister this double agent role is arousing her even more. Martin is pretty accepting of her questions and isn’t even upset that she is probing. At this point, I am committed to seeing where Marilee’s actions lead her and why Martin is so adamant that Marilee visit his lab…

Read Stephanie’s complete review here.

The April issue of Apex contains new fiction from Walter Mosley, Sheree Renée Thomas, Chesya Burke, and Kendra Fortmeyer, as well as poetry, a podcast, an editorial by guest editor Maurice Broaddus, an article on diversity by Tanya C. DePass, and interviews with Sheree Renée Thomas and cover artist Angelique Shelley.

Here’s the complete TOC, with links to all the free content.

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Vintage Treasures: Famous Fantastic Mysteries, edited by Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, Robert Weinberg, and Martin H. Greenberg

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Famous Fantastic Mysteries Weinberg-smallI spent yesterday and Friday at the Windy City Pulp and Paperback show in Lombard, Illinois, about 30 minutes from my house. And as soon as I finish this article, I’m going to scoot over there again.

I found a great many treasures at this show this year. More than usual, even. And I’m looking forward to reporting on them here. One of the more interesting was a copy of Famous Fantastic Mysteries, a 1991 pulp reprint anthology from Gramercy edited by Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, Robert Weinberg, and Martin H. Greenberg, in terrific shape, which I bought for just $5.

Famous Fantastic Mysteries was a much-beloved fantasy pulp which ran from 1939 to 1953. The publisher was Frank A. Munsey, a name well known to pulp fans. The first bi-monthly issue was cover-dated September-October 1939, and contained A. Merritt’s “The Moon Pool,” Ray Cummings’ “The Girl in the Golden Atom,” and stories by Manly Wade Wellman, Donald Wandrei, and many others. The magazine was a success, and it quickly switched from bi-monthly to monthly.

While the magazine relied chiefly on reprints, especially in the early days, it commissioned original art from many of the top artists of the day, especially Virgil Finlay and Lawrence Sterne Sevens, and today is treasured as much for the fabulous covers and interior art as the fiction.

In its 81 issues, Famous Fantastic Mysteries offered reprints of SF and fantasy pulp stories by Max Brand, E. F. Benson, Robert W. Chambers, William Hope Hodgson, Lord Dunsany, Bram Stoker, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jack London, and countless others, as well as brand new fiction from Henry Kuttner, C. L. Moore, Murray Leinster, Theodore Sturgeon, William Tenn, Margaret St. Clair, Arthur C. Clarke, Donald A. Wollheim, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, and many more. See the complete issue checklist at Galactic Central.

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Where the Time Goes by Jeffrey E. Barlough

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017 | Posted by Jackson Kuhl

Where-the-Time-Goes-smallerWhere the Time Goes
by Jeffrey E. Barlough
Gresham & Doyle (337 pages, $14.95 trade paperback, October 2016)

If you’ve been looking to jump into Jeffrey Barlough’s Western Lights series, his ninth and latest installment makes a good diving board. The books are set in a post-apocalyptic alternate history where woolly mammoths and monsters from Greek and Etruscan legend rub elbows with ghosts, spirits, and worse, but Where the Time Goes adds a third genre to the cake batter: time travel.

Philip Earnscliff, a junior partner in the firm Bagwash and Bladdergowl, has been summoned to the country estate of the elderly Hugh Calendar to put Calendar’s affairs in order; Calendar has been in a coma for some weeks and appears unlikely to recover. The lawyer spends his hours paging through Calendar’s papers, gazing out the window at a neighboring estate called the Moorings — abandoned and ruined following an accident during Calendar’s youth — and taking nightmare-plagued naps. Earnscliff has no reason to think anything is amiss, at least not until he walks in upon Miss Carswell, Calendar’s young and attractive acquaintance, with a syringe full of sleeping elixir stuck between Calendar’s lips. Soon enough Earnscliff finds himself back in time, trying to repair the tragedies of the past while, as a side quest, solving the mystery of a local serial killer that strikes every six years.

It’s been a long strange trip for Barlough’s Western Lights since their 2000 debut, Dark Sleeper. The early books with Ace were sinister and Gothic, yet since moving to Gresham & Doyle they’ve generally trended toward cozy mysteries with supernatural elements. 2011’s A Tangle in Slops was more Midsummer Night’s comedy than horror; and the last two installments — What I Found at Hoole and The Cobbler of Ridingham — could have been written by the lovechild of Agatha Christie and M.R. James.

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Robin Hobb Wraps Up the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy with Assassin’s Fate

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Fool's Assassin-small Fool's Quest-small Assassin's Fate-small

Two decades ago Robin Hobb (who also writes fantasy as Megan Lindholm) burst on the scene with her debut the Farseer Trilogy (Assassin’s Apprentice, Royal Assassin, and Assassin’s Quest). They were almost immediately successful, and by 2003 Robin Hobb had sold over a million copies of her first nine novels.

The Farseer Trilogy is the first-person narrative of FitzChivalry Farseer, the illegitimate son of a prince, and his adventures with an enigmatic character called the Fool. The story continued in the Tawny Man Trilogy (Fool’s Errand, The Golden Fool, and Fool’s Fate), and in 2013 Hobb announced she would pick up the tale decades later with the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy. The first two books are now in print in both hardcover and paperback, and the third and final volume arrives in hardcover next month. So for those of you who hang on until a series is complete to start the first book, the long wait is finally over.

Fool’s Assassin (667 pages, $28 hardcover, $8.99 paperback, $7.99 digital, August 12, 2014)
Fool’s Quest (784 pages, $28 hardcover, $8.99 paperback, $7.99 digital, August 11, 2015)
Assassin’s Fate (864 pages, $32 hardcover, $14.99 digital, May 9, 2017)

All three are published by Del Rey, with covers by Alejandro Colucci.

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Guile by Constance Cooper Now Available in Paperback

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Guile Constance Cooper paperback-smallWe’re always proud when a Black Gate author breaks out to wider success in the publishing world. That happened with Constance Cooper’s Guile, her debut novel set in the same world — and drawing on the same characters — as her acclaimed story “The Wily Thing” from Black Gate 12.

Guile was published in hardcover by Clarion Books last year. Here’s Sarah Avery from her BG review.

In the town of Wicked Ford, an orphan girl with a secret claim on high town respectability but a history in a bayou stilt village lives under an assumed name and a false claim. Yonie makes her living as a pearly, an assessor of magical objects… she’s a self-taught antiquarian with a brilliant eye for detail, but to detect and diagnose magic, she needs the help of her business partner the talking cat…

Guile is a remarkable layerwork of mysteries. From the seemingly trivial and isolated mysteries about enchanted lockets and street signs that Yonie and LaRue solve for their daily subsistence, a larger pattern emerges that demands investigation. Mysteries of personal origin run beneath them, and every relationship Yonie has with kin, allies, friends, and suitors will be changed one way or another by the end of the book. Deepest of all runs the mystery of the river’s magic and the fallen civilizations that once understood it.

Constance Cooper’s debut novel delighted me from start to finish. The worldbuilding feels thoroughly lived in, as if we could step ahead of Yonie around any corner or shrub and something amazing would already be there for us to find. The characters are richly imagined individuals, and together they add up to a social world that is both kinder and more dangerous than Yonie ever guessed. The plot runs like the river delta it’s set in, its streams parting and rejoining and braiding around obstacles until it runs clear to its conclusion.

Read Sarah’s complete review here..

The paperback edition of Guile is now avaiable from HMH Books. It was published on March 14, 2017. It is 384 pages, priced at $9.99 for both the trade paperback and digital editions.

Talislanta Returns!

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones


s back with a new Kickstarter, and if you love great world building, you need this book. Trust me on this. Really. Go buy it.

If you INSIST on hearing more reasons why, though, I’ll make my argument. And as an added treat, after extolling this wonderful game world I’ll show you an interview I conducted with Talisanta‘s creator, the brilliant Steven Sechi.

If you’ve never seen me gush over a Talislanta product here on Black Gate it’s because Talislanta has been out of print for a long while — since before I became the games editor of the print version of Black Gate. That doesn’t mean I haven’t mentioned it from time to time, usually when praising some other product. Occasionally I’ve felt compelled to say, owing to a product’s excellence, that “it’s the best world building I’ve seen since Talislanta.”

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Peplum Populist: Hercules, Samson & Ulysses

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

hercules-samson-ulysses-posterThe “versus film” has been with us for decades, even if “vs.” didn’t show up in early movie titles like Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. Audiences crave watching cinematic legends smash into each other in duels to the death — or duels to the mutual understanding. Alien vs. Predator, Freddy vs. Jason, Batman v[s]. Superman, King Kong vs. Godzilla (soon ready for a rematch), Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (this really happened), Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper (a number of occasions), and Dollman vs. The Demonic Toys. Bring up anything involving the SyFy Channel and sharks and you get hurt.

Italian sword-and-sandal (peplum) films couldn’t resist putting titans of the ancient world into the ring together, and there’s no finer example than 1963’s Hercules, Samson & Ulysses. The Italian title translates as “Hercules Challenges Samson,” in case you needed to know who goes up against whom and who is hanging around as the sidekick.

When it comes to peplum-as-pulp, Hercules, Samson & Ulysses is the real deal. Appearing at the point in the genre’s evolution when sword-and-sandal films either went stale or went silly, HS&U falls solidly on the positive silly side. It’s an outrageous actioner that knows exactly what its audience wants to see and delivers 100% on the promise of watching two legendary supermen batter each other in muscular absurdity. It may not be the best sword-and-sandal film, but it’s one of the most entertaining. This is the peplum film to watch if most of the genre’s other offerings don’t grab you.

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Total Pulp Victory: Windy City Pulp & Paper, Part II

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Horror on the Asteroid at Windy City Pulp 2016-small

Horror on the Asteroid, and other fabulous treasures

Happy Saturday morning everyone!

I leaped out of bed this morning, and hastily started packing up to head out to the Windy City Pulp and Paperback show in nearby Lombard, IL. I spent most of the day there yesterday, catching up with Jason Waltz, Arin Komins, Rich Warren, David Willoughby, Bob Garcia, Doug Ellis, and many other old friends… and more than a few fellow happy buyers and sellers.

I also found more than a few treasures, including a seller in the back with an absolutely gorgeous collection of 1970s and 80s science fiction paperbacks that looked glossy and flawless. He was asking $2 each, in many cases less than the original cover price, so it was like stepping back in time and plucking brand new books by Roger Zelanzy, Sherri Tepper, H. Beam Piper, P.C. Hodgell, Gene Wolfe, and Robert E. Howard off the shelves. I even found a complete set of M. John Harrison’s Viriconium sequence, which Fletcher Vredenburgh enthusiastically wrote up here at Black Gate. I spent a small fortune at that booth alone, and it took a few trips back to the car to carry all my bags.

Windy City has the kind of treasures I cannot find anywhere else, like rare Arkham House collections and early issues of Weird Tales, and even a copy of the first collection by my favorite pulp writer, Edmond Hamilton’s The Horror on the Asteroid and Other Tales of Planetary Horror, published in hardcover by Philip Allan in 1936. I’ve only seen one copy in my entire life, and that was at last year’s show, resting on a table among dozens of other near-priceless volumes, like early first editions of Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert A Heinlein, Fritz Leiber, C.L. Moore, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and lots more (click the image above for a closer look).

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Books and Craft: World Building and the Importance of Setting

Friday, April 21st, 2017 | Posted by David B. Coe

Tigana Anniversary Edition-small Tigana Anniversary Edition-back-small

After a longer hiatus than I had a intended, I am back with the second in my Books and Craft series of articles on the elements of story telling that make “classic” and “must-read novels”… well, classic and must-read. In my first entry, I wrote about Nicola Griffith’s science fiction masterpiece, Slow River, and Griffith’s innovative use of point of view.

Today, I turn to one of my favorite fantasy novels: Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana, a stand-alone epic fantasy (that rarest of all things), which first appeared in print in 1990. I actually referred to this book in my first column, while making a point that bears repeating. As with Slow River, there is no one craft element of Tigana that makes it a successful novel. Kay displays here the command of language and pacing, character development and narrative arc his readers have come to expect. Another observer might focus on one of these, or some other facet of his work, to explain why they love this novel — or any of the others he has penned in a spectacular career that now spans more than three decades.

But to my mind, the defining characteristic of Tigana, the one that established it as my favorite fantasy when I first read it so many years ago, is its magnificent world building. In creating the Palm, a hand-shaped landmass of rival kingdoms that is somewhat reminiscent of medieval Mediterranean Europe, Kay has blended religion and ritual, history and politics, cuisine and viticulture and music and art, into something so rich, so alive, so compelling, that the reader cannot help but be transported with each cracking of the book’s spine. All that unfolds in Tigana’s pages flows from this sense of place.

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