In Defense of an Abominable Personage: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017 | Posted by Damien Moore

Perfume the Story of a Murderer film 2-small

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Constantin Film, 2006)

When someone tells you to pick a favorite book, and you’re the type of person who reads with a gnawing ache for a good story, selecting just one can prove daunting. Not so for yours truly.

One day my mom, out of the profound goodness of her heart, surprised me with a spontaneous visit to Half Price Books. There she gave me the gift of Perfume: the Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind. I fell in love with it the way you fall for the love of your life; a part of me that had hitherto hidden from my reach sewed itself into the fabric of my heart.

I wasn’t accustomed to reading books in which the implied Devil’s spawn lures you through the pages. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, the anchor of the novel, has the misfortune of assuming this role due to his absence of a human scent. He thus embarks on a treacherously erotic quest for the perfect odor that can disguise him as an ordinary person.

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Coptic Heritage in Cairo

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


A stained glass window using small bits of colored glass in a plaster
framework. Mosques and private houses also use this style of
decoration, although the mosques don’t include crosses, of course

While Egypt’s ancient civilization is the main draw for visiting the country, I find its medieval and modern history equally fascinating. Cairo is full of historic monuments. Minarets built a thousand years ago rise above the honking traffic, old houses from the Ottoman period are nestled in quiet back alleys, and a medieval citadel looks out over the city.

Many of Cairo’s most interesting historic sites are Christian. Early in Christian history, Egypt started a distinct tradition of worship that developed into what is now known as Coptic Christianity. The Coptic church traces its origins back to 50 AD, when Saint Mark visited the country and established the Church of Alexandria. The word “Copt” comes from the ancient Greek word for Egypt, “Aigyptos.”

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It’s Not Too Late to Catch Up on Your May Reading (But You’re Cutting it Close)

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Injection Burn Jason Hough-small Mormama Kit Reed-small Shadows & Tall Trees 7-small

Well here we are, the last day of May. And you know what that means: the usual recriminations and blame for not getting all my reading done. Might as well get this over with.

If you’re like me, you made a good run at it this month, but were defeated by the sheer volume of top-notch fiction in May. How do we know about all the good stuff we missed? Because we have the tireless John DeNardo, the most connected man in the industry, to keep us fully briefed. John excels at his self-appointed task… which is chiefly to make me look bad, but it at least has the added benefit of cataloging the best new fiction every month. This month John highlights new books by Robin Hobb, Gregory Benford, Robert Jackson Bennett, Mike Carey, Jason M. Hough, Faith Hunter, Gini Koch, Foz Meadows, Chelsea Mueller and many others.

Here’s the complete list of the Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror Reads in May, according to John DeNardo.

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New Treasures: Pawn: A Chronicle of the Sibyl’s War by Timothy Zahn

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Pawn Timothy Zahn-smallOne of the many things I love about is their editorial independence. Tor Books just published Timothy’s Zahn’s new novel Pawn, the opening volume in a brand new space opera series, while over at, Liz Bourke’s review calls it “a rather bland and textureless experience. While there are hints of a thriller-plot and a deeper mystery within the text, and while Zahn puts together a perfectly acceptable string of adventure-story set-pieces, there’s very little depth.” You gotta love an editorial team willing to damn the torpedoes and diss their own books.

Anyway, Timothy Zahn is a superstar, and one lukewarm review is not going to dissuade his legion of fans. It certainly didn’t dissuade me — I read and enjoyed Zahn’s 1983 novel Blackcollar, and that (plus my fondness for his short stories) was enough to convince me to pick up a copy. Zahn, the author of the bestselling Star Wars novel Heir to the Empire and its sequels, knows his way around space opera.

Nicole Lee’s life is going nowhere. No family, no money, and stuck in a relationship with a thug named Bungie. But, after one of Bungie’s “deals” goes south, he and Nicole are whisked away by a mysterious moth-like humanoid to a strange ship called the Fyrantha.

Once aboard, life on the ship seems too good to be true. All she has to do is work on one of the ship’s many maintenance crews. However, she learned long ago that nothing comes without a catch. When she’s told to keep quiet and stop asking questions, she knows she is on to something.

Nicole soon discovers that many different factions are vying for control of the Fyrantha, and she and her friends are merely pawns in a game beyond their control. But, she is tired of being used, and now Nicole is going to fight.

Pawn: A Chronicle of the Sibyl’s War was published by Tor Books on May 2, 2017. It is 347 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Stephen Youll. Read an excerpt at

May 2017 Apex Magazine Now Available

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Apex Magazine May 2017-smallRocket Stack Rank gives Evan Dicken’s “How Lovely Is the Silence of Growing Things” three stars, saying:

The world is ending, but Kate and her daughter Mel survive by hiding in the basement during the day eating peanut-butter-and-spider sandwiches… Plenty of action. Plenty of tension.

Intriguing, although it’s not much of a story description. I prefer Jason McGregor’s review at Tangent Online, which has a more off-the-wall summary:

I could describe a lot of the surrealistic details about the sun turning green and poets hanging around like bats and centipedes fighting at Ohio Stadium but, basically, this is about a kid and one of her two mothers running around in a sort of nightmare…

Read Jason’s complete review here.

The May issue of Apex contains new fiction from Evan Dicken, E. Catherine Tobler, and Karen Lord, as well as a reprint by John Chu, a podcast, an editorial by Jason Sizemore, short fiction reviews by A.C. Wise, an article on writing by Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem, plus interviews with Evan Dicken, Stephen Korshak, Robert J. Sawyer, and cover artist Marcela Bolívar.

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

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Stories from a S&S Griot: Nyumbani Tales by Charles R. Saunders

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

“I am going to tell a story,” the griot says.
“Ya-ngani!” the crowd responds, meaning “Right!”
“It may be a lie.”
“But not everything in it is false.”
The griot begins his tale.

                                       from “Amma” by Charles R. Saunders

oie_2919383060rtzPRDFor those unfortunates unacquainted with Charles R. Saunders and the tales he’s woven, you can read plenty about them here at Black Gate. Suffice it to say he is called the father of sword & soul. Starting in the 1970s, he took the elements of swords & sorcery — mighty heroes, beautiful women, monsters, deadly magic, and more monsters — and turned them to his own purpose.

A fan of sci fi and fantasy growing up in the 1950s and 60s, by the time he graduated college in 1968, he was frustrated with a lot of what he was reading. As he recounted in an interview with Amy Harlib in The Zone:

I began to realise that in the SF and fantasy genre, blacks were, with only few exceptions, either left out or depicted in racist and stereotypic ways. I had a choice: I could either stop reading SF and fantasy, or try to do something about my dissatisfaction with it by writing my own stories and trying to get them published. I chose the latter course.

It was to the great benefit of heroic fantasy that Saunders made the choice he did. In addition to helping expand the horizons of the genre beyond the European settings that dominated it back then, he also created two monumental characters.

Imaro is the outcast warrior who eventually finds his destiny as champion against the forces of evil. Dossouye is an exiled warrior-woman from the kingdom of Abomey. The stories and novels featuring Imaro and Dossouye belong on the shelves of any S&S fan. If you haven’t read them yet, I suggest you snag copies of Imaro: Book I and Dossouye, clear off whatever else you’re reading, and get started.

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The Return of a Classic Fantasy Hero: A Review of T.C. Rypel’s Dark Ventures

Monday, May 29th, 2017 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Gonji 6 DARK VENTURES-small Gonji 6 DARK VENTURES-back-small

Dark Ventures by T.C. Rypel
Wildside Press (212 pages, $14.99 in paperback/$4,99 digital, March 16, 2017)
Original cover painting by film director Larry Blamire (The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra)

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, many authors were churning out their own versions of big, iron-muscled barbarian heroes like Conan of Cimmeria. There were exceptions, of course, like Michael Moorcock, Fritz Leiber, and Jack Vance, to name three authors I’ve always favored. But then along came T.C. Rypel, who hit the ground running with something different, something uniquely his own… his character of Sabatake Gonji-no-Sadowara, the half Scandinavian and half Japanese samurai.

Gonji was truly a breath of fresh air in the genre of Sword and Sorcery, although I think Rypel’s novel are much more epic and actually closer to Heroic Fantasy in scope and theme. His setting wasn’t some imaginary world filled with ancient gods, powerful warlocks and fanciful kingdoms, but was instead deeply rooted in and around Romania and the Carpathian Mountains of the 16th century. Perhaps a parallel world, but close enough to the Europe of that era to lend it a flavor of historical reality. Besides the non-barbaric character of Gonji, who was introspective, poetic, and humble, as well as a total bad ass with a sly sense of humor, what also set Rypel’s novels apart from so many others was the fact that he worked gunpowder and firearms into his stories, right along with the sorcery and creatures and other elements of the fantastic. And like Robert E Howard’s Solomon Kane before him, Rypel made it all work, too.

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Fantasy Warriors and Plastic Toy Soldiers on Memorial Day

Monday, May 29th, 2017 | Posted by Nick Ozment

gijoe-treasury-edition-special-page-01Black Gate is a site devoted to fantasy and science fiction, and an inordinate amount of fantasy and science fiction is devoted to soldiers, warriors, barbarians, slaughter and destruction. Which I’m all for in my fiction.

Today, though, here in the United States, we observe Memorial Day and remember real soldiers and fallen warriors. So, if you don’t mind, for the blog today I am posting the transcript of the speech I delivered this morning at the Memorial Day service in Elgin, Minnesota. It is short (I kept it to one page). And if you came here looking for your daily dose of fantasy, don’t worry — the speech contains at least one reference to ghosts and alternate realities (How could it not? It is a speech by Oz)…

I brought a plastic army man with me today because I want to talk about the grim knowledge we gain as we grow up, the understanding that comes along with putting aside childish things. When I was a boy — my son’s age, and he loves to play with army men — we’d set them up and knock them over. Make our gun and explosion noises, like we’d learned from the movies. It was all right; they’re just pieces of plastic.

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Future Treasures: The Wayward Children Trilogy by Seanan McGuire

Monday, May 29th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Every-Heart-a-Doorway_Seanan-McGuire-small Down Among the Sticks and Bones-small Beneath the Sugar Sky-small Publishing has had some stellar successes recently. Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti won both the Nebula Award and Hugo Award for Best Novella, and this year the line received six Nebula nominations and five Hugo nods… pretty extravagant results for a publishing imprint that’s not even two years old.

Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway, published by last April, received both a Hugo and a Nebula nomination this year, and just last week it won the Nebula Award for Best Novella. In her BG review last year, Elizabeth Cady said:

A departure from McGuire’s usual fare, Every Heart a Doorway is a bittersweet twist on conventional fantasy that neither shies from more dwells on the darker side of our encounters with the fantastic…

Out in the countryside exists a boarding school for unusual children… Each student at Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children has accidentally stumbled into an otherworld and then returned home to find themselves so changed that they can no longer fit in at home. Some of them are heartbroken at being kicked out of paradise. Some of them are traumatized by what they experienced there. Most of them hope to return to their individual worlds, somehow, by finding their Door again.

We find our own Door into this school through Nancy, a young woman who has just returned from one of several Lands of the Dead. Shortly after her arrival, another student is found dead and Nancy, along with her newly made friends, must find the killer before the school is closed or they become the next victims… I was very pleasantly surprised by this little gem of a book.

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Buried Alive: Rufina Cambaceres and Forgotten Histories

Monday, May 29th, 2017 | Posted by Carrie Patel

La Recoleta Cemetery 4-small

Cemeteries are fascinating places. It’s no surprise that they’re the source of so many stories about hauntings and other mysterious happenings. In them, we’re surrounded with fragments of stories — names, dates, and brief inscriptions about who these people were and what might have been important about them. It’s a meager summation of a life, but it’s in these blank spaces that our minds invent stories.

One of my favorite cemeteries — and the one that inspired the underground city of Recoletta — is the La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The grand mausoleums and the cobbled lanes in between them make it look like an old, quiet city in miniature. And, like any city, it’s brimming with stories.

To me, the most interesting story from La Recoleta isn’t about the writers, Nobel laureates, or presidents buried there. It isn’t even about Eva Perón. Rather, it concerns Rufina Cambaceres, a young socialite who died in 1902.

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