New Treasures: The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein

Monday, July 31st, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Punch Escrow-smallThe Punch Escrow is Tal M. Klein’s debut novel, but it’s getting a lot more attention than most first novels get. It won the reader-voted Geek & Sundry Hard Science Contest last year, and the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog called it “the smartest sci-fi thriller of the summer.” And Kirkus says “It’s hard to say enough good things about this hard-science future thriller with humor and heart ― an excellent debut.”

It arrived last week in trade paperback from Inkshares. Here’s the description.

It’s the year 2147. Advancements in nanotechnology have enabled us to control aging. We’ve genetically engineered mosquitoes to feast on carbon fumes instead of blood, ending air pollution. And teleportation has become the ideal mode of transportation, offered exclusively by International Transport ― the world’s most powerful corporation, in a world controlled by corporations.

Joel Byram spends his days training artificial-intelligence engines to act more human and trying to salvage his deteriorating marriage. He’s pretty much an everyday twenty-second century guy with everyday problems ― until he’s accidentally duplicated while teleporting.

Now Joel must outsmart the shadowy organization that controls teleportation, outrun the religious sect out to destroy it, and find a way to get back to the woman he loves in a world that now has two of him.

Read an excerpt at

The Punch Escrow was published by Inkshares on July 25, 2017. It is 356 pages, priced at $14.99 in trade paperback and $7.99 in digital formats. The cover was designed by M.S. Corley.

See all our recent New Treasures here.

The Hilarity of the Strange: The Man Underneath: The Collected Short Fiction of R. A. Lafferty, Volume 3

Monday, July 31st, 2017 | Posted by Steve Case

The Man Underneath The Collected Short Fiction of R. A. Lafferty Volume 3-smallThe Man Underneath: The Collected Short Fiction, Volume Three
Centipede Press (368 pages, $100 deluxe hardcover, April 5, 2016)

He laid down a road paved with bright, deadpan madness for us to walk, mouths agape and eyes wide with wonder and trepidation.
– from the introduction by Bud Webster

Let’s talk about R. A. Lafferty. You may have heard of him before: a wild, raggedy old man from Tulsa, Oklahoma, whose work showed up in magazines and the pulps from the sixties to the eighties, who ranged through conventions for a while (according to legends always polite and often drunk), and whose writings rode the New Wave through its crest and recession.

Lafferty had a style that was utterly unique and impossible to imitate. (People have tried.) His short stories were difficult to categorize, and his novels were nearly impossible to read. Nowadays his work is largely out of print and hard to find. His short fiction is scattered across a hundred shores of old magazines, obscure chap-books, and out of print collections. A few of the more well-known ones, like “Narrow Valley,” turn up now and again in anthologies, but the majority are lost, and so one of the strangest, strongest, most distinctive voices from speculative American fiction comes through, if at all, garbled and faint and haunting.

All of this has changed with the publication by Centipede Press of the Collected Short Fiction of R. A. Lafferty, an ongoing series of gorgeous small press books of which the third volume is out and the fourth is on the way. When I say gorgeous, I mean well-designed hardcovers with cloth ribbon and a price point for serious collectors or for library purchase. (Making friends with librarians is my strategy for getting ahold of books like these.) But each volume succeeds in capturing and displaying the varied short stories of Lafferty, splaying them out on the page like a bizarre and beautiful Lepidoptera collection. Lafferty is most alive in his stories, and the random structure of each collection, which are not organized by chronological or any other logical arrangement, means you can step into a good representation of his work with any volume.

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Vintage Treasures: A Sense of Wonder, edited by Sam Moskowitz

Sunday, July 30th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

A Sense of Wonder John Wyndham-small A Sense of Wonder John Wyndham-back-small

Here’s a great example of the kind of book I miss most in today’s market: A Sense of Wonder, a three-novella anthology published in 1967, and reprinted in paperback multiple times in the UK by New English Library.

Why do I miss it? Because it collects three classic pulp tales from three famous pulp authors, and it introduced new readers to the great writers of the pulps in a handsome and inexpensive format. It’s exactly the kind of impulse purchase I would have snatched off the racks in 1987, the year the edition above was released.

Mass market anthologies are virtually gone from today’s shelves — and especially anthologies that showcase authors like John Wyndham, Murray Leinster, and Jack Williamson.

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The Intolerable Sorrow of the Absence of Faith: The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

Sunday, July 30th, 2017 | Posted by Damien Moore

The-Loney-smallerFaith damages even its most ardent adherents. In no other work of literature have I learned about this more than The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley. Critics have hailed it as a masterpiece of Gothic literature. For those who balk at the categorization of modern books as “classics, I guarantee that once you read The Loney, your first thought will be, “Why wasn’t this written earlier?” It would have likely had a similar reception in the 1970s, the decade in which the story begins.

Smith, who never reveals his true name to the reader, comes from a troubled family. His brother Hanny has been mute for most of his life. Despite his shortcomings, Hanny gets through the day with help from his dearest companion, his brother, and the language they share with various inanimate objects.

However well Hanny goes about the business of living, their mother seeks to cure him of his muteness. Every Easter the family, accompanied by their faithful congregation, takes a pilgrimage to the unbearably bleak coast of Lancashire where there exists a holy shrine. When the family decides once again to visit the desolate coastline in order to elicit a cure, they descend into a waking nightmare so haunting, it may stay with you your whole life.

Hurley has a masterful way of introducing his readers to the superstitions that have governed the lives of believers for generations. He instills them into the flesh and bones of the inhabitants of the Loney. Readers with a keen eye for foreshadowing may glean the intentions of the villagers that the family first encounters with the ease of seasoned detectives. But even so, their machinations and the way in which they go about fulfilling their sacred duties has the power to gut you.

So, too, does the story of Father Wilfred, the former head of the family’s congregation. Hurley renders the man’s dissolution of faith after bearing witness to the effects of a traumatic ordeal with breathtaking clarity. It becomes a stark commentary on the silence of the divine.

Silence acts as the novel’s principle theme: the silence of the mysterious house in which the family stays, shrouded in unspeakable horrors distilled in their purest form; the silence of Hanny, forced to participate in the degrading ritual meant to cleanse him of his muteness; the silence of Father Bernard, the new head of the the congregation, on the death of his predecessor and his own past. That he calls Smith ‘Tonto,’ faithful companion of the Lone Ranger, acts as its own form of silence. Though he acts as the devoted companion of his brother, Smith can never rid himself of feeling helplessly alone in his conviction of the Loney’s unholy power.

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Andrew Liptak on 16 SF, Fantasy, and Horror Books to Read in July

Saturday, July 29th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Harbors of the Sun Martha Wells-small Tomorrow's Kin Nancy Kress-small Bannerless Carrie Vaughn small

By my count, there are two days left in July. If I don’t sleep for the next two days, and ignore e-mail and the phone, I may be able salvage some of my July reading plan.

Of course, that assumes I don’t discover a new batch of enticing July titles. And with Andrew Liptak on the job, chances of that are slim. Over at The Verge, he’s compiled a list of 16 science fiction, fantasy, and horror books to read this July, featuring space operas, superheroes, and fantasies. It includes a new novel from one of the most popular authors to appear in Black Gate, the marvelous Martha Wells, a Nazi superhero thriller from Kay Kenyon, the opening novel in a new trilogy from Nancy Kress, a post-apocalyptic murder mystery from the brilliant Carrie Vaughn, and the saga of a San Francisco superheroine by Sarah Kuhn.

Let’s see what Andrew has for us.

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Fantasia Focus 2017: Atomic Blonde

Saturday, July 29th, 2017 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Atomic BlondeI’ve been swamped by movies since the 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival began, and that’s left me with no time to write about the things I’ve seen. It looks like those reviews will start coming next week, after the festival ends. But on Wednesday I saw a movie that’s getting a wide release this weekend, and on the off chance what I have to say might be useful to anybody trying to plan their weekend, I thought I’d abandon my usual diary format to say a few words about Atomic Blonde.

The movie’s officially the directorial debut of longtime stunt coordinator David Leitch, who also directed some of the scenes in John Wick. He’s working here with a script from Kurt Johnstad, who wrote (among other things) the screenplays for 300 and 300: Rise of an Empire. This is another comic adaptation, based on The Coldest City, a 180-page graphic novel written by Antony Johnston, drawn by Sam Hart, and published in 2012 by Oni Press; a prequel, Dead of Winter, came out last year with art by Steven Perkins.

Atomic Blonde is set in November, 1989, as MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is sent to Berlin to get an East German defector across to the West, and recover a list of double agents. She also has to investigate the recent murder of another British agent, and work out how much she can trust the British station chief in Berlin, the manic David Percival (James McAvoy). This isn’t an espionage thriller, though, not really. This is an action film, and the violence starts early and recurs often as Broughton goes about her mission. Does the whole thing work?

Yes and no. I found the action scenes were strong and inventive. The clear highlight is an extended long-take fight scene in the middle of the movie that moves from brutal to comic and back again. Like a lot of the fights, there’s an engaging mix of martial-arts fluidity, improvised weapons, gunplay, and unexpected reversals. Punches and kicks land with satisfying weight, if not consequence. Theron’s Broughton wears more and more of the marks of her combats as the film goes along, but these bruises and scars merely nod faintly toward reality. This is an action movie, and there’s a slickness to the action that keeps it engaging, if rarely at the level of the one-take set-piece. You don’t care about the plausibility of Theron fighting in high heels because she’s visually coded as very nearly a super-hero: always in immaculate black-and-white costumes (rarely grey in non-fighting sequences), always lit and framed as the larger-than-life lead.

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Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar Saga: Land of Terror

Saturday, July 29th, 2017 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

land-of-terror-john-coleman-burroughs-first-edition-coverHere we are. The sixth book in the Pellucidar series, about which its author had this to say: “Perhaps the trouble is that it is one of a series which should have been concluded with the last story instead of trying to carry on without any logical reason.”

Oh boy. What I do next I take no pleasure in. I want to like Edgar Rice Burroughs novels. Sometimes it’s fun to shred up a terrible movie or book, and sometimes it’s simply the easier analytical path. But kicking writers you love when they’re down … that feels ugly. If you’ve never read an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel before, maybe go try this, or this, or how about this, and skip what I’ve written below. Seriously, I would never, ever, want to discourage someone from reading the works of one of the twentieth century’s great imaginative spinners of tales.

For those of you sticking around, hey, thanks plenty for wanting to read my analyses of ERB. Whenever we want to feel good about Edgar Rice Burroughs, we have a dozen or so classics we can pick up and — bam! — transported to wondrous realms of infinite adventure. So after reading this article, I recommend you pick one of your personal favorite Burroughs novels. I’m feeling the urge to return to The Land That Time Forgot. I adore that book, and I haven’t read it in a few years.

Yes, I’m stalling.

Our Saga: Beneath our feet lies a realm beyond the most vivid daydreams of the fantastic … Pellucidar. A subterranean world formed along the concave curve inside the earth’s crust, surrounding an eternally stationary sun that eliminates the concept of time. A land of savage humanoids, fierce beasts, and reptilian overlords, Pellucidar is the weird stage for adventurers from the topside layer — including a certain Lord Greystoke. The series consists of six novels, one which crosses over with the Tarzan series, plus a volume of linked novellas, published between 1914 and 1963.

Today’s Installment: Land of Terror (1944)

Previous Installments: At the Earth’s Core (1914), Pellucidar (1915), Tanar of Pellucidar (1929), Tarzan at the Earth’s Core (1929–30), Back to the Stone Age (1937)

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In 500 Words or Less: Flesh and Artifice by Jaleigh Johnson

Friday, July 28th, 2017 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

Flesh and Artifice-smallFlesh and Artifice
By Jaleigh Johnson
The Ed Greenwood Group (86 pages, $5.99 eBook, January 2017)

Pro tip: magic is dangerous and unpredictable. You might want to be the next Gandalf, but every type of magic in every fictional world out there carries its share of risks, and even an experienced practitioner can stumble and find themselves blown up, trapped in a pocket dimension, or awakened on a wooden table with a raven’s wing for an arm and two other creatures sharing space in your brain. That last one might seem difficult to imagine, but it’s one of the core premises of Flesh and Artifice, a novella by fantasy writer Jaleigh Johnson in the world of Stormtalons, created by Ed Greenwood.

(Full disclosure: I have a Stormtalons short story published by TEGG, too, but one of my cardinal blogging rules is to be 100% honest and as unbiased as possible in my reviews – which I hope has come across in previous posts, and continues here.)

Being part of the shared Stormtalons universe, Flesh and Artifice has to play by certain rules. One of the best things about Johnson’s writing, though, is that she manages to make everything you need to know about this world clear without any “as you know, Bob” moments or info-dumps; instead, specific bits of information are woven into the narrative where required without breaking the flow.

What surprised me about so short a work is Johnson’s ability to keep the narrative moving and make the characters clear and relatable without missing many beats. If anything, I wish Flesh and Artifice had been longer… not because I feel like there are things missing, but because I wanted to see more of what these characters are capable of and where their journeys might take them next.

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July 2017 Nightmare Magazine Now on Sale

Friday, July 28th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

NIghtmare Magazine July 2017-smallThe July 2017 issue of Nightmare is now available, with original fiction from Caspian Gray and Caroline Ratajski, and reprints by Stephen Graham Jones and Cynthia Ward. Here’s Valerie A. Lindsey from Tangent Online:

“Promises of Spring” by Caspian Gray opens with Cody asking his high school friend, Tay, to help him stop some high school kids from summoning the witch that granted three of them their desires during a bloody ritual. Gray illustrates the high cost of making wishes without understanding how high the true cost will be. Fortunately, the one who suffered the most is able to make the best wish of all…

Caroline Ratajski’s “And With Her Went the Spring” captured my interest from the first evocative sentences. The story seems to open as you would expect with grieving parents and an outraged town, but it soon becomes more. The story moves smoothly from what happened to the viewpoints of the boy and the dead girl. The missing girl refuses to accept her fate meekly and becomes a retributive force for herself and all the girls before her.

Read her complete review here.

There’s also an editorial from John Joseph Adams (which includes a cover reveal for all of his 2017 titles at John Joseph Adams Books), the latest installment of “The H Word” (Nathan Carson shares the creepy truth about goats), author spotlights, and a feature interview with Donnie Darko’s Richard Kelly.

The complete contests of the issue are listed below.

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Goth Chick News: Comics (and Potentially You) Get Dragged…

Thursday, July 27th, 2017 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Black Gate Goth Chick News ComicCon 2017

Sometimes, horror-related or not, a story is just too good not to share.

With the Chicago Comic Con still a few weeks off, the GCN staff has been glued to our screens watching all the going’s on at the mother-of-all cons, the San Diego Comic Con (SDCC for you cool kids) which wrapped up last Sunday.

Like any comic con, when you get this many people with this much…uh…passion together in one place, there are bound to be shenanigans. However the big surprise this year didn’t come to us courtesy of an over-enthusiastic cosplayer after too many adult beverages mixed with Red Bull, but instead from what has become a consistent player on the stage of WTF…the airline industry.

After gaining infamy from their “aggressive” removal of a passenger from a flight earlier this year, United Airlines prevented passengers leaving the SDCC via San Diego International, from carrying comic books in their checked baggage.

No, I’m not kidding.

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