The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in July

Sunday, August 27th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill


Conan, and his creator Robert E. Howard, are perpetually popular topics at Black Gate. Our top blog post last month was M. Harold Page’s “Why isn’t Conan a Mary Sue?” followed by James McGlothlin’s review of two Howard biographies. Freelancers looking for topic suggestions: you can’t go wrong with Robert E. Howard!

The third most popular article last month was our report on the best readings at the Wiscon science fiction convention in May, followed by Ryan Harvey’s review of the 1985 film The Return of Godzilla. Rounding out the Top Five was an update on the second issue of the excellent new magazine Occult Detective Quarterly.

Sixth was our look at the Bantam Spectra Omnibus editions of Robert Silverberg, followed by Derek Kunsken’s list of the best hard science fiction he’s read in the past decade, “Any Sufficiently Advanced Technology…” Coming in at #7 was Matt Drought’s breakdown of the differences between Microsoft’s Xbox One and the PS4 Pro, followed by an examination of one of Gardner Dozois’s best anthologies, Modern Classics of Fantasy. Closing out the Top Ten for the month was our survey of Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series.

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Galaxy Science Fiction November 1969: A Retro-Review

Sunday, August 27th, 2017 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

Galaxy Science Fiction November 1969-small Galaxy Science Fiction November 1969 back cover-small

This is Part 2 of a Decadal Review of vintage science fiction magazines published in November 1969. The articles are:

Amazing Stories, November 1969
Galaxy Science Fiction, November 1969
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November 1969
Worlds of If, November 1969
Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, November 1969

Cover by Gaughan, the TOC notes that it was “Suggested from Downward to the Earth.”

Editorial, “Brain Pollution” by Ejler Jakobsson. This delves straight into race issues, in a kind of winking/new-wavy way. There was, it would seem, an article or articles on IQ tests between blacks and whites making waves, with Jakobssen quoting an editorial by John W. Campbell.

If they, (the blacks) basic intelligence pattern is of a different type — naturally it’s harder for them to fit into the Scholarly type that Caucasoids developed — with unquestionable and world-shaking success — so that although they’ve been working into Western culture for as long as time as the Scots, they haven’t been able to fit in anywhere near as well.

Jackobsson doesn’t agree, or at least I don’t think he does. His weird addled-fanboy style makes it hard to tell if he disagrees with the fundamental IQ test issue, or just the way J.W.C. stated it. The former… I think.

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New Treasures: Halls of Law by V. M. Escalada

Saturday, August 26th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Halls of Law VM Escalada-smallOur Friday blogger Violette Malan, author of the Dhulyn and Parno fantasy novels, has just launched an ambitious new series, the Faraman Prophecy, under the name V. M. Escalada. Violette talked about writing under a pseudonym in her most recent article for us, “What’s in a Name?

I have to admit that when my agent first suggested I use a penname, my immediate reaction was unfavourable. There are all kinds of reasons for such a suggestion, however, some of which I touched on in a previous post. Today, I’d like to talk about the actual, practical experience…

My first concern? What explanation do I give people who know me, personally? After all, people who have never met/heard of Violette Malan, aren’t likely to ask for any. The short answer, by the way, is “it’s a marketing thing.” The long answer we don’t have time for. Buy me a beer sometime at a con and I’ll tell you.

Which brings me to my second concern: Who am I in public? At a con, for example? The easy answer is: I’m whoever was invited. That’s the name that will go first on the con badge. It’s not unusual, at cons, to see people with two names on their badges, the one who was invited, and (in brackets? smaller print?) the other one. If you weren’t invited as a special guest? If you’re just registered as a regular panelist? That’s when it gets tricky. Do you use the established, familiar name first? or the new one?

Halls of Law, the first book in the Faraman Prophecy, introduces a world of military might and magical Talents on the brink of destruction. Julie E. Czerneda cals it a “fresh, engaging new fantasy series set in a world of marvelous texture and magic.” It’s available now in hardcover from DAW.

Here’s the description.

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Until Two Weeks Ago, I Had Never Reread a Novel

Saturday, August 26th, 2017 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

oie_252050527ET7j1y7The title for this post is no exaggeration – until recently, I had never successfully reread a book. I don’t know if anyone else is in the same boat, but I’m blessed/cursed with an almost encyclopedic memory for storylines and characters. If someone asks a question about an old show I’m familiar with – whether it’s Fringe or 24 or The Good Wife – odds are that I can answer it, sometimes with exacting detail.

For example, this past semester a teacher friend and I were describing the ridiculousness of 24 to another colleague, and I could summarize each season in order, without hesitation. For some reason, I can still watch a movie or TV show I’ve seen before and enjoy it, but with novels I couldn’t seem to lose myself in the story the same as when I first read it. So I stopped trying.

But that spell seems to have been broken, courtesy of Jim Butcher. A couple weeks ago I was looking at my to-read shelf and didn’t feel like starting anything there (which sort of blew, since there are about twenty titles sitting there, staring at me with their lonely and judging eyes). There were several books there that needed to be read, either for the Aurora awards or for upcoming review posts here, but I knew forcing myself to read one of those would color my perceptions.

I was also hitting a point in discovery writing my new novel where I needed something to inspire me, and when you pick up a new book there’s always the chance it’ll disappoint you – like going on a first date, really (“he’s still single, ladies”). I ended up walking away from the shelf and figured I’d watch Netflix or play Fallout 4 or something, and try to pick a book another day.

Then I remembered talking with one of my best friends about The Dresden Files, and how we’re both waiting for the next book like dogs salivating over prime rib behind a glass divider (in the off-chance that Mr. Butcher reads this, we’re not those brutal fans that rag on writers for taking too long to finish a manuscript – you take your time, sir). He’s reread the series a couple of times, but obviously I haven’t. Part of the reason why I’m such a huge fan is because it’s fast-paced, character-driven, and emotionally riveting – the main things I want to accomplish with my new novel. I’ve reread the occasional scene from a Dresden book for inspiration, and since the compelling voice in my head urging me to read something wouldn’t shut up, I decided to try my luck with Butcher’s most recent installment, Skin Game (which was on my Top Ten Books of 2016). Worst case, I wouldn’t make it very far, return the book to my shelf, and find something else to do with my time.

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The Complete Carpenter: The Thing (1982)

Saturday, August 26th, 2017 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

drew-struzan-the-thing-1982-posterIf you’re a fan of the career of director John Carpenter, you probably have an idiosyncratic favorite among his pictures. The one that has special meaning for you, possibly because of nostalgia, a particular theme, or sheer rewatchability. I’ll telegraph ahead in this series and mention that In the Mouth of Madness is one of those special Carpenter films for me. Looking backward, Assault on Precinct 13 is the Carpenter movie I’m mostly likely to rewatch, and it rises in my estimation each time I return to it. One of my close friends is deeply in love with Big Trouble in Little China, and his wife roots hard for Christine. Carpenter’s catalog has a range of minor-league wonders, and I can’t feel upset for anyone picking offbeat choices. I’ve even heard stimulating defenses of The Ward, which (spoilers for future reviews) I think is Carpenter’s worst film.

However, general consensus says 1982’s The Thing — a remake of the 1951 SF classic The Thing from Another World by way of its source material, John W. Campbell’s 1938 novella “Who Goes There?” — is John Carpenter’s masterpiece. And general consensus is right.

The Story

It’s the first week of the winter-over at US National Science Institute Station 4 (aka Outpost #31) in the Antarctic interior. It doesn’t start well. A helicopter from a Swedish Norwegian base makes an explosive landing at the outpost while trying to gun down a runaway sled dog. The men at the outpost take in the dog and try to figure out what happened, although failed radio communications make it difficult. They investigate the Norwegian base and discover it devoid of life with signs of a horrific violent event. It seems the Swedes Norwegians dug up and thawed out an alien lifeform from a spaceship trapped under the ice pack for thousands of years, and that didn’t turn out that swell for them.

Oops, too late … That adorable sled dog allowed into the US station is actually the alien, which can alter its shape and assimilate other organics while perfectly imitating them on the outside — and it’s started in on the men at Outpost #31. Paranoia and alien transformation freakiness break out. If it takes them over, then it has no more enemies, nobody left to kill it. And then it’s won. World assimilation in 27,000 hours after first contact with civilized areas.

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The Opportunity for Awe: An Interview with Scott Andrews

Friday, August 25th, 2017 | Posted by Steve Case

Scott H Andrews Beneath Ceaseless Skies-smallBeneath Ceaseless Skies is a five-time Hugo and seven-time World Fantasy Award-finalist online magazine of literary adventure fantasy. In nine years, BCS has published over 475 stories and 200 audio podcasts by authors such as Saladin Ahmed, Richard Parks, Marie Brennan, Yoon Ha Lee, Aliette de Bodard, Bradley P. Beaulieu, Seth Dickinson, and more.  Find their ebooks and Best of BCS anthologies on Amazon and, their podcasts on Google Play and iTunes, and stories, artwork, new issues, and more at

For nearly a decade now, BCS has been showcasing the work of both new and established writers in the realms of fantasy with a literary bent. My first professional sale was to BCS, and the magazine has published several of my stories since then, including my most recent, “Deathspeaker,” in the August 3rd issue. Recently I approached BCS editor Scott Andrews with some questions about “literary adventure fantasy” and its appeal to readers of sword & sorcery.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies publishes “literary adventure fantasy.” It’s pretty clear what those first two words mean separately, but can you explain the juxtaposition? What does adventure fantasy lack when it’s not literary (or gain when it is)? What does literary fantasy miss when it lacks adventure?

“Literary adventure fantasy” is my tagline for literary fantasy set in other worlds. The literary element that’s for me the most enjoyable and rewarding is a focus on character. A lot of secondary-world fantasy feels to me focused on the setting or the plot, but I like it on the characters, for example using narrative approaches like close points-of-view or conflicts that are internal in addition to external.

What adventure fantasy gains for me when it’s literary like that is the human highs and lows, the emotional exhilaration and gut-punch, that great literary fiction has. I love the line from Faulkner’s Nobel Prize speech that the only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself. That may sound like highbrow English-class stuff, but there’s an author in SF/F/H today who I’ve heard reference that Faulkner quote:  George R. R. Martin. His fantasy is the most popular in the world, and he’s constantly praised for his characters and how realistic and emotive they feel. His work absolutely has those human highs and lows, those profound comments on what it feels like to be a parent or a sibling or a hero or a failure or a survivor. That’s character-centered focus I love to read.

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July/August Issue of Black Static Now Available

Friday, August 25th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Black Static July August 2017-smallBritish horror magazine Black Static #59, cover-dated July/August 2017, is now available. Over at Tangent Online, Jennifer Burroughs offers a detailed review of the entire issue, including “Ghost Town” by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam.

“Ghost Town” is a story of dark magic and gruesome secrets that explores the difficult question of what the living owe the dead… A river full of a strange substance flows around a small town haunted by thousands of ghosts, the economy fueled by a black market for human bodies. Three years ago, the body of Rae’s dead wife, Emily, was stolen, which has prevented Emily’s spirit from fully passing on. She haunts Rae every night…

Stufflebeam has imagined a strange place full of horrors caused both by the power of the river and simple human ingenuity. She raises an interesting question about what people would do in a reality where the dead need a corpse, any corpse, in order to leave the physical world, and there are more ghosts than corpses. This is an eerie tale that leaves the reader with several layers of meaning to contemplate.

And “Endoskeletal” by Sara Read

A well-executed, nightmarish tale of body horror. Ashley, an ambitious archaeologist, ignores rules of policy and respect for a strange discovery found in a Swedish mountain cave, where a strange burial has been hidden away for tens of thousands of years. She finds several jars inexplicably sealed after all this time, and takes one back to the lab, setting off a horrifying chain of events…

Not a story for the squeamish, “Endoskeletal” reads like a fevered nightmare full of warnings about foolish mistakes.

Read the complete review here.

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Goth Chick News: Chas Kline Makes a Friend… Literally

Thursday, August 24th, 2017 | Posted by Sue Granquist


As you likely know, the staff at Black Gate has the distinct honor and pleasure to witness the passion that goes into the creative process. We get early looks at everything from books to movies, and comics to gaming. Each and every effort is the result of someone making the decision to put their imagination and creativity on display for the world to enjoy or possibly to pick apart – but in the mind of the creator, the risk is worth the reward.

Back in 2000 when I began contributing to the print version of Black Gate, I submitted a rather scathing review of a new author’s work. True, it was my opinion and to this day I stand by my comments, but I never stopped feeling bad about delivering this critical feedback in a public forum. That new author made a leap of faith sending his work to Black Gate and I feel my review disrespected the creative process.

Since that point, if I truly am not a fan of something that is sent to me, I simply do not tell you about it. And if pressed by the creator, I will share my thoughts with them privately, but never here.

So what’s the point of telling you this?

It’s a typical GCN setup of course and a way to tell you that if I write about a topic, it’s because I truly believe it’s something you need to experience for yourself. And in a rare case, that your need is more important than say, Tom Cruise’ ego or the collective commercial power of the Twilight franchise.

So with this in mind, I invite you back to last week when I reintroduced you to the wonderful, twisted world of Charles M. Kline in the form of his latest book, The 12 Frights of Christmas. At that time, I also said we’d talk about Mr. Kline again this week in the context of his short film, Frankenfriend.

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An Incomparable Voyage Through Dreamland: The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

Thursday, August 24th, 2017 | Posted by Zeta Moore

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld-smallThe Forgotten Beasts of Eld
Patricia A. McKillip
Tachyon Publications (240 pages, $14.95 in trade paperback, September 19, 2017)
Reprint edition (originally published by Atheneum, August 1974)

The moment you begin The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, the World Fantasy Award-winning novel by Patricia A. McKillip, you understand you have put yourself in the hands of a masterful wordsmith. McKillip has no peer when it comes to incantatory prose, and her wizardry spells you into a waking dream in this breathtaking tale.

The young wizard Sybel comes from a legendary lineage of animal keepers. After calling a magisterial bounty of magical beasts to her castle, she protects them with the unwavering love of a lioness. When a knight entrusts an infant boy into her care, unbeknownst to the so-called ice-hearted wizard, her life unravels into the pursuit of true love, justice, and the attainment of one’s free will.

Though the animals play a prominent role in the tale, the action mainly revolves around Sybel and the two men who love her. Tam, the babe given to her not long after leaving the womb, cares for her throughout the story. Through the numerous hardships that befall Sybel in her quest for justice in a troubled world, he remains steadfast in his love for the woman he considers his mother.

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Fantasia 2017, Day 5: Prisons, Rituals, and Explosions (The Honor Farm, Shock Wave, and Free and Easy)

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

The Honor FarmSunday, July 16, felt in some ways like the day Fantasia 2017 really began for me. I had three movies I planned to watch, of three very different kinds, though all at the De Sève Theatre. The first was a horror-inflected American independent film called The Honor Farm. The second was a Hong Kong action movie called Shock Wave (Chaak Daan Juen Ga). The third was a Chinese art movie called Free and Easy (Qīng sōng yú kuài). That mix of approaches, genres, and countries was characteristic of the festival. I looked forward to each movie individually, and to how they’d work together.

The Honor Farm was directed by Karen Skloss from a script written by Skloss with Jay Tonne Jr. and Jasmine Skloss Harrison — Skloss’ teen daughter. It’s the story of Lucy (Olivia Grace Applegate), who’s about to attend her senior prom and plans to lose her virginity with her boyfriend Jake (Will Brittain). It is, Lucy reflects, “the night I was finally free to do whatever I wanted. And everyone was expecting me to.” But things don’t go as she’d hoped. The date goes sour, and Lucy ends up hanging around with her best friend Annie (Katie Folger). They run into another group of teens led by the gothy Laila (Dora Madison Burge), who’re planning to go into a deep forest and take mushrooms provided by a group of boys led by the presumably-symbolically-named JD (Louis Hunter). There’s an abandoned prison close by they plan to investigate, the Honor Farm of the title. What will they find in the supposedly haunted building?

Nighttime, woods, hallucinating teens, an abandoned building, ghost stories: this sounds like a certain kind of horror movie, but in fact isn’t that at all. The Honor Farm owes very little to Wes Craven, and much more to John Hughes and David Lynch. That’s an odd pair of influences, and yet I found them inescapable: structurally the story’s about a weird mixture of teens with nothing in common who learn to be friends, while the story itself is built out of surrealism, dream-imagery, disorienting sounds and cuts, and extended sequences that might have happened and might only be hallucinations. Surprisingly, the two things balance each other very well. The arc of the story gives a clear framework for the stylish eruptions of the unreal.

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