Future Treasures: Infinity Wars, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Infinity Wars Jonathan Strahan-smallInfinity Wars is the sixth volume in what Jonathan Strahan calls The Infinity Project, a series of science fiction anthologies from Solaris that include Reach For Infinity (2014), Meeting Infinity (2015), and one of the most acclaimed anthologies of last year, Bridging Infinity (2016). Jonathan says he’s “already pushing ahead on the seventh.”

The success of the project is a huge vindication for Solaris, who took a chance on the ambitious series just when it was starting to look like the original SF and fantasy paperback anthology was dead. Infinity Wars arrives in trade paperback next month. Here’s the description.

Conflict is Eternal

We have always fought. Tales of soldiers and war go back to the very roots of our history, to the beginnings of the places we call home. And science and technology have always been inextricably linked with the deadly art of war, whether through Da Vinci’s infamous machineries of war or the Manhattan Project’s world-ending bombs or distant starships fighting unknowable opponents.

Oppenheimer once wrote that “the atomic bomb made the prospect of future war unendurable. It has led us up those last few steps to the mountain pass; and beyond there is a different country.” But unendurable or not, future always comes. War was integral to science faction at its birth and remains so today, whether on the page or on the screen.

Infinity Wars asks one question: what would Oppenheimer’s different country be like? Who would fight it? Because at the end of it all, it always come down to a soldier alone, risking life and limb to achieve a goal that may never really make sense at all. How would those soldiers feel? What would they experience?

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Raphael’s Drawings at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

23. Two Apostles (c) Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

The heads and hands of two apostles, c. 1519–20.
Black chalk with over-pounced underdrawing
with some white heightening.

One of the highlights of my regular stays in Oxford is visiting the Ashmolean Museum. With its fine collections of all periods, especially Medieval Europe and Ancient Egypt, it’s a place I and my family keep going back to. It also has excellent special exhibitions. I wrote up last summer’s exhibition on Underwater Archaeology for Black Gate, and this year we got to enjoy the treat of studying some little-seen drawings of an Italian Renaissance master.

Raphael: The Drawings brings together 120 rarely seen works by the Italian master, including 50 from the Ashmolean’s collection, the largest and most important group of Raphael drawings in the world. They came to the museum in 1845 following a public appeal to acquire them after the dispersal of the collection of the portrait painter Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830), who had amassed an unrivalled collection of Old Master drawings. A further 25 works are on loan from the Albertina Museum in Vienna, which will show the exhibition in autumn 2017. The remaining drawings come from various international collections.

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GenCon 2017, Pt. 2: Science Fiction Edition

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

starfinderScience fiction themes were front and center at GenCon this year, in a way that surpasses what I have seen in previous years. Usually the science fiction games are almost entirely tied into existing property lines, like the various Star Wars miniature battle lines produced by Fantasy Flight Games. These were certainly present, but they were matched by new science fiction games that had an appeal independent of being tied to well-established and beloved properties.

I’ll dig into several of these games more deeply in future full reviews, but for now here are some high-level looks at some of the new science fiction-themed games and expansions from GenCon.


The release of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game was one of the central events of the convention, the science fiction/space fantasy game set in the distant future of Paizo’s Pathfinder universe. We’ve spoken about Starfinder previously (see here, here, and here). I’ve been enthusiastic about the prospect of this game since the day it was announced, so it’s a pleasure to see that its release was an astounding success. As Erik Mona of Paizo explained to me, the company had looked at their past records and brought more copies of the Starfinder Core Rulebook than the number of any previous book they’ve ever released at GenCon … and it sold out in less than 7 hours. (The PDF, however, is available through Paizo.com for only $9.99!)

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New Treasures: The Suffering Tree by Elle Cosimano

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Suffering Tree-smallElle Cosimano is the author of Holding Smoke and the Nearly Boswell Mysteries (Nearly Gone, Nearly Found). Her latest is a thriller that Kirkus Reviews calls “A dark mixture of mystery, history, romance, and fantasy.” It’s available now in hardcover from Hyperion.

Tori Burns and her family left D.C. for claustrophobic Chaptico, Maryland, after suddenly inheriting a house under mysterious circumstances. That inheritance puts her at odds with the entire town, especially Jesse Slaughter and his family — it’s their generations-old land the Burns have “stolen.” As the suspicious looks and muttered accusations of her neighbors build, so does the pressure inside her, and Tori returns to the pattern of self-harm that landed her in a hospital back in D.C. It all comes to a head one night when, to Tori’s shock, she witnesses a young man claw his way out of a grave under the gnarled oak in her new backyard.

Nathaniel Bishop may not understand what brought him back, but it’s clear to Tori that he hates the Slaughters for what they did to him centuries ago. Wary yet drawn to him by a shared sense of loss, she gives him shelter. But in the wake of his arrival comes a string of troubling events — including the disappearance of Jesse Slaughter’s cousin — that seem to point back to Nathaniel.

As Tori digs for the truth — and slowly begins to fall for Nathaniel — she uncovers something much darker in the tangled branches of the Slaughter family tree. In order to break the curse that binds Nathaniel there and discover the true nature of her inheritance, Tori must unravel the Slaughter family’s oldest and most guarded secrets. But the Slaughters want to keep them buried at any cost.

The Suffering Tree was published by Hyperion on June 13, 2017. It is 357 pages, priced at $17.99 in hardcover and $10.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Justine Howlett.

See all our latest New Treasures here.

August Short Story Roundup

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_225359V0Ky2mKfWith summer’s end in sight, I’m back with another short story roundup. For those paying attention, you probably noticed I’m calling this the August roundup instead of the July one. That’s because there’s so much stuff I have to pick and choose from (and more coming soon – see this post at Howard Andrew Jones’ site), I can’t always get to it in a timely manner. From now on, each roundup will focus on whatever new short stories I’ve managed to read since the previous one. It’s a minor thing, but there it is.

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, produced under the expert guidance of Adrian Simmons and company, continues to be the fieriest star in the S&S heavens. #33 contains not only the usual three stories and three poems, but an announcement that HFQ’s second Best of collection has been fully funded and will appear this fall. I really dug the first one and have high hopes for this one. Also, they played a fun game in this issue that I won’t describe, but it’s clever and I applaud the editors for pulling it off.

The new issue kicks off with “Between Sea and Flame” by Evan Dicken. Set in an alternate universe where Tenochtitlan fell not to Cortes, but to a strange priesthood from the sea, it’s a sequel to “Mouth of the Jaguar.” Once again, Hummingbird, refugee warrior from the fallen Mexica Empire, finds herself at the center of chaos and death. This time around she is caught between two deadly and evil forces: the Sea People who serve the terrible god Dagon, and that of the even more malevolent Destroyer. Convinced by one of the Sea People’s generals, she joins them and their allies to storm the stronghold of the Destroyer’s great follower, PedrariasHer decision brings her to a land already being twisted by the Destroyer’s malign aura:

If Hummingbird had any doubts about the threat posed by the Destroyer, the mountain put them to rest. Ometepe’s animals had become strange, monstrous things, twisted as if by some terrible hand. Flocks of bat-winged hummingbirds flitted around the war party, darting in to stab at the warriors with beaks barbed like fishing harpoons. If they were not crushed quickly enough, they burrowed inside the body. Many Mankeme fell shrieking down the hill, digging at their own flesh with knives and axes.

Clawed hands reached down from the tangled foliage above to pluck the heads from passing warriors. Diriangen would’ve been among them had not Hernández dragged him back at the last moment. Hummingbird joined the Mankeme in flinging javelins into the trees. What fell resembled sloths, but grown large and bloated. Their arms were thin, boneless things, little more than ropes of muscle with claws sharp as knapped flint. A warrior buried her axe in one of the things, only to have the creature burst like an overripe fruit to disgorge a swarm of fleshy mosquitos.

This is a swell story, filled with well-paced and -choreographed action. Dicken effortlessly combines elements of real history with his fictional reality, and has created a darkly wonderful world of elder terrors and bold, strong-armed adventurers.

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Literary Wonder & Adventure Podcast: The Golden Age of Science Fiction, Part 1

Monday, August 21st, 2017 | Posted by Brian Murphy

Literary Wonder & Adventure Show Episode 6 The Golden Age of Science Fiction Part 1 A Conversation with Author Allen Steele-small

New podcast on the block Literary Wonder & Adventure Show is a welcome addition for fans of the fantasy and science fiction genres. I became a listener after stumbling upon Robert E. Howard: Master of Sword & Sorcery, featuring an interview with Black Gate contributor and author Howard Andrew Jones. Host Robert Zoltan has created a fun program that balances entertainment and informative, thoughtful interviews with interesting guests, as well as the occasional audio drama.

The Literary Wonder & Adventure Show is not a simple interview format with the standard bumper music typical of most podcasts, but a spin on Doctor Who with a time and space travelling stone tower. It has an air of nostalgia as if one were listening to an old-time radio broadcast, and incorporates some extensive production including sound effects and Zoltan’s dramatized voice work. If at first you find the experience slightly unexpected and jarring (as I did) I recommend giving at least one full episode a shot, as you quickly get used to the playful format and the amusing intrusions of Edgar the Raven, as skillfully voiced by Zoltan (who somehow manages to carry on a conversation with himself)!

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Brian Aldiss, August 18, 1925 — August 19, 2017

Monday, August 21st, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Sci-fi writer Brian AldissBrian Aldiss, one of the most brilliant and acclaimed science fiction authors of the 20th Century, produced more than 80 books and some 40 anthologies in a career spanning more than six decades. His first publication, the short story “Criminal Record,” appeared in the July 1954 issue of John Carnell’s British SF magazine Science Fantasy, and his recent anthology The Folio Science Fiction Anthology, was published just last year.

Aldiss’ groundbreaking SF included the novels Non-stop (1958), Hothouse (1962), The Dark Light Years (1964), Barefoot in the Head (1969), The Malacia Tapestry (1976), and The Helliconia Trilogy (1982-85). His most important anthologies and collections include The Saliva Tree and Other Strange Growths (1966), Penguin Science Fiction (1961), The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus (1973), Space Opera (1974), Galactic Empires, Volume 1 & 2 (1976), and six volumes of The Year’s Best Science Fiction (edited with Harry Harrison, 1968-1973). Aldiss received two Hugo Awards, for Hothouse and Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction (1986) [in his acceptance speech, Aldiss famously held the Hugo high and said “It’s been a long time since you’ve given me one of these, you bastards!”], and a Nebula Award for the novella “The Saliva Tree.” His short story “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long” (1969) was basis for the Steven Spielberg film A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

Our previous coverage of Brian Aldiss includes:

Bow Down to Nul
Hell’s Cartographers, edited by Brian W. Aldiss and Harry Harrison
The Digest Enthusiast #6: Hothouse: Brian Aldiss’ Dystopian Odyssey, by Joe Wehrle, Jr.

Brian Aldiss died on Saturday at his home in Oxford. He was 92 years old.

Fantasia 2017, Day 4: Urban Spaces (The Final Master and Tokyo Ghoul)

Monday, August 21st, 2017 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

The Final MasterI had an odd schedule on Sunday, July 17. There were two movies I wanted to see. The first was a Chinese historical martial-arts film called The Final Master (Shi Fu), which played at noon. The second was a live-action Japanese manga adaptation, Tokyo Ghoul (Tôkyô gûru), and that played at 9:35 in the evening. I eventually decided to go to the Hall Theatre for the first movie, spend the afternoon doing errands, and return for the second movie in the evening. In the end, this turned out to be a good plan.

The Final Master was written and directed by Haofeng Xu, based on his original novel. It follows Chen Shi (Fan Liao), a martial-arts master, who arrives in the city of Tianjin in 1932. He wants to establish a school there of his own but faces opposition from the major schools already in the city. He has to overcome a series of challenges from his scheming rivals, political as well as physical. He begins a romance with Zhao Guohui (Jia Song, also at Fantasia this year in the Hong Kong action film Shock Wave), a beautiful woman with a scandal behind her, and begins training a rickshaw driver named Geng (Yang Song, who was also in both of Xu’s previous movies, Judge Archer and The Sword Identity) who may have even more talent for fighting than Chen himself. But if Geng may help him overcome some of the trials set by the other schools, yet other levels of politics come into play as the military plans a takeover of the martial-arts world.

This really only scratches the surface of the intricate film. There’s a novelistic feel to it in the accumulation of incident and character, but it’s remarkably effective because Xu keeps things moving at a rapid if not unforgiving pace. Plans are hatched, betrayals accumulate, and the scope of the film increases bit by bit. It’s not quite an epic, but characters who seem minor develop into major figures, and the city of Tianjin acquires a character of its own.

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Repent Your Crimes: Marvel’s Black Bolt Series

Sunday, August 20th, 2017 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

I’ve been a Saladin Ahmed fan for a while. I probably heard his first fantasy fiction at Beneath Ceaseless Skies with Mister Hadj’s Sunset Ride, or in Podcastle’s Judgement of Swords and Souls (click on the links for free audio versions). I also met him in person in 2013 when I ended up at the same table as him during the Nebula Awards Banquet (where his first novel had been nominated).


So I perked up when I saw that Marvel had Ahmed writing a new Black Bolt solo series. I picked up the first issue in June, put it in my backpack and promptly…. left it sitting in my TBR pile. For two months. And I didn’t even crack it open until issue #4 was already out.

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GenCon 2017, Pt. 1: Fantasy Deck-Building Games

Saturday, August 19th, 2017 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Cardhalla at GenCon is a fundraiser. Over the four day event, donated cards are used to build elaborate towers and other structures. On Sunday, convention goers hurl coins at the structures to topple them ... and the collected funds are donated,

Cardhalla at GenCon is a fundraiser. Over the four day event, donated cards are used to build elaborate towers and other structures. On Sunday, convention goers hurl coins at the structures to topple them … and the collected funds are donated,

This is the 50th year of GenCon, “The Best Four Days in Gaming” convention, since its humble beginnings as a small convention of gamers in Lake Geneva. In what I believe is a first ever in Indianapolis, the convention is completely sold out, without offering any at-the-door purchase of badges. Fortunately, mine was waiting for me in the press room.

Over the years, GenCon has expanded to fill every available space in downtown Indianapolis. In addition to using the entire Indianapolis Convention Center, Lucas Oil Stadium (where the Indiana Pacers play baketball) now house the True Dungeon living dungeon crawl, the game library, and the Mayfair Games play areas, while tendrils of GenCon spread out into the ballrooms and meeting rooms of several hotels on adjacent blocks.

And with the rise of Kickstarter, there are more small, independent game companies than ever vying for attention, promoting not only their existing lines of products but also their upcoming Kickstarter campaigns. Trying to make sense of all of the different games is easiest if I try to tackle them by theme and play style, and one type of game that seemed prevalent on the first day of the convention were deck-building games with a fantasy theme.

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