In 500 Words or Less: Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan

Friday, December 29th, 2017 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

Sins of Empire-smallSins of Empire
By Brian McClellan
Orbit (640 pages, $18.99 hardcover/$15.99 paperback, November 2017 reprint)

Have you ever taken a look at your pile of unread books and thought, “I feel like reading about __________,” and realized that type of book is nowhere in the ten (or maybe thirty) you have waiting? Apparently having an ongoing stack of books you intend to get to is a sign of creative intelligence (yay me!) but it doesn’t help when you have a craving for, say, an epic fantasy with great worldbuilding and even better characters, and you have nothing like that on hand.

It was that desperate hour of need that led me to my local bookstore and a copy of Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan, whom I admit to having never heard of before that day. I picked up his book on a whim because the cover art and back cover description caught my eye, and to my amazement I think it’s one of my favorite books this year.

First and foremost, I’m a sucker for dynamic and flawed characters who I want to root for, and McClellan delivers a ton of them. There’s Michel Bravis, the ambitious member of the secret police who argues with himself when he’s nervous, or Lady Vlora Flint, the mercenary commander who’s hard as steel but whose heart bleeds for the underprivileged, or Mad Ben Styke, betrayed former lancer who’s spent ten years of good behavior behind bars to protect the people who served beneath him. The best part of what McClellan does is put these characters into situation after situation that pushes them in different directions and keeps the action moving — which isn’t easy in a 640-page book. In almost every epic fantasy book I’ve read there are moments where the story slows, but Sins of Empire doesn’t have that — there’s constant movement, but consistent character development and intrigue at the same time.

Connected to that is the rich history of the world. Characters make reference to past events and histories that motivate all the action in Empire, giving the world a level of detail that amazed me. Of course, I didn’t realize that this isn’t the first time McClellan used this setting , and that there’s a separate trilogy that takes place prior to Empire, featuring some of the same characters. Oops. But that doesn’t minimize the importance of the world’s history and how McClellan filters it through the narrative.

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Goth Chick News: I Have No Idea Why I’m Obsessed With This, But I Am…

Thursday, December 28th, 2017 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Grizzly poster-small

Does anyone but me remember the movie Grizzly?

It was originally released in 1976 and takes its place among a specific genre of horror movies that followed Jaws (1975), which focused on too-big-to-be-allowed animals on eating rampages. For whatever reason, I am especially partial to the Grizzly tagline:

18 feet of gut-crunching, man-eating terror!

For me, there’s always been something particularly creepy about anything “nightmare sized.”

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New Treasures: Kill Creek by Scott Thomas

Thursday, December 28th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Kill Creek Scott Thomas-small Kill Creek Scott Thomas-back-small

Scott Thomas is an Emmy-nominated writer whose short stories have appeared in multiple genre magazines. His collections include Urn and Willow, Midnight in New England, and Quill and Candle. His work also appeared alongside his brother Jeffrey (Punktown) Thomas in Punktown: Shades of Grey. Kill Creek won Inkshares’ 2016 Launch Pad Competition. It has been called “a slow-burn, skin-crawling haunted house novel with a terrifying premise” (HorrorTalk).

At the end of a dark prairie road, nearly forgotten in the Kansas countryside, is the Finch House. For years it has remained empty, overgrown, abandoned. Soon the door will be opened for the first time in decades. But something is waiting, lurking in the shadows, anxious to meet its new guests…

When best-selling horror author Sam McGarver is invited to spend Halloween night in one of the country’s most infamous haunted houses, he reluctantly agrees. At least he won’t be alone; joining him are three other masters of the macabre, writers who have helped shape modern horror. But what begins as a simple publicity stunt will become a fight for survival. The entity they have awakened will follow them, torment them, threatening to make them a part of the bloody legacy of Kill Creek.

Kill Creek was published by Inkshares on October 31, 2017. It is 416 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $8.99 for the digital edition. The cover design is by M.S. Corley.

Unbound Worlds on the Best Sci-fi and Fantasy Books of December

Thursday, December 28th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Chaos of Luck-small Fleet Insurgent-small The Girl in the Tower-small

It that’s time of year again. You know what I’m talking about. That time when everyone and their grandmother publishes a Best of the Year list. Why do they do it? Why??

I’ll tell you why. Because we love them. We love Best of the Year lists, and probably always will. We’ve got a few days left until the end of the year, and we’ll cover as many of them as we can. Starting with Unbound Worlds and their Best Sci-fi and Fantasy Books of December 2017, written by Matt Stags.

The Chaos of Luck by Catherine Cerveny (Felicia Sevigny, Book 2; Orbit, 432 pages, $16, December 5, 2017)

A Brazilian tarot card reader and a Russian crime lord race to stop a conspiracy in this steamy science fiction adventure – the sequel to the exciting series that began with The Rule of Luck.

I completely missed the first Felicia Sevigny novel, The Rule of Luck, released last November from Orbit. I guess that means I have more to look forward to. This series about Brazilian tarot card reader Felicia Sevigny and Russian crime lord Alexei Petriv, the most dangerous man in the TriSystem, is set in the year 2950, after humanity has survived devastating climate shifts and four world wars. Petriv will trust only Felicia to read his cards, but the future she sees is dark indeed.

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Future Treasures: Rogue Trader: The Omnibus by Andy Hoare

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Rogue Trader the Omnibus-smallFantasy Flight released the epic Rogue Trader role playing game in 2009. One of the early fruits of their Warhammer 40,000 license, Rogue Trader allowed players to play intrepid merchant princes buying and selling outside the legal boundaries of the Imperium. I became a fan immediately, and it quickly became my favorite science fiction RPG.

Fantasy Flight lost the Warhammer 40K license last year, and the game is now out of print. I thought that would be the end of the brand, so I was pleased to see Black Library put Rogue Trader: The Omnibus on their schedule for next month. It’s a compilation of three novels and two short stories by Andy Hoare. Rogue Star (2006) and Star of Damocles (2007) chart the fortunes of rogue trader Lucian Gerrit on the Imperium’s fringes, and Savage Scars (2011) picks up the tale as the White Scars battle the T’au on the planet Dal’yth. Rogue Trader: The Omnibus arrives in trade paperback on January 23.

Explore the stars and the farthest reaches of the galaxy with the complete Rogue Trader omnibus, containing the novels Rogue Star, Star of Damocles and Savage Scars.

Licensed by ancient charter, Rogue Traders explore the uncharted regions of the galaxy, seeking new worlds to exploit on behalf of the Imperium. The fortunes of Rogue Trader Lucian Gerrit and his family are in decline, and his inheritance amounts to little more than a pile of debt and misery. In a final, desperate gamble to restore his family’s former glory, Gerrit strikes a deal on a forgotten Imperial world in the Eastern Fringe, but his timing could not be worse. The alien tau are seeking to expand their empire across the Damocles Gulf, and soon Gerrit is caught in the middle of a clash between two mighty star-spanning empires, neither of which is willing to back down.

Rogue Trader: The Omnibus will be published by Games Workshop/Black Library on January 23, 2018. It is 800 pages, priced at $21 in trade paperback. Read more at the Black Library website.

January/February Analog Now on Sale

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Analog Science Fiction January February 2018-smallTwo Black Gate writers are showcased in the newest Analog. Jeremiah Tolbert has a short story, “The Dissonant Note,” and our Saturday blogger Derek Künsken presents the first installment of his highly anticipated debut novel The Quantum Magician. This morning I read the first chapter — a fast-paced tale of an attempted con in an icy subterranean casino, with AIs, religious soldiers, and robot puppets — and was immediately hooked. It has more action and intriguing SF concepts than the vast majority of short stories I read in the last year. Here’s Derek.

In The Quantum Magician, I wanted to look at all the humanities we will create. Some new humans will help civilization, some will spiral it backwards, and some will, through no fault of their own, be really good at confidence schemes and heists. Solaris already takes a complex look at space opera futures, so it’s really exciting to work with them.

And here’s the book description, from the Solaris website.

Belisarius is a quantum man, an engineered Homo quantus who fled the powerful insight of dangerously addictive quantum senses. He found a precarious balance as a con man, but when a client offers him untold wealth to move a squadron of warships across an enemy wormhole, he must embrace his birthright to even try. In fact, the job is so big that he’ll need a crew built from all the new sub-branches of humanity. If he succeeds, he might trigger an interstellar war, but success might also point the way to the next step of Homo quantus evolution.

The Quantum Magician will be serialised in two additional installments in Analog, and arrives in trade paperback from Solaris in October.

This issue of Analog also includes a brand new novella by Adam-Troy Castro featuring his retired black-operative Daiken, plus short fiction from David Gerrold, Alan Dean Foster, Ian Watson, Michael F. Flynn, Mary A. Turzillo, and many others. Here’s the complete issue summary from editor Trevor Quachri.

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Modular: Resurrecting RuneQuest: An Investigation by the Tales of the Reaching Moon Editorial Staff

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017 | Posted by Michael OBrien

Runequest Deluxe Third Edition boxed set-small Runequest Deluxe Third Edition boxed set 2-back-small

[This article was originally published in Tales of the Reaching Moon #5 in Spring, 1991, after the RuneQuest trademark had been sold to Avalon Hill and the game re-released in Deluxe and Standard boxed sets. Its publication was a catalyst for Avalon Hill bringing Ken Rolston on board and kicking off what became known as the (short-lived) “RuneQuest Renaissance.”

This article was actually based on a report commissioned by Avalon Hill itself in 1990 (prior to the decision to publish Eldarad). The original report was written by an award-winning game designer.]


RuneQuest is a great game. We all know that. Unfortunately, things haven’t been going so good for the game for some time. We all know that too. We, the Tales of the Reaching Moon staff present here our thoughts about the history of the game, the hole RuneQuest is currently in, and what action we think Avalon Hill should take to dig its way out again.

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Vintage Treasures: Blind Voices by Tom Reamy

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Tom Reamy Blind Voices-back-small Tom Reamy Blind Voices-small

In a 2014 Vanity Fair interview, George R.R. Martin shared just how profoundly he was affected by the death of Tom Reamy in 1977.

Tom died of a heart attack just a few months after winning the award for best new writer in his field. He was found slumped over his typewriter, seven pages into a new story. Instant. Boom. Killed him… Tom’s death had a profound effect on me, because I was in my early thirties then. I’d been thinking, as I taught, well, I have all these stories that I want to write… and I have all the time in the world… and then Tom’s death happened, and I said, Boy. Maybe I don’t…

After Tom’s death, I said, “You know, I gotta try this. I don’t know if I can make a living as a full-time writer or not, but who knows how much time I have left?…” So I decided I would sell my house in Iowa and move to New Mexico. And I’ve never looked back.

In the same article George also commented on the relentless pace of production on Game of Thrones, saying “Long before they catch up with me, I’ll have published The Winds of Winter, which’ll give me another couple years. It might be tight on the last book, A Dream of Spring, as they juggernaut forward.” Might be tight indeed. Almost four years later The Winds of Winter remains unpublished, and GoT has long since passed the novels.

Who the heck was Tom Reamy? That’s a question the late Bud Webster attempted to answer in his inaugural column in Black Gate 15.

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Black Gate Online Fiction: A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden

Monday, December 25th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

A-Gathering-of-Ravens-mediumBlack Gate is very pleased to offer our readers an exclusive excerpt from A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden.

In his review, Fletcher Vredenburgh wrote:

Oden’s novel knocked the heck out of any prejudices I had. New or old, this book kicks ass, and is one of the best swords & sorcery novels I’ve read in a while.

Grimnir, the last of his race, lives on the Danish island of Sjaelland, dreaming of revenge against Bjarki Half-Dane, the man who killed his brother, Hrungnir. His desire to cleave his enemy with his trusty seax (a old Germanic sword), leads him from Denmark to England, and finally to the field of Clontarf, in Ireland…

From the first appearance of Grimnir to the final showdown at Clontarf, the pace never lets up. With an intimate and detailed knowledge of the history and legends of Northern Europe, he has told a tale that lives and breathes “that Northern Thing.” You can smell the surf, the heath, and sense the sidhe lurking just beyond your field of vision. Oden writes in clean, clear prose, never letting his characters get crushed under the weight of bad archaisms or ruined by inappropriate modern speech. A Gathering of Ravens belongs on the same shelf as the best modern swords & sorcery novels, and on the shelf of any serious swords & sorcery reader.

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by Mark Rigney, John Fultz, Jon Sprunk, Tara Cardinal and Alex Bledsoe, E.E. Knight, Vaughn Heppner,  Howard Andrew Jones, David Evan Harris, John C. Hocking, Michael Shea, Aaron Bradford Starr, Martha Wells, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, C.S.E. Cooney, and many others, is here.

A Gathering of Ravens was published by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press on June 20, 2017. It is 336 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover and $14.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by James Iacobelli.

Read an exclusive excerpt from A Gathering of Ravens here.

Merry Christmas From All of Us at Black Gate

Monday, December 25th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Black Gate Christmas Tree-small

The Black Gate offices are dark and empty and, just like last Christmas, the only illumination is from the tiny tree the interns put on top of the filing cabinets during one of the brief moments Goth Chick wasn’t watching. Another year gone. Another 618 books and magazines discussed, 62 games reviewed, 29 comics examined, and numerous issues of critical importance to the genre fiercely debated. The staff are all at home with their loved ones, sleeping the sleep of the just (and the exhausted), and the office is strangely quiet.

It’s only during moments like this that I can truly reflect on how we’ve grown over the last 17 years. When we’re busy chasing deadlines, sometimes it can seem that we’re just another genre site, one more stop on the Internet where people loudly promote their opinions. But if that were true, Black Gate would still just be me, toiling away in my basement in St. Charles in near-total obscurity. Instead, we have grown into a thriving and growing collective of writers and artists who care about fantasy. We work together to promote forgotten classics and celebrate overlooked modern writers. And to help each other.

We have some of the finest writers in the industry and they work tirelessly week after week to keep you informed on a genre with hidden depths and constant surprises. It’s been an incredible run the last few years —  an Alfie Award, a World Fantasy Award, and many other honors. The source of all that newfound fame has been you, the fans, who have helped spread the word and bring new traffic to our humble site.

So thank you once again, from the bottom of our hearts. On behalf of the vast and unruly collective that is Black Gate, I would like to wish you all Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Continue being excellent — it’s what you’re good at.

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