The Fortress World and the Eye of Terror: Warhammer 40K: The Cadian Novels by Justin D. Hill

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Cadia Stands-small Cadian Honour-small

When I made the 90-minute commute to Glenview every morning (and the 90-minute drive home every evening), I got addicted to Warhammer 40K audio dramas. They made the long drive bearable. When I left that job four years ago I fell out of the habit, and haven’t kept up on the unfolding drama in my favorite dark space opera. I did hear rumors of a Thirteenth Black Crusade, the unexpected return of the loyal primarch Roboute Guilliman (in Guy Haley’s Dark Imperium series), and the catastrophic fall of the fortress world of Cadia, the last line of defense against the daemonic tide spilling out of the Eye of Terror. Man, you take your eye off the ball for a minute, and everything goes to hell.

Justin D. Hill’s new Cadia series seem like the perfect place to jump back into the saga. The first novel, Cadia Stands, was published in March 2018, and the sequel Cadian Honour is scheduled for September of this year (and is already available in digital format). Here’s the description for the first volume.

The brutal war for Cadia is decided, as Lord Castellan Ursarkar Creed and the armies of the Imperium fight to halt the Thirteenth Black Crusade and prevent a calamity on a galactic scale.

Under almost constant besiegement by the daemonic hosts pouring from the Eye of Terror, Cadia stands as a bulwark against tyranny and death. Its fortresses and armies have held back the hordes of Chaos for centuries, but that grim defiance is about to reach its end. As Abaddon’s Thirteenth Black Crusade batters Cadia’s defences and the armies of the Imperium flock to reinforce this crucial world, a terrible ritual long in the making comes to fruition, and the delicate balance of this brutal war shifts… From the darkness, a hero rises to lead the beleaguered defenders, Lord Castellan Ursarkar Creed, but even with the armoured might of the Astra Militarum and the strength of the Adeptus Astartes at his side, it may not be enough to avert disaster and prevent the fall of Cadia. While Creed lives, there is hope. While there is breath in the body of a single defender, Cadia Stands… but for how much longer?

And here’s the description for Cadian Honour.

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The Games Plus 2019 Spring Auction: Part One

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Games Plus 2019 auction sample-small

A few of the treasures acquired at the 2019 Games Plus Spring Auction

I’ve been attending the Games Plus Auction in Mount Prospect, Illinois ever since David Kenzer first told me about it, when we worked at Motorola in the late 90s. So, twenty years, give or take. I’ve been writing about it here ever since my first report in 2012 (in the appropriately titled “Spring in Illinois brings… Auction Fever.”)

The four-day auction occurs twice a year, in Spring and Fall.  Each day focuses on one of four popular themes: Thursday is collectable and tradable games like Magic: The Gathering and the Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures Game; Friday is historical wargames and family games; and Sunday is the massive miniatures auction, focused on Warhammer and like-minded pastimes. I’ve checked in on the others over the years, but my jam is the Saturday Science Fiction and RPG auction, which includes board games, minigames, and role playing rules, supplements, adventures, and magazines.  It runs from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, with no break, and this year was on March 2.

When I first started going, I was was on the hunt mostly for 70s and 80s RPG and gaming collectables, especially TSR gaming modules, microgames, Avalon Hill and Chaosium board games like Stellar Crusade and Dragon Pass, and of course ultra-rare Dwarfstar titles like Barbarian Prince. That’s changed dramatically over the decades. We live in a golden age of science fiction and fantasy board gaming, and between the many, many active publishers, countless Kickstarters and other crowdfunding campaigns, and seemingly numerous new role playing games, it’s impossible for me to keep track of all the new releases.

Those games show up in great quantity as the skilled auctioneers move rapid-fire through thousands of titles over seven hours, and often at bargain prices. Nowadays I attend the auction chiefly to discover what’s new and exciting in fantasy and science fiction board gaming, and see if I can’t pick up a few. It’s an expensive outing, to be sure, which is why I save up for months beforehand. I rarely escape will a bill less than a thousand dollars, and this year was no exception. When they totaled up the damage at the end of the Saturday auction, I’d spent $1,573 on games that filled some 15 boxes.

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That Horrid Question

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019 | Posted by S.M. Carrière


A young AUTHOR, new to pitching, steps cautiously into the room clutching a binder full of papers to their chest. An EDITOR for a well-regarded publisher sits at a table with an empty chair opposite. The EDITOR smiles at the AUTHOR and beckons them to the chair. So nervous they’re shaking, the AUTHOR sits down.


Thanks so much for seeing me. I really appreciate it.


My pleasure.  So what have you got for me today.


Well, it’s a [insert genre of choice].  The audience is quite adult.  I think.  I’m not sure.  The young adult/adult distinction is not something I’m all that familiar with.


All right.  So, what’s it about?


Well, uh, it follows [character] and their team of [insert any kind of unit you like, knights? Rangers? Robot Space Marines?] and they —


No, that’s what happens.  That’s the plot.  I want to know what the book is about.  What is the theme?


Internal Screaming

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Fantasy Tales

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Jim Pitts

Cover by Jim Pitts

Cover by David Lloyd

Cover by David Lloyd

In 1972, the British Fantasy Society began giving out the August Derleth Fantasy Awards for best novel as voted on by their members. In 1976. The name of the awards was changed to the British Fantasy Award, although the August Derleth Award was still the name for the Best Novel Award. A category for Best Small Press was created in 1977 and has continue to be awarded, although it is now given for Independent Press. The award’s first winner was John Martin for Andurile and it was won from 1978-1987 by Stephen Jones and David Sutton for Fantasy Tales with the exceptions of 1981, 1984, and 1985. A re-alignment of the awards in 2012 means the awards are now selected by a jury rather than the full membership of the British Fantasy Society. In 1980, the awards were presented at Fantasycon VI in Birmingham.

Fantasy Tales was a small press magazine published by Stephen Jones and David A. Sutton. The first issue was published in Summer 1977 and the magazine ran for a decade, until Summer 1987, at which time it was relaunched as a professional magazine. Jones and Sutton published 17 issues as, essentially a fanzine, before publication was taken over by Robinson Publishing Ltd, which published an additional 7 issues between 1988 and 1991.

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Top Gun for YA Sci Fi Buffs: Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

Monday, March 18th, 2019 | Posted by Elizabeth Galewski

Skyward Brandon Sanderson-small Skyward Brandon Sanderson UK-small

If even one of the aliens’ bombers gets through and releases its payload, Spensa Nightshade and her family will die, along with the remnants of humanity. It’s up to her father and his fellow fighter pilots to take to the skies and drive the invaders away.

Spensa doesn’t just admire her father – she’s determined to follow in his footsteps and become a pilot herself. In her militant society, which is named Defiant after the flagship that crashed on this planet, there’s no higher calling.

Spensa lives in a cave deep underground, since the planet’s surface is dangerous. Space debris frequently falls from the sky in flaming chunks, destroying everything in its path before hitting the ground. It comes from the ruins of a prior civilization that rings the planet – massive hunks of metal and electronics that used to be shipyards and ancient fortifications.

Despite the danger, Spensa has always wanted to see the sky. When her father agrees to take her up to ground level, she leaps at the chance.

It’s a hard climb through the caves until they reach a crack from which the sky shines. Gazing up in awe, Spensa sees the layers of space junk shifting overhead like enormous ice floes.

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Hither Came Conan: Scott Oden on The Devil In Iron

Monday, March 18th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Boris Vallejo for 'Conan the Wanderer'

Boris Vallejo for ‘Conan the Wanderer’

There is a weird synchronicity at work, here, Gentle Readers.  Between the time when Bob Byrne solicited a few of us for this series and him handing out our story assignments, I wrote a Conan novella for Marvel (currently being serialized in the pages of the renewed Savage Sword of Conan, over a span of twelve issues).  Specifically, it is a sequel to Robert E. Howard’s “The Devil in Iron”.  Then, a few days later, I received my randomly selected story assignment from the good Mr. Byrne.  My story?  “The Devil in Iron.”  Thus, the gods have spoken . . .

“The Devil in Iron” marked Howard’s return to the Hyborian Age after an absence of about six months.  Written in the autumn of 1933, it employs a technique common to pulp-era writers in that Howard cannibalized plot elements of his own previous stories – the eerie resurrected villain á la “Black Colossus” (also used in The Hour of the Dragon); the greenish stone ruins from “Xuthal of the Dusk” (AKA, “The Slithering Shadow”); the sentient iron statues from “Iron Shadows in the Moonlight”; and even stylistic echoes from “Queen of the Black Coast.”

Howard sent the story off to Farnsworth Wright at Weird Tales, who accepted it for publication on December 14, 1933.  It appeared in the August 1934 issue.  The story was lurid enough to take top billing, with Margaret Brundage providing one of her signature covers – this one depicting a rather anemic-looking Conan against a black background, struggling in the grips of a giant serpent while a gauzily-clad woman swooned at his feet.  Hugh Rankin illustrated the story itself.

It is a fairly straightforward tale, if a bit formulaic.  According to both Patrice Louinet and Howard Andrew Jones, who are scholars of Howard and his sources, it’s one of the few stories of the Conan canon that displays the clear and overt influence author Harold Lamb had over Howard.

Lamb wrote primarily for Adventure, his tales of Cossacks and crusaders fitting nicely with the works of Talbot Mundy, Rafael Sabatini, Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur and Farnham Bishop, and Arthur D. Howden-Smith.  These were Robert Howard’s inspirations – writers of what we’d call today pure historical fiction.  REH wrote what he knew he could sell, or what he believed had a good chance of selling; though he’d rather have spent his days writing the kinds of tales he loved from Adventure, it was proving a difficult market to break into. But, he knew by adding a splash of the Weird to the same rollicking adventure yarns, Weird Tales’ editor Farnsworth Wright would more than likely buy it.

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New Treasures: Rabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith

Sunday, March 17th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Rabbit and Robot-smallI’ve been on a prolonged space opera kick for the past few weeks, munching snacks while taking in epic sagas about cloned warriors, space battles, massive killer A.I’s, galaxy-spanning conflicts, fast ships, ancient tech, and more space battles. To tell the truth I probably would never have picked up Andrew Smith’s new novel if I hadn’t been looking for something very (very) different this weekend.

Andrew Smith is the author of The Marbury Lens (2012) and Grasshopper Jungle (2015). Rabbit & Robot tells the story of Cager Messer, a boy stranded on a massieve lunar-cruise ship with with insane robots, while a World War breaks out on the surface below. It’s about as uncommercial a novel as you’re likely to find. Here the description.

Cager has been transported to the Tennessee, a giant lunar-cruise ship orbiting the moon that his dad owns, by Billy and Rowan to help him shake his Woz addiction. Meanwhile, Earth, in the midst of thirty simultaneous wars, burns to ash beneath them. And as the robots on board become increasingly insane and cannibalistic, and the Earth becomes a toxic wasteland, the boys have to wonder if they’ll be stranded alone in space forever.

Booklist is quoted extensively every time I look this book up. So to save you time, here’s the a few lines from the Booklist review

Cager Messer and his best friend, Billy — both sons of wealthy industrialists—have stolen upon a luxury space cruiser along with Cager’s ever-faithful servant, Rowan. Aboard with them are “cogs” — humanlike android attendants programmed with unsettling, occasionally dangerous emotional instabilities. Then the latest (and last) in a long line of world wars breaks out on Earth below, and Cager and company believe that they’re the last humans in the universe. But before the true horror of that can set in, they must figure out how to defend themselves from the cogs, who have developed a penchant for robotic cannibalism… Those delving into Smith’s zany dystopia will find much to laugh and gasp at, including comedic and serious musings upon sex and violence. But most of all, they will find many deep, essential questions worth pondering.

Read the complete review at Booklist Online here.

Rabbit & Robot was published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on September 25, 2018. It is 438 pages, priced at $18.99 in hardcover and $10.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Mike Perry. Read all our recent New Treasures here.

Smithsonian Magazine on how Sci-Fi Lovers Owe a Debt of Gratitude to Betty Ballantine

Sunday, March 17th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Hyperborea Clark Ashton Smith-small Star Wars George Lucas-small A Guide to Barsoom by John Flint Roy 1976-small

Assorted Ballantine paperbacks, 1971 – 1976

Anyone who’s been reading Black Gate for any period of time, or is a fan of vintage science fiction, knows the name Betty Ballantine. With her husband Ian she founded Bantam Books, and later Ballantine Books. Last month Smithsonian Magazine paid tribute to Betty in an article titled Sci-Fi Lovers Owe a Debt of Gratitude to Betty Ballantine, in which they focus on the many ways in which she shaped 20th Century Science Fiction and Fantasy. Here’s a snippet.

The Ballantines made the decision to leave Penguin following the end of World War II due to creative differences, and from there, they went on to found Bantam Books, and, later, Ballantine Books, making them the first outlet to release hardcover and paperback editions simultaneously. Both publishing companies are now part of Penguin Random House, according to the Associated Press.

It was at Ballantine that Betty gave a voice to the then-fringe genre of sci-fi. Tom Doherty, founder of Tor Books, says that before Betty, those works were deemed “unimportant pulp” only fit to be published in cheap magazines and books. But Betty was inspired by the concept of using real science to hypothesize the future of innovation. As if she was a character in her favorite genre, Betty was able to see the potential of science fiction in novel form.

Both Bantam and Ballantine were instrumental in finding, publishing, and promoting early science fiction and fantasy, but Ballantine Books especially was crucial. They were responsible for Lin Carter’s legendary Ballantine Adult Fantasy line, the groundbreaking Best of series (which we have paid tribute to many times), bringing Tolkien to American audiences in an authorized edition, and much, more more.

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Future Treasures: Greystone Secrets #1: The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Saturday, March 16th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Greystone Secrets The Strangers-smallMargaret Peterson Haddix is The New York Times bestselling author of a bunch of stuff, including The Shadow Children, Children of Exile, and The Missing series. Her latest is a middle-grade thriller that Booklist says “blends adventure and sf elements into an engrossing mystery… secret rooms, alternate realities, and a cliffhanger ending raise the stakes and delight fans new and old.” It arrives in hardcover on April 2.

What makes you you?

The Greystone kids thought they knew. Chess has always been the protector over his younger siblings, Emma loves math, and Finn does what Finn does best — acting silly and being adored. They’ve been a happy family, just the three of them and their mom.

But everything changes when reports of three kidnapped children reach the Greystone kids, and they’re shocked by the startling similarities between themselves and these complete strangers. The other kids share their same first and middle names. They’re the same ages. They even have identical birthdays. Who, exactly, are these strangers?

Before Chess, Emma, and Finn can question their mom about it, she takes off on a sudden work trip and leaves them in the care of Ms. Morales and her daughter, Natalie. But puzzling clues left behind lead to complex codes, hidden rooms, and a dangerous secret that will turn their world upside down.

Here’s the rundown from Publishers Weekly.

In Ohio, the Greystone kids — responsible Chess, math-savvy Emma, and excitable Finn — have established a pleasant life with their mother years after their father’s death. Until, that is, the day they find their mother weeping and wan over a news story about three kidnapped Arizona children… After their mom disappears on a “work trip” the very next day, the Greystones receive a cryptic farewell and a coded letter… A secret-stacked, thrilling series opener.

Greystone Secrets #1: The Strangers will be published by Katherine Tegen Books on April 2, 2019. It is 416 pages, priced at $17.99 in hardcover and $10.99 in digital formats. It is illustrated by Anne Lambelet, whom I presume also did the terrific cover. Read the first eight chapters here.

See all our recent Future Treasures here.

Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 Hugo Award for Best Short Story: “The Meeting,” by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth, and “Eurema’s Dam,” by R. A. Lafferty

Saturday, March 16th, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton

Fantasy and Science Fiction November 1972-small Fantasy and Science Fiction November 1972-back-small

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1972; cover by Ed Emshwiller

Steven Silver has been doing a series covering the award winners from his age 12 year, and Steven has credited me for (indirectly) suggesting this, when I quoted Peter Graham’s statement “The Golden Age of Science Fiction” is 12, in the “comment section” to the entry on 1973 in Jo Walton’s wonderful book An Informal History of the Hugos. You see, I was 12 in 1972, so the awards for 1973 were the awards for my personal Golden Age. And Steven suggested that much as he is covering awards for 1980, I might cover awards for 1973 here in Black Gate.

In 1973 there was a tie for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story. (There have been several ties in Hugo history, perhaps most famously for the 1966 Best Novel, shared by Roger Zelazny’s F&SF serial “… And Call Me Conrad” and Frank Herbert’s Dune.) The winners were Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth for “The Meeting,” and R. A. Lafferty for “Eurema’s Dam.” This was the first fiction Hugo for each of these writers, and the only one for Kornbluth (not surprising, as he died in 1958) and Lafferty. Kornbluth did win a Retro-Hugo in 2001 for his 1950 novelette “The Little Black Bag,” and another posthumous award, the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award for The Syndic. Lafferty won a World Fantasy Life Achievement Award, as well as the Phoenix Award and two Seiuns for Best Story translated into Japanese (“Eurema’s Dam” and “Groaning Hinges of the World”). Pohl’s lists of awards is very long indeed: they include later Hugos for his novel Gateway and his short story “Fermi and Frost,” three Hugos as Editor of If, the Best Magazine winner in 1965-1967, Campbells for Gateway and The Years of the City, Nebulas for Man Plus and Gateway, Locus Awards for his memoir The Way the Future Was and his novella “The Gold at the Starbow’s End,” a late (2010) Hugo for Best Fan Writer, and of course he was named SFWA Grand Master in 1993.

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