Vintage Bits: FTL — Faster Than Light

Sunday, June 30th, 2019 | Posted by Ernst Krogtoft

FTL Games Dungeon Master

In the grand scheme of computer gaming history, where significant people, games, and companies from bygone eras still to this day earn fame and fortune, FTL might really be one of the ’80s gamings unsung heroes – with its short lifespan, and the way it faded into the dusty corners of history after only a handful of releases.

Though it may seem like the story of FTL is almost entirely the story of Dungeon Master, an earlier game, originally for the Apple II, showed the level which FTL was able to perform on.


FTL Games (Faster Than Light) was started by Wayne Holder in 1982 as a games development division under his software company Software Heaven. Holder had been developing software tools to help assist writers fr some time, but a conversation in 1982 with an old friend from college, Bruce Webster, would be the spark that ignited FTL. Webster was a dedicated player and amateur game designer. He’d written columns for both The Space Gamer and Computer Gaming World and owned a large number of sci-fi/role-playing board games.

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2019 Locus Award Winners Announced

Sunday, June 30th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Calculating Stars Mary Robinette Kowal-small Spinning Silver Naomi Novik-small The Cabin at the End of the World Paul Tremblay-small

The Locus Awards, voted on by readers in an open online poll, have been presented every year since 1971. (A quarter century before there was such a thing as an online poll. Back in the day, we used to send ballots through the mail. Ask your parents what that means.) The final ballot lists ten finalists in each category, including Science Fiction Novel, Fantasy Novel, Horror Novel, Young Adult Book, First Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Anthology, Collection, Magazine, Publisher, Editor, Artist, Non-Fiction,Art Book, plus a Special Award given by committee. The winners were announced at the Locus Awards Weekend in Seattle, Washington, June 29, 2019.

Even if you didn’t vote in the awards, the list of Finalists makes a terrific Recommended Reading list. Two years ago Jonathan Strahan posted the following on his Facebook feed, and it still makes a lot of sense.

Here’s a thought, fellow SF readers. Locus has just announced its long list for the Locus Awards. Forget that it’s an awards list for a moment, though. It’s a reading list.

So why not look down the list below for Best First Novel. and try something new? Pick a book from the list below. Buy a copy, borrow a copy, go to the library and grab a copy. Track one down, and try something new…. I can recommend the Lee, Shawl and Slatter books very highly. Some of the others look really interesting.

Here’s the complete list of winners.

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Doctor Strange in Space by Mark Waid and Jesús Saiz

Saturday, June 29th, 2019 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Strange-1318x2000 77fa0eaa0d4e000b60a100fc0576a24c._SX1280_QL80_TTD_

In 2018, Mark Waid and Jesus Saiz launched a new Doctor Strange series at Marvel. I’ve been a fan of Strange since I started comics (issue #34 was one of the first four comics I ever read). He was my gateway to Lovecraftian cosmic horror, The Defenders and Steve Ditko.

The series premise is pretty simple. Strange, the Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme, starts to have difficulty with his magic. As time goes on, his ability to perceive magic vanishes. Things like the Eye of Agamotto and the Cloak of Levitation become common objects to him, baubles of no apparently specialness. He scours the Earth for some solution, but finds none.

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Where Dogs Play a Part: Dogtime on the 5 Best Fantasy And Science Fiction Books With Dogs

Saturday, June 29th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

City Simak-small The Robots of Gotham paperback-small Top Dog Jerry Jay Carroll-small

Everybody loves recommending science fiction books. It’s not just our friends at, Kirkus Reviews, and The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog anymore. Last week at Dogtime (Dogtime?!) Jean Andrei recommended the 5 Best Fantasy And Science Fiction Books “where dogs play a part in the story.” Starting, of course, with one of the great classics of the genre, the 1944 fix-up novel City.

Written by Clifford D. Simak, it’s told from the perspective of dogs as they explain what happened at the end of human civilization. The story tells of the advancements of humans and their desire to explore the universe. Before they leave, however, they give the gift of speech to all dogs on earth, as well as robots as their companions. It’s a compelling novel that is as strange as it is fascinating.

Even Black Gate contributors are getting in on the act. Amazon reviewer Tim in Chicago recommends Todd McAulty’s robot apocalypse novel The Robots of Gotham, released this month in trade paperback.

All of you plot-driven, immersive world, dystopian fantasy, robot-obsessed, political intrigue, action fans come right in — the pages practically turn themselves. Like a Jason Bourne with robots and a more sympathetic hero, Barry uses his most human qualities to navigate a world of robots that would rather just crush him than care about him. And there is a loyal dog — robots will never understand dogs.

Most BG readers will know about those two of course, but there are plenty more if you know where to look. Starting with Jerry Jay Carroll’s 1996 fantasy Top Dog, the opening novel in his A Dog’s Life series.

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New Treasures: Reentry by Peter Cawdron

Friday, June 28th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Retrograde Peter Cawdron-small Reentry Peter Cawdron-small

I missed Peter Cawdron’s Retrograde when it was released by John Joseph Adams Books last year. But I received a review copy of Reentry, became immediately intrigued, and eventually figured out it was a sequel. Here’s what Publisher’s Weekly, clearly more on the ball than I, said about the first novel.

Post-apocalyptic disaster meets fractured utopian space exploration in this terrifying tale, which Cawdron sets in a scientific outpost on Mars. Geologist Liz inhabits one of four subterranean modules built through massive cooperation among earth’s space agencies. Hazy news of a widespread nuclear war back home sends the astronauts into paranoid seclusion… This tense cat and mouse game plays off fears of self-aware computers to satisfying result.

Here’s the publisher’s description for Reentry.

After almost dying on Mars, astronaut Liz Anderson returns to Earth, but not to a hero’s welcome. America is in turmoil. The war is over, but the insurgency has just begun. So while life on Mars may have been deadly, at least up there she knew who the enemy was. Along with her, Liz has brought the remnants of the artificial intelligence that waged war on two planets. Buried somewhere deep within the cold electronic circuits lies the last vestiges of her dead partner Jianyu. Liz is torn, unsure whether he’s somehow still alive in electronic form or just a ploy by an adversary that will go to any length to win. Heartbroken and treated with suspicion, she finds herself caught up in the guerrilla war being waged on Earth, wondering if the AI threat is truly gone, or if it has only just begun.

Now all that’s left to decide is which one to read first. Here’s the complete publishing details.

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Wordsmiths: Live Interview with Ada Palmer at ConFusion 2019!

Friday, June 28th, 2019 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

Too Like the Lightning-small Seven Surrenders-small The WIll to Battle-small

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a live interview! Back in January, I had the pleasure of attending ConFusion, Michigan’s annual conference for authors and fans of science fiction, fantasy and horror. If you’ve never been, I highly suggest you check it out; it’s become one of my top two U.S. cons for writers (alongside Readercon) and is always a ton of fun.

Like in 2018, the con-com let me sit down for a live interview with one of their GoHs, in this case the talented and insightful Ada Palmer. If you’re unfamiliar with her, Palmer is the author of the Terra Ignota series, which started in 2016 with Too Like the Lightning and is planned to conclude with book four, Perhaps the Stars, in 2020. Lightning earned Palmer the Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2017, and it was also nominated for the Hugo. It is an intricate, literary exploration of a future Earth shaped by the end of nation states and a set of Universal Laws.

I’ve gotten very lucky in who I’ve been able to interview lately, but talking with Palmer was fascinating. In 50 minutes we barely scratched the surface of what I wanted to discuss, and we easily could have continued for another couple of hours, mostly so I could keep learning. I hope you enjoy the interview below and encourage you to check out her work.

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Goth Chick News: At the Midwest Haunters Convention

Thursday, June 27th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Goth Chick Midwest Haunter's Convention 2019-small

For the past 30 years, TransWorld Tradeshows LLC has hosted the Haunted Attractions Association show (HAA) where professional haunt content providers come together to show off their new offerings. Though 2019 actuals aren’t yet available, an estimated 9,000 guests from around the world piled into the St. Louis America’s Center, which has hosted the HAA for the past 10 years.  The tradeshow floor space itself has tripled since the show moved to St. Louis from Chicago in 2009, which is understandable when you think about Halloween now being a $9 billion industry, with most of that money being made in the month of October.

And though the HAA is the largest event of its kind, it requires professional credentials to attend; credentials Black Gate’s ‘big cheese’ John O. is more than happy to give us, ensuring that for two days every February, BG photog Chris Z. and I will be out of the office, enabling the ‘upstairs staff’ to smoke cigars indoors and hold their annual strip D&D game.

Don’t ask.

However, this has left Chicago bereft of a significant haunt-industry trade show. TransWorld’s other big event, the Midwest Haunters Convention (MHC) which unlike the HAA is open to the public, is a show we’ve talked about covering for years, but it was held in Columbus, OH. That meant signing up to a 12-hour round trip car journey, which in and of itself isn’t horrible, until we considered the sort of overnight accommodations our Black Gate expense account would allow us… in Columbus, OH. While we were considering the viability of sleeping in the car, Transworld made the incredibly convenient decision to move the MHC to a Chicago suburb.

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Vintage Treasures: Pilgrims through Space and Time: A History and Analysis of Scientific Fiction by J. O. Bailey

Thursday, June 27th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Pilgrims through Space and Time-small

Cover by Ronald Clyne

You never know what strange wonders you’ll find at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Show. This year, among many other treasures on the $1 table, I found a coverless copy of J. O. Bailey’s 1947 nonfiction tome Pilgrims through Space and Time, which grew out of his 1934 Ph.D. thesis at the University of North Carolina.

You’d think a dissertation would be too dry to become a classic of genre (and in most cases you’d be right), but this was one popular enough to inspire the Pilgrim Award, given annually by the Science Fiction Research Association for contributions to the study of SF. It was first given to Bailey in 1970, and is still awarded today. Recipients have included Jack Williamson, Damon Knight, James E. Gunn, Brian W. Aldiss, Sam Moskowitz, Gary K. Wolfe, Joanna Russ, John Clute, L. Sprague de Camp, Brian Stableford, Mike Ashley, Gary Westfahl, Gérard Klein, Algis Budrys, and Pamela Sargent.

Pilgrims is a little dry for light reading, but I did find Bailey’s discussions of Lovecraft (“splendid”), and the pulp stories of Stanton Coblentz, Ray Cummings, A. Hyatt Verrill, John Taine, and others, to be entertaining enough to make me want to pick up some of my favorite pulp anthologies again — and maybe look at them in a new light.

Thomas Clareson, in his 1972 foreword to the Greenwood Press reprint edition, did a fine job summarizing the importance of this book to early SF scholarship. Here’s what he said.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Michael Whelan

Thursday, June 27th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver



A Princess of Mars

A Princess of Mars

The Gods of Mars

The Gods of Mars

The Best Artist category was not one of the original Hugo categories in 1953, but was introduced at the second awards in 1955, when it was won by Frank Kelly Freas. Since then, some version of the award has been a constant, with the exception of 1957, when the award was not presented. Originally called the Hugo for Best Artist, it eventually became the award for best Professional Artist when the Best Fan Artist award was introduced in 1967. Michael Whelan won his first award in 1980, beginning a seven year run of winning the award. He eventually won the award thirteen times, most recently in 2002, along with two other Hugo Award for Best Nonfiction Book (in 1988) and the first award for Best Original Artwork (in 1992). He has been nominated for the Hugo a total of 31 times.

The Locus Awards were established in 1972 and presented by Locus Magazine based on a poll of its readers. In more recent years, the poll has been opened up to on-line readers, although subscribers’ votes have been given extra weight. At various times the award has been presented at Westercon and, more recently, at a weekend sponsored by Locus at the Science Fiction Museum (now MoPop) in Seattle. The Best Artist award dates back to 1974, although in the three previous years, a Best Paperback Cover Artist award was presented and in the previous two years a Best Magazine Artist awards was presented. The first Professional Artist award was won by Frank Kelly Freas. Michael Whelan won his first award in 1980, beginning a twenty-one year run of winning the award. He eventually won the award thirty times, with one additional win for Best Art Book in 1994. In 1980. The Locus Poll received 854 responses.

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You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Bookshelf: John DeNardo on the Best June Science Fiction & Fantasy

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Girl in Red Christina Henry-small The Iron Dragon's Mother Michael Swanwick-small Wastelands The New Apocalypse John Joseph Adams-small

It’s been a while since we’ve checked in with John DeNardo, the most well-informed man in science fiction (way back in March, if you must know, when he recommended Titanshade and A Memory Called Empire to us.) John never slows down, and at the beginning of the month he surveyed the best new science fiction and fantasy arrivals in his regular column at Kirkus Reviews. Here’s a few of the highlights, starting with a post-apocalyptic version of Little Red Riding Hood from Christina Henry.

The Girl in Red by Christina Henry (Berkley, 304 pages, $16.00 in trade paperback/$11.99 digital, June 18, 2019)

With The Girl in Red, Christina Henry one again proves that retellings don’t necessarily lack originality. (Her previous re-spins of classic stories include 2015’s Alice, 2016’s Red Queen, 2017’s Lost Boy, and 2018’s The Mermaid.) In this post-apocalyptic take on Little Red Riding Hood, a Crisis has decimated much of the world population, forcing survivors to huddle in quarantine camps. But that doesn’t mean that the woman in the red jacket is helpless against the new kind of monster that the Crisis has created.

Next up is Michael Swanwick’s long-awaited sequel to his World Fantasy Award nominee The Iron Dragon’s Daughter (1993), which came in #2 in the voting for the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, and The Dragons of Babel (2008).

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