A Mashup of Firefly, The Rowan, and Star Wars: Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019 | Posted by Elizabeth Galewski

Aurora Rising-smallThe spaceship disintegrates around Tyler, sagging and rupturing, giving way to the void. He’s going to die out here in hyperspace, taken out by one of its freak Foldstorms.

He isn’t supposed to be here. It’s the night before the Draft, and he should be sleeping, preparing to tap the team he wants. As the top-ranked Alpha in the League, he’s got the strongest draft picks of anyone.

But he couldn’t sleep. And then the distress call came in.

Everyone knows that the Hadfield colony ship was lost more than two hundred years ago. But somehow, impossibly, it shows up on radar. And according to the initial scan, it contains tens of thousands of corpses, but also a single heat signature…

Somewhere deep in the hold of the Hadfield, someone’s alive.

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Future Treasures: Priest of Lies, Book II of War for the Rose Throne by Peter McLean

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Priest of Bones-medium Priest of Lies-small

When you’ve been reading fantasy as long as I have, you get used to hyperbolic praise plastered all over book covers. But even so, you don’t see the kind widespread acclaim that was heaped on the opening novel in Peter McLean’s new fantasy series last year, Priest of Bones.

Booknest called it “Absolutely sensational… Low Fantasy at its finest, and I wouldn’t hesitate to call it the Fantasy Debut of the Year,” and Fantasy Book Review said, “I can safely say that this will be the book dark fantasy and grimdark fans will be raving about at the end of this year.” Even Booklist raved, proclaiming it “A pitch-perfect blend of fantasy and organized-crime sagas like Puzo’s The Godfather… Expect word of mouth support from fantasy fans to turn this one into a genre hit.” But I think my favorite came from Publisher’s Weekly, with their usual economy:

Tomas Piety [is] a nefarious crime lord turned priest. After being away at war for many years, Tomas comes back to find that Ellinburg is changed… With his gang of Pious Men, Tomas embroils himself in cutthroat politics and epic barroom brawls to win back the city that once was his… Anyone itching to read a high-stakes story should pick up this delightful combination of medieval fantasy and crime drama.

Read the complete PW review here.

The second book in the series, Priest of Lies, is one of the most anticipated books of the year. It arrives in trade paperback from Ace Books next week. Here’s the description.

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Alien Artifacts, Cosmic Mystery, and an Impossible Murder Weapon: July/August Print Magazines

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Asimov's Science Fiction July August 2019-small Analog Science Fiction and Fact July August 2019-small Alfred Hitchcock 's Mystery Magazine July August 2019-small

Nick Wolven and Leah Cypess both have stories in Asimov’s SF and Analog this month, which is quite an accomplishment. Chris Willrich, whom BG readers will remember from his story “The Lions of Karthagar” in Black Gate 15, has a short story in Asimov’s, with the intriguing title “Fragments from the Library of Cygnus X-1.”

Asimov’s also manages to cram two long novellas in the July/August double issue, by Suzanne Palmer and Tegan Moore, alongside fiction by Ian McHugh, Harry Turtledove, Dominica Phetteplace, Bruce Boston, and others. Analog has an even more impressive line up, with tales from Greg Egan, Paul Di Filippo, Catherine Wells, Joe M. McDermott, Steve Rasnic Tem, John Vester, Buzz Dixon, and others.

And although I don’t usually buy mystery magazines, I added Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine to the pile at the checkout counter this month, mostly because of the cover. I’ll let you know what I think.

All three are published by Dell Magazines. As usual, all have detailed summaries at their respective websites. Here they are.

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New Treasures: The Ragged Blade by Christopher Ruz

Monday, June 24th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Ragged Blade-back-small The Ragged Blade-small

Back in January I wrote about a conversation Colin Coyle, co-founder of Parvus Press, and I had in a bar at the World Fantasy Convention. One of the upcoming titles he told me about was The Ragged Blade, the debut fantasy novel from Christopher Ruz. The book’s editor, Kaelyn E. Considine, was kind enough to send me a copy of the finished book, and it looks fantastic. In an article titled “Why I Love The Ragged Blade” on the Parvus website, Colin pulls back on the curtain on how a small press acquires a book like this one.

One of the first books that was ever submitted to us was Century of Sand by Christopher Ruz. It was a previously self-published book that Ruz had released years prior. The book had some very positive reviews, but Ruz wasn’t sure how to go about selling it to a broad audience. He wanted to know if we wanted to pick it up and re-release it… Century of Sand was a tautly-paced book. It was a violin string on the verge of snapping. It was the work of a guy who was going to be a master at managing the rise and fall of mood, tension, and action in a book. But it wasn’t yet the best book it could be… when the Parvus team met to go through acquisitions, we all agreed we weren’t ready to take on the complexities of a re-release.

Two years later, Ruz sent me a brand new novel that he was querying… I called him right away and told him I thought it was time for us to tackle that Century of Sand challenge together and he readily agreed. It was a weird path to a publishing deal; I reject the book and then, two years later I end up buying it because of an entire different manuscript he sent. But publishing is a weird business, I’m a weird guy, and some of the best things in life are weird. Like pudding or bergamot.

So we picked up Century of Sand, Ruz threw away the opening third of the book, combined major characters, eliminated sub-plots, and all-but-completely rewrote anything that remained. And what we ended up with was The Ragged Blade, Book One of the Century of Sand by Christopher Ruz… I love this book. I love the broken father/daughter journey, the way this book is both expansive and intimate at the same time, and how every page of The Ragged Blade is a carefully composed work of true craft.

The Ragged Blade was published by Parvus Press on June 4, 2019. It is 459 pages, priced at $14.99 in trade paperback and $7.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Ronan Le Fur. See our previous Parvus Press coverage here.

Ramblings on REH (Encore Appearance)

Monday, June 24th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Ramblings_KullAxeDue to some difficulties, I do not have a Hither Came Conan essay ready to run today. I hope to have one next week. And, work is brutal at the moment. Also, as this post goes live, I am on day three of a four-day camping trip with my son. So I did not have time for an original Conan essay — or even a new A (Black) Gat in the Hand post, either. So, from waaay back on August 10, 2015, here’s one of the very first REH-related posts I wrote here at Black Gate. I think the first was a review of Harry Turtledove’s middling Conan of Venarium.

I was an REH neophyte at the time: I’ve learned a LOT since then. I do plan on expanding on the Howard/Hammet similarity some day. I saw that from the very beginning. Since you probably missed this post the first time around, read on!

In a way, Robert E. Howard’s career is similar to that of Dashiell Hammett. Both men had huge impacts on their genres (Howard wrote many styles, but he’s best known for his sword and sorcery tales). Both were early practitioners in said genres. Both men wrote excellent stories for about a decade. And both men ended their careers on their own.

Hammett, who seemed more interested in a dissolute lifestyle than in writing, effectively walked away from his typewriter. He wrote his last novel in 1934 (The Thin Man) but produced literally nothing for the remaining twenty-five years of his life. He could have gone back to writing the hard-boiled stories that made his career, but he voluntarily ended his writing life.

In 1936, Howard’s mother was failing in a coma. He walked outside to his car, pulled out a gun and killed himself. His writing career was more effectively finished than Hammett’s would be.

Both were supremely skilled writers who chose to deprive the world of their talent and left decades of stories unwritten. But there was a key difference between the two. From the beginning, Hammett was acclaimed and recognized as the leader in his field. Though Carroll John Daly came first (barely), there is no comparison between the two in critical view.

Howard was not critically lauded. His first Conan tale, “The Phoenix on the Sword” (a rewriting of the Kull story, “By This Axe I Rule!”), appeared in Weird Tales in December of 1932. The next two Conan tales were outright rejected!

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Alien

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Alien poster

Alien poster

Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Jones

Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Jones

The Best Dramatic Presentation category was not one of the original Hugo categories in 1953, but was introduced in 1958, when it was won by The Incredible Shrinking Man. No Award won in 1959 followed by three years of The Twilight Zone and another No Award. The Award, called variously Best Dramatic Presentation and Best SF or Fantasy Movie, was given out annually from 1958 through 2002 when it was split into two categories, one for Short Form and one for Long Form. In 1980, the Hugo Award was presented at Noreascon Two in Boston, Massachusetts on August 31.

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 was changed to the British Fantasy Award, although the August Derleth name was still the name for the Best Novel Award. A category for Best Film was created in 1973 and ran years until 1990 and has not been replaced. In 1980, the awards were presented at Fantasycon VI in Birmingham.

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was released in 1968.  Eleven years later, Ridley Scott released Alien. Although one is generally thought of as a spiritual science fiction film and the other is a science fiction horror film, there are similarities between the two.

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Vintage Treasures: Perilous Planets, edited by Brian Aldiss

Saturday, June 22nd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Perilous Planets-back-small Perilous Planets-small

Cover by Alex Ebel

In the days when I was first discovering science fiction, there were a number of seminal books that helped lead me along the path to becoming a collector. These were the tantalizing artifacts that taught me that SF and fantasy tended to come in a series, just like the comics I collected in my youth. And this — in the days when completing a series meant questing through bookstores, instead of simply ordering online — added a delicious element of uncertainty and desire to my new hobby.

I knew that my favorite books as a kid, like Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators and Perry Rhodan, were packaged as a series, and I was comfortable with the concept. When it gradually dawned on me that adult SF books, like Asimov’s Foundation series, Herbert’s Dune, The Lord of the Rings, and others, were series as well, I took to science fiction like a fish to water.

SF publishers understood this simple reading mentality of course, and frequently took advantage of it, packaging books that often had only nebulous connections into virtual series. Some were more successful than others. One of my favorite examples is the late 70s SF anthology series from Avon Books, all published with gorgeous wraparound covers by Alex Ebel. Avon found four Brian Aldiss anthologies published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in the UK, and repackaged them with similar covers across the pond: Galactic Empires Volume One (1979), Galactic Empires: Volume Two (1979), Evil Earths (1979), and Perilous Planets (1980).

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Tor.com on Robert E. Howard’s First (and Best?) Barbarian

Friday, June 21st, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Kull Robert E Howard-back-small Kull Robert E Howard-small

Kull the Fabulous Warrior King (Bantam, 1978). Art by Lou Feck

Rogue Blades Entertainment mastermind Jason M Waltz tipped me off to this article at Tor.com this morning, saying,

A decent article, even well-argued, but I disagree Kull is the better barbarian. Kull is the precursor to the culmination that is Conan; without Kull, Conan would be a lesser creation. Yet I enjoyed the article.

The piece itself, by Alan Brown, is a thoughtful look at one of Robert E. Howard’s early creations, and a great intro to a fascinating character, especially for those chiefly familiar with Howard through his later Conan tales.

The Kull stories marked the first time that Howard created an entire quasi-medieval world from whole cloth. While the various races and tribes bear some resemblance to peoples who inhabit the world today, he portrayed a time before the great cataclysm that caused Atlantis to sink, when even the shape of the land was different, a time when pre-human races still walked the Earth. Kull is an Atlantean barbarian who from his earliest days harbored an ambition that set him apart from his fellow tribesmen. A large, quick man, often compared to a tiger, he is powerful yet lithe, with dark hair and grey eyes, and a complexion bronzed from a life in the sun. He had been a warrior, galley slave, pirate, mercenary, and general before seizing the throne of Valusia from the corrupt King Borna. While a mighty warrior, Kull also has a whimsical and inquisitive side. He could be kind and sensitive, and is fascinated by the metaphysical.

Read the entire piece here.

Goth Chick News: The Time We Went on the Mother of all Haunted House Bus Tours

Thursday, June 20th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Goth Chick Midwest Haunters Convention Pre-convention Haunted Bus Tour-small

Though there is no denying that the opportunity to talk to you about my favorite genre each week is in general the most awesome job ever, there are certain Goth Chick News situations which transcend awesomeness into full-on unbelievable. Just such a situation occurred last week when Black Gate photog Chris Z and I were invited to join the Midwest Haunters Convention’s pre-convention, haunted house bus tour.

The MHC, which unlike the HAA is open to the public, is a show we’ve talked about covering for years, but until 2019 it had been 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, the show organizers, Transworld, made the incredibly convenient decision to move the MHC to a Chicago suburb.

Insert fan-girl squee here.

In advance of the show, MCH organized a Haunted House Bus Tour consisting of a 13-hour odyssey to visit four of the top, professional haunts in Chicagoland. These attractions would be fully staffed and operational (on a Thursday in June by the way) for the enjoyment of the guests who would experience each of them twice; once as visitors do during “the season” in October, and once with the lights turned on and all the magic revealed.

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The Adventure Stories We’ve Needed: Crossbones & Crosses: An Anthology of Heroic Swashbuckling Adventure, edited by Jason M Waltz

Thursday, June 20th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Art by Dieder Normand

There’s been no shortage of publishing events in 2019, but one of the most exciting for me personally has been the return of Rogue Blades Entertainment.

In its heyday about a decade ago, RBE was well on the way to becoming the most important adventure fantasy publisher in the US. With a back catalog that included Writing Fantasy Heroes (which included contributions from luminaries such as Steven Erikson, Brandon Sanderson, Orson Scott Card, Glen Cook, and Howard Andrew Jones), and hit anthologies like Rage of the Behemoth (2009) and Demons (2010), it had built a loyal customer base and a stellar reputation. Then the creative mastermind behind Rogue Blades, Jason M Waltz, scaled back operations to make certain they could reliably deliver on their long-term commitments.

It was a strategy that paid off. The contest anthology Challenge! Discovery, RBE’s first new book in four years, appeared in 2017, and Crazy Town, a brand new anthology of hard boiled tales, arrived to wide acclaim in November. And the book I’ve really been waiting for, Crossbones & Crosses, an anthology of Heroic Swashbuckling Adventure, was published just last month with a stellar cover by artist Dieder Normand.

Crossbones & Crosses is a collection of new and reprint tales of swashbuckling historical adventure featuring pirates and crusaders. Contributors include Howard Andrew Jones, Keith Taylor, C.L. Werner, and many others. Here’s a snippet from Keith West’s review at Adventures Fantastic.

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