Goth Chick News: Count(ing) Dracula – There’s Always Room for One More

Thursday, October 31st, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Every Night is Halloween

First off, being today is the holiday around which the entire Goth Chick News year revolves, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!! The Black Gate offices are positively awash in cobwebs and black candles, while the adult beverage maker is blending at top speed. It’s causing a brown out in the executive suite but is also serving to drown out John O shouting about not being able to hear his Robots of Gotham audio book. Black Gate photog Chris Z, who is wearing a Devil’s Rejects tee shirt with his kilt and army boots, is hosting a screening of Zombeavers for the interns, and the whole place smells like Fireball whiskey and pumpkin spice.

And never mind it’s snowing in Chicago…

So, before I head out to the Uber for my 24-hour bacchanalia of decadence marking October 31st, I had to take the time to give you this one tib bit of (hopefully) good news.

As you may or may not be aware, Dracula has headlined no less than 61 films since Mr. Stoker first introduced him to us in 1897. There has literally been a Dracula for all times and cultures, appearing on the big screen and small, and telling us about the children of the night in literally dozens of languages. But today we get a glimpse into the fanged-one’s spiritual homecoming. Though the vampire made his home in Transylvania, Dracula as a character was born in Cruden Bay, Scotland rooting his literary origins firmly in the U.K. and it is from London where he is once again being reborn.

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Vintage Treasures: Cats Have No Lord and The Tangled Lands by Will Shetterly

Thursday, October 31st, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Cats Have No Lord-small The Tangled Lands-small

Covers by Janny Wurts and E. T. Steadman

Will Shetterly has a fine back-catalog of fantasy novels, most from the 80s and 90s. They include Witch Blood (1986), Elsewhere (1991), and his most famous book, Dogland (1997). With his wife Emma Bull he created and edited the popular Liavek shared universe anthologies.

He began his career as a novelist with the wonderfully-titled Cats Have No Lord, released back in April 1985. It came in sixth in the annual Locus Poll for Best First Novel (losing out to Tad Williams, Guy Gavriel Kay, Michael Swanwick, and Carl Sagan, but ahead of Geoff Ryman, Judith Tarr, Sheila Finch, and Dan Simmons — no shame placing 6th in a year like that!) Four years later he published a prequel, The Tangled Lands. In a 2012 post on his blog, Shetterly looked back fondly at Cats Have No Lord, while openly acknowledging its flaws.

Cats Have No Lord is my first novel. I had tried to write several more ambitious — meaning, more pretentious — books and gave up on them because they were awful, so I finally decided to learn how to write by writing something with everything I’d loved as a kid. If I missed any fantasy cliches of the ’70s, I don’t know what they were: this book has a spunky female thief, a mysterious swordsman, a magician, and a big barbarian. Oh, and a talking horse.

It sounds awful, but my love must’ve shown through, or maybe readers were more desperate or more kind in those days. Booklist said, “The first-rate world building, the unique cast of characters, and the author’s clever whimsey make it absorbing reading. Recommended.”

“Unique” must mean they thought I did good things with the characters, but every single one began with a trip through Central Casting to see who was available. Literally.

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A Wide Range of Stories: John DeNardo on the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books in October

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Half Way Home by Hugh Howey-small How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse-small Salvation Lost Peter F. Hamilton-small

In his intro to his book roundup for October over at Kirkus Reviews, John DeNardo says:

I’m constantly surprised at the wide range of stories offered within the science fiction and fantasy genres. Just take a look at this month’s top science fiction and fantasy picks and you’ll see what I mean.

He’s certainly got a point. SF and fantasy fans are constantly making up new sub-genres and sub-sub-genres to categorize just what the hell we read every month (Weird Western, Urban Fantasy, Sword-and-Planet, Space Opera, Steampunk, Cyberpunk, Ghostpunk, Elfpunk…), and it still seems that half the new stuff is just flat-out uncategorizable.

October’s new SF & Fantasy is no different. Over at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog Jeff Somers catalogs 29 October titles by Tade Thompson, Cixin Liu, Tim Pratt, Theodora Goss, and our very own Derek Künsken, but John takes a different tack, narrowing his focus to The 7 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books to Read This October. Here’s a few highlights from his suggestions.

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Future Treasures: The Best of Jerry Pournelle edited by John F. Carr

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best of Jerry Pournelle-smallJerry Pournelle was the author of the Falkenberg’s Legion series, including one of my favorite military SF novels, West of Honor (1976), as well as Janissaries, and dozens of other novels. He’s perhaps best remembered for his bestselling collaborations with Larry Niven, including The Mote in God’s Eye (1974), Lucifer’s Hammer (1977), and Footfall (1985), which contains a barely-disguised Robert A. Heinlein as a character. He died in 2017.

Pournelle was a controversial figure in SF. He was one of the writers who paid to have a pro-Vietnam War proclamation in Galaxy Science Fiction in 1968, and he described his politics as “somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan.” His novels, like The Legacy of Heorot (1987, written with Steven Barnes and Larry Niven) contain heroes who stroke their rifle lovingly, noting that they’ve never cared for a woman as much as they care for their guns. They contain lines that will make you drop the book on your foot.

Still, he was a tireless editor and short story writer. His anthologies include 2020 Vision (1974), a book that looked 46 years into the future, at the distant year 2020; Black Holes (1978), still one of the best introductions to the enigma of black holes in SF; the long-running Far Frontiers series (seven volumes, edited with Jim Baen), and ten volumes of a gonzo series that looked forward to future conflicts with near-sexual desire, There Will Be War (1983-2015).

Pournelle is not for everyone. Obviously. But he did produce some fine short fiction, much of it still worth a look today. Baen Books will release The Best of Jerry Pournelle next week, a fat 576-page collection gathering 15 stories — including a 162-page novella previously only available as an e-book, The Secret of Black Ship Island (2012, written with his long-time collaborators Steven Barnes & Larry Niven), and two previously unpublished stories.

It also contains some of Pournelle’s non-fiction (the preface to There Will be War, Volume I), and tributes by Larry King, David Gerrold, Larry Niven, Steven Barnes, and Robert Gleason.

Here’s the description, and the complete Table of Contents.

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Ply the Space Lanes in Search of Profit: The Traveller Customizable Card Game

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Traveler CCG Two Player Starter Set-small

Traveller was one of the first role playing games I ever played — and it definitely was the first science fiction RPG I ever played.

But that’s not what I remember about it. What I remember about it was the strange little mini-game in the back of the rulebook, essentially a set of rules for interstellar trading. Really no more than a few tables and some guidelines, it was a bare-bones simulator for an independent trade ship in the stars. It was nonetheless enough to fire our imagination, and my friends and I spent many summer hours rolling dice, struggling to keep our tiny commercial vessels profitable as we tried to find viable trade routes between Altair and Ursa Major. Other games had better combat and character generation, but none could terrify you with the specter of bankruptcy like Traveller.

I think that’s why I’m so interested in the new Traveller Customizable Card Game. While it’s not an RPG, it does promise some of the deep-space capitalist thrill that those old tables delivered. It puts you in the shoes of a independent ship captain — think Mal Reynolds in Firefly — plying the mains in search of profit and adventure. You can hire a crew, find contracts, explore, choose piracy, pay off your ship, and go bankrupt, all against the rich backdrop of the Third Imperium.

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New Treasures: Grave Importance, Book 3 of Dr. Greta Helsing, by Vivian Shaw

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Strange-Practice-Vivian-Shaw-smaller Dreadful-Company-Vivian-Shaw-smaller Grave Importance-small

Vivian Shaw’s debut fantasy novel was Strange Practice (2017). It introduced the world to Dr. Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead, and SFFWorld labeled it “a triumph.” The sequel, Dreadful Company, in which Dr. Helsing uncovers a coven of vampires underneath Paris, was released last year. Liz Bourke at Tor.com raved, saying “Dreadful Company is fast, fun, and immensely readable… [and] laugh-out-loud funny… it’s delightful.”

I’ve been looking forward to the third volume of this witty fantasy adventure series, and it finally arrived last month. Here’s the description.

Oasis Natrun: a private, exclusive, highly secret luxury health spa for mummies, high in the hills above Marseille, equipped with the very latest in therapeutic innovations both magical and medical. To Dr. Greta Helsing, London’s de facto mummy specialist, it sounds like paradise. But when Greta is invited to spend four months there as the interim clinical director, it isn’t long before she finds herself faced with a medical mystery that will take all her diagnostic skill to solve.

A peculiar complaint is spreading among her mummy patients, one she’s never seen before. With help from her friends and colleagues — including Dr. Faust (yes, that Dr. Faust), a sleepy scribe-god, witches, demons, a British Museum curator, and the inimitable vampyre Sir Francis Varney — Greta must put a stop to this mysterious illness before anybody else crumbles to irreparable dust…

…and before the fabric of reality itself can undergo any more structural damage.

You can read the first four chapters of Strange Practice at the Orbit website, and get more details on the series hereGrave Importance was published by Orbit on September 24, 2019. It is 448 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Will Staehle. See all our recent coverage of the best Series Fantasy here.


The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The Unlimited Dream Company, by J.G. Ballard

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Bill Botten

Cover by Bill Botten

Cover by Carlos Ochiagavia

Cover by Carlos Ochiagavia

Cover by Peter Goodfellow

Cover by Peter Goodfellow

The British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards have been presented by the British Science Fiction Association since 1970 and were originally nominated for and voted on by the members of the Association. The Best Novel Award was one of the original awards and the first two were won by John Brunner for his novels Stand on Zanzibar and The Jagged Orbit. J.G. Ballard would be nominated for the Best Novel award three times, only winning on his first nomination in 1980.

Ballard’s novel The Unlimited Dream Company is told by Blake, an antihero and narrator so unreliable it is difficult for the reader to determine if anything he says in the course of the novel is real or merely the result of Blake’s own warped perception. The novel opens with Blake relating how as a young man he moved in with a woman, wound up killing her, and stealing an airplane before crashing it into the Thames. His first victim is never mentioned again and throughout the novel it isn’t clear if Blake died in the crash, if everything he relates in the book is the subject of visions brought about by his drowning and asphyxia, or if any of it actually happened to him and the community of Shepperton, where all the action takes place.

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Michael Blumlein, June 28, 1948 – October 24, 2019

Monday, October 28th, 2019 | Posted by Gordon Van Gelder

Michael Blumlein The Movement of Mountains-small

Last summer, I got an email from Michael Blumlein about how much he liked Audrey Schulman’s PKD Award-winning novel Theory of Bastards and in the email, he said, “What are you doing that keeps you smiling these days?”

So I sent him a response by mail and since then, we’d been swapping dead-tree correspondence. I’m pretty sure he had no fear of dying, but he was so full of life that it’s sad to learn the end has come.

But it’s not the end, in that he lives on — through his family (to whom my sympathies go out) and through his work, which was simply amazing.

The Movement of Mountains came out shortly before I started working at St. Martin’s, but I did some mop-up work on it (I probably contacted him when the remaining copies of the book were remaindered, for instance). I can’t remember where or when we first met — it was before the ’93 Worldcon, I’m certain of that — but we always seemed to have a good time.

When I took the F&SF reins from Kris Rusch, the first story I bought was Michael’s “Paul and Me.” It remains one of my favorite stories. I think my enjoyment of the story is enhanced by the memory of some outraged letters we got over Michael’s bold revisionist treatment of an American myth. Michael considered writing a whole series of stories about the deaths of American folk heroes.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Frank Schildiner on ‘The Bad Guys of Pulp’

Monday, October 28th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Schildiner_LesHabits1EDITEDMy buddy Frank Schildiner is a prolific New Pulpster who wrote about Max Allen Collins in the first run of A (Black) Gat in the Hand. I immediately turned back to him and he’s back again for round two with a look at the bad guys of pulp. 

“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

  “Bring on the Bad Guys…Pulp Edition”

“The battle line between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“There’s something about America’s sweetheart and America’s bad boy. That juxtaposition is what everyone desires.” – Machine Gun Kelly

Bad guy, villain, evildoer, crook, criminal, and gangster. Fiction has a love affair with these characters ranging from low-level sneak thieves to wizards intent on destroying all life on Earth. In many cases, the villain is the driving force behind the tale. Where would fiction be without Lady MacBeth, Grendel’s Mother, Long John Silver, or Count Dracula?

Though the villain is often the impetus, they rarely hold the place of protagonist in novels until recent times. A few famous characters did achieve notoriety, influencing fiction to this day.

The first true villain-centered, serialized fiction was probably Paul Féval’s series Les Habits Noirs. The eleven novels reveal a worldwide criminal conspiracy led by the evil, manipulative, and possibly immortal, Colonel Bozzo-Corona. The Colonel, and his organization the Black Coats, battled the forces of good as well as each other in tales which thrilled readers for thirty-one years.

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Writing is an Evolutionary Act

Sunday, October 27th, 2019 | Posted by James Van Pelt

Clarkesworld 157 October 2019-small Asimov's Science Fiction July 1986 Analog-science-fiction-and-fact-december-2016-small

Covers by Beeple, Gary Freeman and Vincent Di Fate

I had an interesting conversation with a newish writer at MileHiCon last weekend. She said that she’d been submitting to small markets until she was “good enough for the biggies.” She meant Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov’s, AnalogTor.com and a couple of others. She said, “I figure you only have two or three chances with those editors before they start tossing your manuscript back because they recognize your name.”

I told her about a panel I attended at WorldCon a while ago where Gardner Dozois and Stanley Schmidt were discussing the same issue. Stanley said he’d been receiving manuscripts from the same author for years without buying one. “But he improved steadily. His last ones were close, and then he quit sending me stuff. I was looking forward to buying one of his pieces.”

Gardner perked up and said, “That sounds familiar. Was it…” and he whispered a name in Stan’s ear. Stan nodded.

“His last story barely missed with me!”

Both editors looked a little sad. “I wonder what happened to him?” Gardner added.

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