Uncanny X-Men: Part 7, Issues #54-58 – Havok and Neal Adams

Saturday, February 29th, 2020 | Posted by Derek Kunsken


I was super-tempted to pause my blogging about my X-Men reread to complain about my reread of another classic, but I opted for the high road and am glad I did, because this was a fun post to think through. And, for those of you still with me, we’re almost at the end of the original X-Men! So pull up a chair for the 7th installment of my reread of the X-Men.

In this post, I want to look at issues #54-58 (March, 1969 – July, 1969), a run that contains two major Silver Age milestones. The first is the introduction of Alex Summer, the mutant brother of Scott Summers. Alex will eventually join the X-Men as their 7th member. The second is equally exciting – the beginning of Neal Adams’ brief but spectacular run. The team-up of Roy Thomas and Neal Adams marks the beginning of the zenith of the original team, outshining the Kirby-Lee issues and sitting comfortably at the same table as many of the great Claremont-Byrne stories.

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Best of the Small Magazines: The Digest Enthusiast #11, Pulp Modern: Tech Noir, and Weird Fiction Review #9

Saturday, February 29th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Digest Enthusiast 11-small Pulp Modern Tech Noir-small Weird Fiction Review 9a

Covers by Rick McCollum, Ran Scott, and Colin Nitta

One of the great pleasures of the science fiction and fantasy genre is the fine selection of small magazines, covering a wide range of specialty interests. It’s only the sheer size of SFF fandom that allows these magazines to exist, and for like-minded communities to form around them. Here’s a few of my recent favorites.

The Digest Enthusiast was founded by Arkay Olgar in 2014, and has been published every six months by Larque Press since. It’s now edited by Richard Krauss, who does a fine job, and in fact issues have been getting bigger and more ambitious every year. Book Eleven, cover dated January 2020, is a whopping 159 pages in full color, and they look gorgeous.

The Digest Enthusiast is dedicated to the world of 20th Century digest magazines, and this issue includes a lengthy feature on Astounding by Ward Smith, Black Gate blogger Steve Carper looks at the time when the cover to Journey to Murder was accidentally overprinted on Terror by Twilight in 1945, and Richard Krauss pens a 32-page retropsective and checklist of one of the best known pulps editors in the 1930s and 1940s, a man who edited more than 70 publications and bought two millions words a month, in “Leo Margulies: Giant of the Digests.” The issue also contains interviews with writer and artist Janice Law, writer Paul D. Marks, and Manhunt editor Jeff Vorzimmer, plus fiction by Joe Wehrle, Vince Nowell, Sr., and John Kuharik.

The Digest Enthusiast interiors, rich with high-detail scans of magazine covers on nearly every page, greatly benefit from the full-color treatment. Here’s a few samples.

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A Gaslamp Fantasy with Political Intrigue and Witchcraft: The Kingston Cycle by C. L. Polk

Friday, February 28th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Witchmark Polk-small Stormsong Polk-small

Covers by Will Staehle

C. L. Polk’s fantasy debut Witchmark made a huge splash in 2018. It came in fourth for the Locus Award for Best First Novel, was nominated for a Nebula, and won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. It was also included in Best of the Year lists by NPR, Publishers Weekly, BuzzFeed, the Chicago Review, BookPage, and the B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog. It had lots of stellar coverage — including the Los Angeles Public Library, which called it “Brilliant… full of atmosphere and thrills” — but my favorite review was from Publishers Weekly. Here’s an excerpt.

Polk’s stellar debut, set in an alternate early 20th century in an England-like land recovering from a WWI-like war, blends taut mystery, exciting political intrigue, and inventive fantasy. Miles Singer’s influential family of mages wants to turn him into a living battery of magic for his sister to draw on. Fearing this fate, he runs away to join the army and make use of his magical healing abilities, although — like all magic-users — he must hide his powers or risk being labeled insane and sent to an asylum. When Tristan Hunter, a handsome, suave gentleman who’s actually an angel in disguise, brings a dying stranger to Miles’s clinic, the two pair up to uncover the reason for the man’s mysterious death… Polk unfolds her mythology naturally, sufficiently explaining the class-based magical system and political machinations without getting bogged down. The final revelations are impossible to see coming and prove that Polk is a writer to watch for fans of clever, surprising period fantasy.

The sequel, Stormsong, arrived in trade paperback earlier this month, and you know what that means. Time for me to track down a copy of the first book! Here’s the back covers for both.

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Write Your Legislators: Dell Science Fiction Reviews

Friday, February 28th, 2020 | Posted by Gabe Dybing

Asimov's Science FIction March April 2020-small Ananlog Science FIction Science Fact March April 2020-small

Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead!

My copies of Asimov’s Science Fiction and Analog Science Fact & Science Fiction arrived in the mail on the same day. Consequently, I wondered what to read first. I perceived that Black Gate’s very own Derek Kunsken had something in Asimov’s, but he also did in Analog. In Analog, his contribution was much longer, a serial, the beginning of a novel.

For whatever reason, or none, I began with Asimov’s. I noticed that the topic of the guest editorial serendipitously is what I myself wrote about last review: the sometimes tense relationship between science fiction and fantasy (though David D. Levine’s “Thoughts on a Definition of Science Fiction” deemphasizes this tension while addressing it, briefly, at the very end of the article). It’s well worth reading. In short, Levine arrestingly says that (to compress the entire discussion) “Technology [science fiction] depends on what you have; magic [fantasy] depends on who you are.” I’ve never before encountered the differences between the two genres explained in quite this way.

I’d say that there were two standout stories in this Asimov’s. Since I’m still fairly new to reviewing these, I should remind readers that my callouts are contingent on my idiosyncratic interests and sensibilities. If I were to characterize what science fiction stories most often excite me, I’d settle on those that (in addition to all of the qualities that make for all good writing, fictional or otherwise) contain philosophical or metaphysical concepts that startle my presumptions.

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io9 on All the New SF & Fantasy You Need to Know About in February

Thursday, February 27th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Puzzler's War-small The Last Smile in Sunder City-small The Firmament of Flame-small

As the months go by I feel the loss of the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog keenly. It shut down on December 16th of last year, firing all freelancers and halting production of new content. That included Jeff Somers’ monthly survey of the best genre books, which I’d grown to depend on to keep me reliably informed. Fortunately there are fine other resources for book junkies, like Cheryl Eddy’s monthly new book column at io9/Gizmodo. This month Cheryl looks at 43 new titles from Seanan McGuire, Alastair Reynolds, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Ken Liu, Ben Aaronovitch, Katharine Kerr, Gareth L. Powell, R.E. Stearns, C.L. Polk, Sarah Gailey, Melissa de la Cruz, Justina Ireland, Cate Glass, and many others.

Here’s a few of the highlights. First up is the sequel to The Lost Puzzler, Eyal Kless’ tale of a lowly scribe sent out in world full of puzzles, tattooed mutants, and warring guilds, which we covered last year.

The Puzzler’s War by Eyal Kless (Harper Voyager, 560 pages, $17.99 trade paperback/$11.99 digital, February 4, 2020)

This follow-up to sci-fi adventure The Lost Puzzler finds a variety of characters — including an assassin, a warlord, and a mercenary — tracking down a teenage boy who may the only person able to save the world by solving the ultimate puzzle.

My underground contacts tell me The Puzzler’s War is the second novel in what’s being called The Tarakan Chronicles.

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Bringing to Life an Ancient Mystery: Cries From the Lost Island by Kathleen O’Neal Gear

Thursday, February 27th, 2020 | Posted by CAITLIN MCALLISTER

Cries From the Lost Island-smallCries From the Lost Island
by Kathleen O’Neal Gear
DAW (320 pages, $26 in hardcover/$13.99 digital, March 10, 2020)

Sixteen-year-old Hal Stevens is an outcast. His friend group consists of two people: Robert, a witch and Cleo Mallawi, who believes herself to be the reincarnation of the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra.

Hal is a budding historian, who just happens to be obsessed with Egypt. He and Cleo spend every moment of their free time discussing ancient Roman Egypt, which Cleo claims to remember intimately. She provides details Hal could never find in a book or online. Listening to her describe the landscape, politics and the great love between Cleopatra and Marc Anthony fills Hal with wonder.

A bit that fills him with fear is the demons that Cleo also describes, specifically Ammut, the Devourer of the Dead, whom she believes is hunting her in present day.

The stories Cleo has told Hal since they were children quickly transition from fantasy to reality when Hal finds Cleo murdered outside her home. Left with her pleas to help her find eternal rest, a mysterious medallion forced into his hands by his dying friend, and questions that may never be answered, Hal finds himself headed to Egypt with famed archeologist (and Cleo’s uncle) James Moriarity. Robert the witch completes the adventurous trio, bringing along his wards of protection and his sense of humor, which truly does entertain.

Cries From the Lost Island weaves fantasy and history together to create a beautiful adventure that the reader won’t be able to put down. O’Neal Gear, a nationally award-winning archeologist, has created an engrossing quest that spans Colorado to Egypt and brings to life an ancient mystery – what actually happened to Cleopatra and Marc Anthony?

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New Treasures: Miscreations: Gods, Monstrosities & Other Horrors, edited by Doug Murano and Michael Bailey

Wednesday, February 26th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Miscreations Gods, Monstrosities & Other Horrors-small Miscreations Gods, Monstrosities & Other Horrors-back-small

Cover by M. Fersner/HagCult

Oh my goodness, this looks like fun. Miscreations: Gods, Monstrosities & Other Horrors is a brand new anthology from Doug Murano and Michael Bailey, and the small press Written Backwards. It’s packed with original fiction from many of the most important writers in horror today, including Michael Wehunt, Brian Hodge, Josh Malerman, Ramsey Campbell, Victor LaValle, Laird Barron, Scott Edelman, Lucy A. Snyder, Usman T. Malik, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Theodora Goss, and many others. It also has interior art by the talented cover artist M. Fersner (HagCult). Here’s a snippet from Sadie Hartmann’s feature review at Cemetery Dance.

Miscreations, by award-winning editors Doug Murano and Michael Bailey, proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that anthologies are well worth any amount of effort, money, blood, sweat, and tears…. I’ve been dying to read something from both Lisa Morton and Lucy A. Snyder; their stories blew me away. Morton’s is this strange story of a woman who sets her mind on creating a man from her own body. The results were both humorous and upsetting. Snyder’s is a brutal account of a sex worker encountering some kind of… monstrosity. It was really quite disarming and disturbing. Of course, I loved it.

I must make mention of the amazing work some of my long-time favorites did for this anthology. Nadia Bulkin captured my imagination and my heart with her mechanical giant. Josh Malerman did the same with his werewolves. I adored “You Are my Neighbor” by Max Booth III, once again confirming Max as one of the most consistently solid writers in the genre right now… I can’t forget to say that Alma Katsu’s foreword and the interior illustrations by M. Fersner (hagcult) assist in making all the moving parts of this anthology feel like one, cohesive… beast. Monster. Miscreation.

Here’s the complete table of contents.

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Hot Take: Fan Fiction is Great

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

Fantasy Book Clipart

Good day, Readers!

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking of late.  Shocking, I know. Anyway, I had been struggling with finishing the second book of a series I’m currently trying to sell, and so decided to move on to another story for a while to give my brain a break and let it figure out the story in the background while I work on other stuff.

This other project, though, is something that I’m not going to be able to sell to anyone. It is, essentially, fan fiction. Sort of. I mean, I’m absolutely using the world and assets of another thing (a video game, if you must know) in order to tell this story.  It’s fan fiction.  But this post isn’t really about the fan fiction I’m writing.  It’s about fan fiction in general, and how wonderful I think it is (with some caveats).

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Evolution of the Iron Kingdoms

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

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For twenty years, the folks at Privateer Press have been creating games, primarily set in their Iron Kingdoms steampunk fantasy setting. They began with a series of RPG volumes, including an award-winning trilogy of adventures from 2001. These adventures, later collected into The Witchfire Trilogy, was built on the D20 System from Dungeons and Dragons 3E.

Then Privateer Press really came into their own with the introduction of the Warmachine miniature wargame, focusing on armies that control massive metallic warjacks, one of the iconic creatures from their Iron Kingdoms setting.

It was Warmachine that got me into their world, in about 2005. I like heroes, so I went with Cygnar, the faction that is most stereotypically the classical honorable kingdom of knights and warriors. For those who aren’t inclined toward heroism, there was the religious fanatic Protectorate of Menoth and the undead Cryx. And for those in the middle, there was Khador, thematically based on Russia and known for having the most massive, hulking warjacks in the game. And missiles. Lots of missiles. This miniature line expanded, through Hordes, into battles with savage monstrous warbeasts, fully compatible with Warmachine. The Hordes included the blighted Legion, the druidic Circle of Orboros and their werecreatures, the Trollbloods and their giant troll cousins, and the sadistic Skorne.

It was actually my reviews of Privateer Press – both their wargame line and the RPG supplements – that first landed me in the pages of Black Gate, back in Spring of 2007 in Black Gate 10, when Black Gate actually had physical pages.

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Future Treasures: Cursed, edited by Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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You lot know how much I love anthologies by now. Titan Books has been home base for several excellent anthologies over the past few years, including Christopher Golden’s Dark Cities, Mark Morris’s New Fears, and three volumes of John Joseph Adams’ Wastelands. They also published Wonderland, an anthology of tales inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, edited by Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane.

O’Regan and Kane return next month with Cursed, a collection of new and reprint fantasy tales dealing with curses of all shapes and sizes, with original tales by M.R. Carey, Tim Lebbon, Margo Lanagan, Alison Littlewood, Angela Slatter, Lilith Saintcrow, Jen Williams, and others, and reprints by Neil Gaiman, Karen Joy Fowler, Christopher Golden, Charlie Jane Anders, Michael Marshall Smith, Christopher Fowler, and others. Here’s an excerpt from the Publishers Weekly review.

Karen Joy Fowler’s “The Black Fairy’s Curse” is a dreamy, disorienting rendition of “Sleeping Beauty”; Neil Gaiman’s lovely, tragic “Troll Bridge” draws from “Three Billy Goats Gruff”; and Angela Slatter’s standout “New Wine” is a truly chilling modernization of “Bluebeard.” While most of these stories transpose fairy tale elements into contemporary England, Lilith Saintcrow conjures a fully realized fantasy world with “Hanza and Ghana.”… These stories are by turns eerie, grotesque, and delightful, ranging in tone from the broadly humorous fantasy of Charlie Jane Anders’s “Fairy Werewolf vs. Vampire Zombie” to the visceral body horror of James Brogden’s “Skin.” Readers won’t have to be Brothers Grimm fans to appreciate this dark mélange.

Cursed will be published by Titan Books on March 3, 2020. It is 384 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $7.99 in digital formats. The cover artist is uncredited. See all the details at the Titan website, and see all our coverage of the best in upcoming fantasy and science fiction here.

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