New Treasures: Corporate Gunslinger by Doug Engstrom

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Corporate Gunslinger by Doug Engstrom (Harper Voyager, June 2020). Cover design by Yeon Kim

Doug Engstrom definitely has one of the more original debuts of the month with Corporate Gunslinger, a new-future adventure tale in which…. well, maybe it’s best if we jump right to the Publishers Weekly review.

Engstrom’s promising debut offers a stark, dystopian vision of a near-future American Midwest in which debt slavery is commonplace and livestreamed gunfights are a popular form of entertainment. Former actor Kira Clark accepts a sponsorship from TKC Insurance Company to duel civilians on live TV to avoid defaulting on her student loans and resigning herself to a life of debt slavery. Kira adopts a cold, composed persona in her gunfights, but outside the arena she’s kind-hearted and loyal, if gradually becoming more unstable. At her side are her best friend, Chloe Rossi, and her mentor, Diana Reynolds, who support Kira through all of her highs and lows… [a] grim, intelligent examination of the American debt crisis… fans of insightful dystopias will find plenty to enjoy.

Read the whole thing here. You know, I’m not even sure what category this is. Weird Western? Future Western? Western Dystopia? File it next to Westworld; that should be close enough.

Corporate Gunslinger was published by Harper Voyager on June 16, 2020. It is 320 pages, priced at $15.99 in hardcover and $10.99 in digital formats. The cover was designed by Yeon Kim. Read the first three chapters here, and listen to an audio excerpt here. See all our recent New Treasures here.

Inherent Evil is Lazy

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020 | Posted by S.M. Carrière


Image by socialneuron from Pixabay

Surely it cannot be controversial to say that the idea of inherent evil is just terribly lazy writing, right? The broad strokes and decidedly absent nuance that the idea of inherent evil necessitates is just that – broad and without nuance. No one has to think too hard about it. Why did that person do that? Well, because they’re evil. That’s all the explanation and motivation required for a character. Why did the orc attack the elf? Well, because orcs are evil. That’s just what they are, and it’s behind everything they do.


It’s dull, overplayed, and it’s terribly lazy.

The idea of an entire people/culture/race being inherently evil is equally as lazy. Why did that character do something? Well, because they’re part of a race that is everything despicable. No other reason or motivation required. [Insert race] is just evil. End of. You can also see that this kind of narrative construction is exceptionally racist, too, right? World and cultures written in SFF might truly be made-up, but they do reflect real world ideas and modes of thinking. And the idea that an entire race is evil by virtue of their race is, well, racist.

And lazy.

And, happily, changing.

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Vintage Treasures: Crossroads in Time edited by Groff Conklin

Monday, June 29th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Crossroads in Time (Permabooks, 1953). Cover by Richard Powers

Modern science fiction is top notch, and I’d hold today’s best writers — John Scalzi, N.K. Jemisin, Mary Robinette Kowal, Martha Wells, Nnedi Okorafor — up against the greats of yesterday without hesitation. If I were to be stranded on a desert island (or, more likely, locked in my basement during a pandemic) and could only bring a dozen books, my choices would be heavily weighted toward SF published in the last ten years.

Except for anthologies. For whatever reason — nostalgia, maybe? — during those times when I have only a few minutes to read before bedtime, my hand still wanders towards Raymond J. Healy and J. Francis McComas’s monumental Adventures in Time and Space (1946), or The Hugo Winners, Volumes I and II (1972) edited by Isaac Asimov, A Treasury of Science Fiction (1948), edited by Groff Conklin, or The Good Old Stuff: Adventure SF in the Grand Tradition (1998), edited by Gardner Dozois.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of great modern anthologies. I spent much of last weekend reading Neil Clarke’s terrific The Final Frontier, and I really enjoyed it. But the sight of newer anthologies doesn’t make my heart jump like the old ones do.

Partly I think it’s the contributors. There’s just something about opening a yellowing paperback and seeing a table of contents packed with names like Clifford D. Simak, Theodore Sturgeon, Murray Leinster, Jerome Bixby, Fritz Leiber, Margaret St. Clair and other favorites. And also, of course, it’s the cover art. Take Crossroads in Time, the eleventh SF book by the great SF anthologist Groff Conklin. It was released as a paperback original in 1953 by Permabooks with a gorgeously colorful cover by Richard Powers which — even today, nearly seven long decades later — speaks of wonder and adventure on faraway worlds.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: All Through the Night (Bogart)

Monday, June 29th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Bogart_NightVeidtPoster“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)

Today it’s a look at All Through the Night – one of my five favorite Bogie films, but not one that makes too many Top 10 lists. In 1940, Bogart’s career really started its climb, with They Drive By Night (Ida Lupino was fantastic!) followed by High Sierra (same comment). The forgettable The Wagons Roll at Night was up next, and then it was The Maltese Falcon. That was three very good movies out of four. And after The Falcon was All Through the Night. I think it kept his streak going, but that’s not the general perception.

Picking Iron (Trivia) – Lupino and Bogart had not gotten along well during They Drive By Night, and she didn’t want to work with him any more (though she did in High Sierra). He was originally cast as the lead in Out of the Fog, but she balked and he was replaced by John Garfield. Bogart complained to Harry Warner about Lupino’s action, to no avail. Much later, Lupino and Bogart said they got along fine.

In 1941, Hollywood was starting the transition from gangster flicks to war movies. One approach was to have the gangsters fight the new bad guys. And this movie is a gangster/espionage comedy. I think it’s great. This essay takes a different approach to movie reviews, taking advantage of the excellent cast.

Humphrey Bogart

The Maltese Falcon was a rocket strapped to Bogart’s career, after a long run of B-movie leads, and being the crook gunned down by James Cagney or Edward G. Robinson. In this one, he’s Gloves Donahue, a self-titled promoter who is a mobster in New York City. He seems to primarily be a gambler. When the baker of his favorite cheesecakes is found murdered, it leads Donahue to a group of Nazis plotting to blow up a ship in the NYC harbor.

Bogart is a likable tough guy – not like his role in Dead End, Bullets or Ballots (one of my Top 10), or The Roaring Twenties. Circumstances make it appear he murdered a rival, and he’s working to solve the murder, which draws him deeper and deeper into the Nazi plot. I think he plays the part well.

Conrad Veidt

We would see Veidt a few years later as Major Strasser in Casablanca. Here he is Ebbing, leader of a Nazi spy ring in NYC. He’s smooth and snake-like. I enjoy the scene where he is an auctioneer and Donahue is bidding. It’s the typical role for the situation: respectable on the surface, conniving Nazi underneath.

Picking Iron – In Casablanca, Rick advises Strasser that there were certain parts of NYC that he wouldn’t recommend invading. That’s an in-joke to this movie.

Picking Iron– Veidt fled Germany with his Jewish wife. In Hollywood, he refused to play a part in which a Nazi was sympathetic.

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Who is Daemon Grim? Hell Gate by Andrew P. Weston

Sunday, June 28th, 2020 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

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Cover by Roy Mauritsen

Back in the Underworld with Andrew P. Weston’s Hell Gate. Published by Perseid Press. Copyright © 2019 by Janet Morris and Andrew P. Weston. 523 pages. Cover art and design by Roy Mauritsen

Hell Gate is Weston’s third novel set in Janet Morris’ Heroes in Hell ™ universe, the first two being Hell Bound (2015) and Hell Hounds (2017) — both of which I previously reviewed for Black Gate. The trilogy is all about the exploits of Daemon Grim. So, who is Daemon Grim? He’s Satan’s Enforcer. The Devil’s Hitman. The Prince of Darkness’ Henchman. He’s like the James Bond of Perdition, armed with a nasty array of infernal weapons and gadgets. Add to the mix his Satanic-gifted powers, and he’s either Hell’s superhero or supervillain, depending on your point of view.

In short, Daemon Grim is one bad-ass, damned soul.

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Andrew Liptak on 22 New Science Fiction and Fantasy Books in June

Sunday, June 28th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Stormblood-small We Ride the Storm-small Devolution A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre-small

Covers by Larry Rostant

Polygon has discontinued Andrew Liptak’s excellent monthly new SF book column, which is a shame. John DeNardo’s column seems to have vanished from Kirkus as well, and since the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog folded up shop at the end of last year, that leave us with no regular new columns at any of the major sites.

Fortunately, Andrew hasn’t given up. At least according to this notice in his bi-weekly newsletter:

My regular column with Polygon has been put on hiatus for a while, presumably because of the strain that the COVID-19 pandemic puts on editorial resources and budgets. I enjoy putting these together, so I’ll be publishing it here in the meantime.

That’s great news. And true to his word, Andrew has continued to issue his monthly new books column in his Newsletter. The latest one includes “Space westerns, fantastic kingdoms, and more,” with new books by Max Brooks, David Gerrold, Kim Harrison, Carrie Vaughn, Katherine Addison, Zen Cho, S.A. Chakraborty, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Gregory Benford and Larry Niven, and the last new book from Gene Wolfe. Here’s a few of the highlights.

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Future Treasures: Where the Veil Is Thin edited by Cerece Rennie Murphy and Alana Joli Abbott

Saturday, June 27th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Where the Veil Is Thin-smallAlana Joli Abbott is the co-editor of the Blackguards anthology Knaves (with Melanie Meadors) and Kaiju Rising II: Reign of Monsters (with N.X. Sharps). She was a reviewer at Black Gate for over a decade, dating all the way back to our early print days; these days she is Editor in Chief at Outland Entertainment. Her latest project is the anthology Where the Veil Is Thin, co-edited with Cerece Rennie Murphy, author of the popular Wolf Queen series. Where the Veil Is Thin arrives in trade paperback on July 7 and has a stellar list of contributors, including Seanan McGuire, Minsoo Kang, Carlos Hernandez, and Black Gate‘s own C.S.E. Cooney. Here’s the description.

These are not your daughters faerie stories…

Around the world, there are tales of creatures that live in mist or shadow, hidden from humans by only the slightest veil. In Where the Veil Is Thin, these creatures step into the light. Some are small and harmless. Some are bizarre mirrors of this world. Some have hidden motives, while others seek justice against humans who have wronged them.

In these pages, you will meet blood-sucking tooth fairies and gentle boo hags, souls who find new shapes after death and changelings seeking a way to fit into either world. You will cross the veil — but be careful that you remember the way back.

Here’s the impressive Table of Contents.

Introduction by Jim Hines
“The Tooth Fairies” by Glenn Parris
“Glamour” by Grey Yuen
“See a Fine Lady” by Seanan McGuire
“Or Perhaps Up” by C.S.E. Cooney
“Don’t Let Go” by Alana Joli Abbott
“The Loophole” by L. Penelope
“The Last Home of Master Tranquil Cloud” by Minsoo Kang
“Your Two Better Halves: A Dream, with Fairies, in Spanglish” by Carlos Hernandez
“Take Only Photos” by Shanna Swendson
“Old Twelvey Night” by Gwen Nix
“The Seal Woman’s Tale” by Alethea Kontis
“The Storyteller” by David Bowles
“Poisoned Hearts” by Zin E. Rocklyn
“Colt’s Tooth” by Linda Robertson

Where the Veil Is Thin was funded by a successful Kickstarter in March of this year, and will be published by Outland Entertainment on July 7, 2020. It is 210 pages, priced at $16.95 in trade paperback and $7.99 in digital formats. The beautiful cover is by Anna Dittmann. Order copies directly at Outland Entertainment. See all our recent coverage of the best upcoming SF and Fantasy releases here.

Giant Samurai Mechs Belong in Space: Starship Samurai

Saturday, June 27th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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On Saturday March 7th, as Illinois was just starting to wake up to the severity of what would soon be a full-blown coronavirus pandemic, I joined about 150 other local gamers in a tightly packed back room in Mount Prospect for the 2020 Spring Games Plus Auction. Looking back, it was probably a dumb thing to do. But although I didn’t know it then, it was the last time I’d be able to walk through the doors of a games store — or retail store of almost any kind. And I’m not sorry I did it.

Of course, I brought a lot of games home. I spent over a thousand bucks, but is the man without a full library of board games really ready for a global pandemic? I don’t think so. You can’t put a price on true readiness, I always say. Well, that’s what came out of my mouth when Alice found out, anyway. It was the best I could come up with.

What was I looking for at the auction? Bargains! And cool discoveries, and I found plenty of both. I promised in my first write-up on the auction back in March that I’d say a few words about some of my more interesting finds, and I take these promises seriously. So today we’re going to talk about Starship Samurai. Mostly because it has giant Samurai Mechs in it. And if you don’t understand what’s exciting about that, you’re at the wrong website, bud.

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Rogue Blades Presents: Howard Days 2020

Friday, June 26th, 2020 | Posted by Ty Johnston

gateMost readers of Black Gate are probably already aware, but for those who are not, Robert E. Howard Days has been a major annual event for the small town of Cross Plains, Texas, since 1986. The gathering, including an annual dinner and festival and much more, has celebrated the life and writings of Robert E. Howard, the godfather of Sword and Sorcery literature and the creator of such fictional characters as Conan the Cimmerian, King Kull, the boxing sailor Steve Costigan, and many others. Yes, all of this has gone on in June for more than three decades.

Until this year.

As one might expect, because of the Coronavirus, Howard Days did not take place in 2020.

How sad.

But understandable.

Still, I had the great fortune to attend Robert E. Howard Days in 2018. I had planned to visit again in 2020, but … well, we all know what happened.

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19 Movies Visits the Land of the Rising Sun

Friday, June 26th, 2020 | Posted by John Miller


Daimajin: Daiei Film

This time around we’re taking a look at Japanese films from a number of different genres.  I’m not going to mention any of the Japanese movies I’ve discussed in previous columns. There’s plenty of great films to cover, more than enough to revisit this topic again in the future.

19. Daimajin (1966: 8) The first, and best, of the Daimajin Trilogy released by Daiei Films, which are historical fantasies concerning a giant statue that comes to life to wreak just vengeance on various evil-doers.

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