The Return of a Fantasy Landmark: The Unfortunate Fursey by Mervyn Wall

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Unfortunate Fursey-small The Return of Fursey-small

While I was standing in front of the Valancourt Books booth at the World Fantasy Convention (so I could buy a copy of the classic horror novel The Fungus by Harry Adam Knight, as I reported last week), I took the time to look over all their latest releases. Valancourt is one of the great treasures of the genre — their editorial team has excellent taste, and they scour 20th Century paperback backlists to bring long-neglected classics back into print. I’m pretty familiar with 20th Century genre stuff, but they consistently surprise me with their diverse and excellent selections.

I ended up taking home a pile of books, including the one-volume edition of Michael McDowell’s complete Blackwater Saga and Steve Rasnic Tem’s new collection Figures Unseen. But I was hoping for new discoveries, and I wasn’t disappointed. There were plenty of eye-catching titles vying for my attention, but the most interesting — and the ones I ended up taking home with me –was the pair of novels above.

Set in 11th century Ireland, where demonic forces have launched an assault on the monastery of Clonmacnoise, The Unfortunate Fursey was originally published in 1946. The sequel The Return of Fursey followed in 1948. Written by Irish writer Mervyn Wall, they were praised as “landmark book in the history of fantasy,” by Year’s Best SF editor E. F. Bleiler. More recently, Black Gate author Darrell Schweitzer wrote:

The Unfortunate Fursey and The Return of Fursey are not quaint esoterica for the specialist, folks, they are living masterpieces. They haven’t dated slightly and are as fresh and as powerful as when they were first written.

Both novels were reprinted in handsome trade paperback editions by Valancourt last year, with new introductions by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Dirda.

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Endings and Beginnings: The IX: Prelude to Sorrow by Andrew P. Weston

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

51h5Zzyi6VLWith The IX: Prelude to Sorrow (2018), Andrew P. Weston brings the curtain down on his trilogy that started with The IX (2015) and continued with The IX: Exordium of Tears (2016). Driven to near-extinction by the all-devouring Horde, the humanoid Ardenese turned their fate over to an AI called the Architect. The Architect transported human military personnel from all across the ages in hope of finding people with new ideas about how to fight the Horde. In The IX, men of the fabled Roman IX Legion and their Celtic adversaries, along with 19th century US Cavalry, Plains Indians, a British SBS team, and some terrorists are dragged away from Earth just at the moment they are about to die.

The first book introduced the various soldiers as well as the Horde. Utterly alien monsters, at first the Horde seem to exist solely to devour every living thing in their path. As the story unfolds it becomes clear they are a far more complex enemy than the Ardenese and their new allies realize. The most striking of Weston’s achievements in the book is conveying the strangeness of the Horde.

In the next installment the temporarily victorious humans and Ardenese, warned by the seemingly mystical insights of the leader of the Native American contingent, Stained-With-Blood, launch a massive interstellar attack on the remaining Horde. Filled with massive space battles and planetary-scale destruction, the book is a blast. In the end, despite great losses, it seems the Horde has been finally defeated and the future of a hybrid Ardenese-human civilization has been ensured.

Prelude to Sorrow reveals that the victory thought won was only temporary. In fact, the situation faced in this new book is even worse than that in the beginning of the series. A new enemy, one that threatens not only the Ardenese’s existence but all existence, is revealed.

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Birthday Reviews: M. Rickert’s “The Super Hero Saves the World”

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Walter Velez

Cover by Walter Velez

M. (Mary) Rickert was born on December 11, 1959.

In 2007, Rickert won the two World Fantasy Awards,  for her collection Map of Dreams and for the short story “Journey Into the Kingdom. She won the 2012 Shirley Jackson Award for “The Corpse Painter’s Masterpiece.” Map of Dreams also received the William L. Crawford – IAFA Fantasy Award for best first fantasy novel. Rickert has also published using her full name.

Rickert originally published “The Super Hero Saves the World” in the June 2003 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Gordon van Gelder.  She also included the story in her first collection, Map of Dreams.  It has not otherwise been reprinted.

“The Super Hero Saves the World” is a story of magic realism about a young girl, Marcado, who as a young child managed to survive an attack by a python that killed her mother.  Rickert follows the relationships between Marcado and her sister, Elsine, and their relationship with their father, who was with Mercardo when the snake killed her mother and swallowed her, although Marcado was cut from the snake’s belly.  Perhaps because of her experiences inside the snake, Marcado grew up distant from the rest of her family and saw the world in a different way.

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Take a Bite From The Poison Apple: Interviews from Black Gate Magazine by Elizabeth Crowens

Monday, December 10th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Poison Apple Volume One-smallOver the past two years, since December 13, 2016, Elizabeth Crowens has become one of the most consistently popular contributors to Black Gate magazine. She’s accomplished this with a surprisingly small number of articles — scarcely a dozen so far, over 24 months.

Each, however, has been a fascinating and in-depth discussion with a prominent individual in the genre. Her interviews have included a cross section of talents, including stunt doubles, TV stage managers, fantasy illustrators, bestselling authors, editors, and even Black Gate contributors. All of her interviews have been popular, and more than a few — such as her dual interview with Delia Sherman and Ellen Kushner in June 2017 — have been among the most widely-read pieces we’ve published in the past few years.

Earlier this month Elizabeth released The Poison Apple, Volume One: Interviews from Black Gate Magazine, a collection of her earliest interviews. It includes lengthy discussions with:

Teel James Glenn
Steven Van Patten
Lissanne Lake
Martin Page
Gail Carriger
Delia Sherman and Ellen Kushner

The book includes the complete contents of each interview, including all the questions and responses, and even the color images.

ELizabeth tells us that she plans to follow up with Volume Two next year, which includes conversations with Charlaine Harris, Heather Graham Pozzessere, Jennifer Brozek, Nancy Kilpatrick , Nancy Holder and Leslie Klinger.

Get all the details at Elizabeth’s website here, and be sure to sign up for new Newsletter for details on her upcoming projects and special offers. While you’re waiting for the next issue of the newsletter, read all of her recent Poison Apple columns at Black Gate here.

A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #5

Monday, December 10th, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Kornbluth_GhoulEDIT“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)

Hopefully, by now, you’re aware of the Back Deck Pulp series of posts I ran over on Facebook. Since this is the fifth collection of them I’ve run for A (Black) Gat in the Hand!  I’ve got enough for one more, and this column will run for four more weeks, so there might be another one. You can read the first four Back Deck Pulp posts by clicking the links at the end of this one.


Cyril M. Kornbluth was a science fiction author who died of a heart attack, running to catch a train, at the age of 34. Frederick Pohl cowrote several stories with the author and finished some of Kornbluth’s stories after the latter died, He said that Kornbluth refused to brush his teeth and educated himself by reading the encyclopedia from A to Z. An interesting individual.

It’s Office Desk Pulp! I’m going to have to research C.M. Kornbluth (Apparently, he was known for his science fiction stories). ‘”A Ghoul and His Money” appeared in the September, 1946 Dime Detective. His protagonist, who is the good guy, is completely annoying and I was hoping something non-fatal would happen to him. It’s an interesting take on a hero and I think I’d like to tinker with the concept Fun, short read. Another story from the excellent anthology, Hard-Boiled Detectives.

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Birthday Reviews: Janny Wurts’s “The Snare”

Monday, December 10th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Janny Wurts

Cover by Janny Wurts

Janny Wurts was born on December 10, 1953 and is married to speculative fiction artist Don Maitz.

Wurts is both an author and artist, publishing her own fiction and novels as well as three novels in collaboration with Raymond E. Feist. Her collection That Way Lies Camelot was nominated for the British Fantasy Award in 1995.  She has also won three Chesley Awards for her artwork.  In 1993, she won in the color art, unpublished category for The Wizard of Owls. She won the hardcover illustration award in 1995 for the cover to her own novel, The Curse of the Mistwraith, and in 1998, she received a special award for her contributions to ASFA. Wurts was guest of honor at the World Horror Con in 1996 in Eugene, Oregon, and a the World Fantasy Con, held in Tempe, Arizona in 2004.

“The Snare” was originally published in Wurts’s 1994 collection That Way Lies Camelot.  It has never been reprinted. The story is based on a painting by Don Maitz entitled “The Wizard,” which originally appeared on the cover of the January 1983 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Wurts’s story I one of vengeance.  The Wizard Iveldane has been imprisoned by his mentor, the Great Wizard of Trevior, for countless centuries, first bound by air, then water, then earth, and finally by fire.  Through the ages, Iveldane has gone through all the emotions possible, wondering what his master was trying to teach him, cursing his master with hatred, and eventually vowing to exact a terrible price from his master, which is how the story opens.

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Aliens in a Space Prison: The Sanctuary Novels by Caryn Lix

Sunday, December 9th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Sanctuary Caryn Lix-small Containment Caryn Lix-small

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that we’re living in a YA golden age. The runaway success of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and the Percy Jackson novels has generated a glut of books, most of which are fantasy or SF series. It reminds me of the urban fantasy/paranormal romance trend of a decade ago, when it seemed that half the books on the shelves featured superpowered vampire killers who were dating werewolves.

I know more than a few readers who avoid YA altogether. But, like any other subgenre, there’s plenty of interesting work to be found if you look hard enough. Recently I started reading Caryn Lix’s Sanctuary, which reads like Aliens set on a space prison, and have been enjoying it so far. The sequel Containment is set to be released next August. Here’s the jacket copy for Sanctuary.

Kenzie holds one truth above all: the company is everything.

As a citizen of Omnistellar Concepts, the most powerful corporation in the solar system, Kenzie has trained her entire life for one goal: to become an elite guard on Sanctuary, Omnistellar’s space prison for superpowered teens too dangerous for Earth. As a junior guard, she’s excited to prove herself to her company — and that means sacrificing anything that won’t propel her forward.

But then a routine drill goes sideways and Kenzie is taken hostage by rioting prisoners. At first, she’s confident her commanding officer — who also happens to be her mother — will stop at nothing to secure her freedom. Yet it soon becomes clear that her mother is more concerned with sticking to Omnistellar protocol than she is with getting Kenzie out safely.

As Kenzie forms her own plan to escape, she doesn’t realize there’s a more sinister threat looming, something ancient and evil that has clawed its way into Sanctuary from the vacuum of space. And Kenzie might have to team up with her captors to survive — all while beginning to suspect there’s a darker side to the Omnistellar she knows.

Sanctuary was published by Simon Pulse on July 24, 2018. It is 461 pages, priced at $19.99 in hardcover and $10.99 for the digital version. The cover was designed by Sarah Creech, with art by Jacey. Read the first chapter here. See all our recent coverage of the best new fantasy series here.

Amazing Science Fiction, November 1959: A Retro-Review

Sunday, December 9th, 2018 | Posted by Rich Horton

Amazing Science Fiction November 1959-small Amazing Science Fiction November 1959-back-small

Here’s an issue of Amazing from Cele Goldsmith’s first year as editor. Indeed, this was probably on the newsstands the day I was born (October 5, 1959). So, no, I didn’t read it when it came out!

The cover is by Leo Summers. The interiors are by Summers and Virgil Finlay. Norman Lobsenz’ editorial is about the real-life basis of one of the aspects of the cover novel, Robert Bloch’s Sneak Preview. There is a feature article by Poul Anderson called “Science and Superman: An Inquiry,” which takes a rather skeptical view of the idea that humans might be evolving into “supermen.”

E. Cotts’ book review column covers One Against Herculum, by Jerry Sohl; Tomorrow Times Seven, by Frederik Pohl; and Secret of the Lost Race, by Andre Norton. She gives some mild praise to Sohl, raves about Pohl’s collection, and is a little disappointed with the Norton novel.

The letters in “… Or So You Say” are by Claire Beck, Chris Roe, Craig Wisch, Kenneth E. Cooper, Clayton Hamlin, Michael Carroll, Jonathan Yoder, Richard C. Keyes, Billy Joe Plott, and James W. Ayers. The only name familiar to me is Billy Joe Plott.

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Birthday Reviews: Sarah Smith’s “And Every Pebble a Soldier”

Sunday, December 9th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Duncan Eagleson

Cover by Duncan Eagleson

Sarah Smith was born on December 9, 1947.

Although Smith is best known for writing historical mysteries set in Boston, she has also dabbled in speculative fiction, writing the hypertext novel King of Space and more traditional SF novels The Knowledge of Water and The Other Side of Dark. She won the Agatha Award and the Massachusetts Book Award for The Other Side of the Dark.

Smith wrote “And Every Pebble a Soldier” for the 2015 anthology Deco Punk: The Spirit of the Age, edited by Thomas A. Easton and Judith K. Dial, based on a comment by Dial that linked Art Deco to Nazism.  The story has not been reprinted.

Set in the aftermath of a truly destructive war, the protagonist of “And Every Pebble a Soldier,” a builder’s apprentice, is one of the only men to come back from war. Determined to build something useful, he begins to make a clockwork man which will help him clean up the debris that litters his town.  When he finds a paving brick used to mark the grave of a friend of his, he chips away a bit of the rock and incorporates it into the wind-up man, eventually repopulating the village’s lost youth by creating a automaton with a piece of each one’s gravestone.

While some in the town take an interest in his hobby, others mock him or are down-right hostile.  The village priest sees him as someone who is performing the Devil’s work, as well as a threat to his own power in the Church. The apprentice persists, however, and slowly wins the town over as they begin to see his clockwork men as a way not only to repopulate the town, but to, in some way, bring their lost brothers and sons back to life.

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New Treasures: Daughters of Forgotten Light by Sean Grigsby

Saturday, December 8th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Daughters of Forgotten Light-small Daughters of Forgotten Light-back-small

I spotted Sean Grigsby’s newest novel at Barnes & Noble and, despite the number of recent releases vying for my book dollar, it ended up coming home with me. Deep space penal colonies, biker gangs, and fast action…. what can I say, it made a compelling combo. Here’s an excerpt from Liz Bourke’s review at Locus Online.

I came away from Sean Grigsby’s debut novel, science fiction pulp extravaganza Daughters of Forgotten Light, deeply entertained, and moved by its apparent feminism and queer-inclusiveness – the latest in Angry Robot’s (really quite strong) feminist, queer-inclusive and fun pulp list… Daughters of Forgotten Light sets itself in a dystopian future – a future America locked in an endless eastern war with a successor state to Rus­sia and China, and threatened by environmental apocalypse. In this future, young women who’re deemed unsuitable for the military by the govern­ment and who are unwanted by their parents are sent to an abandoned space platform, a space prison from which there’s no return…

Daughters of Forgotten Light is a fast-paced, tense, and fun novel, with science fictional motor­bike gangs and a cast composed largely of badass women (two things that go really well together), with good dialogue and compelling charac­terisation. All of the women feel like real people. Grigsby also manages a diverse and inclusive cast: at least one of the narrators, Sarah Pao, is asexual and possibly aromantic, while another is Jewish, and the senator (also a viewpoint character) is a black woman.

Although Liz calls it a ‘debut,’ that’s not strictly correct. Grigsby’s first novel Smoke Eaters appeared from Angry Robot back in March, and the sequel Ash Kickers is due Summer 2019. Daughters of Forgotten Light was published by Angry Robot on September 4, 2018. It is 348 pages, priced at $12.99 in trade paperback and $8.99 in digital formats. The cover is by John Coulthart. Read the first 35 pages at the Angry Robot website. See all our recent New Treasures here.

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