Tor.com on Six-Guns and Strange Shooters

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Territory Emma Bull-small Dust Devil Blu Ray-small Jonah Hex Face Ful of Violence-small

It’s been a very good year for science fiction, horror, and dark fantasy, and overall I am content. But, you know, I’m never totally content, because really, what’s the point of that? This year my crankiness originates from a near total lack of Weird Westerns. It’s like the genre dried up and blew away in the wind in 2019.

At least there are a few Weird West books, movies and comics to fall back on. Earlier this year at Tor.com Theresa DeLucci shared her picks of some of the best in Six-Guns and Strange Shooters: A Weird West Primer, and she managed to point out more than a few I haven’t tried yet, including Emma Bull’s fantasy retelling of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Territory, and the 1990 film Dust Devil. And she reminded me I need to read more Jonah Hex. Here’s what she said about everyone’s favorite creepy gunslinger.

Forget the terrible movie. (You know Josh Brolin wishes he could.) The original 1977 DC comic is considered one of the first popular representations of the Weird West. The bounty hunter marked by a demon’s brand seeks out the West’s worst and also, sometimes, less earthly quarry. He also sometimes time travels and gets into a gun-fight with a T-Rex. Jonah Hex‘s best and creepiest run was written by east Texan horror master Joe R. Lansdale and come highly recommended.

Theresa also showcases The Etched City by K.J. Bishop, the Golgotha novels by R. S. Belcher, the great Deadlands: Reloaded RPG, and much more. Check out her article here.

See all our coverage of the best of the Weird West here.


Intergalactic Wars, Ancient Gods, and Living Ships: New Novellas from Tor.com

Sunday, October 27th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Undefeated Una McCormack-small The Border Keeper-small Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday-small Sisters of the Vast Black-small

The last Tor.com novella I read was Desdemona and the Deep by C.S.E. Cooney, and it made me want to read a lot more. The prose (as one expects from Cooney) was delightful, but it was also the perfect length for a light-but-also-surprisingly-dark fae fantasy. It had exactly the right number of calories, and now I find myself looking around for something equally tasty and not too filling.

Fortunately the Tor.com back catalog is deep and gorgeous. They started their handsome novella line almost exactly four years ago, in September 2015, and have kept up a semi-weekly (sorta-kinda weekly, sometimes bi-weekly) release schedule ever since. I haven’t counted but there must around 150 by by now.

Tor.com’s editors have produced something for every taste over the past four years. Space opera, weird fantasy, horror, urban fantasy, comedy, military science fiction, dark fantasy, alternate history love stories, and a whole lot more. Like all great editors, they’ve published award-winning fiction from top names (Martha Wells, Nnedi Okorafor, Seanan McGuire) and also mixed it up with some terrific debuts from stellar new talents. Looking over their recent releases, it’s clear the quality and drive at Tor.com has not flagged at all. Here’s a look at some of their most interesting new titles.

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Low-rate Mining Gigs, Warships, and the Power of Song: Tor.com on 7 Space Operas and Adventures

Saturday, July 6th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

All Systems Red Martha Wells-small Ancillary Justice Ann Leckie-small Space Opera Cat Valente-small

I’ve been saying for a while now that we’re in a space opera renaissance, and I’m not the only one to have noticed. There’s been plenty of discussion of some of the best new titles at many of our favorite sites.

Back in March I bought a copy of Arkady Martine’s Tor debut A Memory Called Empire, the tale of an independent mining station’s efforts to avoid being absorbed by the encroaching Teixcalaanli Empire, and as part of their promotional efforts at Tor.com Natalie Zutter assembled an interesting piece comparing the book to seven other recent space operas. Her list included books by Martha Wells, Ann Leckie, and Catherynne M. Valente, and I’ve found myself recommending it to people interested in modern tales of solar empires, intergalactic dynasties, and plucky space crews.

Any list that useful deserves to be shared. Here’s three of Natalie’s recommendations.

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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.


Tor.com on Abandoned Earths and Inhospitable Planets

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Worlds Apart Joe Haldeman-small Venus of Dreams-small Vacuum Flowers UK-small The-Exile-Waiting-small
Worlds Apart Joe Haldeman-back-small Venus of Dreams-back-small Vacuum Flowers UK-back-small The-Exile-Waiting-back-small

Everyone knows that Top Ten lists are irresistable clickbait for bibliophiles. That’s why there are so damned many. Top Ten Science Fiction novels of the 80s. Top 50 Fantasy Novels of All Time. Top 100 Hobbits in Science Fiction, Yo. Don’t lie to me, you know you love ’em.

Anyway, over the last few years book sites have gotten a little more clever, spicing up run-of-the-mill Top Ten lists with more interesting themes. A couple of my recent favorites both appeared at Tor.com: James Davis Nicoll’s SF Stories Featuring Abandoned Earths, and Kelly Jensen’s Five Inhospitable Planets from Science Fiction. Both feature topics near-and-dear to my old school heart and, even better, they showcase classic books from Ursula K. Le Guin, Vonda McIntyre, Poul Anderson, Michael Swanwick, Arthur C. Clarke, Joe Haldeman, Mel Odom, and Kim Stanley Robinson, and more, with nods to films like The Chronicles of Riddick and Interstellar.

Really, these things are just excuses to write about books we love, and what’s wrong with that? Nuthin’, that’s what’s wrong with that. This is what the internet is for, people.

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Read an Excerpt from Howard Andrew Jones’ Upcoming For the Killing of Kings at Tor.com

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

For the Killing of Kings Andrew Jones

Howard Andrew Jones upcoming novel For the Killing of Kings is the finest thing he has ever written — and considering his previous books include the modern fantasy classics The Desert of Souls and The Bones of the Old Ones, that’s saying a great deal. It is the opening volume The Ring-Sworn Trilogy, and one of the major fantasy releases of the year. I had a chance to blurb the hardcover release from St. Martin’s Press, and did so enthusiastically. Here’s what I said:

For The Killing of Kings is a white knuckle murder mystery brilliantly set in a Zelazny-esque fantasy landscape. It has everything ― enchanted blades, magic rings, edge-of-your seat sword fights, Game of Thrones-scale battles, ancient legends… It is the finest fantasy novel I have read in years.

The Tor.com excerpt features one of my favorite scenes, as Kyrkenall and Elenai approach a strange tower and find it defended by a mysterious ring of obelisks… and something far more sinister. Read the complete chapter here.

If you find yourself captivated by the excerpt, you won’t have long to wait. For the Killing of Kings will be published by St. Martin’s Press in three weeks, on February 19, 2019. It is 368 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $13.99 in digital formats. The cover artist is uncredited. In addition to the exclusive Tor.com excerpt, you can also read the first chapter at the Macmillan website here, and keep up with the latest news at Howard’s website here.


Future Treasures: Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction, edited by Irene Gallo

Friday, August 31st, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Worlds Seen in Passing Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction-smallTor.com is one of the finest genre websites on the planet. Originally created to promote Tor Books, it has taken on a very substantial life of its own, with news, art, commentary, thoughtful re-reads of many of my favorite novels (and more than a few that I’ve overlooked)… and especially fiction. It’s become widely renowned for its top-notch fiction, from many of the biggest names in the genre.

How did it all start? Tor.com publisher Irene Gallo tells all in the Preface to Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction, a feast of a book collecting 40 of the best stories published at the site over the years.

Tor.com celebrated its tenth anniversary on July 20, 2018 — the forty-ninth anniversary of the first manned moon landing. It started out innocently enough. In 2006, our publisher, Fritz Foy, while attending the Tor Books holiday party, pulled Patrick and Theresa Nielsen Hayden and me aside and said he wanted to create “a river of conversation, art, and fiction” within the SF/F community — an online magazine that crossed the borders between publishers and media.

It took us a couple years to get off the ground. During that time, whenever we felt lost in the process, we’d come back to the word “genuine.” We wanted to build a place that treated science fiction and fantasy (and related subjects) with gravitas and humor, a place to have fun without shying away from weightier, more thoughtful subjects. In short, we wanted to build a place where we wanted to hang out…

We knew from the start that fiction was always going to be at the heart of Tor.com. As publishers it made sense, but also… the entire site is dedicated to storytelling. Of course we wanted fiction to be our focal point. We have since published hundreds of original stories, along with art, reprints, comics, and poems — all of which are a source of pride for us, as well as bringing enjoyment to our readers.

This is a very substantial volume — 567 pages! — and it’s packed with fiction from the best writers in the industry, including Kathleen Ann Goonan, Jeff VanderMeer, Leigh Bardugo, Lavie Tidhar, A.M. Dellamonica, Dale Bailey, Tina Connolly, Max Gladstone, Alyssa Wong, Genevieve Valentine, Kij Johnson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Rachel Swirsky, Ken Liu, Ruthanna Emrys, Isabel Yap, Helen Marshall, Pat Murphy, Kameron Hurley, Yoon Ha Lee, N. K. Jemisin, Carrie Vaughn, Charlie Jane Anders, and many, many others.

Here’s the publisher’s description.

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Tor.com Celebrates 50 Years of Locus Magazine

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Locus 1987-small

Over at Tor.com, Paul Weimer (who comments occasionally at Black Gate and elsewhere as PrinceJvstin) has written a fine tribute to one of my favorite magazines — Locus, the news magazine of the science fiction and fantasy field. He captures exactly what the magazine has meant to readers over the years, especially in the 80s and 90s when it was the trusted news source that tied together the entire genre.

In 1968, the legendary anthologist and editor Charles N. Brown created a one-sheet fanzine about news of the science fiction field. Brown’s intent was to use it to help the Boston Science Fiction group win its Worldcon bid. Brown enjoyed the experience so much that he continued the magazine through Noreascon I, the 29th Worldcon held in Boston in 1971 (where Locus won its first Hugo award). Brown continued to be the steward of Locus until his death in 2009. In that run, Locus won thirty Hugo awards, and for good reason…

Before the internet transformed how we get news and information, Locus, under Brown’s stewardship, and the assemblage of his team of columnists, grew and expanded its reach year after year until it became what I call the semiprozine of record. Locus became the go-to place for SFF news and information, backed up with a strong stable of reviews and interviews. Every issue of Locus was a window into the ever shifting and changing world of SFF.

The magazine was so important that, when we launched Black Gate in fall of 2000 with a very limited advertising budget, there was never any question about where we should spend it — on a full page ad in Locus. It paid us back handsomely.

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Catching Up With the Fiction at Tor.com

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

A Human Stain by Kelly Robson Extracurricular Activities by Yoon Ha Lee The Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Savage by Alix Harrow The Scholast in the Low Waters Kingdom by Max Gladstone

Tor.com is one of the most successful and acclaimed sources of genre short fiction we have. They routinely lead the field in award nominations, as they did with this year’s Hugo nominations. And as recently as 2014, they swept the short fiction categories of the Hugo Awards.

They publish one new work of short fiction every week, completely free, at the Tor.com website. But because they don’t have regular issues, I don’t do a very good job of including them in our regular magazine coverage. So that means I have to report on them as best I can every few months. Which brings us to today’s massive catch-up post featuring 30 stories and 11 flash fiction pieces — enough to fill two decent-sized anthologies.

And what a dazzling list of contributors! Over the last 6+ months Tor.com has published brand new fiction from Peter S. Beagle, Carrie Vaughn, Yoon Ha Lee, Lavie Tidhar, Max Gladstone, Jo Walton, Kelly Robson, M. Dellamonica, Theodora Goss, Allen Steele, S.B. Divya, Stephen Leigh, and many others, plus reprints from Ken Liu, Ellen Klages, and others. All of it gorgeously illustrated by a talented group of artists, and available online completely free. You owe it to yourself to check it out.

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Tor.com on the Most Intriguing SF and Fantasy Books of 2017

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Revenger Alastair Reynolds-small A Closed and Common Orbit-small Winter Tide Ruthanna Emrys-small

No sooner do we wrap up all the 2016 Best of the Year lists than we’re deluged with 2017 Best Upcoming Books lists. Well, if it’s our lot in life to read all these lists and dutifully report the best to you here, we shall carry our burden stoically.

As usual, Tor.com is first out of the gate, with a generous survey of a dozen SF and fantasy titles coming in 2017 that they want to read right now. It includes new novels by Nnedi Okorafor, Mur Lafferty, George Saunders, Kameron Hurley, Catherynne M. Valente, N. K. Jemisin, and many others. There’s lots on their list that appeals to me — like Revenger by Alastair Reynolds, coming in paperback from Orbit on February 28, 2017.

Captain Rackamore and his crew’s business is to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded by layers of protection – and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.

As Molly Templeton writes, “Space! Pirate! Sisters! Is this a movie yet? I want to read it and watch it.”

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