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Author: John ONeill

New Treasures: Generation Ship by Michael Mammay

New Treasures: Generation Ship by Michael Mammay


Generation Ship (Harper Voyager, October 17, 2023). Cover by Jeff Brown

Even with all the resources at our fingertips, it’s impossible to keep up with the steady drumbeat of new arrivals. That’s one of the reasons I’m always on the lookout for good reviewers, and new review sites.

One of my new favorites is WinterIsComing.net, which has pointed me toward some of the fall’s best new SF and fantasy. It’s how I discovered Michael Mammay’s new SF thriller Generation Ship, which they hail as “a sprawling standalone sci-fi epic with a large cast and intricate sociopolitical intrigue.” Now that’s what I’m talking about.

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Vintage Treasures: Clash by Night by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore

Vintage Treasures: Clash by Night by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore


Clash by Night (Hamlyn Paperbacks, 1980). Cover by Chris Moore

I’m a big fan of the short fiction of Henry Kuttner, one of the great genre pulp writers, and earlier this year I stumbled on a curiosity: a Hamlyn (UK) paperback collection of Kuttner’s pulp tales which has never been reprinted in the US: Clash by Night.

Clash by Night collects five Kuttner tales from the heyday of the science fiction pulps, 1943-1952. The stories collected here were originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, Thrilling Wonder, and Space Science Fiction. They include some of Kuttner’s most acclaimed SF, and some that has been rarely reprinted.

Another thing they all have in common: They were all written with his wife, C.L. Moore, whom the editor didn’t see fit to credit on the cover, for reasons of obvious sexism. It’s small remedy to correct that slight in the title of this article, but I did it anyway.

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Disease Collectors, Sea Worms, and Alien Ghost Ships: November-December 2023 Print SF Magazines

Disease Collectors, Sea Worms, and Alien Ghost Ships: November-December 2023 Print SF Magazines


November-December 2023 issues of Analog Science Fiction & Fact,
Asimov’s Science Fiction, and
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
Cover art by 123RF, Shutterstock, and Alan M. Clark

This is another great batch of print magazines, with a tale of a failing space colony by Jeff Reynolds (in Analog), an exciting new Quiet War novella by Paul McAuley (in Asimov’s), and a tale of mysterious AIs on a moon of Saturn by Geoff Ryman and David Jeffrey (in F&SF).

The November-December SF magazines are packed with brand new fiction from Gregory Benford, James Patrick Kelly, Ray Nayler, Robert R. Chase, Christopher Rowe, Michael Cassutt, James Sallis, Geoffrey A. Landis, Wendy N. Wagner, Bruce McAllister, Rajnar Vajra, Dominica Phetteplace, Kevin J. Anderson & Rick Wilber, R. K. Duncan, and lots more. See all the details below.

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Vintage Treasures: Fantasy Annual III edited by Terry Carr

Vintage Treasures: Fantasy Annual III edited by Terry Carr


Fantasy Annual III (Timescape/Pocket Books, May 1981). Cover by Lisa Falkenstern

Today we’re jumping back four decades to Fantasy Annual III, the third volume of Terry Carr’s companion series to his legendary and long-running Best Science Fiction of the Year, which ran from 1972 to the year he died, 1987. Fantasy Annual, which underwent a name change (and a change in publisher) lasted only five volumes, 1978-1982. But it was lauded in its day, and I still miss it.

Fantasy Annual III was one of the stronger installments. It’s anchored by a long story by Stephen King, “The Crate,” originally published in a men’s magazine in 1979, and which has never been reprinted in any of King’s many collections. It’s a terrific tale, one of King’s best works of unapologetic monster fiction, and was filmed as part of George A. Romero’s 1982 anthology film of King tales Creepshow, in a segment staring Adrienne Barbeau and Hal Holbrook.

The remainder of the book also makes excellent reading, with stories by Michael Bishop, Russell Kirk, Harlan Ellison, Walter Tevis, Fritz Leiber, Joanna Russ, Orson Scott Card, and Greg Bear, plus a Traveller in Black novelette by John Brunner, a John the Balladeer tale by Manly Wade Wellman, and The Vampire Tapestry story by Suzy McKee Charnas.

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Vintage Treasures: A Door Into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski

Vintage Treasures: A Door Into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski


A Door Into Ocean (Avon, February 1987). Cover by Line

Joan Slonczewski’s first novel, Still Forms on Foxfield, was published in 1980, but it was their second novel, A Door Into Ocean, which made a real splash, winning the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (not to be confused with the old Campbell Award for Best New Writer, now called the Astounding Award, on account of Campbell being a racist goofball.)

Slonczewski is referred to as ‘she’ and ‘her’ on virtually every bio and interview I’ve found on the web — including the Kenyon College faculty page where Slonczewski is a Chair of Biology — but their website and Wikipedia page give their pronouns as they, them, theirs, so that’s what I’ll use here.

A Door Into Ocean was the book that made readers sit up and take notice of Slonczewski. They followed it with three more books in what became known as the Elysium Cycle: Daughter of Elysium (1993), The Children Star (1998), and Brain Plague (2000). Often compared to Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, A Door into Ocean explores a colony planet covered entirely by water, occupied by an all-female offshoot of humanity who have become skilled genetic engineers.

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Vintage Treasures: The Bard Series by Keith Taylor

Vintage Treasures: The Bard Series by Keith Taylor


Bard, Volumes I-IV (Ace Books, 1981-97). Covers by Don Maitz

In October 1975 an unknown author named Dennis More made his debut in Fantastic magazine with “Fugitives in Winter,” the rousing tale of Felimid mac Fal of Eire, a bard whose tools are his ancient harp Golden Singer, and his magic sword, Kincaid. Eight more tales of Felimid followed, in places like Fantastic, Weird Tales, and Andrew Offutt’s Swords Against Darkness.

‘Dennis More,’ as it turned out, was Australian writer Keith Taylor, who began writing under his own name with the story “Hungry Grass” in Swords Against Darkness V (1979). In 1981 Taylor collected four of his early Felimid stories  — along with a brand new novella — in the fix up novel Bard, which Fletcher Vredenburgh called “a perfect artifact from the glory days of 1970s swords & sorcery.” It spawned a long-running series that lasted five volumes (with rumors of a sixth in the pipeline).

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Dread Monsters and Sinister Menaces: The Worlds of James H. Schmitz

Dread Monsters and Sinister Menaces: The Worlds of James H. Schmitz

Telzey Amberdon-small Agent of Vega & Other Stories-small Eternal Frontier-small


Three Bean omnibus reprint volumes featuring James H. Schmitz:

Telzey Amberdon, Agent of Vega and Other Stories, and Eternal Frontier
(March 2000, November 2001, September 2002). Covers by Bob Eggleton

Two years ago I created a Facebook post about a Black Gate Vintage Treasures article on James H. Schmitz’s 1979 novel Legacy. One of the interesting things about Facebook is that you’ll occasionally get comments years later, and that’s what happened this time. On November 3rd of this year Allan T. Grohe Jr. responded to that ancient post with two intriguing questions for me.

John: do you know of any 1/ interviews with Schmitz? — other than the one in Moebius Trip #15 from 1972, which I’m aware of but seems pretty difficult to find, or 2/ literary studies of Schmitz’s works?

I first read Schmitz about 15 years ago, via Eric Flint’s Baen collections, and he ranks up there with Herbert as a worlds-builder, in my estimation! 🙂

Unfortunately I don’t know of any interviews with, or studies of, James Schmitz. But that comment did lead to a broader and very rewarding conversation with Allan, in which I learned about his own writing on Schmitz.

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Vintage Treasures: Out on Blue Six by Ian McDonald

Vintage Treasures: Out on Blue Six by Ian McDonald


Out on Blue Six (Bantam Spectra, May 1989). Cover by Will Cormier

Ian McDonald has written some of the most acclaimed science fiction of the last four decades. His first novel Desolation Road (1988), about an oasis town on a far-future Mars, won the Locus Award, and his King of Morning, Queen of Day (1991) won the Philip K. Dick Award. His novels River of Gods, Brasyl, and The Dervish House were all nominated for the Hugo Award, and he’s been nominated for the BSFA (British Science Fiction Association) Award numerous times, including for his novels Terminal Cafe, Chaga, and Luna: New Moon.

Out on Blue Six is something of an oddity in his catalog. His second novel, it tells the tale of a group of “pain criminals” in a far-future state where all forms of pain and unhappiness are illegal. Ian McDonald has gone on record saying “I hate [it]… I wish I hadn’t written the damn thing.” Kat Hooper at Fantasy Literature, in her review Out on Blue Six: Really bizarre, calls it “strange all the way through… and over-stimulating, like an acid trip.”

None of that has dissuaded the book’s many fans, of course, who adore this book.

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The RPG Rundown is your Home for Lively Discussions of Your Favorite Games

The RPG Rundown is your Home for Lively Discussions of Your Favorite Games

YouTube is the place for serious gaming discussion these days. It’s not all fake Marvel trailers and dance clips. With the right connections and a little investigative spirit, you can find a thriving community where old-school gaming is very much alive.

Well, it worked for me, anyway. Mostly because one of those quality connections was Dave Munger, Black Gate‘s original site engineer and the man who wrote the first two posts on this very blog, way back in November 2008. Dave tipped me off to the RPG Rundown, a YouTube channel that covers tabletop role playing games. The lively and entertaining discussions there include new game reviews, industry news, player tips and info, and broader conversations on the very nature of role playing.

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Track Down Michael Kelly’s Year’s Best Weird Fiction While You Can

Track Down Michael Kelly’s Year’s Best Weird Fiction While You Can

Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volumes One – Five, edited by
Michael Kelly and Divers Hands (Undertow Publications, 2014-2018 )

Two weeks ago I caught this brief note on Michael Kelly’s Facebook page.

It was 5 years ago that I published the fifth, and final, volume of the Year’s Best Weird Fiction. My proudest publishing endeavour. These are all out of print, now.

Could that be true? Were all five of these fabulous volumes no longer available?

Alas, it appears to be. None are available from the publisher, or at Amazon, or any of the other online sellers I hastily checked. If it’s true these books are no longer in the channel, and you don’t already have them, then I urge you to track them down in the secondary market while you can.

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