Interzone 290-291. Wraparound cover by Vincent Sammy
There was some uncertainty about the fate of British SF magazine Interzone at the beginning of the year. Well, I was uncertain, anyway. Long-time publisher and editor Andy Cox announced the magazine was being sold, then quietly announced it wasn’t. The January-February 2021 issue never appeared. But then, out of the blue, this beautiful and massive double issue appeared in June to lay all doubts to rest. Here’s the description from the website.
192 gorgeous full color pages packed full of modern science fiction and fantasy: New long and short stories by Alexander Glass, Tim Major, Lyle Hopwood, Daniel Bennett, Cécile Cristofari, Matt Thompson, John Possidente, Lavie Tidhar, and Shauna O’Meara; Climbing Stories by Aliya Whiteley (x2); Ansible Link by David Langford; lots of book reviews; six and a half thousand words of Nick Lowe’s Mutant Popcorn; wraparound cover art by Vincent Sammy and story illustrations by Jim Burns, Vince Haig, Richard Wagner, Dave Senecal, Ev Shipard and others.
Interzone is one of the most beautiful SF magazines on the market. Here’s a sample of some of the gorgeous interior art.
The Lights of Prague (Titan, May 2021). Cover design by Julia Lloyd
I found Nicole Jarvis’s The Lights of Prague while wandering through Barnes & Noble this summer. It’s a debut in every sense of the word — Jarvis hasn’t published any previous short fiction, and I can’t even find a web page for her. But the book sounds extremely relevant to my interests. Have a look at this snippet from Mya Alexice’s BookPage review.
Nicole Jarvis’ debut fantasy, The Lights of Prague, welcomes readers into an arresting and vivid historical fantasy world… In her version of the culturally rich European city, creatures from Czech folklore haunt its streets and endanger its citizens. Pijavice — vampiric monsters consumed by bloodlust — are particularly terrifying to those who walk alone at night. The Lights of Prague follows Domek Myska, an earnest member of the lamplighters, who in this world are also a monster-hunting secret society that keeps these creatures at bay, and Lady Ora Fischerová, a charming widow with her own ties to Prague’s supernatural underground…
The Lights of Prague is an impressive and mature feat from a debut novelist.
The Lights of Prague was published by Titan Books on May 25, 2021. It is 413 pages, priced at $15.95 in paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover was deigned by Julia Lloyd. See all our recent New Treasures here.
The Actual Star (Harper Voyager, September 14, 2021)
Tomorrow I’m playing hooky from work and spending the day at the Windy City Pulp and Paper show in Lombard, Illinois. It’s my favorite annual convention, and the first I’ve attended in the pandemic era. It will be great to meet up with Black Gate contributors Rich Horton, Doug Ellis, William Patrick Maynard — and Greg Mele, whom I’ve never met in person before.
Even though I’m going to be spending the three days immersed in the great SF and fantasy of the past, I’m still here for you when it comes to SF and fantasy of the future. So before I jump in my trusty pulpmobile and head out for the weekend, I want to take a minute to tell you about Monica Byrne’s second novel, The Actual Star, arriving in hardcover next week. Her first novel The Girl in the Road (2014) was nominated for the Locus award and won the 2015 James Tiptree, Jr. Award. And this one has garnered a lot of advance praise — Booklist calls it “Complex and captivating,” and Tor.com says it’s “Reminiscent of Octavia E. Butler… Byrne creates cultures and characters that embody depth, sensitivity, and a riveting story line.” Here’s a snippet from the feature review by Michael Marshall at New Scientist, who labels it “a stone-cold masterpiece.”
For the past twelve years my family and I have lived a couple of blocks from Ivor Wynne, the local football stadium, and we hear all the noise from the Tiger Cats games. So I began a novel in which my protagonist hears a racket from the stadium at night, which he thinks of as “midnight games.” However, they are not games at all, but the cruel ceremonies of a local cult which is trying to summon to earth the Great Old Ones of the H.P. Lovecraft Cthulhu Mythos; trying with what turns out to be a fair degree of success….
What sort of monsters does the cult summon? — well how about those hideous prickly house centipedes that I scoop out of the bathtub of our old house from spring till fall every year. I don’t kill them, I put them in a jar and throw them in a garden — what if they were some sort of hmm, spawn of Yog-Sothoth, summoned here by the games? What about if one of them thrived in our garden, and grew and grew and grew?
I know what you’re thinking. “Dammit that sounds like fun. Why don’t I do that?” Well, if you’re a Black Gate reader, chances are that you do do that…
When the Goddess Wakes (St. Martin’s Press, August 2021). Cover by Lauren Saint-Onge
Whenever a trilogy wraps up, we bake a cake in the Black Gate offices. When that trilogy belongs to our own Howard Andrew Jones, our first Managing Editor, we bake a cake in the shape of the world of Amber. (No, we don’t know how it turned out. The damn cake keeps vanishing.)
When the Goddess Wakes, the final novel in Howard’s Ring-Sworn Trilogy, follows For the Killing of Kings (2018) and Upon the Flight of the Queen (2019). In his review of the first volume here at Black Gate, Fletcher Vredenburgh said “It moves at an astounding pace… This is exciting storytelling from one of the best and most knowledgeable writers of heroic fantasy.” Seth Lindberg proclaimed the second volume is “reminiscent of Zelazny… I was completely floored.” And in a starred review, Publishers Weekly called the final volume an “emotional roller coaster.”
When the Goddess Wakes was published on August 24th by St. Martin’s Press, and it brings to a close one of the most original and exciting fantasy series of the 21st Century. You owe it to yourself to check it out. And when you do, visit us again to share your thoughts. Pick up a copy today.
Vintage Treasures: Isaac Asimov’s Magical Worlds of Fantasy 10: Ghosts edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh
Isaac Asimov’s Magical Worlds of Fantasy 10: Ghosts (Signet/New American Library, 1988). Cover by J. K. Potter
Isaac Asimov had a lot of gifts. He was a world famous polymath, a marvelous science explainer and popularizer, and a pretty darned skilled writer of science fiction. But he doesn’t get a lot of credit for one of his greatest talents, a skill in short supply even today: The man knew how to sell anthologies.
After some of his early SF anthologies became enduring top-sellers, often remaining in print for decades (including The Hugo Winners, Volume I and II, Before the Golden Age, and Where Do We Go From Here), publishers discovered that the name Isaac Asimov on the cover of an anthology almost guaranteed it would sell.
Asimov exploited this heavily for the remainder of his career, lending his fame to many important anthology series, often co-created with frequent collaborators Martin H. Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh. These include The Great Science Fiction Stories (25 volumes in 23 years), Isaac Asimov’s Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction (10 volumes in 8 years), and Isaac Asimov’s Wonderful Worlds of Fantasy (12 volumes in 9 years). It’s that last one we’re going to look at today, with one of the final volumes: Ghosts, published by Signet in 1988.
Paula Guran is one of the most accomplished editors in the business. She began with Dark Echo, one of the first email newsletters, which she created in 1994; her 49th anthology, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: Volume Two, will be published by Pyr Books on October 19th.
I sat down with Paula this morning to talk about her new book, and discovered she had a lot to say — lively anecdotes from a two-decade career, what it is about horror that keeps her coming back, how the pandemic has affected modern horror, the best new novels of the past few years, and the amazing writers we should all be paying more attention to.
It was a lively and enormously entertaining discussion with one of the most wildly read and keen-eyed observers of the industry, a woman who’s demonstrated an uncanny talent for spotting and showcasing some of the most talented new writers working today. Check out the entire 35-minute interview here.
Vintage Treasures: Ten Thousand Light-Years From Home by James Tiptree, Jr.
Ten Thousand Light-Years From Home (Ace Books, 1973). Cover by Chris Foss
Ten Thousand Light-Years From Home was the debut collection from one of the most important science fiction writers of the 20th Century, James Tiptree, Jr (the well known pseudonym of Alice B. Sheldon). Tiptree published half a dozen additional collections during her lifetime, and several very important volumes gathering her best short fiction have been assembled since her death, most notably Her Smoke Rose Up Forever (Arkham House, 1990), one of the seminal SF books of the century.
But it probably won’t surprise any of you to learn that I still prefer the original paperbacks, flawed and poorly edited as they were. Thomas Parker calledTen Thousand Light Years from Home “the worst-proofread book I’ve ever read,” and let’s just say he’s not the only one to notice.
It’s frequently very satisfying to get advance proofs of major titles long before they hit bookstores. If you’re lucky, you can get a heads up on the year’s most important releases before virtually anyone else, and you can enjoy watching the buzz steadily build.
I was lucky enough to get a copy of My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones back in March — hot on the heels of his 2020 breakout novel The Only Good Indians, which James McGlothlin said was “packed with wallops of horrific fright… a top-notch horror novel.” And I just fell in love with the premise: a disaffected teen and lover of slasher films sees a chillingly familiar pattern in a series of horrific local deaths, and tries in vain to warn her home town what is coming. Kirkus calls it “Extraordinary… an essential purchase,” and Polygon proclaims it “An intense homage to the classic horror films of yore.” Here’s a snippet from the starred review at Publisher’s Weekly.
The Best of World SF (Head of Zeus, June 2021). Cover design by Ben Prior
You lot know how much I enjoy a good anthology. One of the most acclaimed to appear so far this year is The Best of World SF: Volume 1, edited by Lavie Tidhar. It’s a substantial collection of science fiction from all across the globe, featuring highly regarded writers such as Aliette de Bodard, Chen Qiufan, Vandana Singh, Tade Thompson, Hannu Rajaniemi, Ekaterina Sedia, Lauren Beukes, Karin Tidbeck, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Zen Cho, and dozens of others. The Philadelphia Inquirer said:
Inside this 26-story, 575-page cinder block of a collection… We’re talking spaceships and nanobots, creeping horrors and astral wonders, cyberpunk dystopias and cold, empty places where no one can hear you scream… Embrace the unknown.
That seems like great advice to me. Here’s the lowdown on some of the more interesting tales within, according to Gary Wolfe at Locus Online.