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Author: John ONeill

Learn the ABC’s of Horror with Mark Morris

Learn the ABC’s of Horror with Mark Morris

The first four volumes of the ABCs of Horror anthology series, edited by Mark Morris
and published by Flame Tree Press. Covers by Nik Keevil and Flame Tree Studio

I miss the days of the paperback horror anthology. The great horror anthologists of the late 20th Century — Peter Haining, Sam Moskowitz, Charles L. Grant, Karl Edward Wagner, David Hartwell, and others — curated dozens of volumes of top-notch fiction that kept me thrilled and entertained many a late night, and introduced me to countless new authors in the process.

Mark Morris has been working hard to recapture that old-school magic with a brand new series of anthologies, all of which feature new work from the top names in horror today — including Ramsey Campbell, Grady Hendrix, John Langan, Simon Strantzas, Nathan Ballingrud, Christopher Golden, Seanan McGuire, Steve Rasnic Tem, Alison Littlewood, Josh Malerman, Tim Lebbon, Angela Slatter, Michael Marshall Smith, Simon Bestwick, Robert Shearman, Stephen Volk, Catriona Ward, Paul Finch, Priya Sharma, Aliya Whiteley, Lisa Tuttle, Lynda E. Rucker, Nina Allan, Brian Evenson, Peter Atkins, Mark Gatiss, Simon Clark, Helen Marshall, and many, many more.

Mark Morris posted his first article at Black Gate on Sunday (a rave review of the Netflix series The Fall of the House of Usher, which he calls a masterpiece,) and while we were chatting I asked him about his inspiration and plans for the series. His response was interesting enough that I thought I’d share it with you here.

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Vintage Treasures: Moderan by David R. Bunch

Vintage Treasures: Moderan by David R. Bunch


Moderan, by David R. Bunch (Avon, May 1971). Cover by Norman Adams

The week between Christmas and New Year’s may be my favorite time of the year. Nobody’s working. Life slows down. Everybody’s eating cheese. And I can finally kick back and tackle the reading projects I’ve wanted to get to all year.

At the top of my list is a Moderan, a classic science fiction collection that reviewers at Black Gate have referenced countless times in the past few years — most recently Rich Horton, who wrote here back in February, “Bunch of course is best known for his remarkable Moderan stories, many or most of which were published in Cele Goldsmith Lalli’s Amazing and Fantastic.

Rich knows how to pique my interest. Start with superlatives, then name drop a bunch of old science fiction magazines.

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Merry Christmas from Black Gate

Merry Christmas from Black Gate

It’s been another trying year at Black Gate. In early January we had a serious site outage (caused by poor backup management that built up 900 Gig of site backups); in February we realized our WordPress package couldn’t handle any more growth, and upgraded to a (much more expensive) dedicated server; and just four days ago we suffered a malware attack that rendered the entire site inoperable for 48 hours (traced back to an obsolete WordPress plugin).

It’s things like this that make me question why we still maintain the site. After 24 years of continuous operation, maybe it’s time to declare success, close up the Black Gate offices, and retire.

We’re not going to do that. There are lots of reasons, of course. Over the years we’ve achieved the kind of success I never dreamed of, surpassing two million pages views a month at our peak. But I’ve learned that true success isn’t captured in traffic metrics. The most rewarding part of running this site — by far — has been the amazing things our readers have taught me. It’s been in the surprising and endless ways this little website has enriched my life, by introducing me to so many wonderful folks who share my love of reading, and fantasy.

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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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