Vintage Treasures: The Long Way Home by Poul Anderson

Sunday, February 18th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Long Way Home Poul Anderson-small The Long Way Home Poul Anderson-back-small

Cover by Michael Whelan

When Jim Baen left Ace to found Baen Books in 1983, he implemented a publishing strategy that served him well for decades: buying up the back catalog of popular authors and re-issuing them in visually similar covers that could be identified at a glance on crowded bookstore shelves. It was a strategy he learned while working under Tom Doherty at Ace Books from 1977-1980 (and refined under Doherty at Tor Book from 1980 – 1983).

While at Ace, Baen’s genius was to marry popular authors that had substantial back catalogs — like Andre Norton, Gordon R. Dickson, and Keith Laumer — with brilliant new cover artists. For me the exemplar of this strategy was Poul Anderson’s late 70s Ace editions, given new life by the striking world of a rising new artist named Michael Whelan.

When Richard Powers single-handedly remade science fiction art in the late 60s, it wasn’t long before bookshelves were overrun with abstract art. SF paperbacks, once criticized for pulp-era sameness and tired spaceship motifs, now suffered from a very different but no less stifling form of sameness. Plenty of writers were victims of the “Powers revolution” in SF art in the 1960s, but I think Poul Anderson was more victimized than most. His colorful tales of science fiction adventure on far planets were sold to the public under abstract covers that told them nothing about what they were getting.

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GOING BIG! Super Sized Marvel Treasury Editions

Sunday, January 28th, 2018 | Posted by Nick Ozment

Super Sized Marvel Treasury Editions-small

Ex-size-ior! Few things give me an exhilarating rush of childhood more than a Marvel Treasury Edition.

I see one and suddenly I’m five years old again, sprawled on the shag carpet by the bedroom door when I’m supposed to be asleep, that ginormous comic book spread out in front of me like a Life Magazine, surreptitiously turning the newsprint pages and delving into the four-color wonders of Spider-Man fighting a guy with a stegosaurus head or the Avengers flying across the sky to do battle with various nemeses or Conan hewing villains to rescue a curvaceous damsel.

Popular in the 1970s, Treasury Editions were mostly just reprints on Super Growth Hormone. They were, in a way, precursors to graphic novels: Each edition collected three or four comics from a series, sometimes with some new material thrown in.

Measuring 10” by 13”, they were striking. Part of the appeal to a younger reader would be the pictures are all bigger and more easily digested. I remember “reading” them before I could really read.

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Exploring the Tomb of Idu at Giza

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


The rather unobtrusive entrance to the tomb. Like most
mastabas, its superstructure has disappeared over time.

Put on your pith helmets, Black Gate readers, because today we’re going into an ancient Egyptian tomb!

This tomb, on the Giza plateau, was built for Idu, an inspector of priests of the pharaohs Khufu and Khafre and overseer of scribes. Idu made sure the rites and rituals in honor of the departed pharaohs were done properly, and that the priests had all the equipment they needed. Idu lived in the VI Dynasty, probably during the reign of Pepi I (2332-2283 BC), a couple of hundred years after the death of these two important pharaohs. The most prominent Egyptian pharaohs had cults that lasted centuries.

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Reading 2000AD’s The ABC Warriors for the First Time

Saturday, January 6th, 2018 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

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I’ve been reading 2000AD for a bit now, and listening to the 2000AD podcast by the Molcher-Droid, so I’ve heard a lot about The ABC Warriors, but didn’t know anything about them. In fact, from the name alone, my first thought was that canned pasta Alphaghettis that my mother used to have in the pantry for when she was working and we had to make our own lunch. Little could I have guessed that ABC stands for the Atomic, Biological and Chemical parts of warfare, and the robots who fight in those kinds of wars.

As one of the comics bloggers for Black Gate, I recently got my hands on an advanced pdf of the fourth volume of The ABC Warriors. For clarity and disclosure, the publisher 2000AD is owned by the same horse-riding video game designers who own Solaris Books (my publisher), but I don’t get any bonuses or consideration if I review their comics. I just like comic books (as you can tell from my post history). So, I wouldn’t have reviewed this if I didn’t actually like it.

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It’s Alive! Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Art from the Kirk Hammett Collection

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017 | Posted by Mick Gall

It's Alive Metallica-small

Now that Halloween’s over, those of us who enjoy a dark streak in our entertainment will seek out ways to stretch out the spooky season, even as the tidal wave of Christmas ads begins to crest.

Those in New England seeking a last taste of horror would do well to seek out “It’s Alive! Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Art from the Kirk Hammett Collection” at the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, MA.

Kirk Hammett is best known as being the lead guitarist for Metallica, but his years touring with a multi-Platinum band has afforded him the opportunity to collect horror and sci-fi memorabilia. The exhibit is a natural progression from Too Much Horror Business, Hammett’s 2012 book showcasing his collection.

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Happy Halloween! Here’s Some Nightmare Fuel

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


Happy Halloween! Well, it was yesterday or today or tomorrow depending on where you’re from. Anyway, it’s time to see something freaky. This is a traditional Irish Jack-o’-Lantern made from a turnip. Turnips and beets were the popular plants to make Jack-o’-Lanterns out of before pumpkins became available in European supermarkets.

This nineteenth century example is from the Museum of Country Life in Turlough Village, County Mayo, Ireland. The Irish say they got the tradition of Jack-o’-Lanterns because of the deeds of a certain blacksmith named Jack. He managed to trap the Devil through some means (stories vary from fooling him into turning into a coin or climbing a tree and then trapping him with a cross) and in return for freeing him, got the Devil to promise not to put him in Hell.

Once Jack died, Heaven refused to take him and Hell couldn’t take him either, so now he walks the Earth in a Purgatory of his own making. The Devil gave him a bit of a fire in a turnip to help him light his way at night. He’s been called Jack of the Lantern, or Jack-o’-Lantern, ever since.

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A Tale of Two Covers: More Human Than Human by Neil Clarke

Sunday, October 29th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

More Human Than Human Donato-small More Human Than Human Neil Clarke

Neil Clarke has produced some standout anthologies in the last few years, including Galactic Empires, two volumes of The Best Science Fiction of the Year, and of course his annual Clarkesworld collections. His upcoming book More Human Than Human: Stories of Androids, Robots, and Manufactured Humanity, with original tales from Rachel Swirsky, Robert Reed, Ian McDonald, Lavie Tidhar, Alastair Reynolds, Ken Liu, Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, Catherynne M. Valente, Genevieve Valentine, Jeff VanderMeer, and many others, looks like one of his best.

I’m rather taken with the cover, as well. It’s by Donato Giancola, one of my favorite artists, who did the cover of Black Gate 15 for us. You can see the original artwork at left above, and how it appears on the cover of More Human Than Human, above right. Donato is a master of small details, and is marvelously skilled at integrating those details into a visually striking whole. His covers frequently tell a story, as this one does, although the key to the story is often hidden in the details… just as it is here.

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A Tale of Three Covers: The Mammoth Book of Dracula / In the Footsteps of Dracula, edited by Stephen Jones

Monday, October 23rd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Mammoth Book of Dracula 1977-small The Mamoth Book of Dracula-small In the Footsteps of Dracula-small

One of the most interesting books I received in the mail the last few months was In the Footsteps of Dracula: Tales of the Un-dead Count, edited by Stephen Jones, a fat 679-page hardcover from Pegasus Books that contains 33 stories and a poem, all building on the legend of Dracula, whom Stephen King calls “still literature’s greatest villain.” It’s a true feast for vampire lovers of all kinds, with stories by Thomas Ligotti, Manly Wade Wellman, Ramsey Campbell, Paul J. McAuley, Charlaine Harris, Brian Stableford, Michael Marshall Smith, R. Chetwynd-Hayes, Basil Copper, Nancy Kilpatrick, and many others.

As I was researching the book for this article, I discovered a brief Facebook post from Stephen Jones that noted that it was a “revised and updated edition of [an] older Mammoth book,” The Mammoth Book of Dracula, originally published in the UK by Robinson in 1997 with a cover by Paul Aston (above left). The book appeared in a revised edition in 2011 with a more modern cover (above middle, uncredited) and containing one additional story, the Sookie Stackhouse tale “Dracula Night.” The new hardcover edition (above right, cover by Derek Thornton) adds a new title, an “About the Editor” page, and Acknowledgement and Credits, but otherwise looks identical to the 2011 edition. It arrived in bookstores on October 3.

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Future Treasures: The Art of the Pulps edited by Douglas Ellis, Ed Hulse and Robert Weinberg

Friday, October 13th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Art of the Pulps Doug Ellis-small

Ed Hulse, editor and co-founder of pulp zine Blood ‘n Thunder, collector extraordinaire Robert Weinberg, and collector (and Black Gate blogger) Doug Ellis have teamed up to produce what may be my most anticipated book of 2017: The Art of the Pulps, a gorgeous 240-page celebration of the magazines that gave birth to the heart and soul of modern Pop Culture. Miss this book at your peril.

Experts in the ten major Pulp genres, from action Pulps to spicy Pulps and more, chart for the first time the complete history of Pulp magazines — the stories and their writers, the graphics and their artists, and, of course, the publishers, their market, and readers.

Each chapter in the book, which is illustrated with more than 400 examples of the best Pulp graphics (many from the editors’ collections — among the world’s largest) is organized in a clear and accessible way, starting with an introductory overview of the genre, followed by a selection of the best covers and interior graphics, organized chronologically through the chapter. All images are fully captioned (many are in essence “nutshell” histories in themselves). Two special features in each chapter focus on topics of particular interest (such as extended profiles of Daisy Bacon, Pulp author and editor of Love Story, the hugely successful romance Pulp, and of Harry Steeger, co-founder of Popular Publications in 1930 and originator of the “Shudder Pulp” genre).

With an overall introduction on “The Birth of the Pulps” by Doug Ellis, and with two additional chapters focusing on the great Pulp writers and the great Pulp artists, The Art of the Pulps covers every aspect of this fascinating genre; it is the first definitive visual history of the Pulps.

F. Paul Wilson provides the Foreword. The Art of the Pulps will be published by IDW Publishing on October 24, 2017. It is 240 pages, priced at $49.99 in hardcover. There is no digital edition.

Strolling through Medieval Segovia, Spain

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


The Alcázar, built in the 12th century upon the foundations
of a Roman fort, is one of Spain’s most impressive castles,
and that’s saying a lot. Check out my previous post
the Alcázar of Segovia and its interesting
collection of medieval artillery.

While I’ve blogged a lot here about the sites of Madrid, it’s been a while since I’ve mentioned some of the excellent day trip possibilities from the Spanish capital. My favorite is the small city of Segovia just on the other side of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains. With a beautiful cathedral and castle, one of the best preserved Roman aqueducts in Europe, plus winding medieval streets and delicious cuisine, it’s a popular choice for a day trip or overnight stay. You can reach Segovia by bus in just over an hour.

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