What Happens After the Greatest Con in History: The Quantum Garden by Derek Kunsken

Monday, October 14th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Quantum Magician-small The Quantum Garden-small

Covers by Justin Adams

Derek first appeared in Black Gate in issue 15 with his short story “The Gifts of Li Tzu-Ch’eng.” He’s been our regular Saturday evening blogger since 2013, producing nearly 150 articles on diverse topics such as web comics, Alan Moore, Star Trek, New York ComicCon, Percy Jackson, Science Fiction in China, and much more.

His first novel, The Quantum Magician, was published by Solaris on October 2, 2018. In his Black Gate review Brandon Crilly said,

The worldbuilding here is intricate, compelling and absolutely fascinating. From the moment concepts were introduced I wanted to know more, especially the different subsets of humanity that Künsken presents, each the product of generations of genetic manipulation. I mean, an entire population of neo-humans nicknamed Puppets because of their diminutive size, who double as religious zealots worshipping their divine beings’ cruelty? Or an intergalactic political hierarchy based on the economics of patrons and clients, complete with the inequalities and social issues you might expect?…

The core plot is a con game perpetrated by a team of ragtag scoundrels, trying to sneak a flotilla of warships through a wormhole controlled by another government… but don’t ask me to explain more than that. Künsken does an amazing job of presenting a bunch of quirky protagonists who play off each other well, but the characters that stand out do so powerfully; between that and the rich worldbuilding of things like the Puppets, I forgot about that flotilla and the original aim of the con for a good third of the novel, until they came back into focus.

Much as I rooted for protagonist Belisarius (who would be the Danny Ocean of these scoundrels) and his partner/love interest Cassandra (who I suppose is Tess and Rusty from Ocean’s Eleven combined), the secondary characters stole the spotlight for me, particularly AI-on-a-religious-mission Saint Matthew and the creepily dangerous Scarecrow hunting these scoundrels down.

Solaris releases the sequel The Quantum Garden tomorrow. Here’s a look at the back cover.

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Mind-blowing in the Best Science-fictional Tradition: This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Monday, October 7th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

This Is How You Lose the Time War-smallAt Wiscon in 2017 I was lucky enough to be in the audience when Guest of Honor (and Black Gate blogger emeritus) Amal El-Mohtar and author Max Gladstone conducted a joint reading of a project they’d been working on together. Here’s how I described it in my convention report for Black Gate.

For the second half of her reading, Amal invited Max Gladstone to the stage to perform a joint reading of their collaborative tale. It’s an epistolary Spy vs. Spy novella, set in a universe where time is a braid, and two timelines exist simultaneously. One where consciousness is embedded, one where it is more abstract. (Think of them as a technologically advanced timeline, and a more natural world.) Both timelines are unstable. There’s a time war between the two realities, and two opposing agents, Red and Blue. At the end of a successful and bloody opp, Red finds a letter left for her by her enemy that reads “Burn before reading. ” She knows it’s a trap, but it’s also a thrown gauntlet, and she cannot resist. Soon she’s leaving her own notes in response.

What starts as inquisitive taunts at mysterious opponents gradually become much sharper, funnier and more poignant as the two take their game — and their taunts — to higher and higher levels. All the while hiding their correspondence from their superiors, and gradually learning at least grudging respect for each other. Once again, the audience got only a tantalizing snippet of a wider story, but it was a fascinating one.

The story is tentatively titled “These Violent Delights.” It does not yet have a publisher.

“These Violent Delights” eventually became the collaborative novel This Is How You Lose the Time War, published by Saga Press in July of this year. It has been widely praised; Martha Wells calls it “rich and strange, a romantic tour through all of time and the multiverse,” and Publishers Weekly says it’s “Exquisitely crafted… Part epistolary romance, part mind-blowing science fiction adventure… dazzling.”

But I think my favorite review comes from our own Matthew David Surridge, writing at Splice Today. Matthew is insightful and illuminating as always, calling the novel “mind-blowing in the best science-fictional tradition.” Here’s the highlights.

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Ghost Ships, High-tech Farming, and Prospecting the Moon: September/October Print Magazines

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction September October 2019-small Asimov's Science Fiction September October 2019-small Analog September October 2019-small

The big news among magazine fans this month is the spectacular 70th Anniversary issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, which has one of the most impressive line-ups I’ve seen in many years. It contains fiction by Michael Moorcock, Kelly Link, Maureen McHugh, Michael Swanwick, Ken Liu, Esther Friesner, Paolo Bacigalupi, Elizabeth Bear — and one of Gardner Dozois’ last stories. This one will be snatched off the shelf quickly; if you haven’t secured a copy already, I would move quickly.

In his editorial for the issue, C.C. Finlay talks about what really makes the magazine special.

For the past five years, one of my guiding principles as the editor of F&SF has been to find work that still accomplishes those two goals. I scour the submission queue for stories that are fun to read — entertaining, compelling, and well-crafted — with a narrative that pulls you from paragraph to paragraph, page to page, from the first sentence to the final line. At the same time, I’m also hunting for stories that have at least one additional layer to them beyond the surface, something that makes you think, even if it makes you think by making you laugh, that makes you want to discuss the story, to consider the way it reflects our lives and the world we live in. I believe that it’s this particular combination of qualities that has made the stories in F&SF continually feel fresh and relevant in every decade of its existence.

We have a wonderful collection of those kinds of stories for you in this issue as we celebrate the magazine’s seventy years of publication. In typical F&SF fashion, they span the genre from literary fantasy to wuxia adventure, from the near future on Earth to the far future in outer space, from ridiculous satire to thoughtful speculation, from one of the genre’s Grand Masters and some of its most awarded figures to up-and-coming authors, from the debut story of a brand new writer to the final tale from one of science fiction’s greatest writer/editors. Once you add in a couple poems, a special essay from Robert Silverberg, our usual columns and features, and some cartoons, you have an issue that is both like every other issue of F&SF and also something special.

Asimov’s SF and Analog can’t compete with a line-up like that, but they make a good run at it. This is Asimov’s annual “slightly spooky” issue, which is always one of my favorites. The two magazines contain fiction from Andy Duncan, Sandra McDonald, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Rich Larson, James Sallis, Adam-Troy Castro, Tony Ballantyne, Edward M. Lerner, Norman Spinrad, Brendan DuBois, Michael F . Flynn — and Black Gate blogger Marie Bilodeau! Here’s the complete Tables of Contents for all three.

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Making our Journey to Machine Domination More Fun: The Robots of Gotham by Todd McAulty

Thursday, September 5th, 2019 | Posted by SELindberg

The Robots of Gotham cover wrap-small

Wearing aluminum hats won’t help us anymore. Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Assistant likely conspire against humanity, and no doubt will copulate and have gendered, machine children. That is one vision of the future. The Robots of Gotham will at least make our journey toward machine domination more fun. Todd McAulty’s first-person blog-style is profoundly easy to consume. Highly recommended for everyone who has a smartphone!

What is the best way to deal with being constantly surveilled by devices? Reading fiction about robot invasions can help, preferably paperbacks (eBooks and Kindles are monitoring you). Todd McAulty’s The Robots of Gotham has already received great praise from Publisher’s WeeklyBooklist, the Toronto StarKirkus Reviews, and numerous authors. Here is more.

Artificial Intelligence

I am by no means an expert in artificial intelligence, which makes my perspective even more alarming (exciting?). Many readers likely share this history, and it is why you’ll enjoy Todd McAulty’s The Robots of Gotham.

As a teenager (1980’s), I had the experience of interacting with Apple IIe and TI94 computers (when data was never stored on disk or was saved to tape), which had users game with a computer that served as a dungeon master. Digitized, text-based adventures like Infocom’s Zork provided a surreal version of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. Practicing science for decades, I’ve witnessed computers grow from simple calculators to devices that measure, store, analyze and report data with limited human intervention.

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Invincible Warriors and Goofball Sidekicks: Robots in American Popular Culture by Steve Carper

Saturday, August 10th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Robots in American Popular Culture-small Robots in American Popular Culture-back-small

Cover by Emsh

Steve Carper has been blogging about robots at Black Gate ever since his first post, The First Three Laws of Robotics, appeared back in November 2017. His delightful and entertaining articles have explored every facet of robots in America over the last century and a half. And now his first book on the subject, Robots in American Popular Culture, has been published by McFarland. Here’s what Steve tells us about it.

Robots in American Popular Culture is the first truly comprehensive prose history of the automaton, the mechanical man, the android, the robot, and all its variants. The index runs from “A. Lincoln, Simulacrum” to “Zutka” (stage act). Robots starts in the 19th century, long before Karel Capek used the old Czech word robota in his play, and the concept of the robot as a replacement for humans has been constantly present in the popular mind since. Both famous and long forgotten robots from comic books and strips, movies and television, stories and the stage, amateur and professional inventors, and science fiction of all flavors are part of this vast history.

Robots is available from my publisher and from Amazon. Because McFarland is an academic publisher, most bookstores will not have Robots on their shelves, but they can easily special order it for you.

But wait, there’s more. PBS publishes a companion book to their documentaries. I’ve created a companion website to my book. RobotsInAmericanPopularCulture.com has more than 350 images, movie and tv clips, music videos, and the ever-popular “other”, each keyed to the book’s page number so you can get a quick visualization and let you see what contemporaries saw. Not to mention over 50 additional articles on robots that grew out of the book…

Thanks to all who have long given me encouragement. I hope Robots will live up to and even surpass your expectations.

Robots in American Popular Culture is packed with vintage photos and Steve’s entertaining and superbly researched prose. It’s the best resource you’ll find on one of the most fascinating topics of our new century. Here’s the publisher’s description.

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New Treasures: Desdemona and the Deep by C.S.E. Cooney

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Desdemona and the Deep-small Desdemona and the Deep-back-small

I’m back from four long, exhausting days at Gen Con, and the first thing I did (after I unpacked) was open all my mail. That included lots of books — but they’re all going to have to wait, because the second box I opened contained C.S.E. (Claire) Cooney’s Desdemona and the Deep, one of the most anticipated books of the year, at least for me. Claire was the Managing Editor of the Black Gate website during our early years, and permanently put her stamp on things. Now she’s making an even larger impact on the entire field of fantasy. Her first collection, Bone Swans, won a World Fantasy Award, and though I’m only 50 pages into it, Desdemona looks like a very strong contender for next year’s Award already. The early reviews have been stellar, but perhaps my favorite was from BookPage. Here’s a snippet.

The land of Seafall is a study in excess, and Desdemona is at the center of it all with nothing to occupy her mind except her mother’s dreadful charity events and her best friend, Chaz. But that was before she learned the origin of her family’s fortune. Her father’s family made a series of deals with the goblin king, the latest of which left hundreds dead and a handful trapped in the world below. Determined to right her family’s wrongs, Desdemona embarks on a quest to enter the underground worlds to bargain for the lives her father callously threw away.

One of the things that makes Desdemona and the Deep so compelling is that in its scant pages, Cooney manages to sketch the boundaries and vagaries of not just one fantastic world, but of three. Desdemona’s world, the world above, is a too-real Gilded Age nightmare where the poor suffer to make the opulent lives of robber barons possible. The worlds below are equally vivid, the dark and sharp world of the goblins standing in stark contrast to the gentry’s light and dreamy plane. That the three worlds are so distinct would be impressive in a much longer book. Within the confines of novella, it is a feat… A gripping tale from beginning to end, Desdemona and the Deep is a great read for anyone who loves a good fairy story.

Desdemona and the Deep was published by Tor.com on July 23, 2019. It is 221 pages, priced at $14.99 in trade paperback and $3.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Alyssa Winans. Download a sample chapter in the Tor.com Publishing 2019 Debut Sampler.


A Letter from the Mighty Skull

Monday, July 22nd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Tales From the Magician’s Skull 3-small Tales From the Magician’s Skull 3 contents-small

Cover by Sanjulian

There’s been lots of buzz about the Tales From the Magician’s Skull Kickstarter here in the Black Gate offices. The first two issues — packed with sword & sorcery stories by James Enge, John C. Hocking, Chris Willrich, Howard Andrew Jones, C.L. Werner, James Stoddard, and Violette Malan — were a huge hit both with our staff and our readers. The brand new campaign to fund the third and fourth issues of the magazine wraps up this week, and it’s already been a huge success, more than quadrupling the stated goal of $7,500. There’s still time to pledge (and get the next two issues at a great price in the process).

Rumors were going around the office that if, using the usual arcane methods, you posed a question to the mighty Magician’s Skull before the campaign ended on Thursday, he would deign to answer (or perhaps destroy you — the specifics were lacking). You don’t get an opportunity to consult an ancient and powerful demigod like the Skull often, so I decided to chance it. It took longer than I thought to find a one-eyed toad, tie a note around his neck, and lower him into that well at midnight, but it paid off. This morning a pair of vultures delivered a parchment smelling of sulphur to my back window. Here’s what was scribbled on it.

HEED ME, MORTAL DOGS!

Dare you ask why you should support my magazine? If you crave the finest of all fiction, which is sword-and-sorcery, then you should be well pleased by what I have wrought!

Last year I launched two glorious issues overflowing with thrilling adventures in time-lost lands. Now I have decreed that the magazine is to continue! My newest Kickstarter extends my vision for four more issues, and beyond! There was rejoicing in the streets at this announcement, and the Kickstarter funded upon its first day!

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July/August Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Now on Sale

Sunday, July 14th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction July August 2019-small Black Gate 8-small

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (July/August 2019) and Black Gate 8 (Summer 2005). Covers by Mondolithic Studios

One of the great pleasures of publishing a print magazine like Black Gate — which we did for fifteen awesome issues, from 2000 until 2011 — is discovering new writers, like James Enge, Derek Kunsken, Sarah Avery, Todd McAulty, Harry Connolly, and many others. Of course, writers aren’t the only things you discover. We published a lot of artists in the early stages of their careers as well, folks like Charles Keegan, Jim Pavelec, Chuck Lukacs, Chris Pepper, and others.

In the years since we retired the print mag, it’s been marvelous to see those authors and artists go on to scale greater and greater heights. So I was delighted to open an email from publisher Gordon Van Gelder last month, with a sneak peek of the cover of the July/August cover of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (above left), and immediately recognize the brilliant work of Kenn Brown and Chris Wren, who together are Mondolithic Studios.

Kenn and Mondolithic did the cover for Black Gate 8 way back in the summer of 2005 (above right). It was one of the most creative and popular of our early covers, and I was thrilled to be able to feature it. The cover of July/August F&SF is ever more awesome, with its wonderfully retro-robots rampaging across a grisly post-apocalyptic cityscape. Fittingly, this is the “Robots Invade” issue, with Robot War tales by Alex Irvine and Cassandra Khaw, plus stories by Dominica Phetteplace, Molly Gloss, Albert E. Cowdrey, Eliza Rose, and many more.

Here’s the highlights of Kevin P Hallett’s review at Tangent Online.

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Support the Tales From the Magician’s Skull Kickstarter!

Thursday, July 11th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Tales From the Magician’s Skull 3-small Tales From the Magician’s Skull 3 contents-small

Cover by Sanjulian

Great news, adventure fans! The magazine Tales from the Magician’s Skull — published by Goodman Games and edited by our very own Howard Andrew Jones — has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the 3rd and 4th issues. The first two were a huge hit with Black Gate readers, a great many of whom signed on to the first Kickstarter. The contributor list for issue #3 is packed with names very familiar to our readers, like James Enge, John C. Hocking, Violette Malan, Sarah Newton, and Joseph A. McCullough. The new campaign has already blown away expectations, but the creators are still trying to reach new readers. Here’s Howard:

The launch of the next issues of our fantasy magazine has gone great — our Kickstarter funded the first day! But SURELY there are more than 400 people who want to sign on for a bi-annual subscription to a magazine chock full of swashbuckling fantasy adventure tales! We bring high octane sword-and-sorcery!

Help me spread the word to find more readers, and direct them to the Kickstarter, where they can buy-in at reduced cost!

We’re the home of James Enge’s Morlock the Maker and the action packed tales of John C. Hocking! We print famed Warhammer fantasy authors William King, Nathan Long, and C.L. Werner! We feature the ongoing adventures of Violette Malan’s Dhulyn and Parno! Not to mention tales from talents like Dave Gross, Chris Wilrich, James Stoddard, Setsu Uzume, and many more!

And did I mention the great artwork and old school pulp feel that permeates the entire magazine?

Swing by and take a look, and don’t miss the Kickstarter updates penned by the Skull himself!

Support the new campaign here, and help bring this exciting new project to life. If you won’t do it for me, do it for the Skull.

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Where Dogs Play a Part: Dogtime on the 5 Best Fantasy And Science Fiction Books With Dogs

Saturday, June 29th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

City Simak-small The Robots of Gotham paperback-small Top Dog Jerry Jay Carroll-small

Everybody loves recommending science fiction books. It’s not just our friends at Tor.com, Kirkus Reviews, and The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog anymore. Last week at Dogtime (Dogtime?!) Jean Andrei recommended the 5 Best Fantasy And Science Fiction Books “where dogs play a part in the story.” Starting, of course, with one of the great classics of the genre, the 1944 fix-up novel City.

Written by Clifford D. Simak, it’s told from the perspective of dogs as they explain what happened at the end of human civilization. The story tells of the advancements of humans and their desire to explore the universe. Before they leave, however, they give the gift of speech to all dogs on earth, as well as robots as their companions. It’s a compelling novel that is as strange as it is fascinating.

Even Black Gate contributors are getting in on the act. Amazon reviewer Tim in Chicago recommends Todd McAulty’s robot apocalypse novel The Robots of Gotham, released this month in trade paperback.

All of you plot-driven, immersive world, dystopian fantasy, robot-obsessed, political intrigue, action fans come right in — the pages practically turn themselves. Like a Jason Bourne with robots and a more sympathetic hero, Barry uses his most human qualities to navigate a world of robots that would rather just crush him than care about him. And there is a loyal dog — robots will never understand dogs.

Most BG readers will know about those two of course, but there are plenty more if you know where to look. Starting with Jerry Jay Carroll’s 1996 fantasy Top Dog, the opening novel in his A Dog’s Life series.

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