One of the most popular authors in the later issues of the print version of Black Gate was Jonathan L. Howard. His first story for us, about a young thief named Kyth hired to penetrate a deadly tomb, was filled with surprises — not least of which was the amiable lich who congratulated Kyth when she reached the heart of his lair. It was titled “The Beautiful Corridor,” and its sequel, “The Shuttered Temple,” appeared in BG 15. Jonathan has had a very successful career as a fantasy novelist since those early days, and his latest novel, about a private detective who teams with the last descendant of H.P. Lovecraft to investigate some very bizarre crimes indeed, arrives in October. It’s one of the most anticipated titles of fall for me.
Daniel Carter used to be a homicide detective, but his last case — the hunt for a serial killer — went wrong in strange ways and soured the job for him. Now he’s a private investigator trying to live a quiet life. Strangeness, however, has not finished with him. First he inherits a bookstore in Providence from someone he’s never heard of, along with an indignant bookseller who doesn’t want a new boss. She’s Emily Lovecraft, the last known descendant of H.P. Lovecraft, the writer from Providence who told tales of the Great Old Ones and the Elder Gods, creatures and entities beyond the understanding of man. Then people start dying in impossible ways, and while Carter doesn’t want to be involved, but he’s beginning to suspect that someone else wants him to be. As he reluctantly investigates, he discovers that Lovecraft’s tales were more than just fiction, and he must accept another unexpected, and far more unwanted inheritance.
Jonathan L. Howard’s previous novels include the four volumes in the Johannes Cabal series (Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, Johannes Cabal the Detective, The Fear Institute, and The Brothers Cabal), and The Russalka Chronicles, including Katya’s World. Our previous coverage includes Jonathan’s article on writing the Johannes Cabel series, and his interview with John Joseph Adams. Carter & Lovecraft will be published by Thomas Dunne Books on October 20, 2015. It is 320 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition. See more details at Jonathan’s website.
Storm and Steel, the long-awaited sequel to Blood and Iron, was published last month by Pyr. In her feature review of the first volume, Sarah Avery wrote:
Of all the wild re-envisionings of the Crusades I’ve seen lately, Jon Sprunk’s Blood and Iron may be the wildest. His alternate-universe Europeans are recognizably European, but the opposing culture they face is that of a Babylonian Empire that never fell. And why has this Babylon-by-another-name persisted for thousands of years, so powerful that only its own internal strife can shake it? Because its royals actually have the supernatural powers and demi-god ancestry that the ruling class of our world’s Fertile Crescent claimed…
Jon Sprunk’s book takes the prize for strange worldbuilding. The Akeshian Empire is approximately what the Akkadian Empire might have looked like, had each of its major cities lasted as long and urbanized as complexly as Rome did. When monotheism comes to Akeshia, it arrives as a local heresy run amok, rather than as a foreign faith attracting converts. Akeshia’s gods are not kind gods; its semi-divine ruling caste are not nice people. However, when our hero comes to understand them from something closer to their own perspective, he finds much to admire and many people worth trying to save from the civil war that is beginning to take shape around him…
Blood and Iron is overall a strong book, full of powerful imagery and a vivid sense of place, with intriguing historical what-ifs and a sense of moral urgency to match its sense of moral complexity.
Jon Sprunk is also the author of the popular Shadow Saga (Shadow’s Son, Shadow’s Lure, Shadow’s Master), and expectations are running high for the second volume of his new trilogy, The Book of the Black Earth.
Storm and Steel was published by Pyr on June 2, 2015. It is 479 pages, priced at $18 in trade paperback and $11.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Jason Chan. Learn more at Pyr Books or read our exclusive excerpt of the first novel here.
Back in May I published a brief head’s up about the latest Gaunt & Bone novel, The Chart of Tomorrows. I finally have a copy in my hot little hands, and I’m impatient to start reading it.
Chris Willrich’s “The Lions of Karthagar,” set in the world of Gaunt and Bone, appeared in the last issue of Black Gate. The first novels featuring the two heroes, The Scroll of Years (2013) and The Silk Map (2014), were both published by Pyr. In this third installment, the two find their plans to retire interrupted when their son becomes the chosen vessel of a powerful spirit…
The poet Persimmon Gaunt and the thief Imago Bone had sought only to retire from adventuring and start a family, but they never reckoned on their baby becoming the chosen vessel of the mystical energies of a distant Eastern land. With their son Innocence hunted by various factions hoping to use him as a tool, they kept him safe at the cost of trapping him in a pocket dimension of accelerated time.
Now free, the thirteen-year-old Innocence has rejected his parents and his “destiny” and has made dangerous friends in a barbaric Western land of dragon-prowed ships and rugged fjords. Desperately, Gaunt and Bone seek to track him down, along with their companion Snow Pine and her daughter A-Girl-Is-A-Joy, who was once trapped with Innocence too.
But as the nomadic Karvaks and their war-balloons strike west, and a troll-king spins his webs, and Joy is herself chosen by the spirit of the very land Innocence has fled to, Gaunt and Bone find themselves at the heart of a vast struggle — and their own son is emerging from that conflict as a force of evil. To save him and everything they know, they turn to a dangerous magical book, The Chart of Tomorrows, that reveals pathways through time. Upon the treacherous seas of history, Gaunt and Bone must face the darkness in each other’s pasts, in order to rescue their future.
The Chart of Tomorrows was published by Pyr Books on July 7, 2015. It is 541 pages, priced at $18 in trade paperback and $11.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Kerem Beyit.
Nearly seven years ago, Bill Ward wrote “On Thud and Blunder — Thirty Years Later,” one of the first articles ever posted at BlackGate.com. Here’s what he said, in part.
It’s been thirty years since Poul Anderson wrote his essay on the need for realism in heroic fantasy, ‘On Thud and Blunder,’ which you can read in its entirety at the SFWA site, and I think it holds up well even though the genre — and the perception of it — has changed greatly. ‘On Thud and Blunder’ originally appeared in the third installment of Andrew Offutt’s classic anthology series Swords Against Darkness; though it was in the excellent, if unimaginatively named, collection of Anderson’s called Fantasy that I first encountered it. But already at the time of my reading a whole generation of writers had made a name for themselves by following the dictates of realism and common sense in designing their fantasy worlds.
The essay begins with a satire of the genre that features a barbarian cleaving through armor with a fifty-pound sword and riding a horse as if it were a motorbike, among other ridiculous things. It’s the kind of thing that gave heroic fantasy and sword and sorcery a bad name, and perhaps the sort of thing that meant it would soon be eclipsed by a rising tide of ‘high fantasy’ in the eighties and nineties. But, in 1978, hf — as Anderson terms heroic fantasy in an abbreviation that seems to have never caught on — was an emerging star.
In the Comments section, James Enge wrote, “Thanks for this: I’m a big Anderson fan and it’s a pleasure to reread this article… it’s still the authentic points of concrete imagination that strike deep, and Anderson was a past master at those.”
Read the complete article here. We’ll be presenting more classic articles from BG‘s rich history over the next few months.
Mark Rigney’s Renner & Quist novels — The Skates, Sleeping Bear, and Check-Out Time — feature the unlikely team of Unitarian Reverend Renner and retired investigator Dale Quist, who solve thorny and twisted occult mysteries. The first three novels have been widely praised. As William Patrick Maynard wrote in his review of Check-Out Time:
Rigney builds his fiction around his characters’ faith (or their lack thereof) in the supernatural and preternatural. The series is thought-provoking as much as it is entertaining…
Funny, moving, enlightening, entertaining – Mark Rigney’s Renner & Quist series is in a class of its own. The recommendations come no stronger. Do not pass this up.
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Bone Swans, the long awaited first collection from C.S.E. Cooney, has just been released, and in the last few days has accumulated some marvelous notices. She received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and over at Tor.com Brit Mandelo had many positive things to say, especially about “Life on the Sun,” originally published here at Black Gate:
Cooney’s approach also brings in a sort of cavalier, witty, and approachable contemporary story-telling, perhaps more closely related to adventure yarns than anything… The result tends to be a fascinating mashup between the tropes and resonances of the mythic tale with the sensibilities of contemporary action-oriented fantasy… “Life on the Sun” is perhaps the best illustration of what I mean…
And the July 1 issue of Library Journal had this to say:
In five beautifully crafted stories, Cooney (Jack O’ the Hills) builds imaginary worlds full of flying carpets, fairy-tale characters, and children confronted with a postapocalyptic Earth. In addition, each tale packs in enough plot for a novel, with adventurous characters who brim with wit. In “Life on the Sun” a young woman’s fate catches up to her. In the title story, Maurice the rat hires the Pied Piper to help out a swan princess. The marvelous “Martyr’s Gem” begins with a marriage and ends with true love. “How the Milkmaid Struck a Bargain” is another fairy tale, this time a play on the Rumpelstiltskin story. Cooney’s final piece, “The Big Bah-Ha,” shows her virtuosity with language, as she tells of doomed children striking a bargain with the monster who would eat their bones. VERDICT Short stories… [are] usually not where you find vivid worldbuilding or immersive storytelling, but this gorgeous new collection reveals that both are possible in the short form.
Bone Swans was published by Mythic Delirium Books on July 1, 2015. It is 224 pages, priced at $15.95 in trade paperback and $5.99 for the digital version. Cover art by Kay Nielsen. See the Mythic Delirium website for more details, and the complete Table of Contents here.
Michael Livingston’s short story “At the End of Babel” was published today at Tor.com.
At Michael’s website, he talks a little about the origin of the story, and his own history as a writer, including his first fiction sale, “The Hand That Binds,” published in Black Gate 9.
My path to publishing fiction began in 2003. It was then that a friend (hi, Fred!) suggested I submit some of the stories I’d been kicking around. So I sent out two. One was a retelling of Beowulf that was quickly picked up by John O’Neill at the very awesome (and sorely missed) Black Gate magazine…
On one memorable outing we were able to travel to Acoma Pueblo during one of the traditional festivals. The chance to see Acoma in person, and to see it somewhat behind the scenes due to my mother’s access, was priceless. It was, for lack of a better term, a mystical experience. Strong as those teenage impressions had been, however, I knew I needed a bit more research to get [“At the End of Babel”] right. I needed language.
The entire tale… hinges on language and the power it has to define culture. More precisely said, it depends on the fact that this power has been turned into a way of attacking culture by denying people the right to speak their language. This was the point, but it wasn’t a very good one if I didn’t actually use the language of the pueblo.
I don’t know Keresan, but deep down in the bowels of the library at the University of Rochester I found a small and dust-covered grammar for it. I did my best to absorb the language, to feel it, and then to sprinkle it into my text, to make it real and make it right.
Read the complete story for free at Tor.com here. Art by Greg Ruth.
Adrian Simmons is one of our favorite editors. With his team of cohorts he edits the marvelous Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, which you should be reading.
He’s also a prolific and popular blogger, and his articles for Black Gate — including Fools in the Hotzone and Frodo Baggins, Lady Galadriel, and the Games of the Mighty — are some of the most popular pieces we’ve ever published.
But he’s also a fine fiction writer. This week Pseudopod, the premier horror fiction podcast, has posted his story “A Fan Letter To Joe Landsdale,” alongside the story it’s based on, Joe Landsdale’s “Boys Will Be Boys.”
The reader is Jared Axelrod. Check it out here.
I just read my second Howard Andrew Jones novel: Plague of Shadows (2011), which was the first of his two Pathfinder novels (I read them out of order). In my review of Stalking the Beast (2013) for Black Gate, I raved that it delivered everything I crave from such a tale. It did so with skill and panache, introducing me to characters who have stayed with me. So I was pleased to go back and read the true introduction to Elyana, the Forlorn elven ranger raised by humans, and Drelm, the half-orc who values honor and loyalty more than most humans (let alone most orcs) do.
Knowing that it was a first outing, I went in expecting it to be not quite as good — not as polished or assured, maybe — as its follow-up (indeed, I gave Stalking the Beast a perfect 5-star rating, arguing that sword-and-sorcery RPG tie-in novels just don’t get any better than that).
But then I finished the book: And I felt that peculiar sense that only certain works of art engender, as the last sentence echoes away or the curtain falls or the credits roll. It has impressed itself upon you, and you feel enriched but tinged with a bittersweet sadness — the characters have left, and you miss them. The characters have, in some sense, become more real; they have joined your own personal pantheon. With this second visit, Elyana and Drelm grew from being fun, engaging characters in a standalone book into characters about whom I want to read many books!
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Joseph McCullough is the author of one of the most popular articles in Black Gate history, “The Demarcation of Sword and Sorcery,” which today is considered one of the defining texts on the genre. He’s published fiction in BG and elsewhere, and is currently Project Manager for Osprey Adventures.
His latest project is the wargame Frostgrave: Fantasy Wargames in the Frozen City, coming in July from Osprey. In support of the new game, Osprey is also publishing Frostgrave: Tales of the Frozen City, a new anthology edited by Joe which contains ten original stories telling the tale of wizards and other adventurers, as they venture into the ruins of the Frozen City.
Long ago, the great city of Felstad sat at the centre of a magical empire. Its towering spires, labyrinthine catacombs and immense libraries were the wonder of the age, and potions, scrolls and mystical items of all descriptions poured from its workshops. Then, one cataclysmic night, a mistake was made. In some lofty tower or dark chamber, a foolish wizard unleashed a magic too powerful to control. A storm rose up, an epic blizzard that swallowed the city whole, burying it deep and leaving the empire as nothing more than a vast, frozen wasteland. The empire shattered, and the magic of the world faded. As the centuries came and went, Felstad passed from history to legend and on into myth. Only a few wizards, clinging to the last remnants of magical knowledge, still believed that the lost city had ever actually existed. But their faith was rewarded.
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