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

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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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Alien Artifacts, Cosmic Mystery, and an Impossible Murder Weapon: July/August Print Magazines

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Asimov's Science Fiction July August 2019-small Analog Science Fiction and Fact July August 2019-small Alfred Hitchcock 's Mystery Magazine July August 2019-small

Nick Wolven and Leah Cypess both have stories in Asimov’s SF and Analog this month, which is quite an accomplishment. Chris Willrich, whom BG readers will remember from his story “The Lions of Karthagar” in Black Gate 15, has a short story in Asimov’s, with the intriguing title “Fragments from the Library of Cygnus X-1.”

Asimov’s also manages to cram two long novellas in the July/August double issue, by Suzanne Palmer and Tegan Moore, alongside fiction by Ian McHugh, Harry Turtledove, Dominica Phetteplace, Bruce Boston, and others. Analog has an even more impressive line up, with tales from Greg Egan, Paul Di Filippo, Catherine Wells, Joe M. McDermott, Steve Rasnic Tem, John Vester, Buzz Dixon, and others.

And although I don’t usually buy mystery magazines, I added Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine to the pile at the checkout counter this month, mostly because of the cover. I’ll let you know what I think.

All three are published by Dell Magazines. As usual, all have detailed summaries at their respective websites. Here they are.

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New Spec-Fic of a Cold, Hard Type

Sunday, June 16th, 2019 | Posted by Frederic S. Durbin

Paradigm Shifts Typewritten Tales of Digital Collapse-small Escapements Typewritten Tales from Post-Digital Worlds-small

In the 21st century we were connected, interconnected. We had efficiency, convenience, escapist entertainment as real as life. We soared through a glowing cosmos of information, faster and faster. We knew it all, saw it all; we were everywhere at once, and nothing seemed beyond reach.

And then it all went away.

A deafening silence followed like a sleep, a seed gone into the ground. A death and rebirth. In the stillness, the isolation, we learned to see and hear again, to think and feel as if for the first time. The way forward was the way back. In the strange new world, our fingers found the old keys; the typeslugs found ribbons newly inked, and words formed again.

Cold Hard Type, a two-volume fiction anthology just released from Loose Dog Press, depicts a changing season for humankind. Volume 1, Paradigm Shifts: Typewritten Tales of Digital Collapse, imagines the end of the internet, the demise of smartphones, and the impact of this new reality on those determined to survive. Volume 2, Escapements: Typewritten Tales from Post-Digital Worlds, continues to follow the inhabitants of the new analog age in their struggles and triumphs.

The twist: all the stories and poems in these books are typewritten — on typewriters — by contributors from coast to coast and from around the world. Each manuscript page was scanned, so that the pages themselves are works of art — each a personalized and nostalgic window into the past of the printed word. Even the page headings and cover lettering were mechanically typed. Stark grayscale photos and artwork illustrate this imaginative portrait of a future that may be arriving even now. Format underscores content, for the unifying element in the stories is typewriters — typewriters clacking again in the post-apocalypse.

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Future Treasures: Time’s Demon, Book 2 of the Islevale Cycle by D. B. Jackson

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Time's Children DB Jackson-small Time's Demon new hires-small

D. B. Jackson is the author of four novels in the popular Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy set in pre-Revolutionary Boston, and the collection Tales of the Thieftaker, which Fletcher Vredenburgh called “tense… the mysteries [are] good, the characters well-drawn… is a brisk read with an engaging lead, a colorful supporting cast, and a nicely detailed setting.” ‘D.B. Jackson’ also happens to be Black Gate contributor David B. Coe, whose blog posts here have covered topics as diverse as World Building and Nicola Griffith’s 90s classic Slow River.

David’s 2018 novel Time’s Children was the opening novel in the Islevale series. It related the adventures of Tobias Doljan, time-traveling agent of the court of Daerjen. In her Black Gate review Margaret S. McGraw said:

This is an epic fantasy with magic, sword fighting, political intrigue, demons, assassins, and budding romance. Plus time travel! And well done time travel at that. I’m a sucker for time travel stories, but I’m often disappointed by their simplistic delivery or avoidance of temporal paradox — that’s not the case here at all. Jackson created an entirely believable world of Travelers and other magical beings… I look forward to Time’s Demon — where I hope we will learn more about Droë, as well as the continued adventures of Tobias, Mara, and Sofya.

Time’s Demon finally arrives next week amid much anticipation. Here’s the description.

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Ancient Astronauts, the Thing in the Pond, and the Cobweb Queen: The Weirdbook Annual #2: Cthulhu

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Weirdbook Annual 2 Cthulhu-smallWeirdbook‘s editor Doug Draa explains the rationale behind the magazine’s new line of Annuals in his editorial this issue.

We here at Weirdbook decided to do a yearly themed fifth issue. An annual if you will.

Last year’s theme was “Witches” and it turned out to be one of our most popular issues to date. After much soul searching it was decided that this year’s theme would be the ever popular “Cthulhu Mythos”… even after more than 9 decades, Mr. Lovecraft’s literary universe still continues to fire the imaginations of both writers and readers alike. It’s not an overstatement to say that Mr. Lovecraft’s fans and those of his Mythos are truly legion and beyond numbering.

I think that you, the reader will find this a highly enjoyable issue full of eldritch, unspeakable, and nameless horrors. I decided that this issue should contain stories by the finest of Weirdbook‘s regular contributors. This list includes such luminaries as Lucy A. Snyder, Ann K. Schwader, Leanna Falconer, Cynthia Ward, Darrell Schweitzer, Adrian Cole, and John R. Fultz to name just a few. I’m also very proud to have a brand new story from Mr. Robert M. Price which marks his very first appearance in this incarnation of Weirdbook! I can honestly call this Weirdbook‘s very first All Star Issue!

That’s an impressive list of contributors, and it includes at least two names well known to our readers: John R. Fultz, who published four stories in Black Gate, and Darrell Schweitzer, who appeared in BG 3 and BG 15.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents for the Weirdbook Annual #2: Cthulhu.

Short Stories

“The Shining Trapezohedron,” by Robert M. Price
“A Noble Endeavor,” by Lucy A. Snyder
“Ancient Astronauts,” by Cynthia Ward
“The Thing in the Pond,” by John R. Fultz

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