Mark Sumner Serializes His First New Novel in Seven Years at Daily Kos

Saturday, January 30th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

On Whetsday Denny-smallMark Sumner is one of Black Gate‘s most popular writers. When his short story “Leather Doll” appeared in Black Gate 7, The Internet Review of Science Fiction called it “absolutely riveting… [a] masterpiece of contemporary science fiction,” and his serialized novel The Naturalist became one of the most acclaimed tales in our long history. (All three BG installments of The Naturalist were collected under one cover in 2014.)

Now Mark has kicked off an ambitious new project, publishing a brand new serial novel at the political blog Daily Kos, where he has been a writer for several years. The first installment went live today:

This is the first installment of a new novel, On Whetsday. The book was inspired by recent events, old attitudes, and the long-held conviction that science fiction’s ability to create a fresh angle on society is more than just a parlor trick. On Whetsday is my first new work in several years. It will be available from my friends at Word Posse both as an ebook and in genuine wood pulp. The book is also available as a podcast, with voices provided by Raymond Shinn and Rett Macpherson.

The artwork today [at right] comes from Amy Jones, our own Ashes of Roses. I think it’s fantastic.

This is, in fact, the first new novel from Mark since the last installment of The Naturalist appeared in Black Gate in 2009, and I’m thrilled to see it. A new Mark Sumner novel is a major publishing event.

Check out the first installment of On Whetsday here.


The Series Series: Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston

Thursday, January 28th, 2016 | Posted by Sarah Avery

The Shards of Heaven-small[This review may contain trace amounts of David Bowie.]

The jacket copy for Michael Livingtson’s Shards of Heaven sounded promising. I asked for the ARC immediately, and bounced with joy when I found it in my mailbox. Alas, the press release tucked into the book described it as Dan Brown meets Indiana Jones.

Who am I to say Dan Brown is unreadable? Clearly millions of people find him otherwise. To me, though, Brown’s sentences and paragraphs are so relentlessly clunky, ugly, and boring, I am unable to care what happens to any of Brown’s characters. My one attempt to read The Da Vinci Code found me fighting the urge to throw the book across the room, several times on every page.

So the press release made me fear for the well-being of Michael Livingston’s novel. I also feared for my own domestic tranquility: Now that I have children, my household’s penalty for throwing books is a five-minute time-out.

Which was I to believe? The blockbuster-bluster elevator pitch, or the cover copy?

[A]s civil war rages from Rome to Alexandria, and vast armies and navies battle for supremacy, a secret conflict may truly shape the course of history: two sons of Caesar have set out on a ruthless quest to find and control the Shards of Heaven, legendary artifacts said to possess the very power of the gods — or of the one God. Caught up in these cataclysmic events, and the hunt for the Shards, are a pair of exiled Roman legionnaires, a Greek librarian of uncertain loyalties, assassins, spies, slaves . . . and the ten-year-old daughter of Cleopatra herself.

Shards of Heaven has so many of the things Black Gate readers love — epic sweep, battle and brawl, ancient secrets, women one underestimates at one’s peril, and world-shaking magic. Michael Livingston has some nice writing chops. The secret history clearly has a mountain of real historical research to give it depth. How can such a book go wrong?

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C.S.E. Cooney’s Novella “The Bone Swans of Amandale” Available Free Online

Sunday, January 24th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Bone Swans CSE Cooney-smallC.S.E. Cooney’s 2015 novella “The Bone Swans of Amandale,” from her acclaimed collection Bone Swans, has been made available free online by the publisher, Mike Allen at Mythic Delirium Books. Here’s what Paul Di Filippo said about the story in his Locus Online review:

Original to this volume, “The Bone Swans of Amandale” reads as if Patricia McKillip and Laird Barron decided jointly to rework the Redwall series. In a land where, among other wonders, a Fairy Mound rises “smooth as a bullfrog,” Maurice the Rat Man must come to the aid of the last Swan Princess, Dora Rose, whom he hopelessly loves and who has seen all her kindred slain, their precious bones turned into musical instruments by the evil ogre Mayor of Amandale, Ulia Gol, whose “florid face was as putridly pink as her wig.” With the help of Nicolas the Pied Piper, suitable reparations are exacted. To say this lively tale recaps its famous model legend is also to say that the Coen Bros.’s O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a straight-ahead rendition of the Labors of Hercules.

Our previous coverage of Bone Swans includes:

Locus Online on C.S.E. Cooney’s Bone Swans
C.S.E. Cooney Gets a Starred Review from Publisher’s Weekly
New Treasures: Bone Swans
Bird People, Evil Clowns, and the Crooked One: Bone Swans by C.S.E. Cooney

Read the complete story online for free here.


New Treasures: The Best Of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Volume 1

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly-smallI’ve been very pleased to watch Heroic Fantasy Quarterly‘s reputation grow by leaps and bounds over the past few years, to the point where it is openly acknowledged as one of the premier sources of adventure fantasy. Howard Andrew Jones calls their output “Stirring, polished adventure fiction [that] needs to be seen by more readers,” and Fletcher Vredenburgh proclaims it “My favorite fantasy magazine… Always true to the traditions of heroic fiction, they yet manage to publish tales that push the genre in new directions.” So I was excited to see a thick anthology of their best work arrive last month — and very honored when I was asked to write the introduction. Here’s a sample.

At its very best, Sword & Sorcery showcases the kind of worldbuilding that twists your head around. It’s the floating pocket dimensions of Adrian Cole’s The Voidal. The savage landscapes of Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian Age. The twisted streets of unmappable Lankhmar, the doomed Atlantis of Kull, the shadow dimensions of Chronicles of Amber

The setting of a Sword & Sorcery tale is fundamentally very different from the setting of Heroic Fantasy. Heroic Fantasy is castles and keeps and barbarian provinces. It’s wind-swept vistas and dark dungeons, elven forests and cloud kingdoms and subterranean cities and the dangerous borders of Mordor. If you’re going to vacation in the lands of Heroic Fantasy, you’ll need an experienced guide. Because one wrong turn and suddenly you’re an orc hostage.

You needn’t trouble with a guide in the world of Sword & Sorcery. Because S&S… man, S&S will kill you.

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly is an ezine dedicated to short works of heroic fantasy. It is edited by Adrian Simmons, David Farney, William Ledbetter, and James Frederick William Rowe, and published four times a year. Issues are are completely free. We last covered HFQ with issue #25The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly: Volume 1, 2009-2011 was compiled by the editors of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly and published on November 27, 2015. It is 226 pages, priced at $9.99 in paperback and $4.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Justin Sweet. See the complete Table of Contents here.


New Treasures: Ghost in the Cogs edited by Scott Gable and C. Dombrowski

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Ghost in the Cogs-back-small Ghost in the Cogs-small

I’ve been hearing quite a bit about the new book from Broken Eye Books, Ghost in the Cogs, an anthology of steam-powered ghost stories, and not just because it has a story by our very own Howard Andrew Jones. Here’s what Howard had to say about it:

It’s the first time in years I’ve had a story published that didn’t feature Dabir and Asim or one of my Pathfinder characters. In this instance, it’s an alternate steampunk world with zeppelins and haunted temples and a sort of Robin Hood, Gentleman Jim, who adventures with his trusty second story gal Big Jane. They get into a scrape when they’re hired to steal a fabulous treasure that turns out to come with a few drawbacks. I had a blast writing it and I might draft more in the same world with the same characters.

The book contains no less than 22 stories, from such talented writers as Siobhan Carroll, Howard Andrew Jones, Eddy Webb, Nayad Monroe, Christopher Paul Carey, Scott Fitzgerald Gray, Richard Dansky, Nick Mamatas, Liane Merciel, James Lowder, and many others.

The always reliable Keith West saw fit to give the book a feature review at his excellent blog, Adventures Fantastic. Here’s part of his review.

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Jeffrey Ford on Scott Nicolay’s After

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Scott Nicolay After-smallJeffrey Ford took a chance on an unknown magazine, and sold us a story for the very first issue of Black Gate. (And a terrific story, too — a gonzo mystery set on an alien world, “Exo-Skeleton Town.” You can read the entire thing at Infinity Plus.) We’ve been pals ever since. One of the things I like about Jeff is he treats his Facebook friends to great, punchy mini-reviews of some excellent (and often hard-to-find) titles. That was the case yesterday, when he wrote the following about Scott Nicolay’s creepy horror tale After. He gave me permission to post it here. Enjoy.

if you get a chance, check out Scott Nicolay’s stand alone novella, After. About a woman who returns to her home in Seaside Heights after super storm Sandy to check on the damages. FEMA says she’s not allowed to stay but she does only to find out that some strange creature has been brought in by the storm and is lurking beneath her house.

This one’s got everything I like in a horror story — the slow burn, deep characterization so I care about the character, and the rare instance of a metaphorical resonance between the fearsome aspect of the world (the monster) and the defining condition of the character (in this case an abusive relationship). All this in a neat little book, well made (from Dim Shore Press) with a great cover and nice illustrations by Michael Bukowski.

Scott Nicolay is also the author of Do You Like to Look at Monsters? and Ana Kai Tangata: Tales of the Outer the Other the Damned and the Doomed.

After was published by Dim Shores on August 4th 2015. It is 104 pages, priced at $10 in trade paperback. The cover is by Michael Bukowski. The Dim Shores website is here.

See all of our recent Reviews here.


Breathtaking and Truly Epic: Barnes & Noble on Michael Livingston’s The Shards of Heaven

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Shards of Heaven-smallMichael Livingston’s stories for Black Gate were widely acclaimed by our readers. So I’m looking forward to seeing how the wider world reacts to his first novel, on sale this month from Tor. I got my first taste when I saw this rave review from Sam Reader at Barnes & Noble:

The Shards of Heaven is breathtaking in scope. With the first volume of a planned series intertwining Roman history and myth with Judeo-Christian mythology, Michael Livingston has created something truly epic… He uses real events and characters as the backbone for a truly inventive epic fantasy like novel, a massive undertaking that launches a tremendously ambitious series.

With Julius Caesar dead, a civil war threatens to destroy Rome. On one side is Octavian, Caesar’a ruthless successor, who will resort to any means to assert his power over the Empire. On the other are Caesar’s former ally Marc Antony and his lover Cleopatra… But then history twists, and Octavian’s half-brother Juba, a Numidian prince and thrall of Rome, uncovers something that will upend the conflict completely: the Trident of Poseidon, which gives the wielder the ability to control any fluid with an extension of will. The discovery comes with the knowledge that the trident is but one of the legendary Shards of Heaven, artifacts whose immense power hints at the existence of a strength greater than man’s…

The action here is big and bloody… Livingston uses violence in sudden, sparing bursts, each fight given a sense of purpose and consequence — until he doesn’t: the book’s centerpiece is the Battle of Actium, a massive naval conflict both grand in scope and enormously complex in its intricacies. Livingston keeps tight control over both.

The Shards of Heaven will be published by Tor Books on November 24, 2015. It is 414 pages. priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital version. It is the opening volume in an epic new historical fantasy series set against the rise of the Roman Empire. See our previous coverage here.


Future Treasures: The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Shards of Heaven-smallMichael Livingston’s short stories in Black Gate revealed a keen talent for mixing history and fantasy — especially his acclaimed tale “The Hand That Binds (BG 9),” a fabulous retelling of the legend of Beowulf. His story “At the End of Babel(Tor.com) is another fine example. His first novel, on sale next month from Tor Books, reveals the secret history of Ancient Rome, and the hidden magic behind the history we know.

Julius Caesar is dead, assassinated on the senate floor, and the glory that is Rome has been torn in two. Octavian, Caesar’s ambitious great-nephew and adopted son, vies with Marc Antony and Cleopatra for control of Caesar’s legacy. As civil war rages from Rome to Alexandria, and vast armies and navies battle for supremacy, a secret conflict may shape the course of history.

Juba, Numidian prince and adopted brother of Octavian, has embarked on a ruthless quest for the Shards of Heaven, lost treasures said to possess the very power of the gods — or the one God. Driven by vengeance, Juba has already attained the fabled Trident of Poseidon, which may also be the staff once wielded by Moses. Now he will stop at nothing to obtain the other Shards, even if it means burning the entire world to the ground.

Caught up in these cataclysmic events, and the hunt for the Shards, are a pair of exiled Roman legionnaires, a Greek librarian of uncertain loyalties, assassins, spies, slaves… and the ten-year-old daughter of Cleopatra herself.

Michael Livingston’s The Shards of Heaven reveals the hidden magic behind the history we know, and commences a war greater than any mere mortal battle.

The Shards of Heaven will be published by Tor Books on November 24, 2015. It is 414 pages. priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital version. It is the opening volume in an epic new historical fantasy series set against the rise of the Roman Empire.


The Testament of Tall Eagle by John R. Fultz

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_2654127zETQGQbIIn his 1978 essay “On Thud and Blunder,” Poul Anderson pointed out that heroic fantasy was “overpast for drawing inspiration from other milieus — Oriental, Near Eastern, North and Black African, Amerindian, Polynesian.” While I’m still looking for Polynesian swords & sorcery, Black Gate alumnus John R. Fultz, has written the first full Native American novel of heroic fantasy that I’m aware of: The Testament of Tall Eagle (2015).

I must admit I’ve corresponded and debated with John several times about heroic fantasy. He’s as deeply conversant with the history of S&S as anybody I know. He brings that knowledge plus a deep love for the genre to his writing. I recommend his collection The Revelations of Zang as well as his Books of the Shaper trilogy — both are wildly inventive and fun. So I went into his new book expecting good things and I was not disappointed.

Fultz’s novel is a wonderful throwback to the golden days of swords & sorcery of the 1970s. In only 324 pages, Testament recounts the adventures of Tall Eagle, a young man of a Great Plains Indian tribe in the days just before the introduction of horses to his people. It’s possessed of a straightforward narrative that’s as lean and fierce as a wolf. Instead of the Clark Ashton Smith-like prose of his previous books, much of Testament reads like a brutally realistic historical saga of 17th century Plains Indian life… until the monsters show up. And they do, in great, slimy droves.

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My Bookish Ways Interviews Howard Andrew Jones

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Beyond the Pool of Stars-smallKristin Centorcelli, Editor in Chief at book blog My Bookish Ways, interviewed our Managing Editor this week about the release of his new Pathfinder Tales novel, Beyond the Pool of Stars. Here’s a snippet in which Howard talks about the Pathfinder setting.

Golarion is a rich and vibrant world, and part of why I was a fan of Paizo products long before I started working for them. It generally has a high medieval technological level, with magic intercalated into many aspects of various of the world’s cultures.

One of the reasons I set this book (and its sequel – more on that in a moment) down in tropical Sargava is that I wanted to take my readers to somewhere new. There are a lot of fantasy stories with elves and dwarves set in and around feudal societies with stone castles and mighty forests.

Mirian’s world is one of beaches and ships and the lap of waves, and the cool darkness of mysterious ocean depths. She doesn’t wear armor or carry a long sword, although she might carry a cutlass. She doesn’t contend with goblins or the fey, but with monsters of the deep and lizard folk, and even the prejudice of the colonial culture ruling her homeland. She’s of mixed race, but owing to her coloration the colonials see her as native.

Read the complete interview here, and see our previous coverage of Beyond the Pool of Stars here.

Pathfinder Tales: Beyond the Pool of Stars was published by Tor Books on October 6, 2015. It is 347 pages, priced at $14.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Tyler Jacobson (see the complete wraparound art here). Read more at Howard’s website.


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