A Cherished Contributor, and Hard to be Friends With: Michael Moorcock on Thomas M. Disch

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

New Worlds August 1967 Camp Concentration-small New Worlds October 1967 Camp Concentration-small

Last month I wrote a brief feature on Thomas M. Disch and his 1968 dystopian SF novel Camp Concentration. Michael Moorcock, who serialized the novel in four issues of his magazine New Worlds (July -October, 1967), contacted me to share his own memories, and challenge my portrayal of Tom as “a tragic figure.”

Tom was a close friend. Sometimes hard to be friends with. He was given to depression and to taking offence over imagined insults. In spite of this, I and his other close friends loved him and I still wonder if I could have done more for him, as does Linda. She says that she loved being with us and never laughed so much as when we were together, so I don’t see him as a tragic figure. After Charlie died he became lonely and bitter on occasions but several substantial friends did all they could for him.

I serialised Camp Concentration in New Worlds and was flattered when he said he would not have aspired to make it as good as it was if he hadn’t known it was appearing there. He brought each episode in every month and I was increasingly grateful to have such a fine novel to run in the first of our large size issues. With Ballard, he was my most valued contributor. Camp Concentration was illustrated by our mutual friend, the fine artist Pamela Zoline. He brought John Clute and John Sladek into our circle and the 60s and 70s were wonderful thanks in considerable part to our mutual friendships. Politically, we rarely agreed, but we had so much fun together. I miss him terribly.

“Charlie” was Disch’s partner of three decades, poet Charles Naylor, who died in 2005. I asked Michael for permission to reprint his comments here, and he graciously granted it, and shared some additional memories of Disch.

Read More »


Birthday Reviews: Robert J. Howe’s “The Little American Man: A True Pelvic Story”

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover photo by Beth Gwinn

Cover photo by Beth Gwinn

Robert J. Howe was born on October 10, 1957.

Howe’s fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Black Gate 14 (with “The Natural History of Calamity”). He co-edited the anthology Coney Island Wonder Stories with John Ordover. Howe served as Secretary of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of American from 2010-2012. He is married to SF editor Eleanor Lang.

“The Little American Man: A True Pelvic Story” is a surreal tale set in Latin America. Pilar is a prostitute who notes that she likes the American client she has recently had who pays, doesn’t try to romance her, and doesn’t take up too much of time. A pregnancy scare forces her to visit her physician, Doctor Escobar, and his examination reveals that while not pregnant, a tiny version of the American man is living inside her. Although Escobar offers to remove the squatter, Pilar refuses.

Over the next several weeks, Pilar changes her business model from turning tricks to allowing people to view the little American man inside her. As time progresses, the man begins decorating his surroundings and adding furnishings, although neither Pilar nor Howe seem particularly curious about the method he has for obtaining his décor. Although Pilar does ask him about his plans and his name, he refuses to answer any of her questions and she allows them to pass.

In the course of the story, Doctor Escobar give his diagnoses of the little American man’s presence as “uterocolonialism,” which seems a reasonable interpretation of his actions, even if his presence seems benign. However, no matter how little direct impact he seems to have on Pilar, his very presence appears to make changes to her as she is unable to conduct her traditional business and she realizes that she is aging more rapidly than she should. By the time Pilar asks Doctor Escobar to remove the little man, it is too late.

Read More »


The Judges Guild Journal Third Ultimate Dungeon Design Contest

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018 | Posted by Doug Ellis

judges guild journal 18 cover - Copy-small judges guild journal 18 contest announcement - Copy-small

Yesterday I was going through some old notebooks of gaming stuff from high school and found a piece of original art I’d completely forgotten about. Back then, my friends and I spent most of our free time playing role-playing games — particularly Advanced Dungeons & Dragons — and other war games. I subscribed to a bunch of the gaming magazines at the time, including The Judges Guild Journal.

In issue #18 of that mag (December 1979-January 1980) they announced The Third Ultimate Dungeon Design Contest — also referred to as the “Judges Guild Journal Bride of — the Son of — The Worlds First and Greatest Dungeon Creation Contest — Contest — Contest!!!” JG never met hyperbole they didn’t like.

Entries were due by February 29, 1980, and my 16 year old self decided to enter. There were three categories, based on the size of the dungeon you created (prosaically listed as Large Dungeon, Medium Dungeon and Mini-Dungeon). I worked up a medium dungeon, “Catacombs of the Undead.” One of my high school friends, John Sweet, who was a year younger than me and a talented artist, offered to do some art for it.

Read More »


In 500 Words or Less: The Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken

Friday, October 5th, 2018 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

The Quantum Magician-smallThe Quantum Magician
by Derek Künsken
Solaris (480 pages, $11.99 paperback, $6.99 eBook, October 2, 2018)

When I reviewed Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit last year, I joked that there’s a reason why I teach in the humanities, which is the same reason I don’t read a lot of hard science fiction. For me to enjoy a hard SF novel enough to discuss it here is a big deal – and I really enjoyed Derek Künsken’s The Quantum Magician, even though I’m sure that like Ninefox, I didn’t get as much out of it as someone else might have.

To be clear, 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? These demand further unpacking, which Künsken does with deliberate skill, slowly revealing more and more about humanity’s divergent offshoots and the galaxy they inhabit.

But I can’t say that I walked away from The Quantum Magician with a crystal clear sense of what I read. 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.

Read More »


Douglas Draa’s What October Brings is a Lovecraftian Celebration of Halloween

Thursday, October 4th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

What October Brings-smallHalloween and Lovecraft. Two great things that belong together. And Weirdbook editor Douglas Draa is the man to make it happen.

His new anthology What October Brings is a handsome collection of original stories by Adrian Cole, Storm Constantine, Tim Curran, Cody Goodfellow, Nancy Holder, Brian M. Sammons, John Shirley, Lucy A. Snyder, Chet Williamson, Black Gate writer Darrell Schweitzer, and many others — all packaged under a gorgeous cover by Italian artist Daniele Serra.

It’s from UK publisher Celaeno Press, a new name to me, but they clearly do good work. Here’s the description.

Halloween, a time for laughing children in white bedsheets and superhero costumes. A time for chocolate candy, and pumpkins, and Trick-or-Treat.

… a time for dark things everywhere to slink out of the shadows and into our lives, reminding those unlucky few that our charades of Halloween cannot erase the centuries of history and pain behind the facade…

What October Brings celebrates the dark traditions of the autumn rituals, of Halloween and Samhain, in homage to the uniquely fascinating fiction of HP Lovecraft. Masters of the short story offer you a “once in a lifetime” Trick-or-Treat experience…

…perhaps your last!

This is a sizable anthology packed with long stories. Over half are 18+ pages, and one, Lucy A. Snyder’s “Cosmic Cola,” is a generous 30 pages. Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

Read More »


Future Treasures: The Islevale Series by D. B. Jackson

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

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

D. B. Jackson is the author of four novels in the popular Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy set in pre-Revolutionary Boston, which Kirkus Reviews calls “Splendid… with [a] contemporary gumshoe-noir tone… An unusual series of great promise.” Fletcher reviewed D.B.’s collection Tales of the Thieftaker for us, saying:

I enjoyed myself, ripping through the book at a quick pace. Jackson’s prose is clean; he’s a good storyteller. The stories are tense, the mysteries good, the characters well-drawn. His Boston reeks believably of crowded, dirty streets and you can smell the creosote from the wharves… Tales of the Thieftaker 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 “Night of Two Moons” was the most popular story in Black Gate 4, and whose Books and Craft blog posts here have covered topics as diverse as World Building and Nicola Griffith’s 90s classic Slow River.

David’s latest release is Time’s Children, arriving next week from Angry Robot. It’s the opening novel in the Islevale series, and David tells us “This is my best book to date.” Sequel Time’s Demon is scheduled for May. Here’s what we know so far.

Read More »


New Treasures: Halls of Law, Book 2 of Faraman Prophecy by V.M. Escalada

Saturday, September 8th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Halls of Law-small Gift of Griffins-small

Halls of Law, the first book in the Faraman Prophecy series, introduced a world of military might and magical Talents on the brink of destruction. It’s especially interesting to me because “V.M. Escalada” is also Black Gate‘s long-time Friday blogger Violette Malan, who took on a pen name for this switch to epic fantasy. Rob H. Bedford at SFFWorld had some fine things to say about the novel.

In Halls of Law, V.M. Escalada brings together familiar fantasy elements of a nation being invaded, a rigid military, people with supernatural mental abilities, a race of lost creatures returning, and of course, prophecy. Familiar elements when handled well, make for an entertaining, enjoyable story… Escalada is no stranger to fantasy, she’s published several enjoyable Sword and Sorcery novels as Violette Malan. This novel and series is a slight switch to a more large scale story of Epic Fantasy from those intimate Sword and Sorcery tales and launches a promising series…

There’s a sense of fun to the novel… There’s a lot of myth in the background of the worldbuilding, as well as just wanting to know what happens next for Kerida, that I’m greatly looking forward to the second book in the series. Sometimes a book lands in your lap at exactly the right time, and Halls of Law was precisely the kind of book I didn’t realize I needed when I opened the first few pages. I was drawn in by the comforting prose and stayed fully invested because of the characters and world. Halls of Law is a fun, optimistic Epic Fantasy that proved a welcome change of pace from some of the more grimdark fantasy I’d been reading.

The second novel, Gift of Griffins, was released in hardcover by DAW last month. Here’s the description.

Read More »


Today Only — Get Todd McAulty’s The Robots of Gotham for Just $2.99

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Robots of Gotham cover wrap-small

Todd McAulty was one of the most popular writers in the print version of Black Gate. Free SF Reader said “McAulty appears to be world class,” and Locus declared “Todd McAulty is Black Gate‘s great discovery.” His debut novel, The Robots of Gotham, was published in hardcover by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in June, and has been accumulating rave reviews ever since:

“Massive and impressive… McAulty maintains breathless momentum throughout.”— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The whole story is a thrilling action flick in book form… Read it while walking in slow-motion away from an explosion.” — RevolutionSF

“Beautifully combines a post-apocalyptic man-versus-machine conflict and a medical thriller… This is thrilling, epic SF.”— Booklist (starred review)

“A massive, fast-paced, action-packed epic… Every page has the fierce readability of early Neal Stephenson, which is as high praise as it gets.”— Toronto Star

“A fast-paced, engaging read… The book is a thrilling ride.”— The Verge

Amazon’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year (So Far)

The Robots of Gotham is 688 pages, and priced at $26 in hardcover. But for today only, August 29th, the digital version of the book has been discounted to $2.99. Copies are available at Amazon, Kobo, and other fine online retailers.


The Strangest Alien: Julie E. Czerneda’s Esen-alit-Quar Returns in Two New Books

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Webshifters Julie E Czerneda-small

Julie E. Czerneda is one of the leading SF writers of the 21st Century. A biologist by trade, she’s brought a unique appreciation for the far-ranging possibilities of extraterrestrial biology to her fiction, and the result has been some of the most joyously alien characters in all of modern SF. One of her most popular characters is Esen-alit-Quar, the alien protagonist of the Web Shifters trilogy (Beholder’s EyeChanging Vision, and Hidden in Sight), published by DAW between 1998-2003. Who or what is Esen? Here’s Julie, in an essay she wrote for The Little Red Reviewer.

Short answer? A blob of blue, shaped like a teardrop. Who happens to be a semi-immortal shapeshifter. Who has really good intentions… but is working on her life skills.

Writing Esen’s attempts to protect life in the universe – or at least keep it civil – makes me happy and always has. As it turned out, Esen made you happy too, dear readers. I’ve received more feedback and love from you for the Dear Little Blob than for all my other work combined.

For those unfamiliar with my work, I’m a biologist by training, an optimist by preference, and have been writing the stories I want to read for quite a while now, thanks to Sheila Gilbert and DAW Books. If you read and enjoy my other SF, you’ll find Esen’s stories funnier, with more aliens and their worlds, but with no less — and sometimes more — heart. I came across this email from Tanya Huff the other day, about Esen’s first book. “…this was so much fun. It reminded me of all the reasons why I started reading SF in the first place.” Yup. Grinning.

Read More »


Sign up to Support Heroic Fantasy Quarterly through Patreon!

Friday, August 24th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

HFQ Patreon-small

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly is one of the most reliable outlets for top quality adventure fantasy on the market. In his review of Volume One of The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Fletcher Vredenburgh wrote:

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly is… the most consistent forum for the best in contemporary swords & sorcery. Some may think I’m laying it on a little thick, but The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly: Volume 1, 2009-2011, a distillation of the mag’s first three years, should prove that I’m not.

HFQ‘s reputation doesn’t just rest on quality. They’ve published four issues a year like clockwork for nearly a decade — and all of it available free online. Fans have been asking for a way to support the magazine for years, and the editors have finally created a Patreon where those who love quality fantasy can make meaningful contributions. Here’s HFQ editor and Black Gate blogger Adrian Simmons:

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly has brought new voices in sword and sorcery, adventure fiction, and historical fiction to the people since 2009. On our shoestring budget we have hit our goal of publishing three stories and two poems every three months AND started working in artwork, AND starting working in audio; and with more funds we could do much more.

Even just a few dollars a month can have a huge impact. Make a much-needed contribution to HFQ here, to help ensure one of the best modern fantasy magazine can continue for years to come. And check out their latest issue here.


  Earlier Entries »

This site © 2018 by New Epoch Press. All rights reserved.