Birthday Reviews: Richard Parks’s “Golden Bell, Seven, and the Marquis of Zeng”

Friday, June 15th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Black Gate Issue 1

Black Gate Issue 1

Richard Parks was born on June 15, 1955.

At the beginning of his writing career, Parks published a few works as B. Richard Parks. He has also used the pseudonym W.J. Everett. Parks received a World Fantasy Award nomination for his collection The Ogre’s Wife: Fairy Tales for Grownups. In 2012, his novel The Heavenly Fox was nominated for a Mythopoeic Award.

“Golden Bell, Seven, and the Marquis of Zeng” is the first story to appear in the first issue of Black Gate magazine in the Spring 2001 issue, published by John O’Neill. The story was picked up by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer for inclusion in the inaugural volume of their Year’s Best Fantasy anthology series. Parks also used the story in his 2002 collection The Ogre’s Wife: Fairy Tales for Grownups.

In “Golden Bell, Seven, and the Marquis of Zeng,” Seven is a young man living in an ancient China. On a trip to the city, he sees a woman, Jia Jin, and falls immediately in love with her. When it is explained to him that she is a gift to the Marquis of Zeng, who is near to death, and will be entombed with the Marquis along with his other concubines, Seven determines that he must rescue her and marry her.

Seven’s quest takes him far from the capital city and along the way he learns more of Chinese burial customs and a spirit tells him to seek a woman named Golden Bell. Upon finding her, he learns that he must sacrifice his heart and his soul to her in order to gain the knowledge to save Jia Jin from her fate. Although Parks glosses over it, the idea that Seven can give his heart and soul to one woman but later give it to another is glossed over, although it is an interesting point not often included in stories.

Eventually, Seven finds himself confronting the Marquis of Zeng in an attempt to marry Jia Jin, whose desires are not particularly important to either the Marquis or Seven.

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The Verge on 13 Enthralling Science Fiction and Fantasy Books You Need to Check Out This June

Saturday, June 9th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Robots of Gotham McAulty-small The Book of M-small Summerland Hannu Rajaniemi-small

Andrew Liptak at The Verge has dipped into the thundering production pipelines at America’s publishing houses for the month of June, and returned with a secret list of the 13 very best science fiction and fantasy books — including novels by Paul Tremblay, Yoon Ha Lee, Peter Watts, Katie Williams, Alex White, Rob Boffard, Melissa F. Olson, and Black Gate‘s own Todd McAuty. Many bothans died to bring us this information. Use it wisely.

The Robots of Gotham by Todd McAulty (John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 676 pages, $26 in hardcover/$12.99 digital, June 19, 2018)

In this future, the United States waged — and lost — a war against a coalition of machines, and it’s now under robotic occupation. A businessman named Barry Simcoe meets a Russian medic working with the occupying armies after his hotel is attacked. Together, they learn of a plot to unleash a plague that could wipe out humanity once and for all. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that the book has a “breathless momentum,” and that McAulty “extrapolates a scary AI-overrun 2083 that’s only a few steps removed from today’s reality.”

Todd McAulty was the most popular writer in the print version of Black Gate. His stories included “There’s a Hole in October” in Black Gate 5, which Locus labeled “magnificent storytelling, begging expansion into a novel,” and Tangent Online called “one of my favorite stories so far this year.” It was reprinted this month in Lightspeed.

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Signal Horizon on 5 Science Fiction Books That Should Be Made Into Movies Right Now

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Robots of Gotham cover wrap-small

Hollywood, take note! Over at Signal Horizon, Tracy Palmer identifies the future media superstars in this year’s crop of summer SF blockbusters. At the top of the list is the debut novel from Black Gate‘s own Todd McAulty, The Robots of Gotham, the story of a future on the verge of complete subjugation by machines.

I was lucky enough to get an advance copy and I’m reading this right now. This is the political Terminator we have been waiting for. Its brainy look at technology surpassing the inventor is tailor made for the big screen. With a very clear enemy and hero it will delight the action enthusiasts as much as those looking for more astute moral ambiguity. With many films preceding it like the aforementioned Terminator franchise and Robocop the audience is primed for another robots gone wild movie. What makes this unique is the timeline and mystery. Who or what are the machines hiding and where have the Americans been all this time? Stan Winston Studio who did the incredible robots for Terminator 3 should be hired immediately!

The Robots of Gotham will be published in hardcover by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on June 19. Get more details here.

The complete list includes The Rig by Roger Levy, Semiosis by Sue Burke, and novels by Neal Stephenson and Pierce Brown. Read the whole thing here.

The Late May Fantasy Magazine Rack

Monday, May 28th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Analog Science Fiction Science Fact May June 2018-small Apex May 2018-small The Dark magazine May 2018-small Lightspeed May 2018-small
Asimov's Science Fiction May June 2018-small Clarkesworld May 2018-small The Digest Enthusiast 8-small Nightmare May 2018-small

The back half of May is filled with great print magazines, including the latest Analog, with the concluding installment of our very own Derek Künsken’s debut novel The Quantum Magician. Asimov’s SF has new novellas from two sets of collaborators, Rick Wilber & Alan Smale, and David Gerrold & Ctein, plus lots of shorter fiction. And last but not least, just before we went to press I received a copy of the June issue of The Digest Enthusiast, a handsome magazine with plenty of reviews, articles and artwork of interest to anyone who collects vintage fiction magazines from the mid-20th Century and later.

All told it’s a star-studded crop of fresh reading, and no mistake. The magazines above include brand new stories from Nancy Kress, Paul Park, Jane Lindskold (twice!), Nalo Hopkinson, Carolyn Ives Gilman, Wil McCarthy, Mary Soon Lee, William Ledbetter, Stephen L. Burns, Sam J. Miller, Robert Reed, Marissa Lingen, Cherie Priest, Rich Larson, Sue Burke, Marc Laidlaw, Bo Balder, A Que, Pat Murphy and Paul Doherty, Michael F. Flynn, Michael Wehunt, and plenty more.

Here’s the complete list of magazines that won my attention in late May (links will bring you to magazine websites).

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Announcing the Black Gate Book Club: Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh

Monday, May 28th, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_2755519pv4ckfCiLast year, when I reviewed C.J. Cherryh’s The Pride of Chanur, Adrian Simmons mentioned he had been thwarted by her Hugo-winning Downbelow Station (1981). That led to him suggesting another go at it, but this time with the impetus of a reading group to spur him on and to discuss it. Thus the idea of the Black Gate Book Club was born. It’s taken a year to actually get around to getting this off the ground, but here we are.

For forty years, C.J. Cherryh has been a powerful voice in science fiction. Her work is noted for its “intense third person” style, where only things noticed by or of importance to the point of view character are included in the narration. Her science fiction is notable for its complex and detailed societies and its relative hardness.

Many of her books are set in the Alliance-Union universe. By the 24th century, humanity has spread to the stars. While Earth, overpopulated and culturally and economically stagnant, is ostensibly in charge of the merchant space stations and the few planetary colonies, that is not actually the case. Under the direction of a scientific elite, the planet Cyteen has declared its independence. In response, Earth has built a massive fleet of military vessels and sent them out to retake Cyteen.

Downbelow Station opens in the late days of the consequent war, when the forces of Earth are in retreat from the seemingly invincible fleets of Cyteen. Downbelow Station, a trading orbital above a planet in the Tau Ceti system, becomes the focal point of both military forces as well as a nascent third one: the independent merchants.

The plan is to read Downbelow Station over the month of June and post a discussion of it each Monday afternoon. This time around, the Book Club participants will include Adrian Simmons, Charlene Brusso, Chris Hocking, and me. We’d love it if you’d read along with us and join in the conversation.


Occult Detective Quarterly #4 Now Available

Friday, May 25th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Occult Detective Quarterly 4-small

It’s tough to be an amateur Occult Detective. Think of it as a fringe hobby with a high mortality rate. Not to mention one that brings with it intimate familiarity with a whole host of… well, let’s call them “mental health issues.”

Thank God for Occult Detective Quarterly, the magazine for determined supernatural hobby investigators. It keeps me up to date on all the latest spectral sleuthing gear, unsolved paranormal crimes, and the best nationwide heath care plans for Occult Detectives. Plus the ads are great — and believe me, the obituaries are required reading.

The latest issue, #4, has reviews of the newest ghosthunting equipment, a thoughtful opinion piece on dowsing, and an explosive tell-all on the recent bathroom haunting at the Library of Congress. Turns out it was all a hoax perpetuated by a corrupt senator from Oklahoma. He would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those darn kids.

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Birthday Reviews: Vera Nazarian’s “Salmon in the Drain Pipe”

Friday, May 25th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Vera Nazarian After the Sundial-small

Vera Nazarian was born on May 25, 1966.

Nazarian was nominated for a WSFA Small Press Award for her short story “Port Custodial Blues” in 2007. The following year she received a nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “The Story of Love.” She also received a Nebula nomination in 2009 for her novella The Duke in His Castle. In addition to writing, Nazarian has worked as the editor and publisher of Norilana Books since the company’s founding in 2006.

“Salmon in the Drain Pipe” was published as an original story in Nazarian’s collection After the Sundial, in 2010. The story has not been reprinted.

Nazarian’s “Salmon in the Drain Pipe” is a relatively short piece that has her protagonist looking at the wonders of nature in an unspecified future. As he looks more closely, however, he discovers that rather than being flora or fauna, what he is really seeing is the detritus of civilization filling lakes and grasslands. Fish moving through algae have been replaced by collections of bottlecaps.

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Win One of Ten Copies of Todd McAulty’s The Robots of Gotham

Saturday, May 19th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Robots of Gotham cover wrap-small

Todd McAulty was the most popular writer to appear in the print version of Black Gate magazine. Locus said “Todd McAulty is Black Gate‘s great discovery,” and in their wrap-up of our entire 15-issue run, Free SF Reader wrote: “McAulty appears to be world class… If I was crazy enough to want to be an editor, I’d be trying to poach him, or wheedle work out of him, or kidnap him and have him chained up and guarded by a woman with blunt weaponry.”

We’ve been waiting for a long time for a full-length novel from Mr. McAulty, and at long last the wait is almost over. His massive debut The Robots of Gotham, a fast-paced thriller set in a world on the verge of total subjugation by machines, will be published next month by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Early buzz has been mounting fast — Julie E. Czerneda calls it “Incredible,” Publishers Weekly says it “maintains breathless momentum throughout,” James Enge says it’s “The sort of book that makes people SF addicts for life,” and bestselling author Daniel H. Wilson calls it “A thrilling ride.” Early reviews from the public have been breathless as well — Joe Crowe was the very first to rate it at Goodreads, saying,

The whole story is a thrilling action flick in book form, with cool robots and conspiracies and things blowing up. Read it while walking in slow-motion away from an explosion.

You’ll have to wait until June 19th to buy the hardcover…. or if you can’t wait, jump over to The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, where they’re giving away 10 advance copies! You’ll need a Twitter account to be eligible, but how hard can that be? Easier than surviving the coming robot apocalypse, that’s for sure. While you’re contemplating, click the image above to see the beautiful ‘splosiony cover in full detail, with the end flap text and all those cool blurbs.

The Robots of Gotham will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/John Joseph Adams Books on June 19, 2018. It is 688 pages, priced at $26 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital version. The cover was designed by Mark R. Robinson. Get all the details here.

May/June Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Now on Sale

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction May June 2018-smallThe big May/June issue of F&SF comes packed with stories by Gardner Dozois, Lisa Mason, Matthew Hughes (a new Argent and Sable tale), Albert E. Cowdrey, Black Gate writer Nina Kiriki Hoffman, and many others — all under a magnificent cover by Alan D. Clark illustrating “The Barrens” by Stephanie Feldman, featuring a group of high school students searching for a pirate radio station transmitting from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, and the supernatural menaces they encounter on the way.

Victoria Silverwolf at Tangent Online calls the issue “an even balance of science fiction and fantasy… [with] a wide variety of imaginative literature.” Here’s a snippet of her review.

“Unstoppable” by Gardner Dozois concerns a prince obsessed with becoming the greatest warrior in the world. After murdering his way to the throne, he uses magic to become indestructible. It all leads to an ironic ending. This is an enjoyable tale, if hardly profound.

“Crash-Site” by Brian Trent takes place on a distant planet in the far future. Various characters are after a weapon recovered from a starship that crashed on the planet centuries ago. The main appeal of this science fiction adventure story is its technologically advanced setting.

Set in the 1920s or 1930s, “What You Pass For” by Melanie West involves magic white paint, which allows a man to give his fellow African-Americans the physical characteristics of Caucasians. He hates and fears his unwanted ability, and refuses to use it on himself, although this condemns him to a life of poverty. A dancer, forbidden to join a ballet company because of her race, demands the use of this power, even though she is already very light-skinned. This is a powerful story about appearances and reality.

“Ku’gbo” by Nigerian writer Dare Segun Falowo is a dense, complex fantasy with a plot difficult to summarize. Suffice to say that it takes place in an African village which is no ordinary community, and that it begins with a boy seeking to protect food from invisible rams. The many supernatural events and beings that fill the plot, and the author’s fondness for metaphors, make this a story which must be read slowly and carefully to appreciate its uniqueness.

Set in modern New Orleans, “Behold the Child” by Albert E. Cowdrey depicts an unscrupulous lawyer who uses a telekinetic little boy to kill his enemies. A rival lawyer and a private detective, both telepathic, fight to end his reign of terror. The narrative tone is often light, contrasting oddly with the story’s violence. The ending comes as an unpleasant surprise.

Read Victoria’s complete review here.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents of the May/June 2017 issue.

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John DeNardo on the Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror in May

Sunday, May 13th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Artificial Conditions Martha Wells-small Fury From the Tomb-small Afterwar Lilith Saintcrow-small

Over at Kirkus Reviews, the always organized John DeNardo has already compiled his list of the most interesting genre fiction of the month. And as usual, it’s crammed with titles that demand our immediate attention. Starting with a new release by one of the most popular authors to ever appear in Black Gate, the marvelous Martha Wells.

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells (, 160 pages, $16.99 in trade paperback/$9.99 digital, May 8, 2018) — cover by Jaime Jones

Looking for a short novel that packs a punch? Check out the fun Murderbot Diaries series by Martha Wells. In the first one, All Systems Red, attempts by the people of a company-sponsored mission on another planet to mount a rescue are complicated by a rogue robot who hacked its own governing module and ends up with identity issues. In the new book, Artificial Condition (the second of four planned short novels), the robot’s search for his own identity continues. To find out more about the dark past that caused him to name himself “Murderbot,” the robot revisits the mining facility where he went rogue where he finds answers he doesn’t expect.

All Systems Red was nominated for the 2018 Philip K. Dick Award, and is currently up for both the Locus Award and Hugo Award for Best Novella. The third installment in the series, Rogue Protocol, will be released on August 7, 2018. Read the first two chapters of Artificial Condition at

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