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New Treasures: The Godstone by Violette Malan

New Treasures: The Godstone by Violette Malan

The Godstone (DAW Books, August 2021. Cover design by Faceout Studio/Jeff Miller.

Violette Malan will be familiar to many of you. She’s the author of the acclaimed Dhulyn and Parno series of modern sword & sorcery novels, and The Mirror Prince fantasy series. She was also our Friday blogger here at Black Gate for many years.

Her new novel The Godstone vaults her into the front ranks of modern fantasy. Publishers Weekly raves that it “transports readers to an exciting world of high-stakes magic,” and Kirkus Reviews calls it “An original, enigmatic fantasy about reluctant heroes drawn into a quest to save the world.” It’s the launch of a major new series, released in hardcover by DAW in August. Here’s all the details.

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Watch the Windycon Sword & Sorcery Panel with Mike Penkas, David C. Smith, Adrian Simmons, and John O’Neill

Watch the Windycon Sword & Sorcery Panel with Mike Penkas, David C. Smith, Adrian Simmons, and John O’Neill

Mike Penkas moderates the Sword & Sorcery panel at Windycon 47

Windycon 47 was held in Lombard, IL from November 12-14. I was a guest of the convention, with a reading and several panels, and it was an absolute delight to attend an in-person convention again. Carlos Hernandez was the Author Guest of Honor, and his wife Claire Suzanne Elizabeth Cooney (former Managing Editor of Black Gate) was the Poetry G.O.H. In addition to their other activities, the two conducted a public demo of their new card-based role playing game Negocios Infernales, and it was a ton of fun to participate. It was also great to meet up with so many other friends of BG, including Rich Horton, Steven H. Silver, Arin Komins, Rich Warren, Tina Jens, Brendan Detzner, Richard Chwedyk, and many others.

But the highlight of the convention for me was Sunday’s Sword & Sorcery panel, a lively discussion of S&S past and present. Michael Penkas moderated, and the speakers were Adrian Simmons (distinguished editor of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly magazine), author David C. Smith (Red Sonja, Oron, Coven House, and Robert E. Howard: A Literary Biography), and yours truly.

The discussion ranged far and wide — the golden age of the S&S in the pulps, Sword & Soul, Howard Andrew Jones’ groundbreaking Hanuvar stories, the work of James Enge, the Red Sonja comics of the 70s, the artist Frank Thorne, S&S in video games and RPGs, the new S&S boom in magazines like Tales From the Magician’s Skull and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Andre Norton and The Beastmaster, and much more. The SMOF masters of Windycon recorded the entire thing, and you can listen to it in its entirety here (the panel kicks off right around the 2:04:00 mark).

Wise in the Ways of Procrastination: James Davis Nicoll on the Science Fiction Book Club, and Five Great Books He Never Meant to Read

Wise in the Ways of Procrastination: James Davis Nicoll on the Science Fiction Book Club, and Five Great Books He Never Meant to Read

Ursula K. Le Guin’s Three Hainish Novels (SFBC, 1978), John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up (Del Rey, 1981),
and Triplicity (SFBC, 1980) by Thomas M. Disch. Covers: Jack Woolhiser, Murray Tinkelman, and Ron Logan

Over at Tor.com, occasional Black Gate contributor James Davis Nicoll has penned a charming look back at the way the Science Fiction Book Club introduced him to some terrific science fiction.

While but a callow youth, I subscribed to the Science Fiction Book Club. The club, wise in the ways of procrastination, would send each month’s selection of books to subscribers UNLESS the subscribers had sent the club a card informing the SFBC that one did not want the books in question. All too often I planned to send the card off, only to realize (once again), when a box of books arrived, that intent is not at all the same thing as action.

Thus, I received books that I would not have chosen but, once in possession, I read and enjoyed them. All praise to the SFBC and the power of procrastination! Here are five of my favorite unintended reading experiences…

Anyone who was a member of the SFBC knows of what James speaks — this is exactly how I discovered Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber. Check out the complete article here.

Immortal Muse by Stephen Leigh: Review, Interview, and Prelude to a Secret Chapter

Immortal Muse by Stephen Leigh: Review, Interview, and Prelude to a Secret Chapter

Left, Paperback cover (artist unknown); Right cover art by Tim O’Brien.

Stephen Leigh is a Cincinnati-based, award-winning writer of science fiction and fantasy, with thirty novels and nearly sixty short stories published. He has also published fantasy under the pseudonym S.L. Farrell. He has been a frequent contributor to the Hugo-nominated shared-world series Wild Cards, edited by George R.R. Martin. Stephen taught creative writing for twenty years at Northern Kentucky University, and has recently retired (but not from writing). His most recent novels have been Amid The Crowd Of Stars, the SunPath duology of A Fading Sun and A Rising MoonThe Crow of Connemara, and Immortal Muse. His latest novel, Bound To A Single Sun, will be published by DAW Books next year. Stephen is married to Denise Parsley Leigh; they are the parents of a daughter and a son; he is a musician and vocalist too, active in several Cincinnati bands.

In 2014, Stephen Leigh published his Immortal Muse novel (check out the 2014 Black Gate release), an alternative-history, fantasy fictionalizing alchemy’s role in artistic muses. Wow! Of course, Leigh had to be interviewed as part of the “Beauty in Weird Fiction” interview series. Indeed he was interviewed in 2016 before the interview series merged into Black Gate. If you are interested in the aesthetics of horror and weird fantasy, check out the thoughts of our recent guests like Darrell SchweitzerSebastian JonesCharles GramlichAnna Smith Spark, Carol Berg, & Jason Ray Carney (full list of interviews at the end of this post).

This post wraps up (1) a review of Immortal Muse, (2) the interview with the author on Leigh’s muses, and (3) teases readers within an announcement. Okay, we’ll cover that last one first. There is a missing/deleted chapter from Immortal Muse that Stephen Leigh will be posting on Black Gate soon, over 11K words with annotations on (a) why it was left out of the final book and (b) how facts were woven into this fantastical alternative-history. It serves as both a stand-alone short story and an engaging behind-the-scenes look at writing. The article with the missing chapter is posted (look here).

Let this review and interview stoke your creative fires.

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Neverwhens, Where History and Fantasy Collide: “When the Levee Breaks (and the Goddess Wakes), I’ll Have a Place to Stay…”

Neverwhens, Where History and Fantasy Collide: “When the Levee Breaks (and the Goddess Wakes), I’ll Have a Place to Stay…”

When the Goddess Wakes (St. Martin’s Press, August 2021). Cover by Lauren Saint-Onge

Know, O prince, that between the years when Stag-flation and the Iran Hostage Crisis drank the Carter Administration, and the years of the rise of the stepson of Roger Clinton Sr, there was an Age Undreamed of, when sword & sorcery, high fantasy epics, slender trilogies and stand-alone novels lay spread across bookshelves like paper jewels beneath fluorescent stars.

This tongue-in-cheek riff on Robert E. Howard’s famous quote from the Nemedian Chronicles is a perfect way to begin a review of Howard Andrew Jones’s concluding volume of the Ring Sworn Trilogy, because it is both a very modern fantasy, and yet, in so many ways the product of growing up as a fantasy-reading GenXer – which both Jones and I are.

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Fun, Fresh Fantasy: Mad Shadows: The Heroes of Echo Gate by Joe Bonadonna

Fun, Fresh Fantasy: Mad Shadows: The Heroes of Echo Gate by Joe Bonadonna

Mad Shadows III: The Heroes of Echo Gate (Pulp Hero Press, February 2021). Cover artist uncredited

Joe Bonadonna’s third installment of his Mad Shadows, Dorgo the Dowser series, The Heroes of Echo Gate, was announced this Feb 2021 at Black Gate. We covered Dorgo’s world and Bonadonnoa’s cinematic narrative, which we’ll touch upon again during this review. Also on Black Gate, the author of the internationally acclaimed IX Series, Andrew Paul Weston, reviewed all three books of the Mad Shadow series. This post reinforces those articles and highlights this fresh fantasy adventure’s (a) Epic Scope, (b) Cinematic Style, and (c) Faith theme.

The Heroes of Echo Gate is fun, fresh fantasy. Dorgo and his fellowship of Harryhausen-like creatures defend a magical portal from a horde of demons. Epic!

As the cover implies, we have our beloved weird-fiction investigator & mercenary Dorgo (the guy front and center on the cover with the dowsing rod and sword) defending the titular portal with a band of friends (most of whom could have stared in a Ray Harryhausen movie. For the young readers take note that Harryhausen was the “Frank Frazetta” of cinema who gave life to the fantastical creatures before computer graphics were invented). There are three acts that follow the classic purposes: setup, rising tension, and an epic battle. The climax consumes a full third of the book and resonates with all the grandeur of defending Tolkien’s Helm’s Deep. The city of Soolaflan, on the island of Thavarar, is the fortress and it is situated around Echo Gate. Demons from across time want access to it. The portals across the world of Tanyime (and even across time and space) echo those from C. J. Cherryh’s Morgaine Cycle and even Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Saga.

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Weirdbook Annual #3: Zombies: Available now!

Weirdbook Annual #3: Zombies: Available now!

Cover by Fotolia

Wildside Press, ‎ 295 pages. ISBN 978-1479463312

(US Amazon prices: $3.99 Kindle/ $15.00 Paperback/  $29.99 Hardcover)

Zombies! Available now for your Halloween needs!

In 2015, Douglas Draa resurrected Weirdbook with issue #31 (the weird fiction magazine had been dormant since 1997). Fast forward to 2021, and issue #44 is now available. In addition to the core issues, there are themed anthologies spawning. Annual #1 Witches came out in 2017; and Annual #2: Cthulhu appeared in 2019 (discussed on Black Gate).

This year, for Annual #3, Weirdbook challenged authors to come up with memorable takes on zombies. The result is this fantastic collection of 34 new stories. Draa looked for tales that were fun, entertaining and scary. He also wanted fresh meat (i.e., he didn’t want to serve up a bunch of Romeroesque, plague zombies).

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Tales From the Magician’s Skull #6: Available Now; and Skull TV Announces a Kickstarter

Tales From the Magician’s Skull #6: Available Now; and Skull TV Announces a Kickstarter

Doug Kovacs cover art

Published by Goodman-Games. Paperback, PDF, eBook (80pages). ISBN 9781950783816.

Announcing the availability and contents of the Tales From the Magician’s Skull #6, a magazine of all-new swords & sorcery fiction! Issue #6 features cover art by Doug Kovacs of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.

Yes, mortal dogs, you read that correctly. The Skull brings readers a new series of stories set in Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar! Licensed by Leiber’s estate, the forthcoming stories and novellas faithfully expand upon the legendary tales of Lankhmar’s most famous duo.

Issue #6 is available at the publisher’s website Goodman-Games, in Paperback, eBook, and PDF (PDF’s are also available on DriveThru RPG). In the future, expect the paperback of issue#6 available from Amazon, like many of the previous issues.

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When the Goddess Wakes by Howard Andrew Jones

When the Goddess Wakes by Howard Andrew Jones

When comes my numbered day, I will meet it smiling. For I’ll have kept this oath.

I shall use my arms to shield the weak.

I shall use my lips to speak the truth, and my eyes to seek it.

I shall use my hand to mete justice to high and to low, and I will weigh all things with heart and mind.

Where I walk the laws will follow, for I am the sword of my people and the shepherd of their lands.

When I fall, I will rise through my brothers and my sisters, for I am eternal.

Pledge of the Altenerai

 

And with When the Goddess Wakes, Howard Andrew Jones’s Ring-Sworn Trilogy comes to a rousing conclusion. Perhaps the series’ greatest asset is its completion. In one two-and-a-half-year span — complete with a plague — all three books have appeared and that’s it, there ain’t no more. I waited six years between installments of Glen Cook’s Black Company, and millions of people have been waiting ten years for the next volume of A Song of Ice and Fire (good luck with that). Jones got in and got out, producing three tightly-plotted and -paced novels. For that alone, as a reader I say, “Thank you!” But there’s more to it than that.

The first book, For the Killing of Kings (2019) introduces the Altenerai, a corps of superior warriors complete with magical talents. They are dedicated to protecting the five realms of the Dendressi from forces magical and mundane. Just as it is discovered that a kingdom-destabilizing conspiracy leads right to the Queen, the five realms are invaded by the Naor, a brutal barbarian horde. Less than a decade earlier the Naor were almost victorious. This time around, most of the greatest Altenerai are missing or dead, and it seems as though only a pair of young Altenerai and a few veterans are ready to stand against the Dendressi’s enemies. That book ends grimly, with death and destruction and what seems certain victory of both the Naor and the Queen.

Upon the Flight of the Queen (2019) {That’s two books in one year, folks! It can be done.} begins right where the previous book left off, with death and destruction continuing apace. The Naor march on the capital, Darassus, and the Queen’s plot to resurrect a long lost goddess in order to create a utopia is revealed. Each promises destruction for the Dendressi. Both are thwarted, but the Queen escapes with every intention of carrying out her plan.

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The Dark and Puzzling Present: The Medusa Deep, Book 2 of The Midnight Games by David Neil Lee

The Dark and Puzzling Present: The Medusa Deep, Book 2 of The Midnight Games by David Neil Lee

The Midnight Games (Wolsak and Wynn, 2016) and its sequel
The Medusa Deep (Poplar Press, 2021). Covers by Rachel Rosen, unknown

In his first guest post for Black Gate way back in 2016, The Midnight Games and Why I Wrote Them, David Neil Lee talked about his debut novel and the sequel he hoped to write some day.

For the past twelve years my family and I have lived a couple of blocks from Ivor Wynne, the local football stadium, and we hear all the noise from the Tiger Cats games. So I began a novel in which my protagonist hears a racket from the stadium at night, which he thinks of as “midnight games.” However, they are not games at all, but the cruel ceremonies of a local cult which is trying to summon to earth the Great Old Ones of the H.P. Lovecraft Cthulhu Mythos; trying with what turns out to be a fair degree of success….

What sort of monsters does the cult summon? — well how about those hideous prickly house centipedes that I scoop out of the bathtub of our old house from spring till fall every year. I don’t kill them, I put them in a jar and throw them in a garden — what if they were some sort of hmm, spawn of Yog-Sothoth, summoned here by the games? What about if one of them thrived in our garden, and grew and grew and grew?

I know what you’re thinking. “Dammit that sounds like fun. Why don’t I do that?” Well, if you’re a Black Gate reader, chances are that you do do that…

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