Guilds, Glasses, and Galaxies: Joshua Palmatier’s 2018 Kickstarter Anthologies

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Guilds and Glaives-small Second Round A Return to the Ur-Bar-small The Razor's Edge Joshua Palmatier-small

There’s a lot of different ways to have a career in SF and fantasy. Don’t believe me? Just look at the fascinating case of Joshua Palmatier.

Over the last decade Joshua has built a formidable reputation as an author, producing both an acclaimed fantasy trilogy (The Throne of Amenkor) and a popular science fiction trilogy (Erenthrall) with DAW books. Not content with merely being an author, he partnered with Patricia Bray to co-edit a pair of DAW anthologies, After Hours: Tales from the Ur-Bar (2011), and The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity (2012). Shortly after that DAW ended their monthly anthology program. Undaunted, Joshua launched his own small press, Zombies Need Brains, and over the next three years produced half a dozen additional anthologies with editors Bray and S.C. Butler. As author, editor, and now publisher, Joshua has moved steadily from success to success.

2018 was perhaps his most ambitious and successful year yet. He delivered three complete anthologies funded with a simultaneous Kickstarter campaign, and successfully funded three more in October. I’m not much of a Kickstarter nut, but I backed the first project. Not simply due to my admiration for Joshua (which was considerable), but because one of the books, Guilds & Glaives, contained stories from no less than four Black Gate authors: David B. Coe, James Enge, Howard Andrew Jones, and Violette Malan. The others, Second Round: A Return to the Ur-Bar and The Razor’s Edge, were almost as appealing for different reasons, and I consider the set to be one of the best-kept secrets of genre publishing in 2018. Here’s a closer look at all three.

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Birthday Reviews: Holly Phillips’s “No Such Thing as an Ex-Con”

Tuesday, December 25th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Adrian Kleinbergen

Cover by Adrian Kleinbergen

Holly Phillips was born on December 25, 1969.

Phillips won the Sunburst Award in 2006 for her collection In the Palace of Repose, which was also nominated for the William L. Crafword – IAFA Award and the World Fantasy Award. The title story had also been an International Horror Guild nominee the year before, while “The Other Grace,” which first appeared in the collection, was also a World Fantasy nominee. Along with Cory Doctorow, she was nominated for an Aurora Award in 2008. Phillips co-edited Tesseracts Eleven: Amazing Canadian Speculative Fiction with Cory Doctorow in 2007.

“No Such Thing as an Ex-Con” was Phillips’s first published story, appearing in the Summer 2000 issue of On Spec, edited by Jena Snyder. The story also appeared in the May/June 2006 issue of Weird Tales. In 2014, it was selected for inclusion in Casserole Diplomacy and Other Stories: An On Spec 25th Anniversary Retrospective.

Emily Lake has served three and a half years for a series of murders she did not commit and upon her release from prison is taking work wherever she can find it, notably on a crew that is doing landscaping work for the city. Lake is always cognizant that once a convict, there are some people who will also see her as a convict, so she has to work harder and keep her head down to avoid drawing attention, knowing that any job is worth preserving since she won’t be able to find another one easily.

Unfortunately for Lake, the area in which she is working brings her into contact with Detective Bailor, who was one of the people responsible for putting her in prison for the murders. Lake had seen, or actually experienced, the murders in her dreams and went to the police to give them the lead that would put the perpetrator behind bars. Unfortunately, nobody believed she was not an accomplice, despite the claims of the murderer that he acted alone. Now, several years later, Bailor has a case of multiple kidnappings that have stymied him and he turns to Lake on the off chance that she was telling the truth and can help him find the lost boys.

Phillips offers a sympathetic view of an ex-con, even before the fact that she was innocent is known to the reader. Lake doesn’t show bitterness about the hand she has been dealt, and is trying her hardest to work within a system that is stacked against her. While Phillips builds the expectation that she’s going to be railroaded or fired, both concerns that Lake has, the reality of the situation turns out to be quite different. Lake’s abilities are described, but never explained, which seems to be more likely than having someone provide an explanation for her dreams.

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A Year of Weirdbook

Monday, December 17th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Weirdbook 38-small Weirdbook 39-small Weirdbook 40-small

Not all that long ago, Douglass Draa was the Online Editor for Weird Tales, maintaining a lively Facebook presence and posting numerous highly readable articles on the website (which, sadly, have now been removed.) Although the magazine has essentially been dead since 2014, Doug kept the Weird Tales name alive as best he could, and I frequently found myself wondering what someone with that much energy could do with more editorial control.

We found out in 2015 when the much-loved magazine Weirdbook returned to print with Doug at the helm. The first issue, #31, was a generous 160 pages of brand new weird fiction and sword & sorcery from many familiar names, packaged between gorgeous covers by Dusan Kostic and Stephen E. Fabian. Over the next three years Doug has produced no less than 10 issues — a staggering 2,000+ pages of new content — plus the very first Weirdbook Annual in 2017. Issues arrive like clockwork, and the magazine only seems to get better and better.

2018 was a great year for Weirdbook, with three huge issues. It seems to have settled into a comfortable 256-pages, and readers of this blog will be pleased, as I was, to see several Black Gate writers among the contributors — including John C. Hocking, John R. Fultz, and the prolific Darrell Schweitzer, with no less than three stories. I was especially pleased to see Doug’s use of quality interior art, which I think greatly enhances the look of the magazine. The latest issue, which just arrived last week, includes moody and effective spot art by the great Allen Koszowski, who also graced the pages of Black Gate back in the day.

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Take a Bite From The Poison Apple: Interviews from Black Gate Magazine by Elizabeth Crowens

Monday, December 10th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Poison Apple Volume One-smallOver the past two years, since December 13, 2016, Elizabeth Crowens has become one of the most consistently popular contributors to Black Gate magazine. She’s accomplished this with a surprisingly small number of articles — scarcely a dozen so far, over 24 months.

Each, however, has been a fascinating and in-depth discussion with a prominent individual in the genre. Her interviews have included a cross section of talents, including stunt doubles, TV stage managers, fantasy illustrators, bestselling authors, editors, and even Black Gate contributors. All of her interviews have been popular, and more than a few — such as her dual interview with Delia Sherman and Ellen Kushner in June 2017 — have been among the most widely-read pieces we’ve published in the past few years.

Earlier this month Elizabeth released The Poison Apple, Volume One: Interviews from Black Gate Magazine, a collection of her earliest interviews. It includes lengthy discussions with:

Teel James Glenn
Steven Van Patten
Lissanne Lake
Martin Page
Gail Carriger
Delia Sherman and Ellen Kushner

The book includes the complete contents of each interview, including all the questions and responses, and even the color images.

ELizabeth tells us that she plans to follow up with Volume Two next year, which includes conversations with Charlaine Harris, Heather Graham Pozzessere, Jennifer Brozek, Nancy Kilpatrick , Nancy Holder and Leslie Klinger.

Get all the details at Elizabeth’s website here, and be sure to sign up for new Newsletter for details on her upcoming projects and special offers. While you’re waiting for the next issue of the newsletter, read all of her recent Poison Apple columns at Black Gate here.

Handling Wonderful Changes: The Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken

Sunday, October 28th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Quantum Magician-medium The Quantum Magician-back-small

Black Gate has some of the best writers in the business, and we’re always proud when one of our bloggers has a new publication. But we’re doubly pleased when one of our writers produces a debut novel — and especially one as widely acclaimed as The Quantum Magician, by our Saturday blogger Derek Künsken.

The Quantum Magician was published in trade paperback by Solaris earlier this month, and it’s already won rave accolades from writers such as Yoon Ha Lee, and Cixin Liu, who said “Technology changes us — even our bodies — in fundamental ways, and Kunsken handles this wonderfully.” In his Black Gate review Brandon Crilly called it “intricate, compelling and absolutely fascinating,” and in a feature review at Locus British SF writer Adam Roberts wrote:

This debut novel will do well. It is a fat, fun SF heist-thriller, a sort of Ocean’s 2487… We’re in a 25th century in which humanity has spread to the stars, enabled by wormhole gates left over from a long vanished interstellar civilization. Access to these gates is, as you’d expect, tightly controlled, and when a group wants to smuggle a fleet of advanced spaceships across the galaxy without paying the requisite fee, they approach the galaxy’s finest con-man, Belisarius Arjona, for help. Belisarius gets the gang back together one last time to pull off the most audacious heist of his career… Künsken has a wonderfully ingenious imagination.

Derek first appeared in Black Gate in issue 15 with his short story “The Gifts of Li Tzu-Ch’eng.” He has been our regular Saturday evening blogger since 2013, writing some 128 articles for us. The Quantum Magician was published by Solaris on October 2, 2018. It is 475 pages, priced at $11.99 in trade paperback and $6.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Justin Adams.

Interested in keeping up to date on the latest from BG bloggers and staff? We do our best to share  news with you here, and you always see the latest from our talented crew by reading posts with the BG Staff tag.

Myke Cole and The Queen of Crows

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

The Armored Saint-small The Queen of Crows-small

The Sacred Throne novels by Myke Cole (Tor Books)

I first met Myke Cole at a World Fantasy Convention some years back, but I feel as though I’ve known him a little longer because John O’Neill published him in Black Gate, and Myke’s fiction is direct and compelling and intense, rather like Myke himself.

The second novel in his new series has just debuted, and I thought it high time to sit down with him to talk about the book and his writing.

HAJ: Suppose you bump into me on an elevator with a copy of your book, and I ask what the book’s about. What do you tell me?

Myke: It’s about the weight of expectations, and the struggle to do what’s right in spite of them.

I’m interested in your brief description and want to know more, so what else do you say about it?

The weight of expectations are falling on a young woman in a suit of badass power armor, so she’s got a fighting chance :)

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Old-School Sword and Planet with a Modern Attitude: An Excerpt from The MechMen of Canis-9

Saturday, October 20th, 2018 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Three Against the Stars-cover-small The MechMen of Canis-9-small

The MechMen of Canis-9 is my seventh novel. I’ve always wanted to write some sort of action-packed Sword and Planet Adventure, with some planet-building involved, and that’s what I hope I’ve accomplished with this “sequel” to my Space Opera, Three Against The Stars. The Foreword below should pretty well set the stage for the excerpt that follows. I hope you enjoy it and it interests you in checking out my novel. Thank you!

This time out, Sergeants Seamus O’Hara, Claudia Akira, Fernando Cortez and a platoon of Marines are deployed to Canis-9 — Devoora, the Ocean Planet. Their mission: find seven indestructible robot warriors hidden there for seventy years. Most of the platoon survives a crash-landing but are left stranded in a hostile environment of deadly sea predators. Rescued by native Tulavi islanders, the Marines get caught up in a war between this mysterious, maritime civilization and another indigenous race, the Malvarians, who hunt and harvest the eggs of the giant kaizsu — the Sea Dragons sacred to the Tulavi. As the Marines set out to complete their mission they discover a secret known only by the Tulavi: the endangered kaizsu are the key to Devoora’s ecosystem and the future of all life on the planet.

The MechMen of Canis-9 is now available in both paperback and Kindle editions. Thank you!

Read an exclusive excerpt from The MechMen of Canis-9 here.

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.

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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.

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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.

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