Future Treasures: The Invasion by Peadar O’Guilin

Thursday, February 15th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Call Peadar O'Guilin-small The Invasion Peadar O'Guilin-small

Peadar O’Guilin has been one of our most prolific and popular contributors. He published his first story with us, “The Mourning Trees,” in Black Gate 5 (Spring 2003), and followed it with “Where Beauty Lies in Wait” (BG 11), “The Evil Eater” (BG 13), and “The Dowry,” which appeared as part of our Black Gate Online Fiction catalog.

His fourth novel The Call (2016) was an international sensation; here’s Howard Andrew Jones from his 2016 interview with Peadar:

What I discovered was a novel absolutely deserving of the hype it has received — a dystopian YA story about a fractured society, with heroic teenaged protagonists who are realistic AND don’t whine. There are moments of chilling otherworldly horror owing to the frequent presence of the fae folk, the force behind the terrible situation facing these Irish children. And there’s excellent pacing and characterization, and growth…

After keeping the world on tether hooks for the past two years, Peadar has finally revealed a sequel, The Invasion. It arrives in hardcover from David Fickling Books on March 27. Here’s the description.

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Birthday Reviews: Jack Dann’s “Rings Around the Moon”

Thursday, February 15th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Jay Lake

Cover by Jay Lake

Jack Dann was born on February 15, 1945. His novels include The Man Who Melted, The Memory Cathedral, and The Silent, among many others. Dann has edited several anthologies, often in conjunction with Gardner Dozois, Janeen Webb, or George Zebrowski. He edited the Jewish science fiction anthology Wandering Stars in 1974 and followed it up with More Wandering Stars.

Dann won the Nebula Award for Best Novella for his 1995 story “Da Vinci Rising” and has won the World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology twice, for Dreaming Down Under, edited with Janeen Webb, and Dreaming in the Dark. His anthology Ghosts by Gaslight, edited with Nick Gevers, won the Shirley Jackson Award and the Aurealis Award. He also won the Aurealis Award for his short story “Niagara Falling,” written with Webb, and his novel The Memory Cathedral. “Niagara Falling” also earned him his first Ditmar Award, which was followed up with anthology awards for Dreaming Down Under, Dreaming Again, and Dreaming in the Dark and a short fiction award for “The Diamond Pit.” In 2004, he received the Peter McNamara Award for a professional working in the Australian SF field.

“Rings Around the Moon” was originally published in Polyphony 3, edited by Deborah Layne and Jay Lake. It was later reprinted in Dann’s collection Promised Land: Stories of Another America. “Rings Around the Moon” is part of Dann’s “The Rebel” cycle, which includes several stories as well as the 2004 novel The Rebel: An Imagined Life of James Dean. The story was nominated for the Darrell Award for best Mid-South science fiction, fantasy, or horror.

Mostly told from the viewpoint of a young Elvis Presley, “Rings Around the Moon” opens in Memphis on the evening of September 30, 1955, around the time his career was starting to take off. Unfortunately for Elvis, his burgeoning touring career, and the rumors of his sexual escapades, are putting a strain on his relationship with Lizzie, his girlfriend. As the two are trying to figure out what their relationship is, Gladys Presley informs them that the actor Elvis is always talking about, James Dean, has been injured in a car accident.

Elvis decides he needs to visit Dean and asks Lizzie to go with him. The set up allows Dann to explore the blessings and curses of fame through a fictitious meeting between two of the most legendary individuals of the burgeoning 1950s youth culture. James Dean lying in his hospital bed recovering, and the young Elvis having his first taste of stardom listening to what Dean has to say.

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Reading The Lost Oases by Ahmed Hassanein Bey

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

2342997I’ve always loved vintage travelogues. The world was bigger a hundred years ago, its cultures more distinct and isolated. Travel was hard and sometimes dangerous. Accounts of old journeys bring me back to a time when people could go to places like Africa and not be able to text home.

But there’s always been a problem with the genre. The vast majority of the books available in English are from the Western perspective, especially the Anglo perspective. So The Lost Oases, written by Egyptian Ahmed Hassanein Bey and published in 1925, came as a welcome change. It’s an Arab account of discovering two remote oases in the far southwest of Egypt, hundreds of miles from the nearest habitation.

Ahmed Hassanein Bey was a wealthy Egyptian of Bedouin stock who was educated at Oxford, so he is good at explaining his own culture to the Western reader and yet remains enough of an outsider that we can enjoy watching his learning curve as he visits his country cousins.

He was already an experienced desert traveler when he set out on this mission, and we’re carried through a detailed description of his preparations and planning. When all is ready, he goes to his father for a moving scene where the old man blesses him and the baggage for a safe journey.

After skirting the coastline, the caravan heads south along the Egyptian/Libyan border. At this point in history, Egypt was administered by the British Empire and Libya by Italy. The main group along the border, then and now, is called the Senussi. I mainly knew of them from their attempt to invade Egypt during the First World War at the urging of the Germans and Ottomans.

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New Treasures: Blood Binds the Pack by Alex Wells

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Hunger-Makes-the-Wolf-by-Alex-Wells-smaller Blood Binds the Pack-small

As Rachael Acks, Alex Acks published some two dozen stories in places like Lightspeed, Shimmer, and Mothership Zeta. For novels he uses the name Alex Wells; his first, Hunger Makes the Wolf, was released last March by Angry Robot, and it got praised by a whole lot of people I respect. E Catherine Tobler said “It has a wonderful weird west vibe and some of the phrasing is simply delicious… Alex crafts a host of fascinating characters here – the Weathermen, the Bone Collector – and I reckon you’re going to love their adventures.” And at Tor.com, Liz Bourke said “It’s a science fiction Western thriller, and it is great, and I’m really, intensely, eagerly looking forward to the sequel.”

Well I have good news for Liz: the sequel has arrived. Blood Binds the Pack was released last week, it sounds as engaging as the first, and I ordered a copy as soon as it was available. Here’s the description.

War is coming to Hob Ravani’s world. The company that holds it in monopoly, TransRift Inc, has at last found what they’re looking for — the source of the power that enables their Weathermen to rip holes in space and time, allowing the interstellar travel all of human society now takes for granted. And they will mine every last grain of it from Tanegawa’s World no matter the cost.

Since Hob Ravani used her witchy powers to pull a massive train job and destroy TransRift Inc’s control on this part of the planet, the Ghost Wolves aren’t just outlaws, they’re the resistance. Mag’s miner collective grows restless as TransRift pushes them ever harder to strip the world of its strange, blue mineral. Now Shige Rollins has returned with a new charge — Mr Yellow, the most advanced model of Weatherman, infused with the recovered mineral samples and made into something stranger, stronger, and deadlier than before. And Mr Yellow is very, very hungry.

Blood Binds the Pack was published by Angry Robot on February 6, 2018. It is 496 pages, priced at $8.99 in paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Ignacio Lazcano. Read the first two chapters here.

Vintage Treasures: The Snail on the Slope by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Snail on the Slope-back-small The Snail on the Slope-small

Russian science fiction writers Boris and Arkady Strugatsky are the authors of a pair of acknowledged classics, Hard to Be a God (which Zeta Moore reviewed for us here) and Roadside Picnic (1977). Their books were introduced to a broad audience in the US in the 1970s by Donald Wollheim at DAW Books. Over a dozen of their novels have been translated into English, including The Ugly Swans (1972), The Final Circle of Paradise (1976), Monday Begins on Saturday (1977), Prisoners of Power (1977), and The Time Wanderers (1987).

When I recently discovered there was a Strugatsky paperback I didn’t have, The Snail on the Slope, it was bittersweet. On the one hand, it’s always a delight to find a new object of interest. On the other hand, copies on eBay started at $30, and on Abe Books anywhere from $40 and up. (I suppose I can’t be too cranky. The vast majority of genre paperbacks from the 70s and 80s have declined in value over the past 40 years; it’s good to see the vintage paperback market has at least a few hot spots.)

But what’s the deal with the skyrocketing prices for a pair of relatively obscure Soviet-era science fiction writers? Fifteen years ago you could have had virtually any of their paperbacks for a song.

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The Courage of the Question: Tuck Everlasting

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018 | Posted by Thomas Parker

Tuck Everlasting-smallIf you have children at home, you know their propensity for asking questions. “Can I have some more?” “Why not?” “Are we there yet?” “Do I have to?” These questions and many others are familiar to everyone who deals with children, and they (the questions, that is) usually don’t pose much of a problem. (In my house, we have long had a standard reply to this kind of query, taken from a Ring Lardner short story: “Shut up, he explained.”)

Not all childish questions are so easily disposed of, however. The hard ones can range from the mathematical, such as “What if there was no such thing as five?” to the epistemological, like “How do you know?” The roughest ones are literally life and death: “Why did my puppy, why did my friend, why did my Grandpa have to die?” When faced with these, too often the adult impulse is to brush the child off with a pat answer that answers nothing, or better yet, to quickly change the subject.

Tough questions don’t cease to be questions, though, just because we grow too experienced, too jaded, too busy, too complacent, too disappointed, too bored — too old to be willing to ask them ourselves.

This is one of the reasons children can keep you feeling young… when they’re not making you feel ancient. It’s also why reading great children’s literature can be such a wonderful, renewing experience; such books are addressed to an audience that hasn’t yet gotten into the fatal habit of thinking that all questions have either already been answered or are unanswerable. Such books are themselves like fearless, inquisitive children; they’re willing to speak their minds, whatever the consequences. Books like this are assured of long lives…books like Natalie Babbitt’s 1975 children’s fantasy, Tuck Everlasting.

In the little town of Treegap, in the first week of August in the year 1880, ten year old Winnie Foster feels like life’s possibilities have already dried up. Her overprotective family won’t let her roam, won’t let her experience all that she wants to; her world is cruelly circumscribed by the white picket fence that keeps her safely penned in her front yard. Before the hot August days are over, though, Winnie will have an encounter that will change her life forever, and she’ll be faced with a momentous and irrevocable choice.

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The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

The Book of Three-smallBear with me for a bit. With the death of Ursula K. Le Guin a few weeks ago, I began thinking about her Earthsea books. They were among the earliest non-Tolkien fantasy books I read. I loved them as a kid, I’ve read them three or four times since, and have fond memories of them. I’ll be looking at the first, A Wizard of Earthsea, next time. Thinking about those books got me thinking about a series I actually read even more times and have even fonder memories of: Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain.

Beginning with The Book of Three (1964), Lloyd Alexander created what has to be one of the first genre-fantasy uses of Celtic mythology (yes, Alan Garner had turned to Celtic themes in his Alderly Edge books, but those books are set in contemporary Britain, not a secondary world). Specifically, he drew on that complex and complicated compendium of Welsh tales, the Mabinogion, for inspiration and names. In this book, the four that follow, and a later collection of short stories, Alexander reworked the idiosyncratic legends into something any modern reader of fantasy would recognize immediately. Gone are the stories of women made from flowers, a human prince trading places with the god of the afterlife, and a king who is gigantic enough to wade to Ireland, and instead, a much more straightforward of a boy learning about the perils and responsibilities of heroism. Considering his intended audience was elementary school readers, it makes perfect sense to simplify, and to introduce a greater degree of coherence. I also imagine many young readers, like I was, were intrigued enough by Alexander’s books to track down the real legends.

In addition to being one of the earliest glosses on Celtic themes, The Book of Three is one of the first times Tolkien’s dark lord trope seeped into the genre. Instead of being a fairly benign lord of the afterlife as he is in the Mabinogion, Arawn is reconfigured as a mostly standard issue dark lord. The original’s mythic paradise, Annwn, is reconstructed here as a dread realm. Rereading The Book of Three for the first time in at least ten years, I was quite happy that I still enjoyed it, but seeing it with older eyes exposed gears and wires I hadn’t paid a mind to before.

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Birthday Reviews: Maureen F. McHugh’s “Ancestor Money”

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Erwin Blumenfeld

Cover by Erwin Blumenfeld

Maureen F. McHugh was born on February 13, 1959. She published her first story, “All in a Day’s Work,” in Twilight Zone using the pseudonym Michael Galloglach, the only story published using that name.

McHugh won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award in 1993 for her debut novel China Mountain Zhang, which also won the Locus Poll for Best First Novel and the Lambda Award. In 1999, it also received the Gaylactic Spectrum Award. She won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1996 for “The Lincoln Train,” which also won that year’s Locus Poll. Her collection After the Apocalypse: Stories received the Shirley Jackson Award.

“Ancestor Money” was first published in the October 1, 2003 issue of Sci Fiction, edited by Ellen Datlow. It appeared in the following year’s The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Seventeenth Annual Edition and was included in McHugh’s collection Mothers & Other Monsters: Stories. Diane Severson read the story for PodCastle PC036 in 2008 and it was against reprinted in Peter S. Beagle’s anthology The Secret History of Fantasy. Its most recent appearance was in Paula Guran’s Ghosts: Recent Hauntings. McHugh received a Nebula nomination for “Ancestor Voices.”

In “Ancestor Money,” Rachel Ball died at the age of 35 and has been existing in the afterlife for seven decades, content in her secluded world, occasionally seeing the spirit of her husband’s uncle, Speed, until Speed delivers a letter to her. The letter, which informs her that her granddaughter, Amelia Shaugnessy, has made an offering in Rachel’s memory and she can claim it by visiting a temple in Hong Kong, pulls Rachel from her idyllic afterlife.

Rachel travels from the Heaven she knows to the strange Heaven of San-qing, the afterlife for Hong Kong. Along the way, she has a constant sense of unease as she is pulled further and further from her natural place and understanding of the world. McHugh describes Rachel’s journey, which involves a mundane seeming airplane, with a sense of unease that mirrors what Rachel is experiencing as she leaves her heavenly version of Kentucky.

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Time Travel to the Most Dramatic Incidents in History: Invictus by Ryan Graudin

Monday, February 12th, 2018 | Posted by Elizabeth Galewski

Invictus Ryan Graudin-smallFarway McCarthy’s mother is one of the most famous time travelers ever to record the past. Since she disappeared when he was a child, never returning from an expedition to ancient Egypt, his only hope of finding her again is by following in her footsteps and becoming a field agent for the Corps of Central Time Travelers himself. He’s his class’s valedictorian going into the final exam, so this dream lies within his grasp. There’s just one more simulation to ace.

But then the unthinkable happens. He fails.

Somebody must have rigged the simulation. He didn’t get nearly close enough to the actress playing Marie Antoinette for her to notice him. Plus, she had the gall to wink at him in that knowing way as the hologram of Versailles vanished around him and the warehouse reappeared. He’d been set up.

Far pleads his case to the Headmaster to no avail. Just like that, he’s expelled from the Academy instead of graduating. If someone from the past could guess you’re a visitor from the future, you’ve got no business being a Recorder. Such carelessness could undermine the whole fabric of time.

Far leaves his exam knowing he’ll never get the chance to time travel. Trapped in the present, he’ll never find his mother. He’ll never even get the chance to look.

“Subject Seven has been successfully redirected,” an anonymous memo informs the reader as Far faces his bleak new future.

That’s when a mysterious handwritten note invites Far to meet with a black-market trader. The Corps of Central Time Travelers aren’t the only ones who own time machines, it turns out. Far can captain one (the Invictus) by accepting the trader’s extortionate terms, which, of course, he does.

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New Treasures: Cry Your Way Home by Damien Angelica Walters

Monday, February 12th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Cry-Your-Way-Home-small Cry-Your-Way-Home-back-small

Damien Angelica Walters is the author of the novels Ink (2012) and Paper Tigers (2016), and the 2015 collection Sing Me Your Scars. She was an Associate Editor of John Klima’s excellent Electric Velocipede magazine, and her short fiction has been published in Black Static, Apex MagazineThe Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, Autumn Cthulhu, The Madness of Dr. Caligari, Eternal Frankenstein, Paula Guran’s The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, and The Year’s Best Weird Fiction. Her short fiction has been nominated multiple times for a Bram Stoker Award – including just last month.

Her second collection, Cry Your Way Home, arrived from Apex Publications earlier this month. It contains 17 tales of horror wrapped up in a handsome trade paperback with a gorgeous cover by Marcela Bolívar. Check it out — or if you like, try some of Damien’s online fiction in recent venues like Nightmare, The Dark, and Apex Magazine.

Cry Your Way Home was published by Apex Publications on January 2, 2018. It is 240 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback, and $4.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Marcela Bolívar. See the complete table of contents here.

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