Future Treasures: The Numina Trilogy by Charlie N. Holmberg

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Smoke and Summons-small Myths and Mortals-small

I think I first discovered Charlie N. Holmberg back in June 2015, while compiling a list of the most interesting fantasy releases of the month. The Master Magician, third in her (yes, Charlie is a her) Wall Street Journal bestselling Paper Magician trilogy was released that month, and it piqued my curiosity. Fast forward to 2019, and Charlie is fast tracking a brand new trilogy, with the first novel Smoke and Summons due February 1st, followed by Myths and Mortals less than three months later on April 16, 2019. They’re the first two installments of The Numina Trilogy, set in a world of monsters and magic. Here’s the blurb for the first book.

As a human vessel for an ancient spirit, Sandis lives no ordinary life. At the command of her master, she can be transformed against her will into his weapon — a raging monster summoned to do his bidding. Unlike other vessels, Sandis can host extremely powerful spirits, but hosting such creatures can be fatal. To stay alive, she must run. And in a city fueled by smoke and corruption, she finds a surprising ally.

A cunning thief for hire, Rone owns a rare device that grants him immortality for one minute every day — a unique advantage that will come in handy in Sandis’s fight for freedom. But Sandis’s master knows how powerful she is. He’s determined to get her back, and he has the manpower to find her, wherever she runs.

Now, to outwit her pursuers, Sandis must put all her trust in Rone and his immortal device. For her master has summoned more than mere men to hunt her down…

No news on the third book, but you can keep an eye on her website for updates. Smoke & Summons will be published by 47North on February 1, 2019. It is 365 pages, priced at $24.95 in hardcover, $14.95 in trade paperback, and $4.99 for digital editions. Myths and Mortals arrives April 16, 2019 with the same pricing; no word on page count yet. The covers are by Marina Muun.

See all our recent coverage of the best in upcoming fantasy here.


Solving Crimes in a War-Torn Tokyo: Ninth Step Station, created by Malka Older

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Ninth Step Station-small

Serial Box is one of the most exciting new genre publishers to arrive on the scene in the past few years. They’ve brought a very old concept — serialized fiction — into the 21st Century, and attracted an incredible line-up of top-notch writers to give it new life. So how does it work? Serial Box offers multiple stories in a rich variety of genres, and they release new episodes every week. Each serial typically runs for a “season” of 10-16 weeks, and each is written by a team of talented writers. Just check out this list of contributors: Max Gladstone, Amal El-Mohtar, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Ian Tregillis, Michael Swanwick, Mary Robinette Kowal, Brenda Clough, Michael R. Underwood, Marie Brennan, Alyssa Wong, Paul Cornell, Paul Tremblay, Christopher Golden, Yoon Ha Lee, Becky Chambers, and many, many more. The stories are easy to jump into, individual episodes are standalone (but contribute to a larger story arc), and each episode is available in ebook and audio formats, and takes about 40 minutes to enjoy.

Their newest serial Ninth Step Station launches this week. Created by Malka Older and written by Older, Fran Wilde, Jacqueline Koyanagi, and Curtis C. Chen, Ninth Step Station is the tale of two unlikely partners in a future Tokyo who solve a series of murders. Here’s the description.

A local cop. A US Peacekeeper. A divided Tokyo.
In the future, two mismatched cops must work together to solve crimes in a divided Tokyo.

Years of disaster and conflict have left Tokyo split between great powers. In the city of drone-enforced borders, bodymod black markets, and desperate resistance movements, US peacekeeper Emma Higashi is assigned to partner with Tokyo Metropolitan Police Detective Miyako Koreda. Together, they must race to solve a series of murders that test their relationship and threaten to overturn the balance of global power. And amid the chaos, they each need to decide what they are willing to do for peace.

Ninth Step Station is only one of the many offerings from Serial Box. Here’s a few of the others.

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Rescued from the Vaults of Time: The Sapphire Goddess – The Fantasies of Nictzin Dyalhis

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_801451Zc9o2K4DDave Ritzlin, impresario of DMR Books, has rescued another writer from the distant, fog-obscured days of pulp fantasy. He has done for Nictzin Dyalhis as he did for the nearly-forgotten Clifford Ball (reviewed by me here). If you, like most people, have no idea who Dyalhis was, Ritzlin presents as much information as is available in an excellent introduction to The Sapphire Goddess (2018), his new collection of all nine of the author’s fantasy and science fiction stories.

A quote from the introduction:

Even though Nictzin Dyalhis was the eccentric author’s legal name at that time, it’s highly unlikely he was named that way at birth. He claimed that “Nictzin” was a Toltec Indian name and “Dyalhis” was an old English (or, alternately, Welsh) surname. Neither of these claims is true. Many speculated that his real name was Nicholas Douglas or Nicholas Dallas or something similar, which he modified into something more exotic.

Nonetheless, Weird Tales publisher Farnsworth Wright swore to Donald Wandrei that all the checks for Dyalhis’s stories “were made out to that name.” Whatever the reality, there’s something wonderfully perfect about a fantasist being remembered solely by a name of mysterious origins.

The nine stories in The Sapphire Goddess were published between 1925 and 1940. Eight were published in Weird Tales, with only “He Refused to Stay Dead” published in another magazine, Ghost Stories. Save for the explicitly sci-fi “When the Green Star Waned” and its sequel “The Oath of Hul Jok”, they are a mix of horror and heroic fantasy. Running through most of them is a theme of reincarnation or forgotten past lived in another dimension.

“When the Green Star Waned” (1925) and “The Oath of Hul Jok” (1928) are two adventures of the planet Venhez’s greatest heroes. The first concerns a journey to the now-silent planet Aerth to determine why no one’s heard anything from its inhabitants in years. Dyalhis’s first published story, it’s not an especially finely-wrought story, but it is very successful at creating a nightmare atmosphere, made all the more malevolent with horrible semi-material monsters from the dark side of the moon. It also seems to have introduced the word Blastor for ray guns. That alone is a more than worthy legacy for any pulp story.

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New Treasures: Figures Unseen by Steve Rasnic Tem

Monday, January 7th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Figures Unseen Steve Rasnic Tem-small Figures Unseen Steve Rasnic Tem-back-small

I’m still sorting through all the books I brought back from the World Fantasy Convention this year (which is kinda par for the course — it usually takes me 4-8 months to unpack from that con). Based on reading time and enjoyment over the past few months, my most productive period of the entire convention was the 10 minutes I spent in the Valancourt Booth.

I’ve already talked about several of the books I purchased there, including Michael McDowell’s The Complete Blackwater Saga and Harry Adam Knight’s The Fungus. But I haven’t yet mentioned Steve Rasnic Tem’s new book Figures Unseen, a fabulous collection of 35 of his best tales, as selected by the author.

In his long career Tem has received the World Fantasy, British Fantasy and Bram Stoker Awards. His novels include Excavation (1987), The Man on the Ceiling (2008, with Melanie Tem) and Blood Kin (2014), and his many collections include City Fishing (1999), The Far Side of the Lake (2001), Celestial Inventories (2013), and Out of the Dark (2016). Dan Simmons calls Tem “One of the finest and most productive writers of imaginative literature in North America,” and this collection is the perfect place to start if you want to sample some of his finest work. It includes many of my favorites — including the brilliant “City Fishing,” the tale of a father who takes his son on a very unusual fishing trip in the heart of an ancient city.

Figures Unseen also includes a fine introduction by Simon Strantzas, which I think explicates the effectiveness of Tem’s work better than anything else I’ve read. Here’s a small excerpt.

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The Future of Politics, a Desert Fantasy, and Murder in the City of the Dead: Spring Titles from Parvus Press

Sunday, January 6th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

If This Goes on Cat Rambo-small The Ragged Blade-small Necropolis PD-small

Early last year I wrote about a trio of books I discovered from a promising new publisher, Parvus Press. They were plenty interesting: Flotsam, by RJ Theodore, a steampunk space opera, and Vick’s Vultures & To Fall Among Vultures, the first two titles in Scott Warren’s Union Earth Privateers space opera. Parvus Press’s catalog was filled with an enticing assortment of new and forthcoming titles, especially for such a small company. They certainly made a fine first impression, and I made a note to keep close tabs on them.

While prowling the World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore I spotted Colin Coyle, one of the co-founders of Parvus, and after badgering him for three solid hours he cracked like a nut and started spilling secret intel on their 2019 titles. In a dark corner of the bar he grudgingly gave up details, glancing nervously over his shoulder the entire time, while I hastily scribbled notes.

Okay, it wasn’t exactly like that, but it can’t hurt if you picture it that way, so humor me a little. Besides, I did get some good quotes and lots of juicy book details out of Colin, and I’m willing to share them with you, so stop being so negative. Here’s all the secret pre-release info I gathered on the spring 2019 titles titles from Parvus Press. Many bothans died to bring us this information, so listen up.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Stephen Fabian

Sunday, January 6th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Stephen E. Fabian

Cover by Stephen E. Fabian

Cover by Stephen E. Fabian

Cover by Stephen E. Fabian

Cover by Stephen E. Fabian

Cover by Stephen E. Fabian

Peter Graham is often quoted as saying that the Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12. I was reminded of this quote last year while reading Jo Walton’s An Informal History of the Hugo Awards (Tor Books) when Rich Horton commented that based on Graham’s statement, for him, the Golden Age of Science Fiction was 1972. It got me thinking about what science fiction (and fantasy) looked like the year I turned twelve and so this year, I’ll be looking at the year 1979 through a lens of the works and people who won science fiction awards in 1980, ostensibly for works that were published in 1979. I’ve also invited Rich to join me on the journey and he’ll be posting articles looking at the 1973 award year.

In 1972, the British Fantasy Society began giving out the August Derleth Fantasy Awards for best novel as voted on by their members. In 1976. The name of the awards was changed to the British Fantasy Award, although the August Derleth Award was still the name for the Best Novel Award. A category for Best Artwork was created in 1977 and ran for three years until 1979. Stephen Fabian won the award in its second year. In 1980, the Artwork Award was replaced by an award for Best Artist and Fabian won the inaugural award. The category has remained part of the awards to the present day, although a re-alignment in 2012 means the awards are now selected by a jury rather than the full membership of the British Fantasy Society. In 1980, the awards were presented at Fantasycon VI in Birmingham.

Fabian was born on January 3, 1930 in Garfield, New Jersey. Fabian was self-taught and heavily influenced by Edd Cartier, Hannes Bok, and Virgil Finlay. He began creating sketches for fanzines in the mid-1960s, but it wasn’t until he was laid off from a job due to the oil embargo of the 1970s that he turned his skills towards professional artwork. On the day that he received word of the layoffs, he also received invitations from Sol Cohen and Jim Baen to submit work for their consideration for inclusion in Amazing Stories (Cohen) and Galaxy (Baen). His first paid work was a cover for Robert E. Howard’s Western The Vultures.

His work was also championed by book collector and publisher Gerry de la Ree, who published several portfolios of Fabian’s work, bringing him to the attention of both fans and publishers who were able to give him work.

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The Tome of the Living Dead: Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! edited by Otto Penzler

Saturday, January 5th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!-small Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!-back-small

For Christmas this year I got Alice a copy of The Big Book of Female Detectives, a 1136-page anthology edited by Otto Penzler. It’s the 13th (I think?) of Penzler’s massive pulp-style anthologies from Vintage, which he’s published one per year (roughly) since 2007. I’ve been cataloging them here as I stealthily acquire them all. They are:

The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps — 2007
The Vampire Archives — 2009
The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories — 2010
Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! — 2011
The Big Book of Adventure Stories — 2011
The Big Book of Ghost Stories — 2012
The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries — 2013
The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries — 2014
The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories — 2015
The Big Book of Jack the Ripper — 2016
The Big Book of Rogues and Villains –- 2017
The Big Book of Female Detectives — 2018

An oversight in my survey so far has been Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!, Penzler’s 2011 tribute to everyone’s favorite undead (“It’s so good, it’s a no-brainer.”) This one is packed with stories by Stephen King, Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, HP Lovecraft, Hugh B. Cave, Robert Bloch, Manly Wade Wellman, Robert McCammon, Theodore Sturgeon, Seabury Quinn, Gahan Wilson, Ramsey Campbell, Micheal Swanwick, Joe R. Lansdale, Steve Rasnic Tem, Dale Bailey, Edgar Allen Poe, and many, many more — including a complete novel by Theodore Roscoe, Z is for Zombie (1989). I ordered a copy last year, and it turns out to be just as much fun as the previous volumes. Packed with fascinating intros and delicious pulp spot art, it makes an irresistible addition to your horror collection.

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Future Treasures: Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds

Friday, January 4th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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Alastair Reynolds’ Revenger was one of the most acclaimed SF novels of 2016. It was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award, and won the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book. SFX called it “By far the most enjoyable book Reynolds has ever written,” and The Guardian labeled it “”A swashbuckling thriller — Pirates of the Caribbean meets Firefly.” In his enthusiastic review for Black Gate, Brandon Crilly said:

Reynolds’ work is always fast-paced and interesting, weaving the detailed science with just enough of the fantastic to add that sense of wonder and a perfect balance of action and character work. Revenger, for example, has the pacing of Firefly or Star Wars, so that even as he’s explaining the steampunkiness (is that a word?) of the starships and personal technology in the novel, you’re never mired in an info-dump or bored by too much scientific description, just to understand how everything works.

Revenger is particularly good because it’s a very human story: it focuses on two sisters who want to escape their homeworld and sign on with a starship crew not for pure escapism like Luke Skywalker, but specifically to earn money to help their father’s struggling business. What begins as a story of adventure and wild-eyed wonder as these sisters get to know their very first crew becomes a dark and harrowing tale almost immediately, as Reynolds takes his protagonists through multiple twists and unexpected locales.

The long-awaited sequel Shadow Captain will be published by Orbit on January 15, 2019. It is 448 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. Get more details and read the complete first chapter here.


Is Jack Reacher Today’s Tarzan?

Friday, January 4th, 2019 | Posted by Violette Malan

TarzanFor me Tarzan was always a movie, and sometimes a TV character. I knew intellectually that the stories were based on books. I even knew that the books were written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. But for me, at that time, it was all about the John Carter of Mars books. I did finally read one of the later Tarzan novels, Tarzan the Untamed, and while I liked it, it wasn’t enough to woo me away from Burroughs’ SF writing.

I’ve always been aware of Tarzan as a character icon, of course, the early 20th-century version of the noble savage. I’ve written about him before. I mention him as far back as 2014, one of my earliest posts for Black Gate, when I was looking at swords and ERB. More recently I’ve looked at him as an iconic character in the same vein as Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood, characters which keep turning up on both big and small screens.

It’s only lately that I’ve actually started reading the books. Amazon had one of these get all 26 novels for $2.99 deals and it seemed stupid not to get them. So far I’ve read the first two, Tarzan of the Apes, and The Return of Tarzan. In general, they’re a lot of fun, and I’ve found them a lot less racist and a lot less misogynistic than I’d anticipated, given the time period of the writing. There’s definitely stuff that makes me either cringe or roll my eyes, but as I say, not as much as I expected.

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Sky Pirates and Interstellar Wars: The Black Star Passes by John W. Campbell

Friday, January 4th, 2019 | Posted by James Enge

The Black Star Passes-small The Black Star Passes-back-small

Art by Chris Foss

This was the cover of the paperback I had as a youth — still my favorite thing that Campbell published under his own name (with The Moon is Hell running a close second).

Campbell’s best stuff is unquestionably the work he published as Don A. Stuart (e.g. “Who Goes There?”, “Twilight,” “The Elder Gods,” etc). And the heroes of this series, Arcot & Morey, are chemically free from any trace of personality.

But the same is not true of their partner Wade, who appears in the first story “Piracy Preferred” (from Amazing Stories, June 1930) as a super-scientist sky pirate, and after he is cured of his criminal tendencies becomes a valuable and prankish member of the team.

The title story in The Black Star Passes (from Amazing Stories Quarterly, Fall 1930), tells the tale of an interstellar war. But the bad guys are not simply ravening bug-beasts from beyond the void, and the story ends without the happy genocide so common in space opera. (“YAY! We have destroyed an entire intelligent species with our superior science knowhow! Too bad they weren’t Civilized, like us!”) In Campbell’s story, the invaders are defeated, but the collective effort involved in the invasion saves their civilization.


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