Mysterion: Rediscovering the Mysteries of Crowdfunding

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 | Posted by Donald Crankshaw


Mysterion’s Front cover

One of the risks of telling people you don’t need money is that they’ll take you at your word.

When my wife and I decided to do Mysterion: Rediscovering the Mysteries of the Christian Faith, an anthology of speculative fiction which engages with Christianity (which I introduced to Black Gate here), one of the first things we did was talk to other small press publishers, including Chizine’s Sandra Kasturi and Black Gate’s own John O’Neill.  Based on our talks with them, we figured out what it took to do an anthology, and how much it would cost, including cover art, interior layout, and the story budget. Then once we figured out the budget, we determined whether we could afford it without crowdfunding. If we were committing to this project, we wanted to make sure we could do it regardless of the results of any fundraising. The answer was that we could.

And then we decided to do some crowdfunding anyway. Not to make the anthology happen, but to make it better. We fully intend to do the anthology whether anyone gives us money or not.

“We don’t need it, but give us money anyway” turns out not to be such a great crowdfunding pitch.

So let me try a better one. Now I could go into what donors get as rewards (The ebook at half the retail price and a month early! Both ebook and paperback at less than the retail price! Free shipping almost anywhere in the world!) or what your money will do for us (More stories! Higher rates! We’ll do it again!), but what I really want to talk about is why I’m excited about this anthology, and you should be too.

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New Treasures: Styx by Bavo Dhooge

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Styx Bavo Dhooge-back-small Styx Bavo Dhooge-small

This flourishing sub-genre of undead detective fiction? I like it. Recent examples include Tim Waggoner’s zombie detective saga The Nekropolis Archives, Stefan Petrucha’s Dead Mann series, Stephen Blackmoore’s Eric Carter books, Chris F. Holm’s Dead Harvest, Simon Kurt Unsworth’s The Devil’s Detective (a detective in hell), and Ian Tregillis’s Something More Than Night (a detective in heaven).

Bavo Dhooge’s Styx promises an intriguing spin on the zombie detective. Rafael Styx is a corrupt Belgian cop who is gunned down in pursuit of a diabolical serial murder. In death he meets the famous nude painter Paul Delvaux, who gives him his first real clue… and Styx finds his cop instincts won’t let him rest. Returning as a zombie (with an inconvenient taste for human flesh), Styx takes up the case again. Even death won’t stop him from capturing his murderer.

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Future Treasures: Steal the Sky by Megan E. O’Keefe

Monday, November 23rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Steal the Sky Megan E. O'Keefe-smallMegan E. O’Keefe has published stories in Shimmer and Writers of the Future Volume 30. Her first novel launches an ambitious fantasy series set in an oasis city, featuring a noble conman on the run from some very powerful people who stumbles onto a complicated conspiracy… and a chance to pull off a heist of epic proportions.

Detan Honding, a wanted conman of noble birth and ignoble tongue, has found himself in the oasis city of Aransa. He and his trusted companion Tibs may have pulled off one too many cons against the city’s elite and need to make a quick escape. They set their sight’s on their biggest heist yet — the gorgeous airship of the exiled commodore Thratia.

But in the middle of his scheme, a face changer known as a doppel starts murdering key members of Aransa’s government. The sudden paranoia makes Detan’s plans of stealing Thratia’s ship that much harder. And with this sudden power vacuum, Thratia can solidify her power and wreck havoc against the Empire. But the doppel isn’t working for Thratia and has her own intentions. Did Detan accidentally walk into a revolution and a crusade? He has to be careful — there’s a reason most people think he’s dead. And if his dangerous secret gets revealed, he has a lot more to worry about than a stolen airship.

Steal the Sky is the first volume of The Scorched Continent. It will be published by Angry Robot on January 5, 2016. It is 448 pages, priced at $7.99 in paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition.

Vintage Treasures: Beyond the Curtain of Dark edited by Peter Haining

Monday, November 23rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Beyond the Curtain of Dark Four Square Beyond the Curtain of Dark UK-small Beyond the Curtain of Dark-small

Peter Haining was a prolific editor, producing over 100 anthologies between 1965 and his death in 2007. Black Gate readers are probably most familiar with his Sherlock Holmes books (which Bob Byrne has mentioned more than once), his 1976 Weird Tales facsimile anthology, and his various volumes on the pulps, including The Fantastic Pulps (1976), Terror!: A History of Horror Illustrations from the Pulp Magazines (1977), Supernatural Sleuths (1986), and The Classic Era of American Pulp Magazines (2001).

I stumbled across a very rewarding anthology of horror stories in a $1 bin at Windy City Pulp and paper earlier this year. Beyond the Curtain of Dark was originally published in October 1966 in the UK by Four Square Books, with a delightful cover by Josh Kirby (above left). It was reissued in November 1972 by New English Library in the UK with a cover by the fabulous Bruce Pennington (middle), and in the US by Pinnacle Books (right, cover artist unknown). It contains 23 stories, a nice mix of pre-1910 fiction (nine stories by Ambrose Bierce, Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, Nathaniel Hawthorne, F. Marion Crawford and others) and pulp horror stories published between 1938-1965 (14 stories by Robert Bloch, Harry Harrison, Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon, Fredric Brown, H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth, Henry Kuttner, Isaac Asimov, and others).

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New Treasures: Thief of Midnight and Fell the Angels by Catherine Butzen

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Thief of Midnight Fell the Angels-small

Stark House puts out extremely interesting books. Just thhis year they’ve published Tracy Knight’s The Astonished Eye and Barry N. Malzberg’s Underlay, among many others. Last month they released the sequel to Catherine Butzen debut novel Thief of Midnight, featuring the return of the monster-hunting Society for the Security of Reality, which keeps the world safe from the nefarious plots of creatures such as werewolves, ghouls, faeries, and boogymen.

I completely missed Thief of Midnight when it was first released in 2010, so I’m pleased I have another chance to jump onto this series. Fell the Angels picks up the story a month after the previous novel, when Abby Marquise finds herself dealing with dark magic-wielding faeries who have invaded Chicago.

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Collecting Arthur C. Clarke

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Arthur C. Clarke paperback lot-small

A couple weeks ago I reported here on a pristine collection of 35 Isaac Asimov books I purchased on eBay. Coincidentally, I also happened to stumble across blogger Mark R. Kelly’s Asimov Re-read. I found many of his comments right on the money, and Mark’s insights became the core of my article.

Eclipsed by all that discussion was the fact that the same day I also purchased a lot of virtually new paperbacks by Arthur C. Clarke (above). Although it was roughly the same size (32 titles) and same vintage (30+ years), and the books were in similar gorgeous shape, I expected to pay much less for them. And that’s exactly what happened: I took the lot home with a single bid for $27, less than a third of what I paid for the Asimov collection.

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Breathtaking and Truly Epic: Barnes & Noble on Michael Livingston’s The Shards of Heaven

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Shards of Heaven-smallMichael Livingston’s stories for Black Gate were widely acclaimed by our readers. So I’m looking forward to seeing how the wider world reacts to his first novel, on sale this month from Tor. I got my first taste when I saw this rave review from Sam Reader at Barnes & Noble:

The Shards of Heaven is breathtaking in scope. With the first volume of a planned series intertwining Roman history and myth with Judeo-Christian mythology, Michael Livingston has created something truly epic… He uses real events and characters as the backbone for a truly inventive epic fantasy like novel, a massive undertaking that launches a tremendously ambitious series.

With Julius Caesar dead, a civil war threatens to destroy Rome. On one side is Octavian, Caesar’a ruthless successor, who will resort to any means to assert his power over the Empire. On the other are Caesar’s former ally Marc Antony and his lover Cleopatra… But then history twists, and Octavian’s half-brother Juba, a Numidian prince and thrall of Rome, uncovers something that will upend the conflict completely: the Trident of Poseidon, which gives the wielder the ability to control any fluid with an extension of will. The discovery comes with the knowledge that the trident is but one of the legendary Shards of Heaven, artifacts whose immense power hints at the existence of a strength greater than man’s…

The action here is big and bloody… Livingston uses violence in sudden, sparing bursts, each fight given a sense of purpose and consequence — until he doesn’t: the book’s centerpiece is the Battle of Actium, a massive naval conflict both grand in scope and enormously complex in its intricacies. Livingston keeps tight control over both.

The Shards of Heaven will be published by Tor Books on November 24, 2015. It is 414 pages. priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital version. It is the opening volume in an epic new historical fantasy series set against the rise of the Roman Empire. See our previous coverage here.

Future Treasures: Skinner Luce by Patricia Ward

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Skinner Luce-smallSkinner Luce. What kind of a title is ‘Skinner Luce?’ If I were publishing my first fantasy novel, I probably wouldn’t call it that. Then again, if I were publishing my first fantasy novel, I’d probably call it, Orcs Invade Illinois Grab Your Pitchforks and CHARGE!!!! So maybe no one should listen to me.

Complex characters and taut, poignant writing highlight this hardened literary fantasy set in the frigid winters of present-day Boston.

Every year when the deep cold of winter sets in, unbeknownst to humanity, dangerous visitors arrive from another world. Disguised as humans, the Nafikh move among us in secret, hungry for tastes of this existence. Their fickle, often-violent needs must be accommodated at all times, and the price of keeping them satisfied is paid most heavily by servs.

Created by the Nafikh to attend their every whim, servs are physically indistinguishable from humans but for the Source, the painful, white-hot energy that both animates and enslaves them. Destined to live in pain, unable to escape their bondage, servs dwell in a bleak underworld where life is brutal and short.

Lucy is a serv who arrived as a baby and by chance was adopted by humans. She’s an outcast among outcasts, struggling to find a place where she truly belongs. For years she has been walking a tightrope, balancing between the horrors of her serv existence and the ordinary life she desperately longs to maintain; her human family unaware of her darkest secrets.

But when the body of a serv child turns up and Lucy is implicated in the gruesome death, the worlds she’s tried so hard to keep separate collide. Hounded by the police, turned upon by the servs who once held her dear, she must protect her family and the life she’s made for herself.

Skinner Luce will be published by Talos Press, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing, on January 12, 2016. It is 343 pages, priced at $24.99 in hardcover. Cover by Anna Dittmann.

New Treasures: Solar Express by L.E. Modesitt

Friday, November 20th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Solar Express Modesitt-smallWe don’t cover much hard science fiction at Black Gate. But we do cover our share of adventure SF… especially if it’s from writers we like, and if we hear good things about it.

Both of those things apply to L.E. Modesitt’s new novel Solar Express. I first heard about it from Arin Komins at Starfarer’s Despatch, who has excellent taste, and who tells us she’s “Really really loving the new Modesitt book, Solar Express. Very hard sf, near future. … And utterly wonderful commentary on politics.” So I got my hands on a copy, and I’m very much looking forward to relaxing with it this weekend.

You can’t militarize space. This one rule has led to decades of peaceful development of space programs worldwide. However, increasing resource scarcity and a changing climate on Earth’s surface is causing some interested parties to militarize, namely India, the North American Union, and the Sinese Federation.

The discovery of a strange artifact by Dr. Alayna Wong precipitates a crisis. What appears to be a hitherto undiscovered comet is soon revealed to be an alien structure on a cometary trajectory toward the sun. Now there is a race between countries to see who can study and control the artifact dubbed the “Solar Express” before it perhaps destroys itself.

Leading the way for the North American Union is Alayna’s friend, Captain Christopher Tavoian, one of the first shuttle pilots to be trained for combat in space. But, as the alien craft gets closer to its destination, it begins to alter the surface of the sun in strange new ways, ways that could lead Alayna to revolutionary discoveries-provided Chris can prevent war from breaking out as he navigates among the escalating tensions between nations.

Solar Express was published by Tor Books on November 3, 2015. It is 448 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover, and $14.99 for the digital edition.

Future Treasures: Daughter of Blood, Book 3 of The Wall of Night, by Helen Lowe

Friday, November 20th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Heir of Night-small The Gathering of the Lost-small Daughter of Blood-small

Helen Lowe’s The Wall of Night has been getting some good press. The opening volume won the Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Debut, and the second was nominated for the 2013 David Gemmell Legend Award. At my old stomping grounds SF Site, Katherine Petersen kicked off her review of the second volume as follows:

Helen Lowe’s Wall of Night series has the potential to become a classic, right up there with the likes of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. The Gathering of the Lost is the second of this four-book series and takes us deeper into the world of Haarth where the first book, The Heir of Night, mostly introduced us to Malian, heir to the House of Night and her friend and ally Kalan, both of the Derai. The nine houses of the Derai garrison a large, rugged mountain range that gives the series its title. But after the Keep of Winds where Malian grew up was breached five years ago by long-time Derai enemies, the Darkswarm, it’s the whole land of Haarth, not just the Derai in jeopardy…

Lowe has a lyrical prose style that often seems more like poetry. Sometimes it seems writers try too hard to evoke their characters or surroundings, but for Lowe it seems effortless.

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