The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in December

Sunday, January 21st, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

RuneQuest Griffin Island-small RuneQuest Griffin Island-back-small

Bob Byrne ruled the charts last month, with no less than three articles in the December Top Ten — a new record. Well done Bob! (But you’re still not getting a new office.)

Bob’s most popular piece was his report on the new Robert E. Howard pastiches coming in 2018, followed by a detailed look at the notorious takeover of gaming company SPI by its arch-rival TSR in 1982. His investigation of Heroic Signatures, a new venture to create digital properties based on Howard’s work, came in at #10 for the month.

The top article at Black Gate last month was another gaming piece: Michael O’Brien’s warts-and-all survey of Avalon Hill’s early Runequest releases, including classics like Griffin Island and Gods of Glorantha. Third on the list was our look at Frank M. Robinson’s legendary pulp collection. Rounding out the Top Five was Elizabeth Crowens’ far ranging interview with bestselling author Charlaine Harris.

Number six was our summary of the Top 50 Posts in November, followed by a sneak peek of the latest issue of Weirdbook. Closing out the list was our 2017 Christmas message, and Jess Terrell’s in-depth interview with Christopher Paul Carey, author of Swords Against the Moon Men.

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The 2018 Philip K. Dick Nominees

Monday, January 15th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Book of Etta-small After the Flare Deji Bryce Olukotun-small All Systems Red-small

The nominees for the 2018 Philip K. Dick Award, given each year for distinguished science fiction originally published in paperback in the United States, have been announced. They are (links will take you to our previous coverage):

The Book of Etta by Meg Elison (47North)
Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty (Orbit)
After the Flare by Deji Bryce Olukotun (The Unnamed Press)
The Wrong Stars by Tim Pratt (Angry Robot)
Revenger by Alastair Reynolds (Orbit)
Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
All Systems Red by Martha Wells (

This is a terrific ballot, with something for every reader. Over at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, Joel Cunningham sums things up nicely.

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John DeNardo on the Definitive List of 2017’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The-Stone-Sky-N.K.-Jemisin-smaller The-House-of-Binding-Thorns-smaller A Conjuring of Light-small

As he does every year, John DeNardo breaks down the Best of the Year lists to find the most widely acclaimed science fiction, fantasy, and horror books of the last 12 months. Why does he do it?

I love looking at book-related “Best of the Year” lists because it’s fun to see what made the cut and how lists differ from one another. Even better: lists stoke my desire to read and point me towards books I may have otherwise skipped over. However, an abundance of “Best of” lists begs the question: which books truly deserve that label? Which books are the absolute best?

Intent to find some concrete answer to those admittedly subjective questions, I began an intense session of OCD-fueled list aggregation and spreadsheet manipulation to find which science fiction and fantasy books garnered the most mentions. The result is a very unscientific ­— but nonetheless worthwhile — “Best of the Best” list of the science fiction and fantasy books that debuted in 2017.

For those (like me) who want to read the books that everyone is talking about, and get a jump on the 2018 awards season, John’s meta-list is invaluable. Let’s see what’s on it.

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Christmas for the Paperback Collector

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

$18 eBay lot 65 novels Nov 14-small

Back in October I was doing an innocent eBay search on R.A. Lafferty, and I stumbled on the lot of vintage science fiction paperbacks above. 65 titles from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, in what looked like pretty good shape, for the Buy-It-Now price of $18.

Well, this was a pickle. The way the books were laid out I couldn’t even see them all, which was annoying. And the vast majority of the ones I could see, I had already.

On the other hand, 65 books, 18 bucks, that’s…. what, like a quarter per book? At that price, it’d be well worth it just to upgrade my existing copies with ones in better shape. And there were a handful of tantalizing titles I didn’t have, like The Rainbow Cadenza by J. Neil Schulman, The Crystal Memory by Stephen Leigh, Conscience Place by Joyce Thompson, and The Steps of the Sun by Walter Tevis. Plus that Lafferty paperback, The Devil is Dead. And y’know, it was true that I couldn’t see all the covers, so who knew what treasures were lurking in all that jumble?

In the end, it was just too tempting. I pulled the trigger on the auction, shelled out the $18 (plus shipping), and waited impatiently to find out exactly what I’d bought.

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The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog on the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2017

Monday, January 1st, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Amberlough-small An Excess Male-small Borne Jeff VanderMeer-small

Happy New Year, all you marvelous Black Gate readers! We love you, each and every one.

And to prove it, we continue to compile lists of overlooked and neglected books for you. While others are slowly straggling home from all-night revels, we’re up early combing through Best of the Year lists to find the titles we managed to miss in 2017. Case in point: The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog and their annual Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2017, a massive compilation of 25 top-notch novels (plus 12 “Alternate Universe” Picks), includes plenty of books we showcased for you last year, like The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard, Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill, Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames, and The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley.

But it also contains a handful of titles we somehow overlooked, including novels by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland, Kim Stanley Robinson, Annalee Newitz, and James Bradley. We’re very sorry. To make up for it, here’s a look at three of the more intriguing novels we neglected from the B&N list.

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The Guardian on the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2017

Saturday, December 30th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Paul McAuley Austral-small Djinn City-small Under the Pendulum Sun-small

As we continue the countdown towards New Years, here at Black Gate we continue to survey the best of the Best of the Year lists. Tonight I want to showcase British writer Adam Roberts’ Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2017, published in The Guardian. Roberts kicks off his list talking about Kim Stanley Robinson, “the unofficial laureate of future climatology, and his prodigious New York 2140,” and then pivots to another climate-apocalypse novel:

Just as rich, though much tighter in narrative focus, is Paul McAuley’s superb Austral (Gollancz), set in a powerfully realised near‑future Antarctica transformed by global warming.

Paul McAuley was Black Gate‘s first book reviewer; we recently covered his early novel Red Dust. Austral (a word which means “south”) was published by Gollancz on October 19, 2017 (288 pages, £14.99 in trade paperback).

Next on Roberts list is a novel and writer much less familiar to me — but no less fascinating for all that.

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Merry Christmas From All of Us at Black Gate

Monday, December 25th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

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The Black Gate offices are dark and empty and, just like last Christmas, the only illumination is from the tiny tree the interns put on top of the filing cabinets during one of the brief moments Goth Chick wasn’t watching. Another year gone. Another 618 books and magazines discussed, 62 games reviewed, 29 comics examined, and numerous issues of critical importance to the genre fiercely debated. The staff are all at home with their loved ones, sleeping the sleep of the just (and the exhausted), and the office is strangely quiet.

It’s only during moments like this that I can truly reflect on how we’ve grown over the last 17 years. When we’re busy chasing deadlines, sometimes it can seem that we’re just another genre site, one more stop on the Internet where people loudly promote their opinions. But if that were true, Black Gate would still just be me, toiling away in my basement in St. Charles in near-total obscurity. Instead, we have grown into a thriving and growing collective of writers and artists who care about fantasy. We work together to promote forgotten classics and celebrate overlooked modern writers. And to help each other.

We have some of the finest writers in the industry and they work tirelessly week after week to keep you informed on a genre with hidden depths and constant surprises. It’s been an incredible run the last few years —  an Alfie Award, a World Fantasy Award, and many other honors. The source of all that newfound fame has been you, the fans, who have helped spread the word and bring new traffic to our humble site.

So thank you once again, from the bottom of our hearts. On behalf of the vast and unruly collective that is Black Gate, I would like to wish you all Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Continue being excellent — it’s what you’re good at.

Celebrate the Spirit of the Holidays With The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, edited by Otto Penzler

Monday, December 25th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries-small The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries-back-small

Here in the Midwest we got a 2-inch dusting of snow on Christmas Eve, just enough to put everyone in the mood for the holidays. When it comes to a White Christmas, there’s nothing like a little just-in-time inventory.

We have our share of holiday traditions here in the O’Neill-Dechene household. And one of them is reading a mystery tale or two from Otto Penzler’s Big Book of Christmas Mysteries over the holidays, curled up in the living room by the fire, next to the Christmas tree. There aren’t a lot of things in this modern world that bring peace to a body. But lemme tell you, that’s definitely one of them.

Otto Penzler’s brick-sized Big Book anthologies are some of the great unsung bargains of modern publishing. We’ve covered a few of them over the years, and he publishes a new one every October (this year’s was The Big Book of Rogues and Villains, which we discussed two months ago.) But The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, an imposing 672-page volume containing yuletide ctime stories from Ellery Queen, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Ellis Peters, Donald E. Westlake, Damon Runyon, Thomas Hardy, Arthur Conan Doyle, John D. MacDonald, Peter Lovesey, Max Allan Collins, Marjorie Bowen, Ed McBain, Sara Paretsky, Mary Higgins Clark, Ngaio Marsh, Isaac Asimov, Ed Gorman, G. K. Chesterton, Rex Stout, O. Henry, and Agatha Christie, is one of my favorites. Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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Decide the Fate of the World With Tiny Plastic Ships: Axis & Allies by Avalon Hill

Friday, December 22nd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Axis and Allies Aniversary Edition-small

When I was in grad school at the University of Illinois in the early 90s we used to play games in the lobby of Daniels Hall. I played things like Star Trek: The Adventure Game from West End Games, and card games like Hearts. But the hardcore gamers in the corner would push a bunch of tables together and cluster around a massive game board, playing Axis & Allies.

I admit to an enduring fascination with Axis & Allies. It reminded me of the obsessive games I used to play with my gaming group back home in Ottawa, like SPI’s War of the Ring and 4000 A.D. The board was huge, there were hundreds of playing pieces, and every game seemed a constant back-and-forth of razor-thin victories, crushing setbacks, unexpected reversals, and hard-won strategic triumphs. I never had the time (or the courage) to commit to a weekend-long session of Axis & Allies though, and when I graduated I lost my chance. I lost contact with a permanent gaming group… and without that incentive, I never shelled out the (considerable) cash for a copy of the game.

Turns out that was a mistake. The gaming fiends in central Illinois weren’t the only people who loved to simulate the epic struggle of World War II, apparently. Milton Bradley’s Axis & Allies, an expensive game in a niche market, eventually went out of print, but not before enjoying a lengthy and historic run. Over the years the game acquired an almost mythic reputation among strategy gamers, and the few complete copies in circulation quickly became collectors items — and very hard to obtain. I eventually set out to acquire a copy for my collection, and for over a decade I’ve failed.

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The Top Black Gate Posts in November

Sunday, December 17th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill


Sean McLachlan was the Black Gate MVP for November, with two articles in the Top 5: “Happy Halloween! Here’s Some Nightmare Fuel” at #3, and “Ten Ways You Know Your Evil Empire Is Doomed,” which scored the #5 slot. Hot on Sean’s heels was Ryan Harvey with two Pellucidar posts, his review of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Savage Pellucidar (#6) and the Series Wrap-Up (#10).

The most popular article last month was our survey of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword & Sorceress anthology series, which has been published semi-continuously since 1984. The post spawned at least one follow-up, a more personal look back on the series by Elizabeth Cady, to be published here in the next next few days. Coming in at #2 was Bob Byrne’s review of the film Murder on the Orient Express. Rounding out the Top Five was our look at S. A. Chakraborty’s new novel The City of Brass.

An update on Beneath Ceaseless Skies placed seventh, followed by Fletcher Vredenburgh’s review of Robert E. Howard’s The Road of Azrael. And Steven H Silver nabbed the ninth slot on the list, with his Michael Moorcock re-read “Elric and Me.”

The complete list of Top Articles for November follows. Below that, I’ve also broken out the most popular overall articles, online fiction, and blog categories for the month.

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