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Category: Editor’s Blog

The blog posts of Black Gate Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones and Editor John O’Neill

Black Gate is Moving!

Black Gate is Moving!

Black Gate is moving!

If you’ve had trouble leaving a comment recently, or logging into the site to create an article (or for any reason), that’s the likely reason. For the last 20 years we were hosted at Toybox in Ottawa, run with tireless efficiency by Roy Hopper, but Roy has decided to wind down the business. Effective yesterday afternoon, we migrated the entire site to a brand new hosting service in Florida.

This wasn’t exactly an easy process (not according to the exhausted late-night calls we got from Support at our new service provider, anyway). It involved moving over 211,000 files, uncounted gigs of images, sound files (who uploaded sound files?), and strange databases apparently created by DAW Books in the 1970s. Our offices look like a Marvel Studios sound stage after a wrap party.

All of this is a prelude to begging your indulgence for the next few days. Simultaneous with the migration, we upgraded our WordPress install, moved our email servers, and shed several old databases and obsolete plug-ins. Like Bones stepping off a transporter pad, we’re padding ourselves down to make sure all our parts arrived intact. Things are sure to be a little off-kilter for at least the next few days — and maybe a little later than usual. (And if you’re a BG contributor frustrated with the new setup, don’t hesitate to get in touch to ask for help.)

With luck, the whole team will be back to normal next month. In the meantime, enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday (for our US readers), and for international visitors, enjoy the coming slate of holidays SF and fantasy books.

And thanks in advance for your patience with us!

Gizmodo on November’s New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books

Gizmodo on November’s New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books

The Rush’s Edge by Ginger Smith-small This Virtual Night by C.S. Friedman-small Fishing for Dinosaurs and Other Stories by Joe R. Lansdale-small

Covers by Kieryn Tyler, Adam Auerbach, and Timothy Truman

We’re getting close to the holiday season, and you know what that means. 2020 will finally be over. But also! Many of us will have enough vacation time to catch up on our reading.

The new flurry of November releases hasn’t made that any easier. What we need is a roadmap to the most interesting destinations in this publishing wilderness. Something like Cheryl Eddy’s comprehensive list of November New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Help You Make It Through 2020’s Home Stretch at Gizmodo, which includes new titles from Brandon Sanderson, E.E. Knight, Joe R. Lansdale, Tamsyn Muir, Connie Willis, Peter F. Hamilton, Harry Turtledove, Ernest Cline, Bernard Cornwell, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Jonathan Lethem, C.S. Friedman, Charlie Holmberg, W. Michael Gear, Diana Gabaldon and John Joseph Adams, Tim Lebbon, Jonathan Maberry, Kiersten White, Christopher Hinz, P.D. Cacek, James Lovegrove, Greg Cox, R.F. Kuang, Tochi Onyebuchi, R.J. Barker, Benedict Jacka, Holly Black, Mercedes Lackey, and lots more. Here’s a look at some of the highlights.

The Rush’s Edge by Ginger Smith (Angry Robot, 328 pages, $14.99 paperback/$6.99 digital, November 10, 2020) — cover by Kieryn Tyler

A past-his-prime “genetically-engineered and technology implanted” former soldier is discarded by the government that created him, so he takes a salvage gig to pass the time. Things get complicated when the ship’s computer is overtaken by an alien invader.

Deep space salvage, rogue computers, aliens…. This debut novel is headed to the top of my TBR pile for November.

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Take Advantage of the Thanksgiving Sale at Dark City Games

Take Advantage of the Thanksgiving Sale at Dark City Games

Dark CIty Games

If you’ve been paying attention, you know we’re big fans of solo role playing games here at Black Gate. Whenever someone asks me for a superior modern example, I point them without hesitation to Dark City Games.

George Dew and his talented team of writers and artists at Dark City Games have been producing high quality solitaire fantasy and science fiction games for nearly two decades. They started with programmed adventures in the mold of The Fantasy Trip classics like Death Test, and soon graduated to much more sophisticated fare. Their games include ambitious fantasy epics likes The Island of Lost Spells (which I reviewed as Todd McAulty in Black Gate 10), and The Sewers of Redpoint, exciting SF fare like Void Station 57 and At Empire’s End, a line of Untamed West western adventures, and even tactical wargames set in WWII. Howard Andrew Jones took a fond look at their early catalog back in 2008, and we even published a free Dark City sample adventure titled S.O.S. in 2010.

That’s why I was so excited to see they have a Thanksgiving Sale. Every game in stock is discounted to $10. I ordered four — the SF horror title Into Chaos, dark fantasy Punisher’s Keep, Battle of the Bulge, first in their Combat Boots series of tactical wargames, and the SF mystery tale The Dark Star Incident.

Whether you’re a new gamer curious about role playing who wants to dip your toe in at your own pace, an experienced player looking for a real challenge, or just someone looking for a great bargain, Dark City has a game for you. Have a look at their catalog here, and try a game or two for just ten bucks each. And tell them Black Gate sent you!

A Tour of a Pop-Culture Phenomenon: Marvel: The First 80 Years

A Tour of a Pop-Culture Phenomenon: Marvel: The First 80 Years

Marvel the First 80 Years magazine-small

Marvel: The First 80 Years, magazine edition from Titan Comics. On sale November 2020

I was in Barnes & Noble yesterday, picking up some new releases, including a new Stellaris anthology and the latest Year’s Best anthology from John Joseph Adams (here’s the complete stack of titles I walked out with), and literally on my way out of the store my eye fell on a colorful cover in the magazine section. I reversed course to get a closer look, and three minutes later I was back in the checkout line, buying one more item.

The magazine was Marvel: The First 80 Years, a 160-page full color special release from Titan. It’s a little pricey, even with my B&N discount ($19.99 cover price), but according to the scant facts I can find on the internet, it’s a limited release magazine version of the upcoming book Marvel: The First 80 Years, scheduled for hardcover release in two weeks with a $29.99 price tag.

I didn’t know any of that yesterday, tho. I shelled out nearly 20 bucks for an oversize magazine because it looked more than worth the money. Have a look at the gorgeous interior photo spreads below and see if you agree.

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On a Mission to Disable a Gigantic Robot: Tangent Online on “The Ambient Intelligence” by Todd McAulty

On a Mission to Disable a Gigantic Robot: Tangent Online on “The Ambient Intelligence” by Todd McAulty

Lightspeed Magazine Issue 125 October 2020-smallIt’s been a while since I’ve been reviewed at Tangent Online, so it was a delight to find a review of my Lightspeed story “The Ambient Intelligence,” written by Tara Grimravn.

Due to a mysterious government program called the Deep Temple Project, the water in Lake Michigan has been steadily boiling away. Its shoreline is now little more than a series of mudflats and interconnected stagnant pools that go on for at least a mile before one reaches the water. Barry Simcoe is on a mission by AGRT, an international peacekeeping organization, to disable a gigantic robot destroying large portions of Chicago and killing its citizens. According to his friend Zircon Border, it was spotted coming and going from the exposed remains of an old shipwreck. In order to do this, Simcoe must navigate the treacherous bog that is now the lakebed and try to disable his opponent before it can kill him.

McAulty’s SF story is a great read. It takes a little while to get to the more exciting bits, but that’s necessary to give the reader enough background to understand what’s happening and why. The ending doesn’t disappoint either. The characters are quite well-done, and I especially liked the interactions between Simcoe and True Pacific. Give this one a read!

“The Ambient Intelligence” appeared last month in Lightspeed magazine, and it’s free to read online. It’s published under the name Todd McAulty, the name all my stories appeared under in Black Gate magazine all those years ago. It’s the story of Canadian Barry Simcoe and his robot friend Zircon Border, who face off against a mysterious 60-ton killer robot hiding in a shipwreck on the shores of Lake Michigan… one that’s hiding a very big secret. It shares a setting (and two characters) with my debut novel The Robots of Gotham, but it’s not otherwise related to that book, and stands completely on its own.

Read “The Ambient Intelligence” in its entirety here. And if you enjoy it, why not help support Lightspeed with a subscription? Six-months subs will run you just $17.94, for more than 50 stories — a whopping 350,000 words of fiction. It’s one of the true bargains in the field.

Samuel R. Delany on The Shores Beneath, edited by James Sallis

Samuel R. Delany on The Shores Beneath, edited by James Sallis

The Shores Beneath-back-small The Shores Beneath-small

The Shores Beneath (Avon, August 1971). Cover by Ron Walotsky

It’s been a good few weeks for obscure SF anthologies. Sunday I talked about the 50-year old Swords & Sorcery anthology Swords Against Tomorrow, which Alan Brown at Tor.com unexpectedly reviewed recently. And two weeks ago the great Samuel R. Delany posted this on Facebook, about James Sallis’ long-forgotten 1971 anthology The Shores Beneath, which collected four tales by Delany, Thomas M. Disch, John Sladek, and Roger Zelazny.

This 1971 collection of four long stories is a collection that made me very happy to be in — though all the stories have been reprinted, it never got the introduction that the editor had promised when he first sold the idea of the book to Avon. I wonder if that has anything to do with why the book was never reprinted.

“The Asian Shore” [by Disch] is an upsetting tale about racism again Muslims. [Zelazny’s] “The Graveyard Heart” is an SF vampire tale. To flip through [John Sladek’s] “Masterson and the Clerks” is to encounter a text that looks just like Aeolus chapter in Ulysses — and to read it is to realize it presents the same theme. The extra information about my own story is actually on the back — it won a Hugo Award (and a Nebula) which is probably why it also got the wonderful Walotsky cover. But might it have [helped] to add that it was a fairly early tale about same-sex desire…? Might even that much extra information have kept the collection itself in print for more than the year it was widely available?

The book dates from the time when Zelazny and I had the same agent — and when Avon was doing some of the most literary books in English. (I assume the in-house editor on the book was George Ernsberger, if not Peter Mayer himself.)

The saddest words of tongue or pen
Are the words “it might have been.”

The Shores Beneath was published by Avon Books in August 1971. It is 192 pages, priced at $0.75. The cover is by Ron Walotsky. It has never been reprinted, and there is no digital edition. See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.

Witches, Sorcerers, and Space Citadels: Alan Brown on Swords Against Tomorrow, edited by Robert Hoskins

Witches, Sorcerers, and Space Citadels: Alan Brown on Swords Against Tomorrow, edited by Robert Hoskins

Swords Against Tomorrow-small Swords Against Tomorrow-back-small

Swords Against Tomorrow (Signet / New American Library, August 1970). Cover by Gene Szafran.

I’ve been enjoying Alan Brown’s classic science fiction reviews at Tor.com. In just the last few months he’s looked at Masters of the Vortex by E. E. “Doc” Smith, H. Beam Piper’s Space Viking, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Pirates of Venus, Sterling E. Lanier’s Hiero’s Journey, and Murray Leinster’s Med Ship. That’s a pretty satisfying journey through some great 20th Century SF right there (depending on how generously you’re disposed towards “Doc” Smith, I grant you).

But I was especially intrigued by his lengthy review of Robert Hoskins’ 1970 sword & sorcery anthology Swords Against Tomorrow, a long-forgotten volume that contained five long stories by Poul Anderson, Fritz Leiber, Lin Carter, John Jakes, and Leigh Brackett, including a pair of reprints from Planet Stories and an original novelette from Lin Carter. All but one are reprints — including a standalone novella by Anderson, a Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser adventure, a Brak the Barbarian story, and a tale in Brackett’s famous Venus series.

This is a fine little paperback that introduced readers to some of the most popular heroic fantasy series of the era in the early 70s, and I certainly didn’t expect to see it featured so prominently at the premier genre site over half a century after it was published.

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Rebuild Civilization on a Savage and Alien Earth in Midnight Legion from Studio 9

Rebuild Civilization on a Savage and Alien Earth in Midnight Legion from Studio 9

Midnight Legion Box Set-small Midnight Legion Box Set back-small

Midnight Legion box set from Studio 9 (2016). Art by C. Aaron Kreader.

It’s been a busy year, between changing jobs in April, managing a fledging writing career as Todd McAulty, running Black Gate, and coping with a pandemic. I don’t get to read as much as I used to, and I definitely don’t get to game as much. I especially regret not having the chance to dig into some of the new generation of solo RPGs, like Four Against Darkness and Into the Dungeon.

But I did spend a few shekels to try Midnight Legion, a very promising post apocalyptic solo gamebook series with a strong Metamorphosis Alpha vibe. Created by writer Aaron J. Emmel and artist C. Aaron Kreader and published by Evanston, Illinois-based Studio 9, Midnight Legion is a three-book series featuring an amnesiac android who awakens on a vastly changed Earth peopled with strange creatures and deadly mutant plants, and must piece together the clues to his original mission. You get everything you need to start in the intro Midnight Legion box set, published in 2016 with this description on the back:

You are an elite, android agent of an ancient, clandestine group who is forced awake after hundreds of years of stasis.Your memory is gone, and you can’t recall your purpose.You will need to solve puzzles and choose whether to use combat, stealth, or sixth sense and diplomacy to unlock your mission and the secrets of the world you knew.

The Midnight Legion is an interactive story where player(s) choose how to respond to what happens next. Created for solo play, with a 2-player option, this three book game series promises hours of gaming. Starting with Book 1: Operation Deep Sleep, everything you need to begin is contained in this boxed set.

The second gamebook, The World Reborn followed in 2017, and the final volume Portal of Life in 2019. Together they form an ambitious and compelling science fiction adventure that I’m anxious to dig into.

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Read Matthew David Surridge’s Sword & Sorcery Novella “The Great Work” at Patreon

Read Matthew David Surridge’s Sword & Sorcery Novella “The Great Work” at Patreon

Matthew Surridge The Book of Days

Matthew David Surridge’s novellete “The Word of Azrael” first appeared in Black Gate 14, and was one of the most widely acclaimed stories we ever published. Tangent Online called it “One of the strongest heroic fantasies I have seen in years,” and Rich Horton selected it for the 2011 Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy. In his Locus review Rich said:

Even better is Matthew Surridge’s “The Word of Azrael.” It concerns Isrohim Vey, who sees the Angel of Death on a battlefield and as a result is spared — more a curse than a blessing — to search again for the Angel. His search almost takes the form of a catalog of sword & sorcery tropes, his many adventures told briefly but with style and an ironic edge. Surridge both celebrates and winks at the genre. It’s very entertaining, clever, and even thought-provoking.

Matthew’s name will be familiar to regular readers of this blog; he’s published nearly 500 articles and reviews here over the years, and he’s especially well known for his extensive coverage of Montreal’s Fantasia film festival. He also maintains a Patreon feed, which he’s described as “a way to help me fulfill a long-planned project: writing short stories, across a range of genres, that together will create a vast mosaic of fiction.” Last month Matthew unveiled a major new project he’d recently completed:

I’ve got a new novella-length story at my Patreon. And it’s sword-and-sorcery! It’s a dungeon-crawl carried out by the adventurers’ hirelings. Dark fantasy, maybe; maybe some horror-y elements. And it’s about 20 000 words long.

“The Great Work” is available in its entirety as part of Matthew Patreon, you can join and support him for as little as $1 a month. You’ll also receive access to 31 articles and other works. Check it out, and support one of the most talented fantasy writers at work today!

A Shipwreck, a Mystery, and a 60-Ton Killer Robot: “The Ambient Intelligence” by Todd McAulty

A Shipwreck, a Mystery, and a 60-Ton Killer Robot: “The Ambient Intelligence” by Todd McAulty

Lightspeed Magazine Issue 125 October 2020-smallHey hey! This is exciting — my first short story publication in many years appeared last week in Lightspeed magazine!

The story is “The Ambient Intelligence,” and it’s free to read online. It’s published under the name Todd McAulty, the name all my stories appeared under in Black Gate magazine all those years ago. Here’s what John Joseph Adams said about the story in his editorial for the October issue:

Welcome to Lightspeed’s 125th issue! Do you love power armor? Do you love giant robots? Do you love people in power armor fighting giant robots? Well then, we’ve got you covered! Todd McAulty’s newest short story (“The Ambient Intelligence”) is here to meet all your power armor vs. robot needs.

He’s not kidding about the robots. “The Ambient Intelligence” is the story of Canadian Barry Simcoe and his robot friend Zircon Border, who face off against a mysterious 60-ton killer robot hiding in a shipwreck on the shores of Lake Michigan… one that’s hiding a very big secret. It shares a setting (and two characters) with my debut novel The Robots of Gotham, but it’s not otherwise related to that book, and stands completely on its own.

Black Gate subscribers may remember (stretching back many years now) that Todd McAulty had four stories in the print magazine:

The Haunting of Cold Harbour” (Black Gate 3, 2002)
There’s a Hole in October” (Black Gate 5, 2003)
Amnesty” (Black Gate 7, 2004)
The Soldiers of Serenity” (Black Gate 12, 2008)

Read “The Ambient Intelligence” in its entirety here. And if you enjoy it, why not help support Lightspeed with a subscription? Six-months subs will run you just $17.94, for more than 50 stories — a whopping 350,000 words of fiction. It’s one of the true bargains in the fields. And thanks for your support!