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Category: Editor’s Blog

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

The Triumphant Return of Fantasy Magazine

The Triumphant Return of Fantasy Magazine


The September, December and January issues of Fantasy Magazine (Adamant Press).
Covers by Thana Wong, OopsPixel, and Warmtail

Fantasy Magazine has a long and storied history. It was founded as a print mag by Sean Wallace in 2005, and edited by Wallace and Paul Tremblay. In 2007 it shifted to digital format, and Tremblay was replaced by Cat Rambo. In 2011 the magazine was acquired by John Joseph Adams’ Adamant Press; Adams became the new editor, and in 2012 he merged it with Lightspeed.

In November 2020 we covered the news that Fantasy was returning as an independent magazine, with new editors Christie Yant and Arley Sorg at the helm. The new regime has now produced sixteen issues, every one on time, publishing popular writers like Dominica Phetteplace, Beth Cato, Marissa Lingen, Bogi Takács, and many others. I’ve been very impressed with the timeliness, top notch art direction, and overall contents of the new edition of Fantasy. It deserves your attention.

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A Hearty Library of Genre Fiction: The Arbor House Treasuries edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Bill Pronzini, Robert Silverberg, and Others

A Hearty Library of Genre Fiction: The Arbor House Treasuries edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Bill Pronzini, Robert Silverberg, and Others


The Arbor House
library. Cover designs by Antler & Baldwin, Inc.

Last week I ordered a copy of The Arbor House Treasury of Great Science Fiction Short Novels, a thick anthology from 1980 edited by  Martin H. Greenberg and Robert Silverberg, and when it arrived I was astounded by the rich assortment of treasures within. Novellas both classic and long overlooked (even by 1980), including “By His Bootstraps” by Robert A. Heinlein, “The Golden Helix” by Theodore Sturgeon, “Born With the Dead” by Robert Silverberg, “The Star Pit” by Samuel R. Delany, “Giant Killer” by A. Bertram Chandler, “A Case of Conscience” by James Blish, “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” by James Tiptree, Jr, “On the Storm Planet” by Cordwainer Smith, “The Miracle Workers” by Jack Vance, and many more.

It made me wonder how I’d managed to miss this book for four decades, and sparked an interest in other Arbor House Treasuries. I knew there were a couple others… a mystery volume, and one on noir, or something? Twenty minutes on Amazon, eBay, and ISFDB (my research triumvirate these days) yielded at lot more than I thought — no less than eleven. I keep hoping a little more digging will yield a clean dozen.

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Support Bernie Mireault’s The Jam Non Starter Campaign

Support Bernie Mireault’s The Jam Non Starter Campaign

I’ve been following Bernie Mireault since his career began in Montreal in the mid-80s with the quirky and hilarious comic MacKenzie Queen, which he wrote and drew. When the chance came to recruit him to draw for Black Gate a decade later I jumped at it, and he soon became one of our most valuable and prolific contributors. His art appeared in virtually every issue — starting with our very first, when he illustrated Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion story “The Dreamthief’s Daughter.”

These days Bernie is best known as the creator of The Jam, aka Gordon Kirby, a normal guy whose unorthodox hobby (patrolling rooftops in costume, on the hunt for evildoers) has unexpected consequences. His adventures have been published by the top publishers in the industry. This year Bernie joined with Nat Gertler’s About Comics imprint to release a brand new Jam comic, The Jam Super-Cool Color-Injected Turbo Adventure From Hell issue 2, financed by an independent cloud-funding effort, The Jam Non Starter Campaign. Here’s what Bernie told me when I asked about it:

The Jam non-starter campaign is meant to be a humorous imitation of a Kickstarter thing except the book is already done and ready to order through the aboutcomics.com portal. Also available is a recent Jam-related graphic novel and by the end of January, a trade paperback collection of the first five issues from the original fourteen issue series. I’m thrilled to be back in print, even on a small scale.

I’m very excited to see The Jam return to print. Check out the promo video above, have a look at the campaign here — and help one of the most creative comic artists in the industry return his legendary creation to print. The world will thank you.

Merry Christmas from Black Gate

Merry Christmas from Black Gate

It’s evening in the O’Neill household, the sounds of Christmas music and video games have finally subsided (a little), and it’s almost… quiet. I’m finally in front of my computer, looking out over our backyard, with a peaceful minute to compose my annual Christmas message.

It’s been a helluva year. Plagues and pandemics. Economic uncertainty. Climate change. Endless political rancor. I suppose this is what being an adult is all about: seeing the world as it truly is, with all its dangers and uncertainties. I can see why so many people my age yearn for “a simpler time” — meaning the years when the world’s problems seemed vastly smaller, because they were too young to pay attention.

The world has always has problems, and I guess they’ve always seemed unsurmountable. When we first launched this site over two decades ago, I was consumed with traffic numbers, page views, and deadlines. In the intervening years we’ve achieved the kind of success I never dreamed of, easily surpassing two million pages views a month at our peak. But running Black Gate has taught me that true success isn’t captured in traffic metrics.

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It’s Good to be Back

It’s Good to be Back

It’s good to be back.

If you visited Black Gate between May 19th and May 31st, you may have noticed something odd. As in, it was completely missing. For the first time since the website went live in late 1999, Black Gate was off the air for more than a few hours. We were, in fact, dead for a dozen long days.

Our fault entirely. As our traffic continued to grow significantly in 2021, we started to notice some equally significant slowdown in the site in February and March. (You may have noticed it too. Lots of you did.) We’d outgrown our shared server, and desperately needed an upgrade. After a few months of tuning and planning, led chiefly by the stalwart Martin Page, we migrated to a much more powerful server on May 18. It passed all the preliminary tests, and on May 19th I ordered the DNS switchover.

Too soon, as it turned out. The new server crashed almost immediately, and never came back. We gave up after nine fruitless days of panicked effort, configured and migrated to another server with a lot more memory and, after a few error-filled days, here were are.

We apologize for the long absence, and thank you very much for your patience with us. As Tony Stark says so well, it’s good to be back. We missed you.

Revealing the Cover — and an Excerpt — from Robert V. S. Redick’s Sidewinders

Revealing the Cover — and an Excerpt — from Robert V. S. Redick’s Sidewinders

We’re big fans of Robert V. S. Redick here at Black Gate. I’ve lost count of how many of his books our staff has enthusiastically reviewed over the years but… whew, it’s a lot. That’s why we’re so excited at the impending release of Sidewinders, the second volume in The Fire Sacraments series (following Master Assassins, which we covered — you know it! — right here back in 2018).

As if we weren’t excited enough already, Black Gate website editor emeritus C.S.E. Cooney sent us this blurb for the book and I have to tell you, it wound us up pretty good. Have a look.

Sidewinders. I love this book, goddamnit. Robert V. S. Redick gives a fantasy reader everything her fiendish heart craves: plagues, prophets, demonic possessions, a desperate dash through desert dunes, giant spiders, giant cats, creepy children, plenty of vulgarity and sex, and an all-too-brief glimpse of paradise. So sure, if you like that kind of thing, go for it. Read this book. It’s for you. But wait, there’s more. For your not-so-average fantasy reader, your not-so-run-of-the-mill genre-lover, I beg you, look to Sidewinders. For it will give you ambiguity and delicacy. It will not spare you of its irony — and, oh, such irony! Its pages will impart so profound and aching an empathy that it just might leap off the page and follow you into your daily life. There is such courage in Robert V. S. Redick’s Sidewinders — such courage and fury and passion and hope. Truly a breathtaking work.

—C.S.E. Cooney, author of the forthcoming Saint Death’s Daughter, on Sidewinders

Talos Press will be publishing Sidewinders on July 6, 2021. Wunderkind PR were kind enough to send us a high-resolution sneak peek of the cover to share with you — and also a tasty excerpt from Chapter One of the book.

Without further ado — check out the gorgeous cover, featuring artwork by Mack Sztaba!

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Science Fiction is a Small Community

Science Fiction is a Small Community

The Best Science Fiction Stories: 1953, edited by Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty (Frederick Fell, 1953). Cover art uncredited.

Two weeks ago I bought a handsome copy of The Best Science Fiction Stories: 1953, edited by Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty, from a seller on eBay. As I carefully opened the package, I noticed the return address said “Stephen E. Fabian.”

Huh. Like, Stephan Fabian, the artist? Naturally I did what any of you would have done. I dashed off a quick message to the seller, and in due course I received this friendly response:

Yes, I am Stephen E. Fabian, the artist, though I’ve been semi-retired since way back in 1992. Thanks for asking. Stay safe, Steve

Well, that was cool. Fabian, of course, is one of the most talented artists to ever work in the field of SF and fantasy. We’ve covered his work here many times, and you can see some of his gorgeous pen & ink work here.

But that brief exchange reminded me (as if I needed reminding) that the science fiction community is a small one, and you never know who you’re going to run into. It reminded me of that day I ran into Fred Pohl on the street in downtown Chicago, and the week I discovered that the Bill Johnson I’d been working with at Motorola for years was the same one who won a Hugo Award for “We Will Drink a Fish Together.”

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Would You Spend $44 on a Collection of 30 Vintage DAW Paperbacks?

Would You Spend $44 on a Collection of 30 Vintage DAW Paperbacks?

Would you spend $44 on these 30 vintage DAW paperbacks?

I buy a lot of paperbacks on eBay.  I mean, a lot. But believe it or not, I don’t spend a lot of money. I’ve gotten in the habit of buying small collections; because shipping costs work out better and I spend much less per item. I haven’t done the math recently, but I budget anywhere from $0.25 to $0.50 per book when I go hunting, and usually stick to it.

Of course, there are plenty of expensive paperbacks on eBay. Crazy-priced paperbacks, if you want to go looking for them. But eBay is also a clearing house for hundreds of individuals dumping collections en masse, often with very little description, and if you’re willing to dig a bit and take a chance, you can find bargains every day of the week. (And every hour of the day). In fact, eBay has become my go-to site for bargain-basement vintage paperback collections. Someday collectors will stop dying off, and their put-upon spouses will stop dumping their collections on auction sites at rock-bottom prices as they clean out the attic, but today is not that day.

I can’t remember the last time I spent more than $25 for a lot of paperbacks. But last month I scrambled all over myself to hit the buy button on the lot above: 30 vintage DAW paperbacks priced at $44.

Sure, I love DAW. And I’m happy to welcome all these books into my collection, But if you look carefully, you’ll see exactly why I wrecked my monthly collecting budget to acquire these books — and would’ve been happy to spend a lot more. I didn’t buy this lot because it’s a fine assortment of books (though it is). I spent the money because of one author, and one author only. Do you know which one?

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Nerd Daily on 48 Fantasy & Sci-Fi Book Releases To Look Out For In 2021

Nerd Daily on 48 Fantasy & Sci-Fi Book Releases To Look Out For In 2021

2020 was pretty hard on publishing. But 2021 seems to be a year of recovering — and fast recovery at that. Over at Nerd Daily Elise Dumpleton has compiled 48 Fantasy & Sci-Fi Book Releases To Look Out For In 2021, and it’s a pretty spectacular list. Here’s a few of the highlights.

Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley (Solaris, 336 pages, $24.99 hardcover/$8.99 digital, March 16, 2021)

Drink down the brew and dream of a better Earth.

Skyward Inn, within the high walls of the Western Protectorate, is a place of safety, where people come together to tell stories of the time before the war with Qita.

But safety from what? Qita surrendered without complaint when Earth invaded; Innkeepers Jem and Isley, veterans from either side, have regrets but few scars.

Their peace is disturbed when a visitor known to Isley comes to the Inn asking for help, bringing reminders of an unnerving past and triggering an uncertain future.

Did humanity really win the war?

Aliya Whiteley is the author of The Arrival of Missives (2018) and The Beauty, a dystopian horror filled with cosmic weirdness, strange fungi, and terrifying tales told around post-apocalyptic campfires, which we covered back in 2018.

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James Davis Nicoll on Five Thrilling SF Stories About Patrolling Space

James Davis Nicoll on Five Thrilling SF Stories About Patrolling Space

Crashing Suns (Ace, 1965), A Matter of Oaths (Questar, 1990), and The Prefect (Ace Books, 2009).
Covers by Ed Valigursky, Martin Andrews, and Chris Moore

What’s better than thrilling stories of patrolling space?? (No need to email an answer; it’s a rhetorical question. And the answer is “nuthin'”).

Mind you, I’d be hard pressed to cite actual examples. Star Trek books maybe? EC Comics Weird Science, naturally. After that, I got nothing.

Fortunately James Nicoll reads a lot more than I do. Over at Tor.com he’s posted a fun little article titled Five Thrilling SF Stories About Patrolling Space, which includes classics like Edmond Hamilton’s Crashing Suns, but also more modern titles I was totally ignorant of. Here’s his take on Helen S. Wright’s sole SF novel A Matter of Oaths:

There are but three powers of note — the Old Empire and the New Empire, both ruled by their respective immortal emperors, as well as the Guild of Webbers that supplies both sides with starship crews — but the simmering conflict between empires, not to mention basic human cussedness, means an endless need for the services of patrolships like Bhattya to deal with raiders and the like. Being short-staffed, Bhattya’s Commander Rallya grudgingly hires Rafe. Rafe’s service record and qualifications are exemplary… enough so that Rallya is forced to overlook the alarming fact that Rafe was previously mind-wiped for reasons unrecorded. It is only once Rafe is a member of the crew that Rallya belatedly becomes aware of a fact that would have been nice to know before Rafe came on board: someone appears to want Rafe dead and to achieve this goal, they are quite willing to sacrifice everyone in Rafe’s vicinity. Including the crew of the Bhattya.

That definitely sounds like something I shouldn’t have overlooked three decades ago. Here’s the back covers for all three books above.

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