Douglas Draa’s What October Brings is a Lovecraftian Celebration of Halloween

Thursday, October 4th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

What October Brings-smallHalloween and Lovecraft. Two great things that belong together. And Weirdbook editor Douglas Draa is the man to make it happen.

His new anthology What October Brings is a handsome collection of original stories by Adrian Cole, Storm Constantine, Tim Curran, Cody Goodfellow, Nancy Holder, Brian M. Sammons, John Shirley, Lucy A. Snyder, Chet Williamson, Black Gate writer Darrell Schweitzer, and many others — all packaged under a gorgeous cover by Italian artist Daniele Serra.

It’s from UK publisher Celaeno Press, a new name to me, but they clearly do good work. Here’s the description.

Halloween, a time for laughing children in white bedsheets and superhero costumes. A time for chocolate candy, and pumpkins, and Trick-or-Treat.

… a time for dark things everywhere to slink out of the shadows and into our lives, reminding those unlucky few that our charades of Halloween cannot erase the centuries of history and pain behind the facade…

What October Brings celebrates the dark traditions of the autumn rituals, of Halloween and Samhain, in homage to the uniquely fascinating fiction of HP Lovecraft. Masters of the short story offer you a “once in a lifetime” Trick-or-Treat experience…

…perhaps your last!

This is a sizable anthology packed with long stories. Over half are 18+ pages, and one, Lucy A. Snyder’s “Cosmic Cola,” is a generous 30 pages. Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog on the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of September 2018

Sunday, September 30th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Hidden Sun by Jaine Fenn-small Rosewater by Tade Thompson-small Salvation by Peter F Hamilton-small

Geez, it’s the last day of the month already. I’m used to failing at my ambitious monthly reading plans, but at least I usually try. This month has been so busy that I haven’t even been able to keep track of all the great books I missed, much less crack any of them open.

September still has a few hours left, and I’m going to use that time to educate myself. And the best resource for that are book blogs like The Verge, Unbound Worlds, Kirkus Reviews, and especially the excellent Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, which has gradually become my go-to source for the best new releases. This month Jeff Somers does his usual top-notch job, pointing me to 26 tantalizing titles I might have otherwise overlooked. Here’s the best of them.

The Hidden Sun by Jaine Fenn (Angry Robot, 448 pages, $12.99 trade paperback/$8.99 digital, September 4)

Fenn is as known for her short fiction as she is for her Hidden Empire novel series — and for her tendency to take stories in unexpected directions, whether on the micro-scale in short stories or the macro-scale of novels. [In] Hidden Sun Fenn kicks off an all new series set in a universe of shadowlands and bright alien skylands. Rhia Harlyn is a well-born woman in the shadowland Shen, struggling against old-fashioned sexism as she pursues scientific knowledge. She gets a tragic opportunity to use his skill for research and discovery after her brother vanishes. She sets off to the skylands to seek the truth behind his disappearance and finds herself caught between a rebel and a cult leader on an alluring, dangerous world.

Jaine Fenn won the British Science Fiction for her short fiction. She’s the author of the 5-volume Hidden Empire series, published in the UK by Gollancz, which does not yet have a US publisher. The Hidden Sun is the first volume of a 2-part series titled Shadowlands; the sequel, Broken Shadow, will be released on April 4. This is her first US release; if it does well, I hope that means we get to see a lot more of her.

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Vintage Treasures: 5 Galaxy Short Novels, edited by H.L. Gold

Monday, September 24th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

5 Galaxy Short Novels-small 5 Galaxy Short Novels-back-small

Cover by Edward Valigursky

I love novellas. They’re the perfect length for idling away those long fall evenings. I miss them in the online magazines I read today, virtually all of which have a submission cap somewhere around 10,000 words (the exception is Neil Clarke’s Clarkesworld, which recently began accepting stories up to 16,000 words. Way to go, Neil!)

It was Matthew Wuertz’s Saturday review of the April 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, including Fred Pohl’s classic “The Midas Plague,” that reminded me just how many great novellas appeared in those old print magazines. Matt’s piece made me want to read the story all over again. In fact, it made me wish there was an easy way to sample Galaxy’s  novellas. Galaxy editor H.L. Gold had an appetite for meaty SF epics, and his authors took ready advantage of that market. Gold showcased dozens of top-notch writers at novella length in the early days of the magazine, and it would be great to have easy access to those hard-to-find tales.

Yeah, that was dumb. As I was sorting paperbacks this morning it finally occurred to me that what I was wishing for already existed. Gold produced nearly a dozen mass market anthologies during his eleven years as Galaxy‘s editor, including six volumes of the Galaxy Reader of Science Fiction. He knew what his readers wanted, and he paid special attention to longer fiction, with Galaxy Science Fiction Omnibus (1955), The World That Couldn’t Be and 8 Other Novelets From Galaxy (1959), Bodyguard and Four Other Short Novels from Galaxy (1960), Mind Partner and 8 Other Novelets from Galaxy (1961), and especially 5 Galaxy Short Novels, which appeared in 1958.

5 Galaxy Short Novels reprints stories by Theodore Sturgeon, Damon Knight, James E. Gunn, J. T. McIntosh, and F. L. Wallace. Even today, it makes a great introduction to the magazine.

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When Philip K. Dick Reports You to the FBI: Thomas M. Disch’s Camp Concentration

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Camp Concentration-small Camp Concentration-back-small

Thomas M. Disch is a tragic figure. An enormously talented writer who won the enduring respect of his peers — with nine Nebula nominations and two Hugo nominations to his credit, plus a John W. Campbell Award and Rhysling Award, among many other accolades — his work was long ignored by the public. Success eluded him for virtually his entire career, and he gave up writing almost entirely near the end of his life. After the death of his partner in 2005 he lost his house, fought eviction from his apartment, and eventually killed himself in 2008. In the Science Fiction Encyclopedia John Clute wrote of Disch:

Because of his intellectual audacity, the chillingly distanced mannerism of his narrative art, the austerity of the pleasures he affords, and the fine cruelty of his wit, Disch was perhaps the most respected, least trusted, most envied and least read of all modern sf writers of the first rank.

Certainly his most commercially successful work was the novella “The Brave Little Toaster,” which appeared first in the August 1980 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and was nominated for both a Hugo and Nebula. Famed animation director John Lasseter (Toy Story, A Bug’s Life) recalls how he was fired from Disney ten minutes after making a pitch for a film version; Hyperion Pictures eventually produced animated versions of The Brave Little Toaster (1987) and Disch’s sequel, The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (1998).

Perhaps his most successful adult novel was Camp Concentration, which has seen nearly a dozen editions in English since it first appeared in 1968. Alongside On Wings of Song (1979) it’s one of his most acclaimed novels, anyway, and I figure it makes a solid starting point to start reading Disch. It’s interesting for another reason as well — the novel figures prominently in one of the most infamous incidents involving Philip K. Dick, who was so alarmed by Camp Concentration that he wrote a letter to the FBI about it.

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The Priceless Treasures of the Barbarian Prince

Sunday, September 16th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Dwarfstar games-small

A complete set of Dwarfstar games. Probably worth more than my house.

I enjoyed Sean McLachlan’s Black Gate post last month, Wargaming with my Twelve-Year-Old. Sean and his son played Outpost Gamma, a 1981 science fiction board game of man-to-man combat on a distant colony world. You don’t see a lot of coverage of early-80s science fiction microgames these days, so I appreciated being able to share the fun.

Outpost Gamma was published by Heritage Models in 1981, under their celebrated Dwarfstar imprint. Dwarfstar, like Metagaming, Steve Jackson, and Task Force Games, produced a rich catalog of microgames aimed at younger players. Well, budget-conscious players anyway. Metagaming, who pioneered the concept of the microgame with their first release, Steve Jackson’s runaway hit Ogre, charged $2.95 for a two-color game in a small baggie. Dwarfstar did away with the baggie and upgraded to a slim box, added full color, and charged a lordly $3.95.

As a business, the Dwarfstar line wasn’t a success. Unlike Metagaming and Task Force, who released dozens of titles over the years, they produced only eight games between 1981-82. But from a creative perspective, they were a magnificent hit. Their titles included Arnold Hendrick’s classic Demonlord, simulating the desperate struggle against the Demon Empire, Lewis Pulsipher’s Dragon Rage, a game of giant monsters attacking a walled medieval city, Dennis Sustare’s Star Smuggler, a marvelous solitaire programmed adventure following the adventures of a star trader on the frontier, and the peak achievement of Western Civilization, Arnold Hendrick’s Barbarian Prince, a solitaire game of heroic action in a forgotten age of sorcery.

Superbly well-designed as they were, Dwarfstar games had one great weakness: they weren’t built to last. Paper-thin boxes and flimsy components helped keep the cost down, but did nothing for their longevity. More than 35 years later these eight games have a nearly mythical reputation among collectors, but there aren’t a lot of copies to be had. And you know what that means: the scarce copies still in good condition are very, very expensive.

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The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories is a Master’s Course in Classic Horror

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories Volume Three-small The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories Volume Three-back-small

I’m a huge fan of Valancourt Books, ever since I stumbled on their eye-popping booth at the 2014 World Fantasy Convention. They’re an independent small press specializing in rare, neglected, and out-of-print Gothic, Romantic and Horror fiction, and two years ago they had a brilliant idea: why not assemble an annual anthology showcasing stories by some of their authors, modern and otherwise? The Editor’s Forward to the first volume gives you the idea:

The idea behind this anthology was, “What if we distilled the best of each part of our catalogue into a single volume? What would a horror anthology spanning two centuries, and featuring only Valancourt authors, look like?”

Pretty darn good, it turns out. These are substantial and attractive volumes, with terrific covers by M. S. Corley. The series has proven very successful, and the third volume arrives next month, with brand new fiction by Steve Rasnic Tem, Eric C. Higgs, and Hugh Fleetwood, and thirteen blood-curdling reprints from R. Chetwynd-Hayes, Helen Mathers, Charles Beaumont, J. B. Priestley, Robert Westall, and many more.

The series is edited by James D. Jenkins and Ryan Cagle. Here’s the details on all three books.

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New Treasures: Halls of Law, Book 2 of Faraman Prophecy by V.M. Escalada

Saturday, September 8th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Halls of Law-small Gift of Griffins-small

Halls of Law, the first book in the Faraman Prophecy series, introduced a world of military might and magical Talents on the brink of destruction. It’s especially interesting to me because “V.M. Escalada” is also Black Gate‘s long-time Friday blogger Violette Malan, who took on a pen name for this switch to epic fantasy. Rob H. Bedford at SFFWorld had some fine things to say about the novel.

In Halls of Law, V.M. Escalada brings together familiar fantasy elements of a nation being invaded, a rigid military, people with supernatural mental abilities, a race of lost creatures returning, and of course, prophecy. Familiar elements when handled well, make for an entertaining, enjoyable story… Escalada is no stranger to fantasy, she’s published several enjoyable Sword and Sorcery novels as Violette Malan. This novel and series is a slight switch to a more large scale story of Epic Fantasy from those intimate Sword and Sorcery tales and launches a promising series…

There’s a sense of fun to the novel… There’s a lot of myth in the background of the worldbuilding, as well as just wanting to know what happens next for Kerida, that I’m greatly looking forward to the second book in the series. Sometimes a book lands in your lap at exactly the right time, and Halls of Law was precisely the kind of book I didn’t realize I needed when I opened the first few pages. I was drawn in by the comforting prose and stayed fully invested because of the characters and world. Halls of Law is a fun, optimistic Epic Fantasy that proved a welcome change of pace from some of the more grimdark fantasy I’d been reading.

The second novel, Gift of Griffins, was released in hardcover by DAW last month. Here’s the description.

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CICADA Magazine Closes

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Cicada magazine lot-small

YA lit/comics magazine CICADA has folded effective August 31. It was part of Cricket Media, which also publishes Cricket, Ladybug, and Spider magazines. CICADA was an excellent market for YA fantasy short fiction for over 20 years, and its sudden loss is a blow. Team CICADA posted the following message on their website:

Dear members, contributors, and readers,

Our story began in 1998, and we like to think it’s been a good one — full of twists and turns, ups and downs, and a tasteful amount of werewolves and Vikings. Here’s the thing about all good stories, though: they have to come to an end when it feels right. We think that time has come.

As of August 31, 2018, we will be ending CICADA. It has absolutely been our honor to work with such an amazing community of authors and artists, and it has been our pleasure to share their work with our readers. We’ve always been so inspired by the creativity, kindness, talent, and courage of our online community. It isn’t easy to say goodbye, but we’re really proud of this publication and community, and it’s been an amazing ride.

The website will remain active until September 15, 2018, so we encourage our contributors and readers to download any digital files they may want to keep. We understand that you may have questions — please feel free to reach out to us at cicada@cricketmedia.com or on the forums. Subscribers will be contacted via email with details on refunds for the remainder of their subscription periods.

Thank you again to all our contributors, readers, and Slammers for being part of our story. We are so, so excited to see what you will create in the future.

CICADA had an excellent line-up of modern fantasy writers (and it looked great on my bookshelf). The magazine’s list of favorite writers included Nnedi Okorafor, Daniel Jose Older, Nalo Hopkinson, Kelly Link, Ursula Vernon, Sofia Samatar, Leigh Bardugo, Octavia Butler, and other genre stars. It advertised itself as a magazine “fascinated with the lyric and strange and committed to work that speaks to teens’ truths… Especially welcome: works by people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQAI+ people, nonbinary people, and other marginalized peoples.” The website will come down on Sept 15; until then you can check it out here.


Today Only — Get Todd McAulty’s The Robots of Gotham for Just $2.99

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Robots of Gotham cover wrap-small

Todd McAulty was one of the most popular writers in the print version of Black Gate. Free SF Reader said “McAulty appears to be world class,” and Locus declared “Todd McAulty is Black Gate‘s great discovery.” His debut novel, The Robots of Gotham, was published in hardcover by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in June, and has been accumulating rave reviews ever since:

“Massive and impressive… McAulty maintains breathless momentum throughout.”— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The whole story is a thrilling action flick in book form… Read it while walking in slow-motion away from an explosion.” — RevolutionSF

“Beautifully combines a post-apocalyptic man-versus-machine conflict and a medical thriller… This is thrilling, epic SF.”— Booklist (starred review)

“A massive, fast-paced, action-packed epic… Every page has the fierce readability of early Neal Stephenson, which is as high praise as it gets.”— Toronto Star

“A fast-paced, engaging read… The book is a thrilling ride.”— The Verge

Amazon’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year (So Far)

The Robots of Gotham is 688 pages, and priced at $26 in hardcover. But for today only, August 29th, the digital version of the book has been discounted to $2.99. Copies are available at Amazon, Kobo, and other fine online retailers.


September/October 2018 Asimov’s Science Fiction Now on Sale

Sunday, August 26th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Asimov's Science Fiction September October 2018-smallI think the annual “slightly spooky” issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction, traditionally their September/October issue, is my favorite every year. And this year’s does not disappoint, with an endless graveyard, witches, secret cities, sinister aliens, and a vampire novella by Greg Egan!

This issue contains fiction by Carrie Vaughn, Suzanne Palmer, Sheila Finch, Leah Cypess, Robert Reed, and many others. Here’s editor Sheila Williams’ description.

Our annual slightly spooky September/October 2018 issue is rising out of the gloaming. It’s filled with chills and thrills! In our terrifying cover story, “3-adica,” you’ll find vampires and other evil monsters as well as all the math you might expect from Greg Egan. There are many secrets to decode in this frightening novella. Don’t miss it!

You’ll rendezvous with more alarming creatures in Carrie Vaughn’s tale of “The Huntsman and the Beast”; discover what it’s like to be under the control of a rigid democracy with alien influences in Robert Reed’s “Denali”; walk through an endless graveyard with Sheila Finch to meet some eerie “Survivors”; see the lighter side of humanity’s eventual doom in Suzanne Palmer’s “R.U.R.-8?”; and observe true bravery in Doug C. Souza’s “Callisto Stakes.” In her first Asimov’s tale, Stephanie Feldman reveals why it’s a good idea to beware “The Witch of Osborne Park”; new author Erin Roberts paints a perfect picture of horror in “The Grays of Cestus V”; Rick Wilber’s taut new novella about Moe Berg divulges the location of “The Secret City”; David Erik Nelson encounters excruciating horror “In the Sharing Place”; Leah Cypess tells a haunting tale about why Revenge is “Best Served Slow”; and in her unsettling first story for Asimov’s Jean Marie Ward invites us to jump into “The Wrong Refrigerator.”

“I Invent the Compact Disc in 1961,” says Robert Silverberg in his Reflections column, and he’s delighted to have done so; James Patrick Kelly’s On the Net considers the “X O”; Norman Spinrad’s On Books goes “Outside the Envelope” to review works by Jeff Noon, Michael Houellebecq, and Boualem Sansal; plus we’ll have an array of poetry and other features you’re sure to enjoy.

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