Best of the Small Magazines: The Digest Enthusiast #11, Pulp Modern: Tech Noir, and Weird Fiction Review #9

Saturday, February 29th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Digest Enthusiast 11-small Pulp Modern Tech Noir-small Weird Fiction Review 9a

Covers by Rick McCollum, Ran Scott, and Colin Nitta

One of the great pleasures of the science fiction and fantasy genre is the fine selection of small magazines, covering a wide range of specialty interests. It’s only the sheer size of SFF fandom that allows these magazines to exist, and for like-minded communities to form around them. Here’s a few of my recent favorites.

The Digest Enthusiast was founded by Arkay Olgar in 2014, and has been published every six months by Larque Press since. It’s now edited by Richard Krauss, who does a fine job, and in fact issues have been getting bigger and more ambitious every year. Book Eleven, cover dated January 2020, is a whopping 159 pages in full color, and they look gorgeous.

The Digest Enthusiast is dedicated to the world of 20th Century digest magazines, and this issue includes a lengthy feature on Astounding by Ward Smith, Black Gate blogger Steve Carper looks at the time when the cover to Journey to Murder was accidentally overprinted on Terror by Twilight in 1945, and Richard Krauss pens a 32-page retropsective and checklist of one of the best known pulps editors in the 1930s and 1940s, a man who edited more than 70 publications and bought two millions words a month, in “Leo Margulies: Giant of the Digests.” The issue also contains interviews with writer and artist Janice Law, writer Paul D. Marks, and Manhunt editor Jeff Vorzimmer, plus fiction by Joe Wehrle, Vince Nowell, Sr., and John Kuharik.

The Digest Enthusiast interiors, rich with high-detail scans of magazine covers on nearly every page, greatly benefit from the full-color treatment. Here’s a few samples.

Read More »


io9 on All the New SF & Fantasy You Need to Know About in February

Thursday, February 27th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Puzzler's War-small The Last Smile in Sunder City-small The Firmament of Flame-small

As the months go by I feel the loss of the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog keenly. It shut down on December 16th of last year, firing all freelancers and halting production of new content. That included Jeff Somers’ monthly survey of the best genre books, which I’d grown to depend on to keep me reliably informed. Fortunately there are fine other resources for book junkies, like Cheryl Eddy’s monthly new book column at io9/Gizmodo. This month Cheryl looks at 43 new titles from Seanan McGuire, Alastair Reynolds, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Ken Liu, Ben Aaronovitch, Katharine Kerr, Gareth L. Powell, R.E. Stearns, C.L. Polk, Sarah Gailey, Melissa de la Cruz, Justina Ireland, Cate Glass, and many others.

Here’s a few of the highlights. First up is the sequel to The Lost Puzzler, Eyal Kless’ tale of a lowly scribe sent out in world full of puzzles, tattooed mutants, and warring guilds, which we covered last year.

The Puzzler’s War by Eyal Kless (Harper Voyager, 560 pages, $17.99 trade paperback/$11.99 digital, February 4, 2020)

This follow-up to sci-fi adventure The Lost Puzzler finds a variety of characters — including an assassin, a warlord, and a mercenary — tracking down a teenage boy who may the only person able to save the world by solving the ultimate puzzle.

My underground contacts tell me The Puzzler’s War is the second novel in what’s being called The Tarakan Chronicles.

Read More »


Every Nation Schemes its Master Stroke: Spies! by SPI

Sunday, February 23rd, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

SPI board game Spies 3-small

When I moved to Urbana, Illinois in 1987 to start grad school, I left behind a lively game group in my home town in Ottawa, and I missed it.

Fortunately Urbana has its own thriving gaming community (or at least it did, 30 years ago), and it wasn’t long before I fell in with a group of students who also enjoyed gaming. We traded Amiga games, gathered around lab PCs to play Starflight, and got together on weekends to try more ambitious diversions. One of the highlights for me was SPI’s Spies!, a fascinating and historical game of life-and-death spycraft in the run-up to World War II.

Typical of SPI games of the era, it was both fun to play and educational, and it gave me a newfound appreciation for the complexities of politics in pre-war Europe, and the dangerous games of brinksmanship played out in public and behind the scenes. It also helped bring to life an historical era I didn’t have a whole lot of interest in, and sparked an interest in World War II that has lingered to this day. If you’ve got some friends or family members whom you’d like to interest in 20th Century European history, trust me, this game is the way to do it.

Read More »


SFWA Announces the 2019 Nebula Award Nominations

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Ten Thousand Doors of January-small Gods of Jade and Shadow-small Gideon the Ninth-small

It’s nearly the end of February. And that means that the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) has finally put an end to all that suspense, and announced the nominees for the 2019 Nebula Awards, one of the most prestigious awards our industry has to offer.

This year’s nominees are:

Novel

Marque of Caine, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix E. Harrow (Redhook; Orbit UK)
A Memory Called Empire, Arkady Martine (Tor)
Gods of Jade and Shadow, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey; Jo Fletcher)
Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com Publishing)
A Song for a New Day, Sarah Pinsker (Berkley)

Read More »


Rebecca Diem on The New Golden Age of the SFF Novella

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Lights Go Out in Lychford-small Riot Baby-small Prosper's Demon-small Upright Women Wanted-small

I complain frequently about modern publishing (where did mass market anthologies go, damn it!?) but  really, there’s a lot to like. One of the most positive recent trends has been the resurgence of the novella. We’ve spent a lot of time at Black Gate covering popular new novellas like Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s This Is How You Lose the Time War and Tor.com‘s exciting release schedule (in Intergalactic Wars, Ancient Gods, and Living Ships: New Novellas from Tor.com, among others), but we’re not the only ones who have noticed.

Over at Tor.com Rebecca Diem, author of the 4-volume Tales of the Captain Duke novella series, salutes the modern age of the novella. She touches on many truths in her article; here’s a small taste.

With a good novella, I’m able to dip my toes into an adventure, especially when a busy schedule prevents me from dedicating time to longer works. Short stories pair well with your morning coffee; novels are best for long stretches of uninterrupted time on evenings or weekends. Novellas fit nicely into a tote bag for your commute and all those spare moments collected over the course of the day, but can also be finished in a couple hours for a satisfying and immersive reading experience.

When I was researching market opportunities in 2014 after finishing my first novella, I stumbled on a lot of advice similar to this 2008 Writer’s Digest piece advising novella writers to “stick it in a drawer” or pad it out to a full-length work… But novellas are now being actively solicited by all major publishers, and early adopters of the trend toward shorter works (including Tor.com) are leading the field with awards and accolades.

The novella’s comeback can be attributed to the emergence and increasingly popularity of e-books, print-on-demand publishing, and alternative distribution models, making them a more attractive, lucrative option in the digital age. There are rich opportunities here for both writers and readers of concise, efficient storytelling.

Rebecca’s article is Long Live Short Fiction: The New Golden Age of the SFF Novella; it’s well worth the read. And while we’re on the topic, here’s a handful of Tor.com‘s upcoming releases that caught my eye, including Sarah Gailey’s “good old-fashioned horse opera for the 22nd century” (Charles Stross) Upright Women Wanted.

Read More »


The 2019 Locus Recommended Reading List

Sunday, February 9th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Twisted Ones-small The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction-small The Best of Greg Egan-small Roy G. Krenkel Father of Heroic Fantasy - A Centennial Celebration-small

The annual Locus Recommended Reading List is probably your best one-stop reference for all that’s new and exciting in book releases. It’s compiled by the staff and editors of Locus magazine, plus the contributing columnists, outside reviewers, and “other professionals and critics of genre fiction and non-fiction” — folks like Jonathan Strahan, Liz Bourke, Carolyn Cushman, Paul Di Filippo, Paula Guran, Rich Horton, Russell Letson, Gary K. Wolfe, Mark R. Kelly, Cheryl Morgan, John Joseph Adams, Ellen Datlow, John DeNardo, Charles Payseur, Sean Wallace, and many, many others.

The 2019 list appeared in the February issue of Locus magazine, on sale now, and was also published in its entirety last week at the Locus Online website.

Be prepared to take notes. The list includes several hundred titles in a dozen categories, including Science Fiction Novels, Fantasy Novels, Horror Novels, Young Adult Novels, Collections, Anthologies, Non Fiction, Illustrated and Art Books, Novellas, Short Fiction, and others.

I’m a Locus subscriber, and have been for nearly three decades. The magazine is a tremendous resource for anyone who’s serious about science fiction. Each issue is packed with in-depth reviews, interviews, news, photos, convention reports, entertaining features, and a lot more. Why not check it out? Digital subscriptions start at just $4.99 a month. Do yourself a favor and buy a sample issue here.


The Ash-Tree Anthologies, edited by Barbara Roden and Christopher Roden

Sunday, February 2nd, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Acquainted with the Night-smaller At Ease With the Dead-smaller Shades of Darkness-smaller

Covers by Jason Van Hollander

Ash-Tree Press was a highly respected small press publisher of ghostly fiction. It was founded in Ashcroft, British Columbia, in 1994 by Christopher and Barbara Roden, and over the next 20 years produced 160+ collections, anthologies and novels of supernatural fiction, mostly reprints. They published volumes by M. R. James, H. R. Wakefield, A. M. Burrage, David G. Rowlands, Richard Marsh, Robert W. Chambers, E. F. Benson, Margery Lawrence, Marjorie Bowen, Alice Askew and Claude Askew, Jonathan Aycliffe, Frederick Cowles, and many, many others. Their handsome books, produced in very small print runs (anywhere from 5-500 copies, but typically  200-300), were usually outside my price range, but I certainly coveted them. The last one appeared in 2013.

In addition to premium reprints aimed at the collectors market, the Rodens had a keen interest in modern ghost fiction, and they published a lot of it. They took over the reins of All Hallows, the Journal Of The Ghost Story Society, with issue #6 in June 1994, and turned it into a thick regular anthology (the last issue, #43, was a whopping 304 pages) published every four months. And they produced five original anthologies between 1997 – 2008, including three nicely affordable paperback editions: Acquainted with the Night, At Ease with the Dead, and Shades of Darkness. All three had delightful covers by Jason Van Hollander.

Van Hollander’s intricate cover paintings are both modern and traditional in the best sense. They’re strangely detailed portraits of overcrowded medieval towns, with houses that huddle together in fear (or maybe just to gossip). The townsfolk remind me of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas — garrulous small town characters with colorful personalities, hurrying through the streets on mundane tasks, and who for the most part are dead. Ghosts drift through eaves, long tendrils of mist coil out of the river, brightly adorned skeletons wave to neighbours, and inhuman watchmen shuffle through the night streets, clutching lanterns.

Read More »


Yes, Weird Tales is Back

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Weird Tales 363-small

Cover by Abigail Larson

A few months ago I started to hear rumors that Weird Tales, the most storied and collectible American fantasy magazine of all time, had returned. Whispers, really. But I’d been hearing whispers for the last six years, ever since the last issue appeared from Nth Dimension Media, and especially since I published the article “Is Weird Tales Dead… Again?” in 2016. So I didn’t pay much attention.

But then I heard more reliable reports, and started to see listings online…. and then I ordered a copy, and right now I’m holding it in my hot little hands. And I can report that, in fact, Weird Tales is back.

It returns with a new publisher, Weird Tales Inc., but the same editor, Marvin Kaye, who took over the editorial reins from Ann VanderMeer in 2011, and managed only three issues in the last nine years. But the magazine looks terrific, with glossy paper and full color interiors, and an impressive Table of Contents, including stories by Victor LaValle, Jonathan Maberry, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and others. Not to mention an eye-catching cover by Abigail Larson, a tribute to perhaps the most iconic Weird Tales image of all time, the famous bat woman cover by Margaret Brundage.

Is Weird Tales back for good? Too early to tell — though to be fair Weird Tales has never exactly been a stable publication. (There’s a reason it’s called “The Magazine That Never Dies,” it keeps having to be resurrected.) There are the usual troubling signs already, including the fact that the website they proudly promote on the back page (weirdtales.com) is down already. But this looks like a quality package, and I’m hopeful. Let’s have a closer look at the contents.

Read More »


A Classic Science Fiction Simulator: Howard Andrew Jones and Todd McAulty on Traveller

Sunday, January 19th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Traveller Role Playing Game closeup-small

Classic Traveller box set (Games Designers Workshop, 1977)

Over at Tor.com, Howard Andrew Jones and I (under my pseudonym Todd McAulty, the name I use for fiction writing) have posted an article on Classic Traveller, a science fiction role playing game we both dearly love. Here’s a taste.

Todd: It’s fair to say that Classic Traveller was basically a ‘50s/’60s science fiction simulator. It was deeply inspired and influenced by the mid-century SF of E.C. Tubb, H. Beam Piper, Keith Laumer, Harry Harrison, Isaac Asimov, Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, and most especially Poul Anderson.

Howard: Classic Traveller was very light on setting—

Todd: To put it mildly!

Howard: —but it sketched the scene in broad strokes. Players adventured in a human-dominated galaxy riven by conflict, thousands of years in the future. The star-spanning civilization of that future looked an awful lot like the galactic civilizations imagined by Asimov, Anderson, Jack Vance, Gene Roddenberry and others.

The two of us had a lot of fun, but I have to say the article got a lot more interesting once E. E. Knight showed up to share some of his experiences at the gaming table.

Read More »


The Best in Modern Sword & Sorcery: The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Volume 3

Sunday, January 12th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Volume 3-small The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Volume 3-back-small

Cover by Zoltan

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly has been published, like clockwork, every quarter since June 2009. And every eight issues, like clockwork, the editors of HFQ assemble a Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly volume, as a way to celebrate another milestone and promote their worthy magazine.

These books are top-notch examples of modern sword & sorcery (and I’m not just saying that because I was invited to write the introduction for Volume I.) In his review of Volume I, Fletcher Vredenburgh wrote:

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly is… the most consistent forum for the best in contemporary swords & sorcery. Some may think I’m laying it on a little thick, but The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly: Volume 1, 2009-2011, a distillation of the mag’s first three years, should prove that I’m not.

Volume III has just arrived, with a dynamic cover by Zoltan and stories by Charles Gramlich, P. Djéli Clark, Adrian Simmons, David Farney, and many others — plus an introduction by Darrell Schweitzer, and original art for each story by Miguel Santos, Justin Pfiel, Garry McCluskey, Robert Zoltan, and others. It’s an all-around gorgeous package, and a fine reminder that Heroic Fantasy is still a vibrant genre in the 21st Century. Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

Read More »


« Later Entries   Earlier Entries »

This site © 2020 by New Epoch Press. All rights reserved.