I’ve followed Matt Ruff’s career since his 1988 debut novel Fool on the Hill, a modern fairy tale set in the campus of Cornell University. His more recent novels include Set This House in Order, the tale of a man with hundreds of personalities who’s asked to assist a co-worker also afflicted with multiple personality disorder, and The Mirage, an alternative history of 9/11.
His latest novel blends historical fiction, pulp noir, and Lovecraftian horror as it follows a black man on his journey across America. A journey in which he faces police harassment, discrimination… and the attentions of something far darker.
Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, 22-year-old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide — and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite — heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors — they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.
At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn — led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb — which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his — and the whole Turner clan’s — destruction.
A chimerical blend of magic, power, hope, and freedom that stretches across time, touching diverse members of two black families, Lovecraft Country is a devastating kaleidoscopic portrait of racism — the terrifying specter that continues to haunt us today.
Lovecraft Country will be published by Harper on February 16, 2016. It is 384 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $11.99 in digital format.
Sometimes, you just want a good tale of alien invasion.
Mark Alpert’s The Orion Plan, a novel of first contact with a sinister alien intelligence, might just be what I’m looking for. Alpert is the author of Extinction and The Furies, which Booklist called a “carefully constructed alternate history of witchcraft — and sorcery too… very clever.” The Orion Plan goes on sale next week from Thomas Dunne.
Scientists thought that Earth was safe from invasion. The distance between stars is so great that it seemed impossible for even the most advanced civilizations to send a large spaceship from one star system to another.
But now an alien species ― from a planet hundreds of light-years from Earth ― has found a way.
A small spherical probe lands in an empty corner of New York City. It soon drills into the ground underneath, drawing electricity from the power lines to jump-start its automated expansion and prepare for alien colonization. When the government proves slow to react, NASA scientist Dr. Sarah Pooley realizes she must lead the effort to stop the probe before it becomes too powerful. Meanwhile, the first people who encounter the alien device are discovering just how insidious this interstellar intruder can be.
The Orion Plan will be published by Thomas Dunne Books on February 16, 2016. It is 322 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover was designed by Ervin Serrano.
Come on, who doesn’t love a haunted house story? I know I do. So I was very pleased to stumble on David A. Sutton’s upcoming anthology Haunts of Horror, which contains six novellas that explore the idea of the haunted house — but with a modern twist. The settings include “A seaside home, a school, a fantasy castle, a lighthouse, a wooden hut, a run-down tower block — all tainted by an abnormal atmosphere.” Yes, please! Here’s the TOC.
“Today We Were Astronauts,” Allen Ashley
“The Listener,” Samantha Lee
“The School House,” Simon Bestwick
“The House on the Western Border,” Gary Fry
“The Retreat,” Paul Finch
“The Worst of All Possible Places,” David A. Riley
Editor David A. Sutton has won the World Fantasy Award, The International Horror Guild Award, and twelve British Fantasy Awards; his previous anthologies include Fantasy Tales, Dark Voices, Dark Terrors, and Horror on the High Seas. Haunts of Horror was originally published in hardcover as Houses on the Borderland in 2008, by The British Fantasy Society. The new trade paperback edition will be published by Shadow Publishing on February 26, 2016. It is 322 pages, priced at $16 (order direct here). No word yet on a digital version. The splendidly spooky cover is by Edward Miller.
In her article for us last February, The Making of a Dark Fantasy Anthology, Salomé Jones talked about the creation of her first fantasy anthology, the Lovecraftian volume Cthulhu Lives! Her second, Cthulhu Lies Dreaming: Twenty-Three Tales of the Weird and Cosmic, is due later this month from Ghostwoods Books.
I asked Salomé about the challenges of putting together a follow-up to a successful anthology, and she gave us a peak behind the curtain at what it took to create the eye-catching cover at right.
We had a massive amount of trouble with this cover. It’s like it was cursed. For the first book, Cthulhu Lives!, we used a photo of a special edition amulet by Jason McKittrick, Lovecraftian sculptor. We wanted to create something that would be recognizable to readers of that book, so we went back to Jason to look for a sculpture to photograph.
Because we needed a very high res image for print, I had the sculpture sent to a photographer in London. But through various contortions of fate, he wasn’t able to get a photo of it that worked. After eight months of waiting, I ordered a new copy of the sculpture, this time sent to a photographer in California. To my great surprise, months passed and still no photo. In the meantime, I started getting cold feet about the whole idea.
Gábor, our designer, contacted me and said he’d found a possibility — a sculpture by Hollywood prosthetics designer and sculptor Lee Joyner. I very nervously contacted him. He turned out to be extremely nice and we came to an agreement. And this is the result.
Pay attention, all you aspiring cover designers. This is how patience and determination — not to mention a little risk-taking — can pay off.
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John DeNardo gets it. It’s not a lack of choice that keeps us from choosing what to read… it’s that there are too many great books to choose from!
As the February lineup of science-fiction, fantasy, and horror books will prove, it’s not a lack of books that make it difficult to find something to read. If anything, there are too many books to read. Here’s a list of books to help you narrow down your selection. I’d say “choose wisely”… but all of these are sure bets. Titles this month include a serial killer, merfolk, human trafficking, illegal magic, a Lovecraftian demon, and more.
The Guns of Ivrea by Clifford Beal
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: The fates of a former thief, a pirate mercenary, and the daughter of the chief of the merfolk converge on a series of events that could mean war.
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: This is the first installment of what promises to be a swashbuckling seafaring fantasy series.
Graft by Matt Hill
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: In near-future Manchester, a local mechanic named Sol who steals car parts stumbles onto a trans-dimensional human trafficking conspiracy.DreamingDeath
WHY YOU MIGHT LIKE IT: The chase is on as Sol and a three-armed woman named Y run from their pursuers.
Read the complete article, with 16 selections of top-notch February fantasy and SF, here.
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Adrian Tchaikovsky is a British fantasy writer whose claim to fame is the ambitious 10-volume series Shadows of the Apt, published in the US by Pyr, which began with Empire in Black and Gold (2008). In his Black Gate review “Epic Musket Fights and Vampire-Like Magic,” M Harold Page called his 2015 novel Guns of the Dawn “a supremely good read with a satisfying ending.”
His newest novel, The Tiger and the Wolf, kicks off a brand new series, about a young girl coming of age in a dangerous world of shapeshifters on the brink of war. It will be published in the UK next week. No word on a US release date, but Amazon UK will ship the book to the US.
In the bleak northern crown of the world, war is coming
Maniye’s father is the Wolf clan’s chieftain, but she’s an outcast. Her mother was queen of the Tiger and these tribes have been enemies for generations. Maniye also hides a deadly secret. All can shift into their clan’s animal form, but Maniye can take on tiger and wolf shapes. She refuses to disown half her soul, so escapes, rescuing a prisoner of the Wolf clan in the process. The killer Broken Axe is set on their trail, to drag them back for retribution.
Maniye’s father plots to rule the north and controlling his daughter is crucial to his schemes. However, other tribes also prepare for strife. Strangers from the far south appear too, seeking allies in their own conflict. It’s a season for omens as priests foresee danger, and a darkness falling across the land. Some say a great war is coming, overshadowing even Wolf ambitions. A time of testing and broken laws is near, but what spark will set the world ablaze?
The Tiger and the Wolf will be published in the UK by Tor-Macmillan on February 11. It is 590 pages, priced at £18 in hardcover and £11.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Neil Lang.
Never let it be said that Victor Gischler is not a versatile writer. His most recent novel, Gestapo Mars, was an over-the-top tale of interstellar Nazi mayhem, and his graphic novel, Deadpool: Merc With A Mouth, was a tale of undead mercenary dinosaur mayhem (among lots of other mayhem).
Compared to those, A Painted Goddess is actually a pretty straightforward tale. It’s the conclusion to the A Fire Beneath the Skin trilogy, in which the young warrior duchess Rina Veraiin, armed with mysterious, magical tattoos, must draw on all her abilities to save her kingdom of Helva from a nightmarish future of endless bloodshed. The first two volumes, Ink Mage (2014) and The Tattooed Duchess (2015), are still available from 47North.
A Painted Goddess will be published by 47North on March 15, 2016. It is 400 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $4.99 for the trade paperback. The cover is by Chase Stone — see his gorgeous wraparound version here.
Mark Sumner is one of Black Gate‘s most popular writers. When his short story “Leather Doll” appeared in Black Gate 7, The Internet Review of Science Fiction called it “absolutely riveting… [a] masterpiece of contemporary science fiction,” and his serialized novel The Naturalist became one of the most acclaimed tales in our long history. (All three BG installments of The Naturalist were collected under one cover in 2014.)
Now Mark has kicked off an ambitious new project, publishing a brand new serial novel at the political blog Daily Kos, where he has been a writer for several years. The first installment went live today:
This is the first installment of a new novel, On Whetsday. The book was inspired by recent events, old attitudes, and the long-held conviction that science fiction’s ability to create a fresh angle on society is more than just a parlor trick. On Whetsday is my first new work in several years. It will be available from my friends at Word Posse both as an ebook and in genuine wood pulp. The book is also available as a podcast, with voices provided by Raymond Shinn and Rett Macpherson.
The artwork today [at right] comes from Amy Jones, our own Ashes of Roses. I think it’s fantastic.
This is, in fact, the first new novel from Mark since the last installment of The Naturalist appeared in Black Gate in 2009, and I’m thrilled to see it. A new Mark Sumner novel is a major publishing event.
Check out the first installment of On Whetsday here.
I first heard of Mark Morris in 1989 with the publication of his first novel Toady (called The Horror Club in its heavily abridged US edition). I tried to scare up a copy through mail-order bookseller Mark V. Ziesing (because that’s the way you ordered books in the late 80s), but it had already become a hot property, and Mark wasn’t able to get one for me. Sudden scarcity and rapid price appreciation was the way of things in genre collecting in the late 80s; it kept things interesting. I never did track down a copy of Toady, but ever since I’ve kept an eye on Mark Morris.
Morris has written over a dozen novels since, including Stitch (1991), The Immaculate (1993), Longbarrow (1997), It Sustains (2013) and Horror Hospital (2014), in addition to nine Doctor Who novels and audio plays (see his complete back catalog on his website). His latest is the Obsidian Heart trilogy from Titan Books, the tale of reformed ex-con Alex Locke, whose attempt to steal a strange artifact from an old man ends with him on the run from the Wolves of London, a team of unearthly assassins. Sarah Pinborough says, “Mark Morris not only crosses genre boundaries, but creates an entirely new territory in the landscape of dark fiction. Part crime novel, part fantasy, part science fiction – entirely engrossing.” The complete series is:
The Wolves of London (400 pages, $14.95, October 7, 2014)
The Society of Blood (297 pages, $14.95, October 13, 2015)
The Wraiths of War (400 pages, $14.95, October 11, 2016)
Each volume in the series has been released in October; the second, The Society of Blood, three months ago. The last is due later this year.
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For the past three years Chris A. Jackson, author of The Warcaster Chronicles, has been writing an ambitious fantasy saga for the Pathfinder Tales line, featuring pirate captain Torius Vin and his snake-bodied naga navigator Celeste, who forsake pirating to chase slave galleys and set the prisoners free. According to his bio, Jackson is a marine biologist who, with his wife Anne, has lived on a 45-foot sailboat since 2009, cruising the Caribbean and writing full time. Sounds like an ideal lifestyle to write pirate sagas to me.
The series began in 2013 with Pirate’s Promise, and the third volume, Pirate’s Prophecy, will be released next week from Tor.
Pirate’s Honor (400 pages, $9.99, $6.99 in digital format, May 14, 2013)
Pirate’s Promise (400 pages, $14.99, $6.99 in digital format, January 6, 2015) — cover by Michael Ivan
Pirates Prophecy (357 pages, 14.99, $9.99 in digital format, February 2, 2016) — cover by Remko Troost
The first two were published by Paizo; Pirates Prophecy is the first in the series to be published by Tor Books.
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