Uncanny as a Ventriloquist’s Doll: Nothing is Everything by Simon Strantzas

Monday, September 17th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Nothing is Everything Simon Strantzas hc-small Nothing is Everything Simon Strantzas hc-back-small

Art by Aron Wiesenfeld

In 2014 I wasn’t familiar with the work of Simon Strantzas, but I bought his collection Burnt Black Suns mostly on the reputation of its lead story “On Ice,” a grim novella of arctic horror. By 2018, however, Simon is the one with the reputation, and it’s growing steadily with every story.

His new collection Nothing is Everything, on sale in hardcover and trade paperback from Michael Kelly’s Undertow Press next month, has already drawn a lot of attention. Kij Johnson says “Simon Strantzas is Shirley Jackson-grade eerie,” and Camilla Grudova, author of The Doll’s Alphabet, says:

Simon Strantzas captures the creepiness of small town Ontario; there is something of Seth, of Alice Munro in his work, wonderfully tangled with the likes of Aickman and Jackson. Uncanny as a ventriloquist’s doll, but with a real, beating heart.

Undertow is simultaneously releasing hardcover and trade paperback editions with different covers. Both are very fine, but the hardcover, with art by Aron Wiesenfeld (above), is particularly arresting. The trade paperback (below) features art by Tran Nguyen. Both were designed by Vince Haig.

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Future Treasures: Strange Ink by Gary Kemble

Saturday, September 15th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Strange Ink Gary Kemble-small

No surprise that as we slip into Fall, publisher schedules start to fill up with more horror volumes. What is surprising is the number of intriguing debuts I’m seeing, like Gary Kemble’s Strange Ink, arriving in trade paperback from Titan next month. Publishers Weekly thought very highly of the book; here’s a snippet from their review.

In Kemble’s taut, suspenseful debut set in Brisbane, Australia, local and international concerns combine with the supernatural. Small-time journalist Harry Hendrick wakes up after a stag party with a hangover and a new tattoo he has no memory of getting. When he starts having intense nightmares, he quickly realizes his new tattoo is far from ordinary. More inexplicable tattoos begin appearing, bringing more nightmares, which Harry suspects may actually be someone else’s disturbing memories. Those memories have strong political implications, and Harry must solve the mystery they present before a depraved villain becomes prime minister. The novel’s gritty realism viscerally and effectively conveys the discomfort of new ink, the oppressive heat of the Queensland summer, and the horrors of war and murder… This is a strong debut by a promising new voice.

Strange Ink will be published by Titan Books on October 9, 2018. It is 391 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $7.99 for the digital edition. The cover art is by Studio London.

See all our recent coverage of the best in upcoming fantasy here.


Explore the Outer Rim with Space Pioneers, edited by Hank Davis and Christopher Ruocchio

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Space Pioneers full cover-small

Back in June I wrote a brief piece about Hank Davis’s upcoming Baen anthology Space Pioneers, a collection of new and classic SF tales of space exploration. Hank recently sent me an update on the book, and it keeps looking better and better. In June Baen listed it as 304 pages, but the PDF copy Hank sent me is a whopping 512 pages, packed with fiction by Clifford D. Simak, Poul Anderson, Fredric Brown, Larry Niven, Murray Leinster, Edmond Hamilton, Manly Wade Wellman, Robert A. Heinlein, Theodore Sturgeon, Jerry Pournelle, Tony Daniel, and many more.

For a mass market paperback priced at $7.99, this is a real treasure trove. Here’s Hank:

I’m presently proofing the pages for Space Pioneers, coming from Baen around Turkey Day. Figuring you would like to see those pages, I’m passing them on to you, with the warning that this is the virtually unproofed version, so please keep that in mind.

Some of the typos I’ve seen so far, such as “Frederik Brown,” “Lester del Ray,” and other reasons-to-slit-editorial-wrists will be fixed, but I’m sure I’ll miss something until it is in cold, dry, unforgiving print for all the world to see…

And also attached is the nearly final version of the paperback’s wraparound cover. Aside from the back cover and spine now being visible, it differs from the one I sent you a few months back in having Robert A. Heinlein’s name on the front, replacing Jerry Pournelle, who will now be on the back cover. If it isn’t too late (and I won’t know that until the survivors return from DragonCon), I’m going to add Clifford D. Simak to the names on the back cover.

Hank’s co-editor for the project is Christopher Ruocchio, whose first anthology for Baen was Star Destroyers, (co-edited with Tony Daniel), and whose debut novel Empire of Silence has been getting lots of acclaim.

Here’s a peek at the updated table of contents for Space Pioneers.

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Future Treasures: In the Night Woods by Dale Bailey

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

In the Night Wood Dale Bailey-smallI’ve been writing about short fiction at Black Gate for over a decade, and over those years the name Dale Bailey keeps popping up.

He’s had a successful series of tales inspired by 50s monster movies (“I Married a Monster from Outer Space,” “Teenagers from Outer Space,” “I Was a Teenage Werewolf,” and “Invasion of the Saucer-Men”) in Asimov’s, Nightmare and Clarkesworld, and his fiction has appeared in many Year’s Best volumes. His novels include The Fallen (2002), House of Bones (2003), and The Subterranean Season (2015).

His latest is In the Night Woods, forthcoming from John Joseph Adams Books. The Kirkus review is pretty tantalizing:

Bailey’s novel has every aspect of gothic horror: the drafty manor, the shady servants, the tortured protagonists. The writing is dense with allusions and details, the narrative twisting and turning in the same way the Night Wood distorts the senses of anyone who wanders into it. The writing does get a bit convoluted and hard to follow at times, but it’s in keeping with the atmosphere of subtle dread that permeates the novel. The book is surprisingly short, and there’s a lot of buildup to a very quick climax… The succession of reveals in the frantic last 30 or so pages, however, is tense and disturbing, satisfying for any horror fan.

A modern gothic horror done right.

We previously covered Bailey’s 2015 collection The End of the End of Everything.

In the Night Woods arrives from John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on October 9, 2018. It’s 224 pages, priced at $23 in hardcover, and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Andrew Davidson. Read more here.

Here’s the publisher’s description.

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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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Future Treasures: Vengeful, Book 2 of Villains by V. E. Schwab

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Vicious V E Schwab-small Vicious V E Schwab-back-small Vengeful V E Schwab-small

V. E. Schwab (who also writes YA fantasy under the name Victoria Schwab) is one of the few — indeed, perhaps the only — author with a bestselling superhero fiction saga that doesn’t belong to Disney or Warner Bros. Her Shades of Magic trilogy, the epic tale of an ambassador and smuggler who travels between parallel Londons, was a New York Times bestseller, and This Savage Song, the opening volume of her Monsters of Verity series, set in a divided city overrun with monsters, was both a #1 New York Times bestseller and an Amazon Best Book of the Year.

Matthew Surridge was the first person to bring her to my attention, with his 2014 Black Gate review of Vicious, the opening novel inVillains. Here’s Matthew:

Ten years ago, Victor Vale and Eli Cardale (later Eli Ever) are brilliant pre-med students who discover that near-death experiences can, under certain circumstances, grant survivors strange powers. They experiment, things go wrong, and while they both get powers, they end up as enemies. Now, in the present, Victor’s gotten out of prison, recruited some assistants, and is seeking out Eli — who himself has been up to some surprising things in the previous years, having come to hate the extraordinary people (or EOs) gifted with powers…

I think Vicious is interesting precisely because it straddles genres. It attenuates some of the signifiers of the super-hero genre (costumes, code-names, and so on) while maintaining others. And the result, I feel, moves the story in the direction of another genre. It moves it toward the gothic… It comes to feel a little like some of the early Vertigo comics, the Morrison and Pollack Doom Patrol, perhaps Nocenti’s Kid Eternity or Peter Milligan’s Shade: clear super-heroic elements mixed with a greyer world and some elements of horror. It’s not as complex as the best of the Vertigo books, but has a narrative drive many of them lacked… It’s fascinating to see the gothic emerging from under the skin of the super-hero genre. And as a character study, it succeeds, integrating flashbacks while maintaining narrative momentum. It reads smoothly, swiftly, and well.

Vengeful, the long-awaited second novel, arrives in hardcover from Tor on September 25. Here’s the description.

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Future Treasures: Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction, edited by Irene Gallo

Friday, August 31st, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Worlds Seen in Passing Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction-smallTor.com is one of the finest genre websites on the planet. Originally created to promote Tor Books, it has taken on a very substantial life of its own, with news, art, commentary, thoughtful re-reads of many of my favorite novels (and more than a few that I’ve overlooked)… and especially fiction. It’s become widely renowned for its top-notch fiction, from many of the biggest names in the genre.

How did it all start? Tor.com publisher Irene Gallo tells all in the Preface to Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction, a feast of a book collecting 40 of the best stories published at the site over the years.

Tor.com celebrated its tenth anniversary on July 20, 2018 — the forty-ninth anniversary of the first manned moon landing. It started out innocently enough. In 2006, our publisher, Fritz Foy, while attending the Tor Books holiday party, pulled Patrick and Theresa Nielsen Hayden and me aside and said he wanted to create “a river of conversation, art, and fiction” within the SF/F community — an online magazine that crossed the borders between publishers and media.

It took us a couple years to get off the ground. During that time, whenever we felt lost in the process, we’d come back to the word “genuine.” We wanted to build a place that treated science fiction and fantasy (and related subjects) with gravitas and humor, a place to have fun without shying away from weightier, more thoughtful subjects. In short, we wanted to build a place where we wanted to hang out…

We knew from the start that fiction was always going to be at the heart of Tor.com. As publishers it made sense, but also… the entire site is dedicated to storytelling. Of course we wanted fiction to be our focal point. We have since published hundreds of original stories, along with art, reprints, comics, and poems — all of which are a source of pride for us, as well as bringing enjoyment to our readers.

This is a very substantial volume — 567 pages! — and it’s packed with fiction from the best writers in the industry, including Kathleen Ann Goonan, Jeff VanderMeer, Leigh Bardugo, Lavie Tidhar, A.M. Dellamonica, Dale Bailey, Tina Connolly, Max Gladstone, Alyssa Wong, Genevieve Valentine, Kij Johnson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Rachel Swirsky, Ken Liu, Ruthanna Emrys, Isabel Yap, Helen Marshall, Pat Murphy, Kameron Hurley, Yoon Ha Lee, N. K. Jemisin, Carrie Vaughn, Charlie Jane Anders, and many, many others.

Here’s the publisher’s description.

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The Strangest Alien: Julie E. Czerneda’s Esen-alit-Quar Returns in Two New Books

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Webshifters Julie E Czerneda-small

Julie E. Czerneda is one of the leading SF writers of the 21st Century. A biologist by trade, she’s brought a unique appreciation for the far-ranging possibilities of extraterrestrial biology to her fiction, and the result has been some of the most joyously alien characters in all of modern SF. One of her most popular characters is Esen-alit-Quar, the alien protagonist of the Web Shifters trilogy (Beholder’s EyeChanging Vision, and Hidden in Sight), published by DAW between 1998-2003. Who or what is Esen? Here’s Julie, in an essay she wrote for The Little Red Reviewer.

Short answer? A blob of blue, shaped like a teardrop. Who happens to be a semi-immortal shapeshifter. Who has really good intentions… but is working on her life skills.

Writing Esen’s attempts to protect life in the universe – or at least keep it civil – makes me happy and always has. As it turned out, Esen made you happy too, dear readers. I’ve received more feedback and love from you for the Dear Little Blob than for all my other work combined.

For those unfamiliar with my work, I’m a biologist by training, an optimist by preference, and have been writing the stories I want to read for quite a while now, thanks to Sheila Gilbert and DAW Books. If you read and enjoy my other SF, you’ll find Esen’s stories funnier, with more aliens and their worlds, but with no less — and sometimes more — heart. I came across this email from Tanya Huff the other day, about Esen’s first book. “…this was so much fun. It reminded me of all the reasons why I started reading SF in the first place.” Yup. Grinning.

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A Cyberpunk Cinderella Story: Warcross by Marie Lu

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018 | Posted by Elizabeth Galewski

Warcross Marie Lu-small Wildcard Marie Lu-small

Emika Chen needs to raise $3,450 in the next 72 hours, or she’ll be evicted from her apartment. What with her wicked hacking skillz, she ought to be acing computer science classes in college, but she dropped out of school when her dad died. Saddled by his debts and her own criminal record, she can’t get a job with a corporation, so she works as a bounty hunter. Her specialty lies in capturing players in the world’s most famous video game, Warcross, who have large gambling debts. The prodigy who created the game, Hideo Tanaka, is her celebrity crush.

When the police announce a $5,000 bounty on a drug dealer, Emika’s determined to nab him. Sure enough, she tracks him downtown on her electric skateboard, alerts the cops to his location, chases him down, and stuns him. She’s got her knee pressed into his back while he cries into the ground when the police arrive.

But they don’t give her the bounty. On a technicality, it goes to someone who had messaged them sooner than she did.

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From the Moon to Mars: The British Library Science Fiction Classics by Mike Ashley

Sunday, August 19th, 2018 | Posted by Todd McAulty

Lost Mars The Golden Age of the Red Planet-small Moonrise The Golden Age of Lunar Adventures-small

The Moon and Mars have fascinated science fiction writers for generations, although I thought the era of classic Mars and Moon anthologies was over. But it turns out that’s not the case. At least not while editor Mike Ashley is on the job, anyway.

Lost Mars: The Golden Age of the Red Planet, which collects pulp-era tales (and pre pulp-era tales) from Wonder Stories, Amazing Stories, Astounding, and Worlds of If, was published in April 2018. Its sister anthology Moonrise: The Golden Era of Lunar Adventures, with stories from F&SF, Amazing, Tales of Wonder, Astounding, New Worlds, and Fantastic, arrives in September. Both are part of the British Library Science Fiction Classics, which I’ve never heard of, but for which I immediately have a deep and passionate love. Near as I can figure out, it’s a relatively new imprint devoted to early 20th Century SF. Or maybe just stories of Mars and the Moon, I dunno. But either way, love love love.

These are very welcome books. They include tales of adventure and exploration from the pre-spaceflight era (the most recent stories are from 1963, only two years after the start of the Apollo space program), which means they’re not particularly concerned with getting the science right. Scientific verisimilitude was the province of late 20th Century SF; these stories concern themselves chiefly with imagination and adventure.

And when it comes to the Moon and Mars, human imagination has been pretty darn fertile. These books contain some of the greatest SF ever written, including Arthur C. Clarke’s brilliant tale “The Sentinel,” which inspired 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Stanley G. Weinbaum’s groundbreaking “A Martian Odyssey,” which Isaac Asimov said, “had the effect on the field of an exploding grenade. With this single story, Weinbaum was instantly recognized as the world’s best living science fiction writer.” There’s also a Martian Chronicles tale by Ray Bradbury, an excerpt from H.G. Wells’ classic First Men in the Moon, and stories by Walter M. Miller Jr, J. G. Ballard, Gordon R. Dickson, Edmond Hamilton, John Wyndham, E. C. Tubb, and many others.

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