Sarah Ash’s “Divina: A Tale of Bel’Esstar” is set in her city of Bel-Esstar and focuses on the opera composer Avenel Brumiere and his muse, the Divina Oralie. Unfortunately for both of them, the story opens with Oralie’s costume igniting on the stage lights and the soprano suffering horrible burns all over her body, to which she would succumb despite the intervention of a mysterious doctor.
Part of Ash’s story deals with Brumiere’s attempts to work through his grief at the loss of his paramour and inspiration. As may be expected, Brumiere’s attempts to complete his next opera are stymied by the loss of the only woman he believes would have been able to sing the part he was writing. Dust comes to cover the score he was working on.
When the mysterious doctor appears with the offer to not only help Brumiere through his grief, but also help him regain his ability to compose, Brumiere ignores his offer. At this point, the story appears to move from a study of grief on the creative process into a deal-with-the-devil story, supported by the doctor’s business card which identifies him as Asmodé, who exhibits automata at the House of Asphodel.
Tales From the Magician’s Skull #8. Cover by Ken Kelly
What have Howard Andrew Jones and his cabal of mad writers and artists been toiling to create, deep in the abandoned publishing mines below Evanston, Illinois?
Many bothans died to bring us early word, and now at last we can share it with you: it’s issue #8 of the world’s greatest Sword & Sorcery magazine, Tales From the Magician’s Skull!
According to hand-written notes scrawled by dying bothans, the long-awaited new issue is packed with fiction of keen interest to Black Gate readers, including a new Morlock tale by James Enge, a new Tale of Gaunt and Bone by Chris Wilrich, and fiction by C. L. Werner, Robert Rhodes, Jeremy Pak Nelson, and many others — all packaged under a cover by legendary artist Ken Kelly. The issue is available to buy today; check out all the details below.
Fred M. Barclay had a story to tell, “The Troglodytes,” and he told it. Apparently, he said everything he had to say, because there is no indication that he ever published anything else. In Science Fiction: The Gernsback Years, Everett E. Bleiler’s biographical note on Barclay states, “No information.”
Barclay uses a framing technique that was relatively common at the time. His narrator, Joe Everett, is found disheveled by a family on a country road and when they take him in to make sure he is okay, he tells them the story of his adventure, which began with Joe and two of his friends, John and Jim. The three men found a cave and decided to explore it, discovering an ancient civilization living underground and completely divorced from the surface world.
It is clear from the start that John and Jim did not return to the surface world with Joe and the main tension is the story is what happened to them. An initial expectation that they were killed by the troglodytic race known as the Ampu appears to be subverted once the trio meets them. The Ampu are welcoming to them and treat them well, giving them a tour of their subterranean world, almost as if they were honored guests.
MichaelHarrington is a writer and course designer living in the Fort Collins Colorado area of the United States. Here we post Michael Harrington’s interview of OliverBrackenbury who is an author, screenwriter, podcaster, and now a magazine editor. In fact, this interview highlights the release of Brackenbury’s new magazine New Edge Sword and Sorcery Magazine (released Sept. 30th, 2022. Hardcover $11.99usd, softcover $3.99usd, and the ePub free)!
Read on to learn more about Oliver Brackenbury, his blog, and New Edge!
Because I’ve been asked about the process by which I’ve been selecting stories for the Random Review series, I thought I’d take a moment to explain how the stories are selected.
I have a database of approximately 42,000 short stories that I own sorted by story title. When it comes time for me to select a story to review as part of this series, I role several dice (mostly ten sided) to determine which story should be read. I cross reference the numbers that come up on the die with the database to see what story I’ll be reviewing. This week, I rolled 28,223 which turned out to be Marie DesJardin’s short story “The Problem with Reproducible Bugs.”
One of the things I’m hoping to get out of this series, from a person point of view, is to discover authors and short stories that I’ve owned and have never read. Of course, I’m also hoping to share those discoveries, good or bad, with the readers of Black Gate.
Authors frequently introduce protagonists who are suffering from amnesia, or don’t know where they are, who they are, or what is happening to help provide an entry point for the reader, who often has to have those things explained in a science fiction story. In Marie DesJardin’s story “The Problem with Reproducible Bugs,” Vince’s inability to remember what is going on it central to the point of the story.
An unappealing cover by Wayne Barlowe, more on that in a second
After the somewhat uninspiring November 1989 Analog, I turned next to Asimov’s, and found it to be pretty good.
Editorial — “Half Done” by Isaac Asimov
Starting with the quote ‘Half done is hardly begun,’ Isaac Asimov (That’s Dr. Asimov, if you’re nasty) jumps into looking at how we conceptualize and compare time. Starting with the fact the Earth is 15 billion years old, half of that is 7.5 billion years, before our solar system existed by easily 3 billion years. Earth itself comes into play 4.6 billion years ago., and half of that, 2.3 billion Earth life is just prokaryotes. At 1.4 eukaryotic cells start showing up. Half of that, 700 million years ago, the highest life is just worms, nothing that even has shells.
The exercise is to show how rapidly things start to change. Leading to the question of how long can it go on? How do we get off on setting stories in the future. On thinking we can even realistically do it?
While reading this essay I could not shake the knowledge that Asimov had four years of life left.
Arthur Cave’s only science fiction story appeared in the July 1935 issue of Amazing Stories. The story looks into the far future of 1980 and while Cave depicts a few aspects of that distant year with some relative success, overall his view of the world seems grounded in a much simpler time.
“The Weather Master” was published in 1935 when the United States and the Soviet Union were engaging in cultural exchanges and an attempt to normalize relations and the Cold War wouldn’t begin in earnest for another decade, Cave foresaw the tension between the superpowers. His 1980 sees a hot war between the two nations with Russia having wiped out the US air fleet and the President working with his War Council to come up with their next steps.
Those next steps involve Professor Wilton, America’s leading (generic) scientist, who just happens to show up at the White House demanding an audience with the President, a demand which is granted, although the President only agrees to give him two and a half minutes. Wilton had spent the past two years incommunicado on an arctic expedition and was widely believed to have died. Instead, he has learned how to control the weather, which provides his answer to how to victoriously end the war with Russia.
September/October 2022 issues of Asimov’s Science Fiction, Analog Science Fiction & Fact, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Cover art by 123RF, 123RF, and Bob Eggleton
I was at the launch party for Randee Dawn’s debut novel Tune in Tomorrow at Worldcon this month (with the most amazing TV-shaped cake — seriously, check it out), when I spotted the also-amazing Sheila Williams, editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. I was hoping for the chance to catch up, but long before that happy event the party became so crowded that Jacob Weisman and I, who’ve both managed to dodge COVID for the past two years, nervously ducked out and ended up talking in relative quiet on the Hyatt skyway.
Some time before midnight Sheila found us as she made her weary way to her hotel room. We pulled over some chairs, and soon there was a small crowd of us gossiping about short fiction on the skyway over North Stetson Avenue (ironically enough, overlooking the exact location of the opening scene of my novel The Robots of Gotham).
One of the things Sheila shared was that, despite all my expectations to the contrary, the print SF magazines — including Asimov’s and Analog — are doing very well, thank you. The pandemic played havoc with distribution, and for the last few years all the attention (and award nominations) has gone to online magazines like Uncanny and Clarkesworld, but Asimov’s subscriber base has proven remarkably steadfast, and is even growing. I’ve been used to a steady stream of bad news, and general gloom and doom around the print mags for years, and it was wonderful to hear they have plenty of life in them yet.
Deborah Burros had a relatively short writing career, publishing a total of five stories between her debut in 1991 with “Masks” and her most recent story, “Artistic License,” which appeared in 2002. Three of her stories appeared in the Sword and Sorceress anthology series, while the other two appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine. Her middle tale, “Roses,” appeared in the Summer 1993 issue of the magazine.
Burros tells the story of the marriage between Lady Rose and Lord Sleet. It is not a happy marriage, for neither of them loved the other and it was understood by both that Lord Sleet had married Lady Rose for her family’s money and Lady Rose had married Lord Sleet in order to gain a veneer of respectability for a family whose money was apparently made under unsavory conditions. The couple seemed to have come to an arrangements, however, wherein Lady Rose would spend her time cultivating a rose garden and Lord Sleet would spend his time in dalliance with his mistress, Jade.
We have exciting news to share about Howard Andrew Jones and Sword & Sorcery.
Howard Andrew Jones in Magazines
Howard Andrew Jones is a titan amongst the Black Gate staff, having served as Manager Editor of the paperback magazine from 2004 onward. He has also been a champion of adventure fiction, being the driving force behind the rebirth of interest in Harold Lamb’s historical fiction (assembled and edited 8 collections of Lamb’s work for the University of Nebraska Press). On the Sword & Sorcery front, he has been blogging about the genre for decades (and his posts on the now-obsolete Flashing Swords e-zine… and subsequently on Black Gate… regarding REVISITING THE NEW EDGE would eventually coin the term “New Edge S&S”). Howard Andrew Jones is currently the Editor for the sword-and-sorcery magazine Tales From the Magician’s Skull, published by Goodman Games.
HAJ in Books
Howard Jones’s debut historical fantasy novel, The Desert of Souls (Thomas Dunne Books 2011), was widely acclaimed by influential publications like Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publisher’s Weekly, made Kirkus’ New and Notable list for 2011, and was on both Locus’s Recommended Reading List and the Barnes and Noble Best Fantasy Releases list of 2011. Its sequel, The Bones of the Old Ones, made the Barnes and Noble Best Fantasy Release of 2013 and received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. He is the author of four Pathfinder novels, an e-collection of short stories featuring the heroes from his historical fantasy novels, The Waters of Eternity, and the Ring-Sworn trilogy from St. Martin’s, starting with For the Killing of Kings, which received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, and concluding with When the Goddess Wakes, which received the same recognition.
Now There is Even More!
Baen Books signed Howard Andrew Jones to pen five books: The Chronicles of Hanuvar (the first book to arrive August 2023). Press release below.