A Farewell to Roc Books

Friday, February 16th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

logo-pub-rocThe big 2017 Year in Review issue of Locus magazine arrived this week, and the second paragraph of the annual summary confirmed something that’s been whispered in fannish circles for a few months: that parent company Penguin Group has “quietly retired” the Roc Books imprint, folding it in with its existing Ace line. Only four books with the Roc logo were published last year, and none is on the schedule for this year. It’s the end of an era in many ways.

Roc Books was founded by John Silbersack in 1990. Over the last 27 years it has published hundreds of science fiction and fantasy titles by Isaac Asimov, Ursula K. Le Guin, Guy Gavriel Kay, Peter S. Beagle, Arthur C. Clarke, Nancy A. Collins, Terry Pratchett, Andre Norton, and hundreds of others. It had a well-deserved reputation for taking chances on new authors, and many of those gambles pay off handsomely, like Jim Butcher, Anne Bishop, Carol Berg, Rob Thurman, and many more. Roc proved to be a warm home for many Black Gate authors, including E.E. Knight, Devon Monk, and others.

There were many reasons to be a Roc fan over the decades. For me, they were simple. The editorial team had a profound and enduring appreciation for adventure fantasy, especially during the lean years when the market turned towards YA dystopias, paranormal romance, and other trendy niches. They loved a great series, and gave many quality series the time they needed to truly find an audience. The whole line had a distinct look, so much so that for 27 years you could tell a Roc Book at a glance.

The editors, authors, artists and packagers at Roc Books gave us countless hours of reading pleasure over the past quarter century. Penguin has decided to quietly retire the imprint, but there’s no reason we have to let them go without a worthy send-off. If you’ve got a favorite Roc title or two, I invite you to help us say farewell by giving them a shout-out in the comments.


Incendiary Conspiracy Theory Suggests Possible Collusion Between She-Ra: Princess of Power and Hordak

Monday, February 12th, 2018 | Posted by Nick Ozment

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The 1985 cartoon She-Ra: Princess of Power was a spin-off of He Man and the Masters of the Universe aimed at young girls. It ran for 2 seasons, 93 episodes, and was canceled in 1986. Both series were produced by Filmation in conjunction with toymaker Mattel.

WHAT FOLLOWS IS AN OFFSCREEN CONVERSATION FROM A SECRET RECORDING OF SOME OF THE SUPPORTING CAST. 

This is a partial transcript of video obtained from the memory files of one of Hordak’s captured Hover Robot spies. It has never been declassified or released on Etheria or Eternia, and we are publishing the audio transcript here at Black Gate at great personal risk, like the brave souls in the movie The Post. You’re welcome, people of planet Earth!

FLUTTERINA: “Well, since we’re dishing gossip, lemme tell you guys — totally off the record — lemme tell you what bothers me about this whole She-Ra charade. I saw her lift a whole lake once.”

LOO-KEE: “Huh?”

FLUTTERINA: “A whole lake. With the bedrock beneath it — like a bowl, ‘cuz you can’t just lift a body of water — and toss it like a mile through the air. A lake. That puts her at what power level? Like a hundred He-Mans? So why doesn’t she just stamp out The Horde?”

KOWL: [flaps his ear-wings and hovers excitedly] “Yeah! Every time she ‘defeats’ Hordak, she just lets him slip away. Sometimes she sees him off with a shake of her finger and a ‘Don’t you ever get up to this sort of mischief again’!”

FLUTTERINA: “It is kind of demented, isn’t it? Like she just likes toying with him, dragging out a cruel game for her own perverse pleasure.”

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Goth Chick News: Oscars Smoscars – Pass Me a Stoker Any Day…

Thursday, January 25th, 2018 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Goth Chick Stokers vs Oscars

Gather round friends – it’s once again time to don the footie pajamas, pour a steaming hot-toddy and hunker down until spring with the most awesome reading list of the year: namely the annual nominees for the coolest award ever.

The Bram Stoker Awards have been presented annually since 1987, and the winners are selected by ballot from the active members of the Horror Writers Association (HWA).

Several members of the HWA including Dean Koontz, were originally reluctant to endorse such writing awards, fearing it would incite competitiveness rather than friendly admiration. The HWA therefore went to great lengths to avoid mean-spirited competition by specifically seeking out new or overlooked writers and works, and officially issuing awards not based on “best of the year” criteria but for “superior achievement,” which allows for ties.

Which is lovely and all, but I believe I would not be above doing something mean-spirited if not downright evil to get my hands on the award itself, which is a haunted house whose front door opens to reveal the category and winner.

Take that, Oscar…

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Peter S. Beagle will be the Next SFWA Grand Master

Thursday, January 25th, 2018 | Posted by Rich Horton

Peter S Beagle Grand Master-small

Is it OK to post now on the other significant SF news from Tuesday (happier news)? Because it does seem worthwhile to mention that Peter Beagle has been named the latest SFWA Grand Master.

I confess — somewhat bewilderedly — that I had not thought of him when I speculated on who the next GM might be. (I believe that’s because early in his career he was not a “core genre writer,” in that he didn’t publish in the magazines. (Yes, Fantasy & Science Fiction published “Come Lady Death,” but as a reprint.) That’s not a good reason, it’s just what I think must have made me forget him.) But on seeing the announcement, I thought, well, of course! Peter Beagle IS a Grand Master, and this is an award he eminently deserves.

I (with many other fans, to be sure) absolutely adore The Last Unicorn. And his other fiction is quite marvelous as well. I’ve used a few of his stories in my books.

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The 2018 Philip K. Dick Nominees

Monday, January 15th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Book of Etta-small After the Flare Deji Bryce Olukotun-small All Systems Red-small

The nominees for the 2018 Philip K. Dick Award, given each year for distinguished science fiction originally published in paperback in the United States, have been announced. They are (links will take you to our previous coverage):

The Book of Etta by Meg Elison (47North)
Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty (Orbit)
After the Flare by Deji Bryce Olukotun (The Unnamed Press)
The Wrong Stars by Tim Pratt (Angry Robot)
Revenger by Alastair Reynolds (Orbit)
Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
All Systems Red by Martha Wells (Tor.com)

This is a terrific ballot, with something for every reader. Over at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, Joel Cunningham sums things up nicely.

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John DeNardo on the Definitive List of 2017’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The-Stone-Sky-N.K.-Jemisin-smaller The-House-of-Binding-Thorns-smaller A Conjuring of Light-small

As he does every year, John DeNardo breaks down the Best of the Year lists to find the most widely acclaimed science fiction, fantasy, and horror books of the last 12 months. Why does he do it?

I love looking at book-related “Best of the Year” lists because it’s fun to see what made the cut and how lists differ from one another. Even better: lists stoke my desire to read and point me towards books I may have otherwise skipped over. However, an abundance of “Best of” lists begs the question: which books truly deserve that label? Which books are the absolute best?

Intent to find some concrete answer to those admittedly subjective questions, I began an intense session of OCD-fueled list aggregation and spreadsheet manipulation to find which science fiction and fantasy books garnered the most mentions. The result is a very unscientific ­— but nonetheless worthwhile — “Best of the Best” list of the science fiction and fantasy books that debuted in 2017.

For those (like me) who want to read the books that everyone is talking about, and get a jump on the 2018 awards season, John’s meta-list is invaluable. Let’s see what’s on it.

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Read Black Gate in Italian!

Saturday, December 9th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Black Gate in Italian

Black Gate has partnered with Heroic Fantasy Italia (HFT) to translate and post some of our most popular articles in Italian. Here’s Editor Alessandro Iascy, from his original e-mail.

I’m Alessandro Iascy and I am the publisher and editor of the Heroic Fantasy Italia portal, heroicfantasyitalia.altervista.org. I’m contacting you because I always read Black Gate with great pleasure and I would like to start a sort of joint venture with you. Heroic Fantasy Italia is the most important heroic fantasy divulgation portal in Italy, and I would like to be authorized to translate and publish some of your articles on our pages… I am writing to you on my friend Mark Lawrence’s suggestion.

Although BG articles have frequently been reprinted (sometimes without our permission), this is the first time we’ve partnered to present some of our content in a foreign language. The first article to get the multi-lingual treatment was Steven Silver’s November 24th post “Elric and Me.”

Alessandro and his team did top-notch work reformatting and presenting Steven’s article; check it out here. Thanks to Alessandro, we look forward to offering more BG articles to our Italian readers.


Modular: The Capharnaum RPG: A Kickstarter Combining the Campbellian Hero Path, Arabian Nights Multiculturalism, and Compelling Worldbuilding

Thursday, November 30th, 2017 | Posted by Sarah Newton

Capharnaum RPG

Two years after running our very successful Kickstarter for the transhumanist SF RPG Mindjammer, Mindjammer Press is back with a new project — the English-language version of a fascinating French-language RPG “Capharnaum – The Tales of the Dragon-Marked.” As a soundbite it’s billed as “a fantastic Arabian Nights RPG of deserts, dragons, and crusaders” — but it’s so much more than that. I first came across Capharnaum and its gorgeous artwork in the Paris Games Fair in 2009, and even then I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been brought to the English-speaking gamer. Now, with Capharnaum‘s second edition, the case is even more compelling.

The brains behind Capharnaum — The Tales of the Dragon-Marked are two experienced French game designers, Raphaël Bardas and François Cedelle. They’re joined by a large and extremely active gaming community based in Montpellier, the ancient town on the Mediterranean coast, but active throughout France, bringing together enthusiasts of ancient world Mediterranean and Arabian Nights-style gaming. In the aftermath of 9/11, Raphaël and François wanted to create a setting which refracted the cultural conflicts of our time in a historical-fantasy context, but which equally provided a gameplay which transcended those conflicts and offered a route to coexistence and appreciation of our diversity.

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Ragnarok Publications Cancels Forthcoming Books

Friday, November 17th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

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John R. Fultz recently alerted us to some unfortunate news: Ragnarok Publications, the independent small press behind the acclaimed anthologies Blackguards and Kaiju Rising: Rise of Monsters, has officially canceled their slate of upcoming novels. This affects several books we were really looking forward to, including John’s upcoming Son of Tall Eagle, the sequel to The Testament of Tall Eagle. Here’s part of the announcement posted on the Ragnarok website yesterday:

It’s time for a hard decision.

In order for us to get our feet under us again, we have to reboot in a way. It’s extremely unfortunate and we wrestled with this decision, but for now, we’re closing down the majority of our novel contracts. We feel like the authors we work with are family and this is the last thing we wanted to do — hurt our family. We love and believe in all the novels we’ve published, but we simply cannot afford to keep them in print, nor can we afford to put out new novels at the level of quality that we are known for.

Here’s the complete text of the announcement from publisher Jeremy Mohler.

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Goth Chick News: King Kong Goes to Broadway

Thursday, November 16th, 2017 | Posted by Sue Granquist

King Kong Alive on Broadway

Hot on the heels of Universal putting an end to the whole concept of reinventing their classic movie monsters via a Dark Universe, one larger-than-life character seems to be enjoying a fairly successful renaissance.

Kong: Skull Island, which was released in March of this year, was considered a moderate box office success and generated enough revenue to keep plans on track for follow-on films. Universal also added a new attraction to the Orlando theme park in the form of Skull Island: Reign of Kong, which as of October when I visited, still required a fast-pass to avoid a nearly 2-hour wait. And it was awesome.

So far, so good.

But the most exciting news is coming out of the city which is most famously associated with the big guy himself, in the form of King Kong: Alive on Broadway.

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