Vintage Treasures: Cold Iron and Sister to the Rain by Melisa Michaels

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Cold Iron Melisa Michaels-small Sister to the Rain-small

I was preparing a Vintage Treasures article on Melisa Michaels on Saturday, and particularly her two-volume urban fantasy series featuring private eye Rosie Levine, Cold Iron (1997) and Sister to the Rain (1998), when I stumbled on this disturbing Facebook post by Rich Horton:

I have just learned that Melisa Michaels has died. I knew she had cancer, and she had recently reported that there wasn’t much more to be done, but it’s still sad news, and it seems to have come more quickly than she thought.

But I wanted to celebrate her — she was one of the first people to, as it were, welcome me to the SF community, when I first went online, and when I joined SFF Net. We had many great conversations (online) about SF and other matters. She is one of the people I really owe a debt to for helping me make friends in this field.

I read her novels, the Skyrider SF series and the Rosie Levine Fantasy/Mystery series, with much enjoyment… Melisa always made tremendous contributions to SFWA — as I recall, she was the first webmaster of the SFWA web page, right at the dawning of the WWW. I didn’t keep close track of her later on, especially after the demise of SFF Net, but we had reconnected to a small degree on Facebook. I offer condolences to her family, and I celebrate a life well-lived.

I didn’t know Melisa the way Rich did, but I was still very saddened by the news. And I thought we could help celebrate her life here by showcasing her novels. Rich discussed Cold Iron when it first appeared over 20 years ago; here’s an excerpt from the review at his website, Strange at Ecbatan.

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And the Bright Star Falls Behind: On Gene Wolfe

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney


Gene Wolfe at Top Shelf Books in Palatine, IL

When John asked me to write an article for Black Gate about Gene Wolfe, I agreed immediately. I had written a blog about his passing, and a poem, and then a remembrance for the latest issue of Locus — the print magazine, not the online zine, although they have a wonderful remembrance of him here.

I wanted to keep writing about him, as if writing were an act of resurrection. I wanted to write everything.

But instead of getting easier, it’s been getting harder. I’ve been wracking my brains about this blog. So many amazing articles have been coming out about Gene, beautiful interviews and retrospectives. What more can I say? My memory is panicky, faulty. I don’t know what to add.

I’m not an expert on Gene’s work. I’ve read a good deal of it, but not everything. I knew him more as a mentor and a person than as a writer. I was looking forward to having my whole life to read his work.

But I’ve gathered up here, for you, some of my favorite articles about Gene by people who are much more critically familiar with his writing than I am.

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William Goldman: He’s Only Mostly Dead, And Mostly Dead Means A Little Alive

Friday, November 23rd, 2018 | Posted by Violette Malan

GoldmanAnyone who’s been paying attention to anything I’ve written here at Black Gate over the last few years knows how much I love William Goldman and his work. His death last week was a solid blow, for me, my husband, and our best friends. Not because we expected him to produce any more work, after all, the man was 87, but because the world is a smaller, colder place without him.

His body of work does mean, however, that he’s not completely dead. In many ways, for those of us who didn’t know him personally, as long as the work lasts he’ll be alive for us.

If you want to know biographical details of birthdate and the name of his wife, and his two children and so on, Wikipedia is for that.  What I’m going to do here is tell you what the man meant to me, and what impact he’s had on my work, and my life.

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Stan Lee, the World’s Greatest Comic Book Writer: 1922-2018

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018 | Posted by Thomas Parker

(1) The Elder Statesman-small

I never really thought Stan Lee would die. I’ve been saying for years that as long as there was a single nickel to be squeezed, Stan the Man would be making his cameo and taking his executive producer credit and raking in the long green.

I guess we now live in a nickleless universe, and there will be a blank spot somewhere around the margins of the next Marvel cinematic blockbuster. Stan Lee took a last intrepid leap into the Negative Zone on Monday, November 12. He was 95.

As W.S. Gilbert wrote long ago, “I often think it’s comical/How nature always does contrive/That every boy and every gal/That’s born into the world alive/Is either a little Liberal/Or else a little Conservative!” Gilbert and Sullivan never wrote a comic opera about superheroes (oh that they had!), but the observation applies as much to comic books as it does to politics. It’s certainly possible to appreciate both, but at the end of the day you’re either Marvel or you’re DC.

When I was a kid in the 60’s and 70’s, in the prime of my comic book buying and reading years, I was DC all the way. I had hundreds of comics, but very few were Marvels. There was something about them that I just didn’t trust. The combination of self-mockery and over-the-top rhetoric put me off. The goofy syntax and leather-lunged self-promotion that screamed from a thousand Gil Kane-drawn covers proclaimed that unlike the solid, stolid DC products, these weren’t serious comic books. (You know what I mean — titles like “Whence Comes the Werebeast!!” and banners proclaiming that the story is “Another Mighty Masterpiece in the Munificent Marvel Manner!!” and stuff like that.)

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Dave Duncan, June 30, 1933 – October 29, 2018

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Dave Duncan-smallLocus is reporting that Canadian fantasy writer Dave Duncan died yesterday.

Duncan was born in the small town of Newport-on-Tay, Scotland, but spent his adult life in Western Canada. His debut novel was A Rose-Red City (Del Rey, 1987), published when he was 53 years old.

In later years Duncan wrote that entering the field using his own name was a risk, due to the lingering popularity of 50s SF writer David Duncan (Dark Dominion, Beyond Eden), who published his last novel in 1957. Duncan was a vocal fan of the elder Duncan, and used “Dave” for his own published work.

Dave Duncan was amazingly prolific, averaging two novels a year for the past three decades, even into his 80s. His 59th novel, Trial By Treason was published this month by Night Shade; his sixtieth, Pillar of Darkness, is due out in January from Five Rivers. He wrote in a wide variety of genres, including history fiction and YA, but he was most at home with fantasy and science fiction. BG blogger Violette Malan called his classic SF novel West of January “brilliant,” saying:

West of January is science fiction that doesn’t, at first, seem to have any science in it. The story is an odyssey, narrated in first person by the main character, Knobil… West of January is a testament to just how important point of view can be. As in the best fiction of any kind, Knobil doesn’t explain anything to the reader that he takes for granted… As in Gene Wolf’s classic series The Book of the Long Sun, the readers are left to deduce most of the planet’s features, and even its history, for themselves.

In 1990 Duncan won the Aurora Award, given annually for the best Canadian science fiction and fantasy, for West of January; he won it again in 2007 for Children of Chaos. He was inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2015.

Duncan had his greatest success with fantasy, including the popular series The Great Game, The Seventh Sword, the linked series A Man of His Word and A Handful of Men, and King of Chivial’s Blades. Under the name Ken Hood he wrote The Years of Longdirk trilogy in the late 90s, and writing as Sarah B. Franklin he retold the story of the Trojan War in Daughter of Troy (1998).

Dave Duncan lived in Victoria, British Columbia. He suffered a fall last week, and died yesterday of a brain hemorrhage. He was 85 years old.

RIP Steve Ditko, Co-Creator of Dr. Strange and Spider-Man

Saturday, July 7th, 2018 | Posted by Derek Kunsken


News broke last night that Steve Ditko had passed away at 90 years old. Ditko co-created Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, the Question, Mr. A (and by those last two characters was the direct inspiration for Alan Moore’s Rorschach), all of Spider-Man’s classic villains and several DC properties. He was also ironically famously reclusive.

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Harlan Ellison 1934-2018: Essential and Impossible

Sunday, July 1st, 2018 | Posted by Thomas Parker

Harlan Ellison-small

Did you feel that? That sudden drop in pressure, that slump, as if the world itself had let out a long-held breath? I’m sure it was registered on every spot on earth, from Cleveland to Calcutta, from Reykjavik to Tierra del Fuego. That was Harlan Ellison leaving the building. No man was ever less likely to die peacefully in his sleep at the ripe old age of eighty four, but that’s exactly what happened on the morning of June 28th, and the effect is tantamount to global nuclear disarmament. The immanent threat is over; finally, we can all relax a bit.

An authoritative assessment of Ellison’s tumultuous sixty year career can now begin and is far beyond the scope of this piece, even if I had the ability to do it — which I don’t. All that I can say is that the world has instantly become a less interesting, less vital place than it was when the human bomb that was Harlan Ellison was still ticking away. He was one of those rare people who can actually alter the atmosphere; in his presence, the air was sharper, the light brighter, the temperature higher, and everything seems a little dulled and diminished now that he’s gone.

The couple of times that I met him in person — in the mid 70’s, at the legendary Change of Hobbit bookstore in Los Angeles — the intensity and excitement radiated from him in waves. It was actually a bit frightening, like being too close to an enormous bonfire. It was immediately evident that this was a dangerous person; he would break boundaries in ways good and bad, because that was life to him, and he didn’t know any other way to exist. It’s amazing that he lived to be eighty four — by all rights he should have succumbed to stroke or homicide long ago.

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Gardner Dozois, July 23, 1947 – May 27, 2018

Sunday, May 27th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Gardner Dozois

Yesterday I learned that Gardner Dozois had been hospitalized for a massive infection. Before I left the house today I checked Facebook and other sources to see if there was any news. When I checked again an hour ago, I was devastated to learn that he had passed away.

While he was a fiction writer of considerable note, Gardner made his true reputation as an editor. I first took notice of his name when he took over the editorial reins at my favorite fiction magazine, Asimov’s Science Fiction, in 1985. During his 17-year tenure he won the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor 15 times, from 1988 until he retired in 2004. While I was in grad school I faithfully read his annual Year’s Best Science Fiction volumes, starting with the sixth in 1989. The Thirty-Fifth volume will be published by St. Martin’s Press on July 3. He’s published nearly a hundred other anthologies, including some of my favorites, including The Good Old Stuff, Modern Classics of Fantasy, and The New Space Opera, edited with Jonathan Strahan.

As Gardner’s Year’s Best volumes got larger and larger (surpassing 800 pages by 2002) so too did his Annual Summations, a critical look at the year in science fiction books, art, movies and culture. They were required reading for anyone who wanted to keep up with the field, especially in the pre-internet era. In many ways Gardner Dozois was the living, breathing, heart of science fiction, the passionate spokesman, champion, writer and dealmaker who was known both for his depth of knowledge and his impeccable taste.

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Ursula K. Le Guin, October 21, 1929 – January 22, 2018

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Ursula Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin, one of the greatest SF writers of the 20th Century, died yesterday.

Le Guin was equally at home in both science fiction and fantasy, and won virtually every accolade our field has to offer. Her novel The Dispossessed (1974) won the Locus, Nebula, and Hugo Awards, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) won both the Hugo and Nebula, and her Earthsea novel The Other Wind (2001) won the World Fantasy Award. The third Earthsea novel, The Farthest Shore, won the 1973 National Book Award. She won the Hugo Award in virtually every category available to writers, including Best Short Story (“The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” 1974), Best Novelette (“Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight,” 1988), Best Novella (The Word for World Is Forest, 1976), and Best Related Work (her essay collection Words Are My Matter, 2016). She won the Locus Award a record nineteen times. Unlocking the Air and Other Stories was one of three finalists for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize.

In 1995 Le Guin was presented with the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and in 2003 she became a SFWA Grand Master Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Science Fiction Writers of America. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted her in 2001, and in April 2000 the U.S. Library of Congress made her a Living Legend in the “Writers and Artists” category. In 2016 The New York Times described her as “America’s greatest living science fiction writer.”

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Julian May, July 10, 1931 — October 17, 2017

Saturday, October 21st, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Julian MayJulian May, fan and bestselling science fiction writer, died this week at her home in Bellevue, Washington.

Julian May was active in US fandom in the 40s and early 50. She published her first story, “Dune Roller,” in the December 1951 Astounding; it was filmed as The Cremators in 1972. She was the first woman to chair a Worldcon, with the Tenth World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago in 1952. The next year she married T.E. Dikty, co-editor (with Everett F. Bleiler) of The Best Science Fiction Stories, the first Year’s Best SF anthology. Over the next few decades she wrote 250 books, chiefly non-fiction books for young readers and adults, including A Gazeteer of the Hyborian World of Conan (1977, under the name Lee N Falconer).

In 1976 May began attending SF conventions again, starting with Westercon 29 in Los Angeles. She wore an elaborate diamond-encrusted space suit to the costume party, and started sketching ideas for who might actually wear such a suit. In 1978 she began writing what became the Saga of Pliocene Exile, the tale of a group of refugees from the twenty-second century who flee six million years into Earth’s past, only to discover two alien species in deadly conflict with humans who’ve already arrived.

May demonstrated an immediate talent for ambitious SF series, and turned that 4-volume saga into essentially into an extensive prelude for Galactic Milieu sequence: Intervention (1987) Jack the Bodiless (1992), Diamond Mask (1994) and Magnificat (1996). Her other work includes three trilogies: Trillium (written with Andre Norton and Marion Zimmer Bradley, published 1990-97), The Rampart Worlds (1998-2001), and Boreal Moon (2003-06). The Science Fiction Encyclopedia calls her work “at times reminiscent of the Planetary-Romance Baroque of Roger Zelazny.”

May was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame at the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention in 2015. She died on October 17, 2017. She was 86 years old.

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