Tom Piccirilli, May 27, 1965 – July 11, 2015

Saturday, July 11th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Tom Piccirilli-smallFour-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author Tom Piccirilli died today.

The first Piccirilli novel I read was A Choir of Ill Children, which I brought with me on an anniversary getaway to downtown Chicago with my wife a decade ago. We saw a lot of live theatre and shows that weekend, but none was as memorable as that slim novel. That one book made me a fan, and Tom Piccirilli became one of my favorite modern horror writers.

His other novels included A Lower Deep (2001), The Night Class (2001), November Mourns (2005), Headstone City (2006), and The Midnight Road (2007). He also authored eight short story collections, including The Hanging Man (1996), Deep into the Darkness Peering (1999), and This Cape Is Red Because I’ve Been Bleeding (2002).

Piccirilli was also an accomplished editor. He edited the Stoker Award-winning poetry anthology The Devil’s Wine (2004), as well as Four Dark Nights (2002) (with Christopher Golden, Douglas Clegg, Bentley Little), and Midnight Premiere (2007). He was a finalist for the Edgar Award for best paperback original mystery with The Cold Spot (2008), and World Fantasy Award finalist for his collection Deep into that Darkness Peering (2000). He was also nominated for the Macavity Award and Le Grand Prix de L’imagination.

Piccirilli was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2012, and suffered a stroke in 2014. His wife, writer Michelle Scalise, posted this brief message to his Facebook account today: “Tom died today. He was the love of my life, an amazing writer and the best person I have ever known.” He was fifty years old.


Tanith Lee, September 19, 1947 – May 24, 2015

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Tanith LeeTanith Lee’s website, tanith-lee.com, is reporting that she passed away on May 24th.

I read my first Tanith Lee novel, Kill the Dead, in 1987. It was her twenty-fifth novel. In her long career she wrote 90 novels and some 300 short stories, as well as two episodes of the BBC series Blake’s 7. Lee often mentioned that she was unable to read until she was 8, due to a mild form of dyslexia, and she began to write at the age of 9. Her first novel was the children’s book The Dragon Hoard (1971); her first book for adults, The Birthgrave, the first novel in The Birthgrave Trilogy, was published four years later. Lee wrote this small epitaph for her website, and it was posted this morning:

Though we come and go, and pass into the shadows, where we leave behind us stories told – on paper, on the wings of butterflies, on the wind, on the hearts of others – there we are remembered, there we work magic and great change – passing on the fire like a torch – forever and forever. Till the sky falls, and all things are flawless and need no words at all.
– Tanith Lee

Tanith Lee was nominated for the Nebula Award twice, and won the World Fantasy Award twice, for her short stories “The Gorgon” (1983) and “Elle Est Trois, (La Mort)” (1984). She received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 World Fantasy Award ceremonies. She was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award for best novel, for Death’s Master (1980). Her most popular works include Don’t Bite the Sun (1976), Tales From The Flat Earth (five books, 1978-1986), The Silver Metal Lover (1981), The Secret Books of Paradys (four novels, 1988-1993), The Secret Books of Venus (four novels, 1998-2003), and the Lionwolf Trilogy (2004-2007), which John R. Fultz reviewed for us in 2010. Tanith Lee passed away on Sunday, May 24, 2015. She was 67 years old.


Terry Pratchett, April 28, 1948 – March 12, 2015

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Terry Pratchett-smallSir Terry Pratchett, the besteselling author of more than 40 Discworld novels who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for services to British literature in 2009, died today at his home in Britain.

Pratchett published his first novel, The Carpet People, in 1971. The Colour of Magic, the first novel in the famous Discworld series, appeared in 1983. Discworld was an international phenomenon, making him the UK’s best-selling author in the 1990s. By the year 2000 he’d been knocked off that lofty pedestal by JK Rowling, but he remains the second most-read writer in the UK.

Pratchett sold over 85 million books in 37 languages. The 2011 Discworld release Snuff became the third-fastest-selling hardback adult novel on record in the UK, selling 55,000 copies in the first three days. He was very prolific, averaging about two novels a year.

Pratchett was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1998, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for services to literature in 2009. In 2010 he received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.

In December 2007, Pratchett announced he was suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Against all odds he continued writing, completing five additional novels in the Discworld series, including the forthcoming The Shepherd’s Crown, scheduled to be released in August. All told, Sir Terry published more than 70 books in a career than spanned more than four decades.

His death was announced on his Twitter account on Thursday morning. He died on March 12 at the age of 66.


Leonard Nimoy, March 26, 1931 — February 27, 2015

Friday, February 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Leonard Nimoy Dead-smallLeonard Nimoy, the gifted actor who breathed life into the emotionless Vulcan Spock — and in the process created one of the most famous and enduring TV characters of all time — died today in Bel Air, California.

Nimoy was born in Boston in 1931. His first major role was at the age of 21, when he was cast in the title role of the film Kid Monk Baroni (1952), followed by more than 50 small parts in TV shows and B movies, including an Army sergeant in Them! (1954) and a professor in The Brain Eaters (1958). He was a familiar face in westerns throughout the early sixties, appearing in Bonanza (1960), The Rebel (1960), Two Faces West (1961), Rawhide (1961), Gunsmoke (1962), and on NBC’s Wagon Train four times. He starred alongside DeForest Kelley (the future Dr. McKoy) in The Virginian (1963), and with William Shatner in an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E (1964).

Nimoy was the only actor to appear in every episode of the original Star Trek series, which ran from 1966-69. He received three Emmy Award nominations for playing Spock, and TV Guide named him one of the 50 greatest TV characters in 2009. The role both haunted him and enriched for the rest of his life — which he famously addressed in two autobiographies, I Am Not Spock (1975) and I Am Spock (1995). After Star Trek ended Nimoy found regular work on the small screen in Mission: Impossible for two seasons, the TV documentary In Search of… , and more recently in Fringe. He also appeared in eight feature-length Star Trek films, including the recent reboots directed by J.J. Abrams. He directed two, Star Trek III: Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Star Trek was one of the first science fiction shows to be taken seriously as adult entertainment, and Leonard Nimoy was a huge part of that success. In his near-perfect portrayal of a hero in flawless control of his emotions, Nimoy connected with his audience — and an entire generation of young SF fans — in a way that very few actors, living or dead, have succeeded in doing. Leonard Nimoy died today of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, at the age of 83.


Suzette Haden Elgin, November 18, 1936 – January 27, 2015

Saturday, February 7th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Locus Online is reporting that fantasy author Suzette Haden Elgin, author of The Ozark Trilogy and the Coyote Jones novels, died last month.

Elgin’s first publication, “For the Sake of Grace,” the first part of her long-running series featuring Trigalactic Intelligence Service agent Coyote Jones, appeared in the May 1969 issue of F&SF. Her first novels — The Communipaths (1970), Furthest (1971), and At the Seventh Level (1972) — were part of the same series. They were collected in an omnibus volume from Pocket Books, Communipath Worlds, in 1980 (below, cover by Mara McAfee).

Communipath Worlds-small Twelve Fair Kingdoms-small The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense-small

Twelve Fair Kingdoms, the first novel in The Ozark Trilogy, came in 1981 (above, cover by Michael Flanagan); it was followed by The Grand Jubilee (1981), and And Then There’ll Be Fireworks (1981). Perhaps her most popular genre work, the Native Tongue trilogy – Native Tongue, The Judas Rose, and Earthsong (cover here) — were published between 1984 – 1994.

Elgin’s breakout book, the non-fiction bestseller The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense, was published in June 1985. Among the book’s other accomplishments, it helped put fledgling publisher Barnes & Noble on the map, selling over 250,000 copies. Elgin founded the Science Fiction Poetry Association in 1978. She died on January 27, 2015, at the age of 78.


Eugie Foster, December 30, 1971 – September 27, 2014

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Eugie FosterAuthor and editor Eugie Foster died of respiratory failure today at Emory University in Atlanta.

Eugie announced last October that she has been diagnosed with cancer, a “malignant, fast-growing tumor, around 6cm, in my sinuses and hard and soft palate regions.” She was undergoing aggressive treatments, including a stem cell transplant, which left her vulnerable to infections. In one of her last blog posts, on August 12, 2014, she wrote:

[One] opportunistic bacteria infection has taken up residence in my lower bowels and another one has set up shop in my stomach. Not only is food unpleasant to eat but it’s not doing anything enjoyable once it hits my GI Tract, including staying put. Waaaahhhh!!

They have me on lotso antibiotics and other meds to make this easier on me. I appreciate that but honestly, I just want to be unconscious. None of this is unexpected but it all sucks. Hurry up stem cells. Graft! Graft already!!

I first encountered Eugie when she took over Tangent Online after Dave Truesdale stepped down. Her own short stories were appearing in Interzone, Apex, Fantasy Magazine, Realms of Fantasy, and other places; her story “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” won the 2009 Nebula Award. Jason Waltz introduced me to Eugie at Dragon*Con in 2010, at her busy press station where she produced the onsite newsletter, the Daily Dragon. I found her charming and highly articulate, filled with drive and energy, and seemingly unstoppable.

Her death was announced in a brief blog post by her husband, Matthew M. Foster. She was 42 years old.


Graham Joyce, October 22, 1954 – September 9, 2014

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Graham Joyce-smallGraham Joyce, the World Fantasy Award winning writer of The Facts of Life, The Tooth Fairy, and Some Kind of Fairy Tale, died yesterday of lymphoma. His first novel, Dreamside, was published in 1991. He followed it a year later with Dark Sister, the first of his many fantasy novels to be nominated for (and win) the British Fantasy Award. All told, he won the British Fantasy Award for best novel a total of six times, for Requiem (1995), The Tooth Fairy (1996), The Stormwatcher (1998), How To Make Friends With Demons (2009), and Some Kind of Fairy Tale (2012). His 2002 novel The Facts of Life won the World Fantasy Award; his final novel, The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit (published in the UK as The Year of the Ladybird in 2013) was released in 2014.

I met Joyce only a handful of times, most recently at the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego in 2011, where he entertained the Black Gate team — including Katie Redding, Scott Taylor, and I — with his stories and his relentless energy. A month ago Graham wrote of his diagnosis in a powerful post in his blog:

This is what I mean by the shocking clarity that cancer brings… if a dragonfly buzzes my ear like an aeroplane I’ll still be going, ‘What did it say?‘ Because the screw that has for so long been loose in me hasn’t been tightened by cancer. Actually I know what the dragonfly said. It whispered: I have inhabited this earth for three hundred million years old and I can’t answer these mysteries; just cherish it all.

And in turn the Heron asks, with shocking clarity as it flies from right to left and left to right: why can’t our job here on earth be simply to inspire each other?

Graham Joyce died on September 9th, at the age of 59. He is survived by his wife Suzanne and their two children. He will be missed.


Kirby McCauley, September 11, 1941 — August 30, 2014

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Kirby McCauleyIn late fall 2000, Dave Truesdale convinced me to reprint Edmond Hamilton’s first published story, the creepy pulp tale “The Monster-God of Mamurth,” from the August 1926 issue of Weird Tales. Harlan Ellison told us “it’s an awful story,” but what does he know? It has ancient lost cities, valiant explorers, horrible curses, and seriously spooky giant spiders. I loved it.

So I dutifully tracked down the rights, and discovered they were controlled by the Pimlico Agency in New York. In short order, I found myself on the phone with a guy named Kirby McCauley, negotiating the right to reprint the story in the second issue of Black Gate for $200.

Now, I’d certainly heard of Kirby McCauley. He was Stephen King’s first agent, and King had famously related some of the guidance McCauley gave him early in his career. More interesting to me, McCauley was also an accomplished editor. His Dark Forces was easily the most acclaimed horror anthology of the 1980s (it included Stephen King’s The Mist, among many other notable stories.) So in between our business dealings, I mentioned to Kirby that I was a fan. He was very gracious and surprisingly easy to deal with.

For a good many years, Kirby McCauley was one of the most successful agents in the industry, with a client list that made his peers green with envy. George R.R. Martin said “Kirby revolutionized agenting in SF and fantasy and horror,” and that was no exaggeration. However, McCauley’s career suffered a significant downturn in the late 90s, and he lost most — but not all — of his biggest clients.

Kirby McCauley passed away last weekend, and his death has largely been ignored by the industry. But today, I found a lengthy appreciation written by his client and friend George R.R. Martin. It’s definitely worth the read, both as a remembrance of a man who made a big difference in the industry and as a wonderful snapshot of what publishing was like in the 70s and 80s.

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R.I.P. Robin Williams (1951-2014)

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 | Posted by Nick Ozment

aladdin genie

Mork has returned to Ork; the Fisher King has departed; the Genie, after granting us the wish for laughter, is gone.

Robin Williams died Monday, an apparent suicide. The Great Jester of my parents’ generation had been battling severe depression in recent months, according to his manager. Those who have followed Williams’s decades-spanning career know that this demon was the dark side to his manic comic talent. Ironically, while he so often made us laugh, there was no healing humor left for himself yesterday. The Jester has exited the stage, leaving an echo of laughter as the curtain falls on this tragic final act.

Here is part of what James Lipton, host of Inside the Actor’s Studio, had to say in remembrance of Williams Monday evening on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell:

I asked him If heaven exists what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?, and this is what Robin Williams said to me: “‘There’s seating near the front. The concert begins at five; it will be Mozart, Elvis, and one of your choosing.’ Or, to know that in heaven there’s laughter. That would be a great thing, just to hear God say, ‘Two Jews walk into a bar…’” And look where he went with that. In fifteen different directions at once. You know, I suppose everybody has said it already, and I’m the last to say it: we are dealing with a real-life pagliacci. This is the clown who laughed, who cried. This the clown who cried, at last, in life, and who breaks our hearts. But in the end…in the end, as so many comedians are, Robin was pagliacci


Lawrence Santoro (1942-2014)

Monday, July 28th, 2014 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

Larry and his wife, Tycelia

Larry and his wife, Tycelia

Lawrence Santoro passed away this past Friday. He was a two-time Bram Stoker nominee: once for his novella, “God Screamed and Screamed, Then I Ate Him,” in 2001; again for his audio play adaptation of Gene Wolfe’s “The Tree Is My Hat” in 2008. Two collections of his short fiction, Just North of Nowhere and Drink for the Thirst to Come, provide a great overview of his fantastic work. For the last two years, he’s hosted the horror fiction podcast series, Tales to Terrify.

Those are the highlights, the reasons why a casual reader of Black Gate might recognize Larry’s name. But I’ve been living and writing in Chicago for the last ten years and so I knew him for other reasons. Larry often read at local open mic events and was a fixture at some of them. Larry had a background in theater and he brought all his skill and that amazing voice to every performance. No microphones were ever needed when it was his turn to read and his larger-than-life performances were perfectly suited to the nightmarish tall tales; imagine if Lake Woebegone had a dark side and you’d get an idea of his fictional town of Bluffton. Tony C. Smith at Tales to Terrify provides a nice tribute to Larry, including a previously-unreleased performance by him.

There’s a brief overview of the amazing life Larry led before he ever wrote so much as a poem. At reading events, he was always encouraging other writers to keep writing, as well as offering advice on where to get their stories published. While Tales to Terrify has featured a number of big-name authors, Larry also made certain that it featured at least as many fledgling writers.

Larry leaves behind not just an impressive body of work, but a writing community made stronger by his presence and saddened by his passing.


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