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.
Starhammer, The Vang: The Military Form and The Vang: The Battlemaster
(Del Rey, 1986 – 1990). Covers by David Schleinkofer and Stephen Hickman
I’m a huge fan of modern science fiction, and I find no shortage of new novels and and series to coo over here. But there are times when I miss the old-school SF of last century, rooted in the Cold War paranoia of the 50s and 60s. The Golden Age of invaders from space, all-consuming blobs, and gooey alien parasites that have their sights set on your lower G.I. tract.
In the late 80s Christopher Rowley, author of the popular Battle Dragons series from Roc, had a hit with his Vangnovels, a space opera/alien parasite hybrid. Clearly inspired by the author’s love of Alien and pulp-era SF by A.E. Van Vogt, Jack Vance, Eric Frank Russell, and others, the trilogy — Starhammer, The Vang: The Military Form and The Vang: The Battlemaster — had the sweep of epic space opera crossed with the gritty realism of James Cameron’s Colonial Marines.
The story of The Vang begins when the asteroid miner Seed of Hope, illegally prospecting in a Forbidden Sector of the Saskatch system, finds a billion year-old vessel containing an alien horror, the last vestige of a race nearly annihilated in an ancient conflict that convulsed the galaxy. It’s an encounter that will plunge humanity into a desperate war of survival.
Foundryside, Shorefall, and Locklands (Crown and Del Rey, 2018 – 2022). Cover designs by Will Staehle
Robert Jackson Bennett is the author of the Divine Cities trilogy (City of Stairs, City of Blades, and City of Miracles), as well as the BFA and Shirley Jackson Award winner Mr. Shivers. Locklands, the closing novel in his Foundersseries, was released at the end of June and, in keeping with tradition, we baked a cake here at our rooftop headquarters to celebrate the successful wrap of another quality fantasy trilogy. (Apropos of nothing, we badly need a gym in the rooftop headquarters…)
Former Black Gate blogger Amal El-Mohtar called Foundryside, the first volume in the trilogy:
Absolutely riveting… A magnificent, mind-blowing start to a series… I felt fully, utterly engaged by the ideas, actually in love with the core characters… and in awe of Bennett’s craft.
It came in fourth in the annual Locus poll for Best Fantasy Novel, and was selected as one of the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2018 by The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog. Here’s how they described it at the time.
Quarreling, They Met the Dragon, Journey to Membliar, and Burning Tears of Sassurum
(Avon, 1984, 1987, and 1988). Covers by Wayne Barlowe, Paul Lehr, and Ron Walotsky
Sharon Baker died in Seattle in June 1991, at the much-too-young age of 53. She began writing in her 40s, while she was busy raising four sons. In a Gale Contemporary Author interview in 1986 she said
I felt like a car appliance [and] to remind myself that I was not, I signed up for a weekly writing class… On good days, I no longer feel like an appendage of my station wagon or anything else. I feel like me. And I like it.
Her first novel was Quarreling, They Met the Dragon, published in 1984, and it drew immediate attention. In Trillion Year Spree, Brian Aldiss praised it as evidence of “An original mind at work on an ingenious world.” Gene Wolfe said “Sharon Baker is better than good… [she will be] one of the field’s most important author’s by the close of this decade,” and Publishers Weekly compared her to Samuel R, Delany.
The great city of Tova is shattered. The sun is held within the smothering grip of the Crow God’s eclipse, but a comet that marks the death of a ruler and heralds the rise of a new order is imminent.
The Meridian: a land where magic has been codified and the worship of gods suppressed. How do you live when legends come to life, and the faith you had is rewarded?
As sea captain Xiala is swept up in the chaos and currents of change, she finds an unexpected ally in the former Priest of Knives. For the Clan Matriarchs of Tova, tense alliances form as far-flung enemies gather and the war in the heavens is reflected upon the earth.
And for Serapio and Naranpa, both now living avatars, the struggle for free will and personhood in the face of destiny rages. How will Serapio stay human when he is steeped in prophecy and surrounded by those who desire only his power? Is there a future for Naranpa in a transformed Tova without her total destruction?
In late 2020, a year of darkness, catastrophe and ill-omen, Rebecca Roanhorse published Black Sun, the first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, a novel of darkness, catastrophe and ill-omen. While decidedly a coincidence, perhaps this was just the right book at the right time for me to curl up and read. Inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas, particularly, those of Mesoamerica, the Southwestern ‘Ancient Puebloans’ and the great, wooden city of Cahokia in central Illinois, this was a fast-paced, fresh story that turned the ideas and tropes of epic fantasy to a new set of myths and civilizations. I devoured it rather quickly, and you can see my thoughts in my review here at BG.
“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep
(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)
The extremely talented Glen Cook is best known for his excellent dark fantasy series about a mercenary group, The Black Company. In 2018, Fletcher Vredenburgh wrote a FOURTEEN-part deep dive into the series. If I ever write anything even half as impressive here at Black Gate, I’m going to ask them to actually pay me. I love The Black Company series, and cannot recommend it enough.
Cook has written several other fantasy and sci-fi series’ – none of which I have read. They are all well-regarded. But the other one I have read from start to finish – more than once – is his Garrett, PI series. I think that every Writer (or in my instance, lower case ‘w’ writer) has that ONE series they wish they had come up with and written. For me, it’s the Garrett books.
They are light years away in tone and style of The Black Company. And also from what I understand of The Dream Empire and The Instrumentalties of the Nightseries.’However, they are identical to the Black Company in regards to quality of writing. Garrett is the ore-eminent fantasy PI (private investigator).
Cook has written a series of books that appeals to fans of the hardboiled PI, notably practiced by Raymond Chandler; fans of the humorous fantasy world best typified by Terry Pratchett’s Discworldand to those who have read Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries. The fact that Cook has masterfully combined all three of these elements is admirable in the extreme. And the reason I wish I had come up with something like this.
The Wraithbone Phoenix (Black Library, August 30, 2022). Cover uncredited.
Black Library’s new Warhammer Crime imprint has caught my eye recently. I heartily enjoy their Warhammer 40K novels — and we’ve covered them at Black Gate fairly extensively over the past 20 years — but there’s only so much bleak far future military SF you can include in your regular diet.
Or is there? In the last two years Black Library has branched out with new Warhammer Horror and Warhammer Crime imprints, which re-focus the galaxy-spanning genocidal conflicts of the Warhammer 40K era into far more personal tales of urban crime and supernatural intrigue, and they have reinvigorated my interest in the rich and consequential milieu. Some of the most exciting and well-crafted far-future SF of the past few decades has been published under the 40K banner, and I’m excited to see that tradition carry on with a new generation of talent.
The latest release to pique my interest is The Wraithbone Phoenix by Alec Worley, which arrives in trade paperback and audio formats next Tuesday. It’s the second tale featuring Baggit and Clodde, a fast-talking ratling and his ogryn pal, following the popular audio title Dredge Runners.
Tales from the Spaceport Bar and Another Round at the Spaceport Bar
(Avon Books, 1987 and 1989). Covers by James Warhola and Doug Beekman
Science fiction has a rep for being serious stuff. Tales of dystopias, climate catastrophes and environmental collapse, dire warnings about worrying trends, that’s SF in a nutshell. Even dressed up in its best story-telling adventure garb, Star Wars or Mad Max-style, it’s still often perceived as all about desperate battles in apocalyptic settings.
Of course, science fiction is much broader and richer than that, and most of its best writers have amply demonstrated their love of whimsy and fun. One of SF’s best-loved sub-genres is the Club Tale/Bar Story, exemplified by Arthur C. Clarke’s famous Tales From the White Hart, L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt’s long-running Gavagan’s Bar stories, Lord Dunsany’s Jorkenstales, Isaac Asimov’s Black Widowers mysteries, Spider Robinson’s Callahan’s Bar, Larry Niven’s spacefaring tales of Draco Tavern, and many others.
In the late 80s Weird Tales editors George H. Scithers and Darrell Schweitzer assembled a collection of the best such stories, Tales from the Spaceport Bar. It made the Locus Award list of Year’s Best Anthologies (in 11th place), and was quickly followed by Another Round at the Spaceport Bar. Both books are a fine antidote to anyone who’s dabbled just a little too long on the dark side of science fiction.
There came a time when the destiny of Men and Gods was hammered out upon the forge of Fate, when monstrous wars were brewed and mighty deeds were designed. And there rose up in this time, which was called the Age of the Young Kingdoms, heroes. Greatest of these heroes was a doom-driven adventurer who bore a crooning runeblade that he loathed.
His name was Elric of Melniboné…
from the Prologue to Stormbringer
⇐ That cover, more than any other, depicts the absolute coolness of swords & sorcery and what I like about it. Michael Whelan’s painting for the 1977 DAW edition of Michael Moorcock’s Stormbringer (1965) is the first time in over two hundred essays I haven’t put the first edition cover first. You can talk about heroism, barbarism vs. civilization and whatnot until the end of the day but, ultimately, this is what I dig. That depiction of Elric, runeblade held high, Horn of Fate trailing behind him, under the storm-wracked heavens, says more about what brings me back to the genre than any book-long disquisition ever could. It’s just so stinking cool. Its appeal is purely and mind-blowingly visceral.
When I was in my mid-teens, all my friends and I devoured these books relentlessly. As soon as one of us finished one series we plunged right into the next. The gradual realization that all of Moorcock’s S&S stories were linked in some crazy pattern made our reading even more compulsive. Many, many elements in his books wound up in roleplaying sessions. I ended at least one universe in a very Moorcockian style.
I did a quick count of how many Moorcock books I’ve read and got over thirty. Some of them, particularly the assorted Eternal Champion books (Elric, Dorian Hawkmoon, Corum, etc.), I’ve read numerous times. I’ve probably read all six Corum novels five or six times. I have definitely not reread any other S&S books, neither Robert E. Howard’s nor Karl Edward Wagner’s, anywhere near that number of times. Moorcock’s books have done more than any other’s to build the framework of what S&S writing is for me if by no other measure than number of pages read. There’s more creativity when it comes to characters and world-building in almost any of his slim DAW yellow-spine books than nearly any monstrous tome I’ve bludgeoned my way through.
Augustus Thorne is a Cambion — a human/demon hybrid. Cursed with a hunger he can barely control, it’s been a struggle to retain his humanity. All he’s ever wanted to do is enjoy what everyone else takes for granted. To lead a normal life. Fall in love. Start a family. Alas, such things are denied him because of what he is. Fated to feed off humans, he has channeled his self-loathing into a quest for revenge. For over two hundred years, Augustus has hunted and executed every Incubi and Succubae he can find. But he has yet to track down and kill the one responsible for attacking his mother and causing decades of suffering: his own spawn-father, Fanon.
— From the Prologue to Call of the Cambion
Andrew P. Weston’s second outing is just as good as the first book in his new series, A Hybrid’s Tale, which I have also reviewed here. This time around, in Call of the Cambion, Weston delves deeper into Augustus Thorne’s past, his relationships and his character. Born in 1760, Thorn has sworn to seek out and destroy the Demondim and its “department” of Incubi and Succubae assassins, known as the Forge, as he hunts for Fanon, the Incubus who sired him, then abandoned him and his mortal mother. Thorne is a complicated man: in spite of his supernatural and magical powers, and his killer’s instinct, he is an honorable and loyal man, not without mercy and his own code of ethics. Once again, Weston combines magic, metaphysics, science fiction, and the paranormal to tell his tale and give substance to his world and his characters. …