The Omnibus Volumes of Sean Russell: Moontide and Magic Rise

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Sea Without a Shore Sean Russell-small World Without End Sean Russell-small Moontide and Magic Rise-small

Art by Braldt Bralds and Shutterstock

Canadian fantasy writer Sean Russell produced three popular paperback series with his publisher DAW in the 90s, each exactly two books long:

Initiate Brother (The Initiate Brother, 1991, Gatherer of Clouds, 1992)
Moontide and Magic Rise (World Without End, 1995, Sea Without a Shore, 1996)
The River into Darkness (Beneath the Vaulted Hills, 1997, The Compass of the Soul, 1998)

These were all handsome volumes, and I collected them enthusiastically. By the early 2000s Russell had switched publishers, to Avon Eos (where he produced the Swan’s War trilogy), and after that he exited the fantasy genre entirely. He’s currently writing an ongoing series of novels about the HMS Themis, a Royal Navy frigate at the time of the French Revolution, under the name Sean Thomas Russell.

Over the last few years DAW has been collecting Russell’s 90s fantasy in large-size omnibus editions. The first, The Initiate Brother Duology, appeared in 2013, and The River Into Darkness was released just three months ago (and we covered it here as part of our look at the Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of October 2018). And just a few weeks ago I stumbled on Moontide and Magic Rise at Barnes & Noble, a hefty 820-page tome released in May, collecting World Without End and Sea Without a Shore.

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Birthday Reviews: December Index

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Rudolph Belarski

Cover by Rudolph Belarski

Cover by John Picacio

Cove by John Picacio

Cover by Duncan Eagleson

Cover by Duncan Eagleson

The final Birthday Review Index.

And so the journey begun on January 1 with a review of E.M. Forster’s short story “The Machine Stops” has come to an end, 367 reviews and approximately 166,183 words later, plus a few extra guest reviews and words by Rich Horton and Bob Byrne. There was one date I couldn’t find someone to review (we need authors born on March 8) and I goofed on a couple of authors and wound up writing replacement reviews. Edward Page Mitchell holds the joint distinction of the earliest birth among the reviewed authors, on March 24, 1852, and the earliest published work, with his “The Clock That Went Backward” published in 1881. Rachel Swirsky in the most recently born author reviewed with Steve Perry’s “A Few Minutes in the Plantation Bar and Grill Outside Woodville, Mississippi” published in January 2018 being the most recently published story. I reviewed two stories entitled “Cat” and two stories entitled “Little Red in the Hood.”

January index
February index
March index
April index
May index
June index
July index
August index
September index
October index
November index

December 1, Jo Walton: “Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction
December 2, Jerry Sohl: “Death in Transit
December 3, John Dalmas: “In the Bosom of His Family
December 4, Kurt R.A. Giambasitani: “Intaglio
December 5, John Decles: “The Power of Kings
December 6, Roger Dees: “Worlds Within WorldsEchoes of Pride

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James Davis Nicoll asks Who Are the Forgotten Greats of Science Fiction?

Monday, December 31st, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Apocalypses R.A. Lafferty-small West of the Sun-small The House on the Borderland-small

As we close out 2018, I’m proud to look back at the last twelve months and all the new authors we’ve championed and celebrated. Dozens of debut novels, and hundreds of new short stories, from a lively graduating class of SF and fantasy writers. Of course, Black Gate isn’t just about the new — we try to spend just as many pixels illuminating the neglected writers of the Twentieth Century, who become more forgotten with each passing year.

We published hundreds of reviews, retrospectives, and Vintage Treasures posts about the forgotten greats of the genre here at Black Gate in 2018. But some of my favorite articles appeared at other venues, including Unbound Worlds, the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, and The Verge. One of the better writers showcasing classics this year was James Davis Nicoll, who in a September article at Tor.com asked Who Are the Forgotten Greats of Science Fiction?

To answer the question he looked at the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, which he rightly laments as underappreciated (“I wish the award were more widely known, that it had, perhaps, its own anthology. If it did, it might look a bit like this.“) James did his part to promote the award by showcasing the winners, including masters such as R.A. Lafferty, William Hope Hodgson, Edgar Pangborn, Stanley G. Weinbaum, Leigh Brackett, Fredric Brown, Mildred Clingerman, and others. Here’s James on three of my favorites.

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Vintage Treasures: Strange Dreams by Stephen R. Donaldson

Wednesday, December 26th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Strange Dreams Stephen R Donaldson-small Strange Dreams Stephen R Donaldson-back-small

Bantam Spectra cover by Gervase Gallardo

Twenty-five years ago oversized trade paperbacks fantasy anthologies were few and far between. Today they’re the default, but in the early 90s, when original anthologies routinely appeared as mass markets paperbacks, you had to be something special to warrant the deluxe trade paper format. (Nowadays, of course, the mass market anthology is long dead, but that’s a subject for a different post.)

Strange Dreams was something special. In the early 90s Stephen Donaldson was one of top-selling fantasy writers on the planet, with the bestelling Mordant’s Need and Chronicles of Thomas Covenant to his credit. In his introduction he relates how the book came about as a result of a conversation with master anthologist Martin H. Greenberg.

We were discussing the basis on which I might be willing — or indeed able — to pull together a collection, and I quickly dismissed the traditional anthological fundaments: Historical Development (where fantasy came from and how it grew); Defense of Genre (why fantasy is written); Technical Display (how fantasy can be written); and Thematic Modulation (what fantasy has to say about X and Y)… once all these bases have been diminished, why bother to do a collection at all?

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Birthday Reviews: Wynne Whiteford’s “Night of the Wandjina”

Sunday, December 23rd, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Nick Stathopoulos

Cover by Nick Stathopoulos

Wynne Whiteford was born on December 23, 1915 in Melbourne, Australia. He died on September 30, 2002.

In 1987, Whiteford received a short story award from the Epicurean and Cultural Society. Whiteford’s novel The Specialist was nominated for the Ditmar Award in 1991. In 1995 he was presented with the Chandler Award, presented for Outstanding Achievement in Australian Science Fiction.

“Night of the Wandjina” was Whiteford’s final published work and appeared in the 1998 anthology Dreaming Down Under, edited by Jack Dann and Janeen Webb. When the anthology was split into two volumes for a paperback printing, the story appeared in volume one. It has not, otherwise been reprinted.

When a company is preparing to drill for oil, one of their employees, Kel, warns them that he is uncomfortable that they plan to drill near an aboriginal site. Asked whether he believes they might disturb the spirits, Kel proceeds to tell a story about one of his earlier forays in oil exploration.

Kel tells his Director that he once went into the Outback with a team of four. When they found some aboriginal symbols looked like aliens, their aboriginal teammate, Djerri, commented that it represented a Wandjina, which he explained was a sort of wind spirit. When they decided to dig anyway, Djerri took one of their motorbikes and headed back to their camp, unwilling to be a part of the drilling team. They found a glass cylinder which they carefully unearthed, but when it broke it released a small whirlwind which seemed to take control of one of them and caused him to run until his body gave out.

The story treats the aboriginal culture and beliefs with respect, but at the same time carries a certain amount of “there are somethings man is not meant to know” and “don’t disturb the ancient spirits.” Kel and his mates approach the area knowing that they have a job to do and although Djerri can’t convince them not to, they are try to do the least amount of damage they can, although they also give into their natural curiosity, with dire consequences.

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Birthday Reviews: Nalo Hopkinson’s “Whose Upward Flight I Love”

Thursday, December 20th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Mark Harrison

Cover by Mark Harrison

Nalo Hopkinson was born on December 20, 1960 in Kingston, Jamaica.

Hopkinson’s first novel, Brown Girl in the Ring, won the first Warner Aspect First Novel Contest in 1997 and led to its publication. In 1999 Hopkinson won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. She won the World Fantasy Award for her collection Skin Folk and she shared the British Fantasy Award for co-editing the anthology People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction with Krisitne Ong Muslim. Hopkinson’s novel Sister Mine won the Andre Norton Award in 2015. She shared the Aurora Award for co-editing the anthology Tesseracts Nine with Geoff Ryman and won her own Aurora Award for the novel The New Moon’s Arms. Her novel The Chaos won a Copper Cylinder Award and she won a Gaylactic Spectrum Award for The Salt Roads. She has won the Sunburst Award twice, for the collection Skin Folk and the novel The New Moon’s Arms. She has collaborated on fiction with Nisi Shawl and his co-edited anthologies and magazines with Kristine Ong Muslim, Geoff Ryman, and Uppinder Mehan.

“Whose Upward Flight I Love” was originally published in Dark Planet Webzine in 2000, edited by Lucy A. Snyder. Hopkinson included it in her collection Skin Folk the following year as well as her late collection Falling in Love with Hominids in 2015. It was reprinted in the magazine Cicada in March of 2017.

Hopkinson writes about a crew whose job it is to secure trees planted in a public park against a wind storm. Their task seems prosaic enough and they work even as the wind threatens to uproot the trees, to the extent that one of the women has to catch an uprooted tree before it flies away. Despite her efforts, all she winds up with is a root, which she tosses to the ground.

As the crew members work, they call to each other, continuing conversations about their lives. The woman has a long-time relationship with Derek, which has its ups and downs and she is sharing the latest information about their lives with her crewmate to pass the time while they do their work to protect the trees. Everything is completely normal and there is nothing that sets this particularly day’s work apart from any other day.

Decisions, and actions, have consequences, even if they can’t be foreseen. Consequences also often can’t be traced back to the decision that caused them. The crewmember catching the tree and then dropping the root on the ground is one of those. While she and her crewmates are finishing their task, the dropped root begins to move on its own.

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Birthday Reviews: Michael Moorcock’s “The Frozen Cardinal”

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Jim Burns

Cover by Jim Burns

Michael Moorcock was born on December 18, 1939.

Moorcock’s novella “Behold the Man” won the Nebula Award in 1968. He has won the British Fantasy Award six times, for the novels The Knight of the Swords, The King of the Swords, The Sword and the Stallion, and The Hollow Lands, as well as for the short story “The Jade Man’s Eyes.” He won a special committee award from them in 1993. In 1979 he won the World Fantasy Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for his novel Gloriana. His Elric saga won the Seiun Award in 1986. Moorcock received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the World Fantasy Con in 2000, the Prix Utopia in 2004, and the Bram Stoker Awards in 2005. In 2002 he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and was named a Grand Master by SFWA in 2008. Moorcock was guest of honor at the 2nd World Fantasy Con, held in New York in 1976 and at LoneStarCon 2, the 55th Worldcon, held in San Antonio, Texas in 1997.

“The Frozen Cardinal” originally appeared in the anthology Other Edens, edited by Robert Holdstock and Christopher Evans, in 1987.  Moorcock included it in his collection Casablanca in 1989 and in 1993, it was included in the Moorcock collection Earl Aubec and Other Stories. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer selected the story for The Big Book of Science Fiction: The Ultimate Collection in 2016. In 1990 the story was translated into French to appear in the anthology Universe 1990, edited by Pierre K. Rey.

While Moorcock may be best known for his epic fantasy about the Eternal Champion or his Jerry Cornelius novels, he has also written a significant amount of straight science fiction. “The Frozen Cardinal” is set in the polar regions of the distant planet Moldavia and takes the form of several private communiques sent back to Earth by a member of the first exploration team to the area of the planet, which is just beginning to come out of an ice age.

Moorcock manages to present his trip to a distant world as a tedious expedition. His narrator, as well as the entire crew, is just focused on the next tasks they must accomplish, most of which are the repetitive crossing of vast chasms, a dangerous activity, but one that has become routine as they use the same process at each crevice. Their monotony is broken when they discover a figure embedded in the ice on the side of one of the crevices and determine that it is a Roman Catholic Cardinal.

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Birthday Reviews: Jack L. Chalker’s “Now Falls the Cold, Cold Night”

Monday, December 17th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Barclay Shaw

Cover by Barclay Shaw

Jack L. Chalker was born on December 17, 1944 and died on February 11, 2005.

Although Chalker may be best known for his Well of Souls series of novels, his only Hugo Award nominations were for his amateur magazine, Mirage, in 1963 and his non-fiction book The Science Fantasy Publishers: A Critical and Bibliographic History: Third Edition, co-written with Mark Owings. The book also won the Readercon Award in 1992. Chalker was a two-time nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. In 1980 he received the Skylark Award from NESFA, and in 2005 he posthumously received the Phoenix Award from DeepSouthCon.

Chalker wrote “Now Falls the Cold, Cold Night” for Mike Resnick’s 1992 anthology Alternate Presidents. The story has never been reprinted. It was his last published piece of short fiction, although Chalker continued to publish novels and non-fiction.

Set in a rooming house in Albany, New York, “Now Falls the Cold, Cold Night” takes place in a world in which following James Buchanan’s death during the election of 1856, Millard Fillmore is able to capture a second term on the Know-Nothing ticket. Fully embracing his anti-immigration stance, Fillmore is in thrall to the Southerners who helped elect him and promotes pro-slavery policies, including the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act passed during his first term in 1850. His policies have caused unrest in New England, resulting in a second Boston Massacre when troops opened fire on citizens trying to stop a runaway slave from being taken back to the South.

The rooming house is a collection of men who have business with the New York state legislature, although one of them, Mr. Green, keeps to himself, leading another, Mr. Morgan, to question his purpose. The two play a cat and mouse game revealing that they actually have been aware of each other for quite some time. While both claim, like all the men in the rooming house, to oppose Fillmore’s agenda, they have very different methods of fighting for what they believe is right.

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Only Disconnect: Ray Bradbury’s “The Murderer”

Sunday, December 16th, 2018 | Posted by Thomas Parker

(1) Amazing Stories-small

High on the list of unwritten books that I’d like to read is An Encyclopedia of Misconceptions. I am unswervingly committed to traditional paper books, but this is one that I would have to read electronically; a physical book would just be too damn big. Everyone would have a chapter — men, women, LBGTQ folks, atheists, evangelicals, millennials, seniors, Democrats, Republicans, police officers, bus drivers, food service workers, Fortune 500 CEO’s, any racial or sexual or religious or social or political or generational or economic group that you can name, in fact — everyone feels misunderstood. Everyone knows themselves to be quite different from what other people assume them to be.

Such wrong ideas can attach themselves to almost everything in our lives, even including the books that we read. For example, one widespread misconception holds that the main purpose of science fiction is to predict the future! This notion is most rigidly held by those who have almost no familiarity with any actual science fiction. Such people gleefully point out SF’s failure to predict the internet (even though… well, we’ll get to that), or they “prove” the shallowness or silliness of the entire genre with the help of tales from the yellowing pages of Amazing Stories, yarns that depict a 21st century where everyone enjoys lives of anti-gravity-belt enhanced leisure with every want met by humanoid robot laborers (which hasn’t quite happened, in case you haven’t noticed).

But of course H.G. Wells didn’t really think that we were going to be invaded by Martians or believe that it was possible to concoct a formula that would make us invisible, nor was he convinced that vivisection could make the family dog into something that was virtually human. His books were really comments on the present in the form of visions of the future, and the technologies he invented were tools that enabled him to bring his own society and its potentialities into sharper focus.

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Birthday Reviews: Emma Bull’s “A Bird That Whistles”

Thursday, December 13th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Anthony Branch

Cover by Anthony Branch

Emma Bull was born on December 13, 1954.

Bull’s novel Bone Dance was nominated for the Hugo, the Nebula, the World Fantasy, and the Philip K. Dick Awards. Her novel War for the Oaks was nominated for the Compton Crook Stephen Tall Memorial, the Geffen, the Mythopoeic, and the William L. Crawford – IAFA Fantasy Awards. She received a second Nebula nomination for the story “Silver of Gold,” a second Mythopoeic nomination for The Princess and the Lord of Night and additional World Fantasy nominations for Liavek: The Players of Luck and Territory. She is married to Will Shetterly, with whom she has collaborated on fiction and as an editor. She has also collaborated with Steven Brust, Elizabeth Bear, and Leah Bobet.

“A Bird That Whistles” appeared in the anthology Hidden Turnings, edited by Diana Wynne Jones in 1989. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling selected it for inclusion in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Third Annual Collection. The story was reprinted in the Shetterly/Bull collection Double Feature, published by NESFA in 1994. In 2004 Patrick Nielsen Hayden included the story in his anthology New Magics: An Anthology of Today’s Fantasy.  The story also appeared in the 2011 book The Urban Fantasy Anthology, edited by Peter S. Beagle and Joe R. Lansdale.  In 1994, Alice Bellagamba translated it into Italian for the anthology Miti fiabe & guerrieri and the story was also translated for the French anthology Traverses in 2002.

John Deacon is a 17 year old banjo player who is starting to appear at open mic nights at Chicago’s Orpheus Coffeeshop. Deacon is not a very strong performer and lacks confidence, yet he is willing to get on stage. At the same time, he has developed a crush on Orpheus waitress Lisa Amundsen. One day, while waiting for his name to be called up, he strikes up a conversation with Willy Silver, a dulcimer player. Silver proves not only to be willing to mentor Deacon and teach him new methods of playing his banjo, but also a rival for Lisa’s affection, although Lisa has never shown more than a friendly inclination toward Deacon and he’s too shy to act on his infatuation.

Set in the 1970s, the story has a background of the unrest against the Vietnam War and comes to head during a march against the war when Deacon is attacked in the Orpheus’ parking lot. Knocked down and bleeding, he is waiting for a continued attack that never comes. Looking up, he finds Silver looking fearsome with red lights in his eyes and his attackers fleeing. After giving Deacon advice, Silver disappears, having protected and nurtured the young musician. In return Deacon gave Silver some questions to think over.

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