Old School Steampunk: Reading The Steam Man of the Plains (1883)

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


In the days before television, movies, or even pulp magazines, readers who wanted exciting fantastic fare read dime novels. This style of popular literature lasted from about 1860 to 1930, before the pulps finally killed them off. In those 70 years, countless series and titles were published — mysteries, Westerns, historical dramas, romances, and even steampunk.

Yes, steampunk goes right back to the age of steam. I recently read one of the most popular titles, the 1883 edition of The Steam Man of the Plains, published by the Five Cent Wide-Awake Library, a series directed specifically at adolescent boys. You can read it online at Northern Illinois University’s excellent online collection of dime novels.

Warning: spoilers follow!

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The Dead Ride Fast

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017 | Posted by Jackson Kuhl

The Dead Ride FastHey nerds! My latest collection, The Dead Ride Fast, is available at Amazon and Kobo.

It certainly feels like there’s been a recent abundance of weird Western fiction. Just this past summer alone several anthologies appeared on shelves, and even straitlaced historical magazines like True West have published listicles celebrating the genre.

Yet oddly we seem to have hit peak weird West way back in 2014, with searches today chugging along at 50 percent of that frequency. Still, the fact that searches haven’t dropped precipitously suggests a steady and abiding interest in cowpokes and aliens and zombies.

The Dead Ride Fast bundles together five previously published short stories of mine that appeared in Black Static and anthologies such as Eric Guignard’s Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations (nominated for a Stoker!). Also included is an original story involving a spoopy haunted house.

A gang of bank robbers arrives in a town where everyone knows the future. A prospector discovers the cost of gold is the loss of himself. An abandoned ranch house conceals a dark history. An ailing sailor is initiated into a secret world after consuming an unusual medicine. A businessman reopens a silver mine that should have been left sealed. Two young girls confront a string of unnoticed disappearances.

Just in time for Halloween! Makes a great gift!

If you’re interested in the collection’s provenance — how the book came together and the stories behind the stories — I’ve been blabbering about it at my blog.

New Treasures: Devil’s Call by J. Danielle Dorn

Monday, August 7th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Devil's Call J Danielle Dorn-smallI like to mix things up in the New Treasures pipeline, offering titles from a range of different publishers. I’ve featured several novels from Inkshares in just the past few weeks — including teleportation thriller The Punch Escrow, and Quebec horror novel The God in the Shed — so when a new Inkshares novel, J. Danielle Dorn’s debut fantasy Devil’s Call, landed on my desk last week, I figured it was a long shot.

But that was before I read the description. The Bibliosanctum calls it “One of the best novels I’ve read this year,” and James Demonaco, creator of The Purge movie trilogy, calls it “The Revenant with witches.” Devil’s Call leapfrogged several titles that have been waiting patiently in the queue, and I think you’ll thank me.

On a dark night in the summer of 1859, three men enter the home of Dr. Matthew Callahan and shoot him dead in front of his pregnant wife. Unbeknownst to them, Li Lian, his wife, hails from a long line of women gifted in ways that scare most folks ― the witches of the MacPherson clan — and her need for vengeance is as vast and unforgiving as the Great Plains themselves.

Written to the child she carries, Devil’s Call traces Li Lian’s quest, from the Nebraska Territory, to Louisiana, to the frozen Badlands, to bring to justice the monster responsible for shooting her husband in the back. This long-rifled witch will stop at nothing ​― ​and risk everything​―​in her showdown with evil.

Devil’s Call will be published by Inkshares on August 8, 2017. It is 275 pages, priced at $14.99 in trade paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by David Drummond.

See all our recent New Treasures here.

Urban Fantasies and Robot Westerns: The Novels of C. Robert Cargill

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Dreams and Shadows Robert Cargill-small Queen of the Dark Things-small Sea of Rust-small

In the wider world, C. Robert Cargill is probably best known for his Nebula-nominated script for the movie version of Doctor Strange, and for the uber-creepy Sinister (brrrr). But around these parts, he’s known for his pair of novels about the Austin wizard Colby: his debut Dreams and Shadows (2013) and the sequel Queen of the Dark Things (2014). In her Tor.com review, Emily Nordling said, “Dark, comedic, and unsettling, Dreams and Shadows is everything an urban fantasy sets out to be.” I bought both books last year and put them near the top of my to-be-read pile.

But now along comes his third novel, Sea of Rust, a robot western set in a post-apocalyptic landscape in which humans have been wiped out in a machine uprising. This doesn’t just one threaten to replace his previous two in my TBR pile; it’s likely it will move right to the top. It arrives in hardcover from Harper Voyager on September 5.

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Clockwork Gunslingers, Soul-Sucking Ghosts, and Vampire Cowboys: Straight Outta Tombstone, edited by David Boop

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Straight Outta Tombstone-smallNow I know you love a good Weird Western. And you’ve probably noticed, as I have, that there’s been a dearth of them recently.

But fret not… David Boop’s anthology Straight Outta Tombstone — with brand new stories by Jim Butcher, Alan Dean Foster, Robert E. Vardeman, Phil Foglio, Michael A. Stackpole, and others — arrives next month to set things right. Here’s Boop from his Foreword.

Collected here are stories from my idols, my mentors, my peers and my friends. When I sent out invitations, I asked each author to give me their favorite and/or most famous characters in all-new stories set in the Old West. They did not disappoint.

From Warden Luccio to Bubba Shackleford, they came. We get a visit from Mad Amos, and Dan Shamble shambles by. A barmaid lives up to her name “Trouble,” and a dragon named Pete wants to court the sacrificial girl, not kill her. Chance Corrigan, Hummingbird and Inazuma, Bose Roberds. Never before have these characters shared the stage like this. Cowboys and Dinosaurs. Adventurers and Aliens. Time-Traveling Bar Maids and Clockwork Gunslingers. Vampires. Zombies. They’re all in here…

Do you remember the Wild, Wild West TV series? Maybe you read Jonah Hex, the Two-Gun Kid or other cowboy comics. Did you, like me, watch old B-movies and serials such as Valley of the Gwangi and The Phantom Empire on Saturday afternoon TV? How many of you snuck to the living room once your parents were asleep to see Billy the Kid Versus Dracula during a late-night movie monster marathon on Halloween? I certainly did.

Sounds just like what the ole doc ordered.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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Future Treasures: The Queen of Swords, Book 3 of the Golgotha Series, by R.S. Belcher

Friday, June 9th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The-Six-Gun-Tarot-smaller The Shotgun Arcana-small The Queen of Swords RS Belcher-small

R.S. Belcher’s last novel, The Brotherhood of the Wheel, was selected as one of the best horror novels of the year by the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog. For his next novel, he returns to Golgotha, the Weird Western setting of The Six-Gun Tarot (which RT Book Reviews called “Fascinating… like a mashup of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Deadwood,”) and The Shotgun Arcana (“Golgotha is the wildest of the Wild West, attracting mystics, minor deities, alchemists, seers, and fanatics in a fantastical romp” — Publishers Weekly). It arrives in hardcover from Tor later this month.

1870. Maude Stapleton, late of Golgotha, Nevada, is a respectable widow raising a daughter on her own. Few know that Maude belongs to an ancient order of assassins, the Daughters of Lilith, and is as well the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Anne Bonney, the legendary female pirate.

Leaving Golgotha in search of her daughter Constance, who has been taken from her, Maude travels to Charleston, South Carolina, only to find herself caught in the middle of a secret war between the Daughters of Lilith and their ancestral enemies, the monstrous Sons of Typhon. To save Constance, whose prophetic gifts are sought by both cults, Maude must follow in the footsteps of Anne Bonney as she embarks on a perilous voyage that will ultimately lead her to a lost city of bones in the heart of Africa ― and the Father of All Monsters.

One of the most popular characters from The Six-Gun Tarot and The Shotgun Arcana ventures beyond Golgotha on a boldly imaginative, globe-spanning adventure of her own.

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March Issue of The Dark Now on Sale

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

The Dark March 2017-smallThere’s a delicious Weird Western cover on The Dark this month, and that’s enough reason to check it out in my book. (Click the image at right for a supersized version.)

The magazine became a monthly last year, and so far in 2017 it’s published original fiction by Sara Saab, Lisa L. Hannett, Emily B. Cataneo, and Suyi Davies Okungbowa, plus reprints from Ray Cluley, E. Catherine Tobler, Michael Wehunt, and Michael Harris Cohen. At $1.99 per issue, it remains one of the best bargains in the field.

The Dark is co-edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Sean Wallace, with assistance by Jack Fisher. It is published online and in digital formats, and includes two original stories and two reprints each issue. Here’s the Table of Contents for issue #22, cover-dated March 2017.

If We Survive the Night,” by Carlie St. George
Caro in Carno,” by Helen Marshall (from The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, 2016)
The Thinker,” by George Salis
The Mysteries,” by Livia Llewellyn (from Nightmare Carnival, 2014)

You can read issues free online, or help support the magazine by buying the ebook editions, available for the Kindle and Nook in Mobi and ePub format. Issues are around 50 pages, and priced at $2.99 through Amazon, B&N.com, Apple, Kobo, and other fine outlets — or subscribe for just $1.99 per issue. If you enjoy the magazine you can contribute to their new Patreon account here. You can also support The Dark by buying their books, reviewing stories, or even just leaving comments.

Read the March issue here, and see their complete back issue catalog here. The March cover is by breakermaximus. We last covered The Dark with the December issue.

See our March Fantasy Magazine Rack here, and all of our recent Magazine coverage here.

New Treasures: Dr Potter’s Medicine Show by Eric Scott Fischl

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Dr Potter's Medicine Show-small Dr Potter's Medicine Show-back-small

The mass market original seems almost like a dying art form these days. But not for Angry Robot, for whom it’s their bread and butter. They find talented writers and package their works in attractive, sharply-designed, inexpensive paperbacks. I heartily approve.

Dr Potter’s Medicine Show, by Eric Scott Fischl, is the latest Angry Robot paperback to grab my attention. It’s an historical dark fantasy that John Shirley calls “A powerful alchemical elixir concocted of post Civil War historical fiction, dark fantasy, and Felliniesque flavoring.” On his website, Fischl recently announced that the next book in the series, The Trials of Solomon Parker, will be released in November 2017, also from Angry Robot.

Dr Potter’s Medicine Show was published by Angry Robot on February 2, 2017. It is 346 pages, priced at $7.99 in paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Steven Meyer-Rassow. Read the first three chapters at the Angry Robot website.

New Treasures: Deadlands: Thunder Moon Rising by Jeffrey Mariotte

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

deadlands-thunder-moon-rising-smallAfter saying a few words about Laura Anne Gilman’s upcoming novel The Cold Eye — in which the devil runs a saloon on the American frontier, and sends a sixteen year old girl out to fight monsters for him — it got me hankering to seek out more weird westerns.

I didn’t have to look far. Tor Books and Pinnacle Entertainment (creator of the Deadlands RPG) have a promising weird western series on the go, set in the undead-haunted frontier of Deadlands. The latest installment, Thunder Moon Rising, was released in trade paperback in September. It was written by Jeffrey Mariotte, author of the horror novels River Runs Red and Cold Black Hearts.

Fear is abroad in the Deadlands as a string of brutal killings and cattle mutilations trouble a Western frontier town in the Arizona Territory, nestled in the forbidding shadow of the rugged Thunder Mountains. A mule train is massacred, homes and ranches are attacked, and men and women are stalked and butchered by bestial killers who seem to be neither human nor animal, meanwhile a ruthless land baron tries to buy up all the surrounding territory-and possibly bring about an apocalypse.

Once an officer in the Union Army, Tucker Bringloe is now a worthless drunk begging for free drinks at the corner saloon. When he’s roped into a posse searching for the nameless killers, Tuck must rediscover the man he once was if he’s to halt the bloodshed and stop occult forces from unleashing Hell on Earth… when the Thunder Moon rises.

We covered the previous volume in the series, Jonathan Maberry’s Ghostwalkers, last year.

Deadlands: Thunder Moon Rising was published by Tor Books on September 20, 2016. It is 397 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital version.

Future Treasures: The Cold Eye, Book Two of The Devil’s West, by Laura Anne Gilman

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

silver-on-the-road-smaller cold-eye-small

I love weird westerns. But the sub-genre has fallen on hardsrcabble times recently, which means you have to be something of a risk-taker to write one. And to launch a series? You’d need to be a daredevil.

Laura Anne Gilman is a daredevil, and she proved it earlier this year with the first novel in her new weird western series, Silver on the Road. In his NPR review, Jason Sheehan said:

[Gilman has] chosen a fertile place to begin her new series (the broad plains, red rock and looming mountains of the American West), and amped up the oddity of it all by planting the Devil there as a card dealer, fancy-pants and owner of a saloon in a town called Flood.

And the Devil, he runs the Territory. Owns it in a way. Wards it against things meaner than he is, because Gilman’s Devil isn’t exactly the church-y version. He’s dapper in a fine suit and starched shirt. He’s power incarnate — a man (no horns, no forked tail, just a hint of brimstone now and then) who gets things done…

Lost in the middle of the story, you’ll feel somehow that you’ve always known the Devil wore a suit and ran a gambling house back in six-gun times, that he once sent a sixteen year old girl out into the world to fight monsters for him.

Silver on the Road became a Locus hardcover bestseller, and a Publishers Weekly Top Ten Pick for Fall 2015 in their SF, Fantasy, & Horror category. The second novel, The Cold Eye, arrives in hardcover next month from Saga Press. Here’s the description.

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