Of Horizons and Common Sense Lost

Friday, September 13th, 2019 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

51G8TVzla+L._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_I recently got around to reading Gerry Conway’s introduction to Marvel’s Deadly Hands of Kung Fu Omnibus, Volume One for a forthcoming article. If there was a retroactive Astounding Award for Best Self-Loathing Writer of 2016, Mr. Conway would surely be a contender. There is nothing wrong with a writer looking back in some embarrassment over past work or even admitting their good intentions now seem naive from the vantage point of the present, but Mr. Conway apologizes so profusely for several thousand words one would be forgiven for thinking he committed a capital crime.

Truth be told, Mr. Conway’s unforgivable sin was his cultural appropriation in daring to cast people of color as heroes in his fiction of the 1970s. For you see, by some cruel twist of fate, he had the misfortune to be born to a white family and raised in a white neighborhood in the 1950s. Personally, I thought his having created diverse characters to appeal to minority readers and encourage tolerance among all readers in the decade following the Civil Rights movement is something he should be proud of, but apparently not so.

What’s more, all of his wailing and grinding of teeth is in the form of an introduction to a volume reprinting the work he is so ashamed of. One wonders what the purpose is of writers telling readers who just spent money buying reprints of their work how truly offensive those same works are. Given that Mr. Conway spent much of his career at Marvel Comics channeling Stan Lee’s voice, one wonders why Stan Lee isn’t likewise condemned for cultural appropriation for creating Black Panther and the Utopian nation of Wakanda. Of course, logical thinking isn’t advisable in a society that feeds off emotional reactions to maintain a constant state of division.

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Zombies Need Anthologies! PLUS Short Fiction Crafting

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

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Howard: Today I’m turning over my Black Gate megaphone to Joshua Palmetier, gifted writer, mathematician, and the mind behind Zombies Need Brains’ line of anthologies. Joshua publishes a lot of Black Gate writers, so we naturally have fingers crossed his upcoming Kickstarter will fund and hope that you’ll check out. Regardless, though, this article has some great insight on writing good short fiction and getting out of the slush pile. Take it away Joshua!

Zombies Need Brains’ latest Kickstarter is nearing its end (ONLY HOURS LEFT!) and, with the possibility of an open call for submissions if we fund, I thought that I’d spend some time talking about how you can better your chances of getting from the ZNB slush pile into one of our anthologies. The competition is pretty steep and only getting worse with each Kickstarter. (Last year, Portals had 550 submissions alone and we ended up taking seven; we had a lot of anchor authors for that one, though.) I’ve talked before about how to brainstorm your way to an idea that isn’t standard, but also isn’t so far out there it’s off theme. So let’s suppose you already have an idea of what you want to write. A core concept.

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Mourning the Loss of a Way of Life

Friday, July 19th, 2019 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

REHfrazetta barsoomIt may seem a bit peculiar to write an article about the decline in reading for a site that has done so much to promote the works of writers past and present. Most assuredly, regular visitors to this site are readers. Unfortunately, they are the exception and not the rule in the present day.

During the pulp era, writers were sometimes referred to disparagingly as the Penny-a-Word Brigade. Flash forward to the end of the second decade of the 21st Century and you’ll find far too many pulp writers who would salivate at the thought of earning a penny a word for their efforts. Far too many receive no financial compensation at all, some do not even receive comp copies of their own titles.

The purpose of this article isn’t to disparage small presses that are labors of love for publishers who regularly soldier on year after year failing to turn a profit. When you are a small operation, economies of scale aren’t even a concern. You could publish two dozen titles a year and still lose money. Paying writers or artists is not always possible for those who are in it for something other than financial return.

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On Writing Advice

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

Black Gate clouds-small

This isn’t my view, but it’s pretty darn close

Good afternoon, Readers!

It’s a beautiful summer’s day here in Ottawa, Canada as of the writing of this. A lovely cool breeze is coming in the window, mitigating the heat of the sun, while cotton-puff clouds float through an impossibly blue sky.

I’m sitting by the window while my dad cooks a spectacular fry- up brunch, letting my thoughts drift with the clouds. I have nothing with me but his old iPad and a cup of delicious locally roasted coffee from my friends at JenEric Coffee.

This is all a poetic way of saying that I’ve been thinking a lot about writing advice of late, and I figured I would share my thoughts with you.

(You want clumsy segues? I’m your gal!)

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On Release Day for My Latest Novel, I Ponder My Inspirations

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019 | Posted by David B. Coe

Time's Children DB Jackson-small Time's Demon new hires-small

Two weeks ago, John O’Neill was kind enough to publish in Black Gate my review of Guy Gavriel Kay’s newest novel A Brightness Long Ago. In the review, I mention that Guy Kay’s work has long been an influence and inspiration for my own. As John and I discussed what I might write for a post marking today’s release of my latest work, Time’s Demon, book two in my Islevale Cycle, he reflected on that line in my review and asked if I might want to put together a piece on the works that have shaped my writing and my career. This is why the man is a World Fantasy Award-winning editor.

Authors writing about our inspirations quickly find ourselves in tricky territory. The fact is that everything we read influences us, just as does every other thing we experience. Our creativity comes from a deeply personal place, and each of us is the sum of, among other things, our experiences, our emotions, the people with whom we interact, and, yes, the art to which we’re exposed. Anything I read can help to shape my work-in-progress – even the worst book ever penned might at least point me in the direction of things I don’t want to do with my next scene. So clearly, when we talk about our influences, we mean something deeper and more substantive.

Then there is the fact that many of our closest friends are also colleagues, and we don’t wish to offend with an act of omission. Again, all that I read influences me in some way, and I am constantly inspired by the talent, vision, and passion of writers I know and care about.

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Writing Women

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

A Woman

A Woman

Also a Woman

Also a Woman

Good afternoon, Readers!

Full disclosure: I am a woman, and so have a vested interest in how women are portrayed in all media, not even just the speculative. Since, however, the speculative is so able to better reflect the real world and imagine a better one, I’m going to talk about that for today.

I had been, at one point in my past, privy to a enormous internet argument about how terribly some male writers write women. The primary complaint of the defenders of bad writing of female characters was, and this is a literal quote, ” writing women is hard.”

Congratulations, random male internet commenter, you have accidentally his upon an immutable truth. Writing women is hard. Writing men is hard. Writing a compelling scene is hard. Writing plot is hard.

Writing is hard.

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The Strange Tale of the Fighting Model T Fords

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


While writing my next novel in the Western Desert of Egypt (something I’ve discussed in several previous posts), I came across an interesting local landmark. Behind my campsite in Bahariya Oasis stands a grim heap of black volcanic stone called “English Mountain”. When I asked around about this unusual name, the local Bedouin told me that it was once home to an English soldier who kept watch for attacking tribes back in the days when Egypt was still a colony. I was told the ruins of his house could still be seen.

So of course I went up to see them!

But not before taking Ahmed Fakhry’s excellent book Bahariya and Farafra out of my backpack to see what he had to say about this. Yes, I travel through the Sahara with a bag full of books.

Written in 1974 but mostly based on expeditions the archaeologist took in the 1930s, Fakhry’s book is full of useful information and folklore. In it he says that English Mountain is actually named after a New Zealander named Claud Williams, who commanded No. 5 Light Car Patrol during World War One. Williams, Fakhry says, kept a lonely vigil atop that mountain for hostile Senussi tribesmen.

And therein lies a tale.

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Let Me Outline It For You

Friday, March 29th, 2019 | Posted by Violette Malan

Block Writing the NovelTo outline or not to outline? Ah, the perennial question. The question that’s answered in every possible way by all writers’ guides. The kind of question that often comes up when a writer is being interviewed: are you an “outliner” or are you a “pantser,” as in, do you fly by the seat of your pants? Some writers swear by one, and some swear by the other.

Which basically means writers do a lot of swearing.

Pantsers like to grab the end of a thread they see trailing out a door and follow where it leads – with a bit of guidance here and tweaking there, sure, but basically letting the story evolve organically, on its own feet as it were.  This method has led to some of the best books ever, and when it works, it really works.

When it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’ve had people tell me that they’ve gone as far as a couple of hundred pages before deciding the idea wasn’t going anywhere, and setting it aside. It takes a brave writer to do that.

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Cheque Please

Friday, March 15th, 2019 | Posted by Violette Malan

Canadian FlagWe’ve got a odd thing here in Canada that I’m not certain exists anywhere else. Oh I’m sure that other provinces, states and countries have Arts Councils, but I’m not sure that any of them do what the Canada Council for the Arts does for writers. Specifically, they have a little program called Public Lending Rights.

For those of you who don’t already know about this, it’s money the government gives us writers (thank you Canadian tax-payers everywhere, including myself) to compensate authors for the royalties they miss from the use of library books.

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Exploring Bahariya Oasis, Egypt

Wednesday, March 6th, 2019 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


A view of Bahariya Oasis from my camp on the outskirts of Biwati

When visiting Egypt, it’s hard to tear yourself away from the Nile Valley. After all, that’s where you’ll find the vast majority of temples and pyramids, as well as the lively city of Cairo, currently one of my favorite cities in the world.

On my previous trips to Egypt I’ve often looked longingly at the western horizon, wondering about the oases that are strung out across the desert far to the west of the river. Finally last month as part of researching my next novel, I got to visit one of them.

Bahariya Oasis is about 370 kilometers (230 miles) southwest of Egypt’s capital. The old caravan route (the one my characters have to take), was a waterless ten days on camel. I only had to endure a long ride on a cramped bus through a dreary landscape. This part of the Western Desert is not pretty. It’s flat, with few changes in terrain, and not even any real sand dunes to look at.

After this minimalist landscape, the road leads up a ridge of black volcanic stone and to an overlook above a wide valley. The entire valley is green with palm groves and cultivated land. The effect is startling, and must have been even more so for the travelers in the old caravans. The valley measures 94 kilometers (59 miles) long and 42 kilometers (26 miles) wide.

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