Letters — Our Readers Speak

Letters — Our Readers Speak

Black Gate is the fastest-growing fantasy magazine on the stands, and has designs on becoming the magazine for adventure fantasy in the 21st Century. But we can’t do it without your help. If you’ve got feedback or questions on any aspect of our fiction or articles, we’d love to hear from you.

What Do you Mean “Epic Fantasy?”

Hi John,

Just got my first two issues of Black Gate. I love it so far. It did lead me, however, to check your webpage and look over the submission guidelines again.

It’s unclear to me what exactly you mean by “epic fantasy” or “adventure-oriented fantasy.” To be more specific, I thought I knew what these terms meant, but I’ve run into several stories that don’t seem (to me) to fit that bill. Some examples are:

“Golden Bell, Seven, and the Marquis of Zeng” (Spring, 2001)
“Exo-Skeleton Town” (Spring, 2001)
“The Whoremaster of Pald” (Summer, 2001) (My favorite so far. The title necessitated me reading this first, even before I was able to go and start on issue #1. I was very pleased.)

None of these seemed particularly epic or adventure-oriented. “Exo-Skeleton Town” is even, in my humble opinion, soft science fiction (reminds me of early, Campbell-era SF from Amazing Stories & such).

Mind you, this is not in the least a criticism of Black Gate. I love diversity (especially since most of the stuff I write turns into hybrid SF/F/Horror). I’m just asking for clarification of what sort of things you look at. I’d like to submit, and would prefer not to waste either your time or mine by submitting something that doesn’t suit your needs.

Thanks for your time and keep up the great work.

– Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Boy, what a great question.

First off — Black Gate is primarily a magazine of epic fantasy, but we also publish urban fantasy, horror, comedy, romantic fantasy, magic realism, and virtually every other kind of modern fantasy, as long as it is well crafted and peopled with real characters. We define “epic fantasy” as that in which the emphasis is on suspense and dramatic momentum. That is, it’s not social commentary, parody, or dark, brooding tragedy. It is unabashed adventure fantasy in the classic sense, with colorful heroes in exotic settings, struggling mightily against foes both mundane and magical. Popular examples of this genre in our eyes — and there are many! — run the gamut from Fritz Leiber’s “Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser” tales, to Lord of the Rings, to Lloyd Alexander’s classic Black Cauldron books.

In that sense, I think both “Golden Bell, Seven, and the Marquis of Zeng” and “The Whoremaster of Pald” are first-class examples of modern epic fantasy. In both cases there are life and death stakes, magical and sinister opposition, and a courageous and resourceful protagonist up against near-impossible odds. And in both cases the backdrop is a terrifically rendered, exotic setting — in the former ancient China, and in the latter the twisted back alleys of the impeccably rendered city of Pald.

“Exo-Skelton Town,” of course, is a whole different beast. Jeffrey Ford’s tale of a strange alien world where humans must take on the identities of famous classic movie stars to mingle amongst the slightly sinister natives is pure science fantasy, a wholly original backdrop for a surprising story of love and loss.

Why was it appropriate for Black Gate? While it certainly wasn’t “epic fantasy,” it was a singularly powerful work, suspenseful and chilling, and a fine example of the “every other kind of modern fantasy” advertised above. It’s the kind of story there really is no other market for, and in fact, as Jeff puts it, “it was rejected more often than my VISA card.” Once it saw print it was widely acclaimed, and we were very gratified to see the story selected as one of the best of the month by Mark Kelly in the April issue of Locus (for example).

If you’re interested in more of Jeff’s work, we highly recommend his fantasy trilogy, The Physiognomy, Memoranda, and The Beyond, and especially his upcoming collection of short fiction from Golden Gryphon, The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant, which reprints “Exo-Skeleton Town.”

Gaming Novels for Non-Gamers

Hey John,

Just wanted to touch base and tell you that I read The Temple of Elemental Evil which you mentioned on your new books page, and I really enjoyed it.

I’m not a gamer. Never even tried it, but I like to read gaming novels because they tend to be more exciting and well, just more fun than many mainstream fantasy novels. I grew up reading Burroughs, Howard, Carter, etc so I guess I just like pulpish adventure yarns better than evocative and moving socially conscious pretentious novels. Call me a low brow.

Anyway, lots of fun.

Take care,

– Charles R. Rutledge

Glad you enjoyed the book. Too often these gaming novels don’t rise much above the quality of a movie-tie in… but in the hands of the right writer and editor, they can be a tremendous amount of fun. The way I look at it, it’s our job to sort through this stuff to let our readers know about the gems.

In any event, it sounds like you had a true classical education in fantasy, and we’re glad to make your acquaintance. We’d enjoy hearing your thoughts on future issues of the magazine as well.

Overdue Attention for Edmond Hamilton

Dear Mr. O’Neill & Ms Dechene:

On the strength of a short plug in the latest Locus, I visited your BG site, and am much impressed by the graphics, layout, content, and general all-round enthusiasm implicit in the whole. You’ve apparently made a good start, and I wish you good luck with Black Gate enterprises. And as further encouragement I’ve gone ahead and subscribed online (four issues, starting with #2). I’ve also ordered a back copy of #1 on the strength of the Moorcock piece listed therein.

But now, if you’d be good enough to comply, I’d appreciate a little help from either or both of you. In the Locus citing, old-time pulp writer Edmond Hamilton (now deceased) is listed as one of the contributors of “fiction” in Black Gate # 2. Just that, no mention of story title, or whether it’s a reprint or something “unpublished” or “hard to find” that you’ve recently uncovered. Whatever it is, I’m glad to see you giving Hamilton some long overdue attention. He’s been given short shrift by the modernists who too easily tend to dismiss his work as outdate hack stuff. Not so, a good handful of his tales are still quite enjoyable, and worth the attention of the modern-day audience, at least those with unjaded palates.

Now, I happen to be doing a little research of my own on Hamilton, and have kept an eye cocked for any bits of “news,” references to, or new reprintings of his work. So naturally I’m keenly interested in what Hamilton you’ve found for Black Gate #2.

To help me out (I too live by deadlines, the latest one looming!), I would very much appreciate receiving BG #2 as expeditiously as possible (not having to endure the usual 4 to 6 weeks wait inflicted by our snail’s-pace postal system). So if you can get it to me “fast,” I’d be much obliged. And, of course, I’d also be willing to pay for the extra freight involved, if it comes to that.

In the meantime (since we don’t have matter transmitters yet), it would also be very helpful if one of you would let me know precisely what this Hamilton piece is. Fiction? Reprint or New? Or an article by or about him? Maybe even someone else’s current musings on the pulpster’s past career? Whatever, just a line or two would help.

Many thanks, and good luck with BG.

– Joe Wrzos

Glad to see another fan of the great Edmond Hamilton out there! Hamilton was one of the true stars of the pulp era, with a terrific body of work in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and I’m hoping that we can expose him to a few more interested parties with the latest issue of Black Gate.

Both BG #1 and 2 were mailed within two days of your order, and I hope they have arrived safely by now. In the meantime I’m happy to elaborate on the Hamilton piece: it is a reprint of Hamilton’s first published story, the creepy and horrific tale of the doomed explorer of an ancient ruined city, “The Monster God or Mamruth,” from the August 1926 issue of Weird Tales (pictured at left), with brand new artwork by Allen Koszowski (sample pictured below).

In addition to that, there are 3 short sidebars on his Hamilton’s and fiction, with several cover scans and a previously unpublished photo from the early 70’s.

It’s a delight to be able to reprint some of the classic works of early fantasy for a brand new audience, and I’m glad to see it received with such enthusiasm.

Our first reprint, Karl Edward Wagner’s thrilling novella “The Dark Muse” (Spring 2001 issue, with an online excerpt available here), introduced Wagner’s barbarian hero Kane to a brand new audience, and we received a lot of positive mail on that piece. We plan to continue to highlight these “neglected classics” with our Classic reprint series every issue.

And thanks also for your support of the magazine — it is much appreciated!

More Knights of the Dinner Table, Please


I found your web site through a mention in Knights of the Dinner Table magazine. Will you be posting the original KODT strip The Java Joint comics on the web site? Hope so. Thanks.

– jrs@mcn.org

Thanks for the suggestion. For the time being though, the original Knights of the Dinner Table strip, by Jolly Blackburn and Steve Johansson, will be exclusive to the print edition of Black Gate.

Knights of the Dinner Table will of course continue to be available in its own monthly magazine, as well as at the Kenzer and Company website. It’s one of the best independent comics being published today, and if you’re not aware of it yet, you should be!

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