New Treasures: The Ingenious by Darius Hinks

Friday, February 15th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Ingenious-smallDarius Hinks has had a distinguished career as a fantasy writer. His first novel, Warrior Priest, won the Gemmell Morningstar award. Most of his fiction has been set in the Warhammer and Warhammer: 40K universes, including the Orion trilogy, Sigvald (2011), Blood of Sanguinius (2017), the just-released Mephiston: Revenant Crusade (Jan 8, 2019) and the upcoming Blackstone Fortress (May 14, 2019).

His latest novel (and the second of three planned for release this year) is his first non-licensed work, and it’s certainly the first to catch my eye. In his article “7 Impossible Fantasy Cities Worth the Visit” at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, Sam Reader says:

Floating outside of time and space and only coming to rest once a year for the annual Conjunction — during which it adds new districts to itself — Athanor is a massive living city controlled by a secretive group of alchemists known as the Curious Men. While the danger of the place is immediately obvious within two chapters of Darius Hinks’ new novel — its lower levels are ruled by a twisted gang of mutants, the cops know how to hide a body way too well (and also all wear cultist uniforms), and one of the Curious Men has been straight-up murdering people with a skin-shroud so he can take control of and literally bend reality. At the same time, the place feels vibrant and alive in a way few fictional metropolises do, literally pulsing and teeming with life as it travels through and around spacetime. Its constantly changing nature gives it the sense of a wild, beautiful, protean place, its danger as seductive as it is horrifying.

Here’s the book description.

Political exiles are desperate to escape from the impossible city that imprisons them, in this bloody and brilliant epic fantasy

Thousands of years ago, the city of Athanor was set adrift in time and space by alchemists, called “the Curious Men.” Ever since, it has accumulated cultures, citizens and species into a vast, unmappable metropolis.

Isten and her gang of half-starved political exiles live off petty crime and gangland warfare in Athanor’s seediest alleys. Though they dream of returning home to lead a glorious revolution, Isten’s downward spiral drags them into a mire of addiction and violence. Isten must find a way to save the exiles and herself if they are ever to build a better, fairer world for the people of their distant homeland.

The Ingenious was published by Angry Robot on February 5, 2019. It is 349 pages, priced at $12.99 in trade paperback. The cover is by John Coulthart. Read an excerpt from the first chapter here, and see all our recent New Treasures here.


Cual Es Su Direcho – Scenes In The Life Of A Fantasy Writer

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

Alicante castlePeople, I could not make this stuff up.

Many of you know that my family is Spanish, and even though I was born in Canada I identify culturally as Spanish.

What you may not know is that recently my husband and I have been planning to move to Spain. Paul has wanted to move since our first visit there together, but to be honest, I wasn’t that keen – mainly because of the complexity of the Spanish infrastructure. Spain pretty much invented bureaucracy in the 1500’s figuring out how to deal with all that gold from the new world. I well remember the time I had to stand in 3 lines to buy stamps.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Dragondrums, by Anne McCaffrey

Friday, February 15th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Steve Weston

Cover by Steve Weston

Cover by Fred Marcellino

Cover by Fred Marcellino

Cover by Elizabeth Malczynski

Cover by Elizabeth Malczynski

The Balrog Award, often referred to as the coveted Balrog Award, was created by Jonathan Bacon and first conceived in issue 10/11 of his Fantasy Crossroads fanzine in 1977 and actually announced in the final issue, where he also proposed the Smitty Awards for fantasy poetry. The awards were presented for the first time at Fool-Con II at the Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas on April 1, 1979. The awards were never taken particularly seriously, even by those who won. The final awards were presented in 1985. A Balrog Award for Novel was presented each of the years the award existed.

Anne McCaffrey first introduced her world of Pern in “Weyr Search,” the cover story of the October 1967 issue of Analog. Although the story had all the trappings of a faux Medieval fantasy tale, McCaffrey claimed from the very beginning that it was a science fiction story, a claim bolstered by its presence in Analog, a science fiction magazine. The story went on to win the Hugo Award and McCaffrey used it in her first Pern novel. By 1978, she had published three novels in the Dragonriders of Pern series and the first two novels in the related Harper Hall series, Dragonsong and Dragonsinger. She had also clearly demonstrated the science fictional underpinnings of her world.

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Goth Chick News: When Pixar Met Christine…

Thursday, February 14th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Stranger Cars

Okay, admittedly I’m way late on this since it was uploaded to YouTube in October, but as it was just brought to my attention, and killer cars are always in vogue in my world, I had to share.

On the YouTube channel Fabulous Cars VEEVOOO, some complete genius took liberties with the John Carpenter classic Christine (1983) along with other vehicular horrors and “Pixarized” them. As you likely recall, Christine is the movie based on Stephen King’s story about a demonic 1958 Plymouth Fury of the same name, who was hard core in love with her rather backward teenaged owner and went about systematically destroying anyone who mistreated him or took too much of his attention.

If you haven’t read the book, trust me when I say it’s way more interesting than I’m making it sound, and this gem of a movie short has sent me back to read it again. If you ever fell in love with a car, you’ll get it.

The short, called Stranger Cars, has all the magic of Pixar with the imagination of John Carpenter, and blends them into one big Disney nightmare.

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Vintage Treasures: Doomsday Morning by C.L. Moore

Thursday, February 14th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Doomsday Morning-small Doomsday Morning-back-small

Art by Vincent DiFate

C.L. Moore is a name to conjure with. One of the finest early contributors to Weird Tales, she helped define and create the sword-&-sorcery genre alongside Robert E. Howard, with her tales of Jirel of Joiry. Her other great pulp hero was Northwest Smith, whose adventures have remained in print for the greater part of the past eight decades.

Perhaps best remembered today for her nearly career-long collaboration with her husband Henry Kuttner, Moore nonetheless made numerous major solo contributions to the genre, including the groundbreaking collections Judgment Night (1952) and Shambleau and Others (1953). Her last novel, Doomsday Morning (1957), would be called dystopian science fiction today. Something of a departure for Moore, it’s a more thoughtful and mature work that still reads well. Here’s an excerpt from Sandy Ferber’s review at the Fantasy Literature blog.

[Moore] capped off a glorious writing career with a solo SF novel, her last, Doomsday Morning.

A companion piece in title only to Moore’s 1943 novel Judgment Night, this is a very fine tale indeed. It is a bit unusual for the author in that its setting is not Venus, or deep space, or the distant future, or some unusually named fantasy world, but rather America — New York City and rural California, to be precise — of only 50 years in the future; in other words, around 2007, or right now! The America of Moore’s early 21st century has become a quasi-totalitarian regime run by a far-reaching entity known as Comus (short for Communications of the United States). This government department in essence controls not only all the communications in the country, but also the schools, transportation network, the hospitals, the entertainment industry, the military divisions, et al. Howard Rohan, a washed-up alcoholic wreck who had once been one of Broadway’s greatest stars, is pressured by Comus into putting on a traveling, open-air play called “Crossroads,” along with a troupe of five other actors, to entertain in California. That state, it seems, had been rebelling openly against Comus, and activists there had been purportedly hard at work perfecting some kind of “Anti-Com” device that might miraculously bring about Comus’ downfall. The story of how Rohan becomes a whole man again, after three years of grieving for his late wife, and how he becomes involved in nothing less than a second Revolutionary War of sorts, is the story of Doomsday Morning.

Read Sandy’s complete review here.

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Telepathic Invaders and Desperate Revolutionaries: The Shattered Kingdoms by Evie Manieri

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Blood's Pride Evie Manieri-small Fortune's Blight Evie Manieri-small Strife's Bane Evie Manieri-small

Every time a fantasy trilogy wraps up, we bake a cake in the Black Gate offices.

Evie Manieri’s The Shattered Kingdoms trilogy ends this month with Strife’s Bane, published in hardcover last week, four years after the last volume appeared. The series opened with Manieri’s debut novel Blood’s Pride (2013), the tale of a secret rebellion against telepathic warriors twenty years after they enslaved a nation, and continued with Fortune’s Blight (2015). Although it’s received praise from multiple quarters — Publishers Weekly says “The suspense, character development, and worldbuilding are all superior,” and Sharon Shinn called the opening novel “A fast-paced tale of honor and betrayal, hope and despair, secrets, revelations, and a whisper of divine magic”– the series has flown under the radar for many readers. Fortune’s Blight has only two reviews on Amazon, and (so far) Strife’s Bane has none at all — and has an Amazon Sales Rank of 932,782 a week after publication, not a promising sign.

I know there’s a popular trend (certainly among Black Gate readers, anyway) to stay clear of epic fantasy series until they’ve successfully completed. I hope that now that The Shattered Kingdoms has wrapped up, it will spur some fresh interest in the trilogy. Unlike many writers afflicted with late-series bloat, Manieri has kept her series lean. The first book in fact was by far the longest (528 pages); the second came in at 377, and Strife’s Bane weighs in at a trim 317. Here’s the description for the final book.

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Book of Space Adventures

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

Book-of-Space-Adventures-1963-small

British kids thrilled to real-world rockets and space travel as did American kids. Sputnik conquered space in 1957. By 1963 both the Russians and the U.S. boasted about astronauts circling the Earth. Canada launched the Alouette 1, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to enter space, signals had been bounced off communications satellites, probes flew by the Moon and Venus. The Dyna-Soar project promised a reusable space craft that looked like the coolest rocket plane ever.

Publishers around the world jumped on the trend. A UK firm called Atlas Publishing & Distributing Ltd. wanted a piece. It released Book of Space Adventures, called on the inside the “Boys’ Book of Space : With factual features on the World’s space programme AND fictional adventures of SPACE ACE – intrepid Commander of the Galactic patrol”.

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A Weird Dungeon Crawl… IN SPAAACE: Metamorphosis Alpha Deluxe Collector’s Edition

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

Metamorphosis Alpha reprint

This oversized volume arrived in the mail last week: the Deluxe Collector’s edition of Metamorphosis Alpha, the first science-fiction roleplaying game. Originally published by TSR as a slender booklet in 1976, it’s essentially a weird dungeon crawl … IN SPAAACE! … taking inspiration from Brian Aldiss’s novel Non-Stop (which I love, BTW).

Its combination of radiation and mutant people/animals later formed the basis of Gamma World, one of the most out-there RPG settings ever. This volume contains the original Metamorphosis Alpha manual, an interview with creator James M. Ward, playtest notes, and all the supplemental material and errata published in Dragon and other RPG magazines of the time.

So why did I buy this? I’m one of those people who rarely plays RPGs (I don’t know enough people around me who want to) but enjoys reading RPG books as entertainment. I’m also interested in RPG history, since I came of age right as they did, during the advent of AD&D in the late ’70s. The only game system I would ever play is Fudge, the best universal system ever and wonderfully flexible, but that only makes it easier to read about other games and sourcebooks — they can all be run in Fudge!

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Future Treasures: The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Raven Tower-smallAnn Leckie knows how to make an entrance. Her debut novel Ancillary Justice (2013) won the Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C. Clarke, and British Science Fiction Award, and she followed it in short order with three sequels: Ancillary Sword (2014), Ancillary Mercy (2015), and Provenance (2017).

Her fifth novel, and her debut fantasy, is one of the most anticipated books of the year. It arrives in hardcover from Orbit next week. Lev Grossman calls The Raven Tower “A powerhouse epic of humans and gods at war, deeply imagined and profoundly thrilling,” and Kirkus Reviews says:

It is a common fantasy trope to suggest gods gain strength through faith and worshipers and that they can employ that strength to bend reality. But few authors have really explored all the implications of what happens when multiple beings with that power come into conflict. There is so much story and careful thought packed into this short volume that it should correct anyone who believes a fully realized fantasy novel requires a minimum of 500 pages.

Here’s the description.

Gods meddle in the fates of men, men play with the fates of gods, and a pretender must be cast down from the throne in this masterful first fantasy novel from Ann Leckie, New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.

For centuries, the kingdom of Iraden has been protected by the god known as the Raven. He watches over his territory from atop a tower in the powerful port of Vastai. His will is enacted through the Raven’s Lease, a human ruler chosen by the god himself. His magic is sustained via the blood sacrifice that every Lease must offer. And under the Raven’s watch, the city flourishes.

But the power of the Raven is weakening. A usurper has claimed the throne. The kingdom borders are tested by invaders who long for the prosperity that Vastai boasts. And they have made their own alliances with other gods.

It is into this unrest that the warrior Eolo — aide to Mawat, the true Lease — arrives. And in seeking to help Mawat reclaim his city, Eolo discovers that the Raven’s Tower holds a secret. Its foundations conceal a dark history that has been waiting to reveal itself… and to set in motion a chain of events that could destroy Iraden forever.

The Raven Tower will be published by Orbit Books on February 26, 2019. It is 432 pages, priced at $26 in hardcover and $13.99 in digital formats. The cover was designed by Lauren Panepinto.

See all our recent coverage of the best upcoming fantasy here.


Analog, November 1979: A Retro-Review

Monday, February 11th, 2019 | Posted by Adrian Simmons

Analog 1979-small Analog 1979-back-small

The November 1979 Analog has probably the least appealing magazine cover I’ve ever seen. By Richard Anderson, for the story “Phoenix.” However, when we get to the story itself, that guy… that guy has seen some things, man.

Guest Editorial, by G. Harry Stine.

So… Harry Stine is a writer, space advocate, and a major founder of model rocketry, and he is unhappy with this whole idea that humans will never break the light speed barrier. So, as you do, he writes a bit of a hatchet-job on Albert Einstein, or at least those people lacking enough imagination to assume Einstein didn’t know what the hell he was talking about.

He was so successful at it, as a matter of fact, that a whole new cult of Keepers of the Faith have taken over and continue to look upon the Universe with the tunnel vision created by the blinders of their interpretations of Einstein’s work.

He goes on like this for easily 6 pages, hitting all the high points of various scientific ‘certainties’ that were exploded by later experimentations and observations. At least it wasn’t an article about telepathy…

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