New Treasures: The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood

Friday, February 14th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Unspoken Name-small The Unspoken Name-back-small

Cover by Billelis

Well, damn. We’re midway through February and I haven’t read any fantasy debuts yet. Sub-par performance for someone who’s supposed to be keeping you informed. Fortunately Tor sent me a review copy of their next big-budget debut, The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood. It has the obligatory breathless blurbs (“Spine-tingling prose, gorgeous worldbuilding, powerful older women” — Emily Tesh), starred reviews (“[A] phenomenal debut. Csorwe, a 14-year-old orc princess, is betrothed to the Unspoken One, her world’s god, and is slated to be sacrificed… Epic fantasy fans are sure to be impressed.” — Publishers Weekly), and enough grumpy press to keep everyone honest (“A moderately promising entry” — Kirkus). And its hefty (463 pages), and it’s about an orc priestess who turns into a wizard’s assassin.

I don’t think I can reasonably ask for any more than that. Here’s the publisher’s description.

What if you knew how and when you will die?

Csorwe does ― she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.

But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin―the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.

But Csorwe will soon learn ― gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.

The Unspoken Name is the opening novel in The Serpent Gates. It was published by Tor Books on February 11, 2020. It is 463 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover, and $13.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Billelis. Read the first 8 pages of Chapter One here, or download a free preview here. See all our recent New Treasures here.

Goth Chick News: Classic Horror Fans, We Have a New Home

Thursday, February 13th, 2020 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Classic Monsters World-small

Remember when you were a kid, and you had your first epic theme park experience? Maybe it was at one of the Six Flags parks, or even a local attraction like Santa’s Village here outside of Chicago. Or maybe it was one of the Disney parks which for someone under ten would have been utterly mind-blowing. Wherever it was, you probably remember thinking, “I want to live here forever!” having your every sense assaulted, jacked up on too much sugar and endorphins, and grinning until your face hurt.

That was certainly me then. And when I read this news, it’s me now.

I seriously had to check this out through several sources as it seemed too much to get my over-stimulated brain to comprehend.

Universal Studios Orlando is building a new theme park, two miles away from its current property and named Universal’s Epic Universe. It will be made up of four themed ‘lands’; Super Nintendo World, How to Train Your Dragon, Fantastic Beasts, and… and…


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Space Pirates, a Murderous AI, and a Haunted House in Space: The Shieldrunner Pirates Trilogy by R. E. Stearns

Thursday, February 13th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Barbary Station-small Mutiny at Vesta-small Gravity of a Distant Sun-small

Covers by Martin Deschambeault (left, middle) and Jon McCoy Art (right)

R. E. Stearns’s science fiction debut Barbary Station, the opening novel in the Shieldrunner Pirates trilogy, featured two engineers who hijack a spaceship to join a band of space pirates, only to discover the pirates are hiding from a malevolent AI. Kirkus called it “Super cool… It mixes unpredictable mysteries, a murderous AI, space battles, [and] an awesome and fashionable Pirate Leader… a blend of Die Hard and The Illuminae Files.” We covered it enthusiastically in 2017Mutiny at Vesta arrived in 2018, and in her review, Liz Bourke wrote:

If Barbary Station was a variant on the gothic novel in space (complete with a haunted house in the form of a space station), Mutiny at Vesta is a nested, layered series of capers in which Adda and Iridian work with limited resources and the pressure of time and other people’s competing priorities to pull off the damn-near impossible… Stearns writes measured, tense, and intense space opera, filled with a diverse selection of believable characters. I really enjoyed this book.

The Shieldrunner Pirates trilogy is the kind adventurous space opera I really enjoy. Unfortunately, if Amazon reviews are anything to go by, it doesn’t seem to have found an audience. Barbary Station had a healthy 32 reviews when it was released in 2017; Mutiny at Vesta had only two, a disaster in publishing terms. The third, Gravity of a Distant Sun, will not have a hardcover release; it arrives in trade paperback on February 18.

If you’ve read and enjoyed this series, do me a favor and write an online review. And if you haven’t, here’s a peek at the back covers for all three books, with just a sample of the praise they’ve received. Have a look — this just may turn into your favorite new series.

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Rebecca Diem on The New Golden Age of the SFF Novella

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Lights Go Out in Lychford-small Riot Baby-small Prosper's Demon-small Upright Women Wanted-small

I complain frequently about modern publishing (where did mass market anthologies go, damn it!?) but  really, there’s a lot to like. One of the most positive recent trends has been the resurgence of the novella. We’ve spent a lot of time at Black Gate covering popular new novellas like Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s This Is How You Lose the Time War and‘s exciting release schedule (in Intergalactic Wars, Ancient Gods, and Living Ships: New Novellas from, among others), but we’re not the only ones who have noticed.

Over at Rebecca Diem, author of the 4-volume Tales of the Captain Duke novella series, salutes the modern age of the novella. She touches on many truths in her article; here’s a small taste.

With a good novella, I’m able to dip my toes into an adventure, especially when a busy schedule prevents me from dedicating time to longer works. Short stories pair well with your morning coffee; novels are best for long stretches of uninterrupted time on evenings or weekends. Novellas fit nicely into a tote bag for your commute and all those spare moments collected over the course of the day, but can also be finished in a couple hours for a satisfying and immersive reading experience.

When I was researching market opportunities in 2014 after finishing my first novella, I stumbled on a lot of advice similar to this 2008 Writer’s Digest piece advising novella writers to “stick it in a drawer” or pad it out to a full-length work… But novellas are now being actively solicited by all major publishers, and early adopters of the trend toward shorter works (including are leading the field with awards and accolades.

The novella’s comeback can be attributed to the emergence and increasingly popularity of e-books, print-on-demand publishing, and alternative distribution models, making them a more attractive, lucrative option in the digital age. There are rich opportunities here for both writers and readers of concise, efficient storytelling.

Rebecca’s article is Long Live Short Fiction: The New Golden Age of the SFF Novella; it’s well worth the read. And while we’re on the topic, here’s a handful of‘s upcoming releases that caught my eye, including Sarah Gailey’s “good old-fashioned horse opera for the 22nd century” (Charles Stross) Upright Women Wanted.

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Future Treasures: The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Cover design by David Mann 

Natasha Pulley reunites the heroes from her breakout fantasy The Watchmaker of Filigree Street in a brand new novel, The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, on sale next week. In his review of the first book for us, Damien Moore was enchanted by Pulley’s narrative gifts.

Pulley’s descriptions of High Society London burst from the pages. The exquisite portrait she paints of the interior of a quiet tea shop will linger in your mind long after you’ve read about it. So, too will Pulley’s descriptions of the watchmaker’s wondrous creations. If they don’t enchant you, well, then I guess you’re not into the whole gorgeous automaton craze. Hopefully, Pulley succeeds in getting you to fall in love with Mori’s creations.

The sequel switches up the setting, moving the action to 19th-Century Japan. It’s being enthusiastically received; Kirkus Reviews says “Pulley’s witty writing and enthusiastically deployed steampunk motifs — clockwork, owls, a mechanical pet, Tesla-inspired electrical drama — enliven [the] plot.” Here’s a look at the back covers for both books, and an excerpt from the starred review at Publisher’s Weekly.

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Her Master’s Voice: The World of Virtual Idols, Part III

Tuesday, February 11th, 2020 | Posted by John MacMaster

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In Part I of this 3-part series, we examined how the concept of the Virtual Idol first emerged in anime during the 1980s. In Part II we looked at how things opened up as we entered the digital age, particularly with the emergence of the whole Vocaloid sub-culture, and its popular software.

It’s no surprise that after the tremendous success of Hatsune Miku and her immediate follow-ups there has been a wave of newer virtual singers hitting the scene. Some have been in the form of additional voicebanks (with their own related character avatars) in directly Vocaloid-related products, often developed by partner companies, and sometimes they arise from separate yet similar voice-synthesizers.

The most significant of these competing programs would be the UTAU shareware, with their singer characters also being known as UTAU (or UTAUloids, unofficially). There are a few factors that have increased its popularity, not the least of which is that it can be downloaded free of charge! Although it comes with one starting voice named Uta Utane (more often called by her nickname ‘Defoko’) — who sounds a bit rudimentary, in comparison to the Vocaloids — users can also create their own singer voices, and make them freely available to others.

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Let’s Go Questing!

Tuesday, February 11th, 2020 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

The Quest Banner

Good morning, Readers!

I think it’s fairly evident by now, after one year of writing for this eZine, that I am a gigantic dork. I have come to terms with this, accepted it, learnt to love it, even.

So it is entirely without shame that I proclaim how deeply in love with the show The Quest I fell when it aired some five years ago. Four? Hang on, let me check. I was right the first time. Five years ago.  Holy mackerel. Five years ago. When the season ended I was, along with a small, but dedicated group of fans (waves vigorously at The Quest Army (also, despite being a huge fan of the show, I only discovered The Quest Army last year, and I’ve never been happier than knowing that these wonderful folks exist)), eagerly waiting for news of another season. That news never came. And so, we gathered in our small corners of the internet, writing letters, begging for news, hoping against hope.

Well, not three weeks ago, our hoping, writing and begging paid off.

The Quest is finally, five years later, getting its second season.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m fairly sure that at least half of you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about.

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Reviving the Rich History of Traveller

Monday, February 10th, 2020 | Posted by Patrick Kanouse

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Journal of the Travellers’ Aid Society, Volume 1
Various authors
Mongoose Publishing (128 pages, $14.99 digital)

Traveller is a popular science fiction role playing game originally released in 1977 by GDW. To support its community of gamers, GDW published The Journal of the Traveller’s Aid Society (JTASfrom 1979 to 1985. (JTAS saw subsequent revivals for later versions of Traveller.) In 2019, Mongoose Publishing — publishers of two editions of Traveller — Kickstarted a three-volume revision of classic JTAS articles, intended for their second edition rules. Additionally, they would incorporate some new material and also mine some fanzines for articles. They Kickstarter was a success, eventually unlocking six volumes. Volume 1 has been released digitally (hard copy to follow) for sale to non-Kickstarter backers.

Volume I is 128 pages and includes two adventures, two new alien PC races, seven creatures, seven vehicles, two starships, eight articles providing background and fluff, and several items beyond that. The table of contents is organized by article type, making the job of finding those stats for the burst lasers easy.

The meat of this volume is in the eight articles broken into two sections: Charted Space and Travelling. Here, you can learn about a typical Imperial megacorporation, SuSAG; a listing and short description of the emperors of the Third Imperium; a history of the Vilani, the human race responsible for establishing the First Imperium; piracy — whether of the Vargr Corsair nature or what generally works for piracy in the Spinward Marches — an interview with the K’kree ambassador to the Imperium; a tutorial on smuggling; and an overview of the Gazulin starport. The topics covered do not provide new rules (with the minor exception in the smuggling article). Rather, they are intended to provide background and information to add flavor and hooks to your games, along with providing a quick bit of history for the Traveller default setting of the Third Imperium.

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: The Careworn Cuff – Part Two (The Greenstreet Chronicles)

Monday, February 10th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Nero WolfeWe’re back this week with the second installment in our three-part adaptation of The Careworn Cuff, from the old Nero Wolfe radio show staring Sidney Greenstreet. If you missed Part One, you really need to read it first. It might not make Part Two any better, but at least it will make sense!

The Careworn Cuff – Part Two (of Three)

Chapter Three

I found four Dorothy Spencers listed in the phone book; any of which might be our non-client. Wednesday morning, while Wolfe was upstairs for his morning session with the orchids, I eliminated three of them. I couldn’t get a hold of the fourth, so she was still a possibility. I had just made another unsuccessful attempt when I heard the elevator, struggling under Wolfe’s seventh of a ton. If I worked as hard as that elevator, I would definitely demand a raise.

“Good morning Archie. Did you sleep well?”

It’s the same greeting, every day, even if we had already talked that morning. He went to his desk, carrying the day’s orchid. I had already changed the water in the vase on his desk. That’s one of my daily duties. He must have finished the Van Doren book in his room this morning. He had a new one tucked under his arm as he entered.

Sitting at my desk, I had watched him cross the room, returning his greeting as he reached his own oversized one. I was silent until he was settled in his chair, the book placed on the desk. I now saw that it was The Age of Reason, by Thomas Paine. I had a pretty good idea that the discussion at lunch was going to involve Colonial America. History was not one of my favorite subjects as a boy, so I would mostly be listening.

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The 2019 Locus Recommended Reading List

Sunday, February 9th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Twisted Ones-small The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction-small The Best of Greg Egan-small Roy G. Krenkel Father of Heroic Fantasy - A Centennial Celebration-small

The annual Locus Recommended Reading List is probably your best one-stop reference for all that’s new and exciting in book releases. It’s compiled by the staff and editors of Locus magazine, plus the contributing columnists, outside reviewers, and “other professionals and critics of genre fiction and non-fiction” — folks like Jonathan Strahan, Liz Bourke, Carolyn Cushman, Paul Di Filippo, Paula Guran, Rich Horton, Russell Letson, Gary K. Wolfe, Mark R. Kelly, Cheryl Morgan, John Joseph Adams, Ellen Datlow, John DeNardo, Charles Payseur, Sean Wallace, and many, many others.

The 2019 list appeared in the February issue of Locus magazine, on sale now, and was also published in its entirety last week at the Locus Online website.

Be prepared to take notes. The list includes several hundred titles in a dozen categories, including Science Fiction Novels, Fantasy Novels, Horror Novels, Young Adult Novels, Collections, Anthologies, Non Fiction, Illustrated and Art Books, Novellas, Short Fiction, and others.

I’m a Locus subscriber, and have been for nearly three decades. The magazine is a tremendous resource for anyone who’s serious about science fiction. Each issue is packed with in-depth reviews, interviews, news, photos, convention reports, entertaining features, and a lot more. Why not check it out? Digital subscriptions start at just $4.99 a month. Do yourself a favor and buy a sample issue here.

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