Black Gate Wins World Fantasy Award

Sunday, October 30th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill


I’ve just returned from the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio, where I got the chance to meet up with several of our talented and far-flung contributors, including Bob Byrne, Patty Templeton, C.S.E. Cooney, Matthew Wuertz, Sarah Avery, Fred Durbin, Ellen Klages, Amal El-Mohtar, Derek Künsken, Brandon Crilly, Marie Bilodeau, David B. Coe, Jeffrey Ford, and many others.

But the highlight of the weekend — by a pretty wide margin — was receiving the World Fantasy Special Award in the Nonprofessional category. Here’s the text of the brief acceptance speech I hastily sketched out on my cell phone, just before the banquet ended.


In 1996, I started SF Site, one of the first genre websites. It quickly grew to over 150,000 readers per month. By 1998, as the most innovative and forward-thinking publications in the genre were creating the first ground-breaking websites, we decided to do something REALLY forward-thinking: Launch a print magazine.

Black Gate lasted for 15 print issues, until 2011. In November 2008 our Managing Editor, Howard Andrew Jones, said we should revamp the magazine’s website. I was the voice of reason. “Seriously, who wants to read more than one article a month, Jones?”

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Expanding Our Magazine Coverage at Black Gate

Friday, March 20th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

New Realm magazine February 2015-smallI’ve slowly been expanding our coverage of fantasy magazines here at Black Gate. Despite how dramatically the industry has changed over the decades since I started reading it, I still consider magazines the heart of the field. Our coverage is not nearly as comprehensive as I’d like it to be, but we’re getting there. I thought I’d pause for a moment and take stock of those publications we currently cover, and see if there are any obvious holes. They are:

Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by C.C. Finlay
Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews
Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, edited by Adrian Simmons, David Farney, William Ledbetter and James Frederick William Rowe
Nightmare, edited by John Joseph Adams
Clarkesworld, edited by Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace
The Dark, edited by Jack Fisher and Sean Wallace
Uncanny, edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Michael Damian Thomas, and Michi Trota
Weirdbook, edited by Douglas Draa‎
Interzone, edited by Andy Cox
Black Static, edited by Andy Cox
Weird Tales, edited by Marvin Kaye
Swords and Sorcery Magazine, edited by Curtis Ellett
Shimmer, edited by E. Catherine Tobler
Fantasy Scroll, edited by Iulian Ionescu, Frederick Doot, and Alexandra Zamorski
Gygax, edited by Jayson Elliot
Weird Fiction Review, edited by S.T. Joshi

Whew. That’s more than I thought.

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Clarkesworld 97 now on Sale

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld 97-smallYou know, we don’t pay enough attention to Clarkesworld.

Clarkesworld, founded by Neil Clarke and edited by Sean Wallace, is one of the genre’s pioneering online magazines — and also one of its most successful. It has been published monthly for over eight years, since October 2006. Each issue is packed with fiction, interviews, and articles, and the cover art — like this month’s gorgeously gonzo piece from Sandeep Karunakaran — is consistently excellent. (Click the image at right for the full-size version.)

Clarkesworld is a three-time winner of the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine, and stories from the magazine have been nominated (and won) countless awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Sturgeon, Locus, Shirley Jackson, and Stoker Awards. In 2013, for example, Clarkesworld received more Hugo nominations for short fiction than all the leading print magazines (Asimov’s, Analog, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction) combined.

If you’re not fond of reading online magazines, Clarkesworld also makes its fiction available in ebook editions, audio podcasts, print issues, and in an annual print and ebook anthology. How convenient can you get?

Issue 97 contains four new stories from E. Catherine Tobler, Maria Dahvana Headley, Helena Bell, and Rahul Kanakia, as well as reprints from K. J. Parker and Alexander C. Irvine. Non-Fiction this issues comes from Brian Francis Slattery and Daniel Abraham, plus an editorial by Neil Clarke and an interview with Robert Reed by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro.

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Vintage Treasures: Two Decades of Interzone

Sunday, May 18th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Interzone 108-small Interzone 119-small Interzone 138-small

Interzone is the leading British science fiction magazine and has been for over 30 years. It was founded in 1982 and editor David Pringle remained at the helm for 193 issues, until he stepped down in 2004. Since then, it has been part of the TTA Press stable, with the capable Andy Cox as editor; their latest issue — Interzone 252, May–June 2014 — arrived earlier this month. In fact,the only thing not marvelous about Interzone is that it’s so hard to come by here in the US. Barnes & Noble imports issues every two months (although at the prohibitively high price tag of $11.95), but back issues are almost impossible to find. Even eBay isn’t much help.

Enter 2013 Windy City Pulp & Paper last month. I made some terrific purchases at the show, and I’ll be telling you about them over the next few weeks. But hands down, my best find of the weekend was a vast collection of fanzines and assorted 70s and 80s fantasy magazines in a $1 bin at the Adventure House booth — including 64 issues of Interzone, most of them unread. I ended up buying all of them… by far the largest collection of Interzone I’ve ever purchased. I bought about 30 recent issues from a UK seller a few years ago, but these were much older, and much less expensive: a beautiful assortment of issues between 75 and 191, with original fiction from Michael Bishop, Paul Di Filippo, Michael Moorcock, Tony Ballantyne, Paul Park, Thomas M. Disch, Eric Brown, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Geoff Ryman, Tanith Lee, Ian Watson, Richard Calder, and many, many others.

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Congratulations to Black Gate on 3,000 Blog Posts!

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

3000I feel like one of the service staff at a restaurant, waiting excitedly at the entrance for their 10,000th customer. Minus the cool food service uniform.

Ryan Harvey’s article on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Oakdale Affair, which went live less than an hour ago, was our 3,000th post. Congratulations to Ryan — and indeed, to the entire Black Gate staff.

The Black Gate blog was the brainchild of Howard Andrew Jones, who suggested I replace the outdated site he and I updated haphazardly with a modern WordPress web publication. I originally said no — and in fact said ‘No” the next half dozen times Howard brought it up. But he eventually talked me into it. Our new look was designed by Leo Grin and our first two posts, in November 2008, were both written by our site engineer David Munger. Our first regular bloggers were David Soyka, Judith Berman, E.E. Knight, Ryan Harvey, James Enge, Scott Oden, and Bill Ward.

Note that I was not a regular blogger. I was not a blogger at all. It took me six months just to figure out how to log in and puzzle out WordPress — and much longer before I dared make my first, timid post. I wrote over 750 in the next four years, and gradually got the hang of it.

We are very proud to be able to bring you, our readers, the best in new and overlooked fantasy every week. The site has grown by leaps and bounds in the last four and a half years, and today a team of nearly 30 bloggers contributes over 20 articles per week. In November 2008 our readership was in the hundreds; this month we are perilously close to breaking 100,000 visits. It’s been an honor and a privilege, and we’re pleased to have you here to celebrate with us.

Merry Christmas from Black Gate

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

black-gate-christmas-treeThe lights are dim at the Black Gate rooftop headquarters, and there’s a light dusting of snow on all the desks. I dropped by to pick up the leftover egg nog from the Christmas party and discovered a rare thing: a deserted office. Even Goth Chick’s minions seem to have slipped their chains.

The only noise I hear comes from deep in the comic archives, where the tireless Mike Penkas is scribbling a Christmas Red Sonja post, muttering “For the love of God, there’s a giant spider right on the cover.” Not sure what that’s about, but I tiptoe away before I break his concentration.

It’s nice to see the place when it’s not bustling with activity. Everywhere I look there’s evidence of this year’s accomplishments. There’s the stack of scrolls Howard Andrew Jones used while researching The Bones of the Old Ones (Seriously, where did he find actual scrolls? That’s just showing off). There’s the whiteboard where Scott Taylor sketched out his Art of the Genre ideas, before accepting a big job and vanishing out to the west coast. Sarah Avery sits in that corner now, writing constantly and giving Skype interviews for Broad Universe. And there’s the scratching post Ryan Harvey built for his cat Cassie, in a vain attempt to get her to stop playing with the office Christmas ornaments.

And here’s the table where all the freelancers sit. They always seem to be having a lot more fun than the rest of us. They’re certainly louder, anyway. Here’s Emily Mah’s recording equipment, and Josh Reynolds’ occult detective collection. Beth Dawkins has only been here a few months, but she fit in quickly, clearing away a section of William Patrick Maynard’s vast pulp collection to make room for her paranormal romance paperbacks. Mark Rigney has made excellent use of John Fultz’s battered old writing desk, composing his own sword-and-sorcery epics, and David Soyka has vanished inside a fortress built of thousands of science fiction digests. Andrew Zimmerman Jones’ desk is clean, probably because he’s never there — he’s always on assignment at a convention these days.

The only staff member who doesn’t have a desk is the mysterious Matthew David Surridge — which I suppose is fitting. He’s been part of the team for years, but no one is 100% sure what he looks like. He’s a riot at office parties, though.

It’s been an incredible year for Black Gate. The traffic to our humble website has very nearly doubled in the last 12 months, and interest has never been higher. While we’re very proud of what we’ve done, there’s no doubt in our mind that we owe it all to you, our loyal readers. You’ve never been more supportive than you have in 2012 — with your comments, letters, and your continued interest in our endeavors large and small.

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts. On behalf of the vast and unruly collective that is Black Gate, I would like to wish you all Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Continue being excellent — it’s what you’re good at.

Librarians to the Rescue: Worldsoul by Liz Williams

Saturday, September 8th, 2012 | Posted by Soyka

Liz Williams
Prime (311 pp, $14.95 in paperback, August 2012)

Reviewed by David Soyka

The stereotypical image of your local librarian is that of a dowdy, matronly spinster who is constantly telling you to “shush” while your adolescent self is trying to do something vastly more interesting (usually involving a person with whom you are sexually attracted) than figure out the Dewey Decimal system. And, these days with whatever we need to find out only a Google away, who needs librarians anyway?

Well, it would seem the preservation of the underlying fabric of the universe does.

While it’s unlikely that Liz Williams will make librarians cool the way that William Gibson made noirish anti-heroes out of computer nerds, in Worldsoul, librarians brandish magical swords that speak. Not to hush people, but to help defend ancient texts against rogue storylines amongst book stacks that date to the fabled Library of Alexandria before it burned to the ground (at least on Earth).

The novel’s title is the name of an otherworldly realm quartered into distinct cultural, climatic and political realms (and probably having something to do with maintaining the “soul” of the mundane world as we in ordinary life understand it): a hot desert land of ancient Cairo; a cold Nordica where Loki the trickster is an imprisoned nutcase, albeit not totally powerless; the Court inhabited by beings called the “disir” who take human form but aren’t; and the Citadel, the land of the library. This city of Worldsoul somehow or another connects Earth with something called the Liminality, a multi-dimensional storehouse of storylines, the integrity of which no doubt has something to do with the preservation of life as we know it here in realityland.

Our librarian heroine, Mercy Fane, is struggling to counteract strange beings that have escaped from primeval manuscripts and the boundaries of their original storylines. And which take on a female personality that seems to have an agenda to fix some longstanding wrong:

[Mercy] thought of the thing she had seen; the thing that, mentally, she had started calling “the female.” Part of a story from so long ago that any humanity had surely been leached from her, if indeed she had ever possessed any. Something forgotten, that raged, like so many forgotten things. Something that wanted to be known.

And something that, now, would be.

p. 35

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Cosmic Crimes Stories #2

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

cosmic-crime-2Okay, I don’t really know anything about Cosmic Crimes Stories. I’d never even heard about it until today.

But I know it’s cool. And let’s be honest — that should be good enough for you.

What is Cosmic Crimes Stories? I’m operating a little on faith here, since I’ve never actually seen a copy. But according to the website, it’s “a biannual digest of science fiction and fantasy crimes and criminals.”

Um, what?

A little more digging reveals that it’s a magazine of science fiction mysteries, tales of crime on far off planets and in strange dimensions. That alone makes it totally unique in the history of the genre, far as I know.

And it’s published two issues in 2011, which already makes it one of the most reliable small press magazines in the genre.

Here’s the blurb for the second issue, dated July 2011:

Crime will always be with us, and as laws evolve, so will the techniques of violating them. Will slavery exist when we encounter other intelligences, and if so, will the relationship be parasitic or symbiotic? What complications can arise when a detective pursues a criminal across dimensions? How does a perfect society react to an axe murderer in its midst?

Perhaps I just have a weakness for unusual magazines. But I’m intrigued. Maybe I’ll ask David Soyka to review the latest issue. That guy covers everything.

Cosmic Crimes Stories is published in January and July, and edited by Karen L. Newman. Individual issues are $9 plus $2.50 shipping and handling, and a one-year subscription is $16 plus $4 S&H.  You can order online here.

Not So Short Fiction Review: The River of Shadows

Saturday, June 4th, 2011 | Posted by Soyka

96714827The River of Shadows (Book III of the Chathrand Voyage Series)
Robert V.S. Redick
Del Ray (592 pages,$16.00, April 2011)
Reviewed by David Soyka

My purpose here is simply a warning. If you are part of that infinitesimally small [and ever smaller] band of dissidents with the wealth, time and inclination to set your hands on the printed word, I suggest you consider the arguments against the current volume.  To wit: the tale is morbid, the persons depicted are clumsy when they are not evil, the world is inconvenient to visit and quite changed from what is here described, the plot at this early juncture is already complex beyond all reason, the moral cannot be stated, and the editor is intrusive.  The story most obviously imperils the young.

p. 107-108

There are various reasons for such “editorial” intrusions into a narrative rolling along quite nicely seemingly without need for meta-fictional comment.  One is in fact to be meta-fictional, to purposely draw attention to the illusion of storytelling.  But, another, opposite tact, is to give the text the illusion of legitimacy, that what we’re reading, however improbable, is an actual historical document.  The latter is the approach of the modern über-fantasy, Lord of the Rings, in which the tale  is presented as an ancient manuscript edited for a contemporary audience by a medieval scholar.

Given that this was J.R.R. Tolkien’s day-job, this might have been intended as a kind of inside joke, albeit from a guy who wasn’t particularly jokey.  In the case of Robert V.S. Redick, whose The River of Shadows, the penultimate volume in the Chathrand Voyage Series, is a sort of Tolkien at sea, he pointedly wants us to be in on the joke.

There are a lot of “paint by the numbers” Tolkien clones for the simple reason that there is a market for people who want more of the same.  They’ll probably enjoy this series.  But while Redick may be guilty of a little too slavish attention to both fantasy cliché and Perils of Pauline dilemmas resolved by convenient magical cavalry to the rescue, it’s all in good fun. Not the sort of fun that’s saying, “Ew, how stupid all this heroic questing stuff is.” Rather, it’s the sort of fun that’s saying, well, isn’t this all great fun?

Which, it is.

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Black Gate 15 Complete Table of Contents

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 | Posted by John ONeill

bg-15-cover2The theme of our massive 15th issue, captured beautifully by Donato Giancola’s striking cover, is Warrior Women. Eight authors — Jonathan L. Howard, Maria V. Snyder, Frederic S. Durbin, Sarah Avery, Paula R. Stiles, Emily Mah, S. Hutson Blount, and Brian Dolton — contribute delightful tales of female warriors, wizards, weather witches, thieves, and other brave women as they face deadly tombs, sinister gods, unquiet ghosts, and much more.

Frederic S. Durbin takes us to a far land where two dueling gods pit their champions against each other in a deadly race to the World’s End. Brian Dolton offers us a tale of Ancient China, a beautiful occult investigator, and a very peculiar haunting. And Jonathan L. Howard returns to our pages with “The Shuttered Temple,” the sequel to “The Beautiful Corridor” from Black Gate 13, in which the resourceful thief Kyth must penetrate the secrets of a mysterious and very lethal temple.

What else is in BG 15? Howard Andrew Jones bring us a lengthy excerpt from his blockbuster novel The Desert of Souls, featuring the popular characters Dabir & Asim. Harry Connolly returns after too long an absence with “Eating Venom,” in which a desperate soldier faces a basilisk’s poison — and the treachery it brings. John C. Hocking begins a terrific new series with “A River Through Darkness & Light,” featuring a dedicated Archivist who leads a small band into a deadly desert tomb; John Fultz shares the twisted fate of a thief who dares fantastic dangers to steal rare spirits indeed in “The Vintages of Dream,” and Vaughn Heppner kicks off an exciting new sword & sorcery saga as a young warrior flees the spawn of a terrible god through the streets of an ancient city in “The Oracle of Gog.”

Plus fiction from Darrell Schweitzer, Jamie McEwan, Michael Livingston, Chris Willrich, Fraser Ronald, Derek Künsken, Jeremiah Tolbert, Nye Joell Hardy, and Rosamund Hodge!

In our generous non-fiction section, Mike Resnick educates us on the best in black & white fantasy cinema, Bud Webster turns his attention to the brilliant Tom Reamy in his Who? column on 20th Century fantasy authors, Scott Taylor challenges ten famous fantasy artists to share their vision of a single character in Art Evolution, and Rich Horton looks at the finest fantasy anthologies of the last 25 years. Plus over 30 pages of book, game, and DVD reviews, edited by Bill Ward, Howard Andrew Jones, and Andrew Zimmerman Jones — and a brand new Knights of the Dinner Table strip.

Buy this issue for only $18.95, or as part of bundle of back issues — any two for just $25 plus shipping!

Buy this issue in PDF for only $8.95!

Buy the Kindle version at for just $9.95!

Black Gate 15 is another huge issue: 384 pages of fiction, reviews, and articles. It contains 22 stories, totaling nearly 152,000 words of adventure fantasy. Complete details on all the contents after the jump.

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