Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Black Gate—Spring 2009 (Issue 13)

Moving back to the realm of short stories after far too long an absence, I snagged the latest issue of Black Gate off of my shelves to finally sit down and read it. What with all of the bouncing around lately, and Black Gate's over-sized format, it would have been difficult to pop in and out on the bus, so I was very happy to finally settle down with it for a bit. After a wonderful editorial on the origins of SF Site (a website you must check out), and a letters column (that is sadly missing in most fiction magazines today), the stories begin.

“The Beautiful Corridor” by Jonathan L. Howard: A short piece on a woman who is working her way into the center of a temple full of traps to find a holy figure, Howard does an excellent job of keeping the story light-hearted, and the pace swift. This is a very fun story, and an excellent introduction to my reading of Black Gate.

“The Good Sheriff” by David Wesley Hill: Hill presents a “weird western,” with a cowboy from Texas trying to find his way home from a land of demons and monsters. A very well-told tale that takes a very odd idea and plays with it rationally. Well worth the read.

“The Face in the Sea” by John C. Hocking: This wonderful story tells of Viking-like people returning from a raid on their enemy’s stronghold to recover their princess, and one shaman’s all-out assault to stop them. A very well told story, reminiscent of Robert E. Howard. I’ll be looking for more by Hocking.

“Behind the Magic of Recluse” by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.: An interesting article about the scientific underpinnings of the magic system Modesitt uses in his Recluse series. It seems like it would have been more informative to a reader familiar to his series, it was still a very neat look at an alternative to the generic magic systems.

“Naktong Flow” by Myke Cole: An interesting story with more of an Eastern cultural flavor, Cole tells us of a country making a last ditch effort to rid themselves of an evil. It felt like it was less about adventure and action and more about setting and mood, and it fit in just the right spot in this issue.

“The Murder at Doty Station” by Matthew Bey: A light tale that was okay, but not great. Its brevity helped it, but I felt it was a bit forgettable.

“The Evil Eater” by Peadar Ó Guilín: A wonderful story that mixed in just the right amount of horror. Another new author to check out more of. This story of a restaurant of more than good food is a great read.

“Bones in the Desert, Stones in the Sea” by Amy Tibbetts: A sad, poignant, and well-written story that made the cultural in the story seem perfectly incorporated, playing a large part without feeling forced. Tibbetts presents us with a tale of a brother’s love for his sister, and how far he will go to protect what is hers after her death.

“Spider Friend” by L. Blunt Jackson: A brilliant fable-like tale, with an ending that I didn’t see coming, but that didn’t interrupt the wonderful style that Jackson worked throughout. One of the best “modern fables” I have read.

“The Naturalist, Part III: St. George and the Antriders” by Mark Sumner: I haven’t read this one yet, but it looks brilliant. I got to it, but I wanted to save it for another time, as it is a bit longer, and wasn’t quite what I appeared to be in the mood for. However, I promise to return to it, and will give you all of the details.

There were a few other stories in here that I felt rather apathetic towards, in part as they weren’t quite up my alley, and in part because of an overly busy schedule. This issue also contained a number of comic strips, and two brilliant review sections, one on gaming and the other on fiction. I have never seen a magazine have such a detailed, extensive reviews section that covered so many books. It was a wonderful surprise to find them in here. I’m not into roleplaying, so the one section wasn’t much in my interest area, yet I still found some neat reading in it, and glad that I skimmed it on a whim. The fiction reviews section was lovely, and covered far more than the large press magazines do. A wonderful assortment of books were discussed. One day I may attempt to see if I can’t sneak my way into there somehow.

All in all, Black Gate kept my attention far better than any other fiction magazine has. As opposed to copies of Asimov’s, where I find some things I like, and others that just don’t appeal to me, Black Gate contained not a single story that I detested, and only a couple I was ambivalent to. Almost all of the stories I found immediately wonderful, engaging, and very easy to lose oneself in. The quality was beyond impressive, and the extras (reviews sectionS) were brilliant. Anyone who is a fan of adventure or fantasy should immediately check out Black Gate (and their website allows you to buy a single issue “preview copy”). For the cover charge, it contains a LOT of content (224 pages, full magazine size, not digest), good stories, interesting essays, wonderful departments, even an illustration for each story, which is a feature sadly missing in most other magazines. Grab issue 13 while you can, and keep your eyes peeled for the next issue!


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