Monday, June 7, 2010
Black Gate—Winter 2010 (Issue 14)—Part 1
There are fewer and fewer successful genre magazines these days, and you would be hard-pressed to find a fantasy magazine out there better than Black Gate. It is a solid magazine with good content, and very much worth the entry fee. After a long period since Issue 13, Issue 14 was released, and it is a behemoth. Gigantic doesn’t begin to describe it. So, with that in mind, I am going to take a look at the newest issue of Black Gate over three segments, each covering (very) roughly one third of the magazine.
The issue starts with John O’neill’s always entertaining editorial, this time on “Tiny Empires” and his experiences with wargaming. We then get the letters section, before diving into the stories and articles.
“Dark of the Year” by Diana Sherman: In a world where children are taken by shadowy demons if they are unnamed, one man sets out to find a name for his orphaned granddaughter. I found the ending to be a bit predictable, but this is an entertaining story never-the-less. The quest of the grandfather was one that carried you right along.
“The Hangman’s Daughter” by Chris Braak: In a world of non-human but human-like sentient species, one little girl must face a childhood nightmare that is far more real than people want to believe. I found this one entertaining, with a bit of a slow start but a satisfying conclusion. The repetitive parallel paragraphing for the protagonist’s dreams didn’t work for me at all, but they luckily didn’t crop up too often.
“The Bonestealer’s Mirror” by John C. Hocking: Brand the Viking, along with his companions, stop to investigate a signal fire, only to find a town beset by a terrible creature that steals the bones from its victims’ bodies. Hocking proves, yet again, to be a top-notch storyteller worthy of the mantel of the next Robert E. Howard, yet he fills his tales with a sterling originality that would be done a gross disservice by labeling it anything other than purely Hocking. The plot, the characters, the setting: all are wonderful, and a joy to explore. The day a collection of Hocking’s Brand stories comes out is the day I wait in line to buy a copy.
“The Word of Azrael” by Matthew David Surridge: This tale of a man on a lifelong quest in search of the angel of death grasps the moody, mystical quality of both dream and myth, and weaves it throughout. The story carries you along without effort, and is certainly wonderful to read. It occasionally got a bit too slow and tried a little too hard to add poetics to its setting, but I still found it to be a solid story from an author I will be looking for more from.
“Back to the Future: Modern Reprints of Classic Fantasy” by Rich Horton: A wonderful essay from a man entrenched in the genre, Horton explores host of publishers who are bringing back some unjustly forgotten classics. While most will be familiar with some of these, few will be familiar with all, and the essay brings up both authors and books that I will be keeping an eye out for. A wonderful essay.
“The Mist Beyond the Circle” by Martin Owton: When slave-dealers kidnap their families, ten people set out to get them back, using a little mysticism, a little fighting of beasts of the dead, and a dab of murder. I had a bit of trouble getting into this one at first, but it got better as it went along.
“Freedling” by Mike Shultz: A middle-of-the-line story, not great but one that I feel I won’t think much about and will forget soon enough, this tale is of a young girl and an evil sorcer who are trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building.
“The Renunciation of the Crimes of Gharad the Undying” by Alex Kreis: A very short story, this one is an open letter to the people Gharad oppressed as their dictator, now that he has been defeated and thrown into prison. A fun piece of fluff, but without much to really impress me.
We then are given a 20 page gaming review section, covering a huge host of titles. I am very much of the opinion that the review sections are among the highlights of each issue of Black Gate, and I am not proven wrong this time around.
A solid start to Issue 14, stop by in a couple weeks for part two, which will look at “Devil on the Wind” by Michael Jasper & Jay Lake, “The Price of Two Blades” by Pete Butler, “The Girl Who Feared Lightning” by Dan Brodribb, “Wanted! A Clown Incognito” by Aamir Aziz, “Destroyer” by James Enge, “The Natural History of Calamity” by Robert J. Howe, and “Red Hell” by Renee Stern.