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The Best Of Black Gate Magazine - An Appreciation - Free SF Reader - Not Free SF Reader - Super Reader - Space Opera Reader
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bluetyson
bluetyson
The Best Of Black Gate Magazine - An Appreciation
Black Gate Magazine - An appreciation

This is long, so there's more after the cut if reading this on livejournal, anyway.

A BRIEF OVERVIEW

Website : http://www.blackgate.com

Black Gate is an adventure fantasy magazine that apparently is theoretically supposed to be quarterly. At 12 issues in 8 years it doesn't even really get to biannual, really. So the irregularity and not very many-ness is certainly a valid criticism. It is large sized, and for those unfamiliar with technical publishing details and what to call them like me, it looks like a squarebound paperback roleplaying game book more than anything else.

Fantasy is seen as conservative, and the fantasy magazines (Weird Tales, Realms Of Fantasy, Black Gate and the myriad micromags that are mostly fantasy) are certainly technologically backward when compared to their science fiction heavy counterparts. It is starting to change now, though, it seems. The latest issue of Black Gate is available for download as a sample http://www.blackgate.com/?p=1250. There is also now a group blog that you can subscribe to by RSS feed, see above for details. Weird Tales has a website, similarly, too.

You'll find several articles of interest here http://www.blackgate.com/?cat=7 including a look at C. L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry and Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword. Reviews, interviews, author links and more in a newly updated and upgraded website. I'm not much of a fan of text on black background on the web, but this is at least not too garish. A print only version/standard black on white counterpart would be nice to have, though.

However, all that aside, Black Gate is high quality. It also has easily the most innovative use of artwork I've seen in a mag, with covers included in reviews and articles, and similarly illustrated sidebars with artist profiles or illuminating other aspects of the content.




THE COMPETITORS

Having now read all of Black Gate, I average the stories at 3.47 (out of 5).

For comparison, for those mags I have read that are top quality :-

3.50 Interzone (single figure issues)
3.49 Asimov's
3.47 Black Gate (only 12 issues of course)
3.44 Fantasy and Science Fiction
3.39 Subterranean Online (only 7 issues)
3.37 Jim Baen's Universe
3.37 Analog

Note that in general I prefer science fiction to fantasy, and the horror end of fantasy, too, in a lot of cases.

Pretty clearly a professional level standard for content to be found in this publication. Of the above magazines, if what you are after is more material such as might be found in Black Gate then the magazine you are likely to be most interested in is Jim Baen's Universe. Note however that JBU is about 60/40 science fiction/fantasy, if you are only really after fantasy.

Fantasy and Science Fiction, while top quality. will publish some (or occasional) stories of interest, but not at a high enough similarity rate that you would want to subscribe if only interested in Black Gate style content. FSF is also around 50/50 or thereabouts science fictionfantasy. Of the small press mags, Andromeda Spaceways is likely your best best. It too is in the 50/50 Sf/fantasy ballpark. I also read the sample issue of the new Weird Tales, and it would seem to be of no interest whatsoever going by that issue. The impossible to get Realms of Fantasy look screams 'girls only', and the assistant editor has said on his blog they rarely publish any of the sword and sorcery/high fantasy/epic fantasy type of story, even though he is personally a fan. i.e. The boss clearly isn't.

Interzone is a mostly SF magazine, and Asimov's is 90% or so. Great SF, but if after Black Gate type tales only you are better off finding out issues that have some, and picking those up rather than subscribing.

For small press magazines, Fantasy magazine pretty much specialises in mundane not very fantastic/slipstream work mostly by women. Also of zero interest to those looking for Black Gate sort of stories. Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine may be of interest, but as the name suggests a fair percentage of this publication is science fiction.


SELECTED BOOKS OF RELATED INTEREST

If Rich Horton's columns have sparked your interest, and you aren't busy tracking down dusty or crumbling old mags, here's a few book suggestions
For those interested in Adventure science fiction and fantasy, I heartily recommend the following newer works, for a small number of suggestions :-

The Good Old Stuff - Gardner Dozois
The Good New Stuff - Gardner Dozois
The New Space Opera - Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan
Galactic Empires - Gardner Dozois

Paizo's (a roleplayihng game company) Planet Stories imprint has both fantasy and science fiction, and if you really liked Charles R. Tanner's Tumithak stories, then everything here is way better than that http://paizo.com/planetstories

If you haven't read Leigh Brackett, whether you like SF or Fantasy, then do it. They called her the Queen Of Space Opera for a reason.

You can find some at Planet Stories, or via Baen Webscriptions, where you will also find Edmond Hamilton, James H. Schmitz, Poul Anderson, Murray Leinster, Christopher Anvil, and more, all mentioned by Rich Horton in his columns. For example :- Leigh Brackett at Webscriptions. Many of these books are completely free to download, and those that are not have large excerpts or several sample stories available.

More generally, you can see what I think about a whole bunch of Sword and Sorcery here http://superprose.blogspot.com or Space Opera here http://spaceoperareader.blogspot.com. If you are after large lists of possibilities, scroll down to the right, on either.


CONTENT

What you won't find here is hand-waving stories of the mundane that might be ok fantasy stories if they actually had fantasy in them, or depressing stories by writers about writers. In fact, it is more than likely that editors O'Neill and Jones have a large, obvious 'Dispel Slipstream' ward over the Black Gate door.

You will find some science fiction, and a good chunk of the high fantasy or epic fantasy style story that those who form a large chunk of the fantasy reading audience prefer, though. Not too much for the necrophliac or monster shagging paranormal romance end, but there is certainly some urban fantasy to be found for those that like their Dresden Files or other work like that, or even of the elves in hiding sort. In fact, people who prefer the epic and high fantasy stuff are likely to rate a reasonable number of those stories more highly than I would, I think, preferring sword and sorcery or low fantasy or urban fantasy myself. A reasonable number of the standard fantasy fare tales have younger protagonists, too, and the magazine does proclaim itself 'family friendly'. Which basically here seems to mean no explicitly moist throbbing exchanges of bodily fluids. If you want that, look elsewhere, definitely.

I discovered Black Gate because of sword and sorcery, really, from finding Howard A. Jones at Sword and Sorcery and had even come across an article on the website once or twice. Then finding more of Howard's writing about Sword and Sorcery, and seeing Rich Horton mentioned and mentioning the magazine, I thought I'd give it a go, after reading the issues of Flashing Swords magazine that Howard edited and liking those. Here was an editor with more of a general sword and sorcery interest compared to those at say, The Cimmerian or REHUPA who are more concerned with the type of paper the first Conan stories were printed on, the color of Robert E. Howard's underpants, the place settings his mother preferred, or how to travel back in time to beat up L. Sprague De Camp as opposed to a more general interest in capital S&S Sword and Sorcery, overall. See Howard's Honing the New Edge article as an example : http://bg-editor.livejournal.com/21089.html

So, Black Gate basically achieves its sub-titled aim, although complete fantasy purists might not like finding science fiction here, or articles about science fiction, even. The SF stories included in Black Gate do often have the fantasy scenery furniture lying around, perhaps for the reason of making the fantasy-only fans feel happier. This does make sense, where in general Analog type stories would not.

You will also find humour and horror in Black Gate

The basic format for the magazine goes something like this :-

Large, role playing game sized paperback book, over 200 pages, with reasonable sized font. According to one of the issues, on the order of 100,000 words or so.

Non-Fiction

Editorial at the start, game reviews in the middle, book reviews at the end, a feature article in the first half.

Fiction

Stories throughout, from vignette to novella. The Java Joint cartoon is right at the end. Often a novella will be the last piece.


THE BIG CONTRIBUTORS

The Old

There are a few writers who have made multiple appearances in Black Gate. Some are well established, like Mark Sumner, who even has had a tv show made from some of his stuff, the process of which is detailed in an early Black Gate issue. His work I would call the best of the established multiples. There are also many writers of note that have single appearances, right from issue one. From the old school like Edmond Hamilton, through Michael Moorcock, Mike Resnick, Karl Edward Wagner up to people like Charles Coleman Finlay and Jay Lake.

The New

There are multiple 'newer' scribes who have appeared here, however, the writers of most interest, and one of the reasons to read magazines is to find great new work, are this pair :-

Todd McAulty and James Enge.

To take the first named and best first, McAulty to me appears to be world class. He is of the non-prolific but always good variety, and appears to favour the longer tale. If I was crazy enough to want to be an editor, I'd be trying to poach him, or wheedle work out of him, or kindap him and have him chained up and guarded by a woman with blunt weaponry. That sort of thing. The Haunting Of Cold Harbour is great. I am not sure how many people are familiar with Larry Niven's 'Dream Park' novel. This story is like a 21st century update of that sort of thing, for want of a better comparison. McAulty, however, is better and throws in some surprises. A science fiction story based around a mystery in fantasy roleplaying computer games and the corporations that surround this. Rather than the live action variety as found in Dream Park, Cold Harbour is about MMORPGs, and one spooky setting in particular. His other stories include a drugrunner that becomes a saviour for a group of psychic kids, one based in Hell, with a robot, and a manic business intrigue with the Devil. A hint of the law firm in the Angel tv series there, if you like. I've read quite a lot of books and short stories, and while Sumner's work is good, for example, there are no real surprises. McAulty has surprised me multiple times with what he has come up with. In fact, every time, I think.

Enge's tales of Morlock Ambrosius--and yes, it does appear that last name will have some relevance to his background--an iconoclastic wandering sorcerer of sorts, as well as a swordsman, as well as an alcoholic, it would appear. Whether you call it Sword and Sorcery or not, certainly leans a little in that direction, although not at all hardboiled. Rather laconically boiled, in fact. Certainly weird tales and monsters to be found here. He is also most definitely an highly competent stalwart warrior, on top of the Maker thing, so he has the Kane and Simon Magus thing going on. Morlock is a serial character with multiple appearances, this best of which is in issue 8, 'Turn Up This Crooked Way'. Enge surprises me here with his footwear and bizarre sidekicks. Note that Pyr editor Lou 'Moneyball' Anders has tapped Enge for a book http://pyrsf.blogspot.com/search?q=james+enge. I'm a big fan of Pyr, and have read a fair chunk of the books in their catalogue, so if you are after some good stuff in general, give them a look, and you will certainly want this book.


THE BEST OF BLACK GATE

One of the letter columns (yes, Black Gate has those too) a reader asks about a Best of Black Gate anthology. After 12 issues, here's what I would put in it, with a rough breakdown by subgenre :

--

Articles

Black Gate 02 : Building the Fantasy Canon: the Classic Anthologies of Genre Fantasy - Rich Horton
Black Gate 04 : Playing the Classics: Role Playing Your Favorite Novels - Kyla Ward
Black Gate 06 : The Sword in the Mirror: A Century of Sword & Sorcery - Howard Andrew Jones

Sword and Sorcery

Black Gate 01 : The Dark Muse - Karl Edward Wagner
Black Gate 05 : Stand at Llieva - Joseph A. McCullough

Low Fantasy

Black Gate 02 : Bones of the Dead - Julia Blackshear Kosatka
Black Gate 08 : Turn Up This Crooked Way - James Enge
Black Gate 04 : Mama Told Me Not to Come - Bill Johnson
Black Gate 04 : A Prayer for Captain La Hire - Patrice E. Sarath
Black Gate 11 : Where Beauty Lies in Wait - Peadar Ó Guilín
Black Gate 11 : The Lawless Hours - James Enge
Black Gate 11 : From the Heart of the Earth to the Peaks of the Sky - Iain Rowan
Black Gate 12 : Oblivion Is the Sweetest Wine - John R. Fultz

High/Epic Fantasy

Black Gate 03 : Iron Joan - ElizaBeth Gilligan
Black Gate 06 : The Flowers on the Harp - Anne Sheldon
Black Gate 08 : The Carrion Call - Paul Finch
Black Gate 08 : Mortal Star - Aaron Bradford Starr
Black Gate 10 : Awakening - Judith Berman

Urban Fantasy

Black Gate 03 : The Chinese Sandman - Mike Resnick
Black Gate 03 : A Taste of Summer - Ellen Klages
Black Gate 05 : There's a Hole in October - Todd McAulty
Black Gate 09 : A Touch of Crystal - Martin Owton and Gaie Sebold
Black Gate 12 : The Soldiers of Serenity - Todd McAulty

Science Fiction

Black Gate 03 : The Haunting of Cold Harbour - Todd McAulty
Black Gate 07 : Leather Doll - Mark Sumner
Black Gate 08 : Fat Jack and the Spider Clown - Jay Lake

Horror

Black Gate 02 : The Monster-God of Mamurth - Edmond Hamilton
Black Gate 07 : Amnesty - Todd McAulty
Black Gate 10 : A Covenant in Mud - Greg Story
Black Gate 10 : The Naturalist: Going to Applewash - Mark Sumner
Black Gate 11 : The Naturalist Part II: An Incident at Gray's Works - Mark Sumner

--

BLACK GATE FICTION CONTENTS

Full details of the magazine can be found at their website, but I happen to have this in a file, and for fiction magazines, the stories are the most important thing.

Black Gate 01 : Golden Bell Seven and the Marquis of Zeng - Richard Parks
Black Gate 01 : Wingless Angels - Charles de Lint
Black Gate 01 : Exo-Skeleton Town - Jeffrey Ford
Black Gate 01 : The Dark Muse - Karl Edward Wagner
Black Gate 01 : The Dreamthief's Daughter Book One - Michael Moorcock

Black Gate 02 : The Whoremaster of Pald - Harry James Connolly
Black Gate 02 : Pity the Poor Dybbuk - Steve Carper
Black Gate 02 : What They Did to My Father - F. Brett Cox
Black Gate 02 : Stitchery - Devon Monk
Black Gate 02 : Heart of Jade - Amy Sterling Casil
Black Gate 02 : 'Goyles in the Hood - Leslie What
Black Gate 02 : Under the Bridge - Jeff Verona
Black Gate 02 : Straight to My Lover's Heart - Richard Bowes
Black Gate 02 : The Monster-God of Mamurth - Edmond Hamilton
Black Gate 02 : Bones of the Dead - Julia Blackshear Kosatka

Black Gate 03 : Iron Joan - ElizaBeth Gilligan
Black Gate 03 : The Knight of the Lake - Elaine Cunningham
Black Gate 03 : The Chinese Sandman - Mike Resnick
Black Gate 03 : Another Man's Burden - Harry James Connolly
Black Gate 03 : A Taste of Summer - Ellen Klages
Black Gate 03 : A Dark Miracle - Darrell Schweitzer
Black Gate 03 : Tav-Ru's Troth - Michael R. Gist
Black Gate 03 : Three Nights in Big Rock City - Jon Hansen
Black Gate 03 : The Haunting of Cold Harbour - Todd McAulty
Black Gate 03 : Ringard and Dendra - Brian McNaughton
Black Gate 03 : For the Love of Katie - Gail Sproule

Black Gate 04 : The Loiterer in the Lobby - Michael Kaufmann and Mark McLaughlin
Black Gate 04 : Stranger Ev'rywhere - Tina L. Jens
Black Gate 04 : Night of Two Moons - David B. Coe
Black Gate 04 : Beat Me Daddy [Eight to the Bar] - Cory Doctorow
Black Gate 04 : Far from Laredo - David W. Hill
Black Gate 04 : A Prayer for Captain La Hire - Patrice E. Sarath
Black Gate 04 : Mama Told Me Not to Come - Bill Johnson
Black Gate 04 : Scatheling [Shadow of the Seventh Moon] - Nancy Varian Berberick

Black Gate 05 : The Mourning Trees - Peadar Ò Guilín
Black Gate 05 : Stand at Llieva - Joseph A. McCullough
Black Gate 05 : There's a Hole in October - Todd McAulty
Black Gate 05 : The Dead Man - S. C. Smith
Black Gate 05 : Law and Justice - Michael H. Payne
Black Gate 05 : La Desterrada - Jennifer Busick
Black Gate 05 : North - Brian A. Hopkins
Black Gate 05 : Barbarian Instinct - Don Bassingthwaite
Black Gate 05 : Two-Skins - Shawn L. Johnson
Black Gate 05 : Tumithak of the Corridors - Charles R. Tanner

Black Gate 06 : Looking for Goats Finding Monkeys - Iain Rowan
Black Gate 06 : The Flowers on the Harp - Anne Sheldon
Black Gate 06 : The Grand Tour - Kevin N. Haw
Black Gate 06 : Miller's Wife - Mark W. Tiedemann
Black Gate 06 : Rocks Under Water - Karen Jordan Allen
Black Gate 06 : Portal - Rick Norwood
Black Gate 06 : Tumithak in Shawm - Charles R. Tanner

Black Gate 07 : The Poison Well - Judith Berman
Black Gate 07 : Amnesty - Todd McAulty
Black Gate 07 : Luck of the Gods - Holly Phillips
Black Gate 07 : Point of the Knife - Don Bassingthwaite
Black Gate 07 : Tumithak of the Towers of Fire - Charles R. Tanner
Black Gate 07 : Leather Doll - Mark Sumner

Black Gate 08 : The Turning of the Tiles - Iain Rowan
Black Gate 08 : Turn Up This Crooked Way - James Enge
Black Gate 08 : Heat Waves - Sherry Decker
Black Gate 08 : The Carrion Call - Paul Finch
Black Gate 08 : Winter's Touch - Justin Stanchfield
Black Gate 08 : Mortal Star - Aaron Bradford Starr
Black Gate 08 : Fat Jack and the Spider Clown - Jay Lake
Black Gate 08 : The Nursemaid's Suitor - Charles Coleman Finlay

Black Gate 09 : The Whited Child - Michael Canfield
Black Gate 09 : Payment Deferred - James Enge
Black Gate 09 : The Thrall - Michael Schultz
Black Gate 09 : Seijin's Enlightenment - William John Watkins
Black Gate 09 : Pets - Adam J. Thaxton
Black Gate 09 : The Hand That Binds - Michael Livingston
Black Gate 09 : It's a Wonderful Con - Larry Tritten
Black Gate 09 : The Longday Hunt - Sean Oberle
Black Gate 09 : The Final Flight of Major Havoc - Carl Reed
Black Gate 09 : A Touch of Crystal - Martin Owton and Gaie Sebold
Black Gate 09 : The Fifth-Dimension Catapult - Murray Leinster

Black Gate 10 : Soldiers of a Dying God - Harry James Connolly
Black Gate 10 : A Book of Silences - James Enge
Black Gate 10 : Reflections - Martha Wells
Black Gate 10 : Welcome to the Underworld - Iain Rowan
Black Gate 10 : The Naturalist: Going to Applewash - Mark Sumner
Black Gate 10 : A Covenant in Mud - Greg Story
Black Gate 10 : Skyspider - David Dubord
Black Gate 10 : Before the Wind - Edward Carmien
Black Gate 10 : Awakening - Judith Berman
Black Gate 10 : Sight of Vengeance - Howard Andrews Jones

Black Gate 11 : Where Beauty Lies in Wait - Peadar Ó Guilín
Black Gate 11 : The Lawless Hours - James Enge
Black Gate 11 : The Wizard's Daily Horoscope - Maria V. Snyder
Black Gate 11 : Holy Places - Martha Wells
Black Gate 11 : From the Heart of the Earth to the Peaks of the Sky - Iain Rowan
Black Gate 11 : The Mudslinger - David Evan Harris
Black Gate 11 : Soulthief - Ben Wolcott
Black Gate 11 : The Entrance of Bob Into Valhalla - William I. LengemanIII
Black Gate 11 : The Naturalist Part II: An Incident at Gray's Works - Mark Sumner

Black Gate 12 : Black Gate 12 - John O'Neill
Black Gate 12 : Oblivion Is the Sweetest Wine - John R. Fultz
Black Gate 12 : Payment in Full - James Enge
Black Gate 12 : Houses of the Dead - Martha Wells
Black Gate 12 : The Wily Thing - Constance Cooper
Black Gate 12 : The Soldiers of Serenity - Todd McAulty
Black Gate 12 : Knives Under the Spring Moon - Ed Carmien
Black Gate 12 : Whispers from the Stone - Howard Andrew Jones
Black Gate 12 : Tumithak and the Ancient Word - Charles R. Tanner

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Comments
eeknight From: eeknight Date: December 7th, 2008 07:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Good on you! More people need to appreciate Black Gate!
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