January 3rd, 2010

Summary: Black Gate, 2009

Summary: Black Gate, 2009

Black Gate again managed only the Spring issue in 2009, though again one more was nearly ready and presumably will appear early in 2009 -- and these one promises to be huge. Editor John O'Neill was heavily involved in day job issues (selling his company) in 2009, which explains the delay in getting the latest issue out. (A certain Contributing Editor's very late column can't have helped, mind you.) It remains a beautiful thick magazine, with a strong and successful focus on adventure fantasy, and with a welcome (to me) tropism towards longer stories. The magazine also has a tropism towards series stories, something which is good on the one hand -- I am quite enjoying many of their continuing series -- but potentially dangerous if it chokes out "new blood". This year the one issue includes twelve new stories: 1 novellas, 4 novelettes, and 7 shorts, for a total of some 100,000 words.

I will mention again that I am on the masthead of Black Gate as a Contributing Editor, which means that I contribute a regular column and regular reviews (this time around I contributed only a couple of reviews), and also, I suppose, that I meet with Publisher/Editor John O'Neill occasionally and amidst eating and drinking and selling books we chat about the future of the SF industry and so on. In addition to me, and to John as Publisher/Editor the masthead features the names Howard Andrew Jones (Managing Editor), Todd McAulty (another Contributing Editor), and David Munger as Website Editor.

My favorite story this year was the third and last in Mark Sumner's series "The Naturalist", this episode called "St. George and the Antriders". In an alternate 19th Century Central America, naturalist Mr. Brown and the resourceful landowner Miss Marlowe lead a band of refugees back to the capital city where they find the corrupt governorship of the territory as menacing as the antriders. The series as a whole is novel length, and while each individual story stands well enough alone they make a sufficiently unified whole that I could see The Naturalist as a book. (I wouldn't entirely rule out sequels, either, though the main story is definitely resolved here.)

I also liked Sharon E. Wood's "Silk and Glass", which featured a slightly unusual main character -- a glass serpent who can also be a woman -- in a dangerous, treacherous mission to gain her freedom. Other particularly interesting work came from Justin Stanchfield and Mikal Trimm, and from David Wesley Hill.

2 of 12 stories (17%) are by women, a bit less than usual. Though they have published SF stories in the past, despite the Adventure Fantasy label, this year I don't think any qualified, though a couple were close. (One could make a case, for example, for the Antrider stories to be called SF.)