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Jan. 4th, 2010

Black Gate 4

Black Gate 14 in The New Year

Black Gate 14 has been proofed and will shortly be heading to the printer. This means it's several weeks late, but we're hoping to be forgiven for that because it's about TWICE the size. Yep, it's crammed with adventuresome goodness and should be headed your way soon.

There will be a more official announcement complete with sneak previews, blurbs, and snazzy pictures very soon.

My posts were pretty few and far between last year. What can I say -- life out in the real world kept me very busy. I'm trying to make writing my full-time gig now, though, and since I won't have to cram it in around the sidelines anymore I expect to be more involved with Black Gate again, which will mean more blog posts, as long as I have something interesting to say. Recently I posted over on the Black Gate web site about my new Heroscape compulsion, and I'll likely be posting over there about once a week. I hope to be doing the same thing here. I promised some comments on publishing and the manuscript acceptance process, and James Enge and I batted an idea or two around about getting Black Gate serial characters into serial book characters, so you might hear from us both on that as well.

For now, though, Happy New Year!

Howard Andrew Jones

Nov. 16th, 2009

Black Gate 4

Black Gate 14 Game Review Advance Look

I just turned the game reviews over to John O'Neill. It's the last section -- save for the Knights of the Dinner Table art -- that was needed to complete the upcoming issue, most of which John already has set up for the printer.

You may have noticed lately that all the game reviews are favorable. It's not that we don't find bad modules, it's that we like to devote our rather limited space to describing goodies we think our readers would enjoy.

This time we've got a big review for Paizo's impressive Pathfinder Role-Playing game core rulebook. The indefatigable Andrew Zimmerman Jones (no relation despite certain name similarities) dug in deep and then took the rules for a spin with several Paizo modules.

Vincent Darlage's excellent Ruins of Hyboria was covered in detail by the EvilDM himself, Jeff Mejia, and I enlisted Vincent to write up some reviews of several Goodman Games products. Though not really a Dungeons and Dragons fan, he was quite taken with Blackdirge's Dungeon Denizens, as well as the Cortex system from Margaret Weiss games.

New reviewer Robert Rowe took a long look at the Mongoose Games new Judge Dredd hardback.

I'm an unrepentant Traveller fan, so I was delighted to find much to like in the new Mongoose Traveller releases Aslan and Tripwire. As sword-and-sorcery is my favorite genre, my heart was won by Legends of Steel. .

It's a big issue, and I think you'll like our broad selection of product reviews, among them info on an innovative science fiction game, Far Avalon, from one of my favorite game writers, and Shard, a nifty game Andrew stumbled across at Gen Con this year.

Perhaps the biggest surprise to me was a boardgame I'd been sent. I foolishly put off reviewing it until the last possible moment, never dreaming how much fun it would be to run with the family. I tested out the game with HeroScape's new wave 9 products (I especially liked the Mohican Indians that came in two of the four expansion packets) with my good friend bthepilot and two young gamers I found loitering in my living room, and all four of us were converted. I'll explain why inside the issue. I hope to cover HeroScape's wave 10 products and their new Dungeons & Dragons playset in an upcoming issue. Be warned -- I'll probably do my best to convert all of you into players.

All of these products and more will be reviewed in depth in the upcoming issue of Black Gate, available in December. See you there!

--Howard Andrew Jones

Nov. 3rd, 2009

Black Gate 4

Much News, All Good

I keep meaning to get back here more often, and it keeps not happening. But I do have good news.

One: I am extremely pleased to announce that the talented Charles Saunders, creator of Imaro and Dossouye, will be dropping by to guest blog at the Black Gate web site from time to time, and he's just posted his first entry. Charles is one of the greatest living sword-and-sorcery writers we have, and I'm thrilled he's on board. Drop by the site and see his first post, then make sure you go find his fiction!

Two: John O'Neill has recently posted a preview of issue 14's cover, and is through laying out the fiction. We just have to wrap up the review sections. The finished issue should be available come Christmas time, and it will be extra bonus size, and not merely by a page or two.

Three: Now that I have a copy of the contract, I no longer feel like I'm jinxing anything by revealing that I have a two book hardback deal with Thomas Dunne, a St. Martin's imprint, for my Dabir and Asim historical fantasy/sword & sorcery novel(s). It's a good feeling. I had planned on keeping everyone abreast of the whole submitting process once I sent the thing off, but it didn't seem right talking about any of it until things were finalized. If anyone's curious about what it's like suddenly going from "outside" to "inside," I can post on that later.

Warm Regards, 

Howard Andrew Jones

Sep. 29th, 2009

Black Gate 4

Black Gate 14

I may be posting sporadically still, but work's going on behind the scenes. We've got a great lineup of books and games for reviewing this time -- Bill Ward's come on board to manage the book review section -- and John is currently halfway done laying out the newest issue.

More soon, really.


Aug. 27th, 2009

Black Gate 4

Harold Lamb's Historicals

Bison Books has recently printed two more collections of Harold Lamb's swashbuckling historicals, and they're discussed in depth today in The Wall Street Journal in an article by John Miller.

Where many adventure tales are predictable from the first word, Lamb’s plots were full of unexpected twists. He wrote convincingly of faraway lands and dealt fairly with their inhabitants, relating without bias the viewpoints of Mongols, Muslims, and Hindus. His stories are rarely profound psychological drama, but Lamb nonetheless breathed humanity into his characters, endowing them with realistic hopes and fears. Unlike almost all of his predecessors, his pacing still feels modern — he never stopped for slow exposition. His plots thunder forward as though he envisioned each one for cinema the moment he slid paper into the typewriter.

These two collections showcase his work with heroic Arab wanderers and Crusaders. They seem to have had a large impact upon Robert E. Howard, and through him the entire field of fantasy fiction. Do not think that they are dry and dusty and antiquated, though -- they remain grand reading for all those who love adventure.


For more details on Lamb, you can visit the official site.

Howard Andrew Jones

Aug. 26th, 2009

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Review Roundup

With summer waning, I wanted to take a moment to provide thumbnail reviews of things many of you should find of interest.



Rome - Pretty much a must-see for any fan of sword-and-sorcery or historical fiction. As far as I’m concerned, the two genres are closely related, and I’m sure a fan of either will be a fan of this.Not for the faint-of-heart due to sex and violence… but extremely well written and acted. The story arcs get more and more compelling the deeper into the series you watch. I haven’t been this caught up in a TV series since a friend loaned me the Firefly boxed set.




Blood of Ambrose – It should come as no small wonder that I enjoyed James Enge’s first Morlock novel. I’ve been a fan of his work since his first appearance in Black Gate. Good stuff, brimming with brilliant world building, witty characters, and swordplay and foul sorcery.


Bill Ward and I are planning an in-depth look at some of the fine work coming out from the Warhammer game publisher, and I wanted to provide a sneak peek of the goodness we found within.


Blackhearts Ominbus – I’m halfway through Nathan Long’s collection and have loved every minute of it. A dirty dozen type series in a fantasy land, with flawed but likable characters, fabulous pacing, and great action sequences. I have the suspicion that the rest of it will hold up just as well.


Eisenhorn Omnibus– Dan Abnett wasn’t satisfied with creating a fabulous lead character in an action-packed space opera; he sendt him to fantastic places and provides a series of detective/investigative stories full of logical turns, surprises, and plenty of action.


Witch Hunter Omnibus – I finally got to read C. L. Werner’s first two Mathias Thulman books, full of Gothic menace and brooding castles. I would never have guessed that I would be rooting for a witch hunter, but Werner pulls it off, and delivers plenty of surprises along the way.




Mongoose Games has a license for Traveller, and the core book and first supplements (High Guard and Traders and Gunboats) have been well-handled. I look forward to seeing what more they have planned.


Cortex System Role Playing Game, from Margaret Weis games, is the engine behind their Firefly game. It’s a slim, elegant-looking system, and will be reviewed in-depth in the next issue of Black Gate.


Goodman Games has a new magazine, Level Up, that seems at least partly inspired by the original Dragon. Adventures and articles on game play and character interaction are included within. We’ll be reviewing in-depth next issue, but my initial impression is one of delight.


Howard Andrew Jones

Aug. 19th, 2009

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Riding in from the Steppes

Hello all,

My long absence notwithstanding, Black Gate is alive and well. John, with some help from my old friend Joe McCullough, has been working his way through the submissions. Black Gate 14 is slated for the end of the year -- hopefully all interested parties saw John's earlier announcement that the magazine was officially bi-annual now. That means you'll see it, regularly, every spring and winter. We opened for a short reading period; we will re-open again for more reading after a little while, and will provide plenty of notice when we do.

I had to step away from my duties here to care for the Harold Lamb books coming from the University of Nebraska Press, and to see to some other matters. I should be able to post more regularly again soon, and I'll provide some more details about the Lamb books near the end of August.

I hope all interested parties have been following the excellent essays over at the Black Gate blog, at www.blackgate.com. Our contributors have been writing some fascinating material.

In any case, it is good to be back. I'll look forward to re-familiarizing myself with the blogosphere.

Warm Regards,

May. 11th, 2009

Black Gate 4

A New Anthology

You might not have noticed, but we don't see a whole lot of Moslem protagonists in science fiction and fantasy.

A recent collection assembled by Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad and Ahmed A. Khan sought to address that very problem with twelve stories, including a reprint of a Dabir and Asim story from yours truly.

Too often our science fiction and fantasy is informed only by western outlooks, and it's about time somebody made a collection like this available. I have my fingers crossed that it's the first of many -- the editors, though, need readers, so I hope you'll try it out!

Here's the Kindle link:


Apr. 9th, 2009

Black Gate 4

Pleasant Surprise

I was on the phone with Eric (eeknight ) the other day and something he said led me to look into the copy of his fourth Age of Fire novel, Dragon Strike. I read everything from Eric the moment I get my eyes on it, but since that usually means I read it in manuscript, when I buy a physical copy it goes on the shelf beside the increasily large selection of other E.E. Knight books (that bookshelf is starting to fill up with Knight books -- way to go, Eric!). I don't break open the book for a while. Anyway, today I finally got around to flipping it open and noticed that he'd dedicated the book to me, which was pretty danged cool. Thanks, bud! I think I must qualify for a doofus award for not noticing one of my best friends had dedicated a book to me about four months ago.

Oh, and the new issue of Black Gate showed up on my doorstep. It looks, as they used to say in Liverpool, pretty fab. Did anyone else notice the new heavy paper stock?

Right, back to paper grading.


Apr. 6th, 2009

Black Gate 4

In Memory

Steve Tompkins has died.

It wasn’t just that Steve was incredibly well read, it was that he could tap into his vast depth of knowledge and recognize themes and connections that no one else had seen and then articulate them cogently and thoroughly, with great insight and an inimitable sly wit.  When he decided to write about an author, or a genre, then by God it was worth the time to read every word and ruminate over what he had to say.  His writing was so rich with depth and meaning that a second, third, or fourth look might well be needed to truly appreciate what Steve was saying, for he never wrote without thinking long and hard.  If you don’t believe me, then visit The Cimmerian and leaf through any number of wonderful essays archived there, or pick up Del Rey’s KULL and read Steve’s introductory essay, or read the fine remembrance Steve co-wrote about the passing of David Gemmell  on the Black Gate web site.

If, like us, you are an aficionado of sword-and-sorcery, then you should understand that we have lost a sword-brother.  And not just any sword-brother, but one of the elite, a Cimmerian, a Red Slayer, someone who formed the shield wall when anyone moved against the authors and stories that we revere.  Someone who saw the heroic history of our genre, understood its power and worth, and who could articulate its value in words of iron.

He has fallen now and the ranks will close, but no one can take his place. What five men could?  We have lost more than a brother; we have lost all that he might yet have done, and are poorer for it than we can ever know.

Raise high your glasses then, and drink deep in his name.  Cleave close to those you love and do not waste your time with the shadow players who blot our days.  Find your passion and, so long as it harms no one, follow it.  For all too soon those you treasure and the work you mean to do will be lost to you, for if life is sweet, death is ever greedy.

Carpe diem.

Howard Andrew Jones & John Chris Hocking

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