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Magazine Review: Black Gate Issue 11

black_gate_cover_11.jpgI just finished reading Black Gate #11 and, as always, was well rewarded in the effort. Beginning with John O�Neill�s excellent editorial on how friendships and fantasy helped him succeed in business outside of publishing (i.e. the day job), to the last page of the Knights of the Dinner Table comic strip, nothing in this issue disappoints. John O�Neill�s decision to include the spot art of Lance King was a stroke of genius, and his darkly humorous art filled in the white space quite nicely.

Where Beauty Lies in Wait was a frightening tale of puberty among an alien race. Peadar O� Guilin weaves a mysterious tale that will scare the living daylights out of any man who remembers that terrible time when his own body began to change. Although this story contained adult themes, it was extremely well written and very creative in its approach. I�ve never read anything quite like it before.

James Enge brings back Morlock the Maker in The Lawless Hours. Told from a different perspective from the previous Morlock stories, Enge creates a racially tense and magically fraught story which only Morlock�s unique skills can solve. I did not enjoy this story as much as the other Morlock stories, ass the sense of foreboding Enge cultivated so well in the other stories, and Enge�s ability to surprise was lacking in this novella.

The Wizard�s Daily Horoscope told the traditional dragon story in a unique and subtle way. Maria V. Snyder�s story is short but humorous, and requires a little bit of imagination to enjoy fully. The creativity displayed made me want to read her novel, Poison Study.

Martha Wells returned to her Ilias and Giliead characters to tell the story of their first meeting in Holy Places. It is a heart wrenching story of an unwanted boy who makes friends with the powerful. Wells� story was heat wrenching in its sadness, and exciting in its swordplay. (Has anybody else noticed that Ilias & Giliead said quickly makes it sound like Iliad? Must be Wells� nod to Homer, from whom some of her source material must come.)

Dao Shi the exorcist returns in From the Heart of the Earth to the Pearls of the Sky by Iain Rowan. This story was something of a placeholder. Dao Shi is still looking for an explanation to his son’s death. New characters are introduced who will play a greater role in the stories to come, but there was nothing new in Rowan’s tale. Fans of Dao Shi will enjoy this story (as I did), but new readers would benefit from reading the previous stories in BG #6 and #9 first.

New author David Evan Harris sets up a whole new system of magic in The Mudslinger that tells a story of self-sacrifice and the human drive to prove one�s worth. Harris has the makings of an epic fantasy in the world of The Mudslinger. Harris thought between the lines of traditional concepts in fantasy, while still retaining many of the important elements of epic or sword and sorcery style fantasies. I look forward to more stories from Harris.

Soulthief by Ben Wolcott is a humorous tale that is really more of a lead in to a longer story, rather than a story all in itself. It�s a vignette in the life of a thief and a mage, which establishes a relationship I would like to see explored more in depth. The characterization is dicey although the action is well-written.

The Entrance of Bob into Valhalla is strange, funny and culturally apt. To tell you much about the story would decrease its value, so read William I. Lengeman III�s story for yourself. I thought it right on point about my own life.

Mark Sumner�s second story in The Naturalist series hearkens back to the old adventure stories of the 40�s and 50�s. Although partly a fantasy, it is more of an Indiana Jones style adventure. I was disappointed by this installment, titled The Naturalist II: An Incident at Gray�s Works as it seemed only to have been written to create a love interest and a nemesis for Doctor Brown. The action was almost exactly the same as the first installment, and only a few new things are learned about the antriders. All, in all, this was a disappointing story and I hope that Sumner will end the series on a higher note, than rehashing the same plot.

Richard Horton�s non-fiction piece on the Neglected Stories from the SF Magazines was excellent, and contained some useful lists for those readers interested in pursuing more reading material from the 60�s and 70�s eras of science fiction.

The Gaming and Book Review sections were helpful as always (I should submit some of mine!) and the Java Joint comic strip poked fun at one of my own pet peeves. And the illustrations are superb. I especially enjoyed Mark Evan�s illustration for �The Mudslinger� it greatly enhanced the story.

This was an excellent issue from Black Gate. It was nice to receive a spring and summer edition in the same year, and I hope a fall one will also be released. I would like to see Black Gate expand its non-fiction out from Rich Horton�s articles to some articles more about the fantasy and science fiction genre in general. Horton has done a great job, but to see another name on the byline with something about stuff other than Golden Age SF might be worth trying out.

Still, can�t complain. For the little I pay per issue, I�m grateful for all 224 excellent pages (even the ads!). I highly recommend you pick up this latest issue in your local Barnes and Noble or Borders.

PS: If you librarything, I have compiled all the Black Gate Issues on there. (Hey, they are practically books, right?) You can find them here, with covers and fiction listings. Feel free to improve them to ensure full accuracy.

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