BLACK GATE #9
Edited by John O’Neill
It seems with every issue John O’Neill and Black Gate push the boundary of the fantasy genre just a bit more. With the range of stories in this issue, that practices continues. From the sword-and-sorcery of “Payment Deferred” to the hillbilly magic realism of “The Whited Child” it runs the gamut, bouncing from one extreme to another, and providing something for every reader.
In between the eleven stories, there is a wealth of non-fiction. O’Neill provides a humorous look at the perils and changed perspectives of turning forty and the perils of taking a look back at the years past. Rich Horton highlights those masterpieces that fall through the cracks in the endlessly debated retro-Hugos, with giants such as Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, The Magician’s Nephew, and The Return of the King. Don Bassingthwaite gives a thumbs up to the game Northern Crown: New World Adventures.
Take Adam J. Thaxton’s “Pets.” Set in a cozy little corner of some universe where just about everything is out to get you — deathwalkers, hoppers, and, worst of all, avatars. But even in a world with so many threats a child is a child and, like kids everywhere, the heroine of this light tale wants a pet. All of her friends have one, though they don’t look like anything we would snuggle up to, but she is determined and willing to face any danger to find something for her very own.
Larry Tritten presents a cautionary tale with a humorous twist in “It’s A Wonderful Con.” Loyal Black Gate readers will appreciate the continuing adventures of Morlock the Maker in James Enge’s “Payment Deferred.” Star Wars fans should recognise a certain… well… influence on “The Thrall” by Mike Schultz.
The dark magic of the mountains holds a poor village hostage in “The Whited Child.” Michael Canfield paints a vivid picture of life on the outskirts of poverty in this tale of an outcast and the high price he extracts to save the sickened children of the townsfolk he despises. But, sometimes the mountains demand their own price…
It’s hard not to sympathise with the plight of the brave pilot strapped in for “The Final Flight of Major Havoc.” Despite his courage and daring, he is doomed from the start. You’ll never look at your “toys” in the same way again. “Final Flight” is a tiny gem hidden in between longer, majestic stories, but make sure you don’t pass it by.
Unfortunately, there are too many stories in Black Gate to do them all justice. There is no time to dwell on the atmospheric “A Touch of Crystal” or the treat of seeing Murray Leinster’s “The Fifth Dimension Catapult” in print again. The best thing to do is to snare a copy of the magazine for yourself. Better yet, sign up for a subscription and you can keep an eye on the re-emergence of pulp fantasy as it happens.