There really aren’t all that many magazines for short fantasy fiction that are still up and running, so that by itself makes BLACK GATE special. But it’s the willingness to make each publication an event and the strength of the storytelling that have made BLACK GATE my favorite magazine for years now, even though it occasionall goes through long breaks in between publication dates.
To explain — BLACK GATE is a magazine, but probably not in the way you’re thinking. In actuality, it’s more like a book. This issue came in at 384 pages (8.5 x 11) with a full-color, fantastic cover. It’s all adventure fantasy, and this month the magazine went with a theme for the first time — women warriors.
As always, the packaging was fantastic and the stories were exactly the type of short fiction I enjoy reading, but unlike most of the previous issues, there really wasn’t anything that knocked me on my ass on this one.
“Groob’s Stupid Grubs” by Jeremiah Tolbert has an interesting setting and set-up, so it stood out, and Harry Connolly’s “Eating Venom” was also strong. Rosamund Hodge’s “Apotheosis” was very cool and John R. Fultz’s “The Vintages of Dream” was amusing even if I found it fairly predictable. “The River People” by Emily Mah and “World’s End” by Frederick S. Durbin were the two “warrior women” stories I liked best.
The novel excerpt, “The Desert of Souls,” features some likeable characters in Dabir and Hasim, but I don’t know if it was enough to convince me to buy the book. The author, Howard Andrew Jones, is a managing editor with the magazine, so his novel got a back-cover ad, a very positive recommendation in the reviews column and what amounts to a 30-page ad for his book.
Looking through the Table of Contents now, I’m not really finding any stories I disliked so maybe this was a better issue than I initially gave it credit for. It was an enjoyable read, but I just don’t know if there are more than one or two really memorable stories out of the 20-25 in this issue.