This is the first of an occasional series, in which I’ll look back at an issue of a magazine from some years ago. I’m not sure how far back these looks will extend. I’d like to restrict myself to things that most of you can find without too much difficulty or expense. For that reason, I don’t know if I’ll include pulps. What I won’t focus on in this series is anything that is currently available for free online. While Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly are venues I enjoy and will from time to time take a look at, they won’t be part of this series.
I decided to start this series with Black Gate 3, Winter 2002 because I like this publication. It’s published some great fiction over the years by people who have gone on to have successful careers. I can’t think of a single issue that hasn’t been a winner. By the third issue, BG was beginning to hit its stride and had developed a clear editorial style.
Let’s take a look at what this issue holds.
First of all, there isn’t as much fiction as in recent issues, because at this time BG was on a more frequent publication schedule. It was only after the magazine went to annual issues that the page count increased. BG 3 clocks in at 224 pages, with approximately 150 pages of fiction and accompanying illustrations, the rest being devoted reviews and articles, the ToC, an ad for subscriptions, and an editorial. There are eleven stories, and ten of the worked for me. That’s a pretty good ratio.
The lead piece of fiction is “Iron Joan” by ElizaBeth Gilligan. This is a story about a woman whose inner strength is more than a match for several men who attempt to treat her badly. In the process she wins the respect of the town where she’s come to live.
Elaine Cunningham tells of the first meeting of Oberon and Lancelot in “The Knight of the Lake” and shows that you’re never to old to learn something new. The Faery Court and Camelot have been somewhat overdone through the years, but this is a fresh and entertaining take on some familiar characters.
Completely opposite was Gail Sproule’s “For Love of Katie”, which rounded out the issue. This one is told from the point of view of a small dragon-like creature produced in a genetics lab. Telling a story from an animal’s point of view is a hard trick to pull off and few authors can, which is why I generally don’t care for that type of story. Unfortunately, the author didn’t quite succeed, at least to my satisfaction. This one was a little too cute and predictable for my taste. Still it was well written and I’m sure there are plenty of people who would enjoy it.
All in all, BG 3 is a solid issue, with a great deal of exciting fiction to recommend it. There’s something here for everyone. From sword and sorcery to near contemporary to futuristic, from quiet and thoughtful to humorous to horrifying. You can’t go wrong. And although they may disagree with me, it’s fun to see some of the early efforts of some of the rising stars of the genres
This issue of Black Gate is still available. If you don’t have a copy and would like to pick one up, you can order here. It’s one of the first, so I don’t know how many are left. There’s a back-issue sale going on, so you can probably score some good deals. If you don’t wait too long.