Yes, for those of you who are counting, that makes three posts this week that start with bad puns. (The other two are here
.) I’ll stop sooner or later. It’s just been that kind of week.
But you aren’t here to read my excuses. You want to know about Black Gate‘s new online fiction There will be a new story (which could be a novel excerpt) posted every Sunday for free. Details are here at Black Gate.
The first story went up this past Sunday. The story is “The Duelist” by Jason E. Thummel. (That’s his picture below, swiped from the Black Gate website.) I’ve had so many things going on and so much good short fiction to review this week that I’m just now getting to this one. The question is, was it worth the wait?
|Jason E. Thummel
The answer is “Yes!” Note the exclamation point. This is a tale of a drunken duelist who is the top in his field. I’m not going into too much detail, because I don’t want to spoil any twists. (Although I will say the encounter our hero has with the Baron’s wife upstairs implies there will be a sequel.) Rather, let’s look at the writing and the characterization. You’ll just have to trust me that the plot is a solid sword and sorcery story.
First I like the protagonist, Androi Karpelov, because even though he’s a very flawed hero, he’s still a man with honor. And he’s willing to take great risks to satisfy that honor. The alcoholic hero isn’t quite a cliche, but this trope has been around a while. Thummel handles it with ease and breaths life into what could easily be a stock character from Central Casting.
The style is slightly old-fashioned, a perfect fit for the setting, which seems to be a quasi-Regency world from what we’re shown of it. Yet, it only sounds old-fashioned. The story moves at a nice clip, never dragging. And believe me, if it had drug, I would have noticed. I stayed up way too late to read this one, and if it had been slow I probably would have dozed off. I didn’t.
There is magic here, but it’s not flashy or ubiquitous. I like this approach. Magic that’s everywhere is too much like technology, and for me at least, that takes some of the sense of wonder away. And when the magic does appear, Androi reveals that he has a wicked sense of humor.
So, yes, like other short fiction venues I’ve looked at this week, Black Gate‘s online fiction debut has set a high standard of quality. That’s a good thing.
Thummel is also the author of the novel The Spear of Destiny and the short story collection In Savage Lands. I’ve got the latter and have read a couple of stories. I liked them a lot. Look for a review sometime in the next few months. This is a writer whose work I’m going to keep an eye out for.
I’m looking forward to more of Black Gate‘s fiction offerings. It’s been one of my favorite publications for a long time. I’m glad to see it isn’t going to go away since it’s no longer being published in print form. I hope they don’t run too many novel excerpts, though. I generally don’t read them I either know I’m going to buy the book, or else I don’t want to deal with the frustration of having to wait to finish the story.
I’m also hoping editor John O’Neill will consider making the new fiction available in some type of ebook that I could download and read on my ereader. I like that the fiction is free, but I would be willing to pay for it to have the convenience of not having to be at my computer to read it. That’s been a successful model for several online publications, so I’m hoping BG can make a go of it.
Anyway, congratulations, John, on a great kickoff and good luck with in the future with the fiction component of Black Gate.