Black Gate 12 x 2

Some new reviews of Black Gate 12 up: by Sherwood Smith at The Fix (thanks sartorias!) and by Lois Tilton at The Internet Review of Science Fiction (registration required).

Both are pretty generous toward my story (so my egocentric universe hasn’t been knocked off its axis), but LT made the interesting observation that, for her, Morlock wasn’t particularly important to the success of the story (“it is not so much the series character of Morlock that makes this stuff worth reading, but the author’s prose and his skill in creating characters”). This runs contrary to most of the reactions I’ve gathered on and off line (e.g. Matt Wuertz’s persuasive call for “more cowbell”), and it may be an outlier, so to speak. LT has a bias about series in general, which she’s pretty frank about, and that may affect her reading here.

But this is the most striking example I’ve seen yet, in reactions to my own stuff, that precisely what does work for some readers is what puts off others. Probably no one could write something that hits 100% of the potential audience.

That is until they read my next multistage standalone story, Morlock Meets Anti-Morlock: the Morlockening, Only Not Really!

About JE

James Enge is the author of the World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novel Blood of Ambrose (Pyr, April 2009). His latest book is The Wide World's End. His short fiction has appeared in Swords and Dark Magic (Harper Collins, 2010), Black Gate, the Stabby-Award-winning anthology Blackguards and elsewhere.
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14 Responses to Black Gate 12 x 2

  1. newguydave says:

    Awesome! I haven’t gotten to my issue 12 yet. Still finishing “Return of the Sword” and earlier BG issues.

    Do you have work in any other magazines/books?

    What S&S markets do you submit to?

    Again, congrats on the great reviews!

    • JE says:


      I’ve got a story up in an old issue of Flashing Swords and a couple at Every Day Fiction (see my “stories” page for the links). But, apart from BG, that’s about it. My writing career was a tale of epic failure until fairly recently.

      [edited for html format]

  2. burger_eater says:

    Nice reviews. Congrats.

    And you can never go wrong with extra cowbell.

    • JE says:


      I may sneak a cowbell into a future Morlock story as a sort of Easter egg.

      • burger_eater says:

        What I found interesting about the cowbell comment (but was too tired to frame last night) is the conflict between a writer’s desire to do something new with every story and the reader’s desire to get more of the same from a character/series/setting.

        You gotta change something, just not That One Thing that makes the story special.

        It’s a problem.

        • JE says:

          I’m not into literary theory, as a rule, but I make an exception for Umberto Eco (because he can write and can tell a decent story), and he’s got an interesting article called “Interpreting Serials” which is all about series fiction, remakes, retakes, etc.–all the forms that result from the audience saying “tell us a new story about X” (as opposed to “tell us something new… a story about Z, not about X”).

          Probably it didn’t help me figure out how to write a series (because I haven’t yet) but it did help me figure out why I wanted to.

  3. peadarog says:

    Probably no one could write something that hits 100% of the potential audience.

    Exactly and trying too hard results in cow-pats rather than cow-bells. I like Morlock, as you know, but I’d probably agree more with Lois T on this.

  4. Anonymous says:

    precisely what does work for some readers is what puts off others.

    That was one of the first lessons I learned in a writers group. It’s bankable.

    –Jeff Stehman

    • JE says:

      Joining a writers group is one of those things it’s obvious I should have done but never did. The data points must be useful even if you don’t agree with the assessments. Ah, well. Live and learn. (I made that one up myself!)

      • Anonymous says:

        I suspect writers groups are one of those things that fall under Learning Experiences (TM), at least until you find one that’s a good fit for you. My first was Critters. I found it very helpful for a couple of years, but getting hit with sixty data points on one story left me with that deer-in-headlights look. Saw some funny, funny bits of human behavior while I was a member, though. Definitely a learning experience (especially when those behaviors were mine).

        These days I’m happily at home with Codex. Critiques are a fairly small part of what goes on there, but it’s nice to be surrounded by people who are or pushing to become pros.

        –Jeff Stehman

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