Tuesday, March 30, 2010

And the winner is...

John C. Hocking for "The Face in the Sea," and Black Gate for publishing the best all-around Sword&Sorcery short story in 2009. In my humble opinion, of course.

Alas, there can be only one. This was not an easy decision to make. I read and reread every story, taking notes along the way, spent most of yesterday weighing my decision, then slept on it. When it came right down to it, I had to select the story I liked best and that I felt was truest to the form. But every finalist was worthy and selecting just one has taught me that the Sorcerer's Guild has its work cut out for it in 2010.

John's story is a superb example of the genre, harkening back to the master himself - REH. It hit all the points I mentioned in my previous post: two strong hooks (story and adventure); well-crafted, believable historical fantasy setting; solid characters; monsters, mayhem and magic aplenty; a satisfying ending, and an entertaining storyteller's voice.

Over the next few days, I will post my notes on each of the finalists, starting in my next post with the winning story. Meanwhile, please use the comments to send John and Black Gate your well-deserved congratulations.

Also of note, Black Gate #14 just came out. It includes another of Mr. Hocking's Brand the Viking stories.

Rather than add another post, I also want to give a few shout-outs to finalists magazines.

First, Silver Blade has to be the best-looking zine on the web. Their art is superb and I love the way they present each issue and the stories within. Reading Silver Blade is as pleasurable as reading a book, perhaps moreso.

In addition to being chock full of good stories, the production quality of Rage of the Behemoth was excellent. It's a solid book put together with professional care, excellent art, design and typography. It now has an honored place on my shelf.

Based on the quality of the two nominations sent to me from Dark Worlds 3, I'm going to have to pick up a copy and see what else it holds.

A big shout out to editor Sheila Williams and Asimov's for publishing Sara Genge's sword-and-planet story, "Slow Stampede." I'm not an enormous sci-fi fan so this magazine isn't on the top of my must-have list. But I'll be inclined to check more often now, to see what other jewels they let fall.

Another jewel of a find was Electric Spec. I happened upon Dale Carother's story almost by accident and have been taken with it ever since.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is a wonderful webzine, producing a pair of quality fantasy stories twice each month. "Where Virtue Lives" was Saladin Ahmed's first published story.

I don't plan to publish my short list of stories, from which I drew the finalists, but you should know that Heroic Fantasy Quarterly had the most stories of any publisher on my short list - four. And that's out of nine total stories published in 2009. If this were baseball, they'd be millionaires with that batting average.


  1. Congrats to John and Black Gate! Anything that raises the profile for either feels like a win to me -- and anything that raises the profile of sword & sorcery in the short form is a win for us all.

    Good work, Jeff -- I hope one day we'll come to look at the Harper's Pen as a fixture of the genre.

  2. Congratulations John! And to Black Gate, as well.

  3. Congrats to John and Black Gate!
    Congrats to the finalists!
    And congrats to Jeff for starting something special!

  4. Congrats to a very worthy oppon---, er, story and publisher :)

    Much appreciation to Jeff and the new Sorcerer's Guild for this fine award. I'm with Bill in believing that the Harper's Pen should most definitely become a fixture of the genre.

  5. If all goes according to plan, it will be. Oh yes, it will be.

  6. Congrats to John and Black Gate!

    Thank you, Jeff, for running the Sorcerer's Guild. I look forward to watching it grow!

  7. Many thanks to Jeff, Prime Magus of the Sorcerer's Guild, for selecting The Face in the Sea.

    And to John O'Neill, and his fine Black Gate, for bringing my story to print.

    John Hocking

  8. Congratulations to both John and Black Gate on their selection. An excellent choice from among a stellar list of contenders.

    And thanks to the Sorcerer's Guild on creating an award to recognize and promote the genre.

    Well done one and all.

    Jason Thummel

  9. Many, many congratulations to both John and to Black Gate. A well deserved win.

  10. Jeff,

    I think the finest thing about this award - other than the obviously refined taste of its administrator, of course :) - is that it highlights a superb selection of quality publications.

    It's an honor to have John Hocking's story in Black Gate selected. But I really hope everyone who hears about the award will take a few moments to check out Dark Worlds, Silver Blade, Rage of the Behemoth, or one of the other fine books or magazines on the ballot.

    And if they like what they see, I really hope they'll support some of our worthy competition. There's some terrific fiction out there.


    John O'Neill
    Black Gate

  11. Congrats to John Hocking and to Black Gate as well. I'm happy to fall in battle to such a worthy opponent!