REVIEW SUMMARY: A strong set of stories that joyfully show new and extended aspects of a fascinating fantasy world.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: Explores the present and past of the Indigo Cloud Court with stories that look into the past history of characters.

MY REVIEW:
PROS:: Detailed and vivid worldbuilding; intriguing non-human politics and character interactions; welcome return of favorite characters.
CONS: Worldbuilding and explanation inserted to allow new readers to catch up sometimes drags a bit on story flow.
BOTTOM LINE: A set of novellas that introduce and extend the Three Worlds to new and returning readers.

Martha Wells’ The Cloud Roads introduced a new fantasy universe to her readers. Set in the “Three Worlds”, The Cloud Roads started the story of Moon, an orphaned humanoid with a secret (and terrifying) ability to shapechange into a monstrous flying form. Discovered by a tribe of creatures similar to himself, Moon learned who and what he really is, even as the court of Raksura was under threat by their mortal enemies, the Fell. The subsequent novels (The Serpent Sea and The Siren Depths) continued the story of Moon and Indigo Cloud as they return to their ancestral homeland, only to be immersed into adventure and old rivalries with other Raksura as they seek to reestablish themselves in the Reaches.
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Maria Alexander is a fiction writer who lives in Los Angeles with two ungrateful cats and a purse named Trog. Her debut urban fantasy novel, Mr. Wicker, was just released in September 2014 by Raw Dog Screaming Press. Publishers Weekly calls it, “(a) splendid, bittersweet ode to the ghosts of childhood.” Follow Maria on her webiste or on Twitter as @LaMaupin.

Four of the Dumbest Things Done with Swords in Film and Fiction

by Maria Alexander

Everybody loves swords. Writers and readers alike enjoy a bladed tale because of the mystique this ancient weapon wields. I’m a big sword lover myself. Last year, I wrote a blog post that went viral called, “Why I Hate (Most) Photos and Drawings of Women with Swords.” In the post, I outline my qualifications to speak on the subject, which include many years of studying stage combat with top Hollywood fight masters and four years in the art of Shinkendo. I’m also a veteran author and screenwriter, so I understand the challenge of balancing fantasy and fact when creating an entertaining story both for both fiction and film.

But too many writers and filmmakers are unaware of the realities surrounding bladed weapons. Most of what they know about swords they learned from the movie Highlander and in turn they propagate those fallacies in their work. That’s like learning about planes from the movie Flight. Here are a few facts about swords that, if heeded, could actually create better stories.
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Q: When is a Book More Than a Book?

It used to be that reading a book just meant, y’know, reading a book. Not so much anymore.

Over at the Kirkus Reviews blog, I remark on When a Book is More Than a Book.

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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

We all have fave books that we’d love to see on the big (or little) screen, so I asked this week’s panelists this question:

Q: Got a favorite book (or books) that you’d like to see on the big screen? Tell me which one and fancast it with ANYONE you want, past and present

Here’s what they had to say…

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Did You Hear John DeNardo on The Functional Nerds Podcast?

SF Signal’s own John DeNardo joins John Anealio and Patrick Hester on this week’s episode of The Functional Nerds Podcast.

Listen below, or at The Functional Nerds, or subscribe to The Functional Nerds Podcast through iTunes.

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Yes! Another Honest Trailer to remind us that suspension of disbelief is a relative thing.

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A treat for Star Wars fans!

We have an audio excerpt from James Luceno’s new novel Tarkin, taken from the audiobook version of the novel.

Here’s what the story’s about:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Best-selling Star Wars veteran James Luceno gives Grand Moff Tarkin the Star Wars: Darth Plagueis treatment, bringing a legendary character from A New Hope to full, fascinating life.

He’s the scion of an honorable and revered family. A dedicated soldier and distinguished legislator. Loyal proponent of the Republic and trusted ally of the Jedi Order. Groomed by the ruthless politician and Sith Lord who would be Emperor, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin rises through the Imperial ranks, enforcing his authority ever more mercilessly….and zealously pursuing his destiny as the architect of absolute dominion.

Rule through the fear of force rather than force itself, he advises his Emperor. Under Tarkin’s guidance, an ultimate weapon of unparalleled destruction moves ever closer to becoming a terrifying reality. When the so-called Death Star is completed, Tarkin is confident that the galaxy’s lingering pockets of Separatist rebellion will be brought to heel – by intimidation…or annihilation.

Until then, however, insurgency remains a genuine threat. Escalating guerrilla attacks by resistance forces and newfound evidence of a growing Separatist conspiracy are an immediate danger the Empire must meet with swift and brutal action. And to bring down a band of elusive freedom fighters, the Emperor turns to his most formidable agents: Darth Vader, the fearsome new Sith enforcer as remorseless as he is mysterious; and Tarkin – whose tactical cunning and cold-blooded efficiency will pave the way for the Empire’s supremacy…and its enemies’ extinction.

Listen below…
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SF/F/H Link Post for 2014-10-22

Interviews & Profiles

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Here’s a trio of books coming out soon that would get bounced to top of my TBR priority list!

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REVIEW SUMMARY: A diverse, eclectic, and fascinating collection of steampunk stories.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Editor Sean Wallace has brought together stories from such writers as Cherie Priest, Ken Liu, Gord Sellar, and others, that push the boundaries of the steampunk genre in new and exciting ways.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: A broad range of steampunk tales that range from fantasy to hard scifi, and folk-tale to alternate-history.
CONS: Grouping the stories into themed sections would have made the similarities and differences among the approaches more apparent.
BOTTOM LINE: A fascinating romp through the steampunk imagination. (And there are pterodactyls. Just sayin’.)

The twenty-five steampunk stories in Sean Wallace’s The Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures reveal just how rich and varied the genre can be. From fantasy to hard scifi, historical fiction to diary entries, they show us a whole range of ways to conceptualize and understand our world and many of its alternatives. Included are stories about circuses and mechanical birds, shape-shifters and pterodactyls, “mechanika” uprisings and political intrigue. Oh, and lobsters and golems. You get the picture.
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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author J. Kathleen Cheney! – Sarah Chorn

J. Kathleen Cheney is a former teacher and has taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus, with a brief stint as a Gifted and Talented Specialist. Her short fiction has been published in Jim Baen’s Universe, Writers of the Future, and Fantasy Magazine, among others, and her novella “Iron Shoes” was a 2010 Nebula Award Finalist. Her novel, The Golden City came out from Penguin in 2013. The sequel, The Seat of Magic debuted July 1. Her website can be found at www.jkathleencheney.com.

Trying to Write Blind

by J. Kathleen Cheney

One of the more irritating bits of critique I’ve ever received: “Have your POV character feel her way around her bedroom so we know she’s blind.”

Seriously? Is that what people think a blind person does in their own bedroom? Feel their way along the walls like they’re a character in an exaggerated 1920s movie? Or are they the ‘magical’ blind person who goes the other way, never steps a foot wrong, and never walks into the corner of a table?
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You are invited to join me for a special Live SF Signal Podcast recording on Saturday, October 25th at 4 PM at MileHiCon 46 in the Denver Tech Center.

Guests include:

Stop by, say hello and be part of the podcast!

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Here’s the new video from Kasabian for the song “Stevie” (from the album 48:13), about a boy raised in a laboratory…

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SF/F/H Link Post for 2014-10-21

Interviews & Profiles

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BOOK REVIEW: Dust by Hugh Howey

REVIEW SUMMARY: Satisfying conclusion to a remarkable science fiction series

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The end to a post-apocalyptic epic where people have survived underground in silos but are finally going to find out whether they can survive in the wasteland above.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Has the feel of a science fiction series we’ll tell our grandchildren about; shows improvement in pacing from previous books in series; surprise ending.
CONS: Lacked enough surviving characters to keep us as engaged as we were in earlier books of the series; subplot about the endangered child was not rewarding enough.
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CONVENTION ATTENTION: Context27 in Columbus, Ohio

Context27 logoLast month I attended Context27, a small and cozy speculative fiction convention in Columbus, OH. Context is a writers convention, and this year’s guests of honor where Jonathan Maberry and Betsy Mitchell. Other guests included Laura Resnick, Jennifer Brozek, Maurice Broaddus, Jerry Gordon, Jason Sizemore, Daniel and Trista Robichaud, Lucy Snyder, Ferrett Steinmetz, Michael West and more. Along with panels and workshops, the convention also had a flash fiction contest, well-appointed dealer room, a live recording of the Funky Werepig podcast, a consuite, and of course, parties! This was also my first time on panels, but more on that later.

For a small additional fee, attendees could sign up for one of the many workshops, which included Writing for Young Adults, Crafting a Compelling Plot, Characterization Through Dialog,Anthology Editing, and Point of View, among many others. The panels were also primarily writer and publishing focused, and included topics such as Busting Writer’s Block, Hot New Writers, Classics You May Have Missed, Getting a Day Job in Publishing, The Care and Feeding of Beta Readers, Skewering the Tropes, The Art of the Short Story, Social Media for Authors and Readers, Homebrewing Science, Podcasting, Publishing Disasters, Tales from the Slushpile, The Future of Magazines and Periodicals, What is an MFA and Do I Want One,and about a bazillion more. I really have no idea how all this incredible programming was jammed into 48 hours.
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In episode 265 of the SF Signal Podcast Patrick Hester gathers Carol Berg, Betsy Dornbusch, Travis Heermann and Josh Vogt to discuss:

MileHiCon 46 past and present. Specifically:

  • About their MileHiCon experiences
  • What’s their favorite part of the con?
  • What’s their favorite MileHiCon memory/moment?
  • What they will be doing / what panels they’ll be on?
  • What they’re looking forward to?
  • Why they think our listeners should attend?

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Here’s the cover and synopsis for the upcoming novel Carousel Seas by Sharon Lee.

Here’s the synopsis:
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Joe Haldeman’s THE FOREVER WAR

When I was in high school, I devoured Ender’s Game and Starship Troopers, but it wasn’t until I’d left graduate school that someone forced me to read The Forever War. Since going back to it, I’ve found that it’s a book that’s grown on me each time I read it. It’s certainly one of the best SF novels that I’ve ever read.

Over on Kirkus Reviews, I’ve gone and taken a look at the background of the novel. Go read Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War.

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Books Received: October 20, 2014

In the interest of full disclosure, here are the books we received this week.
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