Archive for May, 2014

It’s time another Book Cover Smackdown! This episode’s covers will be found on bookstore shelves in August 2014.

Your mission (should you choose to accept it): Play armchair art critic!

Tell us:

  • Which of these covers most grabs your attention?
  • What works and what doesn’t work with these covers?
  • Do any of them make you want to learn more about and/or read the book?

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Today only, you can get the Kindle platform version of Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards for only $1.99!

Many tales are told of the Syldoon Empire and its fearsome soldiers, who are known throughout the world for their treachery and atrocities. Some say that the Syldoon eat virgins and babies–or perhaps their own mothers. Arkamondos, a bookish young scribe, suspects that the Syldoon’s dire reputation may have grown in the retelling, but he’s about to find out for himself.

Hired to chronicle the exploits of a band of rugged Syldoon warriors, Arki finds himself both frightened and fascinated by the men’s enigmatic leader, Captain Braylar Killcoin. A secretive, mercurial figure haunted by the memories of those he’s killed with his deadly flail, Braylar has already disposed of at least one impertinent scribe . . . and Arki might be next.

Archiving the mundane doings of millers and merchants was tedious, but at least it was safe. As Arki heads off on a mysterious mission into parts unknown, in the company of the coarse, bloody-minded Syldoon, he is promised a chance to finally record an historic adventure well worth the telling, but first he must survive the experience!

A gripping military fantasy in the tradition of Glen Cook, Scourge of the Betrayer explores the brutal politics of Empire–and the searing impact of violence and dark magic on a man’s soul.

Thie $1.99 price for Scourge of the Betrayer is only good for Saturday May 24th so act fast if you want it.

Still alive after a rough week. Also: my stuck-on-repeat mention of my novels declares that After The Fires Went Out: Coyote is now also free on B&N, and that Book Four: Descent is now available.

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What’s Special About Today’s Free Fiction?

  1. New magazine Bastion has a sample story for their second issue: “The Endless Flickering Night” by Gary Emmette Chandler
  2. Beneath Ceaseless Skies #147 – May 15, 2014
  3. Interfictions Online #3 – May 2014

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Interviews & Profiles

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Here’s the cover and synopsis for the upcoming graphic novel Ringworld: The Graphic Novel (Part 1) by Larry Niven & Sean Lam, hitting shelves in July.

Here’s the synopsis:
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MOVIE REVIEW: X-Men – Days of Future Past (2014)

REVIEW SYNOPSIS: With well-drawn characters, fine performances, and several exceptional set pieces (to say nothing of the return of director Bryan Singer), the newest installment in the X-Men franchise stands as the most enjoyable entry in years, even if it never breaks new ground.

MY REVIEW:

SYNOPSIS: The X-Men send Wolverine back in time to prevent the events that result in sentient robots devastating the earth and hunting both humans and mutants.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: A very good cast, with Jackman at his best as Wolverine and Peters stealing virtually every scene he is in; good character elements; often well-paced and with several outstanding set pieces.
CONS: Sequences that indulge in cinematic overkill; too much convoluted exposition at the movie’s beginning; Magneto, whose motivations never waver from the very first movie; sometimes crowded dramatis personae.

Before Spider-Man (amazing or not), the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, or the rest of the Avengers, movie audiences marveled at the adventures of the X-Men, who, in two efforts, completely rewrote the rules for the superhero movie.  The practically had to; the released of Batman and Robin in 1997 so tarnished big-screen comic book characters that, a few cult favorites like Blade aside, nobody expected four-color heroes to save the world from larger-than-life villains again.
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REVIEW SUMMARY: A look at the forthcoming book, The Art of John Harris: Beyond the Horizon, to be released by Titan Books on May 27th, 2014.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Large, beautifully reproduced images; work spans wide range of Harris’ career; fitting foreword by John Scalzi; reasonable price point for book of this size/quality; equally reasonably priced slip-cased limited edition with signed print.
CONS: More prose about inspirations/thoughts on individual works would have enhanced the book.
BOTTOM LINE: John Harris and his iconic paintings have been a part of the science fiction community for nearly four decades.  He brings an impressionistic sensibility to his bold, massive space landscapes that make each piece stand out as a distinct work of art.  Generations of readers have discovered his work because of the science fiction novels graced with his creations.  Harris continues to be a prolific creator whose work resides on the covers of some of the biggest names in SF literature.  This new retrospective is a welcome body of work and should be added to your collection the moment it is released.

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Clifford Beal is the author of The Raven’s Banquet and Gideon’s Angel, both published by Solaris Books

Which Witch? Balancing Fact And Fancy In Historical Fantasy

by Clifford Beal

Historical fantasy is certainly nothing new in the world of genre fiction: it’s been with us for decades. Depending upon how you define it, it has roots in the epics of ancient history, the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, and in modern times has had authors as diverse as Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, Lord Dunsany, Anne Rice and Bernard Cornwell. The sheer scope of historical fantasy today—covering everything from ancient Rome and the medieval world all the way to Victorian England—gives readers a vast horizon to explore and enjoy. And done well, adding a fantastical element to otherwise straight-laced historical fiction can enhance not only an awareness of a particular epoch, it can add a new dimension in character and plot. Just how would an 18th century gentleman handle a close encounter with a denizen of the Faerie Seelie Court? Done less well, crossing genres can result in a head-on train wreck of a story with the fantasy bits just bolted on for thrill value and with little or no thought given to context, time, or place.

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It was just announced that IDW Entertainment and Entertainment One Television will be devloping a television series based on the V-Wars, the vampire antholoy edited by Jonathan Maberry that also spawned a related graphic novel series (written by Maberry and others).

The pilot is being written by Tim Schlattmann (Dexter, Smallville), who will also server as executive producer on the series. It’s being pitched as a new take on vampires.

V-Wars puts a new spin on the vampires by grounding the premise on a millennial-old virus that affects different people in different ways, based on their DNA. This leads to vampires that are as diverse as humanity.

Maberry, who is quoted as saying “V-Wars is a head-on collision of real-world science, terrorism, special forces action, ethics, politics and an exploration of what defines us as human,” is also the author of the popular Joe Ledger series, which re-invented the zombie novel as a taut thriller with Patient Zero.

In the meantime, a second anthology of V-Wars (V Wars: Blood and Fire) is scheduled for release this July and features stories by Kevin J. Anderson, Scott Sigler, Larry Corriea, Joe McKinney, Nancy Holder, Yvonne Navarro, Weston Ochse, James A. Moore, and Jonathan Maberry.

[via Keith R.A. DeCandido]

L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Land of Oz

I defy you to find someone who doesn’t know the story of The Wizard of Oz. It’s an enormously popular story, so ingrained into our popular culture world that statements such as ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore’ need no reference. Oz is on par with stories from Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley – we know what happens without even reading the works. As such, it’s good to go back and take a look at their place in SF’s canon, because they are very influential, and it’s easy to see why: they’re fantastic, eminently readable stories that hold up with their sense of wonder.

Recently, I attended ICFA down in Orlando Florida, where I had dinner with a couple of authors, notably Ted Chaing. We had gotten on the topic of robotics, and he mentioned that Tik Tok from Ozma of Oz could be considered one of the first robots in SF. It’s certainly an early appearance of a robot, and with that in mind, it’s interesting to see how much of Oz prefigured some of the modern SF genre.

Go read L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Land of Oz over on the Kirkus Reviews Blog.

Thanks to Monkeybrain for the reminder that this happened in my lifetime…

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Interviews & Profiles

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In this series, I ask various publishing professionals (including authors, bloggers, editors, agents etc.) to recommend 2-3 authors or books they feel haven’t received the recognition they deserve.

Today’s recommendations are by Dru Pagliassotti, whose first novel, Clockwork Heart, won the Romantic Times Book Reviews’ Best Small Press Contemporary Futuristic Novel award for 2008. Book two, Clockwork Lies: Iron Wind was released in March of this year and book three, Clockwork Secrets: Heavy Fire is out this September. She’s written numerous short stories, a horror novel (An Agreement with Hell), and edited several works, including a scholarly book on Japanese yaoi, or boy’s love manga.

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Jason Andrew is the co-Editor (with Mae Empson) of the new anthology The Future Embodied, an anthology of speculative stories exploring how science and technology might change our bodies and what it means to be human. It’s available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

The Future Embodied is an anthology of speculative stories exploring how science and technology might change our bodies and what it means to be human. Imagine what our ancestors a mere hundred years ago would have thought of the modern world. Think of the medical marvels we experience on a daily basis that would have seemed impossible. Recent medical advances have dramatically extended the human life-span to unthinkable lengths. Science has changed how we live in this world. Technology has allowed humanity to dramatically alter our environment, how we communicate, and how we experience life.

Imagine now what our descendants might experience. What new trials or tribulations will the future of humanity suffer, or overcome?

The final frontier won’t be out in space but inside our own bodies. Experience the future as imagined via nineteen powerful voices envisioning what we might become. Including stories from: William F. Nolan, David Gerrold, Ree Soesbee, Jennifer Brozek, Katrina Nicholson, Nghi Vo, Jennifer R. Povey, Sarah Pinsker, Thomas Brennan, Miles Britton, Megan Lee Beals, Lauren C. Teffeau, Shane Robinson, John Skylar, Preston Dennett, Alexandra Grunberg, Wayne Helge, and Holly Schofield.

I asked several of the antholgy’s authors the following question:

Q: The Future Embodied is a science fiction anthology about how science and technology might change our bodies in the future. What do you think the next big change will be for humanity and how will it alter the way we live?

Here’s what they said…
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Mia Marshall spent time as a high school teacher, script supervisor, story editor, legal secretary, and day care worker before deciding she would rather spend her days writing about things that don’t exist in this version of reality. She has lived all along the US west coast and throughout the UK, during which time she collected an unnecessary number of degrees in literature, education, and film. These days, she lives somewhere in the Sierra Nevadas, where she is surrounded by her feline overlords. You can follow Mia at her website, on Twitter, Facebook, and GoodReads.

Men Are From Mars and Urban Fantasy is From Venus. Or Not.

by Mia Marshall

When I tell people I write urban fantasy novels, there’s often a pause in the conversation. It’s a long pause, during which I wonder if they expect more information, or perhaps an explanation for how this can be an actual career.

At last, they speak. “What’s urban fantasy?”

“Fantastic elements in our world. You know, myth or magic or…”

“Vampires?” This is when I hear it. The smile in the voice. The hint of smugness. “Like Twilight?”

There is a second pause, longer than the first, while they wait for me to disavow all sparkly vampire books, to insist that mine are different, and therefore worthy of being read.
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In episode 249 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester chats with author, Carol Berg live from the 2014 Pikes Peak Writers Conference.

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Adaptation Watch: IT by Stephen King

Hollywood loves Stephen King!

The Hollywood Reporter is, um, reporting that a film adaptation of Stephen King’s 1987 horror novel It has been picked up by New Line. Although an It film has been in development at Warner Bros. for some time, apparently going nowhere, this indicates that the project may finally get to move forward.

The story is about a group of people — childhood friends from the town of Derry, Maine — who reunite to battle an evil creature they call “It”. Why? because they defeated that very same evil twenty five years ago which, instead of being killed, was apparently lying dormant.

According to /Film, the adaptation is being planned as a two-film series, with one focusing on characters as children, and the other focusing on those characters as adults.

I read It many tears ago and loved it. I briefly wrote about it late last year at Kirkus Reviews. There was a television mini-series back in 1990 starring Tim Curry (as “It”, who manifests himself as an evil clown), Richard Thomas, Annette O’Toole, John Ritter and Harry Anderson. It was fairly corny. Here’s hoping any new film adaptation that gets made will be closer to the book’s horror origins.

Crossing fingers!

You know, maybe S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t as bad-@$$ as they make themselves out to be…

WARNING: Spoilers abound for Marvel films and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

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Interviews & Profiles

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REVIEW SUMMARY: An enjoyable story overall that suffers from some execution issues.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Three people confront their own lives when the rest of the world’s population disappears.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: An interesting premise; deals with meaningful themes; engrossing story lines; sympathy evoked for two of the characters’ journeys…
CONS: …while the third character seems to experience a less meaningful and surreal nightmare; the artistic style, while not bad, doesn’t grab me.
BOTTOM LINE: An interesting story and personally thought-provoking story.

I.N.J. Culbard deals with meaningful themes in his first original graphic novel Celeste. Specifically, the story deals with loneliness and the meaning we place on our own lives. These themes are explored through three separate story lines following a group of troubled souls: a woman named Lilly who has albinism and prefers to be alone; an FBI agent named Ray who’s wrapped up in his job, and a suicidal Asian man who goes unnamed. Each of them has to deal with the unbelievable fact that just about the rest of humanity has disappeared in the blink of an eye. How they deal with the situation given this new perspective is the meat of the story.
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