Author Archive

Will McIntosh is the author of the critically acclaimed 2011 novel Soft Apocalypse, and the recently released Hitchers, both from Night Shade Books. Hitchers imagines an Atlanta, Georgia shortly after a crippling terrorist attack, when the dead come back to inhabit the living. (You can read our review here.) Will recently had a change to talk with us about his latest novel:


SF Signal: Hi Will, thanks again for talking with us. When we last spoke, we talked about your first book, Soft Apocalypse. How has the response been for that?

Will McIntosh: It’s been very encouraging. The first printing sold out, it was on Locus magazine’s recommended reading list, there is both a French and German edition coming out, and most importantly, I’ve heard from a lot of readers who enjoyed it.
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Weekend Playlist: Music to Read To

Last week, I was laid up in bed with a nasty cold, unable to do much but prop myself up with a good book. If I’m going to be missing work, I might as well be somewhat productive and take my mind off of the coughing.

When I read, I tend to get distracted. I think it’s the silence around me that makes me more aware of what’s going on; cars and trucks going up and down the road, the neighbors upstairs, or something crashing in the kitchen. To combat this, I’ve got a handy playlist of songs that I put on that helps keep me in the mood. It’s not so much that it’ll be distracting to me, but not quiet enough that I’m either falling asleep or not hearing it.

There’s not a whole lot to say individually, except that I like them quite a bit. Here we go:
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Weekend Playlist: SF/F Songs About Love

We recently celebrated Valentine’s Day and while it’s a little behind the curve, it did get me thinking about what songs grab you by the heart:

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REVIEW: Hitchers by Will McIntosh

REVIEW SUMMARY: A fantastic and inventive novel.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Following a terrorist attack that kills hundreds of thousands people in Atlanta Georgia, people around the city start to experience possessions of dead people. Popular cartoonist Finn Darby is possessed by his abusive, alcoholic grandfather, who’s been dead two years. As Finn tries to figure out what’s going on, he meets an aging rock star and a waitress (who’s possessed by Darby’s deceased wife). The dead have an agenda, and as the possessions get longer and longer, Finn and his new found friends need to figure out why they’ve been possessed before it’s too late.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: An exceptional novel with interesting characters thrust into a supernatural event while retaining the intimate connections between all of the characters.
CONS: Some elements of the book are slightly under supported, and some details anchor the story in 2011.
BOTTOM LINE: A fantastic novel, up there with some of the best books that I’ve read in recent years.
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Weekend Playlist: Steampunk!

…And we’re back! I had a couple of columns for Janauary that I’d been working on, and which were subsequently lost to computer problems. To kick off February, friend of SF Signal (and SciFi Songster) John Anealio just released his latest song, “Steampunk Girl”, which struck me as a great topic for this week: Steampunk.

The Geek Mom Blog, hosted over on Wired’s website, has an interesting piece about Steampunk music. What caught my eye however, was this statement: “When a band selects “steampunk” on that drop-down box, what does that say? And what can a listener expect to hear? Anything really. Rap, rock, folk, trance- I’ve sampled quite a few tracks in this new genre.” In my own explorations with Geek Music, that’s very true: there’s a lot of variety out there.
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INTERVIEW: Myke Cole on ‘Military Fantasy’

Myke Cole is a military reservist and writer. Control Point, just out from Ace (Penguin-Putnam), is the first novel in his military fantasy Shadow Ops series.


SF SIGNAL: Hi Myke, thanks for taking a couple of moments to speak with us! The first question that I’ve got is: why military fantasy, over something like Military Science Fiction or superpowers?

Myke Cole: Two reasons, really. The first is that my experience is in the military and that I have been a die-hard traditional fantasy fan (though I also love SF) since my earliest days. It’s a neat combination of the two old axioms “write what you know” and “write what you’d want to read.”

The second reason is that military SF has been, frankly, done to death, as have traditional superhero stories (though more in comics than novels). To the best of my knowledge (and I certainly could be wrong), a modern (and truly modern, by which I mean counterinsurgent focused) military tale blended with high fantasy monsters and magic hasn’t been done as a mass-market novel. I wanted to see if I could push the envelope a little bit.
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REVIEW: Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card

REVIEW SUMMARY: A disappointing entry in Card’s Shadow series.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: At the end of Shadow of the Giant, Bean and his three children go into deep space to give them time to find a way to reverse the genes that have given them a shortened life. The trio of children and their father come across a derelict Formic ark over a habitable world, which holds answers for many lingering questions.

PROS: An engaging and readable entry that sheds some light on the Ender’s series.
CONS: Truncated, annoying, short and mostly an info dump in place of storytelling and with half-formed archetypes instead of characters.
BOTTOM LINE: Ender’s Game is one of the stories that got me through high school, and Ender’s Shadow was close behind it. Shadow, which followed Ender’s Game at the same time, has blossomed into a series in its own right, and is now headed towards a meeting point with the sequels to Ender’s Game, following the stories of what happened following the human victory over the Formics. Where Ender’s Game holds its own decades after it was written, the latest book in the Enderverse is a poor entry in the series, one that doesn’t hold a candle to the original book, nor its predecessors.
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REVIEW: Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole

REVIEW SUMMARY: A promising start with a new take on fantasy and military fiction.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Around the world, people begin to develop magical powers. Oscar Britton is an army officer in Vermont, and following a mission, finds that he’s developed a forbidden talent for opening portals. Immediately, he’s turned from a member of the military to fugitive.

PROS: A fun, fast-paced military novel that draws upon Cole’s experience as a military contractor.
CONS: Slow, hard start makes this one a difficult one to initially get into.
BOTTOM LINE: An entertaining debut novel from a promising author.

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Weekend Playlist: The Best Geek Albums of 2011

2011 has been one fantastic and interesting year for geek music: we’ve seen some great releases over the past couple of months, referencing everything from physics to superheroes to novels to the general geeky livelihood that we all enjoy. Picking out the top notable albums of the year was pretty easy, but picking the best from that list was a bit harder. Here’s what rocked our speakers this year:

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Weekend Playlist: Geek Christmas!

Happy holidays! There’s geek music from just about everyone out there, and I know that I’m completely sick of it already. (Some radio stations had begun November 1st. Ugh.) Christmas is the dominant holiday, and unfortunately, I don’t know of any geek music songs that really relate to other holidays, but if you know of any, let us know! So, to change things up, here’s what I’ll be listening to for the holidays:

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Weekend Playlist: Songs of The Mind (Inception/Dollhouse)

Welcome back to the Weekend Playlist!

Last week, we looked at music inspired by William Gibson, and it seems only logical to jump to a couple of other modern cyberpunk-ish shows and movies. Coming most readily to mind is Joss Whedon’s fantastic show Dollhouse, and Christopher Nolan’s film, Inception. Both look at the brain and its potential for stories.

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REVIEW: Seed by Robert Zeigler

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The United States has succumbed to climate change, and the country has become a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The government is a tool used to distribute aid, while Satori, a corporation and living entity, has plans of her own to survive and thrive in the new environment. When a designer escapes Satori, an agent is brought in to retrieve the post-human to help break the entity’s hold on the country.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Compelling; dark view of the future with some fantastic imagery and concepts.

CONS: Story is splintered and frustrating throughout.

BOTTOM LINE: A disappointing debut novel.

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Weekend Playlist: Songs Inspired by William Gibson

Welcome back to the Weekend Playlist!

This week, we’re going to take a look at something fairly specific: songs inspired by William Gibson’s various works. While compiling my master list, I was surprised at the number of artists who have been specifically inspired by him. In retrospect, it’s an easy thing to see: Gibson’s vision is far reaching, and his formative stories that deal with cyberpunk have many implications in a number of fields.

BONUS: Not all these songs are available in Spotify, but the ones that are can be listed to via this songlist: Songs Inspired by William Gibson

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Weekend Playlist: Songs About Mars

Welcome back to the Weekend Playlist! We hope that you had a good week off for Thanksgiving, and now that the holiday is over, we’re back to full swing.

On Saturday, NASA launched Curiosity, a new Mars rover that will explore the red planet, and to commemorate it’s 9 month voyage, we’re looking at songs about Mars this week.

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Weekend Playlist: Songs About Climate Change

Right now, I’m reading Rob Ziegler’s recently released novel Seed. You’ll have my review in a little while here on SF Signal, but the story has gotten me thinking quite a bit lately about the implications of global climate change and how we’re likely going to respond to it. It’s certainly a hot-button issue in the United States, and while proof that global temperatures are rising, there’s still quite a bit of controversy over the source and response to it. (This isn’t to say that the controversy is warranted.)

One of the things that I’ve loved about music is it’s ability to tell stories, and for this column, I’ve been collecting songs over the years, grouped together into themes that fit together. Individually, few of these really have all that much to do with anything wholly speculative. But, together, they tell a story in and of themselves:

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Weekend Playlist: War

We’re back after an unexpected break! In all of speculative fiction, there’s very little that captures the public’s imagination quite like stories of warfare. There are stories abound, capturing epic stories of good verses evil, heroic characters that fall and eveil that is to be fought, on planets, in deep space, between the forces of good or sometimes just questionable. On this November 11th, it’s a good time to reflect on just what soldiers of every military have done, and to honor their memory. Within science fiction, there are plenty of examples of war, and that’s also translated into a number of songs, either inspired by real wars, characters involved in combat, or just reflecting on what motivates people.

This week, we’re going to go through a timeline of wars throughout the ages.

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T.C. McCarthy‘s first novel, Germline, was recently released by Orbit books to relative acclaim, earning a starred review from Publishers Weekly, who stated that the book “crafts a portrait of the effects of battlefield stress that is difficult to bear but impossible to put down.” McCarty’s background includes work with the CIA as an analyst during the earlier days of the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. He also holds a PhD from the University of Georgia. He recently took some time to speak with us about his first novel.


SF SIGNAL: Germline is your first novel, a military science fiction story set in the near future. The United States and Russia are at war over mineral rights, with your central character Oscar Wendell caught in the middle of the war. What drew you to military science fiction?

TCM: I’ve always been a fan of Heinlein and Haldeman. The Forever War and Starship Troopers were my introduction to the genre and it’s kind of like your first love: you never forget him/her, even after you’ve moved on. So there was no question; when I made the decision to write SF novels, the first was going to be a military one.

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REVIEW: Halo – Glasslands by Karen Traviss

REVIEW SUMMARY: A fantastic entry in the Halo universe: a solid military science fiction story in its own right.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: With the end of the Covenant/Human war, both sides begin to pick up the pieces as a stranded Spartan team uncovers a secret that could radically change the balance of power, while figures within each side begin to plan their next moves.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Dark, mature and grown up; Glasslands surpasses the norm for tie-in novels, with Traviss spinning a fantastic story of warfare, politics and morality that continues the Halo story into new ground.

CONS: Lots of setup and transition; those expecting as much action in the prior novels will be let down.

BOTTOM LINE: One of the best Halo books published yet.

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Weekend Playlist: ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic

The first real ‘geek’ musician that I really followed was “Weird” Al Yankovic. His fantastic Star Wars parodies opened me up to quite a bit of new music, and frequently, I’ll hear a song on the radio that I’ll easily recall as a Weird Al song, but can’t think of the original title or lyrics. This past weekend, I got to see him in person – not only from the crowd, but with him right in front of me, on stage:

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Weekend Playlist: Songs about Moon

Not *the* moon, but Duncan Jone’s fantastic film, Moon. It’s remained one of my favorites, despite repeated viewings, and I fully believe that this will become a classic film in the years to come.

Surprisingly though, there’s been a small group of musicians who’ve penned songs about the movie. It’s a small number, to be sure (making this a short list), but there are some really good things to listen to.

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