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. Read the rest of this entry
REVIEW SUMMARY: A disappointing entry in Card’s Shadow series.
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. Read the rest of this entry
REVIEW SUMMARY: A promising start with a new take on fantasy and military fiction.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
PROS: Compelling; dark view of the future with some fantastic imagery and concepts.
CONS: Story is splintered and frustrating throughout.
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.
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:
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.
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.
REVIEW SUMMARY: A fantastic entry in the Halo universe: a solid military science fiction story in its own right.
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.
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.
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:
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.
The first block of music (five weeks, plus a break and reader feedback) saw songs about books, zombies, Star Wars, and more, and with this new block, we’ve got some interesting things lined up.
First up, a group of songs about one of my favorite TV Shows of all time: Firefly. This short-lived television show and movie need little introduction from readers of the site, but something that I found interesting about it is that there’s a growing number of songs about the various characters and the story itself.
The first part of the Weekend Playlist is over, and we’re already up to six weeks! Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve gotten a number of recommendations from people that build upon the lists that we’ve put together, and I’m very happy to see the input. The current plan is to run in five week batches, with something easy in between, and this week, we’re going with the recommendations that you have submitted in the comments. Here’s a selection of what we liked from the comments. (There’s a lot, but here’s some of the best!)
For our first week, where we looked at Songs inspired by SF/F Books, we got a lot of recommendations:
Blake Charlton (Medical Student, Novelist, Essayist, Dyslexic) is the author of Spellwright and Spellbound from Tor Books. He is also currently a medical student at Stanford Medical School. Find out more about Blake at his website (BlakeCharlton.com and by following him on Twitter (@BlakeCharlton) and Facebook.
We had a chance to talk to Blake about his new book Spellbound (sequel to Spellwright), writing and “middle book syndrome”…
SF Signal: Spellbound is your second book to be released. How did you go about tackling the inevitable sequel problem and avoid the sophomore slump that seems to plague so many projects?
Blake Charlton: When I started out on Spellbound, anxiety about a “sophomore slump” haunted me, and given that this is the second book in a trilogy, that anxiety was compounded by a fear of the dreaded “middle book syndrome”–wherein the trilogy’s middle book lacks a satisfying start and finish.
I had started worrying about these two problems while working on the end of Spellbound. I deliberately wrote the end of that book to allow me to hit the ground running with book two. I don’t think I did it perfectly: a few critics have noted that the end of Spellwright goes on longer than is necessary or good for a satisfying conclusion. Good or bad, I think most will agree that it did allow me to start Spellbound off with a bang. (Coincidentally, I’m hoping to do something similar, with a bit more skill, in the transition between book two and three.)
This week, we get to a subject that’s been covered quite a bit, with a good variety of songs: zombies. One thing that I’m continually impressed with is the variety of styles that range from metal to folk, and just about everything in between. It’s no wonder: Zombies have captured the popular imagination by a storm, with numerous films released over the last couple of years, and with zombie walks getting ever more popular in major cities. This week, we’ll take a look at a broad sampling of what’s been released.
“Outnumbered” by Devil Wears Prada
To start, Devil Wears Prada is a Christian Metalcore group, something I wasn’t aware existed. In 2010, they released, Zombie EP, following a bit of a zombie kick that the band found themselves interested in. ‘Outnumbered’, the first song off the record, feels very appropriate when it comes to the subject matter. Metal really isn’t my thing, but I think they captured the tone nicely.
Last week, Jonathan Coulton released his latest album, Artificial Heart, his first with a full backing band, produced by They Might Be Giants member John Flansburgh. The album’s the first major album since 2006′s Thing A Week Four, and with a couple of songs in here and there, it’s a welcome addition to the Geek Music field. As such this week, we’re taking a look at Coulton’s career and music this week.
Coulton’s probably one of the more recent influential members within Geek Music, gaining an incredible amount of fame for someone who’s never worked with a major record label, working extensively on the grassroots level: viral marketing at its finest, as he sang about a whole, awesome range of geeky things, from computers to monkeys to robots. Hailing from Colchester CT, (a town who’s motto inspired the name of his second album), where he played music throughout school before being hired in the software industry.
Coulton’s first album was 2003′s Smoking Monkey, which didn’t go as well initially, as he wasn’t as well known at the time of its release. One of my favorite songs off of the album is “Ikea”: