Author Archive

We have an additional entry on our Mind Meld on the connections between Myth, Classics and Genre, from None other than Judith Tarr!

Q: The Iliad and the Odyssey…the Epic of Gilgamesh…the MahabharataJourney to the West… These ancient myths and stories, and many others seem to partake of genre elements. Are they, in fact, on the Road to Science Fiction, to quote James Gunn’s classic series? How do they fit into the world of genre? How can they inform and be used in modern reinterpretations and borrowings of these myths and stories? What writers and stories best rework these myths and legends?

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This week we asked our participants to dive into ancient legends, history and myth:

Q: The Iliad and the Odyssey…the Epic of Gilgamesh…the MahabharataJourney to the West… These ancient myths and stories, and many others seem to partake of genre elements. Are they, in fact, on the Road to Science Fiction, to quote James Gunn’s classic series? How do they fit into the world of genre? How can they inform and be used in modern reinterpretations and borrowings of these myths and stories? What writers and stories best rework these myths and legends?

Here’s what they said…

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INTERVIEW: Tessa Gratton Talks About the United States of Asgard

Tessa Gratton didn’t grow up to be a necromantic wizard resurrecting dinosaur bones into animated skeletons as she expected, but she has become a fantasy author, and after a childhood spent around the world, settled in the midwest. She’s the author of four novels, including the forthcoming The Strange Maid, second in her United States of Asgard series. Tessa was kind enough to answer some questions about her and her work.


PW: Tell me about Tessa Gratton.

TG: I’m a quadruple Scorpio, Navy brat, prairie girl, feminist (or as my dad used to say before I got a degree in it, a Pinko Liberal). Does that about cover it? My fourth novel comes out this June, and all my books so far have been YA fantasies from Random House Children’s Books. I love tumblr and twitter but am extremely glad they didn’t exist when I was in high school.
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BOOK REVIEW: This Crumbling Pageant by Patricia Burroughs

REVIEW SUMMARY: A fantasy debut that works best when relying on its strengths of characterization, plotting and description.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Vibrant, complicated heroine; evocative description and language; well-crafted plot beats.
CONS: Unclear worldbuilding raises too many questions; execution of certain concepts need work.
BOTTOM LINE: A promising main character, good plotting and good ideas marred by a flawed execution.

Persephone Fury has a problem. Several of them, actually. In a world bound to and next door to our own, her Regency-era life is rather complicated. Her magical powers, rather than being a celebrated gift, are of a sort that are dark and threatening, enough that tisanes consumed to dull them are the order of the day. Her twin brother’s tutor is up to something, something threatening enough that Persephone is willing to pose as her brother to find out what her tutor wants. And the Season is opening soon. Persephone’s prospects are not good, and they cannot be allowed to damage the prospects of her very marriageable sister. Things get even darker and more convoluted, though, though, when the tutor’s machinations, a challenge to the ailing crown, and Persephone’s own conflicted desires and her awakening powers threaten to unmoor Persephone Fury’s life completely, and her world with it.
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MIND MELD: Books We’ve Worn Out Re-Reading

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There are books we read once. There are books we re-read. And then there are the books that we wear out because we devour it again and again. These are the books for which we have to buy ourselves another copy immediately upon lending out because we’re sure we will never see it again — or just want to make sure we have it on hand.

Q: What are some of these genre books for you? Why do you go back to them again and again?

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Beth Bernobich is a reader, writer, mother and geek. Author of several books (including the Passion Play epic fantasy series), her next book is The Time Roads, out from Tor in fall 2014. Beth was kind enough to answer a few questions about her and her work.


Paul Weimer: Tell me about Beth Bernobich.

Beth Bernobich: Good question! I have several different answers, all of them true.
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Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader’s and writer’s world.

Recently, Elizabeth Bear introduced me to Stephen Hood, the creator of Storium, a play by post roleplaying system currently being funded on Kickstarter. Stephen was kind enough to answer some questions about him, and Storium.
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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

“Let me buy you a pint, Elric…”

This week, we posed the following to our panelists:

Q: We’ve all encountered characters in stories and novels that we’ve felt a real connection to, and would love to chat with more. Maybe buy them a drink. What characters have you encountered in Fantasy and SF that you’d like to buy a pint for?

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BOOK REVIEW: Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear

REVIEW SUMMARY: Jam-packed with the best fantasy elements, Steles of the Sky‘s diverse characters and beautiful prose beautifully closes out the Eternal Sky trilogy.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: Re Temur, Samarkar, Edene and their companions stand against much more than just an usurping Uncle, with the fate of much more than the Eternal Sky of the Steppe in the balance.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Deep worldbuilding; rich characters; beautiful prose and dialogue that sings.
CONS: The ending brings tears; one secondary character still feels a little underdone.
BOTTOM LINE: Sticking the landing, Steles of the Sky magnificently ends the Eternal Sky trilogy

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BOOK REVIEW: The Barrow by Mark Smylie

REVIEW SUMMARY: The creator of the comic Artesia manages to convincingly jump from comics to novel in this full text debut.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: A mercenary cartographer and a motley set of mutually distrustful companions set off to obtain a legendary sword in a poisoned and dangerous realm outside civilized lands.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Deep worldbuilding, richly invoking the Known World; diverse set of characters with agency; evocative description of places and violence alike.
CONS: Highly charged sexual content may turn off some readers; prologue is tonally very different from rest of the novel.
BOTTOM LINE: A bloody, violent, sexy and evocative novel debut that captures the spirit and feel of the author’s graphic novel efforts.
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BOOK REVIEW: Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: Toby McGonigal, after being frozen in space for millenia, is awoken into a world where his family holds power by means of a time-spanning government.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Amazing and well-thought out world building and premise; tight, focused story keeps a large world and its facets manageable.
CONS: Some parts are almost too breezy; novel feels more like action/adventure rather than YA.
BOTTOM LINE: A wide-canvas universe ultimately defined and delineated by the compelling story of a young man far from home in time and space.

“The Sleeper Awakes” is a trope in fantasy and science fiction at least as old as Rip Van Winkle, and legends of time running out of alignment with the outside world predates that story to at least the Mabinogion. It’s a form of one-way time travel that avoids paradoxes and still allows the man-out-of-time trope to play out.
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REVIEW SUMMARY: A good anthology that manages to show the possibilities of the sub-sub-genre.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: A collection of 25 stories revolving around the idea of Kaiju — Giant Monsters in the tradition of Godzilla and Pacific Rim.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Some very strong stories that transcend the limitations of the subject matter; a good editorial hand in story choice based on perspective and point of view; well done illustrations add to the impact of the stories.
CONS: Story quality varies somewhat wildly.
BOTTOM LINE: SF readers interested in pursuing their Kaiju cravings from movies over to the written word should look no further.

Ever since our ancestors were shrew-sized dwellers in the shadow of the dinosaurs, we’ve been fascinated by and terrified by giant monsters. When Godzilla destroyed Tokyo, we shivered in our seats and reached for more popcorn. T-Rex gobbling up a repulsive lawyer in Jurassic Park is a funny moment.

And yet, for the average watcher of a Godzilla movie on TV, or even most SF fans, these were merely giant monsters, some of them with names, but no single word to tie them together. The movie universe of Pacific Rim, a taxonomic name for Giant Monsters and always present within the subgenre, was adopted and spread from there to wider culture. That name for Giant Monsters is derived from the Japanese: Kaiju. Kaiju Rising is a kickstarted anthology edited by Nick Sharps and Tim Marquitz that brings the power, the pathos, and even the humor of Kaiju to print, in an anthology of 25 stories.

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BOOK REVIEW: Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard

REVIEW SUMMARY: A well-written epic fantasy debut with a strong foreground romance.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: In a fantasy kingdom chafing under the rule of a distant empire, a Prince and a commoner struggle to build a relationship even as war and Draconic meddling threatens their safety.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Believable, strong romance that defies the clichés of the trope; excellent view into the workings of a royal court; evocative prose; a beautiful artifact of a book; tells a complete story in one volume.
CONS: The world and worldbuilding outside of that court, from the dragons to the threat of war, is not written with the interest and strength of the world inside of it.
BOTTOM LINE: An epic fantasy recommended for readers far more interested in romance and character interactions than wide-screen worldbuilding and action.
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MIND MELD: Our Favorite Convention Panels

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

This week, we asked our panlists about their favorite Convention Panels:

Q: What was the best convention panel you ever attended? What was the best convention panel you were ever on? If you could set up your ideal convention panel, what would be the topic and who would be on it?

This is what they said…

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BOOK REVIEW: Blood and Iron by Jon Sprunk

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: A captured would-be crusader, a gladiator-turned-slave, and a slave under deep cover struggle to survive in a fantasy city under threat from within and without.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: A welcome return to a new area of Sprunk’s world; raises of the stakes from previous novels; interesting magic systems; complex socio-political situation.
CONS: The jump up to epic fantasy not always successful in practice; slow start; some character missteps work against the dramatic build-up.
BOTTOM LINE: The first installment of a new new series that overcomes its slow start and ups the entertainment factor.

Crusades, slaves, heresies and a desperate ruler’s fight for power and survival are the meaty matter of Jon Sprunk’s Blood and Iron, first in his new Black Earth series. Set in the same world as the Shadow Saga (Shadow’s Son and its sequels), Blood and Iron represents a significant increase in scale and stakes.
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Tired of nearly every secondary world fantasy being set in a world that seems to borrow only from Medieval Europe, especially Western Europe? Most especially Northwestern Europe (England, France, perhaps the Low Countries)? Tired of the rest of Eurasia and beyond being ignored, except when token people and lands care called for, or perhaps a crusade against the unfathomable East, with no sense of them as people? With no sense of their cultures, values, flora, or fauna?

Good. So am I. And I’d like to tell you about the fantasy that transcends that barrier.

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An Interview with Fantasy Author Elspeth Cooper

Elspeth Cooper[ Rachel Rose Photography]

Elspeth Cooper
[Rachel Rose Photography]

Elspeth Cooper is a British fantasy writer, author of The Wild Hunt fantasy series. There’s not an elf in sight. No prophecies either, and it is bereft of dwarves, orcs, generic Dark Lords and all the other familiar epic fantasy furniture. It’s just a damn good read.

Elspeth was kind enough to answer some questions about her and her series.


Paul Weimer: Who is Elspeth Cooper?

Elspeth Cooper: By day, she is a mild-mannered epic fantasy author. When nobody’s looking she transforms into a sword-wielding British housewife and retired IT worker, drinker of tea and herder of cats.
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BOOK REVIEW: Emilie and the Sky World by Martha Wells

REVIEW SUMMARY: The second novel in Martha Wells newest series closely follows on the first novel, expanding the world and characters.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Deepening of protagonist’s character, cosmology and the world; consistently entertaining; a quick read; excellent Introductory fantasy, especially for readers looking for a female protagonists and role models.
CONS: The novel’s uncomplicated YA nature may turn off readers looking for more complex fare; the lack of space between the two volumes, time-wise, mandates reading the first volume first.
BOTTOM LINE: A sequel that provides an entertaining second visit to Wells’ world and strengthens some of the weaknesses of the first novel.
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REVIEW SUMMARY: The followup to Martinez’s debut novel The Daedalus Incident builds on the strengths of the first novel and shores up its weaknesses.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: The two worlds, alchemical and corporate future, meet again, as an ancient Martian plot draws them both to Saturn…and Siwa, Egypt, for an attempt to reopen the doorway between them, and beyond.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: High Concept remains interesting. More character focus given a deemphasis on the fast and furious worldbuilding of the first.
CONS: The splitting of the parties in both worlds is only partially effective, some plotlines are frankly more interesting than others, the two halves feel less connected.
BOTTOM LINE: A followup that manages to improve on the first in significant ways but doesn’t quite leap to the next quantum level.
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MIND MELD: Secondary Characters Who Take Center Stage

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

Protagonists and antagonists get lots of spotlight in novels, but sometimes the most intriguing characters are the minor ones, the ones that briefly grace the stage and depart, leaving the main characters to their business.This week, we asked our panel about the most iconic of fantasy creatures:

Q: What minor characters in novels and stories have caught your interest, and want to know more about? What characters in your own work have gathered unexpected interest, and you’d like to write from their point of view?

This is what they said…
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