Author Archive

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This week on The SF Signal Mind Meld, the Melders got mythical:

Q: Gods, Goddesses and Myths: From Rick Riordan to Dan Simmons, the popularity of Gods, Goddesses and Mythology, especially but not limited to Classical Greco-Roman and Norse mythology seems as fresh as ever. What is the appeal and power of mythological figures, in and out of their normal time? What do they bring to genre fiction?

Here’s what they said:

Chuck Wendig
Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. He is the author of such novels as Blackbirds, Mockingbird, The Blue Blazes, and Under The Empyrean Sky. He is an alumni of the Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab. He is the co-author of the Emmy-nominated digital narrative Collapsus and developer of the game Hunter: The Vigil. He lives in Pennsyltucky with wife, son, and two dopey dogs. You can find him on Twitter @ChuckWendig and at his website, terribleminds.com, where he frequently dispenses dubious and very-NSFW advice on writing, publishing, and life in general.

Here’s why gods and goddesses and spirits and elves and all the creatures of all the mythologies matter:

Because they’re the original stories.

Right? We’re going to take as accepted the idea that stories have the power to change the world. That stories are how we communicate and share ideas – in that sense, storytelling is a powerful memetics delivery system by which we push enlightenment (and increasingly, entertainment) onto one another.

The original stories were the stories of us trying to explain our world. It’s mythology to us, now, but to the people telling those stories, the tales delivered a kind of enlightenment (and I’m sure given some of the hilariously sordid melodrama of mythology, they were also entertainment). Mythology explained everything from why the sun rose and fell to why mankind did all the curious and seemingly inexplicable things that it did.

All we’re really trying to do as storytellers is explain ourselves and say things about the world. (This is, of course, an expression of the literary theme – the theme being the argument we’re trying to make with our narrative.) That’s what connects us to the myths of the past and more importantly, the myth-tellers. It’s no surprise then that sometimes our fiction – say, Gaiman’s American Gods – re-explores those ideas and those characters in fresh, fascinating ways.

Though it’s also no surprise that we seek to make our own mythologies, either — mythologies either cobbled together from what has already come (repurposing the myths and divinities of the past is by no means unique to this age!) or pulled fresh out of the ether. Though there you’ll find a troubling idea – future humans digging up a copy of our fantasy fiction (the best or the worst of it) and thinking, This must be the mythology of the 21st century barbarians. A religion based on Tolkien or Rowling? Or a religion based on Twilight? Hmm…

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BOOK REVIEW: Shield of Sea and Space by Erin Hoffman

REVIEW SUMMARY: A satisfying conclusion to the Chaos Knight Trilogy.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Vidarian rallies his allies to oppose the monstrous plans of the Alorean Import Company, with the world’s fate in the balance.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Worldbuilding; well-conceived ending to the series; well done reveals of major aspects of the world.
CONS: Pacing issues, although less problematic than previous books, persist; some character motivations remain murky; some elements from earlier in the trilogy seem lost.
BOTTOM LINE: A conclusion to the Chaos Knight Trilogy that pays the promise of the first volume.

In Lance of Earth and Sky , Vidarian Rulorat, the Tesseract, found himself with new challenges and a burgeoning adversary — the Alorean Import Company. A corporation powerful enough to shape a world, the Company set in motion some truly horrible plans, even as Vidarian struggled with his own nature, his relationship with Ariadel, and more. Now, things have gotten only more complicated. Two kingdoms still stand perilously close to the brink of war. The return of magic to the world is still disrupting everything and everyone, unmaking old social structures and upending long held traditions and beliefs. It’s not easy for Vidarian to be the Chaos Knight, the Tesseract. And even greater sacrifices might be needed on the part of him and those who would follow him, to stop the truly monstrous plans of the Alorean Import Company from coming to pass.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear

REVIEW SUMMARY: A strong continuation if the Eternal Sky series, building on the already considerable strengths of Range of Ghosts.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Prince Temur and allies seek to rescue the woman he would make Queen, who may not even need rescuing, even as the plans of a death cult threaten the fate of all of the Kingdoms on the Celadon Highway,

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Amazing worldbuilding; character growth and development from the main characters; excellent through line.
CONS: Some secondary characters get a bit of short shrift; book does not conclude so much as end.
BOTTOM LINE: Bear’s foray into Epic Fantasy continues to be a highlight of the subgenre.
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BOOK REVIEW: London Falling by Paul Cornell

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Four police officers investigating a mobster’s death are sucked into the arcane and hidden world of London.

MY REVIEW
PROS: Excellent police procedural elements; believable and realistic portrayal of what such individuals would do with such a gift.
CONS: A couple of the breaks in POV away from the officers, especially a flashback sequence, don’t feel as strong as the remainder of the book; subject matter may not suit certain readers.
BOTTOM LINE: An extremely strong, page-turning novel.

Being a undercover police detective (UC) or an analyst in the London police force is not easy. If it’s not dealing with mobsters and the lowlifes in the department, there’s corruption, bureaucratic incompetence and rigidity, and the general daily grind of what it means to be a police officer. So when an unlikely encounter gives you the ability to see ghosts and other otherworldly things, it’s just one more problem for you to have to deal with. It’s disconcerting, if not bloody terrifying, and it reveals that there are things that do go bump in the night. So, as an officer in the London police force, what do you do?

You keep calm, carry on, and do your bloody job. Even if your remit is now wider, and stranger, than you could possibly have ever imagined.

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MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Emilie, running away from a bad home situation, accidentally winds up on a research vessel headed into the depths of the Hollow Earth.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Strong female characters; interesting Hollow Earth world; imaginative worldbuilding.
CONS: Book feels much more middle grade than YA in tone and complexity
BOTTOM LINE: A good introduction to Martha Wells, especially for younger readers.

With a repressive home life with her aunt and uncle, is it any wonder that Emilie would decide to run away, seeking to reach her cousin and a berth in the school she runs? However, her attempt at running away goes wrong. No, her aunt and uncle do not hire a hedgewitch to track her down. Instead, she stows aboard the wrong ship — a research ship destined to head into the depths of the earth, to the strange and foreign Hollow World, to seek a missing scientist. An unwitting passenger she might be at first, but Emilie quickly learns that her talents will be needed if they are to ever return to the world above.

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This week we asked our participants about 2013 genre movies:

Q: 2013 in Genre Cinema: Iron Man 3, Star Trek 2, Oblivion, Ender’s Game…a plethora of genre movies are up to bat this year. What movies have caught your attention already? What movies are you going to avoid like the plague?

Here’s what they had to say:

Laura Resnick
Laura Resnick is the author of the popular Esther Diamond urban fantasy series, whose releases include Disappearing Nightly, Doppelgangster, Unsympathetic Magic, Vamparazzi, Polterheist, and coming soon, The Misfortune Cookie (November 2013). She has also written traditional fantasy novels such as In Legend Born, The Destroyer Goddess, and The White Dragon, which made multiple “Year’s Best” lists. An opinion columnist, frequent public speaker, and the Campbell Award-winning author of many short stories, she is on the Web at LauraResnick.com.

Although I was so bored I nearly fell asleep in the previous Star Trek movie, I’ll probably see Star Trek 2, which I’d normally skip, simply because Benedict Cumberbatch is in it. He’s among the actors for whom I’ll try watching a film I’d otherwise skip. (The list also includes Shah Rukh Khan, Alan Rickman, Kajol, Meryl Streep, Laura Linney, Aamir Khan, Sean Bean, Colin Firth, Tilda Swinton, etc.) He could make the film watchable, so I’m willing to try.

Otherwise, I don’t plan to see any sf/f feature films in 2013, simply because, in general, I avoid Hollywood sf/f movies like the plague. The majority of them focus on two things that don’t interest me at all: special effects and action porn. (“Action porn” is director Nicholas Meyer’s phrase for a movie that exists to convey a lot of action scenes, rather than a movie in which action scenes help tell a story.) Since I’m not a fan of either of those things, Hollywood sf/f movies tend to be boring for me. (See above: nearly fell asleep watching Star Trek.)

However, I do look forward to watching Season 2 of Game Of Thrones on Netflix (I don’t have HBO). I really enjoyed the characters and story in S1 (compelling characters and interesting story being high on the list of things that I -am- a fan of), and the S2 DVDs are in my queue. A GoT marathon will be my treat to myself after I deliver my next book!
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BOOK REVIEW: Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In the country of Adro, overthrowing a corrupt King is only the beginning of the problems facing powder mage Field Marshal Tamas.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Interesting magic systems; good exploration of underused tech and social level; Muskets and Magic!
CONS: Significant problems with female characters.
BOTTOM LINE: An intriguing if imperfect debut novel.

The King is dead. A corrupt, incompetent and venal King, a tottering monarchy that bleeds its people dry. Field Marshal Tamas has, in a bold stroke, decapitated the monarchy, intending on setting up a more oligarchic form of government. However, there are plenty of royalists to worry about, including a significant fraction of the true mages, quite unlike the powder mage that Tamas is. A prophecy suggests that regicide may be a curse worse than the disease, and a neighboring country looks to take advantage of Adro’s weakness. And there are stranger things afoot. Field Marshal Tamas is going to learn that killing the King was the *easy* part.

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Leah Petersen lives in North Carolina. She does the day-job, wife, and mother thing, much like everyone else. She prides herself on being able to hold a book with her feet so she can knit while reading. She’s still working on knitting while writing. She kindly sat down to an interview with me. I have no idea if she was knitting while answering my questions.


Paul Weimer: Who is Leah Petersen?

Leah Petersen: Leah Petersen’s a bit of a rebel and likes to shock people. She hides this behind her secret identity of good wife and mother with an accounting job in the conservative Southeastern US. She’s less successful at hiding it than she thinks. She’s a bit likely to express her opinion…whether she’s asked for it or not.

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INTERVIEW: Brian McClellan Talks Epic Fantasy and “Promise of Blood”

Writer Brian McClellan began writing Wheel of Time roleplaying fiction in his teens, and has been writing every since. Living in Ohio with his wife, two dogs, a cat, and bees. Lots of bees. Promise of Blood, out from Orbit in April 2013, is his first novel and the first in The Powder Mage Trilogy.

Brian kindly sat down to answer some questions about his work.


Paul Weimer: Who is Brian McClellan?

Brian McClellan: Brian McClellan is a lot of things.

I’m a husband; I’ve been married a little over five years to the love of my life. I’m a geek; I read science fiction and fantasy, play far too many computer games like Civilization and Skyrim, and host a small tabletop gaming group every few weeks. I’m a beekeeper; I started my first honey bee hive last spring and harvested ninety pounds of honey last fall.

I’m also an author. My debut epic fantasy, Promise of Blood, is being released internationally by Orbit Books in April. I’ve been writing since high school (probably about ten years now) and have told myself since freshman year of college that I’d someday make my living writing fantasy novels.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin

REVIEW SUMMARY: Essential reading for any reader of secondary world fantasy.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In the city-state of Gujaareh, a dream-priest, his apprentice, and a spy from a rival city-state are all caught in the machinations of two kingdoms.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Powerful characters; vivid imagery; intensely interesting ideas; a totally immersive setting.
CONS: Lack of a map and some unclear geography.
BOTTOM LINE: A worthy Nebula Award nominee.
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INTERVIEW: Judith Tarr Talks About Her “Forgotten Suns” Kickstarter

Judith Tarr has written over three dozen novels and numerous short stories in everything from the Tolkien Centennial anthology to Jerry Pournelle’s War World. She has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, and has won the Crawford Award for best new fantasy. She is a member of Book View Cafe, the online professional authors’ co-op. Her first Kickstarter project, Living in Threes, funded successfully last year, and has since been published by Book View Cafe. We had the opportunity to interview Judith about her career and her newest Kickstarter project, Forgotten Suns.


Paul Weimer: Who is Judith Tarr?

Judith Tarr: Native Mainer. Adopted Baja Arizonan. Refugee medievalist. Kamikaze cook. And of course, loyal henchperson to an invasion force of Space Aliens in fat white horse suits.
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VIDEO: Tim Maughan’s “Paintwork” Is Now a Short Film

Tim Maughan is a two-time BSFA award nominee. His short story “Paintwork” tells the tale of a near-future Bristol graffiti artist, 3Cube, who discovers his subversive graffiti is itself being messed with by persons unknown. His story has now been turned into a short film.

Details from the press release and the video itself, below.

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MIND MELD: Books You Eat Like Candy & Books You Savor

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Many readers have different gears when reading books. Some books are ones in which you luxuriate and spend time with, others are such a ride that you turn the pages rapidly, carried along through them at warp speed.

We asked this week’s panelists about this phenomenon:

Q: What books do you savor? What books do you eat like candy? What makes for you a book that you savor, or speed through?

Here’s what they said…

Sandra Wickham
Sandra Wickham lives in Vancouver, Canada with her husband and two cats. Her friends call her a needle crafting aficionado, health guru and ninja-in-training. Sandra’s short stories have appeared in Evolve: Vampires of the New Undead, Evolve: Vampires of the Future Undead, Chronicles of the Order, Crossed Genres magazine and coming up in The Urban Green Man. She blogs about writing with the Inkpunks, is the Fitness Nerd columnist for the Functional Nerds and slush reads for Lightspeed Magazine.

As a fitness professional, I have a hard time comparing books to popcorn and candy. I’m sorry. It goes against my nature. Is it all right if I call them fruits versus vegetables? Fruit is yummy, quick to eat and always fun. Vegetables can be yummy, are a bit more work to eat but you know they’re extremely good for you.

I always read because I want to be entertained and I admit I don’t always read because I want to learn something, or broaden my mind. Sometimes, I really just want to have fun and read an entertaining book. That’s when I turn to the fruit.

The fruit books I grab for a quick, fun read are urban fantasy. Give me a Kim Harrison, Kelley Armstrong, Diana Rowland, Kat Richardson, Kevin Hearne (the list goes on and on) and I’ll disappear. I’m not saying that urban fantasy can’t be mind expanding or explore important issues, when they’re well done they certainly do that, but I don’t need to rethink my entire life to read them.

I’d also list horror books under this category, though it depends on the author. Some of those are a mix of fruits and vegetables with a side of bloody dip.

My vegetable books tend to be fantasy that take after the Tolkien mold. These are the stories I want to dive fully into, to be immersed in the world the author has created and linger there, enjoying every aspect of the characters, the setting and the story.

I’m interested to see other people’s responses on the books they savor, because I know I need more vegetables in my reading diet.

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BOOK REVIEW: The King’s Blood by Daniel Abraham

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Events move apace in this sequel to The Dragon’s Path, as tumultuous events continue to dramatically shape the fallen Dragon Empire.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Much appreciated deepening of the worldbuilding; fascinating development of characters.
CONS: A couple of plot turns and character meetings seem overly convenient; a less-than-crisp ending.
BOTTOM LINE: A strong sequel to The Dragon’s Path, deepening and building the world and characters in the Dagger and Coin universe

In the wake of rises to power, the schemes of a girl who would be a banker, and the machinations of the priests of a mysterious Goddess, war and conflict continue to escalate across the Western Lands. Cithrin, Marcus, Geder and the rest will not be unmarked, and unchanged, by the building conflicts. This is The King’s Path, the second in Daniel Abraham’s Dagger and Coin series after the Dragon’s Path.
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REVIEW SUMMARY: Another diverse, multi-sided anthology from Dagan Books with an unexpected and unusual subject.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: FISH is an anthology of fiction of various stripes, swimming around the titular subject in a variety of ways.
MY REVIEW:
PROS: A few strong, memorable stories that tent-pole the collection; beautiful cover and interior art; strong diversity in approaches to subject matter.
CONS: Category may be too broad; a number of the works were underwhelming.
BOTTOM LINE: An anthology that shows off the contributors’ and editor’s talents.

A young man with a fishbowl head and fish for eyes…a deep-sea’s fish to the unknown world of the surface….a god in fish form offers a Hawaiian fisherman a perilous bargain…a seamstress’ needlepoint fish threaten to change the fate of two kingdoms…the Just So story of why catfish have a flat head…

These and many other characters and situations are to be found within the stories in FISH, an anthology from Dagan Books.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Eye With Which the Universe Beholds Itself by Ian Sales

REVIEW SUMMARY: Ian Sales continues his strong Apollo Quartet with a deeply personal tale of the first astronaut on Mars going on a much longer trip.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Colonel Bradley Elliott, first man on Mars, is selected for an interstellar mission of secret importance.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Powerful and nuanced characterization; solid and flawless nuts-and-bolts Apollo program engineering.
CONS: The sting in the tail and the power of the story only hits in the coda; bleakness of Sales’ work may not suit all readers.
BOTTOM LINE: A solid second entry in Sales’ Apollo Quartet project.

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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. For what I have for you this time out, let me set the scene:

Three X-men and a former Avenger investigate a breakout on the Raft, the maximum security prison in the East River for supervillains. There, they find that numerous inmates have escaped, with the help of Electro. Cinematic battles are fought in and on the raft. In a key moment, the Hulk, at the Raft in self and solitary confinement, proves valuable in taking out Vapor, Ironclad, Vector and X-Ray, the evil Fantastic Four-like group known as the U-Foes. And discover that there are deeper and darker things afoot, that mandate a temporary alliance to uncover.

Was this the latest issue of a comic? A motion comic on DVD? A new animated Marvel series? No, none of the above. This was a recent session of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game that I participated in. Marvel is the latest roleplaying game from Margaret Weis Productions (yes, that Margaret Weis, fantasy fans).

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BOOK REVIEW: Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman

REVIEW SUMMARY: An enchanting novel from Emma Newman, an urban fantasy that has no sign of tattooed women in leather pants.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A headstrong scion and an investigator discover dark doings in the outwardly genteel world of Bath’s secret mirror city.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: A wide variety of interesting characters; intersecting stories: the wonderful feel of a larger world only partially glimpsed.
CONS: The ending of the book leaves perhaps too many dangling threads; ecology of the Split Worlds has some problems.
BOTTOM LINE: Accept the invitation to attend the season in Aquae Sulis.

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REVIEW SUMMARY: A novella set in an intriguing universe with memorable characters.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A former magistrate flees planetary civil war, and is taken in by distant relations who find that such a gesture is not without friction or cost.
MY REVIEW:
PROS: Interesting characters; unique setting; excellent prose; interesting take on artificial intelligence.
CONS: The social dynamics and ending may frustrate and confuse unprepared readers; the cover does the story no favors.
BOTTOM LINE: A sumptuous meal of a novella with excellent prose.
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An Interview with R.T. Kaelin, Editor of “Triumph Over Tragedy”

R.T Kaelin is the author of the The Children of the White Lions series as well as the editor of the anthology Triumph Over Tragedy: an anthology for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. He kindly sat down for an interview with Paul Weimer.

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