Author Archive

MIND MELD: Food in Science Fiction versus Fantasy

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This week we asked about Food and Drink in SF.

Food and Drink in science fiction sometimes seems limited to replicator requests for Earl Grey tea and Soylent green discs. Why doesn’t do as much food as Fantasy? Does Fantasy lend itself more to food than Science fiction? Why?
This is what they had to say…
Laura Anne Gilman
Author and Freelance Editor Laura Anne Gilman is the author of the popular Cosa Nostradamus novels, the award-nominated The Vineart War trilogy, as well as the story collection Dragon Virus. She also has written the mystery Collared under the pen name L.A. Kornetsky.

This will, I will admit, be a purely foodie view: I enjoy cooking, I enjoy eating, I enjoy reading about cooking and eating. And for a long time, it seemed as though we foodies were, if not the minority in genre, then certainly underserved.

There were the banquets in fantasy, of course, and the trail rations, and sometimes even a discussion of where the food came from, but – like bathroom breaks and sleeping – it often seemed tossed into the pile of “boring, don’t write about it.”

And science fiction? Mainly, science fiction mentioned food in context of technology: food-pills, space-age packets, vat-grown meat, etcetera. I suspect that many writers of the time had been heavily influenced by the early space program, and extrapolated their SF on the actual science. Surely, science fiction was saying, we had more important things to do than cook – or eat!

Even when they were dealing with an important, food-related issue (overcrowding, famine, etc), MAKE ROOM, MAKE ROOM made it a (very serious) punchline. So did “To Serve Man.” But scenes of characters preparing their food, or even enjoying it, were notably, if not entirely, absent.

(even CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY made the “too busy to eat” point with the 3-course-meal-gum…)
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REVIEW SUMMARY: Karen Lord avoids a sophomore slump with a stunning work of social science fiction

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: His home planet unexpectedly and suddenly destroyed, his culture and society nearly wiped out, a researcher teams up with a local biotechnician in helping the Sadiri rebuild their lives on a melting pot planet.

MY REVIEW:
PROS:Interesting characters both major and minor, enthralling background and worldbuilding, convincing use of old tropes, deep and evocative themes.
CONS: Marketing of the book leads to false expectations that may annoy readers as to style and subject matter. The cover is deceptive.
BOTTOM LINE: Book your trip to the peoples and places of Cygnus Beta.

Redemption in Indigo (my SF Signal review here) was a brilliant, unique debut from the author, and a strain of literature underrepresented and mostly unseen in American genre: Carribean literature (with a strong African mythic component). Justly award-winning, where does an author go from there?

As it so happens, the author goes into spaaace.

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BOOK REVIEW: Nexus by Ramez Naam

REVIEW SUMMARY: Ramez Naam presents an interesting world and characters 30 years hence strongly grounded in the real life research and speculation he was hitherto best known for.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In the mid 21st century, a powerful combination of nanotech, software and drugs threatens to catapult its creator into forbidden realms of transhumanism.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Interesting premise and extrapolation of technology and social developments of same.
CONS: Some of the thriller elements feel a bit over-the-top. Some first novel clunkiness in narrative.
BOTTOM LINE: An interesting and intriguing fiction debut from a non fiction pioneer in bio-technological issues.
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MIND MELD: Rebranding Fiction as Young Adult

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

This week we asked about rebranding adult novels as YA:

Q: What genre novels would benefit from a re-branding as Young Adult? Which YA novels should not be branded as such?
This is what they had to say…
Gail Carriger
Gail Carriger is a New York Times Bestselling author writes to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She survived her early years by reading most of her local library and memorizing Greek battles. Her YA book Etiquette & Espionage, the first in the Finishing School series, releases Feb. 5, 2013.

I’d like to hope they already have been rebranded, but two of my favorites are part of larger series. Mercedes Lackey’s Arrows of the Queen trilogy is possibly the most YA of her early Valdemar books. And Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsong trilogy is a great introduction to the Pern universe. I’d like to see both reissued with updated cover art, in hardback, for a YA audience.

I’d also add two books that are the first in their respective series but stand well enough alone as YA. Mary H. Herbert’s Dark Horse, and Cherry Wilder’s A Princess of the Chameln both include one of my favorite plot points: a girl disguising herself as a boy.

Last, I think The Forgotten Beasts of Eld would make a great rebranded YA book. Although the protagonist isn’t technically young enough, she has an isolated innocence that makes her seem young. Also Patricia McKillip’s writing style is so atmospheric, like a fairy tale, I think younger readers would really appreciate her style.

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Lyda MorehouseLyda Morehouse is a science fiction and fantasy author living in the Twin Cities. Her debut novel, Archangel Protocol, was recently re-released as an e-book by Wizard’s Tower Press. In more recent years, most of her work has come out under her alter ego pen name, Tate Hallaway, including the Vampire Princess novels and the Garret Lacey series. As a fellow resident of the Twin Cities, Lyda was extremely kind to talk to me about her work.


PW: Who is Lyda Morehouse?

LM: Ugh. It seems very early in the morning to get this existential. Therefore, I’m tempted to be flip and make a reference to Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy and say, “Just this guy, you know.”

I suppose the real answer is that I’m a forty-five year old Minnesotan (although even that gets complicated, since I was born in California–it was the sixties, 1967, the Summer of Love, to be precise–and raised in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.) I guess another salient feature about me is that I’m a lesbian and a mom and, even though my sales don’t entirely warrant it, I stay home and ostensibly keep house and write. And, the writing part is complicated, too, since I’m published both as Lyda Morehouse and Tate Hallaway, as whom I write romances and urban fantasy.

But is that who I am? I’m also a ginormous fan who loves to get excited and yell about ALL THE THINGS. I’ve been known to dabble in fanfic and fan art. I have an exceedingly playful and silly spirit, and, like an otter, I’d rather play than eat. I dance when I’m alone and I sing off-key in public (much to the chagrin of my nine-year old, Mason). I’ve recently discovered a Korean mixed martial arts, which allows me not only to shout and hit things in a socially appropriate way, but also Mason and I get to do it together (though he’s higher-ranked than I am). I’m not very science-minded, but I adore hanging out with people who are a lot smarter than me and listening carefully…and then making stuff up.

I’m also clearly overly fond of the parenthetical.

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Paul S. Kemp is a fantasy and science fiction writer. Best known for his work in the Star Wars and Dungeons and Dragons universe, in 2011, Paul came out with a novel in his own word, The Hammer and the Blade, the first in a series of novels featuring two thieves, Egil and Nix. Paul Weimer sat down to talk to Paul about him and his work.


PW: Who is Paul S. Kemp?

PK: Paul S. Kemp is a wannabe superhero with delusions of grandeur. He also tells stories, drinks whiskey, loves his family, can spill any liquid from any container by mere mental command, and speaks of himself in the third person. ;-)

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REVIEW SUMMARY: Two fine short Fantastic Victoriana stories from Daniel Abraham.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Balfour and Meriwether, special agents to the British crown, deal with extraordinary and fantastical threats to their monarch, and the world.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Light, fun atmosphere, breezy dialogue, clever action and appealing protagonists in a fine Secret Fantastic Victorian Era.
CONS: The stories are a bit short, and feel a bit constrained in word length.
BOTTOM LINE: Two fun stories that show yet another side to one of Genre’s best and facile writers today.

Balfour and Meriwether in Two Adventures, published by a new digital publisher called SnackReads, collects two Victoriana stories by Daniel Abraham, one of the most facile and flexible writers today.  The title characters are agents for the British Crown in the late 19th century. The two stories deliberately obscure in time, and are told from the perspective of Mr. Meriwether looking back on the adventure from a journal written after the first world war. The stories have a fantastic Victorian feel, but with the twist of it being a secret history. Ordinary people have no idea the extraordinary threats and dangers Belfour and Meriwether face.

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John Birmingham is a British Born Australian Author. He is best known for his Axis of Time trilogy, and his new series, starting with Without Warning. Paul Weimer sat down to talk to John about his work and career.


PW: Who is John Birmingham?

JB: Some people are convinced he’s a delightful old children’s book illustrator, but that guy is actually a skinjob, a human analogue droid sent here to work his way into the hearts of children over two or three generations. Nobody ever thinks of the children.

Me, I’m just a guy who used to wrote for porn mags and got lucky mashing together other people’s ideas. Mostly Tom Clancy’s and Harry Turtledove’s.

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BOOK REVIEW: Shadow’s Master by Jon Sprunk

REVIEW SUMMARY: Sprunk finishes his series in strong fashion.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Caim continues his journey north to find his heritage and legacy, even as the young Empress he left behind has her reign tested.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Strong finish to the trilogy; more interesting worldbuilding; further emergence of characters.
CONS: Some hangovers from the second book clutter up narrative.
BOTTOM LINE: A very good, if not spectacular, end to what will hopefully be not the last book series from Sprunk.

Shadow’s Master is the third and presumably final novel in the Shadow’s Son Trilogy from Jon Sprunk, following Shadow’s Son and Shadow’s Lure.  In the world of Nimea, Caim has managed to depose a local potentate, bury his father’s sword, and head further north to find the true source of his heritage. The Empress he has left behind faces the greatest challenge yet to her rule, and Kit the faerie has a fateful decision to make that could change the lives of all three of them forever…if it doesn’t get one or more of them killed first.

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BOOK REVIEW: Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey

SYNOPSIS: War threatens the solar system as forces react and move in a world rocked by the events detailed in Leviathan Wakes.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW
PROS: strong classic Space Opera; excellent set pieces; intriguing new characters.
CONS: The characterization beats of longstanding characters continues; they are eclipsed by the new characters.
VERDICT: Another solidly entertaining space opera from the team of Abraham and Franck.

Caliban’s War takes off some months after the events of Leviathan Wakes, and ups the ante. In the wake of the heroic (and drastic) actions taken to avert a total catastrophe for humans, the powers in the Solar System have not been idle. In point of fact, metaphors about fighting in a burning house might be extremely appropriate.

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Bradley Beaulieu has emailed us the cover image for his latest, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, Book 3 of the Lays of Anuskaya series.  The artist is Aaron J. Riley.

Here is the book description:

The Flames of Shadam Khoreh begins nearly two years after the events of The Straits of Galahesh. In it, Atiana and Nikandr continue their long search for Nasim, which has taken them to the desert wastes of the Gaji, where the fabled valley of Shadam Khoreh lies. But all is not well. War has moved from the islands to the mainland, and the Grand Duchy knows its time may be limited if Yrstanla rallies its forces. And the wasting disease and the rifts grow ever wider, threatening places that once thought themselves safe. The Dukes believe that their only hope may be to treat with the Haelish warriors to the west of Yrstanla, but Nikandr knows that the key is to find Nasim and a lost artifact known as the Atalayina.

Will Nikandr succeed and close the rifts once and for all? The answer lies deep within the Flames of Shadam Khoreh.

More information about the Lays of Anuskaya series  can be found at Bradley’s website: http://quillings.com/.

BOOK REVIEW: Archangel Protocol by Lyda Morehouse

REVIEW SUMMARY: A first novel from Morehouse that still holds up years later.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In a theologically oriented 21st Century, an excommunicated NYC cop learns that Angels are more, and less real, than commonly believed

MY REVIEW:
PROS: A fascinating 21st century world. The scene-stealing and book-stealing characters of Mouse. The original book’s gorgeous cover art wonderfully re-used.
CONS: Some of the book feels a bit dated. Deidre is not quite as interesting as the cast of characters around her.
BOTTOM LINE: A first novel from Morehouse that still holds up, and has a chance to be read by a wider audience.

Back in 2001, on the far side of 9/11, I became aware of, thanks to a “Maiden Voyage award” from Barnes and Noble and mention in a quarterly publication of theirs highlighting upcoming books, a debut novelist named Lyda Morehouse. On the boundaries of SF and Fantasy, with a big helping of theology, I decided to give this book set in a 21st century New York a try, and ended up reading it and its sequels in short order.

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MIND MELD: The Books We Didn’t Love

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

This week we asked about books you don’t love.

What books do people expect you to love or read, but you don’t?  Why?

This is what they had to say…

Jamie Todd Rubin
Jamie Todd Rubin is a science fiction writer, blogger, and Evernote Ambassador for paperless living. His stories and articles have appeared in Analog, Daily Science Fiction, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Apex Magazine, and 40K Books. Jamie lives in Falls Church, Virginia with his wife and two children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.

Robert Heinlein’s Stranger In a Strange Land was not the first Heinlein book I read. I started with what is still, in my mind, one of his best, Double Star. Nor was Stranger the second Heinlein book I read. Or the third. Or the fourth.

Indeed, back in the days when my interests in science fiction were broadening and I would occasionally talk to people about them, Heinlein would inevitably come up. “You should read Stranger In A Strange Land.” I must have been told this a dozen times by a dozen different people. I even tried reading the book, but on two occasions, spaced years apart, I simply couldn’t get very far into it. I felt terribly guilty about this. Something must be wrong me. It seemed everyone who ever read a book had read and loved Stranger. But not me. I couldn’t even get through it.

It wasn’t Heinlein. Couldn’t be, right? I went on to read and enjoy Heinlein’s future history in The Past Through Tomorrow. I read and loved Podkayne of Mars. I read Puppet Masters and Starship Troopers and found those entertaining. (Although both movies were appallingly bad.) I adored Friday and The Door Into Summer.

It finally took jury duty for me to get through Stranger. In the fall of 2000, in a cavernous room within a Hollywood courthouse, I battled my way through Heinlein’s tour de force. And before my jury service was up, I’d managed to finally finish the book.

And hated it. Just plain didn’t like it. To this day, when asked if I’ve read Stranger, I reply with a world-weary, “Of course. I read it while suffering through jury duty in the fall of 2000.”

“And what did you think of it?”

And without skipping a beat, reply, “I couldn’t be picked for a jury soon enough. My how I suffered through that book!”

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Roll Perception Plus Awareness: #7RPGS

Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader’s and writer’s world. This time, I am going to tackle a meme that has been going around the RPG sphere.

#7RPGs is a meme that asks roleplayers to talk about the seven roleplaying games you have GMed or played the most and what you have learned from them. I’ve discussed a couple of these before. However, since the end of the year is a time of lists, I thought I would share my list with you.
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Interview with Author & RPG Designer Aaron Rosenberg

Aaron Rosenberg is a prolific novelist and roleplaying game designer. His credits run from White Wolf Roleplaying Games such as Exalted and Mage to the Pete’s and Penny’s Pizza Puzzles children’s books to Star Trek media tie in novels and original novels, some under his cooperative publishing venture Crazy 8 Press.

Paul Weimer sat down to talk to Aaron about his work and career.


Paul Weimer: My opening question is the deceptively simple one: Who is Aaron Rosenberg?

Aaron Rosenberg: Heh, yeah, you don’t start small, do you?

And that’s a hard one to answer. In fact, my agent was just asking me the same thing the other day: Who is Aaron Rosenberg? Is he the guy who writes fun, fast, action-packed science fiction like Star Trek and StarCraft and Stargate: Atlantis and the original Dread Remora space-opera series? Or maybe he’s the guy who does fantasy novels like WarCraft and Warhammer, and the modern-day fantasy anthology ReDeus: Divine Tales? Is he the guy who does tense occult thrillers like the O.C.L.T. series? Or is he the guy who writes mysteries, like half of his other books have been, just wrapped up in other genres? Maybe he’s the guy who writes really silly humorous novels like the Eureka novels and his original SF novels No Small Bills and Too Small for Tall? My agent’s advice was to pick one of these and stick to it, because it’d be easier to market myself if I focused on a single area.
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BOOK REVIEW: The Gathering of the Lost by Helen Lowe

REVIEW SUMMARY:An entertaining second entry in the Wall of Night series

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Five years after the events of The Heir of Night, intrigue and machinations of the Swarm, and others, catch Malian and her friends / allies in the South.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: All the best Epic Fantasy elements present; strong character-driven story, high adventure and magic, beautiful prose.
CONS: The pace of the novel in Malian and Kalan’s story is problematic. Some aspects of the intervening years are not entirely clear. The map given needs work.
BOTTOM LINE: A strong second entry to the series that avoids most of the pitfalls of middle series novels.

Five years after Malian of Night and Kalan fled from the Wall in search of fulfilling a prophecy to save the Derai and the rest of the world, the action focuses down to the lands of the River. The heralds Jehane Mor and Tarathan stumble into unexpected danger and bloodshed in the city of Ij. Soon, though, the danger spreads to other locations in the South, and threatens Malian and Kalan, who are very different following people five years later.
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BOOK REVIEW: A Red Sun Also Rises by Mark Hodder

REVIEW SUMMARY: An entertaining piece of Fantastic Victoriana in terms of content, mood and style.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A 19th century bookish priest and a crippled hunchback together are unexpectedly transported to an alien world that soon becomes oddly familiar.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: A vivid and interesting premise and an enthusiastic audacity of telling it in period style and trappings.
CONS: Secondary characters are often flat, the devotion to its conventions sometimes works against it.
BOTTOM LINE: An entertaining, bizarre tale that remains true to its Victorian conventions and style, sometimes to a fault.
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Can You Name This Story? (Part 30)

Another Name That Story challenge for our readers: Do any of you out there know the title to this story?

The story is a report from a World Science Fiction convention in the early 21st(?) century. A nuclear war has set technology back to the 19th century levels (sailing ships and carriages are mentioned) and so it takes weeks if not months for SF fans and readers to get together. The story talks about various works being written by authors, and their misadventures in getting to the convention. A mention of pirates capturing or killing a prominent female science fiction author is mentioned.

The main thrust of the story is that the nuclear war and regression of civilization has inadvertently rejuvenated science fiction, making it the literature of the times for everyone, the repository of hopes and dreams and imagination.



Can you name this story?

REVIEW SUMMARY: A second Sword and Sorcery from Howard Andrew Jones that improves and deepens his characters and world.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Dabir and Asim return, and face an ancient sorcery that threatens to unleash a new Ice Age upon the world.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Strong characters, excellent sword and sorcery action. Always entertaining. Characters grow and develop.
CONS A couple of sequences are a bit unclear.
BOTTOM LINE: A marriage of strong characters and stronger action and adventure that rarely flags or goes below 50 miles per hour.

In The Desert of Souls, Howard Andrew Jones introduced us to an 8th Century Baghdad of Arabian Days and Nights. In the personages of Dabir, a scholar not unfamiliar with a blade, and Asim, a guard captain who is much more than muscle, we were given a glimpse into a mostly historical Middle East. Mostly, if you don’t count animated monkeys, dark sorcerers and strange magical cities in an alternate world desert realm. The successful defeat of the forces of evil left Dabir and Asim high in the esteem of the Caliph, with the blessing to go on to the scholarly city of Mosul in the north.

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Interview with Marianne de Pierres

Australian author Marianne de Pierres is the author of the acclaimed Parrish Plessis and award-winning Sentients of Orion science fiction series. The Parrish Plessis series has been translated into eight languages and adapted into a roleplaying game. She is also the author of dark fantasy, notably her Burn Bright novels. I talked with Marianne about her and her writing.


Paul Weimer: You mention in your bio that your then-boyfriend introduced you to reading SF [Rendezvous with Rama]. But when did you start putting pen to paper and writing SF yourself?

Marianne de Pierres: I had started writing fiction at the age of eight or nine – adventure stories really, I guess. And even though I was reading SF in my twenties, I wasn’t game to have a go at writing them myself until I’d read widely in the genre. Ten years later I penned my first ever short story, about the discovery of a brown dwarf. It’s the only short story I’ve written that’s never been published – probably because it was horrible. I enjoyed writing the descriptions of the planet so much though, that I was hooked from that moment. I went out and brought a subscription to Sky and Space magazine (an Aussie astronomy mag) and ideas started proliferating.

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