Books Archives

David Steffen is a writer and editor and software engineer and a voracious consumer of podcast fiction. He’s the founder and editor of the fanzine Diabolical Plots, run with Anthony Sullivan. Diabolical Plots provides the free writer’s tool The Submission Grinder which helps writers track their submissions and find markets for their work. You can find his bibliography on the DP site. Besides writing and editing, David is writing a text adventure, gaming, and cross-stitching, among other things. When David grows up, he plans to do ALL THE THINGS.

Intro to Fiction Podcasts

by David Steffen

This is the first of a series of articles about fiction podcasts. In this one I’m just going to talk about why audio is such a great medium for fiction, and how you can find fiction podcasts to listen to. In the next article, I’ll list out the current podcasts I listen to and some that have stopped producing but still provide their backlog of episodes.

I started listening to fiction podcasts in 2009, when I made my very first fiction sale to Pseudopod and decided that I should listen to some of the back episodes and see what this venue was actually like. I grabbed the most recent episode at the time which happened to be Pseudopod 153: “The Hay Devils” by Colin P. Davies. From Alasdair Stuart’s intro, to the story itself, to Alasdair’s always-insightful comments after the show that time on, I was hooked.
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Check out this outstanding lineup for Alex Dally MacFarlane’s upcoming (December 2014) anthology from Running Press, The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women:

Here’s the book description:

33 outstanding science fiction stories by women

Travel by train to the Moon, discover living spaceships born in gas giants and explore the constellations, alternate universes and post-apocalyptic worlds of this compelling collection of SF written by women.

Whether crossing the stars or constructing the future of our planet, women have always written powerful, important science fiction. This anthology showcases the most exceptional SF stories written by women in recent decades, from classic stars Ursula K. Le Guin and Angélica Gorodischer; science fiction greats Karen Joy Fowler and Nancy Kress; new award-winning talents Elizabeth Bear, Nnedi Okorafor and Aliette de Bodard; and many more.

Here’s the table of contents…
(A larger version of the cover, with art by Joe Roberts, appears below.)
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Over at the Kirkus Rveiews Blog this week, I take a look at Recent Time Travel Reads That Are Sure to Please.

Check it out!

BOOK REVIEW: Heaven’s Queen by Rachel Bach

REVIEW SUMMARY: The explosive, glorious finale of Bach’s incredible trilogy where all questions are answered and all fates are decided.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Devi Morris is beaten and broken, but she’s not down for the count yet. She has one last job that will decide the fate of the universe if only she can stay alive long enough to fulfill all the promises she’s made.

PROS: Intense final volume; heavy on action and moral quandaries; moments of genuine terror and heartbreak; a sharply written conclusion to an already great series.
CONS: A few loose ends that don’t get sufficient answers.
BOTTOM LINE: Masterful storytelling will make this series a classic of the genre. This trilogy deserves a standing ovation!
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What’s Special About Today’s Free Fiction?

  1. @Author’s Site: “Carnage” by Robert Reed
  2. Beware the Hairy Mango #204 – “Gastration” by Matthew Sanborn Smith
  3. @SFFaudio: “Someday” by Isaac Asimov

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We’re pleased to bring you an excerpt from Daryl Gregory’s new novel, Afterparty (available today from Tor Books), which gives whole new meaning to the term “designer drugs”.

Here’s how the book is described:

It begins in Toronto, in the years after the smart drug revolution. Any high school student with a chemjet and internet connection can download recipes and print drugs, or invent them. A seventeen-year-old street girl finds God through a new brain-altering drug called Numinous, used as a sacrament by a new Church that preys on the underclass. But she is arrested and put into detention, and without the drug, commits suicide.

Lyda Rose, another patient in that detention facility, has a dark secret: she was one of the original scientists who developed the drug. With the help of an ex-government agent and an imaginary, drug-induced doctor, Lyda sets out to find the other three survivors of the five who made the Numinous in a quest to set things right.

A mind-bending and violent chase across Canada and the US, Daryl Gregory’s Afterparty is a marvelous mix of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Philip K. Dick’s Ubik, and perhaps a bit of Peter Watts’s Starfish: a last chance to save civilization, or die trying.

Read on for an excerpt!

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BOOK REVIEW: Afterparty by Daryl Gregory


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A woman who long ago overdosed on the designer drug Numinous sets out to discover who is pushing the drug on the streets.

PROS: Amazing characters traveling through a diverse and convincing near future based on speculative neuroscience.
CONS: A possibly overly optimistic view of mental illness.
BOTTOM LINE: Fast-paced and engaging with a great narrative voice, perfect for those who like their science fiction to explore the borders of human consciousness.

With the title of his fourth novel, Daryl Gregory has given his game away. In his four novels so far he starts his stories where other people might end theirs–after the party, after the crisis. In his Crawford-award winning debut, Pandemonium, the main character is still a mess twenty years after being possessed by a demon. In Devil’s Alphabet, a town has settled into a new ‘normality’ after a mutagenic plague hit them; the protagonist comes back to try to heal his old wounds. In Raising Stony Mayhall, the zombie plague was intense but short lived; the few remaining zombies have been living underground, and the title character is the only zombie baby to have grown up. In the hands of other storytellers, these stories would be centered on the demonic possession, the mutagenic plague, or the zombie apocalypse. For Gregory, those moments of drama are back story, traumatic events that haunt the main characters for the rest of their lives.

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Longtime SF Signal readers may recall how much I loved Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven. That’s why I’m excited that Diversion books is making the novel available as an ebook. Even better: they are offering the following deal available exclusively to SF Signal readers….

For a limited time, starting today, you can get the eBook version of Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven for only $4.99. That’s 38% off the normal $7.99 list price.

You can order the book from the widget below…
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We’ll get through this backlog together, Signalistas, starting with the written, and followed tomorrow by audio and eBooks.

Got a hot Free Fiction Tip? Tell me here

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What’s Special About Today’s Free Fiction?

  1. Beneath Ceaseless Skies #145 - April 17, 2014
  2. The Revelator #138.1 - Special Bookworm Issue
  3. Kazka Press #3.8 – April 2014

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Ben Blattberg is a freelance writer currently living in Texas. He blogs about movies and story structure at and makes jokes on Twitter @inCatastrophe.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In a Western frontier torn between agents of the Gun and of the Line, three people are drawn into a conflict over a secret weapon that may finally end the war.

PROS: Engrossing setting; engaging writing; interesting ideas; exciting action.
CONS: Long and occasionally feels it.
BOTTOM LINE: Fascinating “fantastic western” with strong writing; a book that can spark a debate or provide entertainment.
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Golden Wolf recently teamed up with Warner Bros Animation and MOI Studio to help bring their vision for Superman’s 75th anniversary to life. And done well, I might add.

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Books Received: April 21, 2014

In the interest of full disclosure, here are the books we received this week.
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I’m a picky reader.

There. I said it.

My pickiness has not so much to do with what I’m reading and more to do with the process of reading. What I mean is that everything about the reading process has to be just right. There needs to be the right level of light, the right level of noise, and it has to be a comfortable environment that’s not too hot and not too cold.

Another symptom of my pickiness comes from an acute awareness of sitting position, or more specifically how comfortable I am while I’m reading — including whether or not the book I’m holding is properly supported. I thought the advent of ebook reading would solve that problem, but it really didn’t. Sure, a Kindle device is easier to hold than an 800-page book, but support it long enough, and it feels heavier than it really is — which then becomes a huge reading distraction.

I had the opportunity to test a solution to this first-world problem when I was given Dockem’s iProp.

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Last month I had the pleasure of participating in a question and answer session with author Alex Scarrow about his long-running traditionally published series, TimeRiders, and his newer, self-published series featuring a young female protagonist, Ellie Quinn. The newest of this series, Ellie Quin in Wonderland, was released in early February.

In the process of planning the interview we discussed having Alex Scarrow write a guest post on traditional publishing vs. self-publishing, of particular interest because he is currently active in both arenas.

With thanks for taking the time to share his thoughts, I give you Alex Scarrow!

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BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Reed’s newest novel offers astoundingly vivid world-building and visuals that set the stage for an unusual coming of age story.

PROS: Astonishingly unique world; interesting characters; a true blending of science fiction and fantasy elements.
CONS: Uneven pacing; world building descriptions can be infodumpy; ending won’t have as big an impact for readers unfamiliar with Reed’s previous Great Ship novels Marrow or The Well of Stars.
BOTTOM LINE: Reed presents a fascinating and alluring world, but muddled exposition gets in the way of enjoying every level of the story.

I’ve enjoyed every Robert Reed short story I’ve come across, so I figured it was time to try one of his longer novels. It’s very difficult to talk about this story without dumping a lot of plot on you, but please trust me when I say I’m barely scratching the surface of the plot and the far-reaching consequences. The world-building and sprawling plot are presented in a very dense way, and there is a lot to tell.

Let’s talk about world-building first, because it’s as stunningly vivid as it is complex.
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Keith Brooke‘s most recent novel for adult audiences, alt.human (published in the US as Harmony), was shortlisted for the 2013 Philip K Dick Award. Writing as Nick Gifford, his teen fiction is widely published, with one novel optioned for the movies by Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish’s Caveman Films. He writes reviews for the Guardian, teaches creative writing at the University of Essex, and lives with his wife Debbie in Wivenhoe, Essex. Find out more about his work as Gifford at

The Most Political Story is a Good One

by Keith Brooke (a.k.a Nick Gifford)

Sometimes things you’ve written down don’t become relevant for years.

That’s both the premise for, and the history of, my recent YA thriller, Tomorrow (published under the name Nick Gifford).
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We have a treat for readers today.

Hot off the heels of the exclusive cover reveal (and giveaway) of Carrie Patel’s The Buried Life comes this excerpt of the book.

To set the mood, here’s the book description, which will be available from Angry Robot in July:

The gaslight and shadows of the underground city of Recoletta hide secrets and lies. When Inspector Liesl Malone investigates the murder of a renowned historian, she finds herself stonewalled by the all-powerful Directorate of Preservation – Ricoletta’s top-secret historical research facility.

When a second high-profile murder threatens the very fabric of city society, Malone and her rookie partner Rafe Sundar must tread carefully, lest they fall victim to not only the criminals they seek, but the government which purports to protect them. Knowledge is power, and power must be preserved at all costs…

EXTRA BONUS: After the excerpt, feast your eyes on John Coulthart‘s cover art for the sequel, Cities & Thrones!

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A.C. Wise is the author of numerous short stories appearing in print and online in publications such as Clarkesworld, Apex, Lightspeed, and the Best Horror of the Year Vol. 4. In addition to her fiction, she co-edits Unlikely Story, an online magazine publishing three issues of fiction per year with various unlikely themes. Follow her on twitter as @ac_wise.

Women to Read: Where to Start – When it Ends – April 2014 (Apocalypse Edition)

by A.C. Wise

It just so happens the first two stories I wanted to talk about this month dealt with apocalypses, so I figured why not make it a theme?
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This week at the Kirkus Review blog, I get all list-y and look at some science fiction and fantasy books that might appeal to readers of classic literature.

From the article:

For some readers, science fiction and fantasy is a hard sell. The sf/f labels come with the baggage of preconceived notions about what it means. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Science fiction is not always about spaceships and fantasy is not always about dragons. Science fiction and fantasy provide just as much literary range as classic literature. In fact, several works of sf/f key off of classic literature. So, with the aim of introducing readers to sf/f, here’s a list of suggestions aimed at readers of classic literature to help introduce them to the wonderful world of science fiction and fantasy.

Check out 5 Science Fiction an Fantasy Reads for Lovers of Classic Literature over on the Kirkus Reviews blog.

[GUEST POST] S.G. Browne on The Writing Life

S.G. Browne is the author of the novels Big Egos, Lucky Bastard, Fated, Breathers, and the forthcoming Super Duper, as well as the novella I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus and the ebook collection Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel. He’s a Guinness aficionado, ice cream snob, and a sucker for It’s a Wonderful Life. He lives in San Francisco.

The Writing Life: We Are Not Alone

by S.G. Browne

“The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing: isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.”

The above quote was taken from Robert De Niro’s presentation for the screenwriting category at the 2014 Academy Awards. I don’t know who wrote the words that De Niro spoke but whoever it was nailed writers to the post.
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