Columns Archives

Lost in Animeland: Sword Art Online

Last time I mentioned that I was watching Sword Art Online II, and enjoying it quite a bit. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to talk about part three of a series without spoilers, so I figured I’d save the discussion for next time. So today, let’s talk about it!

This column contains spoilers for Sword Art Online. I won’t talk about any of the big reveals or twists, but information of the “which characters don’t die” sort is impossible to avoid. I personally think you’d be fine reading this and then watching it, but you can make your own decision!
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SF/F Crowd Funding Roundup For 9/17/2014

Crowd funding is the in thing for obtaining money to fund a variety of projects, with Kickstarter being the most prominent of these sites. With new projects going live daily, it’s a chore to keep up with, let alone find, interesting genre projects. The Crowd Funding Roundup will be our effort to bring projects we think are interesting to your attention so you can, if you so choose, decide to help out. These posts are a collaborative effort between James Aquilone and JP Frantz.

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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Sarah Hendrix! – Sarah Chorn


Sarah Hendrix spends a lot of time reveling in chaos. Not only does she crush a heaping slush pile but she manages several minion duties. She is a PR for Apocalypse Ink Productions. She loves the developmental stages of a project and likes weaving seemingly unrelated things into a beauteous whole. To complete her love of all things unorganized, she has 2 cats, 2 teenage boys and a fiancé and she makes wearable art with small beads. Her stories can be found in the Space Battles #6 from Flying Pen Press, the In Situ, and the FISH anthologies both from Dagan Books, “Ordinary Hero” from Lakeside Circus and “The Coin Whisperer” in Abyss and Apex. You can follow her on her blog, Twitter or Facebook.

Portraying Disability in Short Stories

by Sarah Hendrix

When I wrote the first few words of “The Coin Whisperer” I didn’t know much about the main character, Paul. All I knew is he was relating a story to me about a friend who could tap into the stories that resided in the change in her pocket. Overall, what I wrote was pretty bland so, like a lot of short stories that I start, I set it aside. It wasn’t until a year later that the story and Paul matured into something I felt had a chance at being published.

Although I love the story, I was very apprehensive while writing it. Paul first revealed he was transgender, which wasn’t an issue at all, but then he revealed something that made me pause-Paul was mute. While writing I wanted his disability to be an element of the story but knew that wasn’t the focus. I wanted to portray Paul as an individual who happens to be mute, and has to find a creative way to tell someone something very important.
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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Jaym Gates! – Sarah Chorn


Jaym Gates is an editor, author, and communications specialist. She’s edited the anthologies War Stories, Broken Time Blues, and is working on Genius Loci. She is also the Communications Director for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She is active in ensuring a safer, more respectful environment in SF. Follow her on Twitter as @JaymGates, or online at JaymGates.com.

My Own Damn Game

by Jaym Gates

My first Dungeons and Dragons game was with four industry veterans. Not just guys who had played for years, but guys who had actually developed the game. Nothing like being thrown in at the deep end.

Fortunately, the two running the game were merciful and gave me a chaos-oriented paladin. Our host had mead and scotch for us to bolster the usual snacks. It turned out to be handier than he’d perhaps planned. The Game Master (GM) began drinking heavily about two minutes into the game because one player wouldn’t stop punning, one had somehow ended up with a cross-dressing rogue, and I was being myself, which is just never good for anyone trying to run a serious game. We romped through the first half of the adventure, puns and lipstick flying, trying with all our might to break the GM.
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Nearly twenty years ago a debut novel took the genre world by storm, at least in terms of awards. It won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, BSFA, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, and author Mary Doria Russell received the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. It was a novel that walked a fine line in its themes between science and faith. The intersection between the two is not always a comfortable one and if anything can be a one-word apt descriptor of Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow and Children of God it is the word uncomfortable. In trying to come up with a “completed” series of books for this column, I pored over my reading logs and it wasn’t long before these two books shouted to me from deep within my memory banks. So again, I’m stretching the definition of completed by including a book and its sequel, but these are excellent books that people should be reading even today — nearly 20 years after The Sparrow first published.

Set in the near future (2019), music from the closest star system to ours, Alpha Centauri, reaches Earth — specifically from the planet which comes to be known as Rakhat. Much of the novel is relayed in flashbacks from Father Emilio Sandoz in the year 2059, the only member of the expedition team sent to Rakhat to survive and return to Earth – decades after he left Earth for Rakhat. Other members of the missionary/crew include a young astronomer, an expert in AI systems, as well as two of Sandoz’s retired colleagues. Sandoz is scarred by his experiences, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The framework of the “present” with the damaged Sandoz and a Church shattered by the failed mission involves the investigation of the mission and why Sandoz is the only survivor.
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SF/F Crowd Funding Roundup For 9/4/2014

Crowd funding is the in thing for obtaining money to fund a variety of projects, with Kickstarter being the most prominent of these sites. With new projects going live daily, it’s a chore to keep up with, let alone find, interesting genre projects. The Crowd Funding Roundup will be our effort to bring projects we think are interesting to your attention so you can, if you so choose, decide to help out. These posts are a collaborative effort between James Aquilone and JP Frantz.

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The recent graphic interpretation of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book afforded me the chance to interview the legendary artist P. Craig Russell. I lept at the opportunity which lead to a discussion that touched on a variety of topics including Neil Gaiman, art, young adult fiction, Busby Berkley, and why Russell had no social life for three months.


RICK KLAW: Unlike your previous adaptations, you worked with a variety of artists. How does your approach differ when you aren’t doing the art?

P. CRAIG RUSSELL: The only difference in my approach to the art when working with other artists is that I put a little more effort into designing the picture within individual panels. If I’m doing it for myself I only need a few squiggles to remind myself weeks or months later what needs to be drawn in that panel. For other artists I spend more time on a recognizable composition, sometimes adding/suggesting background details.
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Lost in Animeland: Summer Season’s Picks

I’m back! It’s been a while — lots of cons, book stuff, and other exciting happenings on my side. I’ve got a new John Golden novella out (and a paperback with both stories), plus I’m in a cool Kickstarter anthology.

Also, I’ve had some time to catch up on my anime! We’re about three-quarters of the way through the summer season now, so rather than go through the first episodes I’m going to skip right to talking about the show I’m actually liking a lot. Summer season is usually pretty lackluster, but this time there’s quite a few! (As usual, I’ll try to confine spoilers to the first episode or so.)
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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Corrina Lawson! – Sarah Chorn


Corrina Lawson likes to say she’s a writer, mom, geek, and superhero, though not necessary all four on the same day. Her fiction self is the author of the Amazon steampunk bestseller, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract, and the Phoenix Institute psychic superhero series. Her non-fiction identity is as the Content Director and co-founder of GeekMom.com and co-author of GeekMom: Project, Tips and Adventures for Moms & Their 21st Century Families. She and her four kids have made an appearance together on the Take Me To Your Mother television show on NickMom.

Autism and Superpowers

by Corrina Lawson

Please don’t be the school, please don’t be the school.

It was the school.

When I first started writing my Phoenix Institute superhero series, I was well aware that the psychic abilities that my characters struggled with were stand-ins for issues that many struggle with in real life.

My telepath needs to shut out overly strong mental voices threatening to overwhelm her. My firestarter must control his fire and thus not be a danger to anyone. My self-healer is so used to going beyond endurance that he doesn’t know how to relax.

From a writing standpoint, it’s necessary. No character should be ultra-powerful and without flaws.

But from a personal standpoint, it’s so much more. The negative side effects of these powers are stand-ins for problems caused by autism, mood disorder and mental illness.

Why? Because I have kids who struggle with all those things.
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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Dave-Brendon de Burgh! – Sarah Chorn


Dave de Burgh wanted to be an artist and speak French, but Fate saved him and pointed him in the direction of writing. He is a bookseller, so-parent to three wonderful Pekingese “kids,” reads Speculative Fiction voraciously, and is the luckiest guy in the world because he has a blonde, blue-eyed woman in his life who supports his need to write and be crazy.

He lives in Pretoria, South Africa, and when he’s not writing he’s probably secretly laughing at cognitively challenged bookstore-customers. He’s on Blogger, Twitter, WordPress, Facebook, and Instagram, and he’s also a paranormal investigator with Paranormal Research Investigators of Pretoria.

His debut novel, Betrayal’s Shadow, was published on the 25th of April by Fox and Raven Publishing.

The Deaf

by Dave-Brendon de Burgh

When Sarah asked me to write a guest post for this excellent column, I suffered about ten seconds of ‘What do I write about?’ After all, I’m one of the lucky people – I don’t have any ‘disabilities’ at all (except perhaps for not being able to do Math even if I was faced with a firing squad), and I work in retail, which means I don’t get much exposure to people living with disabilities – not as much as, say, someone working in a hospital or community center.

But then I remembered that I am, in fact, very close to people with disabilities, and that I have been for years. You see, my girlfriend works with the deaf – she’s a teacher at a school for the deaf, and she straddles both worlds. Before I met Leana I had only the most basic (and biased) knowledge of the deaf community.
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I know the big news lately is the Hugo Awards (congrats to all the winners by the way!), and we all know it’s called Worldcon because it moves around the World. But what if you live in the US, and international travel isn’t an option for you? Don’t worry, we got you covered. When Worldcon is outside the United States, a lucky US city gets to hold NASFiC, our National Convention. In July of this year, NASFiC was held in Detroit Michigan, and some of the organizers were kind enough to chat me about what NASFiC is all about, their commitment towards diversity, and how to get involved in NASFiC and other conventions.

(Don’t live in the US? no problem. More and more countries have National Science Fiction Conventions that move from city to city within that country. Australia has NatCon, the UK has EasterCon, Finland has FinnCon, Poland has PolCon, New Zealand has their NatCon, Sweden has SweCon, and even though I’m sure I missed plenty, I bet you get the idea.)

The recent NASFiC that was held in Detroit was called DetCon1, and it boasted over 1400 attendees, with Guests of Honor Steven Barnes, Nnedi Okorafor, John Picacio, Helen Greiner, and the musicians Bill and Brenda Sutton, among others. The Golden Duck award for excellence in children’s speculative fiction was also presented at DetCon1 for Middle Grade and YA fiction. Wow, that’s a lot going on, isn’t it? Shall we get to the roundtable with Anne K. Gray (Diversity Facilitator), Tammy Coxen (Con Chair), Christine Humphrey (Volunteer Coordinator) and Anna O’Connell (Volunteer Co-Coordinator)? Yes, lets!

Andrea Johnson: DetCon1 was a NASFiC. What’s NASFiC, when does it occur, and how is the location decided?

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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Kameron Hurley! – Sarah Chorn


Kameron Hurley is an award-winning author, advertising copywriter, and online scribe.  Hurley grew up in Washington State, and has lived in Fairbanks, Alaska; Durban, South Africa; and Chicago. She has degrees in historical studies from the University of Alaska and the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, specializing in the history of South African resistance movements. Her essay on the history of women in conflict We Have Always Fought is the first blog post to be nominated for and win a Hugo Award. It was also nominated for Best Non-Fiction work by the British Fantasy Society. This past weekend, she won a second Hugo award for Best Fan Writer.

Hurley is the author of God’s WarInfidel,  and Rapture, a science-fantasy noir series which earned her the Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer and the Kitschy Award for Best Debut Novel. She has been a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Hugo Award, Nebula Award, the Locus Award and the BSFA Award for Best Novel. Additionally, her work has been included on the Tiptree Award Honor List. Hurley’s short fiction has appeared in magazines such as LightspeedEscapePod, and Strange Horizons, and anthologies such as The Lowest Heaven, The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women and Year’s Best SF. Her fiction has been translated into Romanian, Swedish, Spanish and Russian. She is also a graduate of Clarion West.

In addition to her writing, Hurley has been a Stollee guest lecturer at Buena Vista University and taught copywriting at the School of Advertising Art. Hurley currently lives in Ohio, where she’s cultivating an urban homestead. Her latest novel, The Mirror Empire, will be published by Angry Robot Books in August 2014.

On Invisibility and Assumptions: Finding Distance in Writing About Chronic Illness

by Kameron Hurley

I’ve been invisibly sick for eight years now, but have found it nearly impossible to talk about in fiction.
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SF/F Crowd Funding Roundup For 8/19/2014

Crowd funding is the in thing for obtaining money to fund a variety of projects, with Kickstarter being the most prominent of these sites. With new projects going live daily, it’s a chore to keep up with, let alone find, interesting genre projects. The Crowd Funding Roundup will be our effort to bring projects we think are interesting to your attention so you can, if you so choose, decide to help out. These posts are a collaborative effort between James Aquilone and JP Frantz.

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Most of these columns have focused on trilogies, some on duologies. This installment focuses on the longest book series I’ve coverd so far: five books. However, these books are relatively short compared to some of the previous books I’ve covered here at the Completist. The books I’ll be discussing: Robert Buettner’s five book Military SF series focusing on Jason Wander which begins with Orphanage. This series has a bit of a kink in its publication (which seems to be an undercurrent of this column…). Buettner’s debut (and launch of the series) Orphanage (and the second installment Orphan’s Destiny) were some of the last titles under the WarnerAspect imprint before Orbit took over as the SF imprint of Hachette. Once Orbit replaced WarnerAspect, the series was rebranded a bit with new cover art. But more of that later, on to the books…

This series is set approximately 40 years in the future with Earth being attacked by aliens who come to be known as Slugs. Many of the people chosen for this interstellar war are orphans, people whose families were destroyed in the attacks, which take the form of large stone projectiles, with no nuclear armaments, hurtling through space, which destroy the surrounding area where they land, most often populated cities like Pittsburgh or Indianapolis. It is with this premise Robert Buettner introduces the reader to the world of Orphanage and its protagonist, Jason Wander whose hometown is the destroyed Indianapolis.
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As epic terrors imperil the cosmos, Fred Kiesche, Jeff Patterson, and the newly cyberneticized John E. O. Stevens blaze across the heavens wielding wit, fortitude, and implausibly potent weapons of dubious origin to discuss the Guardians of the Galaxy.

The Hoarsemen share their opinions on the movie (SPOILER ALERT), then turn their attentions to the comics which spawned it. Fred wrestles with the convoluted continuity of Marvel’s cosmic playground, while life-long readers John and Jeff endure the dual threats of retcon and reboot. Why was the first iteration of Jason Quill such a jackass? Will we ever see Mantis on the big screen? And can anyone defeat Taserface!

As usual, the chaotic cosmic conversation concludes with the customary captivating chronicles of Culture Consumed. (Long-time Marvel fans, see what I did there?)

The celestial vastness awaits! Quickly! Before the spacetime continuum is torn asunder!

Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes.

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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Chris Dolley! – Sarah Chorn

New York Times bestselling author, pioneer computer game designer and teenage freedom fighter. That was back in 1974 when Chris was tasked with publicising Plymouth’s Student Rag Week. Some people might have arranged an interview with the local newspaper. Chris invaded the country next door, created the Free Cornish Army and persuaded the UK media that Cornwall had risen up and declared independence. This was later written up in Punch. As he told journalists at the time, ‘it was only a small country and I did give it back.’

In 1981, he created Randomberry Games and wrote Necromancer, one of the first 3D first person perspective D&D computer games. Not to mention writing the most aggressive chess program ever seen and inventing the most dangerous game ever played — the Giant Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum Cliff Top Relay.

He writes SF, fantasy, mystery and humour. His novel, Resonance, was the first book to be chosen from Baen’s electronic slush pile.

Now he lives a self-sufficient lifestyle in deepest France with his wife and a frightening number of animals. They grow their own food and solve their own crimes. The latter out of necessity when Chris’s identity was stolen along with their life savings. Abandoned by the police forces of four countries who all insisted the crime originated in someone else’s jurisdiction, he had to solve the crime himself. Which he did, driving back and forth across the Pyrenees, tracking down bank accounts and faxes and interviewing bar staff. It was a mystery writer’s dream.

The resulting book, French Fried: one man’s move to France with too many animals and an identity thief, is now an international bestseller.

OCD and How to Write a Thriller When Your Protagonist Refuses To Leave His Room

by Chris Dolley

Do you have a ritual – a little superstition that you bring out now and then when you need that extra bit of help? Maybe you play a sport. Maybe you insist on being the last one to leave the dressing room before every match, or put your kit on in exactly the same order, or touch the ground and cross yourself before kick off, or touch both goalposts before attempting to save a penalty…

What if those rituals took over your life? Left you unable to pass a table without feeling compelled to align the cutlery. Forced you to catch the same train to work every morning, to stand in the same spot in the same carriage. To walk the same number of steps each day from the station to your place of work. Every week of your life mapped out to be a twin of the week before – the same meals, the same schedules. And the same terror the moment anything looked like disrupting your perfect, ordered life.

To be trapped in a world just so.
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Around this time of year, in “Nexus Graphicii” (how do you pluralize that?) past, I have tended to write up an Our-Man-In-Havana dispatch about the San Diego Comic Con, and what I may have seen or gleaned while there, since I generally go, and am up the road, a mere (but crowded) train ride or (very crowded and slow) car ride away.

However, I didn’t get to Comic Con this year.

I didn’t get to it last year, either. Then, I was in Israel. A trip that now seems half a lifetime away, given how radically the situation in the Mideast has changed (or how rapidly so many tamped down energies have come roaring fatally to the surface.)

This summer, I thought of going to the Con for a day or two, but my Ex turned out to be out-of-town (not at Comic Con!) the same time, and I was on “dad duty,” such as it still is, in these days of “emptying nests” in my life.

But there’s still chauffeuring that needs doing, and groceries to be gotten, and meals to be shared.

So, like you, I got my Comic Con news virtually, almost in real-time. The notion of how readily available so much of what had once been “exclusive” to the Con, has become, was encapsulated the night after the convention had wrapped up, and I was with eldest son to see a Guardians of the Galaxy screening (about which, more in a moment).
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NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Holly Kench! – Sarah Chorn

Holly Kench is a writer and a feminist, with a classics degree and a fear of spiders. She lives in Tasmania, Australia, where a lack of sun provides ample opportunity for hiding indoors and writing off-kilter stories. Holly writes about her life as a stuffed olive on her blog Confessions of a Stuffed Olive and manages the website Visibility Fiction, promoting and publishing inclusive young adult fiction.

Boxes and Labels

by Holly Kench

I love young adult fiction. I love it for at least a million reasons, but one of those is that, as teenagers, the characters of young adult fiction are navigating identities and choosing (or being slotted into) certain definitions and labels. We’re always in this process as adults too, but as teenagers, the process is heightened and inescapable. It’s part of the reason being a teenager is so fraught with angst and terror and misunderstandings. But it also means that, as readers and writers of YA, we get a rare opportunity to explore certain identities as they develop.
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SF/F Crowd Funding Roundup For 8/5/2014

Crowd funding is the in thing for obtaining money to fund a variety of projects, with Kickstarter being the most prominent of these sites. With new projects going live daily, it’s a chore to keep up with, let alone find, interesting genre projects. The Crowd Funding Roundup will be our effort to bring projects we think are interesting to your attention so you can, if you so choose, decide to help out. These posts are a collaborative effort between James Aquilone and JP Frantz.

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As John E. O. Stevens endures the recovery phase of his surgery, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson leave the comfort of their domains to traverse wild and unknown lands for the first meeting of the Three Hoarsemen in meatspace! The heavens tremble as they sit in the lobby of the rehabilitation facility to update listeners on culture consumed and plans for the future.

This update also acts a thinly veiled excuse to decant their new THEME SONG, provided by the esteemed John Anealio, clearly the more talented half of The Functional Nerds.
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