Columns Archives

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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Roll Perception Plus Awareness: Mindjammer

Welcome back to Roll Perception Plus Awareness, a column about roleplaying games and their place in a genre reader’s and writer’s world.

It’s the Second Age of Space, 200 years after the invention of a faster-than-light drive has arrested the seemingly inevitable senescence of humanity and brought about the possibilities of a true galactic culture. In the 10,000 years since the first Age of Space and that slow decline, humanity spread to the stars in vast waves of sublight colonization. Now, with planing, a faster than light travel drive, the Commonality has spread out from Old Earth, with a new strength, a new drive and new purpose.

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

Ria Bridges is an ex-pat Brit currently living on the east coast of Canada, along with 5 cats and a glorified budgie named Albert. When not reading and reviewing books on bibliotropic.net, Ria can often be found obsessively playing video games, being an amateur photographer, or experimenting with various fibre arts. Ria dreams of someday writing something of publishable quality, and then finding the courage to actually follow through and try to get it published.

Meep Girl

by Ria Bridges

MEEP!

The sound is loud enough to travel beyond the closed door of the training room, to reach the ears of the employees siting in the lounge, startling one. “What was that?”

“Some girl in the new-hire class,” is the reply.

A third person pipes up. “Meep Girl. Yeah, she’s got some medical thing that makes her do that, I guess.”

The first person laughs. “Seriously? There’s no such thing, right?” She pauses, considering. “Is there? That’s just so weird!”

I’m sitting nearby, quiet, half afraid to speak up because I don’t want the focus of the conversation to shift to me, cowardly in the way that I won’t say, “It’s called Tourette’s syndrome, guys, and I’ve got it too.”
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Convention Attention: Anime Midwest

Earlier this month, my husband and I attended Anime Midwest, in Chicago. As the name implies, the majority of guests, panels, and activities had a connection to Japanese anime shows and movies, Japanese culture, and Japanese fashion. Special guests included voice actors Caitlin Glass, Sonny Strait, Greg Ayres, Alexis Tipton, and Johnny Yong Bosch, the famous Japanese fashion brand Baby the Stars Shine Bright, and a number of independent fashion designers. There were also steampunk and comedy based musical guests, gaming experts on hand, webcomic artists and authors, and Japanese weaponry experts. If I listed all the panelists and other guests, you’d still be reading this column three hours from now
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Robin Hobb (penname for Megan Lindholm) is a globally recognized, acclaimed writer. Her tales of Fitzchivalry Farseer are some of the most beloved fantasies on the shelves. She’s written two trilogies about the Royal Bastard and has begun a third trilogy which is being called “Fitz and the Fool.”  Here at the Completist, I’ve tried to feature authors who may have flown under the radar but this time around, I’m featuring a series that doesn’t necessarily feature the author’s best known character. Admittedly, Robin Hobb is far from such an “under the radar” author. (At one point in time, there was talk of her outselling George R.R. Martin in Europe). With that, let me introduce you to Bingtown, a port/trading city south of the Six Duchies (the primary location of the novels featuring FitzChivalry Farseer) and the primary setting for “The Liveship Traders” trilog. Like some previous installments of this column, it has been quite a while since I read these books (I read them as each book was published 1998, 1999, 2000), but much of the emotional impact of the novels remains very strongly with me.

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Recent Graphic Novel Reads of Interest

After spending all of my previous column focused on the comics of Joe R. Lansdale, I’ve decided to devote this entire missive to recent reads.

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

Minnesota dwelling Ex-pat New Yorker Paul Weimer is a Hugo Nominated podcaster [The Skiffy and Fanty Show 2014], SF Signal Irregular, Genre reviewer/columnist & writer. When he isn’t doing all of that, he loves photography and playing and talking about roleplaying games. You can find him on Twitter, and commenting on genre blogs far and wide.

Rolling Perception plus Awareness with Characters with Special Needs

by Paul Weimer

In roleplaying games, players inhabit other characters, other people, in other worlds. Wizards in a city in a desert, fighting a battle against the incoming horde of the Sand Sultan. A sword swinging barbarian delving into an ancient maze of tunnels called the “Londn Undrgrnd”. The pilot of a starship full of rogues and freebooters, the kind of woman who has the engines hot for the inevitably necessary getaway. The gnomish clockmaker, building golems to defend his allies. The Paladin of a Goddess of Law, who fights for justice not only on the tourney field, but in the Courts as well. Characters of all sorts of ethnicities, races, species and genders.

Is playing a character without legs, or with a mental disability, so different than these? Sometimes, when you roll perception plus awareness, you’re rolling for a character who has special needs. The one-eyed archer. The wheelchaired mutant with psychokinetic powers. The police officer, former army veteran, with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The dark elf cleric, an exile to the surface world, who is severely weakened by sunlight.
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SF/F Crowd Funding Roundup For 7/22/2014

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 Max Gladstone! – Sarah Chorn


Max Gladstonehas taught in southern Anhui, wrecked a bicycle in Angkor Wat, and been thrown from a horse in Mongolia. Max graduated from Yale University, where he studied Chinese. You can find out more about him, and his books on his website.

Life’s Objectivity

by Max Gladstone

Life’s not as objective as we imagine.

An airplane transfer is a pleasant brisk walk—or an infuriating ordeal if you have a bad knee or a degenerated disc. An easy climb may be impossible for someone without legs, or not, if they have the right prosthetic. A ten pound book bag is a trivial burden for some and back-wrenching for others. A dyslexic person and a speed reader occupy different spaces of possibility. Depending on one’s position in the world, a hundred dollars may be a nice dinner for two, a life-changing amount of money, or an insignificant fraction of a dividend payment. Some people respond to deadlines with grim determination and gritted teeth. Others lie sleepless for a month before an important meeting, and comparison-shop earplugs and blackout curtains.
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It’s been a couple of months since the last installment of the Indie Author Spotlight, but we are back with a new author and interview! After spending quite some time searching for a new book and reading a plethora of boring synopses and poor reviews, I decided I would narrow my search: I wanted to find a female author. Cue M. Orenda.

When I stumbled upon Orenda’s first (and only at the moment) novel, Fort Liberty, Vol. 1, there were four factors that made it easy for me to choose her book: military science fiction, great reviews, a cool cover — reminiscent of many comics, which makes complete sense when reading the action sequences — and finally, selflessness. What do I mean by selflessness? Well, M. Orenda uses her talents as a writer to help support others. As it states under the book’s rundown, “All proceeds from the Fort Liberty Series go to support non-profit organizations focused on helping US Veterans and their families.” Wow, real altruism at its finest!

So, what is Fort Liberty about? Check it out:
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