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

Brandon Sanderson famously finished Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time while writers like Roger Zelazny (“Amber”) and George R.R. Martin (“A Song of Ice and Fire”) have said nobody will finish their series or continue their work. Would you want another writer to pick up an unfinished series by an author?

We asked this week’s panelists:

Q: Should unfinished series remain unfinished?

Here’s what they said…

Read the rest of this entry

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

“Let me buy you a pint, Elric…”

This week, we posed the following to our panelists:

Q: We’ve all encountered characters in stories and novels that we’ve felt a real connection to, and would love to chat with more. Maybe buy them a drink. What characters have you encountered in Fantasy and SF that you’d like to buy a pint for?

Read the rest of this entry

Hey, eBook Readers! There are 4 books by Bradley Beaulieu that you can pick up right now for 99 cents each!

The four books include his trilogy The Lays of Anuskaya and his short story collection:

This is part of the author’s Ides of March Sale, so beware: this great deal won’t last forever. Visit your favorte eBoook outlet or check out Bradley’s post for links to additional purchasing options, including buying direct from the author.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Nikandr and his fellow Anuskayans struggle to keep both war and cataclysm from destroying their world.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Excellent ending; conflict and stakes clearly laid out and followed through; strong worldbuilding and character development.
CONS: Some characters are cheated out of a more definite denouement; takes a long time to gain momentum.
BOTTOM LINE: A fine and fitting conclusion to the Lays of Anuskaya Trilogy.

The war between the superpower Yrstanla and The Duchy seems destined to go Yrstanla’s way unless their superior strength of arms can be blunted, turned aside, or tied up somewhere else. The wasting disease continues to ravage populations old and new alike. And, of course, The Rifts threatening the Duchy, Yrstanla and the rest of the world continue to open. And the power that opened them seeks to finish the job. Nikandr, Atiana and the rest of the Grand Duchy, and beyond, have a War to stop, the possible solution to the Rift problem to find and rescue, and a world to save before it tears itself apart on both the social and the literal level. But what sacrifices are going to be necessary, and will they be enough?

Read the rest of this entry

It’s almost a given these days, especially with fantasy books–you open up the front cover and an enormous map sprawls out before you, denoting various continents, kingdoms, murky forests, coastal ports, and all the other bits and jots composing the world. Sometimes these locales have colorful names, such as Shadowlands of the Dark Lord, Bottomless Pit of Apathy, and Do-Not-Go-Here-istan. Other times, they’re a gibberish of glottal coughs and apostrophes.

However they’re named, though, so often these maps and representative lands are simply indicative of where the story happens rather than what the story is about. They’re just a reference point for those readers who dearly want to know if the heroine’s quest to save a hapless prince from a dragon took her through the pleasant town of Orcsg’utyo’u or not.

What if we tried a different perspective? Let’s strap on our Boots of Anti-Blistering, grab a wizard’s walking stick, and head off across worlds where the geography is as integral to the plot as the main characters themselves.

Read the rest of this entry

REVIEW SUMMARY: Despite some clarity issues, this is a wonderful adventure.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Spurred by the murder of the Grand Duke, Prince Nikandr must find a way to avert hostilities and save the Grand Duchy from a horrible sickness.

MY REVIEW

PROS: A richly detailed unique setting, interesting ideas, challenging read, compelling characters, windships!
CONS: Clarity issues make it difficult to follow in spots, challenging read (it’s a pro and a con!)
BOTTOM LINE: There are a number of issues, but the price of admission is well worth the show.

Everyone who reads The Winds of Khalakovo can’t help but to marvel at the wonderful setting. The story takes place on an archipelago ruled by the Grand Duchy, a kingdom with a culture inspired by Tsarist Russia. From the names to the ceremonies, the Grand Duchy is a genuinely different society from what fantasy readers have become accustomed to. The Grand Duchy is spread across the sea, reliant on majestic airships for trade. Alongside the Russian themed Duchy, is the Aramahn a Middle Eastern centric populace, and the Maharraht a violent guerrilla movement that wishes to unseat the Grand Duchy from its throne. The culture clash, alongside varying belief systems and magic, give The Winds of Khalakovo an appealing personality that help carry the story even when other elements flag.

Read the rest of this entry

MIND MELD: Food in Science Fiction versus Fantasy

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

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…)
Read the rest of this entry

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/.

MIND MELD: SF/F Stories For English Lit Class

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

Last week I attended my son’s high school’s open house. In the English Literature class we were informed that the kids had started reading the Arthur Miller play The Crucible which the kids would enjoy because, in the teacher’s words, “It’s got witches and adultery.” Many SF/F stories have those elements (if not in the same form) but, of course, there is nary a SF/F book on the agenda for the year. And in any case, stories can be interesting to teenagers without either or both.

Q: If you were creating the syllabus for a high school (junior or senior) English Literature course, what SF/F stories do you think should be included?

Here’s what they said…

Kristine Smith
Kristine Smith was born in Buffalo, NY. She grew up in Florida, and graduated from the University of South Florida with a BS in Chemistry. She has spent almost her entire working career in manufacturing/R&D of one kind or another, and has worked for the same northern Illinois pharmaceutical company for 25 years. She is the winner of the 2001 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and is the author of the Jani Kilian SF series as well as a number of short stories. She is currently working on several projects, and wishes she possessed a time-turner.

My list is by no means extensive or complete, but I thought of stories that contained elements of North American–Mexican, Appalachian–folklore, or that discussed current events and issues–struggles with religion in everyday life, culture clashes and war, discrimination–in ways that weren’t preachy.

Elizabeth Moon: “Knight of Other Days” — one of my favorite stories by Moon. When I first read it, I got the sense of a subtle Twilight Zone/Outer Limits-type tale, grounded in the setting of a Texas border town. The blend of history, mystery, influence of Mexican culture, and legend of the Knights Templar combine to form a multi-layered tale.

Terry Pratchett: Small Gods, Jingo, Feet of Clay — religion, culture clash/war, discrimination, set in a world different enough from ours to qualify as fantasy yet similar enough to equate to everyday life, news headlines. One of Pratchett’s many writing gifts.

Manly Wade Wellman: John the Balladeer tales, esp “Vandy, Vandy” — the Southern/Appalachian folklore, and the sense of how events in history can take on a fantasy spin when some details are scrambled and others are associated with magical intervention. And in “Vandy, Vandy,” there’s a witch! Well, a warlock. And a King, of sorts.
Read the rest of this entry

Authors Stephen Gaskell & Bradley Beaulieu are making their book Strata available as a free Kindle download at Amazon US and Amazon UK — but only for a limited time! Download the book either today or tomorrow.

Here;s the description:

Strata is a stand-alone novella by two Writers of the Future Award winners.

It’s the middle of the twenty-second century. Earth’s oil and gas reserves have been spent, but humankind’s thirst for energy remains unquenched. Vast solar mining platforms circle the upper atmosphere of the sun, drawing power lines up from the stellar interior and tight-beaming the energy back to Earth. For most of the platforms’ teeming masses, life is hard, cramped–and hot. Most dream of a return Earthside, but a two-way ticket wasn’t part of the benefits package, and a Sun-Earth trip doesn’t come cheap.

Kawe Ndechi is luckier than most. He’s a gifted rider–a skimmer pilot who races the surface of the sun’s convection zone–and he needs only two more wins before he lands a ticket home. The only trouble is, Kawe’s spent most of his life on the platforms. He’s seen the misery, and he’s not sure he’s the only one who deserves a chance at returning home.

That makes Smith Pouslon nervous. Smith once raced the tunnels of fire himself, but now he’s a handler, and his rider, Kawe, is proving anything but easy to handle. Kawe’s slipping deeper and deeper into the Movement, but Smith knows that’s a fool’s game. His own foray into the Movement cost him his racing career–and nearly his life–and he doesn’t want Kawe to throw everything away for a revolt that will never succeed.

One sun. Two men. The fate of a million souls.

Remeber, Kindle eBooks work not only on Kindle devices, but also on devices that run Kindle software, like computers and smartphones.

Bradley Beaulieu informs us that for the next couple of days you can get Strata, the story he co-authored with Stephen Gaskell, for the Kindle for the low, low price of free!

Strata is a stand-alone novella by two Writers of the Future Award winners.

It’s the middle of the twenty-second century. Earth’s oil and gas reserves have been spent, but humankind’s thirst for energy remains unquenched. Vast solar mining platforms circle the upper atmosphere of the sun, drawing power lines up from the stellar interior and tight-beaming the energy back to Earth. For most of the platforms’ teeming masses, life is hard, cramped–and hot. Most dream of a return Earthside, but a two-way ticket wasn’t part of the benefits package, and a Sun-Earth trip doesn’t come cheap.

Kawe Ndechi is luckier than most. He’s a gifted rider–a skimmer pilot who races the surface of the sun’s convection zone–and he needs only two more wins before he lands a ticket home. The only trouble is, Kawe’s spent most of his life on the platforms. He’s seen the misery, and he’s not sure he’s the only one who deserves a chance at returning home.

That makes Smith Pouslon nervous. Smith once raced the tunnels of fire himself, but now he’s a handler, and his rider, Kawe, is proving anything but easy to handle. Kawe’s slipping deeper and deeper into the Movement, but Smith knows that’s a fool’s game. His own foray into the Movement cost him his racing career–and nearly his life–and he doesn’t want Kawe to throw everything away for a revolt that will never succeed.

One sun. Two men. The fate of a million souls.

This deal is avaialble for readers in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Grab it while you can!

MIND MELD MAKEUP: Who is Your Favorite SF/F Villain, Bradley Beaulieu?

We missed including Bradley Beaulieu’s response in yesterday’s mind meld…so today we’re passing along his response to this question:

Q: Who are the most memorable villains and antagonists you’ve encountered in fantasy and science fiction? What make them stand out?

Here’s what he said…
Read the rest of this entry