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Sure, we’d all like to own a Quidditch broom or a crystal ball, but what magical item would you want the most? That was our esteemed panel’s challenge this week. Next week we ask a new set of panelists about their favorite SF devices.

Q: What magical item, artifact, weapon, etc., from the world of fantasy fiction would you most like to own? Why? What would you do with it?

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In episode 234 of the SF Signal Podcast Patrick Hester, Django Wexler, Cat Rambo, Jason Hough, and Kevin Hearne discuss how the popularity of science fiction and fantasy, varies based on the medium – and how they’ve flipped over time.

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THE CRAFT: Cat Rambo on Plot

The Craft is a column that explores the writing process, each month focusing on a different aspect of the craft. This month I asked Cat Rambo, the author of Near + Far, Eyes Like Sky And Coal And Moonlight, and Creating an Online Presence (Careerbuilding for Writers), about plot. Here’s what she had to say…


James Aquilone: What is a plot?

Cat Rambo: To me, it’s the way the story is structured. Not just the events that make up the story, but their arrangement as well: the pace and way in which information is parceled out to the reader.
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MIND MELD: Why are Anthologies Important?

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This week, we asked our panelists the following:

Q: Why are anthologies important for writers and readers of Speculative Fiction? What have been some of your favorite anthologies?

Here’s what they said:

Benjanun Sriduangkaew
Benjanun Sriduangkaew likes airports, bees, and makeup. Her works can be found in Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and anthologies such as End of the Road and Clockwork Phoenix 4.

I adore anthologies. As a reader still new to speculative fiction, it’s a quick way to discover writers, both established and up-and-coming, in one go. In any anthology though there’s a unifying theme there is also usually a huge range of styles, forms, and perspectives – diversity in every sense of the word. It can be exciting compared to reading a novel by a familiar writer; there’s something new every time you reach the end of a story and turn the page. Rapid-fire and heady!

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In episode 204 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester sneaks into an unused programming room to chat with the editor, publisher, and several contributing authors of the Beyond the Sun anthology, out from Fairwood Press.
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MIND MELD: Great SF/F Stories By Women

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Recently, Ian Sales posted an article on his website called Toward 100 Great SF Short Stories by Women. We thought this would be a great question for our Mind Meld panelists and so we’ve leveraged the question:

Q: What stories do you think belong on a “100 Great SF/F Stories by Women” list?

Here’s what they said:
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Note: this review originally appeared on the blog of Starship Reckless, as part of a series in which Athena Andreadis discusses works of the contributors to The Other Half of the Sky.

Shimmering Kaleidoscopes: Cat Rambo’s “Near + Far”

by Athena Andreadis

Cat Rambo’s recent collection, Near + Far (Hydra House, $16.95 print, $6.99 digital), is a tête-bêche book containing 2×12 stories of wildly different lengths that previously appeared in such venues as Abyss & Apex, Clarkesworld, Clockwork Phoenix, Crossed Genres, Daily SF and Lightspeed.

Before I discuss the stories themselves, I’ll mention two secondary but important aspects of the book. One is the attention paid to the presentation; as one example, the text ornaments are almost distracting in their beauty. The other is that each story has an afterword in which Rambo gives its backstory and worldpath. Personally, I greatly enjoy such fore/afterwords (I still fondly recall Harlan Ellison’s needle-sharp, needling introductions) and find that they invariably deepen my understanding and appreciation of the tale – provided that the writer knows their craft. Which brings us to the content of the collection.
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(Cover image for Nebula Awards Showcase 2013 by Julie Dillon)

REVIEW SUMMARY:  The seven stories short-listed for this year’s Nebula Award for Short Story demonstrate that the medium remains a strong and effective method of telling good stories.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:  Aging, death, child care, cultural identity, the importance of books, the price of true love and other pertinent life issues are examined against the backdrop of science fictional and fantasy settings in these seven short stories.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Each nominated story possesses its own strengths; wide variety of style and subject matter; emphasis on the human condition.
CONS: Readers who primarily enjoy fantasy may be disappointed to find that six of the seven stories have a science fictional bent; the judges did not make their task easy when narrowing it down to these seven entries.
BOTTOM LINE:  Take advantage of the fact that these stories are all available free online.  SFF readers exhibit a range of tastes and there is arguably something for most readers to enjoy from this solid group of nominees.

Last week the nominations were announced for this year’s Nebula Awards.  The Forty-Eighth Nebula Awards Weekend will be held May 16-19th, 2013.  Details concerning the awards weekend can be found here.  I have been hosting Short Fiction Friday for a month now, featuring a different current issue of a short fiction magazine each week.  With the announcement of these nominations I thought it would be fun to read the Short Story nominees and offer up a brief description of each one.  I was initially hesitant to provide a rating for these stories because each is a strong contender.   Here as always I made an effort to rate the stories according to a combination of my own personal experience in reading them as well as stepping back to make a more general view of how I accessed each story’s effectiveness judged solely against itself.   With this year’s nominees I firmly believe you could get seven different people in a room and each one could passionately argue for a different story to be crowned the winner.  I do not envy the judges their task.

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In episode 177 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester and Jaym Gates gather panelists to talk about the past, present and future of Cyberpunk.

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MIND MELD: Great Books to Read During Winter

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This week, in time for the change of season, we asked about Winter:

In the Northern Hemisphere, the weather is turning colder, and the season of Winter is upon us. What are your favorite genre stories and novels that revolve around the coldest season. How do they make use of the season, and how do they evoke it?
This is what they had to say…
Gwenda Bond
Gwenda Bond’s debut novel, Blackwood, was a September 2012 launch title for Strange Chemistry, the new YA imprint of Angry Robot Books. Her next novel, The Woken Gods, will be released in July 2013. She is also a contributing writer for Publishers Weekly, regularly reviews for Locus, guest-edited a special YA issue of Subterranean Online, and has an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in a hundred-year-old house in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband, author Christopher Rowe, and their menagerie. Visit her online at her website (www.gwendabond.com) or on twitter (@gwenda).

The first novel that leaps to mind is Geraldine McCaughrean’s The White Darkness. It’s a wonderfully bizarre tour de force about a girl, Sym, who is obsessed with all things Antarctic, including her imaginary boyfriend, the deceased Captain Lawrence “Titus” Oates. Her mad “uncle” takes her on a once in a lifetime trip there, which turns out to be a nightmare. He believes in the hollow Earth theory and that they will prove it’s true. Along the way, McCaughrean masterfully reveals more and more about Sym’s own past and her phony uncle. Sym’s voice is arresting despite how very in her own head she is—and it’s perhaps because of how that works with a backdrop that is spectacularly isolated and physically challenging. Some people may argue this isn’t a true fantasy, but I would debate them (citing spoilers), and regardless of which of us won I maintain it’d still be of interest to many genre readers because of the hollow Earth fringe science driving the plot.

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Cat Rambo lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest. Her latest collection, Near + Far, appears this month from Seattle-based Hydra House Books.

SF Signal had the opportunity to talk with her about shared worlds and The Fathomless Abyss, a shared world anthology featuring stories from Cat, Mike Resnick, Jay Lake, J.M. McDermott, Mel Odom, Brad Torgersen and Philip Athans. In The Fathomless Abyss, a bottomless pit opens who-knows-when onto who-knows-where, just long enough for new people from a thousand different worlds and a million different times to fall in and join the fight for survival in a place where the slightest misstep means an everlasting fall into eternity. In this world, the laws of physics work against you, there’s no way out, and time means nothing…


CHARLES TAN: Hi Cat! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, how did you get involved with The Fathomless Abyss series?

CAT RAMBO: I came into the project a little later than the rest of the collaborators, as a substitute for Ken Scholes, who’d had to drop out. Ken thought it’d be nice to have a female author in the mix.  Because I’m conscious of that, I actually have been having a little fun by creating titles with Freudian implications. First A Querulous Flute of Bone, and now the two novellas, A Seed on the Wind and A Cavern Ripe with Dreams.

I was a little dubious about the world at first, because it’s such a crazy idea. But I was so pleased with how A Querulous Flute turned out that I’ve become a convert.

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TOC: ‘Near + Far’ by Cat Rambo

Cat Rambo has posted the cover art and sent along the table of contents for her upcoming collection Near + Far, a publication containing two individual collections that harken back to the days of the Ace doubles:

Here’s the book description:

Whether set in terrestrial oceans or on far-off space stations, Cat Rambo’s masterfully told stories explore themes of gender, despair, tragedy, and the triumph of both human and non-human alike. Cats talk, fur wraps itself around you, aliens overstay their welcome, and superheroes deal with everyday problems. Rambo has been published in Asimov’s, Weird Tales, and Tor.com among many others. She was an editor for Fantasy Magazine, has written numerous nonfiction articles and interviews, and has volunteered time with Broad Universe and Clarion West. She has been shortlisted for the Endeavour Award, the Million Writers Award, the Locus Awards, and most recently a World Fantasy Award.

And here’s the table of contents…
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