These three books publishing at the start of 2015 (among others) have piqued my interest. Right, because I don’t own enough books to read already.
In this series, I ask various publishing professionals (including authors, bloggers, editors, agents etc.) to recommend 2-3 authors or books they feel haven’t received the recognition they deserve.
Today’s recommendations are by Sarah Knight. Sarah Knight is a senior editor at Simon & Schuster, where, in addition to her regular S&S list, she also oversees the new speculative fiction imprint Simon451, which launches its first set of titles in October 2014 (among them Gillian Anderson’s debut SF thriller, A Vision of Fire). She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their ill-behaved cat, Doug, and goes by @mcsnugz on Twitter.
Blackbirds is the first in the Miriam Black series. Here’s what the book description:
Miriam Black knows when you will die.
Still in her early twenties, she’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name.
Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. But Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim. No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.
File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Touch Of Death | The Future Is Written | Free Way | Surviving ]
As Chuck warns, there’s no guarantee that this is a done deal…but there are some good signs: the novel has been very well received; the executive producer/showrunner tied to the project (John Shiban) has had success at Starz with Da Vinci’s Demons; Shiban himself adapted the book; Chuck himself says that the project is an “appropriately faithful” adaptation of the book.
The Miriam Black books by Chuck Wendig have made me look at disabilities in a completely different way. Whether or not you think Miriam Black is disabled, or just inconvenienced by her ability to see how people die, Wendig does a great job at showing how Miriam is basically incapable of functioning normally in society. Her additional ability has so overwhelmed her, that it has made her a complete loner, absolutely isolated, and incredibly caustically awkward. She can’t hold a job, or stay in one place. She has no home, no friends, no sense of security or stability. All of the things that we enjoy so much in our lives are absolutely absent from hers, and those absences have shaped her in very brutal ways that have left incredibly profound scars.
[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
This week on The SF Signal Mind Meld, the Melders got mythical:
Here’s what they said:
Because they’re the original stories.
Right? We’re going to take as accepted the idea that stories have the power to change the world. That stories are how we communicate and share ideas – in that sense, storytelling is a powerful memetics delivery system by which we push enlightenment (and increasingly, entertainment) onto one another.
The original stories were the stories of us trying to explain our world. It’s mythology to us, now, but to the people telling those stories, the tales delivered a kind of enlightenment (and I’m sure given some of the hilariously sordid melodrama of mythology, they were also entertainment). Mythology explained everything from why the sun rose and fell to why mankind did all the curious and seemingly inexplicable things that it did.
All we’re really trying to do as storytellers is explain ourselves and say things about the world. (This is, of course, an expression of the literary theme – the theme being the argument we’re trying to make with our narrative.) That’s what connects us to the myths of the past and more importantly, the myth-tellers. It’s no surprise then that sometimes our fiction – say, Gaiman’s American Gods – re-explores those ideas and those characters in fresh, fascinating ways.
Though it’s also no surprise that we seek to make our own mythologies, either — mythologies either cobbled together from what has already come (repurposing the myths and divinities of the past is by no means unique to this age!) or pulled fresh out of the ether. Though there you’ll find a troubling idea – future humans digging up a copy of our fantasy fiction (the best or the worst of it) and thinking, This must be the mythology of the 21st century barbarians. A religion based on Tolkien or Rowling? Or a religion based on Twilight? Hmm…
Here is the cover art and synopsis of the upcoming novel Gods and Monsters: Unclean Spirits by Chuck Wendig.
Here’s the synopsis:
The gods and goddesses are real. And they are here on Earth.
A polytheistic pantheon—a tangle of gods and divine hierarchies—once kept the world at an arm’s length, warring with one another, using mankind’s belief and devotion to give them power. In this way, the world had balance: a grim and bloody balance, but a balance just the same.
But a single god sought dominance and gathered his armies of angels behind him to oust the other gods in a shattering of the cosmic order, a sundering of the divinities. As Lucifer fell to Hell, the gods and goddesses fell to earth.
And it’s there they remain—seemingly eternal, masquerading as humans and managing only a fraction of the power they once had as gods. They fall to old patterns, collecting sycophants and worshippers in order to war against one another in the battle for the hearts of men. They bring with them their children young and old, demi-gods who are half-human, half-divine. And they bring with them their monstrous races—crass abnormalities created to serve the gods. Undead eunuch magicians. Rampaging minotaurs. Shapeshifting yokai.
They would do anything to usher in a rebirth of the old ways. To reclaim the seat of true power.
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Abaddon; Original edition (May 7, 2013)
- ISBN-10: 1781080968
- ISBN-13: 978-1781080962
Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. He’s the author of Blackbirds, Double Dead and Dinocalypse Now, and is co-writer of the short film Pandemic, the feature film Him, and the Emmy-nominated digital narrative COLLAPSUS. He lives in Pennsylvania with wife, taco terrier, and tiny human.
SF Signal: Hi Chuck, thanks for taking a couple of moments to talk about Blackbirds with us! To start off, what can you tell us about your background? How did you get into writing in the first place?
Chuck Wendig: Thank you for having me! I don’t know that you… “get into writing” so much as, one day you write and if you like it, you write some more, and if you do that enough eventually someone’s kind enough to read and maybe publish your work. A lot of it is honestly just bouncing around, writing my fool head off. Games, scripts, articles, film stuff, and now, novels. I love to do it and a day writing is, for me, a damn good day.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Miriam Black knows how and when you’re going to die, just by a simple touch. When she meets a truck driver who’s death she’s going to be present at, she’s pulled into a plot that will test her gifts and outlook on life.
PROS: Strong, character driven novel, with a vivid, high-speed pace.
CONS: Very dark throughout, overly so at points, with a couple of untied ends.
BOTTOM LINE: Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds came highly recommended by a number of friends over the past summer, and after picking up a copy and reading through the first couple of pages, I can see why. It’s gripping from the get go, and jumps out of the gate and never slows down. While none of the characters in Blackbirds are particularly likeable, it’s hard not to root for anti-hero Miriam as she’s pulled into a plot that twists her around into knots.
With just a touch, Miriam Black can see when and how people will die. It’s a troubling gift, and its kept her up on the road, right on the ragged edge of the Mid-Atlantic coast. She’s used to the deaths that she can’t prevent, but it’s particularly troubling when she comes across a truck driver who calls out her name when he’s murdered in just a couple of weeks. In short order, she finds herself in the company of a con man and tracked by a violent pair of agents for an even scarier individual who’ll stop at nothing to take back what’s his…
Pfft. Who gives two figs about noble and courageous heroes with their shiny armor and white horses and unwavering devotion to all that is pure and noble? (Also, where would you get the two figs? What is this, a farmer’s market?) Here. Take this quick multiple choice quiz which is in no way biased.
Heroes are often:
- Able to make us cry into our pillows because we’re so weak and fallible in comparison
- All of the above
Fortunately, there’s a handy solution to your nightly bouts of pillow-weeping. The anti-hero. That rough-edged character with enough faults in their soul to qualify for earthquake monitoring. Who doesn’t play the good cop/bad cop routine, but prefers the “beat the living snot out of prisoners until they whimper for mercy” technique. Who is lured through life by greed, vanity, and a healthy appetite for the type of “medicines” you have to put in quotation marks. The person who still somehow dredges up enough begrudging morality from the muck of their being to do what’s right, even if doing so includes pit stops for binge-drinking bouts, swearing contests, strip-joint sleepovers, and plenty of other activities they don’t teach you in Sunday School.
The anti-hero. Ah, how we love to hate them, hate to love them, and whatever other emotional mishmash we can whip up. Shall we meet a few and see which one turns out to be the most beloved scoundrel of them all? Oh, let’s do.