Marty Halpern shares the cover for the upcoming Daryl Gregory novella We Are All Completely Fine.

Here’s what it’s about:
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Rising Shadow has posted the cover art and synopsis of the upcoming novel Afterparty by Daryl Gregory.

Here’s the synopsis:
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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

This week we asked out panelists the following question:

Q: With the prevalence of ebooks and audiobooks, how has your sf/f reading and buying habits changed, if at all?

Here’s what they said…

Laura Lam

Laura Lam was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside of the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams. She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. At times she misses the sunshine.

I don’t listen to many audiobooks, but ebooks have definitely changed my reading habits. As a combination of being a poor university student and living in tiny quarters, I avoided buying most books I read because there would be nowhere to store 100 books a year. I limited myself to the occasional splurge but mainly relied on libraries, friends, etc. Now, I still live in tiny quarters but I’m not as poor as I was as a student. I buy a lot more of my books as ebooks, and I’m a lot more diverse in my reading. I also read more books and read them quicker because I don’t have to lug myself to the library or bookstore or wait for the book to arrive. If I read a great review of an SFF book, 5 minutes later I can be curled up on my sofa reading it with a nice cup of tea. I’m able to support authors I admire without running out of room to turn around in my tiny flat. At first, I found reading on the Kindle distracting, but now I’m used to it, and I could never go back to not having an e-reader.
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MIND MELD: A Look at Genre Reviews

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

Book reviews have been as contentious since the days of mimeographed fanzines. In the age of the Internet and an explosion of blogs, Amazon, and more, reviews are more important than ever. But what makes reading and trusting a review worth it?

So we asked this week’s panelists…

Q: What does a good review of a piece of genre work do well? Where do reviewers fall down on the job? How can reviewers improve their craft for the benefit of readers, writers and fans?

Here’s what they said…

Rachel Caine
Rachel Caine is the author of more than twenty novels, including the Weather Warden series. She was born at White Sands Missile Range, which people who know her say explains a lot. She has been an accountant, a professional musician, and an insurance investigator, and still carries on a secret identity in the corporate world. She and her husband, fantasy artist R. Cat Conrad, live in Texas with their iguanas, Popeye and Darwin; a mali uromastyx named (appropriately) O’Malley; and a leopard tortoise named Shelley (for the poet, of course).

Most often where reviewers go astray for me is when they forget their core mission. I’ve read a lot of reviews that were more about the reviewer’s wickedly sharp language skills than about what they were critiquing … it becomes form over substance, and while it may be entertaining, it isn’t informative, and it doesn’t help the reader decide whether or not the book (or film, or music) would be right for their needs.

Every book (or film, or concert, or album) is a personal experience, so it’s fine to talk about how the work moved you, and why. But please, reviewers, if you consistently have a burning, fiery hatred for what you’re seeing in the genre (or medium) you’re reviewing, maybe you’re just burned out, or the style has moved past you …(it does this for writers, too, you’re hardly alone). Rather than just become the surly curmudgeon, find another thing to be passionate about — in another genre maybe. You’ll feel better, and so will your readers.

And on the flip side, if you love everything you read/see/hear, maybe you’re not quite critical *enough.* Being a critic isn’t about making friends, it’s about telling the truth even when it’s a harsh truth. Don’t be faint-hearted. You won’t last long if you are.

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Words and Pictures: Planet of the Apes and Elephantmen

Two comics based on an identical science fictional trope: humanoid animals walking, talking and fighting. Both pretty good, but doing radically different things with that basic idea.

Planet of the Apes, Vol 1: The Long War

written by Daryl Gregory, art by Carlos Magno, published by Boom! Studios

This new ongoing series is written by the (rather talented) speculative fiction author Daryl Gregory and drawn by Carlos Magno. I figured it might be worth a try, the whole apes-as-overlords thing being one of the most fun ideas in science fiction. Honestly, if you don’t get a little buzz out of gorillas riding horses and brandishing guns as they herd humans around … well, I don’t know if I can help you.

The story’s set 1300 years before Charlton Heston’s unscheduled arrival in the 1968 movie. Ape society is at its steampunky zenith, with humans making up a somewhat rebellious underclass. Things turn ugly when the Lawgiver, an ape champion of species equality, is mown down by a human assassin wielding lost ancient technology (specifically, a machine gun).

What follows is an entertaining, if not yet especially surprising, yarn as ape and human authorities hunt the assassin and the simmering pot of ape-human relations boils over. (Actually, one surprising thing, which you rarely see in any kind of fiction: the leading female human protagonist is heavily pregnant. Intriguing.)

The mystery of the assassin’s identity won’t puzzle readers for long, but it’s not really supposed to. This is less of a ‘Whodunnit?’ and more of a ‘Let’s get this revolution started!’ thing. It’s traditional, straightforward comics story-telling; a long form linear narrative, adeptly paced and splendidly illustrated (some gorgeous ape imagery here). Early days, but there’s enough potential to persuade me back for at least one more volume, to see how things develop.

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INTERVIEW: Daryl Gregory

[Editor's Note: A while back, SF Signal published a Mind Meld feature on Tomorrow's Big Genre Stars. Patrick at Stomping on Yeti has been profiling these writers and has agreed to cross-post them here.]

There’s been a brief hiatus of Keeping An Eye On… entries as I’ve already had the pleasure of talking to most of the authors on SF Signal’s Watchlist and there are only a few authors still escaping my completist grasp. When I first saw the list I checked out a few of the most repeated names that I hadn’t heard of. At the top of the list was an author by the name of Daryl Gregory. A little google research led me to an unassuming book by the title of Pandemonium. A few hundred pages later, I had finished my favorite read of 2008.

So it was no suprise when Pandemonium, Gregory’s debut novel was nominated for the World Fantasy Award, The Shirley Jackson Award for best dark fantasy or horror novel, the Locus Award for Best First Novel, The Mythopeic Award for Best Adult Fantasy Novel, and helped Gregoy take home the 2009 Crawford award for “outstanding new fantasy writer.”

And that was just his first novel, not counting any of his other shorter work which has been nominated for various awards as well. It might sound like I’m a huge fan of Daryl’s but I actually hate him. I read his stuff and I know that I could never write anything of comparable quality so I probably should just give up trying now. He’s a veritable SoulCrusher.

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to quit reading his stuff. I’m vitriolic not stupid.

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REVIEW: The Devil’s Alphabet by Daryl Gregory

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A young man goes home to wrestle with his issues, while his home has to wrestle with even larger issues.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Strong characters, world-building, mystery. SFnal elements perfectly complement the character-based parts of the story.

CONS: Main character can be hard to sympathize with, doesn’t quite live up to my favorite parts of Gregory’s short fiction.

BOTTOM LINE: The strengths of this book vastly outweigh any reservations I may have about the future trajectory of the author’s literary career. Great for near-future sf readers who appreciate world-building and unique characters.

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We’ve already covered first science fiction books, now it’s time to flip the coin with this week’s panelists. So we asked them:

Q: What book introduced you to fantasy?

Check below to see their responses. And tell us what book got you hooked!

Brandon Sanderson
Brandon Sanderson is the author of Elantris and the Mistborn trilogy.

Brandon was chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. That book, The Gathering Storm will be available in October 2009 and can be sampled on Tor.com.

The first fantasy I was ever given was Tolkien. For many, perhaps, that would be the end of the story. But I wasn’t a terribly good reader at the time, and though I read and enjoyed the The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings was like a big brick wall. I slammed right into it and couldn’t get past the barrow scene.

And so, I figured fantasy was boring stuff and went back to video games. (Atari 2600–state of the art.)

The real breakthrough came when I hit 8th grade. A teacher assigned me to do a book report, and I tried with all my conniving little heart to get her to let me do mine on one of the Three Investigators novels (which I’d enjoyed reading in second or third grade.) The result of this little power struggle was me, sullenly slinking to the back of the room where she kept her cart of books, bearing the instructions that I HAD to pick one of those to read.

And there, sitting in full Michael-Whelan-Covered-Glory, was Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly. I think angels might have sung (though it was probably the school choir class next door.) Anyway, that was beginning of the end for me. I LOVED that book; and right next to it in the card catalogue at school was a listing for Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey.

Eddings, Melanie Rawn, and Williams came next. I was thoroughly a fantasy super-geek by the time 1990 rolled around, and Eye of The World was published.

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