[GUEST POST] Emma Jane Holloway on Nineteenth-Century Science and Spiritualism


Ever since childhood, Emma Jane Holloway refused to accept that history was nothing but facts prisoned behind the closed door of time. Why waste a perfectly good playground coloring within the timelines? Accordingly, her novels are filled with whimsical impossibilities and the occasional eye-blinking impertinence-but always in the service of grand adventure. Struggling between the practical and the artistic — a family tradition, along with ghosts and a belief in the curative powers of shortbread — Emma Jane has a degree in literature and job in finance. She lives in the Pacific Northwest in a house crammed with books, musical instruments, and half-finished sewing projects. In the meantime, she’s published articles, essays, short stories, and enough novels to build a fort for her stuffed hedgehog. She is the author of The Baskerville Affair trilogy, consisting of A Study in Silks, A Study in Darkness, and A Study in Ashes (available December 31). You can vist Emma Jane on the web at www.emmajaneholloway.com and on Facebook.

Ghosts in the Laboratory: Nineteenth-Century Science and Spiritualism

by Emma Jane Holloway

Whether we like to admit it or not, the dividing line between fact and fantasy is a moving target. Our ancestors mucked about with alchemy, phrenology and table-rapping, and no doubt we’re doing something our great-grandchildren will find quaint. The definition of “science” is subject to interpretation over time.

I write Victorian-set steampunk with both mechanics and magic and my main character is the niece of Sherlock Holmes. Yes, mixing Holmes with the supernatural may sound odd, but back in the day of gaslight and corsets, laboratories and the land of spirit were far from strangers.

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

With all of the blockbuster, bestselling titles out there, and so many quality stories available, it can be easy for other titles to be overlooked, so this week, we asked our authors and panelists:

Q: What lesser-known books have you recently read that you think deserve more attention, and why?

Here’s what our panelists had to say…

Andrea Johnson
Andrea Johnson Andrea is the redhead behind Little Red Reviewer. She reads mostly scifi and fantasy, adores books that are older than she is and in her spare time enjoys experimenting in the kitchen. Someone at her day job recently told her she sounds taller on the phone.

Just reading this Mind Meld is going to make my TBR explode, isn’t it?

Everyone talks about Kage Baker’s Company series, but it’s a long series that has to be read in a certain order, making it look almost as intimidating as McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga (or moreso, since very few people will tell you what The Company series is actually about). Want just a taste to see if The Company schtick is for you, not to mention Baker’s writing style? Plant yourself in front of the short story collection In The Company of Thieves for a handful of short stories that take place in the world of The Company. There are contemporary tales, a comedy of errors, plenty of history fiction, and even a steampunk story. I can’t think of a better way to get introduced to Kage Baker if you’re not familiar with her work. I always get a little sad thinking about this series, because there will never be another book written in it.

And speaking of long intimidating series and authors who have passed away, I was insanely impressed with Iain Banks’ The Quarry. Lack of the famous middle initial means this isn’t a science fiction novel. It’s just a novel about a man’s last weekend with all his old friends, and his socially handicapped son. We get the story from the son’s point of view. When you hear the name Iain Banks, it’s so easy to jump right to “oh em gee, the Culture novels! You have to read The Culture novels!”. But what if you don’t want to read a Culture novel? What if you tried and you didn’t like them? The Quarry is all the Banks snark with none of the WTF.

On a much happier note is an anthology I just finished the other day – Sidekicks, edited by Sarah Hans. It’s from a smaller publisher, Alliteration Ink, and has very few big names to brag about in the table of contents. But that subject! Everyone loves a superhero movie (or at least that’s what IMDB tells me), but what about their sidekicks, their partners, their helpers, the guy or gal who gets the supersuit dry-cleaned and picks up coffee on the way to the Batcave? Some of the heroes know they’re in a partnership with their sidekick, other hero/sidekick relations are much more complicated. With far more depth and far less spandex than I expected, it was a very impressive collection. The sheer variety of hero/sidekick relationships and types of stories included makes this anthology worth some more mainstream attention.

Wow, I’ve been reading a TON of short fiction this year! My final book that I read recently that I think should get more attention is Clarkesworld Year Four, which includes all the original fiction published in Clarkesworld Magazine. It doesn’t matter how much screen-reading I do, I’ll always prefer a thinly sliced dead tree in my hands. Unfortunately, my propensity towards print makes it difficult to keep up with the all the short story magazines I enjoy, such as Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Apex. Getting a copy of Clarkesworld Year Four opened my eyes to fact that many magazines publish annual volumes of all of the original fiction that was published in their magazine and/or on their website. Can you say Best of Both Worlds? I get award winning and innovative short fiction, and a book in my hands! All the annual volumes of the short fiction magazines should be getting more attention.

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