Mark Chadbourn’s AGE OF MISRULE trilogy is the first of three connected trilogies and it was the first set of his books to make their way to the US. As I’ve indicated in previous columns, the imprint Pyr made a nice splash in its early years through a combination of brilliant new voices (David Louis Edelman’s Jump 225 trilogy) and bringing books to US readers previously only available in other countries. I recalled reading about Chadbourn’s Celtic-flavored apocalyptic series and was curious about the books so I was very pleased when Lou Anders signed Chadbourn and published these books. What’s more, he had the three books wrapped in stunningly gorgeous artwork from John Picacio.

Enough preamble don’t you think? On to the books themselves …
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The Completist: Jeffrey Ford’s THE WELL-BUILT CITY

Strange landscapes, thinking about and manipulating the world in inventive ways, creatures not of this world … these are just some elements which can be hallmarks of the fantasy genre.  Jeffrey Ford has built a reputation on imagining stories on the border of reality and fantasy, real and surreal.  One of my favorite trilogies published in the past fifteen years is his Well Built City trilogy, consisting of The Physiognomy, Memoranda, and The Beyond, which has the gravitas of fable and hints of parable and surface which covers a world of deep imagination.  The series was initially published by Harper Collins’s then SF imprint, EOS books every two years, 1997, 1999, and 2001.
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John Picacio Announces The 2014 Calendar Kickstarter Project

Hugo Award-winning and Chesley Award-winning artist John Picacio has just announced a Kickstarter project for a new 2014 calendar. The campaign is seeking to fund a deluxe 2014 calendar featuring the first twelve of John Picacio’s Loteria artworks, including exclusive, limited, giant-sized Loteria art cards called Grandes.

I picked up last year’s calendar and it’s a fantastic, high-quality keeper.

Sez Picacio of this year’s calendar:

This full-color 12” x 12” 2014 wall calendar features all-new artwork inspired by Loteria, the classic Mexican game of chance.

My mother and grandmother played this with me, when I was a kid. It works very much like Bingo, but instead of letters and numbers, it uses little pictogram icons. I’m creating new art that reimagines these icons in my own way, and this calendar features the first of those works.

The design includes a big, bold centerfold poster of one of the artworks — and Kickstarter backers will decide which one is selected!

This is the second product from my company, Lone Boy, and I want the final result to be the best I can possibly give you. The calendar’s cover will be printed on 12 pt. premium paper stock, with a satin aqueous-coated finish, and the interior pages will be printed on 100# text.

You won’t find many art calendars where the artist has not only created the artwork, but also personally designed and overseen every detail. This is that kind of calendar. It’s available exclusively here, via this Kickstarter campaign. This is an offering from me to you, with all best wishes to you and yours for 2014.

Wanna see some of the artwork?
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Short Fiction Friday: Two “Wild Cards” Stories From Tor.com

REVIEW SUMMARY: Hot on the heels of a weekend spent at ConQuest 44 in Kansas City, MO, which featured both George R.R. Martin and Artist Guest of Honor John Picacio, I review the latest Wild Cards stories acquired and edited for Tor.com by Martin himself.  Artist John Picacio provides the accompanying art for both novelettes.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In the Wild Cards world of Jokers and Aces, two troubled individuals attempt to come to grips with their genetic traits and a world in which they are not entirely welcome.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Each author captures a strong sense of place; characters whose voices fit well; the first story sets up the Wild Cards world for those unfamiliar with the concept.
CONS: Cherie Priest’s story could have stretched on longer for a more fulfilling ending; Paul Cornell’s style was initially jarring until you realize just how well it fits the protagonist he created.
BOTTOM LINE: I am one of the newbies I referred to above.  These two stories were my first foray into the Wild Cards universe and I knew next to nothing about this shared world until I read these stories.  I was drawn to read these because of the serendipity mentioned in the opening and also because I have long been a fan of Priest’s writing and follow Paul Cornell on the SF Squeecast and thus have been curious about his writing.  Both stories are told with the precision and skill of seasoned authors and, as hand-picked representatives of GRRM’s creation, they do a really nice job of making an uniformed reader like me sit up and take notice.  As stand alone stories they each have strengths, but they also have weaknesses that I believe are more a product of being a part of a long-standing series than anything else.  Overall these two stories are a good introduction to the world of the Wild Cards and I suspect fans of the series will have much to like in this new material.

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I have had lovely covers. Prior to The Creative Fire, my best cover story was when publisher Sean Wallace told me he wanted to buy Mayan December by sending me the cover art (by Scott Grimando) and asking if I thought it would go with the book.  In every other case, I gave input about cover ideas on a basic form, but actually learned what the covers looked like by spotting them on Amazon. My experience with John Picacio’s stunning cover for The Creative Fire has been very different.  My belief is that the support we have each provided the other in talking about the book and the art benefited us both greatly.

I knew John, but not well. We had been introduced at conventions, had talked at parties, and would have recognized each other walking down the street, but we had never had a private conversation that lasted more than two minutes.  I admired his work.  I own his art book, Cover Story: The art of John Picacio. A signed print of his Asimov’s cover, Away from Here hangs on my office wall among other pieces of science fiction art.

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Hugo Award-winning and Chesley Award-winning artist John Picacio has just announced a Kickstarter project for a 2013 calendar featuring twelve of his fantastic illustrations.

This is the debut project of John’s new company, Lone Boy, and it promises to be something worth showing off. It’s being produced to John’s normal high quality standards. It will be printed on 12 pt. premium paper stock with a satin aqueous-coated finish, and is sure to look absolutely beautiful. John has not only illustrated the artwork that appears within the calendar, but he has also designed the calendar itself. One thing worth noting: whereas most calendars feature artwork occupying a 12″ x 12″ page, this calendar will devote more space to the stunning illustrations that are included.

What pieces are included? Glad you asked! Each month, you’ll see the artist’s cover illustration from the following:
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John Picacio Launches “Lone Boy”

Hot off the heels of his Chesley Award win, his Hugo award win and his announcement about the sale of limited-edition museum-quality prints, artist John Picacio has just announced the opening of his own company, Lone Boy.

The company’s first product offerings will include:

  • The 2013 John Picacio Calendar, featuring 12 full-color artworks by Picacio. This will available via Kickstarter later this month.
  • A new vision of the classic Mexican bingo game, Loteria, featuring all-new art by the artist in a 54-card deck. More details to come in December!

Don’t miss out: Sign up for the Lone Boy mailing list right now.

Chesley- and Hugo-winning artist John Picacio is now selling limited-edition prints from his vast portfolio. Selections include museum-quality prints in these categories:
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John Picacio has posted his cover art for Ian McDonald’s upcoming novel Be My Enemy, Book Two of the Everness series, which began with Planesrunner. Take a gander at a much more detailed version of the cover at John Picacio’s website.

Meanwhile, here’s the synopsis for Be My Enemy:

Everett Singh has escaped with the Infundibulum from the clutches of Charlotte Villiers and the Order, but at a terrible price. His father is missing, banished to one of the billions of parallel universes of the Panoply of All Worlds, and Everett and the crew of the airship Everness have taken a wild Heisenberg jump to a random parallel plane. Everett is smart and resourceful, and from the refuge of a desolate frozen Earth far beyond the Plenitude, where he and his friends have gone into hiding, he makes plans to rescue his family. But the villainous Charlotte Villiers is one step ahead of him. The action traverses three different parallel Earths: one is a frozen wasteland; one is just like ours, except that the alien Thryn Sentiency has occupied the Moon since 1964, sharing its technology with humankind; and one is the embargoed home of dead London, where the remnants of humanity battle a terrifying nanotechnology run wild. Across these parallel planes of existence, Everett faces terrible choices of morality and power. But he has the love and support of Sen, Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth, and the rest of the crew of Everness as he learns that the deadliest enemy isn’t the Order or the world-devouring nanotech Nahn—it’s himself.

Book info as per Amazon US:

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Pyr (September 4, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1616146788
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616146788

In episode 110 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester and Jaym Gates (continuing the discussion from Part 1) sit down with a mega panel of authors, editors and artists to discuss Sword and Sorcery for the modern reader.

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We turn our attention to book cover art this week. A good cover can mean more sales for a book…but what makes a good cover? We asked this week’s panelists this question:

Q: It’s generally well accepted that a book cover’s primary responsibility is to sell the book. But artistically speaking, what makes a successful sf/f/h book cover? Which recent sf/f/h books had a cover that blew you away?

Here’s what they said…

Dave Seeley
Dave Seeley was an award winning architect before punting and becoming an illustrator. Happy mucking about with both computers and oil paint, Dave’s SF work is heavily influenced by sci-fi film noir. Dave’s recent client’s include Baen Books, Tor, Random House, Lucasfilm, Harlequin-Gold Eagle, Solaris, Harper Collins, Pyr, Midway Games and Vivendi Universal. See his work, clients, and ramblings at www.daveseeley.com.

OK… honestly, I don’t see that many book covers because I’m reading tons of sf and f book manuscripts to then DO their covers…. so when I take a break, I don’t typically head off to the bookstore…. BUT, by way of homework for Mind Meld, this morning I stopped into my local Borders, and spent some time taking a look. In the end, I learned that I should do this more often, just to stay in touch with my market. First off, clearly I need to be doing more hot-babe-w-weapon +/- tattoo images, because clearly that’s half the market nowadays. (pic one)… Now I like those jackets as much as the next id-controlled red-blooded male…but if that is the context, then things that are NOT-context tend to stand out in my quest for “blew you away.” Also, I’ve learned to be leery of my id’s attraction to cover art, in that sometimes there’s a “honeymoon period.” ;-) Anyway… I decided to go hunt in the wild for these, and not just open my latest Spectrum, because a) I didn’t want to be filtered through the Spectrum judge panel, and b) I think that book design and type solution are critical to what makes a successful book cover…. and Spectrum doesn’t show me that. I even diligently wrote down all the designers names so I could credit them, and then promptly left it on the last shelf for the Border’s custodial staff, while snapping iPhone pics. I think that type/cover design is like parenting, where it can nurture, showcase and enhance the art if attended to diligently with an insightful light touch, and so easily frak it up otherwise.

So anyway…Here’s what I came up with…

Two, right off the bat by Greg Manchess. He does exceptionally good figure work (full figured?) with a perfectly spartan but juicy brushwork and fairly unfettered backgrounds…everything I do NOT do…hmmm.. Next up came Scott Fischer’s Titans of Chaos, with a beautifully rendered heroine in a levitation trance…. really exploring the boundaries of her image crop in an unconventional way. I also love Scott’s whimsical ornamentation and color use…

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Fiction and fantasy book covers can be as awe-inspiring as the stories they are trying to sell. We asked this week’s panelists:

Q: Which are the most memorable book covers in science fiction and fantasy? (You can name up to 10.)

Read on to see their favorites …and not-so-favorites…

Dave Seeley
Dave Seeley was an award winning architect before becoming a full time illustrator. Equally at home with traditional painting methods and photo/digital methods, Dave’s SF work is heavily influenced by sci-fi film noir. Dave’s work has been commissioned by Wizards of the Coast, White Wolf and Tor, among many others.

I’m a little out of my league given that I came to SF via art, rather than books… so most of my faves are pretty contemporary. But woe be me to pass up the mike. Here’s a list of representative book jackets , by some artists I love and think are stellar sci fi heads (in no particular order).

  1. The Sky People by Greg Manchess (Full artwork)
  2. Cities of the Moon by Donato Giancola (Full artwork)
  3. The Currents of Space by John Harris (Full artwork)
  4. Mission’s End by John Berkey (Full artwork)
  5. Variable Star and Quantumscapes by Stephan Martiniere (Full artwork)
  6. Species by H R Giger (Full artwork)
  7. Star Trek: Wounds by Rick Berry (Full artwork)
  8. Dark Horse Comics Dirty Pair by Adam Hughes (Full artwork)

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SF Tidbits for 10/7/09

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SF Tidbits for 9/4/09

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San Diego Comic-Con attracts between 125,000 to 140,000 attendees over a four-day weekend, whereas the World Science Fiction Convention draws anywhere from 4000 to 7000 attendees over a four-day weekend, depending on location. SDCC stays in one city and operates with a fairly stable staff structure from year to year, while Worldcon changes cities and staff lineups every year and is essentially a wholly volunteer, fan-organized effort. The two are almost impossible to compare, but we asked this week’s panelists:

Q: What are the lessons that Comic-Con and Worldcon can learn from the other? Is there in fact a generational migration of professionals and fans that are choosing to attend large, catch-all media cons like SDCC instead of Worldcon, and if so, why?

Read on to see the responses…

Diana Gill
Executive Editor Diana Gill runs Eos, the science fiction and fantasy imprint of William Morrow. She is the editor of New York Times bestselling authors Kim Harrison and Vicki Pettersson. Other authors with whom she has worked include Mario Acevedo, Jonathan Barnes, Trudi Canavan, Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Mary Stewart, Karen Traviss, and Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.

For the first time this year, I went to the San Diego Comic-con instead of Worldcon. I’d never been to Comic-con before, and while I’d been warned, the scale is truly beyond belief and has to be seen to be believed, from the hordes waiting to enter, the lines for anything and everything, and the mass of people and exhibits to the sheer spectacle.

Unlike Worldcon, attendees are younger–primarily teens up to 40s-somethings, including numerous families–and of all races.

And the joy and energy and excitement of the attendees reminded me of the first con I ever went to-a tiny Star Trek con outside of Philly, simply because it was there-where everything was new and so exciting and cool. I’m not ashamed to say that I had an absolute blast-being a geek is truly celebrated and welcomed there, and every turn had something fabulous to look at or explore. In the first couple of hours I saw Adama from Battlestar Galactica, amazing (and horrifying costumes), and ran into several people and authors I didn’t expect to-tons of fun!

What can Worldcon learn from Comic-con? Ignoring budgets, which simply cannot be compared, having a fixed location, timeframe, and many of the same staff and volunteers each year means Comic-con can focus on attracting stars (of all sorts), building their presence in re publicity/exposure/attendance, and constantly improving the overall experience (for example, selling all of the attendance badges beforehand, thus shortening the entrance lines), rather than having to start from scratch every time. Further, Comiccon’s constant location and timeframe makes it much easier for attendees to plan (and budget) for, versus the constantly shifting Worldcon (which this year was in Montreal and next year is in Australia).

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SF Tidbits for 8/11/09

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SF Tidbits for 8/4/09

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SF Tidbits for 7/22/09

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