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When Mark London Williams and I decided to move our long running SF Site column Nexus Graphica to SF Signal, we decided that we needed to announce our presence with a bang. Hence, this Mind Meld was born, in which we asked our esteemed panelists this question:

Q: What graphic novels are part of your desert island collection?

The only caveat we gave the contributors that their selections could not include the obvious books such as Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Maus, and their ilk.

I’ll return next month with the first installment of the new Nexus Graphica and Mark issues his first SF Signal contribution in March. We’ll alternated columns every other month, culminating with a special two parter in December, featuring our annual best of the year lists. But more on this in February.

For now, enjoy the confab.
(And be sure to check out Part 1!)

Joe R. Lansdale
Mojo Storyteller Joe R. Lansdale is the author of over thirty novels and numerous short stories. His work has appeared in national anthologies, magazines, and collections, as well as numerous foreign publications. He has written for comics, television, film, newspapers, and Internet sites. His work has been collected in eighteen short-story collections, and he has edited or co-edited over a dozen anthologies. He has received the Edgar Award, eight Bram Stoker Awards, the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the British Fantasy Award, and many others. His novella Bubba Hotep was adapted to film by Don Coscarelli, starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis. He is currently co-producing several films, among them The Bottoms, based on his Edgar Award-winning novel, with Bill Paxton and Brad Wyman, and The Drive-In, with Greg Nicotero.

DC archives. All of them. Dell and Gold Key archives. End of story

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

When Mark London Williams and I decided to move our long running SF Site column Nexus Graphica to SF Signal, we decided that we needed to announce our presence with a bang. Hence, this Mind Meld was born, in which we asked our esteemed panelists this question:

Q: What graphic novels are part of your desert island collection?

The only caveat we gave the contributors that their selections could not include the obvious books such as Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Maus, and their ilk.

I’ll return next month with the first installment of the new Nexus Graphica and Mark issues his first SF Signal contribution in March. We’ll alternated columns every other month, culminating with a special two parter in December, featuring our annual best of the year lists. But more on this in February.

For now, enjoy the confab.
(And be sure to check out Part 2!)

Walter Simonson
Over the years, Walter Simonson has written and/or drawn a lot of comics for various companies including the NY Times bestselling Alien graphic novel, Manhunter, the Metal Men, Superman, Batman, Thor, X-Factor, Fantastic Four, RoboCop vs. the Terminator, X-Men vs. the Teen Titans, Orion, Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer written by Michael Moorcock, and The Judas Coin. Currently, Walter is writing and drawing Ragnarök, a creator-owned comic book, to be published in 2014 by IDW.

Sharaz-De by Sergio Toppi. Beautiful beautiful drawing, and at last, there’s an English version!

The Airtight Garage of Jerry Cornelius (as it was originally called) by Moebius. Completely wonked-out story with drawing ranging from cartoony to super-elegant by Moebius. Lovely work.

The entire Modesty Blaise run of Peter O’Donnell and Jim Holdaway. It’s not in a single volume so I’m not sure how this works for a desert island, but it’s my favorite run of a newspaper strip and very influential in my work.

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MIND MELD: Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2014

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It’s a new year and you know what that means…new book releases! So with that in mind, we’ve asked our panelists the following question:

Q: What upcoming book or books (to be released in 2014) are you most looking forward to reading? Why?

Here’s what they said…
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MIND MELD: Our Favorite SF/F/H Consumed In 2013

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It’s 2014 and that means it’s time to look back at all the SF/F/H available in 2013. Our panelists were asked this question:

Q: What was the best SF/F/H you “consumed” in 2013?

Consumed being anything read/watched/heard during 2013, but not necessarily new in 2013. Here’s what they said…
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MIND MELD: Our Favorite Dragons in Fantasy

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With the arrival of The Desolation of Smaug on movie screens, We asked this week’s panelists about the most iconic of fantasy creatures: Dragons.

Q: What makes dragons appealing? How do you use dragons in your own writing? What are your favorite depictions in fantasy?

This is what they said…

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Nanotechnology, lifelike robots, Google Glass, Invisibility Metamaterials, and 3-D Printing are just the beginning. Many technologies that recently existed only in the pages of a science fiction novel are becoming reality. We asked this week’s panelists:

Q: What science fictional technologies do you think are right on the horizon and will become part of our everyday lives in the next ten years?

Here’s what our panelists had to say…

Ken Liu
Ken Liu’s fiction has appeared in F&SF, Asimov’s, Analog, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Clarkesworld, among other places. He has won a Nebula, two Hugos, a World Fantasy Award, and a Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award, and been nominated for the Sturgeon and the Locus Awards. He lives near Boston with his family.

Advances in artificial intelligence are not making many headlines these days, but I think within the next decade computer thinking will make inroads in many areas touching our lives. The reason advances in AI don’t seem very “science fictional” to us is that we keep on moving the goal post: computers now can beat humans at chess, answer Jeopardy questions, understand and transcribe your speech, translate in real time, and make billions on the stock market. While most people still seem “skeptical” about whether computers can think, we already live in a science fictional world.

Perhaps two areas will challenge our comfort. One is the military. Right now, military computers are still used in a way that is “supervised” by human decision makers. The drones that are in the news so much are operated by remote pilots, and targeting systems make recommendations, leaving the final decision to kill up to the human (though some have already described the human oversight as “illusory”). But the machinery of war has a relentless logic: eventually, human oversight will be seen as too slow and error-prone and undependable. We will have fully automated robots fighting our wars, where the decision to fire and kill will be made by machines alone—human oversight, if any, will be limited to the crafting of the algorithms governing these systems.
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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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MIND MELD: Our Non-Writer Influences

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We asked this week’s panelists about their influences outside of the literary world.

Q: Who are your non-writer influences? And how have they influenced your work?

Here’s what they said…
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We asked this week’s panelists about series fiction in genre.

Q: Everywhere you go in genre, series seem to predominate over single novels. How do you read a series differently as compared to singletons? Have you ever given up on a series, or returned to one after a long absence?

Here’s what they said…

Sally Qwill Janin
Sally ‘Qwill’ Janin is the founder and EIC of The Qwillery, a speculative fiction blog. She is a recovering attorney having practiced IP and telecommunications law for too long. She’s been reading genre fiction since her older brother hooked her on The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and H.P. Lovecraft when she was a pre-teen.

Ah series. As you point out, they are everywhere in genre. I do read the first book of a series differently than I read a standalone novel. I certainly have different expectations. For a standalone, the story must resolve major (and most minor) plot points and come to a satisfying conclusion. When I read the first novel of series, I don’t usually expect more than some minor issues to be resolved, maybe an occasional major issue. I expect the main characters (at least for that part of the series) to be introduced. I also expect all sorts of threads will be left dangling to spur me on to continue reading the series. I don’t even mind cliffhangers. I also expect world building and events that will move the series along. I even read Paranormal Romance series differently than other series in that there should be an HEA (Happily Ever After) or HEA for now along with world building. However, if the story is not interesting and I don’t care about the characters in a series, why should I continue to invest time into what may ultimately be horribly disappointing?
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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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There’s always been one question I’ve asked in my author interviews that gives some of the most interesting and enlightening answers, so this week’s MInd Meld question is:

Q: What book, or books, would you love to read and experience again for the first time, and why?

Here’s what our panelists had to say…

Philippa Ballantine
New Zealand born fantasy writer and podcaster Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the author of the Books of the Order and the Shifted World series. She is also the co-author with her husband Tee Morris of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. Her awards include an Airship, a Parsec, the Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice, and a Sir Julius Vogel. She currently resides in Manassas, Virginia with her husband, daughter, and a furry clowder of cats.

I wish I could read again for the first time, Wild Seed by Octavia Butler.

It was a story that was so full of the beauty of the other, and spread over such a huge expanse of time and the globe itself. It opened my eyes to so many things, and it struck me very deeply. I was able to think beyond my little space as a teenager in New Zealand, and experience something much, much wider. I would love to feel that wonder again.

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As a reminder, last week’s Mind Meld asked the following question:

Q: What was the last horror novel that kept you awake at night?

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MIND MELD: The Scary Stories That Made Us Lose Sleep

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It’s Halloween time and what better way to celebrate than with a terrifying tale? So we asked our panelists the following question:

Q: What was the last horror novel that kept you awake at night?

Here’s what they said…
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MIND MELD: How Science Fiction Changed Our Lives

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This week, we asked our panelists the following:

Q: How has reading science fiction and fantasy changed you as a person or changed your life?

Here’s what they said…

Linda Nagata
Linda Nagata is the author of multiple novels and short stories including The Bohr Maker, winner of the Locus Award for best first novel, and the novella “Goddesses,” the first online publication to receive a Nebula award. Her story “Nahiku West” was a finalist for the 2013 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. Her newest science fiction novel is the near-future military thriller The Red: First Light. Linda has spent most of her life in Hawaii, where she’s been a writer, a mom, a programmer of database-driven websites, and lately an independent publisher. She lives with her husband in their long-time home on the island of Maui. Find her online at: MythicIsland.com

I’ve been reading science fiction and to a lesser extent fantasy for so long that it’s hard to say how it’s changed my life. I don’t recall a moment of waking up to a sense of wonder or to radical possibilities, because I’ve been reading this stuff since I was a kid. I think it’s more that SFF has shaped my life and my outlook.

Good science fiction tells a gripping story but it’s also a thought experiment that lets us imagine other worlds, or this world, changed. So it offers answers to the question of “How would things be if…?” Ideally, that’s an exercise that should lead to a more flexible, less dogmatic outlook. I don’t know who I would have been otherwise, but I do think I’ve benefitted from being immersed in fictional worlds that are so very different from the real world. I think it’s made me more open minded, more adaptable, and less averse to change—and that’s what I’ve come to think of as the science fictional mindset.

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MIND MELD: Worthy Media Tie-ins

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From Star Wars to X-Men, Halo to Star Trek, many media franchises also offer tie-in novels, giving fans another way to enjoy their favorite worlds and characters.  But which media tie in novels are the cream of the crop? we asked some experts:

Q: Many movies, TV shows, comic books, and even video games have gotten the novelization or media tie-in treatment. Be it a direct novelization of the original property or an original story based on the characters, what media tie-in books have been a worthy addition to their franchise?

Here’s what they said…

Tricia Barr
Tricia Barr writes about fandom, heroines, and genre storytelling at her blog FANgirl and contributes to her Star Wars expertise to Suvudu.com, Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Blog and Star Wars Insider magazine. She has completed her first original novel, Wynde, a military science fiction epic with a twist of fantasy.

Over thirty-five years later, many fans do not realize that A New Hope, known simply as Star Wars back in 1977, used a novelization and Marvel comics to generate considerable pre-release buzz. The Prequel Trilogy continued this tradition, with April publications of the novelizations in advance of the May movies. When Episode III novelization author Matthew Stover stepped on stage for his book panel at the official franchise convention Star Wars Celebration III, after the book’s release and before the film opened, he was greeted like a rock star. The impending release of Revenge of the Sith certainly helped spur on the fan hoopla, but it was the way Stover masterfully wove together the fall of the Jedi Order and its hero, Anakin Skywalker, that excited a fandom that had survived the Dark Times – the period between the Original Trilogy and the Prequel Trilogy – by reading books and comics. The standing-room- only crowd of novel enthusiasts appreciated the way he had turned a visual story into powerful prose. While much of the Revenge of the Sith novelization maintained the traditional third-person-limited point of view narrative, Stover ventured into second-person explorations of the key characters like Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Count Dooku, and Padmé Amidala. He also explained at his panel why the battle scenes that took place on Chewbacca’s home planet of Kashyyyk were not included in the novelization: to maintain the thematic focus on Anakin Skywalker’s fall. While there were no Wookiees in the book, Stover used a recurring metaphor of a dragon to foreshadow the story’s conclusion.
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MIND MELD: Our Favorite Women Horror Writers

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Inspired by such so-called “Greatest Horror Writers” lists as this and this — which include zero women — I asked our esteemed panel the following questions…

Q: Who are your favorite women horror writers? Which current women horror writers deserve more attention?
Ann VanderMeer
The founder of the award-winning Buzzcity Press, Ann VanderMeer currently serves as an acquiring fiction editor for Tor.com, Cheeky Frawg Books, and weirdfictionreview.com. She was the editor-in-chief for Weird Tales for five years, during which time she was nominated three times for the Hugo Award, winning one. Along with nominations for the Shirley Jackson Award, she also has won a World Fantasy Award and a British Fantasy Award for co-editing The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories. Other projects have included Best American Fantasy, three Steampunk anthologies, and a humor book, The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals. Her latest anthologies include Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution, The Time Traveler’s Almanac, and an as-yet unnamed anthology of feminist speculative fiction.

Here are some of my favorite women writers who write horror:

  • Gertrude Barrows Bennett (writing as Francis Stevens) – She wrote a number of uncanny stories in the early 20th century and has been called “the woman who invented dark fantasy.” Indeed, it has been said that her fiction was a huge influence on H.P. Lovecraft. Although not all of Stevens’ work has dated well, she was the first American woman to have her weird fiction widely published and acclaimed.
  • C.L. Moore – Catherine L. Moore was an American science fiction and fantasy writer, most often known as C.L. Moore. She was one of the first women to write in either genre, and paved the way for many other female speculative fiction writers. Her earliest stories appeared in Weird Tales and a lot of her work was very dark, hence I add her to this list.
  • Daphne du Maurier – Although her work was incredibly dark, she was still a very popular writer during her lifetime. Many of her most prominent works have been adapted into movies. My favorite is “The Birds” from Alfred Hitchcock. Although her background could be considered more from the gothic side of fiction, I find her work very dark and disturbing.

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Today’s Young Adult authors are undoubtedly a big influence on young minds with the stories they tell and the rich worlds they create, but I’ve always wondered what authors and novels made an impression on them when they were young! So I asked them:

Q: As a writer, and especially as a young adult author, you’ve no doubt influenced many young people with your writing and the worlds you create, but what authors and books influenced you the most as a young person, and why?

Here’s what they said…

Mindy McGinnis
Mindy McGinnis is an assistant YA librarian who lives in Ohio and cans her own food. She graduated from Otterbein University magna cum laude with a BA in English Literature and Religion. Mindy has a pond in her back yard but has never shot anyone, as her morals tend to cloud her vision.

I have two rather different answers – Stephen King and Madeleine L’Engle. They both illustrated to me in different ways that you if you set it up properly, you can sell even the most ludicrous of storylines, and have your reader completely invested. If you’ve ever tried doing a one line pitch of any of their books you’ll see – you sound ridiculous! But in your heart you know it’s so good!

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MIND MELD: Up And Coming Authors of The Last 5 Years

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This week’s question was inspired by the upcoming anthology Twenty-First Century Science Fiction, which features stories from “up and coming” authors beginning in the year 2000. We modified the question slightly and asked our panelists this question:

Q: Who do you believe are the “up and coming” authors of the past 5 years readers may not be aware of? What stories by these authors should readers consume?

Here’s what they said…



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MIND MELD: The Rules of Worldbuilding

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In fiction, especially Fantasy, SF, and the like, part of the joy of reading is the sometimes vast, and complicated, worlds that authors create. However, there are certain “rules” that seem to apply to this process, and io9 recently published an article called 7 Deadly Sins of Worldbuilding, which made me wonder what authors and readers thought about the subject, what kind of “rules” they use in their writing, and also what they like to see in their reading. So I asked them:

Q: When you write, are there any particular “rules” you follow in your worldbuilding? What do you consider a “sin” in worldbuilding? For readers and authors, what do you like to see in regards to worldbuilding in your reading, and what do you consider a deal breaker? What worlds have captured your imagination more than others?

Here’s what they said…

Ingrid Jonach
Ingrid Jonach is the author of the young adult sci-fi romance novel When the World was Flat (and we were in love), published by Strange Chemistry.
Since graduating from university with a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing (Hons) in 2005, Ingrid has worked as a journalist and in public relations, as well as for the Australian Government. Find out more at www.ingridjonach.com.


For me, worldbuilding has to add to the narrative. For example, there is no point in telling me the ins-and-outs of a new plant species unless it is eaten or used for medicinal purposes in the story. Likewise, there is no need to spend ten pages explaining a piece of technology if it is never mentioned again.

My young adult novel When the World was Flat (and we were in love) is set in our world, but – at the risk of sharing spoilers – it also includes an alternate world with a re-imagined history. This alternate world is the catalyst for the relationship between the two main characters and all of the worldbuilding is connected to the events in the story.

My work-in-progress (WIP) goes one step further than When the World was Flat (and we were in love), as it is set in a world with a re-imagined history. This means breaking the rules of our current world (e.g. everyone eats ice-cream three times a day instead of just for dessert), but with good reason (e.g. the world is run by kids). I promise that is not the premise of my WIP!

I loved the worldbuilding in the Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy by Carrie Ryan, because it showed the separation of societies in a post apocalyptic world by distance and therefore culture. They even have different names for the zombies in each region, e.g. the Unconsecrated, Mudo and Plague Rats.
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MIND MELD: Recent SF/F That Deserves More Attention

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It’s almost impossible to keep up with all the new SF/F that’s produced each year. To help broaden everyone’s horizons, we asked our panelists this question:

Q: What SF/F that you have read/seen/heard/played in 2013 do you think is deserving of more attention?

Here’s what they said…

Jessica Strider
Jessica Strider has worked at a major chain bookstore in Toronto for 10 years. Her in store SF/F newsletter, the Sci-Fi Fan Letter, eventually evolved into a blog where most Tuesdays she posts book reviews and on Fridays she alternates between author interviews, themed reading lists, New Author Spotlights and more. Other days she posts interesting SFF related stuff.

I’ve decided to keep my answers to only things that came out this year, which makes for a fairly small list as all of the movies I’ve seen and a few of the books (notably Will McIntosh’s Love Minus Eighty and Ofir Touche Gafla’s The World of the End) have received a decent amount of attention. So here’s the stuff from 2013 that I’ve read/seen so far that I think could use more recognition.
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