MIND MELD: Our Favorite SF/F/H Consumed In 2013

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
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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Tom Merritt co-hosts Sword and Laser, a science fiction and fantasy podcast and book club with Veronica Belmont. He also hosts the award-winning daily technology show Tech News Today and Frame Rate, a show for cord cutters, along with several other podcasts. Merritt has written three novels and a Chronology of Tech History. His new novel is Lot Beta.

“Lot Beta” is King Arthur…in Spaaaace!

by Tom Merritt

In 2010, for the 8th time, I attempted National Novel Writing Month. I’d finished the 50,000 word in one month challenge exactly once. But I always tried. That year, I cheated and won.

That year I had just finished reading Mists of Avalon and The Once and Future King for the Sword and Laser book club. I’m a fan of the Arthurian legend. I don’t so much love the Malory romantic stuff as the folklore of a Roman soldier defending the Celts and the remnants of the Empire against the Saxons.

So with my own historical readings now mixed up with two very different takes on the legend, I had a very clear picture in my mind of the essential elements of Arthur’s legend.

To extremely oversimplify it, a young boy has his true heritage hidden, befriends a wizard, becomes a King, fights against spirituality, assembles a team of heroes (one of whom betrays him) and falls by the hand of his illegitimate son.

So I decided that would be an excellent scaffolding for a story.
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In episode 199 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester chats with SF Fan, Podcaster and Media personality Tom Merritt.

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Sword & Laser’s Author Guide to Patrick Rothfuss

In the latest Sword & Laser videocast, Veronica and Tom sit down with author Patrick Rothfuss to talk about writing fantasy, The Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s Fear.

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MIND MELD: The Best Endings In SF/F Series

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
Sometimes it seems that every new SF/F book is part of a series and the reader will have to wait, sometimes years, for the conclusion. Happily there are many, many very good (and finished!) SF/F series, however, not all of the endings measure up to the story that preceeds it. This week we asked our panelists this question:

In your opinion, what SF/F series do you think have the best endings?

Here’s what they said… [Note: If you haven't read any of these particular series, there may be spoilers included in the responses.]

Nancy Jane Moore
Nancy Jane Moore’s most recent book is a collection of short-short stories, Flashes of Illumination, available as a Book View Café ebook. She has stories forthcoming in PS Publishing’s Postscripts and Defending the Future’s next military SF anthology, Best Laid Plans. She blogs regularly on the Book View Café blog.

The final book in my favorite SF/F series – Laurie J. Marks’s Elemental Logic – has not yet been published, so I cannot address it in this Mind Meld, except to observe that the third book (Water Logic) put the entire series in perspective, so I have great hopes that the forthcoming Air Logic will be equally transformational.

I did not expect the Bold as Love series by Gwyneth Jones to end as it did in Rainbow Bridge, though thinking about it in light of some of her essays, it’s not really a surprising ending. After all, Jones scorns the typical hero tale in which victory is improbably snatched from the jaws of defeat. The world is crumbling at the beginning of the series, but our rockstar heroes – Ax, Sage, and Fiorinda – are taking charge, and their powers are such that we believe they can save us. They do not, and by the end the Chinese have taken over the world, though whether or not they can save us, even with some technological miracles, is still an open question. The closing scene of Ax’s joy in the birth of his daughter lets the reader know the characters will continue to muddle on. Knowing that they’re still out there somewhere pleases me.

Mary Gentle’s Ash, A Secret History, was published in the U.S. as a four-book series. I read the first three books as excellent adventure stories and tended to ignore the modern researcher frame set around the book. But in the fourth book, Lost Burgundy, the frame and story came together, and I realized I was reading science fiction (with fantasy and alternate history overtones). I love it when that happens.

L. Timmel Duchamp’s Marq’ssan Cycle starts with a dystopia not all that far removed from current reality. Classes are stratified in the U.S., and a firmly entrenched 1 percent – the Executive class – is running the show. Then the Marq’ssan arrive. It’s easy to assume that the Marq’ssan will throw out the bastards and improve the lot of the rest of humanity. But while the Marq’ssan do provide some assistance, the story takes us in unexpected directions, including an overthrow of the mostly male executive rulers by female ones, with no real change in society, and the development of an ever-growing Free Zone run on anarchistic and socialistic principles. Change is in progress in the final book, Stretto, but nothing is final. In the final pages, one human character begins to explore something much more complex than political change – a change in her mind. It’s a positive note, and leaves the story open-ended. Utopia does not yet exist, but the possibility is there.
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In episode 118 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester sits down to chat with Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt, co-hosts of the Sword and Laser podcast which recently joined Felicia Day’s Geek and Sundry channel on YouTube.
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