A Cup of Salt Tears August 27, 2014 A Cup of Salt Tears Isabel Yap They say women in grief are beautiful. Strongest Conjuration August 26, 2014 Strongest Conjuration Skyler White A story of the Incrementalists. Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land August 20, 2014 Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land Ruthanna Emrys Stories of Tikanu. Hero of the Five Points August 19, 2014 Hero of the Five Points Alan Gratz A League of Seven story.
From The Blog
August 25, 2014
Animorphs: Why the Series Rocked and Why You Should Still Care
Sam Riedel
August 20, 2014
The Welcome Return of the Impatient and Cantankerous Doctor Who
David Cranmer
August 19, 2014
The Wheel of Time Reread Redux: Introductory Post
Leigh Butler
August 19, 2014
Whatever Happened to the Boy Wonder? Bring Robin Back to the Big Screen
Emily Asher-Perrin
August 15, 2014
“Perhaps It Was Only an Echo”: The Giver
Natalie Zutter
Tue
Aug 26 2014 10:00am

Unlocking John Scalzi’s Lock In

Lock In John Scalzi review

You know who’s going to love Lock In? John Scalzi fans. If you fit into that category, stop reading and just go buy the book. Read this article later. If, like me, your relationship with John Scalzi is complicated, keep reading.

Once, I loved Scalzi’s work. I found it witty and charming, with a perfect blend of action, humor, and drama. Once, I found his work indulgent and repetitive, with an overreliance on one voice and one perspective to carry the day. In both instances I was convinced I knew who John Scalzi was as a writer.

With Lock In, it’s time to reevaluate again.

[Unlocking Lock In]

Wed
Aug 20 2014 5:00pm

Short and to the Point: We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory

We Are All Completely Fine Daryl Gregory review We Are All Completely Fine, recently released by Tachyon Publications, is a fresh novella from Daryl Gregory—clocking in at under two-hundred pages, it’s more or less an afternoon’s reading. The conceit of the piece is that the characters are all part of a therapy group for the “last survivor” (read: Final Girl, Final Boy) of supernatural catastrophe or violence; it’s a fairly metafictional mashup between a Lovecraftian universe and the more staid/predictable world of horror film.

I’m generally pleased to see presses—generally independent or small, like Tachyon—tackling the work of publishing stand-alone novellas; it’s an interesting length and form that doesn’t get as much show-room as it could use. So, while I’m perhaps outside of the general audience for much straight-up horror fiction, I thought I’d give this one a look; the story’s self-referential slyness and Gregory’s talented prose were also motivating factors.

[A review.]

Thu
Aug 14 2014 2:00pm

Life Experiences: Kaleidoscope edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios

Kaleidoscope, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios, was one of the crowdfunding projects that caught my attention last year: it was to be a book of “diverse YA science fiction and fantasy stories,” dedicated to collecting otherwise less-heard-from voices and spotlighting minority narratives. And now, it’s finally out, containing fiction from names like Garth Nix, Sofia Samatar and Jim C. Hines as well as fresh faces like Alena McNamara.

The first thing I’ll note is that while Kaleidoscope is certainly a collection of stories about and for young adults, which I very much appreciate, it has a definite cross-generational appeal. The stories are strong narratively and affectively, and since most deal deeply in complex issues of identity—a pleasantly stunning variety of disabilities, sexualities, genders, and ethnicities all feature in this anthology—the overall tone is quite mature and nuanced.

[A review.]

Tue
Aug 12 2014 2:30pm

Pastoral Family Drama: The Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb Fool's Assassin

Oh, FitzChivalry. You self-flagellating, depression-suffering, and kindly-narcissist, I’ve missed you. Also, you infuriate me. Seriously, do you have any idea how angry it makes me to watch your turtle into your cocoon and wallow in self-pity, dragging down everyone you love and who loves you while you do it? Hulk angry. You would think thirty years later you’d be over some of your issues, but no… even into the silver years your wisdom is in short supply. If only you weren’t so damned interesting…

So begins my feelings on Robin Hobb’s most recent novel, Fool’s Assassin. Picking up many years after the end of the Tawny Man Trilogy, Fitz is living as Tom Badgerlock, the Holder of his daughter Nettle’s estate, with his wife, Molly. Her children and his are grown, leaving them with an empty nest and the duties of the estate to keep them busy. Of course, despite Fitz’s desire to isolate himself from the crown, Chade and King Dutiful seem to keep him on retainer as something of a consultant.

[Read More]

Tue
Jul 22 2014 12:00pm

Queering SFF: Wilde Stories 2014, Edited by Steve Berman

Wilde Stories 2014 Lethe Press It’s mid-July, and that means it’s time for this year’s edition of Lethe Press’s long-running anthology of the year’s best gay speculative fiction, Wilde Stories. Over the years, I’ve appreciated being able to follow this anthology series (and have reviewed most of the past volumes in this space, if I recall correctly). Wilde Stories reliably introduces me to fresh voices doing interesting things in the world of gay sf, and its sister series Heiresses of Russ has begun to do the same for lesbian speculative stories.

So, of course I like to check up on each new installment and see what’s happening inside. This year’s volume is no exception: in fact, I was possibly extra-intrigued by the fact that none of the contributors for 2014 have appeared in the series before. A whole new slate of names—all writing gay spec-fic—is an interesting change, certainly.

[A review.]

Thu
Jun 19 2014 5:00pm

The Quick and the Dead: Lauren Owen’s The Quick

The Quick review Lauren Owen

Lauren Owen’s debut novel The Quick makes a concerted effort to not mention a certain word in its cover copy. The word rhymes with campfire, which ironically enough is something this rhyming word would rather want to avoid due to combustibility.

Why do they try so hard to avoid it? I can only surmise it’s because campfires are inherently silly and this novel is serious business! No sparkling campfires here fair reader of literary fiction. No sir. These are pale, long lived, and thirsty campfires, which are not magical, just grumpy.

[Read More]

Tue
Apr 29 2014 12:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Interfictions Online #2

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. In the last installment, I talked about Beneath Ceaseless Skies #144; this time around, I’d like to discuss a couple of pieces from the second issue of Interfictions Online, published in October of last year. I enjoyed this biannual journal’s first issue (discussed previously, here) and I continue to be interested in seeing what sort of work they’ll highlight, so even though it’s a bit late, I did want to spend some time on this issue before the third comes out.

[Onward.]

Tue
Apr 15 2014 2:00pm

The Retrospective: Mythic Delirium #30

Since it happens to be poetry month, the time seems more or less just right for talking about the transitional last print issue of long-running speculative poetry magazine Mythic Delirium. It’s issue #30, and in honor the magazine’s Kickstarter funded shift to digital publication and a new format, editor Mike Allen had gathered up a retrospective from the past fifteen years’ worth of issues—poems ranging from the first from their first issue, to the most recent MD poem to win a Rhysling Award.

It is an interesting sort of project, a goodbye to the old and a remembrance of the past that also happens to be signaling a fresh start for the magazine, with different guiding principles and a radically different format. I look forward to seeing what the Allens (Mike and Anita) do with the upcoming magazine, but for now, there’s the retrospective issue and the poems in it.

[A review.]

Tue
Apr 1 2014 12:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Recent Stories in Lightspeed

Lightspeed Magazine issue 46 Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. In our last installment, I talked about the winter issue of small magazine Ideomancer (12.4) and its three lyrical short stories. This time around, I’d like to talk about a few more pieces of short fiction, these from the most recent issue of Lightspeed Magazine: two original stories, “How to Get Back to the Forest” by Sofia Samatar and “A Different Fate” by Kat Howard,“ as well as one reprint, ”Turnover" by Jo Walton.

These three stories all share a structural similarity, though their thematic centers are quite different, and that’s their open-endedness paired with a particular sort of self-reflexivity. Each story is an exploration of an idea and/or occurrence without a concrete resolution; each is structured primarily around the protagonist thinking about or reflecting back on this thing, be it (in the case of the Walton story) an idea for the future or (in the other two) a haunting occurrence in the past.

[A discussion.]

Fri
Mar 14 2014 1:00pm

Queering SFF: Scruffians! by Hal Duncan

Scruffians Hal Duncan Scruffians! by Hal Duncan, releasing in early April from Lethe Press, is a wickedly entertaining collection of short fiction fantastical and queer in nature—full of “scruffians and scamps and sodomites,” with some pirates and fairies besides. These stories range from comedic romps to lyrical and meditative explorations on the nature of meaning-making, while Duncan’s engaging and clever voice resonates throughout as a strong thread connecting the various different sorts of pieces.

Duncan has published two chapbooks of short fiction—An A to Z of the Fantastic City (Small Beer Press) and Errata (New Sodom Press)—but Scruffians! is his first full-length collection of short stories, containing work published from 2005 onward. Two of the fifteen stories collected are original to the book: “How a Scruffian Gets Their Name” and “The Shoulder of Pelops.” The first several stories also form a neat group of their own, continually expanding and recursively building the mythology and potential of the titular Scruffians.

[A review.]

Mon
Feb 17 2014 3:00pm

Lady Sybil Trapped in Weird Colin Farrell Zombie Movie Called Winter’s Tale

Talking to strangers is totally fine, especially if those strangers are amnesiac Colin Farrells. With a friendly and dopily disarming gaze, Colin made us believe he was a brainwashed victim in 2012’s Total Recall. Now in 2014’s romantic zombie comedy—Winter’s Tale—he plays a totally convincing angel-zombie, who also isn’t sure what his name is or if he’s any good at robbing people. Here, Farrell with the help of Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil) brings home the most romantic Valentine’s Day message of all: Will Smith is Satan!

[Spoilers Ahead]

Tue
Feb 4 2014 6:00pm

Desire and Magic: Handsome Devil: Stories of Sin and Seduction edited by Steve Berman

One of Prime Books’ most recent collections, Handsome Devil: Stories of Sin and Seduction takes on the task of gathering together tales about incubi and other “handsome devils.” I often find these themed collections hit-or-miss, depending on the subject matter—I, for example, do not care much about zombie stories—but this particular theme seemed intriguing enough. As the collection’s editor, Steve Berman, notes in his introduction, this is a fraught but itself seductive topic for people from far in the past up to today.

These stories of seduction and “sin” range from the playful to the extremely dark; given the topic, it’s no surprise that a few of these stories cover uncomfortable territory in terms of consent and violence. For the most part, however, these are stories about desire and magic, stories where there is a cost for getting what you want—but sometimes it’s worth paying. And that idea, of the cost of magic, is a familiar one in plenty of fantastical stories.

[A review.]

Fri
Jan 17 2014 1:30pm

Once More, With Feeling: Red Delicious by Kathleen Tierney

As Red Delicious makes abundantly clear from the start, Siobhan Quinn the werepire has a lot of problems: monster hunting ex-priests, succubi, and her own mile-wide self-destructive streak to name a few. When her handler and keeper, Mr. B, tells her to look into the missing daughter of one of Providence’s oldest necromantic families, things do not go well, possibly because she’s no detective and possibly because there’s far more at stake than the apparent disappearance. The story that follows is, of course, of questionable provenance—as Quinn frequently reminds the reader, she lies constantly—but it is entertaining.

Red Delicious follows on the heels of 2013’s Blood Oranges (reviewed here), of which I was fairly fond. These novels are a fine balance between parodying urban fantasy and being urban fantasy: a little grim and a lot tongue-in-cheek, Quinn as narrator never allows the reader to forget for particularly long that they’re reading a book, with all of the regular fourth-wall breaking that that implies.

And she’s not particularly fond of the genre that her book falls in, either.

[Read More]

Fri
Nov 15 2013 2:00pm

Dear Mr. Watterson: New Calvin and Hobbes Documentary Has So Many Feels

Dear Mr. Watterson, a new documentary by Joel Schroeder, attempts to capture the enduring appeal of Calvin and Hobbes. For a comic that began in 1985 and ended a decade later at the peak of its popularity, Calvin and Hobbes’ mixture of wry observation and mischievous childhood imagination continues to draw new fans and entertain the old, even 18 years later. Dear Mr. Watterson will probably not enjoy that kind of longevity—fans of Calvin and Hobbes won’t find anything new here, but it is a safe place to geek-out and reminisce.

[Let’s go exploring...]

Thu
Oct 10 2013 10:00am

A Shift in Tone: RASL by Jeff Smith

RASL Jeff Smith RASL, released by Cartoon Books in late September, is the complete one-volume collection of Jeff Smith’s most recent project, which initially ran in single issue comics from 2008 to 2012. Smith is renowned for the long-running series Bone, winner of several Eisner Awards, which ended in 2004—but this is a rather different sort of story. RASL is best described as a scifi noir, and it follows a parallel-universe hopping art thief/ex-military engineer (whose tag is the titular anagram, “RASL”) through his trials and tribulations.

RASL presents an obvious shift in tone and subject matter for Smith, whose books are generally kid-friendly. The protagonist, Rasl, has a violent streak, drinks far too much in order to deal with the side effects of universe-hopping in the Drift, and has several “on-screen” sexual relationships with different women; the plot is concerned with physics, the military-industrial complex, and a general theme of personal responsibility for complex problems. So, not the usual fare.

[A review.]

Tue
Oct 1 2013 12:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Glitter and Mayhem, edited by John Klima, Lynne Thomas, and Michael Damian Thomas

Glitter and Mayhem Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. Last time around, I discussed the newest installment of Steve Berman’s Wilde Stories collections. In a similar vein, this week I’d like to look at a recently released short fiction anthology: Glitter & Mayhem, edited by John Klima, Lynne Thomas, and Michael Damian Thomas. This anthology—funded by a Kickstarter campaign and published by Apex—has a very particular theme, as the tagline on the back makes clear: “Welcome to Glitter & Mayhem, the most glamorous party in the multiverse.”

The stories here primarily feature roller derby, disco, parties, and a stunning number of night clubs, rendered in vivid detail by writers like Christopher Barzak, Seanan McGuire, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Maria Dahvana Headley and Amal El-Mohtar. Glitter & Mayhem cultivates a high-energy tone of risk, reward, and delight—it’s not what you’d call a serious book, though it does have its moments of darkness and contemplation. It’s also, and this should come as no real surprise based on the list of contributors, a fairly queer anthology; many of the stories herein deal with gender and/or sexuality in various forms.

[A review.]

Thu
Sep 19 2013 4:00pm

“Different stars. Different sky.” Elizabeth Bear’s Book of Iron

Book of Iron Elizabeth Bear This is a jewel of a book.

Elizabeth Bear is a versatile author as well as an award-winning one. Book of Iron, her new novella from Subterranean Press, is the latest addition to an extensive and varied bibliography. Set in the same world as Range of Ghosts, albeit many centuries after, it forms a prequel—of sorts—to another of Bear’s Subterranean Press novellas, the acclaimed Bone and Jewel Creatures. It’s also connected to one of her earlier short stories, “Abjure the Realm”

Bijou the Artificer is a Wizard of Messaline, the City of Jackals. Together with the Bey’s second son, Prince Salih, she and Kaulas the Necromancer solve problems of a magical nature. They’re adventurers in the prime of their lives and partnership.

[Read More]

Thu
Sep 5 2013 5:00pm

A Little Myth Can’t Be Wrong: The Woken Gods

The Woken Gods Gwenda Bond Gwenda Bond’s The Woken Gods takes place in a world similar to ours, but where gods—the deities of our ancient mythologies—have awakened. Humanity has a perilous arrangement with the gods, and of course all kinds of people are trying to work different angles on this. Seventeen-year-old Kyra lives in a transformed Washington, D.C., home to the embassies of divine pantheons and the mysterious Society of the Sun. But when she encounters two trickster gods on her way back from school, one offering a threat and the other a warning, it turns out her life isn’t what it seems...

[Read More]

Wed
Jul 31 2013 9:30am

Desperate Times Call for Desperados: Joe Abercrombie’s “Some Desperado”

dangerous women anthology

Tor.com will be previewing Joe Abercrombie’s contribution to Dangerous Women, “Some Desperado,” later this fall in its entirety—in the meantime, please enjoy this non-spoiler review of the story for a taste of great things to come…

Joe Abercrombie is the author of several very good novels. Some might call them exceptional. From the First Law Trilogy, to his subsequent standalone novels, to his more recent, and slightly more underground, exploration of the unicorn (not really), his work has consistently pushed the envelope of what’s expected within the traditional second world fantasy.

This forward progress is no more clear than in his triptych of standalone novels which embrace and blend other genre traditions with fantasy. The revenge thriller in Best Served Cold, the war novel in The Heroes, and the western in Red Country, capture the genre source material without treading too far from the fantasy tropes readers expect. Abercrombie has also published three pieces of short fiction in his Circle of the World setting, soon to be joined by a fourth titled “Some Desperado” in the George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois anthology, Dangerous Women.

[Read More...]

Tue
Jul 23 2013 12:00pm

Short Fiction Spotlight: Report from Planet Midnight Plus… by Nalo Hopkinson

Welcome back to the Short Fiction Spotlight, a space for conversation about recent and not-so-recent short stories. The PM Press Outpoken Authors series is—as I’ve said before when discussing their Ursula K. Le Guin volume The Wild Girls Plus…—pretty neat. These chapbooks run around 100 pages, collecting short pieces of various sorts from their authors as well as a long interview with them done fresh for inclusion in the book. The ninth in the series, released last year though I’ve just gotten around to it, features Nalo Hopkinson. Hopkinson is a writer whose work I deeply enjoy; so, naturally, I was pleased to see her included in this handsome series of little books.

Report from Planet Midnight Plus… reprints two stories, “Message in a Bottle” and “Shift,” as well as a transcript of Hopkinson’s 2010 speech to the audience at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, “Report from Planet Midnight.” The volume closes with the quintessential long interview and a detailed bibliography (one of my favorite parts of these volumes, actually!).

[A discussion.]