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Jared Shurin

The Dragonlance Chronicles Reread: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Chapters 19 and 20

Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread! Last week: gully dwarves and draconians. This week: one more gully dwarf! And other more exciting stuff.

As always, we’re going to keep the reread post spoiler-free, but the comments are open to any and all discussion, so proceed with caution!

[The party is doing what it does best: wandering about.]

Series: Dragonlance Reread

The Dragonlance Chronicles Reread: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Chapters 17 and 18

Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread! Last week we met a dragon and a goddess. This week—gully dwarves and draconians.

That means the party stands a chance, right? Right? Well, that’s ok, because Raistlin’s looking out for us. Rest easy, Heroes.

As always, we’re going to keep the reread post spoiler-free, but the comments are open to any and all discussion, so proceed with caution!

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Series: Dragonlance Reread

The Dragonlance Chronicles Reread: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Chapters 15 and 16

Welcome back to the regularly scheduled Dragonlance Chronicles Reread! Last week, our companions had gotten drunk in a swamp, then captured by draconians, whom they escaped by setting fire to a wicker dragon. Best. D&D. Ever.

But, all kidding aside, this week’s chapters are where things really kick off—join in, if you dare.

As always, we’re going to keep the reread post spoiler-free, but the comments are open to any and all discussion, so proceed with caution!

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Series: Dragonlance Reread

The Dragonlance Chronicles Reread: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Chapters 13 and 14

Welcome back to the regularly scheduled Dragonlance Chronicles Reread! Last week Kamila Shamsie dropped by to chat about the impact of both Kitiara and the absence of Kitiara (think of it as Schrödinger’s Kitiara). But now we’re back with our intrepid party, and their quest to find the lost-ish city of Xak Tsaroth.

When we last saw them, they’d passed through the remains of Que-Shu, and were struggling to deal with what they’d seen… This week’s chapters are hopefully a little cheerier—for the heroes’ sake!

As always, we’re going to keep the reread post spoiler-free, but the comments are open to any and all discussion, so proceed with caution!

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Series: Dragonlance Reread

The Dragonlance Chronicles Reread: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Chapters 11 and 12

Welcome back to the Dragonlance Chronicles Reread! Last week we ended on a cliffhanger. Or a forest-hanger: the party have been driven off the road, into the woods and along a magical path. There were deer, but also spectres.

This week’s chapters… do we have a turning point? Do we get to know what’s going on? Will we get a few more monsters? Where are our dragons?!

As always, we’re going to keep the reread post spoiler-free, but the comments are open to any and all discussion, so proceed with caution!

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Series: Dragonlance Reread

The Dragonlance Chronicles Reread: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Chapters 9 and 10

Last week we fought lizard-monster things and the party demonstrated a—rather fabulous—lack of strategy. But hey, Raistlin blew things up, so who’s complaining?

Will this week see more fireworks? Or are we going to return to the “old ways” of getting lost in the woods? Maybe a bit of both…

As always, we’re going to keep the reread post spoiler-free, but the comments are open to any and all discussion, so proceed with caution!

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Series: Dragonlance Reread

The Dragonlance Chronicles Reread: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Chapters 7 and 8

We’re back with another entry in our reread of the Dragonlance Chronicles! After last week’s spectacular non-spectacular, the Heroes of the Lance are still… well… lost in the woods.

Are we going to get porridge? Or action? Will they keep ambling around the Solace suburbs? Or finally get somewhere? Will there be introspection… or a bit of action?

Only time, and the recap below, will tell.

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Series: Dragonlance Reread

The Dragonlance Chronicles Reread: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Chapters 5 and 6

We’re back! Before Sam Sykes’s minotaur-laden interlude, our Heroes of the Lance were sliding down ropes and making a hasty escape from Solace. In this week’s chapters, they’re doing… pretty much the same.

Please remember—although we’re keeping the content of these posts spoiler-free, the comments are fair game, and we encourage everyone to chip in with connections, stories and other fun facts from the 9,000+ Dragonlance materials out there.

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Series: Dragonlance Reread

The Dragonlance Chronicles Reread: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Chapters 3 and 4

Welcome back to our reread of the Dragonlance Chronicles! This week’s chapters contain the last of the character introductions, and all the niceties aside, things fling into action!

As always, although the recaps themselves are spoiler free, the comments are open to Dragonlance readers of all experience levels.

Caution, this week’s recap contains math.

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Series: Dragonlance Reread

The Dragonlance Chronicles Reread: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Chapters 1 and 2

Welcome back to our reread of the Dragonlance Chronicles. Last week we plodded about in the prelude; this week we get into the action! Well, mostly.

After much discussion, we’re going to keep our reread posts spoiler-free, but the comments won’t be. This way if you’re reading the series for the first time—or revisiting it after a long hiatus—you won’t have the adventure ruined. But also, these books are full of connections and tie-ins and spin-offs and foreshadowing and shadowforing, and we don’t want to stop people from chatting about those connections. This solution, like the world of Krynn itself, seems totally True Neutral.

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Series: Dragonlance Reread

The Dragonlance Chronicles Reread: Dragons of Autumn Night, Prelude

Welcome to the very first week of our reread of the Dragonlance Chronicles by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis. The Chronicles—Dragons of Autumn Twilight (1984), Dragons of Winter Night (1985), Dragons of Spring Dawning (1985)—were originally published by TSR. They are tie-in fiction, but more than that—the Chronicles were written in parallel to, and by the same creative team as, a series of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules. They’re not novelisations of the adventure as much as they are the world bible and underpinning and overarching story.

As well as (many) modules in (many) editions of Dungeons & Dragons, the Dragonlance setting grew to inspire computer games, board games, card games, and a movie that is better left unmentioned. And, of course, almost 200 novels, written by Weis, Hickman, and dozens of others. Not only is Dragonlance one of the most successful shared worlds in fantasy, it is also one of the most popular—influencing generations of fans and writers alike.

Over the next… counts on fingers… million weeks, we are going to poke and prod at these three fascinating, important, influential and really, really fun books, one chapter at a time. We’ll also take a few side-quests to talk about the history of these books, have chats with contemporary authors about Dragonlance, watch that terrible movie (argh) and maybe even play a game or two. Stick with us—Krynn won’t save itself!

[Onwards!]

Series: Dragonlance Reread

Under the Radar: The Books That Pinged

Throughout the year, we’ve been taking turns with the Under the Radar column—looking at recent works that, despite being awesome, may have gone unnoticed by many Tor.com readers (including us!). As we’re at the end of the year—and the end of our first year (woohoo!)—this seems the perfect occasion to kick back and think about what we’ve learned.

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Series: Under the Radar

The Best of the West: Jawin’ with Nunslinger Author Stark Holborn

Nunslinger, penned by Stark Holborn, has been the best combination of contemporary and classic publishing: a terrific novel from a major publisher, but published as a series of serialised ebook adventures. Perhaps best of all, Nunslinger is a classic Western—no Weirdest, no Lovecraftian horrors, no post-apocalyptic metaphors—just a nun, some guns, and all the adventure that the 1860s had to offer. On December 5th, a year from our first introduction to Sister Thomas Josephine and her penchant for mayhem, Nunslinger is finally coming out as a single volume.

One of the great mysteries is the identity of Stark Holborn—the garrulous pseudonym selected by Nunslinger’s author. To celebrate the final instalment in this fantastic Western, Holborn agreed to grant an interview.

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A Category Unto Himself: The Works of China Miéville

China Miéville’s presence looms over genre fiction. Over the course of a dozen books, Miéville has ranged freely across categories and classifications—epic and urban fantasy, social and hard science fiction, crime, horror and more. And in each case, he addresses, dances with, pokes at and, ultimately, departs from, the traditions and expectations therein. Although many thousands of words have been written trying to put Miéville’s work into neat buckets (“New Weird!” “Fantastika!” “Literary Speculation!” “Hauntological Slipstream!” “Tentacular Metafusion!”), time has proven that a China Miéville book is ultimately, well—Miévillian. The man is a category unto himself.

And what is Miévillian? I’m tempted to use words like “tremendous,” “mind-blowing,” “amazeballs,” and “unmitigated brilliance,” but that doesn’t help especially. As each book is wildly different from its predecessor, the trick is to look at the qualities instead—a Miévillian book is packed with glorious entertainment, epic scale, powerful themes, intellectual depth, creativity of language, subversive approaches and, with a few rare exceptions, monsters.

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Second Annual Nine Worlds Convention Feautres Zombies, Cheese, and Saucy Poetry!

Despite its youth (this is only the second year!), Nine Worlds already has a well-deserved reputation as one of the UK’s best SF/F conventions. This is a testament to con’s commitment to accessibility and inclusivity, multimedia approach and rampant enthusiasm.

All of which is pretty awesome. And most important of all? Nine Worlds is a ridiculous amount of fun. Whatever you’re into—be it reading, writing, gaming, crafting, learning, arguing or eating—Nine Worlds has something for you.

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Under the Radar: (Even More) South African Genre Fiction

With the release of Sarah Lotz’s The Three, the US, UK, and a few dozen other countries have all been exposed to another—if you’ll excuse the cross-media metaphor—big budget blockbuster from South Africa’s genre scene. I say “another” because the first was Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls.

If your response at this point is “What is The Three?” or “What is a shining girl?” feel free to bookmark this post and come back later—those two books might not be “Under the Radar,” but I have no reservation about recommending them with every fiber of my being.

[Unless you hate brilliant contemporary science fictional horror. In which case… I got nothing for you.]

Series: Under the Radar

Under the Radar: Ibn-e-Safi’s The House of Fear

Unless you can read Urdu, Ibn-e-Safi is probably the best-selling author you’ve never heard of—and certainly one of the most prolific. From 1948 until his death in 1980, Ibn-e-Safi wrote, quite literally, hundreds of books. Two of his series—Colonel Faridi and Ali Imran—had over 100 books each. At times, he wrote up to three or four novels a month, and then there’s still his satires and poetry to consider.

The latter character, Ali Imran, is introduced in The House of Fear. First published in 1955, it has, as of 2010, finally been translated into English. Imran is an absolute hoot—imagine a combination of Danny Kaye and Sherlock Holmes—intelligent, unstoppable and yet, to all outward appearances, an amiable fop.

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Series: Under the Radar

Under the Radar: Jesse Bullington’s The Folly of the World

The Under the Radar series is our chance to highlight books that we believe have gone unjustly unnoticed—recent books that, through quirks of time and space, have somehow slipped through the cracks.

Jesse Bullington’s The Folly of the World (2012) is almost wholly indescribably, so, be warned, although I’m approaching this with great enthusiasm, there’s not a lot of detail involved. At the highest, most hand-wavey conceptual level, Folly is about, I suppose, quirks. And also time. And hey, even a bit of space. And it is definitely about slipping through the cracks—physically, in society and in reality itself.

Is that a little too vague? I’ll start over.

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Series: Under the Radar

Under the Radar: We See a Different Frontier

Justin Landon introduced the concept of “Under the Radar” two weeks ago with his inaugural post—the goal is to give a helping hand (or, at least, a waving one) to recent books that, in our personal opinion, deserve more attention than they’re currently getting.

When we started bandying around the idea, I was midway through my first pick—and, to me, there couldn’t be a book that’s a better contender for this category: We See a Different Frontier, edited by Fabio Fernandes and Djibril al-Ayad—one of the best speculative fiction anthologies I’ve read this year.

The anthology follows a strict theme, that of “colonialism and cultural imperialism,” with a focus on “viewpoints of the colonized… the silent voices in history.” I’m a sucker for a themed anthology, and this is one that is deliberately different from everything else on the science fiction shelf—stories that aren’t about the inevitable Star FederationTM victory, or how Jones-the-clever-engineer saved the day. Those are hoary old campfire tales of space war and power tools. By definition, We See a Different Frontier is about new perspectives and, with them, new stories.

We See a Different Frontier comes conveniently packaged with its own critical insight—courtesy of a detailed afterword from Ekaterina Sedia—meaning I don’t even need to feign some sort of analytical perspective. Instead, I’ll cherry-pick some awesomeness:

J.Y. Yang’s “Old Domes” is my favourite story in the collection, and given how many great stories there are, that means quite a bit. Jing-Li is a groundskeeper—a profession with a very different meaning in this context. She’s trained to cull the Guardian spirits of buildings, the phantoms that inhabit structures and, in an abstract way, give them “meaning” and presence. She lures out the Guardians with the proper ritual offerings and then ends their existence: swiftly and painlessly with a plastic sword. Except, in Jing-Li’s case, her assigned prey isn’t so obliging: Singapore’s 1939 Supreme Court is refusing to go easily into that dark night. The spirit isn’t hostile as much as coy, challenging Jing-Li’s assumptions over what her occupation entails, and how successful it is.

“Old Domes” takes the reader through the full emotional cycle: first we learn how the past is being coldly replaced, then we object to it with an instinctual nostalgia, and finally, we’re led to a wonderfully optimistic conclusion, in which the past, present and future can all co-exist. This is a beautiful story.

Ernest Hogan’s “Pancho Villa’s Flying Circus” is on the other end of the spectrum, challenging any erroneous assumptions that post-colonial SF can’t be commercial—and joyous. It is wild, madcap fun with a stolen airship, steampunk madness and, er, Hollywood ambitions. It is steampunk at its finest: unrepentant anachronism and swashbuckling adventure, but, scratch that chromed surface and there’s a serious message underneath.

Shweta Narayan’s “The Arrangement of Their Parts”—a tale of sentient clockwork animals in India in the 17th century. The story balances a number of meaningful parallels: the “native” and the colonist, a machine and a scientist, a tiger and a brahmin. It is also as masterful a piece of world-building as I’ve read in some time, all the more impressive due to the tight space. By juggling history, folklore and fantasy, “The Arrangement” brings to life a setting that is begging for a series of novels (hint).

“Lotus” by Joyce Chng was one of the most thought-provoking stories in the collection. The set-up, a post-apocalyptic/post-flood world, is not particularly unfamiliar—nor is the core conceit: a young couple find a stash of a rare resource (fresh water) and must deal with the “curse” of this rare success. In many ways, this feels almost like a the set-up of a classic Golden Age SF story: a problem that’s invariably solved by our Hero becoming Lord Mayor of the New Earth Empire and leading the Great Reconstruction. But “Lotus” brings an entirely unanticipated resolution to the story—one that both satisfies and surprises. Perhaps more than any other story in the anthology, “Lotus” reinforces the need for We See a Different Frontier—an influx of new perspectives on scenarios that readers now take for granted.

Those are my four favourites of We See a Different Frontier, but, as a collection, the quality is incredibly high—from the alt-history madness of Lavie Tidhar’s “Dark Continents” (straddling the unpredictability of his award-winning Gorel and the historical insight of The Violent Century) to the classic hard SF of Fabio Fernandes’ “The Gambiarra Method” to the stomach-punch revelations of Rochita Loenen-Ruiz’s “What Really Happened in Ficandula” and the penetrative character study of Rahul Kanakia’s “Droplet,” a story of secrets and wealth.

For all its literary excellence—and again, this is a book I recommend without reservation—We See a Different Frontier: A Postcolonial Speculative Fiction Anthology is presented to readers as an anthology with an agenda. “These stories need to be read,” the editors write in their introduction, and, as much as I agree, I wonder how much being an “overtly political work” (Locus) has contributed to its under-the-radarness amongst the US and UK’s general SF readership. That is, the people who arguably need to read it the most.

I’d be curious to see what would happen, for example, if We See were to swap titles and covers with something incredibly generic—and overtly commercial—such as one of the year’s many interchangeable Year’s Best SF anthologies. The results could be fascinating.

As Aliette de Bodard says in her forward, these stories will “make a different world.” Let’s help them out shall, we? Pick up a copy of We See a Different Frontier, read it, and then share it with a friend. Or six…

Series: Under the Radar

So You Want to Be a Book Collector…

…and why wouldn’t you? Book collecting is one of the greatest hobbies there is. It combines beautiful, interesting objects with the excitement of the hunt and, who knows, maybe even the possibility of making some money! Worst case scenario—you wind up with a lot of books. There’s no way to lose.

Still, this is a decision. Collecting isn’t just hoarding—randomly accumulating lots of books is no bad thing, but collecting requires a slightly more strategic approach. You need to figure out what you want, why you want it and, perhaps most importantly, what you’ll do to get it…

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