The Coode Street Podcast Episode 243: Michael Swanwick

Welcome to The Coode Street Podcast, an informal weekly discussion about science fiction and fantasy featuring award-winning critics and editors Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe. The Coode Street Podcast debuted in 2010 and has been nominated for the Hugo, British Science Fiction, and Aurealis awards.

This week we welcome very special guest Michael Swanwick, discussing his new ‘Darger and Surplus’ novel Chasing the Phoenix, the origins of the Darger and Surplus stories, his long-ago discussions with Fritz Leiber about whether the Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories were actually horror stories, collaborating with Eilieen Gunn, William Gibson, and others, and what it was like to  work with legendary editors Terry Carr and Gardner Dozois, plus other random-but-related topics.

[Listen to Coode Street]

Series: The Coode Street Podcast

Witches and Real Estate: Five Magical Houses

House and apartment hunting is wearying, so it’s good to have a clear picture in your mind of what you think is important in a place of residence. I am inclined to choose appealing window nooks, mysterious dumbwaiters, and vine-trailing balconies over rent control, a safe neighborhood, and how easy the bathroom will be to clean. For this folly, I blame my taste in books. Fantasy novels have a longstanding love of magical houses, and they have completely spoiled me for serviceable, low-rise shoeboxes.

Here are a few listings that I wish would turn up in the classifieds and some musings on their appeal…

[Read More…]

Sunset Mantle

With a single blow, Cete won both honor and exile from his last commander. Since then he has wandered, looking for a place to call home. The distant holdings of the Reach Antach offer shelter, but that promise has a price: The Reach Antach is doomed.

Barbarians, traitors, and scheming investors conspire to destroy the burgeoning settlement. A wise man would move on, but Cete has found reason to stay. A blind weaver-woman and the beautiful sunset mantle lure the warrior to wager everything he has left on one final chance to turn back the hungry tides of war.

Read an excerpt from Sunset Mantle by Alter S. Reiss—available in paperback and ebook September 15th from Tor.com!

[Read an excerpt]

Who You Gonna Call? Just What the Doctor Ordered!

Four out of five doctors would probably tell you that getting a visit from your favorite geek culture characters does wonders for patients’ morale. Likely taking a page from Chris Evans and Chris Pratt, the all-female cast of the new Ghostbusters movie stopped by Tufts Medical Center’s Floating Hospital for Children, in their snazzy new costumes and proton packs!

Afternoon Roundup brings you the hitchbot we lost too soon, the SFF characters John Scalzi wanted to be, and a reminder of the appeal of standalone sci-fi movies.

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“Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall; Death is the Fifth, and Master of All”: The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

If the Inheritance Trilogy established N. K. Jemisin as a genre writer to be reckoned with, and the Dreamblood Duology demonstrated the range of her capabilities as a creator, book the first of The Broken Earth comprehensively confirms the award-winning wordbuilder as one of our very finest fantasists. Epic in its scope and scale in the same instant as it is intimate, The Fifth Season is rich, relevant and resonant—quite frankly remarkable.

Brilliantly, it begins with an ending; with two intertwined endings, in truth, which, when taken together, foreground Jemisin’s focus on the huge and the human. In the first, a mother covers the broken body of her little boy—who’s been beaten to death by his father simply for being different—with a blanket. Essun does not cover Uche’s head, however, “because he is afraid of the dark.”

These harrowing paragraphs—and paragraphs are all they are, for all their power—are paired with what is, in apocalyptic fiction such as this, a more conventional conclusion.

[The end… of everything.]

Dragon Coast Sweepstakes!

We have five galleys of Greg Van Eekhout’s Dragon Coast, the conclusion to the Daniel Blackland series, and we want to send you a copy before the book hits shelves on September 15th!

Daniel’s adopted son Sam, made from the magical essence of the tyrannical Hierarch of Southern California whom Daniel overthrew and killed, is lost—consumed by the great Pacific firedrake secretly assembled by Daniel’s half-brother, Paul.

But Sam is still alive and aware, in magical form, trapped inside the dragon as it rampages around Los Angeles, periodically torching a neighborhood or two.

Daniel has a plan to rescue Sam. It will involve the rarest of substances, axis mundi, pieces of the bones of the great dragon at the center of the Earth. Daniel will have to go to the kingdom of Northern California, boldly posing as his half-brother, come to claim his place in the competition to be appointed Lord High Osteomancer of the Northern Kingdom. Only when the Northern Hierarch, in her throne room at Golden Gate Park, raises her scepter to confirm Daniel in his position will he have an opportunity to steal the axis mundi—under the gaze of the Hierarch herself.

And that’s just the first obstacle.

Check for the rules below!

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Mercedes Lackey’s Winds of Change: Bring Me the Finest Cheese Plants in the Land!

Mercedes Lackey’s Winds of Change, book two in the Mage Winds trilogy, has a relatively simple plot. Darkwind and Elspeth work to train their powers and help fix K’Sheyna Vale’s fractured heartstone, while Falconsbane tries to stop them. K’Sheyna calls in Healer-Adept Firesong from K’Treva Vale to help. He chooses an unconventional approach, draining the heartstone of its power. K’Treva’s Mages are pushing that power towards a new heartstone when the power is grabbed and diverted to the Palace in Haven by a mysterious force located in the Forest of Sorrows.

But what I remember most about reading Winds of Change when I was a teenager is that it is the book where Darkwind makes over Elspeth’s wardrobe and the hertasi bring them tapas.

[The hertasi are winning the Velgarth edition of Top Chef]

Series: The Valdemar Reread

The Way We Walk: Getting Started with the Short Stories of China Miéville

Sometimes you’re better off starting with the short stuff, developing a taste, and then tackling the larger works.

An example: Genesis’s The Way We Walk, for those that didn’t home-school themselves in 1980s prog rock, is a set of two live albums. There are The Longs and The Shorts. Naturally, the first one I got was The Longs, because, value, right? Right? And, boy, was that a mistake—because The Longs consisted of basically a half-dozen amorphic medleys, 1980s squidgy power harmonies with a shapelessness that bordered on the Lovecraftian. It took me a while to try Genesis again, and this time I dipped my toe into The Shorts. And that album was (and still is) fantastic—complete with instant, anthemic crowd-pleasers like “I Can’t Dance,” “Invisible Touch,” and “Jesus He Knows Me.” “Ah-ha!” I told myself. “This is why this music thing is a thing!” Later, I even got back into The Longs, as The Shorts had introduced me to the style in a more immediate, approachable way. I got to ease into liking it, rather than leaping into the deep end.

[China Miéville, like Genesis…]

Chris Pratt and Velociraptor E.T. Set Off On a Magical Journey!

So this one will take a moment to explain. Over the weekend, Chris Pratt asked his Facebook followers to help him design a new cover photo, in exchange for dinner at Applebees! Obviously they responded immediately, by the hundreds, with works of Photoshop that inspired emotions including joy, disgust, terror, and utter euphoria. We especially loved Nathan More’s entry, but honestly you need to see all of them, because they are all uniquely beautiful. You can see the rest over on Facebook!

Morning Roundup brings you a whole new side to Bambi’s past, some helpful rats, news of Outlander, and an interview with David Mitchell!

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Kitty Norville’s iPod Shuffle Sweepstakes!

Kitty Norville is back in the final installment of Carrie Vaughn’s bestselling series! Kitty Saves the World picks up with werewolf and late-night radio DJ Kitty and the gang trying to find a way to stop the evil vampire Dux Bellorum before he can put his apocalyptic plan into action. Outgunned and outnumbered at every turn, the stakes have never been higher for Kitty, and she’ll have to call on all her old allies if she hopes to beat Dux and save the world!

One grand prize winner will receive a copy of Kitty Saves the World, out on August 4th from Tor Books, along with an iPod shuffle preloaded by Carrie Vaughn herself with all of the songs from all fourteen playlists listed in the Kitty Norville novels and short story collection! You can listen to nearly 200 of Kitty’s favorite tunes, and show off the engraving on this silver 2GB iPod Shuffle, which reads “Kitty’s Ultimate Playlist.”

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 9:30 AM Eastern Time (ET) on August 1, 2015. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on August 5, 2015. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Tor.com, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Fiction Affliction: August Releases in Paranormal Romance

Twenty new paranormal romance books turn up the heat in August (note that due to space limitations, this list does not include all of the small-press and self-published paranormal romances for the month). Look for series additions from, among others, Linda Thomas-Sundstrom, J.D. Tyler, Sherrilyn Kenyon, A.C. Arthur, Eve Langlais, Carrie Ann Rylan, Sandra Hill, Amanda Ashley, and Dianne Duvall.

[Read about this month’s releases!]

New “Dystopian” Little Women Might be Missing the Point

Little Women is described as a hyper-stylized, gritty adaptation of the 1868 novel by Louisa May Alcott, in which disparate half-sisters Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy band together in order to survive the dystopic streets of Philadelphia and unravel a conspiracy that stretches far beyond anything they have ever imagined—all while trying not to kill each other in the process.

What the actual f***? Have The CW’s executives actually read Little Women? Probably not, though they likely patted themselves on the backs for having Rory Gilmore be seen reading it on Gilmore Girls a decade ago.

[Read more]

The Stargate Rewatch: Atlantis Season Four

Stargate Atlantis Season 4
Executive producers: Robert C. Cooper, Brad Wright, Joseph Malozzi, Paul Mullie
Original air dates: September 28, 2007 – March 7, 2008

Mission briefing. Atlantis is drifting between star systems, with McKay and Zelenka trying desperately to keep everyone from dying through various manipulations of the power and the shield. Meanwhile, Weir is dying, and the only solution that Keller can come up with involves activating the nanites that are still in her system. Sheppard thinks this is a terrible idea, but they do it anyhow, as she’ll die otherwise. Weir herself thinks it’s a bad idea when she’s revived.

The city needs a ZPM or they’ll be drifting forever, but they have a jumper that can make it to a planet—specifically, the Asuran homeworld. Weir is now plugged into the replicators, so she helps them get the ZPM, and also keeps Oberoth at bay. But in the end, she is taken by the replicators, even as the others escape with a ZPM.

As an added bonus, McKay has altered the replicator base code so that they will do what the Ancients originally built them for: to fight the Wraith. A Wraith-replicator war proceeds to break out in the Pegasus galaxy.

[Good. We can finally get to work without having to look over our shoulders.]

Series: Stargate Rewatch

Classic Hollywood Stars Meet Classic Superheroes!

Joe Phillips has already given us unique takes on superheroes with his beefcake Steve Rogers and Superman art. But now he’s going in a bold new direction, casting the greatest stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age as an impressive lineup of comics’ finest heroes! Our favorite? Humphrey Bogart as a presumably-even-more-gruff Hellboy, with Peter Lorre taking on the role of Abe Sapien. Throw in Lauren Bacall as Liz Sherman and we have movie heaven!

[Wait until you see Marilyn Monroe…]

Star Wars Topps Cards: Mark Hamill Commentary Edition!

Forget headshots—the real fun thing to get autographed are collectors’ items like these vintage Star Wars Topps cards. Especially because Mark Hamill gets wonderfully snarky in signing them. (Poor Luke! But it’s so true.) Check out more at Comics Beat. Seriously, though, Hamill needs to record commentary for all of the Star Wars movies, even the one’s he’s not in!

Afternoon Roundup brings you animals that actually benefited from losing their superpowers, upcoming awesome speculative fiction, and how A Wrinkle in Time changed sci-fi forever!

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The Great Stephen King Reread: Hearts in Atlantis

Stephen King wasn’t messing around. His new publisher was getting double barreled capital L literature from the Viscount of Vomit. First there was the high-blown gothic, Bag of Bones, then came the small and spiritual Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and now here was Hearts in Atlantis—a series of Linked Novellas. Could there be a literary form more twee and precious than Linked Novellas?

And these weren’t just any linked novellas, but linked novellas about the Sixties and the Vietnam War (which King missed due to his busted eardrums and flat feet) which is basically a core requirement to attain one’s Serious Man of Letters certificate. Scribner was so thrilled about what they received from their expensive new author that on the cover they simply wrote “New Fiction” rather than cluing readers in that this was either a novel told in parts, or Linked Novellas, or a collection of short stories. Hell, they probably didn’t even know themselves.

[Read more]

Series: The Great Stephen King Reread

Fake It Till You Make It: Savages by K.J. Parker

K.J. Parker appears to be in a very prolific period in his career right now. In addition to the ongoing serial novel The Two of Swords, which just had its sixth monthly installment published in July, and last year’s short fiction/essay collection Academic Exercises, we are now treated to Savages, a brand new full length novel. (Plus, come October, a new novella right here on Tor.com!) Maybe it’s the recent unveiling of his true identity that spurred all this activity? Whatever’s the cause, you’ll never hear me complain about more K.J. Parker on the shelves.

The setting for Savages, as for most of Parker’s output to date, is once again a vaguely recognizable (but really different) parallel of Europe during and after the breakup of the Roman Empire: there are Western and Eastern Empires, one with vaguely Roman-sounding names and one with kinda-Greek-sounding names, as well as some other parallels to countries and regions in historical central Europe. Fans of the author will catch references to, among others, Permia and Scheria, two countries that have frequently been featured in Parker’s fiction.

[Read more]

Voyager Goes Virtual

Way back when, in October 2012, Voyager—HarperCollins’ home for fantasy and science fiction, and the publisher across the pond of people like George R.R. Martin, Mark Lawrence, Peter V. Brett, and Robin Hobb—opened its doors to unagented submissions for a brief period. In just two weeks, something like five thousand manuscripts were submitted, fifteen of which have seen the light of day of late.

Spanning genres “from urban fantasy to military sci-fi, with YA, romance and mystery in the mix,” Voyager’s venture into digital-first publishing has been such a exceptional success that the imprint is set to celebrate said with a week it’s calling #VirtualVoyager. From this coming Monday through Friday (August 3-7), the fifteen authors comprising the digital list have cleared their calendar to participate in a schedule of exciting events and social media sessions you won’t want to miss.

Never one to take a press release as the whole of the story, however, I asked Voyager’s most approachable assistant editor, one Rachel Winterbottom, if she could delve into a little additional detail about the week.

[She did!]

Series: British Fiction Focus