No Surrender: Way Down Dark by J. P. Smythe

Calling all authors with plans to ply their darker brands in the young adult market: Way Down Dark is like a lesson in how to bring your fiction to a more sensitive sector without sacrificing the parts that made it remarkable.

The sensational start of J. P. Smythe’s Australia trilogy is to sinister science fiction what Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea series has been to fantasy of the grimdark variety: a nearly seamless segue that doesn’t talk down to its audience or substantially scale back the stuff some say is sure to scare younger readers away. To wit, it doesn’t get a great deal more miserable than this—appropriately given the tone and tenor of Smythe’s other efforts. Consider the fact that Way Down Dark opens on its main character murdering her own mother a macabre case in point.

[It was because she had a reputation.]

The Coode Street Podcast Episode 238: Kim Stanley Robinson

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 are joined by Hugo and Nebula Award winning writer Kim Stanley Robinson to discuss generation starships, how we might live in space, how space opera is becoming a subset of fantasy and his exciting new novel Auroradue July 7 from Orbit. We are delighted to be able to present what is one of the first major discussions about this extraordinary new novel, which we think will prove to be one of the standout SF novels of 2015.

[Listen to Coode Street]

Series: The Coode Street Podcast

Five Things Epic Fantasy Writers Could Learn from Dorothy Dunnett

Dorothy Dunnett is one of those authors you hear about through word of mouth. She didn’t write fantasy—unless you count taking sixteenth-century belief in astrology as true from the perspective of her characters—but ask around, and you’ll find that a surprising number of SF/F authors have been influenced by her work. The Lymond Chronicles and the House of Niccolò, her two best-known series, are sweeping masterpieces of historical fiction; one even might call them epic. And indeed, writers of epic fantasy could learn a great many lessons from Lady Dunnett. Here are but five, all illustrated with examples from the first book of the Lymond Chronicles, The Game of Kings.

[Not to be confused with A Game of Thrones…]

Go On a Blind Date with an SFF Book!

A Redditor found this great, slightly tongue-in-cheek display at an American bookshop in Amsterdam: Instead of judging a book by its cover or author, all you have to go on are keywords in making your decision. (Though we’re pretty sure that “Fantasy/Mississippi/Riverboat/Pale Gentlman” is Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin.) Hat-tip to Neatorama for spotting this!

Afternoon Roundup brings you further treks into the stars, the lowdown on your new favorite hacker TV show, and how most female roles trace their way back to Sigourney Weaver and Alien.

[Read more]

“The Hogwarts” Before Hogwarts

Who among us wasn’t delighted by the scene, early in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone, when Harry finally gets to open his letter? It is, to my mind, one of the most evocative images within the vividly drawn world of Harry Potter, and I believe that moment is memorable for a very specific reason: we are all Muggle-borns. When he gets his letter, Harry does not know about Hogwarts, and we would have been as surprised as he is to find out we need not go to middle school; that we’d be picking up quills, parchment, and a cauldron instead of pens and notepads.

I’ll confess that my first year of college, when I was feeling lost and lonely, more than once I wished an owl would come with a letter for me, letting me know I was supposed to be somewhere far more exciting than where I was.

[But what of the students at St. Custard’s?]

By the Sword: The Pig

This section opens with a quiet little chapter in which Kerowyn’s cousins sell some horses to the Valdemaran military. A delegation from the Valdemaran Guard has come to the Bolthaven horse fair because they heard the horses were good, and because of Kerowyn’s reputation. Which they obviously learned about from Eldan, in case you thought he might have moved on.

This incident reveals that every concern I’ve ever raised about Valdemar’s military and its funding was totally true, plus a few extras. The military is critically short of resources with which to fight Hardorn, a country they thought was an ally until just a couple months ago. The war is expected to be difficult and costly. While negotiating over the horses, Selenay’s delegation reveals that the regular army doesn’t field light cavalry or horse archers, but some of the nobility have private armies that do. Given the fractiousness of Valdemar’s nobility, their involvement in a number of conspiracies to weaken or overthrow the monarchy in the past 20 years, and the recent death of Lord Orthallen at the hands of Lady Elspeth, I can think of few ideas worse than allowing the nobility to maintain private armies that have resources and capacities the regular army does not. Machiavelli would have recommended against this! Also, he would have suggested that perhaps the Heralds could get by with a slightly less generous program of tax rebates. And that maybe someone should look into the goals and political interests of the psychic horses.

[Machiavelli is gravely concerned about Valdemaran politics.]

Series: The Valdemar Reread

Shadows of Self: Prologue

With The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson surprised readers with a spinoff of his Mistborn books, set after the action of the trilogy, in a period corresponding to late 19th-century America. The trilogy’s heroes are now figures of myth and legend, even objects of religious veneration. They are succeeded by wonderful new characters, chief among them Waxillium Ladrian, known as Wax, hereditary Lord of House Ladrian but also, until recently, a lawman in the ungoverned frontier region known as the Roughs. There he worked with his eccentric but effective buddy, Wayne. They are “twinborn,” meaning they are able to use both Allomantic and Feruchemical magic.

Shadows of Self shows Mistborn’s society evolving as technology and magic mix, the economy grows, democracy contends with corruption, and religion becomes a growing cultural force, with four faiths competing for converts. This bustling, optimistic, but still shaky society now faces its first instance of terrorism, crimes intended to stir up labor strife and religious conflict. Wax and Wayne, assisted by the lovely, brilliant Marasi, must unravel the conspiracy before civil strife stops Scadrial’s progress in its tracks.

Shadows of Self is available October 6th in the US from Tor Books, and October 9th in the UK from Gollancz. Read an excerpt below, and stay tuned for further sneak peeks at Brandon Sanderson’s latest adventure!

[Read an excerpt]

The Stargate Rewatch: Atlantis Season Two

Stargate Atlantis Season 2
Executive producers: Robert C. Cooper, Brad Wright
Original air dates: July 15, 2005 – January 30, 2006

Mission briefing. The Daedalus arrives under the command of Colonel Steven Caldwell, destroying the other two hive ships, though Everett is “aged” by the Wraith before it’s all over. That experience allows him to forgive Sheppard for shooting Sumner. With a dozen more hive ships coming, the expedition fakes blowing up the city, using a nuke and switching the shield to cloak mode, making the Wraith think the city is destroyed. They continue to pretend to be nomads to the rest of the galaxy, removing the Atlantis patches from their uniforms when they go offworld. This deception lasts until the end of the season.

[“Best case scenario?” “I win a Nobel Prize.” “Worst case scenario?” “We tear a hole in the fabric of the universe.”]

Series: Stargate Rewatch

Cuban Science Fiction Sweepstakes!

We’re excited to give one lucky winner two Cuban science fiction books that have been translated to English for the very first time! Yoss’s A Planet For Rent offers a chilling vision of the future where an environmentally wrecked Earth is seized by an alien species who plan to save the planet… by turning it into an intergalactic tourist destination.  And from the patron saint of Cuban science fiction, Augustín de Rojas, A Legend of the Future has drama both on and off planet as a war brews on Earth while a groundbreaking mission to Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, goes terribly wrong. Can’t wait to get your hands on these stories? You can check out an excerpt of Legend right now!

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 2:30 am Eastern Time (ET) on June 26, 2015. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on July 1, 2015. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor:, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Garfield Minus Garfield Plus Lying Cat

We’re so glad that Geonn Cannon decided to share his dream—of Saga‘s Lying Cat taking over a Garfield strip—with us, first by tweeting about it, and then by delivering this amazing mashup. Because John always needs to be told off by a sassy feline, even if this one doesn’t like lasagna.

Afternoon Roundup brings you a cautiously optimistic take on AMC’s new robot drama, how the modern movie trailer came to be, and Emma Watson’s new nemesis.

[Read more]

Knowing Where You Stand: The Skilled Illusions of The Sixth Gun

I’ve always felt that a key part of writing was establishing what is and isn’t possible in the story. Yeah, it’s fiction—anything’s possible, but there have to be some parameters. Is my story set in the real world? Something close to the real world? Something completely unlike the world as we know it?

It’s important for a writer to know these things because it’s easy for the reader to feel cheated when a story reveals elements that don’t fit in the established world. Imagine the outrage if, in book seven of A Song of Fire and Ice, we learned that Tyrion wasn’t a dwarf but an exiled alien prince inserted into the Lannister family via hypnotic ray. Or if on iZombie we learned that Liv became one of the undead because of a secret voodoo ritual, not a chemical mixture. When we go through a classic locked-room mystery novel and discover, ten pages from the end, that the killer’s a vampire who turned to mist and slipped through the keyhole… that’s frustrating and annoying.

[Read more]

Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is Coming!

Forgive me, folks, but I’m just going to get out of the way of this one.

“Today is a very special day for two reasons,” wrote J. K. Rowling on Twitter earlier today. “Firstly, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in the UK eighteen years ago! I’m also very excited to confirm today that a new play called Harry Potter and the #CursedChild will be opening in London next year. It will tell a new story, which is the result of a collaboration between writer Jack Thorne, director John Tiffany and myself.”

Contrary to earlier speculation, however, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child won’t be the prequel everyone—including our own Emily Asher-Perrin—was expecting. So what will it be?

[Well, that’s a bit of a mystery.]

Series: British Fiction Focus

The Great Stephen King Reread: Desperation

When you think about it, the whole thing makes sense. After all, the Bible is full of mutilation, torture, murder, sex crimes, and just plain old perversity. But the idea is an uncomfortable one. And yet, after reading Stephen King’s Desperation, you have to admit that one of the most profound Christian novels of the second half of the 20th century involves a crazed cop ranting about Jews and blowjobs, cougar vs. man combat, a live buzzard having its wings torn off, and a man ripping out his own tongue. Stephen King, everybody!

“The other thing that’s interested me ever since I was a kid was the idea that’s baldly articulated in Desperation, and that is that God is cruel,” King said in an interview with Salon, and there is cruelty galore in this book. There’s also a whole lot of God, from the opening line “Oh! Oh, Jesus! Gross!” to the final sentence which reads, “David put his head back against the seat, closed his eyes, and began to pray.” What changed between 1985, when King was hopped up on coke, writing “The Mist” with its shrill Christian lynch mob, and 1994 when he wrote Desperation with its no-nonsense God who’s a source of quiet strength? Looking at his bio it’s pretty obvious: he got sober. Because the God of Desperation is the God of AA.

[Read more]

Series: The Great Stephen King Reread

Pull List: Young Avengers

I wish I could trace back how Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers first came into my life. A rec from the guy who owns the comic book shop I go to? Or maybe some random entry I came across on a list of must-read comics? No matter how it appeared, reading it is one of the best comics-related decisions I’ve ever made. There is nothing I don’t love about 2013 Young Avengers. It has just about everything: amazing art, fantastic dialogue, an exciting story, engaging characters, and is practically brimming with diversity. And what makes it the perfect Pride Month topic is that the team is literally the gayest superhero team in the whole of the Big Two. Not only that, but Billy and Teddy are quite possibly the most adorable couple in Marvel. It’s like they’re made for each other (hint hint).

[“I’m not going to spend the rest of my life in the phone booth. I’m not living a lie.”]