The Shape of My Name March 4, 2015 The Shape of My Name Nino Cipri How far can you travel to claim yourself? The Hell of It February 25, 2015 The Hell of It Peter Orullian What will he wager? Schrödinger’s Gun February 18, 2015 Schrödinger’s Gun Ray Wood Maybe in some other timeline it would have gone smooth. Acrobatic Duality February 11, 2015 Acrobatic Duality Tamara Vardomskaya The two of her are perfectly synchronized.
From The Blog
March 4, 2015
Writing Women Characters as Human Beings
Kate Elliott
March 2, 2015
A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy That Would Please Crom Himself!
Leah Schnelbach
February 27, 2015
Goodbye, Mr. Nimoy — What Spock Meant to One Geeky 12-Year-Old Girl
Emily Asher-Perrin
February 26, 2015
Introducing the Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch
Keith DeCandido
February 23, 2015
Oh No, She Didn’t: The Strong Female Character, Deconstructed
Ilana C. Myer
Showing posts by: liz bourke click to see liz bourke's profile
Mar 4 2015 12:30pm

“Celtic Fantasy”: What Does It Even Mean?

Cover art Mark Harrison Ian McDonald King of Morning Queen of Day

When the powers that be here asked me to write a post about my feelings on “Celtic Fantasy,” my “yes” was a hesitant thing, dubious and hedged around with caveats. I can talk—a little—about intensely local Irish fantasy: Ian McDonald’s King of Morning, Queen of Day, or Ruth Frances Long’s A Crack in Everything. Or Jo Walton’s Táin-influenced The Prize in the Game, for that matter. (Or Kevin Barry’s City of Bohane, which is really fantasy set in the future, if you ask me.) Pat O’Shea’s The Hounds of the Morrigan and Michael Scott’s unfinished De Danann series were foundational texts for me before I turned ten: episodes from the Rúraíocht, especially the Táin Bó Cuailgne, and from the Fiannaíocht, cropped up in my primary school readers.

Some of the very first history I was formally taught involved the Christianisation of Ireland and the exploits of St. Patrick as taken from his Confession and a couple of 7th-century hagiographies. My secondary school English and History classes were practically swathed about in the “Celtic Twilight” and the late 19th/early 20th century Anglo-Irish literary renaissance:

“The host is riding from Knocknarea
And over the grave of Clooth-na-bare;

Caolte tossing his burning hair
And Niamh calling
Away, come away—”

(W.B. Yeats, “The Hosting of the Sidhe”)

But Celtic fantasy? What does that even mean, in this context?

[Read More]

Mar 2 2015 5:00pm

Agatha Christie Meets 19th-century Romance: The Buried Life by Carrie Patel

Carrie Patel The Buried Life The best thing I can say about The Buried Life, Carrie Patel’s debut novel from Angry Robot Books, is that it’s an interesting mess of a book. In its favour, it’s not a boring mess, but structurally and in terms of its approach to exposition, it feels more like a treatment for a videogame than a novel proper.

In the underground city of Recoletta, Inspector Liesl Malone finds herself called to the scene of a murder. The victim is a historian, one of the few at work within the city: for in Recoletta the study of history, especially history that predates the Catastrophe that resulted in the city’s founding, is tightly controlled by the secretive Directorate of Preservation. Before her investigation gets very far, a second, connected murder among Recoletta’s elite sees Malone pulled off the case. But this second murder has left a potential witness: the laundress Jane Lin. And Malone doesn’t appreciate being sidelined while Recoletta’s ruling council sends its own investigators after the murderer. She’s determined to get to the truth, even when Recoletta’s elite don’t want it uncovered.

[Read More]

Feb 24 2015 10:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: WE WUZ PUSHED — Brit Mandelo on Joanna Russ and Radical Truth-Telling

Sleeps With Monsters: WE WUZ PUSHED. Brit Mandelo on Joanna Russ and Radical Truth-Telling

Please enjoy this Sleeps With Monsters encore post, originally published July 31, 2012.

“If silence is starvation, and silence is looking into a mirror and seeing nothing, the only way to fix this erasure is to speak radical truths.” [Mandelo 2012, 48.]

It’s hard to engage analytically with the ongoing conversation of a genre without reading its critical voices.[1][2] Often, it’s hard to read those critical voices. Sometimes they’re hard to find. Sometimes they’re just hard to read, since any continuing conversation soon acquires its own implicit assumptions and—on occasion—its own technical vocabulary.

[But WE WUZ PUSHED is a joy to read.]

Feb 16 2015 12:00pm

Discover 10 Classical Elements That Sci-Fi/Fantasy is Built Upon

Ajax and Achilles dicing before battle. Attic black figure amphora, 6th century BCE.

Few of us realise how deep the roots of the classical past actually reach.

The written history of the Greeks doesn’t go back as far as that of say, Egypt. In fact, Herodotos, in the fifth century BC, thought that the Egyptians were the bees’ knees when it came to any number of things, the antiquity of their records among them. But the writings and art of the ancient Greeks—and their cultural emulators, inheritors, and adaptors, the Romans—have exercised an influence over European culture and imagination which is to all practical purposes unparalleled. Before the twentieth century, literature, art and architecture were saturated with classical allusions, and the so-called “classical education” was de rigueur. Even today, whether or not we realise it, we’re surrounded by classical references.

[Read more]

Feb 10 2015 5:00pm

Something Oddly Elegiac: Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Signal to Noise Silvia Moreno-Garcia Silvia Moreno-Garcia is to date perhaps best known as an anthology editor and the publisher of the small Canada-based Innsmouth Free Press, and as the author of two collections of short fiction. Signal to Noise, released this month by Solaris Books, is her debut novel: and a strangely compelling entry in the novel stakes it is, at that.

Spoilers ahead.

[Read more]

Feb 10 2015 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Introspection Is Probably Bad For Me, But Anyway...

Sleeps With Monsters

Today I’m in an introspective mood. Reading is pretty much kicking my arse lately. It may be the critic’s disease: consume enough of any kind of media, and it grows difficult to be fair to the average individual example on its own merits. It may be, too, that my capacity to engage intellectually and emotionally with work that demands a more thorough engagement has shrunk: it does that from time to time.

It makes writing this column regularly something of an interesting juggling act. I get to write about the things I love, the things I find exciting, the things I enjoy... and that’s incredibly fun, most of the time. A privilege. (Technically, you really shouldn’t consider anything I write in this column to be a review, you know that? Most of the time, I’m choosing to write about the good parts, and a review should take in all the parts.)

[Sleeps With Monsters reflects my interests—and thus my biases—pretty strongly]

Feb 3 2015 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: “She’d Die Like Joan of Arc First, and Spit Blood on You Through a Smile”

Karen Memory Elizabeth Bear excerptYou don’t understand how much I love Elizabeth Bear’s Karen Memory. Hell, I don’t understand how much I love Karen Memory: normally neither steampunk nor 19th century Americana have any great appeal for me.

But Karen Memory is a book I loved so much that I’ll seize any opportunity to extol its virtues. Because its narrator-protagonist, Karen, has the kind of voice that I’d be happy to read all day. And all the next day. And the day after that. Karen’s voice is funny and smart and confiding and so very sixteen—a sixteen possessed of a whole lot of pragmatism and with a whole lot of the innocence knocked off, but so very sixteen nonetheless.

Brit Mandelo’s review has already sketched some of the main points, so I won’t cover the same ground. (I disagree with my honourable colleague that Karen Memory lacks depth and reflection when it comes to itself and its characters—but every reader finds something different in their books.) I’m just going to... well, honestly? Probably gush.

[It’s embarrassing, but there it is.  Also, be prepared for spoilers.]

Jan 30 2015 2:00pm

Death and Life in a Great American City: City of Savages by Lee Kelly

City of Savages Lee Kelly review Saga Press is Simon & Schuster’s newest imprint, specialising in science fiction and fantasy. Their opening line-up includes well-known names like Genevieve Valentine and Ken Liu. It also includes Lee Kelly’s debut, City of Savages, a novel set in a postapocalyptic future where the island of Manhattan is a prison camp populated by fewer than a thousand people.

It’s been sixteen years since the invasion of New York. For sisters Phee and Sky, the depopulated city is all they’ve known. Their mother, Sarah, doesn’t talk about the past. She especially doesn’t talk about why Rolladin, the New Yorker who’s their prison warden in the absence of the “Red Allies,” treats their family differently from the other prisoners.

[Read More]

Jan 27 2015 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Competence is Important in Dragon Age: Inquisition

Dragon Age Inquisition

Having spent a little over 100 hours playing through Bioware’s latest RPG epic, I can say that Dragon Age: Inquisition is a seriously ambitious attempt to merge character-based storytelling and open-world exploration. As a purely narrative achievement, it’s less successful than its predecessors: the open-world gameplay tends to dilute narrative urgency, and—since the player-character opens the game with no existing ties and no solid contextual grounding—many of the choices the player gets to make during the narrative end up feeling as though they lack heft and meaning. They lack actual weight, since the writing never quite sells, on an emotional level, why any of those choices really matter.

But for all my complaints about its narrative effectiveness—and niggling irritations about gameplay and display, I mean seriously the font size and that menu screenDragon Age: Inquisition does at least two things that are the next best thing to revolutionary. And those two things primed me to love it, even despite its flaws.

[Read More]

Jan 23 2015 4:00pm

A Vision of the Future-Past: Cobra Outlaw by Timothy Zahn

Cobra Outlaw Timothy Zahn review Timothy Zahn has been writing Cobra novels since the 1980s. After the first trilogy (Cobra in 1985, Cobra Strike in 1986, Cobra Bargain in 1988, rereleased in omnibus as The Cobra Trilogy in 2004), however, two decades intervened before the publication of a second trilogy (Cobra Alliance, Cobra Guardian, and Cobra Gamble, 2009-2012).

Now, with 2013’s Cobra Slave and this year’s Cobra Outlaw, one finds oneself in the middle of a third Cobra trilogy—and it makes for an interesting reading experience.

[Read More]

Jan 22 2015 4:00pm

Comfortingly Local: Carousel Seas by Sharon Lee

Carousel Seas Sharon Lee review Carousel Seas is the third novel in Sharon Lee’s Carousel trilogy, after Carousel Tides (2012) and Carousel Sun (2014). Like its predecessors, it’s set in the small Maine seaside town of Archer’s Beach, a town that’s home to rather more strangeness than most of its residents suspect. For Earth is only one of several worlds in a chain of magic in the universe: but Earth is the Changing Land, where things can alter their nature, can change and grow, and that makes it both dangerous and useful to powerful people across the worlds.

Kate Archer is the Guardian of the Land for Archer’s Beach, connected to it by ties she can’t break and charged with its protection and preservation. She’s also the last survivor of a magical lineage from another world, and—potentially, at least—something of a magical heavy hitter. But in all likelihood, that won’t be enough to protect her or Archer’s Beach, should the Wise—the people who control, essentially, the gates between worlds, among other things—discover that Kate was complicit in a magical jailbreak.

[Read More]

Jan 22 2015 11:00am

Weird Magic: Pacific Fire by Greg van Eekhout

Pacific Fire review Greg van Eekhout

Pacific Fire is Greg van Eekhout’s latest novel, a fast and slick sequel to last year’s California Bones. It situates itself in the same peculiar subgenre as California Bones, a subgenre so unusual that I find it difficult to think of many examples outside van Eekhout’s own work but one that nonetheless feels like a subgenre in its own right: the fantasy heist novel.

The heist story—the caper plot—is a thing unto itself. It often crops up in espionage thrillers or as part of some larger narrative. California Bones is a heist novel whose major focus is the heist itself. Pacific Fire combines elements of the heist with the more straightforward thriller narrative of bad things are going to happen and SOMEONE has to stop them.

[Contains spoilers]

Jan 21 2015 12:00pm

Sleeps With Monsters: Agent Carter, I Think I’m in Love

Agent Carter Hayley Atwell

At the time of writing, I’ve seen the first two hours of Marvel’s Agent Carter miniseries.

And I think I’m in love.

[Which is not to pretend that it has no problems]

Jan 20 2015 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: One Book Leads to Another (and Another...)

Sleeps With Monsters

This was supposed to be a post about Canadian author Karina Sumner-Smith’s debut novel Radiant. Between reading Radiant and settling down to write about it, though, I chanced to read two more books I’d really quite like to talk about: another debut, Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library, and S.L. Huang’s second independently-published novel, Half Life.

Come for one! Stay for three!

[Read More]

Jan 13 2015 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: I Want More of Everything I Like

Ancillary Justice The Goblin Emperor

2015 is starting to look like it’s well underway. And may it live up to the best of all our hopes!

When it comes to thinking about books, though, I haven’t quite caught up to the new year yet. I’ve spent the past little while, in fact, dwelling on the kinds of books I’ve read (and reread) in the last year, and considering the kinds of books I would give a wisdom tooth to see more of.

[Read More]

Jan 6 2015 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Books to Look Forward to in the First Half of 2015

sleeps with monsters new releases 2015

Last time I wrote one of these posts, I tried to be comprehensive, and talk about almost everything I knew about that was a) written by a woman, and b) forthcoming in the six months covered by the post’s title.

I learned something from that. I learned that it’s impossible to be comprehensive. So this time, I confess up front, I’m not even going to try. From me, you’re just going to hear about the books that I know about and find interesting—or am excited for. And one or two of them, I’m really excited for.

And I’ll trust you guys to fill in the gaps in my knowledge in the comments.

[Read More]

Dec 30 2014 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn JohnsonThe Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson (Arthur A. Levine, 2013) is the last finalist from last year’s Tiptree Award that I’m going to talk about in this column—and I’ve just squeaked it in under the 2014 wire, I think. (Shamefully, I doubt I’m going to get to read N.A. Sulway’s winning Rupetta before the next set of finalists are announced.)

And, wow.

It’s easy to see why The Summer Prince has received a significant amount of acclaim. This is a tight, compelling book with an awful lot of things to say about art, about politics, about principles and compromises, about the prices people have to pay to make a difference, and about power and inequality. At less than 300 pages long, it’s a very compact story: it’s also incredibly effective.

[Read more]

Dec 23 2014 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Looking Back On 2014

sleeps with monsters 2014 year in review

At the time of writing, I’ve read approximately 230 new-to-me books in the past calendar year. Twenty-seven, according to my records, were nonfiction, and maybe another half-dozen were ARCs for books that won’t be out until next year. Of what’s left, a little over eighty were novels written or co-written by women published prior to 2014, and something over fifty were novels written or co-written by people who identify themselves as women and published in 2014.

[What I want to do in this post is talk a little about the kinds of new books I read in 2014, and what I think were the best of them.]

Dec 2 2014 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Still Talking About Books

Recent weeks have seen me turn to reading novels that I personally categorise as “fluff.” There’s much to be said for books that do predictable things with verve and energy, and much to be said, too, for books that take an utterly ridiculous premise and turn it into a fun read.

[Read more]

Nov 26 2014 4:00pm

A Detective Novel Trapped in a Space Opera: Undercity by Catharine Asaro

Undercity Catherine Asaro review Skolian Empire Catharine Asaro is a science fiction writer best known for her Skolian Empire series, a loosely-connected set of books that mixed space opera and romance before SFF Romance became a subgenre in its own right. In Undercity, she returns to the Skolian Empire universe, to a new set of characters and a fresh set of circumstances.

Major Bhaajan used to be a Skolian military officer with the Imperial Space Command. Retired from active service, she’s become a private investigator, a fairly good one. When a mysterious client offers a lot of money for her services, she finds herself returning to Raylicon, the planet of her birth, where a cloistered young man of extremely good family has gone missing. The Majdas are the second most influential family in the empire, even though the empire’s ostensibly democratically ruled, and they’re old-fashioned to boot: they keep their men in seclusion, in the tradition of old Skolian matriarchy. The young man who’s just disappeared from their carefully-guarded household was in line to marry a member of the most influential family in the empire, and the Majdas are understandably eager to get him safely back home.

[Read More]