Dog March 25, 2015 Dog Bruce McAllister "Watch the dogs when you're down there, David." The Museum and the Music Box March 18, 2015 The Museum and the Music Box Noah Keller History is rotting away, just like the museum. The Thyme Fiend March 11, 2015 The Thyme Fiend Jeffrey Ford It's not all in his head. The Shape of My Name March 4, 2015 The Shape of My Name Nino Cipri How far can you travel to claim yourself?
From The Blog
March 24, 2015
Protecting What You Love: On the Difference Between Criticism, Rage, and Vilification
Emily Asher-Perrin
March 23, 2015
Language as Power in Shakespeare’s The Tempest
Katharine Duckett
March 16, 2015
What Changes To Expect in Game of Thrones Season Five
Bridget McGovern
March 13, 2015
Five Books with Fantastic Horses
Patricia Briggs
March 13, 2015
Is Ladyhawke the Best Fairy Tale of Them All?
Leah Schnelbach
Showing posts by: liz bourke click to see liz bourke's profile
Wed
Mar 25 2015 10:00am

“I Have Never Been Terribly Good at Holding My Tongue.” Marie Brennan’s Voyage of the Basilisk

Marie Brennan Voyage of the Basilisk Lady TrentWith Voyage of the Basilisk, the third volume of her Memoirs of Lady Trent series, Marie Brennan takes us to new lands in search of new species of dragon. Isabella, several years widowed and the mother of a nine-year-old son, is a dragon naturalist and pioneering natural philosopher in a world similar to our own in the Victorian period, from a nation with resemblances to Victorian Britain: while (some) women are beginning to set themselves against the social and cultural forces that would prefer to confine them to hearth and home, the role of adventurous scientist is still one that only the most strong-minded of gentlewomen would ever take up.

No one could ever accuse Isabella Camherst of lacking determination. Her latest adventure takes her on a long voyage, even further from home than ever before, to eventually conduct research among volcanically active archipelagos that resemble our own 19th century Pacific and South East Asian island chains—down to the presence of competing colonial and local expansionist interests. Once again, Isabella’s scientific curiosity leads her into dangerous territory, on the slopes of an active volcano. And once again she finds herself playing an active part in politically significant events.

[May contain spoilers. Contents may have settled during transit.]

Tue
Mar 24 2015 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Marie Brennan Answers Six Questions

Sleeps With Monsters Marie Brennan InterviewTo celebrate the release of Marie Brennan’s Voyage of the Basilisk next week, please enjoy this Sleeps With Monsters encore post, originally published March 26, 2013.

Today we’re joined by Marie Brennan, who’s kindly agreed to answer some of my importunate questions. Some of you, no doubt, are already familiar with her work: her first two novels, Warrior and Witch; her four-book Onyx Court series of historical fantasy out of Tor (Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lies, A Star Shall Fall, and With Fate Conspire), and her Lies and Prophecy from the Book View Café.

Most recently, her A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir of Lady Trent has hit the shelves. If you haven’t read it already, you should all go read it as soon as you can.

[And now, some questions are answered!]

Tue
Mar 10 2015 11:00am

Sleeps With Monsters: Mass Effect and the Normalisation of the Woman Hero

Commander Shepard image by DeviantArt user DazUki

With Mass Effect 4 rumors swirling this week, please enjoy this Sleeps With Monsters encore post, originally published May 29, 2012.

Let’s get something out of the way before we start. The Mass Effect franchise ending? IT DOES NOT EXIST AND WE SHALL NEVER SPEAK OF IT AGAIN. Somewhere in an alternate universe, Garrus and Tali are having cocktails on a beach, while Jack teaches junior biotics how to swear, is all I’m saying. (Other people like Chuck Wendig and Brit Mandelo have had things to say about Bioware’s failure to stick the dismount of an otherwise brilliantly-written RPG series. So let’s leave it there.)

But that’s not what I want to talk about today. What I want to talk about is how—provided one plays as Commander Jane rather than Commander John—the Mass Effect series normalises the idea of the Woman Hero.

[I was an archaeologist. I know what I’m doing.]

Wed
Mar 4 2015 1:30pm

“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]

Mon
Mar 2 2015 6:00pm

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]

Tue
Feb 24 2015 11:00am

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.]

Mon
Feb 16 2015 1:00pm

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]

Tue
Feb 10 2015 6:00pm

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]

Tue
Feb 10 2015 12:00pm

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]

Tue
Feb 3 2015 12:00pm

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.]

Fri
Jan 30 2015 3:00pm

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]

Tue
Jan 27 2015 12:00pm

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]

Fri
Jan 23 2015 5:00pm

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]

Thu
Jan 22 2015 5:00pm

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]

Thu
Jan 22 2015 12:00pm

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]

Wed
Jan 21 2015 1:00pm

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]

Tue
Jan 20 2015 12:00pm

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]

Tue
Jan 13 2015 12:00pm

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]

Tue
Jan 6 2015 12:00pm

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]

Tue
Dec 30 2014 12:00pm

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]