Not Just Another Fantasy Assassin: the Vlad Taltos Novels by Steven Brust

When someone asks me for my personal favorite fantasy series, I usually hem and haw for a while and try to sneak at least two or three extra series into my answer. But if you were to force me, under threat of violence, to trim it down to just one, it would be Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series. Vallista, the fifteenth novel in the long-running series, is due out on October 17th, making this an excellent time to try and convert some new readers to the Gospel of Taltos.

Explaining what exactly is so wonderful about this series is tricky, partly because it’s so unique and partly because it’s hard to do without including huge spoilers, but at its heart it’s the story of Vlad Taltos, a human assassin living in the Dragaeran Empire, as well as the story of the Dragaeran Empire itself.

[Read more] Publishing Wants to Tell You About the Last Survivors of Innsmouth

For 72 hours only, from now to the end of October 20th, Publishing is offering a free ebook download of Ruthanna Emrys’ Winter Tide when you sign up for their monthly newsletter.

Winter Tide is the first book in Emrys’ Lovecraftian saga about the last survivors of Innsmouth, which continues with Deep Roots in summer 2018.

This offer is available worldwide from 12 PM EST on October 17th to 12 PM EST on October 20th.

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“There Is Juju in This Book”: Exploring Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch series

Hey you! Yeah, you. C’mere and take a seat. I’m about to tell you about a fantastic middle grade/young adult series by the amazing Nnedi Okorafor. The Akata Witch series is an electrifying tale about an inspiring African girl. It’s gorgeously written and filled with magic, excitement, and even a little romance. It beats the Chosen One trope at its own game with the help of West African deities and socio-cultural traditions. I know I always say “you need to read this,” but you really need to read this.

[“My name is Sunny Nwazue and I confuse people.”]

Robert Jordan Birthday Sweepstakes!

In 1990, gleeman Thom Merrilin declaimed “You want stories?” through what was then a little-known fantasy novel called The Eye of the World.

Epic fantasy author Robert Jordan would provide those stories in abundance for the next three decades, crafting a rich epic we know now as The Wheel of Time.

In celebration of Robert Jordan’s birthday, wants to send one lucky winner a framed pressing of that seminal quote, in remembrance of that gleeman who came to town all those years ago, in honor of the stories he brought to life.

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 12:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on October 17th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on October 21st. 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.

Sleeps With Monsters: My Year In Queer

Are we reaching some kind of critical mass this year in terms of queer content in books published by mainstream SFF imprints? Where queer people have a central role to play, and where, moreover, being queer does not end universally badly? Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that this year—including some novels I’ve read that aren’t published quite yet—is a banner year.

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Series: Sleeps With Monsters

How to Tell If You’re Living In a Dystopia — And Why It Matters

If you’re a character in a piece of genre fiction these days, there’s a good chance you’re living in some kind of dystopian reality. From teenagers killing each other as blood sport to women forced into lives of terrified obedience by a system that views them as expendable vessels, there are so many flavors of fictional systematized cruelty these days that we’re beginning to question whether we’ve finally achieved “Peak Dystopia Fatigue,” at least when it comes to a particular brand of Blade Runner-esque futuristic urban hellscapes. But is that all there is to the genre? Just an endless slog of unrelenting bleakness? Is that what dystopias are all about?

[Read more]

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson: Chapters 22-24

Start reading Oathbringer, the new volume of Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive epic, right now. For free! is serializing the much-awaited third volume in the Stormlight Archive series every Tuesday until the novel’s November 14, 2017 release date.

Every installment is collected here in the Oathbringer index.

Need a refresher on the Stormlight Archive before beginning Oathbringer? Here’s a summary of what happened in Book 1: The Way of Kings and Book 2: Words of Radiance.

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Series: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View is the Mashup You’ve Been Looking For

The new trailer for The Last Jedi was not the only exciting Star Wars news this past week. In celebration of A New Hope’s 40th anniversary, Del Rey has published an anthology of 40 stories that weave in and out of the original film. Whether it’s Greedo, Antilles or the red droid (you know the one), A New Hope is bursting at the seams with weird and fantastic side characters. Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View hands those characters over to 43 weird and fantastic authors. The set-list alone is amazing: scifi heavyweights (Nnedi Okorafor, Ken Liu), seasoned SW veterans (Jason Fry, Jeffrey Brown), comic book writers (Kelly Sue DeConnick, Kieron Gillen), and media luminaries (Griffin McElroy, Mallory Ortberg) offer up a diverse range of tone, form, and lore.

There’s nothing new under two suns in a sprawling franchise that’s celebrating its 40th year. What the Expanded Universe hasn’t covered, fanfiction has laid its messy, beautiful little hands on. But the EU has already been reshuffled by the reboot, and the playground feels fresh and new. Where there’s still love for a story, there’s still room to explore it—and there is still a whole lot of love in the galaxy for scrappy, fresh-faced rebels destroying evil galactic empires.

[In a galaxy far away…]

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Memory, Chapters 10-11

This week’s chapters deal with Miles’s 30th birthday. Happy birthday, Miles!  

My copy of Memory was purchased from the Oberlin College Cooperative Bookstore shortly after I turned twenty. That was a very different time to be reading about Miles turning thirty than now, almost exactly twenty-one years later. Thirty seemed old then. I sort of got what Miles said to Martin about middle age being a moveable feast, always ten years older than you are, but it really hit home on this read. Miles is striking me as shockingly young this week because I finally noticed that his birthday means that he must have been killed at twenty-nine. Or possibly at twenty-eight—it was a long convalescence. He’s been leading the Dendarii for slightly more than a decade, and he’s been assigned to ImpSec for approximately seven years. Rank notwithstanding, his career has been meteoric; he has come an incredibly long way as a result of a few impulsive decisions he made to impress a girl while vacationing at age seventeen. Gregor has already asked him not to return the the Dendarii, but I think he needs to go further. Miles is Not Safe to be out of direct Imperial control. He’s dangerous; he needs a job.  

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Writing SFF Horses: Notes on Breeds and Riding

Every so often when I put up an article in this series on SFF Equines, the commenters give me all kinds of ideas for new articles. And they ask great questions. Last time was no exception.

This batch of questions centers around a couple of common themes, namely horse breeds and riding. I’ll take the shortest one first, and then circle out from there.

[It’s Question Time on the Old Horseblog Today!]

“This is so f***ing cool!” — Star Trek Discovery‘s “Choose Your Pain”

In 1966, Star Trek put a black woman and an Asian man on the bridge, and made them senior officers, a year later adding a Russian man to the mix. In an era of civil rights unrest, war in southeast Asia, and the ongoing cold war with the Soviet Union, showing those three working together with the white folks (not to mention the pointy-eared alien) was huge.

In 1993, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine put a black man at the top of the ensemble, and had an Arab doctor. The former was so radical that it had rarely been seen before or since, and the latter is also vanishingly rare.

And now, in 2017, Star Trek Discovery finally gives us a main character on a Trek TV show who is not heterosexual.

[I reiterate—ouch!]

Approaching Gene Wolfe with Awe and Trepidation

Two feelings predominated my first reading of Gene Wolfe: awe and trepidation. The awe was for Wolfe’s mastery of prose, tone, setting, voice, mood, and incident: I had not realized that science fiction could be so fraught with meaning, so numinous and so horrifying, or that any writer could so successfully marry apocalyptic drama, baroque landscapes, and violent action with pensive introspection and rueful reflection. The trepidation? I didn’t know that anyone could sustain this level of accomplishment for four volumes and a thousand pages. Could he really be this good? As it turns out, he really was.

After twenty pages of The Shadow of the Torturer, I wanted nothing more than to set aside my schoolwork and social life and read all four volumes of The Book of the New Sun cover to cover. But, reflecting that this would leave me without any New Sun books to read for the first time, I decided to pace myself: I would not read the books all in a row, but would force myself to read at least one other novel between each New Sun volume.

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Shaun Tan, Armand Baltazar, and Gregory Manchess on Artists Becoming Authors and the Future of Graphic Storytelling

I’ve been illustrating covers for major science fiction, fantasy, and horror publishers for two decades, but after I won my first Hugo Award in 2012, I decided to start creating my own worlds and stories. In between cover jobs, something was building—I was inspired by the icons of the classic Mexican game of chance, Loteria, that I grew up playing with my family. So I started drawing. I’ve been producing very limited runs of the artworks as giant-sized art cards called “Loteria Grandes”—and it’s a joy to watch that fan base grow. What I didn’t know is that the pictures contained secrets and stories, and the more that I drew, the more they revealed themselves.

So I started writing them down.

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The Power of Princesses: Robin McKinley’s The Door in the Hedge

The Door in the Hedge is a collection of four longish short stories, all reimaginations of fairytales, and first published in 1981. I must have first read it not long after that. Way back then, not many people were retelling fairytales, and the only other such book I’d come across was Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. The Door in the Hedge isn’t that at all, and it’s interesting to think why not. They’re both unquestionably feminist reimaginations of the same kinds of European stories. But Carter was dragging her fairytales kicking and screaming and thrusting them bloody before us, while McKinley wants them still to be fairytales. Just… fairytales where the princesses have agency, where they are active and do things rather than having things done to them, but where they can still, after all, live happily ever after.

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