Friday, December 30, 2011

Four Publishers You Should be Reading in 2012

Yep, that's right.  I said "publishers", not "authors".  The reason for this wording is these are the publishers I think are publishing the most innovative, original, and/or best written stuff in the fantasy and science fiction fields, with a dash of horror thrown in for spice.

I'm limiting my list to four (plus a runner-up) because these are the publishers whose books I've most enjoyed this year.  If you've read my post from yesterday, you can probably guess which ones won't be on there.  I'm deliberately not including small presses that publish pricey limited editions, even if they also publish trade editions.  I'm limiting the list to imprints you can find in a local bookstore.  Also, there's at least one publisher not on the list because I simply didn't get around to reading any of their books this year, and that's Orbit. I've enjoyed things they've published in the past, and have several books in the TBR stack from them.  What I've read of Orbit's line I've generally enjoyed, and I expect that to be the case with what I have on hand.

One thing to note about all the publishers on the list.  Roughly a decade, to use round figures, is about as long as any of these publishers have been around, although one or two have existed slightly longer than that.  Some are much younger.  All of them are lean, efficient, and not afraid to take chances with what they publish.  And their books don't look like all their other books.

Here's the way I'm structuring this list.  I'll list the publishers in reverse order, starting with the runner-up (along with an explanation of why that publisher isn't number 5), with a few recommendations from their line along with a list of some of what I'll be reading from them in the coming months.  I'll confine myself to three, at most four, recommendations and TBRs, even though in most cases the actual number is greater.  Links will be to the books' webpages, not any reviews I've posted; there'll be a comprehensive list of reviews at the end of the post.  For series, I'll only list the first volume.  A book's being included in the TBR listing is not a guarantee I'll review it here or at Futures Past and Present.

Let's get started, shall we?

Destroying Your Career with Email in Just a Few Easy Clicks

I'm guessing many, if not most, of you have heard about this by now, but in case you haven't and your mind is in need of being boggled:

http://venturebeat.com/2011/12/27/ocean-marketing-how-to-self-destruct-your-company-with-just-a-few-measly-emails/

If this were fiction, no one would believe it.  You can't write this stuff.  Ya just can't.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

We're not Divorced Yet, but We're Definitely Separating

It began like many relationships do.  At first there was the allure, the excitement, the promise of adventure and romance and suspense, of new experiences and unique horizons opening up.  As time went on, the relationship deepened and became one of the central focuses of my life.  There were many good years together.

But as often happens, one party began to take the other for granted, with give and take becoming less give and more take.  I was expected to take what was offered, with little or no input.  And what was offered weren't the things that drew me to the relationship in the first place.  The relationship became stale, predictable, dull.  Furthermore, my wants and needs meant less and less to the other party, with decisions about the things central to the relationship being made with the apparent expectation I should be thankful the other party was there at all.  Everything became the same, and I began to be unfulfilled.

I began to seek fulfillment elsewhere, with new partners.  And I found it.  All the adventure and excitement that first attracted me so many years ago were there, all the-

What's that?  My marriage?  It's just fine, thank you.  Why do you ask?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

One Final Robert E. Howard Anniversary This Year

Cross Plains Universe
Scott A. Cupp and Joe R. Lansdale, ed.
Monkey Brain Books
296 p.
Given free to attendees of the 2006 World Fantasy Convention

In all the hubbub earlier this year about all the anniversaries related to Robert E. Howard, one seems to have been overlooked.  This year marked the fifth anniversary of the publication of Cross Plains Universe, an anthology put together to mark the Robert E. Howard centennial as well as the 30th anniversary of Lone Star Universe, an anthology of Texas writers. 

Now as anniversaries go, the fifth isn't all that big a deal unless you forget and your wife has to remind you.  (Can I get an "Amen" from the brethren?)  Also, this book was never made for sale to the general public, at least as far as I know.  If you weren't able to attend the 2006 World Fantasy Convention in Austin or one of the following Howard Days, where the book was made available in the gift shop, you probably haven't seen a copy.  I'd even wager that many of you might not be aware of its existence. 

If you are able to score a copy, do so.  It's worth your while.  A brief perusal of the contents will show you why.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night


Here's wishing each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous 2012.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dispatches From the Lone Star Front, Christmas Edition: The Santa Claus Bandits

This is going to be brief, in part because Damon Sasser did a thorough write-up on this crime last year, and I see no need to repeat what he said.  Also, Damon quoted from one of Robert E. Howard's letter describing the crime.  Instead, I'll provide a brief summary of what happened and then get into why I was reminded of this.

Site of Ratliff's lynching
In short, four men robbed the First National Bank in Cisco, Texas on Friday, December 23, 1927.  The men were Marshall Ratliff, Henry Helms, Robert Hill, and Helm's brother-in-law, Louis E. Davis.  The men started from Wichita Falls, in Northwest Texas.  They chose the bank in Cisco because Ratliff's mother once ran a cafe there, and he knew the city.  To keep from being recognized, Ratliff wore a Santa suit into the bank.

Things went wrong from the get-go.  The end result was 14 causulties, including 6 fatalies, three people (all children or teens) kidnapped, two gun battles, and the first manhunt from the air in the state.  Davis died of his wounds received in the first gun battle, Helms went to the electric chair, and Ratliff was lynched after killing a deputy sheriff in an attempted jail break.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Big Apples in Peril

Empire State
Adam Christopher
Angry Robot

US/Canada
27 December 2011
416pp Trade Paperback
$12.99 US $14.99 CAN

ebook
27 December 2011
£4.49


If you like pulp superheores, noir, action, mystery, and a fun read, then this is the book for you.  If you notice, the release date on this novel is two days after Christmas, so you will have something to buy with that Christmas money Grandma always sends.

I was fortunate to score an eARC through the Robot Army, and I'm glad I did.  The storyline wasn't quite what I was expecting, but that's good.  Angry Robot has a pretty solid track record of publishing stuff that isn't the same old thing.

So what's the story about, you say?  I'm glad you asked that.

It's Christmastime, Which Means Layoffs

It's the season of layoffs, at least at Wizards of the Coast.  Jeff Grub explains why here.  It's an entertaining and ultimately sobering explanation of why so many positions tend to be cut around the holidays.  Makes me glad I'm not in the corporate world.  Also reinforces my desire to be self-employed (despite the persecution from the KGB IRS that career path will incur) when I eventually leave academia.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Historical Fiction in eBook Format

This may come as old news to many of you, and if it does, it just means I'm more behind the curve than I thought.  I was reading a post over at the Passive Voice, and found a link in one of the comments that I thought might be of interest to those who peruse this here blog.  The site is Historical Fiction eBooks, and while most of the books in the ancient and medieval categories appear to be romances or classical mysteries set in past epochs, I did see one or two that seemed to be more action oriented.  Anyway, I'll probably give one or two of them a try at some point.  In the meantime, I thought I would pass the link on in case anyone else wants to take a look.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

She Takes After Her Parents More Than Her Brother Does

The Third Section
Jasper Kent
Pyr Books
Trade Paper, 479 p., $17.95

Okay, I know what I want for Christmas.  A time machine.  That way I can go forward in time and pick up copies of the next two volumes of the Danilov Chronicles and read them.  Now.  Because I don't want to wait.  Jasper Kent says on his website that the next two books won't be out until 2013 (provisional title, The People's Will) and 2014 (provisional title The Last Oprichnik).  The world could end before then (like next year, maybe?), and then what would I do?

Oh, well, nothing much I can do about publication schedules.  Instead let me encourage you to start reading this series if you haven't already.  Each book is different than the last, but if Kent continues to maintain the quality he has so far, this series will be greater than the sum of its parts.

And if you haven't read either of the preceding books, Twelve and Thirteen Years Later, reviewed here and here, this review will contain spoilers for those two but not The Third Section.

RIP Euan Harvey

I've been mostly buried in finals and haven't checked the internet much over the past few days, so I didn't hear about Euan Harvey's passing from cancer until a couple of hours ago.  For those of you who don't recognize the name, Euan was an up and coming author whose work I greatly enjoyed.  He wrote the type of fantasy I most like to read, sword and sorcery and adventure oriented fantasy.  He had work appearing in two issues of Realms of Fantasy this past year which I reviewed, April and June.  In both cases, I felt he had one of the better stories in the issue.  He was also a contributor to Home of Heroics

John O'Neill has posted a tribute at Black Gate in which states there is a Harvey story forthcoming in the next issue.  If you haven't read his work, try to track some of it down.  It's worth it. 

He will be missed.

Damn it, enough dying already.  I'm getting tired of posting obituaries.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Artist David Burton Passes Away

Damon Sasser is reporting this morning that artist David Burton has passed away.  Burton's many credits include Sasser's REH:  Two Gun Raconteur.  He was also praised by Edgar Rice Burroughs' grandson Danton Burroughs, who said that his illustrations of A Princess of Mars were the best anyone had done.  Damon has written a tribute to David, which is here

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I Told You So

This isn't exactly breaking news.  I've known about it for a couple of days but had other things I wanted to discuss; I have no idea how long the announcement was been out there.  What am I talking about?  John Joseph Adams' announcement that Lightspeed and Fantasy were going to merge into a single magazine.  I think the way he's going about it is smart.  It also falls right in line with what I suggested recently about what should happen if anyone decides to resurrect Realms of Fantasy again.

Specifically, my suggestion to cut back on the nonfiction in the magazine and focus more on the fiction.  If you read his announcement, that's what Adams is doing with the two magazines.  He's cut the nonfiction back considerably, while leaving the amount of fiction the same.   Actually that's only true if you read the magazine online.  If you subscribe, there's an exclusive novella with each issue.

In other words, here's a publisher who realizes people read his magazine primarily for the fiction, and furthermore he's taking steps to ensure they get what they want.  I said this was the smart way to run a fiction magazine when I reviewed the last issue of RoF.  Now that someone with the credentials of John Joseph Adams thinks the same thing and is willing to act on that idea, I'm going to say "I told you so."

I wish Mr. Adams and his magazine the greatest success.  Oh, and I told you so.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Personal Appreciation of Darrell K. Sweet.

As most of you probably know, one of my all time favorite artists died Monday.  Darrell K. Sweet was the first artist I ever became aware of by name.  It was something of a circuitous process.

I grew up reading comics, but when Star Wars (the original film) came out, I got bitten by the science fiction bug hard and started reading that almost exclusively.  Commercial fantasy hadn't quite experienced a boom, although there was some around.  Not too long after the movie, I noticed a novel (maybe in the library, maybe in the bookstore) that had Darth Vader on the cover.  The title was Splinter of the Mind's Eye, and it was written by some guy named Alan Dean Foster.  Although I don't remember actually doing so, I bought the book, read it, and enjoyed it.  (I still have that copy.)

Monday, December 5, 2011

RIP, Darrell K. Sweet

I just learned that we lost one of our greatest artists today.  As reported by Locus Online and Tor, Darrell K. Sweet passed away this morning.  He was one of the most recognizable artists in the field.  I grew up reading books he illustrated, and he was a personal favorite of mine.  I'll post a more personal eulogy sometime in the next day or so.  It's late, and this is one I want to take my time with.  Darrell K. Sweet, 1934-2011; he will be missed.

Trying Twitter

I'm giving Twitter a try.  Hopefully this experiment will be more successful than Facebook was back in the summer.  (I need to figure out why Facebook converted the blog page into a personal page, which I don't want, and try again.)  Anyway, in case any of you are interested, here's where you can follow me:  @AdvntrsFntastc.  Hopefully, I can figure how to get the avatar to load before the day is over.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Review of the Final (?) Issue of Realms of Fantasy, Plus Some Suggestions

Well, I had hoped it would never come to this.  While Realms of Fantasy hasn't exactly been my favorite magazine, I'm very sorry that it has ceased publication and this will be my final review.  For the time being, at least.  It's come back twice before, so we can always hope. 

This issue wasn't planned as a final issue, so I don't know if there were any stories still in inventory.  I imagine if there were, the authors were paid a kill fee and hopefully some of them will see publication elsewhere.

Publisher William Gilchrist said in his farewell post on the magazine's website that the October issue would appear in print and would be late. He indicated that the issue should be available by November 15.  I haven't seen it, but it might not have arrived yet.  B&N tends to be late getting the print copies.  I bought the PDF version from the website.

Anyway, let's look at the fiction.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NaNoWriMo: It's Over (Sort Of)

Well, I did it.  I managed to complete 50,000 words of a novel.  Fifty thousand, forty-five to be exact.  That's nowhere near all of the novel.  I'm estimating this one will run to at least 70,000, possibly more.  But to "win" NaNoWriMo, you had to complete just 50,000.  Which I did in spite of myself.

I say in spite of myself because I turned out to be my own biggest obstacle.  This is by far the longest thing I've attempted.  I didn't plan it out in detail well enough.  I usually have a general idea of where I want a story to end up.  Getting there is just details.  The devil, as they say, is in the details.  This novel has three viewpoint characters, four if you count the captain who only appears in flashbacks at the end of the major sections.  The characters are in separate locations when the book opens, and I alternate chapters featuring each of them.  I found myself writing more than one chapter about a character, depending how well I understood that part of the character's story arc in relation to the other story arcs.  I would then go back and insert chapters where needed.  I found this to be both a stressful and liberating way to write.

Anyhoo, I've not been blogging much in the last couple of weeks because I was trying to make the deadline.  I'm going to step away from the novel for a few days, finish up a fantasy mystery novella that's about 1500 words from being done, start reading some of the books that have been piling up.  I'm also going to think about some details I didn't work out very well before I started writing a month ago.  I hope to finish the first draft of the novel over the holidays, get it to the beta readers, and get to work on the second book in the series.  I've learned a lot about writing and how (not) to approach a novel, and I'm eager to put some of those things into practice.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Things I'm Thankful For

There are a number of things I'm thankful for. Here's a partial list.

First of all, my family, both immediate and extended. (This includes the dogs.)

Our health.

Employment, both for me and my wife. And not just a job in my case, but something I find fulfilling. While I'm not sure it's something I want to do for the rest of my life, I don't dread going to work every day.

A place to live, food to eat, cars to drive.

Books to read. Lots and lots and lots of books to read. And vintage pulps. And comics and graphic novels. And opportunities to write.

The good things blogging has brought into my life: new friends, review copies of books from both authors and publishers, and outlet for my writing.

That I live in the greatest country in the world, where I am free to say what I like, read what I like, and worship God in the manner I see fit.

May God bless each and every one of you as much as He's blessed me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

RIP, Anne McCaffery

Locus Online is reporting that SFWA Grand Master Anne McCaffery died at home in Ireland of a massive stroke on November 21, 2011.  She was 85.  McCaffery was author of the long-running Pern series.  In addition to Pern, McCaffery was the author of a number of other series, which she often co-wrote with up and coming authors who went on to have significant careers.  These authors include, but are not limited to, Jody Lynne Nye, Elizabeth Moon, Elizabeth Anne Scarborough, and Mercedes Lackey.  McCaffery won a number of awards for her work, including the Nebula and Hugo (she was the first woman to win both).  In 2006 she was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

Ann and Jeff VanderMeer Launch Weird Fiction Review

I'm not sure how long the news about this has been out, but I just saw it in a post from yesterday and thought I would pass it along to you.  Ann and Jeff AnderMeer have launched a new online venue called Weird Fiction Review, billed as "Your Non-Demoninational Source for the Weird."  Ann, as most of you know, is the former editor of Weird Tales.  The new site has fiction, essays, comics, reviews, and other items.  It also is not to be confused with the print journal The Weird Fiction Review edited by S. T. Joshi, and published by Centipede Press.  The site apparently only went live a few weeks ago, but there's plenty of stuff already up.  I don't recognize the names of the authors, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  I'll try to check it out sometime in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Excerpt Two

Well, the second week of NaNoWriMo wasn't as successful for me as the first week.  I got bogged down in the middle of the week with family commitments, then my wife attended an out of town conference from Thursday through Sunday.  That didn't leave me much time to write, although I can't complain.  Hanging out with my son for the weekend was worth the missed writing hours.

I should be at 25,000 words today to meet the 50,000 word "finish line" or 30,000 to meet my self-imposed goal.  I'm at just over 19,000.  I think I can catch up if I don't miss too many days.  I knew I would fall behind during the first part of the month when I started and planned on catching up over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Here's the second excerpt from the novel.  The storyline concerns the crew of a starship who wake up from coldsleep on a planet.  They don't know where they are or how they got there and have to survive.  I'm alternating chapters between three viewpoint characters, who are on different parts of the planet when the book opens and whose storylines progress more or less simultaneously.  At the end of each major section, there will a flashback chapter involving a fourth character, the captain of the starship.  Where the captain is and what happened to her is going to be one of several mysteries the other characters will be dealing with.  The flashbacks featuring the captain will not be chronological, but instead will give a different perspective on events and discoveries in the section of the book each flashback concludes.

What follows is when we first meet the captain.

Angry Robots Books Announces New Authors

The following is a press release from Angry Robot Books:

** ANGRY ROBOT SIGNS TWO NEW "OPEN DOOR MONTH" AUTHORS **

Like most successful publishers, Angry Robot generally only accepts submissions through literary agencies. Earlier this year, however, the company ran a pilot programme to see how many unpublished - but talented - authors there were without representation. During March, Angry Robot invited all un-agented authors to submit completed manuscripts as part of an "Open Door Month". Over 990 novels were submitted during that period.

Today, Angry Robot are delighted to announce the first acquisitions from the first Open Door Month. Two new authors, each with a minimum two book deal, have now joined the Angry Robot family.

Cassandra Rose Clarke was the first signing to come through this process. Her two novels for Angry Robot show the versatility of this important new talent.

'The Mad Scientist's Daughter' is the heartbreaking story of the journey from childhood to adulthood, with an intriguing science fictional twist. And 'The Assassin's Curse' is a fantastical romp, starring Ananna, a no-nonsense lady pirate, born into pirate royalty.

Clarke said: "I'm beyond excited to have Angry Robot publishing my first-ever novel, and not only because of the delightful coincidence that my novel involves a robot who is, on occasion, angry. Angry Robot's reputation is stellar and their author list incredibly impressive - I'm humbled to be included amongst their ranks!"

We take a somewhat darker turn with a pair of books from Lee Collins - 'The Dead of Winter' and 'She Returns From War'. Both novels follow Cora Oglesby, a bounty hunter with a reputation for working supernatural cases.

Collins said: "As excited as I am at the prospect of rubbing shoulders with Angry Robot's outstanding authors, publication was really a secondary goal of my submitting to them. My primary reason was the hope, however slim, of cybernetic augmentation."

Both deals were negotiated by Angry Robot's editor, Lee Harris, who stated: "There is an enormous amount of talent out there, waiting to be discovered, and I am thrilled we have found two great new talents as part of our search."

Both authors' debut novels will be published by Angry Robot in autumn 2012, with their second books scheduled for spring 2013.

Following the success of the project, Angry Robot expects to run a similar Open Door period in spring 2013, details of which are to be confirmed at a later date.


Ok, that's the end of the press release.  Further details and author photos can be found on the Angry Robot website.  Advanced reading copies of  The Mad Scientist's Daughter and The Dead of Winter will be available at some point.  I'll download them and post the reviews, here for the latter and at Futures Past and Present for the former.  Angry Robot is one of the more innovative publishers out there.  I'm eager to see what new authors they've discovered.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Few Thoughts on the Penn State Sex Scandal

The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.
                                               Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 3, scene ii

I generally shy away from current events unless they have to do with publishing or in some way relate to heroic adventure when I'm choosing my blog topics.  For the most part, Adventures Fantastic and its sister site, Futures Past and Present, are current event and political free zones. 

However, for anyone who follows the news, like I try to do, there has been no escaping this week of the coverage of the still growing sex scandal at Penn State.  As a parent of a child in the age range of the ones in question, it's been hard not to put myself in the place of  the families of the victims.  It's not been a pleasant place to go mentally, and I'm not going to inflict that portion of my thoughts upon you.  I have found myself today thinking of the events in terms of the heroism, or mostly lack thereof, of the principal players in this drama.

So, if you'll indulge me in venting my spleen, I'm going to share some of my thoughts.  What follows beyond the "Read More" link might be offensive to some of you, so if you think you might be one of those people, please do us both a favor and don't read it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Nerve-Wracking Journey Across the Mountains

The Whitefire Crossing
Courtney Schafer
Nightshade Books
Trade pbk, $14.99, ebook $5.99, 300 p.

In the acknowledgements to this first novel, the author states that the first draft of the book was written during NaNoWriMo 2007.  That's encouraging because I'm participating in NaNoWriMo this year, and I can only hope to write something half this good.

This is a dark, at times disturbing, adventure story with villains who are deliciously evil, yet have believable motivations.  The heroes are young, flawed, make mistakes, grow, and learn about themselves and the world.

The suspense is intense at times, and the passage across the mountains, especially after the blood mage attacks, is downright nerve wracking.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NanoWriMo: Week One

Well, I've managed to write every day of the first week of NaNoWriMo, although I haven't quite made the daily goal I set out for myself when I started.  As of right now, I'm 2,000 words behind and have written just over 12,000, or to put it another way, I'm basically one day behind.  The weekend wasn't good for writing, so I didn't make my quota every day.  Tonight isn't looking good at all.  My son's final soccer practice is this evening; they're playing for the championship this weekend.  I've got a stack of exams sitting here that I need to finish grading before tomorrow morning.  If the morning goes like today and yesterday did, then I can't count on finding time to grade in the morning. 

On the whole, though, I'd say the first week has been a success.  Taking a day or so off shouldn't kill my momentum.  I need to think about what each of the three viewpoint characters is going to go through next to get them where I ultimately want them to end up.

Monday, November 7, 2011

John Joseph Adams Buys Lightspeed and Fantasy Magazines

John Joseph Adams
Prime Books announced today that it is selling both Lightspeed and Fantasy magazines to current editor John Joseph Adams.  The sale is part of the expansion of Prime Books.  Publisher Sean Wallace stated that the book publishing side of his job was taking more and more time.  Adams is a highly respected editor not only of the magazine but of numerous anthologies as well.  Adams issued the following statement:  "It’s an exciting time to be involved in publishing.  Models are changing and so is the readership, and online magazines have a better shot at sustainability than ever have before. I believe the possibilities for growth are tremendous, and I look forward to staying in the vanguard of this new frontier."

With the announcement last week that Realms of Fantasy was closing again, it's been an eventful week in sff periodical publishing.  As I promised when I posted about RoF I'll have more to say about these changes in a post later this week.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Dispatches From the Lone Star Front: Profile of an Early Texas Ranger

It got an email last week from Jason Waltz, informing the contributors of Home of Heroics that he was discontinuing adding new material to the site.  Between work and family obligations, not to mention trying to publish the books on the Rogue Blades Entertainment schedule, Jason said he was exhausted and simply couldn't devote the time necessary to maintaining the site.  As regular readers of this blog are probably aware, I was one of the contributors to Home of Heroics, with a quarterly column entitled "Dispatches From the Lone Star Front", featuring heroes from Texas.  It was in a different vein than what I do here, focusing on history with little or no fantasy aspect.  With Jason's blessing, that column will continue here, although I don't know if it will be quarterly, more frequently, or just when I find something interesting to write about.  Reader reaction will help me decide.

Adventures Fantastic would like to wish Jason and Rogue Blades Entertainment all the best.  Home of Heroics will be missed; the contributors are still around and blogging on other sites, so if you enjoyed the work of any of them, look them up if you haven't already.  Now, here is the most recent Dispatch from the Lone Star Front that would have been posted at HoH if things had been different:

Jack Hays
There are a number of qualities that are commonly used to describe heroes.  One of them is courage.  John Coffee “Jack” Hays had that in spades.

Hays was one of the first Texas Rangers, seeing most of his service during the days of the Republic, before Texas joined the United States, and then during the Mexican War.  He was renowned for his bravery, cunning, and his leadership.  He was called “Devil Jack” by the Comanches. 

The Rangers were formed to protect the Texas settlers, both Anglo and Tejano, against bandits and hostile Indians.  The Comanches were the primary tribe hostile to the settlers, and they were traditional enemies of the Lipan Apaches.  Naturally, the Rangers, and Hays in particular, allied themselves with the Lipan.  Hays’ Lipan scout Flacco is reported by Walker Prescott Webb to have said, “Me and Red Wing not afraid to go to hell together.  Captain Jack he brave; not afraid to go to hell by himself.” 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Here We Go Again: Realms of Fantasy Folds

At the risk of sounding like Yogi Berra, it's deja vu all over again.  On Wednesday, William Gilchrist of Damnation Books announced the folding of Realms of Fantasy.  Gilchrist stated that the company was losing money on the magazine, and that the October issue (which shipped late) will be the last.  The magazine is currently up for sale.

I've been distracted by things the last few days, including but not limited to NaNoWriMo, so I only saw the announcement this morning.  While I wasn't greatly impressed with what I've seen of the magazine lately, I hate to see it go and hope someone picks up the torch.  I'll post further thoughts sometime in the next few days, once I've gotten some family obligations off my plate.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Excerpt One

The first three days of NaNoWriMo have been productive.  I wrote 2,000 words the first day, a little over 2400 yesterday, and just under 1600 tonight, bringing my total to slightly over 6,000.  This is a good pace, and it will come to a screeching halt tomorrow.  I've got commitments tomorrow night which will keep me away from the computer.  There's always the weekend to try to catch up and gain a little cushion.

I've written what amounts to three chapters introducing three of the main viewpoint characters.  I'll introduce a significant fourth viewpoint character later in a flashback, whose present whereabouts will be a mystery for a while.  None of the three characters I've introduced have any idea where they are or how they got there when we first meet them, nor do they know anything about the nature of the planet they're on.  Discovering that will be a major portion of the storyline.  I don't have a working title yet, still kicking a few ideas around.

Anyway, here's what will probably be the first chapter, in rough draft form with little to no editing.

Lieutenant Jacob Vasquez dangled over the river, trying to convince himself to let go of the branch he was hanging from.  There were enough rocks below, and the drop was high enough, even with this planet’s slightly lower gravity, to make such a course of action potentially fatal.
He looked back down at the base of the tree for inspiration.  Three creatures from a nightmare clawed the trunk.  They were as tall as large dogs and just as wide.  Short black fur covered their backs and eight legs, fading to grey on their undersides.  Square heads protruded from the bodies, connected directly to the torsos without benefit of necks.  One looked up at him, opened a mouth filled with needle sharp fangs, and gave what Vasquez could only think of as a cross between a yodel and a whine.
The call was answered from within the forest, and two more of the things scurried from the trees.  They moved incredibly fast for their size. 
One of the newcomers made a threatening noise at one the creatures already there, and received bared fangs in response.  The one that had yodeled ignored the arrival of the two and began clawing its way up the trunk. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo: Day 1

Well, I got 2,000 words done today.  That's not counting tomorrow's exam that I wrote this afternoon.  If I can get between 1500 and 2,000 words completed every day, not counting any revisions, then I should make my goal, which is the minimum 50,000.  Since this is my first year to participate, I'll have a better feel for what is a reasonable goal next year.  I know I won't be able to match that number every day, but if I shoot for it, I'll get closer than if I don't.  I plan to write more than that on weekends and over Thanksgiving. 

So far, so good.  I won't post a word count every day, but I will from time to time.  When I get a good chapter done, I plan to post it as a sample.  I've got several different viewpoint characters on different parts of the planet when the novel opens that will have to be introduced, so I'll pick the introductory chapter I like best.  Tonight's chapter isn't quite done, so I figure at the rate I'm writing, a chapter every couple of days is what I'm most likely to get done.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

I haven't had time to do much seasonal reading lately so I won't recommend anything this year, but have a safe and happy Halloween.  And try not to get eaten.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

NaNoWriMo Starts in 2 Days

National Novel Writing Month, usually called NaNoWriMo, starts on Tuesday.  It's a month long project in which aspiring writers attempt to write a novel in a month.  For the month of November, I'm going to be focusin on my personal writing.  That's not going to leave a lot of time for blogging, reading, or much else.  From time  to time I'll post about how the writing is going as well as provide an excerpt or two.  I'll still be doing some blog posts on both Adventures Fantastic and Futures Past and Present, but they'll mostly be devoted to short fiction or brief news or opinion pieces.  I'll review the novel I'm currently reading, and that will probably be it as far as novels go for a few weeks.

In case you're wondering what my novel is about, it's a sword and planet adventure with a lot of hard science thrown in.  Think of a blend of Leigh Brackett, Robert E. Howard, and Larry Niven with a dash of Jack Vance.  At this point, I'll be focusing on two or three different characters from the same space ship trying to survive at different places under very different circumstances on the same alien planet.  Of course, I could change my mind and give each character their separate novel.  I'll just have to wait and see. 

Fifty thousand words is the minimum required to "win" NaNoWriMo.  I know I can write that much; the thing that will be hard will be writing that much in one month.  Thankfully the Thanksgiving holidays should allow me some time to catch up if I fall behind.

Congratulations to the World Fantasy Award Winners

Adventures Fantastic would like to congratulate all the nominees for this year's World Fantasy Awards, and especially the following winners:

Best Novel:  Nnedi Okorafor, Who Fears Death

Best Novella:  Elizabeth Hand, "The Maiden Flight of McCauley's Belerophon"

Best Short Fiction:  Joyce Carol Oates, "Fossil-Figures"

Best Anthology:  My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, Kate Bernheimer, ed.

Best Collection:  What I Didn't See and Other Stories, Karen Joy Fowler

Best Artist:  Kinuko Y. Craft

Special Award, Professional:  Marc Gasciogne, for Angry Robot

Special Award, Nonprofessional:  Alisa Krasnostein, for Twelfth Planet Press

Lifetime Achievement:  Peter S. Beagle and Angelica Gorodischer

A complete list of all nominees can be found here.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Adventures on Strange Worlds

Strange Worlds
Jeff Doten, ed. and illus.
189 p., $27

I grew up reading classic science fiction and science fantasy from the 1930s and 1940s, and the sword and planet story has a special place in my heart.  It's a genre we don't see very often any more, but hopefully that is changing.  If nothing else, the release of John Carter next year should cause a brief resurgence in the genre. 

But if you can't wait that long, there's a new anthology out to help whet your appetite. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Indie Books: A Tsunami of...?

You hear a lot of talk in the publishing world these days about indie published ebooks.  Some think they're nothing short of the salvation of western civilization because they allow authors to connect directly to readers.  Others, to a large extent publishers, editors, and agents, insist that indie publishing will bury us all under a tsunami of crap.  And of course you every possible position in between those two extremes.

A couple of days ago, Passive Guy at The Passive Voice, posted something about a publisher reporting ebook sales.  In the comments section, Mick Griggs included a link to this essay.  (Thanks, PG and Mick.)

Mark Williams, the author of that essay insists, quite convincingly, that instead of  a tsunami of crap, we're starting to see a tsunami of excellence.  If you have an ereader, are thinking about buying an ereader, or even interested in what effect ereaders and epublishing will have on your future book buying, you should check that essay out.

I decided to do a little commentary myself, based on some things I've posted lately.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Review of Stones by Gerald So, Yet Another Well-Done Ebook

Stones
Gerald So
various ebook formats, $0.99

Long ago, when the world was young, the Moon was new, dinosaurs ruled the land, and I was in high school, two of the three television networks decided to do what networks have always done.  (Yes, children, at one time there were only three television networks instead of half a million; if you didn't like what was on, you read a book.  There was no internet.  I told you, the world was young.)  They decided to cash in on the popularity a little movie entitled Raiders of the Lost Ark by airing shows in a similar vein, namely adventures set in the Pacific in the 1930s.

I don't remember which networks they were, and I'm too lazy to look it up.  One show was entitled Bring 'Em Back Alive, the fictitious adventures of real life big game hunter Frank Buck, author of a book of the same title, and starring Bruce Boxleitner.  The other was Tales of the Gold Monkey.  It starred Stephen Collins and several of the characters were spies.

It's Tales of the Gold Monkey that Stones most closely resembles.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

RBE Challenge Continues

Jason M. Waltz posted a little while ago on the Rogue Blades Entertainment website that he is extending the Challenge! Stealth competition.  Due to issues related to a virus infecting the site, which have now been resolved, the 2011 Challenge will continue until 30 submissions have been accepted.


For more details, go here and here.  The artwork for this year's competition can be found here.

Heroes Dark and Dangerous

Dark Heroes
Jessy Marie Roberts, ed.
Pill Hill Press
Paper $15.99, ebook $0.99

This anthology has an interesting premise.  The creatures we think of as monsters play the role of hero. 

Most of the authors in this anthology were not familiar to me, although a couple of them were.  I've always found anthologies in which I don't know the work or at least the reputation of the contributors to be something of a crap-shoot.  Fortunately, the dice roll came up predominantly in my favor.

Here's what the book contains:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Attack of the Haboob

Some of you may have seen this on the national news the other day, but I'm sure some of you, especially my friends in other countries, didn't.  I didn't, and I was here for it.  And have the pictures to prove it.

Lubbock got hit by a haboob on Monday.  For those of you who don't know what a haboob is, and until Monday, I was one of them, a haboob is a meteorological term.  It derives from Arabic and basically means "dust cloud."  Those of you who live in the desert have probably seen something like this before.

This was one of the worst in decades.  It was brought about by winds from a strong cold front in an area with extreme drought conditions.  Winds speeds were at least 74 miles per hour.

Scott Oden Writes a Story on his Blog

Scott Oden started writing a historical short story on his blog this week.  He's outlining the process he uses when he writes fiction, letting us in on his methods.  Plus it's shaping up to be a really good story.

He's four days into it.  Here are the links:  Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4.

Scott Oden is the author of The Lion of Cairo.  It's in the queue, and I hope to have a review of it posted by Christmas.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Journal of the Plague Week

Things have been a little chaotic here, which has upset my blogging schedule.  I came down some sort of nasty stomach virus late last week.  A day after I got over it, my wife came caught it.  She's recovered, so as long as my son can avoid it, everything should be getting back to normal in the next day or so.  I managed to get two posts up Saturday evening that I'd been working on, then had to play catch up with other commitments.

What I've been working on:  Doing some reading so that I can review Weird Heroes as the next book, which will be about a week later than I anticipated.  I've got a review of a small collection and another Conan post that should go up in the couple of days.  Then another anthology.  By that point, I'll have posted reviews from everything I committed myself to review.  Which means I'm going to read and blog about whatever the heck I feel like for a while.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Celebrates Three Years

 Beneath Ceaseless Skies has been publishing some of the best fantasy to be found on the web or anywhere else for three years now.  Adventures Fantastic would like to congratulate BCS for three great years and wish them many more.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies marked its three year anniversary with its current issue, a double issue.  If you're wondering what a double issue for an electronic magazine is, you get twice the amount of fiction.  And it's good fiction, which is what you expect from this publication.  That's one of the reasons I decided to start the Seven Days of Online Fiction with Beneath Ceaseless Skies

It's been a while since we looked at BCS, so here's a quick overview of the contents. 

Age of Giants - Awakening: Another Well Done Indie Ebook

Age of Giants - Awakening
Rob Reaser
$2.99 various ebook formats
Reaser Brand Communications

The Nephilim were on the earh in those days - and also afterward-when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them.  They were the heroes of old, men of renown.
                                                           Genesis 6: 4

Back in August I received an email from a Rob Reaser asking if I would be willing review the novel that's the subject of this post.  I had never heard of Mr. Reaser, but the synopsis sounded interesting, not something I'd seen much of before.  I replied that I would, but I had about half a dozen other books I had committed to review that were in the queue ahead of his novel.  He replied that was fine, he would appreciate the review when I could get to it.

Well, it took a little longer than I had anticipated (my apologies, Rob), but I finished the book yesterday while sick in bed.  (No, the book didn't make me sick; being sick allowed me to finish the novel sooner than I thought I would.)  I wondered when I agreed to review the book if I was making a mistake, reviewing a first and self-published novel.  I'm glad to say I made no mistake.

While very different in style and content from Tisarian's Treasure, this is another example of a well-done ebook independently published by the author.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Interview with Mark Finn, Revisited

Back in late February, I interviewed several people at ConDFW and posted those interviews over the next few months.  Links to those interviews can be found in the sidebar.  The longest interview was with Mark Finn, and it was so long that I broke it into two parts, which I posted a week apart.  The second part was shorter than the first because I chose to make the break at a point where the topic of our conversation shifted rather than at the halfway point.

Both parts of the interview were well received and quickly found a place in the top ten most popular posts, which was fine with me.  For some reason, the second half of the interview had about 10% more page views than the first, maybe because more people linked to the second half.  I wasn't really concerned, since both parts of the interview got a lot of traffic, Mark was happy with the interview, and Adventures Fantastic was linked to on other blogs and websites.

Then about six or eight weeks ago, something unusual happened.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tisarian's Treasure: An Example of an Indie Published Ebook Done Right

Tisarian's Treasure
J. M. Martin
Cover by Peter Ortiz, interior illustrations by Julie Dillon
ebook 0.99, paperback $5.99

There's been a lot of discussion online over the last year about the quality of what are called indie published books by their proponents and disparagingly called self-published books by the publishing, agenting, and critical establishment.  You can probably tell from the title of this post as well as how I worded the previous sentence which side of the issue I come down on.

So, rather than simply discuss the merits of the story and the writing itself  in this novella, which I will do, I'd like, begging the indulgence of the author and artists, to go beyond that and discuss the qualities of the publishing as well. 

Amazon Launches New Imprint Focusing on Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

Amazon announced this morning that it is launching a new science fiction, fantasy, and horror imprint, 47North.  Several top names have signed on, including Dave Duncan,  Neal Stephenson, and Greg Bear.  The imprint will publish in Kindle, print, and audio formats.  The entire press release can be found here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Brief Look at Debris

Debris
Jo Anderton
Angry Robot
464pp mass-market paperback
$7.99 US, $8.99 CAN
ebook £4.49 / $5.99

This review would have been up a few days ago if I had had access to a computer.  My son didn't have school today, so we took advantage of the long weekend to go visit my parents.  Only their computer was in the shop, and I hadn't brought mine along.  So instead of a post about every other day for a few days, this is (hopefully) the first of at least four days in a row with new material.

But you probably aren't interested in that.  What you want to know is if the book is any good.  Am I right?  Of course I am.  Aren't I always?  (Don't answer that.)

Yes, this is a good book, but I have a quibble with the publisher about it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

More Vikings, More Werewolves, and More Loki

Fenrir
M.D. Lachlan
Pyr, tp, $16.00, 442 p.

When I reviewed Wolfsangel a few months ago, I gave it a favorable review.  And while I enjoyed that book, I enjoyed the sequel more.  Fenrir takes place some time after Wolfsangel.  I don't know history well enough to give specific dates, but I'd say a couple of hundred years have passed.

The story opens with vikings laying siege to Paris and accelerates from there.  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Blogging Conan: Iron Shadows in the Moon/Shadows in the Moonlight

This has always been one of my favorite Conan yarns, in spite of the fact that it's mostly an adventure story, without the depth of "The Tower of the Elephant" or "Red Nails".  Still, there are some significant aspects to the story which could be overlooked. And that's a shame, because the two things I want to focus on directly relate to some of the criticisms of Howard in particular and sword and sorcery in general.

There will be spoilers in this post.  Just so you know.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Amazing Stories Trademark Bought

Steve Davidson (Crotchety Old Fan) has acquired the trademark to Amazing Stories.  He is looking at relaunching the magazine online with containing new and reprint stories with a strong social networking component.  You can read his press release here.  There are further updates here and here.  The website for the magazine is up and is http://amazingstoriesmag.com/  There's not much there yet, but check back frequently.  I used to pick up Amazing Stories regularly and am thrilled it will be coming back.  Thanks, Steve, and best of luck. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

RIP Sara Douglass

Locus Online is reporting that fantasy author Sara Warneke (1957-2011), who wrote as Sara Douglass has died of ovarian cancer at the age of 54.  Warneke was diagnosed in 2010.  She lived in Tasmania and was a multiple winner of Australia's Aurealis Award (Starman (2006), Enchanter (2006), and The Wounded Hawk (2001)). 


Monday, September 26, 2011

Report on Fencon

Fencon VII/Deep South Con 49 was held in Dallas (well really, Addison), TX on September 23-25.  While I can't say that a good time was had by all, a good time was certainly had by me.  Everything had a steampunk theme, with many of the guests being steampunk authors.

As usual, there was much more on the programming than I had time to attend.  I didn't make it to either slide show by the artist guests, Vincent DiFate or Stephan Martiniere. Not because I don't like those artists.  I do.  It was just that there were other things conflicting with their slideshows.

Rather than try to sum up the whole convention, I'll hit some of the high points of the events I attended, then post some pictures.

What I've Been Up to Lately

I've not posted much lately, certainly not as much as I'd like.  Last week was not one of the best I've ever had, which contributed.  The less said about that, the better.  I'll just say that my reading and blogging rate decreased noticeably for a few days.
Anyway, I've got a few more novels I'm committed to review.  I've started the sequel to Wolfsangel.  I hope to have that posted within the next week to ten days.  I have a deadline on a personal writing project at the end of the week, so that will slow down the reading and blogging somewhat.

I spent the weekend at Fencon and should have a report on that up tomorrow.  Then there's another Conan post.  After that, more novel reviews, with reviews of shorter pieces and maybe some opinions mixed in. 

And as soon as I get my hands on the new Jasper Kent novel (volume 3 of the Danilov Quintet), that will move to the top of the reading stack.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Darkness Falling, A Review of Peter Crowther's Latest Novel

Darkness Falling
Peter Crowther
Angry Robot Books
US/Canada 27 Sep 2011
400 pp trade paperback $12.99 US/ $14.99 Canada
UK 6 Oct 2011
464 pp B-format paperback    L7.99
ebook 27 Sep 2011 L4.99/$5.99

As and editor and publisher, Peter Crowther has few peers.  His accomplishments in these fields have overshadowed his work as a writer.  He tends to write primarily in the horror genre, and this latest novel is no exception.

The publisher classifies it as science fiction on the book's webpage, and I have no argument with that designation.  However, I've chosen to review it here rather than on Futures Past and Present, my science fiction blog, because as a scientist I'm a little skeptical about some of the things that happen.  Since Angry Robot classified Roil as a fantasy and I reviewed it as science fiction (which I maintain it is), I figure this just evens things out.

With Halloween approaching, this book fits the season well.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Charles Gramlich at Home of Heroics

I was hoping to post a review tonight of the novel I'm currently reading.  Ain't gonna happen.  Tomorrow don't look promisin' neither. 

Instead, please allow me to point you to Charles Gramlich's post over at Home of Heroics.  It's the first of two parts, discussing the various subgenres of fantasy.  Featured are sword and sorcery and sword and planet, two of my favorite categories.  If you haven't read the post (and I know some of you have because you've commented), check it out.  I found the names of a couple of new authors I need to track down.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Review Posted at Futures Past and Present

I've posted a review of Roil by Trent Jamieson at Futures Past and Present.  Some of you might be interested in this one.  It's one of those far future settings that reads like fantasy.  It's closer to science fiction than fantasy in my mind, so I decided to post it there but wanted to make you aware of it in case you like this sort of book.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Barbarism at Home of Heroics

I'm trying to finish a novel I've committed to review (one down, four to go), so I thought I'd point you to an essay that went up a few minutes ago over to Home of Heorics:  " 'Barbarian' - Good or Bad?" by Werner A. Lind.  It's a well thought-out examination of barbarism contrasted with civilization.  If you're a fan of Robert E. Howard, you'll want to read it.

As soon as I get this review done (which I will probably post at Futures Past and Present since it's more science fiction than fantasy but will include a link here), I'll look at a couple of items of short fiction.  In the meantime, check out what Werner has to say.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9-11: Never Forget

I had the honor and privilege of baptizing my son this morning.  Given what baptism symbolizes, I couldn't think of a better day of the year on which to do it.  Others have written more eloquently about today's anniversary than I ever could.  Read Sarah Hoyt's post for well said words.  Instead of writing something, I decided to post some photos of the flag tribute here in town.






Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ghosts, Conspiracies, and a Smoking Hot Deacon

Geist
Philippa Ballantine
Ace, 294 p., $7.99

That should probably be "deaconess" in the title of this post, but since both male and female holders of that office go by the title of "deacon" in Geist, I'll stick with Ms. Ballantine's convention.  Regardless of details of semantics, this was a thoroughly enjoyable novel.  It's not the author's first, but it was the first one of hers I've read.  It won't be the last. 

The geists of the title are beings from the Otherside, sort a spirit world, and "geist" is something of a catchall term that could encompass a number of different entities.  They are usually pretty destructive.  They can be a form of ghost or some other malignant being.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Year Two, Day One

Although it doesn't seem like it, it's been exactly one year since I started this blog.  I've learned a lot, not least of which is how much I still have to learn.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone who follows my posts, whether formally, with your picture there in the sidebar, or informally, checking in when you have a free moment.  While I haven't met most of you in the flesh, I still consider those of you who have commented, and at times corrected my errors, friends.  If we find ourselves at a convention or Howard Days or some other venue together, let's make sure we make time for a drink or two.

I've got some things planned for this next year in addition to the ongoing series such as the posts about Conan, to give one example. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Regarding a Movie About a Barbarian Seeking to Avenge the Murder of His Family

I saw a movie over the Labor Day weekend.  It might be of interest to some of you.  The movie was filmed somewhere in Eastern Europe, and the scenery, particularly of the mountains, is gorgeous.

The storyline goes something like this.  There's this young boy in a tribal village and these raiders swoop down and kill everyone, except this boy, who is the only one to survive.  He watches his friends and family killed.  The leader of the raiders takes a sword that the boy's father has made.

After he grows up, the boy, now a mighty fighter, goes looking for the man who killed his family.  To pass the time until he finds him, he has a hobby of freeing slaves.  Eventually he finds the man who killed his family.  This man now has a grotesque mask and he's seeking a particular young woman who is descended from a line of kings.  He needs her blood perform this ritual in which he raises this dark sorceress or goddess or something.  The barbarian is protecting her, but she gets kidnapped by the villain.  There's a final fight in a citadel and the villain has the princess chained in a spread eagle position to perform the ritual, and there's this fight on this bridge over a chasm, and...

...and the name of this barbarian...just in case you were wondering,...it isn't "Conan".

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why I Decided not to Review the August 2011 Issue of Realms of Fantasy

I was out of town on Monday for a job interview.  Since I had some time between the interview and having to return to the very small airport I was flying out of, I decided to visit some of the local bookstores.  Without adult supervision, of course.  (My suitcase was noticeably heavier on the return flight.)  One of the things I picked up was a copy of the August issue of Realms of Fantasy, which wasn't yet on the stands where I live. 

I read part of it on the plane, and then finished it after I got home.  I was rather disappointed.  Approximately half of the magazine was devoted to fiction.  No huge surprise there.  RoF is a publication dedicated to all aspects of the genre, so the columns and reviews don't bother me.  Not all of them interest me, but I don't begrudge others the chance to read them.  And the art feature is usually worth a look and frequently a second look.  But these things alone are not why I pick up the magazine.  I buy it for the fiction.

There were five stories.  I have to admit by and large they were a let down.  Only one of them completely worked for me, and it was really more science fiction than fantasy. (Any story that opens by trashing It's a Wonderful Life is one I'm going to be predisposed to like.)   W. R. Thompson, whose work I've enjoyed in Analog for years, had a deal-with-the-devil story that started out promising, with wit and humor, but ultimately left me unsatisfied.  I found the mechanism by which the narrator got out of the deal to be a cop-out.  The story following it, a retelling of the Biblical story of Lot, with Lilith thrown in for good measure, contained many of the ideas and themes the Thompson story did.  Since these two pieces together constituted almost half the fiction, I thought this was a bit too much of the same thing, a feeling not dissimilar to the one I've gotten at the movies after I've gone back for the free refill on the large buttered popcorn.  I should've stopped after the first.

So rather than give a breakdown of the contents and what I thought of each individual story, what worked and what didn't, like in my two previous reviews, I'll just pass this time.  None the stories were poorly written.  In fact, the way the words were put together in this issue constituted some of the best writing I've seen in the magazine, from a technical perspective.  For the most part, there was better emphasis on characters and story rather than pretty words than in the previous issue.  It's just that most of the stories really weren't the type of thing I'm interested in reading.  Only the riff on Lot could really be considered adventure fantasy, and I didn't care that much for some of the themes, in part because they were so similar to the previous story. And while I like other kinds of fantasy besides sword and sorcery and adventure fantasy, most of the selections in this issue really didn't work for me.  Well written pieces, but not my cup of tea.  Which is why I decided not to review the issue.  I don't see any point in doing what would essentially be trashing the magazine because the stories weren't to my taste. If they had been poorly written or had protagonists who weren't believable as characters, I would have a different attitude.

I write these reviews in part to recommend things I think my readers will like.  That's tough to do when I didn't care for most of the stories solely on the grounds of personal taste. 

On the positive side, the price has come down without any decrease in production values, a move that is appreciated.  I suspect this is a move to increase sales.  I hope it works.  Now if I could just get an electronic version in epub format.  There was an ad saying it was available, but the website only shows pdf versions of the current issues.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Blown Away by the Winds of Khalakovo

The Winds of Khalakovo
Bradley P. Beaulieu
Nightshade Books

If there is any justice in this world whatsoever, this book will be short-listed on next year's Hugo ballot.

This one has it all:  flying ships, magic, mystery, dark secrets, buckets of intrigue (both familial and political), honor, revenge, sea serpents, selfless sacrifice, a wedding dance that's just short of combat, assassinations, ship eating squids, and after a fashion, unrequited love. Lifelong friends will become bitter enemies; bitter enemies will become staunch allies.  And for all involved, everything will change.

So what's the book really about, you say?  I'm glad you asked that.

Here's the situation and the principle players:

A Look Back: Black Gate 3

This is the first of an occasional series, in which I'll look back at an issue of a magazine from some years ago.  I'm not sure how far back these looks will extend.  I'd like to restrict myself to things that most of you can find without too much difficulty or expense.  For that reason, I don't know if I'll include pulps.  What I won't focus on in this series is anything that is currently available for free online.  While Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Heroic Fantasy Quarterly are venues I enjoy and will from time to time take a look at, they won't be part of this series.

I decided to start this series with Black Gate 3, Winter 2002 because I like this publication.  It's published some great fiction over the years by people who have gone on to have successful careers.  I can't think of a single issue that hasn't been a winner.  By the third issue, BG was beginning to hit its stride and had developed a clear editorial style.

Let's take a look at what this issue holds.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Home of Heroics and Rogue Blades Entertainment are Back...

...and I have a post there!  Jason M. Waltz just sent out an email saying that Rogue Blades Entertainment is back online as is Home of Heroics, both virus free.  That's great news, made even sweeter for me by the fact that I have a post there.  It's a review of a book entitled The Roads to Baldairn Motte.  Check it out!  Then buy and read the  book.  There are still a few details Jason is working on as far as the look of the site, but it's great to have RBE and HoH back.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Quick Update

It's been hectic this week.  I've not posted any new reviews (although I've started one on The Winds of Khalakovo) because classes started a couple of days ago.  I'm visiting family out of town today; they've just returned from Scotland.  We'll head home in the morning, then I'll catch a plane in the afternoon for a job interview on Monday.  I'll finish the Khalakovo review, then focus on some short fiction I'll read while in the airport.  I should be back up to speed by the middle of next week, including some more Conan posts.  Then I've got four or five novels I'll be reviewing.  So things will be quiet here at the blog for a couple of days.  But that doesn't mean you can't browse the archives...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rogue Blades Entertainment, Home of Heroics Websites Temporarily On Hiatus

I got an email earlier today from Jason M. Waltz.  The RBE website has been infected with some sort of virus.  Jason is working to fix it, but at the moment he is swamped with some additional training for his day job and doesn't have much time (or energy) at the end of the day.  As soon as he can, he's going to get things back up and running.  In the meantime, the RBE site is in construction mode and new Home of Heroics posts are on hold.  They'll return once things are fixed, and on a daily basis until HOH is back on schedule. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Marvin Kaye Buys Weird Tales, Replaces Ann Vandermeer as Editor

This was announced earlier today, so many, if not most, of you have probably seen it, but I wanted to post it anyway.  (It's been one of those days.  Power was out over most of the campus for most of the day and classes start tomorrow.)  Marvin Kaye has bought Weird Tales from publisher John Betancourt.  He is replacing the entire editorial staff, including editor Ann Vandermeer.  Vandermeer's final issue will be #359, which will be published next February.  (The current issue, #358 is shown at right.)  Kaye, who has edited anthologies related to Weird Tales and the now defunct H. P. Lovecraft's Magazine of Horror, intends to edit the magazine himself.  His first issue, #360, will be a special Cthulhu themed issue.  Stories bought by Vandermeer that aren't included in #359 will be published in future issues.  Further details can be found in Ann Vandermeer's farewell postBlack Gate editor John O'Neill has written a commentary here.

What I Think of Conan the Momoan

photo courtesy of mattrailer.com
I said in my post last Friday that I thought Conan the Barbarian was a semi-decent movie.  Now that things seem to be slowing down a little and I have time to write, I need to define that term.  Simply put, "decent" means not good but not particularly bad, either.  "Semi" means not even that good.

The problem, as more people than I'm going to try to link to have said, is that the movie simply doesn't deliver in terms of story.  There are just too many holes in the internal logic.  I'll discuss the things that stuck out to me, but first I'll discuss why this character isn't Conan as written by Robert E. Howard.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stan Lee Media Suing for Rights to Conan

Picture Courtesy of Movie Picture DB
The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that Stan Lee Media is suing for the proceeds from Conan the Barbarian, assuming the film makes any money.  The basis of the suit is that rights to the character were sold illegally in 2002.  Looks like Conan's battles aren't over yet.