Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 in Retrospect: Short Fiction

This past year was a good year overall for short fiction.  And some of the most exciting short fiction was published online with or without the option of subscribing.  There were also the usual print venues, both periodicals and anthologies.  In this post, I'm going to try to provide an admittedly incomplete overview of the short fiction field in 2012, emphasizing online venues.  I didn't read thoroughly enough in the print periodicals (Asimov's, Analog, Hitchcock's, Ellery Queen, or F&SF) to have a feel for them.  And there were enough original anthologies that flew past my radar that I'm not even going to try to discuss any of them.

And as for the electronic magazines, with one exception, I'm only going to mention the ones I read at least once this year.  I'm not going to discuss individual stories; I don't have that kind of time.  Rather, I'm going to try to give a general idea of what the magazine was like.  Links and subcription information (where applicable) will be provided.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 in Retrospect: Publishing

Rather than doing a single post about what I thought of the past year, I'm going to break things up into some smaller posts.  There will be on short fiction and one on titles I especially enjoyed.  But I thought I would start with publishers.

Last year, I wrote about the publishers I thought you should be reading this year.  That list hasn't changed much.  The day before I posted that list, I gave reasons why I wasn't going to be reading much from the main imprints.  Those reasons haven't changed much, either.  If anything, they're more valid than ever.

What I'm going to attempt to do here, in this present post, is to assess some of the things I said in those two posts.

Friday, December 28, 2012

And This is My Room...




It's taken me a while, but I finally got my office in the new house in some semblance of order.  I say "semblance" because I need to rearrange some of the things on the shelves.  I also need to add a shelf to the book case in the center of the second photo.  And put up some curtains.  And...

But I digress.  This is my writing/blogging/reading room.  And no, this isn't all the books.  Most of the mass market paperbacks that have been unpacked, many of the hardcovers, and the digest magazines from the 80s and later are housed in the Library Annex, formerly known as The Guest Room.  (Please don't tell my wife I said that; she still thinks it's The Guest Room.)  This room has the collectibles, the graphic novels, the mysteries and crime, autographed books, and trade books by my favorite authors.

The photos go from left to right.  This is what would be the formal living room in a normal person's house. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

I couldn't find any art I liked, at least not any I was sure I could post without violating someone's copyright, so I decided to forego art this year.  Instead, I'll just wish everyone a Merry Christmas.  I hope it's safe, warm, and filled with joy.

(To see the Robert E. Howard themed art I wanted to use, click here.)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Short Story Stocking Stuffers

Back in October, I looked at some of the stories in on of Prime Books theme anthologies dealing with, what else, Halloween.  I also mentioned another Halloween themed anthology at the same time.

Well, for Christmas, I thought I'd do the same thing.  This time I'll look at another anthology from Prime, plus  one from Baen.  With one exception, which I'll save for last, the contents of the two books have no overlap.  I've selected two tales from each one.  Sort of literary stocking stuffers.  I based my selections on the authors, choosing those I especially liked.

Let's take a look, shall we?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

In the Dead of Winter

The Dead of Winter
Lee Collins
Angry Robot Books
UK Print ISBN: 9780857662712
Format: Medium Paperback R.R.P.: £8.99
US/CAN Print ISBN: 9780857662729
Format: Large Paperback R.R.P.: US$14.99 CAN$16.99
Ebook ISBN: 9780857662736
Format: Epub & Mobi R.R.P.: £5.49 / US$6.99
UK Print & Ebook
Amazon.co.uk | Book Depository Waterstones
US Print & Ebook
Amazon.com | BarnesandNoble.com IndieBound.org
DRM-Free Epub Ebook
Robot Trading Company

"Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway."
John Wayne

The above quote from John Wayne, which I lifted from The Dead of Winter, is a perfect fit for this book.  This is one of the best novels I've read all year, and I've been fortunate to have read more good ones than bad ones.  This novel is an excellent example of authorial misdirection that really works.

This book takes place in a slightly altered version of the Wild West, where supernatural creatures exist.  They're not widespread, meaning you don't trip over them every time you turn around like in some fantasies, but they are out there.  Cora Oglesby and her husband Ben are bounty hunters, and very selective bounty huners at that.  They specialize in supernatural creatures such as werewolves, hellhounds, vampires, and those sorts of things.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Exposing Myself

OK, as promised, a bit of elaboration on the press releases of earlier.  Sooper Seekrit Project #1 was my signing on with Amazing Stories (TM) as a blogger.  I wasn't allowed to say anything publicly until the formal announcement, although I've contacted one or two individuals to set up interviews.  There are 50+ bloggers participating, and all of them bring their own specialties and areas of expertise.  They range from people who are relatively unknown in the field to figures who are almost legendary.  I mean, I'm part of a blog team that includes Barry Malzberg.  How cool is that?

Each individual will bring something to Amazing Stories(TM), and I really hope you'll check out some of the links provided in the first press release.  I'm sure there will be plenty of things you'll find of interest.

Now, how all this applies to me:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I'm Now Blogging for Amazing Stories (TM)



As promised earlier, here is the individual press release that accompanies the general press release in the previous post.   I'll have more to say about what this means for me and this blog later in my next post.

Amazing Stories, the world's first science fiction magazine, opens for Beta Testing of Phase 1 on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013.

Fifty+ Writers Sign On to provide genre-related content!

Experimenter Publishing Company
Hillsboro, NH
December 20, 2012


On Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013, I will be joined by more than 50 other writers from around the blogosphere to help launch the Beta Test of Phase 1 of the return of Amazing Stories.

Amazing Stories was the world's first science fiction magazine.  Published by Hugo Gernsback, the Father of Science Fiction, the magazine created the genre's first home and was instrumental in helping to establish science fiction fandom the fandom from which all other fandoms have evolved.

The magazine itself ceased publication in 2005; in 2008 the new publisher, Steve Davidson, discovered that the trademarks had lapsed and applied for them.  The marks were finally granted in 2011.

Phase 1 introduces the social networking aspects of the site and the Blog Team, more than 50 authors, artists, collectors, editors, pod casters, designers and bloggers who will address 14 different subjects on a regular basis SF, Fantasy & Horror literature, anime, gaming, film, television, the visual arts, audio works, the pulps, comics, fandom, science and publishing.  

Those wishing to participate in the Beta Test should request an invite by emailing the publisher, Steve Davidson.

Amazing Stories (TM) is Back!



Amazing Stories, the world's first science fiction magazine, opens for Beta Testing of Phase 1 on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013.

Fifty+ Writers Sign On to provide genre-related content!

Experimenter Publishing Company
Hillsboro, NH
December 20, 2012


The Experimenter Publishing Company is pleased to announce the  reintroduction of the world's most recognizable science fiction magazine – AMAZING STORIES!

Set to relaunch with a Beta Test of its new Social Magazine Platform, Amazing Stories will feature content from 50+ bloggers, covering an enormous array of subjects of interest to genre fans.

“We've got authors and agents, bloggers and editors, pod casters and broadcasters; we've got gamers and game designers; artists and art collectors; pulpsters and indie authors; we've got Hugo winners, John W. Campbell Memorial Award winners, John W. Campbell Best New Writer winners, Nebula and Hugo Award winners and nominees and winners and nominees of many other awards;  people who review films, people who make films; we've got fanboys and fangirls; we've got former editors of Amazing Stories, writers who've become synonymous with the field and writers who are just getting started; comic artists, book reviewers; traditionally published authors, self-pubbed authors and authors who've done it all.  The response to my request for participation was phenomenal – it couldn't be more perfect if I had set out with a list of must-haves!” said Steve Davidson, publisher. 

Amazing Stories' Social Magazine platform is designed to create an interactive environment that will be familiar to fans with blog content designed to encourage discussion  and take things beyond the usual user-generated content model for social networks.

The Amazing Stories Blog Team will cover (for now – more coming!) fourteen popular topics – Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, (lit), Film, Television, Gaming, Comics and Graphic Works,  the Visual Arts, the Pulps, Audio Works,  Anime, the Business of Publishing, Science and Fandom itself. 

At this year's Worldcon (Chicon 7 the 70HYPERLINK "http://chicon.org/" thHYPERLINK "http://chicon.org/"  Worldcon, Chicago), Toastmaster John Scalzi talked about what it was to be a fan and concluded by saying

We are diverse - and we are all in this together.”

We are diverse – and we are all in this together, a sentiment that captures the very heart and soul of what it means to be a fan.  Amazing Stories aims to be a vehicle through which the diversity of fandom can come together. 

Amazing Stories' relaunch will take place in two phases.  Those interested in participating in the Beta Test of Phase 1 should contact the publisher at steve.davidson33@comcast.net.  Participants will receive full access to the site with Member status and will receive on-site benefits as the project moves forward.

Phase 2 will introduce additional interactivity and user-customization to the site.  Following the completion and testing of Phase 2, the magazine, featuring both new and reprint fiction, essays, photo galleries, reviews and more will begin publication.  Readers who are interested in what the magazine will look like can read two Relaunch Prelaunch issues on line, or download them from the Amazing Stories store.  (Additional Amazing Stories themed product is also available here.)

Experimenter Publishing is pleased to introduce the  Amazing Stories Blog Team:

Cenobyte, Mike Brotherton, Ricky L. Brown, Michael A. Burstein,
Catherine Coker, Johne Cook, Paul Cook, Gary Dalkin, Jane Frank,
Jim Freund, Adam Gaffen, Chris Garcia, Chris Gerwel, Tommy Hancock, Liz Henderson, Samantha Henry, M. D. Jackson, Monique Jacob, Geoffrey James, J. J. Jones, Peggy Kolm, Justin Landon, Andrew Liptak, Melissa Lowery, Barry Malzberg, C. E. Martin, Farrell J. McGovern, Steve Miller, Matt Mitrovich, Aidan Moher, Kevin Murray, Ken Neth, Astrid Nielsch, D. Nicklin-Dunbar, John Purcell, James Rogers, Diane Severson, Doug Smith, Lesley Smith, Bill Spangler, Duane Spurlock, Michael J. Sullivan, G. W. Thomas, Erin Underwood, Stephan Van Velzen, Cynthia Ward, Michael Webb, Keith West, John M. Whalen, Ann Wilkes,Karlo Yeager, Leah Zeldez

BACKGROUND:

Originally published in 1926 by the father of science fiction, Hugo Gernsback, Amazing Stories helped to launch both the science fiction genre and its most enduring feature, science fiction fandom.  The magazine is well known for its Frank R. Paul covers and for publishing the first stories by many iconic authors such as Isaac Asimov, Jack Williamson and Ursula Le Guin.  Published continuously from 1926 until 1995, followed by two brief resurrections from 1998 till 2000 and again from 2004 thru 2005.  In 2008 Hasbro, the then current owner, allowed the trademarks to lapse and publisher Steve Davidson applied for and eventually received them in 2011.

Additional history and background on Amazing Stories can be found at the Science Fiction Encyclopedia and Wikipedia.  A complete gallery of all 609 previous issues with publication history is also available.

The Experimenter Publishing Company was created in 2012 for the purpose of returning Amazing Stories magazine to regular publication.  The company  shares the name of the original magazine's publisher as homage.  The trademarks for Amazing Stories were acquired by Steve Davidson in 2011,  the previous owners having allowed the marks to lapse in 2008, at which time application was made for a new incarnation of the same title.

CONTACT:

For more information regarding Amazing Stories, the Blog Team and the Beta Test of the new site, please contact Steve Davidson via email at steve.davidson33@comcast.net. 

To contact one of the Blog Team:

J. Jay Jones
Barry Malzberg
Farrell J. McGovern http://www.can-con.org
Lesley Smith
Bill Spangler
Michael J. Sullivan http://www.riyria.com
Stephan Van Velzen http://www.rantingdragon.com
Karlo Yeager

A complete copy of this press release will appear on the Amazing Stories Blog on the date of release and can be found here.

The Next Few Days

I've got several things planned for the next few days.  First, earlier today I've was given the go-ahead to announce Sooper Seekrit Project #1 tomorrow (12:01 am EST).  This will come in the form of two press releases, followed by a post on how the things announced will change Adventures Fantastic and Futures Past and Present.  (The first change went live yesterday:  a new logo at the top of the page.)  The first press release will be a general one, followed by a press release specific to me.  I'll make these separate posts.  Since I'll be traveling to visit family for Christmas tomorrow, I'll probably post the press releases tonight.  My follow-up will go live within 24 hours of that.

I'm almost done with The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins, which will be the next novel I review.  This is one of the best novels I've read all year.  If you're a fan of westerns, especially weird westerns, this is one you'll want to read.  (I'm looking at you, David and Charles.)  The book is an excellent example of misdirection.  When I hit the big twist, I had to admit that all the clues were there, I'd picked up on them, and still didn't put things together.  That review probably won't go live until Saturday. 

And speaking of Christmas, I'll be writing about some seasonal short stories.  That should be up by the end of the weekend.

After that, it'll probably be short fiction reviews and commentary on this site for next week, with at least one novel review over at Futures Past and Present.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Happy Birthday, Conan.

I'm a little late getting this post up, but this month marks the 80th anniversary of the first appearance of Conan, the man from Cimmeria.  Conan first appeared in "The Phoenix on the Sword", a rewrite of an unsold Kull story, "By This Axe I Rule!"  I blogged about both pieces here.  That's the cover of the issue, December 1932, there on the right.  And, no, Conan wasn't featured on the cover.  But he soon would be.

It's been a while since I last wrote a piece dedicated solely to Conan.  No, don't go looking it up; all you'll do is embarrass people, namely me.  I'm going to look at three more Conan stories, maybe more.  The stories I'll definitely look at are "Rogues in the House", "Queen of the Black Coast", and "Red Nails."  There are a few other Conan tales I will try to get to, but those three are, in my mind at least, major stories that every Howard fan should read.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Happy Birthday, Michael Moorcock

Today is Michael Moorcock's 73rd birthday.  All of us here at Adventures Fantastic want to wish him a very happy.

I've had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Moorcock on a couple of occasions, World Fantasy 2000 in Corpus Christi and the Nebula Awards in Austin in 2008.  What I haven't had the pleasure of doing is reading much of his work.  (After he signed those books, they've tended to stay on the shelf, something that happens to most of my signed editions.)  I've read some of his work and enjoyed it, don't misunderstand me.  I've just not found the time to dive deeply into his oeuvre.  I'm hoping to read the Elric stories this year as well as some of his shorter series.  Or start them, at least.  I may not be able to finish everything this year.

Anyway, Happy Birthday, Mr. Moorcock.  And many happy returns.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

One Day in the Arabian Nights...

The Desert of Souls
Howard Andrew Jones
Thomas Dunne Books
tpb $14.95
ebook $9.99  Kindle Epub

So there's this guy, Howard Andrew Jones, see?  He's done a lot of things in the field.  He's held some editorial positions, most recently with Black Gate.  In addition to publishing some well received S&S short fiction (often in the aforementioned BG), he's the author of a novel in the Pathfinder Tales.  Mr. Jones has also edited an 8 volume series collecting much of the short fiction of Harold Lamb.  These are accomplishments which should make any man proud.

But Nooo.  This isn't enough.  The guy has to go an be an overachiever.  What do I mean by that?

Allow me to enter into evidence as exhibit A the novel The Desert of Souls.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

So How's Your Week Been?

This post has nothing to do with sword and sorcery, fantasy, historical adventure, publishing, books, or anything else commonly covered here.  I'm going to kvetch because Murphy has been with me.  It's more legally and morally acceptable than going postal.  So if you want to skip this one, I'm fine with that.  You won't be missing much.  Really.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Status Report

I'm almost done with my grading, which should be finished with all grades turned in tomorrow, assuming the university server comes back up.  (It should.)  I'm also in charge of the labs, which means I check the TA grading and make sure everything is consistent (it wasn't, but I can't talk about that) and pass lab and recitation grades on to the faculty.  Except for one course where there were some problems, that's done.  Then to jump on the edits of the lab manual. 

I'm about one third of the way through Howard Andrew Jones' The Desert of Souls.  I'd hoped to have the review posted by tomorrow, when the sequel, Bones of the Old Ones, is released.  Sadly, that's not going to happen.  My apologies, Howard.  I'm thoroughly enjoying the novel and will be ordering BotOO later today. 

I should be back up to speed later this week.  Next week, I'm off but my son isn't.  I should be able to get some stuff done. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Bradley P. Beaulieu Short Story Collection Kickstarter

Just a quick note.  I don't ordinarily promote a lot of projects from Kickstarter here on the blog, although I do review some (such as here, here, and here).  However, to every rule there are usually exceptions.  This is going to be one of them.  Bradley P. Beaulieu is one of my favorite writers to have appeared in recent years.  Look here, here, and here for details about why I think that.  But for this post, let me just say the man can write character and plot and sense of wonder and make it look easy. 

I got an email from him a few hours ago announcing a Kickstarter campaign to collect all of his short fiction, with stretch goals to include new stories set in the world of The Winds of Khalakovo.  If it were a manly thing, I would swoon or squee or something.  Instead, consider a loud roar of triumph to have been roared.

If you've read Beaulieu's stuff, you'll want this collection.  The nice thing about this one is that the rewards listed have reasonable pledge amounts, unlike some projects.  So if you think you might be interested, head over here and check it out.  I'd really like to read those Khalakovo stories.

December's Agenda

Finals start this week, so things will probably be hectic until around the 14th.  My only final is Friday morning, but I've got a new lab manual to edit and send to the publisher by then.  All of which means that posting here is going to be sporadic.  I may post for two or three days straight, then not have anything new for a week or more.  'Tis the season.

Here's what I've got lined up as far as novels go.  The Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones is first up, followed by The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins.  After that, it will be two science fiction novels, The Creative Fire by Brenda Cooper and Apollo's Outcasts by Allen Steele. I'll post those reviews over at Futures Past and Present.  There are a couple of forthcoming novels I've committed to review, plus 3 from Angry Robot that I had intended to review in August before moving threw my schedule into chaos.  Those will probably wait until January since none of the forthcoming titles have release dates before then.

I want to spend the rest of December getting caught up on stuff I've had on the shelf for a while that I haven't been able to get to:  some sword and sorcery, a few historical novels and collections, a lot of space opera, and some Henry Kuttner I've been wanting to either read or reread.  Plus some noir, and The Bones of the Old Ones, the sequel to The Desert of Souls.  I doubt I'll be able to read all of that in the few weeks I'll have, but I'm going to try.  Of course, I'll review some short fiction, too.

I'm not going to accept requests for reviews, nor will I be asking for many review copies over the next couple of months.  I've mentioned a Sooper Seekrit Project a couple of times before.  There are actually two now.  I should be able to make one public by the end of the month; the other, I'm not sure when I can announce.  In both cases, these are things I've been invited to participate in, and I'm really excited about them.  There will be some changes here and at Futures Past and Present because of these projects, but I'll wait until I can announce the projects before I discuss how my personal blogs will change. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Look at Beneath Ceaseless Skies #109

I'm trying to get caught up on periodical reading before diving back into some novels.  It's been a while since I looked at Beneath Ceaseless SkiesBCS is one of the best publications for short adventure fantasy out there.  I try to read every issue, even if I don't review all of them.  I'm a little behind right now, but I hope to get caught up during the Christmas break.

Anyway, the latest issue is live, so let's look at it.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Quick Look at the Second Issue of Nightmare Magazine

I realize that November is almost over, and the new issue of Nightmare will be out in a matter of hours, at least if you have a subscription.  So I'm behind for the month.  Like you aren't?

Anyway, I wanted to take a look at the second issue since the first was a little different.  It contained four pieces of original fiction.  Starting with the current issue, Nightmare will run two original stories and two reprints. 

So let's take a quick look, shall we?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Further Thoughts on Traditional Publishers Getting into the Self-Publishing Business

In my brief post earlier today, I mentioned that Simon and Schuster has started a self-publishing division run by Author Solutions, an entity with a reputation for screwing authors.

I wanted to inflict upon you share a few further thoughts with you on the matter.  Why would a major publisher want to start a self-publishing division?  The obvious answer is money, of course.  Which makes all the noise about traditional publishers ensuring quality, curating culture, and defending literature all the more obvious as the load of horse pucky it is.

David Gaughran did an excellent job on summarizing why this venture is a bad thing for writers.  I'll not repeat what he said here.  For one thing, this isn't an echo chamber, and for another, I doubt I could say it as well as he did.

Instead, I want to speculate on how this might come back to bite Simon and Schuster in the ass, and what serious writers can do to make that happen.

A High Profile Scam Warning

I know some of you who read this blog are either indie authors or intending to be.  David Gaughran posted a warning on his site earlier this morning that I think bears repeating.  In short, Simon and Schuster has started a self-publishing arm.  But they aren't running it.  Author Solutions is.  This is an outfit to avoid like the proverbial plague.

Here's the link to David's post.  If you are an independent author or plan to be one, check it out.  He summarizes why this is a scam and provides pertinent links for those who want more detail. 

I"ll have more to say about this later.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Review of Queen of Thorns by Dave Gross

Queen of Thorns
Dave Gross
Paizo
mmpb, $9.99, 432 p.
epub, $6.99

I'd not read any of the Pathfinder Tales before, so I wasn't sure what to expect with this one.  Add that this is the third novel featuring these characters, and I could have found my self at a disadvantage.

Fortunately, Dave Gross, whose work I hadn't read prior to this novel, does a good job of filling in what background details are needed as you go along.

The setup starts out fairly straightforward.  Half-elf Varian Jeggare has never met his Elven father, but at one point in his life his father sent him a gift of a red carriage.  That carriage was smashed in a previous adventure.  Now he and his bodyguard Radovan have journeyed to the Elven kingdom of Kyonin hoping to find the carriage maker and get the thing repaired.  Simple, right?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Look at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Issue 14

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #14

It's been a while since I looked at an issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly (here and here), so we need to rectify that.

The current issue went live last month.  I'm a little behind on my magazine reading, but I'm catching up.  The problem is that there's so much quality short fiction being published online.

HFQ is no exception. Here's what the current issue holds.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Review of The Black God's War by Moses Siregar III

The Black God's War
Moses Siregar III
Paper $14.95
electronic: various prices, depending on where purchased
Kindle Nook Smashwords ibooks

I'd bought this novel a while back after discovering it on Ty Johnston's 2011 blog tour, but I hadn't had a chance to read it when I got an email from the author asking if I would be interested in reviewing it.  I'd like to thank Moses Siregar III for sending me a revised edition of the novel, as well as an apology since I told him this review would be done last month.  (Also thanks to Ty Johnston for his blog tour.  I discovered some new writers I'm looking forward to reading.)

Anyway, this was a compelling novel with a strong nonwestern feel to it.  I found that rather refreshing.

Here's the basic set-up (and all you're going to get from me is the set-up since there are some plot twists I don't want to spoil):

Thursday, November 15, 2012

In Which I Encounter Rogue Angel

Rogue Angel:  Magic Lantern
Alex Archer
Gold Eagle
mass market paper back $6.99
ebook $4.61 Kindle $5.39 Nook

I'd seen the Rogue Angel series around for about a year or two but until the other day, I'd never read one.  A couple of months ago, the author of this one sent me a review copy.  It was on the list to review before the end of the year, but when I ended up flying to Houston for a couple of days earlier this week, I decided to move it up.  This required me to rearrange the order in which a few books would be reviewed, but I was okay with that.  This way I could ignore shrill flight attendants who demand that "anything with an 'off' switch must be turned off, not put in airplane mode, turned off" and simply read.  If I'd had only my ereader, we'd gotten stuck on the tarmac, and I wouldn't have had anything to read at all.

But I digress. 

Except for one thing, which I'll discuss below, I enjoyed the book. 

The set up for the series is fairly simple.  It concerns one Annja Creed, who's part Indiana Jones, part Lara Croft, part Kolchak the Night Stalker, and part Duncan MacCleod (of the Clan MacCleod).  She's an archaeologist who is cohost of a tabloid TV show called Chasing History's Monsters

She also has the sword of Joan of Arc.  This is a magical sword which she can literally pull out of thin air whenever she needs it.  I want one of these!  (That's not a hint for those of you wondering what to get me for Christmas, but if  you're so inclined....  I'm just sayin'.)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Outcasts by Nick Wisseman

Outcasts
Nick Wisseman
145 p. $7.99 paper
Amazon  B&N
$4.99 electronic
Kindle Nook Smashwords

Before I read Outcasts, I wasn't familiar with the name Nick Wisseman.  Nor was I familiar with venues where these stories first appeared, places such as Bewildering Stories.  It's a name I'm going to remember, though.  And I'm going to check Bewildeirng Stories out.  If everything they publish is this good, I'm going put that venue on my regular reading list.

When Mr. Wisseman emailed me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing his book, I said yes.  I've written before that taking a chance on an unknown author is a gamble.  Sometimes it's not a gamble that pays off (and you usually won't see the results of those gambles written about here).  Other times, you hit the jackpot.  Books like this one are why I review self-published authors I've never heard of before.

Here's what you get in this collection:

Thursday, November 8, 2012

In Defense of Marvin Kaye: A Review of Weird Tales # 360

Weird Tales # 360
print $7.95, various ebook formats $2.99 available here
edited by Marvin Kaye

There was a great deal of bitchin' and moanin' wailing and gnashing of teeth last year when it was announced that Marvin Kaye was buying Weird Tales and replacing editor Ann Vandermeer with himself.  The way some people carried on, you would have thought Sauron had managed to get his claws on the One Ring. 

When Kaye announced, and later retracted, his plans to publish an excerpt of the science fiction novel Save the Pearls, a book many considered to be racist, I expected to see reports of mobs marching on Kaye's location with torches and pitchforks.  Haivng read a number of Kaye's anthologies for the SFBC, and portions of others, I have great respect for him as an editor, but I have to say this was not one of his better choices.  Nor was his essay defending that choice well conceived.  I didn't bother to give this particular novel much attention; the descriptions of it, even if they were only half accurate, made it clear to me the novel was not a good thing to serialize in the magazine.

Outrage was so great that Mary Robinette Kowal subsidized Shimmer magazine so that publication would be able to pay pro rates.  Editor-in-Chief Beth Wodzinski stated on the magazine's blog that she wanted to continue in the vein Ann Vandermeer.

Why am I going into this bit of recent history?  Because the situation as I see it is this:  Expectations on Kaye to succeed are extremely high, so high that it can be argued he'll never be able to meet those expectations.  Furthermore, there are those who are waiting with sharpened knives for him to stumble, or if you prefer, stumble again after the Save the Pearls debacle. 

Well, now the first issue edited by Kaye is out, and it has the theme of The Elder Gods.  Kaye is taking the magazine back to its roots.  This was part of what caused the controversy when he replaced Vandermeer as edtior.  Many saw this as a step backwards.  It's become fashionable in some circles to bash Lovecraft for a variety of reasons, and a number of those reasons showed up in the vitriol that followed the announcement.

So, let's look at the stories, and then I'll attempt to answer the question of whether or not Kaye succeeding in getting his incarnation of The Unique Magazine off the ground. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Easie Damasco Pulls Off Another Great Adventure

Crown Thief
David Tallerman webpage  blog
Angry Robot Books
UK Print
Format: Medium Paperback
R.R.P.: £8.99
US/CAN Print
Format: Regular Paperback
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 I loved David Tallerman's debut novel, Giant Thief, earlier this year (reviewed here).  With the next installment in the series, Tallerman proves he's more than a flash in the pan.  Crown Thief is a fast moving, exciting adventure.

Here's the basic set-up:

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Rest of the Year

Happy Halloween.  I'd hoped to post a few more mini-reviews of Cemetery Dance's 13 Days of Halloween, but you know what they say about the best laid plans.

And speaking of plans, I thought I'd lay out my plans for the rest of the year.  I'm in the middle of David Tallerman's Crown Thief, having passed the halfway point last night.  After that it will probably be Black God's War by Moses Siregar III.  I've got several Angry Robot eARCs I'd downloaded in the summer before I realized I'd be moving.  I'm going to try to get to them, but not before I've read The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins.  I've got several anthologies and a Pathfinder novel an agent sent me, plus a handful of other books I've agreed to review.  More than enough to keep me busy.  I'll be traveling for work in a couple of weeks, just a quick trip to Houston and back, so I should be able to get plenty of reading done on the plane and during my layover in Dallas.

That's on top of the things I've bought just because they're what I want to read, not because someone asked me to.  Or to put it another way, I'm not going to be accepting any new books to review until after the first of next year, with one or two exceptions.  If I've promised to review your book, I will.  I won't guarantee a date the review will go up, but I will get to it as soon as I can.

Also, I've decided not to participate in NaNoWriMo this year.  I want to ramp up my own fiction writing, and things are starting to settle into a enough of a routine that I think I can.  I doubt I can hit the 50k mark for NaNoWriMo and still meet some other obligations, but I am trying to get some things finished. 

The deciding factor for not doing NaNoWriMo was a Seekret Project I've become involved with.  I'm not at liberty to discuss it yet, but I can say it will involve a number of other people and be fairly high profile.  I'll post an announcement when I get the green light.  That should be within the next few weeks.

Anyway, that's how things are shaping up for the rest of the year and probably into next year.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Another Halloween Treat

"A Little Halloween Talk"
Joe R. Lansdale
Cemetery Dance
ebook, $0.99

Here's another little treat from Cemetery Dance's 13 Days of Halloween.  It's not one you want to share with the kiddies.

This one concerns a tryst in a graveyard that goes horribly wrong with the lady's man interrupts her with his best friend.

I won't give any more details away.  If you've ever read Lansdale, you know he can write in some of the most compelling voices in modern fiction.  This story is no exception.  The narrator tells his story in a laid back style that you know from the first page isn't going to end well.  The reader is pulled in by his down home drawl.  Even though I was reading, not listening to an audiobook, I could still hear the guy's voice as I read. 

The plot is something out of EC Comics, something that should come as no surprise if you've read Lansdale.  This is a good thing, in case you were wondering.  I've read four or five of these Halloween shorts, and this one is easily my favorite so far.  Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Halloween Treat

"Pumpkin"
Bill Pronizini
Cemetery Dance
various ebpub editions , $0.99

Cemetery Dance has been publishing Halloween themed short stories on weekdays for the last couple of weeks and will continue to do so until Halloween.  It's part of a promotion called 13 Days of Halloween. I'll be taking a look at some of them, randomly selected.

These are all short stories, so I won't go into too much detail.  In this one, Amanda Sutter and her husband run a pumpkin farm in California.  One day one of the field hands discovers that there's something wrong with one of the pumpkins...

Pronzini is one of my favorites.  While he's never to my knowledge written any heroic fantasy, he does occasionally venture from the mystery/crime fields to dip his toes in the waters of dark fantasy and horror.  I wish he would more often.  Although I have to admit that Pronzini is one of those writers whose work I would read regardless of genre.  In my opinion he's that good. 

This story isn't his most gripping, but it's still worth a read, especially the last page or two.  Pronzini isn't one to go for the gross-out.  Instead, he prefers the quiet buildup.  And he's good with the twist at the end.  This story fits that bill quite well.

It's short, only about 10 pages long, but worth the price.  If you're in the mood for a Halloween treat with a little trick at the end, check it out.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Everything Old is Still Old

My head is still reeling from the announcement that Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to revise his role as Conan.  Al Harron has covered this more eloquently than I can, so I'll defer you to his remarks

Instead, I want to take a slightly different approach and say this:  Really, Hollywood?  Really?  This is the best you can do?  Trot out an actor who is too old for the role, to play a character who was never anywhere near that old in any of the stories Howard wrote.

What you have here, ladies and gentlemen, aliens and Old Ones, is a perfect case of why box office reciets in general are dropping.  Hollywood can't do anything but recycle itself.  A more appropriate metaphor would probably be breed with itself.  We all know what sort of thing results from that, which is a good description of what Hollywood tends to churn out rather than coming up with something original.

At least take a fresh script (preferably written by someone who will be faithful to more than the "spirit" of Howard's most famous creation) and keep Jason Mamoa.  He fits the description of Conan much better than the Governator does.

I suppose that's too much to hope for, as is this being a sick (and scary, very scary) Halloween joke.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go burn incense to the gods of Development Hell.  Much incense.