Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Blogging the Lost World of the Warlord

Back in the 1970s DC Comics had a try-out title they called 1st Issue Special.  It was one of those things like Showcase had been in an earlier era where new characters, teams, and series were given a trial run.  Reader response determined if a particular character or team got his/her/its/their own book.  It was also at this time that sword and sorcery was enjoying a period of popularity, in part due to a boom in Robert E. Howard's work.  This carried over into comics, with Marvel's Conan.  DC tried to get in on the excitement by attempting several sword and sorcery titles.  Of these, only Mike Grell's The Warlord lasted more than a few issues. 

The Warlord premiered in 1975.  I didn't start reading the title until the early 1980s, when it had peaked and begun a long decay, but there were a number of solid issues with some good sword and sorcery storytelling still to come.  Mike Grell was still writing and drawing the book and would continue to do so for a few more years.

I'm going to take a look at this series, and I'm going to try to post on a regular basis, meaning once every week or every other week, hopefully on the same day.  We'll see.  I'll focus on one to two issues at a time.  If this series of posts is well received, I'll continue until I reach the point where Grell left the book.  If not, I'm sure I can find something to blog about.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why Modern Fantasy Needs More Naked Slave Girls

Yes, I realize that's an incredibly sexist title for this blog post.  It's not intended to be taken seriously (well, not entirely), so chill out a bit and listen to what I have to say.  Substitute "naked slave guys" if you prefer.  If I'm going to be sexist, I'm willing to be an equal opportunity sexist.  It may also come across as a manipulative method of increasing blog traffic, but it's not (well, not entirely).

Rather I'm picking an old sword and sorcery trope as an example to make a point.  I think much modern fantasy, far too much in my opinion, takes itself way too seriously.  It's gotten so dark and grim, for one thing.  I don't have too much of a problem with that.  I tend to prefer a dark strain through much of my fiction. What is starting to get on my nerves is how so many authors seem to be using their fiction to push some sort of an agenda.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Review of Keith Baker's The Queen of Stone

The Queen of Stone
Keith Baker
Wizards of the Coast
mmp, 293p., $6.99

Earlier this year, a group of fantasy writers got together and had a contest collectively called Crossing the Streams.  The way it worked was that each author had some sort of contest on his or her website to give away one or more books.  There were about seventeen authors if I counted correctly.  You can find a list of them at the above link.  If you keep up with this blog, you'll see quite a few familiar names.

The rules for each contest were different, and there was one uber-contest in which the winner got all of the prizes from all of the contests.  While I didn't win the uber-contest, I did win Keith Baker's.  First I would like to thank all of the authors who participated in Crossing the Streams for their generosity in putting this thing together.  I would especially like to thank Keith Baker for sending me an inscribed copy of The Queen of Stone.  Additionally, I would like to apologize to him for taking so long to read and review the book.

I wasn't familiar with Mr. Baker's work, and since his prize was my choice of one from a group of novels, I asked him to suggest the best one to start with. The Queen of Stone was his response.  I have to say it was a good choice.  This was a compelling, fast-paced read.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

New Fiction Magazine Specutopia Premiers

edited by Dale Wise
6 issues/year
$3.49 per issue
available in PDF, .mobi, or .epub formats

 Issue 1 July/August 2012

I had an opportunity the other day to pick up a review copy of Specutopia, the new speculative fiction magazine.  I'm glad I did.   I'd like to thank editor Dale Wise for sending me a copy.

Specutopia is an electronic fiction magazine of, what else with that title, speculative fiction.  In his editorial, Dale Wise states that he's open to publishing any type of speculative fiction, be it fantasy, science fiction, or some hybrid.  It contains seven stories by authors whose names, with one exception, aren't familiar to me.  The authors come from all across the globe, which I think is a good thing.  There are a lot of good fiction writers outside the US.  On the whole, I enjoyed the issue, although there were a couple of exceptions I'll discuss below.  For now, some general impressions.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Hits 100 Issues

Beneath Ceaseless Skies 
Cover art by Raphael Lacoste

The one hundredth issue of BCS won't go live for another day or so, which means I'll have to put the links in for the individual stories later (done), but I wanted to try and create a bit of advance buzz for the issue.  (Having a subscription, I got my copy early.)  Beneath Ceaseless Skies is one of the best fantasy markets out there, and it publishes every other week.

I'm behind on reading the short fiction magazines I subscribe to, or I would have reviewed some of the preceding issues.  I may still.  But 100 issues is a milestone that deserves to be celebrated.  Instead of the usual two pieces of fiction, there are four, just like in the issue marking the three year anniversary of the magazine (reviewed here).  Here's what you'll find.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Dancing on Graves is Good PI Fun

Dancing on Graves
Jack Clark
Createspace, 217 p.
Trade paper $13.95, Kindle 4.99

Of the major awards for genre fiction, at least among the ones I pay attention to, the Shamus Awards (given by the Private Eye Writers of America) are pretty close to the top of the list.  So if a book's cover says that the author is a Shamus Award Finalist, I pay attention.  And when a Shamus Award Finalist emails me to ask if I he can send me a couple of his books to review, do you think I'm going to be open to that idea?  Is the Pope Catholic?  Does a bear...never mind.

Now I realize that the focus of this blog is primarily heroic fantasy and historical adventure and the focus of my other blog, Futures Past and Present, is science fiction in all its forms.  Granted there's been little historical fiction in recent months, and I don't update the science fiction blog very often.  That's because this one keeps me busy enough.  So busy that I find I have very little time left for the other two closely related genres that I really love, noir  and private investigator fiction.  There are times when this drives me nuts because that's what I'm in the mood for.  I've decided to occasionally include some noir or PI novels in my reviews, just to preserve my own sanity.  Not a lot of them, but every once in a while, maybe once very four to six weeks.  I know some of the people who read these posts on a regular basis are also noir/PI fans, so I don't think I'm completely deserting my audience by this move.

Jack Clark's Nobody's Angel was one of the first books I reviewed here, before I really hit my stride.  It was top notch.  Dancing on Graves is, too, and it's the first of two books Mr. Clark kindly sent me that I'll be reviewing, and for which I would like to thank him.

There was a question on someone's blog the other day, I think James Reasoner's but I'm too lazy to look it up, asking how many ongoing PI series were left.  Other than Loren D. Estleman's Amos Walker and Bill Pronzini's Nameless Detective, there weren't too many names suggested.  A few others, but not many.  The Nick Acropolis series by Jack Clark can be added to that list. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mockingbird Sings an Original Song

Chuck Wendig
Angry Robot Books
6 Sep 2012
384pp B-format paperback
£7.99 UK

28 Aug 2012
mass-market paperback
$7.99 US $8.99 CAN

28 Aug 2012

Class? Let me have your attention please, class.  We're going to start today's session with a quiz.  The topic is Chuck Wendig's forthcoming novel, Mockingbird.  This will be multiple choice.  Mockingbird is a) relentless, b) creepy, c) compelling, d) surprising, e) likely to keep you up too late finishing it, f) all of the above.

No looking on your neighbor's paper.  Please pass them to the aisle when you're done.

Do I have all the papers?  Good.  The answer, of course, is f.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tales of the Emerald Serpent is a Great Start to a New Anthology Series

Tales of the Emerald Serpent
Scott Taylor, ed.
Art of the Genre
tp, 180 p., $14.99
ebook, $4.99
Illustrated by Janet Aulisio, Jeff Laubenstein, and Todd Lockwood

I don't remember where I heard about this project (probably over at Black Gate), but it was a Kickstarter project I told you about earlier this year.

Well, the project was successfully funded, although the stretch goals weren't met.  More on that in a bit.

I finished the collection over the weekend, and I can say it was money well spent.  There are nine interrelated stories by Lynn Flewelling, Harry Connolly, Todd Lockwood, Juliet McKenna, Mike Tousignant, Martha Wells, Julie Czerneda, Scott Taylor, and Rob Mancebo.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Out of the Garden and into my Library

Out of the Garden
Angeline Hawkes
Bad Moon Books
Trade Paper, 393 p., $20.00
ebook $3.99 Kindle  Nook

If you enjoy a good barbarian story, and who doesn't, then you might want to check out the latest from Angeline Hawkes.  While most of her recent work is in the field of horror, she makes the occasional foray into the realms of fantasy, often giving us another exploit of her barbarian character, Kabar of El Hazzar.  All the stories so far have been collected in this volume.

These are pseudohistorical fantasies that may or may not take place in our world.  Some of the references to historical places and peoples, such as Nineveh or Hebrews, would incline one to think so.  But then there are references to all sorts of places that never existed.

None of which is really relevant.  What is, is the answer to the question, are the stories entertaining?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cover for Abercrombie's Red Country Released

Joe Abercrombie's next novel, Red Country, is due out in the UK from Gollancz on October 18 and in the US from Orbit on October 23.  I know what I'll be reading over the Thanksgiving break (unless I can score an ARC first).  Gollancz has released the UK cover.  That's it on the right.

From what I've been able to learn, it seems to be a Western in a fantasy setting, where a woman seeks revenge out on the frontier.

 Here's the wraparound cover:  

The US cover looks like this:

 Finally, if you're wondering what the book is about, here's the jacket copy: 

“They burned her home.
They stole her brother and sister.
But vengeance is following.
Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she’ll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she’s not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old stepfather Lamb for company. But it turns out Lamb’s buried a bloody past of his own, and out in the lawless Far Country, the past never stays buried.
Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse, it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust…”

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Donald E. Westlake Tribute Video

If you're a fan of Donald E. Westlake, you'll probably be interested in this video that James Reasoner has posted on his blog.  (And if you're not a fan of Westlake, why not?)  Although he started out in science fiction, he made his mark in mystery and crime writing.  I've only read a small portion of his work (the man was prolific), but I've never read a bad book by him, whether one of the comic caper novels or one of his darker crime novels, such as the Parker novels under the name Richard Stark.  Tomorrow would  have been his 79th birthday.  His final novel, The Comedy is Finished, was recently published by Hard Case Crime. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Recommendations from the First Half of 2012

There have been a lot of lists posted or published, depending on the format, in the last few weeks, claiming to enumerate the best books/stories/graphic novels/dirty limericks/ransom notes/whathaveyou from the first half of 2102.  To which, I say, yeah, right.  Unless these lists were compiled by committee, no one person could have read enough novels to say their list is the best.  And if the list were put together by committee, well, we all know what too often comes out of committee.

Now I'm not saying those lists don't have value, just the title "Best" is misleading.  So I'm going to call the list that follows simply my recommendations for the first half of 2012.

First, a couple of ground rules.  I'm going to limit myself to novels, and with one or two exceptions which were self-published, novels published in 2012.  I'm making an exception for the self-published novels because they sometimes need a little time to develop some momentum.  Anyone paying attention to the trade publishers should be aware of forthcoming novels.

I'm also going to take the coward's way out and not try to rank them.  I started to, but quickly ran into the issue of trying to decide between two books I thoroughly loved but for entirely different reasons.  I could bite the bullet and give them rankings, but tomorrow I'd probably change my mind.  Instead the books will be listed alphabetically by title.

So here are my recommendations from the first half of 2012, along with an occasional cheeky synopsis.  If more than one book in a series came out in the first part of the year, I've only listed the first book.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Vampires of the Carribean

Cast in Dark Waters
Ed Gorman and Tom Piccirilli
various ebook formats, $2.99
Kindle  Nook Smashwords

In spite of the fact that this is a fairly short piece of fiction (less than 19,000 words), Cast in Dark Waters is one of the best weird pirate stories I've ever read.  The characters, particularly the protagonist, Crimson, seemed to almost walk off the page, they came across so real. 

Crimson is a lady pirate, widowed, who is the toughest, most dangerous buccaneer in the Carribean.  The plot is straightforward.  An Englishman, having taken up the life of a Virginia tobacco farmer, has found out that his daughter has run away from finishing school in England with a notorious pirate.  He and his wife have come seeking Crimson's help in finding her.  The pair of lovers are rumored to be staying on an island with a dark reputation.  Supposedly the undead also inhabit the island.

And Crimson's former husband may be among them.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Jo Anderton's Latest Suited Me Just Fine

Jo Anderton
Angry Robot Books
432pp B-format paperback
£7.99 UK
ISBN 9780857661562
416pp mass-market paperback
$7.99 US $8.99 CAN
ISBN 9780857661579
ePub ISBN 9780857661586

I liked the premier novel in this series, Debris, although I took issue with the publisher's classification of it as science fiction; as a scientist, I have to regard the way some things happened in the book as fantasy.   Either way, it was a great read.  Suited is even better, in my not-so-humble opinion. It's easy to see why she won the Ditmar Award for Best New Talent.  Congratulations, Jo!

The story picks up shortly after the events in Debris.  The Puppet Men are still out there, and they have plans for Tanyana and her collecting team.  Starting by splitting them up.  Lad and Tanyana end up in the same team, while Lad's brother and protector Kichlan goes to a different team.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Thank You

I'm not really getting into all the celebrating today, I guess because I've been out of sorts for the last few days.  (Don't ask; I'm not sure I completely understand why myself.)  One of those times when I just want to be left alone and have little to nothing to do with people.  I do want to take a minute, though, to say Thank You to everyone who follows, looks in occasionally, or stumbles across either this blog or the other one who has served in the military.  That extends to anyone who has lost a spouse, parent, sibling, child, or other loved one. 

As I've grown older, I've noticed that my collection of regrets tends to increase.  One of the main ones is that I never served in the military.  Part of it was my aversion to authority, but part of it was that I never felt the need to do so.  I doubt I would have that attitude today.  Of course I'm past the age they'll take me.

But I digress.  I want to thank everyone who has served and sacrificed for our freedoms.  Without you and those who came before you, I wouldn't be able to do so many of the things I enjoy.

So Thank You.  Very Much.