Saturday, August 17, 2013

And...We're Done

Okay, there are still a few things to fix over at the new blogs, but I'm going to go ahead and launch.  Everything that needs to be in place is.  All's that's left is cleanup and learning how to tweak details in WordPress, such as changing the background of the posts to something other than white.  (That apparently will involve editing the source code.  I'm going to make sure I know what I'm doing before I try that.)

Anyway, Blogger has been good, but it's time to move on to my own website.  All of the content here has been moved over, although as is the case with WordPress, the formatting didn't always follow.  Instead of running two blogs, I'm running four.

They are:

Adventures Fantastic:  heroic fantasy and historical adventure
Futures Past and Present:  classic and contemporary science fiction
Gumshoes, Gats, and Gams:  noir and detective fiction
Dispatches From the Lone Star Front:  Texas and Southwest history

All four are up and live.  There's a new email address associated with them, keith@adventuresfantastic.com.

See you over there.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mothballing

Since I'm between summer school and the start of the fall semester (which always starts at least a week earlier for me than the students), I've actually had some time to work on the new website.  It's almost done.  There are a few things I've still got to do.  I'm not going to rush on them, since I don't want to do anything I can't reverse.  I've already made one bad call setting up WordPress that I later discovered WordPress won't let me change.  I don't want any others.

I've transferred the archives over to the new site.  Not everything made the transition.  WordPress dropped some of the formatting.  That includes breaks, meaning that all posts in their entirety are on one page, rather than the first few paragraphs with links to read the rest.  I can put them back in by hand, but that will take a while.  It won't be an immediate priority.  Once the site launches, all the posts will have the proper formatting.

I'm hoping to have everything ready to go by the first part of next week, if not over the weekend.  I'm not done with the details by any means.  In some respects WordPress is more complicated than Blogger, but it allows me more freedom to tweak some things.  There will be changes as I go along and learn things. But the basics will all be there when I launch.

So, unless something cataclysmic happens in the next few days, this is the penultimate post of Adventures Fantastic in its Blogger incarnation.  The next post will be the announcement of the new (and hopefully improved) version, with a full set of links.  I'll still leave this site up, since any links to previous posts will point here.  At least until I change them, which may turn out to be more trouble than its worth. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

World Fantasy Nominations Announced

The nominees for this year's World Fantasy Awards were announced this evening.  The winners will be announced at this year's World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, UK, on October 31 - November 3.  Adventures Fantastic would like to congratulate all the nominees.

They are as follows:

Life Achievement:
  • Susan Cooper
  • Tanith Lee
Novel:
  • The Killing Moon, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • Some Kind of Fairy Tale, Graham Joyce (Gollancz; Doubleday)
  • The Drowning Girl, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Roc)
  • Crandolin, Anna Tambour (Chômu)
  • Alif the Unseen, G. Willow Wilson (Grove; Corvus)
Novella:
  • “Hand of Glory”, Laird Barron (The Book of Cthulhu II)
  • “Let Maps to Others”, K.J. Parker (Subterranean Summer ’12)
  •  The Emperor’s Soul, Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon)
  • “The Skull”, Lucius Shepard (The Dragon Griaule)
  • “Sky”, Kaaron Warren (Through Splintered Walls)
Short Story:
  • “The Telling”, Gregory Norman Bossert (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 11/29/12)
  • “A Natural History of Autumn”, Jeffrey Ford (F&SF 7-8/12)
  • “The Castle That Jack Built”, Emily Gilman (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 1/26/12)
  • “Breaking the Frame”, Kat Howard (Lightspeed 8/12)
  • “Swift, Brutal Retaliation”, Meghan McCarron (Tor.com 1/4/12)
Anthology:
  • Epic: Legends of Fantasy, John Joseph Adams, ed. (Tachyon)
  • Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic, Eduardo Jiménez Mayo & Chris N. Brown, eds. (Small Beer)
  • Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane, Jonathan Oliver, ed. (Solaris)
  • Postscripts #28/#29: Exotic Gothic 4, Danel Olson, ed. (PS Publishing)
  • Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Random House)
Collection:
  • At the Mouth of the River of Bees, Kij Johnson (Small Beer)
  • Where Furnaces Burn, Joel Lane (PS Publishing)
  • The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories Volume One: Where on Earth and Volume Two: Outer Space, Inner Lands, Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer)
  • Remember Why You Fear Me, Robert Shearman (ChiZine)
  • Jagannath, Karin Tidbeck (Cheeky Frawg)
Artist:
  • Vincent Chong
  • Didier Graffet & Dave Senior
  • Kathleen Jennings
  • J.K. Potter
  • Chris Roberts
Special Award Professional:
  • Peter Crowther & Nicky Crowther for PS Publishing
  • Lucia Graves for the translation of The Prisoner of Heaven (Weidenfeld & Nicholson; Harper) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  • Adam Mills, Ann VanderMeer, & Jeff VanderMeer for Weird Fiction Review
  • Brett Alexander Savory & Sandra Kasturi for ChiZine Publications
  • William K. Schafer for Subterranean Press
Special Award Non-Professional:
  • Scott H. Andrews for Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • L. Timmel Duchamp for Aqueduct Press
  • S.T. Joshi for Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction, Volumes 1 & 2 (PS Publishing)
  • Charles A. Tan for Bibliophile Stalker blog
  • Jerad Walters for Centipede Press
  • Joseph Wrzos for Hannes Bok: A Life in Illustration (Centipede Press)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Morlock in Love

Wrath-Bearing Tree
James Enge
Pyr Books
Trade paperback, 320 pp., $18.00
ebook  $11.99 Kindle Nook

Across the Narrow Sea, in the land of Kaen, something is killing the gods.  In order to determine if this is a potential threat to the Wardlands, the Graith of Guardians sends Morlock Ambrosius and Aloe Oaij to investigate.

Morlock is secretly in love with Aloe.  Aloe isn't in love with him.  At least not yet.  In his afterward, Enge describes this book as a love story with sword and sorcery interruptions.  To a point, that's true.  But if you take the sword and sorcery out, the love story is pretty thin.  Magic is so much a part of Morlock that you can't tell much of a story about him if there's no magic involved.

This was a strange novel in some ways.  Not the love story portion.  Enge handles that very well, starting with the misunderstandings between Aloe and Morlock to her growing admiration of, and ultimately love for, Morlock.  I realize that last sentence sounds like this is just Jane Austin with fantasy trappings.  In the hands of other, lesser writers, that's what you would get.  Not so here.

At times Wrath-Bearing Tree is a very weird book.  As Morlock and Aloe visit the cities of Kaen, it's almost like reading some of the "true accounts" of travelers in the early days of the Age of Exploration.  Strange, bizarre, and completely unlike anything you're familiar with.  For instance, and this isn't the weirdest example, there's a mountain on which the inhabitants either herd goats or sheep, but never both.  The reason is the religious significance of what an individual herds.  Once a year the two religions have a major battle (which of course Morlock and Aloe get caught in), but the goats and sheep used in those battles are anything but cute livestock.  And I'm not even sure how to describe the The Purple Patriarchy.

Because of this, much of the book reminded me of Jack Vance with doses of Clark Ashton Smith here and there.  The unusual societies were one of the highlights of the book for me.  Enge has some fun along the way.  During the Purple Patriarchy chapter, Aloe and Morlock have run afoul of the local traditions and need to escape.  They do so with the aid of a group of adventures trying to put together a quest, D&D style.

Eventually Morlock and Aloe encounter Morlock's father Merlin.  Morlock has never met his father, so it's an emotional reunion.  Merlin as Enge depicts him is an interesting character, although not an admirable one.  I would like to have seen more of him.

The main portion of the book, in which Aloe begins to fall in love with Morlock is told entirely from her point of view.  The reader already knows how he feels about her.  It's interesting to watch her misunderstandings about him change as she gets to know him better.  One word of warning.  The sex scenes are extremely graphic, so if you are offended by that sort of thing or it's not your cup of tea, you may want to keep that in mind. 

The subtitle of Wrath-Bearing Tree is A Tournament of Shadows, Book 2.  There are some unresolved issues in the larger story arc, and I'm looking forward to seeing how Enge resolves them.  I'd also like to thank Pyr Books for sending me the review copy. 

Enge's work is unlike anything else out there that I've come across.  To some extent, it may be an acquired taste, because he's not a paint-by-numbers kind of writer.  His work is original, imaginative, and one of a kind.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Return to the Shifted World

Kindred and Wings
Philippa Ballantine
Pyr Books
Paperback 340 pp., $18.00
ebook $11.99  Kindle  B&N

If you read Philippa Ballantine's Hunter and Fox last year (reviewed here), then you will be glad to know that the sequel hits the shelves on August 6, which is tomorrow as I'm writing this.  The good folks at Pyr books were kind enough to send me a review copy, for which I would like to thank them.

I enjoyed the novel, but I liked the sequel even more.  Kindred and Wings takes up where Hunter and Fox left off. Talyn is still seeking the Caisah's death, but she's going to discover there are other things that should be a higher priority.  Finn the Fox, aided by the dragon Wahirangi, continues his quest to find his brother.  Meanwhile, Talyn's brother Byre will discover that dealing with the Kindred is not without cost. And hanging over everything is the growing menace of White Void.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Perils on Planet X Returns

If you aren't familiar with Perils on Planet X, written by Christopher Mills and drawn by Gene Gonzales, then you're missing out.  It's a weekly sword and planet comic.  The writing and illustration are top notch.  Mills and Gonzales have taken a few weeks off for a well-deserved summer break, but now they're back with the first installment of the second chapter.  Now's a good time to get caught up on the story.  All pages are free.  You can check it out by clicking the link above.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Progress

I've spent part of this evening working on the new site.  All four of the new blogs have been created, and I've written the introductory post for three of them.  I don't have any graphics in place yet. Since each blog will have a different focus, I want each one to have it's own logo.  That will take a little time to set up.   Hopefully within a couple of weeks.

On a unrelated topic (not really since time spent on one is time not spent on the other), I've almost finished the last of the novelettes that received Hugo nominations.  I should manage that before I collapse and go to bed.  I won't be able to read the novellas before the deadline to vote.  That's tomorrow, so I probably won't vote in that category.  I'll post some thoughts on the nominees when I get a chance in the next day or so.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Jury Duty

I've got jury duty in the morning.  If I get selected, I may be out of pocket for a while.  I got the new webpage started, but it's very much in a state of construction.  I'm hoping to make some progress in the evenings this week.  The weekend taken up with yard work.  The joys of home ownership.

That's things with me.  What's up with you?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Quick Update

I met with a friend who is a web designer on Monday and will meet with him again tomorrow morning.  Monday's meeting was to discuss the situation with Google and what I'm wanting to do plus lay out a basic plan.  The rest of the time we were playing catch up since we hadn't seen each other in a few months.  Tomorrow we'll get the basics of the new web site set up.  At this point I think I'm going to run with four blogs as part of the new site.  One will continue the fantasy and heroic adventure along with a good deal of pulp and one will focus on science fiction.  I'll have a new one that will be noir and detective fiction, since it really doesn't fit on either of the two current blogs.  I'll also run a fourth that will be Texas and Southwest history.  I had a column at Jason Waltz's Home of Heroics that ran under the title Dispatches From the Lone Star Front.  I've done one or two since that venue folded, but they really don't fit here all that well.  I suspect a blog with a pure historical focus would be successful once it found its audience.  I suspect the overlap of that audience with the audience of Adventures Fantastic would be rather small.  If nothing else, I could reach a new group of readers.

What the new site won't have for a couple of weeks, at least, is a store for original fiction.  I want to get a new computer before I start to produce files that can be read on an ereader.  The machine I'm writing this on  is over a decade old.  My son will start middle school in the fall, and my wife is pushing for a new computer he can use.  It might be a few weeks before that purchase is made.  I want to research what would be the best machine for our needs, and I don't want to rush.  I've got a jury summons for Monday, so if I get selected that will slow everything down.

I'm in the middle of reading all the short fiction nominees for the Hugos.  There's a week left to vote, so I probably won't read all the novels by the deadline, not that I would try anyway.  I've got some other novels I'm needing to get to soon.  I'll post my thoughts on those as I get them done.  I've finished the short stories, so that post will go up by Saturday at the latest.  Then the novellettes.  The novellas are a bit longer, but I think I can get them done.  We'll see.

So that's how things stand at the moment.  I'll let you know when the new site goes live.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Look at Weird Tales #361

Weird Tales #361
PDF $2.99

Before we get started, I'd like to thank Doug Draa for the review copy.  Doug, who blogs at Uncle Doug's Bunker of Vintage Horror Paperbacks, is a new contributing editor at Weird Tales, and we wish him a successful run in that capacity. 

Weird Tales has adopted the policy of giving each issue a theme.  The previous issue was Cthulhu Returns, and according to the ad in the present issue, the next issue's theme is the Undead.  There are rumors of a sword and sorcery issue in the works as well.  In addition to having stories around a specific theme, each issue will also have unthemed stories.  As you can see from the cover, the present issue has the theme of Fairy Tales.

Fairy Tales as a theme is pretty broad.  That can encompass retellings or deconstructions of established fairy tales, new stories which read like fairy tales in they way they are structured and/or the themes they address, and stories in which (often contemporary) characters interact with the realm of fairy.  All of those and more are included here.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sale on Hard Case Crime Titles at Amazon


I don't know how much longer this is going to last.  Maybe another day, maybe a few more minutes.  Amazon has 48 Hard Case Crime titles in Kindle editions on sale for $1.99.  This isn't the entire catalog, but it's an impressive portion of it.  Grab one you missed while you can.  As you may know, I'm a big fan of this publisher, so I thought I'd give you a heads-up that they were available (which isn't the same as spam; Google are you listening).  An example of what you get is to the right.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Changes Coming to the Blog

Traffic the last few days has been up quite a bit, so when traffic today was down, I wasn't too worried.  I've noticed that trend before, a drop in hits on the day following higher than usual traffic, even thought the traffic drop today is greater than usual.

Then I noticed something in my inbox.  It was from Google.  It had come in overnight, and at first glance I thought it was spam that had slipped through the filter.  Instead it was accusing this blog of being spam.  The second line read, in part, "As a result of your site having pure spam, Google has applied a manual spam action..."

Excuse me!?!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Butcher of Khardov

The Butcher of Khardov
Dan Wells
Privateer Press/Skull Island eXpeditions
ebook (mobi, epub, pdf) $4.99

I wrote a few weeks ago in my review of In Thunder Forged that the Iron Kingdoms (TM) is a place I was looking forward to visiting again.  Simon Berman was kind enough to send me a review copy of the latest novella in Privateer Press' Skull Island eXpeditions line.  (Thank you very much, Simon.)  The Warcaster Chronicles consists of two novellas so far, but if the quality of this one is consistent with the rest of the line, there will be more once word gets out about them.

Personally, I prefer the novella length because it allows an author to develop character and world while still maintaining a good pace.  There's no time to get bogged down in unnecessary details in a novella.  Plus, I can read one in one or two sittings without investing a major portion of my life.

The Butcher of Khardov is Orsus Zhoktavir.  He's seven and a half feet tall and more than a match for any man.  He watched his parents butchered by raiders when he was ten.  He's working as a lumberjack and engaged to a girl named Lola.  But you know what they say about the best laid plans...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Happy Birthday, Charles R. Saunders

Charles R. Saunders was born today, July 12 in 1946.  Saunders is the author of the Imaro series, the Dossouye series, and various works of nonfiction.  Saunders is the foremost practitioner of what is known as the Sword and Soul subgenre of Sword and Sorcery, in which the settings and characters are based on African history and mythology rather than European.  I am ashamed to admit that I've not read either the Imaro or the Dossouye series, although I'm familiar with the basic premise of each.  I've got the first two Imaro books on the shelf and plan to get to them by the end of the year.

Happy birthday, Mr. Saunders, and many happy returns.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Weird Tales Update: Issue # 361 ToC Posted

I don't normally do two posts in one day, but I just learned that Weird Tales has posted the table of contents for the next (as yet unpublished) issue, # 361.  The cover has also been posted, as seen at left.

Authors include Peter S. Beagle, Jane Yolen, and Tanith Lee along with a number of lesser known names.  The theme is fairy tales, and the three headliners are among the top authors in this subgenre.  If the other stories are of comparable quality, it will probably be a great issue.  Even if the other stories don't come close to Beagle, Yolen, and Lee, it could still be a better-than-most-stuff-out-there issue.  Those three are some of the best writers working today, and it's really not fair to newer writers to compare them to B, Y, & L.

There's no release date yet, only that individual copies will be available soon.  I truly hope so, but given some of the recent developments at the magazine, I'm not going to hold my breath. I'll refrain from further comment at this time since I said my piece in the previous post on WT.  Look for a review when I get a copy of the issue.

Some Thoughts on the Random Penguin Merger

Although he may not have a household name, Tom Dupree is a publishing insider with a lot of experience.  He doesn't blog often, but when he does, what he has to say is usually worth paying attention to.  He posted today about the merger of Penguin and Random House into Penguin Random House, (AKA Random Penguin on this blog).

I think he's spot on in what he has to say.  Go read his post if you haven't yet.  I'll still be here when you get back, with some thoughts of my own.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

David Gemmell Awards Are Back

It dawned on me earlier today that I forgot to mention that the David Gemmell Awards have revamped their website and are now back for another year.  I mentioned them in passing in the previous post, but I forgot make them the subject of a post, something I had intended to do.  Anyway, it may be somewhat misleading to say the Gemmell Awards are back, since they never really went away.  They are merely delayed in order to coincide with this year's World Fantasy Convention, which will be held in Brighton.

The lists of nominees in the various categories are up on the new website, which looks quite impressive and is more visually appealing than the old one.  This is becoming the only award in I care about, at least in the sff field.  But that's a topic for another post.  Check out the nominees, join the site if you  haven't, and make sure you vote.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Rest of the Summer

Just a quick note to let you know what I've got on my plate leading up to Worldcon. 

Speaking of Worldcon, I'm going to read at least some of the short fiction nominees, as many as time will allow, and give my thoughts.  I don't think I'm going to try to read all the novels.  The publisher of two of them put a security code of the ebooks that went out in the Hugo voters' packet.  I don't appreciate what that implies.  I'm not going to upload the books to a file sharing site.  I'm not a crook, nor do I care to be treated as though I were.  Therefore, I won't be reading (or voting for) Blackout by Mira Grant or 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson.  I do have some comments to make about this year's nominees in general.

The Gemmell Awards are a bit later than usual this year to coincide with the World Fantasy Convention.  My review copy of Winter Be My Shield by Jo Spurrier arrived the other day.  It's on the long ballot for the Morningstar Award.  I'm looking forward to reading it.  I'll post the review on the Gemmell Awards site and a notice here when it goes live.  After the awards are given out, I'll post the review here.

I've got a number of titles from Pyr.  The ones I intend to review in July are The Doctor and the Kid by Mike Resnick, Kindred and Wings by Phillipa Ballentine, and Wrath-Bearing Tree by James Enge.  Then there's The Scroll of Years by Chris Willrich and The Doctor and the Rough Rider by Mike Resnick.  Those I probably won't get to until August.

I've had a copy of the conclusion of Joshua P. Simon's Blood and Tears Trilogy, Trial and Glory on my ereader for far too long.  It's going to be reviewed within the next four to six weeks. 

I don't know what order I'm going to read them.  It will depend on my mood and what I feel like reading.  I'm also going to throw in a bit of shorter works, both here and over at Futures Past and Present.  There are also a couple of other novels I'd like to read by the end of the summer.  And somewhere in there, I'll be reading things for my column at Amazing Stories (TM). 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

John D. MacDonald's One Fearful Yellow Eye

One Fearful Yellow Eye
John D. MacDonald
trade paper $16.00
Kindle Nook $11.99

It's been a few years since I read any MacDonald, and a few years more since I read one of the Travis McGee novels.  I'd been reading them in order, and this one was the next in sequence.  It was also the only one I was missing.

I'd had an urge to read MacDonald for a while, sort of a mental itch that wouldn't go away, and so I decided to pick up this series where I'd left off.  A quick online check found a good copy in the editions I was collecting for a few bucks plus shipping, so I placed my order.

Much of this one takes place in Chicago in the winter, not your typical setting for a McGee novel.  Travis gets a call from an old girlfriend.  Her rich older husband has died of cancer.  This was expected.  His fortune, which he had said he would divide between her and his two grown children, has vanished.  Over a period of several months before his death, he quietly liquidated most of it.  This was not expected.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Further Thoughts on Marvin Kaye and Weird Tales, Plus Some Suggestions

Last fall I wrote a detailed review about the first issue of the latest version of Weird Tales.  One of the commenters, Chap O'Keefe, said he had sold a pair of stories that were scheduled to come out in subsequent issues.

Since then, there's been little news about when those issues would appear.  At least until last Monday (June 24).  Mr. O'Keefe updated the status of his submissions in a follow-up comment.  I'm reproducing it in its entirety: 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Return of Egil and Nix

A Discourse in Steel
Paul S. Kemp
Angry Robot Books
UK Print
Date: 4th July 2013
ISBN: 9780857662521
Format: Medium (B-Format) Paperback
R.R.P.: £8.99
US/CAN Print
Date: 25th June 2013
ISBN: 9780857662538
Format: Small (Mass Market) Paperback
R.R.P.: US$7.99 CAN$9.99
Ebook
Date: 25th June 2013
ISBN: 9780857662545
Format: Epub & Mobi
R.R.P.: £5.49 / US$6.99

In my review of the first book in this series, The Hammer and the Blade, I said that it reminded me why sword and sorcery was fun in the first place.  The same is true for A Discourse is Steel.  This is adventure fantasy at its finest.

Egil and Nix befriended two young ladies at the conclusion of the previous book.  Early in this one, one of them (Rose) is reading the mind of a master criminal (at his request) when he's assassinated.  Some of the information he knows ends up in Rose's head. 

So a very dangerous criminal organization tries to kill her, and in the process nearly kills her sister Mere, Egil, Nix, and a number of their friends and associates.  In the words of the great general Bugs Bunny, "Of course, you know this means war."

Monday, June 24, 2013

RIP, Richard Matheson 1926-2013

This is still breaking news, and I don't have a lot of details.  Renowned fantasy and horror author Richard Matheson has passed away at age 87.  According to Matheson's daughter Ali, from a statement on John Shirley's Facebook page:  "My beloved father passed away yesterday at home surrounded by the people and things he loved...he was funny, brilliant, loving, generous, kind, creative, and the most wonderful father ever...I miss you and love you forever Pop and I know you are now happy and healthy in a beautiful place full of love and joy you always knew was there..."

Matheson had been ill for some time.  His most famous work was the novel I am Legend.   He also wrote The Shrinking Man, screenplays for many of the best horror films of the 1960s, and a number of Twilight Zone episodes, including the classic "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", starring William Shatner.  I'm working on a deadline tonight and will post a longer tribute in the next day or so.  I'll just say for now that Matheson was one of the major fantasy authors to come out of what became known as the California School in the 1950s, which included such authors as Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, William F. Nolan, and George Clayton Johnson.  I devoured his stories when I was a teenager.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Superman for a New Generation, but not my Superman

So my son and I went to see Man of Steel yesterday.  He loved it.  But then he's 11 and hasn't really grown up with Superman the way I did.  I, on the other hand, am, um, slightly more than 11.  I started reading comics a few years before video games took over the world became so ubiquitous.  And I have mixed feelings about the movie. 

Fair warning:  There will be spoilers.  I'm going to discuss some details that you might not want to know about if you haven't seen the film but are planning to.  Just so you know.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Visit to Joyland

Joyland
Stephen King
Hard Case Crime
trade paper, 285 p., $12.95
no electronic edition

So on Friday night I took my family to Joyland, and we had a great time.  The weather was unseasonably cool albeit a bit muggy.

What?  No, really, we did.  That's the name of our local amusement park.  Has nothing to do with the novel by Stephen King other than it helped with the mood.  I finished the book after we got home.

Anyway, the day the book came out, I stirred my stick and went and bought a copy.  At Wal-Mart.

For a Stephen King novel, it's pretty short.  It's also not really the sort of thing you usually expect from him.  For one thing, it's not a horror story.  Oh, sure, there are hints of a ghost (well, more than hints, actually, but not much more than that), and at least one of the characters has the Sight, but for the most part it's a coming of age story, with a murder mystery thrown in for spice.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

In Thunder Forged Rocks

In Thunder Forged:  The Fall of Llael Book One
Ari Marmell
Pyr Books
Trade Paper 320 pp $18.00
ebook Kindle $8.69 Nook $10.31

If you're a fan of dark, gritty military fantasy, then In Thunder Forged is the book for you.  Ari Marmell is a superb writer, and he's at the top of his game in this first volume of The Iron Kingdoms Chronicles.  The series is based on the Warmachine Steam Powered Fantasy Wargame and the Iron Kingdoms Role Playing Game.  They're produced by Privateer Press.  I have to admit that I wasn't familiar with them, not really having time to add gaming to my already full schedule.  After reading In Thunder Forged, I'm going to check them out.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Howard Days 2013, Part 2

Today marks the 77th anniversary of Robert E. Howard's passing.  I'll be raising a glass later this evening in his memory.

Lansdale and Truman
After lunch, I swung by the post office and picked up some post cards with this year's commemorative cancellation.  Then it was back to the library for the panels.  The first one featured GoH Tim Truman.  Joe Lansdale interviewed him.  Joe wasn't on the original schedule but had driven over to see Tim.  They've worked together on a number of projects, including a Conan comic, The Songs of the Dead.  As is typical with old friends, their conversation flowed smoothly.  This panel was one of the highlights of the weekend.

Howard Days 2013, Part 1

I've been attending Howard Days for approximately a decade now.  I think this was the most enjoyable one of all.  The weather couldn't have been better.  It was unseasonably cool, so much so that I never worked up a sweat.  Joe Lansdale was the surprise guest, and he really added to the experience.  I got to meet a reader of this blog I'd not met before (Hi, John!), renewed some friendships, and had a fantastic time.

I'll break this post up into parts for a couple of reasons.  First, I don't think I can get everything written tonight.  Second, I've got a lot of pictures, so I'm going to break things up to keep the post from getting too long.

The official events started on Friday, but there's always an informal kickoff dinner at a steak restaurant in Brownwood.  This was the first year I'd managed to make that part of the weekend.  Robert E. Howard is buried in Brownwood alongside his parents.  I'd not visited the grave before; I've always stayed at my parents' house for Howard Days and they live an hour in the opposite direction.  So I made sure I had time before dinner to swing by the grave site and pay my respects.

Then off to dinner.  The food was good, and there were over two dozen people there, scattered over at least 5 tables.  I was at the largest, and as in any gathering of Howard fans, the conversation was far ranging.  Among the topics discussed were movies, the differences between male and female Howard fans (Ain't opening that can of worms here; ya had to be there.), comics, auto repair, and the food.  We also got to see two recently uncovered photos of Howard that haven't been published yet, although there's some uncertainty about whether one is really him.  After dinner, people split up.  Some went to back to Cross Plains to the Pavilion while others went to the cemetery.  I went back to the cemetery with that group.  That's most (but not all of them) in the picture. They are (l. to r.) Lee Breakiron, Jeff Shanks, Deuce Richardson, John Bullard, Tim Arney, Al Harron, Barbara Barrett, Bill "Indy" Cavalier. 


Greenleaf Cemetery is one of the old style, elegant cemeteries you don't see much of anymore.  There are a lot of tombstones, small statues, and obelisks, but not too many of the flat markers meant for lawn mowers to run over.  It was a peaceful place.

After visiting the Howards' gravesite, we stopped at Tevis Clyde Smith's grave.  It was getting late by the time everyone left.  While I would have liked to have gone back to the Pavilion and socialized, I went on home and got some sleep.

Don Clark (l) leading the tour
The next morning, I made it down to the Howard House just as the tour was starting.  The tour varies every year so that it's not the same thing all the time.  This year, local historian Don Clark (who always does an outstanding job) took us to the nearby communities of Cross Cut and Burket, where the Howards lived before moving permanently to Cross Plains.  There's not much left of either town, although in the early part of the century they were both boom towns.  We saw the gazebo in Burket where Hester and her young son would read together.  The house is gone, the gazebo being all that remains.
Harron, Truman, Shanks, Finn

We drove back to Cross Plains, and I visited the House, bought some items in the gift shop, and head downtown to the library for the first of the panels.  The morning panel consisted of Al Harron, GOH Tim Truman, Jeff Shanks, and Mark Finn discussing the history of REH in the comics.  It was extremely educational.  I didn't know that Conan's first comic appearance was in the 1950s in a Mexican comic.  Conan was blond and was a supporting character.  The main character was Belit.  The comic was titled La Reina de la Costa Negra (the Queen of the Black Coast).  The comic ran for a number of years in two formats.  Not much is known about it.  When the panel was done, I headed off to lunch (fresh grilled chili dogs) at the Pavilion.

Mexican REH comics
Closeup of Mexican comics
Mark Finn defending his position at dinner.
I'll discuss the other panels and the rest of the events in the next post.  For now I'll leave you with some pictures. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Howard Days, Here I Come

I'm leaving in a few minutes for Howard Days.  It doesn't start officially until Friday, but there's an informal get-together in Brownwood tonight.  Plus, Howard is buried in Brownwood, and I've never visited the grave site.  (Please don't judge me.)

I'll be commuting from my parents' house in Breckenridge, which on the other side of Cross Plains.  (And one of the main reasons I've not visited Howard's grave.)  I'll give a full report when I get back.  I've been reading Ari Marmell's In Thunder Forged, which came out Tuesday. I'd hoped to have the review up before I left, but obviously it didn't happen.  I'll try to finish the book on the trip and post the review when I get back.

Until then, I'll check in once or twice a day, either early or late, but for the most part won't be around much until next week.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Knight in the Silk Purse



You may recall that I reviewed a shared world anthology that was crowdfunded on Kickstarter last year entitled Tales of the Emerald Serpent.  Well, now there's a sequel in preparation that's also being crowdfunded..  It's called  A Knight in the Silk Purse.  It just launched.  (It appears as though I was the first person to pledge.  How cool is that?!)  Here's the list of contributors: Lynn Flewelling, Dave Gross, Juliet McKenna, Martha Wells, Robert Mancebo, Julie Czerneda, Michael Tousignant, Elaine Cunningham, Dan Wells, Todd Lockwood, and Howard Tayler.
I found Tales of the Emerald Serpent to be a lot of fun; I'm hoping this one really takes off.  If you liked the first volume (you did read it, didn't you?), then there's more to come.  Check it out.

 



Monday, June 3, 2013

Does This Cover Offend You?

Because it sure has offended some folks.  There's a major row going on within SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) right now over two things.  One is this cover, to which many objected on the grounds that it's sexist, has no place on the cover of a writer's group's publication, that it's offensive to some members of the group, and so forth.  (For the record, I am not and never have been a member of SFWA.)

It seems that Red Sonja-esque women in chain mail bikinis have no place in modern fantasy, at least as far as a certain segment of SFWA is concerned.  SFWA purports to speak for a diversity of writers, which means sooner or later one subset will be offended by something.  The question is to what extent does one person's perceived right to be free from offending material infringe on someone else's right of free speech or expression.

The other, and bigger, stink is over the Resnick-Malzberg Dialogues.  This is a feature that has been running in the bulletin for years.  Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg discuss various aspects of science fiction culture and history.  Having lived through so much of the field's history and having made some of it themselves, it's always been a favorite feature of mine.  (In case you're wondering, the Bulletin isn't restricted to members; anyone can buy a subscription.  I've never subscribed, but I used to pick it up when it was available on the newsstand.)

The controversy started out with a two part discussion about female writers and editors in the past.  Only they used a horribly offensive term...."lady".  And commented on how beautiful at least one woman editor was.  I've not read this part of the Dialogues, so I can only go by what I've seen online in response to it.  I don't know how patronizing the use of the word "lady" was, so I'm not going to comment on it, at least not yet.  If anyone would would be willing to send me either a hard copy or a scan of these two Dialogues, I would be quite appreciative.  Resnick and Malzberg published a rebuttal (in this very issue, IIRC).  They didn't apologize; they defended themselves against what they viewed as censorship.  I have read their response.  It's available here if you scroll down, along with links to many posts in which the author is offended at their rebuttal. 

The response set off an even greater uproar, with many people using the word "assholes".  A lot.  Yes, you read that correctly.  A number of people are calling Resnick and Malzberg, two of the most acclaimed writers and editors in the field, assholes.  Among other things.  Much of what I've read (which isn't everything) seems to consist of people offended that Resnick and Malzberg aren't apologizing but standing their ground.  One member has resigned over it.  Outgoing SFWA President John Scalzi has issued an apology.  I'm still trying to figure out just how much of a tempest in a tea pot this is, not having read the original articles.  If I can, I'll comment on it.  I might anyway if I can't get copies of the original Dialogues, but I'm going to try to go to the original sources.

Until then, I'm curious about the cover, which I view as a separate (although related) controversy to Resnick and Malzberg's comments.  This blog has a different demographic than SFWA.  I think that's a fair statement.  What do you think?  Is there anything wrong with the cover?  Should it not have been printed on the Bulletin

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Martha Wells' Death of the Necromancer to be Serialized

Black Gate has announced that starting on Sunday, June 2, it will begin serializing The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells.  This book was nominated for a  Nebula Award in 1999.  It's part of a series but is a stand-alone.

Martha Wells is one of the best fantasists working today.  I've reviewed the following works by her (links are to reviews):  The Cloud Roads, "The Forest Boy", The Serpent Sea, and Emilie and the Hollow WorldThe Siren Depths is in the queue.  Martha was also gracious enough to submit to an interview last year.

If you've not read her work before, The Death of the Necromancer is an excellent place to start.   It's a great adventure story with depth, three dimensional characters, and a whole lot of fun to read.  Read it and see why I and the good folks at Black Gate think so highly of her.

And just for the record, I'm not associated with Black Gate.  I'm posting this announcement because this is a fantastic book.  But don't just take my word for it.  Read it for yourself.

Update:  The first chapter is now live.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My Tribute to Jack Vance

Since more of you follow this blog than the companion blog Futures Past and Present, I thought I'd let you know my tribute to the late Jack Vance is posted there.  Most of the Vance I've read has been science fiction rather than fantasy, so I posted on the science fiction blog.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Look at Zachary Jernigan's No Return

No Return
Zachary Jernigan
Night Shade Books
hardcover $26.99
ebook $12.99 Kindle $14.84 Nook

It was a Friday night in early April, and I was up late reading when I got a beep from my phone indicating an email.  The subject line was something about a request for a review.  My initial knee jerk reaction was to decline on the grounds of I had committed to a number of titles and was behind.  So I went to the computer to reply, not feeling like replying on my phone.  I had to open the email to do this.  In the process I read the first couple of sentences and immediately I changed my mind.  "Of course I'll review your book."  I may have even said it out loud.

The author was Zachary Jernigan, and the book, No Return.  It's Mr. Jernigan's first novel.  It was published by Night Shade in March, just a couple of weeks before Night Shade shut down operations.  (To put things in context, a few days prior to my receiving this email, Night Shade announced that it was selling its inventory, provided a certain number of their authors went along with the deal.)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy Memorial Day

I'm traveling this weekend, so this is going to be a short post with no graphic.  (Borrowed computer and all that.)  I just wanted to wish everyone a safe and happy Memorial Day.  More importantly, I wanted to thank everyone who has served in any branch of the military.  Without your service, sacrifice, and commitment, this country and the world would be very different.  But not better.

I focus on heroes a great deal in these posts, but you men and women are the real heroes, along with the first responders such as paramedics, law enforcement, firemen, and National Guard.  Your service is much appreciated.  Thank you.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What is The Blue Blazes?

The Blue Blazes
Chuck Wendig
Angry Robot Books
UK Print
Date: 6th June 2013
ISBN: 9780857663344
Format: Medium (B-Format) Paperback
R.R.P.: £8.99
US/CAN Print
Date: 28th May 2013
ISBN: 97808576633518
Format: Small (Mass-Market) Paperback
R.R.P.: US$7.99 CAN$8.99
Ebook
Date: 28th May 2013
ISBN: 9780857663368
Format: Epub & Mobi
R.R.P.: £5.49 / US$6.99

Chuck Wendig's latest novel is the first in new series, about a gangster named Mookie Pearl.  It's an over the top blend of fantasy, horror, and noir wrapped inside a family drama.  This is what urban fantasy for guys looks like, although I'm sure a number of ladies will enjoy it as well.

Mookie is a gangster who has a special skill set.  He deals with problems the Organization has with the Great Below, the underworld where several supernatural races live and scheme against humanity.  He's divorced, hasn't spoken to his ex in years, and is trying to build a relationship with his estranged teen daughter who's building a criminal empire of her own.  Somehow she's learned that the head of the Organization, The Boss, is dying of cancer.  This is not yet public knowledge.

When the Boss's appointed heir and nephew asks Mookie to try and find a way to cure The Boss in the Great Below, Mookie knows it's a fool's errand, but really, what choice does have?  The Blue Blazes of the title refers to a blue powder mined in the Great Below.  When rubbed on the temples, it allows a person to perceive the supernatural world around them.  There are other substances, all of them with colors in the name, that are rumored to exist but by and large believed to be mythical by most people.  It's one of these the nephew wants Mookie to find in order to save his uncle.

The task would be bad enough, but there are other who are also aware of The Boss's impending demise.   And they're moving to take advantage of it.  Including Mookie's daughter.

The action in this one moves fast and furious.  Wendig has crafted a compelling mystery, a suspenseful thriller, and a gritty urban fantasy with a dash of Lovecraft.  And along the way he manages to make Mookie Pearl a sympathetic character in spite of the fact that Mookie isn't the sort of man who would want to invite to dinner.

The secondary cast are well developed.  While the story is told primarily from Mookie's viewpoint, Wendig shows us the other characters' thoughts and motivations. Mookie's friends and enemies are an assorted lot, including mobsters, ordinary, humans, and even a dead man (that Mookie had killed).

The major plots lines were all resolved, but things won't be going back to the status quo.  It's going to be interesting to see where Wendig takes this one.  And in case you're wondering, no, he hasn't abandoned the Miriam Black series (reviewed here and here).  There's an announcement of the next one, The Cormorant, in the author bio.

I'd like to thank Angry Robot for the review copy.  Below is an excerpt.  Check it out. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

An Open Letter to Stephen King

The Wall Street Journal published an article (link may expire) yesterday in which Stephen King announced that his next novel, Joyland from Hard Case Crime, won't have an electronic edition.  As you can imagine, there's been no end of comment on the web.  After reading some of the remarks, both supportive and not so supportive, I thought I'd put my two cents in, specifically where he said "...let people stir their sticks and go to an actual bookstore rather than a digital one."

Dear Mr. King,

While I doubt you'll ever read these words, or care very much if you did, I still would like to go on record responding to the comments you made recently regarding Joyland not having an electronic edition. 

I've read a number of your books over the years, and I've enjoyed most of them.  I particularly appreciate your publishing Joyland through Hard Case Crime as Hard Case is one of my favorite publishers.  Your association with them is sure to strengthen their sales, helping to insure they continue to publish more books.  And for the record, I've been intending to buy a print copy of Joyland, if for no other reason than I like they way the look on the shelf and have an almost complete set.

I'm not going to chastise you for holding onto the digital rights to your book.  More power to you for doing so.  I only wish all authors had that choice.  Nor do I wish to take you to task for taking control of your career.  I only wish more authors would.  Then maybe publishers wouldn't try to slip so many draconian terms into their contracts.

Over what I do wish to take issue with you, sir, is the statement you made in which you said "...let people stir their sticks and go to an actual bookstore rather than a digital one."  I find that to be highly insulting.  The are multiple reasons why I feel this way.  Please allow me to explain. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Return to Starvation Lake

The Hanging Tree
Bryan Gruley
St. Martin's
tpb $15.00
electronic $9.73 Kindle $10.93 Nook

Last summer I picked up a mystery, Starvation Lake, by newcomer Bryan Gruley.  I was impressed.  A few weeks ago I finally got around to buying the sequel.

I concluded my review of Starvation Lake with speculation about the sequel, mentioning the fact that sequels sometime don't live up to the standards set by their predecessors.  That's not the case here. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Congratulations to the Nebula Award Winners

The winners of the 2012 Nebula Awards were announced over the weekend in San Jose, California.

They are: 

NOVEL2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
NOVELLA: After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
NOVELLETTE: “Close Encounters” by Andy Duncan (The Pottawatomie Giant & Other Stories)
SHORT STORY: “Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld 6/12)
RAY BRADBURY AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING DRAMATIC PRESENTATION: Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin (director),  Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Abilar (writers), (Journeyman/Cinereach/Court 13/Fox Searchlight)
ANDRE NORTON AWARD FOR YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY BOOK: Fair Coin, E.C. Myers (Pyr)
2012 DAMON KNIGHT GRAND MASTER AWARD: Gene Wolfe
SOLSTICE AWARD: Carl Sagan and Ginjer Buchanan
KEVIN O’DONNELL JR. SERVICE TO SFWA AWARD: Michael H. Payne

A complete list of the nominees can be found on the SFWA website.  

Adventures Fantastic would like to congratulate all the nominees and especially the winners.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

New Acquisitions

Today a friend and I took my son hiking in Palo Duro Canyon while our wives stayed home doing whatever wives do when husbands are away.  (I don't want to know; that it involves spending money is enough.)  This will tie into a Dispatches From the Lone Star Front post later in the week after another road trip. 

When I go home, there was a package waiting for me.  It contained a copy of Ari Marmell's In Thunder Forged from Pyr Books.  Along with Wrath-Breaking Tree (James Enge) and Kindred and Wings (Philippa Ballantine) that came Thursday and Nebula Awards Showcase (Catherine Asaro, ed.), which arrived last week, that's four from Pyr in about ten days.  The Marmell and Nebula Awards will be reviewed first since the former will be out in a couple of weeks, and the latter is out already.  That's not to say some of the other review copies Pyr has sent me won't end up in the queue in the next couple of weeks.

I've also got several titles from Angry Robot in my ereader:  The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig (which I've already started and am loving), iD by Madelaine Ashbury, and A Discourse in Steel by Paul S. Kemp.

Finally, I'm looking forward to diving into No Return by Zachary Jernigan.  He was kind enough to send me a copy of his first novel.  This one got some good advance buzz, and I love the cover.  It's up Blue Blazes

Anyway, those are the novels from publishers and authors I've agreed to read and review.  I still plan to increase the amount of short fiction I review.  (Sooper Seekrit Project #2 requires me to do so.)  I'm also going to stick in some novels just because I want to read them.

Think all that will keep me busy?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

It's All Over but the Crying

Well, not quite, but almost.  I turned in grades for graduating seniors (as well as for a few who thought they were) today plus most of my other grades.  There are a few loose ends to tie up, some student inquiries about why they barely passed when they all the papers they got back were A's (uh-huh, yeah, right), a blatant case of academic dishonesty to crack down on, and that sort of thing.  But for the most part, my semester is over.

I'm not going to get much time off.  As lab director, I work all year because we have summer classes.  I'm not teaching this summer, so I should have some time for fun before things get hectic in the fall when I've got another overload.  In the meantime, I'm going to get some rest, get caught up on reading, increase my blog output, and get back to writing my own fiction.  Hopefully, I'll have some of my own fiction up for sale within a few weeks.

A couple of ARCs from Pyr were waiting for me when I got home this evening that I'm looking forward to diving into, I want to read some of the Nightshade titles I've not gotten to in an effort to show support for them with all they've gone through lately, and I have some eARCs from Angry Robot to read.  Plus a couple of indie titles. 

Does it sound like I'm going to be busy?  I got tired just thinking about it.  I'm probably not going to dive into any of that until next week sometime.  I'm going to read for my own pleasure for the rest of the week, something along the lines of noir and/or space opera and let my mental batteries recharge.  (There's a blog post in there that ties in with something Tobias Buckell wrote the other day.)  I'll probably blog about whatever I choose to read, but for now I want to relax.

So that's how things stand with me.  What's up with you?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Blogging Conan: The Scarlet Citadel

It's been quite a while since I wrote a post on Conan.  All I can say, "Where did the time go?"

Anyway, there are times when you just need to get back to basics.  This weekend has been one of them.

The Frazetta art for "The Scarlet Citadel", shown at right and originally appearing on the cover of Conan the Usurper, has always been one of my favorites.  Perhaps it's because I don't like snakes.  If that were me chained up, I probably be a blubbering mass of jelly.  Anyway, even though it isn't exactly faithful to Howard's description, it's still a masterpiece. 

"The Scarlet Citadel" was the third Conan story published in Weird Tales, following "The Phoenix on the Sword" and "The Tower of the Elephant", although "The Frost-Giant's Daughter" and "The God in the Bowl" were probably written before Howard wrote "The Scarlet Citadel".  (Links are to my posts about those stories.)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Amazing Stories Returns to Publishing Fiction

For Immediate Release

Hillsborough, NH

May 10, 2013

Wolf End World cover small

Amazing Stories Publishes Excerpt From Douglas Smith's New Novel THE WOLF AT THE END OF THE WORLD

Returns to Publishing Fiction for the first time since 2005.


Amazing Stories, the world's first science fiction magazine, is pleased to announce that it has returned to publishing new fiction with the release of a substantial excerpt from Aurora Award-Winning author Douglas Smith's new novel THE WOLF AT THE END OF THE WORLD. 

Douglas Smith describes his new novel as being -

"Set in modern day Northern Canada, THE WOLF AT THE END OF THE WORLD is an urban fantasy incorporating First Nations mythology. With an introduction by World Fantasy Award winner, Charles de Lint, the book will appeal to fans of de Lint and Neil Gaiman. In it, a shapeshifter hero battles ancient spirits, a covert government agency, and his own dark past in a race to solve a series of murders that could mean the end of the world."

Smith's new novel is  a sequel to Douglas’ award-winning novelette, “Spirit Dance".

THE WOLF AT THE END OF THE WORLD will be published this summer and is available for pre-order. A special discount is being offered to readers of Amazing Stories (sign up for a free membership on site).

To read the excerpt and for more information about Douglas Smith and his award-winning fiction, please visit www.amazingstoriesmag.com/blog, or visit Douglas Smith's website www.smithwriter.com.

Amazing Stories was re-launched in December of 2012 as a social network for fans of science fiction, fantasy and horror and features multiple daily blog posts written by the Amazing Blog Team, comprised of over 100 authors, artists, bloggers, editors and fans.  Blog posts cover the entire universe of subjects of interest to fans - literature, film, television, comics, anime, science, audio works, art, collecting, pulps, fandom and more.

With the release of Douglas Smith's novel excerpt, Amazing Stories returns to the publication of fiction with an excerpt program.  Two excerpts of new works will be published every month; featured works will initially be drawn from among the Amazing Blog Team members but the program will eventually open up to outside submissions.

Amazing Stories excerpt program joins it's already-in-progress Space Art feature, a bi-weekly showcase of space art contributed by the members of the International Association of Astronomical Artists.  

Membership in the Amazing Stories website is FREE.  Every new membership directly contributes to the return of Amazing Stories as a fully-fledged professional market for science fiction, fantasy and horror.


The Experimenter Publishing Company
Amazing Stories
http://www.amazingstoriesmag.com