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
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

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.