Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Why It's not Wise to Steal a Giant

Giant Thief
David Tallerman
Angry Robot Books
mmpb, 416 pp, $7.99 US/$8.99 CAN
416 pp, B format ppb, L7.99 UK/RoW
various ebook formats

With his debut novel, David Tallerman has succeeded in doing what few authors have done.  He has written a story (novel, short story, length doesn't matter) that made me laugh out loud.  Well, it was more of a chuckle, actually.  But it happened more that once.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to make me laugh while I'm reading, even if I think the story is funny?

I don't why that is; it just is.  Tallerman pulled it off.  That puts him squarely on my list of authors to read.

Now don't get the idea that Giant Thief is a humorous novel, such as those written by Tom Holt or Terry Pratchett.  It's a pretty serious story.  It's hard to make sudden murder and mass slaughter funny.

The story starts off like this:

Monday, January 30, 2012

Franzen Says Ebooks not for Serious Readers

Literary author Jonathan Franzen says that ebooks aren't for serious readers.  You can read  his comments here.

As a person who considers himself a serious reader, I take great offense at these remarks.  The medium through which a person chooses to read, whether paper, electronic, or (as in my case) a combination of both, is in no way a reflection of whether that person is a "serious reader". 

Of course, Mr. Franzen doesn't define what a "serious reader" is.  Is it someone who places a high priority on reading and buys numerous books every year or month or in some cases every week?  Or perhaps it's a person who only reads serious Literature?  (Capitalization mine.)  

Aside from the brain-dead connection Mr. Franzen tries to make between paper books and responsible self-government, his remarks show just how out of step he is with vast numbers of readers, both here in America as well as other parts of the world.  Franzen is a darling of the literati, those arbiters of taste and snobbery, most of whom wouldn't deign to read genre fiction.  At least not in public.  Franzen clearly seems to share this elitist view, despite the fact that his books are available in electronic editions.  He states that paper books provide a level of permanence.  He's also gone on record saying that "It's doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction."  I strongly beg to differ, but good fiction is in the eye of the beholder.

Still, I doubt Franzen would recognize good fiction if it bit him in the ass. 

Of course, Franzen's remarks illustrate one of the results of a recent survey by Verso Digital.  Among their findings was that resistance to ereaders is growing, even among avid readers.  If I'm understanding the survey correctly, the resistance is from people who have never been inclined to read on an ereader.  Frankly, I don't care what format you choose for reading.  Just don't take a condescending attitude toward those of us who don't choose the same as you.

Franzen also says that if printed books become obsolete, he's glad he won't live long enough to see it.  Given his attitude, I find it hard to disagree with that statement.  In the meantime, I'm going to read some good indie fiction.

On my ereader.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happy Birthday, C. L. Moore

Moore with husband Kuttner
Today marks the 101st anniversary of the birth of C. L. Moore.  Moore was an innovative writer who got her start in Weird Tales with the classic story "Shambleau", which introduced the Han Solo prototype Northwest Smith.  She also created Jirel of Joiry, one of the pioneering heroines of sword and sorcery.  After her marriage to Henry Kuttner, most of her output was collaborative and mainly science fiction.

I wrote a more extensive tribute last year, albeit a day late. I'll not repeat myself this year, except to say, go read her.  Right now.  Turn off the computer, put down the tablet, and go read her.  Okay, you can leave the tablet on if you download one of her stories.  She's too important a figure in the field to be forgotten.  While I'm sure others have written tributes today, I haven't seen any.  Of course the best tribute you can pay authors is to read their works.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The CBS Radio Mystery Theater Available Online for Free

When I was growing up, we lived in several towns, and one of those was Wichita Falls. There was a small radio station there that used to air The CBS Radio Mystery Theater after the 10:00 p.m. news.  I would lie awake for the next hour listening to it when I was supposed to be sleeping.  Some nights I would continue to lie awake long after the show ended if it was a scary episode (there were plenty of those).  The show had a consistently high quality and was produced by producer of the old Inner Sanctum show from a few decades earlier.  It even had the same creaking door.  Henry Slesar and Alfred Bester both wrote scripts, although Bester only wrote for a year.  He had gone on to other things by the time I started listening.

Other than some really low quality cassettes I used to record a few episodes of the show, I haven't heard The CBS Radio Mystery Theater since 1980, when we moved to another part of the state.

Now all 1399 episodes are available online for free.  I've already identified several favorites I want to hear again, and I'm trying to figure out the titles for several more.  While I don't recall any sword and sorcery, there were enough horror, suspense, and noir stories that I think some of you might be interested in listening.  You can find them here. And thanks to James Reasoner for posting a notice about this on his blog.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Entering the Dark Realm of the Fey

Feyland:  The Dark Realm
Anthea Sharp
Various ebook formats, $3.99 (B&N, Amazon)

It's been a while since I read a YA novel.  Not quite as long as it's been since I was YA myself, but close.  (Don't even think about asking how long that is; I'll only plead the fifth.)  But there's been some exciting writing going on in the YA world for some time now, and much of it is either science fiction or fantasy.  Since my son will soon be moving into that age bracket, I'm going to be familiarizing myself with what's out there and passing on some of my recommendations to you. 

The first of these recommendations is Feyland:  The Dark Realm by Anthea Sharp.  Before I discuss the book's plot or its themes, I want to say something up front.  I have no sisters, my wife has no sisters,  we have no teenage daughters, nor have I ever been a teenage girl.  Teenage girls are some of the hardest characters in fiction for me to relate to.  I can usually relate to children or women, but teenage girls don't think like I do.  At all.  I taught high school for a couple of years, so I have spent time around them.  They just weren't on the same planet I was much of the time.  (You could argue I'm not on the same planet as most people most of the time, but that's the subject of another post.)

Why do I bring this up?  Ms. Sharp has created two distinct characters, one male and one female, and not only made me care about them but made me see the world through their very different eyes.  I had some reservations when I first agreed to review this book because I wasn't sure I would be able to relate to the teenage female character.  I'm very glad to say those reservations turned out to be completely unfounded.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Happy Birthday, Robert E. Howard

Today is the 106th year since the birth of Robert E. Howard.  (Yeah, I know the local time is still January 21, but by the time most of you read this, it will be the 22nd.  Besides, it's the 22nd east of here.)  I'm not sure what I could say that would do the man justice that others haven't already said and said better.  After last summer's disastrous Conan movie, those of us who champion Howard's work as literature probably have a harder row to hoe overcoming the (at best) misguided notion that his writing is hackwork.  If you are only familiar with Conan through the movie(s), pastiches, or comics, read some of the real thing.  And then read some of Howard's other writings:  Kull, the horror stories, the historicals, the westerns, the boxing stories, the poetry.  And raise a glass in his honor.  Me, I'm going to celebrate by reading some of the spicy stories

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Status Update: Back to the Salt Mines

I've been something of a slacker lately, reading some stuff outside the bounds of this blog, traveling before classes start, beginning an exercise program (boy am I out of shape).

Anyway, classes start Thursday, and since I'm in charge of all the undergraduate labs now, I've got to herd cats supervise all the teaching assistants, somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-45, starting this afternoon.  I plan to get back to posting on a regular (or at least semi-regular) basis within the next couple of days.  In the meantime, thank you to everyone who has visited in the last few weeks, both here and at Futures Past and Present.  Traffic has been at record levels, and I really appreciate the interest and support, as well as all the comments.

I need to double check my deadlines on some items I've committed to review, but I've got several indie published books coming up in the next 4-6 weeks that look promising as well as titles by more traditional publishers.  It's gonna be fun.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Shadows Darken

Shadow's Lure
Jon Sprunk
Pyr, $16.00, 391 p.

I want a glowing green girlfriend that nobody else can see or hear who can walk through walls.

Don't tell my wife I said that.  She would probably entertain objections to the idea.

But it would be convenient to have one.  For instance, she could tell me when danger was around the corner.  Like Kit does in the Shadow series.

Jon Sprunk's Shadow's Son was one of the first books I reviewed after starting this blog, and it was good to revisit the world and characters. The publisher's web site says this title was published last June, but I didn't see a copy on the shelves of a bookstore until October, which until I started writing this post is when I assumed it was published.  If I'd known it came out last summer, this review would have been written months ago.  Just so you know, there are some mild spoilers for Shadow's Son in the following paragraphs.   Don't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Roman Helmet to be Displayed in Leicestershire

Just a brief news note for those of you who have an interest in Roman or ancient British history.  A Roman cavalry helmet has been meticulously restored and will be displayed in Leicestershire, near where it was excavated in 2000.  Read the full article here. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Quick Question

I've been thinking about something for the last few days, and I've reached the point where I would like some feedback.

At the end of last year, I posted two essays.  The first was an explanation of my growing frustration with ebooks from major publishers, in  regards to both quality and pricing, concluding with the statement that I would be reading many more indie published books in 2012. The second contained my recommendations for which publishers had the lines I thought would be the most interesting in 2012 based on my reading in 2011. In both posts I put lists of what I intended to read over the next few months.  In the post on publishers I listed titles, although not all the titles I have on hand from every publisher.  The other list only contained authors, in part because in some cases I hadn't decided which books from particular authors I would read first.

Since then, something interesting has occurred.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Across the Rooftops with Kron Darkbow in the City of Rogues

City of Rogues
Ty Johnston
various ebook formats, 0.99 (Kindle, I think this is a temporary price; Ty, correct me if I'm wrong on this) - $2.99 (Nook)

This book was a lot of fun. It was a good, old fashioned fantasy adventure novel, the first of a trilogy.  I enjoyed it immensely.

Johnston does an outstanding job of juggling a fairly large cast of characters for such a short book, imbuing each of them with their own personality and characteristics.  They include Kron, a young boy he befriends, his friend the city guard sergeant, a healer and his wizard mentor, the crime lord Belgar the Liar and four of his henchmen, and two swords for hire.  That he is able to develop the characters to the depth that he does while maintaining the relentless pace speaks well of his ability as a writer.  Along the way he drops tidbits about the greater world, its history and geography.  And he does it all without harming any swans.

Here's the basic setup:

Fireside Magazine Funded

I don't know how many of you are aware of Fireside magazine.  It's a new startup fiction magazine that will launch in March if all goes according to schedule.  It will be available in pdf and ebook formats.  Print copies are reserved for contributors to the Kickstarter fundraising, and depending on the level of contribution will be signed by one or more authors.  (You get to choose whose signature you receive.)  The magazine has reached its funding goal, so it's a go.  The first issue will have contributions from Tobias S. Buckell, D. J. Turnbuckle, Adam P. Knave, Ken Liu, Chuck Wendig, and Christie Yant, with illustrations by Amy Houser.  There's about 36 left on the fundraising, and any money not used in production will either go to the authors or be used as seed money for future issues.  To learn more or to contribute, go to the Fireside page.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Epic Fantasy Anthology Announced

John Joseph Adams has announced he's putting together an anthology of short epic fantasy for publication in the fall.  He's soliciting stories for consideration, so if you have a favorite, drop him a line at the link provided in his announcement.

More Glenn Lord Tributes

Here are some more Glenn Lord Tributes that have gone up in the last few days:

Funeral arrangements have been posted on the REHupa site.

Barbara Barrett and John O'Neill; Glenn Lord, Nov 17, 1931 - Dec 31, 2011

Mike Chomko; Glenn Lord:  Another Giant Passes

Frank Coffman; On the Passing of Glenn Lord

Chris Gruber; Glenn Lord, Howardian Herald, 1931-2011

Dave Hardy; Glenn Lord 1931-2011

Al Harron; Glenn Lord, the Greatest Howard Fan, 1931-2011

Don Herron;  Two-Gun Bob: Into the West

Brian Leno; Edited by Glenn Lord

Damon Sasser; Glenn Lord: The Flame of Howard Fandom

Damon Sasser; In Memoriam, Glenn Lord  This one has links to several items of interest, including a interview with Glenn.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Sailing the Serpent Sea

The Serpent Sea
Martha Wells
Night Shade Books
Trade Paper, 342 p., $14.99

If you've read The Cloud Roads, or my review of it, or just looked at the cover of either it or The Serpent Sea, you can probably guess that I'm using the term "sailing" in the title of this review somewhat loosely.

I've been looking forward to this book since I read The Cloud Roads last year, and Night Shade Books was gracious enough to send me a review copy.  It should be hitting store shelves any day now, if it hasn't already.  I've not seen a copy yet, but that doesn't mean the book isn't available.  You should pick up a copy (of both if you haven't read the first one).  That way you can join me in one of my New Year activities, looking forward to the next book in the series.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

RIP, Glenn Lord

Several Robert E. Howard related websites and blogs are reporting that Glenn Lord (1931-2011) passed away sometime yesterday, New Year's Eve.  In case some of you don't recognize the name, Glenn Lord was the person most responsible for helping to get Conan and Howard's other work back  into print in the 1960s and 1970s.  I only met Glenn a couple of times and never really knew him.  By the time I became active in Howard fandom, Glenn wasn't attending many Howard Days, at least that I can recall.  There's nothing I can say that those who knew him well can't say better.  There really hasn't been time for any lenngthy tributes to be written (you can't rush that type of writing), by read these brief tributes and announcements by Mark Finn, Damon Sasser, James Reasoner, Al Harron, and check the REHupa site periodically for more information.  Glenn touched many people in a significant way, and as tributes are posted over the next few days, I'll provide links to all the ones I see.
Sigh.  I really didn't want to start 2012 with this type of post.