Monday, April 30, 2012

Long Looks at Short Fiction: The Last Rune by David A. Hardy

"The Last Rune"
David A. Hardy
Sorcerous Signals

Sorcerous Signals and its sister publication The Lorelei Signal are a pair of online publications I'd not encountered before.  I'm going to check them out after reading "The Last Rune" by David A. Hardy.

This one was a little different than the short fiction I've looked at in the last month or so.  Most of the stories this series has focused on lately have been fairly straightforward with relatively few named characters.  "The Last Rune" is by far the most complex.  While having a central viewpoint character, there are a number of named secondary characters and a multi-layered plot.  This is not a bad thing.  Quite the contrary, although it means you shouldn't read it if you're tired or sleepy; you need to pay attention.  But do read it.  It's a good blend of fantasy and vikings.

The story starts out with an attack by vikings on the feast hall of King Hugleik of Upsalla.  Among those defending the hall is Ulf Bloodeye, the protagonist.  Set against him among the attackers is Starkad Stovikson.  These two have a history which is recounted in another story, "Vikar's Doom" not available online. It is available in Mystic Signals 9, but I don't have a copy yet or I would have reviewed it as well.

Where the story really picks up is in the aftermath of the battle.  It seems King Hugliek possesses a powerful rune.  Starkad takes off with it, and Ulf (who barely manages to survive the battle) tracks him down.  That's a vast simplification, of course.  I'm not sure I can summarize everything without giving some stuff away.  Hardy kept me on my toes with this one, and I was never certain where he would go next.  There are some figures (human and animal) I presume to be from Norse myths, although I'm not certain.  My knowledge of Norse mythology isn't as extensive as my knowledge of Greek and Roman. 

There's plenty of combat and action in this one, and the pace is relentless.  One of the things I liked most about this story was the attention Hardy paid to detail.  The storyline was a well-woven tapestry where small things that didn't seem to be such a big deal at the time, such as when one of the warriors has a private word with teh skald before the battle.  Turns out this little exchange, which the reader isn't privy to, is a major plot point. 

"The Last Rune" was fun, and I'm looking forward to more adventures of Ulf Bloodeye. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Update on Life

We went back to the doctor yesterday to go over test results.  Whatever this mass/cyst/something is, it doesn't appear to be anything to panic about according to the doctor.  It could be anything from a benign cyst to the start of something serious, but at this point there's no way to be sure without doing something invasive. There's currently nothing to indicate the whateveritis is serious.  Kathy is still thinking about it, but she's leaning heavily on waiting and doing another MRI in six months and see how things look then.  She'll have to have the MRI anyway.  It's possible that this thing is the result of the hormones she's been on since her hysterectomy a year ago.  If that's the case, then it could shrink or (hopefully) go away altogether.  The doctor has taken her off hormones, and if it shrinks, that will be a good indication the hormones caused this thing in the first place.

Anyway, we're much more relaxed than we've been for the last few weeks.  I want to thank everyone for their prayers and support.  We've really appreciated them.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Life Happens...

...and sometimes "life" is spelled with an "S" if you get my meaning.  Fortunately, that's not the case (yet), although I was preparing myself for it to be.

A few weeks ago, my wife Kathy went in for her annual mammogram, although she later told me she was thinking about skipping it this year.  Well, the mammogram, done at our PCP's office, or rather the large clinic he works at, showed something that wasn't there last year.  He referred her to a breast health specialist in town, an wonderful woman who is a breast cancer survivor herself.  This doctor did a followup mammogram on the breast in question (the right), saw the same thing, and ordered an MRI and a biopsy. 

We got the results back today.  The biopsy showed the new growth (something called calcification) to be benign.  But the MRI showed a small mass (about the size of the tip of my little finger) in the left breast which didn't show up on the PCP's mammogram.  It didn't show up on the followup mammogram we did with the specialist this afternoon.  And let me tell you something.  The difference in quality of the two mammograms was amazing.  The specialist's showed much more detail than the PCP's.  Lesson: not all mammograms are created equal.  Make sure you're getting the best quality you can.

Anyway, we go in for a followup visit on Thursday morning to discuss options after the doctor has had a chance to examine the sonogram we also did late this afternoon.  We'll probably do another biopsy.  The doctor is fairly certain this is benign, but she doesn't want to take chances.  Neither do we.  If they do find something, I may start blogging erratically until we get things cleared up.  I'll post a notice if that happens.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Blackbirds Coming Home to Roost

Chuck Wendig
Angry Robot Books
3 May 2012
320pp B-format paperback
£7.99 UK

24 April 2012
320pp mass-market paperback
$7.99 US $8.99 CAN

24 April 2012

This is a novel that will most likely appeal to fans of Joe R. Lansdale.  It's a high octane ride through the dark recesses of humanity, a smashing blend of noir and the supernatural that combines the best of classic crime novels with downright genuine creepiness.

I absolutely loved it.  With one small exception.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Long Looks at Short Fiction: Pekra by Tom Doolan

Tom Doolan
Kindle format, 0.99

If I didn't already know that he was, I would guess by reading this that Tom Doolan is the father of a teenage girl.  He seems to capture the viewpoint quite well.  At least I think he does, never having been a teenage girl myself.

"Pekra" is Tom's latest piece of short fiction.  Like the previous"Blackskull's Captive", reviewed here, this is an orc story, only this time it's not set in space.  It's also significantly shorter, making it the perfect thing to read while taking a quick lunch break.

This is also a little different than most orc stories.  It's a love story of sorts.  Pekra is a young orc whose parents are on her case because her sister has found a mate and is with child.  Why can't she do the same?  So she does, or at least tries to.  In orc society the females choose the mates.  If two females fight over a male, the male is stuck with the winner, like it or not.  As you might expect, Pekra is challenged when she tries to choose her mate (chosen in part because her choice will annoy her parents).  The result is a cat fight, orc style. 

This was a short tale, but thoroughly enjoyable.  Both Pekra and her choice of mate are well characterized, and the fight scene is a blast.  (Not literally, the two orcs don't have any explosives.)  As Tom said in his announcement on his blog, this one would have been hard to market.  I'm glad he published it himself.  It focused on an aspect of orc society that isn't usually shown, the mating ritual.  I wouldn't mind seeing more of these characters in a longer tale.  Check it out. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

RIP, K. D. Wentworth (1951-2012)

Kathy Wentworth
Damn, damn, and double damn.  I just found out that author K. D. Wentworth passed away from pneumonia yesterday after a battle with cervical cancer.  She was a longtime friend, and she will be missed. 

Kathy got her start in writing by winning the Writers of the Future contest in 1988.  She later became one of the judges for the contest.  More details of her professional life are available at Locus Online

I first met K. D. Wentworth in Tulsa at the second Conestoga in 1998, where she was on the Con Committee..  We saw each other each summer until the convention moved to April in 2009 (I wasn't able to attend) as well as at other conventions, most notably Armadillocon and ConDFW.  The last time I saw her was at Armadillocon in summer 2009.  She joined a group of us for dinner on Friday night. 

Kathy was a friendly, outgoing person and one of the most generous and kind people in the field.  The greatest kindness she did me was on the way home from the World Fantasy Convention in 2000.  The convention was in Corpus Christi that year, which meant it was close enough for me to attend.  I flew down from Dallas.  Since it was the first large convention I'd been able to attend, I took three suitcases, one tucked inside another, with just enough clothing and personal items to make it through the weekend. 

On the way back, all three suitcases were packed with books.  I was flying Southwest airlines, which at that time had a limit of two carry-on items per person.  All the flights out of Corpus were with Southwest, and all of them went through Houston.  Kathy and I were on the same flight.  I was trying to decide which suitcase to check when Kathy offered to carry one of the suitcases on for me since she only had one carry-on bag.  I accepted.

Kathy and the rest of her party from Tulsa changed planes in Houston while I continued on to Dallas.  Both legs of the flight were packed.  You can imagine the dirty looks I received when I deboarded the plane with three bulging suitcases.  That's the sort of generous person Kathy was.  I also have a signed manuscript of an unpublished short story set in her Black/on/Black universe she gave me at a convention.

She was a great writer, being a three time finalist for the Nebula.  I've not read all of her novels, but I've read most of them, and I've enjoyed all of them immensely.  In my opinion she was one of the more under appreciated writers of the last two decades.  She wrote across multiple subgenres of science fiction and fantasy.  In addition to novels, she wrote numerous short stories, the most recent short work being "Alien Land" in the January/February issue of F&SF.  If you've not read her work, do.  She was good and she had her own unique voice.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Relaxing with the Fireside

Fireside Magazine
electronic, $3.99 single issue, $8/yr subscription

No, that isn't a typo in the title of this post.  That really is the word "with" rather than "by".  I'm not talking about a literal fireside, but a figurative one.  In this case the first issue of Fireside Magazine, which went on sale just a few days ago as I write this. 

This is a new illustrated nongenre fiction magazine I told you about a couple of months ago. And by nongenre, I don't mean a literary magazine.  Instead, the stories aren't restricted to a particular type of genre.  Editor Brian White is looking for good stories, regardless of genre.

I think he succeeded.  Let's take a closer look at what the issue contains, shall we?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Anne Lyle's The Alchemist of Souls

The Alchemist of Souls
Anne Lyle
Angry Robot Books
432pp B-format paperback, £8.99
448pp mass-market paperback
$7.99 US $8.99 CAN

I had intended to have this book read and reviewed two or three weeks ago, on or about the release date, but life has been happening at my house, and I'm a little behind.  My apologies to Ms. Lyle and Angry Robot for the delay.  I know Angry Robot likes to have reviews for review copies posted within two weeks of the book's release, and I'm a little beyond that.

Anyway, I was eagerly awaiting this one, and my expectations were higher than usual due to all the positive advance buzz surrounding it.  And while I enjoyed the book, as is often the case in these types of situations, I was somewhat disappointed.

Uncle Doug's Bunker of Vintage Horror Ppaerbacks

There's a new blog out that may be of interest to some of you.  It's Uncle Doug's Bunker of Vintage Horror Paperbacks.  The focus is on, what else, old horror paperbacks.  So far Uncle Doug has looked at such authors as Frank Belknap Long, Robert Bloch, and C. L. Moore.  Oh, yeah.  And Robert E. Howard.  Check it out. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Addendum to Review of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly

I was reading the review of the current issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly on the Swords and Sorcery blog and realized I hadn't scrolled down the contents page far enough when I read HFQ this past week.  I missed the final poem altogether.  That poem was "Legend" by Colleen Anderson.  I found the poem to be somewhat depressing.  That's a good thing in this context.  The poem was a moving look at a legend's passing, and I Ms. Anderson did a good job of capturing the feeling of loss that would accompany such a thing.

My apologies to Ms. Anderson, the editorial team at HFQ, and my readers for the oversight.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Scores a Homerun

I thought a baseball metaphor was appropriate since this is the spring 2012 issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly.  I've been so inundated with novels that I haven't had a chance to check this one out in a while.  It's well worth a look.

The current issue contains three stories and two poems.  Here's what I thought of them.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Adventures Fantastic Interview: Martha Wells

Martha Wells is the author of nine original novels, two media tie-ins (Stargate Atlantis), and various short stories and essays.  Her latest novels are the first two Books of the Raksura, The Cloud Roads and The Serpent Sea (reviewed here and here).  You can find her online at  She recently took a few minutes to sit down and answer a few questions. 

AF:  Why do you write?

MW:  I think it’s a need for communication because when I was a kid there was that feeling that no on listens to you.  I felt very isolated.  There was organized fandom, but it was very difficult to find.  The internet didn’t exist then, so it was very hard to find people who also liked science fiction and fantasy.  I found science fiction and fantasy sections in bookstores and libraries but I never seemed to find any other people who read it.  I think it comes from a need to communicate and express yourself. 

AF:  Why science fiction and fantasy as opposed to some other genre?

MW:  I don’t really know.  I always was attracted to it.  One of the first books I tried to read as a kid was The Time Machine because it had our name on it.  My parents had an old paperback copy with a pulp cover and it had our name on it.  And also the library I grew up in had a children’s section and you were supposed to make a turn into the shelves for the rest of the children’s section.  The science fiction and fantasy section was there along the rest of the wall, and I just went along it instead of taking the turn.  So I ended up reading a lot of even though I was too young for it.  Even so I think there were a lot of children’s books back then that were fantasy.

AF:  Are you willing to say when “back then” was?

MW:  I was born in 1964.

AF:  Then we’re about the same age.  I was born in 1966, so we probably read a lot of the same stuff.

MW:  The one thing back then, I remember there being very few female characters.  They were either the baby sitter type person or the person who had to be rescued or the person preventing the protagonist from going on the adventure kind of thing.  So I think one thing in science fiction and fantasy, especially in Andre Norton’s books, there’s a lot more female protagonists.  Even if there’s a male protagonist, there’s usually a woman or women to go along on the adventure, so I was probably looking for something like that.  I like the boys’ adventure books, too, but I was feeling like this is not something you’re part of, this is something you’re looking at the outside of. 

AF:  So other than Norton, what writers have influenced you?

MW:  Judith TarrF. M. Busby, who is a science fiction writer.  Robert Heinlein.  I read all the Heinlein juveniles.  I read a little bit of Anne McCaffery, but not as much.  I think she was coming in later for that period.  There was a lot of children’s authors that I read that I’ve never seen anything by, I found them in the library, science fiction and fantasy authors that I never saw much of later.  A whole bunch of those.  I run into one of those, you see them in the used bookstore, and say “I loved that as a kid.”  And Lord of the Rings, and Dune, too.  I read those when I was way too young.  A lot of the languages in my work comes from reading Lord of the Rings and getting the idea early on that yeah, there should be different languages here.

AF:  That’s not the first time I’ve heard you say “I read that when I was too young.”  How does going back and rereading some of those later as an adult, what’s that experience like?

MW:  Sometimes you don’t really know why you liked the book, and sometimes you    went right over your head.  Like Malevil by Robert Merle, He wrote The Day of the Dolphin, I think that’s his most famous book.  It’s a post apocalyptic novel set in France about a man who owns a small medieval castle.  A few people are living there, and a nuclear bomb hits Paris.  It’s about them ttrying to survive and recreate civilization   It’s not one of the easy post apocalyptic novels, either.  When they come out of the castle, everything is just burnt.  They’ve got to try to get crops, and they’ve got just a few animals that have survived.  At first they think they’re the only people, and later they find there’s another walled medieval they’re eventually able to get to.  People survived in there.  It was one of my parents’ books, and all I had was the Reader’s Digest condensed version, which they bowdlerized.  I knew they were shorter, but I didn’t realize how much they bowdlerized.  When you go back read the real book, you go, “Wow, there’s a lot of stuff in here.”  It’s like 200 pages longer.  They’ve taken out all the sex and a lot of other stuff.  There’s a large section at the end.  The book is told from the point of view of the man who owned the castle, Emmanuel, and there’s a guy who becomes a really good friend of his, who after Emmanuel dies, he’s got Emmanuel’s diary.  He goes back through Emmanuel’s diary and puts in all the stuff that Emmanuel left out.  That’s an interesting storytelling technique I’ve not see before.  That was left out of the condensed version for sure.  The other shoe hasn’t dropped on the rest of the story.  That’s almost an illustration; you read the book and so much goes over your head.  All the parts that would have gone over my head had been taken out.  I didn’t see them until I got a copy years later. 

AF:  Congratulations on selling the third Raksura book.

MW:  Thank you.

AF:  I’m looking forward to it.    Like I said a minute ago before we started recording, it’s going to be a long year because I really enjoyed those.  I know you’re going to have edits and stuff to do.  Are you working on anything now? Are you planning another book, or are you going to take a break?  What can we look for from you or with your name on in the next few years?

MW:  I can’t really afford to take much of a break.  I have a young adult novel that’s been going the rounds for about a couple of years now.  It’s on a new round of submissions, so I’ve got my fingers crossed for that.  I’m trying to decide what book I want to write next.  I’ve got a short story I’ve been asked to writer for an anthology, so I need to write that.  At this point I’m kinda trying to figure out what I want to do next, if I want to do another Raksura book or if I want to do something different.  Right now my head is in that world, so I’m kinda interested in doing something there, but I have another set of characters that I came up with for a short story I could work with.  I’m afraid people will be really disappointed.  It’s like when you go back to a series set in a world but with different people.  So I’m debating what I want to do. 

AF:  In a post on, I think it was The Night Bazaar, you talked about trying to get several novels started.  And you talked a little bit about almost quitting, and I’m glad you didn’t.  Thank you for not quitting.  What were some of the other novels, and do you think you would ever go back to some of those, or previous series, or previous works, not necessarily series, but other novels.

MW:  Parts of them went into The Cloud Roads.  Not really parts, but actual elements.  And elements of some of them went into Emillie and the Hollow World, which is the young adult novel I haven’t sold yet.  There’s one part, it’s about 25,000 words, I’d really like to do something with it, but so much of it is now part of other books, it had to be thrown out.  Some of them never developed very far.  There were only three that did, and they ended up in different books.

AF:  Shifting gears just a little bit, Adventures Fantastic tends to focus on heroic fantasy, historical adventure, and barbarians tend to be central characters in a lot of those stories.  What qualities do you look for in a barbarian?

MW:  In a barbarian?  I don’t know.  I dislike characters that are too unlikable.  I mean the character can be snarky and obnoxious to a certain extent, but if they’re actually a bad person, I don’t tend to like that.  I respect people’s right to write it, but it’s not something I care for too much.  That’s why I like the Imaro books by Charles Saunders.  I like that feel.  Imaro is one of the few barbarian quote unquote characters who is actually a nice person.  That’s what I like about those books.  I guess I look for someone who is more like a Robin Hood type character who is sort of outside the law but whose actions I can read about and support and  like.  The gritty fantasy and stuff doesn’t grab me.  It’s too much like reality.

AF:  Last question:  If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask that I haven’t?

MW:  That’s a hard one. 

AF:  Some people think it’s hard; some people think it’s easy.

MW:  I’m not terribly good at self-promotion.  That’s why when I write a blog post, I often have people ask me question.  I don’t know what to write about.  Give me a topic, and I’ll write.

AF:  Okay, let me ask you this, and we’ll make this the last question.  Who are the up and coming fantasy writers do you think people should be reading?

MW:  Oh, Ben Aaronovitch wrote, it’s called Midnight Ride in the US, but the British title is  Rivers of LondonMoon Over Soho is the second one, and there’s a third one.  I think it’s Whispers Underground that’s coming out in a few months.  I really enjoyed his books.  They’re kind of labeled as urban fantasy, but they’re more like fantasy and British procedurals like Frost and Morse.  It’s a great combination.  I really enjoyed them.  I thought his take on mythology and the supernatural elements in London was really neat, and I had not seen that before.  Saladin Ahmed.  His book has just come out,   Throne of the Crescent MoonN. K. Jemisin.

AF:  I was expecting you to say that because I knew you really liked her stuff.   

MW:  Yeah, the first trilogy has come out, and a duology is about to come out.

AF:  Is it set in the same world, because I’ve not read her work.

MW:  No, it’s a completely different world.  I really liked Courtney Schafer’s book.  I gave her a blurb for her fist novel called The Whitefire Crossing

AF:  I loved that one.  It was one of the best I read last year

MW:  It was really different.  I’m really interested to see what she does later.  And there’s a bunch of people I have on my stack that I haven’t read yet.

AF:  Thank you very much.

MW:  You’re welcome. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Across the Straits of Galahesh

The Straits of Galahesh
Bradley P. Beaulieu
Nightshade Books
Trade Paperback $14.99 - 570 pages
various electonic editions $6.00

If you read my review of Beaulieu's first novel, The Winds of Khalakovo, you know it was one of my favorites last year.  Now the second volume in the series has hit shelves.  Beaulieu was kind enough to send me a review copy of The Straits of Galahesh.  I had wanted to have the book finished and this review posted about the time the books hit the shelves, which was a week ago.  Unfortunately life has been happening at my house, and I'm a bit behind on several commitments. 

However, you can still snag a copy.  And you should.  What follows are several reasons why, along with some spoilers for The Winds of Khalakovo.  If you haven't read it, skip the next few paragraphs.

Monday, April 9, 2012

David Gemmell Awards Shortlist Announced

The shortlist for the David Gemmell Awards was announced over the weekend.  There were some other award announcements in the last few days, so if you missed this one, that's understandable.  This is the one I'm most interested in, since this is the type of fantasy we try to focus on here at Adventures Fantastic.  More information and a list of previous winners can be found on the David Gemmell Award site.  Adventures Fantastic would like to congratulate all authors and artists who were nominated and especially the shortlisted nominees.  Voting on the shortlist opens in a few days and will remain open until sometime in June, so if you want to vote and aren't a member, there's a link on the Award site where you can join.

Legend Award
The Heroes - Joe Abercrombie
The Wise Mans Fear - Patrick Rothfuss
Blood of Aenarion - Willian King
Alloy of Law - Brandon Sanderson
Black Veil - Kristen Britain

Morningstar Award
Prince of Thorns - Mark Lawrence
Among Thieves - Douglas Hulick
The Unremembered - Peter ORulloan
The Heir of Night - Helen Lowe
Songs of the Earth - Elspeth Cooper

Ravenheart Award
Blood of Aenarion - Raymond Swanland
The Heroes - Didier Graffet and Dave Senior
Oracles Fire - Frank Victoria
Among Thieves - Larry Rostant
Journey By Night - Aaron Briggs

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Award Announcements and a Few Initial Thoughts

The shortlist for the Hugo Awards was announced yesterday along with the Campbell Awards.  Locus Online (among others) has posted the list.  I've included the fiction and some fiction related categories below for easy reference (stolen cut and pasted from Locus Online). 

Congratulations to all the nominees.

Here are a few initial thoughts on some changes I see and potential changes down the road.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Anarchy Books Easter Releases

Anarchy Books is releasing seven new novels over Easter weekend, including works by Eric Brown, Gareth L. Powell, and Luis Villazon.  As part of the promotion, they're giving away free electronic copies of their anthology Vivisepulture starting April 6. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Long Looks at Short Fiction: Blackskull's Captive by Tom Doolan

Blackskull's Captive
Tom Doolan
Kindle ebook format, 0.99

If this short story, the first publication by Tom Doolan, is any indication of what we can expect from him, then he's someone you will want to add to your list of must-read authors.

"Blackskull's Captive" is a delightful and thoroughly entertaining blend of fantasy, space opera, and old fashioned pirate adventure.  Written in part as an homage to Treasure Island, it's the story of Jack Munro, an orphan who is captured by Orcs and forced into being the cabin boy of the dreaded Captain Blackskull. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Long Looks at Short Fiction: Harvest of War by Charles Allen Gramlich

"Harvest of War"
Charles Allen Gramlich
Razored Zen Press, 0.99

In the afterward to this story, the author mentions that it was written for an anthology about orcs Scott Oden was putting together which unfortunately didn't work out.   That's a shame, because if the other stories were as good as this one, we've missed out on some fine reading.

The point of the anthology was to present orcs as more three dimensional than what we see in Tolkien.  Gramlich succeeds.  This is a moving and intelligent tale.  Because it's a short story, I'm not going to discuss the plot much, but I will tell you why I liked it. 

Robert E. Howard Meets Jane Austen

I pass on this link without comment except to say that Mary Robinette Kowal has waayyy too much time on her hands.