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
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)
SOLSTICE AWARD: Carl Sagan and Ginjer Buchanan

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, or visit Douglas Smith's website

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

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Look at Beneath Ceaseless Skies #120

It's been a little while since I last reviewed an issue of BCS.  The current issue contains the usual two stories, one with steampunk themes, which is a little different than what you usually find here. 

First up, "The Clockwork Trollop" by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald.  A scientist in Victorian England try to reduce the number of women engaging in prostitution by creating an untiring and hygienic lady of the night.  (He envisions training the current prostitutes to maintain their replacements.)  Like much social engineering, this one has some serious unexpected consequences.

This was a relatively short story, and the general way things end up isn't exactly unexpected.  Still, Doyle and Macdonald do a good job of capturing the feel of the times.  This one had an aura of Arthur Conan Doyle  hanging over it.

The longer of the two stories was "The Drowned Man" by Laura E. Price.  This is a complex tale about two sisters who are returning from an island that isn't entirely in this world.  They've recovered an artifact for a museum and are hoping the museum will hire them in this capacity on a regular basis.  While in the middle of the ocean, they spot a man in the water.  At first they think he's drowned, but when the ship's crew pulls him onboard they discover he's still alive.

They should be asking themselves why he's still alive if he's in the middle of the ocean...

The thing I liked most about this one were the hints regarding the two sisters.  Ms. Price seems to have worked out the backstory quite thoroughly.  I'm not sure if "The Drowned Man" is a stand alone with a detailed background, the inaugural installment of a new series, or only the most recent episode of a series already begun.  I rather hope there are either other stories about these characters out there, more to come, of both.  The sisters aren't exactly lady-like nor are the the kind of women warmly welcomed in polite society.  The author hints they may have been raised by a witch, so that probably has something to do with it.

Anyway, an enjoyable issue, although the subject matter of "The Clockwork Trollop" might not be to everyone's taste.  The next issue should be out within a few days, so look for another review soon.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

RIP, Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013)

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad
The world got a little darker today with the announcement of the passing of Ray Harryhausen.  A pioneer of stop-motion special effects, Harryhausen's influence on the film industry cannot be overstated.  Much of the special effects we enjoy today can be traced back to his work.  While the technology is completely different from when he started in the industry, the high standards he achieved set the bar for those who followed after  him.  Highlights of his work include The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974), and Clash of the Titans (1981).  His movies can still bring out the kid in me (which is admittedly not hard to do).

Rest in peace, sir.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Next Two Weeks

Just a quick update since things are going to be hectic for the next two weeks.  Today and tomorrow are the last two class day.  Wednesday is Dead Day (when students supposedly study), then finals start on Thursday.  I'm giving two, one Saturday evening and the other first thing Monday.  In between then, I've got to compile the lab grades for 4 courses (~1500 students).  The latter involves making sure all the TAs followed the grading rubric and nobody's averages are out of line.

What that means is I probably won't be blogging with any consistency until all of that is done.  I'll try to post every couple of days, but most things will either be opinion pieces or reviews of short fiction.

When the smoke clears, I'm going to try to read some titles from Pyr that have been piling up.  The good folks there have started sending me review copies of nearly everything they've published lately, for which I would like to thank them. 

Over the last year I've bought some titles by Nightshade authors which I've not gotten around to reading.  I'm going to move those books up in priority.  A number of good authors have gotten caught in a bad spot, and I'd like to help them if I can with some publicity.

So if it looks like I'm only reading a few publishers, that's why.  I'll read some other things for review as well just to keep the variety up.  For instance, there's that new Margaret Brundage bio that's supposed to ship later this week...

The summer should be slower than the spring has been, so I hope I'll be able to post fairly regularly over the summer.

Finally, I'd like to thank everyone who stopped by in April, both here and at Futures Past and Present.  Both blogs saw record traffic, and I appreciate the interest you've shown.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Nefarious Mad Scientist Scheme: Freezing the Atmosphere

As a demonstration in class this past week, I and one of my henchmen froze a small portion of the atmosphere. 

That's it in the bell jar.  If it looks like ice floating in liquid, it is.  Before we froze the atmosphere, it needed to be liquified.

The process was amazingly simple.  Once the atmosphere was liquified, all we had to do was boil it.

I call the device the atmosphere-freezinator.

So, unless you want me to freeze the entire atmosphere of the Earth, you'll deposit.$500 in US currency each month in one of the following offshore accounts-

Excuse me, there's someone at the door.  I'll finish delivering this ultimatum once I've dealt with them.

Who left this platypus on the doorstep? And why is he wearing a fedora?

Hey, where'd you get that- Urk!

To see more pictures and find out what's really going on, click the link below (if you're accessing this from the main page of the blog) to read more:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

With Emilie, in the Hollow World

Emilie and the Hollow World
Martha Wells
Strange Chemistry, an imprint of Angry Robot Books
US/CAN Print
ISBN: 9781908844491
Format: Large Paperback
R.R.P.: $9.99
UK Print
ISBN: 9781908844484
Format: Medium Paperback
R.R.P.: £7.99
ISBN: 9781908844507
Format: Epub & Mobi
R.R.P.: £5.49 / $6.99

Once upon a time there was a form of popular fiction in which a band of intrepid explorers ventured into new and uncharted lands.  Often their adventures were of a somewhat fantastic nature, involving lost worlds and forgotten civilizations, the Professor Challenger novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle being a prime example of this type of fiction.  Since much of it was written during Victorian times, the subgenre tends to have a Victorian and/or British Empire feel to it.  For whatever reasons, the arbiters of taste and sophistication considered these adventures to be essentially for boys.

This subgenre has fallen from the heights of popularity it once enjoyed.  The reasons for this are beyond the scope of this review.  What is within the scope of the review is that Martha Wells has come along, dusted off the subgenre, given it a heroine to broaden its appeal beyond just boys, and shown us all how it's done.