What Really Happened at the First Siege of Orleans? And, Where Does Dark Age History Come From?

Saturday, March 28th, 2015 | Posted by M Harold Page

Copy of Final Cover

I borrowed a trick from Bernard Cornwell and plunged my hero into the thick of all the epic battles.

When I was writing Shieldwall: Barbarians! I borrowed a trick from Bernard Cornwell and plunge my hero into the thick of all the epic battles. That’s how Prince Hengest and his Jutes ended up at the Siege of Orleans.

No, not the Battle of New Orleans. And not the one with the Maid in it either.

This one was much much earlier – AD451 – when Orleans was Aurelianum. There was however a hero in a dress, if that’s an appropriate way of referring to a bishop’s vestments.

Here’s what happened:

King Attila with perhaps 100,000 Huns, Lombards, Gepids, Ostrogoths, renegade Romans and other riffraff pushed through the patchwork remnants of Roman Gaul, knocking over cities for supplies, until he reached Orleans.

Then he went away again.

Oh, was that anticlimactic?

You want to know the detail of what happened?

Hah! Sorry, the Dark Ages should really be called the “Historiographically Challenged Period”, meaning the ages are “dark” because we have difficulty seeing what was going on.

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Future Treasures: The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas: 2015 edited by Paula Guran

Saturday, March 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas 2015-smallJust this morning, in my article on Peter Crowther’s anthology Cities, I observed that the novella is the natural length for fantasy and science fiction. The novella has an exceptional history in this field, from H.G. Wells “Time Machine” to John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?” to Clifford D. Simak’s “The Big Front Yard” and Fritz Leiber’s “Ill Met in Lankhmar.” Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of places that publish them these days… and even fewer that reprint them. Only a handful of Year’s Best volumes can afford to make space for novellas, which means that, if you miss their original appearance (frequently in small press outlets), you may never see some of the finest works published every year.

Paula Guran has set out to rectify that with a brand new anthology series: The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas: 2015, from Prime Books. It’s the companion volume to Rich Horton’s popular The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy from the same publisher, which publishes its seventh volume this year, and Paula’s own Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror. Here’s the description.

The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Novellas: 2015 inaugurates a new annual series of anthologies featuring some of the year’s best novella-length science fiction and fantasy. Novellas, longer than short stories but shorter than novels, are a rich and rewarding literary form that can fully explore tomorrow’s technology, the far reaches of the future, thought-provoking imaginings, fantastic worlds, and entertaining concepts with the impact of a short story and the detailed breadth of a novel. Gathering a wide variety of excellent SF and fantasy, this anthology of “short novels” showcases the talents of both established masters and new writers.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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Help Uncover the Birth and Rise of Science Fiction: Support the Futures Past Kickstarter

Saturday, March 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Futures Past 1926-smallLast month I was delighted to shine a spotlight on the first issue of Futures Past, a new magazine devoted to covering the birth of modern science fiction. Futures Past was originally a highly-regarded print fanzine, which published four issues in the early 1990s, each covering one year of SF history, from 1926-29. Editor Jim Emerson has resurrected it as a 64-page digital magazine, with gorgeous full-color pages illuminating the highlights of science fiction publishing in magazines, books, books and even conventions. The first issue, covering 1926, was released last July, and it looks terrific.

Now Emerson has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a print edition of the magazine:

In the pages of Futures Past we will be covering in unprecedented detail, the birth and development of modern science fiction from 1926 to 1975. Unlike other science fiction reference works which offer a mere page or two to a given year, highlighting only the most notable items, we will be devoting an entire volume to each year. This will not only include comprehensive coverage of all the books, films and magazines published, but also in-depth review of less prominent topics such as early fandom, conventions, fanzines, old time sf radio plays and serials, as well as extensive consideration to international science fiction. Each volume of the series is presented in proper sequential order, beginning with 1926 when the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, was published.

The money raised by the Kickstarter will be used to pay for backer rewards, printing costs and computer upgrades, and content for future issues, including reprints and “new articles by the top science fiction writers and historians in the field” — folks like Mike Ashley and Bud Webster.

The campaign has a goal of $16,800, and will close on April 29. See all the details and pledge your support here.

Vintage Treasures: Cities edited by Peter Crowther

Saturday, March 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Cities Peter Crowther-smallIt’s been said many times that the ideal length for SF and fantasy is the novella. Long enough to establish a fascinating setting, and short enough to pack a punch. It’s been my experience that this is very true — much of the best fantasy I’ve read has been at novella length, and the format has a long history of excellence.

Peter Crowther is one of the most accomplished editors in the genre, and he’s produced some terrific anthologies over the years. But I think perhaps I’m fondest of his 2004 collection of fantastic novellas featuring four very different fantasy cities, by four of the biggest names in the field: China Mieville, Michael Moorcock, Paul di Filippo, and Geoff Ryman.

The city has always loomed large in the imaginary landscape of fantasy. Cities celebrates the fantastic potential of the city, whether in the terrible grandeur of China Mieville’s ruined London, a city overrun by a sudden, fantastical invasion, or the unsettling high-tech, high-paranoia of Geoff Ryman’s urban future. Elsewhere, heaven and hell snap at the heels of the inhabitants of Paul di Filippo’s Linear City, and Michael Moorcock invites us to join Jerry Cornelius on a tour of the uneasy streets of a future built on the ruins of September 11th. Here is fiction from four of the genre’s most respected names: an A-to-Z to the streets of the imagination.

With four of the biggest names in fantasy fiction united in one volume, each with a novella that has never been available outside the collectors’ market, Cities is the fourth of Peter Crowther’s Foursight anthologies and is proof positive that the fantastic novella is alive and thriving.

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Fantasy Literature: Lord of Mountains or An Exercise of Wishful Thinking

Friday, March 27th, 2015 | Posted by Edward Carmien

Lord of Mountains-smallThis blog has discussed S. M. Stirling’s Emberverse in some detail for the past several months. Beware spoilers as we move on to Lord of Mountains, Stirling’s 2012 addition to the series.

The logical second third of the post-quest novel Tears of the Sun, Lord of Mountains is the Act II confrontation that follows logically from the Act I setup, and coming before The Given Sacrifice‘s Act III, resolution. That these three chapters, published separately as novels, did not appear together under the same cover is a pity.

As previously discussed, the amount of “recap” material included with each is now crippling any loyal reader’s enjoyment of the texts. In fact, even new readers now feel the grit in the gears, as every time a character new to the individual text — for example, the first time Ingolf the Wanderer appears in Tears, Lord, and Given paragraphs of material is provided to foreground the character. Unfortunately, that background is now long behind Ingolf, and the current action of the narrative. And besides, how many readers are genuinely picking up the Nth book in this series, cold? And need to be reminded? Like, that one guy in Missouri, right? Yeah, you in the hat.

Would that this need be done only one time in one larger novel of three parts. First, the overall text would shrink considerably. Second, the sense of immersion would increase (and loyal readers of this blog remember what value we genre readers place on immersion, right?). Third, the narrative would flow more naturally.

As a Bush-era Secretary of Defense once opined, one goes to war with the army one has, not the army one wished one had. This sentiment is echoed by a character in Lord of Mountains, and it applies to the novels, or extended chapters, that continue to arrive annually. Perhaps in some future republication they can be packaged together, but even then would it pay for Stirling to take the time to thin the herd of redundant descriptions? Surely not.

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New Treasures: Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson

Friday, March 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Unwrapped Sky-smallWhen Unwrapped Sky, the debut fantasy novel by Australian writer Rjurik Davidson, appeared in hardcover last April, it got solid reviews for its innovative world building and original setting. Locus praised its “tough urban setting, influenced by noir mysteries as well as steampunk,” and Hannu Rajaniemi, author of The Quantum Thief, called it “Brilliant… Caeli-Amur is one of the more memorable cities in recent fantasy.”

Rjurik Davidson is already being acclaimed as a young master of the New Weird. Unwrapped Sky arrived in paperback earlier this month, and I picked up a copy as soon as I saw it. This looks like the kind of book I could lose myself in.

A hundred years ago, the Minotaurs saved Caeli-Amur from conquest. Now, three very different people may hold the keys to the city’s survival.

Once, it is said, gods used magic to create reality, with powers that defied explanation. But the magic — or science, if one believes those who try to master the dangers of thaumaturgy — now seems more like a dream. Industrial workers for House Technis, farmers for House Arbor, and fisher folk of House Marin eke out a living and hope for a better future. But the philosopher-assassin Kata plots a betrayal that will cost the lives of godlike Minotaurs; the ambitious bureaucrat Boris Autec rises through the ranks as his private life turns to ashes; and the idealistic seditionist Maximilian hatches a mad plot to unlock the vaunted secrets of the Great Library of Caeli-Enas, drowned in the fabled city at the bottom of the sea, its strangeness visible from the skies above.

In a novel of startling originality and riveting suspense, these three people, reflecting all the hopes and dreams of the ancient city, risk everything for a future that they can create only by throwing off the shackles of tradition and superstition, as their destinies collide at ground zero of a conflagration that will transform the world… or destroy it.

Unwrapped Sky was published by Tor on March 3, 2015. It is 516 pages, priced at $8.99 for both the paperback and digital editions. The cover art is by Allen Williams.

Book Clubs. No, I Said BOOK Clubs. Not The Other Kind

Friday, March 27th, 2015 | Posted by Violette Malan

Station ElevenAre there many of you out there who are members of books clubs? I have other questions, but my first is: Why?

I know why I joined one, and, frankly, I’m trying to compare my own experiences to those of others, see if I can find some common ground. Answer some questions that have popped up over the last few months. Like, do men join book clubs? Do all clubs read the same kinds of books?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start with why I joined a book club in the first place. In a way, it’s because I both read too much, and not enough. As a fantasy writer, my percentages probably break down something like this: 40% fantasy; 20% SF; 20% crime and mystery; 20% research and related materials (such as posts in Black Gate magazine).

That’s probably not entirely accurate, but it’s close enough to have made me feel that my reading was getting narrower than it has been in the past; maybe I was getting a little too comfortable and stuck in my ways, maybe I needed to shake things up. I think I was looking for the type of experience that’s often found in university and college, where there’s so much required reading, and so much that’s possibly outside of the student’s comfort zone.

Keeping in mind that outside of one’s comfort zone is a place writers often need to be.

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Goth Chick News: A Horror Convention Starring Bud Bundy? Read On…

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Norman Reedus at Wizard World’s Fan Fest

Norman Reedus at Wizard World’s Fan Fest

If you’re the kind of person who gets misty-eyed with nostalgia when you hear sitcom titles like Growing Pains, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Married With Children, then Wizard World’s Fan Fest which took place March 7-8 in Chicago would have been just the place for you.

And if you’re considering possible explanations for how the heck I ended up there (dragging BG photog Chris Z along for fun), the answer is no – I did not have a fever or a head injury.

There is a darn good explanation actually.

Fan Fest came to be when Bruce Campbell, the cult-favorite TV and movie actor, had to cancel his appearance at the Bruce Campbell Horror Fest because of a television commitment. The horror fest was scheduled to take place that weekend and Goth Chick News had been invited to attend.

“We knew we couldn’t continue to hold the Bruce Campbell Horror Fest without Bruce Campbell!” said Jerry Milani of Wizard Entertainment. “But it also seemed a shame to let the weekend go to waste, since we already had the date and the venue.”

And so, the idea of Fan Fest was born. Organizers quickly secured a lineup of actors along with celebrities from the comic-book and pro-wrestling worlds. (The Bruce Campbell event has been rescheduled to take place in August with Wizard World’s Chicago Comic Con.)

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Apex Magazine #70 Now on Sale

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Apex Magazine 70 March 2015-smallWe’ve covered Apex Magazine in the past, but not with any real thoroughness. But as I promised in my recent article on Expanding Our Magazine Coverage, I hope to be a bit more diligent reporting on the top fantasy magazines from now on.

Apex Magazinee is a monthly science fiction, fantasy, and horror publication featuring original short stories, poetry and non-fiction. It is edited by Jason Sizemore and released the first Tuesday of every month. It has been publishing since 2005, and for a while was known as Apex Digest. In 2008 it shifted to an online format, publishing content for free on its website. Previous editors include Catherynne M. Valente (issues 15-29) and Lynne M. Thomas (30 – 55). In 2012, it was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine.

This issue features fiction from Nina Kiriki Hoffman and Thoraiya Dyer, poetry from Jennifer Ironside and Beth Cato, interviews with Damien Angelica Walters and cover artist Lucas de Alcântara, short fiction reviews, a podcast (“Houdini’s Heart” by Thoraiya Dyer), and much more.


“Houdini’s Heart” by Thoraiya Dyer
“Charaid Dreams” by Rati Mehrotra
“A Beautiful Memory” by Shannon Peavey
“Where I’m Bound” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
“Sing Me Your Scars” by Damien Angelica Walters
“Seed” by Shanna Germain (eBook/subscriber exclusive)

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Launching in June: The Year’s Best Military SF and Space Opera edited by David Afsharirad

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Year's Best Military SF and Space Opera-smallI count no less than nine Best New SF, Fantasy and Horror volumes on the market today. We’ve already covered four of the more interesting titles coming later this year:

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Nine, edited by Jonathan Strahan (May 12)
The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2015, edited by Paula Guran (June 24)
The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015, edited by John Joseph Adams and Joe Hill (October 6)
Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume Two, edited by Kathe Koja (October)

and I’ll be reporting on some of the others in the coming weeks.

Still, I was intrigued to see Baen is launching a brand new volume with a very specific focus early this summer. The Year’s Best Military SF and Space Opera will be edited by David Afsharirad, and promises to be the first of its kind — a Best of the Year volume exclusively devoted to military and adventure SF tales. I enjoy adventure SF, and I especially enjoy Space Opera with pulp sensibilities. And that seems to be exactly what this volume has in mind, going by the blurb.

With an introduction by best-selling military science fiction author David Drake and selected by editor David Afsharirad from the top short story markets in the field, here are the most thrilling, pulse-pounding, and thought-provoking stories of the past year. Stories of future military men and women, space opera on a grand scale, and edge-of-your-seat adventure tales in the pulp tradition, from giants of the genre to brilliant up-and-comers.

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