Firefly Friday: Serenity: Those Left Behind

Friday, October 31st, 2014 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

SerenityLeftBehindFan passion for more Firefly stories led to the rare (unprecedented?) move of turning a failed television series into a feature length film, in the form of 2005 film Serenity (Amazon). As an attempt to bridge the narrative gap between the end of the series and the start of the film, Joss Whedon collaborated with Dark Horse comics to produce the three-issue comic limited series Serenity: Those Left Behind (Amazon). This review is based on the original hardcover collection of the series, published in 2007. (They’ve since published a 2nd edition.)

Here are the major jumps between the end of Firefly and the beginning of Serenity, which the comic series seeks to explain:

  • Inara is no longer on the Serenity
  • Shepherd Book is no longer on the Serenity
  • Instead of the mysterious blue handed agents in the series, the film introduces the operative as the key person hunting down River Tam

Serenity: Those Left Behind covers all three of these elements, and also brings back a villain from the television series who would have been recurring had it continued. I won’t ruin it by saying which one. As a hint, though, it’s someone who feels that they were wronged in their last interaction with Malcolm Reynolds, so that should narrow it down. This individual joins forces with the blue handed operatives to move against the folks on Serenity. In addition to the mysterious recurring villain, there’s also a nice cameo by Mal’s contact Badger, who assigns them a job that doesn’t go exactly as intended. (Or at least not as intended by Mal and the crew.)

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Vintage Treasures: Sea Tales of Terror, edited by J.J. Strating

Friday, October 31st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Sea Tales of Terror-smallWhen you’ve been collecting paperbacks as long as I have, there aren’t a lot of discoveries left that really get you excited. Sure, there are still the occasional finds in a good used bookstore, or that opportunity to replace a lost book at a great price. But nothing like those unexpected discoveries you made when you first started collecting. The ones that made your pupils go big, and made you think, “I need this book right now.”

Of course, there are exceptions.

A few weeks ago I spotted Sea Tales of Terror, a 1974 paperback from British publisher Fontana, on eBay. It was the first copy I’d ever laid eyes on. And my eyeballs got big, and I thought “I need this book right now.”

Mostly it was the cover, I think. Painted by Justin Todd, it shows a skeletal figure, made entirely of salt water and sea foam, clutching a full-masted schooner, against an angry red sky. That cover promised adventure, and nights of delightful reading curled up in my big green chair.

With a little determination, I won the auction. (Truthfully, it wasn’t hard. The bidding fizzled above five bucks, and I got it for less than seven. Vintage paperbacks — there just aren’t that many that cost as much as a new paperback.)

We’ve mentioned Fontana’s Tales of Terror anthologies before, but I really had no idea there were so many. I count a total of ten, although that’s not a firm number. Earlier this year I wrote about Gaslight Tales of Terror, edited by R. Chetwynd-Hayes, who edited several others, including Welsh Tales of Terror (1973), and Tales of Terror from Outer Space (1975). J.J. Strating, editor of this volume, also produced European Tales of Terror (1968) and Oriental Tales Of Terror (1971). Clearly I need to do some homework and report back on what I find.

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Goth Chick News Reviews: The Sword of Michael – Authored by an Exorcist

Thursday, October 30th, 2014 | Posted by Sue Granquist

The Sword of Michael-smallWhen a publicist contacts me in October to see if I’d like to review a new novel with demons and zombies, written by an exorcist, I think two things. First – monsters? Perfect timing, it is October after all. And second – do exorcists actually have publicists?

The answer apparently is yes, and good ones at that.

The publicists are none other than our friends over at Wunderkind PR who have always been excellent sources of Goth Chick News material. The novel in question is The Sword of Michael; book one in a new contemporary fantasy saga. And the author is Marcus Wynne, a trained depossessionist.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure where to look first. The book certainly caught my attention, as the Wunderkind team knew it would. But as a devotee of such things, it was the word depossessionist which drew my attention immediately, as I had never heard the term before. What I learned was this:

Depossession is the act of exorcising attached discarnate human spirits and nonhuman spirits, allegedly attached to living people, causing a host of physical, mental, and emotional ills. Various types of depossession are practiced throughout the world and are different from exorcisms which refer to demonic possession.

Okay, click “add to dictionary” on the word depossession — now I’m extremely interested. But before we explore Marcus Wynne and his fascinating vocation, let’s start with a look at his book, The Sword of Michael.

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Book Review: Shackleton by Michael Smith

Thursday, October 30th, 2014 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

The furthest south of the Nimrod expedition, 9 January 1909. From left to right: Jameson Boyd Adams, Frank Wild, and Ernest Shackleton pose for a self portrait at 88°23'S, only 97 geographical miles (178 km) from the South Pole.

The furthest south of the Nimrod expedition, 9 January 1909. From left to right: Jameson Boyd Adams, Frank Wild, and Ernest Shackleton pose for a self portrait at 88°23′S, only 97 geographical miles (178 km) from the South Pole.

As the world marks the centennial of World War One, it’s in danger of forgetting that the year 1914 saw the beginning of one of the most ambitious Antarctic expeditions ever launched, the Endurance expedition led by Ernest Shackleton. A complex and driven man, Shackleton’s accomplishments were overshadowed by personal failures and a global war.

There hasn’t been a full biography of Shackleton since 1985, so to mark the centennial, Polar exploration expert Michael Smith has come out with Shackleton: By Endurance We Conquer. This detailed, 440-page study traces Shackleton’s life from his Anglo-Irish roots through his early years at sea and his first Antarctic expedition as a member of Scott’s Discovery expedition.

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New Treasures: Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith

Thursday, October 30th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Radiant Karina Sumner-Smith-smallThe surest way to get my attention these days is with an original setting. And I was struck by the darkly imaginative setting of Karina Sumner-Smith’s debut novel Radiant immediately.

Sumner-Smith is a Canadian author of fantasy, science fiction, and young adult fiction. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Nebula award and has appeared in The Living Dead 2, The Best Horror of the Year Volume Three, and other places. Radiant is the first book of the Towers Trilogy.

Xhea has no magic. Born without the power that everyone else takes for granted, Xhea is an outcast—no way to earn a living, buy food, or change the life that fate has dealt her. Yet she has a unique talent: the ability to see ghosts and the tethers that bind them to the living world, which she uses to scratch out a bare existence in the ruins beneath the City’s floating Towers.

When a rich City man comes to her with a young woman’s ghost tethered to his chest, Xhea has no idea that this ghost will change everything. The ghost, Shai, is a Radiant, a rare person who generates so much power that the Towers use it to fuel their magic, heedless of the pain such use causes. Shai’s home Tower is desperate to get the ghost back and force her into a body — any body — so that it can regain its position, while the Tower’s rivals seek the ghost to use her magic for their own ends. Caught between a multitude of enemies and desperate to save Shai, Xhea thinks herself powerless — until a strange magic wakes within her. Magic dark and slow, like rising smoke, like seeping oil. A magic whose very touch brings death.

Radiant was published by Talos Press on October 7, 2014. It is 400 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital version.


Nab the Trafficking in Magic, Magicking in Traffic Anthology for Just $4.35 at Amazon.com

Thursday, October 30th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Trafficking in Magic Magicking in Traffic-smallBlack Gate author, blogger, and roving correspondent Sarah Avery reports in with some unexpected news: Amazon.com has discounted her acclaimed new anthology Trafficking in Magic, Magicking in Traffic to just $4.35, a steep 73% savings off the $15 cover price.

Sarah and her publisher are not sure how long the sale will last, however, so act fast. Of special interest to Black Gate fans, it contains a brand new story from James Enge — as well as fiction from Elizabeth Bear, Darrell Schweitzer, Pauline J. Alama, and many others. Here’s the complete description.

What do you seek at the end of this road? What have you brought to pay your way? The road is full of hazards, and the marketplace can cost more than you expect.

In Trafficking in Magic, Magicking in Traffic, editors David Sklar and Sarah Avery bring you 18 magical tales of travel and transactions, ranging from busking in a train station to walking between the worlds, from doppelgangers for hire to capturing the remnants of the dead.

Ideal to read on your vacation, commute, or flight from vengeful ghosts, this collection features classic stories by Elizabeth Bear, Daniel Braum, George R. Galuschak and Darrell Schweitzer, as well as new work by Pauline J. Alama, Megan Arkenberg, D.W. Carlson, Joyce Chng, M.C. DeMarco, E. Grace Diehl, James Enge, Manny Frishberg, Sara M. Harvey, Scott Hungerford, Deborah Grabien, Deirdre M. Murphy, Rhonda Parrish, Richard Rider, and Heather Stearns.

Trafficking in Magic, Magicking in Traffic was edited by David Sklar and Sarah Avery, and published by Fantastic Books on May 23, 2014. It is 264 pages, regularly priced at $15.99 in paperback. There is no digital edition. Order online from Amazon.com.


See Westeros the Way George R.R. Martin Intended in The World of Ice & Fire

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Dragonstone

Dragonstone

If you’ve been watching HBO’s Game of Thrones, then you’ve already been treated to some spectacular sights.

It seems George R.R. Martin is not content to let HBO be the final word on the visual splendor of Westeros, however. His new book The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones, released this week, gives Game of Thrones fans the chance to see visions of Martin’s world that are much closer to what he intended.

In an interview at The Huffington Post, Martin explains why there are so many pictures of castles:

I wanted accurate versions of these castles. We’ve had a number of different artists draw them on covers and on the fantasy like cards and games, and some of them have been beautiful images but not necessarily accurate to what I described.

The World of Ice & Fire, co-authored with Elio M. García, Jr. and Linda Antonsson, who run the site Westeros.org, isn’t just an art book, however. It’s a comprehensive history of the Seven Kingdoms — all the battles, betrayals, and back-room deals that lead to the events of Martin’s novels. It includes full family trees for Houses Stark, Lannister, and Targaryen; detailed histories of the cultures of Westeros; and more than 170 pieces of original art and maps, many in full-color.

See five high-resolution images from the book at The Huffington Post article here. The World of Ice & Fire was published on October 28 by Bantam Books. It is 336 pages, priced at $50 in hardcover and $19.99 for the digital edition.


Get a Dozen E-books for Just $1.99 Each from Harper Voyager

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Ghosts By Gaslight-smallHarper Voyager has announced a special Halloween sale: a dozen urban fantasy, science fiction, and horror ebooks are on sale for $1.99 or less.

Titles on the list include novels from Vicki Pettersson, Nick Cole’s Soda Pop Soldier, The Stolen by Bishop O’Connell, Katherine Harbor’s Thorn Jack, Jack Heckel’s Once Upon a Rhyme, and additional suitable Halloween fare.

Also included is the excellent anthology Ghosts By Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense, edited by Jack Dann and Nick Gevers, containing seventeen all-new stories from Peter Beagle, James Morrow, Sean Williams, Gene Wolfe, Garth Nix, Jeffery Ford, Robert Silverberg, and others. This one’s well worth your attention, and at $1.99 you can’t go wrong.

The sale is for a limited time only — presumably until at least Halloween – so be sure to move quickly.

See the complete list of available titles here.


Ray Guns and Savage Planets: The Amazing Adventures of Flash Gordon

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Amazing Adventues of Flash Gordon 4-small The Amazing Adventues of Flash Gordon 5-small The Amazing Adventues of Flash Gordon 6-small

I know this is going to seem strange to some of you, but not that long ago, newspapers used to run adventure serials on the comics page. Like Calvin and Hobbes and Dilbert, but with a plot (and not funny). See, I told you it would sound strange.

It was a uniquely American art form, and it was popular through most of the last century. Dick Tracy, Spider-Man, Prince Valiant, Brenda Starr… you shared their fabulous adventures over breakfast every morning, parceled out in compact three panel segments. The most popular strips were collected in paperback, and these were treasures indeed — they included complete adventures (sometimes two). If it sounds strange to read comic strips in a paperback book… well, you’re right, it is. Fantasy is a strange genre; best you come to grips with it.

Flash Gordon, which ran from January 7, 1934 until March 16, 2003, was one of the most popular adventure strips on the market. It was collected in six paperback volumes from Tempo Books as The Amazing Adventures of Flash Gordon, written by Dan Barry and drawn by the incredible Bob Fujitani. All six were published in 1979-1980, and they collected storylines from the mid-70s. They’re still fun today — the dialog (and characters) are simplistic, sure, but the artwork is a marvel, and the stories move at a rocket’s pace. I bought the books above for less than four dollars each on eBay; copies are generally available for $5-10 each when purchased individually.


On the Road to Khurdisan: Brak the Barbarian by John Jakes

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_2702648M0L78hhBFor people of a certain age (the pushing-fifty crowd) John Jakes is probably best known for The Kent Family Chronicles, his massive series of massive books about American history and the mini-series made from the first one, The Bastard. Hearing that title said out loud on TV was a pretty shocking thing for us kids back in 1978.

It wasn’t until I was a little older that I discovered John Jakes had started his career as a real journeyman pulp writer. While working in advertising, he wrote science fiction, westerns, mystery, and horror stories for all the major genre magazines. His name appears on the contents page of Fantastic Adventures and Amazing Stories, as well as Tales of the Frightened (easily one of my favorite titles for anything ever).

While Robert E. Howard had created the basic template for swords & sorcery back in the 1930s, it wasn’t until several decades later that the genre really exploded. Fritz Leiber and Sprague de Camp labored throughout the 50s, but it’s in the early 60s that S&S really takes off. Suddenly, Lin Carter’s writing his Howard/Edgar Rice Burroughs mashups, Michael Moorcock’s inverting and mocking many of the field’s cliches while still writing exciting tales, and Andre Norton is expanding S&S’s vison beyond the too-common male thud and blunder.

In 1963, with “Devils in the Walls” published in Fantastic, Jakes introduced his own barbarian hero, Brak. In a 1980 preface to a new editon of the first collection of stories, Brak the Barbarian (1968), he wrote:

It was in the role of dedicated Conan fan that I wrote the first Brak tale, Devils in the Walls. In spirit, anyway, the story was a Howard pastiche, and I have acknowledged the fact more than once.

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