Asmodee Acquires Fantasy Flight Games

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Fantasy Flight logoFrom time to time, we’ve talked about Fantasy Flight Games, a company at the very forefront of the resurgence of fantasy board games in the United States. Their catalog includes some of the most popular and acclaimed genre board games and RPGs of the last decade, including Deathwatch, Descent: Journeys in the Dark, Dust Tactics, Merchant of Venus, Middle-Earth Quest, Relic, Runebound, StarCraft, Talisman, Tide of Iron, Twilight Imperium, A Game of Thrones, Age of Conan, Arkham Horror, BattleLore, Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures, and many, many others.

France-based board game publisher Asmodee may not be as familiar to many of you, but we’ve mentioned them a few times — most recently with our coverage of their fantasy exploration game Cyclades and the massive space epic Eclipse.

On Monday, Asmodee announced that it had acquired Fantasy Flight Games. Leaders of both companies are trumpeting the strategic benefits of a merger, as it will give Asmodee access to Fantasy Flight’s North American operations and marketing infrastructure, and in return Flight Games will benefit from Asmodee’s distribution and marketing prowess in Europe. No plans to move Fantasy Flight’s headquarters from St. Paul, Minnesota were announced.

This is the second major acquisition for Asmodee this year. Back in August, they announced the acquisition of Days of Wonder, publishers of Ticket to Ride, Shadows Over Camelot, Small World, Pirate’s Cove, Memoir ’44, and many other board games.

No immediate changes to Fantasy Flight are anticipated, which will be a relief to most fans. Read the complete details, including an FAQ on the merger, here.

Sofia Samatar Confronts the Elephant in the Room

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Sofia Samatar with the World Fantasy Award. Photo by Nathan Ballingrud.

Sofia Samatar with the World Fantasy Award. Photo by Nathan Ballingrud

As I was pleased to report last week, Sofia Samatar won the 2014 World Fantasy Award for her acclaimed first novel A Stranger in Olondria. And as I also mentioned, Sofia addressed “the elephant in the room” in her remarks to the audience, saying a few words about the fact that she was being honored with a bust of Lovecraft, a man who expressed profoundly racist views in his fiction and poetry. Nonetheless, she was articulate and extremely gracious, and accepted the award with humility and gratitude.

In the days since, she has expanded slightly on her remarks, saying on her blog:

I said it was awkward to accept the award as a writer of color. (See this post by Nnedi Okorafor, the 2011 winner, if you are confused about why.) I also thanked the board for taking the issue seriously…

I am not telling anybody not to read Lovecraft. I teach Lovecraft! I actually insist that people read him and write about him! For grades! This is not about reading an author but about using that person’s image to represent an international award honoring the work of the imagination.

While the issue of replacing Lovecraft’s image on the award continues to be hotly debated, I was pleased to see that Sofia’s remarks in large part have not been. She is a class act, and if there’s anyone who can gently nudge the calcified old guard of fantasy into accepting that the field’s highest honor remains (at best) a dubious honor for people of color as long as it bears Lovecraft’s image, it’s Sofia Samatar. In the meantime, she reminds us that, if she can maintain a sense of humor in all this, so can the rest of us. On her Facebook page she posted the image at right, captured moments after accepting the award (snapped at her table by fellow Small Beer author Nathan Ballingrud), along with this comment:

And also, to be real, we’re practically identical. Race is a construct! TWINSIES!

This is how you win arguments. By being simultaneously more articulate and dignified — and funnier — than everyone else in the room. I know who gets my vote to replace Lovecraft’s visage on the statue. Perhaps they won’t even have to modify it all that much. But trust me, when they’re done, it’ll be a lot more beautiful.

2014 World Fantasy Convention: Sunday — World Fantasy Award Winners Announced

Monday, November 10th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

World Fantasy Award Lovecraft-smallI was able to attend the World Fantasy Convention this year, for the first time since 2011, and I really had a terrific time. It was fabulous to attend all the panels, readings, parties, and events — and especially to re-connect with so many old friends, and make so many new ones. Years ago, Mark Kelly at Locus Online called World Fantasy “a reunion,” and I think that’s really the best description.

The highlight of the convention is the Sunday banquet, where the World Fantasy Awards were presented. The toastmaster for the event was the delightful Mary Robinette Kowal, who gave a highly entertaining speech about rejection, and the awards themselves were presented by Gordon van Gelder and David Hartwell. I sat at Table 25 with my new friends Amanda C. Davis and Matt O’Dowd, where we had a great view of the proceedings.

The World Fantasy Award itself is a cartoonish bust of H.P. Lovecraft sculpted by the brilliant Gahan Wilson (seen at left). It’s an extremely distinct award that honors the contributions of perhaps the finest American horror writer of the 20th Century. But using Lovecraft as the poster child for the awards has also caused some recent controversy (that surfaced twice during the proceedings.) I’ll get to that in a minute.

But first, the Awards themselves. This year’s winners of the World Fantasy Awards are:


  • A Stranger in Olondria, Sofia Samatar (Small Beer)

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Uncanny Magazine Issue 1 Now on Sale

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Uncanny Magazine Issue 1-smallWith all the bad news swirling around genre magazines over the past few years, I can’t tell you how uplifting it is to celebrate the arrival of a brand new magazine — especially one as promising as this.

Uncanny is a bimonthly magazine of science fiction and fantasy, showcasing original fiction from some of the brightest stars in the genre, as well as reprints, poetry, articles, and interviews. The first issue, cover-dated November/December 2014, is on sale today. It contains new fiction by Maria Dahvana Headley, Kat Howard, Max Gladstone, Amelia Beamer, Ken Liu, and Christopher Barzak, plus a reprint from Jay Lake. There’s also articles by Sarah Kuhn, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Christopher J Garcia, and a special Worldcon Roundtable featuring Emma England, Michael Lee, Helen Montgomery, Steven H Silver, and Pablo Vazquez. The issue also contains poetry by Neil Gaiman, Amal El-Mohtar, and Sonya Taaffe, and interviews with Maria Dahvana Headley, Deborah Stanish, Beth Meacham on Jay Lake, and Christopher Barzak.

If that’s not enough, the magazine’s staff has also produced two stellar podcasts. Episode 1, released today, features the Editors’ Introduction, Maria Dahvana Headley’s “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White” and Amal El-Mohtar’s poem “The New Ways” (both read by Amal), as well as an interview with Maria conducted by Deborah Stanish. Episode 2 (coming December 2) will contain an Editors’ Introduction, Amelia Beamer reading her story “Celia and the Conservation of Entropy,” Sonya Taaffe’s poem “The Whalemaid, Singing” (as read by Amal El-Mohtar), and an interview with Amelia conducted by Deborah Stanish.

Uncanny was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign that had over 1,000 backers and raised over $36,000 (surpassing its goal by over $10,000.) The magazine is available for purchase as an eBook in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI formats. If you’re the type of buyer who needs to sample things first, the website features free content that will be released in two stages — half on November 4 and half on December 2.

Uncanny is published and edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas. The first issue is priced at $3.99; order directly from the website. The cover is by Galen Dara.

Michael Bishop on Tom Hanks’ Story in The New Yorker

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Tom Hanks in The New Yorker-smallMichael Bishop, Nebula Award-winning author of No Enemy But Time, Ancient of Days, and Philip K Dick Is Dead, Alas, has posted a brief review of Tom Hanks science fiction story in The New Yorker magazine.

Yes, Tom Hanks has a story in The New Yorker. And yes, it’s science fiction. It’s titled “Alan Bean Plus Four.” Yes, the Tom Hanks who played Forrest Gump and Captain Phillips. Look, just read what Michael said.

I read it with some initial skepticism. Sure, Hanks is an Academy Award-winning actor, but can he write?

Well, yes, he can. This tale works at the level that Hanks shoots for, and the prose, pointedly colloquial and science-savvy, shows him to have a fine command of 21st-century English as well as of current cultural, social, and technological innovations. I really like it.

You can read the complete story online here. There’s even an audio version on the same page (read by Tom Hanks. How cool is that?).

Read Michael Bishop’s complete comments on his Facebook page.

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.

The End of an Era: The Death of Saturday Morning Cartoons

Friday, October 3rd, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Your friendly neighbourhood Spider-manI’ve watched cartoons most of my life. It started with Spider-Man, Underdog and Star Trek: The Animated Series in the 1970s. In the 90s, it was Ren and Stimpy, Pinky and the Brain, and the brilliant The Tick. When my kids came along, we’d watch Gargoyles, Samurai Jack, Static Shock, and especially the great Batman Beyond together. For most of my first four decades, Saturday mornings meant curling up on the couch to share the adventures of my favorite funny animals and cartoon superheroes.

Over the last ten years, more stations have abandoned Saturday morning animated programming. Now The Washington Post is reporting that the CW, the last broadcast station with a full slate of animated shows on Saturday morning, has just done away with them.

This past Saturday, the CW became the last broadcast television network to cut Saturday morning cartoons. The CW is replacing its Saturday cartoon programming, called “The Vortexx,” with “One Magnificent Morning,” a five-hour bloc of non-animated TV geared towards teens and their families.

From the 1960s through the 1980s, Saturday morning time slots were synonymous with cartoons. Broadcast networks and advertisers battled for underage viewers. But that started to change in the 1990s. In 1992, NBC was the first broadcast network to swap Saturday morning cartoons for teen comedies such as “Saved by the Bell” and a weekend edition of the “Today” show. Soon, CBS and ABC followed suit. In 2008, Fox finally replaced Saturday morning cartoons with infomercials.

In the 1970s and 1980s, a Saturday morning cartoon viewership could grab more than 20 million viewers. In 2003, some top performers got a mere 2 million, according to Animation World Network.

Read the bad news here (and for Slash Film’s take, read Peter Sciretta’s article Saturday Morning Cartoons Are Officially Dead.)

Eugie Foster, December 30, 1971 – September 27, 2014

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Eugie FosterAuthor and editor Eugie Foster died of respiratory failure today at Emory University in Atlanta.

Eugie announced last October that she has been diagnosed with cancer, a “malignant, fast-growing tumor, around 6cm, in my sinuses and hard and soft palate regions.” She was undergoing aggressive treatments, including a stem cell transplant, which left her vulnerable to infections. In one of her last blog posts, on August 12, 2014, she wrote:

[One] opportunistic bacteria infection has taken up residence in my lower bowels and another one has set up shop in my stomach. Not only is food unpleasant to eat but it’s not doing anything enjoyable once it hits my GI Tract, including staying put. Waaaahhhh!!

They have me on lotso antibiotics and other meds to make this easier on me. I appreciate that but honestly, I just want to be unconscious. None of this is unexpected but it all sucks. Hurry up stem cells. Graft! Graft already!!

I first encountered Eugie when she took over Tangent Online after Dave Truesdale stepped down. Her own short stories were appearing in Interzone, Apex, Fantasy Magazine, Realms of Fantasy, and other places; her story “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” won the 2009 Nebula Award. Jason Waltz introduced me to Eugie at Dragon*Con in 2010, at her busy press station where she produced the onsite newsletter, the Daily Dragon. I found her charming and highly articulate, filled with drive and energy, and seemingly unstoppable.

Her death was announced in a brief blog post by her husband, Matthew M. Foster. She was 42 years old.

Lou Anders Steps Down as Editorial Director at Pyr

Sunday, September 21st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Lou Anders-smallPublishers Weekly is reporting that Lou Anders, editorial director and art director of Prometheus’s Pyr imprint, will be leaving the company.

Lou has been the mastermind at Pyr since the imprint launched 10 years ago. We’ve written here of his success with the line many times over the years, and in my recent comments on K.V. Johansen’s The Leopard, I called Lou “the closest we have to Lin Carter in the field today: an editor with impeccable taste and boundless energy, who has also been a tireless champion for sword & sorcery.”

The highlight of my trip to Dragon*Con in 2010 was sitting in the front row of the Pyr Books panel, and the reason for that was the incredible stable of authors Lou had assembled — and the gorgeous books they had on offer. It was exciting to see so much terrific fantasy pouring out of one company, and Lou has been personally responsible for much of the finest adventure fantasy published over the last decade.

The reason given for his departure won’t be much of a surprise to anyone who’s watched the success of Lou’s first fantasy novel Frostborn, released through Crown Books for Young Readers last month. As a result of that success, Lou has chosen to “devote his professional energy to being a full-time author.” Rene Sears, Lou’s editorial assistant and slush reader, will step in to replace him as interim editor for Pyr.

Congratulations to both Lou and Rene for this career change. We wish them both luck. And Lou — you will be missed!

Forbes on the World’s Top-Earning Authors

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Veronica Roth joins Forbes list of highest-earning authors for the first time

Veronica Roth joins Forbes list of highest-earning authors for the first time

Forbes Magazine reported on the World’s Top-Earning Authors this week and as always the list includes several genre writers — and a few new names.

Twenty-six year old Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent series, joins the list for the first time at #7 — ahead of John Grisham, Stephen King, and J.K. Rowling. Once again, James Patterson tops the list, as he has for the last several years, earning $90 million in 2013. He produced an amazing 14 books last year (same as the previous year), most written with an assortment of co-authors; his novels account for one out of every 17 hardcover novels purchased in the United States. His successful series include the Alex Cross and Michael Bennett titles; in addition to adult fiction, he’s also the bestselling living author of young adult and middle grade books.

Next on the list is Dan Brown at $28 million, mostly on the successof  Inferno, the fourth in his Robert Langdon series (The Da Vinci Code and others), which sold more than 1.4 million copies in the U.S. Third and fourth are Nora Roberts and Danielle Steel.

I was pleased to see Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney on the list at #6; Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins ranks #10, and George R.R. Martin clocks in at #12. The top authors on the list are as follows.

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