Vintage Treasures: The Dubric Bryerly Mysteries by Tamara Siler Jones

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Ghosts in the Snow-small Threads of Malice-small Valley of the Soul-small

There’s really nothing quite like Tamara Siler Jones’ Dubric Bryerly Mysteries out there today.

They were a fascinating mix of fantasy, forensics, and crime thriller involving the head of security at Castle Faldorrah, Dubric Byerly, who is cursed to be haunted by the ghosts of those who deaths demand justice. Three volumes were published: Ghost in the Snow (2004), Threads of Malice (2005), and Valley of the Soul (2006), all by Bantam Spectra. Ghost won the Compton Crook Award, given out at Balticon every year for Best First Novel. All three have great covers by Les Edwards.

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Connie Willis Declines to Be a 2015 Hugo Award Presenter

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Connie Willis with HugoConnie Willis has a long tradition as an MC and presenter at the Hugo Awards. She was asked by Hugo Award MC David Gerrold to present the Campbell Award at this year’s ceremonies, and she publicly declined the invitation on her blog:

You may or may not have heard of the Hugo crisis currently facing the science-fiction community… Basically, what’s happened is that a small group of people led by Vox Day/Theodore Beale and Brad Torgerson took advantage of the fact that only a small percentage of Hugo voters nominate works to hijack the ballot… When I heard about this, I was sick at the thought of what they’d done and at all the damage they’d caused… But I didn’t want to speak out and refuse to be a presenter if there was still a chance to salvage the Hugo Awards ceremony…

But then Vox Day and his followers made it impossible for me to remain silent, keep calm, and carry on. Not content with just using dirty tricks to get on the ballot, they’re now demanding they win, too, or they’ll destroy the Hugos altogether. When a commenter on File 770 suggested people fight back by voting for “No Award,” Vox Day wrote: “If No Award takes a fiction category, you will likely never see another award given in that category again. The sword cuts both ways, Lois. We are prepared for all eventualities.”

I assume that means they intend to use the same bloc-voting technique to block anyone but their nominees from winning in future years. Or, in other words, “If you ever want to see your precious award again, do exactly as I say.” It’s a threat, pure and simple… In my own particular case, I feel I’ve also been ordered to go along with them and act as if this were an ordinary Hugo Awards ceremony. I’ve essentially been told to engage in some light-hearted banter with the nominees, give one of them the award, and by my presence – and my silence – lend cover and credibility to winners who got the award through bullying and extortion.

Well, I won’t do it. I can’t do it. If I did, I’d be collaborating with them in their scheme.

Read our summary of this year’s Hugo mess here, and Connie’s complete statement on the matter here.


The Parallel Worlds of Poul Anderson’s Operation Chaos

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 | Posted by Gabe Dybing

Operation Chaos Poul Anderson-smallI may have got ahead of myself by reporting on three novels of 1960. This is because, in opening Operation Otherworld, an omnibus edition of Poul Anderson’s Operation Chaos and Operation Luna, I learned that Operation Chaos was not merely published in 1971 but also as four novellas or novelettes beginning in 1956. Their titles mark the four episodes that make up Operation Chaos: “Operation Afreet,” “Operation Salamander,” “Operation Incubus,” and “Operation Changeling.” All were published in The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

This book in many ways is a return to or continuation of the ideas first presented in Three Hearts and Three Lions. Indeed, Sandra Miesel in Against Time’s Arrow spends most of her analysis of Anderson’s concepts of Chaos and Law in this book rather than in the former. I, however, found myself more interested in Anderson’s presentation of parallel worlds and his technique of introducing the concept. The very first words:

Hello, out there!

If you exist, hello!

We may never find out. This is a wild experiment, test of a wilder hypothesis. But it is also a duty.

I lie dream-bound, only half aware of my world. They are using me to call for them across the time streams because that which happened to me, so many years ago, has left its traces beneath my ordinariness; they believe a message thought by me has a better chance of finding a resonance in you than if it came from almost anyone else…

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New Treasures: The Horus Heresy Box Set

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Horus Hersey Box Set-smallOkay, this one was a bit of an indulgence.

Back in January, I wrote about how much I’ve been enjoying the delightful Horus Heresy audio books from Black Library. A sweeping dark fantasy featuring sorcery, magic, undead legions and ruinous Chaos powers secretly maneuvering to bring about the downfall of the Imperium of Man in the 31st Century, they’ve been something of an occasional guilty pleasure for me. But then I listened to Ben Counter’s riveting Galaxy in Flames – the third book in the sequence, and the one in which the Hersey is finally revealed in the brutal massacre of loyalist legions on Isstvan III — and I knew I was going to have to knuckle down and buy the entire set.

So I was delighted to discover that I could get the first twelve novels of the Horus Heresy – all 5,456 pages! — in a single deluxe box set. The series serves as background to the popular Warhammer 40K game, and is written by Dan Abnett, Graham McNeill, Ben Counter, James Swallow, and others. Several novels in the series have hit the New York Times bestseller list. In addition to the first dozen novels, this deluxe set also includes Whispers of Heresy, an exclusive anthology of novellas originally released exclusively as audio dramas.

A new Imperium is being forged across the galaxy. After millennia of isolation and localised conflict, the Emperor of Mankind has risen to rule holy Terra, and now commands his Space Marine Legions in reuniting all the lost colonies of humanity. At the forefront of his armies are the primarchs — post human warriors and leaders without equal, created from his own genetic template. This Great Crusade is all but over when Horus, the Emperor’s first primarch son and Warmaster of the Legions, becomes part of a wider plot by the primordial forces of Chaos to corrupt mankind and bring fresh ruin to the galaxy. Swaying some of his brothers to his cause and facing others openly upon the field of battle, Horus has set his eye upon the Throne of Terra itself, and will not hesitate to let the Imperium devour itself in the bloodiest civil war in the history of mankind…

The Horus Heresy Box Set was published by Black Library on October 14, 2014. It contains a dozen paperback novels (plus one anthology) totaling 5,456 pages, priced at $125. Several online outlets are selling it at a discount; I was able to buy my copy for around $80. Well worth it if you enjoy science fantasy, or good military SF of any kind.


Choice of the Petal Throne

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 | Posted by James Maliszewski

petalthrone_fullIn my opinion, the hobby of roleplaying has only ever produced two fantasy settings to rival Middle-earth in terms of depth and creativity: Greg Stafford’s Glorantha and M.A.R. Barker‘s Tékumel. Of the two, I suspect Glorantha is the better known, at least in the roleplaying world, if only because the RPG with which it was long associated, RuneQuest, was very successful, particularly in Europe (where it was, at various times, more popular than even Dungeons & Dragons if you can believe it).

Tékumel, on the other hand, has languished in semi-obscurity, despite the fact that the RPG in which it first appeared, Empire of the Petal Throne, was published only a year after D&D, making it one of the most venerable of its kind. Part of the reason why that is the case is that, unlike most fantasy settings, Tékumel owes little to the histories or legends of the West’s Classical and Middle Ages. Instead, its primary inspirations are ancient Egypt, pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, and Mughal India – all seen through the lens of sword-and-planet writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Jack Vance. Consequently, the setting’s peoples, flora, fauna, mythologies, and elaborate social systems are quite unlike those to which most roleplayers (especially in North America) are accustomed. Add to that the unfamiliarity of Tékumel’s constructed languages – Barker was a professor of linguistics – and you have a recipe for supposed inaccessibility.

I think that’s a shame – and not just because I’m personally very fond of Tékumel.

The truth is that Tékumel’s “inaccessibility” is (mostly) on the surface. The names (like Mu’ugalávya and Tsatsayágga, to cite two examples) and scripts are intimidating at first, I’ll admit, but, with time and effort, they become much less so. The same is true of Tékumel’s lengthy imaginary history and its complex religions and societies. Once those initial barriers are overcome, what you’ll find is a fantastic setting filled with amazing opportunities for adventure, from treasure-hunting expeditions into subterranean labyrinths to cutthroat imperial politics to visitations to other planes of existence.

Even so, overcoming Tékumel’s initial alienness isn’t easy, as there is no straightforward way to learn about the setting, which is why I am so very pleased to see the release of Choice of the Petal Throne.

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Art of the Genre: The Art of Sad Puppies

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 | Posted by Scott Taylor

What is the Wizard's First Rule?

What is the Wizard’s First Rule?

Before I get into this, I want to first make it clear the John O’Neill goaded me into writing today. When I mentioned that I found myself siding with Larry Correia, and God forbid Vox Day, on the hot topic of the week [Hugo vs Puppies, which we recently summarized here], John baited me with this gem:

And I’m fascinated to hear that you take the Puppies side in this…. hard as I try, I’m not able to warp my head into their liberals-have-stolen-the-Hugos-year-after-year-with-their-lies-and-secrets way of thinking. I’ve been trying to find someone to do a Puppy-friendly take to counter my posts… you interested?

I told him, and I quote:

LOL, I’ve no real depth to anything I would write, just a gut feeling, and in the end I’d probably alienate the bulk of any fellow BG bloggers I’ve come to know over the years. Now obviously that doesn’t mean anything to me as my fans are gamers who don’t give a rat’s ass about the Hugo, but still, it could get very ugly, very fast.

And it’s true, I write Art of the Genre, not Words of the Genre, so I’ve really no dog in this fight, but as someone who is on the outside, and enjoys breaking down numbers, my opinion did provide some puppy love. So I started thinking a bit more on my view.

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2015 Philip K. Dick Award Winners Announced

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife-small Elysium Jennifer Marie Brissett-small

I’ve always liked the Philip K. Dick Award. Unlike the Hugos and the Nebulas, which frequently go to blockbuster hardcovers with big advertising budgets, the Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually for distinguished science fiction published as a paperback original in the United States. It’s named after Philip K. Dick, who published virtually every one of his most important and groundbreaking SF novels as a midlist paperback.

The 2015 Philip K. Dick Award winner is The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison (Sybaritic). Special citation was given to Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett (Aqueduct). The awards were announced on Friday, April 3, at Norwescon 38, in SeaTac, Washington.

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Return to the Witch World: The Crystal Gryphon by Andre Norton

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_14001ZDaNwY6NI started slowly working my way through Andre Norton’s splendid Witch World series three years ago. I’ve written several reviews for my site and Black Gate that you can read at the links.

In The Year of the Unicorn (reviewed here) we saw the end of the great war between High Hallack and Alizon. We go back in time to the war’s vicious start in The Crystal Gryphon (1972), the seventh published novel in the series.

The Crystal Gryphon is the first volume of a trilogy about Joisan and Kerovan, a young noblewoman and her husband, a prince tainted at birth by strange magics. Married in absentia when they were only six and eight respectively, the book is told in chapters narrated by one then the other. They hail from two distant parts of High Hallack, and are not to meet for ten years, when Kerovan comes of age. As the years pass, each must struggle to forge his and her way in a conservative land wracked by local power politics and a brutal invasion.

Kerovan of Ulmsdale was born in the ruins of a building erected by the Old Ones, the magically powerful race that lived in and vanished from High Hallack long before the arrival of men. The forces that still lingered in the place changed him, giving him slanted eyebrows over yellow eyes and cloven hooves instead of feet. His mother refuses to see him ever and his father, while declaring Kerovan his heir, gives him over to a crippled soldier to raise and train.

The orphaned Joisan lives with her childless uncle, Cyart, lord of Ithkrypt, and his widowed sister, Dame Math. Together, her aunt and uncle teach her to run an estate. When war with the raiders from the land of Alizon becomes imminent, basic sword and archery skills are added to her education.

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The April Fantasy Magazine Rack

Monday, April 13th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Adventure-Tales-7-rack Apex Magazine 70 March 2015-rack Asimov's Science Fiction April May 2015-rack Beneath Ceaseless Skies 170-rack
Black Static 45-rack Clarkesworld Issue 102-rack The Dark Issue 7-rack Fantasy Scroll Magazine 5-small
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction Marh April 2015-rack Futures Past Issue 1-rack Gygax Magazine 5-small heroic-fantasy-quarterly-rack
Interzone 257-small Lightspeed Magazine March 2013-rack New Realm magazine March 2015-rack Nightmare Magazine March 2015-rack
Shimmer 24-rack Swords and Sorcery Magazine March 2015-rack Uncanny Issue 3-rack Weird Fiction Review 5-rack

The April magazine rack is crammed with the 20 most recent issues of the top English-language fantasy magazines on the planet. (And I didn’t even have room for the second issue of James Maliszewski’s The Excellent Travelling Volume — you can find it here.) Click on any of the images above to see our detailed report on each issue.

As we’ve mentioned before, all of these magazines are completely dependent on fans and readers to keep them alive. Many are marginal operations for whom a handful of subscriptions may mean the difference between life and death. Why not check one or two out, and try a sample issue? There are magazines on the rack for every budget, from completely free to $35/issue. If you find something intriguing, why not try an issue next time you find yourself browsing the magazine rack…. or take a chance on a subscription? I think you’ll find it’s money very well spent.

Check out our complete magazine coverage here.


Adventures In Straw Polls: Fear, Lovecraft, and Me

Monday, April 13th, 2015 | Posted by markrigney

howard_philips_lovecraft_by_harsht-d48pzaoOnce upon a time, H.P. Lovecraft, he of the vaunted Cthulhu party set, set down his principles for crafting scary stories. He opined that terror is the oldest and most basic emotion available to humankind, and then went further, stating that those things unknown to we mortals are that which are most fearsome. His exact phrase, from the essay “Supernatural Horror In Literature,” (last revised 1935) reads: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

I disagree.

So far as I can discern, it’s the fear of what is known (or at least readily imagined) that is most terrifying. For example, being wounded and then dismembered by a lunatic straight out of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Hostel, or being attacked by a shark while swimming.

Curiously enough, I’m getting set to either torpedo or defend this idea in public. I’ve been asked to be on a panel at April 25th’s Ohioana Book Festival in Columbus, Ohio. The panel topic is “Horror, Suspense, and the Supernatural,” and my fellow panelists include Julie Flanders, Debra Robinson, and all-around horror vet Tim Waggoner, with whom I share a publisher (Samhain).

Some brave audience member is sure to ask “What is horror, anyway?” even though “What isn’t horror?” might make for a better question, and then they’ll move on to asking about how authors scare people. Our tricks and devices. Do we, for example, rely on the known or the unknown to conjure our effects?

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