Future Treasures: The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Cinder Spires The Aeronaut's Windlass-smallJim Butcher is one of the top-selling fantasy writers on the market, and his Harry Dresden books are perhaps the most popular urban fantasy titles of all time. But many of Butcher’s legions of fans are unaware of his six-volume epic fantasy series Codex Alera, published between 2004 and 2009. In September Butcher will try his hand at epic fantasy again, with the first volume of a new steampunk series set in a world of noble families, steam-powered technology, and magic-wielding warriors, which the author describes as a little like “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets Sherlock meets Hornblower.” The Aeronaut’s Windlass, the first volume of The Cinder Spires, goes on sale September 29 from Roc.

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion — to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…

The Aeronaut’s Windlass, Volume One of The Cinder Spires, will be published by Roc on September 29, 2015. It is 640 pages, priced at $27.95 in hardcover and $13.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Chris McGrath.

Discovering Robert E. Howard: Damon Sasser on 2015 Howard Days

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

HowardDays_HouseI’m not sure there’s quite anything like Howard Days, held each summer in Cross, Plains, TX. It’s a weekend celebration of all things Robert E. Howard and it’s helped to keep Howard’s legacy alive. Though I lived in Austin, TX for a few years, I never made it to Howard Days. So, I turned to the best fan journal (newsletter/fanzine…) I’ve ever come across, REH: Two-Gun Racounteur.

And founder Damon Sasser (2014′s Featured Guest) was kind enough to write a post about the 2015 Howard Days, which also featured a healthy (or perhaps, unhealthy) dose of H.P. Lovecraft as well. Thanks, Damon!

This past month on June 12th and 13th the annual Howard Days celebrating and remembering Robert E. Howard was held in Cross Plains, Texas. Even though it is a two day event, fans start drifting into town early in the week, with Thursday afternoon being sort of a soft kick-off for the weekend. The Howard House Museum was unofficially open allowing fans to wander through it and visit the gift shop.

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June Short Story Roundup

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_733452qBKy8XQAIt’s that time again, folks: the short story roundup! June was a pretty good month, with some nice work from lesser-known (to me, at least) authors as well as some bigger names. A good sample of work from the spectrum of heroic fiction.

While there’s not a lot of action in either of Swords and Sorcery Magazine Issue 41‘s two stories, there is some very good writing.

The first, “Wind Song” by Kevin Cockle, is my favorite story this month. The narrator is a member of a class that possesses the special talent to control djinns, which are then used to power flying ships. His nation has fought great wars against the Kyberi, a people who fly dragons into battle. In the past the dragon-riders were often victorious, but now their enemies have developed weapons and stratagems to defeat them.

When the ship he directs is pursued by a dragon, the narrator finds he is able to make a psychic connection with its rider. From her he gains insights into the enemy he has never had before.

It’s a simple story with not much plot, but Cockle writes wonderfully.

The waters in the Bay of Nandorin are freakish clear – like stained blue glass – and one can see clearly the sunken hulks of long-ago warships littering the sea-floor like scattered toys. Though a man grown, I became a boy again whenever we made Nandorin, peering down into the pristine depths at the haphazard city of ghost-ships beneath. On the surface, stone towers stood like widely spaced square teeth across the mouth of the bay: their anxious sentinels craning their necks skyward to track our dragon-shadow.

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Adventures In Cards: Munchkin!

Monday, July 6th, 2015 | Posted by markrigney

Munchkin coverHow was my day, you asked? Well, I’ll tell you. My Halfling wizard and I spent the last hour fleeing from a Gazebo, leveling up by way of a Drooling Slime, and staying alive by means of the Kneepads Of Allure and a (basic but useful) Huge Rock.

What on earth could cause such havoc and silliness? Surely not Dungeons & Dragons?

Nope. It’s D&D’s hell-spawn little brat of a brother, the card game Munchkin. Now possibly I’m late to the table on this (I often am), but Munchkin has to be the geekiest, most asinine, not to mention juvenile, card game going. It’s also a diverting homage to AD&D, and better yet, it makes both kids and grown-ups laugh.

Consider Munchkin’s very own press: “…the mega-hit card game about dungeon adventure… with none of that stupid role-playing stuff.”

Of course D&D remains a clear progenitor, and possibly Munchkin owes something to Magic: the Gathering, but it strikes me that Munchkin’s most direct sire is a horse of a very different color, the irreverent and insouciant Killer Bunnies, which, if you’ve never played it, is a must for any gaming fan’s bucket list.

That said, you’ll need a lot of patience (or a sensai) to figure out how to play Killer Bunnies. But. Once you’ve “mastered” this obscenely complicated, impossible-to-predict killing spree of a game, enjoyment and strategy abound. I’d even be willing to state in a court of law, no less, that killing rabbits has never been so pleasurable, or so downright wicked neat. After all, who wouldn’t want to do in a (purple) Congenial Bunny while wielding a piece of flying burnt toast?

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New Treasures: Underlay by Barry N. Malzberg

Monday, July 6th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Underlay Barry Malzberg-smallBack in March I read The End of Summer: Science Fiction of the 1950s, edited by Barry N. Malzberg and Bill Pronzini, and it reminded me what an astute observer of the field Barry Malzberg is. I mean, sure, most of us observe the genre. Malzberg has studied it, with a passion and understanding that only a handful will ever approach.

He’s also a very prolific writer, and his non-fiction books The Engines of the Night and Breakfast in the Ruins: Science Fiction in the Last Millennium were both nominated for the Hugo Award. Sadly, much of his best work is currently out of print, so I was delighted to see his short comic masterpiece Underlay brought back in print by Stark House Press this month.

Harry the Flat is dead and buried in the backstretch of Aqueduct Raceway. This is causing the Mob no end of trouble on the betting side, so Harry’s oldest and dearest friend — now carrying on with Harry’s widow, Gertrude nee Hawkins, in Harry’s absence, and in debt to the Mob $1,500 — is persuaded to dig him up after the eighth race. Tony Winner, low level mob boss, is very specific on this point, and to that end has had a time bomb surgically implanted in our hero’s thigh to impress upon him the urgency of this matter.

So on this fateful day, off he goes to the Aqueduct in Queens, New York, with a cello case stuffed with a pick and a shovel, prepared to dig up the dubious remains of Harry the Flat so the Mob’s control of horserace betting is no longer compromised. His mind is filled with thoughts of Harry, of Gertrude, of his ex-wife, and all the schemes and plans and bets that led to this moment. It will be a long day for our hero. He has a lot to learn about horse racing.

Underlay was published by Stark House Press on July 1, 2015. It is 146 pages, priced at $15.95 in trade paperback. There is no digital edition.

Spotlight on Barnes & Noble “Get Pop-Cultured” Month

Monday, July 6th, 2015 | Posted by Nick Ozment

PopCultured-EventsBarnes & Noble is a pretty cool store, with the one reservation that in the ‘90s it did earn a villainous reputation for running many small, independent bookstores out of business.

Ironically, B&N has in recent years run into financial troubles of its own from a new competitor on the block: Amazon and other online outlets are making survival difficult for brick and mortar stores (bye bye Borders). Tasting a bit of its own medicine, one might say. But it would be a shame to see B&N go.

In recent years, it has diversified and expanded its offerings: the children’s book section has morphed into a whole children’s toy-store department, including Lego and Thomas the Tank Engine tables where kids can play (and then beg their parents to buy the toys at premium retail prices — I walk this gauntlet every time I bring my kids along). And they are catering to fan culture with an ever-growing game section and comic-convention collectibles from brands like Diamond Select Toys, Funko, and Titans.

Underscoring this move to cater to a hip, young “geek-culture” clientele is July’s “Get Pop-Cultured” month. Throughout the month special giveaways, contests, and even encouragement for customers to engage in “cosplay” will spotlight various popular book series and film and television franchises.

I attended the July 3 spotlight on Doctor Who during “Time Travel Weekend.” Read more for a rundown of other B&N specials this month that will appeal specifically to science-fiction and fantasy fans (and for my personal opinion on whether they’re worth a trip to the store).

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Faerie Magazine 31 Now Available

Monday, July 6th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Faerie Magazine 31-smallAfter covering this industry for several decades, I don’t get surprised all that often. But I was surprised when I read this Facebook announcement from author Shveta Thakrar:

I’ve been sitting on this a little while, but today is a good day for an announcement! I have sold my nagini story, “She Sleeps Beneath the Sea,” to Faerie Magazine, and it will appear in the “Midsummer Night’s Dream” issue, out next month!

I am BEYOND excited. I have adored this magazine for so many years, and now I get to be in it with a story starring mythical beings from my heritage! [Editor] Carolyn Turgeon worked with me to get the text just right for the magazine, and I can’t wait for you all to be able to read it!

I had no idea Faerie Magazine published fiction. I found this description of the latest issue on their website:

Issue #31 is our “Midsummer Night’s Dream” issue, with all kinds of nocturnal delights … moon goddesses and bioluminescent bays and fireflies, enchanted slumber and night-blooming flowers and nourishing night creams… and much more!

Shveta was kind enough to send me tear sheets of her story, and I was astounded at the beautiful artwork. Not only is the magazine wonderfully designed, but it has full color artwork and photos throughout. Here’s a sample of two of the four pieces accompanying Shveta’s story.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Sidney Paget Draws the Great Detective

Monday, July 6th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne


Australian Phil Cornell is perhaps the finest modern Holmes illustrator. Here he gives us Sidney Paget

Last month, I mentioned that it was illustrator Sidney Paget who first adorned the head of Sherlock Holmes with a deerstalker. Along with Frederic Dorr Steele, Paget is certainly one of the two most significant illustrators of the great detective.

Baker Street Essays is one of my two, free, online newsletters. The most recent issue (#5, February 2014) contained my essay, “The Illustrated Holmes.”

Strongly influenced by Walter Klinefelter’s excellent (though black and white) book, Portrait of a Profile, I believe it to be the best look at the history of illustrators of the Canon you’ll find on the internet (it’s not exactly a crowded field!).

Today’s post, with a bit of fiddling, contains the Paget portion of that essay. Did you know Sidney was chosen by mistake? The Strand Magazine meant to hire his brother, Walter, who ended up modeling for Holmes! And Doyle thought that Paget made Holmes too handsome!

A few illustrators, including the author’s own father, Charles Altamont Doyle, had provided drawings of Holmes for the first two stories, the novellas A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four, without making much of an impression.

And as we know, those two books didn’t do very well. It was the short story format that Doyle applied to Holmes for The Strand Magazine that turned the world’s first private consulting detective into an enduring literary and pop culture icon. And there we meet the first (and arguably foremost) Holmes illustrator…

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Future Treasures: Nightwise by R. S. Belcher

Monday, July 6th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Nightwise-smallR. S. Belcher’s previous novels, The Six-Gun Tarot and The Shotgun Arcana, were weird westerns set in the town of Golgotha. The San Francisco Book Review called the first “A fun, rollicking, dark, and disturbing romp… a whirlwind of shootouts, assassins, cults, zombies, magic, attractive ladies, dubious morals, and demonic possession.”

With his newest novel, Nightwise, Belcher tries something a little differenr: a brand new new urban fantasy series that explores a gritty occult underworld, with a resourceful and cynical hero. It will be released in hardcover from Tor next month.

In the more shadowy corners of the world, frequented by angels and demons and everything in-between, Laytham Ballard is a legend. It’s said he raised the dead at the age of ten, stole the Philosopher’s Stone in Vegas back in 1999, and survived the bloodsucking kiss of the Mosquito Queen. Wise in the hidden ways of the night, he’s also a cynical bastard who stopped thinking of himself as the good guy a long time ago.

Now a promise to a dying friend has Ballard on the trail of an escaped Serbian war criminal with friends in both high and low places — and a sinister history of blood sacrifices. Ballard is hell-bent on making Dusan Slorzack pay for his numerous atrocities, but Slorzack seems to have literally dropped off the face of the Earth, beyond the reach of his enemies, the Illuminati, and maybe even the Devil himself. To find Slorzack, Ballard must follow a winding, treacherous path that stretches from Wall Street and Washington, D.C. to backwoods hollows and truckstops, while risking what’s left of his very soul…

Nightwise will be published by Tor Books on August 18, 2015. It is 320 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition.

See all of our recent reports on the best in upcoming fantasy here.

Things Your Writing Teacher Never Told You: Pro Tip From Laura Anne Gilman

Sunday, July 5th, 2015 | Posted by Tina Jens

Laura Anne Gilman-smallOccasionally, I’ll be hosting the wit and wisdom of professionals across the Spec Fic field. I’ve compiled a list of some of the most frequently asked questions posed by new authors, and provided that list to some of the pros. They’re invited to pick one and respond to it.

This week, Laura Anne Gilman — a Nebula nominated author, prolific novelist, former NYC editor, and author of the non-fiction book Practical Meerkat’s 52 Bits of Useful Info for Young (and Old) Writers — shares her advice on:

What do you do to get unstuck and solve writer’s block?

Someone asked me a similar question recently — I’d been talking about how I get up every morning, and from 7am to around noon, I focus on the work in progress, usually with a word goal in mind, and they asked “but what if the words don’t come? What do you do then?”

And my answer was that the words always come. The trick is, they’re not always the right words, or the best words. And there may not be as many words as I’d like. That’s okay. So long as I’ve shoved the scene forward, however ugly the shove, I can go back and fix it later. And — probably not surprisingly — once I’ve gotten past that first ugly push, with permission to suck… the right words usually show up. Being there is 70% of the gig. The other 30% is staying there.

Laura Anne Gilman is the Nebula award-nominated author of more than 20 published novels, including the forthcoming Silver on the Road, Book 1 of The Devil’s West (October 2015). Ms. Gilman also writes mysteries under the name L.A. Kornetsky.

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