Tor.com on Abandoned Earths and Inhospitable Planets

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Worlds Apart Joe Haldeman-small Venus of Dreams-small Vacuum Flowers UK-small The-Exile-Waiting-small
Worlds Apart Joe Haldeman-back-small Venus of Dreams-back-small Vacuum Flowers UK-back-small The-Exile-Waiting-back-small

Everyone knows that Top Ten lists are irresistable clickbait for bibliophiles. That’s why there are so damned many. Top Ten Science Fiction novels of the 80s. Top 50 Fantasy Novels of All Time. Top 100 Hobbits in Science Fiction, Yo. Don’t lie to me, you know you love ’em.

Anyway, over the last few years book sites have gotten a little more clever, spicing up run-of-the-mill Top Ten lists with more interesting themes. A couple of my recent favorites both appeared at Tor.com: James Davis Nicoll’s SF Stories Featuring Abandoned Earths, and Kelly Jensen’s Five Inhospitable Planets from Science Fiction. Both feature topics near-and-dear to my old school heart and, even better, they showcase classic books from Ursula K. Le Guin, Vonda McIntyre, Poul Anderson, Michael Swanwick, Arthur C. Clarke, Joe Haldeman, Mel Odom, and Kim Stanley Robinson, and more, with nods to films like The Chronicles of Riddick and Interstellar.

Really, these things are just excuses to write about books we love, and what’s wrong with that? Nuthin’, that’s what’s wrong with that. This is what the internet is for, people.

Read More »


The Lost Literature of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The New Shadow”

Monday, April 22nd, 2019 | Posted by Gabe Dybing

JRR TolkienRecently, game submissions opened for Coulee Con, a local gaming convention that takes place over one weekend every August. This year I’m offering a scenario based on Tolkien’s “The New Shadow,” which is an aborted sequel to The Lord of the Rings. Christopher Tolkien collected the fragment in 1996’s The Peoples of Middle-Earth.

It’s an interesting piece, obviously, not least because it was intended to become another book set in Middle-earth — a book from no less than the great Tolkien himself! The snippet is maddeningly short, however. Perhaps its brevity results from a malformed conception that precluded it from ever actually becoming anything. This is overstating my view: rather, I believe that Tolkien’s “New Shadow” promises to have been an immensely profound articulation, but (as The Silmarillion that Christopher Tolkien published after his father’s death, to an ambivalent reception from Middle-earth enthusiasts) it likely would have been so different a book from The Lord of the Rings as to be misunderstood by its waiting audience.

I think it’s important to establish that Tolkien was a practitioner of many genres. He earned his living as an academic and therefore published many critical essays. The two most valuable to us fantasy enthusiasts now are “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics” and “On Fairy Stories.” As a philologist he translated many epic poems into modern English; the two most visible to us are Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. He practiced poetry himself: many of Middle-earth’s early legends first were conceived in verse; he wrote the epic The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun; obviously we must mention the many songs and poems in The Lord of the Rings itself. He wrote satirical comedy in “Farmer Giles of Ham,” faerie romance in “Smith of Wootton Major.” Most importantly, he wrote in the long folk/fairy tale mode with The Hobbit, the epic novel with The Lord of the Rings, and Classical epic with The Silmarillion — a terse, condensed style that, in my youth, had me telling my friends that it was the Bible of Middle-earth.

I have heard friends joke about The Silmarillion as the bestselling book that no one ever read (for the record, I have read it many times, of course). I don’t think that “The New Shadow” would have had the same reception, though the attention given it certainly would have been ambivalent. This is because a new book from Tolkien would have occasioned yet one more genre from him. This time, it would have been a thriller.

Read More »


New Treasures: Finder by Suzanne Palmer

Monday, April 22nd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Finder Suzanne Palmer-smallSuzanne Palmer has become a familiar face in Asimov’s Science Fiction, with over a dozen stories there in the last decade. Her 2018 Clarkesworld novelette “The Secret Life of Bots” won a Hugo Award, and she’s twice been a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.

Her debut novel Finder features Fergus Ferguson, interstellar repo man and professional finder, in an action-packed sci-fi caper that Maria Haskins at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog calls “a Ridiculously Fun Science Fiction Adventure… a rollicking ride from a hardscrabble space colony at the outer edge of the galaxy to the conflict-ridden settlements of colonized Mars and back again, with stops on the way at an alien spaceship and a holiday planet.” It’s available now in hardcover from DAW.

Fergus Ferguson has been called a lot of names: thief, con artist, repo man. He prefers the term finder.

His latest job should be simple. Find the spacecraft Venetia’s Sword and steal it back from Arum Gilger, ex-nobleman turned power-hungry trade boss. He’ll slip in, decode the ship’s compromised AI security, and get out of town, Sword in hand.

Fergus locates both Gilger and the ship in the farthest corner of human-inhabited space, a backwater deep space colony called Cernee. But Fergus’ arrival at the colony is anything but simple. A cable car explosion launches Cernee into civil war, and Fergus must ally with Gilger’s enemies to navigate a field of space mines and a small army of hostile mercenaries. What was supposed to be a routine job evolves into negotiating a power struggle between factions. Even worse, Fergus has become increasingly — and inconveniently — invested in the lives of the locals.

It doesn’t help that a dangerous alien species Fergus thought mythical prove unsettlingly real, and their ominous triangle ships keep following him around.

Foolhardy. Eccentric. Reckless. Whatever he’s called, Fergus will need all the help he can get to take back the Sword and maybe save Cernee from destruction in the process.

Finder was published by DAW on April 2, 2019. It is 400 pages, priced at $26 in hardcover and $12.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Kekai Kotaki. Read the first ten pages of Chapter One here, and see all our recent New Treasures here.


Hither Came Conan: Keith J. Taylor on “Red Nails”

Monday, April 22nd, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Oliver Cuthbertson for an Oxford University Press edition

Oliver Cuthbertson for an Oxford University Press edition

Welcome back to the latest installment of Hither Came Conan, where a leading Robert E. Howard expert examines one of the original Conan stories each week, highlighting what’s best. Keith Taylor talks about “Red Nails.” It was the last Conan story written by Howard, who wsa moving on from fantasy. Read on!

“Red Nails” happens to be one of this writer’s favourite Conan stories, of that particular length, along with “People of the Black Circle” and “The Black Stranger” (which REH also wrote as a Black Vulmea pirate yarn, “Swords of the Red Brotherhood”).

Aside from their general length, they have other elements in common. One is the usual rip-roaring, headlong action, inventiveness, and raw violence which Howard’s name on a story guaranteed. Another is a pattern of shifting alliances and double- or triple-crosses. Yet another is a furious resolution at the end, involving the gory deaths of some of the main players.

The background against which the story unfolds in “Red Nails,” the mad, claustrophobic lost city of Xuchotl, is almost a major character in itself. For a contrast, at the beginning, Howard opened his story in the natural world outside, an immense forest of ancient trees, rocky crags and wild beasts. He introduces his protagonists there, Conan and the Aquilonian pirate, Valeria of the Red Brotherhood. Valeria has killed a mercenary officer who tried to rape her, and before that, had to jump overboard from a pirate ship because “Red Ortho wanted to make me his mistress.”

Conan has followed her south from the mercenary camp with that identical idea. They are almost about to come to sword-strokes when a dragon kills their horses and interrupts the scene – described by Howard as “at once ludicrous and perilous.”

The dragon is interesting. In general design it’s like a stegosaurus, right to the spiked tail, armour plates along the spine, and “absurdly short legs.” The head, though, is not tiny but decidedly big, its vast gape armed with rows of carnivore fangs. It turns out later that the dragon and its kind had in fact been extinct for an epoch or so, and nothing remained of them in the forest but their bones, until the magicians of Xuchotl resurrected them, “clothed in flesh and life.”

Read More »


Numenera, Nyarlathotep, and Runequest Glorantha: Some Recent Slipcase Sets

Sunday, April 21st, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha Slipcase-small

Kickstarter has fundamentally changed board game publishing over the past decade, and more recently it’s started to have a similar impact on Role Playing as well. Monte Cook’s first Numenera campaign in September 2012 famously raised $517,255 (on a $20,000 goal), and Chaosium’s 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu campaign bested that in June 2013, raising $561,836 (on a $40,000 goal), and those opened the floodgates. Since then some of the most popular RPG properties have turned to fans to get major projects off the ground, with impressive results.

I don’t back crowdfunding campaigns (with the exception of the Veronica Mars movie because, hey, Veronica Mars). But I do trail along after them and buy finished products. Sometimes — not always — that’s more expensive, but it does save me all the drama of late delivery and wondering if the project I funded will ever arrive. Like Judges Guild’s infamous reprint of the City State of the Invincible Overlord, promised in December 2014 and which still shows no sign over ever becoming real nearly five years later.

So far in 2019 I’ve purchased four crowdfunded boxed sets, and I’ve been very, very impressed with all of them. There were:

RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha — $119.99
Numenera Discovery and Destiny — $119.99
Call of Cthulhu: Masks of Nyarlathotep — $129.99
RuneQuest: The Guide to Glorantha — $169.95

All are still available to latecomers. Here’s a closer look at all four.

Read More »


Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 Hugo Award for Best Editor: Ben Bova

Sunday, April 21st, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton

Analog Science Fiction March 1972-small Analog Science Fiction June 1972-small Analog Science Fiction December 1972-small

The 1973 Hugo Award for Best Editor went to Ben Bova. This was the first year of the Best Editor Hugo. It has been awarded every year since then, though in 2007 it was split in two, with a Best Editor Award given for Short Form and Long Form editors. This last reflected the fact that the Best Editor was a de facto award for Best Editor Short Form all along. (While I completely agree that “Long Form” editors are tremendously important to the field, and deserve recognition, I still think that the Hugo voters – even people, like me, who are pretty well connected – are not really competent to evaluate Long Form editing.) The original impetus, I believe, for the Best Editor Award was as a replacement for the Best Professional Magazine award, and the idea was that the increased importance of original anthologies to the short fiction market meant that just awarding a “Best Prozine” award would miss some really important editors. In the event, however, the only two Best Editor awards not linked to magazines were Terry Carr in 1985 and 1987, and Judy-Lynn Del Rey in 1986 (award refused by her widower, Lester Del Rey.) Indeed, the only winner of the Best Professional Editor Short Form Hugo who is not primarily associated with a magazine has been Ellen Datlow (whose win in 2005 of the Best Professional Editor Award can be partly attributed to her role editing Sci Fiction, but whose later Hugos presumably result from her original anthologies and her editing of the Best Fantasy and Horror (now just Best Horror) collections).

Bova’s fellow nominees in 1973 were two additional magazine editors, Edward Ferman at F&SF and Ted White at Amazing/Fantastic. (Bova, of course, was the editor of Analog.) Terry Carr was nominated, presumably for the original anthology series Universe and for his Best Science Fiction of the Year series. And Donald Wollheim was nominated, probably for his role as chief acquiring editor at DAW, and for editing The 1972 Annual World’s Best SF. Conspicuous by his absence is Ejler Jakobsson, editor of Galaxy and If.

Read More »


Girls of the Wild’s: Fantastical MMA from Korea

Saturday, April 20th, 2019 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

 47314610_141532966831087_6690693684188097810_n

I try to read a bit of everything. I’ve blogged about Webtoons.com before — it’s a massive (like thousands) webcomic hosting site in South Korea. I’ve mentioned Newman, Cyko-KOmaybe Elf and Warrior, but in the last couple of weeks I’ve burned through 190 episodes (each one is equivalent to 4-6 comic book pages) of a 260 episode series called Girls of the Wild’s

large

It’s basically Harry Potter goes to a Korean Hogwarts, except instead of magic, it’s mixed martial arts, and instead of wizards, it’s a girls school. And now it’s co-ed for the first time, and a poor guy called Jaegu, who gets beat up and bullied a lot, and who has to raise his two kindergarten siblings because his mother abandoned them, is the first and only male student.

Read More »


L. E. Modesitt Jr. wraps up The Imager Portfolio with Endgames

Saturday, April 20th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Imager-small Imager's Challenge-small Imager's Intrigue-small Scholar Imager-small
Princeps Imager Portfolio-small Imager's Battalion-small Antiagon Fire-small Rex Regis-small
Madness in Solidar-small Treachery's Tools-small Assassin's Price-small Endgames Modesitt-small

Cover art for all 12 volumes by Donato Giancola

Every time a trilogy wraps up, we bake a cake at the Black Gate rooftop headquarters. Strangely, we don’t have a protocol for when a 12-book cycle completes, but we’re working on it.

L. E. Modesitt Jr.’s Imager Portfolio series opened with Imager in 2009, and around about book 8, Rex Regis, Tor started referring to it as “The New York Times Bestselling Imager Portfolio.” Modesitt has hit those rarefied heights before — the 20 books in his Saga of Recluse have sold over three million copies — but it was good to see him with another major success.

The final volume in the series, Endgames, arrived in February. This time the publisher refers to it as “the third book in the story arc that began with Madness in Solidar through Treachery’s Tools and Assassin’s Price” and, despite having counted several times, I make Endgames the fourth book in that sequence, but hey, whatever. You count any way you want Tor, and don’t let ’em give you any grief.

However you count his books, L.E. Modesitt deserves some serious respect. He’s produced more than seventy novels, including two science fiction series, the Ghost Books and Ecolitan Matter, four fantasy series, the Imager Portfolio, the Saga of Recluce, the Spellsong Cycle and the Corean Chronicles, and many popular standalone titles such as Solar Express, which Arin Komins at Starfarer’s Despatch calls utterly wonderful. All 12 volumes in the Imager Portfolio series are still in print, which is no mean feat. Here’s the description for the first one.

Read More »


The Golden Age of Science Fiction: David Langford

Saturday, April 20th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

David Langford

David Langford

The Fan Activity Achievement Awards (FAAN) were founded in 1976 by Moshe Feder and Arnie Katz. The award was presented annually from 1975 through 1980 and then became moribund until it was revived in 1994 and presented at Corflu, a convention for fanzine fans. Due to a change in the eligibility year, o awards were presented in 1996, but it has been presented annually since then. The Best Fan Writer Award was presented in the inaugural year to Don C. Thompson. From 1977-1979, Bob Shaw had a three year streak, which was broken in 1980 by David Langford, who won is only FAAN Award in 1980.

Considering David Langford as a fan writer from the perspective of 2019 is very different from his role in 1979. It has now been 10 years since his most recent Best Fan Hugo nomination and 12 years since the last time he won that award (although only 7 since he won his most recent Hugo Award for Best Related Work for The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition). In 1979, he hadn’t won any of the record-tying 29 Hugo Awards that have been voted to him.

Langford began publishing fiction in 1975 with the story “Heatwave” and his first book-length piece of fiction, An Account of a Meeting with Denizens of Another World, 1871 made its appearance in 1979.

From a fannish point of view, in August of 1979, Langford published the first issue of Ansible, which ran between 4 and 10 pages in quarto format until 1987. He ceased publication of it from 4 years before picking up again as a 2 page A4 newssheet in October 1991 and has been publishing it monthly since then.

Read More »


A Meditation on Futuristic Medicine: Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton

Friday, April 19th, 2019 | Posted by Elizabeth Galewski

Stronger Faster and More Beautiful CoverEvan will die if his organs aren’t replaced. A perfect organ donor has been lined up – his twin sister. But she’s still alive.

Milla should be dead. Only by becoming a cyborg was she able to survive the car crash. She tries to keep her new nature secret at school. But when the boy she likes actually listens to her, she can’t help but divulge the whole story. Now everyone knows she’s not quite human.

When the riot broke out, Elsie thought she was about to die with her family. Waking up, she learns that only she and her father survived. Her father, a charismatic minister, has always agitated against medical technology, calling it blasphemy. But now he’s changed his mind. And while she was unconscious, he’s had her changed, too.

Arwen Elys Dayton’s Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful advances in a series of episodes, each with a different narrator with a compelling original voice who confronts vastly different circumstances. Yet the book isn’t a collection of short stories. An extended meditation on the future of medicine, it explores the ethical and social ramifications of saving human life through recourse to machines, genome editing and cybernetics. The classic tension of science versus religion runs throughout the book. The human race itself is the protagonist, and there’s a clear narrative arc. Each excerpt takes us further into the future, and as the years pile up, humanity becomes increasingly unrecognizable to itself… Not to mention disloyal.

This book reminds us of science fiction’s highest calling – to provide readers with a way to think through the consequences and implications of nascent technology in order to move into the future more mindfully. Despite its heady content, however, Dayton knows how to bait a hook and keep readers turning pages. Over and over again, she presents characters that readers can’t help but connect with and feel for, no matter how strange their situation and bizarre the setting.

Read More »


  Earlier Entries »

This site © 2019 by New Epoch Press. All rights reserved.