Treasures of the Archaeological Museum, Córdoba, Spain

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

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Funerary stela, Roman, middle of the first century AD

In past weeks we’ve looked at the historic city of Córdoba, Spain–its famous mosque/cathedral, its castle, and other sites. To wrap up this miniseries, let’s look at the city’s excellent archaeological museum. Like many local museums in Spain, it covers a broad range of history from the Paleolithic to the Renaissance. It is especially strong in Roman artifacts, and is in fact built on some Roman ruins that can be seen in the basement.

I love these local museums because you get to see just how long people have been living at some of these places. The museum in Córdoba is especially well presented and has some interesting pieces from the city and the surrounding countryside. I’ll let the images speak for themselves.

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Artzybasheff’s Robots

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

Mechanix Illustrated Oct. 1954, 84 Boris Artzybasheff Brings Machines to Life

Boris Artzybasheff is one of my favorite science fiction artists. He’s one of my favorite artists, period, but I put it that way because most people never think of him as a science fiction artist. Look at his work through that modifier, though, and it snaps into place. Perhaps no other artist sees the alien in the everyday as much or depicts it as well as Artzybasheff.

Born in Russia in 1899, he fled to New York in 1919 after having fought with the White Russians. He didn’t speak a word of English. Nevertheless he was a working illustrator by 1922 and supplied the art for the Newbery Award winning Gay-Neck, written by Dhan Gopal Mukerji in 1928.

That early art was stylized but mundane, in the f&sf usage of the word. Nevertheless, publishers saw his true strengths from the beginning. Few mainstream presses released fantasy before WWII but those who did made Artzybasheff their go-to artist. He did the covers for classics like The Worm Ouroboros, The Incomplete Enchanter, and Land of Unreason.

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Three Miles Around but Infinitely Deep: Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019 | Posted by James Van Pelt

Mythago Wood Grafton-small Mythago Wood Berkley-small Mythago Wood Avon-small

Here’s a shout-out for one of my favorite books, Robert Holdstock’s amazing, 1985, World Fantasy award winning novel Mythago Wood. Holdstock’s book dovetailed neatly with my other favorite of that time, David Brin’s The Postman.

I really can’t recommend Mythago Wood enough. In a time when everyone else was echoing Tolkien, Holdstock created a completely different take on fantasy (rural fantasy — if that’s a genre). I loved this story of two brothers, their estranged and absent father, and a patch of wood that was only three miles around but infinitely deep.

Of all the books I’ve read, none has impacted me as strongly at the end as this novel. Endings are hard, so when I read a perfect one, I take notice.

Stylistically, Holdstock nailed it too. I didn’t notice the smoothness and rhythm of his work at first, but on subsequent rereads I paid much more attention to his sentence and paragraph building. He has taught me a lot. If you are looking for an outstanding read to start your 2019, give Mythago Wood a try.

I’m always looking for my next, great novel. Do you have a recommendation of a book that exists in your personal canon of classics?


The 2019 Philip K. Dick Nominees

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Alien Virus Love Disaster-small Time Was Ian McDonald-small THE BODY LIBRARY by Jeff Noon-small

The nominees for the 2019 Philip K. Dick Award, given each year for distinguished science fiction originally published in paperback in the United States, have been announced. They are (links will take you to our previous coverage):

Time Was by Ian McDonald (Tor.com)
The Body Library by Jeff Noon (Angry Robot)
84K by Claire North (Orbit)
Alien Virus Love Disaster: Stories by Abbey Mei Otis (Small Beer Press)
Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman (Europa Editions)
Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories by Vandana Singh (Small Beer Press)

Special shout-out to Small Beer Press for placing two fine collections on the ballot.

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Future Treasures: Fog Season, Book II of Tales of Port Saint Frey by Patrice Sarath

Monday, January 14th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Sisters Mederos Patrice Sarath-small Fog Season Patrice Sarath-small

I was proud to publish Patrice Sarath’s short story “A Prayer for Captain LaHire” in Black Gate 4, and see it reprinted in Year’s Best Fantasy 3 (2003). She turned to novels with the popular Gordath Wood trilogy (Gordath Wood, Red Gold Bridge, and The Crow God’s Girl). But her real breakthrough came last year with her first release from Angry Robot, The Sisters Mederos, the tale of a once-great family fallen on hard times, and the two sisters — one a masked bandit, and another with secret supernatural powers — who reverse their family’s downfall. Louisa Morgan (A Secret History of Witches) called it:

A colorful Dickensian fantasy that leads the reader on an unpredictable path of murder, intrigue, and mystery… It’s a tale of magic lost and recovered, fortunes made and squandered, and broken lives healed, all of it engineered by Yvienne and Tesara, two resourceful and delightful protagonists, in the company of some charming and often dangerous sidekicks.

Publishers Weekly gave it a rousing review saying,

The young women, newly returned from boarding school to a fantasy version of a preindustrial European port city, are determined to restore their family’s fortune and revenge themselves on the corrupt Merchant’s Guild, whose machinations lie behind House Mederos’s downfall. Yvienne, “the smartest girl in Port Saint Frey,” provokes through newspaper editorials, takes a governess job as an entrée into the houses of the powerful, and eventually discovers the excitement of committing armed robbery. Tesara, who conceals supernatural powers that she blames for the shipwreck that ruined her family, ingratiates herself with the upper classes at gambling tables… [The] heroines are entertaining company, and the dynamic between the two sisters — occasionally contentious, often secretive, always loving — is the most enjoyable part of this effervescent tale.

I’m delighted to see the sequel, Fog Season, scheduled to arrive February 5, less than a year after the release of the first, and I hope it’s the sign of more to come. Here’s the description.

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Hither Came Conan: Bobby Derie – The Phoenix on the Sword

Monday, January 14th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Hither_PhoenixFightOur Hither Came Conan series gets well and truly underway this week with Bobby Derie presenting the case for “The Phoenix on the Sword.” Grab your loin cloth and tulwar (or zhaibar knife, if you prefer…)  and tread upon some jeweled thrones!

“Know, oh prince…”

The Texas pulpster sat at his typewriter, pounding away at the keys, talking the story out loud as he typed. The long novella of King Kull, “By This Axe I Rule!” written some years earlier remained unsold, rejected by Argosy and Adventure. Already the Texan was working over the history in his mind, weaving together bits of fact and legend of the “Age undreamed of.”

Thinking back to just months ago when he had been down south, in a dusty little border town of the Rio Grande valley, and a character had come into his mind…a raw conception with an old Celtic name, and…

“Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.”

The opening to “The Phoenix on the Sword” is the greatest incipit in pulp fiction, an invocation to the muse of artificial mythology, a sketch of a world and a character all at once. It ran as the banner across the Marvel Conan comics for decades, and an abbreviated version opened the 1982 film which introduced the Cimmerian to a whole new audience. It almost didn’t happen.

“But “The Phoenix on the Sword” has points of real excellence. I hope you will see your way clear to touch it up and resubmit it. It is the first two chapters that do not click. The story opens rather uninterestingly, it seems to me, and the reader has difficulty in orienting himself. The first chapter ends well, and the second chapter begins superbly; but after King Conan’s personality is well established, the chapter sags from too much writing.”
—Farnsworth Wright to Robert E. Howard, 10 Mar 1932

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Lou Tabakow

Monday, January 14th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Photo by George Young

Photo by George Young

Peter Graham is often quoted as saying that the Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12. I was reminded of this quote last year while reading Jo Walton’s An Informal History of the Hugo Awards (Tor Books) when Rich Horton commented that based on Graham’s statement, for him, the Golden Age of Science Fiction was 1972. It got me thinking about what science fiction (and fantasy) looked like the year I turned twelve and so this year, I’ll be looking at the year 1979 through a lens of the works and people who won science fiction awards in 1980, ostensibly for works that were published in 1979. I’ve also invited Rich to join me on the journey and he’ll be posting articles looking at the 1973 award year.

The E. Everett Evans Big Heart Award was founded in 1959 and the first recipient was E.E. “Doc” Smith. The award was originally named in honor of E. Everett Evans, a fan who helped run the first Westercon and was active in publishing a fanzine in FAPA as well as participating in activities for LASFS (The Los Angeles Science Fiction Society). He helped found the N3F (National Fantasy Fan Federation). From is founding until 2000, the award was administered by Forrest J Ackerman and was one of the awards traditionally presented as part of the Hugo Award ceremony at Worldcon. In 2000, Ackerman stepped down as the administrator with David A. Kyle taking over. In 2006, Kyle renamed the award the Forrest J Ackerman Big Heart Award. The award was renamed a second time in 2018 and is currently the David A. Kyle Big Heart Award.

Lou Tabakow was born on January 14, 1915. He owned a dry cleaner in Cincinnati when Dale Tarr introduced him to science fiction fandom in the 1930s. When Tarr, Charles Tanner, and Ross Rocklynne founded the Cincinnati Fantasy Group (CFG) in 1935, Tabakow became the organization’s founding Secretary/Treasurer. Within a few years, Tabakow was functioning as the group’s President, a position he retained until his death, when he was succeeded by Bill Cavin.

Through his position within CFG, Tabakow helped found several long-running conventions, including Midwestcon, in 1949. Midwestcon is widely considered to have been the first relaxacon held. It has long drawn from the greater Midwest and over the years has been attended by pros as well as fans, despite its lack of programming.

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A Gritty Medieval Fantasy of Battles, Treachery, and Monsters: The Tales of Durand by David Keck

Sunday, January 13th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

In the Eye of Heaven-small In a Time of Treason-small A King in Cobwebs-small

The Christmas break, traditionally my longest reading holiday of the year, is over, and it’ll be a month or two at least before I can contemplate tackling another epic fantasy trilogy. But it’s not too early to start stacking by my bedside in preparation.

I’ve already picked out a promising series to start the new stack: David Keck’s Tales of Durand. Publishers Weekly praised the first book, In the Eye of Heaven (2006) as a “winning debut, a gritty medieval fantasy full of enchantment… deftly told,” and called the sequel, In a Time of Treason (2008) “grand-scale storytelling.” But they reserve their strongest praise for the long-awaited concluding volume A King in Cobwebs, saying

Keck concludes his Tales of Durand trilogy with this superlative fantasy epic, which sees the warrior Durand Col take his place among battles and treachery that threaten the kingdom of Errest the Old. Durand stands as champion to Abravanal, Duke of Gireth and holder of the Duchy of Yrlac. Although the Yrlacies are restless under Abravanal’s rule, the duke is commanded to ride with his household to the Fellwood Marches by his unhinged king, Ragnal. Yrlaci rebels harry the soldiers of Gireth on the road to the Fellwood, and, once there, they are chased by the inhuman host of maragrim, “hideous in their innumerable deformities.” … Keck sends the stalwart Durand through darkness and a lost land, facing terrors and beset by the dead. Human politics and dreadful foes are combined in this tale that stands with the very best fantasies.

A King in Cobwebs was published by Tor Books on December 4, 2018. It is 444 pages, priced at $28.99 in hardcover, $17.99 in trade paperback, and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by David Grove. Read an excerpt from In the Eye of Heaven here, and see all our recent coverage of the best in new fantasy series here.


New Treasures: Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan

Saturday, January 12th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Occupy Me-smallTricia Sullivan is the author of Lethe (1995), a Locus Award nominee for Best First Novel, Someone to Watch Over Me (1997), and the Clarke Award-winning Dreaming in Smoke (1998). Her latest novel is something different — the tale of an angel on Earth who gets caught up in a tale of international intrigue, and much more. Here’s the description.

A woman with wings that exist in another dimension. A man trapped in his own body by a killer. A briefcase that is a door to hell. A conspiracy that reaches beyond our world. Breathtaking SF from a Clarke Award-winning author.

Tricia Sullivan has written an extraordinary, genre defining novel that begins with the mystery of a woman who barely knows herself and ends with a discovery that transcends space and time. On the way we follow our heroine as she attempts to track down a killer in the body of another man, and the man who has been taken over, his will trapped inside the mind of the being that has taken him over.

And at the centre of it all a briefcase that contains countless possible realities.

It was Mahvesh Murad’s Tor.com review of the original Gollancz UK edition that first intrigued me. Here’s the money quote.

Occupy Me is full to bursting with intriguing ideas and concepts, philosophy and complex physics. It’s high concept and heady. It’s also got a lot of humour… Sullivan takes the whole ‘strong female protagonist’ to a literal level too, giving Pearl massive physical strength (she can lift a truck!), the ability to fly and pure, brute will to survive and make things right. She’s a likeable character, easy to relate to even though her origins are mysterious and shrouded.

Occupy Me is… clever and complex and forces you to think outside of your comfort zone. It’s a thriller, complete with international hijinks, corporate corruption and an evil megalomaniac. What it isn’t is a standard paranormal fantasy featuring angels — it’s much more compelling in its originality.

Occupy Me was published by Titan Books on September 4, 2018. It is 361 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $8.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Sidonie Beresford-Browne. See all our recent New Treasures here.


Godzilla: The Planet Eater (2018) Brings the Anime Trilogy to a Dreary End

Saturday, January 12th, 2019 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

godzilla-planet-eater-japanese-posterThis whole thing has been a lot of pixels over nothing.

Interesting possibilities glimmered in the first two films of the animated Godzilla trilogy, Godzilla: The Planet of Monsters and Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle. But the final installment has arrived, premiering on Netflix this Wednesday, and now the whole enterprise reveals itself as a water-treading, self-proselytizing, character-inhibited, medium-wasting drag. This hasn’t been a bit of fun. There are no moments of elation or astonishment. In fact, Godzilla has hardly moved. I think the monster budged about ten feet the entirety of this last movie — and that includes during the climactic clash with Ghidorah, the only other kaiju to wander into the trilogy.

Godzilla fought Ghidorah — and for the first time ever, I didn’t care.

It astonishes me how static this “animated” film is. If you want your anime about a giant monster on an apocalyptic Earth to start with thirty minutes of talking heads debating the same philosophical ideas without doing anything about them, and then climax with more talking heads discussing a still-life of two monsters, Godzilla: The Planet Eater (Gojira: Hoshi o Kuu Mono) is the movie for you. I.e. it’s a movie for nobody, Godzilla fans least of all.

Godzilla: The Planet Eater ends a story that started as an intriguing concept. Not only would the trilogy bring Godzilla to anime for the first time, where budget couldn’t block the imagination of the filmmakers, but it would place Godzilla in the fresh setting of an apocalyptic science-fantasy future. When I first heard the series synopsis — the human race returns to a Godzilla-conquered Earth after an exile in the stars — it got my imagination churning. I envisioned an Edgar Rice Burroughs or Andre Norton environment with the colorful wildness of some of the Godzilla comics.

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