Brave: Pixar Improves Disney’s Fantasy Princess

Sunday, June 24th, 2012 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

295px-brave-apple-posterThe Disney/Pixar partnership has always been willing to take some risks. Let’s face it, these are the people who turned a lost fish, talking cars, and Ed Asner in a floating house into deeply rich character-driven stories about the human condition. It’s really a wonder if there’s anything they can’t do well!

But one thing that they have avoided, until now, is even trying to dip their toes into the genre that Disney has mastered: the fairy tale.

From my perspective, with Brave they’ve blown pretty much every Disney fairy-tale-themed film out of the water. I won’t get much into the plotline, because Pixar’s done a really good job of not spoiling it too much. (I had a guess about what was going to happen, based largely on the Subway restaurant promotional campaign materials, and that guess was pretty much on the mark.)

But, even with no idea what happens in the film, there are a lot of things that the film is about which I can discuss…

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Clockwork Angels II. Winding Like an Ancient River the Time is Now Again

Sunday, June 24th, 2012 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Permanent WavesThis is the second part of a look at Rush, whose new steampunk epic Clockwork Angels came out earlier this month. I think it’s a wonderful album, but to explain why it seemed to me worth looking at their earlier work — I looked at what they’ve accomplished as a band, and what drummer and lyricist Neil Peart has become as a writer. Last time, I looked at their records up through 1978’s Hemispheres; I therefore begin here in 1980, with the next album, Permanent Waves. (You can find that first post here; the third post, looking closely at the new album, is here.)

Permanent Waves began a process of moving away from the extensive side-long epics of past albums toward more concise songs. In this the band may have been influenced by the contemporary music scene — the title of the album, in addition to being a reference to the last song of the album, also glances at New Wave. Peart originally planned a long song based on the medieval poem Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight, but at some point plans changed. The lyrics were scrapped, and the music adapted for what became the record’s longest song, “Natural Science.”

“Natural Science” is a three-part composition about the complexity of time and space. Some of the imagery verges on the science-fictional (the second part’s titled “Hyperspace”), but it’s not necessarily sf itself. Similarly, “Jacob’s Ladder,” which concludes side one, is a seven-minute-plus song that describes the sun emerging from clouds, filled with nature imagery by way of mythic or fantastic language. Again, though, not explicitly fantasy.

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Sung in Blood by Glen Cook

Sunday, June 24th, 2012 | Posted by Jason M 'RBE' Waltz

Sung in Bloodcookg-sung-in-blood
Glen Cook
Night Shade Books (190 pp, $23.95, 2006)
Reviewed by Jason M. Waltz

A high fantasy Fu Manchu meets Doc Savage in this formerly long out-of-print and impossible to find short novel from Glen Cook.

So says the Night Shade Books bookstore page. It’s more than accurate. And for any fan of Doc Savage, it’s a pleasant must-read. Sparse and pulpy, with evil sorcerers and demons, swords- and shadow-men, this less-than-200-page-novel is a fun romp amid the glorious romance of a former era.

My thanks to John O’Neill who, as always, guides my purchasing choices at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention every April in Chicago. While I found the book this year, tucked on the lower shelf beneath a vendor’s table, it was he who convinced me to buy it.

In truth, it is not reminiscent of Cook’s other better-known writings. This is nothing like his Black Company or Dread Empire tales — consider that both recommendation and caution.

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Clockwork Angels I. Wonders in the World

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Clockwork AngelsOn June 12 the new album by veteran Canadian power-prog-rock trio Rush was released. I went out in pouring rain to buy a copy because I had to have it that day. In reading what follows (the first of three posts, with part two here, and part three here), understand that I’m a fan, and that this has been my favourite rock group for over two decades. But then there are few casual Rush fans: bassist and singer Geddy Lee’s said that he thinks of Rush as the biggest cult band in the world.

Clockwork Angels, the group’s 19th full-length studio release, is worth talking about here because it’s a picaresque steampunk concept album. It is, technically, the first concept album of the band’s career; they’ve written 20-minute songs before, and they’ve had albums that examined one theme through different angles (like Hold Your Fire, in which each song examined a different kind of emotion, or Roll the Bones, which looked at various aspects of chance), but never one that told a single story as they do here. Drummer and lyricist Neil Peart has spoken about how he wanted this album to represent his highest achievement as a writer and musician; he set himself a considerable challenge, and I think pulled it off. The record eschews narration and plot-oriented lyrics, instead including brief sections of narrative prose in the album booklet while the songs present emotional high points and sometimes move the plot forward. It’s oddly like listening to the songs from a musical, with an accompanying plot synopsis. A full treatment of the story will be coming in September, with the publication of a novelisation of the album by Kevin J. Anderson.

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New Treasures: Patrice Sarath’s The Crow God’s Girl

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

the-crow-gods-girl-patrice-sarathPatrice Sarath has had an enviable career. Her contribution in Black Gate 4, “A Prayer for Captain LaHire,” the tale of three knights and followers of Joan of Arc who discover the horror a fourth disciple has unleashed, was one of the most acclaimed stories from our early years and was reprinted in Year’s Best Fantasy 3 (2003). She edited the anthology Tales From The Secret City in 2007.

She turned to novels in 2008 with Gordath Wood, a book she describes as “hard to categorize:”

It’s fantasy but with only a touch of magic to it. It has romance, but is not a romance (a very different beast). It has a murder-kidnap mystery in it. Basically it has all of the elements of books I like to read. And although everybody has different tastes, I am betting that more than a few of you also like your books the same way I do — shaken and stirred. So if you like fantasy-mystery-romance novels, this one’s for you.

Gordath Wood was well reviewed and spawned a sequel, Red Gold Bridge, in 2009. In 2011 she published The Unexpected Miss Bennet, a Pride & Prejudice sequel which follows middle sister Mary Bennet, the most misunderstood of the Bennet sisters.

Now she’s turned to digital books with a second sequel to Gordath WoodThe Crow God’s Girl. When Lord Terrick’s youngest son is kidnapped, teenage Kate Mosland teams with a mysterious young girl named Ossen to execute a daring rescue… an action with unexpected consequences. As the kingdom stands on the brink of war and Terrick demands Kate submit to a new role, Kate finds that another daring and unexpected action may be the only way to find her true home.

The Crow God’s Girl is 326 pages and was published June 6, 2012. It is available via Amazon Kindle for $3.99.

Frank Chadwick’s A Prince of Mars

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012 | Posted by Jackson Kuhl

A Prince of Mars by Frank ChadwickA Prince of Mars (Amazon | B&N)
Frank Chadwick
Untreed Reads Publishing (137 pages, $2.51, February 2012)

For me the greatest benefit of the e-book revolution is low expectations coupled with low prices. For 99¢ or $4.99 or anyplace in-between, I can take a chance on an unfamiliar author and download a novel or collection onto my Android, then read a few pages whenever I have a lost moment — usually while waiting somewhere for somebody. I’ve pulled a few stinkers, but then again I’ve also spent more on bad cups of coffee too. And, occasionally, there’s that casino-win kick when I unexpectedly discover a polished thrill-ride like A Prince of Mars.

Space: 1889, first published in 1988 as an RPG/miniatures wargame, is a mash-up of H.G. Wells’ The First Men in the Moon and Burroughs’ Barsoom and Amtor novels. The setting is an alternate history in which space flight was pioneered in the late nineteenth century. With its emphasis on Her Majesty’s presence on Mars, the result is the British Raj transplanted to the canals and deserts of a dying world, alongside flying ships made from Martian liftwood, the setting’s answer to cavorite. I suspect the focus on Great Game political machinations and aerial skirmishes appealed more to the wargamer than the hack-and-loot dungeon delver, allowing Space: 1889 to persevere to the modern day through its small but dedicated audience. Well — that and the fact Frank Chadwick, as both writer and publisher, maintained the rights to his creation and therefore didn’t allow it to drown in the industry quicksands of neglect, copyrights, and petty feuding, which is so often the case.

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Tor Releases The Devil Delivered and Other Tales by Steven Erikson

Friday, June 22nd, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

the-devil-delivered-and-other-tales2I know we’ve got a lot of Steven Erikson fans out there. We’ve got your back.

On Tuesday Tor Book released The Devil Delivered and Other Tales, the latest collection of a trio of fantasy novellas from Steven Erikson, following 2009’s Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, which gathered three short novels of the Malazan Empire.

Like Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, The Devil Delivered and Other Tales features work previously printed in expensive limited edition hardcovers from PS Publishing: The Devil Delivered (from March 2005), Fishin’ with Grandma Matchie (November 2005), and Revolvo (December 2008). Most of them are no longer available, or available only at collector’s prices, so if you’re an Erikson fan who hasn’t seen them before this edition is a bargain.

Unlike Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, this volume features standalone tales unrelated to his popular Malazan Empire setting. Here’s the summary for the first story, The Devil Delivered:

Mind the Hole. In a world of ozone depletion, toxic deadzones, internicine brew-ups and lifeless oceans, nothing has changed. Or so it seems, but in the break-away Lakota Nation, in the heart of a land blistered beneath an ozone hole the size of the Great Plains of North America, something is happening. Tracked by a growing global audience of online subversives and electronic muckers, a lone anthropologist wanders the deadlands, recording observations that threaten to bring the world’s powers to their knees. Past and future; restless ghosts and rogue corporations; rad-shielded cities and unprotected peripheral populations; all now face each other, across a chasm once wide but growing ever narrower. Mother Earth is poisoned beyond any hope of resuscitation. Humanity beyond any hope of redemption — but one last lesson of life awaits. When Nature starts losing the game, Nature changes the rules. We’ve turned paradise into Hell, and in Hell, the Devil Delivers.

The Devil Delivered and Other Tales is $14.99 in trade paperback for 336 pages. It was published by Tor Books on June 19, 2012.

The Spectre Library Brings Rare Pulp Fantasy Back to Life

Friday, June 22nd, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

the-living-deadWhen I originally wrote the title above, it was “The Spectre Library Brings Rare Pulp Fantasy Back to Print.” I had to change it when I realized it wasn’t true. Damn digital books… I have to change the way I speak now.

Let me start over.

The Spectre Library, a small press outfit known primarily for reprinting the works of Victor Rousseau, has produced Kindle versions of all four of Michael Waugh’s rare short novelettes:

The Living Dead
Back From the Dead
Fangs of the Vampire
The Mystery of the Abominable Snowman

All four were originally produced by Cleveland Publishing Co., an Australian publisher, in pamphlet format between 1954 – 55. They are quite short, between 45 and 48 print pages.

The Kindle versions feature the original cover art, and are priced at $9.99 each (click on the image at right for bigger version).

On their website The Spectre Library says they “issue lost, rare works of fiction, with a focus upon publishing jacketed limited edition smythe-sewn hardcovers of Weird, Adventure, Detective, Crime, Oriental and Fantastic Content.” Sounds like an enlightened calling to me.

They also have an excellent gallery of cover art of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Weird & Occult publications — including paperbacks, digests, pamphlets, pulps, and magazines — from Britain, Australia and Canada between 1930-1966. It is curated by Morgan A. Wallace.

Sgt. Janus, Spirit-Breaker Carries on the Tradition

Friday, June 22nd, 2012 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

januscvr2163317_10150781784276920_117661766919_9778115_19571002_nThere is a longstanding tradition of occult detectives. Sheridan Le Fanu is generally considered the originator of the sub-genre with his chronicles of Dr. Martin Hesselius. Together with William Hodgson Hope’s Carnacki, Seabury Quinn’s Jules de Grandin, and Manly Wade Wellman’s John Thunstone, Dr. Hesselius’ cases are generally regarded as the finest examples of a continuing occult detective hero in the supernatural realm of mystery fiction.

Willie Meikle, Jim Butcher, and Simon R. Green are among the outstanding contemporary practitioners of the form. Now one may add Jim Beard and his creation of Sgt. Roman Janus to the list of occult detectives whose exploits are worthy of a larger audience. Beard is among the select group whose work is exclusively aimed at the niche market for New Pulp. Sgt. Janus, both as an original creation and as a literary work itself, raises the bar for Beard’s fellow authors to match the same exacting standard achieved here.

Janus, in Roman mythology, is the god of the gateway to the past and the future. So it is with Sgt. Janus, a character who provides the essential link between the astral plane and our own reality. The eight stories in this collection depict the character through the eyes of his clients. The device works brilliantly in giving the reader differing perspectives on the detective and his methods.

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Vintage Treasures: Science and Sorcery edited by Garret Ford

Thursday, June 21st, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

science-and-sorceryA few days ago I mentioned Martin H. Greenberg’s impressive collection of paperback SF and Fantasy, and the three boxes of that collection I carted back from the Windy City Pulp and Paperback Show. Two are now incorporated in my library. I set aside roughly a dozen of the more interesting titles to talk about here, and the first one is Science and Sorcery, an anthology of pulp SF stories from 1978.

It was published by Zebra, a pretty low-budget outfit. So low-budget, in fact, that it doesn’t even have a table of contents.

Who publishes an anthology without a table of contents? That’s pretty edgy. A publisher desperate to save paper, apparently. The whole thing feels slapped together, from the introduction on the back of the title page to the oddly formatted first story, Cordwainer Smith’s “Scanners Live in Vain” (page 3).

Fortunately, science fiction fans are a diligent and industrious lot, and I found a complete TOC online (at the book’s Wikipedia page, believe it or not). Here it is:

  • “Scanners Live in Vain”, by Cordwainer Smith
  • “The Little Man on the Subway,” by Isaac Asimov & James MacCreigh
  • “What Goes Up,” by Alfred Coppel
  • “Kleon of the Golden Sun,” by Ed Earl Repp
  • “How High on the Ladder?” by Leo Paige
  • “Footprints,” by Robert E. Gilbert
  • “The Naming of Names,” by Ray Bradbury
  • “The Eyes,” by Henry Hasse
  • “The Scarlet Lunes,” by Stanton A. Coblentz
  • “Demobilization,” by George R. Cowie
  • “Voices from the Cliff,” by John Martin Leahy
  • “The Lost Chord,” by Sam Moskowitz
  • “The Watchers,” by R. H. Deutsch
  • “The Peaceful Martian,” by J. T. Oliver
  • “Escape to Yesterday,” by Arthur J. Burks

A pretty eclectic mix, to be honest. Can’t remember the last time I saw an anthology with fiction by Sam Moskowitz. Or James MacCreigh, Ed Earl Repp, Leo Paige, Robert E. Gilbert, George R. Cowie, John Martin Leahy, R. H. Deutsch, or J. T. Oliver, for that matter. I don’t want to say this anthology primarily consists of nobodies, but it looks like this anthology primarily consists of nobodies.

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