Lord of the Crooked Paths: A Novel’s Odyssey from Print to Ebook

Monday, August 27th, 2012 | Posted by Patrick H. Adkins

lord-of-the-crooked-paths-smallThe electronic publishing revolution not only promises convenience, low prices, and the availability of “every book ever published in every language” (in the words of Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos), but also offers writers like myself the opportunity to undo past missteps in the print-publishing world.

Lord of the Crooked Paths, a fantasy of adventure, love, and intrigue set among the elder gods and goddesses of ancient Greece, certainly had its share of mishaps on its journey from manuscript to paperback to ebook.

The novel began with the intersection of two ideas: Greek mythology and the historical novel. I’ve loved Greek myths since I discovered Edith Hamilton’s Mythology in high school. A college course in Classics deepened that affection, and over the following years I found myself slowly seeking out the original sources in translation. Around the same time, I began reading Alexandre Dumas’ wonderful, action- and suspense-filled historical novels.

What would happen, I wondered, if one applied the techniques of the historical novel to the mythology of ancient Greece? Not retelling familiar hero tales, but fresh, new fictional stories the reader could not already know, set against a background of accurate (“historical”) myth, with fantasy elements treated as fact and the gods themselves as the principal characters?

The obvious place to begin was as near the beginning as possible, during the Age of the Titans, and my prior reading probably represented a generous portion of the required research. In my more grandiose moments, I envisioned a sequence of perhaps ten long novels that would present the entire range of divine myth, from the Titans to the death of Pan in Roman times.

My 600-page manuscript took a year and a half to write. During the nearly three years that followed, I queried some twenty-five publishers (mostly “mainstream”) who were in solid agreement that the story wasn’t for them.

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The Wily Dalilah: Arabian Nights Feminist

Monday, August 27th, 2012 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

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In a work as varied as The Arabian Nights there are naturally some portions more popular than others, probably because some are more easily adapted into standalone tales of adventure. I think we in the West are more familiar with the Nights as a concept than a whole, and many of us have only read or watched adaptions of the most famous of the tales.

Don’t presume that means that the best of the stories have all been filmed and that there is no point reading the rest. There are plenty of excellent, lesser known yarns within, and surely part of the fun of reading the nights is watching the puzzle box interrelation of stories within stories within stories. Admittedly, there are some portions that I don’t like as well and don’t revisit, as with any short story anthology, and many people feel the same, although you’re likely to get a slightly different list of favorites from whomever you speak with.

Today I want to draw attention to one of my favorite sections, “The Wily Dalilah and Her Daughter Zaynab.” If you’ve ever read my musings, you might expect this to be a tale of swashbuckling adventure set in distant locales, swimming with magic rings and djinn and evil wizards. “The Wily Dalilah,” though, is set only in Baghdad, and there is no magic to speak of within the entire story. There are no daring princes with swords, or mysteries, only a clever old woman running a series of con games. Over the course of the narrative, Dalilah, with occasional aid from Zaynab, foments so much trouble in Baghdad that she draws down the attention of the caliph himself.

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New Treasures: Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill

Monday, August 27th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

dead-reckoning2July is a special month in the O’Neill household, and not just because it’s summer. All three of my children were born in July, which means it’s a month of birthday cake, party planning, and a lot of exchanging gifts.

My kids are readers, and one of the gifts they traditionally receive from aunts and uncles is book store gift certificates. So every year, at the end of July, we trek to the local Barnes & Noble where my children each bring home a stack of books. For Tim, the oldest, it’s usually manga — this year as many Fullmetal Alchemist volumes as he could find. Taylor is harder to predict, although she’s developed a fondness for manga herself, especially Inuyahsa and Hollow Fields. The middle one, Drew, is a little more adventurous, and this year he parked himself in front of the teen section and spent long minutes agonizing over the selection.

One of the titles he picked out caught my eye as well: Dead Reckoning, a zombie western from two much-loved fantasy writers with a history of successful collaboration. This one looks like a lot of fun, and I might read it as soon as he’s done.

It’s 1867. And something truly monstrous is breaking loose in West Texas.

Jett Gallatin expects trouble in Alsop, Texas, but not zombies. She’s looking for her lost twin brother when she enters a dusty saloon that suddenly is attacked by an army of the undead.

Together with her new friends — one a brilliant inventor, one a clever and good-looking young scout — it’s everything she can do to keep the zombies from killing or taking every living soul in their path. But who could possibly desire to control such an army? And what is it they want from the wild Texas frontier?

Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill have written more than a dozen books together, including the Shadow Grail novels and six volumes of the Bedlam’s Bard series.

Dead Reckoning was published in June by Bloomsbury. It is 324 pages in hardcover for $16.99 ($13.99 for the digital edition).


The Bones of the Old Ones Inches Closer to December Publication Date

Sunday, August 26th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

bones-of-the-old-onesThis week the most exciting item to arrive at the Black Gate rooftop headquarters, bar none, was the Advance Reading Copy of Howard Andrew Jones’s The Bones of the Old Ones, the sequel to his breakout fantasy novel, The Desert of Souls.

I read The Bones of the Old Ones the instant I could get my hands on it, and it was everything I hoped it would be. A rollicking adventure that follows our heroes Dabir and Asim in a daring quest across the landscape of 8th Century Arabia, Bones is packed with ancient secrets, underground lairs, dread pacts, mysterious sorcery, desperate heroism, and moments of laugh-out-loud humor. The cast is much larger than The Desert of Souls, and the stakes are higher, as Dabir and Asim race against time to prevent an ancient sorcerous cabal from plunging the world into eternal winter:

Combining the masterful fantasy of Robert E . Howard with the high-speed action of Bernard Cornwell, Howard Andrew Jones breathes new life into the glittering tradition of sword-and-sorcery with the latest tale of Dabir and Asim’s adventures. As a snowfall blankets 8th century Mosul, a Persian noblewoman arrives at the home of the scholar Dabir and his friend the swordsman Captain Asim. Najya has escaped from a dangerous cabal that has ensorcelled her to track down ancient magical tools of tremendous power, the bones of the old ones.

To stop the cabal and save Najya, Dabir and Asim venture into the worst winter in human memory, hunted by a shape-changing assassin. The stalwart Asim is drawn irresistibly toward the beautiful Persian even as Dabir realizes she may be far more dangerous a threat than anyone who pursues them, for her enchantment worsens with the winter. As their opposition grows, Dabir and Asim have no choice but to ally with their deadliest enemy, the treacherous Greek necromancer, Lydia. But even if they can trust one another long enough to escape their foes, it may be too late for Najya, whose soul is bound up with a vengeful spirit intent on sheathing the world in ice for a thousand years…

The Bones of the Old Ones will be released in hardcover and eBook by Thomas Dunne Books on December 11. It is 307 pages of non-stop action for $24.99 ($12.99 digital), and gets my highest recommendation. Place your advance order now.


Vintage Treasures: A Box of 1950s SF and Fantasy Magazines, and the End of the First Era of Space Exploration

Sunday, August 26th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

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I bought a box of 1950s SF and fantasy digests in an online auction at the end of July, an assortment of chiefly lesser-known magazines such as Imagination, Worlds of Tomorrow, Fantastic Universe, and Imaginative Tales. The box has been sitting in my library for three weeks while I puttered around it, like an unopened Christmas present. I finally unpacked it this morning. Just as I’d hoped, it was filled with wonders.

Holding these the day after the death of Neil Armstrong gives me the powerful sense of the passage of history. Every one of these magazines was published before Armstrong walked on the moon — in most cases at least a decade before. The era of space exploration, with all its incredible promise and danger, was firmly in mankind’s future. Looking at them now, as the first era of space exploration draws to a close with the death of its most famous hero at age 82, I feel like I’m looking back through not one but two eras, to a time when landing on the moon was something that many still scoffed at. When the future was a place where robots carried guns, aliens were green-skinned and wore khakis, and housewives walked alien dogs who didn’t know what to do with a fire hydrant.

Even setting aside all the musings on history, there’s still a lot of wonder packed into these yellowing pages. Marvelous artwork, and even more marvelous stories, from some of the brightest lights in the genre. This box of 20 magazines, which I purchased for 48 bucks, is a splendid sampling of some of the best work of the decade.

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Josepha Sherman, December 12, 1946 – August 23, 2012

Saturday, August 25th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

the-shattered-oath2Reports are pouring in that prolific fantasy writer Josepha Sherman, author of The Prince of the Sidhe novels and numerous licensed tie-in books, died on Thursday. She had been in poor health and struggled with dementia in the final years of her life.

Sherman began her career writing for The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, the animated Space Western TV series that ran between 1986 and 1989. Her first standalone fantasy novel was Golden Girl and the Crystal of Doom (1986). It was followed by more than a dozen others, including the Compton Crook Award winner The Shining Falcon (1990).

She began a lengthy and productive career writing tie-in novels for popular television and computer gaming properties in 1986 with The Invisibility Factor (Find Your Fate Junior Transformers, No 9). She produced licensed novels for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek, Bard’s Tale, Highlander, Mage Knight, and Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda. She also published All I Need To Know I Learned From Xena: Warrior Princess (1998), Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood (with T. K. F. Weisskopf, 1995), Mythology for Storytellers (2002), and more than 30 other non-fiction titles.

Sherman was also a prolific editor with eleven anthologies under her belt, beginning with A Sampler of Jewish-American Folklore (1992) and including Trickster Tales: Forty Folk Stories from Around the World (1996), Urban Nightmares (with Keith R.A. DeCandido, 1997), Merlin’s Kin: World Tales of the Heroic Magician (1998), and Young Warriors: Stories Of Strength (with Tamora Pierce, 2005).

Sherman frequently wrote in collaboration, producing more than a dozen books with a variety of talented partners including Susan M Shwartz (5 Star Trek novels), Laura Anne Gilman (2 Buffy novels), Mercedes Lackey (Bard’s Tale and Bardic Choices), Keith R.A. DeCandido (one anthology), Tamora Pierce (one anthology), T K F Weisskopf (one non-fiction book), and many others.

Writers including Pat Cadigan, Keith DeCandido, Theodora Goss, Nick Pollotta, Vera Nazarian, Ellen Kushner, and David B. Coe have been leaving testimonials on her Facebook page.


Steamgothic

Saturday, August 25th, 2012 | Posted by Soyka

steamgothicSteampunk is a literary subgenre that has also sprouted a lifestyle that encompasses fashion, music, and art based loosely on a philosophy of hands-on, do-it-yourselfness in an age of touchscreen virtual experience. To my knowledge, Sean McMullen’s “Steamgothic” is the first steampunk story that is also about the sensibility of the steampunk community. The narrator is an expert restorer of steam engines whose day job is to customize ultralight aircraft motors. He’s approached by a couple who have possession of an 1852 Aeronaute, a steam-powered aircraft which, had it actually flown, would predate the Wright Brothers by a half-century. He’s invited to participate in a restoration with the intent of proving this possibility. The initiative becomes the subject of a reality TV show called The Aeronauteers, and plenty of drama ensues, much of it more human than mechanically-related, with hidden motivations gradually revealed beyond postulating how if the Aeronaute had actually flown, would history have changed?

Recommended reading, even if you have only a slight interest in how the cogs actually turn. You can find it in the current Interzone.


New Treasures: Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue

Friday, August 24th, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

menzoberranzan-city-of-intrigue2One of my favorite RPG settings of all time is Menzoberranzan, the 1992 boxed set from TSR that drew liberally from R.A. Salvatore’s best-selling Drizzt Do’Urden novels. Written by Ed Greenwood, Salvatore, and Douglas Niles, the box detailed the famous City of Spiders, the subterranean birthplace of the drow ranger, in three thick books and a set of gorgeous maps. Packed with 20,000 drow inhabitants, hundreds of thousands of humanoid slaves, and countless secrets and simmering rivalries, the home of the drow was an ideal adventure site for intrepid (and suitably high level) players.

Released nearly 20 years ago for second edition AD&D, Menzoberranzan has not seen an update since and has been out of print for over 15 years. It was featured in the popular Menzoberranzan PC game from SSI/DreamForge, part of their Forgotten Realms product line, in 1994, and very prominently in the six volume War of the Spider Queen novels, but it’s been far too long since my favorite underdark city-state appeared in a new edition.

The wait is finally over. Wizards of the Coast has released an updated version in Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue, now available in hardcover:

The profane beauty of Menzoberranzan reflects the true nature of the drow and Lolth, their vile spider queen. Within sculpted palaces, factions vie for dominion, spin webs of conspiracy, wage war on the surface realms, and spread poisonous rumors. Meanwhile, predator stalk the twisted streets, plotting murder and mayhem. The city has no pity for fools and weaklings.

Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue breathes new life into the fabled home of Drizzt Do’Urden and leaves no stone unturned. This book explores the city, tells the stories behind important drow houses and factions, and peeks at the mysteries waiting to unfold in the deadliest city of the Forgotten Realms world. This product is compatible with all editions of the Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game and features a poster map of the city.

Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue is 128 pages in hardcover, heavily illustrated in full color. The poster map is rather colorless, but large and extremely detailed. It was released on August 21 for $29.95.

You can see all of our recent New Treasures here.


Romanticism and Fantasy: William Wordsworth, Part One

Friday, August 24th, 2012 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

William WordsworthThis post is part of an ongoing series about fantasy and the literary movement called Romanticism; specifically, English Romanticism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The series began with this introductory post, continued with an overview of the neo-classical eighteenth century the Romantics revolted against, considered the Romantic themes in English writing from 1760 to about 1790, then looked at elements of fantasy and Romanticism in France and Germany before returning to England to consider the Gothic. Last time, I looked closely at the work of William Blake. And in this post (and its sequel) I want to consider perhaps the least overtly fantastic of all major Romantic poets: William Wordsworth.

Like Blake, Wordsworth was concerned with the visionary nature of poetry, and with the character of his own poetic vision. Unlike Blake, he did not explore his vision through fantasy. He claimed to take as his subject the “simple produce of the common day,” and much of the newness of his verse came in the realism of his depiction of human personality, especially that of children and the poor — people who had for the most part not been looked at seriously in poetry up to that time. Nevertheless, I’ve always felt that there was something fantastic in Wordsworth’s verse. Some of that is a function of his preferred imagery. Some of that has to do with his themes.

Wordsworth is one of the great nature poets in the language — and in this makes a strong contrast to Blake, who felt that nature was significant only to the extent that it was transmuted by human imaginative vision. The interplay of vision and nature in Wordsworth is more complex, and accounts for some of the fascination of his work. I think that the way he works out that duality verges on the fantastic; how he deals with his material uses imagery and structures that would later become characteristic of what we think of as fantasy fiction. A critic named A.C. Bradley once wrote that “The road into Wordsworth’s mind must be through his strangeness and his paradoxes, and not round them.” I want, then, to explore here one of those paradoxes: how the depiction of nature and the everyday attains a sense of the fantastic.

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Helen Killer

Friday, August 24th, 2012 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

helen-killerYou know the prologue. Contracting an illness (possibly scarlet fever or meningitis) at the age of nineteen months, Helen Adams Keller survived, but was left both deaf and blind. Keller’s parents would eventually contact Anne Sullivan, herself blind, to tutor their daughter (who, at the age of six, still had not grasped the concept of words representing things).  By pressing her hand into the girl’s palm, Sullivan was able to teach the girl to read sign language through touch.  After that breakthrough, Helen Keller went on to write twelve books, meet thirteen U.S. Presidents, help found the American Civil Liberties Union, and introduce the Akita breed of dog to the United States.

Wow.

So when Andrew Kreisberg decided to write about the further adventures of Helen Keller, he had his work cut out for him, since Keller’s real life adventures would certainly put any fiction to shame. What he opted for is a crazy mash-up of Daredevil and steampunk that somehow manages to remain consistently respectful to the real-life men and women upon whom the characters are based.  The basic premise is that Alexander Graham Bell (who in real life had indirectly referred the Kellers to Anne Sullivan in the first place) has developed a pair of miracle eyeglasses called an omnicle.  When Keller wears the omnicle, the device hotwires through her dead nerve endings and allows her to both see and hear. Further, the omnicle allows her to see into the auras of those around her, revealing their spiritual purity or corruption. Unfortunately, the omnicle also reconnects her with the long-supressed rage she felt when living in quiet darkness.  This rage manifests as increased agility, accelerated healing, and a desire to kill. Of course, someone has the idea of hiring Helen Keller as a federal agent to protect the life of President William McKinley. Things go wrong.

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