Some Writing Advice That’s Mostly Useless (And Why)

Friday, June 26th, 2015 | Posted by M Harold Page

The Sword is Mightier-small

“Brilliant, an excuse to play online warrior all day!” — NOT

I’ve been spending time on writing forums — a substitute for actual work while convalescing from an operation  — and… well, I’ve noticed embedded in the culture are several pieces of advice that aren’t very useful for novice writers.

Rather than stringing them out into a series, I’m going to blast through them here:

“Work on Your Motivation” — Mostly Useless

Listen. I had a gig writing novels tieing into video games.

Great games. Great gig. But rather than going, “Brilliant, an excuse to play online warrior all day!“, I had a go at them, then handed each off to my son for a thorough exploration (a chore he greatly enjoyed, though being something of a sniper, he got regularly kicked from servers).

I like video games — I’m playing through Mass Effect at the moment — but I like writing better.

See where I’m going with this?

Nobody ever posts online, “How do I motivate myself to complete Halo 3?”

Video games are automatically fun out-of-the-box, because the challenge is the game itself, not the business of getting around inside the virtual world; most games even have similar key bindings (e.g. awsd). So if writing is not as much fun as gaming, then it’s probably because you’re still struggling with the basics of writing rather than wrestling with storytelling.

Therefore  if motivation is a problem for you, work on your craft. Success breeds success.

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Future Treasures: Witches Be Crazy by Logan J. Hunder

Friday, June 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Witches Be Crazy-smallHumor is tough to get right. So when I hear pre-release buzz about a book that gets it right, I pay attention. Logan J. Hunder’s debut novel Witches Be Crazy, coming next month from Night Shade Books, has been called “A wild fantasy adventure” by Piers Anthony, and “Laugh-out-loud hilarious… Witches Be Crazy skewers fantasy tropes and hoists them high on their own petard (whatever a ‘petard’ is)” by Kevin J. Anderson. Featuring a masquerading princess, pirates, cultists, crazy hobos, and a heroic innkeeper, Witches Be Crazy could be just what I’m looking for.

Real heroes never die. But they do get grouchy in middle age.

The beloved King Ik is dead, and there was barely time to check his pulse before the royal throne was supporting the suspiciously shapely backside of an impostor pretending to be Ik’s beautiful long-lost daughter. With the land’s heroic hunks busy drooling all over themselves, there’s only one man left who can save the kingdom of Jenair. His name is Dungar Loloth, a rural blacksmith turned innkeeper, a surly hermit and an all-around nobody oozing toward middle age, compensating for a lack of height, looks, charm, and tact with guts and an attitude.

Normally politics are the least of his concerns, but after everyone in the neighboring kingdom of Farrawee comes down with a severe case of being dead, Dungar learns that the masquerading princess not only is behind the carnage but also has similar plans for his own hometown. Together with an eccentric and arguably insane hobo named Jimminy, he journeys out into the world he’s so pointedly tried to avoid as the only hope of defeating the most powerful person in it. That is, if he can survive the pirates, cultists, radical Amazonians, and assorted other dangers lying in wait along the way.

Witches Be Crazy will be published by Night Shade Books on July 14, 2015. It is 352 pages, priced at $15.99 for both the trade paperback and digital versions.


New Treasures: The Acolyte by Nick Cutter

Friday, June 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Acolyte by Nick Cutter-smallNick Cutter is the pseudonym for Craig Davidson, author of Sarah Court and Cataract City. Davidson explains the Cutter identity was created at his agent’s suggestion, to help readers differentiate between Davidson’s more serious output, and “the gore-spattered nightmares” of Nick Cutter. The Troop, his debut novel under the name Cutter, was one of the most acclaimed horror novels of last year. It won the Jame Herbert Award for Horror Writing, and Stephen King said “The Troop scared the hell out of me, and I couldn’t put it down. This is old-school horror at its best.”

Cutter’s new novel The Acolyte appeared from ChiZine last month, and it’s even more interesting to me than The Troop. A police procedural set in a religious dystopia where the police are responsible for eradicating heretical religious faiths, it follows acolyte Jonah Murtag as he unravels the truth behind a mysterious string of urban bombings.

Jonah Murtag is an Acolyte on the New Bethlehem police force. His job: eradicate all heretical religious faiths, their practitioners, and artefacts. Murtag’s got problems — one of his partners is a zealot, and he’s in love with the other one. Trouble at work, trouble at home. Murtag realizes that you can rob a citizenry of almost anything, but you can’t take away its faith.

When a string of bombings paralyzes the city, religious fanatics are initially suspected, but startling clues point to a far more ominous perpetrator. If Murtag doesn’t get things sorted out, the Divine Council will dispatch The Quints, aka: Heaven’s Own Bagmen. The clock is ticking towards doomsday for the Chosen of New Bethlehem.

And Jonah Murtag’s got another problem. The biggest and most worrisome…

Jonah isn’t a believer anymore.

The Acolyte was published by ChiZine Publications on May 19, 2015. It is 301 pages, priced at $16.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover art is by Erik Mohr. I got my copy at the Nebula Awards weekend here in Chicago in early June. See our recent survey of the impressive ChiZine catalog here.


Goth Chick News: Logan Returns – In a Big Way

Thursday, June 25th, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Logans Run Centipede Press-smallLong before the dystopias inhabited by Peeta and Katnis, or Tris and Four, there was life under the domes with Logan 3 and Jessica 6.

Originally published in 1967, Logan’s Run is a classic science fiction novel that has rarely been out of print in the subsequent years. It has also been a movie (and about to be a remake), a television show, several iterations of comics, music and even a computer game.

In the world of 2116, a person’s maximum age is strictly legislated: twenty one years, to the day. When people reach this “Lastday” they report to a “Sleepshop” in which they are willingly executed via a pleasure-inducing toxic gas. A person’s age is revealed by their palm flower crystal embedded in the palm of their right hand that changes color every seven years, yellow (age 0-6), then blue (age 7-13), then red (age 14-20), then blinks red and black on “Lastday”, and finally turns black at 21. The story follows the actions of Logan, a Sandman charged with enforcing the rule, as he tracks down and kills citizens who run from society’s lethal demand, only to end up running himself.

Logan’s Run has been one of my favorite books since I first discovered a dog-eared paperback at a library book sale in high school. Since then I’ve never not had a copy on my shelf and periodically go back to reread it – the story never ceases to entertain.

That is why I could not have been more excited a couple months back to learn about a new edition distributed by Centipede Press. I nearly burned up my keyboard preordering a copy.

This new edition of Logan’s Run features striking dustjacket art, and over a dozen full page and spot black & white interiors, by artists Jim and Ruth Keegan. It has a new introduction by Jason V Brock, two bonus stories in Logan’s Return and The Thunder Gods, a gallery of old editions of the novel, excerpts from the original manuscript, and a few images from William F. Nolan’s personal notebook.

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Werewolves, Ancient Alien Evil, and Babylonian Witches: Tales of the Werewolf Clan by H. Warner Munn

Thursday, June 25th, 2015 | Posted by christopher paul carey

Weird Tales July 1925 The Werewolf of Ponkert Munn-small Weird Tale July 1927 The Return of the Master Munn-small Weird Tales October 1928 The Werewolfs Daughter-small

In the March 1924 issue of Weird Tales, a letter by H. P. Lovecraft appeared proclaiming that:

Popular authors do not and apparently cannot appreciate the fact that true art is obtainable only by rejecting normality and conventionality in toto, and approaching a theme purged utterly of any usual or preconceived point of view… Take a werewolf story, for instance — who ever wrote a story from the point of view of the wolf, and sympathizing strongly with the devil to whom he has sold himself?

Enter young Harold Warner Munn, who took up the elder author’s challenge by submitting a story with the curious title of “The Werewolf of Ponkert” to editor Farnsworth Wright at Weird Tales.

The story appeared in the magazine’s July 1925 issue, the first of fifteen tales penned by Munn set in the same cycle, which have all recently been collected by Altus Press and published in a handsome omnibus edition titled Tales of the Werewolf Clan.

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Dear Prudentia: Please Help Me with Questing Etiquette

Thursday, June 25th, 2015 | Posted by mariebilodeau

Prudentia Cosplay group-small

DEAR PRUDENTIA

I have unfortunately suffered from a motivational affliction (as you so expertly listed on your recent post). I now find myself needing to bear sword and head off in pursuit of revenge. I’m lucky enough to find myself traveling with a group of experienced warriors, but fear an accidental faux-pas or wearing out their kind welcome. Please help me with some questing etiquette tips.

Unhappy Avenger

 

DEAR UNHAPPY,

I’m very sorry to hear that you’ve found yourself on the receiving end of some traditional motivation. But I’m very glad to hear of your willingness to make the best of it and, even more excitingly, that you find yourself in the presence of men who can help you accomplish your task! I’m glad you’ve come to me for advice. As you know, I’m quite fond of etiquette, and although I sometimes question young ladies’ initiatives, I also try to lend a hand where I can.

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Albedo One #45 Now on Sale

Thursday, June 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Albedo One 45-smallI’ve never tried an issue of Albedo One before. Honestly, I don’t know much about it — I’m not even sure if it is print or digital. I always assumed it was a magazine of hard science fiction (“An albedo… that’s, like, science stuff,”) of peripheral interest at best to Black Gate fans. But then I saw the marvelous cover for Issue 45, with the alien frog dude, and thought, maybe science isn’t so bad.

I wandered over to the website this morning, where I learned lots of interesting things about the magazine, including the fact that it features fantasy and horror — and it’s published in Ireland. Here’s a snippet from the About section.

Albedo One is Ireland’s longest-running and foremost magazine of the Fantastic. Since 1993, we have published stories from both Irish and international authors which push at the boundaries of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror… we’ve published fiction by Robert Reed, Bruce McAlister, Brian Stableford, Norman Spinrad, Ian Watson, Colin Greenland, Gill Alderman, Hugh Cook, Jeff Vandermeer, Esther M. Friesner, Uncle River, Patricia Anthony and Liz Williams.

As Europe’s westernmost outpost, we believe passionately that one of our roles is to bring unique and excellent speculative fiction written and published in other European and World languages to an English readership. To this end we have initiated a program of translations to and from English with our colleagues and partners beyond Ireland… As well as reviews by our regular columnists Juliet E. McKenna and David Conyers, each issue features in-depth home-grown interviews with the most interesting names in the speculative fiction genres…

Albedo One is published between two and three times a year… Issues are available in print and low-cost downloadable PDF format.

All that sounds marvelous to me. Clearly I have neglected this magazine for far too long. Time to correct that, starting with this issue. Thanks, frog dude.

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Vintage Treasures: Through the Reality Warp by Donald J. Pfeil

Thursday, June 25th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Through the Reality Warp-smallI have friends who wonder why I bother with old paperbacks. If there’s one thing tablets have made obsolete, it sure seems to be the need to collect books. Of course, I collect old paperbacks because I love them, not because it’s the only way to enjoy them. But in many cases, it really is the only way to get a copy of an old book. I type the words “There is no digital edition” at the bottom of at least a third of these Vintage Treasures posts (and about 15% of New Treasures, now that I think about it.)

The latest example is Donald J. Pfeil’s 1976 space adventure Through the Reality Warp. Pfeil is a minor SF writer with a brief career and only two other novels to his name, Voyage to a Forgotten Sun (1975) and Look Back to Earth (1977). Not one of his books was ever reprinted. If you have a Kindle or a Nook, Pfeil will remain ever a mystery. But copies of the Ballantine paperback start at $0.01 online — cheaper than that digital book you were going to order.

“You mean even if I succeed, it’s still a suicide mission?”

Latham Billiard stared at the four men standing before him… the four men who could not meet his eyes, the four men who were asking him to navigate a ship through a one-way black hole — into an alien universe — to destroy something totally unknown.

Billiard could not believe what he was hearing!

“If you don’t succeed,” the Guild General said, “It’s death for every living thing in our universe.”

What could a soft-hearted, thick skinned, cracker-jack mercenary like Billiard say? After all , it wasn’t every day a man was asked to save a universe he would never see again…

An Exciting Space Adventure

Through the Reality Warp was published by Ballantine Books in February 1976. It is 164 pages, priced at $1.50 in paperback. The cover is by Boris Vallejo. It has never been reprinted, and there is no digital edition.


The Summer Prince

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

summerprinceI have made my love of the mashup abundantly clear. Still, if you had told me four months ago that my favorite new book this year would be a Young Adult Brazillian-set post-apocalyptic retelling of Gilgamesh?

I would have stared at you blankly for some time before walking away. If nothing else, this just shows you how treacherous the blurb can be.

Nevertheless, after I had the privilege of hearing Alaya Dawn Johnson’s Guest of Honor speech at this year’s WisCon (something which is worthy of its own post), I was eager to read her work. I’m wholly glad I did.

The Summer King’s main protagonist and narrator is June, a young artist who lives in the city of Palmares Tres,which rose after a worldwide cataclysm, part nuclear and part climate change, which rendered most of the surface of the planet uninhabitable. Palmares Tres is a fully enclosed city with a political structure that is both familiar and utterly strange. Its day to day life is governed by a council of elders in a manner that closely resembles a large modern city, even as it stands out for its exclusively female roster. But there familiarity ends. Palmares Tres is also ruled by a queen who serves in five year terms. That queen is chosen by the Summer King, who is elected by the people at large. The manner of that choice? He rules for one year, to be sacrificed at the end of his term. With his blood, he marks his choice as the next queen. As the book opens, June is pushing for the election of Enki, a young man from the slums of Palmares Tres, for Summer King. Her own crush on the new celebrity is complicated when he becomes involved with her best friend, Gil, and she is nominated for a prestigious scholarship.

What follows is an examination of youth, family, love, class and power, and above all, the nature of art. This last is a particular preoccupation of June: the value of art, the cost of its production and its impact on the surrounding world. That Johnson is able to convey this preoccupation without pretension is a feat in and of itself.

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A Tour of the National Museum of Iraq

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

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A bas-relief showing an Assyrian king with various symbols of deities around his head. The renovated museum has improved lighting for key pieces such as this one, and has added more detailed signs in Arabic and English.

Iraq gets a lot of bad press. As usual with far-off countries, we only hear about them on the news when something goes wrong, and a lot has been going wrong in Iraq for the past few decades.

As usual, though, the news doesn’t tell the whole story. Iraq may be home to the 21st century’s most psychotic religious group and countless warring factions, but you can also find decent people and bastions of culture. The Iraqi intelligentsia fights a peaceful daily struggle to keep the nation’s culture and history alive.

Nowhere is this more clear than at the National Museum of Iraq. Like the Iraqi people, it’s a survivor, having withstood sanctions, invasion, and looting. That it’s survived at all shows just how dedicated its staff is to preserving humanity’s past.

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