British author Ian Watson has published 34 SF and fantasy novels and eleven short story collections, including The Books of the Black Current trilogy, The Embedding, Alien Embassy, God’s World, The Gardens of Delight, and Queenmagic, Kingmagic. He’s also the author of The Inquisition War trilogy, three early novels in the Warhammer 40K universe.
His fourth novel, published in hardcover by Charles Scribner’s Sons and reprinted in paperback by Ace Books in 1978, was The Martian Inca. When a Martian probe returning to Earth crash-lands in the Peruvian Andes, a virulent infection wipes out whole tribe…. all except one man, who awakens from a fever with miraculous powers — and a strange destiny.
The Mars Probe has crashed.
A triumph of Soviet technology, the first two-way interplanetary probe performed brilliantly until the final stage of its return. Then something went wrong: rather than following its programmed course to a soft landing in its country of origin, the probe crashed in the Peruvian Andes.
Now a weird infection beyond the understanding of medical science has wiped out an entire village — except for one man, who, alone and undiscovered by medics, survives. He has awakened to find himself become his own ancestor, and a god. Suddenly the flames of an Indian revolution are spreading South America; he is the Martian Inca.
The Martian Inca was published by Ace Books in October 1978. It is 299 pages in paperback, priced at $1.95; it remained out of print in the U.S. until a digital version was published in 2011. The cover is by Stephen Hickman.
Bone Swans, the long awaited first collection from C.S.E. Cooney, has been loudly acclaimed since its release last month. It received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and a rave review from Tor.com — especially for “Life on the Sun,” which was originally published here at Black Gate. And Library Journalcalled it “Five beautifully crafted stories… full of flying carpets, fairy-tale characters, and children confronted with a postapocalyptic Earth… [a] gorgeous new collection.” Now Locus Online‘s Paul Di Filippo weighs in, saying:
This is a strong and enduring debut collection… As might be predicated based on its name, the genre dubbed the “New Weird” has its roots in the Old Weird, and one tendril of those roots extends back to the Weird Tales crew. Thus it’s not too surprising that Cooney’s state-of-the-art New Weird tale “Life on the Sun” at times reads like something from the Robert E. Howard canon, with strange tribes, bizarre magics, desert-circled cities, and other nifty pulp tropes. But of course, since Cooney’s poetic, evocative prose is of a higher order of sophistication than Howard’s, the resulting tale is a thing apart. The city of Rok Moris is undergoing a simultaneous assault from without and rebellion from within. At the heart of both movements, it eventuates, is a young woman named Kantu. Her denied birthright contends with her chosen mature allegiances, and she must somehow reconcile them for the survival of her city and all its citizens… Overall, if the byline had been stripped from this tale, one would not be surprised to hear it came from the pen of Tanith Lee…
In his beguiling and affectionate introduction, Gene Wolfe nominates Cooney as a fully formed savant of fantastika at age eighteen. Having matured and honed her skills since then, as seen in this collection, she surely is embarked on a literary odyssey as rewarding and thrilling as any undergone by her bevy of unforgettable heroes and heroines.
Bone Swans was published by Mythic Delirium Books on July 1, 2015. It is 224 pages, priced at $15.95 in trade paperback and $5.99 for the digital version. The cover art is by Kay Nielsen. See the Mythic Delirium website for more details, and the complete Table of Contents here.
The Three Phases of Adam Warlock: Return from the Dead
Today, I want to take up the thread of the Adam Warlock saga fourteen years later, when both he and the Champion of Death, Thanos, were resurrected as the core of a massive cross-over event called The Infinity Gauntlet.
This may be timely for some folk who had never read the original or reprinted Warlock runs, because Marvel movies have already teased us with a hero-sized cocoon in a Thor movie and have announced an Infinity War movie for 2018.
So, since the Infinity Gauntlet series is now 24 years old, I’m not going to issue spoiler alerts; I’ll likely just berate you for not having read this already (you can, incidentally, stop reading this post, go pick up the Infinity Gauntlet at comixology.com, and then come back when you’re done; I don’t own Marvel stock or anything, it’s just that much fun).
To remind readers where we left off, in 1977, Adam Warlock, the lonely, tragic Champion of Life, killed Thanos, the nihilistic, insane cosmic Champion of Death. Fast forward to 1991 to Infinity Gauntlet #1, and we find that quite a bit has happened. Death has been chaffing at the imbalance between Life and Death and has pulled out her greatest admirer and lover, Thanos to rectify things.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies #180 has new stories by Alec Austin and Jason Fischer.
“Fire Rises” by Alec Austin Li chuckled too, considering how to kill her.
“Defy the Grey Kings” by Jason Fischer Elephants are quick, even draped in chain and iron, but you are quicker by a whisker.
Issue 180 was published on August 20, 2015. Read it online completely free here.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies is edited by Scott H. Andrews and published twice a month by Firkin Press. Issues are available completely free online; you can also get a free e-mail or RSS subscription.
Firkin Press also sells a Kindle/e-Reader subscription, which includes automatic delivery to your Kindle or other device. A 12-month subscription comes with 26 issues and costs only $13.99. Single issues are available on Kindle and at Weightless Books for 99 cents. Subscribe here.
The magazine supports itself though subscriptions, and also by selling anthologies, including the annual Best of BCS volumes and occasional themed books such as the steampunk anthology Ceaseless West. The anthologies each contain 15-18 stories and cost only $2.99-$3.99.
The cover art this issue is “Kodran Migrant Fleet” by Tyler Edlin. We last covered Beneath Ceaseless Skies with issue 179.
Our mid-August Fantasy Magazine Rack is here. See all of our recent fantasy magazine coverage here.
Fantasia Diary 2015, Day 13: Monty Python: The Meaning of Live and He Never Died
There’s what you expect from a movie, and then there’s what you get. Sometimes a good movie can be a little disappointing, because it gives you only more-or-less what you’d been expecting. And sometimes a movie can surprise you with just how good it is. So if I say that on Sunday, July 26, I had a good day at the Fantasia Festival, it actually means I had two very different experiences in the big Hall Theatre. First was a documentary, Monty Python: The Meaning of Live. And then a supernatural thriller starring Henry Rollins, He Never Died. Both were good. The second was surprisingly good.
The main surprise to me about the Python documentary was how relatively small the crowd was. I reluctantly decided to skip the Korean action movie Tazza: The Hidden Card because I wanted to be sure of getting into the media line for The Meaning of Live, and it turns out I needn’t have worried. Demand was not what I’d expected. When the film started (preceded by a trailer for a Shaw Brothers’ movie called The Bloody Parrot, for reasons that need no explanation) the theatre seemed to be maybe two-thirds or three-quarters full; not a bad crowd, by any stretch, but not the full house I’d been expecting.
I mention this because it led me to wonder how much Python, once beloved of any number of subcultures, had lost popularity over the last couple of decades. That’s the way things happen sometimes: a slow fade, a gradual dulling of the shine. Was the audience for the documentary a little older than the Fantasia standard? Maybe. Was Python’s appeal in part a generational thing? Well, if that question had a meaningful answer, likely the documentary would provide it. In the end, it did and it didn’t because, of course, the answer’s both yes and no.
I love writing knights because they had such a unapologetically simple way of looking at the world (first blog entry in this series here).
The knightly world view was internally consistent, but must have been infuriating to anybody with a logical turn of mind. In Swords Versus Tanks, I had fun imagining just such a conversation:
Ranulph swept his arm around the cell to indicate the corpses. “God has just shown you His will.”
“Knights!” The red-haired girl gestured at the carnage. “You think that was a trial by combat.” Her eyes narrowed. “You wear a somewhat soiled arming jacket, so it was defeat in battle which brought you to this dungeon. Was that also God’s will, Sir Ranulph?”
“I suppose that God wanted me here to save you,” said Ranulph, with a vague, familiar, feeling that he was going to regret arguing with her.
I’m not all that familiar with live action role-playing (LARP), but I certainly know it has its fans. One thing I hear about it is that it brings the storytelling aspect of role playing to life in a way much superior to tabletop gaming, and I believe that’s true. Cindy Dees is something of a pioneer in the LARP community — she’s been involved with Dragon Crest, one of the original live action role-playing games, for over twenty years, and is the story content creator on the game. She’s also a New York Times bestselling romance and suspense writer, with more than 50 novels to her credit. For her first venture into fantasy she’s partnered with Dragon Crest founder Bill Flippin on a new epic fantasy series, featuring near immortal imperial overlords, a prophecy of a sleeping elven king, and two young people set on a path to save the day.
The planet Urth was once a green and verdant paradise. Powerful elemental beings with deep magic were stewards to this wonder, but not all could agree on its destiny. When gods war, it is the small who always suffer and the First Great Age ended with a battle that nearly destroyed all life. To end the conflict an Accord was put in place to preserve the balance of life, and the elementals withdrew their influence to allow new, less powerful races to grow and to thrive in the world.
That balance was destroyed, however, when the Kothites, a race of near immortals, came to Urth. In the ensuing centuries they have wreaked havoc on the planet, and the mortal races of men, elves, and other creatures seek a way to break free of the Kothite menace.
There is a fable told to those who hope that there is a Sleeping King, a powerful elvish elemental trapped in a spell, who possesses powers that may bring Urth back to health. Many seek this treasure: a mad Immortal Emperor who would destroy it to ensure his race’s power forever. An avaricious governor who seeks to enrich himself beyond measure. Old powers seeking to capture lost glory. A young girl seeking to thwart property to save her future, and a young woodsman out to discover a lost past. Together they might finally extinguish the Black Flame of Koth.
The Sleeping King will be published by Tor Books on September 8, 2015. It is 496 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Stephen Youll.
New Treasures: The Mick Oberon Novels, by Ari Marmell
I’m a sucker for novels set in Chicago. Also for pulp-era, 1930’s fantasy, and a good adventure series. So give me a good adventure series set in 1930’s Chicago, and I get a little weak in the knees.
Ari Marmell has been knocking around the industry for some time. He did some high profile Dungeons & Dragons releases for Wizards of the Coast, and his credits include the 4th Edition Tomb of Horrors, Cityscape, and The Plane Below. But recently he’s achieved a much higher profile as a novelist, with successful titles like The Conqueror’s Shadow, and Covenant’s End.
But his newest series, featuring magic-wielding private detective Mick Oberon in 1932 Chicago, is definitely more my speed. The first volume, Hot Lead, Cold Iron, was published in paperback by Titan in May of last year, and the second, Hallow Point, just arrived earlier this month. Both have great covers by Julia Lloyd.
I’ve always been intrigued by the appearance of the supernatural in historical fiction. When a modern writer sets a novel in the historical past, and uses elements of the supernatural, or magic, or some such item, it’s fantasy, right? Or, is it magic realism? Or is it magic realism only if the story is set in modern day South America, preferably written by a modern day South American?
Just what is magic realism, anyway? Is it more than magical thinking on the part of characters? Or a way for non-genre critics to talk about supernatural elements in books they don’t like to think contain supernatural elements?
Are Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael novels examples of magic realism? Or plain old fantasy, for that matter? Cadfael prays to the Welsh Saint Winifred, and she responds. Miracles happen. The authorities, in this case the Abbot of Shrewsbury, might check for fraud (was the lame boy truly lame to start with?) but no one doubts the possibility of the miraculous, and no one searches for another explanation. On the other hand, no one suggests that this is a series of crossover books. Why not?
It’s one thing for modern writers to write of historical times and include the belief systems of the people of those times. Maybe that isn’t, strictly speaking, fantasy. But what about contemporary writers, by which I mean the people writing in those times? What about that kind of “historical” fiction?
Saturday, July 25, was an odd day. At 4 in the afternoon I was meeting my girlfriend and some other friends to watch Princess Jellyfish, a live-action adaptation of a manga that had already been adapted into an anime series. But because I had to queue for it with members of the media, I’d actually be waiting in a different line than the people I’d be seeing the movie with. So I decided I’d go to the Fantasia screening room first, and watch another film: Mamoru Oshii’s Nowhere Girl.
Oshii’s best known as a director of anime films such as Ghost in the Shell and the recent Garm Wars. This was his first live-action feature, from a script by Kei Yamamura based on a short film by Kentaro Yamagishi; Yamagishi’s 2012 film ran 20 minutes, and Oshii’s only runs 85. For most of that time we follow Ai, apparently an exceptionally talented student at an arts school for girls. Orders from unseen authorities have given her more privileges than the other students, and she’s building a strange sculpture project in the school auditorium. She’s excluded and bullied by the other students, and has a tense relationship with one of her teachers. The school nurse is more sympathetic, but is pushing medication on Ai despite Ai’s doubts. It’s hinted that Ai might be suffering from hallucinations. Mysterious scars and injuries appear on her for no obvious reason. And what do the quakes striking the school have to do with her?
Mysteries run through Nowhere Girl (original title: Tokyo Mukokuseki Shojo). Ai’s schoolmates say she’s suffering from “PT … something. Some mental illness.” She’s clearly capable of violence. Formerly considered a genius, something seems to have wrecked her talent — unless she can work through whatever’s blocking her. Then an unexpected climax is filled with gunplay, and everything becomes clear in the last minutes. It’s a Twilight Zone–esque structure, a puzzle revealed by the hoary old twist ending.