New Treasures: The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Saturday, October 31st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Traitor Baru Cormorant-smallIn her review for NPR, Black Gate blogger Amal El-Mohtar raves about Seth Dickinson’s debut fantasy novel from Tor, the tale of a young woman from a conquered people who tries to transform a vast empire from within:

To read The Traitor Baru Cormorant is to sink inexorably into a book that should not be anywhere near as absorbing as it is — to realize that the white-knuckled grip with which you hold it was provoked by several consecutive pages of loans, taxes and commodity trading. It seems impossible that the economics of a fantasy world should be so viscerally riveting, but they are, and it’s incredible: You think you’re on solid ground right up until you feel that ground closing around your throat.

Literally breathtaking… Baru Cormorant as a character is magnificent. I found it impossible not to root for her even amid horrors of her making, to grieve with her and for her at various points, to clench my fists in her defense and in desperate need for her to stay whole. There is so much to admire and so much to mourn throughout the building tragedy of this novel… A crucial, necessary book ― a book that looks unflinchingly into the self-replicating virus of empire, asks the hardest questions, and dares to answer them.

Read the complete review here. We first covered the book here.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant was published by Tor Books on September 15, 2015. It is 400 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover, and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Sam Weber. Read an excerpt at

Vintage Treasures: The Janus Syndrome by Steven E. McDonald

Saturday, October 31st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Janus Syndrome-small The Janus Syndrome-back-small

Steven E. McDonald is a Jamaican author who published a couple of stories in Analog and Asimov’s in the late 70s and early 80s. His first novel, The Janus Syndrome, was published in 1981.

I’m sure there were other SF or fantasy novels featuring a black male protagonist on the cover by 1981, but I can’t remember any. (F. M. Busby published Zelde M’Tana, featuring a black heroine on the cover, in 1980, and John Brunner wrote the first of his Max Curfew spy novels, A Plague on Both Your Causes, way back in 1969, but they weren’t science fiction.) As far as I know The Janus Syndrome broke the color barrier, at least among mainstream paperback SF publishers. It’s the first time I remember seeing a black hero so prominently on a cover, anyway.

Unfortunately, it didn’t sell. The Janus Syndrome did not usher in a new era of color diversity on SF paperbacks, and that’s a pity. There were no more novels featuring “the outrageous hero” Kevven Tomari from Bantam Books, or anyone else.

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The Thin Veil: An All Hallows Eve to Remember

Saturday, October 31st, 2015 | Posted by Barbara Barrett

Werewolves, witches, vampires, ghosts, goblins and demons are de rigueur for American Halloween celebrations. The creepier and scarier, the better. Homes are decorated with skeletons, spiders, eerie lights, webs and dark passages. Candles in carved pumpkins reflect grinning smiles and pointed teeth. Dracula, Frankenstein, zombies and orcs guard the doors. In the background wolves howl and the screams of the undead echo through the yard waiting for brave trick or treaters. Small children in their Pixar or super hero costumes approach warily, receive their treat and exit holding even tighter to mom or dad’s hand.

Ridgeway Grandfather Clock built in 1981 St. Michael’s Chime
Ridgeway Grandfather Clock built in 1981. St. Michael’s Chime

But not all the world shares our American Halloween traditions. There are cultures that celebrate All Hallows Eve as a night of magic believing at midnight the veil between the world of the living and that of the dead gets thinner.

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Happy Halloween from Goth Chick News!

Saturday, October 31st, 2015 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Happy Halloween from Goth Chick News-small

Art by

Future Treasures: Meeting Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Saturday, October 31st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Meeting Infinity-smallI’ve been very impressed with Jonathan Strahan’s Infinity anthology series. There have been four so far: Engineering Infinity (2010), Edge of Infinity (2012), Reach For Infinity, and now Meeting Infinity, due December 1st. Publisher Solaris has abandoned the mass market format, which makes me sad, but the new trade paperback is still reasonably priced, especially for the digital version.

The world we are living in is changing every day. We surf future shock every morning when we get out of bed. And with every passing day we are increasingly asked: how do we have to change to live in the future we are faced with?

Whether it’s climate change, inundated coastlines and drowned cities; the cramped confines of a tin can hurtling through space to the outer reaches of our Solar System; or the rush of being uploaded into some cyberspace, our minds and bodies are going to have to change and change a lot. Meeting Infinity will be one hundred thousand words of SF filled with action and adventure that attempts to answer the question: how much do we need to change to meet tomorrow and live in the future? The incredible authors contributing tho this collection are: Gregory Benford, James S.A. Corey, Aliette de Bodard, Kameron Hurley, Simon Ings, Madeline Ashby, John Barnes, Gwyneth Jones, Nancy Kress, Yoon Ha Lee, Ian McDonald, Ramez Naam, An Owomoyela, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Bruce Sterling and Sean Williams

The books of the “Infinity Project” trace an arc: from the present day into the far future, and now from the broad canvas of interstellar space to the most intimate space of all — ourselves.

Meeting Infinity will be published by Solaris on December 1, 2015. It is 272 pages, priced at $14.99 in trade paperback, and $8.99 for the digital edition.

Halloween Reads: The Best Spooky Short Fiction

Friday, October 30th, 2015 | Posted by Katharine Duckett

The Bloody Chamber-smallHalloween is upon us, and there’s no better way to get into the spirit than with some spooky short fiction. While I love candy, I’d rather have a holiday where people hand out their favorite creepy stories from their stoops and porches, so I’ve gathered my list of the recent releases I would give out this year here (if I had infinite funds and didn’t live in a third-floor walkup, that is). Instead of upsetting your dentist and risking a sugar high, I heartily recommend that you go forth and gorge on some wickedly delicious fiction this weekend!

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter: Carter is, of course, a seminal figure in speculative fiction and horror, and the recent edition of The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories released in celebration of what would have been her 75th birthday reminds us all why. These dark fairytales still have a spine-tingling effect, no matter how often you read them: Kelly Link, who keeps a copy of The Bloody Chamber with her wherever she’s living, calls Carter’s writing “electrifying” in her introduction. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a tale as suspenseful and gory as “The Bloody Chamber,” and the mood and visceral images will haunt you hours after you’ve taken your eyes off the page.

Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter: Another Angela who’s a master of dark fantasy and horror, Slatter has been sending shivers down readers’ spines with her short stories for years. Of Sorrow and Such takes place in Edda’s Meadow, where the witch Patience Gideon lives in peace with her adopted daughter, Gilly: until a wounded shapeshifter comes to their door, reviving old secrets and bringing new danger. It’s an ideal Halloween tale, filled with macabre magic, where the witches are by turns sympathetic and iron hearted, and where the evil of ordinary men proves the most dangerous threat of all.

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Six Sure-to-Succeed Sword and Sorcery Costumes

Friday, October 30th, 2015 | Posted by mariebilodeau

Barbarian cosplay 2-smallI love Hallowe’en. Little gouls running alongside little bumblebees, all demanding spoils from their neighbors… it truly is a magical time. But, as in any great holiday, the trick is not to become too complacent. There are no tiny Conans or Red Sonjas, or at least no critical mass of them. They certainly couldn’t take down the army of Iron Men and princesses. LET US CHANGE THIS! Bring back some trick-or-treating sword and sorcery cheer to this candy-laced night by wearing a classic and notable costume!

The Bloody Villager
The bell rings. Your neighbor opens it, smile wide, bowl of candy clasped in hand, when suddenly they spot a bloodied, soiled dude dragging himself to their door, begging for a piece of food, any food, while raving about attacking marauders. You neighbors won’t expect it. They might give you something better than candy, like a sandwich! They might just call the cops. Thing is, you won’t know until you try.

Chainmail Bikini Kevlar Mash Up
Kevlar-mail Bikini. Need I even explain why this is so cool? (For those in the more northern regions: frozen skin shade would go lovely with blue-tinged bikini.)

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Gygax Magazine #6 Now Available

Friday, October 30th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Gygax Magazine 6-smallI saw a report that the latest issue of Gygax magazine had hit the stands, and checked out the TSR website this morning. Sure enough, it’s now available, and there’s even a very sharp video showcasing the contents and the great layout.

This issue has content for Dungeons & Dragons and Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, plus a superhero roleplaying from Steve Kenson, Pulp Era. Here’s the issue contents:

Last-Minute Locations: Fantasy Villages, by Jason Sinclair
Leomund’s Secure Shelter: Telepathy in First Edition AD&D, by Lenard Lakofka
The Great Outdoors: Outdoor Survival and the Early Years of D&D, by Jon Peterson
The Correllian Starduster: A New Starship for Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, by Dave Mansker
Through the Arcane Lens: Six Magic Spyglasses for D&D, by Paul Hughes
Rituals: More Than Just Magic, by Eytan Bernstein
Policing the Stars, by Steve Kenson
Pulp Era by James Carpio (complete RPG)
Dracovalis by Jeremy Olson (complete game)

Every issue of Gygax includes a fold-out adventure or game, and this time it’s a complete board game of dragons attacking, capturing, and destroying cities: Dracovalis, by Jeremy Olson and illustrated by Aaron Williams.

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Quick and Dirty Outlining for NaNoWriMo

Friday, October 30th, 2015 | Posted by M Harold Page


In a retro SF setting, Derick and Tina are freelance archaeologists. He’s a veteran soldier but she’s a poor little rich girl who thinks it’s all an adventure…

(I was going to blog about stuff related to Swords Versus Tanks (so about swords and tanks, mostly) but I’m busy editing Episode 3 (“Pyramid of Blood”) and NaNoWriMo is here…)

The writing process is always a cycle of trial and error, call it “create and tinker.” Humans are better at problem solving than inventing in a vacuum. No surprise, then, that the real story building usually happens in the tinker phase. Unfortunately, most new thoughts apply to characters and plot, e.g. we look at the scene we just wrote and realize it would be better with ninjas, and if the main character lacked her right foot. Sure we can write the rest of the book as if that were now true, but as the changes accrue, most of our first draft becomes condemned, which seems… inefficient. This is why I like outlining.

Now I think the optimum outlining system helps you engage with different levels of your story, hence my book Storyteller Tools: Outline from vision to finished novel without losing the magic. Alas, since NaNoWriMo is now on us, you’re probably feeling too twitchy to read it or anything like it!

So, here instead is a hacked-down approach that should still help…

First, Review Your Objectives

Your aim is to produce a 50,000 word novel in a month. Allowing an average of 5K words a chapter, that means a mere 10 chapters. Each chapter comprises 1 big scene or 2 regular scenes.

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New Treasures: Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

Friday, October 30th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Shadows of Self-smallTwo years ago, after the release of his novel The Rithmatist, I noted that Brandon Sanderson was one of the hardest-working writers in this industry. By my count, I put his production for 2013 at 2,046 pages of fiction — still less than his output for 2010, but who’s counting.

It’s 2015, and what the heck — let’s count. Using Al von Ruff’s Internet Science Fiction Database, I did a very rough tabulation of Sanderson’s output over the last six years, considering fiction books only (no short stories or non-fiction).

2015 (4 books, so far) 980 pages
2014 (4 books) 1,802 pages
2013 (6 books) 2,046 pages
2012 (2 books) 264 pages
2011 (3 books) 364 pages
2010 (4 books) 2,162 pages

It’s up and down, as you might expect. But for those counting along at home, that’s 7,618 pages over six years, or 1,270 pages per year. That’s pretty damned impressive.

Of course, we don’t count success as a writer by raw output, but by quality. And there, too, Sanderson excels. In 2006 and 2007 he was nominated for the John W. Campbell award for best New Writer, and he has won the David Gemmell Legend Award twice, for The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance, the first two novels in his ambitious ten-volume series The Stormlight Archive. His 2013 novella The Emperor’s Soul was nominated for the World Fantasy Award, and won the Hugo Award.

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