Future Treasures: The Medusa Chronicles by Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds

Sunday, May 29th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Arthur C Clarke A Meeting With Medusa-small Arthur C Clarke The Medusa Chronicles-small

Arthur C. Clarke’s A Meeting With Medusa won the Nebula Award for Best Novella in 1971, and 45 years later is still considered one of the great classics of SF. It introduced us to Howard Falcon, who suffered a terrible accident while exploring the hostile skies of Jupiter — an accident that nearly destroyed his helium-filled airship, and both turned him into the world’s first cyborg, his badly damaged body largely replaced with machines, and made him essentially immortal. When Falcon returns to Jupiter in a more advanced ship, he makes contact with giant jellyfish-like creatures he names “Medusae.” The Medusae may be intelligent, and Falcon’s experience with them changes him even more dramatically than his previous accident. Now Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds have written a novel-length sequel to Clarke’s classic tale, following Falcon’s further adventures to the limits of our solar system… and beyond.

Inspired by Clarke’s novella, The Medusa Chronicles continues the story of Howard Falcon, perhaps humanity’s greatest ambassador and explorer, and the centuries of his adventures among our solar system, the rise of artificial intelligence, and our expansion on to other planets, written with the permission from Clarke’s estate by two of our greatest science fiction writers, Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds.

The Medusa Chronicles is an awe-inspiring work by two modern masters of science fiction who have taken the vision of one the field’s greatest writers and expanded upon it, combining cutting-edge science, philosophy, and technology into a transcendent work of fiction that offers a plausible future for our solar system through the eyes of one of its great fictional heroes.

The Medusa Chronicles will be published by Saga Press on June 7, 2016. It is 412 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $7.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Getty Images.

Notes From the Underground, Part II: Tremors 3: Back to Perfection, Tremors 4: The Legend Begins and Tremors 5: Bloodlines

Sunday, May 29th, 2016 | Posted by William I. Lengeman III

Tremors-3-Back-to-Perfection 2-small

Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (2001)
Directed by Brent Maddock

Burt Gummer: Is your head up your ass for the warmth?

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the movie Tremors to almost anyone. I think there’s plenty to like in it, even for the casual viewer, unless they have a strong aversion to horror/monster movies. Tremors 2: Aftershocks was a decent sequel but I’d recommend it only to more serious horror fans and Tremors cultists. Which is even more true for Tremors 3: Back to Perfection.

As the title suggests, the action moves from the remote corner of Mexico featured in the second movie to the small desert town of Perfection, Nevada, the setting for Tremors. The town sign now lists a population of five, down from the 14 of the first movie.

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New Treasures: The Murdstone Trilogy by Mal Peet

Saturday, May 28th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Murdstone Trilogy-smallHow hard can it be to write a fantasy trilogy? That’s a topic that came up more than once at the Nebula Awards this month. You know what also came up? A copy of Mel Peet’s The Murdstone Trilogy, which deals with that very question. I was fortunate enough to get one of the few copies that showed up on the free book table at the Nebula weekend, and I was very glad I did. It proved to be the prize acquisition of the weekend.

Written by Carnegie Medalist Mal Peet, it’s a black comedy about an impoverished literary writer who makes a pact with the devil to write a sword-and-sorcery trilogy. It was sold as an adult novel in the UK, but is being marketed as YA here in the US. The Wall Street Journal calls it “A deliriously freewheeling send-up of the publishing industry and the current sword-and-sorcery craze,” and Publishers Weekly says it’s “enormous fun, especially for those familiar with the literary conventions it skewers.”

Award-winning YA author Philip Murdstone is in trouble. Flat broke. His star has waned. No one wants his novels about sensitive teenage boys. So his ruthless agent, Minerva Cinch, convinces him that his only hope is to write a sword-and-sorcery blockbuster. High Fantasy, specifically, or, to be more precise, Phantasy with a p-h. Unfortunately, Philip — allergic to the faintest trace of anything Tolkien — is utterly unsuited to the task.

In Philip’s darkest, whiskey-fueled hour, a dwarfish stranger comes to his rescue. But the deal Philip makes with Pocket Wellfair turns out to have Faustian consequences. The Murdstone Trilogy is a richly dark comedy described by one U.K. reviewer as “totally insane in the best way possible.”

The Murdstone Trilogy was published by Candlewick Press on September 22, 2015. It is 314 pages, priced at $18.99 in hardcover and $9.99 for the digital version. The cover is by Greg Clarke.

May 2016 Lightspeed Magazine Now Available

Saturday, May 28th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Lightspeed May 2016-smallThe complete May issue of Lightspeed is now yours to enjoy free online. The month offers new fantasy by Seanan McGuire and Wole Talabi, and fantasy reprints by Tim Pratt and Elizabeth Hand, plus original science fiction by An Owomoyela and Mari Ness, and SF reprints by Haris A. Durrani and Tora Greve.

It also features author spotlights, book reviews by Amal El-Mohtar, a movie review by Carrie Vaughn, and an interview with Charlie Jane Anders. The ebook also includes a reprint of Hugh Howey’s “The Plagiarist” and a new excerpt Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife, out in trade paperback this month from Vintage Books.

The cover artist this issue is Goñi Montes. Here’s the complete contents for the May issue.


The Jaws That Bite, The Claws That Catch” by Seanan McGuire
Mist flowed through the Tulgey Wood like treacle, slow and thick and unyielding. Squeaks and muffled chitters came from the underbrush as rabbits, foxes, and adolescent toves that hadn’t sensed the weather changing were caught and drowned in the gray-white mire. It would clear by noon, burnt off by the sun, and then the scavengers would come, making a feast of the small mist-struck creatures.

North Over Empty Space” by Tim Pratt (Originally published at Patreon.com, 2015)
Sigmund came back to himself after a gray interval of unknown time, hunched in the yellow vinyl booth of an appallingly bright diner, his head aching from the night’s exertions. His partner Carlsbad sat across from him, drawing no attention at all, which struck Sigmund as strange even in his exhausted state. Carlsbad was a human-shaped figure, but he was unclothed, his face was entirely featureless, and he was composed of a viscous-looking black substance instead of flesh.

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Joseph P Laycock’s Dangerous Games: Revisiting the “Moral” Panic Around D&D (and You Thought the ‘Pups Were Bad)

Saturday, May 28th, 2016 | Posted by M Harold Page

Laycock Moral Panic

Laycock… set out to investigate the forces of darkness so we don’t have to.

The 80s Dungeons and Dragons Moral Panic gave my teenage AD&D group a headache… fortunately, only literally.

I confess that we drank too much beer while watching the movie Mazes and Monsters. We giggled at the odd (willful?) misrepresentation of our world, but perhaps that was a kind of false bravado because we also talked too late into the night: “Did they just…?” and “Erk?” and “WTF?”

Mazes and Monsters

“Did they just…?” “Erk?” “WTF?”

And so, as is the way of things, we woke up without answers to those questions, but with headaches — or at least I did.

I now know that we were lucky growing up in cosmopolitan, largely secularist, middle class Edinburgh.

Scratch the Internet (e.g.) and you’ll uncover heartbreaking stories of teenagers — even outside the USA — thrown into needless conflict with their parents, and parents duped into betrayals that can’t be fixed: imagine coming home to find your lovingly created campaign world, months of work, had been burned?*

*You’ll also get a reminder that the entire United States wasn’t consumed by this latter-day witch hunt. If you guys gave us the panic, you also gave us D&D in the first place. Plus Rock and Roll and jeans. Thanks!

And when you read these heartrending accounts, you come back to the questions, “Did they just…?” and “Erk?” and “WTF?”, more or less my 12-year-old-son’s response when he heard about all this on a podcast.

Which brings us to the subject of that podcast: Joseph P Laycock’s book, Dangerous Games: What the Moral Panic over Role-Playing Games Says about Play, Religion, and Imagined Worlds.

Laycock is like a Call of Cthulhu character: a card-carrying theology professor who has set out to investigate the forces of darkness so we don’t have to.

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Capture the Magic of the Nebulas With Nebula Awards Showcase 2016, edited by Mercedes Lackey

Saturday, May 28th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Nebula Awards Showcase 2016-smallThe buzz here at the Black Gate rooftop headquarters for the past week has been all about the Nebula Awards weekend, held just a few blocks away in the Palmer House in downtown Chicago. Half of the staff attended — including me, Tina Jens, C.S.E. Cooney, Derek Kunsken, and Zeta Moore — and we had a terrific time, mingling with the great writers, editors, and publishers in the field. It culminated, of course, in the Nebula Awards presentation Saturday night (see our detailed report on the Awards here, and the entire weekend here).

The Nebulas are a celebration of the finest writing of the year, and even if you can’t attend the weekend, you can still enjoy that — in the form of the annual Nebula Awards Showcase. The latest volume, edited and assembled by Mercedes Lackey, gather the winners from last year in a handsome trade paperback.

The Nebula Awards Showcase volumes have been published annually since 1966, reprinting the winning and nominated stories of the Nebula Awards, voted on by the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). The editor, selected by SFWA’s anthology Committee (chaired by Mike Resnick), is American science fiction and fantasy writer Mercedes Lackey. This year’s Nebula winners are Ursula Vernon, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Nancy Kress, and Jeff VanderMeer, with Alaya Dawn Johnson winning the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book.

Mercedes Lackey took the rather unusual approach of including every short story and novelette nominee and winner, and limiting herself to excerpts in the novella category (with the exception of the winner). See the complete Table of Contents here.

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Amal El-Mohtar on Clockwork Canada

Friday, May 27th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Clockwork Canada-smallI’ve been enjoying Amal El-Mohtar’s review column at Lightspeed magazine. In her latest, for the May issue, she calls Max Gladstone’s Four Roads Cross, the upcoming book in his Craft Sequence, “breathtakingly satisfying,” and Nnedi Okorafor’s Nebula-award winning Tor.com novella Binti “a startling whirlwind of a book that engaged and entranced me.”

But it’s her review of Dominik Parisien’s new anthology Clockwork Canada that I found most intriguing. Party because I’m Canadian, but also because the book sounds so darn enticing. Here’s Amal.

In Clockwork Canada, [Dominik]’s brought an artificer’s eye to this collection’s various parts to ensure they work together as a whole that is more than their sum… It’s an enormously diverse collection, both in terms of its authors’ backgrounds and interests and the eclecticism of its contents: These are stories that span the breadth (and occasionally, literally, depth) of Canada, geographically and temporally, as well as the whole spectrum of steampunk. There’s a good mix of adventure stories and domestic stories, some more hopeful, some more horror; some are more fantastic, some more science fictional. Some stories imagine alternate histories, while others nestle small, beautiful stories in the corners of enormous events; some do both, and more, tangling retro and futurism in different measures.

This is not a collection of beaver jokes and maple syrup. I hugely appreciated seeing, across all these stories, a Canada shorn of any of the jingoistic patter that masquerades as heart-warming pluralism these days. These stories probe and poke at the country’s beginnings as at the edges of a wound: the workers who fed their bodies like coal into the railroad’s furnace; the immigrants who were turned away at ports for being too brown, too foreign; the enslavement of African peoples; the indigenous people displaced and decimated. “So you think you know about Canada,” any of these stories might begin. “Let me tell you about Canada…”

An excellent showcase for new and established Canadian voices as well as for Parisien’s editorial skill, Clockwork Canada’s a fascinating, faceted read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Read Amal’s complete review here. We previously covered Clockwork Canada — including listing the complete TOC — here. Clockwork Canada was published by Exile Editions on May 1, 2016. It is 304 pages, priced at $19.95 in trade paperback and $7.99 for the digital version.

Parallel Universes and Space Marines: Rich Horton on The Games of Neith by Margaret St. Clair/The Earth Gods are Coming by Kenneth Bulmer

Friday, May 27th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Games of Neith-small The Earth Gods Are Coming-small
Galaxy, June 1975

Galaxy, June 1975

Over at his website Strange at Ecbatan, Rich Horton looks at another obscure Ace Double.

Here’s an Ace Double featuring a couple of authors I’ve discussed before. I bought it partly because of that — both writers have proved enjoyable in the past, St. Clair often more than that, and, partly, frankly, because of the quite gorgeous Emswhiller cover on the St. Clair book, which for some reason reminded me of Wendy Pini’s cover for the June 1975 Galaxy.

I wrote before about Margaret St. Clair (1911-1995) as follows: “She was one of the more noticeable early women writers of SF, but somehow her profile was a bit lower than those of C. L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, and Andre Norton. Perhaps it was simply that those writers did just a bit more, and were just a bit better (taken as a whole) than her, but it does seem that she’s not quite as well remembered as perhaps she deserves. One contributing factor is that she wrote some of her very best stories pseudonymously, as “Idris Seabright.” 20 or so of her 50+ short stories were as by Seabright, including some of the very best (such as “Short in the Chest” and “An Egg a Month from All Over”). She also wrote 8 novels (four of them published as Ace Double halves). Her career in SF stretched from 1946 to 1981…”

Reading this book made clear to me another reason St. Clair is not as well remembered as Moore, Brackett, or Norton — she was much weaker at novel length than at shorter lengths. At least, that is, based on those I’ve read. The Games of Neith was a terrible disappointment to me — it’s really just a bad, silly, book.

Sadly the flip side, Kenneth Bulmer’s The Earth Gods are Coming, doesn’t measure up much better.

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Goth Chick News: This Will Not End Well…

Thursday, May 26th, 2016 | Posted by Sue Granquist

This seems like a great idea zombieYou don’t need to have spent thousands of hours sitting in front of horror movies to know this is an extremely bad idea.

US biotech company Bioquark and its ReAnima project has been granted authorization and ethical permission to use 20 brain-dead patients for what is sure to be a highly controversial study: Starting next year, they plan to stimulate their nervous systems in order to restart the brains. Bioquark is hoping that its part in the groundbreaking ReAnima project will reveal if people can at least partly be brought back from the dead.

Zombies anyone…?

The idea here is that several different techniques, such as, “…injecting the brain with stem cells, giving the spinal cord infusions of beneficial chemicals, and nerve stimulation techniques” will all be tested to see if reanimation is possible.

According to the Bioquark website:

Our definitions of death may have to change in the very near future, as well as our understanding of consciousness and the stability of memory persistence.

So let’s ponder this for a moment.

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Thrilling Pulp Fiction in the Tradition of Lester Dent, Henry Kuttner, L. Ron Hubbard and Mickey Spillane: Jack Ripcord, by Thomas McNulty

Thursday, May 26th, 2016 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

Jack Ripcord-small Jack Ripcord-back-small

Jack Ripcord
By Thomas McNulty
Wounded Outlaw Books (182 pages, $12.95, March 13, 2014)

I’ve enjoyed every book that Tom McNulty has thus far published. From his Life and Career of Errol Flynn (the best bio of the late actor I’ve ever read) to Werewolves, his in-depth study of werewolves in myth, legend, literature and film. His westerns, published by Black Horse, are fantastic. Trail of the Burned Man, Wind Rider, and Showdown at Snakebite Creek, to name three, would each make a great film, the kind of western that Burt Kennedy and Budd Boetticher used to make, and starring actors like Randolph Scott and Lee Marvin.

But now, with his latest, Jack Ripcord, McNulty has entered the field of old-school, fantastic, pulp fiction storytelling — and he does so in grand style. This is rip-roaring, high-speed action-adventure, the kind of story that was so popular in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, the kind of stories that Republic Studios used to film as Saturday morning serials… the kind of story that Steven Spielberg should film.

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