Series Fantasy: John Connolly’s Tales of Samuel Johnson

Friday, June 24th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Gates John Connolly-small The Infernals John Connolly-small The Creeps John Connolly-small

Irish writer John Connolly is best known for the Charlie Parker private eye/horror novels. The first, Every Dead Thing (1999) was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award, and the fourteenth, A Time of Torment, will be released this August. In 2009 Connolly published his first novel for younger readers, The Gates, featuring Samuel Johnson, his faithful daschund Boswell, and his bumbling demon friend Nurd. It was followed by two more; all three are now available in trade paperback from Emily Bestler Books.

The Gates (320 pages, $7.99, August 30, 2011)
The Infernals (336 pages, $15, April 10, 2012; published in the UK as Hell’s Bells)
The Creeps (319 pages, $15, August 26, 2014)

The books have been celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic. The LA Times calls them “Laugh out loud funny… a cross between Eoin Colfer and Terry Pratchett,” and Booklist says they’re “Hilariously macabre.” In her Black Gate review of The Infernals, Andrea Grennan called them “Marvelous… great fun for any reader, young or old. Like the classic Bugs Bunny cartoons, adults will appreciate The Infernals in a different and more sophisticated way.”

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New Treasures: Confluence by Paul McAuley

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Confluence Paul McAuley-smallI’ve found a number of online sellers offering brand new copies of recent British SF and fantasy books very inexpensively (essentially, at remainder prices), and I’ve been taking advantage of them. My most recent purchases include Paul McAuley’s In the Mouth of the Whale (the third volume in his far-future series The Quiet War), and the massive omnibus volume Confluence, which contains his complete trilogy. And I do mean massive — just take a look at the thing (click the image at right for a more lifesize version). At 935 pages, it proudly stands all on its own on my end table (and darn near tips it over).

Paul McAuley was an early columnist for Black Gate (his fantasy review column On the Edge appeared in our early print issues). The omnibus volume contains three complete novels, all originally published in hardcover in the US by Avon EOS:

Child of the River (1997)
Ancients of Days (1998)
Shrine of Stars (1999)

Here’s the description:

Confluence — a long, narrow, artificial world, half fertile river valley, half crater-strewn desert. A world beyond the end of human history, served by countless machines, inhabited by 10,000 bloodlines who worship their absent creators, riven by a vast war against heretics.

This is the home of Yama, found as an infant in a white boat on the world’s Great River, raised by an obscure bureaucrat in an obscure town in the middle of a ruined necropolis, destined to become a clerk — until the discovery of his singular ancestry. For Yama appears to be the last remaining scion of the Builders, closest of all races to the revered architects of Confluence, able to awaken and control the secret machineries of the world.

Pursued by enemies who want to make use of his powers, Yama voyages down the length of the world to search for answers to the mysteries of his origin, and to discover if he is to be the saviour of his world, or its nemesis.

Confluence was published by Gollancz in August 2015. It is 935 pages, priced at £16.99 in trade paperback and $15.99 for the digital edition. I bought my copy from Media Universe for $12.14 plus $3.99 shipping (and In the Mouth of the Whale from the same vendor for $2.95). Copies of both are still available.

Harry Potter and the Tyranny of Word Count

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016 | Posted by M Harold Page

…when we sit down to write a book

OK I admit it, I put the Harry Potter reference in the title as link bait. Well almost. Take a look at the word counts for each of the Harry Potter books:

  • The Philosopher’s Stone – 76,944
  • The Chamber of Secrets – 85,141
  • The Prisoner of Azkaban – 107,253
  • The Goblet of Fire – 190,637
  • The Order of the Phoenix – 257,045
  • The Half-Blood Prince – 168,923
  • The Deathly Hallows – 198,227

That’s a lot of words, and it illustrates the mountain an author contemplates when we sit down to write a book. Until recently, the length of The Prisoner of Azkaban was pretty much industry standard — 100K words is an economic sweetspot for printing and distribution. Lengths seem to be drifting down of late, because there’s no economy of scale for ebooks.

Who knows? Perhaps we’ll one day return to the sanity of the 35K-word 1970s pulp?

But thirty-five thousand words is still a lot of words!

So it’s natural to look at the project, divide target word count by available days and use that as a measure of progress.

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The Paranormal on British TV: The BBC’s The Ωmega Factor

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016 | Posted by Barbara Barrett

The Omega Factor DVD

Starring James Hazeldine and Louise Jameson
(1979. 10 episodes, 3 disks, 510 minutes)

Saturday night at the 2016 Windy City Pulp and Paper Show back in April, I had dinner with John O’Neill and several others, including Arin Komins and her husband Rich Warren. During our discussions about Blake’s Seven and The Sandbaggers, Arin mentioned another BBC program, The Ωmega Factor. Her description sounded fascinating, so I bought it on Sunday from a dealer.

The Ωmega Factor is a British series about the limitless potential of the human mind and this theme is explored through various paranormal abilities. The show stars James Hazeldine (1947-2002) as journalist and psychic investigator Tom Crane; Louise Jameson, as psychic investigator Dr. Anne Reynolds; and John Carlisle as psychiatrist Roy Martindale. Crane and Reynolds report to Martindale who directly supervises Department 7, a secret British government group that explores psychic phenomenon mostly for use by the military.

Mind control, poltergeists, possession, witches, experimental devices, haunted houses and out-of-body experiences are a few of the paranormal subjects discussed in the ten episodes that were produced. Here’s a look at each one.

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Future Treasures: The Big Sheep by Robert Kroese

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Big Sheep Robert Kroese-small The Big Sheep Robert Kroese-back-small

Robert Kroese is the author of Mercury Falls, Starship Grifters, and Disenchanted. His latest novel is a science fiction noir that reads like it takes place in the same L.A. as Blade Runner (except it’s a lot funnier). It follows two very different private investigators as they track an extremely valuable genetically engineered sheep through a dystopian future L.A. Worth checking out.

Los Angeles of 2039 is a baffling and bifurcated place. After the Collapse of 2028, a vast section of LA, the Disincorporated Zone, was disowned by the civil authorities, and became essentially a third world country within the borders of the city. Navigating the boundaries between DZ and LA proper is a tricky task, and there’s no one better suited than eccentric private investigator Erasmus Keane. When a valuable genetically altered sheep mysteriously goes missing from Esper Corporation’s labs, Keane is the one they call.

But while the erratic Keane and his more grounded partner, Blake Fowler, are on the trail of the lost sheep, they land an even bigger case. Beautiful television star Priya Mistry suspects that someone is trying to kill her — and she wants Keane to find out who. When Priya vanishes and then reappears with no memory of having hired them, Keane and Fowler realize something very strange is going on. As they unravel the threads of the mystery, it soon becomes clear that the two cases are connected — and both point to a sinister conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the city. Saving Priya and the sheep will take all of Keane’s wits and Fowler’s skills, but in the end, they may discover that some secrets are better left hidden.

The Big Sheep will be published by Thomas Dunne Books on June 28, 2016. It is 308 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover was designed by David Curtis. Click the images above for bigger versions.

Bookburners Season 2 Launches with “Creepy Town”

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016 | Posted by alanajoli

Bookburners Season 2

Bookburners Season 2 launches today, June 22, 2016, at

I have been to creepy towns in the American north east. Once, while lost in central Massachusetts, I stopped at a convenience store for directions. The woman within who gave me the directions I needed was eerily nice; the stock on the shelves of the convenience store held products with labels that looked older than I was. On a trip in upstate New York, I stopped at a post office; the misty morning combined with the general disrepair of the sidewalks and exterior of the building had my companions looking out the windows to be ready when the zombies arrived. Thankfully, neither of those creepy towns had anything on “Creepy Town,” the first episode in Season 2 of Bookburners.

Short recap: Bookburners is the first serial from Serial Box Publishing, a company dedicated to producing prose fiction that feels like the best modern serial storytelling—meaning, the stories feel like really excellent television shows. Each serial has a writing team that works together to create the season, and each episode is written by a member of that team and released on Wednesday mornings for your reading pleasure. I’ve read mine via phone, tablet, and listened to the audio versions (included in the per-episode or season-pass cost) while I’m out on a run. And “Creepy Town” makes truly excellent inspiration for running.

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Vintage Treasures: Lincoln’s Dreams by Connie Willis

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Lincoln's Dreams-small Lincoln's Dreams-back-small

There are precious few debut novels that receive the outpouring of acclaim that greeted Connie Willis’s Lincoln Dreams when it first appeared. There are even fewer that remain in print for as long as five years. The Bantam Spectra edition of Lincoln’s Dreams has now been in print for an astounding 24 years… that’s got to be some kind of record.

Willis’ first novel, Water Witch, was co-written with Cynthia Felice, and published in 1982. Lincoln’s Dreams, which appeared in hardcover from Bantam Spectra in May 1987, was her true solo debut, and it established her immediately as a major novelist. Twilight Zone Magazine called it “A tight, solid fantasy with a stiletto-in-the-heart epiphany at the end… fascinating,” and Watership Down author Richard Adams called it “Moving and beautiful… a most original and fascinating novel.” Fantasy Review said it “clearly marks Connie Willis as one of our foremost young novelists.” And Harlan Ellison said:

Every once in a while a talent leaps up to announce itself as important. Connie Willis is such a talent: a magisterial intelligence at work… to miss Lincoln’s Dreams is to risk the loss of your immortal soul.

Lincoln’s Dreams was published by Bantam Spectra in July 1992. It is 229 pages (plus 2-page foreword by the author, and a 12-page preview of her 1992 novel Doomsday Book), priced at $4.99. The cover is by Jean-François Podevin. Click the images above for bigger versions.

Clarkesworld 117 Now Available

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld 117-smallIn his editorial this issue, Neil Clarke has some powerful words to say about how all of us can help keep short fiction alive.

If we want short fiction to thrive, we have a responsibility to spread the word and promote the works we’ve enjoyed. There are many ways to do this, but it needs to be focused, respectful, and timely. More specifically, it needs to be done in locations that are relevant to the audience you are trying to attract. Your blog is nice, but adding Twitter or Amazon might have a bigger impact.

Reviewing isn’t for everyone, mind you. I really wanted to do my part and find a way to contribute to a positive conversation about short fiction. I tried writing reviews. The blank screen tormented me and it took a while to realize that I wasn’t following the path that best utilized my skills. Instead, I changed tactics and launched Forever Magazine as a way of bringing back some of the stories I’ve enjoyed. When I go full-time this year, I hope to be able to do a bit more with that project.

Read his complete editorial here.

Clarkesworld #117 has four new stories by Margaret Ronald, Sam J. Miller, E. Catherine Tobler, and Zhang Ran, and two reprints by Michael Flynn and Nancy Kress.

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Space Stations With Secret Passages, and Snow White in Space: Rich Horton on Sanctuary in the Sky by John Brunner/The Secret Martians by John Sharkey

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Sanctuary in the Sky John Brunner-small The Secret Martians Jack Sharkey-small

After a series of duds, our intrepid retro-reviewer Rich Horton turns to the always-reliable John Brunner.

I’ve read some weak Ace Doubles lately, so I tried to improve my fortunes by picking one with a John Brunner half. I can almost always count on Brunner for entertainment with a thoughtful edge. Brunner (1934-1995) of course was one of the field’s greats, a Hugo winner for Stand on Zanzibar (1968). He had a bifurcated career a bit like Robert Silverberg’s: beginning around the same time as Silverberg he was extremely prolific early in his career, publishing a lot of quickly executed and competent work; and then sometime in the early to mid ’60s seems to have consciously raised his level of ambition, beginning with novels like The Whole Man and The Squares of the City, and continuing to his famous quartet of long novels, beginning with Stand on Zanzibar, then The Jagged Orbit, The Sheep Look Up, and The Shockwave Rider.

The book under consideration this time is the 1960 Ace Double Sanctuary in the Sky by John Brunner, paired with The Secret Martians by the far less well known John Sharkey.

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OMG They Found It! Osprey’s The Catalaunian Fields AD451

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016 | Posted by M Harold Page

Osprey Catalaunian FieldsIt’s the one thousand, five hundred and fifty sixth anniversary of the Battle of the  Catalaunian Fields, otherwise known as the Battle of Chalons!

Not heard of it?

AD451. Just as the Roman Empire fades into the Dark Ages. At the Catalaunian Fields near Chalons, a grudging alliance of Romans and Germannic tribes confronts Attila the Hun’s confederation of Huns and yet more Germannic tribes.

Hundreds of thousands of warriors grind through a Ragnarok-grade battle on the scale of Waterloo but fought with cold steel… a battle so murderous that, in the morning, nobody much feels like doing any more fighting.

I’m fascinated by this forgotten battle — I’m even writing a YA Historical series that will put the hero in the midst of the mayhem — so I was overjoyed to receive a review copy of Osprey’s new book, The Catalaunian Fields AD451. Imagine, then, how I felt when, I discovered the chapter called, “The Battlefield Today.”

What? OMG they found it!

The location of this battle has been hotly debated for centuries. Now here’s an Osprey book casually pinpointing the battlefield and using it as the basis for its maps and diagrams!

And it’s convincing.

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