Fantasia 2016, Day 9: Horror at Varying Levels of Self-Awareness (Shelley, The Inerasable, and Seoul Station)

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

ShelleyWeekends are busy at the Fantasia International Film Festival, and Friday, July 22, saw things beginning to ramp up for me after a slow few days. After much internal debate, I decided to see three movies, all of them horror films of different kinds. First came the Danish film Shelley, at the Hall theatre, about sinister events around a surrogate mother in an isolated household. Then would come a Japanese film, The Inerasable (Zange —Sunde wa Ikanai Heya), about two women investigating a ghost manifesting in an urban apartment. Finally would come an animated Korean zombie movie, Seoul Station (Seoulyeok). They promised three very different tones. And, as it turned out, delivered nicely.

Written and directed by Ali Abbasi, Shelley follows a Romanian woman, Elena (Cosmina Stratan), who has agreed to become a live-in maid for a Danish couple, Louise and Kasper (Ellen Dorit Petersen and Peter Christoffersen). They live on their own in an isolated house without electricity, and the movie opens with Elena being driven to their home in the deep woods. As she settles in and becomes friends with her bosses we learn about all three of them — how Elena has a boy back in Bucharest, how she’s struggling to send money back to him, and then on the other hand how Louise and Kasper are vegetarians and raise their own food and want a child of their own which Louise is not physically able to bear. They soon offer Elena enough money to pay for an apartment for her and her boy if she will be a surrogate mother for their child. She agrees, but as the pregnancy goes on problems develop. Health issues; the sort of things a doctor finds normal. But then also more sinister signs. A mysterious crying in the night. Bad dreams. Is the pregnancy cursed?

If so, it’s not clear by what. The feel of horror in this movie is oddly attenuated. There are hints of bad things, but no reason why those bad things are manifesting (if they are). Nor a sense of any specific malevolence. There is a shaman-like seer (Björn Andrésen) who tends to the spiritual need of Elena’s bosses, but although at moments he seems to recognise evil at work, he doesn’t hint at why or what that evil might be.

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Future Treasures: Of Sand and Malice Made by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Of Sand and Malice Made

Bradley P. Beaulieu’s first novel in the Song of Shattered Sands series, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, was published last September, and listed as one of the Best Books of the Year by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and BuzzFeed. The next book in the series, Of Sand and Malice Made, tells an earlier tale of Çeda, the youngest pit fighter in the history of the great desert city of Sharakhai. It arrives in hardcover from DAW next week.

Çeda, the heroine of the novel Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, is the youngest pit fighter in the history of the great desert city of Sharakhai. In this prequel, she has already made her name in the arena as the fearsome, undefeated White Wolf; none but her closest friends and allies know her true identity.

But this all changes when she crosses the path of Rümayesh, an ehrekh, a sadistic creature forged long ago by the god of chaos. The ehrekh are usually desert dwellers, but this one lurks in the dark corners of Sharakhai, toying with and preying on humans. As Rümayesh works to unmask the White Wolf and claim Çeda for her own, Çeda’s struggle becomes a battle for her very soul.

The next installment in the series, With Blood Upon the Sand, is due in hardcover in February.

Of Sand and Malice Made will be published by DAW on September 6, 2016. It is 240 pages, priced at $18 in hardcover, and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by René Aigner.

A Fine Tribute to the Godfather of Weird Literature: The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, edited by Paula Guran

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016 | Posted by Damien Moore

The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu-smallWithin The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, masterfully edited by Paula Guran, you will find a plethora of bewitching stories. Plenty of brilliant writers who contributed their talents incorporate Lovecraft’s universe into their tales. Others invent their own worlds and wink at the Godfather of weird literature.

One went so far as to sum Lovecraft up in a biography. In her piece “Variations on Lovecraftian Themes,” Veronica Schanoes shines an unforgiving light on Lovecraft’s racism and Anti-Semitism. That’s not to say Lovecraft has no redeeming qualities. Schanoes notes, for example. how he nurtured countless young writers through letters.

Contradictions abounded in Lovecraft’s life, and no one understands this more than Schanoes. Having thoroughly educated herself on her topic, her research delivers a punch to the gut. It makes you wonder if you can go on loving a writer knowing they valued hate.

On the subject of loving writers, you could say “A Shadow of Thine Own Design” by W.H. Pugmire is a love letter to Lovecraft. The story begins in the infamous city of Arkham. A young man named Malcolm Elioth meets an old woman named Edith Gnome. Ms. Gnome possesses a piece of artwork by the notorious Richard Upton Pinkman. Once the painting appears in the story, Lovecraft’s shadow looms over the stage. Yet, Pugmire makes the world his own by amplifying the grotesque power of the painting. The stunning description of Ms. Gnome’s baroque hell house shimmers off the page. Though Lovecraft’s beloved city and legendary painter play important roles in the tale, Pugmire constructs his own universe around them. And that’s what makes this tale so enjoyable.

Look no further than “Legacy of Salt” by Silvia Garcia-Moreno for an equally enjoyable piece. When Eduardo reunites with his relatives, who live in what seems like a time capsule, he desperately yearns to return to his lover in Mexico City. But Imelda, his enchanting and backward cousin, stabs a hook into his flesh. Their sordid waltz around their attraction is only one part of the story. The ancient rituals of Eduardo’s relatives, dating back to the time of the Aztecs, sear themselves into your memory. It’s not easy breaking away from a spiritual bond as strong as this one. Moreno-Garcia knows this well. This story haunts you.

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August 2016 Lightspeed Magazine Now Available

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Lightspeed August 2016-smallThe August issue of Lightspeed is now fully available online. This month editor John Joseph Adams offers us original fantasy by Adam-Troy Castro and Tristina Wright, and fantasy reprints by co-authors Kevin J. Anderson & Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Delia Sherman, plus original science fiction by Mercurio D. Rivera, along with SF reprints by Kameron Hurley and Maureen F. McHugh.

Best of all, there’s also a brand new SF tale by Black Gate author Jeremiah Tolbert (“Groob’s Stupid Grubs,” BG 15), which has hands-down the best title of the issue, and maybe the entire year: “Taste the Singularity at the Food Truck Circus.” Admit it, you want to read that story.

Here’s what my new favorite short fiction reviewer, Charles Payseur, had this to say about it at Quick Sip Reviews.

This is a story about food. Glorious, glorious food. It’s also a story about friendship and a bout passion and about dreams and about talent. The setting is subtle woven but vivid, an America dealing with rising sea levels and increased scarcity and refugees from the coasts. And the main character, Nico, is working as accountant but passionate about food, having to stifle that passion in the hopes of raising enough money to start out on his own out from under the thumb of a rather oppressive job. Food keeps calling him away, though, and when he bumps into an old friend who introduces him to the food underground…well, things get kinda weird… it is a fun story and one that kept me smiling throughout. So definitely check it out!

Read Charles’ complete review of the August issue here.

I had the opportunity to hang out with John Joseph Adams and Jeremy at George R.R. Martin’s Hugo Losers party at Worldcon, and that was a blast. Both of them are intimately plugged into the pulse of short fiction, and the industry in general, and it was great catching up. JJA also introduced me to Molly Tanzer (Vermilion) and Carrie Vaughn (the Kitty novels), and that was an honor and a pleasure. I took the picture below just before midnight, when the Alfie awards were announced.

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Fantasia 2016, Day 8: Animated Critiques (Psychonauts, the Forgotten Children and Harmony)

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

PsychonautsThere was one movie scheduled at Fantasia on Thursday, July 21 that I was determined to see: a science-fiction anime called Harmony (Hamoni). Since I had time free beforehand, I decided I’d first head to the festival’s screening room to watch something I’d missed or would be unable to see later. There, I looked over the selection available and settled on Psychonauts, the Forgotten Children (Psiconautas, los niños olvidados), an animated film from Spain. I liked the idea of a double feature of two very different cartoons.

Psychonauts is an engagingly complex movie that takes place on an unknown island, in the ruins of an industrial-age civilisation: many children go to schools, there’s a police force and a sort-of-functioning economy, but also any number of scavengers living in vast tracts of trash shaped by hills of garbage. This story isn’t to be understood as science-fiction, though, since on this island there are also monsters, separable souls, and demonic shadows. Birdboy, a mute child with the power of flight (more or less), seems to know some of the secrets of this strange place. A girl, Dinky, knew Birdboy once and still loves him. She hopes to leave the island, but won’t go without Birdboy — even though the authorities are out to get him, blaming him for selling drugs to children. The movie follows both Birdboy and Dinky as they go about their separate ways, encountering the strange societies of the island and exploring its mysteries.

Psychonauts is technically the sequel to an earlier short film, “Birdboy,” which I have not seen (and does not seem necessary to understanding Psychonauts). Both movies were co-written and co-directed by Alberto Vazquez and Pedro Rivero, based on a graphic novel by Vazquez. Psychonauts has something of the look of an indie comic, in the primitivist-yet-engaging design of its characters and the odd details of its backgrounds. If I had to point to a work in any medium which felt most like Psychonauts, I’d probably select Jim Woodring’s comic Frank, with its dreamlike, occasionally violent, and oddly complex stories. Psychonauts is an equally individual work, but has the same knack for creating oneiric symbols out of its settings and imagery.

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Andrew Liptak on All the Best SF and Fantasy You Missed in August

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

The Guild Conspiracy-small The Last Days of Night-small The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe-small

Over at The Verge, Andrew Liptak has posted a handy little reader’s guide titled “New Adventures: all the best science fiction and fantasy books coming out in August.” It appeared way back on August 1, but I just got around to reading it now, which really makes it All the Best SF and Fantasy I Missed in August. But whatever, it’s packed with lots of great recommended reading, and anyway September looks a lot quieter than August, so maybe I can get caught up. Here’s hoping.

Andrew seems intrigued by the steampunk adventure The Guild Conspiracy, by Brooke Johnson, the sequel to The Brass Giant (2015).

The latest installment of Brooke Johnson’s Chroniker City finds its hero Petra Wade six months after her last adventure. Tasked with building a war machine, she’s been sabotaging the project to try and stave off a coming war, and her overseers are watching her every move. It’s been a while since we’ve picked up a good steampunk adventure, and this one looks like it’s just what we need.

And also the moody Alternate History tale The Last Days of Night, by Graham Moore.

Set in 1888 at the birth of the electrical age, it follows a young lawyer named Paul Cravath who’s asked to defend industry titan George Westinghouse against a billion dollar lawsuit from inventor Thomas Edison. This novel is being adapted into a film by The Imitation Game‘s director, Morten Tyldum, which has us excited.

And the latest novella from Publishing: The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, by Kij Johnson.

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The 2016 Mythopoeic Award Winners

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Uprooted-Naomi-Novik-smallWith all my travels and such this month, I haven’t done a very good job keeping up with all the genre news. For example, I completely missed reporting on the 2016 Mythopoeic Awards, which were announced by the Mythopoeic Society at Mythcon 47 on August 7. Here they are!

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature

Uprooted, Naomi Novik (Del Rey)

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature

Castle Hangnail, Ursula Vernon (Dial)

Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies

Charles Williams: The Third Inkling, Grevel Lindop (Oxford University Press)

Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Myth and Fantasy Studies

The Evolution of Modern Fantasy: From Antiquarianism to the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series, Jamie Williamson (Palgrave Macmillan)

That’s quite a capstone for Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, which so far this year has also won the Nebula Award for Best Novel, the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, and is also a nominee for the World Fantasy Award. I was also pleased to see Jamie Williamson’s non-fiction book The Evolution of Modern Fantasy, one of the first books to seriously study Lin Carter’s Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, get some recognition as well.

Last year’s winner of the Mythopoeic Award was BG author Sarah Avery, whose Tales from Rugosa Coven won in the Adult Literartue category. Get all the details on this year’s nominees at Locus Online.

New Treasures: Bell Weather by Dennis Mahoney

Monday, August 29th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Bell Weather Denis Mahoney-small Bell Weather Denis Mahoney-back-small

Dennis Mahoney’s previous novel was Fellow Mortals (2013), the tale of a small community struggling to recover from a fire. Bell Weather is a significant departure, an adventure fantasy set in a strange world not quite our own, where a mysterious young woman, rescued from a flooded river, is brought to an isolated settlement where dark forces terrorize the surrounding woods. Katherine Dunn (Geek Love) says, “The time is far off, the place is charming strange, and this is rollicking, jaw-clenching adventure.” And Kirkus Reviews gives it a rave, saying:

A young woman’s past catches up with her in a magic, recently colonized new world in this historical fantasy… The real strength of this novel is its stunning worldbuilding, which merges the aesthetic of the Colonial Americas with Márquez-style magical realism.

This one sounds hard to qualify… but if you enjoy historical fantasy, magic realism, or adventure fantasy, Bell Weather definitely sounds worth a shot.

Bell Weather was published by St. Martin’s Griffin on August 9, 2016. It is 384 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback, or $9.99 for the digital version. The cover was designed by Willco (click the images above for bigger versions).

#rurallife or Can You Hear Me Now?

Monday, August 29th, 2016 | Posted by Julie Czerneda

This guest post by Julie Czerneda is part of the #futurespasttour, taking place from Aug 22nd to Sept 6th. Enter for a chance to win one of two sets of Julie Czerneda’s books: a mass market paperback edition of A Gulf of Time and Stars plus a hardcover edition of The Gates of Futures Past. US/Canada residents only, please. Enter here for the Rafflecopter giveaway.

The Gate to Futures Past Julie Czerneda-smallAt Fantasy Café earlier in this blog tour, I regaled you with the story of how we came to move to the country in the midst of my writing The Gate to Futures Past. If you haven’t read that post yet, by all means nip over and do so, because this one?

Is about what happened next.

Pretty much immediately next, in fact. While we waited for the moving truck, next. We stood inside our new, for-the-time, home, tired but triumphant, and reached for our cell phones to let the family know we’d arrived because we’d promised.

No signal.

Many houses have low-signal spots. In our previous domicile it had been, appropriately enough, beside the shelves with the Pratchetts. Walk a step away, and you were reconnected. L-Space.

Here? In short order we discovered every room and hallway, both floors, of our new house to be a dead zone. No signal at all, anywhere.

How… odd.

Outside we went, phones held high — a little giddy, truth be told, to be doing our own LARP of Mulder and Scully. Were we not, when said and done, in the middle of no-one-knew-where? (Literally. No one else knew exactly where we were, hence the promise to call. Not even a mailing address. More on that later.)

We followed our rising little bars as ardently as if chasing a Pokémon. Up the hill. Finally!

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Vincent Starrett on the Great Detective

Monday, August 29th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Starrett_PenzlerbooksOtto Penzler is a larger than life name in the mystery field. He is the man behind New York City’s ‘Mysterious Bookstore’ as well as the Mysterious Press (Nero Wolfe’s current imprint!). He’s a true mystery maven. You can read about his recent The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories here.  From 1993 through 1995, under the Otto Penzler Books imprint, he reissued nine hard-to-find works of Sherlockiana.

The Otto Penzler Sherlock Holmes Library consists of the following books, originally published between 1906 and 1967:

221B: Studies in Sherlock Holmes — Vincent Starrett
Baker Street By-Ways — James Edward Holroyd
Baker Street Studies — Ed. By H.W. Bell
Holmes & Watson — S.C. Roberts
My Dear Holmes — Gavin Brend
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes — Vincent Starrett
Holmes & Company — John Kendrick Bangs
Seventeen Steps to 221B — Ed. By James Edward Holroyd
Sherlock Holmes: Fact or Fiction? — T.S. Blakeney

Bear in mind, every bit of anything you ever wanted to know wasn’t available on the internet back when Penzler republished these books. Heck, the Baker Street Journal wasn’t even available as a collection on CD yet. This collection of Sherlockiana was uncommon for the time. Some entries are better than others, but they are all an affectionate part of my Sherlockian bookshelf (except, maybe for Bangs’ book).

Read on for reviews of the two Vincent Starrett entries in the series. You may remember reading his outstanding introduction to the first Solar Pons collection.

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