Future Treasures: Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn

Saturday, December 31st, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

martians-abroad-smallAt the World Science Fiction convention in Kansas City back in August, I had a delightful dinner with Carrie Vaughn and attended her reading. She read from her upcoming novel Martians Abroad, the tale of a young girl visiting Earth for the first time who becomes caught up in interplanetary intrigue.

I make it a point to attend as many readings as I can at conventions, and Worldcon was no exception. I lost count of how many fine readings I sat through, and most of them I’ve forgotten already. But Carrie’s book has stayed with me. It was without question the best reading of the convention, and Martians Abroad is the novel I’m most looking forward to in 2017.

Polly Newton has one single-minded dream, to be a starship pilot and travel the galaxy. Her mother, the Director of the Mars Colony, derails Polly’s plans when she sends Polly and her genius twin brother, Charles, to Galileo Academy on Earth.

Homesick and cut off from her plans for her future, Polly cannot seem to fit into life on Earth. Strange, unexplained, dangerous coincidences centered on their high-profile classmates begin piling up. Charles may be right ― there’s more going on than would appear, and the stakes are high. With the help of Charles, Polly is determined to find the truth, no matter the cost.

Carrie Vaughn is best known for her bestselling Kitty Norville series, but she’s also the author of the superhero novels After the Golden Age and Dreams of the Golden Age, fantasy novel Discord’s Apple, and the collection Amaryllis and Other Stories. Her post-apocalyptic murder mystery Bannerless is coming in July from John Joseph Adams Books. This is her science fiction debut.

Martians Abroad will be published by Tor Books on January 17, 2017. It is 288 pages, priced at $24.99 in hardcover and $11.99 in digital formats. Read the first chapter at Tor.com.


Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Selects the Best Collections and Anthologies of 2016

Saturday, December 31st, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

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One of the reasons I love the B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog? Because they split up their Best of the Year selections into multiple lists. Why would anyone do that? To cram in more books! Duh.

Their second such list this year is The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Collections and Anthologies of 2016, selected by their editors and jotted down for us by Joel Cunningham. It includes books by Ken Liu, Patricia A. McKillip, Joe Abercrombie, Brandon Sanderson, Greg Bear, Eleanor Arnason, Gardner Dozois, Michael Swanwick, and many more. Titles such as Slipping: Stories, Essays, and Other Writing, by Lauren Beukes (Tachyon Publications, November).

In two lean, lethal sci-fi novels and two murderous, fantasy-tinged mainstream thrillers, Lauren Beukes has become one of the most exciting voices in genre writing to emerge over the last decade. Now, she’s released her first collection of short fiction, she brings the same verve for black humor, sharp satire, and mind-altering tech to stories of living artwork attacking Tokyo, corporate raids on other worlds, tears that mysteriously fall upward, and near-future marketing schemes in which brand loyalty becomes entirely literal. Standout stories: “Unathi Battles the Black Hairballs,” “Ghost Girl”

And there’s a fine shout-out for A Natural History of Hell (Small Beer Press, July), by Black Gate author Jeffrey Ford.

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Fantasy Scroll Magazine on Hiatus

Saturday, December 31st, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

fantasy-scroll-13-smallFantasy Scroll Magazine has not published an issue since June of this year. Normally that wouldn’t concern me (Black Gate chugged along merrily for years publishing roughly one issue per year), but Fantasy Scroll has had a nearly flawless bi-monthly schedule since it first appeared in April 2014.

So I reached out to publisher Iulian Ionescu this week to find our what’s up. Here’s what he told me.

As months went by and life got more and more complex (new jobs, kids in new school, etc.) it seemed unfair to put out the magazine without 100% energy put into it. I’d rather not go on if I can’t produce the level of quality I set my mind to. So, I put the magazine on temporary hiatus hoping that I can turn it back up at some point.

I can’t guarantee when this will be and in the meantime I am releasing first rights back to all authors that have been accepted and not yet published. I sure hope that sometime in the future I will be able to produce the Year 2 anthology because that was a year packed with great stories!

I’m bummed to hear that. Fantasy Scroll is a fine magazine; in the last two years it published original fantasy from Sarah Avery, Ken Liu, Robert Reed, James Van Pelt, Piers Anthony, Laurie Tom, Charles Payseur, and many others. They were especially friendly to new and emerging authors, and the magazine was an excellent place to discover intriguing new writers. Their non-fiction was also enjoyable, and the TOC for each issue was typically packed with interviews, book reviews, science articles, artist spotlights, and film reviews. Their Year One anthology, Dragons, Droids and Doom, was published in November 2015.

Fantasy Scroll Magazine appeared exclusively online and was edited by Iulian Ionescu, Frederick Doot, and Alexandra Zamorski. The last issue was #13; see the complete contents of the final issue here. We last covered the magazine with issue 12.


Pellucidar on Screen: At the Earth’s Core … The Movie

Saturday, December 31st, 2016 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

at-the-earths-core-1976-001-posterFew of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s books offer as much promise to modern filmmakers as At the Earth’s Core. The inner world of Pellucidar is vast and strange, and the potential to craft astonishing vistas from this concave land with a sun that never moves is immense. Plus, the tyrannical Mahars are ideally suited for realization as complex creatures using mo-cap.

However, nobody appears to be working on an At the Earth’s Core movie at the moment. For shame. We have to settle for a movie made in the last glory days of low-budget SF spectacle, before the advent of Star Wars. That shining era when rubber monsters, matte paintings, and Doug McClure ruled fantasy cinema.

The 1976 At the Earth’s Core isn’t a bad way to settle. For those who grew up with it, the movie still holds a special charm because of its colorful spectacle and practical effects. It had to sacrifice some of the fascinating parts of the setting of Pellucidar because of budget limitations, but it’s an accurate rendition of Burroughs’s plot.

At the Earth’s Core is second of a trio of mid-‘70s ERB adaptations from the team of producer John Dark and director Kevin Connor for Amicus Productions and American-International Pictures. The first and third films are a split adaptation of the novel The Land That Time Forgot, The Land That Time Forgot (1975) and The People That Time Forgot (1977). Dark and Connor produced two more fantasy films afterward, the ERB-esque Warlords of Atlantis (1978), made after they realized it was too expensive to mount a John Carter movie; and the mostly forgotten Arabian Adventure (1979).

Although I’m about to say many admiring things about At the Earth’s Core, it’s my least favorite of the Amicus-AIP Burroughs movies. The director shares my opinion: Kevin Connor has called the movie “clunky” compared to the other two, and it’s easy to see what he means in the studio-bound confines and the more awkward pacing and plotting. But it’s by no means a bad film, and when I place it a notch below The Land That Time Forgot and The People That Time Forgot, that isn’t a harsh slam. The special appeal of this vanished era of imaginative filmmaking is hard to resist.

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Short Fiction Spotlight: 2016

Friday, December 30th, 2016 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

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I’m going to break form to close off 2016, to give a few recommendations from everything I read this past year. Despite the claim by a lot of people that 2016 was the worst year ever (bear in mind the years where tons of people died of the Black Plague) at the very least we weren’t hurting for great reading material. I’ll be posting my Top Ten Novels later, but today I want to focus on short fiction, which doesn’t seem to get discussed as much as I think it deserves. So here are the six short stories that I enjoyed the most in 2016 (since I couldn’t narrow it down to an even five).

“Badgirl, the Deadman, and The Wheel of Fortune” by Catherynne M. Valente, published in The Starlit Wood (Saga Press, 2016)

C.S.E. Cooney has already posted a review of this phenomenal anthology, which reexamines fairy tales in a variety of compelling ways. Valente’s story is subtle fantasy – until the very end, this could just be a story about a father and his drug dealer, told from the perspective of the father’s daughter. Because I’m a teacher with lots of experience working with troubled youth, Valente’s use of the daughter’s narration stayed with me for days after I finished — knowing that little Badgirl is in danger and doesn’t really understand what’s going on makes this story tragic not for its fantastic side, but for its realism.

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Amazon Selects the Best Books of 2016

Friday, December 30th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

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Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, which means it’s time to get hopping on all those Year’s Best lists I promised myself I’d cover. Wednesday we reported on Barnes & Noble’s Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog list, which means I should probably give equal time to Amazon today.

Their list pointed me towards some acclaimed fantasy that I’ve clearly overlooked, such as the first novel in Roshani Chokshi’s new Star-Touched Queen (April, St. Martin’s Griffin) series. In fact, it’s got lots of titles that B&N doesn’t mention — including a few I’ve never even heard of, like Sean Danker’s Admiral (May, Roc), the opening book in a brand new SF series (read Chapter One at Tor.com), and Lindsay Buroker’s Star Nomad (May, CreateSpace), a self-published novel about an interstellar alliance that topples before a tyrannical empire. Although Amazon’s editors did choose as their top pick Charlie Jane Anders debut novel All the Birds in the Sky (January, Tor), which has shown up on numerous Best of the Year lists so far.

In fact, I was rather surprised at the books which appear on both lists. They weren’t the big titles from major names that I might have expected. Here’s a complete list of the four novels that appear on both the B&N and Amazon lists as the best SF and fantasy novels of the year, as selected by the editorial staff of both companies.

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December 2016 Apex Magazine Now Available

Friday, December 30th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

apex-december-2016-smallI’m long overdue to check in on Apex. It releases its content in stages, one week at a time, which leaves me a narrow window at the end of the month to report on the magazine if I want all the content links to work. Since Lightspeed, Nightmare, and a few others do the same thing, it’s inevitable that a few magazines get dropped every month.

Well, enough of my troubles. You want to hear about all the great things in the latest issue, and rightly so. Here’s editor Jason Sizemore with his summation of the December Apex, from his editorial.

Issue 91 closes the year with some compelling and powerful original fiction by Lavie Tidhar (“Red Christmas”), K.T. Bryski (The Love It Bears Fair Maidens”), and Helen Stubbs (“Uncontainable”). These stories are different from one another in terms of subject, tone, and pacing, but they are all stories I feel will inspire some interesting conversations.

Our nonfiction offerings this month is loaded with interviews of author Helen Stubbs and cover artist Billy Nuñez, a reprint of Keffy R.M. Kehrli’s Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling essay “Tropes as Erasers,” managing editor Lesley Conner’s behind the curtains reveal of how she selects cover art, and a feature on the short film I Remember the Future based on Michael A. Burstein’s story of the same name.

Finally, our reprint this month is Burstein’s hopeful Nebula Award-nominated “I Remember the Future.” Not only does it compliment the feature on the short film in this issue, but 2016 has been a tough year for many, so I feel it is appropriate that we close it out with a little light.

Here’s the complete TOC, with links to all the free content.

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Solitaire Gaming: Hornet Leader by Dan Verssen Games

Friday, December 30th, 2016 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

hornet-leader-banner

Around the Jones household the winter is usually prime time for solitaire wargaming. It’s been so ever since John O’Neill and E.E. Knight got me hooked on board games again. And the last two winters the first game I pull out is DVG’s Hornet Leader.

It’s a bit of an odd fit for me, because I’m more of an ancient history guy, and Hornet Leader is all about modern(ish) planes. A lot of its setup is concerned with the differences between types of armaments, which I’ve never been remotely curious about.

Yet the game had such rave reviews from sources I respect that I finally got over the hurdle of disinterest in the subject matter, picked up a copy, and sat down to play. After some trial and error I discovered a grand game. If you like puzzles with a war or tactical theme you’re liable to find yourself captivated. And if you’re one of those who’s already interested in modern planes and the weapons they carry, you may be in heaven. (If this all sounds of interest but you’re more of a speculative fiction person, you might be curious about its expansion, which I’ll introduce at the end of the review.)

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Goth Chick News: Ralphie and His Red Rider BB Gun vs Zombies – Game Over

Thursday, December 29th, 2016 | Posted by Sue Granquist

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Much like bacon, we here at Goth Chick News think everything is better with zombies. Pride and Prejudice was better. Brad Pitt was way better. And even Romeo and Juliette was a bit better, in a dead-guy-falls-for-living-girl kind of way.

But honestly, even we were skeptical that zombies could improve upon what may be the best holiday movie ever: Bob Clark’s classic A Christmas Story.

Thanks to Buzzfeed’s Jesse McLaren, those of us who have fantasized about Ralphie turning his Red Ryder against the undead have received this 30-second gift via YouTube last week.

Stand aside Daryl Dixon, because Dead Eye Ralphie makes this look good…

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Future Treasures: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Thursday, December 29th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

the-bear-and-the-nightingale-smallOne of the many nice things about Christmas is how it re-introduces me to fairy tales. Maybe it’s being surrounded by a blanket of snow, or not having to trudge to work every day, or the constant squeal of kids in the house… or just the magic of the season. Whatever it is, I’m more open to fairy tales this time of year, including the kind that come between hard covers.

The Bear and the Nightingale is the debut novel by Katherine Arden, with more than a hint of a Russian fairy tale setting. Naomi Novik calls it “A beautiful deep-winter story, full of magic and monsters,” and Booklist says it’s “Utterly bewitching… peopled with vivid, dynamic characters, particularly clever, brave Vasya, who outsmarts men and demons alike to save her family.” It arrives in hardcover next month from Del Rey.

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind — she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed — this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

The Bear and the Nightingale will be published by Del Rey on January 10, 2017. It is 336 pages, priced at $27 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition.


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