The Verge on 39 SF, Fantasy, and Horror Novels to Read in April

Sunday, April 30th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Proof of Concept Gwyneth Jones-small Forgotten Worlds-small Brimstone Cherie Priest-small

Here we are on the last day of April. Setting aside the obvious question How the heck did that happen so fast?, it’s clear we need to take drastic action on our reading plan. We have about three weeks of reading to do and, uh, about two hours to do it in.

Well, best we use those last two hours productively. Over at The Verge, Andrew Liptak has some useful suggestions. Let’s see what he has for us.

Brimstone by Cherie Priest (April 4th)

During the First World War, Tomás Cordero wielded a flamethrower, and left the battlefield a broken man. He discovers that his wife died of the flu, after returning home, and he’s haunted by dreams of fire whenever he sleeps. In Cassadaga, Florida, Alice Dartle is a clairvoyant who also dreams of fire, and seeks out Cordero, trying to bring him some peace. However, the flames that bind them were started centuries ago, from someone whose hate extends beyond the grave.

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April 2017 Lightspeed Magazine Now Available

Sunday, April 30th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Lightspeed April 2017-smallI’ve fallen into an odd routine with a few online fiction magazines. Instead of reading them as they come out, I hang out at Tangent Online and use their reviews to point me towards interesting stuff. It works out pretty well, and for the most part the TO reviewers keep on top of the flood of online fiction a lot better than I do. Victoria Silverwolf’s review of the April issue of Lightspeed magazine appeared on Tuesday, and it’s got several stories that sound right up my alley.

“Infinite Love Engine” by Joseph Allen Hill is a lightning-paced tale of a cyborg sent on a mission to save the universe from a thing which causes all lifeforms to love it. Along the way she encounters a wide variety of bizarre beings, from a dangerous “braincube” to a planet-sized entity known as the Drowning King. Narrated in a highly informal style, this wild and woolly space opera doesn’t seem intended to be an out-and-out comedy, although it’s hard to take it too seriously with characters called Beeblax and Zarzak…

Much more intimate is “Seven Permutations of My Daughter” by Lina Rather, although its scientific content is no less fantastic. The narrator is a physicist who has built a device which allows her to journey to parallel universes. For story purposes, this might as well be magic. She uses it in an attempt to find a world where her estranged, heroin-addicted daughter is safe and happy…

“Remote Presence” by Susan Palwick seems at first to take place in our own mundane reality. We soon find out, however, that the characters all accept the fact that ghosts are real, and that sometimes they must be helped — or forced — to move on to the next world. The protagonist is a hospital chaplain. In addition to his many other duties, he also has to deal with an elderly woman who has died in the emergency room and who continues to haunt it, only because she is lonely and wants someone to talk to….

Read Victoria’s complete review of the April issue here.

This month’s Lightspeed offers original fantasy by Susan Palwick and Jess Barber, and fantasy reprints by Genevieve Valentine and Charles Yu, and original science fiction by Joseph Allen Hill and Lina Rather, plus SF reprints by Paul Park and Nancy Kress. The non-fiction includes an editorial from John Joseph Adams, author spotlights, Book Reviews by Andrew Liptak, a review of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter by Carrie Vaughn, and an interview with Aliette de Bodard by Christian A. Coleman.

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Breaking Into Comics as a Writer: Mucho Opportunities

Sunday, April 30th, 2017 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Fantastic Four Ego the Living Planet-small

I knew I wanted to be a writer basically when I learned how to write in English. That might have been as young as grade two, but certainly by grade three (I was in immersion school so we learned to read and write in French first).

My mother gave me my first four comic books in the summer between grades four and five, and I remember making plans with my best friend Eric (who liked to draw) about us making comics together.

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New Treasures: Dream Forever, the Conclusion of The Dream Walker Trilogy, by Kit Alloway

Saturday, April 29th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Dreamfire-small Dreamfever-small Dream Forever-small

One of the nice things about review copies is that they force you to consider books that might normally slide under your radar.

Dream Forever is a tidy example. It’s got a pretty but fairly generic young adult cover — a teen girl sprawling on an abstract purple landscape — and it’s exactly the kind of thing my eyes would have surfed right past on the New Arrivals table. When a review copy arrived from St. Martin’s Press, I honestly forget about it for nearly a month.

But I picked it out of the stack this morning, and figured I should at least make an effort to learn what it’s about. And I discovered it’s the closing novel in a new trilogy from debut author Kit Alloway, featuring a talented dream walker trained by a secret society to battle horrific nightmares — not at all what I might have guessed from the cover design. Publishers Weekly called the opening novel “A suspenseful riddle full of intrigue,” and Kirkus Reviews said “The nightmare vignettes are rivetingly chilling. A dark and exciting paranormal adventure.”

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Collecting (and Selling) Ace Doubles

Saturday, April 29th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

black-gate-booth at Worldcon 2012

Selling vintage paperbacks at the Chicago Worldcon, 2012.
That’s Peadar O’Guilin and Kristin Janz in the background,
and David Kyle’s hand at left

I’ve been collecting science fiction paperbacks for around forty years, and attending SF conventions for roughly the same period. So it’s natural to eventually combine the two. About fifteen years ago, after I’d started selling Black Gate magazine at conventions, I decided to package up some of the older duplicates sitting in my basement and bring them along too.

That quickly became the biggest draw at our booth. As I learned the hard way, struggling in vain to launch a new fantasy magazine, the audience for short fiction in this field gets smaller every year. But interest in vintage science fiction seems to sharpen and grow with each passing month.

It was especially gratifying to see young SF readers approach the booth, eyes wide, taking in the colorful rows of hundreds of paperbacks published before they were born. Sometimes they’d make appreciative comments like, “I can’t believe you have such an incredible collection… it seems a shame to sell it!” Of course, if four tables stacked with books seemed unbelievable, the truth (that this wasn’t my collection, but just a small fraction of the duplicates from my collection) would probably tax their fragile credulity to the limit, so in those moments I’d usually just smile and say, “Shucks. Thanks.”

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Future Treasures: Netherspace by Andrew Lane and Nigel Foster

Saturday, April 29th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Netherspace-smallThere’s a host of space opera out there at the moment, but in my opinion far too much of it suffers from the Star Trek syndrome — aliens who are basically just humans with a little make-up. Everyone speaks English, there’s no miscommunication, and those strange methane-breathers from that swamp planet turn out to be not too much different from your neighbors down the street.

That’s not the way the best SF treats aliens. I prefer my aliens with a bit more mystery, and thankfully there a still a few writers who agree with me. The hit movie Arrival, based on the famous short story by Ted Chiang, is a great example. And so is the upcoming novel Netherspace, by the writing team of Andrew Lane (Young Sherlock Holmes) and Nigel Foster (On Polar Tides). It arrives in trade paperback from Titan Books next week.

Contact with aliens was made forty years ago, but communication turned out to be impossible. Humans don’t share a way of thinking with any of the alien species, let alone a grammar. But there is trade, an exchange of goods that produces scientific advances that would have taken a thousand years. The cost for these alien technologies has no discernible pattern: an apple core, Tower Bridge, a used fondue kit, a live human…

Kara’s sister was one of the hundreds exchanged for the alien netherspace drives, faster-than-light technology that has allowed humans to colonize the stars, and she has little love for aliens. But when a group of colonists are captured the ex-army sniper is reluctantly recruited into the hostage team. Her role in the group is clear, less so is Marc Keislack, a multi-media artist made famous by the aliens unexplained interest in his work.

With humans reliant on alien technology the mission requires a careful balance, but how can you negotiate when you don’t know what your target wants, or why they took your people in the first place?

Netherspace will be published by Titan Books on May 2, 2017. It is 379 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $7.99 in digital formats. It is the first volume in a proposed new series. See pics from the book luanch party at Winstone Books (where the authors met) here.


Worldbuilding a “Star Punk” Future

Friday, April 28th, 2017 | Posted by M Harold Page

Star Punk?

Star Punk?

You know the genre I mean. It’s the one that takes in Firefly, Dumarest… it’s Space Opera’s Sword & Sorcery. It’s Han Solo: The Early Years or Indiana Jones does Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, or Almost Any Clint Eastwood Movie Ever But In Space. It’s what Traveller RPG supports in all its incarnations

It doesn’t have a name, so I’ve taken to calling it “Star Punk.” Here’s how I  tried to define it in my guest post for uber SF meister Charles Stross:

They are all set in spacefaring civilizations where technology has somehow — with an authorial handwave — and my handwave is particularly cunning and internally consistent — failed to eliminate the human element, where you still need a human to pull the trigger or pilot the scout ship, and where nanotechnology, 3D-printing and vertical farms have neither eliminated trade, nor ushered in a crime-free post scarcity society. They all involve individuals or companions — adventurers, traders, investigators, contractors — pursuing goals of only local significance.

In other words, they could all be transcripts of particularly good Traveller campaigns.

Writing Star Punk, as I discovered when I started planning The Wreck of the Marissa, poses certain worldbuilding problems. (And, yes in this case, I really mean “universe building” but worldbuilding now has a specific technical meaning for writers and other creatives.)

The issue is this bit: where you still need a human to pull the trigger or pilot the scout ship, and where nanotechnology, 3D-printing and vertical farms have neither eliminated trade, nor ushered in a crime-free post scarcity society.

In a nutshell, any realistic starfaring future is unlikely to be like this. In fact, our technology is already breaking the Star Punk future.

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I’ve Got You Covered

Friday, April 28th, 2017 | Posted by Violette Malan

Frank Frazetta The Death Dealer

In my last post I took a look at SF cover art, and how the fashion in covers changes over the decades. As with fashion in clothing or hairstyles, you can make a pretty accurate guess about time periods and genres just from a book’s cover. Whether you’re influenced in your purchases by that cover is a personal thing. In the spirit of leaving no stone unturned, today I’m looking at Fantasy cover art.

Since I’m a writer and not an art critic, I avoided discussing the work of any particular SF artist – I was looking at how covers change, not how an artist evolves. However, I don’t think we can talk about Fantasy cover art without at least a brief look at Frank Frazetta. In a way, his covers are the perfect example of what I’m talking about. When you look at a Frazetta cover, you know what time period, and what genre you’re looking at.

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Goth Chick News: Ellen Ripley Relives Her Tortured Past

Thursday, April 27th, 2017 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Alien digital Sigourney Weaver-small

Consider for a moment your adult self, with all your current knowledge, experience and (theoretic) ability to know better, magically transported back in time to relive the trials and tribulations of your incredibly awkward and potentially misspent youth.

Would you do it?

Personally that’s a great big “no” with several colorful swear words preceding it. But this is the exact personal hell soon to be faced by Sigourney Weaver.

Sort of.

Ridley Scott isn’t ruling out a young Ellen Ripley entering the storyline in one of his planned Alien: Covenant sequels, via the magic of CGI de-aging.

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So You Want to Be a Movie Star – Really?

Thursday, April 27th, 2017 | Posted by Thomas Parker

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford

So you want to be a movie star? Big house, swimming pool, fancy cars, lavish parties, gala premiers, fawning flunkies, fame, fortune, the envy and adulation of millions — all the accoutrements, privileges, and perquisites of a luxurious lifestyle undreamt of by lesser mortals? It’s quite a life, I hear.

But of course, there’s always the flip side (everything has a flip side), when the years start to mount up and more and more choice parts go to fresh young things with a little more rubber on their radials, and the waiting time between films grows longer… and longer… and you, a big talent, a serious thespian, a major star, finally find yourself slinking onto the sound stage to take up your role in a low-budget exploitation movie. You can’t even salvage a little dignity by hiding somewhere in the middle of the credits, can’t pretend that you’re doing a campy cameo as a favor for an old friend. Nope — honey, you’re the headliner, the main attraction, that’s your name up there in big, bold print, right up there for everyone to see on the posters of Strait-Jacket… and Berserk!… and… please, God, no… Trog.

Yup. It’s a hell of a life, being a movie star. Just ask Joan Crawford.

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