A Magisterial Account of World War II: Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk

Thursday, July 27th, 2017 | Posted by Zeta Moore


Leaflets fall from the sky on the streets of an idyllic village in France. Soldiers fetch them from the ground as the papers collide, their ominous fluttering booming in your ears.

We follow a boy, clad in the regimental coat of a British soldier. In his eyes, we bear witness to the hardened resolve to survive. He collects the leaflets with his fellow soldiers, scrutinizing them with a benign detachment.

When bombs rip through the sky, the boy tears into a sprint. Leaflets go flying in an eerie flurry of white. He finds refuge among a barrier of sandbags, only to shoot from the post the moment another torrent of bombs descends. In the next moment, he clambers past an obstacle and reenters the place of battle. There, he confronts the staggering sight of his fellow countrymen, awaiting their departure on the shore.

Thus begins Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s magisterial account of a monumental event in World War II. In many ways, the film owes its resonance to Tommy, played by Fionn Whitehead, whom we first see comprehending the silent herald of death. He demands your attention with his earnestness to scrape through the onslaught of terror with the skin on his bones and the heart jackhammering in his ribs.

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A Tale of Two Robert E. Howard Biographies

Thursday, July 27th, 2017 | Posted by James McGlothlin

Dark Valley Destiny The Life of Robert E. Howard-small Blood & Thunder The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard-small

Not so long ago, in a galaxy really close by (in fact, our galaxy), there was a tale of two biographies of the same writer. This is how the story goes. Or at least, this is what I have gathered.

Once upon a time there was a Jedi-in-training (also known as a sci-fi writer) who, tempted by the Dark Side of the Force, figured out that he could make quite a bit of money in the fantasy genre. Tolkien was selling like gangbusters at the time, so why not? Robert E. Howard (REH), a long dead Golden Age pulp writer, had all of that Conan stuff just lying around begging to be exploited utilized. So off to work the Jedi went.

But, in pursuing this decades-long venture, said sci-fi writer unfortunately and eventually went completely over to the Dark Side — full Sith Lord territory. In time, by his own reckoning, he became the de facto spokesperson for what counted as canonical Conan. And further, as a self-made REH authority, he published his own biography of Howard. The Force was strong with this one.

Fortunately though, so the tale goes, the Force eventually balanced out. A small but growing band of Jedi — fully committed to the Light Side — fought vigorously against this Sith Lord, trying to demonstrate who the true REH actually was. In time, the evil Sith Lord was defeated, and died of natural causes. But the task of undoing his dark damage against REH’s legacy would take years. And eventually a very able Jedi warrior would come along and write a new REH biography that would, among other things, hopefully undo all the damage done by the first bio.

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Crappy Parents All Around: A Look At Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson Series

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Percy Jackson and the Titan's Curse-small

At one point, I wanted to encourage my son to read more. He owned a copy of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, but he was disinclined to actually open it.

So, I got the audiobook, played the first two chapters, and then said we could listen to any chapter he had already read. And presto! He got through three of the first five books.

Listening to Rick Riordan’s first Percy Jackson series was fun enough for me as an adult too, a lot like watching a Pixar movie as a parent. There are some levels and ironies for me that my ten and eleven year old son didn’t get.

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io9 on the Must-Read Science Fiction and Fantasy of July

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Afterlife Marcus Sakey-small In Evil Times Melinda Snodgrass-small The Best of Subterranean-small

Over at io9, Cheryl Eddy has been doing the hard work of cataloging the best new science fiction and fantasy month after month. Her July list — packed with brand new releases by Greg Egan, Charles Stross, Nancy Kress, Gardner Dozois, Harry Turtledove, Jay Posey, Nina Allan, Sam J. Miller, Rachel Caine, Kay Kenyon, Carrie Vaughn, Naomi Kritzer, Adam Christopher, and many others — is one of the best yet. Here’s a few of the highlights.

Marcus Sakey is the author of the million-copy bestselling Brilliance trilogy. His new novel Afterlife is set right here in Chicago, and has already been optioned by Imagine Entertainment and producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.

In this dystopian romance, a pair of FBI agents investigating a Chicago terrorist attack fall in love — a circumstance complicated by the fact that one is dead and one is still alive.

Afterlife was published by Thomas & Mercer on July 18, 2017. It is 318 pages, priced at $15.95 in trade paperback and $4.99 for the digital edition.

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Future Treasures: Blackthorne, Volume Two of The Malorum Gates by Stina Leicht

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Cold Iron Stina Leicht-small Black Thorne-small

Stina Leicht’s first two novels were Of Blood and Honey (2011), which Sean Stiennon reviewed for us here, and And Blue Skies From Pain (2012). In 2015 she released the first novel in her new flintlock epic fantasy series, Cold Iron.

Okay, I’m not an expert on flintlock epic fantasy. In fact, I kinda thought the publisher was pulling my leg. Flintlock fantasy? Come on, you just made that up so that you’d have a section to file this under. But I did a Google search and, holy cats, it’s a legit genre and everything. Examples include Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage trilogy, D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker Chronicles, and Django Wexler’s Shadow Campaigns series. (Check out this list for more. Use it to amaze your friends at parties!)

Blackthorne, the sequel to Cold Iron, arrives in hardcover next month from Saga Press. I have an advance copy in house and, damn. This is a big book. The first two volumes total nearly 1,400 pages. If flintlock fantasy is your thing, this book is like five pounds of Christmas. (Also, if flintlock fantasy is your thing, you’re clearly a lot more hip than I am. Don’t get excited, that ain’t much of an accomplishment.)

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July Short Story Roundup

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

CaptureAs the dog days begin, my mind has been prodded back to swords & sorcery by a few things. The most important one was the the return to the fray of Charles R. Saunders, creator of the heroes Imaro and Doussouye. Just the other day, he announced the start of a new blog, Different Drumming. If you are not familiar with Saunders and his superb body of work, go at once and check out his site.

The next thing, while not exactly S&S, was that I learned the final volume of R. Scott Bakker’s Aspect Emperor series, The Unholy Consult, is about to be published. For all my issues with it, it is one of the few contemporary series that has held my interest past the first book or two.

There have also been some fun discussions among various wags over on Facebook about what a list of good introductory books to the genre would look like. I suspect it won’t be long before I’m lifted entirely from my S&S doldrums and return to reading and reviewing the stuff on a regular basis. Until then, there will still be short story roundups. Like this one.

Swords and Sorcery Magazine #65 provides the publication’s usual two new stories. I like both well enough, but neither qualifies as actual S&S. The definition of “what is swords & sorcery?” has been done to death by divers hands and on numerous stages, but suffice to say there should be action and at least a touch of the dark and macabre. This issue’s two stories contain neither of those things.

Then Will Die Your Pain,” by Tom Crowley, consists of the reflections of Konsler, an aged soldier now serving as the attendant to a knight of unclear pedigree.

Sir Garner isn’t a proper knight, just as I’m not a proper squire. There are no knights where Garner comes from, but everyone in the company calls him Sir. And of course I’m too old to be a squire. The other mercenaries say to me, “You’re gonna die out here, grandpa.” They’re probably right. I just need to finish my job first, and I’m writing this in case I don’t.

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New Treasures: Scourge by Gail Z Martin

Monday, July 24th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Scourge Gail Z Martin-smallAccording to the publicity material I have on hand, Gail Z. Martin is a bestselling writer… but that doesn’t mean I know which of her various novels have actually cracked the bestseller lists. There’s a lot of possibilities. She’s produced no less than four series in the last ten years, including seven volumes in the Chronicles of the Necromancer, four in the Ascendant Kingdoms series, three Deadly Curiosities books, and Iron and Blood, the opening book in a new steampunk series co-authored with her husband Larry N. Martin.

Her latest is Scourge, in which three brothers must find out who is controlling the abominations in a city beset by monsters. It’s the opening novel in the brand new Darkhurst series, on sale now from Solaris.

The city-state of Ravenwood is wealthy, powerful, and corrupt. Merchant Princes and Guild Masters wager fortunes to outmaneuver League rivals for the king’s favor and advantageous trading terms. Lord Mayor Ellor Machison wields assassins, blood witches, and forbidden magic to assure that his powerful patrons get what they want, no matter the cost.

Corran, Rigan, and Kell Valmonde are Guild Undertakers, left to run their family’s business when guards murdered their father and monsters killed their mother. Their grave magic enables them to help souls pass to the After and banish vengeful spirits. Rigan’s magic is unusually strong and enables him to hear the confessions of the dead, the secrets that would otherwise be taken to the grave.

When the toll exacted by monsters and brutal guards hits close to home and ghosts expose the hidden sins of powerful men, Corran, Rigan and Kell become targets in a deadly game and face a choice: obey the Guild, or fight back and risk everything.

Scourge was published by Solaris on July 11, 2017. It is 400 pages, priced at $15.99 in trade paperback and $6.99 in digital format.

Microsoft Xbox One vs PS4 Pro

Monday, July 24th, 2017 | Posted by Matt Drought


“War, war never changes.” It’s a quote that opens the Fallout series of video games, and is often used to describe the video game console business.

The console wars, it’s been called. Since the first video game console, the Magnavox Odyssey, many different companies have entered this war. Each competing for games enthusiasts time and money. Each promising to be the absolute best console to experience the joy of playing, and to increase player immersion in the game.

At this year’s E3 video game conference, Microsoft unveiled its newest video game console in its war with Sony. It’s a mid-cycle update to the Xbox One called the Xbox One X, positioned to compete with Sony’s mid-cycle update to its PS4, the PS4 Pro.

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No Slimy Monsters, No Princesses: The Bantam Spectra Omnibus Robert Silverberg

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Robert Silverberg The Masks of Time Born With the Dead Dying Inside-small Robert Silverberg Three Novels The World Inside Thorns Downward to the Earth-small

Robert Silverberg practically introduced me to science fiction. His novel Collision Course was one of the first SF novels I ever read, and he’s one of the first authors I collected. Like a lot of Campbell-era SF, Collision Course is about humans thrusting out into space in an aggressive age of empire-building, and our first encounter with an equally aggressive alien race with the same dreams. The copy I read was the 1977 Ace edition with a cover (by an uncredited artist) that casually gave away the ending.

Ace Books, run by Jim Baen and publisher Tom Doherty, was Silverberg’s paperback publisher in the US for many years. By the 80s, however, Silverberg had been lured over to the Bantam Spectra line under Lou Aronica. Bantam pulled out all the stops for Silverberg, reprinting much of his vast backlist with gorgeous new artwork by Welsh artist Jim Burns. My collection includes over a dozen Bantam Silverberg’s, including his Majipoor novels, Gilgamesh the King (1984), To Open the Sky (1984), and many others,

But it was only a few months ago that I discovered that Bantam produced two omnibus Silverberg collections in 1988. It was purely by luck, as I was hunting down a copy of Downward to the Earth, and instead found a seller offering something called Three Novels: The World Inside, Thorns, Downward to the Earth for just $3. I quickly searched around and found there was a least one earlier volume, collecting The Masks of Time, Born With the Dead, and Dying Inside. I expect they had very low circulation, because I’ve never seen them before.

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July 2017 Clarkesworld Now Available

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Clarkesworld July 2017 smallIn his editorial this issue, Neil Clarke reflects on the heart attack that nearly killed him five years ago.

When the universe calls, you have no choice but to listen. Five years ago this month, it sent me a message in the form of a near-fatal heart attack. It was the sort of thing that not only caught me off guard, but my family, friends, and doctors as well. As I lay there in the critical care unit, the weight of what happened hit me hard, providing an odd sort of clarity and a revised outlook on life. I had some choices to make, a lot of alone time before visitors to think about it.

Over the years, I’ve blogged and editorialized many of the details of that time, but today is about celebrating an anniversary and pushing forward. Not only did I survive, but I learned a lot of valuable lessons. It was a crappy way to get the message, but I’m very glad I did. At the end of the first year, I took back the anniversary by returning to Readercon — the scene of the crime — and successfully ending the Kickstarter campaign for Upgraded, my first anthology.

Five years later, I have a year’s best series and several more anthologies, watched Clarkesworld turn ten, and made it to my fiftieth birthday. Earlier this year and thanks to my wife’s return to the workforce, I was able to quit the day job and have the time to pursue my dream of becoming a full-time editor. Technically, I am full-time now, but the goal was always to be making a full-time income — with healthcare covered — and I’m still working towards that.

Speaking as someone who still believes SF magazines are the heart of the field, I’m enormously grateful Neil is still with us.

The July Clarkesworld contains original fiction from Zhang Ran, Rich Larson, Robert Reed, Bo Balder, and Nicole Kornher-Stace, plus reprints by Joe Haldeman and Lavie Tidhar. The cover, “Genetics Lab,” is by Eddie Mendoza.

Nicole Kornher-Stace, author of Archivist Wasp, writes that her tale is “the first short story I’ve written in approximately forever. It’s also the first tie-in story I’ve written in the Archivist Wasp world. More of those to come.”

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