Goth Chick News: Climbing The Mountain of Souls with the Band Haunted Abbey Mythos

Thursday, April 25th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

The Mountain of Souls

As you know, or likely can guess, I am a collector of scary stories from all over. The fact that every culture has them and they collectively have quite a lot of similarities is something I have always found fascinating.

Though US Halloween traditions are still catching on in Spain, listening to and telling scary stories is a tradition during the Spanish All Hallow’s Eve. A favorite and oft-told tale is called “El Monte de las Animas” or “The Mountain of Souls,” a legend written down by Gustavo Adolfo Bequer, a nineteenth century Spanish Romanticist poet, writer and playwright. and first published in the newspaper El Contemporáneo in 1861. The author claimed to have heard the tale in the city of Soria during All Hallows Eve´s night, and not being able to sleep, he decided to write it down.

The Mountain of Souls tells the story of Alonso, the youngest son of Count Borges, and his cousin Beatriz, a somewhat haughty young lady. One day, while on a horse ride through the countryside, Alonso entertains Beatriz with a legend that the nearby hill is haunted by the spirits of ancient Templar knights. When they returned home, Beatriz finds she has lost a blue sash during the ride, and asks Alonso to venture back to the mountain to retrieve it for her, as a token of his love. Alonso is reluctant to go to the mount at night because the souls of the dead are said to wander there, but at Beatriz’s insistence and longing for her affections, Alonso goes.

As you can imagine, the outcome isn’t pleasant – for either of them.

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Future Treasures: Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Thursday, April 25th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Aurora Rising-smallIt wasn’t all that long ago — say, about ten years, when it seemed that 80% of the new release shelf in science fiction and fantasy was adult (and often highly adult) paranormal romance — that it seemed that science fiction just wasn’t attracting new readers any more. And especially, there was no market for young adult SF, and no way for young readers to really discover it, except for those lucky few who stumbled on battered copies of the kid-friendly science fiction I found in my youth, by Heinlein, Simak, Asimov, Le Guin, Poul Anderson, and more.

Man, what a difference a decade makes. Thanks to the gargantuan success of The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, and countless others, YA science fiction and fantasy rules in the bookstore. There’s absolutely scads of it. The YA section at my local Barnes & Noble is nearly as big as the entire SF section — and most of it is genre in one way or another.

I think this is fabulous, especially if SF can keep and nurture these readers. One way to do that it to make sure they know they’re reading science fiction, and not dystopian fiction, or whatever they call it these days. That’s why I’m especially interested in books like the upcoming Aurora Rising, from the the New York Times bestselling writing team of The Illuminae Files, which looks, feels and smells just like SF. Young readers who enjoy this book will come back looking for more space adventure, and there’s a lot to give them. Here’s the description.

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass tech whiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger-management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem – that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline cases, and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

NOBODY PANIC.

Aurora Rising will be published by Knopf Books on May 7, 2019. It is 470 pages, priced at $18.99 in hardcover and $10.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Charlie Bowater.


Medieval Wall Paintings and Visigothic Artifacts in Toledo, Spain

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

20190418_122718

Portion of a Visigothic sarcophagus, with scenes from the Bible

Enough about the Western Desert of Egypt! Let’s pull the sand out of our teeth, bid the mummies goodbye, and go to Toledo, Spain. You can eat pork, drink wine, and see some historic churches.

One of the most interesting is the Iglesia de San Román.

This church dates to the early 13th century, and like many buildings in town was built atop earlier structures. Before the church there was a mosque, and before that a Visigothic church. There may have been a Roman building before that. Its interior is in the Mudéjar style, a Moorish influenced architectural style that has continued in Spain until the modern day.

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The Robonic Stooges

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

Robonic stooges DVD cover

Marshall McLuhan may have proclaimed the the medium is the message but robots transcended any one medium by the 1970s. Audiences found robots everywhere: in movies, on television, in comic books and strips, in cartoons, in toys, in print science fiction and increasingly in mainstream thrillers.

Martin Caidin created a sensation with his 1972 bestseller, Cyborg. Stalwart astronaut/test pilot Steve Austin emerges from a plane wreck with half his body damaged. Incredibly expensive – six million dollars worth! – mechanical parts with capabilities beyond those of flesh are grafted to replace his missing arm, eye, and legs, making him a bionic superman. (The term bionic was, in the poetic words of Philippe Goujon, “invented by Major Jack E. Steele of the aerospace medical division of the U. S. Air Force on an August evening in 1958” as a portmanteau of biology and electronics.) Less than a year after the book’s release, a made-for-television movie hit the airwaves. Two more movies begat The Six Million Dollar Man tv series which begat The Bionic Woman. Such are empires launched.

Robots almost always had been comic sidekicks or deadly menaces in popular media, rarely lead characters. The Six Million Dollar Man was the first to successfully plug that enormous hole on television, dodging the identification problem by making a human mechanical. (My Living Doll from 1964 starred an actual robot but got canceled partway though its first season.) With a formula for success in hand, other television creators took a crack at the magical potential audience draw of bionics. Such a cracked mind belonged to Norman Maurer, who lead audiences down a psychedelic rabbit hole toward the most mind-blowing mash-up of genres in popular culture’s dubious history.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Harpist in the Wind, by Patricia A. McKillip

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by MIchael Mariano

Cover by MIchael Mariano

Cover by Darrell K. Sweet

Cover by Darrell K. Sweet

Cover by Jack Woolhiser

Cover by Jack Woolhiser

The Locus Awards were established in 1972 and presented by Locus Magazine based on a poll of its readers. In more recent years, the poll has been opened up to on-line readers, although subscribers’ votes have been given extra weight. At various times the award has been presented at Westercon and, more recently, at a weekend sponsored by Locus at the Science Fiction Museum (now MoPop) in Seattle. The Best Fantasy Novel Award dates back to 1978, when it was won by J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. The award was not presented in 1979, and when it was reinstituted in 1980, this time permanently, Patricia A. McKillip won the award for Harpist in the Wind. In 1980. The Locus Poll received 854 responses.

The 1980 award season seems to have been a good year for final books in trilogies. Just as Dragondrums, the final volume of Anne MCCaffrey’s Harper Hall trilogy received the coveted Balrog Award, the final volume of Patricia A. McKillip’s Riddle-Master trilogy, Harpist in the Wind, won the Locus Poll for Best Fantasy Novel. Apparently, it was also the award season for musically-oriented fantasy novels. One of the biggest differences between Dragondrums and Harpist in the Wind is also what makes McCaffrey’s novel easier to read on its own.

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A Tale of Tropes

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

Merlin poster

All the goofy best somehow heartfelt drama one could ever ask for

Good afternoon, Readers!

I’m ill today (currently accepting all the pity), and blogging from the couch, where I’m sitting with a hot cup of tea and binging Netflix. In fact, I’m binging an old show that is the equivalent of comfort food.

Look, this show is absolutely the goofiest thing you’ll ever watch. It’s also genuinely funny, dramatic, tear-jerking, and eye-rolling. In short, it’s that peculiar mix of drama and whimsy that the BBC excels at producing. It’s very much part of the British sensibility, I think, this mix of whimsy and drama… and terrible CGI. There’s just something about that mix, and the peculiarly Britishnes of the whole thing that is somehow a killing combination.

Since I’m watching it anyway, I figured I chat about the show, and how it both adheres to and breaks some of my favourite fantasy tropes.

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Tor.com on Abandoned Earths and Inhospitable Planets

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Worlds Apart Joe Haldeman-small Venus of Dreams-small Vacuum Flowers UK-small The-Exile-Waiting-small
Worlds Apart Joe Haldeman-back-small Venus of Dreams-back-small Vacuum Flowers UK-back-small The-Exile-Waiting-back-small

Everyone knows that Top Ten lists are irresistable clickbait for bibliophiles. That’s why there are so damned many. Top Ten Science Fiction novels of the 80s. Top 50 Fantasy Novels of All Time. Top 100 Hobbits in Science Fiction, Yo. Don’t lie to me, you know you love ’em.

Anyway, over the last few years book sites have gotten a little more clever, spicing up run-of-the-mill Top Ten lists with more interesting themes. A couple of my recent favorites both appeared at Tor.com: James Davis Nicoll’s SF Stories Featuring Abandoned Earths, and Kelly Jensen’s Five Inhospitable Planets from Science Fiction. Both feature topics near-and-dear to my old school heart and, even better, they showcase classic books from Ursula K. Le Guin, Vonda McIntyre, Poul Anderson, Michael Swanwick, Arthur C. Clarke, Joe Haldeman, Mel Odom, and Kim Stanley Robinson, and more, with nods to films like The Chronicles of Riddick and Interstellar.

Really, these things are just excuses to write about books we love, and what’s wrong with that? Nuthin’, that’s what’s wrong with that. This is what the internet is for, people.

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The Lost Literature of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The New Shadow”

Monday, April 22nd, 2019 | Posted by Gabe Dybing

JRR TolkienRecently, game submissions opened for Coulee Con, a local gaming convention that takes place over one weekend every August. This year I’m offering a scenario based on Tolkien’s “The New Shadow,” which is an aborted sequel to The Lord of the Rings. Christopher Tolkien collected the fragment in 1996’s The Peoples of Middle-Earth.

It’s an interesting piece, obviously, not least because it was intended to become another book set in Middle-earth — a book from no less than the great Tolkien himself! The snippet is maddeningly short, however. Perhaps its brevity results from a malformed conception that precluded it from ever actually becoming anything. This is overstating my view: rather, I believe that Tolkien’s “New Shadow” promises to have been an immensely profound articulation, but (as The Silmarillion that Christopher Tolkien published after his father’s death, to an ambivalent reception from Middle-earth enthusiasts) it likely would have been so different a book from The Lord of the Rings as to be misunderstood by its waiting audience.

I think it’s important to establish that Tolkien was a practitioner of many genres. He earned his living as an academic and therefore published many critical essays. The two most valuable to us fantasy enthusiasts now are “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics” and “On Fairy Stories.” As a philologist he translated many epic poems into modern English; the two most visible to us are Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. He practiced poetry himself: many of Middle-earth’s early legends first were conceived in verse; he wrote the epic The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun; obviously we must mention the many songs and poems in The Lord of the Rings itself. He wrote satirical comedy in “Farmer Giles of Ham,” faerie romance in “Smith of Wootton Major.” Most importantly, he wrote in the long folk/fairy tale mode with The Hobbit, the epic novel with The Lord of the Rings, and Classical epic with The Silmarillion — a terse, condensed style that, in my youth, had me telling my friends that it was the Bible of Middle-earth.

I have heard friends joke about The Silmarillion as the bestselling book that no one ever read (for the record, I have read it many times, of course). I don’t think that “The New Shadow” would have had the same reception, though the attention given it certainly would have been ambivalent. This is because a new book from Tolkien would have occasioned yet one more genre from him. This time, it would have been a thriller.

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New Treasures: Finder by Suzanne Palmer

Monday, April 22nd, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Finder Suzanne Palmer-smallSuzanne Palmer has become a familiar face in Asimov’s Science Fiction, with over a dozen stories there in the last decade. Her 2018 Clarkesworld novelette “The Secret Life of Bots” won a Hugo Award, and she’s twice been a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.

Her debut novel Finder features Fergus Ferguson, interstellar repo man and professional finder, in an action-packed sci-fi caper that Maria Haskins at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog calls “a Ridiculously Fun Science Fiction Adventure… a rollicking ride from a hardscrabble space colony at the outer edge of the galaxy to the conflict-ridden settlements of colonized Mars and back again, with stops on the way at an alien spaceship and a holiday planet.” It’s available now in hardcover from DAW.

Fergus Ferguson has been called a lot of names: thief, con artist, repo man. He prefers the term finder.

His latest job should be simple. Find the spacecraft Venetia’s Sword and steal it back from Arum Gilger, ex-nobleman turned power-hungry trade boss. He’ll slip in, decode the ship’s compromised AI security, and get out of town, Sword in hand.

Fergus locates both Gilger and the ship in the farthest corner of human-inhabited space, a backwater deep space colony called Cernee. But Fergus’ arrival at the colony is anything but simple. A cable car explosion launches Cernee into civil war, and Fergus must ally with Gilger’s enemies to navigate a field of space mines and a small army of hostile mercenaries. What was supposed to be a routine job evolves into negotiating a power struggle between factions. Even worse, Fergus has become increasingly — and inconveniently — invested in the lives of the locals.

It doesn’t help that a dangerous alien species Fergus thought mythical prove unsettlingly real, and their ominous triangle ships keep following him around.

Foolhardy. Eccentric. Reckless. Whatever he’s called, Fergus will need all the help he can get to take back the Sword and maybe save Cernee from destruction in the process.

Finder was published by DAW on April 2, 2019. It is 400 pages, priced at $26 in hardcover and $12.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Kekai Kotaki. Read the first ten pages of Chapter One here, and see all our recent New Treasures here.


Hither Came Conan: Keith J. Taylor on “Red Nails”

Monday, April 22nd, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Oliver Cuthbertson for an Oxford University Press edition

Oliver Cuthbertson for an Oxford University Press edition

Welcome back to the latest installment of Hither Came Conan, where a leading Robert E. Howard expert examines one of the original Conan stories each week, highlighting what’s best. Keith Taylor talks about “Red Nails.” It was the last Conan story written by Howard, who was moving on from fantasy. Read on!

“Red Nails” happens to be one of this writer’s favourite Conan stories, of that particular length, along with “People of the Black Circle” and “The Black Stranger” (which REH also wrote as a Black Vulmea pirate yarn, “Swords of the Red Brotherhood”).

Aside from their general length, they have other elements in common. One is the usual rip-roaring, headlong action, inventiveness, and raw violence which Howard’s name on a story guaranteed. Another is a pattern of shifting alliances and double- or triple-crosses. Yet another is a furious resolution at the end, involving the gory deaths of some of the main players.

The background against which the story unfolds in “Red Nails,” the mad, claustrophobic lost city of Xuchotl, is almost a major character in itself. For a contrast, at the beginning, Howard opened his story in the natural world outside, an immense forest of ancient trees, rocky crags and wild beasts. He introduces his protagonists there, Conan and the Aquilonian pirate, Valeria of the Red Brotherhood. Valeria has killed a mercenary officer who tried to rape her, and before that, had to jump overboard from a pirate ship because “Red Ortho wanted to make me his mistress.”

Conan has followed her south from the mercenary camp with that identical idea. They are almost about to come to sword-strokes when a dragon kills their horses and interrupts the scene – described by Howard as “at once ludicrous and perilous.”

The dragon is interesting. In general design it’s like a stegosaurus, right to the spiked tail, armour plates along the spine, and “absurdly short legs.” The head, though, is not tiny but decidedly big, its vast gape armed with rows of carnivore fangs. It turns out later that the dragon and its kind had in fact been extinct for an epoch or so, and nothing remained of them in the forest but their bones, until the magicians of Xuchotl resurrected them, “clothed in flesh and life.”

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