The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog on the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of May 2019

Friday, May 31st, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Children of Ruin Adrian Tchaikovsky-small Westside W M Akers-small Empire of Grass Tad Williams-small

It’s the last day of May, and you know what that means. You’re another month behind in your reading.

Fortunately for you, there are some excellent resources out there to help you discover just how badly you blew it (yet again) by not spending every spare moment in May reading. My new favorite is The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, which does a terrific job month-after-month of letting us know just how bad we suck. Here’s some of the highlights from Jeff Somers summary of The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of May 2019.

Children of Ruin, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Orbit, 576 pages, $15.99 trade paperback/$9.99 digital, May 14)

The sequel to the British Science Fiction Award-winning Children of Time returns to the unlikely new cradle of humanity, a colony planet whereupon a disastrous terraforming attempt resulted in the creation of a new society of uplifted ants and spiders whose civilization evolved at breakneck speed before the desperate remnants of the a ravaged Earth could arrive. Now unlikely allies, the humans and the insects catch fragmentary signals broadcast from light years away, suggesting there might be other survivors from their shared homeworld. A mixed expedition sets out to solve the mystery, but what’s waiting for them out in space is another calamity set in motion by long-dead Earth scientists’ arrogant and desperate efforts to ensure the survival of their species. Children of Ruin managed to completely deliver on a truly absurd premise, and the sequel offers similar pleasures.

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In 500 Words or Less: Titanshade by Dan Stout

Friday, May 31st, 2019 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

Titanshade-smallTitanshade
By Dan Stout
DAW Books (416 pages, $26.00 hardcover, $7.99 paperback, $12.99 eBook, March 12, 2019)
Cover by Chris McGrath

Jake Peralta and I have something in common: a deep love for Die Hard. That was what got me into cop-centered stories (moving on from Pokemon and Power Rangers), leading me to the likes of Lethal Weapon, Nash Bridges and more. The reason I still love those stories is because of the focus on a dysfunctional, imperfect hero trying to grapple with internal and external pressures, and sometimes not handling them very well. That’s part of why one of my favorites shows of all time is Fringe – none of the characters are perfect, they all have demons, there’s a procedural element, and it’s a weird-frightening-amazing science fiction show.

Dan Stout manages to give the procedural a fresh twist with Titanshade, which centers on police detectives in a northern town trying to transition from oil to renewable energy, in a world populated by humans and other races. The cover looks like a rehash of Bright, which is just unfortunate timing, apparently, since this novel sold to DAW earlier. More importantly, Stout’s story is way more original and engaging (though I actually enjoyed Bright). It’s not just orcs and elves running around with humans; it’s Mollencampi, with multiple mouths and an array of expressions using their pincers, and Gillmyn, sort of like bipedal whales who more easily adapt to Titanshade’s cold. Oh, and they aren’t running around what’s basically present-day Los Angeles with fantasy creatures thrown in; Titanshade is built around a mountain formed from a dying god whose lifeblood gives the community heat, which is good since the material component for magic is running out even faster than the old oil reserves.

Between the 8-track players, disco music and pagers, the rampant police politics and focus on a detective past his prime paired with a young go-getter, Titanshade reads a lot like a love letter to shows like Miami Vice or Hawaii Five-0. But at the same time there’s a ton of nuance and breaking of traditional molds. Carter, our past-his-prime detective, is far from a carbon copy of Martin Riggs or Sonny Crockett, and the problems he and his partner Jax deal with are more X-Files than Blue Bloods. Limiting magic makes it a subtle tool throughout this novel, but a crucial component for the story, and the focus on moving away from oil makes me wonder if we can classify this as a solarpunk story (or maybe solarpunk-adjacent?).

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Goth Chick News: Terror in Broad Daylight is Kind of Awesome

Thursday, May 30th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Goth Chick Hey Lars-small

As the offspring of a Swedish immigrant, I grew up with a slightly augmented holiday calendar. For instance, Halloween was kind of a two-day thing in that my Swedish family celebrated All Saints Day on November 1. Easter was a four-day celebration that included not only ‘Good Friday’ but also ‘Easter Monday’ and the Christmas celebration started on December 24th and went straight through to Epiphany on January 6th, with pretty much non-stop partying for thirteen days. But one of my favorite Swedish holidays was Midsommar (or the Americanized “Midsummer”) which occurs toward the end of June; this year landing on June 21.

The Midsommar Festival in Sweden is steeped in magic, which the Swedes brought with them to America. Its origins can be traced back to the pagan celebrations around the summer solstice, and with winters being what they are in that part of the world, it’s no wonder the end of the long cold darkness was reason to dance. Flower rings were woven and worn as head dresses, there were large poles or majas decorated with greenery to dance around, and plenty of flirting; all to celebrate the awakening of Mother Earth. It was and still is a holiday to rival Christmas, and I remember the whole Swedish community gathering in a local forest preserve on Midsummer’s Eve and Midsummer’s Day to eat, play music, dance, have a huge bonfire and generally banish old man winter. I also heard stories of Midsummer festivities “back home” where entire towns decamped to the countryside to do these same things only on a much grander scale.

Now, it is important to remember that, in spite of the general flower-laden celebratory feel of the Midsummer rituals, it is still a pagan festival at its heart, and that opens it up to all sorts of dark imaginings in the hands of certain movie makers.

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New Treasures: The Outlaw and the Upstart King, Book 2 of The Map of Unknown Things by Rod Duncan

Thursday, May 30th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The-Queen-of-All-Crows-medium The Outlaw and the Upstart King-small

Rod Duncan is the author of The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire trilogy, a supernatural mystery series featuring Elizabeth Barnabus, who lives a double life as herself and as her brother, a private detective. The first volume, The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter (2014) was a finalist for the 2014 Phillip K. Dick Award.

His next project is The Map of Unknown Things, a new series set in the same world that follows the continuing adventures of Elizabeth. It began with Queen of all Crows (2018), which was warmly reviewed by several of my favorite review sites. Sydney Shields at The British Fantasy Society said “Duncan’s Gas-lit Empire reads and feels like the world of a Victorian detective adventure (think Sherlock Holmes, the Blake & Avery Mysteries, Charles Dickens) but the twist is that the year is actually 2012… Definitely recommend.” And The Speculative Shelf gave it an enthusiastic write-up:

Fresh off her battle with the International Patent Court, Elizabeth Barnabus finds herself working on behalf of that very organization that brought her so much trouble in the past. She sets sail to investigate the disappearance of an airship that went down in the Atlantic.

The concept of the worldwide alliance that maintains world peace at the cost of technological advancement continues to be a fascinating one…Duncan has crafted a solid adventure story that featured some superb scenes and passages. I remain impressed by Duncan’s skills as a writer. His prose is clean, readable, and rich. There’s a great theatricality infused into his stories that make the mundane seem grand… this is another enjoyable adventure featuring a great protagonist and set of side characters.

The second volume in the series, The Outlaw and the Upstart King, was published by Angry Robot earlier this year. Here’s a scan of both back covers.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Don Maitz

Thursday, May 30th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

R. Bertram Chandler's The Far Traveler

R. Bertram Chandler’s The Far Traveler

C. J. Cherryh's Hestia

C. J. Cherryh’s Hestia

Jeff Rovin's Fantasy Almanac

Jeff Rovin’s Fantasy Almanac

The World Fantasy Awards are presented during the World Fantasy Convention and are selected by a mix of nominations from members of the convention and a panel of judges. The awards were established in 1975 and presented at the 1st World Fantasy Convention in Providence, Rhode Island. Traditionally, the awards took the form of a bust of H.P. Lovecraft sculpted by Gahan Wilson, however in recent years the trophy became controversial in light of Lovecraft’s more problematic beliefs. The Best Artist Award has been part of the award since its founding, when it was won by Lee Brown Coye. In 1980, the year Maitz received the award for his work, the convention was held in Baltimore, Maryland. The judges were Stephen R. Donaldson, Frank Belknap Long, andrew j. offutt, Ted White, and Susan Wood.

After graduating from the Paier School of Art in 1975, Don Maitz broke into the field with a black and white illustration for and ad that appeared in Marvel’s Kull and the Barbarians. In 1976, he provided the cover for the Science Fiction Book Club edition of Leigh Brackett’s The Book of Skaith: The Adventures of Eric Stark as well as books by L. Sprague de Camp, Lin Carter, and Lloyd Alexander.

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Power Couples in the World of Speculative Fiction: Jim Freund and Barbara Krasnoff

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019 | Posted by Elizabeth Crowens

Jim-and-Barbara-3-pix-720px-wide

Crowens: You guys are native Brooklyners, right?

Both: No.

Barbara: I’m the native Brooklyner. He’s from Queens.

Jim: I’m from Jackson Heights. She is from Canarsie… originally. It’s like the line from Captain America: Civil War when he meets Spider-man. Captain America is fighting him at the airport and says, “You’ve got heart, kid. Where are you from?” and Spider-man says, “Queens.” Captain America looks at him and says in a confrontational tone, “Brooklyn.”

(Laughs): That’s great.

Jim: Best line in the movie.

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A Medieval Castle and Spanish Civil War Bunker on the Outskirts of Madrid

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

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In a previous post about Spanish castles I wrote six years ago, I talked about the Castillo de Alameda de Osuna, a fifteenth-century castle on the northeastern fringes of Madrid. Back then it was rather neglected, standing as an enigmatic ruin in the middle of a field. Now it’s been restored and has opened as a museum.

The site first became important in the 12th century with the founding of two towns in the area, Barajas and La Alameda. Together they became the manor of the Mendoza family in 1369, only to be transferred to the Zapata family in 1406.

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Vintage Treasures: Emergence by David R. Palmer

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Emergence David Palmer-small Emergence David Palmer-back-small

Cover by Jim Burns

The mid-80s were a good time to be a science fiction short story author. If you had a pair of popular tales in top-selling magazines like Analog or Asimov’s SF, that’s all it took to catapult you near the top of the field.

Take David R. Palmer, for example. His first published story, “Emergence,” was published in the January 1981 issue of Analog; it won the magazine’s Readers Choice awards, and was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novella. He followed it with his second (and last) short piece, the novella “Seeking,” in the February 1983 Analog, which also won the Analog award, and was nominated for both a Hugo and Locus Award for Best Novella. Palmer used the stories as the first two parts of his first novel Emergence (Bantam Spectra, 1984) and voila. He had a best seller.

Emergence made a major splash, especially for a first novel. It won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel, and was nominated for the Hugo, Locus, and Philip K. Dick Awards. The long-awaited sequel, Tracking, appeared 14 long years later. It was serialized in Analog magazine between the July and October issues, but has never been published in book form. In fact, other than a single follow up novel (Threshold, 1985), Palmer has never published another book — or short story, for that matter. Despite rumors over the years, he has yet to deliver on the astonishing promise of his first book.

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On Release Day for My Latest Novel, I Ponder My Inspirations

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019 | Posted by David B. Coe

Time's Children DB Jackson-small Time's Demon new hires-small

Two weeks ago, John O’Neill was kind enough to publish in Black Gate my review of Guy Gavriel Kay’s newest novel A Brightness Long Ago. In the review, I mention that Guy Kay’s work has long been an influence and inspiration for my own. As John and I discussed what I might write for a post marking today’s release of my latest work, Time’s Demon, book two in my Islevale Cycle, he reflected on that line in my review and asked if I might want to put together a piece on the works that have shaped my writing and my career. This is why the man is a World Fantasy Award-winning editor.

Authors writing about our inspirations quickly find ourselves in tricky territory. The fact is that everything we read influences us, just as does every other thing we experience. Our creativity comes from a deeply personal place, and each of us is the sum of, among other things, our experiences, our emotions, the people with whom we interact, and, yes, the art to which we’re exposed. Anything I read can help to shape my work-in-progress – even the worst book ever penned might at least point me in the direction of things I don’t want to do with my next scene. So clearly, when we talk about our influences, we mean something deeper and more substantive.

Then there is the fact that many of our closest friends are also colleagues, and we don’t wish to offend with an act of omission. Again, all that I read influences me in some way, and I am constantly inspired by the talent, vision, and passion of writers I know and care about.

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Like a Phoenix from the Ashes, City of Heroes Returns!

Monday, May 27th, 2019 | Posted by Thomas Parker

(2) City of Heroes-small

In the world of superheroes, nothing is less permanent than death. Just ask Superman; his demise in 1992 was one of the biggest news stories of the year, at least for the kind of easily bamboozled person who doesn’t actually read comic books (like the editors of Time Magazine). The more sophisticated were not fooled however, and rightly so. Superman was only in the ground for a little longer than your average basketball season.

This being so, it should come as no surprise that an entire universe of heroes and villains should return to life almost seven years after completely vanishing in a cataclysmic climax that can still bring tears to the eyes of those who were there at the end, but an enormous surprise it was. The comic book immortality principle notwithstanding, it really did seem as if that universe, the world of Paragon City and the Rogue Isles and the alternate dimension of Praetoria, was truly gone forever. But if comic books can teach us anything, it’s that the impossible is possible and that for the brave and pure of heart, no defeat is final.

In other words, City of Heroes, the legendary and beloved superhero MMORPG (that’s Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, a phrase even uglier and more graceless than its acronym), which ran from April 28th, 2004 until it was shut down by NCSOFT on November 30th, 2012, is back!

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