Voodoo, Sea Monsters, and Rebel Colonies: Rich Horton on Sea Siege/Eye of the Monster by Andre Norton

Sunday, May 31st, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Sea Siege Andre Norton Ace Double-small Eye of the Monster Ace Double-small

Sea Siege/Eye of the Monster by Andre Norton. Ace Books F-147, 1962. 176+80 pages, $0.40. Covers by Ed Valigursky/Ed Emshwiller

During the months-long lockdown here in Illinois as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, I know I should be reading the massive TBR pile by my bedside. It’s filled with Nebula award winners, advance proofs of books coming out this fall, and all the new books my friends are talking about. But instead, I want to be reading Ace Doubles.

I blame Rich Horton. Like everyone else, I’m influenced by what I read, and what I’ve been reading recently is Rich Horton’s excellent blog Strange at Ecbatan. Like a superb DJ, Rich knows how to blend the old and the new, and in the past few weeks he’s reviewed The Sorcerer’s House by Gene Wolfe (from 2010), Avram Davidson’ acclaimed 2001 collection The Other Nineteenth Century,  the brilliant Think Like a Dinosaur and Other Stories by James Patrick Kelly (1997), the overlooked novel The Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter (1996), and a Mack Reynolds/A. Bertram Chandler Ace Double from 1967.

That Ace Double piqued my interest, of course. Like Rich, I have an enduring fondness for these peculiarly collectible science from the 1950s and 60s, although I don’t have nearly the reading muscles he does. I’m mostly familiar with the earlier D-Series, and recently I’ve been re-reading some of Rich’s reviews of those older books, especially the ones I first collected. One of the very first was Sea Siege/Eye of the Monster, a pair of Andre Norton novels issued as an Ace Double in 1962, which Rich reviewed on his blog back in 2017.

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Viewpoint Intimacy Through a Third Person Lens

Sunday, May 31st, 2020 | Posted by R. J. Howell

Cordelia's Honor-small The Goblin Emperor Katherine Addison-small A Memory Called Empire paperback-small

Cordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen 1996, cover by Gary Ruddell), The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Tor 2014,
cover by Anna Balbusso and Elena Balbusso), and A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine (Tor 2019, cover by Jaime Jones)

Since quarantine has brought an unexpected windfall of time for me, I’ve been beta-reading more than usual, and from sources beyond my immediate network of writer-friends. With these new novels, however, I’ve noticed this trend of a lack of intimacy with third person viewpoint characters.

I’m not sure if this is a discomfort with diving deeper into their character’s viewpoint, not knowing how to deep-dive into PoV, or taking the “show-don’t-tell” adage a step too far, to the point where the prose only “shows” action and all moments of interiority and reflection are seen as “telling.”

Or perhaps it’s that some writers watch more films, or play more video games, than they read, and recycle techniques borrowed from visual media that don’t have the same impact in prose? This is not to disparage visual and/or interactive entertainment, nor writers who learn how to tell stories in that media. However, visual media uses a different skill-set to convey emotion, and there are things that can be done with prose that can’t be done as well in film.

Whatever the root cause, I’ve read multi-viewpoint novels where the writers specifically stated that the plot was deeply character driven, and yet, for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you anything about the characters that wasn’t directly tied to the plot. It’s as if the writer feared to bog down the narrative with character backstory, either as a result of excessive edits or an unwillingness to include it in the first place. By the end, all that was left was what was introduced in Chapter 1. The characters had no past, and their only future derived from events in the story. I felt so removed, like I was watching things unfold from a distance, and while the plot escalated and had the necessary dramatic beats, I simply didn’t feel anything. I wasn’t experiencing, I wasn’t sinking into the prose and being transported.

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A Sampling from an SF Grandmaster: The Silverberg Collections from Three Rooms Press

Saturday, May 30th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

First-Person Singularities Stories-small Time and Time Again Sixteen Trips in Time-small Alien Archives Eighteen Stories of Extraterrestrial Encounters-small

First-Person Singularities (2017), Time and Time Again (2018), and Alien Archives (2019), all published by Three Rooms Press

My 3,000-word article on The Art of Author Branding: The Paperback Robert Silverberg last week required a lot of research and reading, and all that generated a nostalgic interest in Silverberg. So this week I’ve been digging into his recent collections, and that led me to the pleasant discovery that Three Rooms Press has been issuing a brand new Silverberg collection each year for the past three years, beginning with First-Person Singularities, which gathers tales written in the first person, and Time and Time Again: Sixteen Trips in Time (which is currently available at half-price on Amazon, just $7.99 in trade paperback).

The most recent is Alien Archives: Eighteen Stories of Extraterrestrial Encounters, a generous collection of stories from 1954-1997. Booklist gave it a warm review:

The latest in a series of Silverberg’s collections from Three Rooms Press focuses on stories about alien–human encounters, ranging from the deadly to the benign. Multiple stories involve intimate inter-species contact, such as the Majipoor story “The Soul-Painter and the Shapeshifter,” about a romance between a psychic painter and a shapeshifting alien, and “Bride 91,” which depicts a future in which dozens of species participate in inter-species marriage contracts, but one alien bride desperately wants an authentic Terran marriage. There are also stories of aliens lost on earth such as “Amanda and the Alien,” in which a body-stealing alien falls prey to the interests of a bored California teenager, and “Something Wild Is Loose,” in which an invisible and good-natured alien telepath can only communicate with sleeping humans, accidentally giving them lethal nightmares… Alien Archives still shows that Silverberg’s reputation as a skilled storyteller is well-deserved; it is still worth a look for those interested in a sampling of the SF Grandmaster’s prolific short story work.

I was torn whether to quote from Booklist or Publishers Weekly, since they manage to praise completely different stories. So I decided to go with both. Here’s an excerpt from the PW review.

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Rogue Blades Presents: Who Was Your First Hero?

Friday, May 29th, 2020 | Posted by Ty Johnston

Kirk-Spock-McCoyDo you remember your first hero? Any kind of hero. It could have been a hero from a movie or a book or a television show, even a hero from real life.

As a child of the 1970s, one might think Luke Skywalker was my first hero, but I would turn eight years old a month after the original Star Wars was released in theaters, and by then I already had plenty of heroes.

Re-runs of the original Star Trek TV show from the 1960s were still airing, and I watched every one of them. Of the crew of the Enterprise, Captain James T. Kirk seemed the most heroic of the figures presented to us viewers, or at least he stood in the most traditional of the heroic modes.

Then there was the Six Million Dollar Man, starring actor Lee Majors from 1973 to 1978 on television. For those not familiar with the series, Majors played U.S. astronaut Steve Austin who was seriously injured in an accident. Not only did Steve survive his accident, but the government decided, “We can rebuild him. We have the technology.” And they did. Steve got some bionic legs and an arm and an eye. He fought crime. And Bigfoot. It was awesome.

Some might not consider Godzilla a hero, but by the time of my childhood in the ’70s, Godzilla was mainly a good guy, so he was a hero of sorts to many of us. For better or worse, my first Godzilla movie was Godzilla vs. Megalon, a film sometimes not remembered fondly by Godzilla fans. Either way, I was maybe five years old when my dad drug me into an old downtown theater to witness the spectacle of this movie, and again, I have to say it was awesome.

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Andrew Liptak on 15 New Science Fiction and Fantasy Books to Check Out in May

Friday, May 29th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Westside Saints-small Out of Body Jeffrey Ford-small Sea Change Nancy Kress-small

I don’t know where John DeNardo vanished to this month. Ever since The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog shut down, taking their excellent monthly summary with tbem, I’ve grown to rely on John’s monthly SF book survey at Kirkus Reviews pretty heavily. It didn’t appear in May — but fortunately Andrew Liptak at Polygon came through, so I don’t have to wrap up the month dangerously uninformed. What does Andrew recommend for us in May? Let’s have a look.

Westside Saints by W.M Akers (Harper Voyager, 304 pages, $27.99 hardcover/$14.99 digital, May 5, 2020)

W.M. Akers follows up his debut novel Westside with Westside Saints, a mystery set in an alternate, Jazz-era New York City. The city has been split into two zones, where the east side is a prosperous metropolis and the west an overgrown wasteland. In Westside, Akers introduced readers to Gilda Carr, a detective who specializes in “small mysteries,” and who ended up trying to solve the mystery of her missing father.

In this new adventure, Carr stumbles upon a new mystery when she’s hired by a group of street preachers from the Electric Church to recover the severed finger of a lost saint. They believe that this digit will bring about a resurrection, and Carr drawn in when her dead mother unexpectedly returns…

We covered the first book in the series, Westside, right here almost exactly a year ago. Read an excerpt from Westside Saints here.

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Goth Chick News: The Shining Opera. And No, I’m Not Joking…

Thursday, May 28th, 2020 | Posted by Sue Granquist

The Shining Opera poster-small

As much as I love the movie The Shining, I never thought I’d ever see that title in the same sentence with the word ‘opera;’ and yet here we are.

Turns out the Minnesota Opera, located in Minneapolis, has become known for showcasing rare and unusual operas. For instance, they’ve performed operatic versions of Where the Wild Things Are, Frankenstein, and The Handmaid’s Tale. They’ve even done one called Nixon in China. Admittedly, I’m not much of an opera fan. However, I understand there are those aficionados who make it a hobby of ‘collecting’ performances of strange operas and if this happens to be your thing, keep reading.

The Minnesota Opera’s head musical director, Eric Simonson and the artistic director Dale Johnson, came up with the idea to turn Stephen King’s novel into opera. They contacted Pulitzer Prize winning composer Paul Moravec, and Grammy Award winning lyricist Mark Campbell, and three years later The Shining opera premiered at the Ordway Music Theater in May 2016.

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Magical Odes and Mysterious Trilogies: The Poet King by Ilana C. Myer

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Last Song Before Night-smaller Fire Dance Ilana Myer-small The Poet King-small

Covers by Stephan Martiniere

Every time a fantasy trilogy wraps up, we bake a cake in the Black Gate offices. (As you can imagine, our diet consists of a lot of cake. Man, we need a gym.)

Ilana C. Myer’s new novel The Poet King brings to a close the trilogy that began with Last Song Before Night. One of the reasons I love this series is all the mystery. Like, what’s the trilogy called, exactly? Amazon refers to it as the Tower of the Winds series. Unless you’re buying the Kindle version, in which case it’s called The Harp and Ring Sequence. The Internet Science Fiction database clears the issue right up by calling it, definitively, Last Song Before Night / The Harp and the Ring, and then listing all the books in the wrong order.

Well, no one said the life of a science fiction book blogger would be easy. Let’s move on the the Publishers Weekly review, because at least that’s straightforward. Hopefully. Here’s an excerpt; you can judge for yourself.

Myer concludes the Harp and Ring Sequence (after Fire Dance) with this opulent, ambitious fantasy. Political upheaval in Kahishi leads to Elissan Diar declaring himself the land’s first Poet King, capable of weaving magic into his odes. Embittered Lady Rianna Gelvan plots to kill Elissan before he takes the throne… Myer’s intricately braided plot strands culminate in a clash of supernatural Otherworld powers. Those new to the series will have no trouble connecting with the well-drawn protagonists but may struggle to untangle the history of this rich universe which draws from a welter of world mythologies. Still, readers will be blown away by the lush, lyrical prose and epic scale of this novel.

We covered the previous books in the series here and here. The Poet King was published by Tor Books on March 24, 2020. It is 320 pages, priced at $29.99 in hardcover and $14.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Stephan Martiniere. Read Howard Andrew Jones’ feature interview with Ilana here.

See all our coverage of the best new fantasy series here.

Vanguard Dream! A Sampling of Bushiroad Media, Part II

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020 | Posted by John MacMaster



Part I of this 3-part survey was an introductory overview of the Bushiroad titles Cardfight!! Vanguard and BanG Dream!, and a look at how how the band Roselia was a feature of both projects. This time we examine how the newer female rock group RAISE A SUILEN is involved in both as well…

RAISE A SUILEN, the newer of the main girl-groups from the BanG Dream! universe, has a style of heavy keyboard-laden rock similar to Roselia, the band they consider their main rival. They also have some very distinct differences (aside from just being a completely separate band, with their own specific songs, I mean). They are not only newer, but their whole means of coming into existence was substantially different.

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Adventure and Tragedy on a Far Future Earth: Keith West on Zothique by Clark Ashton Smith

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Zothique Clark Ashton Smith

Zothique by Clark Ashton Smith. Ballantine Adult Fantasy #16, 1976. Cover by George Barr

Some years back Keith West wrote a series of articles for Black Gate on the legendary Ballantine Adult Fantasy series edited by Lin Carter. In fifteen pieces between 2013-2015 Keith covered the first fourteen or so titles, including The Blue Star by Fletcher Pratt, The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany, and The Doom that Came to Sarnath by H. P. Lovecraft. Yesterday I was delighted to see that Keith picked up the reins again at his own blog, Adventures Fantastic, to review the 16th book in the series: Zothique by Clark Ashton Smith. Here’s a taste.

Zothique was the first of four collections of Clark Ashton Smith’s short fiction that appeared in the BAF series. The wrap-around cover is by George Barr. (One of the best things about this line of books was their covers.)… Zothique is the last continent on a far future Earth in which much science and history has been forgotten, and magic has returned. If this reminds you of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth, keep in mind Smith did it first. Some of the stories are better than others, but all are well-done. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • “Xeethra” tells the tale of a young man who wanders into a magical vale, and when he returns he travels to the far side of the continent, where he makes a bargain that ultimately brings him sorrow.
  • In “The Isle of the Necromancers,” a man is searching for his lover, who has been kidnapped by slave traders. When his ship is caught in a current, he finds himself on an island of necromancers. And then things get interesting…
  • “The Dark Eidolon” tells the story of an abused beggar who returns years later to seek revenge on the prince who injured him. This is a close second for my favorite story in the book. There are passing references to Hyperborea and Poseidonis, two other story cycles Smith wrote that were collected in the second and third volumes of Smith’s stories in the BAF series. Shucky darn, I guess I’m going to have to read those, too. How awful.

Check out the whole thing here, and Keith’s previous articles for BG here. While you’re at his website, leave a comment encouraging Keith to keep going! I’d love to read his thoughts on all 65 books in the set.

Future Treasures: The Ghosts of Sherwood and The Heirs of Locksley by Carrie Vaughn

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Ghosts of Sherwood-small The Ghosts of Sherwood-back-small The Heirs of Locksley-small

The Ghosts of Sherwood and back cover, and The Heirs of Locksley. Tor.com, June and August 2020

Carrie Vaughn is the author of the bestselling Kitty Norville urban fantasy series, the superhero saga After the Golden AgeThe Bannerless Saga from John Joseph Adams Books, and Martians Abroad. Her latest, The Ghosts of Sherwood, arrives in two weeks and kicks off a new series of adventure novellas from Tor.com. The second installment, The Heirs of Locksley, follows in just two months.

I don’t know about you lot, but I’m always open to a quality retelling/reinterpretation of the Robin Hood myth. Publishers Weekly raved about the first one; always a good sign. Here’s an excerpt.

Vaughn (the Kitty Norville Series) turns her formidable talents to the legend of Robin Hood in this impeccable novella and series launch. When Robin of Loxley learned of the death of heroic King Richard, he reluctantly swore loyalty to Richard’s wicked brother, King John. Though the decision caused tension among Robin’s former merry band, it enabled Robin and his beloved wife, Marian, to settle down and raise their children in peace. But when a band of rogues kidnap the three Locksley children, the aging Robin and Marian brave Sherwood Forest once again, reuniting with old friends as they confront a new threat… Vaughn’s masterful worldbuilding and lovable cast promise more good things to come in future adventures.

Here’s all the deets.

The Ghosts of Sherwood (104 pages, $12.99 trade paperback/$3.99 digital, June 9, 2020)
The Heirs of Locksley (128 pages, $13.99 trade paperback/$3.99 digital, August 4, 2020)

See all our coverage of the best upcoming fantasy books here.

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