New Treasures: The Sin in the Steel by Ryan Van Loan

Friday, July 31st, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Sin in the Steel-smallI have a foreboding TBR (to-be-read) pile by my big green chair, and I’m not the kind of guy who just turns my back on something like that…. except for a really promising fantasy debut, maybe. One with pirates. And a rave review from One like Aidan Moher’s July 23 piece on The Sin in the Steel by Ryan Van Loan, which reads something like this:

Like the best buddy pictures, Ryan Van Loan’s debut, The Sin in the Steel, finds all its heart in the space shared by its two wildly divergent protagonists, Buc and Eld. Brought together under unlikely circumstances, Buc is a young street kid with a mind and a mouth that race faster than anyone can keep up, and Eld is an ex-soldier that doesn’t say much. They’re known for getting the job done no matter the circumstances.

When this unlikely pair is bring their practice to the Shattered Coast — a Caribbean-esque archipelago newly settled, but once wracked by centuries of violent hurricanes — they’re soon hired (err, well… blackmailed) by the Kanados Trading Company to track down the infamous Widowmaker, who has been sinking ships along a popular sailing route, threatening the import and export of sugar, a vital element in the Shattered Coast’s economy. Buc and Eld depart on an adventure that will take them to the Shattered Coast’s farthest reaches to discover a secret that has the potential to challenge the fate of the gods themselves…

The Sin in the Steel is a rip-roaring epic fantasy that mixes a genuinely unique world with an equally standout magic system. It’s full of characters you’ll root for and despise, who’ll make your skin crawl, and who you’ll cheer on from the sidelines. Packed full of action, tempered by genuinely thoughtful themes about mental health and trust. The Sin in the Steel tells a good self-contained narrative… If Scott Lynch wrote Pirates of the Caribbean, it’d be a lot like The Sin in the Steel.

The Sin in the Steel features a pirate queen, dead gods, shape-shifting sorcerers, and a Sherlock-like teenage sleuth… that’s a compelling mix in my book. It’s advertised as the opening novel in The Fall of the Gods.

The Sin in the Steel was published by Tor Books on July 21, 2020. It is 431 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover and $14.99 in digital formats. Read the complete first chapter at the Tor/Forge Blog.

See all our recent coverage of the best new fantasy and SF releases here.

Behind Where the Veil Is Thin

Friday, July 31st, 2020 | Posted by Alana Abbott

Where the Veil Is Thin-smallWhere the Veil Is Thin, an anthology of original stories where humans run afoul of faeire-like creatures (or sometimes, faeries run afoul of humans), is a project of my heart, and I’m so pleased that it began to show up on bookshelves—at least, virtual ones—earlier this month! It is a project that was years in the making.

And it almost didn’t happen.

Back in 2017, the publisher of the company now folded into Outland Entertainment approached me with an idea. He and his wife loved fairy stories, he said; what would I think about doing an anthology of original stories based on the Seelie and Unseelie courts? I liked the idea, but I wanted to go one better; I didn’t want to limit our tales to the Celtic tradition of Seelie and Unseelie. What would an anthology look like if it reached into different parts of the world, with stories from authors who wouldn’t just retell tales from a European tradition? I was excited about the idea of pairing tales that could feature fox spirits or boo hags with the types of stories and fairies I was more familiar with.

I didn’t want to do it alone, so I reached out the Cerece Rennie Murphy, whose work I had deeply admired on the website Narazu. The mission of Narazu is to bring the best of Indie Sci-Fi to a wider audience, and to celebrate the cool works that indie writers and artists are creating. Cerece was interested in the idea, and we started hashing out plans.

And then the publishing company where we’d started the idea fell apart. It closed its doors in November 2017.

After some maneuvering, Outland Entertainment decided to keep moving forward on the anthology, and Cerece agreed to stick with the project. We started reaching out to authors, some that Cerece knew, some I had worked with before on other projects, some recommended to us by other contributors. We planned to line up the writers and have all their stories completed by July 2018, when we would launch the anthology.

The best plans, however, were a bit ambitious. Outland Entertainment already had two anthologies slotted for 2018, and because we were a new company at putting together anthologies and fulfilling their Kickstarters — not to mention completing some projects that the previous publisher had left unfinished — we had no idea we’d bitten off more than we could chew. Eventually, Outland released two really fantastic anthologies from those 2018 Kickstarters, which I was excited to help edit, but it took a long time.

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Goth Chick News: Think 2020 is Bad? Check out Cursed Objects

Thursday, July 30th, 2020 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Quirk Books Horror Preview Fall 2020

Quirk Books, publishers and seekers of all things awesome, more than live up to their self-proclamation.

They have been my personal source of quirky awesomeness since I was first introduced to them in 2013 via The Resurrectionist, a quintessentially odd bit of literature indeed. Following this came a litany of titles, all of which were so decidedly strange, so that I could not help but assign all Quirk publications a place of honor on the shelves of Goth Chick News.

It follows that in order to be the source of peculiar books Quirk must court very unusual authors, who by design, must be up to the task of… well… being quirky. This was made clear when I sought out the publisher’s booth at last year’s C2E2 event in Chicago, where I inquired whether or not The Resurrectionist would ever be followed by second book. I was informed the author had not submitted anything quite “strange enough” to date, but they would keep me informed.

I really do love these people.

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The Responsibility of Progress: Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow

Thursday, July 30th, 2020 | Posted by Mark R. Kelly


The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett; First Edition: Doubleday, 1955.
Cover art Irv Docktor. (Click to enlarge)

The Long Tomorrow
by Leigh Brackett
Doubleday (222 pages, $2.95, hardcover, 1955)
Cover art Irv Docktor

This novel, first of all, is one of a handful of highly regarded 1950s novels that deal with the aftermath of nuclear war, a theme very much of concern in that post-World War II era. Others include, of course, Walter M. Miller Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz; John Wyndham’s Re-Birth aka The Chrysalids; Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon, and Nevil Shute’s On the Beach, not to mention analogous novels about life after pandemic (George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides) or alien invasion (John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids and The Kraken Wakes/Out of the Deeps), and so on.

Second of all, this novel is by a writer otherwise not known for serious science fiction; Brackett wrote some detective novels and did some notable film work (see for details SFE), but she was known in the SF field for a large body of “planetary romances” in the Edgar Rice Burroughs mode, tales of sword-and-sorcery and romance on Mars or equivalent worlds. (Several volumes of these stories have been published by Haffner Press.) The Long Tomorrow, in contrast, is a sober post-apocalypse novel about rural survivors of nuclear war, a couple generations on, and how they deal with that legacy.

The novel was a Hugo finalist in 1956 (Heinlein’s Double Star won). If it were published today, it would be classified as YA, young adult, since the protagonist, as the story begins, is 14 years old; even though the themes of the book are about the most adult conceivable — the fate of the human race in the face of unavoidable technology.

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New Faces of War Games with Privateer Press

Thursday, July 30th, 2020 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Iron Kingdoms Requiem box-small

Privateer Press began in the gaming industry in 2001, creating the Iron Kingdoms campaign setting for the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Their first trilogy of adventures in this steampunk-themed fantasy setting received Ennies for “Best World” and “Best Art.” That began a series of roleplaying supplements for their setting … and that setting evolved into the basis of the miniature wargame Warmachine, for which they are now best known. They eventually published a new edition of their game, built around their own gaming ruleset, rather than using Dungeons & Dragons as the mechanical basis of the game.

Their big announcements every year come out earlier in the summer than Gen Con, at their own Lock & Load convention. This year, the convention was of course remote, but they still had a lot of announcements … including that they were releasing a new edition of Iron Kingdoms, which would return to using Dungeons & Dragons as the rule system, although this time the game would be 5E compatible. The game, called Iron Kingdoms: Requiem, is being funded and initially released via Kickstarter, though the date for when that will start hasn’t yet been announced.

Back in February, I talked about the massive setting changes that are taking place in the Iron Kingdoms setting this year. The Requiem setting is built in the aftermath of the Oblivion campaign. The nations have somewhat of a truce developed, having joined forces to battle the major threat of the Infernals that was introduced in that campaign. And Warmachine will also be continuing its evolution through 2021, with new models coming out and the storyline progressing… no doubt in ways that resonate with their Requiem releases.

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Future Treasures: Harrow the Ninth, Book 2 of The Locked Tomb Trilogy by Tamsyn Muir

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Gideon-the-Ninth-medium Harrow the Ninth-small

Covers by Tommy Arnold

Gideon the Ninth was… well, just about the most acclaimed SF novel released last year. Acclaimed by whom? Everyone who read it in the Black Gate offices, for one thing. People who vote for awards, for another — it’s been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards for Best Novel, and it won the Locus Award for Best First Novel. It was voted one of the Best Books of 2019 by NPR, the New York Public Library, Amazon, BookPage, Shelf Awareness, BookRiot, and Bustle.

Book 2 arrives next week, and as you can imagine, anticipation is high. Here’s a taste of the feature review over at Nerd Daily.

When I read Gideon the Ninth last year, I didn’t know that I would be a wreck by the end of the book. I didn’t know it would create such an impact in my emotional well-being. I didn’t know that it would be one of the best books I read in 2019. Reading its sequel, Harrow the Ninth, now is like enjoying a nice, eventful walk… and then getting hit by a bus. This brilliant, confounding, and heartstopping sequel will quench the thirst of the fans, but not without leaving a new set of mysteries to keep us hooked.

Harrow the Ninth focuses on Harrow training in the Emperor’s haunted space station to fight an impossible war. Fresh off of lyctorhood, everything should be going easy for Harrow. But the truth is that both her body and her mind are failing her. And on top of that, someone just keeps trying to kill her…. Harrow the Ninth is mind-boggling from start to finish, and it’s an electrifying sequel you do not want to miss.

The third book in the series, Alecto the Ninth, is scheduled to be released next year.

Harrow the Ninth will be published by on August 4, 2020. It is 512 pages, priced at $26.99 in hardcover and $13.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Tommy Arnold. Download the complete first act (all 139 pages!) in multiple digital formats at

See all our coverage of the best new SF and Fantasy here.

A (Black) Gat in the Hand: A Hardboiled August on TCM

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Bogart_TwoCarrollsEDITEDHopefully you’re used to my monthly look at some hardboiled/noir coming up for the month over at TCM. August is a little different. There is no Star of the Month. Instead a different person is featured every night for a ‘Summer under the Stars.’ I’ll include the star of the day, as it’s almost a day-long tribute to that star. As usual, the month features some hardboiled and noir:

SATURDAY AUGUST 1 (Barbara Stanwyck)

4:00 PM – The Two Mrs. Carrolls
This is a creepy Humphrey Bogart movie, with Stanwyck as his second wife. It also features Alexis Smith, who had a key role in the underrated Conflict. Nigel Bruce, Basil Rathbone’s Dr. Watson, plays a bit of a doofus (that was a real stretch for him). I find all the scenes with Bogart’s daughter annoying. Worth seeing once, but not in my top half of Bogart flicks.

10:00 PM – Double Indemnity
This was just on back in June. One of the greatest noirs of them all, with Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson all terrific. Great movie. Great novel.


6:00 AM – Winchester ‘73
Since I’m the one writing this post, I add in movies from other genres that I think are good to watch. This is a different kind of western from director Anthony Mann, starring James Stewart, Shelly Winters, and noir star Dan Duryea. I don’t list this in my Westerns Top 10, but it’s a good one in the field.

MONDAY, AUGUST 3 (Rita Hayworth)

8:00 PM – The Lady from Shanghai
Orson Welles directed, wrote the screenplay, and costarred in this Hayworth vehicle.

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It Has Everything I Hate. And Yet…

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

inuyasha banner 2

I find it delightful. Though so much about it means I shouldn’t.

Good afternoon, Readers!

I have been, for the past week and a bit, binge-watching InuYasha (English subs, as I much prefer the voice acting in Japanese). It is a series I began long ago, then just stopped watching. When I saw that Netflix had it, I decided to give it another go. After all, I had vaguely fond memories of it. Let me tell you, I am finding it absolutely delightful, even though it is choc-full of all the tropes that I generally despise. I’m struggling to figure out why I like the series so damned much. Make no mistake. I do. I have finished all the episodes in the original seasons, watched all of the movies, and am not far off finishing The Final Act, where the story is finally, after a long break to permit the manga to catch up, coming to a close.

There is so much about this show that I shouldn’t like. Yet somehow… well, I absolutely love it. To the point where I’m considering buying the whole lot on Blu Ray to binge whenever I please without fear of my streaming services dumping the series after a while (as they so often have with various shows).

First, let’s start with the trope I despise the most in any medium. The love triangle.

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Starfinder: Enhanced Starships, Exploring Near Space, and Other New Goodies

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

StarshipOperationsBack in 2017, when Paizo was ramping up for the launch of their new space fantasy RPG Starfinder, we were fortunate enough to offer exclusive previews on two of their new ships months prior to the release of the game. Since the 2017 release of the game, we’ve been keeping a pretty active eye on what Paizo has been releasing and, though there have been some fantastic additions to the game, there hasn’t been a major emphasis on new options for starships. That all changes with the release of the new Starship Operations Manual (Amazon, Paizo), a July 2020 release that was slated to coincide with Gen Con 2020. (Which, you may recall, is happening online this year.)

There have been some previous supplements in the past that dealt with starships. The Starfinder Pact Worlds setting book (Amazon, Paizo) has a chapter with various starships representing groups and societies, like the robotic Aballonian ships, the militant Hellknight ships, and the living ships of the Xenowardens, that weren’t in the original Starfinder Core Rulebook (Amazon, Paizo), and also provided some related new starship options like biomechanical ships, hydroponic bays, and drift shadow projectors that could be incorporated into other ship designs. The recent Near Space setting book (more on that in a minute) also had a chapter in a similar vein, including ships of the aggressive Veskarium. The mechanics of starship combat itself was addressed more deeply in the Character Operations Manual (Amazon, Paizo), released last winter, by creating the Chief Mate and Magic Officer roles to enhance starship combat for characters who were not well supported under the original set of rules.

So is the Starship Operations Manual just more of the same? While it does contain a ton of these sorts of options – starship weapons utilizing 20 new weapon properties, expansion bays, and security systems – it also goes beyond that, introducing fundamental variations to the core starship mechanics. It is worth recapping here that the core design of Starfinder, as a campaign, is that as the group progresses, the ship itself also “levels up” as the players do. The idea is that you’re constantly tweaking the ship and scrounging/bartering for parts and upgrades, and so you get a set number of Build Points as you level up that you can spend to buy new features for your ship. So the ship really gets tailored to the specifications of what the crew wants out of it, both in terms of mechanics and in terms of thematic feel. A group of mercenaries may have an armored battleship, while a group of smugglers might have a sleek and maneuverable transport, while more honest businessmen might be piloting a diplomatic passenger ship. And with the Starship Operations Manual, you really have the ability, as both players and GMs, to make the most out of the starships within the game.

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Robots, Deep Space, and Star Trek: Free RPG Day at Games Plus in Mount Prospect

Monday, July 27th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Games Plus Free RPG Day-small

Free RPG Day is not something I can remember ever taking part in…. mostly because the only local gaming store here in St. Charles died ten years ago. But when I saw the Facebook announcement from Floyd at Games Plus on Friday (above), I was intrigued enough to make the 30-mile drive to Mount Prospect Saturday morning.

Games Plus is easily the best gaming store in the the Chicago area — perhaps in the entire country. It’s the home of the Games Plus auctions I’ve written about extensively for the the past 10 years. Like all retail stores, it’s struggled as a result of the pandemic, and I was overdue for a visit to show my support (and spend some money) anyway.

And several of the items in Floyd’s pic grabbed my attention, especially the Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure from Goodman Games, the Root the Tabletop Roleplaying Game adventure, and the Warhammer Wrath & Glory module. It’d be a challenge narrowing my selection down to two items, but I figured that’d be part of the fun.

So what is Free RPG Day?

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