Future Treasures: The Broken Heavens, Book 3 of the Worldbreaker Saga by Kameron Hurley

Friday, December 13th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Mirror Empire Kameron Hurley-small Empire Ascendant Kameron Hurley-small The Broken Heavens Kameron Hurley-small

Covers by Richard Anderson

Kameron Hurley has had a charmed career, and she’s just getting started. Her debut novel God’s War was nominated for a Nebula Award, and she won a Hugo in 2014 for Best Related Work. But her most ambitious work so far has been the Worldbreaker Saga. Opening novel The Mirror Empire came in third in the 2015 Locus Poll for Best Fantasy novel, and Library Journal said “This is a hugely ambitious work, bloody and violent… [an] imaginative tangle of multiple worlds and histories colliding.” In his feature review of the second volume Empire Ascendant at Grimdark Magazine, Sean Grigsby wrote:

Kameron Hurley’s Worldbreaker Saga is about as grimdark as fantasy literature can get… To catch you up, The Mirror Empire introduced us to a world where the people worship four distinct celestial bodies: Tira, Para, Sina, and Oma. Certain gifted individuals can call on the “breath” of these bodies to help them perform all kinds of cool magic. However, only one body is in the sky at a time, sometimes not returning for a thousand years. Those gifted by the ascendant star are more powerful than those whose comet is in decline.

But it’s when Oma appears, that everyone gets worried. It signals the clashing of worlds, when the thread between parallel universes becomes so thin that crossing between them becomes possible. But the catch is that your “mirror” self has to be dead in the universe you want to cross into. So when Kirana’s world is coming to a cataclysmic end, she has a lot of people to kill on the other side so all of the people in her world can come over…

There were many awesome moments in Empire Ascendant. Some that had me severely creeped out or squirming in my seat. One especially intense scene that I really enjoyed is when legionnaire Zezili crawls into the lair of monsters and comes across a disgusting creature straight out of nightmares. If Hurley ever tried her hand at horror, she’d do fantastically.

The closing book in the trilogy, The Broken Heavens, arrives next month from Angry Robot. Here’s the publisher’s description.

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Rogue Blades author: Robert E. Howard Changed My Life and Continues to Inspire Me

Friday, December 13th, 2019 | Posted by Ty Johnston

Howard changed my lifeRecently publisher Rogue Blades Foundation announced the release next year of the title Robert E. Howard Changed My Life. Award-winning author Adrian Cole will appear in that book. Below he offers some of his memories of discovering Howard and how such affected his writing career.

Having been a big fan of Robert E. Howard’s work since I first discovered it back in the 1970s (when like many others I got hold of those wonderful Lancer paperback editions of King Kull and then Conan), I was very easily persuaded to join the contributors to the Rogue Blades Foundation project, Robert E. Howard Changed My Life.

Okay, as a title, that’s a quite dramatic statement, but in all honesty it’s certainly true in my case. At the time I first read REH I hadn’t much of an idea about what I wanted to do with my life as far as a “career” went, although I’d already started to write, my initial work inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tolkien and others. Writing was far more interesting to me than any day job could ever have been and REH added an ingredient to the heady cocktail that ensured my determination and zest to channel my creative energy didn’t fade. Inspiration added to imagination, the ultimate mix. At the time REH was enjoying not only a revival, but an explosion of interest that eventually went world wide, and I found myself swept along by it at a critical time in my own development as a writer. I knew that, whatever else happened to me, good times and bad, REH would go on being an inspiration to me for the rest of my days.

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Goth Chick News: Christmas Roses for That “Special” Person

Thursday, December 12th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

The Nightmare Before Christmas Roseshire

Is there a special someone in your life who isn’t the standard sugarplum fairy at the holidays? Even wonder how to express your feelings to them in a way that is as unconventional as they are?

Roseshire, purveyors of extraordinary roses, have you covered.

Roseshire curates a variety of rose ‘experiences’ and delivers them directly to home, castle or mountainside caves. Each unique experience includes a designer box, a calligraphied message from you, sealed with wax, and perfect roses, hand-groomed to within an inch of their lives.

If that wasn’t enough, Roseshire has outdone themselves for the holidays with a Grinch-inspired experience, complete with green roses, as well as a Nightmare Before Christmas experience delivered in a coffin box.

There are other holiday boxes but who cares?

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Battle of the Sexes: Sword & Circlet Volume 1 by Carole Nelson Douglas

Thursday, December 12th, 2019 | Posted by Tony Den

Art: Steven Hickman

Art: Steven Hickman

Art: Steve Crisp

Art: Steve Crisp

Art: Luis Royo

Art: Luis Royo

Earlier this year I wrote about two books by Carole Nelson Douglas which became known as the Kendric and Irissa duology. These eighties’ fantasy classics spawned a subsequent trilogy, The Sword and Circlet. Whilst I had this trilogy on hand, I thought a break was in order after completing my review of Six of Swords and Exiles of the Rynth. John had been enticing me to visit some other neglected volumes on my shelf through his ongoing Vintage Treasures posts which saw me breeze through some Wyndham and Vance (which I posted mini-reviews for, in the comments of each article). With this post, I am back to focus on Carole Nelson Douglas.

When one starts to read volume one of the Sword and Circlet Trilogy it becomes immediately clear that this is no afterthought, or clumsy tack on to ride the wave of success the first two books experienced.  Keepers of the Edanvant picks up almost immediately where Exiles of the Rynth left off, pausing only to provide a small prologue and recap of what had gone before.

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More Wondrous and Weird than Fantasy: Dell Science Fiction Reviews

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019 | Posted by Gabe Dybing

Analog-Science-Ficion-and-Fact-November-December-2019-medium Asimovs-Science-Ficion-November-December-2019-medium

Covers by Tuomas Korpi and Donato Giancola

Spoiler warning: I choose to write unrestrainedly about all content in these magazines.

I’ve been reading Asimov’s Science Fiction regularly for — oh — maybe ten or fifteen years now. I began by “checking in.” I first picked it up from my newsstand in a bookstore to investigate the “current discourse,” while I focused most of my attention on my graduate studies and my own interests in the classics, both outside of and within the genre. But then I found myself, almost unconsciously “re-checking” in until, here I am, more than a decade later, regularly ingesting a paper mail subscription.

My involvement with Analog Science Fiction and Fact began similarly but much more recently. Idle curiosity about this “hard” science fiction thing had me sampling an issue off an electronic bookshelf, then another, then another. Here’s the thing about hard science fiction: it “blows my mind.” “Real” science is infinitely more wondrous and weird than fantasy — and more impressive to me, simply because, though I can write passable fantasy, I don’t have the wherewithal to attempt anything even tangentially based in science fact.

Editor John O’Neill has heard me opinionating on the material in both of these publications for long enough now that, after some prodding and pressuring from him, I endeavor a new series for the year, one in which I review standouts and make observations about the content in these two pulps from Dell Magazines. The material covered will be totally arbitrary. I will address only what seems most notable; my comments will not be comprehensive. Finally, my lens is focused on these two, ignoring all other science fiction publications, only because these happen to be the magazines I read. I do read things other than short speculative fiction, and I’m not interested in making a full time job out of the latter. Even though I have been out of graduate school for many years, I still read the classics once in awhile.

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Made For TV Movie-of-the-Week Flashback: Birds of Prey

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019 | Posted by eeknight

Birds of Prey_1

Little did I know, when I was a pre-tween, that I was growing up in the Golden Age of TV movies. I was there for original showings of Trilogy of Terror, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, The Night Stalker and even Duel. Lucky me.

One that really made an impression on me at eight was 1973’s Birds of Prey. Like Duel it looked like it had a much bigger budget than it actually had. Story involves David Janssen playing a WW2 vet from the AVG in China who is now flying a civilian version of the Hughes OH-6 Cayuse “Loach” for a Salt Lake City radio station doing traffic. After a minimal amount of establishing his character and that of his fellow veteran police officer friend, he witnesses an armored car robbery and a hostage being taken.

The excitement is non-stop from then out, an elaborate chase, as he follows the murderous crooks and cleverly improvises ways to refuel and arm himself. There are hunter/hunted reversals, rescues, and even some dignified bonding with the hostage. Eight year old me was driven wild by the impressive flying and stunt work, including trips under highway overpasses and through factories and hangars by his handy little Loach. I think the pilots had fun making this movie, it seemed pretty clear they were doing crap they weren’t normally allowed to do for obvious safety reasons.

Even though I’d only seen it once, it stuck with me.

Imagine my surprise when I saw it flipping through Amazon Prime. I thought everyone had forgotten about this one, even though every time I came across David Janssen I remembered it.

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New Treasures: Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight by Aliette de Bodard

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Of Wars and Memories and Starlight-small Of Wars and Memories and Starlight-back-small

Cover by Maurizio Manzieri

I met Aliette de Bodard at the Nebulas weekend in 2015, on the way to a party in the Palmer House hotel, and we ended up chatting for about 20 minutes. She was charming, articulate, humble, and a very stylish dresser. And you know, that’s just not a combo you see very often, especially at a science fiction convention.

Anyway, she’s also won, like, ALL THE AWARDS. Her Universe of Xuya series may be the most honored SF story cycle of the last decade, with numerous Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and BSFA nominations and wins. John Clute’s entry for Aliette in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction reads in part:

Mostly comprising shorter works, the Universe of Xuya sequence – beginning with “The Lost Xuyan Bride” (December 2007 Interzone) and including On a Red Station, Drifting (2012), a short novel – is an Alternate History series in which China settles North America from the west, with complex consequences for earlier settlers like the Aztecs; some stories are set in space…

The Tea Master and the Detective… in the loose Xuya Universe sequence, is a Space Opera whose protagonists – Holmes and her shipmind Watson – are both female; it won a Nebula as best novelette.

Subterranean Press issued her first major collection on September 30 of this year. Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight contains 14 tales, including many award winners: 11 Xuya stories, a novelette in her acclaimed Dominion of the Fallen fantasy series, and an original novella, “Of Birthdays, and Fungus, and Kindness.”

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Play Host to Newborn Ghoulish Creatures in Alien: The Roleplaying Game by Free League Publishing

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Alien RPG-small

An official Alien role playing game is arriving in game stores next week, courtesy of Free League Publishing, the geniuses behind the brilliant Coriolis science fiction game, Mutant: Year Zero, and Forbidden Lands.

Any RPG that does justice to Ridley Scott’s science fiction horror masterpiece will have to have a dark and chilling aesthetic, and a cinematic play style. And for accuracy, probably a short (very short!) character life expectancy. Fortunately Alien: The Role Playing Game looks like it’s captured the look and feel of the franchise with real surety. Here’s Rachel Watts from her preview at PC Gamer last month.

Free League Publishing and 20th Century Fox have joined forces to create a tabletop RPG set in the harsh universe of the Alien films. It will drop players into the dark, merciless void of space, but this adaptation sounds far from empty.

Alien: The Roleplaying Game has two playable modes, cinematic and campaign. The cinematic option lets you play through a scenario similar to the events of the films in one session, and emphasises “high stakes and fast and brutal gameplay”, which doesn’t sound ominous at all. The campaign mode takes more of a Gloomhaven structure and lets players explore the Alien universe more freely over multiple game sessions.

The RPG comes in a chunky 392-page core rule book, which I think definitely leaves the definition of rulebook behind and goes straight into short novel territory. Free League Publishing have printed these rules in a hardback book and thrown in some cool illustrations… Alongside the core rule book, you’ll get a set of custom dice, a set of maps, and a GM Screen.

Can Free League Publishing get the all important feel of Alien right in an RPG? The rules follow their acclaimed Year Zero Engine, used in Tales from the Loop and Mutant: Year Zero, and they warn that “it’s unlikely your character will survive.” Sounds like they got the basics right to me.

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A Sci Fi / Fantasy Hybrid with a Middle Eastern Ambiance: Mirage by Somaiya Daud

Monday, December 9th, 2019 | Posted by Elizabeth Galewski

Mirage Somaiya Daud-smallThe nameless young Andalaan boy has yet to reach his majority, so he doesn’t have his face tattoos yet. But that’s what makes him a perfect assassin. The evil Vath invaders won’t be able to trace him back to his family and tribe.

For his whole young life, the boy has known the cruelty of the Vath. If he kills their crown princess, he’ll win a cottage for his family and a husband for his sister. He knows it’s a suicide mission, but he accepts. He readies his weapon and goes to the event where the Vath heir appears.

She looks so much like his own people. Her blood is only half Vathek – her mother was a native of this planet. But she’s rumored to be even more vicious than her iron-fisted father.

He raises his blaster and fires twice.

Amina is an Andalaan girl on the verge of becoming a woman. On the night that she gains her majority, she goes to the festival with her family to have her face tattooed. This is one of the few Andalaan traditions that persist. And since the Vath have burnt the farmers’ fields, leaving no provisions for the upcoming winter, the whole tribe needs an excuse to come together and enjoy an evening of ritual, however brief.

But the ink on Amani’s face hasn’t even dried before a squadron of Vath droids burst into the gathering. They separate Amani and the other teenage girls from the rest of the tribe and make them stand in a line.

One by one, the robots move down the row, scanning the girls’ faces. One by one, the scanners flash a green light, clearing them with a beep.

Amina hasn’t done anything wrong. She hasn’t aided the rebels or raised a hand against the Vath. Still, when a droid scans her face, an alarm erupts and the robots seize her. They drag her away and load her onto a Vath spaceship even while the droids set fire to the building that holds her family and friends.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Norbert Davis goes West(ern)

Monday, December 9th, 2019 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Davis_DeadMansBrandEDITEDWasn’t sure what to write about this morning. I went on a mini Sword and Sandals kick and recently finished Scott Oden’s Men of Bronze, and Howard Andrew Jones’ Desert of Souls (reviews coming, time willing). I’ve played a lot of Conan Exiles the past few months (when I could) and I definitely want to do a post on that. It’s Minecraft on Steroids (now THERE’S a post title!). My Game Night group dug into Shadows of Brimstone earlier this year and that was a lot of fun (not as brutal as Descent). And my son and I are revisiting Star Wars Destiny (a neat card/dice game).

I’ve continued to work on what I hope will be the definitive Max Latin (Norbert Davis) essay. Though, to be honest, there isn’t really much competition for that honorific. His Latin stories are even more woefully neglected than Davis himself is. Being in a Davis mood, I decided to get Black Dog Books’ Dead Man’s Brand. Davis is best known for his screwball hardboiled comedies (a style that didn’t get him many sales to Cap Shaw, famed editor of Black Mask).

But he wrote for several pulp genres, as well as for the higher-paying slicks. This collection includes eight solid westerns from the pulps, including Dime Western Magazine and Star Western. There’s a good introduction by Bill Pronzini, and in the afterword, Ed Hulse talks about the lone movie adapted from a Davis story (there’s further proof of the under-valuing of Davis’ work).

Maybe I can talk James Reasoner or Duane Spurlock into doing a much better essay on Davis’ westerns than I could possibly ever hope to write, but I’m just going to talk about the first story: “A Gunsmoke Case for Major Cain,” which appeared in Dime Western in October, 1940.

We don’t learn all the details right away, but the story opens with a young girl named Missy trying to crawl under a covered wagon while her drunken uncle (Pops Reese) whips her with a quirt (a short-handled riding whip with a braided leather lash). The coffee she gave him was too hot and burned his tongue. That’s the kind of guy he is. Well, that, and he’s taking her to the town of Cranston to sell her to the local boss – presumably to become a whore in his saloon.

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