Future Treasures: The Iron Assassin by Ed Greenwood

Thursday, May 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Iron Assassin-smallEd Greenwood is one of the hardest working writers in the business. He’s perhaps best known as creator of the Forgotten Realms, the most popular D&D setting, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg of his creative output. In addition to his impressive contributions to gaming, he’s also written some three dozen Forgotten Realms novels, a Pathfinder Tales novel, the Niflheim series, and the best-selling Band of Four series from Tor Books, among many others.

His newest novel is a steampunk thriller set in London, featuring loyal agents of the crown, the Ancient Order of the Tentacles, and a clockwork-enhanced corpse sent to assassinate the Prince Regent…

Victoria has ascended the throne — several times in various new bodies. It is a time of gas lamps and regularly scheduled airship flights, of trams and steam-driven clockwork with countless smoke-belching stacks. In filthy, crowded, fast-growing London, the capital of the Empire of the Lion, a series of shocking murders threatens the throne itself.

Jack Straker, Lord Templeton, the energetic young inventor and Dread Agent for the Crown, believes he has created a weapon to defend the Prince Regent: a reanimated, clockwork-enhanced corpse he can control. But members of the Ancient Order of the Tentacles have other plans for the “Iron Assassin.”

Together with his friend Mr. Bleys Hardcastle and the recently recruited Dread Agent Rose Gordhammond, Lady Harminster, Jack must outwit the Ancient Order and regain control of his invention before they can assassinate the Prince Regent.

The Iron Assassin will be published by Tor Books on June 9. It is 320 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Cynthia Shepard.

Ancient Worlds: Medusa and the Viral Impact of Sexual Assault

Thursday, May 28th, 2015 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

restoration_of_the_bust_of_medusa_by_gian_lorenzo_bernini_largeI may ramble on a bit this week, and I apologise in advance. You see, I have a deep attachment to Medusa. She’s the center feature of the aegis tattoo I have on my right arm. My doctoral dissertation (which I do not recommend anyone read) was entitled Medusa’s Blood because of its discussion of a lot of what I’ll cover today. And, fittingly, a review of Clash of the Titans was the first thing I ever wrote for Black Gate, a handful of years back.

Most of us know Medusa from Clash of the Titans. Hopefully the 1970s version because the newer one is pretty terrible. In any case: she’s easily recognized. Scary looking woman, snakes for hair. Turns people into stone when they look at her. Came to bloody, hero-induced end. But what we learn from Ovid is that Medusa was not always a Gorgon. In her youth, she was one of the most beautiful human women alive.

Until she was raped by Neptune.

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Paolo Bacigalupi on Black Swans, Crashing a Drought Conference, and Being in a Weird Place

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015 | Posted by Emily Mah

headshotTheWaterKnife-PaoloBacigalupi-201x300Paolo Bacigalupi’s first novel, The Windup Girl, was named one of Time magazine’s top ten novels of the year, and yet he still talks to people like me, which makes him either very strange or very cool (probably a little of both.)

On May 25th his latest, The Water Knife, will be out, and this near future science fiction novel is set in a mega-drought-stricken, American southwest. The story explores issues of water rights, climate change, and the gratuitous destruction of the state of Texas, all of which we discuss in the interview.

He also takes the time to talk about his long and winding path towards a writing career. Anyone who’s ever reached the point of despair (in other words, all aspiring writers) will want to give this a listen.

After getting off Skype with me, he had another interview with NPR. So, without further ado: Paolo Bacigalupi’s warmup interview on the day he spoke to NPR.

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Memories of Palmyra Before ISIS

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

Landscape view of colonnaded path and temples at Palmyra, Syria. Courtesy Institute for the Study of the Ancient World.

The Islamic State is erasing my memories again.

I’ve written here before about how they wrecked the Assyrian sites around Mosul and destroyed the unique desert city of Hatra, both in Iraq. Many of the photos I took there can never be taken again. Now they’re turning their sights on Syria’s heritage.

Losing territory to the Kurds in the northeast, and realizing they can’t easily push into the Shia areas of Iraq after vowing to kill them all for apostasy, Islamic State is making a renewed offensive to the west into Syria, a divided and mostly Sunni region where they have a better chance to gaining ground. It was in Syria, in 1993 and 1994, where I first got a deep appreciation for many aspects of Arab culture and gained fond memories of visiting the country’s matchless archaeological sites.

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New Treasures: Trial of Intentions by Peter Orullian

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Trial-of-Intentions-small2Trial of Intentions is the second volume in Peter Orullian’s Vault of Heaven series, following The Unremembered (2011). In his recent Black Gate article, Peter gives a tantalizing glimpse of the worldbuilding in these novels:

In the midst of these political machinations, this one regent realizes that even if she can get all the kingdoms to agree, it might not be enough. The sheer numbers of the army they could create may be insufficient this time. What do you do then?

War machines.

In the instance of my book, this takes a couple of forms. There is, in fact, an entire kingdom given to the production of what I call “gearworks.” This society is densely populated with smiths of various kinds all designing and building better war machines…

This time, the threat from beyond the veil is more dire than ever before. And to meet it, this lone regent realizes that mere muscle and bone won’t be enough. The escalation needs to go further this time. They need to exhaust approaches that might once have seemed inconceivable and forbidden…

War is coming. One of those great wars you read about. The kind people call “the war to end all wars.” And in the face of such a thing, you arm. You do all you can. Pull out all the stops. Ask impossible, impractical, maybe unholy things. Because losing isn’t an option. Losing means annihilation.

Peter has been writing a series of acclaimed short stories set in the same world, and many of those are available free online at Tor.com. It’s a great way to get introduced to to Vault of Heaven. Here’s a few helpful links.

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If You Think Kidney Stones are Painful, Try Passing a Blarney Stone: The Crock of Gold

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015 | Posted by Thomas Parker

The Crock of Gold Collier paperback-smallHave you ever owned a book for many years, a book that you have always intended to read when just the right moment came around, a book that you looked forward to, anticipating the great pleasure that you would experience once the time finally came to dig into it? Yes? Then you know how dangerous such prolonged anticipation can be.

I bought my oversized Collier paperback of James Stephens’ 1912 fantasy The Crock of Gold sometime in the mid-seventies (probably at the wonderful Change of Hobbit bookstore in Los Angeles) and it has been resting quietly on my shelf for most of my life, now and then whispering to me as I passed by, busy on long-forgotten errands, but I always put it off, promising that I would return when I was thoroughly ready to bestow my full attention on “a wise and beautiful fairy tale for grownups.” (Ah, the arcane art of blurb writing! Hmmm… sounds like a good Black Gate article. Let me finish this one first…)

Last week, I took the book down, flipped through it, looked at the striking woodcut illustrations by Thomas Mackenzie, and decided that the long-deferred day had at last arrived… alas.

James Stephens, who was born in 1880 and died in 1950 was, according to the back cover of my paperback, “one of the best-loved of modern Irish writers.”  I don’t know about that, but James Joyce had a high enough regard for Stephens’ talents as a poet and novelist to ask for his assistance in finishing Finnegan’s Wake, a scheme that never came to anything, probably to the relief of both men.

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The Novels of Tanith Lee: The Wars of Vis

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Storm Lord-small Anackire-small The White Serpent-small

I had planned to look at a Ray Bradbury anthology as my Vintage Treasures post for tonight, but I set that aside when I learned about the unexpected death of Tanith Lee today. As I was preparing a brief obituary, I was struck by just how many novels she completed in her lifetime, and how little of her considerable output I’ve sampled over the years. I thought, if it’s okay with all of you, I’d deviate from our flight plan slightly to take a look at some of the marvelous books she left us.

To start with, I’d like to showcase the pairing of Lee with one of my favorite cover artists. Sanjulian painted the covers for the 1988 DAW editions of all three novels of The Wars of Vis: The Storm Lord, Anackire, and The White Serpent, a series which the publisher labeled a “best-selling epic of war torn-empires, alien gods, and a Witch race with the power to reshape a world…” Over her long career Lee has been blessed with some of the best cover artists in the business — including Michael Whelan, Carl Lundgren, Paul Lehr, Don Matiz, and many others — but she rarely did better than these three.

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies 173 Now Available

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Beneath Ceaseles Skies 173-smallBeneath Ceaseless Skies 173 looks like another solid issue, with two short stories and a podcast.

Out of the Rose Hills“ by Marissa Lingen
The shadow woman’s face was also made of shadows, so it was not visible as a face. But the shadows moved in a way that suggested an indulgent smile.

The Punctuality Machine, Or, A Steampunk Libretto“ by Bill Powell
WHITLOCK: (aside) An identical response! Perhaps free will is a mere illusion. On the other hand, she’s an automaton.

Marissa Lingen’s short fiction has appeared in Analog, Asimov’s, Apex, Lightspeed, and many other places. Her previous stories for BCS include “A House of Gold and Steel” (issue 162) and “On the Weaponization of Flora and Fauna” (issue #129). Bill Powell is a graduate of the Odyssey Workshop who blogs at billpowell.org.

Issue 173 was published on May 14. Read it online completely free here.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is edited by Scott H. Andrews and published twice a month by Firkin Press. Issues are available completely free online; you can also get a free e-mail or RSS subscription.

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Tanith Lee, September 19, 1947 – May 24, 2015

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Tanith LeeTanith Lee’s website, tanith-lee.com, is reporting that she passed away on May 24th.

I read my first Tanith Lee novel, Kill the Dead, in 1987. It was her twenty-fifth novel. In her long career she wrote 90 novels and some 300 short stories, as well as two episodes of the BBC series Blake’s 7. Lee often mentioned that she was unable to read until she was 8, due to a mild form of dyslexia, and she began to write at the age of 9. Her first novel was the children’s book The Dragon Hoard (1971); her first book for adults, The Birthgrave, the first novel in The Birthgrave Trilogy, was published four years later. Lee wrote this small epitaph for her website, and it was posted this morning:

Though we come and go, and pass into the shadows, where we leave behind us stories told – on paper, on the wings of butterflies, on the wind, on the hearts of others – there we are remembered, there we work magic and great change – passing on the fire like a torch – forever and forever. Till the sky falls, and all things are flawless and need no words at all.
– Tanith Lee

Tanith Lee was nominated for the Nebula Award twice, and won the World Fantasy Award twice, for her short stories “The Gorgon” (1983) and “Elle Est Trois, (La Mort)” (1984). She received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 World Fantasy Award ceremonies. She was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award for best novel, for Death’s Master (1980). Her most popular works include Don’t Bite the Sun (1976), Tales From The Flat Earth (five books, 1978-1986), The Silver Metal Lover (1981), The Secret Books of Paradys (four novels, 1988-1993), The Secret Books of Venus (four novels, 1998-2003), and the Lionwolf Trilogy (2004-2007), which John R. Rultz reviewed for us in 2010. Tanith Lee passed away on Sunday, May 24, 2015. She was 67 years old.

Future Treasures: Pathfinder Tales: Lord of Runes by Dave Gross

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Pathfinder Tales Lord of Runes-smallI’ll admit, I was surprised to read the announcement from Tor and Paizo back in February, that Tor would become the publisher for the popular Pathfinder Tales line of novels. But it certainly makes business sense — Tor is the biggest publisher in the genre, and has unprecedented distribution and marketing muscle, and this allows Paizo to focus on the creative side of things.

The books have shifted to a new format (trade paperback), and will be available for the Kindle for the first time, but nothing else appears to have changed. The line remains in the capable hands of its longtime editor, James L. Sutter.

The first title under the new arrangement, Lord of Runes by Dave Gross, arrives next week. Here’s a snippet from the press release:

Since its launch in 2008, the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game has topped RPG sales charts for several years running, and has grown to become one of the most important and best-loved tabletop RPGs in the world. In 2010, the Pathfinder Tales novel line was launched by the game’s publisher, Paizo, and has included more than 20 exciting fantasy novels by Tim Pratt, Michael A. Stackpole, Ed Greenwood, James L. Sutter, Howard Andrew Jones, Liane Merciel, and others. Since then, Pathfinder has been translated into five languages, has released a widely popular card game, and has inspired computer games, comic books, audio drama, gaming figurines, and toys.

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