Future Treasures: The Record Keeper by Agnes Gomillion

Sunday, May 19th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Record Keeper-small The Record Keeper-back-small

Afrofuturism has become one of the most vibrant and exciting branches of modern science fiction and fantasy. Recent major novels include Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts, Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon and Who Fears Death, N. K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy, and many others.

The Record Keeper by Agnes Gomillion is a near-future dystopia based on the life of Frederick Douglass, and it looks like a worthy addition to an exciting sub-genre. It arrives next month from Titan Books, and a starred review from Publishers Weekly calls it “a gut-punch Afrofuturist novel.”

Gomillion debuts with a gut-punch Afrofuturist novel that examines the incalculable damage systemic racism wreaks on individuals and societies, and the many forms liberation can take. Sometime in the future, in the aftermath of WWIII, societies enforce peace through rigidly controlled racial hierarchies. That control includes using medication to erase the memories of the less privileged. Born in the remnants of America, Arika Cobane inhabits the upper echelons of the race of dark-skinned laborers known as the Kongo, trained by her white teachers to be a record keeper and write false histories that reinforce social norms. As rumors spread of rebels challenging the state’s authority, a new Kongo student, Hosea Khan, enters Arika’s class, shocking her by openly questioning the violence committed against the Kongo people… This intellectually rich, emotional, and ruthlessly honest confrontation of racism proves Gomillion is a critically important new voice.

The Record Keeper will be published by Titan Books on June 18, 2019. It is 457 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover artist is uncredited.


Disgust and Desire: An Interview with Anna Smith Spark

Saturday, May 18th, 2019 | Posted by SELindberg

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It is not intuitive to seek beauty in art deemed grotesque/weird, but most authors who produce horror/fantasy actually are usually (a) serious about their craft, and (b) driven my strange muses.  This interview series engages contemporary authors & artists on the theme of “Art & Beauty in Weird/Fantasy Fiction.”  Previously we cornered weird fantasy authors like John FultzJaneen WebbAliya WhiteleyRichard Lee ByersSebastian Jones, Charles Gramlich, and Darrell Schweitzer. This one features the “Queen of Grimdark,” Anna Smith Spark.

Anna Smith Spark is the author of the critically acclaimed Queen of Grimdark. The David Gemmell Awards shortlisted The Court of Broken Knives and The Tower of Living and Dying continued the Empires of Dust trilogy (Harper Voyager US/ Orbit US/Can). The finale, The House of Sacrifice, will be published August 2019. Anna lives in London, UK. She loves grimdark and epic fantasy and historical military fiction. Anna has a BA in Classics, an MA in history and a Ph.D. in English Literature. She has previously been published in the Fortean Times and the poetry website greatworks.org. Previous jobs include petty bureaucrat, English teacher and fetish model. Anna’s favorite authors and key influences are R. Scott Bakker, Steve Erikson, M. John Harrison, Ursula Le Guin, Mary Stewart and Mary Renault. She spent several years as an obsessive D&D player. She can often be spotted at sff conventions wearing very unusual shoes.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Universe 9, edited by Terry Carr

Saturday, May 18th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Roger Zimmerman

Cover by Roger Zimmerman

Cover by Carlos Ochagavia

Cover by Carlos Ochagavia

Cover by Richard Weaver

Cover by Richard Weaver

The Locus Awards were established in 1972 and presented by Locus Magazine based on a poll of its readers. In more recent years, the poll has been opened up to on-line readers, although subscribers’ votes have been given extra weight. At various times the award has been presented at Westercon and, more recently, at a weekend sponsored by Locus at the Science Fiction Museum (now MoPop) in Seattle. The Best Anthology Award dates back to 1976, although it was not presented in 1978. The inaugural award went to the anthology Epoch, edited Roger Elwood and Robert Silverberg. The 1980 award was won by Terry Carr for Universe 9. It was Carr’s third win in a row, with his first two being for entries in his Terry Carr’s Best Science Fiction of the Year series. The Locus Poll received 854 responses.

Terry Carr’s Universe series of anthologies ran for 17 volumes, beginning in 1971 and only ending with Carr’s death in 1987. During that time, he also edited 16 volumes of Terry Carr’s Best Science Fiction of the Year, five volumes of Fantasy Annual, and two volumes of The Best Science Fiction Novellas of the Year. Sixteen of the volumes of Universe ranked in the Locus Poll (only Universe 7 missed out), and Carr won the Locus Poll for entries of Universe for volumes 1, 4, and 9. In four years, Carr’s best of year anthology beat out his own Universe anthology in the poll.

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New Treasures: Last Tango in Cyberspace by Steven Kotler

Friday, May 17th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Last Tango in Cyberspace-smallTwenty years ago Steven Kotler’s debut The Angle Quickest For Flight, from small press Four Walls Eight Windows, made a minor splash. A science fiction novel about book thieves, an ancient Kabbalistic text, and a quest “Indiana Jones would have signed up for in a second had he known about it” (Randall Cohan), it was praised by John Barth as “a brilliant novel.”

In the intervening decades Kotler has become a New York Times bestselling author, but with Last Tango in Cyberspace he returns to science fiction for the first time with a near-future thriller about the evolution of empathy. Library Journal proclaims it “A fascinating read. Highly recommend,” and Booklist calls it “an intriguing blend of detective story and social critique… a vivid picture of near-future earth.” Here’s the description.

Hard to say when the human species fractured exactly. Harder to say when this new talent arrived. But Lion Zorn is the first of his kind―an empathy tracker, an emotional soothsayer, with a felt sense for the future of the we. In simpler terms, he can spot cultural shifts and trends before they happen.

It’s a useful skill for a certain kind of company.

Arctic Pharmaceuticals is that kind of company. But when a routine em-tracking job leads to the discovery of a gruesome murder, Lion finds himself neck-deep in a world of eco-assassins, soul hackers and consciousness terrorists. But what the man really needs is a nap.

A unique blend of cutting-edge technology and traditional cyberpunk, Last Tango in Cyberspace explores hot topics like psychology, neuroscience, technology, as well as ecological and animal rights issues. The world created in Last Tango is based very closely on our world about five years from now, and all technology in the book either exists in labs or is rumored to exist. With its electrifying sentences, subtle humor, and an intriguing main character, readers are sure to find something that resonates with them in this groundbreaking cyberpunk science fiction thriller.

Last Tango in Cyberspace was published by St. Martin’s Press on May 14, 2019. It is 330 pages, priced at $27.99 in hardcover and $14.99 in digital formats. The cover was designed by Ervin Serrano. Read an excerpt here, or listen to an audio sample from the book here.


Vintage Treasures: Davy by Edgar Pangborn

Thursday, May 16th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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1982 Ballantine paperback reprint; cover by Boris Vallejo

Edgar Pangborn died in 1976. His last book, the collection Still I Persist in Wondering, was published in 1978. The first Pangborn story I can recall reading was his splendid tale of the first landing on an alien world, and the majestic and deadly creatures found there, “The Red Hills of Summer,” in Gardner Dozois’ anthology Explorers (2000). It was enough to turn me into an instant fan.

I never read any Pangborn during my formative teen years, but he still managed to feature prominently in my early science fiction education. That’s chiefly because the reviewer I read most avidly at the time, Spider Robinson, was a late convert and a huge fan. In his column in the March 1976 Galaxy magazine, Spider raved:

I’ve only just discovered Edgar Pangborn. I haven’t been so delighted since (years ago, thank God) I discovered Theodore Sturgeon. In fact, the comparison is apt. I like Pangborn and Sturgeon for very similar reasons. Both are thoughtful, mature writers, and both remind me at times of [John] Brunner’s Chad Mulligan [the hero of Stand on Zanzibar], bitter drunk, crying at the world, “Goddammit, I love you all.” Both are bitterly disappointed in man’s evil, and both are hopelessly in love with man’s good. Both are addicted to creating and falling in love with warmly human, vibrantly alive characters, and making you love them too.

In the November 1976 issue of Galaxy, shortly after he learned of Pangborn’s death, Spider wrote a bitter rant of his own, lamenting the loss of a great writer and the fact that the world had stubbornly refused to acknowledge his achievements. He held up Pangborn’s 1964 novel Davy as a testament to what the field had lost. I’m not sure there’s a short story from 1976 that’s lived in my mind as vividly for the past four decades as Spider’s review of Davy. Here it is.

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Fame and Fortune, While the Darkness Creeps Ever Closer: All My Colors by David Quantick

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019 | Posted by Caitlin McAllister

All My Colors-smallAll My Colors, by David Quantick, is a captivating read, one you’re sure to gobble up in just a few sittings. From the very first page the reader becomes intrigued by the warped and egotistical mind of Todd Milstead. With a photographic memory, Todd spouts off quotes and passages from literary heroes dead and alive, but one such bout of verbal discharge leaves his friends questioning his abilities. They’ve never heard of the passage he quotes, much less the author!

So begins Todd’s dark and twisted journey to figure out why he can see every word on every page of an apparently non-existent book, a novel titled All My Colors. A self-proclaimed author with no published works to his name, Todd grapples with claiming the book as his own. Why not, if no record or memory of it seems to exist?

Once he makes decision to plagiarize it, there’s no turning back. The book pours out of Todd and into the world, and is met with great acclaim. Suddenly Todd has everything he’s ever dreamed of.

But the age-old adage “be careful what you wish for” holds true. Todd is famous! He is wined and dined, recognized as the next brilliant voice of women everywhere, but darkness begins to creep ever closer. Inexplicable things start to happen — Todd sees things that aren’t there, frightening dreams seem too real, and friends begin to disappear. Each page is read in a frenzy to figure out who or what is playing Todd like a puppet.

Quantick is a great writer, with an obvious voice, but I wish he took a bit more time to sharpen what he wanted to say. An interesting read in the time of “Me Too,” the novel hits on the greater theme of misogyny and what can be learned when one detaches from the limited view of “men first.” He could have taken more time to show Todd’s understanding of what was happening to him, rather than simply explaining the changes to the reader. There wasn’t a true sense of understanding around his otherworldly shift from outwards asshole to the next great voice of women everywhere.

[Warning — spoilers ahead!]

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Space Opera with Military Flair: A Chain Across the Dawn by Drew Williams

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Stars Now Unclaimed-small A Chain Across the Dawn-small

I’m still on a space opera kick, and Drew Williams’ The Stars Now Unclaimed was one of the books that got me started. It was published by Tor last August, and Liz Bourke at Tor.com called it “Superpowered Space Opera… a strikingly entertaining debut novel, an enjoyable space opera with military flair.” I’ve been keeping my eye open for the sequel, but it still managed to sneak up on me last week. Here’s the description.

Drew Williams continues the Universe After series with A Chain Across the Dawn, an epic space opera chase across the galaxy with witty banter, fantastical planets, and a seemingly unbeatable foe.

It’s been three years since Esa left her backwater planet to join the ranks of the Justified. Together, she and fellow agent Jane Kamali have been traveling across the known universe, searching for children who share Esa’s supernatural gifts.

On a visit to a particularly remote planet, they learn that they’re not the only ones searching for gifted children. They find themselves on the tail of a mysterious being with impossible powers who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the very children that Esa and Jane are trying to save.

With their latest recruit in tow ― a young Wulf boy named Sho ― Esa and Jane must track their strange foe across the galaxy in search of answers. But the more they learn, the clearer it becomes ― their enemy may be harder to defeat than they ever could have imagined.

We covered the first volume here. A Chain Across the Dawn was published by Tor Books on May 7, 2019. It is 317 pages, priced at $18.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Fred Gambino. See all our recent coverage of the best new SF and Fantasy series titles here.


A New Gem from a Seasoned Master: Guy Gavriel Kay’s A Brightness Long Ago

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019 | Posted by David B. Coe

A Brightness Long Ago-smallBy any measure, Guy Gavriel Kay is a giant in the field of fantasy. He has won a World Fantasy Award (for Ysabel in 2008) and been nominated for three others. He has won the Aurora and Sunburst awards, and in 2014 was made a member of the Order of Canada. Even before the release of his first series, the critically acclaimed Fionavar Tapestry (The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, The Darkest Road) Kay had already established himself as an important figure in the fantasy world by editing The Silmarillion with Christopher Tolkien. Every one of his thirteen novels has enjoyed stunning critical success. And on a personal note, his work, with its lyrical prose, insightful character work, and brilliant world building, has been an inspiration to me throughout my career.

It is no exaggeration to say that the release of a new Guy Gavriel Kay novel is always a notable event in our genre. The May 14 publication of his latest work, A Brightness Long Ago (Berkley), promises to be no exception. Moving, intriguing, surprising, and ultimately deeply satisfying, it ranks with Tigana, The Lions of Al-Rassan, Ysabel, and Under Heaven as one of Kay’s very best.

A recitation of the plot of A Brightness Long Ago hardly does justice to the richness of this narrative. An old man, Guidanio Cerra, reflects on his past, in particular his life-altering romance with a young noblewoman, Adria Ripoli. They first meet on a night in Danio’s youth when Adria has come to the city-state of Mylasia, posing as an innocent who has been sent to satisfy the sadistic sexual appetites of Mylasia’s Count Uberto. In reality, she has come to assassinate the Count. But Adria is wounded in their encounter and is unable to flee the palace without help. Danio knows the count was a brute, and he admires Adria’s strength and courage, as well as her beauty. He also knows of her noble heritage. He offers his aid, allowing her to evade capture.

They next meet when Adria rides a mount in the famed race of Bischio. It is rare for a woman to ride, unheard of for the daughter of a noble house to do so, though in this, too, she attempts to keep her identity hidden. The extravagant wagering on the race attracts the notice of rival mercenary commanders, Teobaldo Monticola di Remigio and Folco Cino d’Acorsi, and the contest’s unexpected outcome draws Danio into the drama of the men’s blood feud.

To reveal more would be to spoil some truly wonderful moments of drama, suspense, passion, tragedy, and vengeance. It is enough to say that the pace of this tale does not flag.

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A Slender, Forgotten Gem: The Deep by John Crowley

Monday, May 13th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Case

The Deep John Crowley-small

1984 Bantam paperback edition; cover by Yvonne Gilbert

Some authors create slender, nearly flawless works of fiction. Books like little jewels on the shelf — cut just right, gleaming, standing alone. Beagle managed this a few times: A Fine and Private Place, The Last Unicorn. Goldman turned his into a movie that was nearly as good: The Princess Bride. Swanwick and Wolfe have done it with literary science fiction: Stations of the Tide and The Fifth Head of Cerberus, respectively. The Deep is a book like this: finely wrought, chiseled, alien.

Is this tiny 1975 volume science fiction or fantasy? On the one hand, the book starts with the Visitor, a damaged android who arrives in the book’s world with no memory of what he is or his mission. But the world he’s in, the culture and factions of which his ignorance provides the perfect excuse for a narrator’s artful explanation, is purely fantasy: a kingdom riven by conflict between Reds and Blacks, with a city at its center and wild wastes surrounding, ringed on all sides by the Deep.

The world, as different characters explain at different times, is a platter or a plate suspended on the Deep by a great pillar. And even when the android journeys to the edge of this world and meets the Leviathan who dwells there, when he learns the nature of the engineered conflict and how humans were first settled on the world, Crowley doesn’t ever default to pure science fiction. Even if the reader can credit a resettled humanity in the far future, reset to medieval technology with continual wars to control the population, the story still leaves you with a flat world upon the Deep. Somehow, this central oddity works; it keeps a surreal wrinkle in the heart of the world Crowley creates.

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New Treasures: The Best of R. A. Lafferty, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Sunday, May 12th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Best of R. A. Lafferty-small The Best of R. A. Lafferty-back-small

At last! At last! The Best of R. A. Lafferty is available here in the United States.

Back in October of last year, uber-editor Jonathan Strahan made the following terse announcement on his Facebook page, alongside a tantalizing cover reveal.

The Best of R.A. Lafferty will be published by Gollancz in March 2019. The book features 22 classic Lafferty stories along with an introduction by Neil Gaiman and forewords by some of the most important writers and editors working in the field today.

Fabulous! Lafferty is one of my favorite short story writers, and far too much of his work — virtually all of it, really — is either long out of print, or available only in very expensive collector’s editions from Centipede Press. The prospect of a generous collection of his best short fiction in a compact and affordable trade paperback edition (with a cover by Emanuel Santos illustrating one of his finest stories, “Nine Hundred Grandmothers”) seemed too good to be true.

And for a while, it look like it would be. I immediately added the book to my Amazon queue, and impatiently awaited the March release date. It came and went, and Amazon switched the status of the book from “Available for pre-order” to flat-out “Unavailable.” Copies of the book were unavailable through any of my regular sources. Until a few weeks ago, when a handful of sellers finally signaled they had it in stock. I placed an order, and it arrived last week.

And what a book it is. Not only does it include 22 terrific stories, but editor Strahan has also assembled thoughtful and entertaining intros to each by some of the finest writers in the field, including Samuel R. Delany, Robert Silverberg, Michael Swanwick, Michael Bishop, John Scalzi, Jeff VanderMeer, Nancy Kress, Andy Duncan, Gregory Frost, Neil Gaiman, Connie Willis, Jack Dann, Harlan Ellison, Cat Rambo, and many others.

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