Birthday Reviews: Brenda Cooper’s “Second Shift”

Sunday, August 12th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Love & Rockets

Love & Rockets

Brenda Cooper was born on August 12, 1960.

Cooper has won the Endeavour Award twice, for her novels The Silver Ship and the Sea and Edge of Dark. The latter was also a nominee for the Golden Duck Hal Clement Award while the former was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award. Her short story “Savant Songs” was nominated for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. Cooper has collaborated with Larry Niven on both short fiction and a novel.

Cooper write “Second Shift” for the anthology Love & Rockets, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes in 2010. In 2015, she included it in her collection Cracking the Sky.

Brenda Cooper looks at a strange form of love in “Second Shift.” Lance Parker is on a solo mission to the asteroid belt to mine ore. Because such missions take so long, companionship is necessary to help the astronauts maintain a sense of sanity. To this end, Sulieyan and Kami have both been hired to maintain contact with him, in shifts, to provide Lance with the required human contact that a computer just can’t provide.

Although the first rule is not to form a relationship with the astronaut, Kami and Lance have both proclaimed their love for each other, even as they realize that there is practically no chance of them ever meeting in real life. Lance’s mission is a lengthy and dangerous one and for him Kami and Sulieyan are simply voices in an otherwise empty cockpit. The situation, however, doesn’t make the feelings Kami has for him, or vice versa, and less real. Seeing what is happening, Sulieyan sends her grandson, Hart, to interview Kami for a newspaper article on love.

In a normal story, Hart and Kami would hit it off and Kami would transfer her affection to Suleiyan’s son, however, in Cooper’s story, Kami remains true to her distant and as yet unmet love. Her interactions with Hart are non-romantic, yet focus on a discussion of what love is and who Kami and Lance can be in love with each other despite the barriers places between them.

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Religious Cults, Vampires, and the London Underground: Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw

Saturday, August 11th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Strange-Practice-Vivian Shaw-small Dreadful Company Vivian Shaw-small

Vivian Shaw’s debut novel Strange Practice was labeled “a triumph” by SFFWorld, and Booklist called it “a standout in the genre.” I was surprised to discover the second book in the series, Dreadful Company, already on the shelves at Barnes & Noble last week, and I snatched it up immediately. Here’s what the always-reliable Liz Bourke said in her feature review at

Dreadful Company is Vivian Shaw’s second book, sequel to last year’s excellent Strange PracticeAnd if anything, it’s even more fun…

Dr. Greta Helsing isn’t your average medical doctor. She runs a practice dedicated to the supernatural, treating vampires, werewolves, zombies, demons, mummies, ghouls, and all manner of other being. Her best friend is Edmund Ruthven, vampire; and Sir Francis Varney (also a vampire) is tentatively trying to swoon at her feet. After the events of Strange Practicein which Greta found herself at the centre of attempts to dissuade a very strange religious cult beneath London’s underground from doing a whole lot of murder, Dreadful Company finds Greta attending a medical conference in Paris…

Dreadful Company is fast, fun, and immensely readable. As with Strange Practice, one of the largest parts of its appeal is in its voice. Dreadful Company has a wry edge, one that at times goes all the way over into laugh-out-loud funny, without ever losing a sense of heart. And it’s got kindness in its bedrock… As you may have guessed, I deeply enjoyed Dreadful Company… it’s delightful. I recommend it wholeheartedly, and I’m looking forward to seeing much more of Shaw’s work in the years to come.

You can read Liz’s complete review here.

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In 500 Words or Less: Graveyard Mind by Chadwick Ginther

Friday, August 10th, 2018 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

oie_9232935aM029I3CGraveyard Mind
By Chadwick Ginther
ChiZine Publications (300 pages, $17.99 paperback, $10.99 eBook, July 2018)

I love a book set in a Canadian city… other than Toronto. Sorry, T-dot; you get a lot of attention in the mainstream, but we have a big-ass country for SFF authors to play with, and as Bobby Singer once said to the Winchesters, “You ain’t the center of the universe.”

Sorry, that probably seemed aggressive. But it’s justified, since one of the things worth celebrating about Chadwick Ginther’s newest novel, Graveyard Mind, is that once again he brings us back to Winnipeg, painting it in a much different light than his Thunder Road novels by focusing on the underworld: ghosts, vampires, monsters, and more. There’s a similar feel here in the way Chadwick weaves interesting story elements together, presenting a unified world that makes total sense while being freaky and entertaining. You’ve got Frank, a golem stitched-together from dead soldiers who grapples with wanting to die; an underworld “territory” divided between an aging, pot-bellied vampire and an aristocratic animated skeleton; and protagonist Winter Murray, the necromancer charged with protecting Winnipeg while she deals with her never-born twin sister whispering in the back of her head. There’s even hell hounds and cultists and whatnot!

The freaky moments are superb, like where Winter’s frenemy vampire Christophe shows up at an art sale and brings the entire room under his thrall just to throw his weight around. These are so gripping because of Chadwick’s excellent character work; even minor characters make you care about them because, apologies for the cliché, they jump off the page. Graveyard Mind is a lot like The Dresden Files in that the interpersonal is just as important (and handled as well) as the excitement and terror of the supernatural. Winter tries to support her best friend Lyssa, who’s lost her mother, while at the same time keeping a local cult from taking over the funeral; she has a tenuous relationship with the lingering spirit of her mentor, Grannie Annie, who abducted her and brutally trained her in necromancy, keeping her from ever seeing her parents again; and so on. The consequences of Winter’s decisions on these relationships are more important than the consequences for her city or the supernatural world, because that’s what matters more to her.

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Time Travel, Shoggoths, and the Land of the Witches: The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2018 edited by Rich Horton

Thursday, August 9th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2018-smallI always enjoy Rich Horton’s introductions to his annual Year’s Best collection, and this one doesn’t disappoint. I was especially delighted to see him select one of my favorite stories of last year for this year’s volume, and to see him call it out in the intro:

One source of originality is new voices, and thus I am excited every [year] to see new writers producing excellent work… But one of the reasons I choose stories by some writers over and over again is that they are always fresh. What story this year is stranger than C.S.E. Cooney’s “Though She Be But Little?”

This year’s volume is dedicated to Gardner Dozois, who passed away in May, and I was particularly touched by Rich’s thoughtful reminiscence.

As for Gardner Dozois, who was closer to me in a personal sense — I was really shaken by news of his passing. He was one of the greatest editors in the field’s history (an argument can be made — and I’ve made it — that he ranks at the top); and he was also a very significant science fiction writer…

We who produce these similar books, the best of the year volumes, never regard ourselves as rivals. Our books are paragraphs in a long conversation about science fiction. I talked with Gardner about science fiction for years, in different ways — face to face, or on message boards, discussing our different ideas about who should have won the Hugo in 1973 or whenever; month by month in our columns in Locus; or in the tables of contents of these books, each of us proposing lists of the best stories each year. I always looked eagerly for Gardner’s “list,” and his stories for me represented a different and completely interesting angle on what really mattered each year.

I already miss that voice.

Rich’s 2018 volume is so crammed with fiction that the publisher had no room for the traditional “About the Authors” and “Recommended Reading” sections in the print edition; instead they’ll make them available online for free at the Prime Books website (and in the ebook version). They’re not available yet — and in fact the Prime website looks like it hasn’t been updated since 2016? — but presumably they will be soon.

This year’s volume has stories by Samuel R. Delany, Rich Larson, Sarah Pinsker, Michael Swanwick, Peter Watts, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Charlie Jane Anders, Robert Reed, Maureen McHugh, Sofia Samatar, Yoon Ha Lee, Kameron Hurley, and many others. Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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New Treasures: Stars Uncharted by S. K. Dunstall

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Stars Uncharted-small“S. K. Dunstall” is the sibling writing duo of Sherylyn and Karen Dunstall. In 2016 I wrote about their successful Linesman Trilogy from Ace Books.

Their newest novel is Stars Uncharted, a fast-paced space opera that follows a ragtag band of explorers who make the greatest find in the galaxy. John DeNardo at Kirkus Reviews says “It combines the best parts of space action and space opera,” and Booklist says it “Masterfully [weaves] hard science… with engaging characters and a touch of romance, resulting in a brilliant female-driven tale.” It arrives in trade paperback from Ace Books next week.

On this space jump, no one is who they seem…

Captain Hammond Roystan is a simple cargo runner who has stumbled across the find of a lifetime: the Hassim, a disabled exploration ship — and its valuable record of unexplored worlds.

His junior engineer, Josune Arriola, said her last assignment was in the uncharted rim. But she is decked out in high-level bioware that belies her humble backstory.

A renowned body-modification artist, Nika Rik Terri has run afoul of clients who will not take no for an answer. She has to flee off-world, and she is dragging along a rookie modder, who seems all too experienced in weapons and war…

Together this mismatched crew will end up on one ship, hurtling through the lawless reaches of deep space with Roystan at the helm. Trailed by nefarious company men, they will race to find the most famous lost world of all — and riches beyond their wildest dreams…

Stars Uncharted will be published by Ace on August 14, 2018. It is 416 pages, priced at $16 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by John Harris. Read the complete 15-page first chapter here.

See all our recent New Treasures here.

Lauren C. Teffeau Talks Her Debut Novel, Her Career to Date, and Dealing with Annoying Writers Group-mates

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018 | Posted by Emily Mah

teffeaulauren-4818webresimplanted_144dpi-1Lauren C. Teffeau’s debut novel Implanted was published yesterday!

When college student Emery Driscoll is blackmailed into being a courier for a clandestine organisation, she’s cut off from the neural implant community which binds the domed city of New Worth together. Her new employer exploits her rare condition which allows her to carry encoded data in her blood, and train her to transport secrets throughout the troubled city. New Worth is on the brink of Emergence – freedom from the dome – but not everyone wants to leave. Then a data drop goes bad, and Emery is caught between factions: those who want her blood, and those who just want her dead.

I’ve had the privilege of knowing Lauren for several years now and watching her writing go from strength to strength. She has a master’s degree in Mass Communication and worked for several years as a researcher in that field before moving to New Mexico. There, she attended the Taos Toolbox Writer’s Workshop and sold several short stories before earning her first contract with Angry Robot.

We recently sat down to talk about Implanted, her career to date, and her future projects.

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Future Treasures: The Moons of Barsk by Lawrence M. Schoen

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Barsk The Elephants' Graveyard-small The Moons of Barsk-small

Lawrence M. Schoen’s novel Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard was nominated for a Nebula Award, and Nancy Hightower at The Washington Post gave it a concise and enthusiastic review, saying:

Barsk is set 62,000 years into a human-less future, where anthropomorphic animals rule the galaxy. There is no record of human existence, and while the different species get along relatively well, the Fant, an elephant-like hybrid, are completely shunned and exiled to live on a rainy planet called Barsk. While labeled less intelligent and “dirty,” the Fant nonetheless are the only species to produce a drug that allows clairvoyants known as Speakers to commune with the dead. When the planet is threatened with invasion and annihilation by the galaxy Senate, Jorl, a Fant Speaker, must race to save it by communing with ancient beings who hold even darker truths. Suspenseful and emotionally engaging, Barsk brings readers into a fascinating speculative world.

It was widely praised in the genre. Walter Jon Williams called it “a work of singular imaginative power,” and Karl Schroeder proclaimed it “a compulsive page-turner and immensely enjoyable.”

I’ve been looking forward to the sequel, and I’m not the only one. It was selected as one of the the Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of August 2018 by both Unbound Worlds and the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi 7 Fantasy Blog; the latter said, “With a cast of uplifted animals of all stripes and unparalleled worldbuilding, this series is a sorely under-appreciated, highly original delight.” It arrives in hardcover next week from Tor.

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Birthday Reviews: Élisabeth Vonarburg’s “Cogito”

Sunday, August 5th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Ron Lightburn

Cover by Ron Lightburn

Élisabeth Vonarburg was born on August 5, 1947.

She has twice been nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award and once for the James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award. Her greatest recognition came from the Canadian Casper/Aurora Awards, which she has won ten times. Vonarburg won the French language award in 1987 for her story “La Carte du Tendre” (“Readers of the Lost Art”). That same year, she received a second Aurora for her fannish contributions to Solaris. She won three additional short story Auroras for “Cogito” (1990), “Ici, des tigres” (1991), and “La Course de Kathryn” (2004) and five Auroras for Best book for Histoire de la Princesse et du Dragon (1991), Ailleurs et au Japon (1992), Chroniques de Pays des Mères (1993), Les Voyageurs malgré eux (1996), and Reine de Mémoire 4. La Princesse de Vengeance (2007). She won the Prix Rosny-Ainé and the Prix Boreal in 1982 for her novel Le Silence de la Cité. She also won the Boreal for Chroniques de Pays des Mères (1993), Les Rêves de la mer (1997), Reine de Mémoire 1. La Maisson d’oubli (2006) and Reine de Mémoire 4. La Princesse de Vengeance (2007). Prior to 1990, the Aurora Award was known as the Casper Award and in 2011, the Prix Aurora and Prix Boreal combined.

Vonarburg originally published “Cogito” in French in Imagine #46 in December 1988, and it was translated into English with the same title for Tesseracts 3, edited by Candas Jane Dorsey and Gerry Truscott in 1990. The next year, it was published in French in Vonarburg’s collection Ailleurs et au Japon. Algis Budrys reprinted the story in English in issue 21 of Tomorrow SF in 1996 and Vonarburg again included the French version in her 2013 collection La Musique du Soleil. The story received the 1990 Aurora Award for Meilleur nouvelle en français (Best Short-Form Work in French).

“Cogito” is a strangely chatty story about a young girl, Nathany, who is growing up on Cybland, a planet settled by humans who left Earth in search of a life made better through cybernetic implants. The narrator begins by describing Nathany’s life in her communal school, originally EdBlock 6 until her teachers determined that she was precocious and moved into SpecBlock D. As the story continues, the narrator takes breaks from the action, such as it is, to address the reader directly, providing the background for the world necessary to understand upcoming events.

Through the course of the story, Vonarburg reveals that people on Cybland have all five of their senses removed at a very young age and are implanted by “cybes,” which allow them not only to have heightened senses, but also to present themselves in any way they want while they can also switch around the way their senses interact with the world, creating their own personal synesthesia.

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Don’t Let Go the Coat: The Greatcoats by Sebastien de Castell

Saturday, August 4th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Traitors-Blade-smaller Knights-Shadow-smaller Saints-Blood-smaller Tyrant's Throne-smaller

Rather foolishly, I thought Sebastien de Castell’s Greatcoats trilogy was, er, a trilogy. But that was before the fourth novel, Tyrant’s Throne, showed up in hardcover last year. Jo Fletcher Books reprinted it in trade paperback on May 1 of this year, and this time it seems that de Castell has indeed bought his popular debut series to a close.

In her review of Knight’s Shadow Sarah Avery said,

De Castell is carving himself an enduring place in the fantasy canon…. Knight’s Shadow is so strong, the only way I can see the Greatcoats series failing to achieve eventual wide recognition as a classic is if the author meets an untimely demise.

Fortunately that hasn’t happened, and in fact de Castell just launched a brand new four-volume series, Spellslinger (which we discussed here). The second volume arrives this month, and the next two before the end of the year. With productivity like that, Sebastien de Castell may well be the hardest working man in fantasy.

Here’s the description for Tyrant’s Throne.

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Vintage Treasures: Conquerors from the Darkness by Robert Silverberg

Friday, August 3rd, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Conquerors from the Darkness Master of Life and Death Silverberg-small Conquerors from the Darkness Master of Life and Death Silverberg-back-small

1979 Ace edition, paired with Master of Life and Death. Cover by Frazetta.

Robert Silverberg’s novella “Spawn of the Deadly Sea” appeared in the April 1957 issue of Science Fiction Adventures. He expanded it to novel length in 1965, retitling it Conquerors from the Darkness in the process. It wasn’t one of Silverberg’s more successful novels, at least from a commercial standpoint. Today it’s considered a juvenile, and it was reprinted only a handful of times, including a 1979 Ace paperback in which it was paired with Master of Life and Death and given a typically colorful Frank Frazetta cover (above).

In his introduction to the Ace edition Silverberg talks about Robert E. Howard, and it’s one of Silverberg’s few early SF novels with a clear Howard influence. Perhaps as a result, the book certainly has its fans. Here’s an extract from James Reasoner’s enthusiastic review on his blog.

Conquerors from the Darkness is exactly the sort of vivid, galloping action yarn that made me a science fiction fan in the first place. At first it seems like a heroic fantasy novel, set in some totally different universe than ours. The oceans cover the entire planet except for a few floating cities. The only commerce is between those cities, and keeping the seas safe for the merchant vessels is a Viking-like group known as the Sea-Lords. The hero of the novel, a young man named Dovirr, lives in one of the cities but wants to be a Sea-Lord and take to the oceans. He gets his wish and rapidly rises in the ranks, and along the way the reader learns that this is indeed Earth, a thousand years after alien invaders flooded the planet for reasons known only to them, preserving a little of humanity in those floating cities… the alien Star Beasts return to take over the planet again, and Dovirr and his comrades have to find some way to stop them with swords and sailing ships.

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