Fairy Tales, Space Stations, and a Sequel to The Thing: The Nebula Awards Showcase 2018, edited by Jane Yolen

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Nebula Awards Showcase 2018-smallThe annual Nebula Awards Showcase anthologies, which collect the Nebula Award nominees and winners, are edited by a revolving committee of editors, and that means the criteria used to select the fiction varies every year.

I think this is a great idea. Essentially, each year it gives editorial power to a new individual to select which stories to showcase. The winners are always included, of course, but picking between the nominees (especially in the novella category, which frequently would fill one and a half anthologies all on its own) is a challenge, and it needs a strong editorial hand to make tough decisions.

For example in 1980, for Nebula Winners Fourteen, Frederik Pohl jettisoned virtually every single short fiction nominee (and all the novelettes) so he could make room for just two stories, C. J. Cherryh’s Hugo Award-winning “Cassandra,” and Gene Wolfe’s massive 60-page novella “Seven American Nights.” That had to be a tough call, but I think it was the right one.

In the 2018 Showcase volume, editor Jane Yolen makes a similar choice. Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway, which won the Best Novella Nebula, is a massive 176 pages, far bigger even than Gene Wolfe’s 60-page classic, and would throughly dominate the anthology. Instead, for the first time I can remember, Yolen has chosen not to include the full version of the Nebula Award winning novella, but rather represent it with a 20-page excerpt. That leaves her with enough space to include every short story and novelette nominee (or at least, as is the case for Fran Wilde’s 96-page The Jewel and Her Lapidary, a substantial excerpt).

It’s a bold decision, and I applaud it. The 2018 Nebula Awards Showcase is a terrific volume, and it certainly gives you the opportunity to sample a wide variety of top-notch fiction from last year, including the delightfully subversive fairy tale “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar, Sam J. Miller’s thoughtful and creepy sequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing, “Things With Beards,” Caroline M. Yoachim’s “Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station / Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0,” and excerpts from All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders and Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine

If you’re looking for a Best Of collection that encapsulates some of the finest science fiction from last year, it makes a splendid choice. Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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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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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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John DeNardo on 31 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books You Should Read in July

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Hullmetal Girls-small Lost Gods Micah Yongo-small From the Depths and Other Strange Tales of the Sea-small

Over at Kirkus Reviews, John Denardo has a regular monthly book column. For July he mixes things up a bit by recommending a book for every single day of the month.

I am constantly in awe at the vast number of books that are published every month. July alone sees the publication of several hundred speculative fiction titles vying for your reading time. It can thus be a daunting task for readers to find their way to the best of them. That’s where I come in. Every month, I sift through the vast number of speculative titles and pick out the ones that deserve your attention…

In Emily Skrutskie’s intriguing Hullmetal Girls, the path to a better life (or at least the money to buy one) may be volunteering to become a mechanically-enhanced soldier called a Scela. That’s what Aisha Un-Haad decides to do to raise the money she needs for her brother’s medical treatment. In the Fleet is where Aisha meets Key Tanaka, a Scela with only fuzzy memories of her former, well-to-do, pre-Scela life. Both women from disparate backgrounds must work together if they are to challenge the pending rebellion… There’s also Micah Yongo’s Lost Gods, a dark fantasy in which a young assassin named Neythan finds himself hunted by his assassin brothers and sisters when he is framed for the murder of his closest friend. Neythan’s journey will lead to him learning the true nature of his revered assassin brotherhood… I said it before and I’ll say it again: Short fiction rocks. July is stuffed so full of short fiction, you won’t know where to start. I do… check out From the Depths: and Other Strange Tales of the Sea edited by Mike Ashley.

Hullmetal Girls is available in hardcover from Delacorte Press (320 pages, $17.99, July 17). Lost Souls is from our friends at Angry Robot (448 pages, $12.99 in trade paperback, July 3, 2018). From the Depths is part of the Tales of the Weird library from British Library Publishing (320 pages, £8.99/$12.50 US, July 19, 2018). Check out John DeNardo’s complete list of July recs here.

The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog on the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of July 2018

Sunday, July 29th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Kill the Farm Boy Kevin Hearne and Delilah S. Dawson-small City of Lies Sam Hawke-small Redemption’s Blade Adrian Tchaikovsky-small

July has been a terrific month for fantasy readers, with several exciting debuts, more than a few big names, and a handful of highly anticipated installments in popular series. As usual, Jeff Somers at the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog handily summarizes the most interesting titles of the month. Here’s a half-dozen of his best selections.

Kill the Farm Boy by Kevin Hearne and Delilah S. Dawson (Del Rey, 384 pages, $27 in hardcover/ $13.99 digital, July 17)

Hearne and Dawson set out to undermine the white male patriarchy in a hilarious and surprisingly deep fantasy in the Pratchett mold. The titular, clichéd farm boy destined to save the world is killed more or less immediately after being anointed the Chosen One, but his death doesn’t end the threat to the world. A colorful band of unlikely heroes must assemble to do the job for him, including a half-rabbit bard, an aspiring evil wizard whose main skill is conjuring bread, a rogue lacking any sort of coordination, and, naturally, a talking goat. Their quest to take on the Dark Lord infesting their world with evil curses and evil-er magic is filled with plenty of jokes, songs, and riffs on the fundamental importance of cheese — but also delves into the inner lives of these crazy characters, making them real, interesting people. (Which is more than can be said of many super-serious epic fantasy stories.)

If Kill the Farm Boy is half as much fun as I’ve been hearing, it deserves to be the breakout title for the month. It’s book 1 of The Tales of Pell; no news yet on the next release.

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New Treasures: Redder Than Blood by Tanith Lee

Saturday, July 28th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Redder Than Blood Tanith Lee-small Redder Than Blood Tanith Lee-back-small Red-as-Blood-or-Tales-from-the-Sisters-Grimmer-medium

Tanith Lee passed away in 2015, and at the time I worried that meant her work would quickly vanish from bookstores.

That hasn’t happened, and it’s mostly due to the efforts of her long-time publisher DAW Books, who over the last three years has gradually been returning some of her most popular work to print in gorgeous new paperback editions, including all five Flat Earth novels, the Wars of Vis trilogy, the Birthgrave trilogy, and the just-released novella collection Companions on the Road. Most have covers by French artist Bastien Lecouffe Deharme (website here).

I’m especially appreciative that DAW also saw fit to release a brand new short story collection of dark fairy tales, Redder Than Blood, last year. It’s a companion volume to Red as Blood, or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer (1983), a paperback original published by DAW with a Michael Whelan cover no less than twenty-five years ago (above right).

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Vintage Treasures: Take Back Plenty by Colin Greenland

Friday, July 27th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Take Back Plenty-small Seasons of Plenty-small Mother of Plenty-small

I’ve been buying up back issues of Science Fiction Eye, one of the better SF review zines of the 90s. SF Eye had a marvelous stable of hot young writers, including Bruce Sterling, Richard Kadrey, Paul Di Filippo, Pat Murphy, Gary Westfahl, Tony Daniel, Charles Platt, John Shirley, Jack Womack, Elizabeth Hand, Mark Laidlaw, and many others. I thought I’d enjoy revisiting the cutting edge genre journalism I found so thought provoking two decades ago, but what I really find entertaining this time around is the high quality reviews. Especially coverage of now-forgotten books like Colin Greenland”s Take Back Plenty (1990) the opening novel of his gonzo space opera trilogy featuring Tabitha Jute. Here’s a snippet of Sherry Coldsmith’s excellent review, from the Winter ’91 issue, which I bought on eBay last month for $7.50.

Take Back Plenty is a raid on the traditional space opera, a coup at the galactic palace. Its author has poked through the rubble of pulp SF, looking for the genre’s mermaids and Marie Celestes. Greenland’s pickings include a fecund Venus that chokes with unconquerable jungles, and an arid Mars scarred by canals. More modern tropes are also put to use: cyberjacks, talking corpses, titanic tin-can inhabitants that circle the Earth. Greenland has chucked away anything that requires scientific veracity and kept anything that possess mythic dazzle.

The protagonists are as fascinating as the background. Tabitha Jute is the owner-operator of a space vehicle, the sentient and personable Alice Liddell. These two soul sisters of the Sol system get into love and trouble in a world that Is a surreally logical as the one the bedeviled Lewis Carroll’s Alice.

Take Back Plenty won both the British Science Fiction and Clarke awards for Best Novel; it was followed by two sequels, Seasons of Plenty (1995) and Mother of Plenty (1998). Greenland’s last two books, Spiritfeather (2000) and Finding Helen (2003) appeared only in the UK. You can read Coldsmith’s complete review of Take Back Plenty (and the tail end of the enthusiastic notice of Crichton’s Jurassic Park) here — page 1 and page 2. See all our recent Vintage Treasures here.

The 2018 World Fantasy Awards Ballot

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Changeling Victor LaValle-small Mapping the Interior Stephen Graham Jones-small Tender Sofia Samatar-small

The 2018 World Fantasy Awards Ballot, containing a whole bunch of books I haven’t read yet, has just been announced. The ballot is compiled by the voting attendees of the World Fantasy Convention, all of whom clearly read a lot more than I do. Where do they find the time? Don’t they have blog posts to write, like normal people?

At least I have my membership for the convention, so I’ll be there to watch all the excitement unfold. It’s still a few months away, so I a little time to get caught up. Wish we luck.

As has been tradition since 1998, the coveted Life Achievement Award is being given to two recipients. This year they are Canadian author Charles de Lint and DAW Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth (Betsy) Wollheim. Both are fine selections, richly deserving of this recognition.

The winners in every other category will be selected by a panel of judges. Here’s the complete list of nominees, with links to our previous coverage.

Life Achievement

  • Charles de Lint
  • Elizabeth Wollheim

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Amazon Selects the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year (So Far)

Sunday, July 22nd, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Only Harmless Great Thing-small Artificial Condition The Murderbot Diaries-small The-Robots-of-Gotham-medium

Amazon has selected the Best Books of 2018 (so far) in a dozen different categories, including Mysteries & Thrillers, Comics & Graphic Novels, Literature and Fiction… and, of course, Science Fiction & Fantasy. The list includes several titles we’ve covered recently at Black Gate, including

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller
The Book of M by Peng Shepherd
Fire Dance by Ilana C. Myer
Before Mars by Emma Newman
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

and others. Best of all, it showcases a pair of Black Gate writers: Martha Wells’ Artificial Condition, the second installment of her wildly popular Murderbot series from Tor.com, and Todd McAulty’s breakout debut novel The Robots of Gotham. Check out all the details here.

Vintage Treasures: The Bridge of Lost Desire by Samuel R. Delany

Sunday, July 22nd, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Bridge of Lost Desire-back-small The Bridge of Lost Desire-small

Samuel R. Delany is one of the greatest science fiction writers alive today. He got his start when his wife Marilyn Hacker became an assistant editor at Ace Books under Donald A. Wollheim, and helped him publish his first novel The Jewels of Aptor as an Ace Double in 1962, when he was just 20 years old. Since then he’s won virtually every award our field has to offer, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards. In 2013 the Science Fiction Writers of America named him a SFWA Grand Master.

I’ve steadfastly collected the various paperback editions of Delaney’s books over the years, including his classics The Einstein Intersection (1967), Nova (1968), Dhalgren (1975), and Triton (1976). I believed (rather reasonably, I thought) that I had all of his major work. So earlier this year I was more than a little surprised to stumble on one I never knew existed: The Bridge of Lost Desire, a 1988 collection of three fantasy novellas from St. Martin’s Press.

The Bridge of Lost Desire is the fourth and last volume in Delany’s Nevèrÿon fantasy series. Unlike his science fiction novels, the Nevèrÿon books were never particularly popular, and have been out of print for over two decades. The first three were published as paperback originals by Bantam Books between 1979-85, with gorgeous covers by the fantasy artist Rowena. The Bridge of Lost Desire was first published as an Arbor House hardcover, and reprinted in what I can only assume was a poorly distributed mass market paperback edition by St. Martin’s Press in 1988.

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