The 2015 Locus Recommended Reading List

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Empire Ascendant-smallLet’s assume that you’re a busy guy or gal, and don’t have time to read every new book on the shelves, regardless of how damn tantalizing the cover is. Heck, you don’t even have time to read the reviews. And let’s also assume that you still want to stay on top of the best new books. How on earth are you supposed to manage that?

As usual, Locus magazine makes it easy — by compiling a massive recommended reading list drawn from the consensus vote of Locus editors, reviewers, and outside professionals. All told, they poll some three dozen industry pros to compile the mother of all reading lists, capturing the most acclaimed fantasy novels, SF novels, YA novels, collections, anthologies, Art books, nonfiction, and short fiction of the year. It’s an invaluable resource, especially if you’re trying to get up to speed in advance of Award season.

Here, for example, is the complete Locus Recommended Reading List of 2015 Fantasy Novels:

Foxglove Summer, Ben Aaronovitch (Gollancz 2014; DAW)
A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson (Little, Brown; Doubleday UK)
Karen Memory, Elizabeth Bear (Tor)
Nightwise, R.S. Belcher (Tor)
Beneath London, James P. Blaylock (Titan)
The House of Shattered Wings, Aliette de Bodard (Roc; Gollancz)
Prodigies, Angelica Gorodischer (Small Beer)
Wylding Hall, Elizabeth Hand (PS; Open Road)

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Mark Sumner Serializes His First New Novel in Seven Years at Daily Kos

Saturday, January 30th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

On Whetsday Denny-smallMark Sumner is one of Black Gate‘s most popular writers. When his short story “Leather Doll” appeared in Black Gate 7, The Internet Review of Science Fiction called it “absolutely riveting… [a] masterpiece of contemporary science fiction,” and his serialized novel The Naturalist became one of the most acclaimed tales in our long history. (All three BG installments of The Naturalist were collected under one cover in 2014.)

Now Mark has kicked off an ambitious new project, publishing a brand new serial novel at the political blog Daily Kos, where he has been a writer for several years. The first installment went live today:

This is the first installment of a new novel, On Whetsday. The book was inspired by recent events, old attitudes, and the long-held conviction that science fiction’s ability to create a fresh angle on society is more than just a parlor trick. On Whetsday is my first new work in several years. It will be available from my friends at Word Posse both as an ebook and in genuine wood pulp. The book is also available as a podcast, with voices provided by Raymond Shinn and Rett Macpherson.

The artwork today [at right] comes from Amy Jones, our own Ashes of Roses. I think it’s fantastic.

This is, in fact, the first new novel from Mark since the last installment of The Naturalist appeared in Black Gate in 2009, and I’m thrilled to see it. A new Mark Sumner novel is a major publishing event.

Check out the first installment of On Whetsday here.

If Neil Clarke Didn’t Have a Day Job, He’d Win All the Awards

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Neil ClarkeNeil Clarke, the hardest working man in science fiction, has now also accepted the position of editor of the flagship magazine of The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, The Bulletin. SFWA President Cat Rambo made the announcement yesterday. Here’s part of the press release.

Neil has been acting as the interim editor for the SFWA Bulletin since John Klima’s departure this past summer. SFWA would also like to take this opportunity, to thank John for his work in the organization. SFWA President, Cat Rambo adds, “I was overwhelmed by the talented applicants that applied for the position, and I’m happy that Neil was one of them. His editorial talents are rock-solid, he’s a congenial perfectionist, and I’m looking forward to having him as a more permanent part of the internal team. I expect great things for The Bulletin in 2016 and 2017.” Members and non-members interested in writing for the Bulletin should send a short pitch on their proposed topic, along with a bio of relevant experience, to Our guidelines can be found here.

Neil continues with his other projects, including editing Clarkesworld and Forever magazines and The Best Science Fiction of the Year anthology series for Night Shade Books. But not sleep, apparently. His issued this statement on Facebook (though God knows where he found the time):

Just to clarify, my new job at the SFWA Bulletin doesn’t mean I get to quit the day job or that I’ll be doing less with Clarkesworld, Forever, or my anthologies. These side projects are all pieces of the puzzle that will eventually let me quit the day job. That day is one step closer.

Neil has been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Editor three times, and Clarkesworld has won three Hugos and one World Fantasy Award. It’s probably a good thing Neil still has a day job… if he didn’t, he win all the awards.

I Don’t Mean to Alarm Anyone, But We’ve Discovered Giant Insects on Monster Island

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Balls Pyramid is Monster Island-small

Seriously. Monster Island. Scientists at the Melbourne Zoo have now started breeding these giant insects, because apparently no one at the Melbourne Zoo has ever watched a single monster movie.

Four years ago, NPR’s Robert Krulwich’s wrote an in-depth feature on the astounding discovery made by a determined group of Australian scientists who scaled Ball’s Pyramid, the fragment of an ancient volcano that juts out of the South Pacific off the coast of Australia (that’s it above. What did I tell you? Monster Island). Climbing that crag of rock in the middle of the night, the scientists discovered a tiny colony of Lord Howe stick insects, Dryococelus australis, or “tree lobsters,” the heaviest flightless stick insect in the world. Tree lobsters were native to Lord Howe Island, and were long thought extinct.

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The 2016 Philip K. Dick Nominees

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Archangel Marguerite Reed-smallThe nominees for the 2016 Philip K. Dick Award, given each year for distinguished science fiction originally published in paperback in the United States, have been announced, and it’s an interesting ballot. Over at Barnes&, in an article titled This Year’s Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Take SF in Strange New Directions, Joel Cunningham writes:

Sorry Hugos, but for my money, there’s no more interesting award in sci-fi than the ones named for Philip K. Dick. In the tradition of everyone’s favorite gonzo pulpist, the “PKD Award” honors innovative genre works that debuted in paperback, offering a nice reminder that you don’t need the prestige of a hardcover release to write a mind-blowing book (just ask William Gibson, whose seminal cyberpunk classic Neuromancer claimed the title in 1984), and in fact, if past winners are any evidence, the format might be seem as a license to take greater risks. This year’s nominees are of a piece with PKD contenders of the past: they twist genre tropes in new ways, carving new toe-holds in well-worn tropes. Which brings us to another thing we love about this particular award: the winner is basically impossible to [predict].

This year the noninees are

Edge of Dark, Brenda Cooper (Pyr)
After the Saucers Landed, Douglas Lain (Night Shade)
(R)evolution, PJ Manney (47North)
Apex, Ramez Naam (Angry Robot)
Windswept, Adam Rakunas (Angry Robot)
Archangel, Marguerite Reed (Arche)

The winner will be announced on March 25, 2016 at Norwescon 39 in SeaTac, Washington. Congratulations to all the nominees!

Wizards of the Coast Unveils Self-Publishing Site for D&D Adventures

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016 | Posted by Jackson Kuhl


CC BY Janet Galore

Finally! A market for my Drizzt/Wulfgar slash adventure where the heroes discover the greatest treasure of all: love.

Wizards of the Coast has just announced the “Dungeon Masters Guild,” an e-publishing site for self-publishing D&D adventures and other content set in the Forgotten Realms. … The Dungeon Masters Guild seems similar to Amazon’s Kindle Worlds — a way that creators can be permitted to use licensed intellectual property and at the same time make a little money on it. In this case, the intellectual property is D&D‘s venerable Forgotten Realms setting. There are just a few restrictions on these adventures. The main restriction is that they must use the 5th Edition D&D rule set. Apart from that, they’re about what you’d expect — no offensive or pornographic material, no copyright or trademark violations, and nothing libelous.

Writers receive a 50-percent royalty, less than Amazon’s 70 percent yet recalling an earlier age when publishers regarded writers as partners and not grovelling slaves (halfsies was the same cut Melville received for Moby-Dick). The rest of the money is split between WotC and OneBookshelf, which runs the Dungeon Masters Guild site. Full story here.

Dungeons & Dragons has to be the most mismanaged IP in existence; its history is one long sitcom of bungling and idiocy. As the article points out, TSR spent much of the mid-90s sticking its fingers in the holes of the Internet spaghetti drainer, even going so far as to claim copyright over out-of-the-barn horses like “armor class” and “hit points.” It’s good to see WotC, in anno Domini 2016, finally join ’em instead of trying to beat ’em, even if they, like most publishers, continue to be the last across the innovation finish line.

The Winds of Winter Won’t Arrive Before Season Six

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Martin The Winds of Winter-smallLate yesterday, George R.R. Martin confirmed that the sixth volume of his epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire will not be published before the new season of Game of Thrones debuts on HBO. The Winds of Winter was scheduled to arrive in March, before GoT debuts in mid-April, and Martin’s publisher Bantam reportedly had ramped up to fast-track the book for publication, as long as Martin delivered the manuscript by December 31. On his blog yesterday, Martin confirmed he’d blown the deadline, and that the official publication date is now up in the air.

Here it is, the first of January. The book is not done, not delivered. No words can change that. I tried, I promise you. I failed… I worked on the book a couple of days ago, revising a Theon chapter and adding some new material, and I will writing on it again tomorrow. But no, I can’t tell you when it will be done, or when it will be published. Best guess, based on our previous conversations, is that Bantam (and presumably my British publisher as well) can have the hardcover out within three months of delivery, if their schedules permit. But when delivery will be, I can’t say. I am not going to set another deadline for myself to trip over. The deadlines just stress me out…

I never thought the series could possibly catch up with the books, but it has. The show moved faster than I anticipated and I moved more slowly. There were other factors too, but that was the main one. Given where we are, inevitably, there will be certain plot twists and reveals in season six of Game of Thrones that have not yet happened in the books. For years my readers have been ahead of the viewers. This year, for some things, the reverse will be true. How you want to handle that… hey, that’s up to you.

While Martin has been notoriously slow with the last books in the series (it’s now been almost five years since the release of the fifth volume, A Dance With Dragons; that book appeared six years after A Feast for Crows), he’s worked hard to keep fans updated. And earlier this year, he released excerpts from Winds as a gift to fans. Just two books remain in the series, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring; Martin has indicated that both will be massive (1,500 manuscript pages each).

Entertainment Weekly Gives Us Our First Look at Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr Strange

Monday, December 28th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Entertainment Weekly Dr Strange-smallThe new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on sale tomorrow, offers us our first peek at Benedict Cumberbatch as sorcerer supreme Dr. Strange — and they’ve really nailed the look. As James Whitbrook at io9 puts it:

I am genuinely shocked at how close this adheres to Strange’s classic costume from the comics — it’s all there, the color scheme, the cloak, the eye of Agamotto dangling from his neck, It’s all there — right down to Strange’s greying hair. It really has leapt off the page of a Doctor Strange comic into real life, and it looks great.

Click the image at right for a bigger version.

Doctor Strange is one of two films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe scheduled to be released next year; the other is Captain America: Civil War (May 6). Principal photography on Dr Strange began last month, and it is scheduled to be released November 4. It also stars Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Mads Mikkelsen, and is directed by Scott Derrickson (The Messengers, Sinister).

The article reportedly will reveal the roles played by Cumberbatch’s co-stars for the first time. Read more details at the EW website, or read the complete article in the print issue. We last covered Entertainment Weekly with the February 2013 issue, which coincidentally featured Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness.

Barnes and Noble Picks the Best SF and Fantasy of 2015

Sunday, December 20th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai-small2The closer we get to the end of the year, the more Best of the Year lists start popping up. Some are more reliable than others, however.

I’ve had good luck with Barnes & Noble’s lists, which have steered me towards some excellent fiction in years past. This year their Best Science-Fiction & Fantasy of 2015 is authored by Joel Cunningham, and it includes the acclaimed first volume in Bradley P. Beaulieu’s ambitious new fantasy series, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai.

Beaulieu launches his second epic fantasy trilogy (following The Lays of Anuskaya) with the story of 19-year-old Çeda, a gladiator in the fighting pits of Sharakhai, a desert kingdom ruled over by 12 immortal lords who live in luxury while their subjects must scrape to survive. Determined to avenge her mother, who was executed by the Twelve Kings, Çeda schemes and searches for a way to upset their ironclad rule — and comes to uncover hidden truths about the source of their power, and her own destiny, that could upset the balance of the entire world. Beaulieu’s intricate world-building and complex characters are quickly becoming the hallmarks of his writing, and if this opening volume is any indication, The Song of the Shattered Sands will be one of the next great fantasy epics. Read our review.

The list also includes Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente, The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher, Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, by Kai Ashante Wilson, Dark Orbit by Carolyn Ives Gilman, Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older, and many others.

See the complete list here.

The Robot’s Voice Goes Silent

Friday, December 18th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Robots VoiceIt hasn’t been a good month to be a genre media site.

Less than a month after io9 announced it would be absorbed by Gizmodo, pop-media site The Robot’s Voice (formerly Topless Robot) abruptly announced late yesterday that was shuttering its doors. In his goodbye message, “So Long, and Thanks For All the WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS,” editor Luke Y. Thompson wrote:

I’ve given this site formerly known as Topless Robot three years of my life and hard work, and I wouldn’t trade them. I hoped that covering the subjects and culture that I love would sustain the site. For three years, it has — the three years it took to make The Force Awakens, no less. But all things must end. Today is the The Robot’s Voice’s final day of publication. After years of trying, we couldn’t make this work financially…

To my competition in the nerd-blogging world: I was mostly a one-man show, and I managed to go toe-to-toe with all of you for three years. That’s not too bad, right?

I don’t know where I’ll land next. I own a couple of URLs that I might use to start a project of my own, and no doubt somebody can put me to work writing about movies somewhere.

Topless Robot was founded in 2008 by Rob Bricken and Bill Jensen, and was renamed The Robot’s Voice in September 2015 in an attempt to become more mainstream. It is owned by Village Voice Media, the holding company that once owned The Village Voice. Read Thompson’s goodbye message here.

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