Sometimes, you just want a good tale of alien invasion.
Mark Alpert’s The Orion Plan, a novel of first contact with a sinister alien intelligence, might just be what I’m looking for. Alpert is the author of Extinction and The Furies, which Booklist called a “carefully constructed alternate history of witchcraft — and sorcery too… very clever.” The Orion Plan goes on sale next week from Thomas Dunne.
Scientists thought that Earth was safe from invasion. The distance between stars is so great that it seemed impossible for even the most advanced civilizations to send a large spaceship from one star system to another.
But now an alien species ― from a planet hundreds of light-years from Earth ― has found a way.
A small spherical probe lands in an empty corner of New York City. It soon drills into the ground underneath, drawing electricity from the power lines to jump-start its automated expansion and prepare for alien colonization. When the government proves slow to react, NASA scientist Dr. Sarah Pooley realizes she must lead the effort to stop the probe before it becomes too powerful. Meanwhile, the first people who encounter the alien device are discovering just how insidious this interstellar intruder can be.
The Orion Plan will be published by Thomas Dunne Books on February 16, 2016. It is 322 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover was designed by Ervin Serrano.
William Friedkin’s 1973 film The Exorcist was a landmark in horror cinema, a cultural phenomenon, and (if adjusting for inflation) the ninth highest-grossing film of all time. I remember hearing stories about it from relatives who described the mixture of fascination and revulsion with which the movie-going public met The Exorcist at the time.
I also remember skulking around the library in search of William Blatty’s novel, just to try and figure out what was so awesome about the story, but as I also kept getting caught it wasn’t until many years later that I both read and watched The Exorcist.
As you may or may not recall, the film makes minimal use of music — a stylistic choice which ran contrary to the norm of the 70’s when nearly every film regardless of genre, gave birth to a soundtrack album.
Of the little music used in the film, most famous is Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells,” which went on to become a smash so huge that it essentially birthed the Virgin empire.
Before Friedkin settled on Oldfield’s masterpiece, he had originally commissioned a score from Lalo Schifrin, who had famously done soundtrack work for Cool Hand Luke, Dirty Harry, and the instantly recognizable Mission Impossible TV show theme.
This score was used in an advanced trailer which has often been referred to as the “banned trailer.” As the stories go, this trailer literally made audiences sick when it was shown.
Check it out for yourself below.
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From time to time I’ve posted in various places material I acquired at an auction many years ago from the estate of Jack Darrow. In the 1930’s, Darrow (whose real name was Clifford Kornoelje) was pretty much science fiction fan #2 behind Forry Ackerman.
Darrow’s best friend was science fiction pulp author Otto Binder – who, with his brother, Earl, formed half of the writing tandem of Eando Binder (their other brother was pulp/comic artist Jack Binder). By 1936 however, although the byline often continued to read Eando, the stories were written solely by Otto. In 1939, Binder also began working in comics, particularly for Captain Marvel and the other Fawcett titles, though he would eventually work for all the major publishers. Among the material in Darrow’s estate was a box of correspondence between him and Binder about a foot thick.
Among these letters was one from Binder to Darrow, dated July 10, 1937, which was accompanied by two snapshots. On the back of each, Binder writes that these are photos of “science fiction authors at Mort Weisinger’s home June 1937” (the home was in New Jersey). At the time, Weisinger was the editor of Thrilling Wonder Stories.
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Of all the books I’ve reviewed for Black Gate, definitely two of my favorites have been the Pathfinder Tales novels by James L. Sutter, Death’s Heretic and The Redemption Engine. I’m not alone, of course. There’s no shortage of Pathfinder Tales fans (or authors) hanging out around the Black Gate headquarters, and James Sutter is a friend of the website.
In fact, the enthusiasm is so great that I have a large backlog of Pathfinder Tales books that I haven’t gotten to read yet. These days, a decent chunk of my reading comes from listening to audiobooks while performing other tasks. I use Audible.com, but the Pathfinder Tales novels hadn’t offered audiobooks unfortunately. That changed with their announcement last October about a partnership with Audible Audiobooks to produce the audiobooks, not only for their newly-released titles but for their backlog of audiobooks as well.
To celebrate the Pathfinder Tales audiobooks, Audible.com is offering the Death’s Heretic audiobook for free through February 16. Once you purchase the book, it’ll remain in your digital library to access at any time, which you can do on apps available through iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, and online web formats. So, really, there’s little excuse for not signing up to get the book.
And if that’s not enough to keep you busy…
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Neil Clarke makes a pretty big announcement in his editorial this issue.
It’s time to give up the day job. My family and I are trying to work out how to make that happen, but we need help to do so. If you are already subscribing to Clarkesworld or Forever, then thank you, that’s keeping the option on the table. If you haven’t been subscribing, now’s the time that would make the biggest difference to the future of this magazine.
I’ve mentioned before that a small percentage of our readers converting to subscribers would do the trick, but that’s easier said than done. Experience says that Clarkesworld will only be part of the puzzle. The new SFWA job helps. Forever helps. The anthologies help. Nothing stands on its own, but like a crowdfunding project, all the little bits add up to take you to your goal.
I think this is going to be a good year.
If you’re a fan of Neil and Sean’s work at Clarkesworld (and you definitely should be), then perhaps you might consider a subscription… this is the year when your support could really have an impact. And if you’ve never tried Clarkesworld or Forever, this is a great time to do so. Check out their support page — or why not buy their upcoming Clarkesworld: Year Eight anthology? It collects all the stories from last year, and the proceeds go towards supporting the magazine.
Issue #113 of Clarkesworld has four new stories by Paul McAuley, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Nick Wolven, and An Owomoyela & Rachel Swirsky, and two reprints by Ted Kosmatka & Michael Poore, and Kim Stanley Robinson.
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Horror and comedy are a tough mix — but it can be a great combo when done right. Jonathan Wood seems to have the touch… his debut novel No Hero, the first book in the Arthur Wallace series, was called “a funny, dark, rip-roaring adventure with a lot of heart” by Publisher’s Weekly, and listed as one of the 20 best paranormal fantasies of the past decade by Barnesandnoble.com. Starburst called the third installment, Anti-Hero, “A gripping tale of dark comedic horror.”
The fourth volume, Broken Hero — featuring the continuing misadventures of MI37 agent Arthur Wallace, tasked with dealing with the supernatural, extraterrestrial, and the generally odd — was released late last month by Titan.
How’s a secret agent meant to catch a break? If it’s not a demi-god going through puberty, it’s a renegade Nazi clockwork army going senile. Or a death cult in Nepal. Or a battery-chewing wizard’s relationship problems. Arthur Wallace, agent of MI37 — Britain’s agency for dealing with the supernatural, the extraterrestrial, and the generally odd — has to pull everything together, and he has to do it before a magical bomb tears reality apart…
Jonathan Wood’s short fiction has also appeared in Weird Tales, Chizine, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and anthologies such as The Book of Cthulhu 2 and The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Year One.
Broken Hero was published by Titan Books on January 26, 2016. It is 429 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback, and $7.99 for the digital version. The cover was designed by Amazing15.
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction has put some delightful old content on their website for those who care to look, and earlier this month I came across their reprint of Thomas M. Disch’s Book column from the February 1981 issue, in which he compares the three Best of the Year volumes published the previous year.
1979 was a marvelous year for short SF, with many stories destined to become classics — including George R.R. Martin’s brilliant “Sandkings,” and his Hugo Award-winning “The Way of Cross and Dragon,” Barry B. Longyear’s novella “Enemy Mine,” Donald Kingsbury’s “The Moon Goddess and the Son,” Vonda N. McIntyre’s “Fireflood,” Orson Scott Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata,” Richard Cowper’s “Out There Where the Big Ships Go,” and many others. Of course, Disch was as curmudgeonly as always.
The annuals are out, and here, if we can trust the amalgamated wisdom of our four editors, are the thirty best stories of 1979. It is in the nature of annual reports to pose the question, Was it a good year? and it pains me, as both a shareholder and a consumer, to answer that for science fiction, as for so many other sectors of the economy, 1979 was not a good year.
Against such a sweeping judgment it may be countered that sf is not a unitary phenomenon nor one easily comparable to a tomato harvest. Sf is a congeries of individual writers, each producing stories of distinct and varying merit. A year of stories is as arbitrary a measure as mileage in painting. Nevertheless, that is how the matter is arranged, not only by anthologists but by those who organize the two prize-giving systems, SFWA, which awards the Nebulas, and Fandom, which gathers once a year to hand out Hugos. The overlap between the contents of the annuals and the short-lists for the prizes is so great that one may fairly surmise that something like cause-and-effect is at work. As the nominating procedures are conducted in plain view, it seems certain that the editors will keep their eyes open for the likeliest contenders, since the annual that most successfully second-guesses the awards nominees has a clear advantage over its rivals.
Tomato harvest! At least he makes me laugh.
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Dee owned many books on astronomy. In the notes he wrote in the margins of this one, he discussed the two lunar eclipses he saw in 1556 and 1566. When a comet appeared in 1577, Queen Elizabeth asked him if it was an ill omen but Dee reassured her that it wasn’t. I apologize for the quality of some of this photos. There were bright lights over the glass cases. Good for viewing, not so good for photography!
The name John Dee conjures up images of a Tudor-era mage plumbing the mysteries of the occult and speaking with angels through his system of Enochian magic. This is how most people know Dr. Dee, and it is all I knew about him until I visited an excellent exhibition at the Royal College of Physicians in London.
Scholar, Courtier, Magician: The Lost Library of John Dee sets the record straight on a misunderstood and often maligned Renaissance man. Far more than a mere occultist, Dee was a geographer, mathematician, astronomer, world traveler, and cryptographer. He was influential in two royal courts and was an early advocate for the colonization of the Americas.
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This is a dissection, not a review, and it’s full of (slightly obfuscated) spoilers.
If you’re looking for a review of Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Assassin, please go away. This is a dissection, not a review, and it’s full of (slightly obfuscated) spoilers.
If you are wondering how Hobb works her magic, but haven’t read this book, then your probably want to do that first. However, if that means starting from the beginning of the Assassin series, then you can safely read on because by the time you reach Fool’s Assassin you’ll have forgotten.
It is a good book. It’s as if Mary Renault or Rosemary Sutcliff wrote Fantasy, or if Tolkien channeled Thomas Hardy with more magic ninjas. It’s also a very rare bird; a country house Gothic from the point of view of the moody denizens.
From a writerly point of view, it’s interesting because she makes two things work that are often the comeuppance of lesser writers: a first person narrative in a slow burn thriller, and rich description.
Here’s how I think she does it.
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Come on, who doesn’t love a haunted house story? I know I do. So I was very pleased to stumble on David A. Sutton’s upcoming anthology Haunts of Horror, which contains six novellas that explore the idea of the haunted house — but with a modern twist. The settings include “A seaside home, a school, a fantasy castle, a lighthouse, a wooden hut, a run-down tower block — all tainted by an abnormal atmosphere.” Yes, please! Here’s the TOC.
“Today We Were Astronauts,” Allen Ashley
“The Listener,” Samantha Lee
“The School House,” Simon Bestwick
“The House on the Western Border,” Gary Fry
“The Retreat,” Paul Finch
“The Worst of All Possible Places,” David A. Riley
Editor David A. Sutton has won the World Fantasy Award, The International Horror Guild Award, and twelve British Fantasy Awards; his previous anthologies include Fantasy Tales, Dark Voices, Dark Terrors, and Horror on the High Seas. Haunts of Horror was originally published in hardcover as Houses on the Borderland in 2008, by The British Fantasy Society. The new trade paperback edition will be published by Shadow Publishing on February 26, 2016. It is 322 pages, priced at $16 (order direct here). No word yet on a digital version. The splendidly spooky cover is by Edward Miller.